Category: Comedy


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‘Phone rings, door chimes, in comes company.’

To marry and settle down, or continue with a commitment free lifestyle. That’s the predicament that Bobbie faces on her 35th birthday. Surrounded by her friends, all of whom are married, Bobbie begins analysing their relationships and weighing up her options.

There are several stand out features that make Marianne Elliot’s production of Company so special. For starters, it feels so modern and relevant. Although it was written in the seventies, this production brings the action crashing into 2019, with references to tinder and modern lifestyle choices seeded throughout. In the original production, Bobby is a man, but in a clever gender-swap Bobbie is now played by Rosalie Craig. Craig performs with perfection, adding depth and bewilderment to Bobbie’s predicament. Craig also handles the role with impeccable comic timing and subtlety. Her performance as the light-hearted Bobbie is infused with angst and confusion as she begins to feel time is running out and a decision needs to be made. The uncertainty Bobbie is experiencing, as she questions her ideal partner and wonders whether he has already entered her life, during ‘Someone is waiting’ is very touching.

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Sondheim’s score is beautifully brought to life by the talented ensemble, with ‘You could drive a person crazy’ and ‘Side by side by side’ being particularly tightly performed. ‘Not getting married today’ is a hilarious number, with frantic babbling and impressive energy from Jonathon Bailey as the overwhelmed groom, Jamie, and a singing vicar in a fridge. Craig’s rendition of ‘Being Alive’, which has to be one of the most beautiful pieces from musical theatre, is filled with emotion.

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It’s also the tight-knit ensemble that adds magic to Company. It’s clear everyone is comfortable and supportive of each other. Their friendship on and off stage shines through.

In the role of Joanne is Broadway legend Patti Lupone who adds her trademark ascerbic wit to give the character several moments that have the audience almost whooping. Lupone’s version of ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’ gives a great example of her presence and commitment to the role.

Mel Giedroyc (of ‘Mel & Sue’ fame) is also wonderful as sweet but fiery Sarah, and her scene with Gavin Spokes (Harry) demonstrates both actors’ keen eye for comedy, as each partner attempts to out-do the other in a passive aggressive battle of one-upmanship.

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Elliott’s production of Company is a rare find, as it is so close to theatrical perfection. From the seamless transition of each set piece to the gripping, honest performance of the actors, it’s a joyous night out that has you questioning your own choices and values.

Being Alive, Rosalie Craig, Company

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The rising crescendo of the March of the Valkyries as the audience takes their seats gives me the impression that this could be a tense couple of hours and, prone to jumping out of my skin, I realise I could have made a mistake in coming alone. As part of my resolution to book more blindly, I didn’t know anything about The Lady Vanishes, other than it boasted an impressive cast of TV veterans, such as Juliet Mills, Maxwell Caulfield and Phillip Lowrie. Flicking though the programme, I realise it’s based on a Hitchcock film, and start to feel quite anxious about embarrassing myself by shrieking at the smallest shock.

Thankfully for my dignity, The Lady Vanishes reserves most of its surprises to the last ten minutes, particularly during a tense shoot out featuring nerve-testing sound effects. The preceding two-hours begins sharply with the impressive set of a bleak German train station, swastikas ominously looming over head. It’s in this sequence that our characters are introduced as they await the delayed train (clearly it’s a Transport  for Wales service), but frustratingly the sound quality dips at this point and even three rows from the front it’s hard to make out some of the mumbling. Although a bit rickety, the set folds together effectively to create the train carriages and the reduction of the action to two carriages adds an unnerving claustrophobia.

Juliet Mills is wonderful as the dotty and charming Miss Froy, as is Lorna Fitzgerald as the fraught and paranoid Iris, the only passenger to remember Miss Froy before her disappearance. The first act rattles along at an impressive pace, setting up a mystery that will definitely have you scratching your head throughout the interval. But it’s the second act where things get a little bit messy. The bizarre plot of the illusionist and his disappearing cabinet prove to be an unnecessary red herring and the fight sequence in the luggage compartment is rather silly. Although the production is peppered with subtle humour, this scene does tip the balance into slapstick.

