06th Dec2014

Made in Dagenham – Theatre

by timbaros

Made-In-Dagenham-2-Photo-Credit-Alex-James-1Gemma Arterton is terrific as a mother of two small children who rally her co-workers to strike for equal pay in the West End’s newist musical Made in Dagenham.

Rita O’Grady (Arterton) works in a Ford factory in Dagenham along with some very colorful co-workers. These include tiny Sandra (Sophie Isaacs) who has a huge singing voice, wanna be airline pilot Cass (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), and sassy Barbara (Sophie Louise-Dunn).

Management at the factory have deemed the women unskilled workers, which means lower and not equal pay, and they are not happy about it. So Rita becomes the unexpected spokeswoman for the group, affecting her relationship with her husband Eddie (Adrian Der Gregorian), who is not happy that his wife is practically never home now to mind him and their adorable two small kids.

Rita is mentored by union rep Connie (Isla Blair), but when she gets sick, it’s up to Rita to attend official union meetings, meet government officials, and, ultimately, to speak at the Trade Union Conference, is at the end of the show.

Made in Dagenham doesn’t veer too far away from the film of the same name that was released in 2010. But the film worked much better as it was able to take the story to a real factory, to show the women protesting outdoors, to meetings in government building, making the era that it represents (the late 1960’s) more realistic. There are quite a few faults with this musical stage version: a plot about Rita’s son being caned in school goes nowhere, jokes by Mark Hadfield playing a buffoonish Prime Minister Harold Wilson are so bad – and mostly misogynistic, and Isaacs, who has such an amazing singing voice, only gets to sing one song in the beginning of the show, and she is wasted during an awful bit in the show that is supposed to be a car commercial. And the American boss of Ford (Steve Furst) is portrayed as a singing cowboy, complete with cowboy hat and and a good ole U.S.A. song called, appropriately enough, ‘This is America,’ just plain awful.

However, Rupert Gould’s sets are amazing. The reproduction of a car factory is always in motion, down to the very minor details, including the nuts and bolts that go into the cars. The acting by the whole cast is very good, but what they are given to work with is a musical with not one memorable song (music by David Arnold), and a book (by Richard Bean) that doesn’t have much of a story.

Off
29th Nov2014

Run – Theatre

by timbaros

B3dL60NCYAARNOb.jpg-largeFour interns start new jobs at an unnamed investment bank. They work long, hard and crazy hours, perhaps too long and too hard as one of the interns dies from exhaustion.

Run, now playing (up until Saturday) at the New Diorama Theatre in Regents Place, is based on the true story of 21 year-old Moritz Erhardt from Germany. He was interning at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and worked 72 hours straight, and was found dead in the shower at his Bethnal Green flat.

Playing the four interns in the bare bones production of Run are Al Jarrett, whose character got the internship because his uncle works at the bank; Joseph Sentance plays a smart recent Cambridge graduate new to London; Beatrice Scirocchi’s character is a cold backstabber from Bosnia who will stop at nothing to get ahead; and Charlotte Watson plays a prim and proper professional, yet haunted by the death of her younger brother years ago from a heart murmur.

The four interns are thrown into an office environment, an environment that is new to them. Some of them thrive, while one of them makes an almost career-ending mistake, yet they are all interning for the same reason – to get a permanent job at the bank, and they will do whatever it takes to get the job done. In Watson’s character’s case, she looks like she will be the one who will outshine the others, but when she starts taking pills to stay awake, she literally (and figuratively) runs herself into the ground, extremely exhausted, yet she still goes back to work on very little sleep. And ultimately, ending with tragic consequences.

Run is all about the story, and the acting. And wow – all four actors are excellent. Jarrett gives an impassioned speech when he’s reprimanded by his boss – it’s a speech that will leave you breathless. Scirocchi is cold as ice because she wants a job very bad and will even turn on her fellow interns to get what she wants. Sentance is perfect in his role – he’s a natural on the small stage, and no doubt he’s bound for bigger and better things. Yet it’s Watson’s performance you will remember hours and perhaps days after you see the show. She literally runs herself down right before our very eyes, she’s tired and she knows and feels it, yet she still works far into the night, at her desk, typing away, eyes glossed.

Run is an incredible piece of work in a very tiny theatre. Kudos to the Engineer Theatre Collective who actually spoke to many people working and/or interning in the financial sector to put this show together. It’s an exhilarating piece of work, stripped right from today’s headlines. Drop your plans for tonight or Saturday and go see this show.

Tickets can be bought at:
http://newdiorama.com/whats-on/run

Off
23rd Nov2014

Ghost Stories – Theatre

by timbaros

Ghost-Stories_2836007bWe are advised that Ghost Stories contains moments of extreme shock and tension and that it is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15. Also, the theatre strongly recommends those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far in saying that Ghost Stories is the scariest show in town (that gong would go to Henry IV Part 1 purely because it is so boring), but Ghost Stories will take you on a ride where a few times you might jump up off your seat but there is absolutely no extreme shock and tension anywhere in the show.

