REVIEW: Wicked

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: “I couldn’t be happier” to tell you to get to your nearest showing of Wicked as soon as you can! You will be “changed for good.”


Wicked the Musical is an adaptation of the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which is, in turn, a retelling of the timeless Wizard of Oz. Wicked is currently showing at the Apollo Victoria, London, the Gershwin Theatre, New York and is also on tour in the U.K. and U.S.


T H E   S H O W

I am not ashamed to admit I have seen Wicked a fair few times. The ticket prices are reasonable, the London theatre is near accessible train and bus stops; but most of all meaningful friendships, vocal riffs, and a girl overcoming her bullies and critics all mesh together into this green, glittery, wonderful atmosphere that is not to be missed.

Part of the allure of the show is that it is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, the children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum. It is interesting and thought-provoking to see scenes you know so well flipped on their heads, and have all your preconceptions of characters snubbed. You see the back story to well-loved characters from the Wizard of Oz, such as the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin-man, meaning you leave the show with the satisfied feeling of knowing the world of Oz better than when you came in.

The true pièce de résistance of Wicked, however, is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. We follow the two witches through their schooldays at Shiz University and into the rest of their lives, which are changed “for good” because of each other. Throughout the show, you see them love and loathe each other, and fight for and against each other. It is a very wholesome experience to watch these two women figure their way out through the lows and highs of friendship.


T H E   C A S T

Now. Believe me when I say you need to get to the Apollo Victoria as soon as you possibly can to witness Alice Fearn’s performance of Elphaba. She completely captures Elphaba’s desire to succeed, explosive, gritty personality and enduring determination for good. This coupled with her stellar vocal performances make her an awe-inspiring Elphaba. The reaction from the audience after key songs (“The Wizard and I”, “Defying Gravity,” “No Good Deed”) is electrically charged. There is something about watching a performer completely encompass the character and give everything she has got to the audience that revitalizes and reawakens you: this is what Fearn gives to every single audience member in that theatre.

Sophie Evans, who has also played the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, takes on the task of the popular, enterprising Glinda. She captures the nuance of Glinda to a point and especially comes alive in the more politically charged Act 2. The vivacity in her characterization is palpable, and there are moments during “Thank Goodness” and the Finale where her performance is tear-jerking. Bubbly, funny and unafraid to show the darker sides of Glinda, Evans was made for this role.

Other key performances came from Tom Hargreaves as Fiyero and Rosa O’Reilly as the Wicked Witch of the East, Nessarose. Both have strong and engaging voices which make you empathize with their characters on their journey’s through the show. Their interactions with the Good and Wicked Witches not only bring dimension to their own characters, but also to that of Elphaba and Glinda.


T I C K E T S

As I mentioned before, the tickets for Wicked are very reasonable. If you book well enough in advance, you can get tickets in the stalls for around £30 and £22 for the circle.

If it is your first time seeing the show, I do recommend spending the little bit more money for stalls tickets so you can fully see the facial expressions and all the little intricate details. However, the audio and views in the circle are still pretty good, so for £22 you will still get a very good show experience.

Day tickets
Are you a student? If you tip up at the box office on the day of the show you can purchase the best available ticket for only £29.50. Just remember to bring your student ID card.

There are also day tickets for the general public at £29.50 (again go to the box office on the day; it is first come first serve) and concession tickets at £32.00

If you have seen Wicked, share your experience in the comments, or on The Rosie Word Instagram!

Rosie x

The current cast of Wicked on the West End:
Elphaba – Alice Fearn
Glinda – Sophie Evans
Fiyero – David Witts
Madame Morrible – Melanie La Barrie
The Wizard – Andy Hockley
Doctor Dillamond – Chris Jarman
Boq – Jack Lansbury
Nessarose – Rosa O’Reilly

REVIEW: School of Rock

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★★★
Quick Summary: Young or old, Stick It To The Man, and go and see the feel good, uplifting and energetic School of Rock.

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My Dad and I at the end of the show

School of Rock is an adaptation of the 2003 comedy film of the same name starring Jack Black. The musical is written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Julian Fellowes (playwright) and Glenn Slater (Lyricist), and is currently showing at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in Drury Lane, London. 


T H E   S H O W

I first saw this show earlier this year, and alongside the ingenious fusion of rock, musical theatre and classical music influences, it was the vivacity and youthfulness of the cast that really stood out to me. I got the opportunity to take my Dad to see the show yesterday, and I knew he would love it simply because of the music; the show is saturated with nods to great rock songs such as Smoke on the Water, Satisfaction, as well as the rock concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. 

