A trio of musical theatre reviews: Barbershopera, Nunsense A-Men, and Bullets and Daffodils

I’ve been remiss about linking out to my reviews elsewhere recently. Here are three that I’ve written recently for Musical Theatre Review.

Bullets and Daffodils

Tristan Bates Theatre, July 1-6

The poetry of Wilfred Owen, born as it was from anger at the cruelty of war, is full of powerful imagery and intense emotion. Sadly, neither are on display in Dean Johnson’s tribute to Owen…

Nunsense A-men!

Landor Theatre, until July 28

The show gives the best moments, the best numbers and the best lines to the Broadway-obsessed Sister Mary Robert, and Alastair Knights takes full advantage. Stealing ensemble scenes with gay abandon, it is his solo numbers – and his wimple-based impressions – which will remain in the memory.

Barbershopera! – The Three Musketeers

St James’s Theatre Studio, July 13 – touring until October 26

Alexandre Dumas’ novel has formed the basis of several musical interpretations before… None has dared attempt to stage it as a cross-dressing, four-person a cappella production, though – and after this riotous evening, one can only feel the other productions are missing a trick.

 

If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre

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After my review of the first London edition of cabaret night If It Only Even Runs a Minute, I did wonder how the hosts Oliver Southgate and Lydia Grant would take my comments. Not everyone whose show was described as a “shambolic mess”, and whose delivery was described as “amusingly under-rehearsed”, would necessarily be happy about the reviewer in question.

As it turns out, they were fine with it. So fine that I was invited back by them for Monday’s second edition.

At its core, it hadn’t changed. There’s a fine line between being informally relaxed and being disorganised – a line which If It Only Even Runs‘s hosts display a tendency to use as a skipping rope.

Personally, I find their presentation style charming, especially because the calibre of Monday’s guest performers were so high. I was being comped, though: I do wonder whether, if I’d paid for the tickets out of my own pocket, whether I’d find it quite so endearing.

But to concentrate on that side of the evening is unfair – as I said last time, the quality of the performances (and, in particular, the guest performers) is the real focus of the evening. And in their second London show, the calibre of the guests shot up several notches.

Continue reading “If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre”

If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-07-12 00:11:19After my review of the first London edition of cabaret night If It Only Even Runs a Minute, I did wonder how the hosts Oliver Southgate and Lydia Gran…

If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre

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Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs from shows that did not last particularly long, and to different degrees their 2010 and 2011 shows, Blink! Twice and Blink Again!. There probably won’t be a 2012 version, as Above the Stag’s home of The Stag pub was recently closed as part of the redevelopment of the area around London Victoria station.

A series of concerts on the same theme has been running at New York’s Joe’s Café for a while now. And while each iteration of Blink! was a show that would repeat each night, If It Only Even Runs a Minute promises to be different each time, as befits a series of occasional concerts. The beauty of that format is that it can be as flexible as possible, and allow many guest stars to make a one-night commitment to perform songs from shows that they were in.

Last night saw the first in a hopeful series of UK equivalents at the Landor Theatre. And while it was a bit of a shambolic mess at times, it was at the very least a loveable mess, with some cracking performances.

Continue reading “If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre”

If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-04-24 19:53:22Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs…

The Glorious Ones, Landor Theatre

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The Landor Theatre had a big hit last year with Ragtime, Lynna Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical adaptation of E L Doctorow’s attempt at the Great American Novel. That show, which featured a cast nearly as big as the Landor’s maximum audience size, won some well-deserved Off West End Awards. And now, the Landor’s creative team has attempted another Ahrens and Flaherty musical, creating the European premiere of The Glorious Ones.

With a much smaller cast, set in Renaissance Italy and based on a novel by Francine Prose, the Glorious Ones are a ragtag band of commedia dell’arte street performers, a group of archetypes who are more or less indistinguishable from the masked roles they play on stage.

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The Glorious Ones, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-03-13 18:05:13The Landor Theatre had a big hit last year with Ragtime, Lynna Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical adaptation of E L Doctorow’s attempt at the G…

Jonathan Eiø: New Beginnings

A couple of weeks ago, just a few days after seeing Lucy May Barker at the Landor Theatre, I went back to the same venue to see another cabaret in the A Spotlight On… series, this time hosted by Jonathan Eiø.

Since first reviewing a cabaret Jonathan performed with Lucy Thatcher at the now defunct Theatre Museum, I’ve also reviewed him in Rickmansworth’s panto, seen him in the role of Jack in Into the Woods, also at the Landor – and more importantly, come to know him as a friend. I genuinely loved his first album, The Space In Between, largely because it avoided the usual trap many musical theatre performers fall into of cramming their first release with well known standards. Instead, we got some finely crafted, well produced pop songs that showcased genuine songwriting ability as well as a fine voice.

Jonathan has just released the follow up album, New Beginnings. And while the first half of his cabaret evening was in the mould of many a show, with performances of his favourite songs by other writers, the second half acted as a showcase for the new CD.

In both, while Jonathan’s name was the one in big type on the posters, he was frequently happy to take a back seat while his guests, who have all contributed performances to the new album, took the spotlight.

At the time, I’m afraid I took Jon to task a little for that: this was his turn in the spotlight, and he gave it up a little too easily, I told him.

I was wrong.

Not least because his generosity of spirit is one of the reasons I’m happy to be a friend of his, and it’s a quality that others deserve to see – but also because what never left the spotlight was his songwriting ability. For as good as Jonathan is as a vocalist, it’s his developing talents as a songwriter that New Beginnings really highlights.

From the light and breezy, Mika-like Need Some Time to the haunting richness of Kimmy Bryceland’s vocals on Sandbox, there’s an astonishing range of styles present on the album. An acoustic version of a track from Jonathan’s first album, Around, is performed with such deftness by Jack Shalloo that it shows that, however good a singer-songwriter is at the skill each side of the hyphen, sometimes ceding control of one element to another person can elevate the material immeasurably.

That’s not to say Jonathan isn’t a great vocalist, for he is. But New Beginnings shows that his authorship skills (along with those of his fiancée Louise, who cowrote some of the lyrics on the album) are developing immensely.

  • New Beginnings is available for £10 from Jonathan’s website, jonathaneiomusic.com
  • Update: The album is now available via CDBaby.com
  • Update 2: It’s now also available on iTunes.

Closer than Ever, Landor Theatre

With lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and music by David Shire, Closer Than Ever is a revue of 24 songs about love in later life. Whether it’s finding, losing, remembering, rekindling or avoiding love, anybody who’s lived a little will surely find some aspect of their own romantic life reflected in song here.

The cast of four (Clare Burt, Ria Jones, Michael Cahill and Glyn Kerslake) tackle a variety of styles, from high camp comedy to intensely personal tales of loss, head-on. I particularly enjoyed Jones’ Miss Byrd, Burt’s Life Story, Jones and Cahill celebrating the joys of second marriage in Another Wedding Song, and Cahill and Kerslake joining with musical director David Randall for Father of Fathers.

Jason Denvir’s set design, all multiple levels and beaded curtains, helps to accentuate the revue’s 1980s origins and its sense of nostalgia for youth, while also looking very contemporary.

It all adds up to an evening of entertainment which can only be described as “classy”. And as such, it is the perfect production to attract people to this pub theatre, which has just completed a full refit downstairs. I’ve loved coming to the Landor for years, but the pub environment has always felt slightly at odds with the entertainment above. With a new bar, comfortable seating and (from what I’m told by Paul, who sampled the food) a greatly improved kitchen ensuring some high quality bar meals, the refurbishment seems to have been an unqualified success.