It starts promising enough with our narrator (who runs down a dark aisle hitting punters on the shoulder as he heads to the stage) Professor Goodman (he’s not a real professor but is actor Paul Kemp) who shows the audience a photograph. It’s a simple photograph taken many many years ago of two couples standing and basically having their picture taken. But Professor Goodman explains that there’s more to the photograph then meets the eye. As he zooms in on the photograph, we see a leg and foot behind one of the men, and also one eye peering out from behind the same man’s right hand. It’s a very eerie and unsettling moment for the audience as it is hypothesized whether there is such a thing as ghost. So Ghost Stories starts promising enough and segues into three ghost stories that happened to real people. These ghost stories are re-enacted and are intended to scare the audience even more.

The first story involves Tony Matthews, a security guard who is all alone in a remote location. He radio’s a fellow security guard who’s in another building – a new security guard who happens to Russian who doesn’t speak English well. But things start happening to Tony. The lights flicker and there is a knock on his door. He goes out to investigate and to make sure the locks on an adjacent building are locked. The audience sees an apparition of a little girl, but Tony doesn’t see it. He goes back inside to radio the Russian but can’t get through – the radio strangely has stopped working. He goes back outside and one of the locks from one of the doors has come undone, so enters the room. And in this room is where he experiences the ghost face to face.

The second story is scary as well but is not pulled off. A young man, Simon Rifkind (Chris Levens) is late getting home after a night out and he suddenly hits something in the road. It’s effectively a prop on the stage that looks like a car, very effective. He stops, but decides to drive on. He’s not too sure what he hit but he’s happy with his decision to leave the scene of the crime. But then his car break down, leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. He call for help, which is on it’s way. He waits in the car and there is a knock on the window. He can’t see what it is, neither can we. But after a few minutes he is face to face with what appears, to the audience, a fake monster on the top of his car.

The last story has Mike Priddle (Gary Shelford) as a father in his soon to be new baby’s room. He’s a businessman, always on his mobile phone. And when he sends a text, he goes ‘swoosh’ and glides the phone in the air, which gets annoying by the second time he does it. Anyway, yes, you can see this one coming, he sees ghosts in the room, not just ghosts but something that levitates in the crib, and then he too come face to face with an apparition.

As Ghost Stories goes into it’s last story, it becomes less and less scary. Sure, the first story was scary, and the second just a bit, but by the third story we become more immune to the surprises that take place, and by the time the show is over Professor Goodman is taken off the stage by a ghost and lies in a hospital bed, to be taken care of by Dr. Rifkind. But then he’s not in bed, he’s back on the stage.

Off
01st Nov2014

Memphis the Musical – Theatre

by timbaros

Memphis, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/Memphis was the birthplace of, and a magnet for, so many world famous musicians and singers, including Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge and Wilson Pickett. It is also the place where Elvis Presley lived, and died. Memphis is so synonymous with music that it’s only fitting that a musical would come along with the same name – Memphis.

Just opened at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London’s West End, Memphis the Musical is a look at a time when Memphis the city was not what it is today – sixty years ago it was very very different. Blacks were still seen as second class citizens, nightclubs and cinemas were racially segregated, and inter-racial marriage was illegal. Radio stations also discriminated – each played music for a specific audience, and racial integration was purely not allowed. This is explored in Memphis the Musical when white musician Huey (Killian Donnelly) falls in love with black female singer Felicia (Beverly Knight).

Huey works as a stock boy in a department store. He visits Delray’s – a black rock and roll bar where he is the only white person – and falls in love with the music, as well as taking a shine to Felicia, who sings at the club her brother Delray (Rolan Bell) owns. Back at the store Huey asks his boss if he can play music over the store’s loudspeakers. His boss agrees, and soon enough customers like what they hear and buy the records in droves. But the boss doesn’t like the fact that Huey played black music, so he gets fired.

Having realized that he really loves this music, Huey applies for a job as a DJ at various radio stations in town but at one station he sneaks into the DJ booth and plays the music that he thinks people want to hear – the black music. The music, and him, are a hit, and his romance with Felicia heats up, much to the dismay of Delray, and Huey’s racist mother Gladys (Claire Machin).
Huey wants to play Felicia’s first song at his radio station, but before he is able to he gets into a row with his mom, and the record breaks, and Felicia runs out and they realize that keeping their relationship together is going to be difficult. Things get more complicated for them when they are seen kissing by a group of white men, who proceed to beat them up, rendering Felicia’s face very bloody. It’s expected that everything works out between them and they live happily ever after. But it’s the journey of getting to the expected that makes Memphis the Musical worth watching.

From the art deco department store to Huey’s living room, to the interiors of Delray’s to the lone radio DJ booth on stage – it’s a set that works very well on the small stage. The backup dancers do their damndest to entertain us – and they do. There’s lots of them on stage at the same time, and it’s amazing that they don’t hit each other while swinging their arms and legs. And it wouldn’t be a very good musical without the excellent music, done by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, who collaborated with Joe DiPietro. Both Bryan and DiPietro won Tony Awards for this show’s music when it premiered first on Broadway in 2010. However, it’s Knight who gets top billing, and she doesn’t disappoint. Knight, who last year starred in the West End’s Bodyguard, shows us here that she has perhaps found another calling – from being a top pop singer to being West End’s newest diva. This girl can sing! The stage is hers and hers alone. She is able to belt out blues, rock and gospel and still amaze. Donnelly, who was the only good thing in the very dull The Commitments, looks very comfortable in his role as Huey. But he appears to be just going through the motions. Sure he can sing the socks off of us, but he looks like he’s not making much of an effort. He’s a natural on stage but he needs to be more than that, he needs to take it a few notches higher. But at the end of the day it’s Knight’s show, so go see and hear the West End’s newest Diva – Beverly Knight – she’s fabulous.