For its plot holes, over-zealous sound effects and messy climax, The Lady Vanishes is rescued by its stellar cast. The ensemble works beautifully well together. Mills, who steals a scene just by reading a newspaper and eating a sandwich, gives a masterclass in subtly, whilst Fitzgerald gives a performance worlds apart from her famous role on EastEnders. Caulfied is chilling as the sinister Dr Hartz and Lowrie is frustratingly unlikeable as the bumbling lawyer wanting to keep his affair secret. Elizabeth Payne cuts a sympathetic but gutsy figure as Margaret, Eric’s mistress who is desperate to leave her husband, and who we find out is perfectly capable of defending herself.

The Lady Vanishes is a decent thriller, bolstered by its impressive casting.

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‘It’s a film isn’t it?’ ‘No, it’s a book.’ ‘It’s very dark, I think…’

Everyone I spoke to prior to seeing this show seemed to have a different opinion, and I didn’t quite know what to expect when I headed to my favourite theatre last week.

Playing in the Emlyn Williams the theatre, The 39 Steps proved to be a night of ridiculous comedy, and the perfect antidote to a long week.

Set in the round, the space was transformed creatively from a living room, to a hotel, to a car, to a speeding train. Using very few props the talented cast (of just four) took us on a journey across Britain, as we followed unlucky Richard Hannay, on the run from the law after he is mistaken for a murderer. The many madcap characters are brought to life using a clever blend of physical comedy and imaginatively used props and costumes.

The whole story is played for laughs, with every inch of comedy eeked out of the script. At times, it’s ridiculous but never really grating.

Part of the fun was watching the actors juggle with their own characters. They swapped roles before our eyes and there were several moments which felt unique to the evenings performance. The fourth wall is broken several times, including a lovely moment when Hannay escapes through one door for the remaining actors to confidently assure the audience that ‘it’s in the round’, before Hannay bursts in through another door and is captured.

We were sitting in the front row, directly in front of a smaller stage, which was used as a hotel bedroom, giving us a very intimate slice of the action. Just when we thought we’d escaped any audience participation, we were doused with ‘snow’ in the closing moments. Lovely.

Well worth a visit for the laughs, The 39 Steps is a fun evening of clever, innovative comedy, that’ll have you cheering for Hannay right to the end.

Image result for everybody's talking about jamieLimited Edition. Thursday night special. I headed down to my favourite local theatre to catch the one-off live screening of Everybody’s talking about Jamie. I knew very little about the show beforehand. I’d seen the cast perform at West End Live and thought they were very good but, whilst I appreciated the music I had heard,  I couldn’t help but feel this show wasn’t going to be my thing. I know. I’m full of shame for judging it but I think it’s important to admit my preconceptions because….I was bloody wrong.

Everybody’s talking about Jamie was fantastic.  A lively, hilarious, sucker-punch of a show that struts its stuff unapologetically for a glorious two and half hours. The script, by Tom Macrae, is one of the best in the musical theatre I have heard. Witty, sharp, full of acerbic lines from Jamie, but never in a way that is too forced. The way the characters interact always feels very natural and nothing ever seems cringey or false. It’s refreshing to see a modern, original musical where the characters don’t use plummy RP or grating false american accents. This is Sheffiled! The setting brings the production down to the earth, but makes it no less fabulous.

John McCrea is an absolute star in the title role, serving up sass, high kicks and prom queen realness. Jamie’s pain at being rejected by his (bastard) father (played by Ken Christiansen) is palpable, and the fall out from his Dad’s criticism is devastating. Christiansen is also brilliant within his role as Jamie’s homophobic, anti-drag father who struggles to accept his son for who he is. We all know a ‘Jamie’s Dad’, unfortunately, and Christiansen portrays the tough role well. Jamie’s mum is played by Josie Walker, who wins the audience over from the moment she sets foot on stage. Anyone who didn’t have a tiny tear (and wish there mother would sing about them like that!), during ‘He’s my boy’ is made of pure stone. Shobna Gulati also adds glamour and hilarity in the role of Jamie’s alternative parental-figure, and his mum’s best friend, Ray. Lucy Shorthouse plays Jamie’s meek ‘fag hag’, Pritti, to perfection and has a lovely singing voice to boot. The whole cast as an ensemble are something special and you can tell they have worked incredibly hard to build this production into the success it has become.

Dan Gillespie Sells has created one of the best musical theatre scores. Interestingly, each song doesn’t sound like it should be from a stage show. Any one of them could be played on the radio and no one would think any different. From the opening, upbeat earworm, ‘Don’t even know it’, to the heart-breaking, ‘He’s my boy’, Gillespie Sells shows he has a fantastic talent and creates a perfect score for the story.

