06th Aug2017

Evita (Theatre)

by timbaros

Gian Marco Schiaretti (Che) and Emma Hatton (Eva Perón) in Evita - Pamela Raith Photography (060)The classic musical ‘Evita’ has returned to the West End to mark the 65th anniversary of the death of Eva Perón, the woman who was revered in Argentina not only as the wife of that country’s President Juan Perón but also as a woman who was perhaps more powerful than her husband.

‘Evita’ takes us through the highs and many lows of Eva Perón. Played by Emma Hatton (‘Wicked’), ‘Evita’ begins somberly at her funeral, attendees dressed in black – and this sets the tone for the first 30 minutes of this show – dark, deep and depressing. With lyrics by Tim Rice and Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, ‘Evita’ finally finds it feet with the rise of Eva, which was her real name. She becomes as actress in Buenos Aires, but she had bigger ambitions, ambitions that would lead her to meet Juan Perón at a party she’s helped to organize to raise money for San Juan, Argentina, which was devastated by an earthquake. Juan, played by Kevin Stephen Jones, falls head over heals with Eva – he’s met his match – she’s just as strong and confident as he is. But it’s the public that takes to her – they love her and see her as a queen and perhaps more – perhaps as a leader for their country. But as history tells us, Eva Perón never got to see her 34th birthday, she died at the age of 33 in 1952, and ‘Evita’ the musical takes us through this journey, with the help of narrator Che (excellently played and sung by Gian Marc Schiaretti).

‘Evita’ is pure musical joy. There’s not one word in the show that is spoken – the plot is all told in song, and what great songs they are, 39 years after they were first written. This includes the lovely melodies of ‘I’d be Surprisingly good for you’ – when Evita initially meets Juan; to the rousing ‘A New Argentina;’ and the show-stopping ’On the Balcony of Casa Rosado’ where we see, in a breathtaking scene, Evita speaking (singing) to the crowd from the balcony of the palace; also the classic ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’ where Eva sings in the hospital after her fatal diagnosis; and the fantastic and very memorable ‘And the Money Keeps Rolling In’ where Schiaretti really shines, and proves, that he is the true star of this show. As Che, he literally steals the spotlight from Hatton. Schiaretti is a regular concert performer and has performed throughout Europe and has played Tarzan on stage – ‘Evita’ will definitely raise his profile. The rest of the production is just fine, with an excellent supporting cast (especially Sarah O’Connor as the mistress of the President who Eva replaces, and holds her own in the solo number ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall.’) ‘Evita’ is only on for three months, so if you’ve never seen it before (this is third version I’ve seen, though I’m a bit too young to have seen the original version which made Elaine Paige a star in London and Patti Lupone a star in New York), I urge you to see it. While Hatton is very good, Schiaretti is amazing. And in this touring revival, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, is staged perfectly in the cozy Phoenix Theatre.

For tickets, please go to:

http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/phoenix-theatre/

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25th Feb2017

The Girls (Theatre)

by timbaros

LtoR Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in THE GIRLS. Credit Matt Crockett, DewyntersThere are several women of a certain age taking their clothes off in the West End.

No, these women are not strippers – they’re in a musical comedy called ‘The Girls’ based on the famous calendar girls of Yorkshire who took their clothes off for a calendar to raise money. And it’s no surprise that the actresses in this show take their clothes off to pose, just like the real women!

It’s a good time for the audiences in a show written by perennial favorite and Take That member Gary Barlow, along with Tim Firth (who co-wrote the movie). It provides lots of music that carry the Take That sound – top 40 middle of the road – enjoyable even at time when the storyline is a bit uneven and a bit too simple.

Almost everyone knows about these girls (well, they are not exactly girls – they are ladies), and if you haven’t seen the 2003 hit movie (which starred Helen Mirren and Julie Walters), then ‘The Girls’ tells their story again. Anna (Joanna Riding) has lost her husband and she wants to raise money for a memorial couch at the hospital where he was treated to replace the broken down couch. Chris (an excellent Claire Moore) comes up with the idea (after seeing a Dutch women’s stripper calendar) that instead of having the usual bake sale, why don’t they pose, not naked, but nude, for a calendar? She rallies her local women’s club – W1 – but of course there’s dissent – especially by leader Marie (Marian McLoughlin) – who vehemently opposes the idea – she’ll have none of that – she doesn’t want to destroy the reputation and image of the club where they are trying to be role models for the younger generation. Of course as you can guess, the women do eventually disrobe for a calendar and the rest is history.