01st Nov2014

The Curing Room – Theatre

by timbaros

RLP_0207Seven men, stripped naked, perform in the shocking and brutalistic The Curing Room, now at The Pleasance Theatre.

These men, all English actors, are literally exposed in the 90-minute play that will shock some, enthrall others, but will leave the audience gasping at what their characters endure in the course of the show. The Curing Room is not for the faint at heart, it includes scenes that you will have never seen performed on a theatre stage before. It’s a form of theatre that pushes the boundaries between the actor’s confidences and the audiences comfort levels.

It is 1944. Seven Soviet soldiers have been captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. They are held in a sort of ‘Curing Room’ – a room used to store and preserve meat. All of their possessions have been taken away, including their clothes, and they are totally abandoned by their captors. It’s just seven men, on a bare stage, who have to endure the pain and agony of being cold and hungry and facing certain death in a room that is several hundred yards below ground. And as these soldier’s don’t have their uniforms, they still follow the military structure that they were trained to do. But their dire circumstances lead several of them to defray from this and survival becomes the only thing that counts. And this survival includes hunger. Tempers flare, they fight, they tell stories, they sleep, they get sick. And after one of the soldiers dies, the rest of them have no choice but to resort to cannibalism. They initially wrestle with their conscience whether this is the right thing to do, but as they get weaker they realize this is the only way to survive. One by one they die, but will anyone be alive when it is time to be rescued?

The Curing Room stars seven men who are very brave to be naked on stage for the entire length of the show. But the intent is to see beyond the nudity and focus on what the men are going through. A few of the actors stand out – mostly Harvey Robinson as Senior-Lieutenant Harvey. He shows the most emotion and determination of all the men, but will be survive? Robinson looks like he will be perfect on Game of Thrones – he’s got that steely, rough nordic look and excellent acting ability. Newcomer Matt Houston as Private Georgi is a revelation. He’s young, tall and thin yet he comes into his own and turns out to be one the smartest. He’s excellent. Thomas Holloway as Private Yura is also very good. He’s a bit slow and is always asking about his mother, not realizing that she’s probably dead. Joao De Sousa has superbly directed a play, written, invented and created by David Ian Lee that succeeds in being horrific, violent, brutal yet different, imaginative and groundbreaking.

The rest of the casts names need to be included in this review just because of their willingness to go expose themselves and their emotions on a theatre stage : Will Bowden, John Hoye, Rupert Elmes, and Marlon Solomon. The Curing Room is a bold and shocking play. It tells a story that many of us know about from history – mainly how the Nazi’s imprisoned Jewish people, and others, and left them to die. And cannibalism was rampant in WW2 as forced starvation was a policy inflicted upon the people of the Soviet Union by Stalin. As horrific as it sounds, it’s reality.

The original version of my review appeared on http://hereisthecity.com/en-gb/2014/10/30/the-curing-room-review/page/1/

04th Oct2014

Evita – Theatre

by timbaros

images-264The Dominion Theatre in London’s West End was home to We Will Rock You for what seems like an eternity. And the statue of Freddie Mercury was a permanent fixture on Tottenham Court Road. Well, Freddie and We Will Rock You have since left, now to be replaced by a much much better show – Evita.

Evita is a show that is the complete opposite of We Will Rock You. We Will Rock You was loud, Evita is elegant; We Will Rock You was stupid, Evita is smart; and We Will Rock You was awful, Evita is excellent. No two shows could be any more different. And it’s a shock to think that We Will Rock You lasted 12 years while Evita will run for only 7 weeks – until November 1st (White Christmas takes up residence at The Dominion after Evita closes).

Evita has been shown in the West End twice before. It debuted in 1978 (with Elaine Paige) and then returned to the West End in 2006. I did not see the 1976 version but was lucky enough to see Elena Rogers perform as Evita in the 2006 version. But this version of Evita is so much better than the 2006 version. What makes this version of Evita so good? Well, where do I start; first and foremost the acting, then the singing, the costumes, the set design, the music, the score, basically from start to finish Evita is a show.

Portuguese Madalena Alberto is a revelation as Evita, She cannot only sing, she can act and perform as well. Sure, she may be tiny (at 5’6) but when she sings, she sings. And when she acts, she can act. Alberto, who made her stage debut in 2005 at the Old Vic in Aladdin with Sir Ian McKellen, proves that she’s now a West End diva to proudly stand alongside the rest of them.

Evita is a classic production from the minds of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s a story that most of us are familiar with – the short life of Argentina’s most loved woman – Eva Peron. Evita the musical takes us through her life – from her time as a young model to when she met her future husband – Juan Peron – in 1944 when he was a Colonel. Two years later he becomes president of the country, and Eva becomes a much loved first lady. But this Evita the musical starts on a somber note – it starts with Evita’s casket in the middle of the stage, people walking by paying their last respects, with a huge photo of her on top. It’s a chilling way to start a musical but it’s very effective and sets the tone for what to expect at the end. Alberto, as Evita, becomes, right before our very eyes, a queen, wearing breathtaking dresses and jewelry, beautiful. And Alberto is given many chances to display her voice, especially in the ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ solo, she owns it and brings the house down. Wow. And it’s a sad day as she gets sicker and sicker, again, right before our very eyes, to the point of death. Alberto’s image as Evita will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

Marti Pellow is the narrator Che, who reflects the voice of the Argentine people. He does an excellent job throughout, always there but never in the scene. He’s also been given many a solo, and in one he’s especially good at he is holding a note for the longest time – it’s actually amazing.