The message of Jamie is so important. Through its story of drag queens, frustrated teachers, loyal mothers and confused teens, it encourages you to be whoever you want to be – whether that’s a flamboyant drag artist or studious medical student. It’s a vibrant, modern musical that I know the sixteen year old me would have loved. Though I had my doubts, Jamie has strutted its way confidently into my top five and taught me a valuable lesson – I have to get myself to London to see it live.

Jamie is a killer production, with mesmerising choreography, some wicked one-liners and a heart-warming story that urges its audience to get out of the darkness, and into the spotlight. Image result for everybody's talking about jamie

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Home, I’m Darling is a fresh, original play from Laura Wade with all the makings of a classic. Directed by Tamara Harvey, Home, I’m Darling, is funny, thought-provoking and, in parts, quite sinister, and it certainly leaves the audience with plenty to mull over.

Katherine Parkinson plays Judy, a former business woman who has taken voluntary redundancy to spend six months living the life of a fifties housewife. Problems arise when six months turn into three years, and an obsessed Judy is struggling to hide her money woes from her husband, Jonny. As the couple have to choose between living the frugal, fifties life of their dreams or facing their problems in the twenty-first century, they also have to deal with Jonny’s confused feelings for his boss, Alex, and his desperation to get that important promotion. As the plot unfolds, there are plenty of hilarious moments from women uncomfortable in their time. Judy’s mother laments over her own mother’s post-war suspicions, including when a new dairy product came to Britain. (‘My poor mother. Frightened of a yoghurt’). Then, there’s Judy, who has totally lost touch with the present day. (‘People standing in doorways sucking on a biro’.)

Parkinson gives an electric, and poignant, performance as Judy. When we meet her she is the epitome of perfection, serenely cooking breakfast in her gingham palace, before waving her husband off to work with a peck on the cheek. As the story unravels, so does Judy. Near the end of the play she is dishevelled and terrified at the prospect of stepping foot into 2018 (she doesn’t even know what ‘Bake-off’ is!’). Although some might be frustrated at her retreat into this male-dominated world of a fifties housewife, Judy maintains that it is her choice, therefore it is a feminist choice. She is likeable and you can’t help but feel sorry for her as she makes mistake after mistake in a desperate attempt to keep her fantasy alive.

Judy’s friend Fran acts as a mouth-piece for the audience, gently questioning Judy’s choices and even dipping her toe into the fifties pool herself. Fran’s husband Marcus undergoes quite the transformation as he moves from cheeky, ‘huggy’ chappy, to creepy sleezeball. Drysdale gives an excellent performance as Fran, particularly as she is torn between the love for her husband and the allegations set against him. Sian Thomas is striking as Judy’s frustrated, former-hippy mother, Sylvia, who is fraught at the prospect of her daughter living the ‘repressed’ lifestyle she fought against. Sylvia’s monologue about the forgotten drawbacks of the fifties, and the ridiculousness of modern nostalgia from those who weren’t even alive in the era, is particularly fantastic and delivered so passionately and naturally that it is easy for the audience to forget they were watching a scripted performance.

Home, I’m Darling is a rare thing of beauty. There were no stand-out performances, (although Parkinson was, of course, incredible) because every cast member was a joy to watch. Everyone was playing with honesty which led to a very natural and believable production. It’s not just the acting. Everything about it dazzles. Home, I’m Darling opens up many hot topics for debate, from an uncomfortable case of sexual harassment in the workplace, to the reasons behind Judy’s obsessive, almost fetish-like passion for her fifties fantasy, to the grey-area of Jonny’s feelings for Alex.

Home, I’m Darling is a modern think-piece that will leave you chuckling and jiving long after the curtain call.

 

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Ok so this one is coming a bit a late, but last weekend, after an awesome time at West End Live, I caught Strictly Ballroom at the Piccadilly theatre. It was the perfect end to a super-stagey day.

Knowing nothing about the film, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a fabulous evening of comedy, campery and sequins galore that followed.

Will Young headlines the stage version of the Baz Luhrmann film, in the brand new role of Wally Strand; a sort of omniscient character who guides us through the love story between Scott and Fran with a selection of familiar musical numbers.Image result for strictly ballroom musical

Young’s distinctive singing voice provides an entrancing soundtrack to the story, though it’s the dancers that really shine during this production. Jonny Labey and Zizi Strallen are fantastic as Scott and Fran, performing many fast-paced, eye-popping moves with ease. They are joined by a super-talented cast of dancers who perform with an energy that makes you want to join in (before you realise you are a rubbish dancer and settle back down with your glass of pino).

