Category Archives: Musicals

Review: Made in Dagenham

Full of youthful vigour in tackling a valuable and important topic.

FRINGE RUN: 10/8-12/8 @ 15:00; Paradise in Augustines; [£10.50/£8.50]

Who, Where and When: Norfolk NYT; Paradise in Augustines; Friday 11 August, 15:00

The Show

Made in Dagenham tells the story of the female workers at Dagenham’s Ford factory who went on strike in 1968 over equal pay, bringing the issue into the political sphere. It’s based on the film of the same name.

The story moves at a good pace (some cuts may have been made in this production  to limit run-time), and there are some fantastic musical numbers, including a dancing Harold Wilson. The group numbers are clear and powerful.

It lacks the panache of similar shows such as Billy Elliot, but nevertheless tells a moving story through an excellent score.

The Cast

This was clearly a young cast, and there were a few wobbles to begin with. However, as they hit their stride, they really shone in both the singing and acting. There were some very moving performances in the second half in particular.

Overall

Much like Billy Elliot, Pride and the film that inspired this show, the story of the strikes is one that needs to be made accessible to a new generation, and this show does a fantastic job of just that. Add in a talented young cast, and you’ve got a lovely afternoon ahead.

Notable Songs

  • Wassname – Clare (Intermediate)
  • The Letter – Eddie O’Grady (Advanced)

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: Hairspray

The opening of the 2013/14 theatre season at the Playhouse was bright, colourful and bursting with joy.

Hairspray-show

Where and When: Edinburgh Playhouse; Tuesday 3rd September 7.30pm (Run ends 14 Sept)

The Show

Having seen the film of Hairspray (which I wasn’t overly impressed with) I wasn’t certain whether I’d like the show. I was pleasantly surprised. The film comes over as brash and silly, but on stage, the bold strokes in which this story is painted are just enough to get over a very real and important point about social acceptance while still allowing the audience to have a whole lot of fun.

The basic plot takes place in 1962 and follows the rather “larger than average” Tracy Turnblad who has ambitions to dance on The Corney Collins Show on TV. While planning how to manage it, she meets some of the black kids in her school and begins to question the racial segregation which is considered normal. Comic capers ensue, and a happy ending is had by all. It’s a little bit like someone smushed together Show Boat, Grease and the great British Pantomime tradition (complete with the Dame in the form of Edna Turnblad) and then topped it a little bit of Sixties technicolour. Despite this strange combination, the story works. It’s not too silly, it’s not too brash, it’s not too moralising – it’s just right.

The musical numbers are a standout highlight of this show and one of the reasons for it’s success. Shaiman and Whittman write fantastic songs which manage to pastiche many great 60s hits while still allowing the music to be fresh, innovative and unique. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they were invited to write the music for Bombshell, the fictional musical in the US TV Show Smash.

My final note is that although there’s an “everyone get up and dance” moment at the end of the show, this is very clearly after the curtain call. This small detail made me very pleased because it allows the audience to choose whether to give a standing ovation, rather than being forced into one. It’s my petpeeve to attend shows where I am not given that theatre-goers’ right not to give a standing ovation. However, this production pitched their ending beautifully, allowing me to remain seated during the curtain call, and then stand to join in with the dance break.

The Cast

Surprisingly, the opening night in Edinburgh of this tour featured not one, not two, but six replacement cast members, including the understudies for both Tracy (Nikki Pocklington) and Edna Turnblad (Daniel Stockton). In fact, my ticket-broker-come-musical-theatre-encyclopedia companion took most of the interval to work out how there could be six replacements on stage, but only five swings in the cast (the answer being that Tracy’s understudy is a “walking understudy” meaning she has no other role in the production due to the requirements for the actress to be large – you learn something new every day!). Of course, most of the audience would have no idea, and it certainly didn’t show that this had been the debut performance in their role for several of the actors.

