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/ .

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The Ultimate Guide to..., Theatre

The Ultimate Guide to… Shrek the Musical

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.

For this week’s ultimate guide, I’m focusing on a certain green ogre who turned the world of animation upside down, before heading to Broadway, the West End and now MK Theatre. That’s right, this week’s show is Shrek the Musical!

The plot

I don’t think there are many people who don’t know the plot of Shrek, but I’ll quickly sum it up here, for those who don’t know it (and because I need to raise the wordcount of this thing). Parodying all of your favourite fairy-tale stories, Shrek essentially is about an ogre who goes to rescue a Princess and is joined by a rather annoying talking Donkey on the way (who I totally think is supposed to be one of the boys from Pleasure Island in Pinocchio, but that’s besides the point).

The musical pretty much follows the plot of the film, although it does significantly add to many of the characters backstories, some in more humorous ways than others.

The History

As I previously mentioned, Shrek turned the animation industry upside down when it was released in 2001, as it offered up, to an audience starting to grow tired of the classic Disney formulas, cool music, snarky characters, pop culture references and a far trendier atmosphere overall. Along with the Pixar movies being released at the time, it also pretty much marked the end of traditional hand-drawn animation being ‘in’, as Dreamworks ditched it altogether and even Disney pretty much gave it up in 2007, after years of hand-drawn disappointments.

Shrek: the Musical first began previews in November 2008, having been in development since 2002. The original Broadway cast included Brian D’Arcey James and Sutton Foster and the show (which was one of the most expensive musicals to play on Broadway at the time) ran until 2010, before going on a U.S tour.

It finally came to the West End in 2011, in a revised version of the original Broadway show and the London production ran until 2013. It has also toured extensively throughout the U.K since then and has also had several international productions.

The Music

Shrek has a really fun score, made up of original songs, which is often as goofy and is as funny as you’d expect. Although many might not expect it, there are some stellar tunes in there – Who I’d Be and Big Bright Beautiful World are two of my personal favourites.

News, Theatre

Quick Fire News: SpongeBob, Hamilton and more

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.

Spongebob to Close on Broadway

Initially a surprise hit with 12 Tony nominations, Spongebob Squarepants the Musical is set to close on the 16th of September, after less than a year. Whilst the show has been underperforming as of late, the closure is also due to the extensive renovations planned at the theatre. It is, however, set to begin a North American tour next year and the show will also be made available for schools and youth groups.

West Side Story Set for Broadway Revival

A Broadway revival of the seminal classic West Side Story is to open for February 2020. Directed by Tony Award winner Ivo van Hove, it will also be the first production to feature brand-new choreography, as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is on board to shake up one of the musicals most famous assets. With music penned by Leonard Bernstien and Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story of course tells the tale of Romeo and Juliet with warring street gangs in New York. Performances of this production will begin on the 10th of December 2019 – it is then slated to officially open on the 3rd of February the next year.

Sandi Toksvig to Adapt Treasure Island

She’s primarily known for TV appearances including QI and the Great British Bake Off. Now, Sandi Tosksvig and her sister Jenifer Toksvig are set to adapt Treasure Island for a new stage production. The Haymarket Theatre will re-open following its refurbishment to stage the production, which will be directed by Matthew Forbes.

Hamilton to Stage Gala Performance

The smash-hit West End production of Hamilton is set to stage a gala performance to raise money for Sentebale, a charity which helps children and young people in Northern Africa affected by HIV and AIDS. The charity was founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho – the performance is set to take place on the 29th of August.

Theatre, Top 10s

10 Broadway Musicals That Need to Come to the West End

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.

There are always new hits coming from the West End to Broadway and vice-versa, but which American musicals should be brought to London next?

1. Something Rotten

Seriously, how has this show never come to London? Even outside of its clever storyline and hilarious music, it’s Shakespeare-parodying plot might actually fit better with British audiences than American ones. The rather brief length of its Broadway run probably has something to do with it, but still…

2. Anastasia

This hit musical based on the equally popular 1997 animated film has surprisingly never made it to the London stage. It’s beautiful orchestral score and (slightly) more historically accurate approach to the premise both sound great!

3. Mean Girls

Based on the 2004 film, which is equally iconic on both sides of the pond, it’s probably only a matter of time before this one comes to the West End, especially considering its success on Broadway.

4. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

This surprise hit from 2012 was once hailed as the next Hamilton, until casting controversy partially led to its (relatively) early closure. But something tells me that it’s combination of electro-pop and classical influences to tell segment of War and Peace would work well with West End audiences still going mad for a certain aforementioned rap musical that’s pretty much impossible to get in to…

5. The Band’s Visit

Based on the Israeli film of the same name, about an Egyptian band who end up stranded in the desert, this musical swept the board at this years Tony Awards. And I’m sure there are a lot of British musical theatre fans who want to see what all the fuss is about…

6. Waitress

This Sara Bareilles-penned hit has also experienced much international success, thanks in part to its catchy pop infused score. So it’s very surprising that it’s never come to the West End, in spite of various rumours since it’s 2016 opening.

