Wicked – Apollo Victoria Theatre 

Wicked is a musical telling the untold story of the witches of Oz – Glinda the Good and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. The show is based on the book ‘The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire which provides an alternative story to the one told in the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The musical was developed by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.

Wicked is currently celebrating its 9th year of Defying Gravity in the West End. It is the story of Elphaba Thropp and her journey begins when she accompanies her younger sister, Nessarose, to Shiz (the school where most of the first Act takes places). She is laughed at and stared at for her green-ness by other students but is looked upon with favour by Madam Morrible who spots her unique talent and powers.

She is put in the same room as Glinda (or Galinda), and, initially, the pair clash, singing ‘What Is This Feeling?’ but in the end come together and appreciate what they have learnt from each other, singing ‘For Good’.

Natalie Andreou (Rock of Ages, Mamma Mia, Footloose), standby for Elphaba, with Emma Hatton (We Will Rock You, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Cindrella) playing the role full time, played the green witch. Her portrayal of Elphaba is wonderful. Her performance of ‘Defying Gravity’ was breathtaking and sung with control and power. ‘No Good Deed’, another standout number in the show, is performed outstandingly by Andreou.

Savannah Stevenson (Aspects of Love, Follies, Gone With The Wind) played Glinda Upland (The Good). Glinda (Galinda in the beginning) starts out as a rather spoilt, shallow character who everybody loves and praises for being good. As the story goes on, the character evolves and becomes more caring, deep and questions things going on around her. Stevenson plays the role perfectly. Her performance of ‘Popular’ is wonderful.

Fieyro is played Oliver Saville (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables) who recently (the October cast change) took over the role from Jeremy Taylor. Intially, he is self-centred and shallow, falling for Glinda, but develops, thinking more, questioning things and falls in love with Elphaba. ‘Dancing through Life’ was performed excellently by Saville and he harmonising beautifully with Andreou in ‘As Long As You’re Mine’, a very tender moment in the show where Elphaba and Fieyro realise the strength of their feelings for each other.

Madame Morrible, in this performance, was played by Kerry Enright (Alice, Sister Act, Checkout Girl), the understudy, with Liza Sadovy (Oliver, Into The Woods, Annie Get Your Gun) playing the role full time. Morrible is a teacher at the university along with Doctor Dilamond, played by Sean Kearns (The Commitments, Billy Elliot, The 39 Steps), the only animal teacher left at the school as animals are being discouraged from speaking.

Tom McGowan’s (Chicago, Casa Valentina, La Bete) portrayal of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is excellent, singing ‘Wonderful’ with style, and shows a character who wanted to make people happy and got carried away in the process.

Nessarose, Elphaba’s disabled, younger, more favoured sister, is played by Katie Rowley Jones (Sister Act, Grease, Rocky Horror Show). Nessarose is a rather tragic character who falls in love with Boq, played by Daniel Hope (Alice, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan), a munchkin who is in love with Glinda, and takes measures to keep him by her side but ends up pushing him away and making him resent her.

Wicked is a wonderful show featuring amazing music, lively dancing and humour. It also makes a serious point about the misjudgement of character and stereotypes. All of the main characters are changed for the better by the end of the musical.


Hairspray – UK Tour

Hairspray is a musical created by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and is based on the 1988 movie. It follows the story of Tracy Turnblad, a plump schoolgirl who knows every step and every song and watches the ‘Corny Collins Show’ every day. The ‘Corny Collins Show’ is based on the real life ‘Buddy Holly Show’. Whilst being funny and entertaining, it makes a serious point about American society in the ’60s and segregation. The show is set in Baltimore and features fantastic, catchy, sing-a-long songs and energetic dance numbers.

Hairspray made its debut in Seattle, after which it opened on Broadway in 2002 for six years, closing in 2008. It was last seen in London in 2010 when it closed after two and a half years. Since then it has toured the UK twice before the current tour, and the USA once.