The highlight performance of the evening was, for me, Lauren Hood as Penny Pingleton. Penny is a geeky and awkward character which would be easy to overact, but Ms Hood’s performance was spot on. Paul Rider was also a gorgeously entertaining Wilbur Turnblad opposite the understudy for Edna, Mark Hilton. The weakest performance of the night, sadly but expectedly, was Lucy Benjamin. Although her acting of the part was lovely, and her physicality was good, her singing was rarely singing – very raspy, breathy and strained.

There were some technical issues which also detracted from the largely excellent performances. The balance of the sound was often poor, making it difficult to hear the words to the songs. There was also one glaring costume problem – Edna’s finale dress was clearly intended to be pink (to match Tracy and Wilbur’s costumes), but instead it was a strange, clashing shade of red. I sincerely hope that this was due to costume damage, and not a directorial choice!

Overall

This is a lovely, upbeat musical best seen at the theatre rather than on film. It’ll definitely be appealing for teenage girls as well as adults, making it a good family choice. The lively music will be ringing in your ears long after you leave the theatre, and the moral of the story, about being true to what you believe is right, is one everyone could use a reminder of now and then.

Notable Songs

  • Good Morning Baltimore – Tracey (Medium)
  • I Can Hear the Bells – Tracey (Medium)
  • You Can’t Stop The Beat – Tracey/Chorus (Medium)

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: Pippin

A return to Morningside’s Church Hill Theatre for a second American High School Theatre show.

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FRINGE RUN: 16/8-20/8 (Not 17) @ Various; Church Hill Theatre (137); [£5]

Who, Where and When: American High School Theatre; Sunday 18th August 2013; 4.15pm

The Show

Pippin is a fantastic example of a post-modern semi-surreal musical theatre. The show takes influence from the Italian Commedia Dell’arte which influenced everything from Shakespeare to the Pantomime. The basic principle is that characters are charicatured and slightly abserd. This is the case in Pippin, where the story is told by the performing company, and the journey of the central character takes him to meet a range of personalities. It is surprising how similar this seems to the Bernstein operetta Candide in content and physical style.

What makes this show so brilliant is that it is very flexible. There are many smaller parts, so although some leads do have a heavy burden, the ensemble of secondary characters is large and varied. This makes it a surprisingly good choice for a High School Theatre group, as well as being capable of wowing audiences on Broadway by adding performers trained by Circ du Soleil.

I really enjoyed the story which is simple, but gripping, and comes to a dark and challenging conclusion (which I won’t spoil, lest you are able to see this show some day). Every character Pippin meets on the way is colourful and entertaining – from his overly matcho brother (played in this cast by a female actor, which only added to the hilarity) to his dear batty grandmother.

The Cast

Although young, the cast, by-and-large, rose to the challenge of this show. Some vocal performances were perhaps a little too weak. The girl playing Fastrada struggled with the demanding songs and was unable to hold her pitch accurately at times, and the actress playing the grandmother was clearly very nervous despite her wonderfully entertaining acting.

However, all of the cast threw themselves into the mood of the piece which was really the most important aspect in this show.

Overall

Pippin is a fantastic show, and deserves to be remembered as part of musical theatre’s greatest. In particular, the nature of the piece makes it extraordinarily accessible for a wide range of theatre groups (I could imagine it would work well for mixed-ability theatre groups such as Chickenshed). The story is engaging and funny (the hallmarks of Mr Schwartz of Wicked fame) and the characters lively. One can only hope that the Tony Award for Best Revival-winning Broadway production is given a West End transfer and a long run in the UK.

Notable Songs

  • Corner of the Sky – Pippin
  • Simple Joys – Leading Player
  • Spread a Little Sunshine – Fastrada
  • And There He Was – Catherine
  • Extraordinary – Pippin
  • I Guess I’ll Miss the Man – Catherine

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

 

Review: Merrily We Roll Along

First and only Sondheim of the season.