The thought that my Dad actually came away from the show with went beyond noticing the obvious witty and comically written play, and great integration of well-known and loved music into the score. The overriding feeling that you get coming away from this show is one that is relevant at any and every stage of your life: don’t get tied down by other people’s limiting beliefs. This can be from something as small as whether you read Vogue or Sports Illustrated, as Billy has to choose, or as big as whether you compete in Battle of the Bands or not. The positive message of “You Do You” is woven tightly throughout the whole show.

The only reason I gave this show 4 stars as opposed to 5 was that by the end, I did start to feel quite tired. I was sitting 4 rows from the front (I talk about ticket details later on), and so the noise levels were high throughout. HOWEVER, this is a tiny, tiny point and generally did not detract from the experience.


T H E   C A S T

Obviously, if you are going to see School of Rock then you are expecting a bunch of talented kids – and I can tell you, they do not disappoint! With cheesy over-acting thrown out of the window, the child cast of this production provides stellar vocal performances mixed with a convincing awareness of themselves and what they are trying to say. The harmonies in songs such as ‘Horace Green Alma Mater’ and ‘If Only You Would Listen’ highlights their cohesion and commitment.

I could not write a review on School of Rock without mentioning the musical talent of the kids in this production that I feel is unmatched on the rest of the West End. As Andrew Lloyd Webber announces over the loudspeaker at the beginning of the show, the children play all of their own rock instruments. The best moment in the show to demonstrate this is in the final song where the pit musicians all stand up and watch the show alongside the audience, as the children in the show alongside their mentor fake-teacher Dewey Finn rock their way through ‘Stick It To The Man’ and ‘Teacher’s Pet’, full of guitar, keys, drum and bass solos, bringing the audience to its feet. The musicality and finesse in their playing is professional in its standard.

The standout vocal performance came from the shy but brilliant vocalist Tomika, played by Fayth Ifil, who performed a rendition of Amazing Grace full of innocence and killer riffs to prove she can sing, which induced a thunderous applause from the audience. Also highly notable was the bossy and indignant Summer, played by Freya Yates, who was very impressive in her ‘Time To Play’, hitting a belted Db at the end of the song.

Among the adults, both Craig Gallivan (down-and-out amateur rock star, Dewey Finn) and Rosanna Hyland (music lover turned uptight Headmistress, Rosalie Mullins) had fantastic performances. Rosanna Hyland’s ‘Where Did The Rock Go?’ was full of emotion, bite and effortlessly clear top notes. Her rendition of Queen of the Night was unassuming and highly enjoyable. Craig Gallivan’s Dewey Finn was hopeful, uplifting and unfailingly energetic, all matched by his perfect diction and fantastic voice.

Side note, the cast is changing on 22 August. Details can be found here


T H E    T H E A T R E

As far as the theatre itself goes, the Gillian Lynne Theatre is modern, spacious and well designed. No matter what seat you go for, you generally won’t get a bad one as the stage is so wide that you can see from most angles. From the furthest to the side in the front row, you will see the whole width of the stage, albeit with a few missing spots deeper into the set. The seating at the back of the stalls and the upper circle is well rigged so that you can easily see over the people in front of you, and don’t have any of those “back-of-the-head” viewing moments.


T I C K E T S

The prices for this show are fairly reasonable if you are savvy when buying your tickets, and the show is absolutely worth the price. If you buy in advance (and maybe get matinee tickets) then you could easily spend a maximum of £35 a head in the stalls, which for a West End show is pretty good – I was seated 4 rows from the front with excellent views in seat D52, on a Saturday matinee performance for £35 per ticket.

The School of Rock website tells you the best dates with the best prices, so this is a great website to use.  Also don’t be afraid to be seated slightly to the side of the theatre, as the view is very rarely compromised!

Top tip: if you are over 5’4″, then a great cheaper ticket to get is in the front row of the upper circle. It is advertised as ‘restricted view’ because of a barrier and lighting rig that hangs over the front of the upper circle, but for anyone over 5’4, this does not obstruct at all, and the leg room is great!
If you’ve seen School of Rock, share your experience either in the comments or on our Instagram page!

Rosie x

REVIEW: HEATHERS

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★★★★

Quick Summary: Vibrant, funny, poignant and BEAUTIFUL!

I saw Heathers at The Other Palace, just before it was announced that Heathers would be making a transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Heathers at The Other Palace is now sold out, but tickets are on sale for the show at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, starting 3rd September 2018.

