Blink Again!, Above the Stag

Editor’s Rating
Rating

On the publicity material for the third in Above the Stag’s now-annual revue of songs from shows that flopped, The Stage is quoted as describing it as “a high quality evening”.

That quote came from my review of 2009’s first show. However, the section of that review that the quote comes from was not quite so equivocal:

The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done to improve what is already a high quality evening.

Annoyingly, I could use exactly the same paragraph in the review of 2011’s show. Which would be appropriate in many ways, since Blink Again! itself recycles much from the previous two years.

Continue reading Blink Again!, Above the Stag

Blink Again!, Above the Stag2Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 12:42:00On the publicity material for the third in Above the Stag’s now-annual revue of songs from shows that flopped, The Stage is quoted as describing it as…

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.

Jest End

Jest End’s sideswipes at London’s most loved (or at least best known) musicals may be affectionate, but no punches are pulled.

Taking well known melodies and fashioning humorous lyrics around them is a joke that works throughout, thanks to the acuity and skill of the satire. It also helps that all four cast members are exceptionally strong vocally.

The show works best when it deals with current shows – references to Phill Jupitus’ Hairspray role and John Barrowman’s turn in La Cage aux Folles are both acknowledged. Indeed, it is Chris Thatcher’s portrayal of Barrowman, along with similarly wicked send-ups of Michael Ball and Cameron Mackintosh, that steals the show. The latter is part of a sequence of numbers that uses Oliver! to mine a rich seam of material, whether of producers reviving old adaptations, or hard-working actresses being overlooked in favour of reality TV show winners.

One or two numbers feel a little dated, such as a number about Jersey Boys usurping Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward. And ironically, it is a song about the West End’s numerous flops that strikes the only duff note of the evening. But these are small issues in an evening full of riotous comedy.

Jermyn Street, London
November 17-December 20
Author/director: Garry Lake
Producer: Jest End Productions
Cast: Jodie Jacobs, Laura Brydon, Chris Thatcher, Stuart Matthew Price
Running time: 1hr 40mins

* Reviewed for The Stage

Blink! – the double-take

Last night, Paul and I went back to the [Above the Stag](http://www.thestage.co.uk/listings/venue.php/7934/above-the-stag-london) theatre in Victoria to see _Blink!_, a revue about songs from musicals that closed early. For both of us it was our second time to see the show, although we’d previously seen it on different nights. My first was on press night, when I [reviewed it for _The Stage_](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/25036/blink-).

When I reviewed the show, I said:

> The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done

Thankfully, those bits did seem to have improved since press night – there were certainly far fewer occasions where the actors dried. They still feel clumsy and stilted, though, and it feels wrong to ask a performer who’s just finished belting a number to then switch to a straight narration.

The core of shows like this is not the narration, though, but the performances of the songs. There were points which didn’t work quite as well as on press night, but then you always get variation from show to show. And although there was a full house last night, as there was the last time I saw the show, the audience wasn’t quite as receptive, which has a big impact on the onstage performance.

_Blink!_ is on at Above the Stag until August 16 — which means that current West End flop _[Too Close to the Sun](http://matthewman.net/2009/07/27/ernie-get-your-gun/)_, which will have closed by then, qualifies for inclusion…

To finish, here’s a YouTube version of Debra Monk performing one of the songs included in the show, _Everybody’s Girl_, from Kander and Ebb’s **Steel Pier**. In the show, it’s performed by Julia G Addison (and in the after party, **Legally Blonde** star Sheridan Smith proclaimed, “I’ve found my new audition song!”)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJg7YZHRXtE

Blink!, Above the Stag

A cabaret of songs from unsuccessful musicals will be made or broken by the selection of material. Save for a couple of misses, Blink’s repertoire provides for an evening packed with memorable and occasionally well-known numbers.

A flexible approach to the brief accommodates shows that succeeded in Broadway but flopped in London (or vice versa) as frequently as shows that anyone could see had no chance. This allows moments such as Tim McArthur’s rendition of La Cage Aux Folles’ I Am What I Am, which is easily on a par with the current West End version.

That number is the most effective of the ballads included. The cast are clearly more comfortable, however, with the comedy numbers which make up the majority of the running time. Whether it’s a jaw-dropping version of the Silence of the Lambs or an inspired medley of numbers gleefully ridiculing actor-musician revivals, there are numerous opportunities for belly laughs from an ensemble that is clearly revelling in the material.

The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done to improve what is already a high quality evening.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/25036/blink)_

Devised & directed by: Peter Bull and Tim McArthur
Management: Trilby Productions
Cast: Julia G Addison, Alexander Bradford, Nikki Gerard, Tim McArthur, Elena Rossi
Design: Prav Menon-Johansson
Lighting: Howard Hudson
Musical direction: Debbie Morris

Love, Laugh and Live

Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/15086/love-laugh-and-live)

Theatre Museum, London
November 26, 28
Cast: Jonathan Eiø, Lucy Thatcher
Running time: 2hrs

This evening of songs on three themes started weakly with a thesaurus reading which, as with all the scripted attempts at humour throughout, never quite worked. Thankfully, the warmth and vivacity of the two stars and their songs compensated handsomely.

When selecting music to showcase particular actors’ vocal abilities, it is always going to be difficult to maintain the balance between demonstrating musical ability and keeping a consistent sense of musical style. Thankfully, Jonathan Eiø and Lucy Thatcher succeeded.

Eiø’s boyish charisma, highlighted by an opening number from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that accentuated his physical similarity to the film’s Charlie Bucket, carried him through some good renditions of a variety of classics. In particular, his solos of Arthur’s Theme and New York State of Mind demonstrated that he has an enviable ability to captivate the audience.

On any other evening, he would have deserved much praise. Here, though, he was overshadowed by Lucy Thatcher, who consistently outperformed him all evening. Bringing a sense of characterisation to every song that Eiø seemed unable to match, it is Thatcher’s performance that will remain in the memory.

The second act started disappointingly, with original compositions (including one of Eiø’s own) that, while musically and vocally impressive, felt lacking in the lyrics. However, Thatcher’s incredibly romantic rendition of Ben Folds’ The Luckiest could not but melt hearts. By the final medley of duets, the rapport betwen Eiø and Thatcher resulted in some genuine comedy between the pair in sharp contrast to their ponderous early efforts.