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FRINGE RUN: 12/8-24/8 (not 18th) @ 10:10; Greenside [£5]

Who, Where and When: Red Oak Theatre; Greenside; Saturday 17th August 2013; 10.10am

The Show

One should be under no illusions about Sondheim. His work is genius, but it’s not easy to get right. Merrily We Roll Along follows the life of composer Franklin Shepard, starting at the end of the story as his success crumbles away around him when he realises that on the way to fame and wealth, he has lost the people he cares about the most. The story then travels back in time, reversing the decisions Franklin makes, and ending at the start, where he and his closest friends have nothing but optimism.

As is always the case, Sondheim’s musical score is exquisite, with multi-layered harmonies and a huge range of songs incorporating both lyrical numbers, and more dialogue-based elements. Tying the whole score together, the title song “Merrily We Roll Along” is used to designate the movement back in time.

The story as a whole is typical of the “American dream” genre of American art. In this particular case, some of the American dream rhetoric is challenged (that about wealth and fame being the highest form of success) while others (doing what your heart desires no matter what) are underscored as morally good. Certainly, if this is Sondheim commenting on his experience of success, he implies that his fame as a composer is not as important to him as the musical works he has produced. However, I doubt Mr Sondheim is strapped for cash yet he censures Franklin for making decisions which bring financial gain at the cost of his art.

The Cast

Unfortunately, I feel Stephen Sondheim is in the same category as Jason Robert Brown – best not attempted by amateurs. Although this cast did well to perform the music, I felt there was significant depth missing in their acting performances. I didn’t really believe the depth of the friendship between Franklin (Henry Adams) and Charley (Andrew Horton) – I mostly wondered what they could possibly have seen in each other. Franklin was too business minded, and Charley too geeky, and so they seemed to fundamentally have nothing in common. Equally, though Mary Flynn (Rosie Archer) is supposed to be in love with Franklin, she mostly came off as lonely and desperate, rather than devoted. I felt the direction left this whole show a cast of caricatures, which trivialised the deep and powerful emotions running through the musical score.

There were also significant problems with audibility at times as not all of the cast had mics. Although the central cast were afforded amplification, there was no such grace given to the supporting chorus or peripheral characters and as a consequence there were a lot of lines which were not clear over the volume of the live band. It would have been a better decision to either mic everyone, or no one, rather than having a mixture.

The band, I must say, were brilliant, and I really enjoyed being able to see the musicians on set. I have seen shows of this difficulty suffer from lack of a conductor, but that was not the case here.

Overall

This is not one of Sondheim’s most innovative or exciting musicals, although it is not without merits. However, I was underwhelmed by the performances of this cast. A less difficult show might have seen them produce very good theatre. As it is, this is little more than mediocre. The band, should, however, be congratulated for being the highlight of the show for me – I actually think I spent as much time watching the musicians as the actors!

Notable Songs

  • Franklin Shepard Inc – Charley (Hard)
  • Not a Day Goes By – Beth (Medium)
  • Good Thing Going – Charley (Hard)

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

A return to the world of musicals inbetween trips top two operas.

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FRINGE RUN: 13/8-26/8 @ 20:10; Paradise in Augustine’s; [£12.00/£10.00]

Who, Where and When: EUSOG; Paradise in Augustine’s; Tuesday 13th August 2013, 8.10pm

The Show

When the advert says “Tony Award Winning Show”, you should always beware that this can be entirely false advertising. In this case, it was the cast in a revival run that won the awards, and not, strictly speaking the show. Frankly, that’s no surprise. Although the script was peppered with the astute comedy you’d expect from a show based on the Peanuts comic strip, it has no real substance.

The show is constructed essentially as a sketch show linking reenactments of the comic strips by theme, and using songs where appropriate to move the action along. There is nothing really innovative, or exciting about the show, and the lack of central plot leaves nothing behind after the laughter has faded. Ostensibly, Charlie Brown goes on a journey to find out if he is a good man, but there is no real development of this theme in the show, and his journey just ends with Lucy telling him he is one before the curtain falls.

None of these failings in the show itself should detract from the fact that the original source material is excellent and as a result is not an unpleasant way to spend a couple of hours. However, the show leaves no lasting impression and is easily forgotten. It’s regular revival can be attributed primarily to the small cast and simple staging, as well as a nostalgia for Peanuts. If there was a deeper point or message it was too well hidden.

