REVIEW: Waitress (Adelphi Theatre, West End)

Quick Summary: Sugar, butter, flour – the perfect ingredients for a feel-good musical
Rating: ★★★★

If you’re looking for a show to fill you up with laughter, good singing and great looking pies, then Waitress the Musical is the one for you. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, we follow waitress Jenna through her unhappy marriage, her pregnancy, her affair with her doctor, Dr. Pomatter, and all of the lessons she learns along the way. Alongside her two best friends, the feisty, opinionated Becky and ditsy, American Revolution re-enactment enthusiast Dawn, Jenna takes us through a show that explores the ups and downs of relationships, both with other people and with yourself.

Lucie Jones as Jenna is a complete triumph. Her performance is in both parts vocally excellent, and theatrically interesting. She combines Jenna’s strength and vulnerability, as well as the desire to feel something again, in a powerful way so that you are left feeling incredibly sympathetic. She is balanced well by the hilarious David Hunter as Dr. Pomatter. Hunter is, again, brilliant at creating a nuanced, balanced character who is funny but also reveals traits beyond his comedic facade.

Other highlights include the pairing of Laura Baldwin and Joe Sugg as Dawn and Ogie respectively. The pair bounce off each other very well with quips and facial expressions, leaving the audience laughing when they say almost anything. Baldwin’s ‘When He Sees Me’ was both hilarious and sincere, and Sugg’s ‘Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me’ had the perfect level of dorky-ness.

Overall, nothing about this show is particularly extraordinary or revolutionary; the songs are generally written in a typical pop-theatre style, and the story is reasonably predictable. However, what makes the show enjoyable and successful is the fact that it takes its relative simplicity and executes it perfectly. The comedic timing and structure of the story all land very well with the audience. Every song is nice to listen to, and the harmony is divine. There are touches of crude humour, sincere love and real-life problems, all of which combine to make a lovely, all-rounded show.

Sweet, sugary and delicious, you leave Waitress feeling as if you could watch it all over again.

 


 

Have you seen Waitress? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

 

REVIEW: Matilda the Musical (UK National Tour)

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: ‘When I Grow Up,’ I want to be Matilda.

Meet Matilda. The talented young story-teller suffers while living with her TV-obsessed family, but discovers her hidden talents when she meets her new school teacher, Miss Honey. Tim Minchin’s musical, based on the well-loved book by Roald Dahl, perfectly captures the heartwarming story of this earnest, charming little girl.

Matilda the Musical is currently touring the UK as well as showing on the West End, and I went to see the show on its opening night in Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, with the touring cast. The show opens with an entourage of precocious children and their over-bearing parents in the comedic number ‘Miracle’, and from this moment onward you can expect to be bowled over by the young talent on the stage. With effortless soaring high notes from Bruce (played by Toby Mocrei when I saw it), adorable characterisation from Lavender (Chantelle Tonolete) and, of course, a powerful little leading lady in Matilda (Sophie Woolhouse, who makes her professional debut), the child cast brought outstanding vibrancy to the stage.

The thrillingly terrifying Miss Trunchbull is played by Elliot Harper in this production, and he is an absolute joy not to be missed. While Harper highlighted the menacing and intimidating elements of the Trunchbull, he also brought her to life through his comic timing which made her seem awkward and almost childish at times. This was a really interesting characterisation, and one that elevated the character beyond the two-dimensional villain she has always been known as.

If the cast does not do enough to facilitate your enjoyment, then the set and production most certainly will. With swings, scooters and moving steps in the gate of the school that spell out the alphabet, the set of Matilda is absolutely incredible. The ‘swing choreography’ in ‘When I Grow Up’ is a highlight of the show.

As I’ve said before, the Southampton Mayflower is a great place to go and see shows. The way the seats are raked means you can’t really have a bad view, and the acoustics of the room are fantastic. It is definitely worth a visit.

Matilda the Musical is pure joy and excellence. With themes of family tension, vulnerability, overcoming bullies, being yourself and supporting your friends, this show is both a fun time and an educational one.