This version has had a bit of makeover from the touring production, with chart classics by artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Housten and David Bowie, included to take us through the story. Although Will Young sings the bulk of the songs, the small bit of singing by Strallen and Labey is lovely, and the cast once again support Young fantastically.

There’s a lot to be said for the way music is used in the production. The styles of classic pop songs are played with, so at first they appear unfamiliar, and then suddenly you’re hit with that moment of recognition. Songs are also very rarely sung all the way through, with Young weaving in snippets of familiar hits and mash-ups to illustrate the story.

It’s not just about the love story between Scott and Fran. The subplot of the romantic breakdown (and then regeneration) between Scott’s parents is also surprisingly touching, as Scott’s overbearing mother and his mild-mannered father rediscover their passion for one another.Image result for strictly ballroom musical

I was also really surprised by how funny the show was. Anna Francolini was a dream as Scott’s ballroom-obsessed mother, providing many comedy moments in an over-the-top, hilarious style. Strallen also delivered as the clumsy wannabe-dancer Fran, who transforms into Scott’s dream partner. Stephen Matthews also gave a wonderful performance as Scott’s oddball dad, who turns out to have a heart-breaking back story.

Strictly Ballroom is a vibrant, energetic production with some hilarious and touching moments. I definitely think this is a production which deserves more recognition so, if you’re in the west end, go and see it!

Watch Strictly Ballroom’s performance at West End Live 2018 here.

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Right, it occurred to me that this year I have seen a lorra lorra theatre and, ridiculously, have only written about a few shows. So to catch up, this week I’m giving you four fast reviews for the productions I missed, but really did deserve to be talked about…..

Wonderland, Venue Cymru, LlandudnoImage result for Wonderland the musical

I’ll start with Wonderland because it’s got a bit of a tragic story.  I saw this in Llandudno in June and it was spectacular. Wonderland is the familiar story of Alice given a modern twist. Alice is a 40-something divorcee with a teenage daughter who enters Wonderland via a dodgy lift in her apartment block. She doesn’t take the trip alone as she’s joined by daughter Ellie and awkward love-interest Jack. Whilst in Wonderland they’re encouraged to go through the looking glass, a magical archway that exposes the other side of their personalities (cue Alice becoming stern and sensible and Jack transforming into a confident charmer.)

Wonderland boasted many memorably songs, particularly ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and ‘Finding Wonderland’, sung with passion and energy by a very talented cast. Rachael Wooding was a powerhouse as Alice, revealing Alice’s faults and insecurities poignantly. Bree Smith gave a cracking performance as the sassy Queen of Hearts, slaying with her performance of ‘Off with their heads’. Ben Kerr and Francesca Lara Gordon were also brilliant as the March Hare and Mad Hatter, giving us refreshing twists on the classic characters. The set pieces were gorgeous, fully immersing into the crazy world of Wonderland where anything is possible. Most striking was the way the famous tale of  Alice was re-worked into a modern setting, giving the characters (particularly Alice) a bit more depth along the way. Wonderland was a work of art and must-see, modern musical.

However, just a couple of weeks after seeing Wonderland, the tour was cancelled due to problems behind the scenes. There’s plenty of speculation online, but, whatever the reason, it’s a great shame that the hard work, commitment and talent of the cast and crew will go unseen.

Les Miserables, Queen’s Theatre, London

Image result for les miserablesThis was a bucket-list show that lived up to all of my expectations, and beyond. The star of the show is its musical score and I was not disappointed to hear Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music played by a live orchestra. ‘At the end of day’ saw the full cast launch into action with breath-taking harmonies whilst ‘Do you hear the people sing?’ gave the audience goosebumps you could strike a match on. Simon Gleeson was made for the role of Jean Valjean, whist Hollie O’Donoghue was perfect as Eponine, giving a beautiful performance of ‘On My Own’. Katy Secombe and David Langham stole every scene as the dastardly Thenardiers, providing much needed comedy amongst all the tragedy! The revolving set works really well, seamlessly taking the story across France and through the ages. The battle sequence in the second act is particularly stunning, with tense performances (and gun fire!) keeping the audience well on the edge of their seats. At one point it took all my will not to cover my eyes. The deaths during this battle scene are especially heart breaking (no spoilers), and many gasps were heard as the barricade revolved to reveal the true carnage. Les Miserables remains packed with emotion throughout and it ends in spectacular fashion with the beautiful finale. There’s no question as to why this show has been around for so long. It’s a must-see and a show that I’m sure I’ll revisit.