‘The Girls’ is a very lighthearted (and very lightweight) musical which combines hummable tunes with a weak storyline. But it’s credit to all of the actresses who actually disrobe on stage – they do it with such grace and elegance (and lots and lots of humor) that I wished the show would’ve stretched this bit even more (no, not just to linger more at the naked women but to celebrate their openness and non-reserve!). The women are all excellent, but Michelle Dotrice as Jessie really shines as the elder woman takes if off with such candor. Another storyline in the show really seems to go nowhere – Chris’ son Danny (a good Ben Hunter) and his friend Tommo (Josh Benson) try to impress the rebellious Jenny (Chloe May Jackson) but the storyline goes nowhere, and Tommo disappears for most of the second act only to come back with one line. The set is a bit confusing (bookcases litter the stage – piled very high, used as a door as well, and an ugly scary tree pops down every now and then. But with catchy tunes such as ‘Yorkshire’ and ‘Dare’ that will have you humming for days afterward, ‘The Girls’ will put a smile on your face and will remind you that being ‘nude’ is not a big deal!

‘The Girls’ is now playing at the Phoenix Theatre until July, 2017. To buy tickets, please visit:
http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-girls/phoenix-theatre/#showinfotabs=showtimes

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04th Jul2015

Bend it Like Beckham (Theatre)

by timbaros

Atk5oQTJwl8oES88UQibHk6goVimhO_4iMzbr3f_GlsDoes a musical version of the hit film “Bend it Like Beckham” work? You bet it does!

The plot from the film is successfully transformed into a fantastic singing and dancing musical with a clever set, memorable songs, superb costumes and an excellent cast.

Natalie Dew is amazing as Jess, a young woman coming of age in a Sikh household in the Asian community of Southall, London in 2002. She loves the game of football, enough so that she’s got two large posters of David Beckham in her bedroom. One day Jess is spotted playing football by Jules (Lauren Samuels, playing the Keira Knightley role from the film) who plays for the Hounslow Harriers team. Jess goes along to one of the team’s practices where coach Joe (Jamie Campbell Bowen) takes in interest in her playing, as well as in her, and Jess decides to play for the team, without telling her parents. She knows that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra (Tony Jayawardena and Natasha Jayetileke), will forbid her from playing the game that she absolutely loves. Coach Joe feels that Jess is good enough to make the England team, and along with Jules, they urge her to stay in the game, even after her parents do find out. Meanwhile, Jess’s older sister Pinky (Preeya Kalidas) is about to get married to a man whose family thinks that Pinky is not suitable for their son. But all Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra want is the best for their daughters, they worked hard and have provided a good life for them and they want them to continue to live, and follow, their traditional Sikh life. But Jesse has a dream, and she wants to play for England, but will her parents stop her from fulfilling this dream?

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To say the Bend it Like Beckham is a feel good show is an understatement. From start to finish we are treated to a very vibrant and colorful spectacle, the likes which we haven’t seen in the West End in a long time. And the cast is perfect. Drew brings just the right amount of vulnerability and youthness to the role of Jess – it’s like the part was specifically written for her. Kalidas as Pinky brings the show punch, sass, and vavavoom. Jamel Andreas is very good as Jess’s best friend Tony who is perfect for Jess, perhaps too perfect. Other standouts include Sophie-Louise Dann as Jule’s blond mom, she’s sassy, funny and a blond bombshell. And Rekha Sawhney beautifully sings a traditional wedding song called “Sadaa Chardhdi Kalaa” that will mesmerize you. Gurinder Chadha, who wrote and directed the movie, which is set in the pre 9/11 era, also wrote (with Paul Mayeda Berges) and directed this stage version. She’s captured the spirit of Jess and her love of the game that most British people can relate to, and has given us a show that at no point gets boring or drags – it’s dialogue is very witty yet very dramatic. And the whole cast do wonders with it, and with the set that changes from a shopping street, to Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra’s living room, to an actual football field, all cleverly done. And the show wouldn’t have the name ‘Beckham’ in it if he didn’t make an appearance. The actual David Beckham is NOT in the show, but a lookalike is (along with a Victoria Beckham lookalike). Let’s hope the real David Beckham goes to see it, he will absolutely love it.

Bend it Like Beckham is playing at The Phoenix Theatre.

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