The Cast

The EUSOG cast were a mixed bunch. I’m given to understand some of the parts have been double cast, so the second cast might be stronger. I was also given no cast list, and the EUSOG website did not give one either.

The actor playing Charlie Brown did a sterling job in the opening as he responded to various voices off stage. This nuanced portrayal of the unconfident Charlie was sustained throughout the performance. The actor’s singing was good and could be heard clearly for the most part.

The two women taking the roles of Lucy and Sally also did a very good job of characterisation, and both sung well. Lucy’s tendency to sing deliberately off-key was both well executed and a tad grating by the end of the show (though I think this is how the part is normally played). Sally was by far the strongest vocalist to the point where her voice stood out in group numbers.

The other three, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy, were significantly weaker. All of them sung songs during which some or all of the words were completely lost because of their inability to project sufficiently for the space. Their acting and characterisation were good, but not enough to make up for many words being inaudible.

Overall

The show itself is light and enjoyable, but is by no means Broadway’s finest hour. More importantly, the cast suffered heavily from a lack of microphones on a very deep and acoustically dead stage. This was not the right venue for this show, and it demonstrates the importance of the getting the right relationship between the group, their show and the venue. If you are a fan of Peanuts or like that genre of humour, you will likely enjoy this show, but otherwise I found little to recommend it when there are many other much better shows around.

Notable Songs

  • The Kite – Charlie Brown (Medium)
  • Red Baron – Snoopy (Medium)
  • Suppertime – Snoopy (Medium-Hard)
  • New Philosophy – Sally (Medium)

Rating ♥ ♥

Review: Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens

This was first of a couple of American High School Theatre productions I’m planning to see over the festival. I’m particularly keen to see this show as a number of the songs are listed in the LCM Musical Theatre Exam suggested repertoire.

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FRINGE RUN: 5,6,8&9/8 @ Various; Church Hill Theatre (137); [£5]

Who, Where and When: American High School Theatre; Church Hill Theatre; Friday 9th August 2013, 8.15pm

The Show

Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens is not a light hearted show. It’s a show about AIDS, and it documents the stories of various victims of the disease. This isn’t a show with a plot – it bears more relation to a cabaret than even a “concept musical”. Songs break up a series of monologues telling the tale of AIDS victims. We start with the “classic” victims – the gay man, the prostitute. Throughout the show, we also see victims of blood transfusions, and maternal transmissions.

What is most striking about this show is the lyrical nature of the monologues. They have an almost Shakespearian quality with very rhythmic language, and a smattering of rhymes. I’d be keen to see a printed copy of the book just to know how the speeches were laid out on the page. In terms of performance, the style of the language made the speeches just stylised enough to stop this show just being a misery-fest which would cause the audience to shut down rather than engage with the issues.

The songs were catchy, and emotive. All of them work as stand-alone songs, although “My Brother Lives in San Francisco” is particularly closely related to the preceeding monologue. I liked some of the songs more than others, but all of them worked really well to lift the show without making light of a serious topic.

I don’t know if the staging of this production was new, or similar to the original version, but the use of projected images was excellent and the dancers were fantastic.

The Cast

The cast of this production were a mixed bag. Some of them were excellent. I particularly loved the group performing “My Brother Lived in San Francisco” – the song almost moved me to tears. Overall, the singers were good, but these are big songs, and I felt the show probably needed more mature voices to really bring out the full potential of many of the songs, such as the rootsy and gospel-esque “Angels, Punks and Raging Queens”. The limited band (just a piano) was also not enough to carry some of the more upbeat numbers such as “Celebrate”.

There was also a very variable quality in the acting. This was a very young cast, and none of them would be old enough to remember the AIDS crisis (in fact, I suspect the show itself is older than most of the cast). The show is full of difficult and complicated emotions, and although the actors all did admirably, many of them were unable to capture the full depth of the speeches. An older cast would likely have been able to tackle this work more convincingly. Some performers were excellent, though tellingly those were the ones given more light-hearted sections.