Ben Foster is just as good in his short role as tango singer Magaldi – the man who was Eva Peron’s first love, and the man who supposedly brought her to Buenos Aires. He’s got a great voice – too bad Evita throws him away like a bad penny before the end of the first half – and he’s gone.

Everything about this production is lush. From the music to the aforementioned costumes, to the Argentinean-styled sets to the choreography, it’s all very sumptuous. And all the other favorites are sung: ‘On This Night of a Thousand Stars’ to ‘You Must Love Me.’ While there are a few moments that left me scratching my head ( a scene with dancers holding mirrors made no sense, and one of Alberto’s big numbers segues into another number, thus robbing her of the applause), it’s a production that has to be seen. And I am very happy that Evita got We Will Rock You kicked out of the Dominion.

20th Aug2014

My Night With Reg – Theatre

by timbaros

images-228My Night With Reg takes us back to the time in the mid-1980’s when gay men were rapidly getting sick and dying even quicker from AIDS.

Now playing at The Donmar Warehouse Theatre, My Night With Reg’s titular character – Reg – is not played by an actor. He exists only in the background, and he’s the man all of the characters have been with but can’t have, because he’s the boyfriend of campy Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfield). There’s John (a very good Julian Ovenden), whose secretly having an affair with Reg. Then there’s gay couple Benny (Matt Bardock) and Bernie (Richard Cant). They’ve been together for so long they get on each other’s nerves. Benny confesses that he has had sex with Reg a few times because Reg can’t get enough of his cock, and Bernie confesses that he’s slept with Reg once, just once, and that it was very good.
And who do John, Benny and Bernie confess their predilections to? To Guy (Jonathan Broadbent). Guy is plain looking – he looks and acts older than what he actually is, he’s not in good shape, and he’s just not that attractive. Yet, when the three men confess their affairs with Reg to Guy, he says “am I the only man that Reg hasn’t slept with?” Well, the answer is yes because the other character in the play, Eric (Lewis Reeves), a sexy young man from Birmingham who Guy has hired to paint his veranda, confesses to being with a man ‘just the one time’, and even though Eric didn’t know the man’s name, Guy knows that it was Reg.
My Night With Reg covers the span of four years, with all of it taking place in Guy’s flat, decorated in the way one would expect from him: modern with a touch of European style. The veranda is the piece de resistance, and where Eric spends most of his time painting. Three scenes make up My Night With Reg (without an interval). Scene one starts with the song “Every Breathe You Take,” which Eric is listening to on his headphones. Meanwhile, colorful flashing lights pulse on the edges of the stage like a 1980’s disco. John has gone to visit Guy, and Guy reminds him that it’s been nine and one half years since they last saw each other. John is the handsome one. A never ageing gay man, with a sexy body, who has family money yet no real ambition in life. Daniel shows up to see the men, and makes a beeline for John, all so affectionately touching him and kissing him. Eric, meanwhile, is in the background, innocently painting away, yet all so sexy.
It’s scene two where the real emotions (and the confessions) take place. Guy decides to have everyone over, and it’s here that Reg’s getting around becomes apparent. Bernie and Benny bicker as usual, and Eric finally becomes one of the men, joining in on their conversation. Meanwhile John is feeling raw, especially after telling Guy that he’s in love with Reg, so Benny takes him out to the veranda for some unseen escapade, while Bernie is in the kitchen. And Guy is not able to confess to John that he’s been in love with him for years, since they were in college together.
And unfortunately, just like in the 1980’s, gay men die of AIDS, including Reg. Though he’s not seen, his presence is felt throughout the play, and even more so near the end, when the characters mourn his death. Both Daniel and John break down, and John doesn’t have the heart (or the guts) to tell Daniel that he had been sleeping with Reg. So we’re left with innocent Eric and not so innocent John at the end, enjoying each other’s company and then some, with John reminiscing about friends come and gone.
Kevin Elyot, who wrote My Night With Reg, unfortunately passed away in June after a long illness. So it’s a tribute to him that his play still stands up 20 years after it was first produced, at The Royal Court Theatre. Back then, in 1994, gay men were still dying from the AIDS virus, and many lost friends and lovers –  this was right before the introduction of the drug cocktail combination that has saved so many lives. So is a play like My Night With Reg still relevant? We’ve seen these types of characters before, but in the intimate setting that is The Donmar Warehouse, we feel like we’re in the same room with them, listening in on their conversations, and being a part of the gang. And while there’s unnecessary gratuitous nudity near the end (not that I’m complaining), it’s the acting that is what this show is all about. There’s not one false note among the six men. Especially good is Ovenden as John, who’s in Downton Abbey. His character goes through so many emotions, and Ovenden carries his torch for Reg throughout. Broadbent stands out as Guy, unloved but always in love. Director Robert Hastie keeps the play’s pace going throughout, and by the time it’s over, you don’t realize that one hour and fifty minutes have gone by without an interval. Do you want to go see My Night With Reg? Book tickets now before it’s too late.
13th Jul2014

The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Theatre

by timbaros

images-205Five sisters make up The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is now playing at The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn.

