Top 5 shows of 2015

Choosing our top five shows of the year has been tough but here it is.
1 – Close To You, Criterion Theatre

  
Our favourite show this year is Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined, a wonderfully innovative show with an extremely talented cast. It is a must-see currently showing at the Criterion Theatre until February 14th.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/close-to-you-bacharach-reimagined-criterion-theatre/

Twitter: @CloseToYouLDN | @CriTheatre
2 – Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre

  

A close second is Memphis, a high energy soulful show with a very strong message behind it about segregation and discrimination. The cast were phenomenal singers and dancers. Unfortunately, Memphis closed in the West End on 31st October but a UK tour is planned.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/return-to-beale-street-memphis-shaftesbury-theatre/

Twitter: @MemphisMusical
3 – Wicked, Apollo Victoria Theatre

  
Wicked is a wonderful show about the witches of Oz. It is moving and powerful with an important message about stereotypes and superficiality. The show features some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre. It is currently defying gravity at the Apollo Victoria Theatre until November 2016.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/wicked-apollo-victoria-theatre/

Twitter: @WickedUK | @ApolloVictoria


4 – Carrie, Southwark Playhouse

  
Carrie the Musical was a phenomenal adaptation of Stephen King’s book. The show was wonderfully atmospheric and had a talented, youthful cast. There have been rumours of a West End transfer for the show but nothing substantial as yet. Pray for its salvation.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/shows-from-2015-that-should-transfer-carrie/

Twitter: @CarrieMusicalUK | @swkplay
5 – Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory

  

Assassins is a show about all of the successful and attempted assassinations of the American presidents. This Sondheim show was fantastically directed by Jamie Lloyd and created a chilling atmosphere. It was a spectacular and intense piece of theatre which ran at the Menier Chocolate Factory from 21st November 2014 to the 7th March 2015.

https://westendblogsite.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/show-from-2015-that-should-transfer-the-assassins/

Twitter: @MenChocFactory

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The Lorax – Old Vic Theatre


The Lorax is an adaption (by David Grieg) of the much-loved children’s book by Dr Seuss. This is the first stage production ever of the children’s book and what an excellent world premiere it is – five fish and five bird puppets as well as the Lorax himself, outstanding puppeteers, uplifting and touching songs, and great scenery and props. Although it is a production which children will love, there is something for everyone, and the story is comic and fun, as well as delivering a serious inspirational and moving message.

The show is the story of The Onceler, who is kicked out by his family and sets out to ‘dream some big dreams’ and make it rich. Through his own greed and vanity, he turned a great forest into a city which pollutes the air and the water. His abuse of the Earth’s resources drives away his friend, The Lorax, his family (who are greedier than him and set off for pastures new once all the trees are gone where they are) and the rest of the people who lived there, and, despite his great business and money, he ends up alone. Simon Paisley Day (Urinetown, The 39 Steps, Private Lives) plays a fantastic and relatable The Onceler.

The Lorax first appears when The Onceler chops down a tree to reach the tufts to make ‘thneeds’ (a kind of incomplete, misshapen scarf). The Lorax speaks for the trees and tries to stop the Onceler from cutting them down and insists if one ‘looks after the forest, the forest will look after you’. However, The Onceler carries on and The Lorax sadly leaves as the last ‘truffula’ tree is cut down – it is a really touching scene with a tenderly delivered song. The Lorax’s last word to The Onceler is ‘unless’.

We learn the answer to the ‘unless’ riddle at the end of the show, when a ‘truffula’ seed is planted by a young woman who cares and the seed begins to grow – ‘unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing will ever get any better’. In other words, we can all be a Lorax and speak for the trees if we care enough about our world.

The show features a lot of puppets which are magnificently crafted and controlled. The Lorax itself has three puppeteers controlling it: Laura Cubitt (War Horse, Women Beware Women, Oppenheimer) moves the right arm; Ben Thompson (War Horse, Beforr the Dawn, Madam Butterfly) moves the feet; and Simon Lipkin (The Assassins, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Rock of Ages) moves the head and left arm and is also the voice of The Lorax. Lipkin demonstrates incredible skill in acting through the puppet and conveys emotion brilliantly.