The finale number was very well staged, with the cast coming into the audience and giving everyone red ribbons, and shaking all our hands to thank us for supporting those who live with AIDS. A retiring collection was made for AIDS charities, and I believe they were able to give at least £4500 from the donations and ticket sale profits.

Notable Songs

  • Angels, Punks and Raging Queens – Female (Medium)
  • And the Rain Keeps Falling Down – Male (Medium)
  • My Brother Lives in San Fransisco – Female (Medium-Hard)

Overall

I loved the show itself, and I am keen to get hold of what music and script that I can as it’s a fantastic resource. However, I’m not sure the cast were really able to tackle the full depth and complexity of the show – something that is highlighted by the fact that the dancers were the best performers by far.

However, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in 1989 and 1990 when this show was first performed in the US. With a full band, and professional actors, it must have been heart-wrenching and challenging. I hope that this show and its songs continue to raise awareness of AIDS long into the future. We may be able to manage the condition in the Western world, but people still, ultimately, die of AIDS.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ [Show 5, Cast 3]


A Final Note…

For more information about AIDS and support for anyone living with AIDS and HIV, or caring for someone, contact Waverley Care. This performance was also supporting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, who work with the theatre community in the US to help raise awareness and provide support.

Review: Putting It Together

The second of Trinity College London’s Fringe Shows this year, which they also invited me to review.

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FRINGE RUN: 7/8 – 10/8 @ 20:45; Paradise at the Vault (29); [£7.00/£6.00]

Who, Where and When: Trinity College London/The Dance School of Scotland; Paradise at the Vault; Wednesday 7th August 2013; 8.45pm

The Show

There’s not much in the way of the show to review. Three actors performed a linked set of speeches, songs and dance, each centred around a theme. I was impressed with the variety of content, and the way in which the scenes were linked. It certainly inspired me to look more at Trinity musical theatre exams in the future.

The Cast

The first performer, Dylan Wood, chose the theme “As Blue as the Pacific” which was a series of speeches and songs telling the tale of a man spending time in prison. His dancing during “Cool” (West Side Story) captured both the flavour of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography and the feelings of his character of being trapped in the prison cell. I’m not sure I loved the interpretation of “Purpose” (Avenue Q), but overall this was a strong vocal performance. The extended monologue about a fork was superb – Dylan shows real talent as an actor.

Our second act of the night was Caitlin Muir on “Battle of the Sexes”. I really enjoyed the opening number, a duet about the titular war. Unfortunately, Google has, so far, let me down in my search for the title and origins of the song (if anyone reading this knows, please do comment below!). I really enjoyed Caitlin’s speech about her husband’s fat arse, which elicited plenty of laughter from the audience. However, I don’t think the songs chosen did justice to her voice, which was had very little belt to it, and would probably be more suited to operatic soprano roles than musical theatre ones. Both Caitlin and Amy, the final performer, were overly nasal which spoiled voices which otherwise have great potential.

The final theme of the evening was “The Single Life” performed by Amy Maltman. Her dancing was great, although she perhaps over-sold “Gimme, Gimme” (Thoroughly Modern Millie) as it isn’t quite such a cheerful song in its original context. Her dancing was excellent, and this was brilliantly reprised with her efforts on “Ring Them Bells” (A Kander and Ebb song from Liza with a Z).

Overall

The performance as a whole was a mixed effort with some excellent performances, but a number of much weaker ones too. Given the age and stage of the performers this was an admirable effort, but too inconsistent to be awarded the highest ratings. All the performers this evening have plenty of potential, and I hope that they will all keep honing their skills in the future.

