Last night I went to the Dominion Theatre in London to see the new musical An American in Paris. The musical is an adaptation of the 1951 Oscar-winning film of the same name starring the likes of Gene Kelly. It features a 50-something strong cast of dancers, actors and musicians and is accompanied by a score belonging to George and Ira Gershwin. A musical is always in safe hands with a Gershwin. It was nice to escape for a few hours and be transported back to the Golden Age of musical theatre.
This year I’ve decided to branch out my theatre habits. Anyone who knows me well will have no trouble telling you just how much I like musical theatre and I am very good at clocking up some serious theatre hours in the West End. However, I am less inclined go visit a play or other stagey event that differs from the jazz hands, tap breaks and power ballads that seem to bleed through my veins. Since moving to London in the last year I am trying to make a conscious effort to change that and branch out my theatre interests. It is so important that all of the arts are supported equally and I cannot contain my love to just one corner of the stage. So this weekend, I went to the PROMS!
This week I am having a look back at the books from my childhood that have had a lasting effect on me. Here are 3 reasons there is a Matilda-shaped space in my heart.
3. We all need that kind of magic in our lives
No matter our name, race or class, the one thing that reaches out to us all on a universal scale is fiction and, as a part of that, literature. The mere fact that one medium can overcome so many factors which frequently divide us is magical, and no matter who we are, we can all be better off because of it.
Matilda gives us literal and figurative magic and it is a beautiful modern classic in every way. Nearly 30 years after it first hit our shelves (1988) this book is still as current as ever and is present on the bookshelves of many young children. Along with the popular film adaptation of 1996, you’d be hard pushed to find anybody who has not been touched by Matilda in one way or another.
In recent years the magic of Matilda has spread to London’s West End and across the pond to Broadway. Adapted into a musical that shows 8 times a week, Matilda has proved a popular stagey favourite as well as a hit in its previous formats. The score is moving, brilliant and totally apt for such a beautiful story.
Now reaching a range of audiences across the globe in various different ways, I will be forever thankful to Roald Dahl for gifting us this heart-warming tale of the importance of reading and the joy we can find within that.
Last month I ventured to see a new musical and completely fell in love with it. Here are my top 3 reasons to see it and share in the theatre magic too.
- The theatre
Charing Cross theatre is a charming little subterranean theatre hidden in the Arches just off Villiers Street in Central London. It’s a very intimate space with just shy of 300 seats and a petite stage to fill. The walls of the auditorium have period arches given away by the name of the road, which add a charming character to the underground space. Throughout the performance you can hear the rattle of trains and feel the rumble of their wheels passing above and below you. Although unusual at first this adds to the ambience of the production and provides an atmosphere unique from that of many other theatres around the country. The Charring Cross Theatre is a must visit location if you’re looking for something that extra bit special in our beautiful capital.
Last Friday night saw the return of critically acclaimed The Bodyguard to London’s West End. The show has just embarked on a nationwide tour featuring Alexandra Burke and has now settled at the Dominion Theatre until February 2017.
Three time MOBO award winner and Olivier Award nominee (for Felicia Farrell in Memphis the Musical) Beverley Knight has reprised her role as Rachel Marron, ultimate diva and Hollywood megastar. She previously played the role at the show’s last West End home, the Adelphi, back in 2013/14 and has now triumphantly returned 2 years later.
The hit musical has undergone somewhat of a facelift in that time. The beginning of the show now sees some spellbinding visual effects and an array of new choreography that entailed Knight being impressively thrown around the stage, quite literally. For the entire performance the audience had the honour to witness Beverley’s powerhouse vocals as she showed us the best of British talent and belted hit after hit after hit. Her performance was emotional, strong and effortless, leaving the entire theatre wanting to scream for more after every note. Witnessing this woman perform is nothing short of a privilege and a joy.
Willy Russell’s classic musical is currently doing the rounds on another UK tour. Those less enthusiastic about theatre often ask the rest of us “don’t you get bored of seeing the same shows time and time again?” The 2016 tour of Blood Brothers illustrates why the answer is always a resounding no.
The story is an impossibly sad tale of enduring love between a mother and her sons, and the power of family. Social and class issues are also explored as two brothers borne of the same woman lead very different lives all a spellbinding story punctuated with a beautifully emotional soundtrack.
Lyn Paul’s performance was nothing short of flawless and utterly effortless. As arguably the greatest Mrs Johnston of all time it was an honour to see her grace the stage and ooze every emotion required of the iconic role. She sang with the ease of a woman born to play solely this role and reduced the audience and front of house staff alike to a puddle of tears.
The brothers, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Eddie (Joel Bennedict), have excellent chemistry and give the story the desired emotional punch. Sean Jones was particularly impressive delivering a layered performance of such a complex character and slipping effortlessly from innocent child to emotionally damaged adult over the course of just over 2 hours. Kristofer Harding also played the role of narrator well.
This tour is a masterpiece and a must see.
Catherine Tate’s musical Miss Atomic Bomb is delightfully silly and a very entertaining night out. The plot and songs are original, albeit totally insane, and left the entire audience in fits of hysterics at one point or another.
Set in Las Vegas during America’s nuclear testing of the 1950s, recently promoted hotel manager Lou Lublwitz (Simon Lipkin) stages a nuclear-themed beauty pageant with the help of his army deserter brother Joey (Dean John-Wilson) in order to make the hotel some money. After a chance meeting Joey aims to attract desert shepherdess Candy (Florence Andrews), whom he’s apparently fallen for, whilst her best friend and wanna be fashion designer Myrna (Catherine Tate) sets her sights on becoming America’s next design icon. The characters fall together beautifully with the help of a charming ensemble, including Strallen sister Sasi.
Sporting an entire song about sheep, a sub plot reminiscent of Javert’s pursuit of Jean Valjean and the side-splitting pageant process, it’s a lot to digest in just under 2 and a half hours. Despite being an overwhelming evening I would rush back again in a heartbeat, if only for the incredible tap break which left my inner tap queen beaming with joy. The only downside would be Ms Tate’s forced American accent however with a six pack spawned from laughter I have no complaints of this atomically fun new musical.