2008’s panto reviews

Only three to do this year (four if you count an additional Christmas-themed show). And now they’re all done and available online, so the holiday starts here!

* 09/12/08: [Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/22707/snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs), Elgiva, Chesham
* 17/12/08: [Cinderella](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/22876/cinderella), Civic Centre Aylesbury
* 22/12/08: [Aladdin](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/22923/aladdin),Watersmeet, Rickmansworth

And the additional Christmas show:

* 19/12/08: Christmas with the Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas

An overview of reviews

I’m about to enter full-on panto reviewing mode again, although given my out-of-town location and lack of driving ability the number of productions I get allocated is far fewer than some of our more hardy reviewers.

Before I do, I wanted to make sure that my own record of what I’ve reviewed for _The Stage_ is up to date. Below is the list as it currently stands.

**Update: an up-to-date list is now on my [Theatre Reviews index page](http://matthewman.net/theatre-reviews).

## West End

* 17/10/08: [French and Saunders: Still Alive](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/22139/french-and-saunders-still-alive), Theatre Royal Drury Lane
* 23/09/08: [We Will Rock You](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/21856/we-will-rock-you), Dominion
* 03/07/08: [Monty Python’s Spamalot](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/21171/monty-pythons-spamalot), Palace Theatre
* 27/05/08: [Haunted](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/20817/haunted), Arts Theatre
* 23/05/08: [Never Forget](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/20778/never-forget), Savoy Theatre
* 07/03/08: [The Viewing Room](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/20059/the-viewing-room), Arts Theatre
* 05/09/07: [All About My Mother](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18142/all-about-my-mother), Old Vic
* 24/11/06: [Gates of Gold](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/14995/gates-of-gold), Trafalgar Studios
* 10/11/06: [Porgy and Bess](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/14825/porgy-and-bess), Savoy Theatre

## Fringe/off-West End

* 14/11/08: [Sweeney Todd](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/22426/sweeney-todd), Union Theatre
* 01/10/07: [Sugar Snap](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18371/sugar-snap), Union Theatre
* 27/09/07: [I Love You Because](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18341/i-love-you-because), Landor
* 07/06/07: [The Christ of Coldharbour Lane](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/17103/the-christ-of-coldharbour-lane), Soho Theatre
* 29/03/07: [Total Eclipse](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/16374/total-eclipse), Menie Chocolate Factory
* 01/12/06: [Love, Laugh and Live](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/15086/love-laugh-and-live), Theatre Museum
* 07/02/06: [Black and White Sextet](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/11465/black-and-white-sextet), Rosemary Branch

## Pantomime/Christmas

* 21/12/07: [Cinderella](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/19363/cinderella), Watersmeet, Rickmansworth
* 13/12/07: [Peter Pan](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/19223/peter-pan), Civic Centre, Aylesbury
* 07/12/07: [The Wizard of Oz](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/19081/the-wizard-of-oz), Elgiva, Chesham
* 19/12/06: [Aladdin](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/15425/aladdin), Civic Centre, Aylesbury
* 14/12/06: [Beauty and the Beast](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/15277/beauty-and-the-beast), Watersmeet, Rickmansworth
* 07/12/06: [Sleeping Beauty and the Beast](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/15166/sleeping-beauty-and-the-beast), Elgiva, Chesham
* 04/01/06: [Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/11146/snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs), Watersmeet, Rickmansworth
* 13/12/05: [Aladdin](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/10831/aladdin), Elgiva, Chesham

Screeny Todd

Last night I took Paul along to see Sweeney Todd at the Union Theatre, which I was reviewing. As someone whose musical theatre experience is much larger than mine, it came as something of a shock that this was to be Paul’s first Sweeney.

As it was, it was only half of his first Sweeney — as he was working nights, he had to leave in the interval in order to start work on time. However, he did say that he was looking forward to the second half, which is a marked improvement to some of the fringe theatre musicals we’ve seen in the past. At one point we did discuss the possibility of his staying for some of the second half, only for him to run out once the blood starts flowing, all to add to the sense of Grand Guignol. Luckily we decided against it, as there is very little blood (and a particularly ineffective barber’s chair) in this production.

It was a good production, all told. Although I did find it a little distracting that Sweeney was the spitting image of professional curmudgeon Charlie Brooker. Speaking of which, his TV criticism series Screenwipe finally returns to BBC4 next week after far too long being absent from our screens.

Lee Mead

Originally published in the December 20, 2007 issue of [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/features/feature.php/19380/lee-mead)

The winner of BBC1’s Any Dream Will Do, Lee Mead, took to the stage as Joseph – of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame – in July. He talks to Scott Matthewman about becoming the West End’s leading man

“I was quite naive,” admits Lee Mead of his decision to surrender a West End chorus job in the risky move to participate in the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do. “I knew there was going to be a TV programme, but I thought there would be just a few cameras, maybe like a BBC2 thing. But it ended up being massive.”

