Review, Theatre

Northern Ballet – The Little Mermaid: A Review

The shimmering backdrop of the Northern Ballet’s the Little Mermaid, with its centrepiece of two silver blocks, demonstrates in equal parts the beauty of the underwater world and the mermaid Marilla’s isolation from it later on. Similarly, this enchanting production shows in equal parts the pain and the hope that have allowed Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy-tale to remain in the hearts of both children and adults for centuries.

David Nixon OBE’s stunning choreography shows every heart-wrenching step of the mermaid Marilla’s tragic journey, whilst also demonstrating the more lively and uplifting segments of the tale to great effect. It is of course performed spectacularly, with every precisely timed movement being swiftly and effectively performed. This is accentuated by Sally Beamish’s fantastic music, with both it’s booming crescendos and quieter moments adding to the soul of the piece overall, also helped by the fantastic acting throughout. The way in which these aspects combine to create the underwater world and its magical atmosphere as the dancers are lifted and the staging shines, are also very impressive.

In a combination of all these elements, every agonising emotion that Marilla goes through is felt, but at the same time the love she feels for the Prince Adair shines through and as the final note plays, a feeling of hope and peace settles onto the stage. As previously stated, this is what makes the Little Mermaid such a fantastic story and it was delightful to see it brought to life at Milton Keynes Theatre.

The Northern Ballet’s The Little Mermaid is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until the 21st of April – for more information, you can to http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/northern-ballet-the-little-mermaid/milton-keynes-theatre/ .

Theatre

Disney movies that should become musicals

Plenty of Disney films have been adapted for the stage at this point – but there are still some that haven’t yet hit Broadway or the West End! Here are a three movies that I think would work really well on stage:

1. Tangled

If I could somehow bring any Disney film to the stage, it would be this one. It has great music, a compelling story, some great room for special effects and I think it would generally translate very well. Could you imagine the scene with the lanterns on stage? Tangled definitely deserves more than a cruise ship show (and from that you already have some groundwork).

2. Mulan

I will always maintain that Mulan is a modern classic for several reasons. And I honestly think that the epic nature of the story, in combination with the humour and the music, would make Mulan a truly great stage show.

3. Princess and the Frog

Ok, the essential concept of the story, the two main characters being turned into frogs, may be a tad tricky to figure out on stage. But there could be ways around that and with a real life historical context behind it, there’s so much that could be added to this story! Plus, I can just picture an extended “Down in New Orleans” as an epic opening number, as well as a big Broadway version of Dig A Little Deeper and the other songs would work great too!

What Disney movies do you think would make good musicals? Let me know in the comments

Theatre

The 2010s: a look back

In the theatre world this decade, we’ve had classics like Hamilton, Matilda and Waitress, big movie musicals like Les Mis and whatever the hell the Cats movie was. There’s been adaptation after adaptation after adaptation but, but some of them have actually turned out really great! And to top it all off, social media has changed the way that theatre is promoted and consumed for better or worse.

As the 2010s come to an end, I’ve picked out a show or two from each year, as a way of looking back and talking about some of my personal favourite shows from the last 10 years…

2010

The Addams Family Musical

Let’s start off our look back at this decade by talking about one of the ultimate (and for a long time only) spooky Halloween musical. The show expresses the beloved Addams Family characters perfectly, with a grown-up Wednesday Addams in a meet the parents style plot. It also has some fantastic music and is really funny too. It’s played across the world since it’s 2010 debut and played in the UK for the first time in 2017, which is when I first saw it on tour (and promptly decided to sing Pulled in what turned out to be the worst audition of all time, but that’s another story).

2010/2011

Matilda

Yes, I’m putting this across 2 years, because it premiered in Stratford Upon Avon in December 2010 and then hit the West End in 2011 and it’s my blog so I can do what I want. Also by the time I realised it’s technically a 2010 show I had this whole list planned out and I can’t think of any other 2011 shows to include, so this is what you’re getting.

I was lucky enough to see the show in its aforementioned earliest incarnation – by the end, we all knew we’d seen something special. And we were proven right, when it went on not only to conquer the West End but also Broadway over the next few years, picking up a bunch of awards and just generally becoming iconic.