The show features many animals (both puppets and human) which bring the production to life, and there are some very comic moments, such as the fish with a briefcase. The Lorax himself steals the show of course – he’s such an enchanting, endearing little guy!

It’s an excellent show to see over the festive season because it’s so magical and full of hope. The ushers handing out seeds at the end of the performance is a lovely touch, reminding us that everyone can be a Lorax – we just have to care.

Jest End – Waterloo East Theatre


Jest End is a celebration of the most popular musicals, taking some of the most iconic musical numbers and ‘Jest-End-ing’ them. It is West End’s version of Forbidden Broadway and debuted at the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2008.

This satirical show is hilarious, stagey, with a fantastic cast. The four Jesters in this production were outstanding, true class acts.

Simon Bailey is a natural showman with a fantastic voice. He sings a wonderful version of ‘Thank You For The Music’ from Mamma Mia, ‘Wishing I’d Been On TV’. The salute to Cameron MacIntosh was fantastically played by Bailey.

Scott Garnham has a great voice and charmed and interacted with the audience well. He sang ‘My Fans Believe In Me’ (Memphis Lives in Me’), impersonating Killian Donnelly. He also performed the parody of John Barrowman (I am What I am, La Cage) which was very funny.

Jodie Jacobs has a truly amazing voice and interacts with and bounces off the audience perfectly. Jodie as Sheridon Smith, singing ‘I’d Rather Be Poor’ (I’d Rather Be Blue, Funny Girl), was outstanding. She also sang ‘When Will It Be My Time? ‘while playing a nervous actress auditioning for a part.

Lizzy Connolly gave a fantastic performance bringing wonderful energy and perfect vocals. She played Christine Daae in the Love Never Dies and Phantom of the Opera numbers and really showed off her voice. ‘Superchore’ was a wonderful number where Connolly is Mary Poppins singing an adaption of ‘Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious’.

‘Rely On Me The Lead’ (Defying Gravity, Wicked) is a standout number performed by Jacobs and Connolly. It is a salute to Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman who famously performed the song before being in Wicked together.

The Les Miserables part was hilarious and brilliant – absolutely inspired and performed wonderfully by all of the cast.

Overall, an absolutely fantastic, hysterical show featuring current jokes, iconic musical songs and four amazingly talented Jesters. It is stagey heaven! Garry Lake’s (director, creator, writer and producer) arranging and direction was flawless and inspired.

Hoping it is back again next year – and would love to see the same cast again, who were all just outstanding!

The Blues Brothers – Arts Theatre


The Blues Brothers Xmas Special is currently showing in London’s Arts Theatre for a strictly limited run over the festive period. The show is essentially a tribute to the 1980 Blues Brothers film which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and featured many, many famous blues and soul artists of the era. This show features the music from the film with some added blues classics and some Christmas songs.

The production stars David Kristopher-Brown and Joshua Mumby as Joilet Jake and Elwood Blues, ably supported by Simon Ray-Harvey, Sasi Strallen, T’Shan Williams and Hannah Kee.

Mumby was fantastic as Elwood with wonderfully goofy dancing (characteristic of Elwood) and great harmonica playing. Ray-Harvey gave a standout performance playing various different roles, including Ray Charles singing ‘Shake Your Tail Feather’, James Brown with ‘The Old Landmark’ and Cab Calloway singing the crowd pleaser ‘Minnie the Moocher’. A star performance truly! T’Shan Williams sang ‘Think’, which was performed by Aretha Franklin in the film, beautifully.

Unfortunately, the show experienced some technical issues throughout the performance with sound, such that at times you couldn’t hear the singers for the band (who were all fantastic incidentally). There were some lulls in the show where we felt it lacked a bit of “oomph”. We saw a preview performance though, so once these technical issues are ironed out and the cast grow into their roles more, we think it has a lot of potential and is a good fun show for over the festive period. We’re keen to see it later on in its run when everything is running more smoothly.

The Arts Theatre is a small theatre in the heart of the West End. It is a bit rough around the edges and the auditorium is in need of refurbishment as the seats covers are ripped and uncomfortable. At the very least, it is in need of a good clean and some fresh paint! The theatre has been home to American Idiot, a very high profile and popular show, and could be a very nice venue.