Mead was very much the odd one out in the final line-up of 12 hopefuls vying for the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. While auditioning for the series, he was also performing in Phantom of the Opera, covering the role of Raoul.

The Stage, Dcember 20, 2007I was always up front and honest,” says Mead. “They knew from the beginning I was auditioning for the programme. I never expected to get to the last 12, but then I had to make a decision. They said, ‘Okay, but if you choose to be in the last 12, there’s no job for you’, even if I’d got knocked out in the first week.”

The offer of a place in the finals was one Mead discussed with family and his agent before accepting. “Initially, we were all wary, wondering if it would be good for me or not. I think with anything you do in life, whether it’s career related or not, you have to follow your gut.”

Mead left Southend’s Whitehall School of Performing Arts without graduating, and I suggest this may have toughened his resolve. The experience did, he agrees, give him a lot more drive. “I wouldn’t say it worked against me, but I thought I had more to prove and I had to work much harder. I didn’t walk straight into the West End, I started off at the bottom of the industry and worked my way up.”

While some of the less experienced contestants may have gained more experience from the intensive time in the BBC spotlight, Mead believes he still gained much from the project. “I learnt a lot about myself as a person. It was a strong test of character. You’re so exposed with so many people watching live, and in front of Andrew [Lloyd Webber] as well. I don’t think I’d have been strong enough to audition for that kind of process if I was younger. I have so much admiration for the younger guys like Lewis [Bradley] and the others. Initially, I wondered how the public would take somebody who had already been working professionally, but during the audition process there were hundreds of other guys who were working in musicals, in the chorus or covering leads, so I knew that wasn’t going to be an issue.”

Fellow finalist Bradley is now covering Mead in Joseph. Aside from scheduled appearances in 2008 while the star goes on holiday, Bradley had his first taste of the West End stage when Mead contracted bronchitis and missed several performances.

“Anyone that knows me knows I don’t like going off,” he says. “But I can’t be foolish. For me, I know that being off wasn’t through not looking after myself or living a mad lifestyle. From my very first audition back in February, through the live shows, the rehearsals, Children in Need, the album and all the pressures of the PR campaign, I’ve been working ten-hour days for pretty much the last six months. Obviously I picked up this bug, but luckily it cleared up quickly. To a degree, of course, I want to be on every show, because the fans are coming to see the show as well as myself.”

As a former understudy himself, can Mead recognise the opportunities that the lead’s illness can bring to the covering actor.

“For a lot of lead people, you can get a bit insecure and think, oh, someone’s playing my role, or playing the part I’ve been cast in. It comes down to yourself and if you’re confident in who you are. How someone else is going to play that role will be completely different to how I play it. It doesn’t worry me, but,” he smiles, “I have missed being on there.”

The role is one that he seemed destined for, it having been his first musical in more ways than one.

“It was the first I saw, when I was ten or 11, and it really touched me. I did the touring production with Bill Kenwright in 2004, and that was my first musical role. I was playing Brother Levi and Pharaoh, but I always wanted to play Joseph even then.” Now, of course, the same show brings him his first West End leading role.

Outside of the theatre, his debut album, which recently went gold, defied expectations in not being a disc of show tunes. “That was for various reasons, really. I love musical theatre, it will always be part of my life and it’s what I’ve always done. But I wanted to show that there’s more to me. Doing a musical theatre album would have been the obvious decision, and I may do one at some point. But it’s nice to show another side.”
There are discussions for TV and film projects – “It’s all meetings and things at the moment” – but a second album, and possible tour after Joseph, seem likely.

One question that has hung around the big TV talent contests, of course, is their value to the West End. Mead is adamant that, while he can see both sides of the argument, he believes the shows have opened up options for people within the industry, allowing trained professionals to rise through the ranks. “It’s worked twice now [with himself and Connie Fisher in The Sound of Music], so they must be doing something right.

“It’s also bringing a whole new audience to theatre, which I believe is a good thing. But what you hope is that they’ll go on to think, oh, I’ll go and see Phantom now, when they didn’t think they liked any musicals before.” He cites friends of his father as an example. “They had never seen a show in their life, but they came to see Joseph and now they’re booking up to see other shows in the West End. That is really good.”

With news of a third BBC/ Lloyd Webber collaboration on the cards, Mead admits he’s as curious as anybody to find out which musical will be featured next. “It’s important that it’s done well again. Touch wood, it’s worked so far. And while parts of the show were commercial, I think it was done in a good way and they were very careful.”

Mead has committed to Joseph until at least October 2008, part of the reason being, he says: “It’s the first time I’ve been working centrally like this. Apart from Phantom, of course, but I left halfway through. I love the role, it’s one I’ve always wanted to play and it felt natural to extend for a bit longer. We’re virtually sold out for a year as well – so many people who wanted to get tickets couldn’t, so I thought it’s nice for the fans to be able to book and see the show.”