Even outside of the spectacular effects and the witty lyrics and catchy tunes of Tim Minchin, there’s just something about the original Roald Dahl book on which it’s based which invokes such a sense of creativity and fun. If you haven’t seen it before, what the heck are you doing with your life?

2012

Kinky Boots

Based on the true story of a struggling Northampton shoe factory that turned it all around when they started making shoes for drag queens, this joyous show has been providing feel good fun, as well as big emotional heart, to both Broadway and the West End since 2012. After hearing this show get hyped up for years, I was finally able to see it on tour earlier this year and it didn’t disappoint.

2013

Heathers the Musical

For the most part, this musical based on the 1988 Winona Ryder fronted movie of the same name got its time to shine in the years following its LA premiere. But it all started in 2013.

Described by many as “like Mean Girls but with murder”, this dark comedy has grown from a small fairly short lived off-Broadway show that was kind of a cult thing, into a legitimate phenomenon with a highly successful West End run under its belt (and a Riverdale episode, but we don’t talk about that).

You can probably tell from the fact that I dedicated an entire week to this show when it closed in the West End, but I love this musical. So much. Something about the dark comedy and angsty rock tunes that this show provided just got me when I first listened to it in 2015 and I’ve never looked back.

Twisted

This is another one that means a lot to me, primarily because back in 2013/2014 it was the show that eventually got me into the rest of the Starkid canon (more on that later), but also because it’s so damn good!

As someone who knows a lot about Disney movies, I find the parody of the classic Disney films in this show both clever and hilarious – and the emotional parts are surprisingly poignant too.

2014

Aladdin

This show brought the magic of the classic Disney film to the stage in a spectacular fashion! This is far from my favourite show on the list, as it does sometimes come across like a fancy Pantomime, but it’s such a fun fancy Pantomime that it’s still highly enjoyable. And that’s without even mentioning the number Friend Like Me in particular, which is still one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen on stage. I’m not gonna lie, that song in particular is a huge part of the reason this show makes the list.

2015

Hamilton

You know I had to talk about this one. Telling the story of America’s first Treasury Secretary through hip hop and various other genres, Hamilton is almost definitely the biggest musical of the decade – it’s the Frozen of the theatre world (and I say that as someone who loves both those things), and for good reason. Lin Manuel Miranda’s intricate lyrics, and infectious tunes combining musical theatre with various other genres are like nothing the theatre world had heard before, the choreography is incredible and the storytelling is great too!

I first listened to Hamilton in Youtube uploads during breaks at Uni in I think 2016, having seen several Youtube clips of Ham 4 Hams and simply wanting to know what everybody was talking about. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since! When I finally got to see the show live in January 2018, I already knew every word of the show by heart and it 100% lived up to my expectations.

I can safely say that this is my favourite musical of the decade.

Waitress

This sweet little show is another one of my personal favourites on this list! Based on the 2007 film of the same name and with some great music by Sara Barielles, this story of a waitress who hopes to escape her abusive marriage by winning a baking competition, is a serious tearjerker that also manages to provide a good amount of feel good fluff!

The diner will close its doors both on Broadway and in the West End next year, but Waitress has certainly made it’s mark in the time it’s been open (in spite of it coming out when all anyone could talk about was Hamilton, as mentioned above).

Come From Away

This show is as extraordinary as the true story that inspired it. It’s set in a town in Newfoundland called Gander, when in the wake of 9/11 planes packed with 7,000 people were all diverted to the nearby airport, as the US airspace was closed for the first time in history. Whilst this story is obviously highly emotional, it also manages to become incredibly sweet and heart-warming, focusing on how the people of Gander and other nearby communities came together to take care of so many people and how many people were brought together by what transpired. The music also incorporates the folk sounds of the place where it’s set, creating a powerful backdrop for a powerful story.

2016

Hadestown

Hadestown has had its moment to shine in the last year or so with the highly successful revival currently taking Broadway by storm, but the show actually premiered in 2016 and was based on a concept album from 2010. Anaïs Mitchell cleverly and carefully retells the classic story of Orpheus and Euridice, by setting it in a post-apocalyptic, 30s inspired and jazz infused world. In doing so, she’s able to take the best of the original story to explore new themes of poverty, exploitation and politics, in a very effective manner.

