Reviewed: The Color Purple, Menier Chocolate Factory

For Musical Theatre Review, my review of the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of The Color Purple:

Alice Walker’s classic novel, adapted first into an acclaimed film and then a musical, makes its London debut in the latter form with an assured production that showcases some of our finest musical theatre talent – while also producing an incredibly moving and emotional tale of abuse and survival, and of rejection of the idea that subjugation of anyone can be tolerated.

Read the full review.

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.

 

Review: Anatomy of a Murder, Audit House, London

Courtroom dramas can be tricky things to accomplish on stage. In order to keep the audience’s interest, the case concerned must be serious enough, the defendant’s guilt or innocence must be hard to determine – and yet, if we do not feel sympathy for them despite their possible guilt, how are we as an audience ever going to engage with their plight?

Anatomy of a Murder, Elihu Winer’s play based on Robert Traver’s 1958 novel, piques the interest by starting from the premise that there is no doubt that the defendant, army Lieutenant Frederic Manion (George McFadyen) killed Barney Quill, the proprietor of the local inn.But Quill, we are told, had raped Manion’s wife that night. Immediately, our loyalties and a sense of natural justice start muddying the waters – and further murkiness is added as Manion and his fresh-faced lawyer Paul Biegler (Benedict Hastings) work out that Manion’s only defence against a charge of murder will be a plea of insanity.

Continue reading Review: Anatomy of a Murder, Audit House, London

Reviewed: Strictly Confidential

Over on The Stage, I review Strictly Confidential, Craig Revel Horwood’s new stage show based on the Strictly Come Dancing brand. Personally, I found that Ian, Natalie and Artem, while all fabulously charismatic dancers, don’t work quite as well when having to deliver monologues. It’s still fun – a pastiche of Lisa Riley’s seven years as a regular on Emmerdale works well, for example – but didn’t quite satisfy me in the ways that Burn the Floor or Brendan Cole: Licence to Thrill did. Still a fun night out, though.

Streets, Hackney Empire

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Last night Paul and I went to see Streets at the Hackney Empire. After a previous run at the much smaller, more intimate Cockpit Theatre (which Paul saw, but I didn’t), yesterday saw just two performances in the Empire’s larger, proscenium arch space.

Continue reading Streets, Hackney Empire

Streets, Hackney Empire4Scott Matthewman2013-06-20 15:46:04Last night Paul and I went to see Streets at the Hackney Empire. After a previous run at the much smaller, more intimate Cockpit Theatre (which Paul …

Review: Four Farces, Wilton’s Music Hall

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We tend to have a rather stilted view of Victorian theatre – high tragedy at the top end, bawdy music hall at the other, with maybe a smattering of Gilbert and Sullivan in between. So this presentation of four short one-act farces is welcome. Often performed as a prelude to more serious fare, an evening of comic vignettes highlights the delights – and the occasional drawbacks – of the form.

John Maddison Morton’s Box and Cox, in which a day worker and night worker discover that their crafty landlady has rented them the same apartment, figuring their work patterns would never meet, has a great setup. Asta Parry’s Mrs Bouncer is a slight role – little more than a Victorian Mrs Overall – but Parry fills in the blanks well. In contrast, the principals (Richard Latham and John O’Connor) don’t quite connect, with the unfortunate result that the main conceit – one which in its day was popular enough to inspire political cartoons – ends up giving the impression that the whole evening could be an adventure in misguided revivalism.

Thankfully, the second play, Wanted, A Young Lady, starts to pick up. While one gets the impression that Latham’s simple manservant, Simon, is somewhat older than the original script may have intended, O’Connor begins to come alive as the ne’er-do-well man who poses first as his more tolerable brother, then his own grandmother, in pursuit of a young woman. Again, it is Parry who outshines the two men.

Continue reading Review: Four Farces, Wilton’s Music Hall

Review: Four Farces, Wilton’s Music Hall3Scott Matthewman2013-06-22 15:03:59We tend to have a rather stilted view of Victorian theatre – high tragedy at the top end, bawdy music hall at the other, with maybe a smattering of …

Payback – the Musical

Above are some production shots from Payback – the Musical, which is currently playing at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Press night was last Friday, and my review is available on the Musical Theatre Review website.

Reviewed: Patti LuPone and Seth Rudetsky

Last night I went to see Broadway legend Patti LuPone being interviewed by Seth Rudetsky at the Leicester Square Theatre. My review for The Stage is now online.

Shows run until Sunday – see the theatre website for more details. I’m also going to be at Seth Rudetsky’s Deconstructing Broadway at the same venue on Saturday – if it’s anything like his warm-up routine last night, it’ll be an absolute hoot.

Review: The Great Gatsby, Riverside Studios

Another review for Musical Theatre Review, this time for Ruby in the Dust’s The Great Gatsby at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios.

A fringe musical of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby could never compete on scale or budget with Baz Luhrmann’s $100 million-plus Hollywood adaptation. But nor should it attempt to – and Ruby in the Dust’s production wisely shuns trying. Instead, the limitations inherent within Fringe theatre become its greatest strength, focusing on the crumbling foundations on which the façades of hedonistic 1920s opulence are constructed.