The show is in the middle of its third UK tour. Having seen it at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, we are eager to see it return to the West End. The current tour cast features Freya Sutton (In The Heights, Into The Woods, Wonderland) as Tracy, Tony Maudsley (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Emmerdale, Holby City) as Edna, and Clare Sweeney (Educating Rita, Chicago, Guys and Dolls) as Velma Von Tussle.

The show opens with ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ sung by Tracy and giving us insight into her character as an ambitious, enthusiastic youth with the ability but not the look. It is a very endearing part which is played perfectly by Sutton.

‘Mamma I’m A Big Girl Now’ is sung by Tracy, Amber Von Tussle (played by Lauren Stroud – Dance ‘Til Dawn, Wicked, Grease) and Penny (played by Monique Young – Evita, Dirty Dancing, Bonnie and Clyde) and signifies three girls who have grown up and are starting to become independent. Tracy wants to audition for ‘The Corny Collins Show’ and her mother doesn’t want her to.  Penny watches the show with Tracy and her mother forbids her to saying kids shouldn’t be dancing to coloured music. Amber is trying to break few from her mother’s firm, controlling grip as she becomes interested in boys.

‘I Can Hear The Bells’ is first sung by Tracy who begins to experience feelings for Link Larkin (played by Ashley Gilmour – Miss Saigon, Legally Blonde). The phrase ‘I can hear the bells’ is then mentioned throughout the show at comic moments.

‘Without Love’ is sung by Link and Tracy when Link realises his own feelings for Tracy and goes to break her out of jail. It is then sung by Seaweed (played by Dex Lee – Carrie, Scottsboro Boys, In The Heights) and Penny when Seaweed rescues her from her mother who strapped her to a bed for “going to jail without permission”.

The finale of ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ is phenomenal. There is so much energy and fun in the number you can’t help but tap your feet and sing along. The number sums up the show, with Penny and Seaweed overcoming their race differences and not caring what anybody might think. Penny becomes ‘a checkerboard chick’, coming out of her shell, Tracy and Link are together despite their physique differences, and Tracy wins the Miss Teenage Hairspray.

In conclusion, it is a wonderful, fun, easy, very entertaining show which will put a smile on your face. Wonderful dancing, catchy, foot-tapping music and a happy ending.

Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre

Miss Saigon is a story of love, separation, betrayal and sacrifice. It is set primarily in Saigon during the time of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The story begins in a strip club owned by the Engineer and visited by American servicemen. Chris, an American soldier, tries to help Kim, a young girl who has just been forced to work there, when she is being mistreated by the club owner and taunted by the other girls, and ends up in her bedroom. They fall in love and marry and there is a very poignant wedding scene.

The story then shifts on three years to where Kim is living on the streets, in what is now Ho Chi Minh City, when it is revealed that she and Chris have a son. Thuy, a powerful officer in the North Vietnam Army (played by Sangwoong Jo – Les Miserables, Wicked, The Lion King) and the man Kim was to marry before she ran away, demands that the Engineer find her for him. Seeing Tam, her son by another man, Thuy is heartbroken and is about to stab him to death, but Kim shoots him dead in order to save her son.

Chris, now back in Atlanta and married to a fellow American, Ellen, finds out about his son and goes to Bangkok to meet Tam and Kim. Kim visits his wife and begs her to take Tam so that he can have the better life that she wants for him, but Ellen refuses, and the story ends with Kim killing herself, seeing it as the only way to make Chris and Ellen take him so that her son can grow up in America where he can have a better life – an opportunity that she herself never had.

It is a tale of a doomed romance, with Kim being abandoned by her American lover, in a time when marriages were seen as lifelong commitments by Eastern women but easily then put aside by Western men on their return home. It is the tragic story of innocent women and children during times of war – sadly, still as relevant today as it was then.

Miss Saigon is an adaptation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. This production was a revival of the 1989 London production which closed in 1999. It was created by Claude-Michel Schönberg with Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr.

Kim is played by Eva Noblezada who makes her professional debut in this production. Her vocal performance is outstanding, delivering an emotional performance of ‘I’d Give My Life For You’ and harmonising beautifully with Chris Peluso in ‘The Last Night of the World’.