India, Willow, Gemma, Garden and Mouse are their names, and they’re all very beautiful women. Some of them lead a charmed life, and a couple of them don’t. Coming from a wealthy and famous family (though we are not told exactly how wealthy and what they’re famous for), they all live on that island called Manhattan. Gemma (Charlotte Parry) is the wealthiest of the sisters, and everywhere she goes so does her maid/p.a. Heather (Ronke Adekoluejo. Willow (Claire Forlani) is the oldest of the sisters, grounded, smart, and easily likeable with 2 sons, though her husband is not working so she needs a handout from Gemma.  Garden (Patricia Potter) is the unstable one who can’t accept the fact that her husband is having an affair and wonders what she could have done to keep him. India (Isabella Calthorpe) is in a very happy relationship with an artist, so she has no issues. And then there’s Mouse (Alice Sanders), the youngest of the bunch, she’s a free spirit who will go with any man who simply smiles at her, she’s acts innocent and dumb, and is a bit adventurous.
So there you have it, the five Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania now living in Manhattan.
The show begins with the women getting their dresses for a photo shoot and dresses that will be worn to an upcoming fundraising ball. India agonizes about her financial situation, Garden agonizes about her cheating husband, and Mouse continues to rhapsody about the many men that she meets. All the meanwhile, Gemma walks around with a not a care in the world – with Heather tagging along a few steps behind. The sets are very minimal, which I think is to match the minimal script. A living room, a ballroom, a closet, a tennis court (smartly done) and an almost bare stage backdropped by picture frames take us through 75 minutes of these woman’s lives, and one event that should change them forever but doesn’t. The event (I don’t want to give it away as it’s a key plot point) is meant to shock the audience and to make the woman pause to think about their lives, but moment’s later they are back to wearing their beautiful dresses with their sunglasses on, in a way to avoid or to welcome the paparazzi. And that is pretty much the show. Sure, the acting is very good, especially from Forlani (Meet Joe Black, NCIS: Los Angeles) and Potter (Holby City), the rest of the woman are playing caricatures of women we’ve seen portrayed on film and stage for many years; the socialite, the depressed wife, and the free spirt. And poor Adekoluejo, not only is she relegated to playing a maid and p.a., but in between scenes she is the one who moves stuff around on the stage! Writer Adam Brock seems to have watched a lot of Sex and the City to find personalities for the women, and some of the scenes don’t just come across as realistic. And it would have made for a more complete play if we knew more about the women and how they got from Pittsburgh to Manhattan. But the Set Design by Richard Kent will catch your eye as huge picture frames beautifully backdrop the show, and for a few minutes one of the picture frames shows them women as young girls, in happier times, as a family, with each other. This is the part of the show that stuck with me, and nothing else. And at the end of the show Mouse says “Nobody knows us, they think they do, but they don’t.” Yes, that’s correct, after seeing show I still don’t know who the Colby Sisters are.
05th Jul2014

Chelsea Handler – Theatre

by timbaros
images-203You either love her or you don’t love her. America’s most biting talk show host – Chelsea Handler – is coming to London.
Promoting her new book “Uganda Be Kidding Me”, Handler is most well-known for her eponymous television show on the E Entertainment Channel Network, Chelsea Lately, which she’s hosted for seven years. It’s a fast and funny talk/comedy show where she and three other comedians (and her Mexican sidekick nugget Chuey Bravo) discuss, and make jokes of, the day’s news. The second part of the show is where Handler interviews celebrities – A-list celebrities – and most of them seem to be friends of hers (Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Eric Bana, the list goes on). And as Handler is Los Angeles- based, she rubs shoulders with these people at parties and other events in the Los Angeles area.
Chelsea Lately airs at midnight here in the U.K., a bit late for some, but it’s worth staying up for.
Handler has written five books, all bestsellers, including her funny titled second book “Are  You There God, It’s Me Chelsea.” Her new book, “Uganda Be Kidding Me”, immediately topped the best sellers list when it came out.
Handler has been all over America promoting the book, and now she’s coming to the UK. Handler will be in Dublin on Friday, July 11th, and on Saturday July 12th she will be appearing at London’s Palladium Theatre. There is still tickets available for both shows, so if you are a fan of hers, or not, now’s the time to experience Handler’s sarcastic and edgy humor in a no-holds-barred live setting. And you won’t be seeing much of Handler after September, she has decided to end her talk show. What’s she going to do next? She’s signed a contract with Netflix to have exclusive rights to her next television show. She’s said that Netflix is the cutting edge new kid on the block, so she’s going to them. Chelsea, we will miss Chelsea Lately!
For tickets to the Dublin and London shows, click here:
21st May2014