2017

Spongebob Squarepants: the Broadway Musical

It’s a bit of a jump to go from deep themes of poverty and exploitation to Spongebob Squarepants of all things. And in fact, anyone who cares enough about theatre to read this blog probably remembers the collective groans as well as bafflement that spread across our corners of the internet when this was announced. But I think most of you will also agree that this show surpassed everybody’s expectations in its creativity, its costumes, it’s humour and with just how darn pure and sweet it was. In spite of its positive reception, multiple Tony nominations and growing fandom, this show didn’t last long primarily due to planned renovations on its theatre. I think we can all agree that Spongebob definitely deserved better.

2018

Sylvia

Speaking of shows that deserved better, I’m going for a more obscure one for 2018. Using modern styles of music to tell the story of Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, on the 100th Anniversary of the representation of the people act which gave some women the right to vote for the first time, Sylvia only had a short run at the Old Vic in September 2018 and was plagued by bad luck, with cast illnesses resulting in pushed back previews and even a cancelled press night.

As a result of this chaos I only saw a rough version of the first act, as it was a very early preview – but the music was fantastic, and the storytelling powerful – with a bit more polishing, it could’ve been phenomenal. But unfortunately, it’s been a year and there’s been no news on Sylvia coming back so far. Here’s hoping it will be on my best of the 2020s list in a decades time, with a full production.

2019

The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

This sci fi horror musical about an all singing all dancing alien apocalypse is the second Starkid show to make my list. It’s safe to say that this show has been a pretty big obsession for me in 2019 (it actually took up almost every single spot in my Apple Rewind this year!). I just find the concept so clever, the way that it actually manages to be scary with such a ridiculous concept is also great and I love the music too. And like many other Starkid shows, it has some really funny parts too.

Starkid returned to the tiny town of Hatchetfield earlier this year with their next show, Black Friday and I’m so excited to see it when it’s released on Youtube next February.

Beetlejuice

I’m ending this list the way it began: with a really well done spooky stage version of a beloved character. This is genuinely one of the best screen to stage adaptations out there, primarily due to the way it retools the story to be more emotional, whilst maintaining the humour and sense of fun that made the original film so great. Plus, there are some surprisingly good songs. Overall, this show doesn’t feel like a cash grab, as so many musicals nowadays seem to be. It feels like it comes from a genuine place of love for the original film and as a result, it has a lot of heart.

What are some of your favourite musicals of this decade? Let me know in the comments and Happy New Year!

Theatre

Quick Fire News: Back to the Future, Waitress and more

Mary Poppins Opens in London

The new West End production of Mary Poppins officially opened yesterday and has already had some pretty great reviews, getting 4 stars from What’sOnStage, 5 stars from the Telegraph and 5 stars from the Guardian, amongst many more! Zizi Strallen stars as Mary Poppins whilst Charlie Stemp takes on the role of iconic Chimney Sweep Bert.

Full Back to the Future cast announced

I don’t know about you guys, but this is one screen to stage adaptation that I’m actually super excited about! The full cast has been announced for the Back to the Future musical today, featuring Courtney Mae-Briggs as Jennifer, Aidan Cutler as Biff, Emma Lloyd as Linda Mcfly and Will Haswell as Dave Mcfly, alongside previously announced stars Roger Bart playing Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty Mcfly.

Sara Barellies and Gavin Creel for Waitress West End

Yes, I know this is slightly old news now, but I haven’t had a chance to write about it and I’m super excited so just let me have this. Waitress song writer Sara Barellies will be starring in the West End production

Jonah Hauer-King for live action Little Mermaid

World on Fire star Jonah Hauer-King will star as Prince Eric in the live action Little Mermaid movie. The movie is also set to star Halle Bailey as Ariel and will feature new music from Lin Manuel Miranda.
Although they are on a sliding scale, I’ve actually been really enjoying a few of the recent Disney live action remakes and especially with the people involved in the Little Mermaid, I’m actually quite excited to see this film

Theatre

L’Elisir D’Amore at MK Theatre: A Review

I’m not usually the biggest fan of opera, but a sweet story, a well-done set and some effective performances, both in vocals and acting, make Glyndebourne’s production of L’elisir D’Amore a highly enjoyable show.

Gaetino Danizetti’s classic comedy unfolds on a tilted stage, which really captures the beauty of its rural setting. The sweet story of a peasant in love with a landowner and his misguided attempts to win her heart is highly entertaining in any context. The music also has a sweet and light tones to match the story and it works remarkably well.