Firstly, The Other Palace is a venue that I would highly recommend seeing a show in. I was sat in the very back row and the visibility was very nearly flawless, especially for the price. I did miss things at the top of the set ever so slightly from time to time, but the audio quality was so good that it didn’t really matter. Also, the theatre is small enough for it to still feel intimate even when you are sat in the back row.

Many people will have heard/seen that iconic bootleg of Barrett Wilbert Weed’s Veronica, and this undoubtedly sets any standards for future Veronica’s at a very high level. However, if you are in the UK/can get to London, then I absolutely recommend hearing Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Veronica. Carrie’s voice is clear, full of honesty and sincerity, and she brings to life Veronica’s good heartedness, confusion and desire to fit in. At the same time, she brings a strength and courage to Veronica, and guides us through a character to whom we can all relate. Vocally, she is radiant, confident, and full of emotion.

Similarly, Jamie Muscato gives a stellar performance as JD. He brings massive depth to the character, moving JD from simply a misunderstood and dangerous teen, to a complex, dark and flawed character. He also manages to make JD someone we very almost feel sorry for. Jamie Muscato highlights both sinister and vulnerable elements of this character, in a JD that is completely antithetical to Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Veronica. This pairing is also a vocal highlight of the show, particularly in the song Seventeen. Their voices suit each other perfectly, and when singing together the timbre is very enjoyable.

For anyone who has seen the original musical version of Heathers, you will notice some differences in this new production. Personally, I found I enjoyed all of these changes, as they brought something new to the show that added to either the characters or the plot in some way. I enjoyed the new interpretation of the ‘date rape’ scene, where a new song called “You’re Welcome” replaced “Blue.” I felt this song added a new dimension to this scene, where Veronica’s emotions of fear and discomfort were more tapped into.

To conclude, I would highly recommend this show. Touching on topics such as young love, suicide, murder, justice, bullying, social hierarchy and rape, this is undoubtedly a hard hitting musical thematically. The profound and poignant messages Heathers has filtrated all the way through is emphasised by the fantastic performances from this cast. It is not thematically your typical musical, but the music and the performances make it very convincing.

You leave this show feeling you have gained something, whether it be a better understanding of those around you, or a better knowledge of yourself. It could just be that you’ve had a good day out at the theatre. Either way, seeing Heathers is an opportunity to hear some great singing, see some great acting, and listen to a great message.

 

The current cast of Heathers in London is as follows:
Veronica: Carrie Hope Fletcher (also check out Carrie’s youtube channel for some Heathers behind the scenes!)
JD: Jamie Muscato
Heather Chandler: Jodie Steele
Heather Duke: T’Shan Williams
Heather McNamara: Sophie Isaacs
Martha Dunnstock: Jenny O’Leary
Ram Sweeney: Dominic Andersen
Kurt Kelly: Chris Chung
Ms Fleming: Rebecca Lock
See full cast here:

 

Rosie x

 

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: The man sat next to me turned to his girlfriend at the interval and whispered “I think I just wet myself a little bit.” Enough said.

So. ‘The Book of Mormon’. Obviously, this show has had rave reviews all over the board, and the prices are pretty steep, so my expectations were HIGH.

‘The Book of Mormon’ is playing at the Prince of Wales theatre in London, just off Piccadilly Circus. My seat was C7 of the circle, which cost me £59.75. Considering this was one of the cheapest tickets for the show, I was expecting it to be one of the cheaper views of the show; i.e. visibility would be ok, but not anything special. However, the circle seating is really steeped, and so the view from any of the seats is pretty fantastic. You can see the whole depth and width of the stage from this seat, and I can imagine that the view is clear from most seats. Not to mention, the people sat in front of you are not an obstruction in the slightest.

Also, if you are a massive music nerd like me, then from these seats you can see directly into the pits, which for me is a nice little perk.

Finally, in terms of the theatre, I feel like I have to mention how ridiculously nice the staff at the Prince of Wales were. I know that most theatre staff are friendly, but the Prince of Wales staff were above and beyond in their customer service.

In terms of the show in general, I feel that everyone knows that it is funny. It is hilarious. However, what I wasn’t quite anticipating was how cleverly funny it is (then again, coming from South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, alongside Robert Lopez, we would expect nothing less.)

The musical takes an abundance of hard-hitting topics, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gender inequality, race, oppression of the LGBT community, finding purpose in your life, and mental health, and talks about them in a comedic light. This is so important, because comedy is inherently accessible, and so talking about these crucial topics through comedy brings them to the surface in pop culture conversation. Not only does it bring them to the surface, but it also starts to shave away the taboos surrounding them.