In the Heights – Theatre

by timbaros
images-170The Heights is the northernmost part of Manhattan, and it’s also the location where the new musical production of In The Heights takes place.
Finding itself not in Manhattan (after winning four Tony’s in 2008 including Best Musical) but at the Southwark Playhouse near Elephant & Castle, In The Heights is a musical about the various cultures living and surviving in the heights, which is full of vibrant, lower middle class, blacks, hispanics, latinos – the kind of cultures that many people say represents the true New York City.
In the show, which has a cast of what appears to be a couple dozen, is about a young woman – Nina (Christine Modestou) – who returns back home to the heights after a stint at Stamford University in California. She lost her scholarship because of bad grades and has to break the news to her hard-working father Kevin (David Bedella) and mother (Josie Benson). Her father owns a cab company and employs a young black employee Benny (Wayne Robinson). Benny and Nina always had a thing for each other, but her father doesn’t want them to date because he feels that Benny is lower class and that Daniela could do better. In the show there’s also a corner bodega, which is run by Usnavi (a brilliant Sam Mackay) and his sidekick Sonny (a very good Damian Buhagiar). Across the ‘road’ there is a beauty salon run by the voluptuous Daniela (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt), who has the best lines in the show, and she delivers them perfectly – Sofia Vergara-style.
Mix these various types of people and what you get is show full of flavor and spice, and what a taste it is! The cast all are so very talented; they can sing, they can dance, they can move, they smile while running all over the small stage and continue to sing their hearts out. Nina’s father Kevin decides to sell his business in order for Nina to be able to go back to school, meanwhile Nina’s abuela Claudia (grandmother, played by Eve Polycarpou) tries to make sure the neighborhood stays safe, clean and peaceful. Claudia is lucky enough to win the lottery ($96,000) and decides to give some of the money to Usnavi, who always had a free cup of coffee for her, and with the money he plans to go back to his home country. But there’s an  intense heatwave, and a blackout (excellently played out), and the theatre gets dark, and everyone’s lives are thrown into chaos for the night. Nina spends the night with Benny, while Claudia unexpectedly passes away. The next morning Nina’s parents have to deal with Claudia’s death, and it’s a very emotional scene on stage when all the characters gather around to pay their respect. Usvani realizes that home is right there, In The Heights, so he no longer wants to leave, and Nina plans to go back to school. All of this in the backdrop of the heights.
The true star of the show is Sam Mackay. He raps, and what a voice he has. He’s also an excellent dancer and a great actor or stage, and he really comes into his own halfway during the show. If anyone breaks out of this show, it will be him. Also excellent is Buhagiar, he’s tiny but boy can he rap dance. Actually, the whole cast is very good and there is not one false note throughout the show. Director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Drew McOnie have successfully put on a show that was a huge Broadway success and turned it into a successful off off West-End show that is full of energy and talent.
Southwark Playhouse is a bit too small for a show with huge ambitions, and a very large cast. A West End Stage would better suit In The Heights, so the cast would have more room to run around the stage and dance. But then again Southwark (and the surrounding area) has a large Latino and Black population, which is who the show represents. Would mainstream West End audiences embrace this show? I’d bet they would, and no doubt they would be infected with the fever that is In The Heights. In The Heights ends its run on June 7th, so catch it now.
03rd May2014

A View from the Bridge – Theatre

by timbaros

images-160I had no idea what I was about to see when I went to A View From The Bridge. I had never seen the play before, nor have I seen the 1962 movie, and I’ve never read the book. Little did I know that I was in for a devastating theatre experience.

Red Hook is a section of Brooklyn that is not particularly known as a destination place. It sits on the waterfront right under the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s an area where people pass over going to other and nicer neighborhoods. Today it’s an expensive area due to it’s location, but back in the 1950’s, which is when A View From The Bridge takes place, it was a run-down, smelly, poor, dangerous and derelict part of Brooklyn. As Red Hook is right on the water, it attracted lots of illegal immigrants bound for America and the opportunities the country had to offer them, and the availability to find work, whether you were legal or not. Hence A View From The Bridge take it’s story.
Eddie Carbone (an incredible Mark Strong) is a proud man. He works on the docks, lives in a simple house with his wife Beatrice (an amazing Nicola Walker) and their niece Catherine (a brilliant Phoebe Fox). Eddie and Catherine appear to be a bit too close and affectionate with each other, enough so to ring alarm bells in Beatrice’s head. To make matters more complicated, they agree to house two of Beatrice’s cousins from Italy, Marco (Emun Elloitt) and Rodolpho (a handsome and sexy Luke Norris), illegally, as the men don’t the proper papers to work in the U.S. So the five of them live together in Eddie and Beatrice’s cramped house. Rodolpho and Catherine take an interest in each other. Catherine is already a  young woman at 18, and according to Beatrice, able to make her own decisions about her life and what she wants. Eddie, however, sees it differently. He wants Catherine to stay as his little girl, to stay home and take a secretarial job. And the love that Eddie has for Catherine is not normal. Things come to a head when Catherine tells Eddie that her and Rodolpho plan to get married. As his jealousy overcomes him, Eddie turns the cousins in to the immigration authorities in order to get rid of Rodolpho. and after he does so all their lives will never be the same.
After A View From The Bridge was over, I was simply blown away. Not just by how strong and real the story was, but by the acting on stage at the Young Vic. It is one of the best acted plays I have ever seen. Strong as Eddie is a man’s man, but still with a soft spot for Catherine, and Strong is just mesmerizing. His is an award-winning performance. Fox as Catherine is also a revelation. Playing a young woman about to blossom and at the same time maintaining a daddy’s little girl image is what Fox does, brilliantly, and it looks like she is putting in very little effort to play the role, she’s that good. Walker is perfectly cast as Beatrice, not having been touched by Eddie yet still very much in love with him, considering the circumstances, which she’s all too aware. Elliott and Norris play their roles very well. Elliott doesn’t have much to do but it’s Norris who brings to his a role a bit of innocence and sexiness and makes it very believable how Catherine can fall in love with him and how Eddie can be very jealous of him. Michael Gould plays a narrator who provides clarity on what’s happening and what’s about to happen, creating even more suspense throughout the show.  The set is also part of the cast. It is a very shallow shell of a swimming pool, built this way to capture what’s going to happen at the end.
There’s really not much more to say about A View From The Bridge, except that it will be one of the most amazing theatre pieces you will see in a long time. It’s playing at the Old Vic up until June 7th.
03rd Apr2014

