Review: Geek! A New Musical, Tristan Bates Theatre

My first review for Lisa Martland’s new publication, Musical Theatre Review. It’s an extended version of the 200-word version I wrote for The Stage.

It’s an interesting experience, writing essentially the same content to two very different word lengths…

Resolutions for 2013

I’ve had these in my head for a bit. But when New Year resolutions are silent and hidden, it’s easy to break them without having to hold yourself to account.

1. Blog more and take more pictures

Apart from my Doctor Who post about the Christmas Day special, I haven’t really blogged for ages. I should do something about that.

I’m not one for sharing my innermost thoughts, though. That style of blogging just doesn’t appeal to me. However, I do enjoy photography but haven’t done much recently – so hopefully I’ll be able to do some form of photoblogging when I can.

2. See more dance and classical music events

I tend to gravitate towards musical theatre and straight plays when I go out to the theatre – it’s where I feel most confident and informed as an audience member. Dance is one area where I’ve often felt at my most adrift. At times I’ve felt hopelessly out of place (a dance piece at the Barbican remains one of the few events I’ve left at the interval with disgust at its ineptitude) – but it’s also been the source of some of the most thrilling performances I’ve seen.

Similarly, I do enjoy going to the occasional classical music concert, but I can’t remember the last time I went to one. So I’m hoping to rectify that absence in 2013.

3. Support my local theatres

I have been writing several blog posts about trips to my local large regional venue, the Aylesbury Waterside – but I’m going to try and do more, and that’ll involve going to more of their shows and one-off nights.

It’s important to remember that Aylesbury also has a smaller theatre, the Limelight, as part of the Queen’s Park Arts Centre – and I’m going to keep an eye on what’s going on there, too.

4. Be more active

Having a job, and hobbies, which require long periods of sitting down mean that it’s more essential to find ways of being active when not working. I prefer long walks to running, and my long daily commute gets in the way of joining a gym. Neither of these are valid excuses for not doing more exercise, but instead will frame the ways in which I get out more.

5. Finish at least one creative writing project

I have a couple of short story ideas germinating, one of which could potentially expand into a much longer piece. And after being on the Blogger’s Choice panel for the Off Cut Festival over the last two years, I’m intrigued by the festival’s 15-minute stage format. I’d be interested to see if I can transfer my belief about what can work in that timeframe, and what is best avoided, into a practical piece.

So those are my resolutions. What are yours?

Live and unplugged: Scott Alan & Pentatonix

I hope you’ll enjoy this beautiful a cappella track as much as I do:

I really, really like Scott Alan’s music. I believe I may have mentioned this once or twice. There’s something about his complete lack of reserve that makes his songs pack the sort of emotional punch that many British musical theatre composers struggle with.

That same intensity means a whole evening of his songs in concert form can be overpowering. It takes a deft hand to programme his songs in such a way that the introspective, even mournful, qualities of his most searing numbers are counterbalanced by the joy – and occasional frippery – that he also does well.

To see (or rather, hear) how it’s done, you can really look no further than Scott Alan Live, a double CD of Alan’s songs, recorded at New York’s Birdland club.

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Danielle Tarento: Master your musical theatre audition

I was taking photos today at The Stage Events’ musical theatre audition seminar, hosted by producer and casting director Danielle Tarento.

Danielle Tarento
Danielle Tarento, presenting Master your musical theatre audition for The Stage Events

I was taking photos today at The Stage Events’ musical theatre audition seminar, hosted by producer and casting director Danielle Tarento. Most of the photos I took will go on file and used on the website and in print, but I wanted to share this one: I think Danielle looks awesome in it.

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.

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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…

Soho Cinders in Concert, Queen’s Theatre

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Most new musicals take a while to see the light of day, maybe peeping over the parapet with workshops, or even a concept CD, long before they hit the stage. Few, however, gestate quite as long as Soho Cinders, a musical from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Honk!, Just So, the expanded stage version of Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Betty Blue Eyes) which, as Mark Shenton notes today, has been in development for most of this century already.

And it’s a very 21st century piece – a modern day Cinderella story, with rent boy Robbie using the wages from his escort services to fund his law studies, in order to prove that his wicked stepsisters have illegally taken over his late mother’s coffee shop. The ball becomes a fund-raising bash for a good-looking mayoral candidate whom Robbie has been seeing on the side, although he’s there to escort the wealthy businessman who’s bankrolling the mayoral bid. And when he’s exposed as a rent boy and runs off, it’s not a shoe he leaves behind, but a mobile phone…

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Soho Cinders in Concert, Queen’s Theatre5Scott Matthewman2011-10-10 10:14:16Most new musicals take a while to see the light of day, maybe peeping over the parapet with workshops, or even a concept CD, long before they hit the …

Honk!, LOST Theatre

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The LOST Theatre in Stockwell is currently playing host to a new production of Honk!, a family musical based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Ugly Duckling, written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who wrote the songs for West End musical Betty Blue Eyes, which closed last weekend.

Eighteen years after it first hatched at the Watermill theatre as The Ugly Duckling, it’s readily apparent why Stiles and Drewe so easily slotted into the Disney style of musical with their extra songs for Mary Poppins: Honk! is a prototype Disney animation as if it were played out on stage rather than storyboarded. With a bit of polish, one could easily see the story on the silver screen as a classic, line-drawn animation with songs that infect the head as well as progressing the story. And it’s easily better than The Princess and the Frog, the House of Mouse’s recent attempt to revive the genre.

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Honk!, LOST Theatre3Scott Matthewman2011-09-30 12:18:09The LOST Theatre in Stockwell is currently playing host to a new production of Honk!, a family musical based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the …

In preview: Rock of Ages, Shaftesbury Theatre

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I was never going to be the sort of person seduced by the plethora of posters appearing all over London advertising this latest show. Justin Lee Collins! Shayne Ward! A number of songs by rock artists I never listen to if I can help it! It’s effectively pitching the entire show as a jukebox collection performed by a stunt cast – an eighties Dreamcoats and Petticoats with leather jackets and eyeliner.

And yet, when seeing it last week as it started previews, it’s clear that there’s much more going on, and there’s far more for a lover of traditional musicals to enjoy. Don’t believe the hype – Rock of Ages is actually quite good.

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In preview: Rock of Ages, Shaftesbury Theatre3Scott Matthewman2011-09-07 13:44:59I was never going to be the sort of person seduced by the plethora of posters appearing all over London advertising this latest show. Justin Lee Colli…