If you’re not in it for the philosophies behind the comedy, then you can still get so much out of the play because of the combination of slapstick comedy, dry and witty humour, and impeccable comedic timing.

The cast currently on the West End are also massive contributors to the success of the show. Because the Andrew Rannells/Josh Gad interpretation is so distinct, and is the cast recording, so is the sound that people generally associate with ‘The Book of Mormon’, I think it is quite difficult to have an authentic voice and sound in the parts of Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham. Having said this, Dom Simpson (West End debut) and J. Michael Finley (West End debut) do an incredible job of bringing something new to the roles. The characters are cheesy, and sometimes the ‘typical showy broadway actions’ sway slightly towards being annoying, but the delivery of the characters was so convincing I really didn’t care. The fact that Dom Simpson is only 2 years out of training, and playing this large role at such a high standard is testament to his talent and hard work. Another notable performance was Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi (West End debut). Her vocals were edging towards perfect, with an amazing flexibility and tone control, especially in “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Reprise)”, is really admirable.


One downside of the show is that it is pretty expensive. I went on my own (I’m super cool and really enjoy going to shows on my own) but if you were paying for two of you, or for a whole family, the prices start to pick up. It is not as expensive as Hamilton, but generally you would only get tickets below £50 at the back half of the circle, which is quite steep and potentially not ideal for vertigo sufferers. I would say either queue for returns or book at least 12 weeks in advance because then you’ll avoid booking fees. Although it is expensive, the quality of the day/night out you will get from it is well worth the money, in my opinion.

Another note is that if you have youngish children/you’re offended by strong language, there is very strong explicit language in the show, quite consistently.

Overall, the show is hilarious. But, more than that, there is an overriding positive message throughout the show, and it touches on some really important societal topics, and is the sort of show that keeps your brain ticking as you keep noticing and remembering things days later. I have a friend who said she knew someone who didn’t want to see it because they thought it was anti-Christian. My message regarding this is absolutely don’t rule it out because of preconceptions you might have. The play undoubtedly is using Mormon practice as a means for comedy, but also it acknowledges positive sides of religion, such as how it can help people, and give them hope.

Just go and watch it.

 

The current cast of The Book of Mormon on the West End features Dom Simpson as Elder Price, J. Michael Finley as Elder Cunningham, Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi, Steven Webb as Elder McKinley Richard Lloyd King as Mafala Hatimbi, and Michael Moulton as the General.

Rosie x

REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★
Quick summary: Loved the music, maybe not for the West End?

I’ve tried to make it spoiler free…..! There are a couple of really tiny ones. 

Having been brought up to fully and completely appreciate rock music by my amazing super cool Dad (he features in the Hamilton review, go check it out), ‘Bat Out of Hell’ was a musical I knew I needed to go and see when it returned to the West End in 2018. Also, if you live in London then you will know there are an incredible amount of posters advertising it on the tube, so I got my act together and booked it.

When you walk into the Dominion Theatre, the atmosphere is immediately set. The lighting is dark, there are eerie dystopian sound effects that are kind of mechanical sounding, and images of bats on fire scrolling across the main screen. This was one of the only shows I’ve seen where before the show has even begun, the music and setting is active. As far as the structure of the theatre itself, you can see right up through all the riggings above the stage, which really gives the impression of being massive. The dystopian, industrial theme was continued in the architecture of the theatre with exposed concrete grid slabs as the ceiling where all the lighting rigs are. Disappointingly, for my show, which was in fairness a weekday evening show, the theatre was almost half empty, which perhaps made the atmosphere a little lacklustre.

I think a main point I took away from the show itself is that it is not at all like conventional musical theatre. I personally quite like the moment at the beginning of a show when the curtain comes up, and there’s a grand reveal of the ensemble (think Wicked), or when the house lights dim and a character walks onto the stage for the first time (think Hamilton). In Bat Out of Hell, however, 3 of the main characters kind of drift on stage and tinker about with the props at about 19:20, so just when everyone is still chatting and finding their places. For me, it meant that I started the show slightly confused as opposed to buzzing in my seat at the start.


Character wise, the stand-out performances for me were Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as Sloan. They both had mature and insightful performances that showed the depth of corruption in the world of the show, and in particular Rob Fowler’s vocals were powerful and full of rich tones (unsurprising for someone who has played Jamie in The Last Five Years)

On the day of the show I left feeling really really torn about what I thought about Andrew Polec as Strat and Christina Bennington as Raven. I found both to be quite hyperbolic in their actions and facial expressions, which at first made them quite hard to watch on stage, and meant I didn’t feel like I could really connect with their characters. As the show progressed, I started to understand more about the characters, and came to the conclusion that although it felt over the top, this might be Polec and Bennington nodding to the role of madness in the genre of rock and roll.