I Can’t Sing – Theatre

by timbaros

images-144Dear Simon, you know how much I love you, you are in my thoughts 24/7 and I wouldn’t dream of living a life without you. All my love, Simon.

I Can’t Sing – a/k/a The X Factor Musical, plays like a boring love letter from Simon to himself. It starts with Simon as a young boy (the child actor who played him the night I saw it sang awful), watching television and dreaming of the day when he will be on television. Lucky for us that dream came true.
In addition to a musical that is basically all about Mr. Cowell and his creation that is the X-Factor, we get an X-Factor storyline, so two for the price of one. Honestly, I would’ve preferred neither.
Cynthia Erivo plays Chenice, a simple black girl who happens to have a great voice (at this point we can figure out how I Can’t Sing will end). She lives in a one room trailer with one electricity socket, with her uncle who happens to be in an iron lung, with another guy (it’s not too clear how he fits in with this small family) who happens to have a dog attached to his arm, and they all happily live underneath a motorway, (really, I’m not making this up!). Chenice really really likes white guy Max (Alan Morrissey), and he urges her to enter a singing competition with him.
It’s so obvious at this point where I Can’t Sing  is going to take us. Chenise and Max head to the auditions – other wannabees include an overweight supermarket cashier, twins who pass exactly for Jedward, an unkempt talentless trio, and a hunchback (yes, really). Oh, don’t forget that gust of wind that blows in every once in a while (yes, I know, it sounds preposterous, but it’s true).
Chenice’s audition doesn’t go very well as a fly flies into her mouth when she starts singing. So I guess to make sure we really understand what is happening here, above her on stage is a very huge mouth with very red lips with a large fly going right into her mouth (you can’t make this stuff up!). Chenice gets three no’s.
Up to now, I Can’t Sing is ridiculous mess. But it gets unbelievably worse. The contestants sing their hearts out, though it’s crystal clear that Chenise has the best voice of the lot. And she is by far the best character on the show. The worst are the characters modelled after Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh. Victoria Elliott as “Jordy” and Ashley Knight as Louis are just awful. Their caricatures are so overacted and so badly over the top. Jordy is a no talent who’ll do anything for Mr. Boss Cowell who tries to cop off with Chenise’s boyfriend, while Elliot’s Louis is just a plain bumbling idiot. If I were the real Louis Walsh I would sue. Nigel Harman is the unfortunate actor chosen to play Simon Cowell. All he does is stand around with his chest stuck out, wearing sunglasses and barking orders as people scurry around him while others hold their breath when he enters a room. And then we get Liam O’Deary (Simon Bailey), who’s a more loud and obnoxious Dermot O’Leary.
As the “competition” winds down, Chenise is disqualified over claims that she stole the hunchback’s number in the auditions (she did). But it’s all a happy ending as Chenice does get to win the love of Sam and we all have a happy ending as we see Simon leave the stage in a spaceship (yes! really! I’m not making it up)!
I Can’t Sing is, of course, a musical parody, or a parody of a television show and it’s svengali, so it’s not supposed to be looked at, or compared to, an actual West End Musical. And we all know a bit about the humor of Harry Hill (who wrote the book and lyrics), whether you like it or not. But what is thrown at you on stage is a mish mash of the most insane rubbish that I have ever witnessed on a stage, it’s so so bad that it’s not even good. Lots of money was put into the  show, with flying couches, a realistic-looking check out line, the aforementioned flying saucer, but absolutely no thought was put into making this show a good night out. It’s not a good night out, not even if you’re an X Factor fan. It’s a big NO from me.