Chris is played by Chris Peluso (Beautiful, Mamma Mia, Assassins). His performance of ‘Why God Why?’ was incredible, conveying his confusion about his feelings and experiences.

Jon Jon Briones (Les Miserables, Into The Woods, Little Shop of Horrors) plays The Engineer who owns ‘Dreamland’, the strip club in Saigon. He plays a wonderfully funny, sleazy yet endearing Engineer singing ‘If You Want To Die In Bed’ and ‘The American Dream’.

John, another American soldier who was based in Vietnam, is played by Hugh Maynard (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Follies). His performance of ‘Bui Doi’ about the children who were the result of liaisons between Vietnamese girls, often prostitutes, and American servicemen, is highly emotive, with his and the other American ex-soldiers’ desire to help the children of Vietnam jarring with their behaviour when they were in Saigon, a reflection of the guilt and shame felt in American society at the time, and the clash of cultures between East and West.

Ellen, Chris’ American wife, is played by Siobhan Dillon (Cabaret, Ghost, Grease). She sings ‘Maybe’, a song about her doubts of Chris’ love for her as he hasn’t been totally honest with her about events in Saigon. The duet between her and Kim, ‘Room 317’ is incredible and emotional as Kim finds out Chris has remarried. Dillon has an outstanding voice with immense power.

A standout number of the show is ‘The Movie in My Mind’ which is sung by Gigi (played by Natalie Mendoza (Cats, Les Miserables, The Importance of Being Earnest) and Kim.

The most famous and incredibly breath-taking moment of the show is ‘Kim’s Nightmare,’ set at the time of the fall of Vietnam, where a helicopter is flown over the stage as Chris desperately tries to find Kim to take her out of Saigon and back to America with him but fails. The helicopter’s flight is a heart-pounding moment and leaves the audience awestruck – and Kim to then wake to her reality.

Miss Saigon will take its final flight on 26th February at the Prince Edward Theatre. It is set to open on Broadway for a limited run in spring 2017 before embarking on a North American tour in 2018. Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones will continue their roles in the Broadway run.

News of the week

Miss Saigon to hit Broadway in 2017
The show is set to close in the West End early next year. It has been announced it will transfer to Broadway in spring of 2017 for a limited season and then embark on a North American tour in 2018. Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones (which will be his Broadway debut) will continue their current roles in the West End production in NY.

Leading cast for the 2016 UK tour of Chicago announced

John Partridge will star as Billy Flynn, Hayley Tamaddon as Roxie Hart and Sam Bailey as Mama Morton. The tour will begin at New Theatre Oxford from 12th February until 9th July.

Maureen Nolen joins the cast of Footloose on its UK tour

The Buddy Holly musical is set to embark on a UK tour in 2016. It will begin in Harlow on 31st August.

Cats – London Palladium

Cats theatre

Cats is a musical based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by TS Eliot and is an adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Cats made its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 and opened on Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre the following year. The show closed in the West End in 2002, its 21st birthday, having closed on Broadway in 2000.

The show features mesmerising dancing, wonderful music and builds a fantastic atmosphere.  There is very little dialogue in the show which is usually the main storytelling device.  The dance numbers tell a very powerful story, with all the cats moving in perfect synchronicity with incredible musicality. One of the main group dances is the prologue, ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’.

There are very many different styles of dance on display: ‘The Old Gumbie Cat’, performed by Jennyanydots, played by Jane Quinn (My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, A Class Act), has tap dancing in it.;’The Rum Rum Tugger’, played by Marcquelle Ward (Cats, Jack and the Beanstalk), has a hip-hop influence to it; ‘Mr. Mistofelees’, who is played by Mark John Richardson (Billy Elliot, La Cage Aux Folles, Cats), is a magical number and Richardson’s pirouettes are outstanding – a truly magical cat!  Another standout number is ‘Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer’, played by Harry Francis (Chicago, Wicked, A Chorus Line) and Georgie Leatherland (Come Fly with Me, The Nutcracker, Peter Pan), featuring two mischievous cats who perform a fantastic double act.