Don Juan in Soho, Wyndham’s Theatre, LondonImage result for don juan in soho

Sex, drugs and David Tennant – what’s not to love? Though, admittedly, the main pull to this production was, initially, that is starred a certain former Time Lord, I was pleasantly surprised to find a sparkling script and stellar performances waiting for me at Wyndham’s Theatre. Updated to 2017 and relocated to Soho, Don Juan tells the story of a privileged, hedonistic party-goer as he sleeps his way around London, picking up plenty of hookers and cocaine along the way. David Tennant was, of course, fantastic as the titular bastard, unleashing his inner-Russel Brand and being fantastically horrid to every other character, including his loyal aid, Stan, played excellently by Adrian Scarborough. The relationship between Stan and DJ is surprisingly endearing, though Stan, on the edge of a breakdown, is desperate for DJ to pay him so he can retire, he can’t help but stay by DJ’s side. Don Juan in Soho is strikingly contemporary, with references to the ‘strong and stable’ government we find ourselves trapped under today as well as several witty remarks about American politics. DJ deliciously berates the world we live in, stating social media, fake news and lying politicians as factors of a crumbling society in one passionately performed monologue that had the audience on the verge of shouting ‘Amen!’. DJ tries to explain to Stan that life is all about pleasure – shamelessly seducing the chavtastic Lottie (a brilliant comic performance from Dominique Moore) in a hospital whilst simultaneously trying it on with grieving bride Mattie in one ridiculously outrageous scene. Don Juan in Soho was theatre at its best as it forced the audience to think before they left their seats. It was engaging from the first moment, topical and surreal, and definitely one of the best plays I’ve ever seen.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Image result for the curious incident of the dog in the night-timeA really touching story told in a refreshing, and visually brilliant, way. Christopher finds his neighbour’s dog has been killed and takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. His mission sees him uncover a family secret, which in turn takes him to the terrifying world of Central London. Scott Reid was phenomenal as Christopher, giving a truly powerful performance, particularly as Christopher’s condition begins to take control. The modern and tech-heavy set pieces drew us in to the story using clever effects (a green box giving the effect of a football match on TV, a remote control train bringing London to life before our eyes) to add an extra fizz to the already sparkling performances. Surprisingly, Christopher has uncovered the culprit by the interval, leaving the second act to explore the secrets of Christopher’s family and the effects his ‘behavioural problems’ have on his loved ones. Anyone who doesn’t feel prickly-eyed throughout Act 2 is incapable of emotion. The emotional energy of the performances is sometimes borderline unbearable, and the sequences in London are also quite overwhelming, as we experiences flashing lights, loud noises and almost nightmarish scenes, we’re forced to view the world from Christopher’s point of view. This is a play that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.

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‘Darkness, grief and unspeakable sorrow.’

Well…not quite. Darkness, yes, but there were plenty of laughs at the WMC in Cardiff on Friday night. I’ve been reading a lot on twitter about The Addams Family musical so I was really excited when, by pure luck, I bagged two tickets for last Friday.

As the orchestra struck up the familiar theme tune, what was initially clear was just how well cast this show was. Samantha Womack is a perfect Morticia – cool and sultry throughout – whilst Cameron Blakely makes a terrific Gomez. Both actors have sizzling chemistry together (proven with a sexy tango) and match each other with each witty punchline. They both resurrect these iconic characters perfectly. Perhaps surprisingly, ‘Love’ is a key theme of this production, most prominently the love between a family, and Blakley shows Gomez’s love for his daughter,Wednesday, beautifully, particularly during the song ‘Happy/Sad’, where he reflects on the memories he has of his young daughter, such as the first time she set fire to the Jehovah’s witness, evoking the dark humour we associate with the family.  (Another example, when Alice asks if the Addams’ have a little girls’ room, Gomez responds with ‘We did, but we had to let them go.’)

At first, Wednesday’s (Carrie Hope Fletcher) change of character is a bit awkward, but all becomes clear when Wednesday belts her showstopper number ‘PRelated imageulled’, explaining that her change is a result of her love for Lucas. As the show progresses, it becomes clear Wednesday’s sadistic side is still lurking as she tortures her brother and gets very excited about potentially shooting Lucas in the head with her crossbow (all in the name of love, of course).