Of course, you can’t judge this production by any one review (even this one) as there are different performers scheduled every night of the run who will doubtless have different strengths and weaknesses. No matter who is performing, you’ll hear more than enough musical and theatrical gems to be glad you went.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure

In honour of the 50th year of the Doctor, a whole new adventure comes to Edinburgh…

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FRINGE RUN: 2/8 – 26/8 (not 14,20) @ 14:30; Pleasance Beside (33); [£11.00/£10.00]

Who, Where and When: Stormy Teacup Theatre; Pleasance Beside; Friday 2nd August 2013

The Show

Being a somewhat dedicated Whovian, spotting I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure in the theatre section was my Fringe planning discovery of the day. We made it only by the skin of our teeth, but it’s not the Fringe if you’ve not “only just made it” at least once!

A smile-inducing voicemail message preceeds calls from various Doctor Who stars (well impersonated, I presume, by Jamie and Jess) declining the offer to be in the show by way of introduction. This is followed by the first scene whereby Jamie (James Wilson-Taylor) receives a “cease and desist” letter from Stephen Moffat and as a result has had to rewrite the whole show to avoid using any BBC Copyright terms. This provides a number of funny jokes, but thankfully avoids becoming overused. There are some lovely references to other musicals including Wicked and Les Miserables which will please theatre geeks in attendance.

The songs are brilliantly done, and I still have the theme song of “I need a Doctor” as sung by Jess (Jessica Spray) running in my head days later. I particularly enjoyed the Bossa Nova version of the Doctor Who theme tune as played by the tireless keyboardist (who, sadly, I don’t know the name of).

The story runs through a delightfully Whovian (if Scooby Doo-vian!) plot, but while the Doctor and his Companion are vanquishing the monsters, Jamie and Jess’ friendship seems to be underpressure…

The Cast

Jamie and Jess not only do a fabulous job of bringing life to the (Non-BBC Copyrighted) companion Fiona McFeisty (Jess) and the Slime Monster, the Doctor, the Master and a few others besides (Jamie), but they also genuinely appeared to be good friends trying to put on a show together. I can’t fault their boundless enthusiasm or their acting as its their personality which brings life to all the comedy.

Notable Songs

If only there was a hope of a few of the songs being released, but alas that might induce a real cease and desist letter. So, I can’t list any notable songs, but why not be inspired to write your own Who-inspired tune?

Overall

This is an excellent family show and an excellent fan show with two charismatic actors who seem set to carry of this show to great applause right to the end of their run. In fact, I’m almost tempted to go back this weekend to see how the script has evolved to incorporate the latest Doctor Who news. If you’ve come to the Fringe for postmodern theatre, edgy issues or shocking theatre, this is not it – but there’s definitely something in it for everyone else.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)

Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman

From the writers of Cabaret and Chicago, Kander and Ebb have produced yet another dark, twisty and surreal musical. The group performing are students from UCL.

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FRINGE RUN: 1/8 – 15/8 @ 12:20; C minus 1 (34); [£9.50/£7.50/£5.50]

Who, Where and When: UCeLswhere, C minus 1, Friday 2nd August 2013, 12:20pm

The Show

Being a huge fan of Kander and Ebb’s most famous shows and their general musical style, I looked forward to seeing one of their lesser known works. Kiss of the Spider Woman takes its inspiration from an Argentine novel. This is reflected in the music which makes wonderful use of the Latin American sound to create vibrant song and dance numbers that lift an otherwise depressing story.

The first third of the show felt a little disorientated, and I was struggling to follow what was going on initially. I’m not entirely sure if that was the show or the cast as they got into their stride. However, once it got going, the plot moved along at a good speed and the musical numbers came thick and fast.

The biggest flaw with this show is that the subject matter is exceedingly heavy, to the point where the musical numbers are unable to lift it. There is also not the happy ending seen in Chicago that makes you forget that you just watched a show about women on death row. In Kiss of the Spider Woman, it’s too hard to escape that you’re watching a prison drama about gay men and Marxist revolutionaries. I wonder if this is because although the main characters do sing at times, the central singing role is given to a figment of Molina’s imagination.