I loved the songs, and the vocals were undeniably strong in the show, but that was sort of it for me; I spent the majority of the show feeling really torn about whether I liked it or not. There were some really interesting and clever aspects, and some parts that left me plain confused.

The moment when I finally decided what I thought of the show was actually on the tube the other day, when I saw a woman in a Meatloaf shirt. I can totally understand the appeal of Bat Out of Hell if you’re into Meatloaf or Jim Steinman fan. However, I think I would have enjoyed it more as a staged concept album in an arena as opposed to a West End show, and if you’re not a die-hard Meatloaf or Jim Steinman fan, it’s a little harder to enjoy.

REVIEW: Hamilton

Show Reviews

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick summary: Y E S!!!

Hamilton: An American Musical is a hip-hop musical that first graced my Spotify playlist about two and a half years ago, and I saw it for the first time ever in London last week. I went with my dad and sister, who I have belting along to ‘Satisfied’ in the car with for those two and a half years, and my mum who, when hearing said ‘Satisfied’ sessions told me I would never have a rap career. My mum didn’t know all that much about the musical, so I was especially looking forward to seeing her reaction to it.

The first thing that can be said about the Hamilton live experience is that the Victoria Palace Theatre, where it is currently running in London, creates a fantastic atmosphere the minute you walk in. The ambiance was perfect, from the Georgian décor including upholstered chair and chandeliers, to the smiling faces of the stewards, this theatre felt like a truly happy place to be. Everyone was clearly ecstatic to be there, and I think it summarised exactly what live theatre is supposed to be.

The actual show also does not fail the expectations. I saw a Saturday matinee performance; Alexander Hamilton was played by alternate Ash Hunter, and Aaron Burr was played by stand-by Sifiso Mazibuko. Outstanding performances included Rachel John (Angelica Schuyler), Cleve September (John Laurens/Philip Hamilton), Obioma Ugoala (George Washington) and Tarinn Callender (Hercules Mulligan/James Madison).

Rachel John (Angelica Schuyler) was my mum’s favourite – she had a confidence and wit that shone through her impeccable voice. Her sort-of-love-interest (is that a thing?) Ash Hunter’s performance was equally stunning, and every so often we’d get a glimpse of a fantastic, warm and rich voice from him. The Salieri/Mozart-like tensions between Hamilton and Burr is accentuated in the live performance, and Mazibuko effectively portrayed Burr’s slippery slope of jealousy.
The chemistry between Cleve September (Laurens), Tarinn Callender (Mulligan) and Jason Pennycooke (Lafayette) was also flawless. They brought an authentic laddish friendship to the stage that had the whole audience laughing at several points. Obioma Ugoala (Washington) seemed to induce a sort of hushed reverence over the audience whenever he sang, and the girl in front of me was sobbing during ‘One Last Time’ (I think that says enough about his skill.) Another tear-inducing moment was when Philip (Cleve September) dies in the second half (spoiler…!) With my mum’s hands over her mouth in shock and my sister wiping a tear, I think it’s safe to say Cleve’s dying skills were second to none (!) This skill is indicative in September’s performance as a whole, both as Laurens and as Philip.

For a long time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what makes Hamilton stand out in the way it does. Evidently, it is ground-breaking in its genre (revolutionary, if you will), and the choreography from Andy Blankenbuehler is equally innovative. However, as my mum rightly said, the choreography in many other shows, such as Wicked and Strictly Ballroom is awe-inspiring. The vocal performances are brilliant, but that is to be expected in a West End performance. The storyline is different to anything else on stage, but many shows have inventive story lines.

After seeing the show, I think I have a slightly better idea of what it is that gives Hamilton the hype it has (and deserves.) It is not the fact that it has great choreography, or lyrics, or music, although unrefutably all these things are amazing in the show. It is the charisma the show has; there is something young and fearless about it. It has nothing to lose, and this shines through the performances from the actors. They throw themselves completely into their characters, and somehow manage to bring America’s Founding Fathers into the modern day in such a charismatic and authentic way. The Hamilton hype comes because of the elegance, character and vivacity of the people who are involved in it, which only serves to heighten and bring to life the arguable genius of the music, choreography and direction.

I mean, the fact that my Dad looked this happy to see King George (Michael Jibson) at stage door after the show says it all. And my mum also loved it, but re-iterated I will never be a rapper. Thanks Mum!

Rosie x