The defining moment of Cats is ‘Memories’.  This song is sung by Grizabella.  This part is considered to be the main role in the show, although the cat only spends around twenty minutes on the stage.  It is a highly coveted role, with so many great actresses having played the cat over the many years and in the different countries it has run in.  Most recently, Nicole Scherzinger and then Kerry Ellis played Grizabella in the revival of Cats in late 2014 into early 2015. In this production, Beverly Knight (Memphis and numerous albums) plays Grizabella.  What a voice! Her performance of ‘Memories’ was incredibly powerful and emotional.

Cats has returned to London for a limited season.  It opened at the London Palladium on 9th November and runs until 2nd January 2016. We loved the show and are very eager to see it back in the West End permanently.

News of the week

War of the Worlds coming to West End
The musical by Jeff Wayne will make its West End debut for a limited run at the Dominion Theatre from 8th February to 9th April 2016. Casting is yet to be announced.
Elf the Musical opens officially

Elf the Musical, playing at the Dominion Theatre until 2nd January, had its opening night on 5th.
Dusty had announced its closure 

Dusty, currently showing at the Charing Cross Theatre, will end its run in the West End on 21st November.
Wicked announces an international tour

The musical will be defying gravity around the world from 20th July 2016 in Bradford before flying to Asia. The tour will continue into 2017.
Legally Blonde cast announcement

Ross Barnes – Emmett

Abbie Chambers – Elle

Robert Colvin – Warner

Jodie Jacobs – Paulette

Hugh Osbourne – Professor Callahan

The ensemble: Suzie Aries, Aimee Barrett, Adam Crossley, Lily De-La-Haye, Chris Durtnal, Emma Ingram and Scott Norton.

Legally Blonde will be showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 16th December (opening night 18th) to 31st January.
Jest End cast announcement 

The cast for the revival of the satirical musical Jest End had been announced: Simon Bailey, Lizzy Connolly, Scott Garnham and Jodie Jacobs. The musical will be showing at the Waterloo East Theatre from 24th November (opening night 26th) until 6th December.

Show that should return to the West End – Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages is a jukebox musical featuring 30 classic rock tracks from the 80s – feel good music which has you head banging and singing along. The story is that of a small town girl who comes to LA to be an actress, ends up working in a strip club, and a city boy who comes to LA to be a rock star, working in a bar and then gets put in a boy band. They eventually get it together with Drew running after her before she gets on the midnight train. It is a simple story but it’s fun and the show doesn’t take itself too seriously which adds to the comedy. It’s impossible to not like the music. They are all incredible 80s rock classics which I defy anybody not to love and sing along to.

The cast of the show were always outstanding. Every single one of them was on it and you could just tell they loved doing it. Let’s start with the leading lady, Natalie Andreou (Mamma Mia, Fame, Footloose) who played Sherrie. She acted the role extremely well bringing an innocence and naivety to the young dreamer. Her vocal ability is truly stunning with a lovely tone and a lot of power. Sherrie performs ‘More Than Words’ which is a very tender moment in the show which comes just before ‘Heaven’ which is sung by Drew and Sherrie to each other. She also sings ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’ when Stacee comes to the Venus Club and asks for a dance with her.

The leading man, Ross Hunter (Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You) played an excellent Drew Boley who tried to impress Sherrie, succeeded and then said something stupid to wreck it. He took over from Oliver Tompsett who left to join We Will Rock You. Hunter’s voice is really suited for rock singing as his theatre credits suggest with him having played Galileo Figaro in We Will Rock You previously. Hunter excelled in the role with ‘I Wanna Rock’ and ‘Oh Sherrie’ being standout numbers.