Valda Aviks was also fantastic as Granny, particularly during her ‘Full Disclosure’ speech. It was a smart move to address the ambiguity around Granny’s connection to the family from the cartoons and movies, by having Morticia refer to her as Gomez’s mother before Gomez retorts with ‘My mother? I thought she was your mother?’.

 

Les Dennis gave a great performance as Fester and his story thread of being in love with the moon was typically ‘Addams’ and, at the end, quite sweet. Dickon Gough also deserves a mention for his scene-stealing performance as Lurch. Lurch doesn’t speak but became a clear audience favourite thanks to Gough’s comic timing and surprising hip action in the finale number. (One complaint – where was Cousin itt?!). The main cast are supported by an excellent cast of ancestors, complete with choreography reminiscent of Thriller.

As well as the familiar quirky characters, the show boasts a catchy score. Andrew Lippa nails the new music and each number feels very natural to the characters. In particular, the opening number ‘When you’re an Addams’ is a definite ear worm and the final number, ‘Move towards the darkness’, will haunt you after you leave your seat.

What’s also impressive is the way the gothic Addams mansion is brought to life on stage via moving staircases and hidden entrances. The suspended moon above the Addams family home creates an eery and dramatic scene.

Overall, The Addams Family is a treat for theatre fans with a gorgeous score, fantastic visuals and a stellar cast.

Watch the opening number here

Watch the trailer here

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Image result for 42nd street londonI had an unexpected and very last minute trip to London last week.  Amongst the walking, talking and dining, I found myself at the Theatre Royal for a surprise tap-dance down 42nd Street.

I had very few preconceptions about the show, and I didn’t really have time to consider it too much, but I knew I was in for an old-fashioned, high-kicking performance. Four rows from the front, I had perfect seats (courtesy of TodayTix rush tickets) which gave a great close-up view of the stage.

The shows standout quality is its sheer spectacle. The sets and costumes are absolutely dazzling and during several musical numbers it’s hard to be anything but totally absorbed. The lights, moving set pieces, harmonies….It really is mesmerising. During one sequence a huge mirror is lowered to firstly, reflect the audience, and then tilted to show the dancers lying on the stage floor carrying out a very intricate synchronised sequenced. It was so impressive even the mirror got a round applause!

Tom Lister and Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson gave great performances as theatre producer Julien Marsh and clumsy chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. Sheena Easton was also brilliantly bitchy as the acerbic actress Dorothy Brock. I really enjoyed Jasna Ivir’s performance of Maggie Jones, delivering her witty one-liners with perfect comic timing (On musicians ‘Let’s just say they’re in a pit… and there’s a reason we keep them there!’)Image result for 42nd street london

Musically, the show boasts lots of catchy numbers, many of which I wasn’t familiar with until I’d seen the show, but caught myself humming many times since. ‘Go into your dance’ and ‘42nd Street’ are big tap numbers that get the audience going, but it’s ‘The Lullaby of Broadway’ that really steals the show. Ear worms a-plenty in this show!

The overall plot, a chorus girl getting her big break in a huge Broadway show, is a bit flimsy in parts, particularly some of the songs in the ‘Pretty Lady’ musical (What is the plot of that show?!), but that doesn’t distract from the energy and passionate performances of the cast.  42nd Street is a spectacular night out of good old fashioned West-End magic.

Watch the trailer here

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Warning: Spoilers within as well as references to explicit material.

Hello. My name is RebelliousG. And I would like to share with you the most amazing show.

In principle, The Book of Mormon sounds like it should be a pretty dull show. A musical about Mormons? Really? You’d be forgiven for guessing this show is an elaborate plot to promote the religion but, for those uninterested in changing faith, have no fear. This show is anything but an advertisement. And it’s certainly not dull. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, The Book of Mormon tells the story of smarmy, self-absorbed Elder Price and his loveable, clueless fellow missionary, Elder Cunningham, as they are deployed to Uganda on a hopeless mission to convert a village of agnostic Africans.

The opening Image result for book of mormon londonnumber welcomes us to the pristine and innocent world of Mormon friends as they practise their perky greetings. It’s a full on cheese-fest that’ll win anyone round immediately. It all goes a bit pear-shaped when, after dreaming of being sent to Orlando, Elder Price is packed off to Uganda and saddled with Elder Cunningham to dampen his mood further.

