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Tag Archive | "Musical"

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Review: Shellshock, Waterloo East Theatre

Posted on 13 April 2014 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Shellshock Waterloo East Theatre

The musical Shellshock opens with a talkative young girl called Emily (Ana Martin) fit to burst with excitement at the prospect of her father, a soldier, returning from the front-line in Dhofar, Oman. However, when her father Mark (Peter Willoughby) arrives home he is irritable, short-tempered and clearly traumatised by the brutalities of war that he has witnessed first-hand. The musical charts a family’s struggle to adjust to way that shell-shock can alter a person’s nature as they learn to acknowledge that the father and husband that they once knew has now been replaced by a shadow of his former self.

From the opening number the character of Emily is quickly defined as a chatterbox who enjoys singing, dancing and generally being the centre of her parents’ attention at all times. Emily’s general need to cause a racket clashes with her shell-shocked father’s constant request for quiet. Martin embodies Emily’s precocious nature well and sustains a high energy and extremely externalised performance throughout the piece. At only 14-years-old Martin is clearly a young talent with a strong singing voice, yet as her character lacked any real depth she was unfortunately limited by the material that Tim Thomas had created.

Mark, the other protagonist within the work, was also frustratingly one-dimensional and consequently difficult to connect with emotionally. As with any emotional state I had expected the portrayal of shell-shock to be multifaceted, but instead it was stripped back and Mark appeared to be in a perpetual state of rage throughout the performance. This lack of any character development or range was particularly apparent during his main song during which he simplistically described his emotional state as “too much makes me mad/too much makes me sad”. Considering that shell-shock was the show’s central theme I was disappointed that its depiction lacked any light and shade, and consequently I didn’t feel that deepened my understanding of said topic in any way.

Alongside the main storyline a subplot runs parallel wherein an elderly grandmother recounts her memories of the First World War to her grandson. She reveals the shocking secret that her husband, who suffered from undiagnosed shell-shock, was shot for being a deserter. Personally, I found this narrative thread and the grandmother Ada (who was played brilliantly by Maggie Robson), more intriguing than the main storyline and it was a shame that it was not explored further.

The score contained 14 original songs, of these Robson performed a memorable number entitled ‘I Fell for a Boy in the Band’. Musically the melody was reminiscent of the wartime era and this worked well, but I couldn’t help but feel if Thomas had stuck to this genre throughout the rest of songs would have sounded less like a homogenous mass.

In short Shellshock was a simplistic portrayal of the aftermath of war that left me feeling underwhelmed. Although the concept showed promise, I was left disappointed.

Shellshock is playing at Waterloo East Theatre until 19 April. For tickets and more information please visit the Waterloo East Theatre website.

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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Review: Finian’s Rainbow, Charing Cross Theatre

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Finian's Rainbow

Somewhat overshadowed by the more seminal works in the cannon, Finian’s Rainbow is a little-known musical first written and performed in 1947. In the fictional American state of Missitucky the residents of Rainbow Valley are unable to work due to a drought and are facing eviction unless they can pay their quite sizeable (and overdue) taxes. The group are overjoyed when copper-haired Sharon (Christina Bennington) and her doting grandfather Finian McLonegan (James Horne) arrive from the Emerald Isle offering to pay their debts. However, matters are soon complicated when it emerges that the gold that the Irish pair used to save Rainbow Valley was in fact financed by a crock of gold stolen from a disgruntled leprechaun. In a nutshell this revival of Finian’s Rainbow is a whimsical, light-hearted work sprinkled with a couple of catchy toe-tapping musical numbers.

The score sounded strangely familiar: considering that I was hearing the songs for the first time I deduced this must be because it is musically reminiscent of more well-known works like Oklahoma! and Carousel. When Sharon begins to sing the soaring melodies of How Are Things in Glocca Morra?’  her Judy Garland-esque tone instantly transported the room back to the golden age of film musicals. Bennington embodies Sharon’s doe-eyed naive nature extremely well; being Irish herself Bennington has no trouble sustaining the accent throughout. However, the same cannot be said for Horne’s hotch-potch of an accent that never quite managed to sound believably Irish. The cast’s forte was certainly their singing; this was perhaps most apparent during the gospel inspired numbers such as ‘Necessity’ – during which I thought Anne Odeke’s lead vocal really shone and was a joy to listen to.

Despite some memorable songs my main qualm with Finian’s Rainbow was that much of the humour within the piece felt dated. The sweeping racial stereotypes poking fun at the differences between Irish and American culture fell rather flat. I’m still slightly perplexed by the character of ‘silent Susan’ who, as a mute from birth, communicates solely through the medium of modern dance. That said, there was also much to enjoy about this revival. For instance, when the mean-hearted Senator Billboard Rawkins (who is trying to evict the residents of Rainbow Valley) is transformed from an affluent man of power into a ragged pauper it makes for a comical and rather literal interpretation of the saying to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’. The children in the audience also seemed particularly taken by Raymond Walsh’s personification of the grumpy leprechaun named Og.

Although parts of Finian’s Rainbow did feel quite dated it is a feel-good family show, and if you go and see this production at the Charing Cross Theatre you will probably leave with a spring in your step and a few new songs in your heart.

Finian’s Rainbow is playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until 10 May. For tickets and more information please visit the Charing Cross Theatre website.

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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Review: Once, Phoenix Theatre

Posted on 06 April 2014 by Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Once Musical

A chance encounter wherein a young Czech girl asks an dejected Irish busker to fix her broken hoover seems like an unlikely starting point for a love story, let alone a musical. Surprisingly this is the premise of Glen Hansard’s multi-award winning musical Once, now with Arthur Darvill reprising his Broadway role as the male lead who is known simply as ‘Guy’, taking to the stage alongside the original ‘Girl’ – Croatian-born Zrinka Cvitešić. United by a mutual passion for making beautiful music, these kindred spirits go on a tender journey as they both discover what it means truly to embrace life and live in the moment.

