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: The Audience (NST, Southampton)

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: For those who love good old Queenie, and for those who don’t.

 

A revival of Peter Morgan’s The Audience is currently showing at the NST City in Southampton. The play premiered in the West End in 2013, and stages the Queen’s private weekly meetings with her prime ministers. It poses questions of the Queen’s character and the necessity of the monarchy in our modern society, all the while showing us the comic and witty side of our serious figurehead. “Often funny, sometimes confessional, occasionally explosive” (NST Southampton), The Audience is a masterpiece not to be missed.

65 Years. 13 Prime Ministers. One Queen.

Queen Elizabeth is a public figure that we perhaps do not take much time to sympathize with. The Royal Family is steeped in tradition and protocol, and so it is very easy to forget that the head of that institution is also a person. Faye Castelow perfectly captures this tension between the figurehead and the people in her portrayal of Elizabeth. Her Elizabeth is passionate about her country and the Commonwealth, but also about fairness and justice. She is not permitted to state opinion on political affairs, and yet her facial expressions and body language go a long way to show how she feels. Droll, intelligent, likeable and very upper class, we see Elizabeth as both a “postage stamp with a pulse” and as a woman trying to maintain her integrity in a position that demands she compromises it.

The staging for this production includes a large conveyer belt which wheels the Prime Ministers out onto the stage, adding a layer of comedy but also a more profound statement on the longevity of the Queen’s service as well as the seemingly never-ending trail of middle-aged white men that seem to occupy the PM position. Paul Kemp is a triumph as the male PM’s, where he embodies the essence of all of them with remarkable skill and finesse. His Harold Wilson was the stand-out, with witty comedy and poignancy in his diminishing health, showcasing a close bond with the Queen.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole show is the confrontation between Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher, played by Lizzie Hopley. Thatcher storms into Buckingham Palace in a rage about a newspaper article that has been published stating Elizabeth’s poor opinion of her. A wonderful scene then ensues in which Elizabeth and Thatcher engage in a hostile confrontation, stalking up and down the conveyer belt towards each other in what feels like a hunt, yet we cannot quite tell which is the predator and which is the prey.

The combination of Morgan’s writing, Hodges‘ directing, Vize’s set design and the performances from Castelow and Kemp make The Audience unmissable. The private meetings liken to therapy sessions for the Prime Minister, and throughout we get a sense that all of the Prime Ministers are very similar men, just in a “different tie.”  By the end, we feel we have grown to understand the Queen, her PM’s, and the delicate balance that keeps it all together just a little bit more than we did before we started, all the while being entertained with Elizabeth’s wit and perfectly posh accent.

 

See The Audience at NST City, Southampton from 24 May – 22 June. Get your tickets here

 

 

 

REVIEW: Eric Lu at Turner Sims

On Tuesday 2nd April, 2019, Eric Lu made his first appearance at Turner Sims Southampton following his success at the Leeds International Piano Competition. The scene was set with dimmed lights across the auditorium and a warm, muted spotlight on the centre-stage piano. As soon as Lu walked on stage, there was a hush across the audience, everyone excited to hear what this new young talent had to offer.

First we heard Mozart’s ‘Rondo in A Minor’, and we were introduced to Lu’s ability in exquisitely gentle playing. Every note was incredibly precise, graceful and tranquil. This was a theme that continued throughout the performance. In every piece, Lu managed to capture controlled pianissimo that created an ambience of complete calm in the concert hall.

In the second half, we heard technical prowess in the Handel ‘Chaconne in G,’ with a combination of speed and breath-taking accuracy. In a perfect contrast to the more meditative first half, Lu tackled the Handel with fervour and vivacity, lighting up the room by showing off the many variations on the sarabande theme that seem to increase in difficulty and speed as the ‘Chaconne’ goes on.

This exciting sarabande preceded the final piece of the evening, Chopin’s ‘Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor.’ To balance this programme, the ‘Funeral sonata’ needed gravity, anguish and a focus on all of the colours and shapes within this piece. Lu conquered all of these elements to bring the concert to a resounding and poignant close. Sometimes, he would tip his head back and look upwards, showing his emotion and passion at particularly moving moments. The highlight of the sonata was undoubtedly the third movement, the ‘Marche Funèbre.’ Here, the sombre bass was matched effortlessly by the mournful right hand, and the energy we heard in the Handel fused together with the delicate quiet of the Mozart to create a beautiful culmination of all of Lu’s skills in this pivotal moment of the recital.

Ultimately, Lu provides some soul-bearing moments of fire and passion, but the real pièce de résistance of his playing is the artistry with which the pianissimo moments are played. His playing fills with poise and beauty, allowing him to hold the audience in the palm of his hand. Not only does this showcase the quiet and reflective moments, but also accentuates the elements of intensity when they come, and for this Lu was rewarded with a resounding cheer at the end of his performance.

REVIEW: Wicked (Apollo Victoria, West End)

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.” 

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 highs and lows 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 perfectly 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: 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 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.

T H E S H O W

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.

T H E C A S T

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 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.

T H E P R I C E

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: Hamilton

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