This is where things get a bit….explicit. The Mormons arrive in Uganda and meet a bunch of hapless missionaries who have yet to recruit anyone to the church, but stay positive by ‘turning it off’ – a useful technique of switching off all negative feelings, told wonderfully though a big tap number. Turn it off is the definition of a showstopper. Tap-dancing Mormons singing cheerfully about turning off their guilt, grief and suppresse
d sexuality. What more could you want? It’s topped off with the quickest costume change I’ve ever seen.

Another stand out number is the ‘Hakuna Matata’-esque, Hasa Diga Eebowai, sang by the Ugandan villagers on the Elders arrival. Don’t be fooled though, the writers knew exactly what they were doing with this one. At first it sounds like the Ugandans are singing a message of jolly perseverance to an INCREDIBLY catchy tune, but the true translation of Hasa Diga Eebowai is soon revealed to the horrified Mormons as a great big eff-you to God. It then descends into a barrage of explicit insults at the ‘heavenly father’ which, annoyingly (well…OK…not really), is a bit of an ear worm. (You’re really gonna have to try hard to get this tune out of your head!) The lyrics might be enough to force even the most open-minded person to cringe but the message of Hasa Diga Eebowai is actually a powerful one. The villagers have to deal with genital mutilation, awful living conditions, the threat of a war lord and the AIDS outbreak. A powerful line from the song sums it up

‘If you don’t like what we say,

Try living here a couple days.

Watch all your friends and family die,

Hasa Diga Eebowai!’

Some people might judge this musical number as offensive and I imaginRelated imagee this is the point where people might walk out (two people did in our performance) but if you put yourself in their shoes, you can see where their lack of faith has come from. The song actually does
what theatre is supposed to – it makes the audience challenge their ideas and empathise. I loved it!

From a show that tackles topics such as rape, FGM, violence and intercourse with amphibians, it has a really warm heart. The show never cruelly mocks Mormons or their beliefs, nor does it preach to the audience. Elder Price collapses under the strain of his new environment, and even endures having his book inserted somewhere very painful in another darkly comic moment, and it’s Elder Cunningham who emerges the hero. Although he lies to the villagers and spices up the Book of Mormon by ‘taking the holy word and adding fiction’, such as threats of the fiery depths of Mordor and being struck down by Boba Fett, he gives them something to believe in which gives them strength. Whilst Elder Price might lose his faith, he, as well as the other missionaries and villagers, are given a new one. The Book of Mormon promotes the power of Belief and how, whatever you choose to believe in, it can help you through the toughest situation.  We’re also given the message to ‘take one day at a time’ and not worry about life after death.Image result for book of mormon london hasa

KJ Hippensteel was delightfully cheesy as the ‘all American prophet with the Donny Osmond flare’. It must be hard to find the balance between face-punching arrogance and endearing naivety but Hippensteel treads that fine line perfectly as Elder Price. David O’Reilly gave us some side-aching moments of comedy as Elder Cunningham and you could tell he was enjoying every minute of being on stage. Another reason the show is such is a hit is that its main characters are poignantly human and flawed. They both make mistakes, whether that’s lying or, in the words of Jesus, just being a dick. There are moments when you know you shouldn’t like them….but you still do! Alexandra Ncube is a power house as Nabulungi (or is that….Neutrogena? Or Nutella? Or Nigel Farage?), giving us some sweet moments with Elder Cunningham and tingles as she sings her heart out in Sal Tlay Ka Siti. I’ve also got to mention Stephen Webb who gave an excellent performance as the secretly gay Elder McKinley, with subtle comic timing, never over-doing it.

The show is held together tightly by an excellent supportive cast. The Mormon missionaries are a joy to watch, whether they’re tapping in Turn it Off, high-kicking in hell during Spooky Mormon Hell Dream or breaking our hearts as they prepare to leave the village after a disastrous mission. The actors playing them gave a masterclass in being a dazzling ensemble with eye popping footwork and super-quick costume changes.

So, The Book of Mormon comes with the highest recommendation. Put any preconceptions aside, they’re not needed. This is a refreshing piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops and shocks in all the right places, for the right reasons. You’ll be tittering at the dark comedy for a long time afterwards, just as you’ll find yourself singing about the most inappropriate things at the photocopier at work the next day. But it stays with you for other reasons too. Beneath all the grimness and cynicism is a very warm heart and an important message. Plus it’s got a kick-ass soundtrack.  The worst thing about seeing this show is the desperate urge to see it again!

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