In a year that has been increasingly tough for new musicals to stay open, Once has bucked this trend and is even extending its run until July 2015. With such a hit on their hands, finding a new cast that could live up to the calibre of their predecessors was critical. I’m pleased to be able to say that the new recruits certainly have risen to the occasion. No doubt this is largely thanks to the onstage chemistry between Cvitešić and Darvill, which is truly electric. As the Girl, Cvitešić buoyantly coaxes a reluctant Guy to believe in himself by following his dream of forging a career in the music industry. Although the Girl tries to encourage the Guy to leave her behind and try to win back his former lover in New York, the Guy and the Girl are of course the true couple that the audience are willing to be together. In these nameless figures, playwright Enda Walsh has created well-rounded characters that the audience can invest in emotionally, a factor that is all too often glossed over in musical theatre.

In many ways it is easy to forget that you are watching a musical as the creative team behind Once have stripped back many of the traditional conventions associated with musical theatre: impressive jazz hand-filled dance numbers have been replaced with pedestrianised naturalistic movement. Instead of an orchestra pit the actors sit around the edge of the stage throughout the piece, strumming guitars, mandolins and cellos as they provide their own musical accompaniments. The cast of talented actor-musicians fuse the two media brilliantly. This minimalistic approach to the art form is perhaps most effective during Darvill’s rendition of ‘Falling Slowly’, as his raw and heartfelt delivery feels more like you’re listening to an intimate acoustic gig than watching a show in the heart of the West End. Perhaps it is more appropriate to refer to Once as a play that just happens to have haunting melodies woven into the narrative.

It felt only fitting to reward the captivating cast of Once with a standing ovation – for me it certainly ranks as one of the best musicals that I have had the pleasure of seeing. This stellar piece of theatre distances itself from many of the archetypal features associated with the genre and therein lies its charm. I have a sneaking suspicion that even the most reluctant of musical theatre-goers would enjoy Once, a theory that I plan to test out very soon. After all, it would be a crime to see it just the once.

Once is currently playing at the Phoenix Theatre until July 2015. Arthur Darvill will be playing the role of Guy until 10 May. For tickets and more information, see the Once website.

 

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby-isla Cera-Marle

Ruby isla Cera Marle recently graduated from Royal Holloway University of London where she studied Spanish and European Literature and Cultural Studies. Currently Ruby is working as Press and Marketing Assistant at Rambert Dance Company..

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Review: Urinetown, St James Theatre

Posted on 10 March 2014 by Lisa Carroll

Urinetown St James TheatreIt’s been a long time coming to the London stage following its original Off-Broadway run in 1999, but Urinetown, currently playing at the St James Theatre, has undoubtedly been well worth the wait. It would be easy to be put off by the unusual title, but this is one show not to be missed: Urinetown has everything from a riveting storyline with plenty of twists and turns, to incisive satirical songs, and a large helping of laugh-out-loud moments to boot.

Set in a dystopian future plagued by water shortages and characterised by social inequality, Urinetown explores a world where, in the words of one of many stellar numbers, ‘It’s a Privilege to Pee’. Public bathrooms are managed by Caldwell B. Cladwell (the brilliant, Simon Paisley Day) who heads the corporation, Urine Good Company, which charges citizens every time they need to spend a penny, so to speak. When Assistant Urinal Custodian, Bobby Strong (Richard Fleeshman) decides to listen to his heart and challenge the system, chaos is unleashed as Caldwell struggles to hold onto power through brute force and violence. This compelling setup allows the show to satirise everything from capitalism, to tyranny, love and even musicals themselves – and as such, Urinetown is not only incredibly entertaining but it is pertinent too.

There are almost too many stand-out moments in the play to name them all and risk ruining the fun, but one of the best parts of Urinetown is how it successfully spans, and at times mocks, a number of genres. ‘Follow Your Heart’ offers the perfect antidote to the traditional sickly-sweet love songs which often feature in West End musicals, and the gospel-choir style rendition of ‘Run, Freedom, Run’, performed with pitch-perfect comic timing, had the audience cheering with delight. On top of which, what makes Urinetown even better is its own self-consciousness and refusal to meet typical audience expectations of musicals. Indeed, though narrator Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) informs the audience well ahead of time that there will be no happy ending, Urinetown still manages to surprise with its highly ironic twist, making it on the whole, an incredibly satisfying musical – as opposed to its more happy-go-lucky, crowd-pleasing West End rivals.

With sharp and witty dialogue by Greg Kotis, superb music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, and experienced director, Jamie Lloyd at the helm, Urinetown is in thoroughly capable hands and it shows. Soutra Gilmour’s design is immediately striking upon entering the theatre: eerie, dingy and beautiful all at once, complimented by Adam Silverman’s lighting which gives the show a strong visual impact. On top of this, the talented and boisterous ensemble, many of whom slide seamlessly into a number of roles, really bring this strange world to life, so that it is well fleshed-out and believable. Put simply, not for a long time have I enjoyed a night at the theatre as much as I enjoyed Urinetown: it’s definitely a musical worth spending your pennies on.

Urinetown is playing at St James Theatre until 3 May. For more information and tickets, see the St James Theatre website.

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll

Lisa Carroll graduated from University College Dublin in 2012 with a B.A International in English. She is also a playwright, script reader and director. @lisa_carroll46

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