Rent – UK Tour

Rent is a musical created by Jonathan Larson, who took Billy Aronson’s idea of developing a modern musical interpretation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème and made it a reality. Larson’s writing of this piece was heavily influenced by his interest in rock music, by his idol, composer Stephen Sondheim, and by a puppet-style performance of La Bohème which he saw as a boy with his parents.

The musical is set in East Village, New York City, and follows the story of a group of aspiring artists in the 1990s, with their battles against HIV/AIDS, poverty, and eviction from their squatted homes due to redevelopment projects, and cruelly and powerfully depicts the conditions faced by the homeless with the backdrop of the New York youth artistic scene.

Rent opened on Off-Broadway on 26th January 1996, the day after Larson tragically died at a very young age. Nevertheless, Rent went on to be a worldwide cultural phenomenon, showing on stages on Broadway, in the West End, and in numerous other countries around the world, and on the big screen in a 2005 motion picture. It has become a fitting tribute to the great Jonathan Larson.

Rent is a story of hopes, dreams, struggle, disease, addiction and, above all, love, in all its beautiful forms: heterosexual love with Roger Lavis, an aspiring musician, and Mimi Marquez, a club dancer, both HIV-stricken; lesbian lovers Maureen Johnson, a redevelopment protestor, and Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer; gay couple, anarchist professor Tom Collins and drag queen Angel Schunard, a beautiful but ultimately tragic match; and Mark Cohen who is dedicated to his career passion for film-making.

Ross Hunter (The Book of Mormon, Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You) (Roger) showed off an incredible rock voice, particularly with ‘One Song Glory’. Philippa Stefani (In The Heights, Grease, Ghost) (Mimi) was sensational throughout and excelled with ‘Out Tonight’. Lucie Jones (Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You, X Factor (TV)) (Maureen) gave a memorable, quirky performance of ‘Over the Moon’. Jones also gives a powerhouse performance along with Shanay Holmes (Jesus Christ Superstar, Close To You, Thriller Live) (Joanne) of ‘Take Me or Leave Me’. Layton Williams’s (Billy Elliot, Thriller Live, Hairspray) (Angel) sassy delivery of ‘Today 4 U’ was also a highlight of the show.

Bruce Guthrie’s 20th anniversary production of Rent gives a new lease of life to Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece. The show is beautifully moving, tragic and inspiring and it is perfectly summed up in the musical number ‘La Vie Bohème B’ with an upbeat, party spirit despite surrounding circumstances and trials, and the current cast are truly phenomenal!

This production of Rent closes at the St James Theatre on 28th January before embarking on a UK tour, for dates and ticket information, click here


Beautiful: the Carole King Musical – Aldwych Theatre

Beautiful is a musical written by Douglas McGrath, with music from Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

The musical tells the story of two songwriting power-couples, Carole King and Gerry Goffin (writers of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’, ‘The Locomotion’ and ‘Up On the Roof’) and Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann (writers of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’, ‘On Broadway’ and ‘He’s Sure The Boy I Love’). Their friendly competition saw them pushing themselves, bending the rules of music at the time and achieving great things, and this musical follows their journeys in music and their romantic relationships.

Carole King is played by Cassidy Janson (Dessa Rose, Avenue Q, Wicked). King is painted as a shy, mellow character who cherishes the simple things in life. Janson excels in the role with brilliant vocals and piano skills. She gives a particularly lovely performance of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’.

Matthew Seadon-Young (Billy Elliot, Urinetown, Sweeney Todd) was excellent in the role of Gerry Goffin, portraying his many stress-induced mental struggles, including a nervous breakdown, and his unfaithfulness to King. Seadon-Young gives a great performance of ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’, a duet performed with Janson.

Lorna Want (Footloose, Evita, Dreamboats and Petticoats) gave a standout performance as Cynthia Weil. Want is sensational in the role as the zany, charming lyricist and her first appearance with ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ is a highlight of the show.

Ian McIntosh (The Commitments, Rock of Ages, Hair) gave an outstanding performance as the eccentric, hyper-paranoid musician Barry Mann, and a great rendition of ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’. The chemistry between Want and McIntosh is electric and their duet of ‘Walking In The Rain’ is wonderful.

The rendition of ‘You Got A Friend’ is a particularly tender moment in the show when, following the break-up of her marriage, King decides to move to LA leaving behind her friends. The closing number ‘Beautiful’ and ‘I Felt The Earth Move’ brings the show in a loop, starting and ending with King alone with her piano.

Beautiful is a gentle, uplifting and easy-going musical, with amazing songs from both couples. It is of course “The Carole King Musical”, but often the King character takes a backseat to the crazier, more magnetic and charismatic personality of Weil, whose character and choices seem more relatable to most women now than King’s. A lot of the highlights of the show are also songs by Weil and Mann rather than King and Goffin. Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable production with an excellent score.