Beyond that, Mead is careful to keep his options open. In terms of future West End roles, he says: “I’ve been lucky enough to cover the role of Chris in Miss Saigon, and I’d like to play that one day again and make the role my own. I’ve always wanted to do an original musical, which is something I’ve never had the opportunity to do.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next year and a half to two years. It depends on what role I’m suitable for, and if I’m wanted.”

Showpeople: Daniel Boys

_This interview first appeared in **The Stage**, September 27, 2007, as promotion for **I Love You Because** at the Landor Theatre. [Read my review](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18341/i-love-you-because)_

Daniel Boys, who came sixth in the BBC’s talent hunt Any Dream Will Do? will be playing the role of Austin Bennet in the musical I Love You Because, a genderswapped version of Pride and Prejudice

**How would you describe the musical to those who don’t know it?**

To me, it’s a bit like Sex and the City and Friends in musical form. It’s a modern day tale about love and finding the one. I’m really enjoying the rehearsals. It’s a very good show, and I think it’s going to be a great production.

**The Landor itself is an intimate venue – does that make it easier or harder for you as a musical theatre performer?**

I’m really looking forward to the challenge, because I think it’s going to be harder. Any slight facial expression or any small movement that you do is something the whole audience can pick up on. That’s much harder, but like I said, I’m looking forward to it.

**You’re known to a wider audience for your participation in the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do? What lessons have you learned from the experience?**

Personally, I learned that it’s good to be who you are and not try to be someone you’re not. I was penalised for being too nice, but that’s who I am. As a performer, it taught me a lot. I can look back now I’m out of it and think, ‘Oh gosh, I shouldn’t have done that’. Like the way I put my hands out when I’m singing, without realising I’m doing it. So for me, it was a lesson in learning to watch myself and critique myself.

**Do you still keep in touch with your fellow finalists?**

Yes I do. Not all of them, but Lee Mead, Lewis Bradley, Johndeep More and Ben Ellis. They’re the four I’m in regular contact with.

**You’ve acquired quite a large fan base from your time on TV which has stayed loyal to you in the months since. Is that translating into ticket sales?**

Apparently it is. I have a fan group that call themselves the Kittens, and apparently lots of them are coming to the theatre. They ring the box office a lot, and lots of them are coming from all over the UK to come and see me. It’s just so nice. It’s all very surreal, and I still can’t quite get my head around that. But it’s very nice to have that level of support from the public.

All about All About My Mother

So last night I was at the press night for All About My Mother, the Old Vic’s new adaptation of Pedro Almodovar’s classic [film](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185125/). My review’s [online now](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18142/all-about-my-mother), and will be in print in next week’s issue of _The Stage_. In the meantime, the condensed version:

> Oh. Dear. God.

It got [three stars in the Guardian](http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/drama/reviews/story/0,,2162704,00.html). I’m thankful, really, that I don’t have to allocate stars to productions. Heaven knows what I’d have given last night’s show.

The tragic thing is that in so many ways it was _nearly_ right. I remember hearing when the adaptation was first announced, it made perfect sense: here was a film with many theatrical allusions that could easily work as a small, tightly-contained piece. But what happened instead was an opening out, using every inch of the Old Vic’s stage so that actors ended up having to project to be heard by one another, let alone the audience.

The car crash scene, in which Manuela’s son is hit by a car while running to get an autograph from his favourite actress, was technically a great piece of stagecraft. But, like so many scenes which tried to ape the visual look of the original film, it needed a little tough love to prune it away.

**Update:** My review is [now online](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/18142/all-about-my-mother).
**Update 2:** My review made it into [The Guardian’s review of reviews](http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2007/sep/06/theatre2)

Curtain Up: Any Dream Will Do

This article first appeared in the March 29, 2007 issue of **The Stage**

**BBC1 and Lloyd Webber launch second musical talent show to find star of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat**
by Scott Matthewman

BBC1 returns to the musical theatre talent show arena this weekend, as Any Dream Will Do begins its search to find the lead for a West End revival of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The show follows much the same formula as its predecessor How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, but with some changes in the judging panel. Live Nation supremo David Ian has left to join ITV1’s forthcoming Grease Is the Word series, with his place taken by Joseph co-producer Bill Kenwright. Existing judges Andrew Lloyd Webber, actor John Barrowman and vocal coach Zoe Tyler return, joined by actress Denise Van Outen.

Thousands of hopefuls auditioned for 100 places at the London recalls. Of those, 50 progressed to the intensive musical workshops dubbed ‘Joseph School’, from which 12 men have been selected as finalists for the live shows.

“There was a feeling that musical theatre didn’t have the breadth of appeal for mainstream TV,” said BBC1 controller Peter Fincham. “I’m very glad that a year ago, we took the plunge and ignored the conventional wisdom when Andrew approached us with Maria. The success of The Sound of Music has shown how effective that process was.

“Joseph is, for me, the dream follow-up. Obviously we move from girls to boys and that makes it a different series in many ways. There is also something about Joseph that makes it really special – a quintessential Britishness about it that I really love.”