 

18th Mar2014

The Full Monty – Theatre

by timbaros
images-136The Full Monty, now playing in London’s West End, is based on the 1997 movie of the same name. In case you don’t know the plot, it is about six down and out working class unemployed men, on the dole, in post-industrial Sheffield during the Thatcher years. They all need money, money to basically pay the bills, so they resort to stripping to earn extra money. And the new cast is definitely not show about stripping it all off!
The difference between this new Full Monty and the previous-staged version (first on Broadway in 2000 and then the West End in 2002) is that, even though the setting still takes place in the late eighties, the plot has been modernized to reflect society today.
The men include Gaz (a very good and confident Kenny Doughty), a young dad who did time in prison and who is trying to reconnect with his young son, much to the dismay and disapproval of his ex-wife, who she says that he will never mount to anything good; there is Lomper (a charming Craig Gazey), not very confident in himself yet decides to give stripping a go; Gerard (Simon Rouse), who has been out of work for six months yet who has been keeping up appearances by not telling his wife that he’s out of work, while she still goes out and spends money; black character Horse (Sidney Cole), named for reasons that will at the end become clear; Guy (Kieran O’Brien), a goodlooking macho type of a guy who is comfortable enough to let the guys know about his sexual preferences; and finally there is Dave (Roger Morlidge), a very large man with no sex drive, which does not matter to his loving wife Jean (Rachel Lumberg).
Forming their male strip group is easy, they find many guys willing to strip who they need the money, but the men have setbacks in trying to come up with the money to hire out a venue for their first show. They also get arrested while illegally rehearsing in a steel factory. In the meantime, as they rehearse, each guy slowly becoming more comfortable in shedding their clothes and strutting their moves. They even practice a routine, in a hilarious bit, while in a queue to get their dole money. It wouldn’t be called The Full Monty if the men didn’t entirely strip, and strip they do, everything, at the very end of the show, leaving a smile on the audiences faces, and on the night I saw it, a 10-minute standing ovation.
Simon Beaufoy, who wrote the screenplay in which the movie was based, wrote this stage version, his first time writing for the stage. He has written a show that is perfect for the stage, and the original music by Steve Parry captures the mood of the time and the mood of the men. The set is a steel factory that morphes into various locations: the front of the house where his ex-wife and son live (with her new partner), the space where the men rehearse, and where they perform at the end. And then there are the special effects (by Nick Porter) that will make you hold your breathe, including an attempted hanging suicide by one of the men, and mini explosions that take place in the factory. Credit goes to Director Daniel Evans for engineering all of this into what will probably be this spring’s best show. Unfortunately, The Full Monty, playing at the Noel Coward Theatre, has posted a closing sign on the door, so it’s last performance will be on March 29, so see it as soon as possible!

 

04th Jan2014

American Psycho – Theatre

by timbaros

AP 22-486 by Manuel Harlan 601 x 400American Psycho the Musical is now playing at the Almeida Theatre in London. Yes, you read it correctly, the infamous book and film is now a musical.

Starring Matt Smith (of Doctor Who fame) with music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, the musical is based from the 1991 novel American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis which was made into a 2000 film which starred Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe and Jared Leto. American Psycho is the story of Patrick Bateman, a very wealthy investment banker who also happens to be a serial killer. Living in a very chic high rise in Manhattan, with a job that most men his age would die for, is not enough for Bateman. He has a sadistic side, a side that no one in his circle of friends or family know about, not even his girlfriend.
8AP DP 174-490 by Manuel Harlan 266 x 400
While the book and film could be categorized in the slasher/horror film genre, the musical is presented purely as a very dark black comedy. In the opening scene, Smith comes up from beneath the stage, in his very sleek, minimalist apartment, on his sunbed, wearing tight white underwear and displaying his buff body. From this point on we know that this is definitely not your typical musical.
Bateman from the outset looks, and is, crazy. We know this just by watching his interaction with other people, and by his facial features. Smith’s perfect cheekbones and square jaw complements the character he has become. Bateman is a killer who shows no remorse, he kills who he kills, whether it be prostitutes, or one of his friends, he just needs to kill.
Set in 1980’s Manhattan, Bateman and his boys live it up in high style, with very beautiful girlfriends (Susannah Fielding is very memorable, and very beautiful as Katie, Bateman’s gal) and a very beautiful circle of friends, both male and female. Throw in some cocaine, late nights at the very famous Tunnel nightclub, and what you have are ingredients that make the recipe for the hedonistic lifestyle of these young Wall Street boys during this era. Bateman’s secretary confesses to him that she loves him (Cassandra Compton, singing in a beautiful voice), and at one point in the show he tells her “don’t wear that outfit again, you’re prettier than that.” Meanwhile, Bateman is sleeping with his girlfriend’s best friend, and to make his life even crazier (like he needs it), his best friend makes the announcement that he, too, is in love with him. Even when a detective shows up at his office to ask questions about a missing friend, Bateman has a hard time processing what is real and what is not real. In the middle of all this, the boys and girls break out into song, with one of the most memorable being about who has the best business cards.
5AP DP 76-911 by Manuel Harlan 601 x 400
American Psycho the musical doesn’t exactly follow the book and film’s storyline, but it works in every way thanks to Rupert Goold’s brilliant production and Lynne page’s smashing choreography (including a couple well choreographed sex and murder scenes). The set design is as sleek as expected, going from Bateman’s flat, to his office, to an outdoor scene where he makes his first killing – a homeless man, to a scene in Barney’s department store, then transforming into the Tunnel nightclub, and then to a christmas party in his girlfriend’s apartment. Throw in a 1980’s soundtrack, including Huey Lewis & The News “Hip to be Square” and New Order’s “True Faith”, and what is presented in front of your eyes is perhaps the slickest and craziest musical you will ever see. Unfortunately, it’s two month run at The Almeida Theatre is sold out, so let’s hope this show makes it to the West End, and hopefully with Matt Smith in the lead. He, and the show, are brilliant.