The Cast

Given that this was a student production, the cast did a great job. This musical deals with deep adult themes, and many of the leads really captured the sense of both the story and the style in which it was told. Particular mention must be made of Stephanie Epperlein as Aurora as this is a hefty role with lots of singing, and her performance would not be out of place in a professional production. Of the two cell mates, Ben Whittle was a stronger Molina than Thomas Chesover as Valentin but they developed their relationship through the play well (though the latter did, perhaps, have a touch too much of the “Kurt Hummel”s about him…). The notable exception to the directorial choices was that of the Warden played by Jack Oliver Aaron. The character performs a role similar to the Emcee in Cabaret, but the director of this show had him played as aggressive. I felt he would have been more intimidating had he been played as calmly evil.

Notable Songs

  • And the Moon Grows Dimmer – Aurora (Medium)
  • I Do Miracles – Aurora/Marta (Medium)
  • You Could Never Shame Me – Molina’s Mother (Medium)
  • She’s a Woman – Molina (Medium)
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman – Aurora (Medium)

Overall

Kander and Ebb’s thirteenth collaboration is good, but not excellent. While their wonderful musical style captures the Latin American vibe, the source material lets them down. There are no happy endings for the characters as in Chicago, nor is the tragic end left to the imagination as in Cabaret. Kiss of the Spider Woman ultimately leaves you feeling quite down and has no glimmer of hope, which is not what you want from a musical. Overall, the cast were competent but not outstanding. There were some very talented performers which lifted the show, but not enough to overcome the misery of the show itself.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)

Review: [title of show]

This is the first of my reviews for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013!

Title of Show

FRINGE RUN: 1/8 – 26/8 (not 12) @ 15:10; Assembly Checkpoint (322); [£10.50/£8.50]

Who, Where and When: Patch of Blue Theatre, Assembly Checkpoint, Thursday 1 August 2013, 3.10pm

The Show

[title of show] is a show about writing a show about writing a show. You might want to read that twice… and yes, it is a bit surreal. In fact, my friends and I were not sure if it wasn’t too surreal.

The dialogue is very cleverly constructed to model real conversations, phonecalls and events which happened as the show was created. To the best of my knowledge, the show is more or less true to life, as the show did open at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and then off-Broadway at the Vineyard. The script and character names have also been adapted, changed and expanded to chronical the play’s journey.

There were some very funny moments, and I loved the way the scripted interrupted songs, and questioned itself. Some of the songs were excellent – quite possibly the best thing in the show. The theatre geek in me particularly loved “Monkeys and Playbills” – a song made entirely of the titles of Broadway flops.

The frustrating thing about this show is that its postmodern and deconstructed nature is what makes it both brilliant and also terrible. It can be difficult to engage with at times and lacks some of the character and plot engagement that makes musical theatre so addictive.

The Cast

In stark contrast to the show itself, the cast of this production were brilliant. They threw themselves right into the action and were not afraid to make fantastic use of space and physicality. Both Robbie Towns (Jeff) and Ricky Johnston (Hunter) captured their characters’ identity as gay Broadway writers perfectly – it would be easy to “over-camp” these parts. The girls (Carley Stenson as Susan, Jamie Lee Pike as Heidi) also did a brilliant job of showing the transition from strangers to friends throughout the show.

The sheer enthusiasm of the team was utterly infectious and this alone made what might otherwise have been a mediocre show an enjoyable way to open this year’s Fringe experience.

Notable Songs

  • Monkeys and Playbills – Company (could be sung as a solo) (Medium)
  • Die Vampires Die – Susan (Hard)
  • Secondary Characters – Heidi/Susan (Medium, Duet)

Overall

The cast were the real stars of this show, and they were marvellous. They are, of course, pros, so that helps. I immensely enjoyed many of the theatre in-jokes, but for a musicals newbie, much of the comedy comes from the physical movement and the judiciously sliced up script which is interspersed with voicemails, sudden stops and backstage scenes that reflect the nature of the plot. I probably wouldn’t both to see this show again, but I am glad I have seen it and I’m confident any and all theatre aficionados out there will enjoy it. If you can get in on the Half-Price Hut when it opens next week, so much the better.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5) [Show 3, Cast 5]