And the performances in this show are also great, with stand-out performances coming from Bendetta Torre as leading lady Adina, Sehoon Moon as naïve protagonist Nemorino and Misha Kiria as the duplicitous Dr Dulcamora.

Overall, L’Elisir D’Amore is a fun, funny and overall very entertaining opera.

Review, Theatre

Kinky Boots at MK Theatre: A Review

This vibrant and joyous show delivers feel good fun and heartfelt emotional punches in equal measure.

Now on the penultimate location of its current UK tour, the story of a failing shoe factory who turn it all around when they start making shoes for Drag Queens, still has just as much sparkle as it did when it first premiered on Broadway in 2012. The sets and costumes both look absolutely stunning and the lively performances of the actors also help to bring it to life.

Joel Harper Jackson delivers a powerful performance both in acting and in vocals in the lead role of Charlie Price, whilst Kayi Ushe is a delightfully confident Lola, owning the stage as she struts across it, whilst also doing a great job delivering her more vulnerable side. In addition, the show is really funny, with a very witty script and an especially great comedic performance from Paula Lane as Lauren, who has fantastic movement and facial expressions.

And we haven’t even gotten onto the music yet! The majority of the songs in the score are incredibly energetic and catchy, really working with the comedy to provide a feel-good factor that permeates the show overall. The finale song Raise You Up is a definite highlight, whilst Land of Lola and Sex is in the Heel are some of the better upbeat songs, whilst History of Wrong Guys is also a memorable number. On the other side of things, Soul of a Man is a standout emotional moment.
Overall, Kinky Boots is incredibly fun, incredibly funny and overall is a great experience.

Theatre

Reasons why I’m hyped to see Kinky Boots

As many of you will know, Kinky Boots is coming to MK Theatre tonight! I’m seeing it tomorrow, but for today I’m writing some reasons I’m hyped to see Kinky Boots!

1. The costumes

The costumes in this show look amazing! Even beyond the fancy footwear, I can’t wait to see the costumes and the make up too! Especially having seen a behind the scenes look at how they do the make up on TV, it’ll be really interesting to see how it looks on stage!

2. The upbeat story and message

This show has always seemed very “feel good” and as much as I love the angst of shows like Les Mis and Miss Saigon, it’ll be great to see a story that is apparently very uplifting. Additionally, although I’ve researched the basics of the plot, it’ll be really interesting to see it in more specific detail, especially as it’s based on a true story. And linking further to the feel-good factor…

3. The upbeat music

Although I haven’t listened to a lot of this show, what I have heard of the music sounds super fun! It seems like the kind of show that has the audience up on their feet at the end (as cliché and cheesy as that sounds), so honestly I think it’ll be a fun time!

4. I want to see what all the hype is about

This might seem like a basic reason, but honestly considering how popular this show is, I really want to see what all the hype is about! Especially as it’s been around for such a long time, I’m excited to see why everyone else has been so excited about this show.

For my MK readers, are you seeing Kinky Boots whilst it’s in MK? If so, why are you excited to see it? Let me know in the comments.

Theatre

Quick Fire News: Mrs Doubtfire, Little Shop and More

Mrs Doubtfire set for Broadway

The musical adaptation of Mrs Doubtfire will open on Broadway in 2020. The stage version of the iconic 1993 film, which tells the story of a man who poses as a Scottish nanny to see his children, will start previews at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in March, featuring Rob McClure in the title role.

Roger Bart to play Doc Brown

Roger Bart is set to play Doc Brown in the musical adaptation of Back to the Future. He’ll be making his UK stage debut as the iconic time traveller alongside previously announced star Olly Dobson, which will open at the Manchester Opera House on the 20th of February next year.

New Little Shop Opens Off-Broadway

Little Shop of Horrors has opened off-Broadway. The new production of the classic show stars Jonathan Groff in the lead role of Seymour, alongside Christian Borle as Orin, Tammy Blanchard as Audrey, Kingsley Leggs as the voice of Audrey II, Tom Allen Robbins as Mr Mushnick and Ari Groover, Salome Smith and Joy Woods as Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon. The show began previews at the Westside Theatre on the 17th of September.