Beautiful: the Carole King Musical is showing at the Aldwych Theatre and is currently booking until 22nd July 2017 (to book tickets, click here) and will be embarking on a UK tour from September 2017. For more information on your visit to the Aldwych Theatre, click here.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong – Apollo Theatre

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a play written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Harry Shields and is a Mischief Theatre Company production. Following a very popular run at the Apollo Theatre last year, the play has returned for another strictly limited season.

In this play, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society (of The Play That Goes Wrong infamy), having received a generous donation from a cast member’s father, are putting on another production, this time an interpretation of the J. M. Barrie classic, Peter Pan, and the result is one of comic mayhem, with botched lines and technical disasters, which leaves the audience crying with laughter!

Harry Kershaw (The Play That Goes Wrong, Lights! Camera! Improvise!, One Man, Two Guvnors) played Captain Hook and George Darling. Kershaw’s comic timing was fantastic throughout and his audience interaction abilities also shine in this production.

Peter Pan was played by Daniel Pitout (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blood Wedding, White Christmas). Pitout’s over-exaggerated proud hero stance was pure comedy gold, a performance full of incompetent flying mishaps.

Laurence Pears (The Play That Goes Wrong, The Tempest, La Dispute) played the Narrator of the play. His storytelling was excellent and his interaction with his faulty chair was hilarious.

Oliver Senton (Showstopper!, Mamma Mia, The Tempest) played Nana, the Darling family dog, and Starkey. Senton’s interpretation of Starkey was hilarious with incomprehensible, slurred lines.

The Darling children – Wendy, Michael and John – were played by Bryony Corrigan (The Play That Goes Wrong, How I Learned To Drive, Lights! Camera! Improvise!), Matt Cavendish (The Play That Wrong, Lights! Camera! Improvise!, Sleeping Beauty) and Sydney K Smith (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Butterfly Lion, Murder on the Nile). They were all fantastic, particularly in the collapsing bed scene.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is a brilliant mix of fluffed lines, set collapses and mishaps, stage crew being roped into the production and injured, and bandaged actors battling determinedly to make the final curtain. It is another magical, perfectly orchestrated, calamitous production from the Mischief Theatre Company.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong is currently showing at the Apollo Theatre until 29th January. The Mischief Theatre Company have two other productions currently in the West End – The Comedy About A Bank Robbery and The Play That Goes Wrong. For more information on your visit to the Apollo Theatre, click here.

On Your Feet! – Marquis Theatre (Broadway Special)

On Your Feet! is a musical written by Alexander Dinelaris and directed by Jerry Mitchell. It is based on the lives of husband and wife music team, Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The musical was first shown in Chicago for one month before premiering on Broadway three months later in October 2015. It is a story, as described by Gloria Estefan herself, based on “…hope, determination and the belief that, with hard work and passion, our dreams can become our reality”.

The story begins in Little Havana (a neighbourhood of Miami, Florida) where Gloria Garcia meets Emilio Estefan, the leader of the Miami Latin Boys (which was the first incarnation of the Miami Sound Machine). The plot progresses with a blossoming and fruitful romance, numerous attempts to get backing from record labels for their Cuban-fusion music, a career-defining breakthrough with ‘Conga’, strained familial relations, a horrific accident which left Gloria critically injured, and ends with her triumphant return to stage at the 1991 American Music Awards.

Gloria Estefan was played by Ana Villafañe (Magic City Memoirs (TV), Hiding (TV)), who reprised her role from the musical’s original one-month run in Chicago in this her Broadway debut. Villafañe was sensational as the world icon, perfectly portraying the emotions of the numerous twists and turns of the plot. Her performance of ‘Famous’ was a particularly moving and tender moment of the show.

Ektor Rivera (Rent, Hairspray, Godspell) also made his Broadway debut as Emilio Estefan. Rivera was amazing in the role, playing Emilio with an irresistibly cute, cheeky-chappy quality. His performance of ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You’ was very passionate as Emilio tried to help his wife rebound and rehabilitate after her accident.

There are numerous highlights to the show, including ‘1, 2, 3’, ‘The Rhythm Is Going To Get You’, ‘Conga’, ‘Coming Out Of The Dark’ and ‘If I Never Got To Tell You’ (which is original to the show, with lyrics by Gloria Estefan and music by Emily Estefan, Gloria and Emilio’s daughter).

Overall, On Your Feet! is an outstanding, energetic show with a fabulous, flamboyant carnival vibe throughout, an amazing mix of music and a talented cast. It creates a wonderful party atmosphere and gets everyone on their feet! We’d love to see this Broadway hit transfer to the West End!