7. Newsies

Based on Disney’s 1992 film, this show has always been a big hit with the Hamilton/Dear Evan Hansen/Be More Chill/Heathers crowd (sorry to stereotype, but it’s true – in fact, I’m partially in that group!). It even had a successful cinema run recently, so it’s surprising that it’s never played in the West End. In fact, it was even announced in 2013 that it would play at either the Piccadilly Theatre or the Savoy Theatre, but that’s as far as the internet will go the subject, so I assume that never went anywhere.

8. Dear Evan Hansen

Surely this one will come over soon… It’s a sure-fire hit, having just as many fans as Heathers, which is currently enjoying a successful run at the Other Palace. Plus it’s picked up absolutely loads of accolades, including six Tonys.

9. The Little Mermaid

This was admittedly one of Disney’s less successful screen-to-stage adaptations, which is probably why it never came over to the West End. But it’s additional songs are almost as good as the ones already in the film and the effects are amazing – unfortunately, this one opened in 2008 and closed in 2009, so there’s not much chance of it being revived in the West End any time soon.

10. Frozen

Given the monumental success of the 2013 fairy-tale film, a Broadway musical was inevitable and an eventual West End transfer seems just as certain. It looks like a spectacular production and as I said, it would pretty much be a guaranteed smash-hit.

Do you agree with my picks? What shows do you think should come to the West End? – let me know in the comments!

Opinion, Theatre

4 Books That Should Get Stage Adaptations

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.

Following on from my recent articles about stage adaptations, I thought I would go in a more unusual direction and list a few books I think could make great plays and/or musicals…

1. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

The beautiful tale of two young boys growing up in 1950s Switzerland also has classical music at its core, meaning it would lend itself perfectly to a play with an orchestral score. Due to its overarching themes of anti-Semitism and the way that the Holocaust features, it would obviously need to be treated with the utmost sensitivity, but I believe that it could be turned into a highly emotive piece with the right care and respect.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishaguro

This is another tearjerker which might be seen as an odd choice by some, but Kathy’s narration and the way in which it changes over time really reminds me of the Emcee in Cabaret. Plus, the bonds between the main characters, the narrative structure and the overall tragedy could make this a highly effective piece of theatre, as a play or a musical.

3. The Great Gatsby

This classic book has already been turned into a play and an opera, but I believe it could work very well as a straight musical. This is due to it’s jazz-age setting giving it a perfect musical theme and the concept of dreams, in this case more specifically the American dream, already being a well-known theme in various musicals.

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

There are a lot of people who’ve suggested this one and I think it could work really well as a rock musical in the style of, for example, Spring Awakening. Or, as the book kind of had it’s own soundtrack anyway, you could very easily make this a jukebox musical, with the 90s classics the characters love so much being intertwined with their lives.

Related: Movie Musical Adaptations That Need to Happen: https://leeinthelights.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/movie-musical-adaptations-that-need-to-happen-now/

How to Successfully Adapt Without Really Trying: https://leeinthelights.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/how-to-successfully-adapt-without-really-trying/

The Ultimate Guide to..., Theatre

The Ultimate Guide to Bugsy Malone

The Ultimate Guide to Bugsy Malone

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise.

As the Royal and Derngate’s Youth Theatre and Young Company’s production of Bugsy Malone opened at the Royal and Derngate this week, I thought I’d give you a quick guide to the show…

The Plot

Very loosely based on the exploits of real gangsters in the 20s and 30s and with a cast make entirely of children, the plot of Bugsy Malone is fun and easy to follow. In the midst of the Jazz age, the titular ex-boxer falls for would-be singer Blousey Brown, whilst tensions ramp up between rival gangsters Fat Sam and Dandy Dan and the latter makes use of his latest weapon: ‘splurge guns’.

The History

Bugsy Malone started life as a film in 1976. Like the stage version, it had an all-child cast, including 13-year old Jodie Foster and was Scott Baio’s film debut. But before that, the story had taken shape on the long car journeys that director Alan Parker’s family used to take, as a way of keeping his children entertained. It was in fact, Parkers oldest son who suggested that kids should play the starring roles.

Although the film was not a commercial success upon its initial release, it was well received critically, receiving 15 award nominations and steadily growing in popularity over the decades. The stage version first premiered in the West End in 1983, starred a young Catherine Zeta Jones and ran for 300 performances. It was also revived in 1997 and 2015, with the 2015 production returning to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre the next year.

The Music

The music of the show was written by Paul Williams and the best way I can describe it is goofy, but in a fun way. Classic songs from the show you’ll probably know include Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, Bad Guys and You Give a Little Love.

This Production

This production of the show was directed by Ashley Elbourne and as I previously mentioned it stars the Royal and Derngate’s Youth Theatre and Young Company, meaning it shows off the best and brightest up and coming local talent.
Bugsy Malone is on at the Royal and Derngate until the 15th of July – for more information on tickets, please go to http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk.

