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Review: West End Switched Off

Posted on 08 September 2013 by Jemma Anderson

West End Switched Off

In the first of a series of concerts, West End Switched Off showcases the best of the West End’s talent singing acoustic ‘unplugged’ versions of musical theatre hits from Broadway and the West End.

Produced by Parallel Productions, which was founded by our musical director for the evening, Kris Rawlinson, it aims to be a “fresh way to engage new and diverse audiences” – and combines the talent of well-known performers with those fresh out of training. It’s all for a good cause too – any generous donations from the night go to Survivors UK, a charity that supports male victims of sexual abuse.

So bearing all that in mind, what did the evening consist of? Well, it started off a little shaky, as Joseph Giacone and Emma Housley sang an arrangement of ‘Here Right Now’ from Ghost. You could not fault their vocals, but the arrangement didn’t quite work – it made it all a bit of a jumble of styles. Things soon settled down when new graduate Ben Sell gave a great jazzy performance of ‘King of The Swingers’ from The Jungle Book, and things really were kicked up at notch when Sabrina Aloueche belted out The We Will Rock You favourite ‘Somebody to Love’.

Jordan Lee Davies was given three chances to sing – once within a duet with Gary Wood who is fresh from finishing A Chorus Line at The London Palladium. Their rendition of ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ from Rent provided the closing to Act One, Davies’s camp diva of the two contrasting nicely against Wood’s shy, retiring partner. Davies showed his incredible range of riffing, vibrato and his acting throughout the evening, but it would have been nice to have heard him sing a male song once.

Jodie Steele gave us a rendition of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ from The Bodyguard, accompanied by a solo guitar and showing off her incredible range. Matthew Rowland provided one of my favourite performances with ‘Strange in this World’ from Taboo, noting that it was nearly a year since the opening performance at the Brixton Clubhouse. He gave an emotionally charged show, and only made me wish the show returns to London soon.

Performances from Jodie Beth Meyer, Ambra Caserotti and Tori Allen Martin all showed off their voices spectacularly, as did Lauren Osborn’s version of ‘Pulled’ from The Addams Family – although it would have been made better if she wasn’t reading the words from the sheet in front of her.

Dale Evans and Michael Quinn delivered solid performances, although my favourites of the evening came from two men who have both played Boq in Wicked at some point over the show’s run. Jeremy Legat’s rendition of ‘Losing My Mind’ from Follies was beautifully executed, and a duet with Thomas Sutcliffe singing ‘Defying Gravity’ gave it a virile, emotional edge.

Performance of the night however must go to Thomas Sutcliffe, who sung ‘Quiet’ from hit musical Matilda, but inspired by The National’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time, adapted it to be sung by a boy with Asperger’s and Autism. It was affecting, beautiful and the crossover worked perfectly.

Of course, Dean McCullough, who threw his own jokes in in between songs for good measure, and made sure the audience always had enough to drink from the bar, lovingly hosted the evening. Overall a great evening bursting the seams of the Battersea Barge with its talent, and all for a great cause too.

West End Switched Off is a new series of concerts taking place over the next few months. For more information visit the West End Switched Off website. Photo by Darren Bell.

 

Jemma Anderson

Jemma is currently studying Drama, Theatre and Performance at Roehampton University. Between studying and reading about theatre, she also watches and reviews as Editor-in-chief of the Drama Department's newspaper, The Call.

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Review: Curtains

Posted on 01 August 2012 by Julia Rank

Having recently hosted a transfer of All Star Pro’s enjoyable production of Kander and Ebb’s first show Flora the Red Menace, the Landor now presents the professional British premiere of the partnership’s last show Curtains, a romp of a backstage musical murder mystery set during the golden era of musical theatre.

Like Flora, Curtains wasn’t an unadulterated hit on Broadway, even though it’s probably the least political and most straightforwardly crowd-pleasing show that Kander and Ebb ever wrote (no Nazis, communists or critiques of the justice system). This majorly scaled-down staging shows Robert McWhir to be one of the most ingenious directors of small-scale musicals, in which the suggestion of Broadway glitz can be as effective as an enormous budget.  

All is not well at the Boston tryouts of Midwestern-set musical Robbin Hood, a blatant attempt to cash in on Oklahoma!’s success. When the show’s reviled leading lady is poisoned on opening night, the damning reviews are much more upsetting than her demise (cue much critic-bashing). In steps Lieutenant Frank Cioffi on his dream investigation, being a pillar of community theatre and a musical theatre fanboy, with two missions: to catch the murderer and re-stage the show (the latter is perhaps more important). While quarantined in the theatre, egos, rivalries, partner swapping and lost love rear their heads and tempers inevitably become frayed.

Backstage musicals are nothing new, but the sparklingly self-referential book (co-written by Peter Stone and Rupert Holmes as Stone died on the job) is filled with laugh-out-loud one-liners. It’s very much like Dames at Sea with more innuendo, but thankfully not as smutty as Lend Me a Tenor. The first half flies by, though the second could lose about fifteen minutes. I was never overly concerned as to who the murderer was (the plotting could be sharper); the best fun is seeing how far the theatrical archetypes can be pushed. Many of the best lines go to Bryan Kennedy as the ever-flippant British director (“It’s an honour just to be nominated”, he proclaims when he’s named as the chief suspect) and Buster Skeggs as the tough-as-nails theatrical capitalist (forget artistry, “It’s a business”).

The cast is uniformly likable and energetic, featuring a mixture of young and experienced performers: Jeremy Legat is full of starstruck eagerness as the mild-mannered yet shrewd detective whose spiritual home is in the theatre (he’s considerably younger than the original star David Hyde Pierce, which works in his favour in regard to the romance with Bronwyn Andrews’s ingénue). Fiona O’Carroll gives a striking turn as the show’s lyricist-turned-leading-lady Georgia, a real old-school Broadway trouper, and Thomas Sutcliffe is also eye-catching as her leading man.

Robbie O’Reilly’s choreography spills out from all corners, and behind the sideways proscenium arch and red curtain of Martin Thomas’s set, the whole theatre world comes to life. A love letter to the theatre accompanied by plenty of the old razzle dazzle has to be the most fitting way to draw a forty-year writing partnership to a close.

Curtains plays at Landor Theatre until September 1 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit the website.

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