What’s your problem with musicals?

Great video from Mark Kermode’s weekly video blog, asking why some people have problem with musicals. If you find it odd that the characters in Les Misérables sing, how about Cabaret (where the songs are performed on stage)? How about All That Jazz, where they’re part of dream sequences?

Then how about sci-fi? If you can cope with light sabres, why can’t you cope with a few songs?

If It Only Even Runs a Minute 2, Landor Theatre

Editor’s Rating

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.

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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…

The Glorious Ones, Landor Theatre

Editor’s Rating

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…

The Union ♥ Wilton’s aftershow party

While we’re on the subject of photoshoots, exactly a week prior to seeing Children of Eden, I was fulfilling a similar function at The Union ♥ Wilton’s, a showcase of numbers from The Union Theatre’s recent repertoire of musicals, performed at (and in aid of) Wilton’s Music Hall in East London. Wilton’s has a unique atmosphere (and I don’t mean in that musty, damp way that the Union itself had) – it’s a genuinely beautiful, character-filled space which also lends a unique acoustic air to shows that are put on there. Unfortunately it is literally falling apart at the seams, and after being turned down for Lottery funding its present Capital Fund is struggling to maintain the building in its current state, let alone perform the repairs that can ensure this magnificent space can be savoured for generations to come.

It was a beautiful evening of theatre, and I’d like to thank the organisers of the evening for the invitation to share it with them.

To find out more about Wilton’s and its Capital project, go to www.wiltons.org.uk.

Honk!, LOST Theatre

Editor’s Rating

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 …

Cleveland Street – the Musical, Above the Stag

I tend to want to be as generous as I can to any new musical that actually reaches the stage – so many, too many, never reach that stage. Once the house lights come down and the production has started, though, the quality of the book and the songs are what matters.

Here, Glenn Chandler, author of plays Boys of the Empire and Scouts in Bondage as well as the creator of ITV crime drama Taggart, has taken the real-life tale of a Victorian male brothel and the scandal of its high society clients and, with music by Matt Deveraux, has concocted a tale that’s redolent with period touches but has a tendency to subsume an interesting story under layers of exposition.

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Big mouth strikes again

I’m quoted in a Guardian story about the continued success of The Lion King, which has taken over £34 million in box office revenues in its 11th year in the West End.

The only reason I got to quote was that the piece’s author, Maev Kennedy, happened to ring the Stage offices as this week’s issue was going to press, so our knowledgeable news team were all tied up. So Guardian readers were made party to my thoughts instead – both online from last night, and on page 3 of today’s print edition.

Scott Matthewman, of the Stage, said: “It looks as if a big family outing to a big West End show is not necessarily counted as discretionary spending, in the way that regular cinemagoers might cut back. The shows which generate repeat visits, and target a family audience – like The Lion King – are doing particularly well. The Lion King, with the might of Disney behind it, is also putting a lot into education outreach work, so if school children are going to pester to be taken to one London show, that’s going to be the one.”

I have no idea whether any of that is true. It’s just what came off the top of my head as the call came through. I might have had a better, more cogent theory if I’d actually seen The Lion King even once during its 11 year run. As it is, it’s yet another in an embarrassingly long list of West End stalwarts I have yet to see…

The top 10 musicals based on movies… that aren’t

Earlier today, I received an email from an online PR company promoting ticket exchange website Viagogo. Tying in with the arrival into the West End of Flashdance – the Musical, the website polled its users to find the most popular movie based on a musical. (Polling users to generate PR? Who would go in for such a thing, really?)

Winning the poll was Legally Blonde. That pleases me, if only because I’m seeing it for the first time in a couple of weeks and am really encouraged by all the positive noises from friends who have seen it before, as well as public sentiments such as those expressed in the poll.

However, there were some curious decisions further down the list. Not least because two musicals in the top ten weren’t based on movies at all – quite the reverse: they were stage musicals later adapted for the silver screen. And one entry in the list has never been a movie in the first place, although a related film has used the same source material…

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Snappy Title 3: Dream a Little Dream, Cochrane Theatre

The occasional series of concerts dedicated to showcasing some of the new musical theatre writing coming from both the UK and America moved to a new, bigger venue for Sunday night’s third Snappy Title. I’ve never been to its old home of the Pigalle Club, but from what I understand its small size is more suited to out and out cabaret than this form of concert.

And yet in truth, most of the time the Cochrane’s stage seemed a little too big. Most of the numbers featured were solo performances that saw the performers look a little lost on such a comparatively large stage. The feeling was compounded by lighting which all too often bathed the entire, all-but-empty stage in a uniform glow.

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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.