News, Theatre

Quick Fire News: Heathers Transfer, Devil Wears Prada and More

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise

Heathers Set For West End

The new production of the smash-hit musical Heathers, currently sold out at the Other Palace, is to transfer to the West End. Announced at the curtain call of last night’s performance, the show’s run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket will start on the 3rd of September and will end on the 24th of November. Heathers the Musical is based on the cult classic 1988 film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater and had it’s first production off-Broadway in 2014. Tickets went on sale immediately following the announcement and as a result the website promptly crashed. You can currently buy tickets at http://www.trh.co.uk/. Above image by Pamela Wraith photography.

Iwan Rheon to Star in Foxfinder

Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon (Ramsey Bolton for those of you who are bad with actor names), will be appearing in a revival of dystopian thriller Foxfinder, which was last performed in 2011. The actor is no stranger to the stage, having most famously starred in Spring Awakening in 2010, but he hasn’t performed on stage for seven years. Of course, he’s not the first actor from Game of Thrones recently announced to be treading the boards, as Masie Willaims will soon be performing in I and You at the Hampstead Theatre, whilst Kit Harington will be starring in True West in November and Natalie Dormer starred in Venus in Fur last Autumn.

Shaina Tuab on board for Devil Wears Prada Musical

Shaina Tuab will partner up with Elton John to pen the music for the Broadway-bound adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada. The show, currently in it’s early stages of development, is of course based on the classic 2006 film, starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, which was in turn based on Lauren Weisburger’s best selling 2003 novel, about the world of a high end fashion magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Shaina Tuab is an award-winning composer and performer who has most recently starred in Hadestown and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

UK Tour For Wise Children

It has been announced that the new stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s iconic novel Wise Children, will tour the UK following it’s premiere at the Old Vic from the 8th of October to the 10th of November. It is the first production of the former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Emma Rice’s new company of the same name.

Theatre, Top 10s

Top 10 Opening Numbers

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. I do not claim ownership of this material – all images and footage used are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise

Every musical needs a great opening number – and I’ve listed my personal top 10 here…

1. No One Mourns the Wicked, Wicked
This dramatic opening number sets the scene for this modern classic perfectly, introducing the fantastic score and introducing the themes of good and evil explored throughout the show. Like much of Wicked, there is also a lot of clever foreshadowing woven into the lyrics, which make it even better seeing it for the second time and therefore push it into the number one slot.

2. The Overture, Phantom of the Opera

Some may not count this as an opening song (which is the main reason it’s not in the top spot), but it does make for an incredible (and dramatic) introduction to a spectacular show. As soon as you hear those iconic opening notes and see that Chandelier rise, you know you’re in for a wild ride.

3. Circle of Life, The Lion King

The opening to Disney’s 1994 smash hit film was iconic enough, but the way that the show’s stunning costume design and puppetry come together in the opening to the musical make it one of the most iconic opening numbers in musical theatre.

4. Underground from Memphis the Musical

In spite of this show’s very brief West End run and it’s eventual Broadway closure after four years, it’s opening certainly made an impact on the audiences who saw this show, as the wonderful energy and catchy tune make it among the best songs in the score.

5. Good Morning Baltimore, Hairspray

The bright (and infectious) optimism of Hairspray’s opening number epitomises what makes the show one of the all time greats. Tracey Turnblad’s smiley insistence at how great the world is in spite of the dirt (and at one point, rats) around her is both hilarious, endearing and lets us know exactly who she is as a character. Finally, Good Morning Baltimore also has that epic feel

6. Mama Who Bore Me, Spring Awakening

The opening number of Spring Awakening is one of the more understated songs on the list, but the beautiful ballad is a great introduction to the show’s themes of teen angst, as well as it’s metaphor filled lyrics. Also, the reprise is super catchy.

7. I Hope I Get It from A Chorus Line

I Hope I Get It is mostly known for it’s spectacular dancing and the way in which is presents the hopes and dreams of it’s character is also very well done. The way that it weaves in an out of the million and one characters presented throughout the show, but then brings them all together with their unified dreams of stardom pretty much summarises what makes this show great overall.

8. Omigod You Guys, Legally Blonde

This girly and pink drenched opening to Legally Blonde lets the audience know exactly what they’re in for, whilst also being a great song on its own.

9. When You’re An Addams, the Addams Family Musical
What better way to start out The Addams Family Musical than with a catchy song that sums up the characters perfectly? This song is fun, funny and is a fantastic introduction to a really great show.

10. Miracle from Matilda the Musical

The introduction to one of Roald Dahl’s most famous books was translated into Tim Minchin’s witty lyrics, in the spectacular opening to the stage version. Running at about 10 minutes, this song is a perfect introduction to the Wormwoods, their treatment of Matilda and the show’s quirky atmosphere in general.