 

Matilda the Musical is showing at the Southampton Mayflower Theatre until the 6th July, and will then be showing at Norwich Theatre Royal from 16 July – 17 August. Buy tickets here

REVIEW: SIX the Musical (Arts Theatre London, West End)

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: A #MeToo era statement musical filled to the ruff with riffs, harmony, and Renaissance puns.


Six the Musical is the newest musical based on historical events to hit London. The six wives of King Henry VIII join together on stage in a Spice-girl-esque concert to inform the audience on all the grievances they have against their shared husband. In a competition to crown the leader of the band, each queen has a solo song to show the audience how they suffered the “biggest load of B-S from the man that put a ring on it.”  Through each song we get a glimpse into the personality of each queen, and also the personality of Henry VIII even though he never appears on the stage. 

 

T H E    S H O W 

Now, there is no doubt that this musical is founded in feminism. Six women, standing on stage and demanding back their independence, as well as proving to the audience that there is more to them than just being married to a famous man.
This sentiment, however, takes a while to get to. At first, it seems the show will not pass the Bechdel test – yes, there’s more than one named woman on stage talking, but all of their conversations are about a man! Or so it seems, until the penultimate song, Katherine Parr’s “I Don’t Need Your Love.” Finally, we hear one of the queens stand up and say “Henry… I will never belong to you!” and tell the audience all the other amazing achievements of her life that were nothing to do with men. She tells us to remember how she was a writer, helped women to independently study scripture, and got a woman to paint her picture. This makes the show less of a preachy feminist statement, but more of an observation of how we are remembered once we die, and how society should change to see women as more than just a wife. 

 

T H E    C A S T 

The cast of Six consists of the six wives, and four musicians. 

Jarneia Richard-Noel makes her off-Westend debut as Catherine of Aragon, and you cannot tell she is a rookie. She oozes confidence and is great at directly addressing the audience, which fits well into the format of this show.
Her song is followed by Anne Boleyn, played by Millie O’Connell, and their characters are polar opposites. While Catherine of Aragon is refined, O’Connell’s Boleyn is always up for a good time, and also hilarious. Natalie ParisJane Seymour really comes alive in her solo song, where she showcases her effortless top range and whistle tones, as well as her discerning stoicism. 

Having seen the show twice, I have seen two different Anna of Cleves’. The first time, I saw Alexia McIntosh, a graduate of Birmingham School of Acting, and she Cleves as a  ballsy, fiery character, perfectly happy to live it up in a palace in Richmond. Her comedic timing was excellent, and really sold the song. The second time, we had the alternate Anna of Cleves, Vicki Manser. The characterisation was completely different, but no less excellent. Manser brought cheekiness and equal hilarity to the role, often looking to the audience as if letting them in on a joke.
Then, Katherine Howard. Howard was beheaded for her promiscuity but Aimie Atkinson, who takes on her role in the show, shows the audience a different side of the young queen. An insight into a story that would now be considered a part of the #MeToo movement, Atkinson takes us through the highs and lows of being a “10 among 3’s” in the Tudor period. Atkinson is sassy, quick-witted and vocally flawless. 
Finally, we have Catherine Parr, “the one who survived.” Parr is played by Maiya Quansah-Breed, who brings peace, soul, and wisdom to the role, essentially acting as the mature leader of the group bringing them all together to celebrate their independence and female badassery. 

 

To conclude, the whole show is lovably corny, but at the same time a very sharp commentary on modern day society. Marlow and Moss use the framework of Tudor England to construct a show that cleverly makes you think about how you view women in our society, 400 years later. On the other hand, Six is also a feel-good, uplifting night out that makes you laugh and dance along in your seat. It really is a show where you can take whatever you want from it. A British musical in an entirely new format that pushes all the right buttons; there’s “No Way” you should miss this show. 

 

Rosie x

REVIEW: HEATHERS

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

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

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.