Simon Lipkin (Spamalot, Avenue Q, Wedding Singer) played Lonny Barnett (Sound God), who is ‘the Narrator’ of the show. Lipkin is the perfect example of a natural comedian, entertainer and actor. He has the rare ability to interact with and play off an audience. He brings a masculinity to the role which makes it even more surprising when it’s revealed his character is gay. Lonny is a crucial part in the musical as he strings the whole show together.

Jodie Jacobs (Footloose, Wedding Singer, Evita) played Regina Contz, a protester who is against the de-rock-ifying of the Sunset Strip. Jodie has a truly outstanding voice – a perfect tone with so much power behind it, and is a very experienced actress, as her lengthy theatre credits suggest. Jacobs won an award for her portrayal of this role – Best Supporting Actress. Regina’s standout number is ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ where she rallies the masses to save their strip.

Stacee Jaxx was played by Tim Hower (Mike and the Mechanics), a kind of has-been rock star who is leaving his very successful band Arsenal to pursue a solo career. He seduces Sherrie and the pair end up in the men’s bathroom. Howar’s potrayal of Jaxx was brilliant and his performance of ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ was phenomenal.

Dennis Dupree was played by Daniel Fletcher (Miracle on 34th Street, The Blues Brothers, We Will Rock You). Dennis is the owner of the Bourbon Room where a lot of the show is set. He sings ‘Too Much Time on My Hands’, most notably, and also sings ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ with Lonny when they reveal their feelings for each other and disguised sexuality.

Sandy Moffat (Dirty Dancing, We Will Rock You) plays Franz Klinemann who is the son of Hertz Klinemann, played by Rohan Tickell (The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, Mamma Mia), who wants to develop the Sunset Strip. It is a very funny, very gay, character whose defining moment is ‘Hit Me with Your Best Shot’ where he rebels against his father wearing a sparkly blue leotard…

Nathan Amzi (Rocky Horror Show, Miss Saigon) played the ‘money grabbing whore’ Mayor and sleazy record producer Paul Gill. Amzi has a great rock voice and was also the understudy for Lonny.

Rachel McFarlane (Rent and numerous recordings) played Justice ‘Mamma’ Charlier, the owner of the Venus Strip club where Sherrie ends up working. Her voice is truly incredible and the gospel influence really shows – she sang ‘Shadows of the Night’ with incredible power. She also sang ‘Anyway You Want It’ which is the golden rule at the Venus Club.

The ensemble were made up of Grant Anthony (Flashdance, Spamalot, Aladdin), Scarlette Douglas (Thriller Live, Man in the Mirror, Hairspray), Carly M. Dyer (Dirty Dancing, Chicago, High School Musical), Cordelia Farnworth (Mamma Mia, Wizard of Oz, Snow White and the Seven Drawfs), Selina Hamilton (Mamma Mia, Grease, Spamalot), Cameron Sharp (West End Heros 2013, Axe, BBC Proms: Sondheim at 80), Zizi Strallen (Merrily We Ride Along, Dirty Dancing), and Dylan Turner (Footloose, Mamma Mia, Grease).

There are two standout numbers: ‘Here I Go Again’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’. At the end of Act 1 is ‘Here I Go Again’ where ‘everything is all effed up and it seems like nothing is going to work out’ – Sherrie’s a stripper, Drew is under Paul Gill’s wing, the Bourbon Room is being forced to close and the Strip is being de-rock-ifyied.

The show’s epilogue is Lonny now owns the Bourbon Room after Dennis died (done in a very funny way), Franz has a confectionary store in Hamburg and is working to make it an empire, Regina has been elected the mayor of San Francisco and then there’s Drew and Sherrie…who are living in Glendale, starting a family and are the perfect illustration that ‘sometimes on the Strip, the dreams you come in with aren’t always the dreams you leave with, but hey, they still rock’! The finale is ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ which sums up the whole show and gets the crowd on their feet.

The show opened in 2011 at the Shaftsbury Theatre and moved to the Garrick Theatre in early 2013. It was announced the show would close on 2nd November 2013 prior to going on its first UK tour in 2014. We are eager to see it return to the West End. It’s nothing but a good time…