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Posts Tagged ‘David Badella’

This new jukebox musical comes twenty years after Mamma Mia, which of course featured the catalogue of Swedish group ABBA and is still running in London. This
latest one features the compositions and collaborations of another Swede, songwriter Max Martin, with a book by David West Read. I’m not the target demographic and I didn’t know many of the songs, but I thought it was huge fun, quite possibly the most successful non-biographical example of the genre since Mamma Mia.

The company are in rehearsal with William Shakespeare at the Curtain Theatre for the premiere of Romeo & Juliet when his wife Ann, visiting London, intervenes wanting to change the ending. From here we embark on Juliet’s ongoing story, written and rewritten live on stage by Will and Ann. The sixteenth century meets the twenty-first, in costume, language and behaviour, as the songs are fitted in with great skill to the narrative of this new tale with a contemporary spin by both Shakespeares.

One of the joys of seeing Mamma Mia for the first time was those delicious moments as you hear a song audaciously slotted in, and it felt the same here. It’s tongue is firmly in its cheek and you find yourself laughing and smiling with it. The play within the show takes us from Verona to Paris and has great pace and energy, propelling us to the happy ending that the first version doesn’t, with no less than four unions to celebrate.

Though it’s look is loud, gaudy and colourful, there are a lot of clever touches in the meeting of periods 400 years apart in Soutra Gilmour’s set and Paloma Young’s costumes. Howard Hudson lighting and Andrezej Goulding’s projections add to the pop concert aesthetic and Jennifer Weber’s pop video choreography completes the picture. This must be director Luke Sheppard’s biggest gig and he rises to the occasion with a slick, sassy, funny show, with has more depth and layers than you might expect in this genre.

Miriam-Teak Lee, in only her third West End show, is sensational as Juliet, with the complete ‘triple threat’ of acting, singing and dancing. Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson are a great pairing as Will and Ann, sparring affectionately with each other, and there’s another great pairing in David Badella and Melanie La Barrie, both of whom its great to see on stage again. The rest of the cast of twenty-five are brimming with talent and infectious enthusiasm. It was good to see the fine but hidden nine-piece band get an onstage curtain call.

The Shaftesbury Theatre hasn’t had that many long runners, but I suspect that is about to change. Great fun.

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Well, that’s a theatrical first. I had to wash all my clothes when I got home from this. Twickenham Theatre’s theatrical blood budget is very generous, David Badella is a very keen throat-slitter and I was on the front row! Had I not enjoyed the show so much, I might have been inclined to send them a cleaning bill.

I never tire of this show (just as well as this is the first of four in the next twelve months). I’ve seen it staged in spaces from 50 to 2000, by opera companies and amateurs, in converted victorian swimming pools and underground night clubs. This is a room above a pub, one of the smallest but also one of the best productions – and certainly the bloodiest. Given the space available it’s nothing short of miraculous and a great tribute to its director Derek Anderson, making his professional directing debut. Rachel Stone’s design used the limited space behind and below brilliantly, even managing a moving chair, oven and a grave (this was a great idea for the prologue). The cast often occupied parts of the auditorium close to the stage and this was very effective.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the story of the barber, deported but now returned, whose revenge gets out of hand as he slits the throats of virtually everyone who sits in his chair, providing meat for Mrs Lovett’s pies. Here it’s perfectly well told with a cast of just nine who are also the chorus. I thought it was a particularly well sung Sweeney, happily without need of amplification in this space. David Badella’s rich bass-baritone did full justice to Sweeney’s songs and Sarah Ingram squeezed every ounce of humour from Sondheim’s brilliant lyrics for Mrs Lovett – and they were terrific together. Casting Director Anne Vosser has put together a superb supporting cast of veterans and newcomers, including an impressive professional debut from Genevieve Kingsford as Johanna and an equally impressive performance from newcomer Josh Tevendale as Anthony, without a weak link in it.

This is Twickenham Theatre’s first show; what a sensational start. They’ve set the bar high for themselves and for the coming Sweeney’s. Gold stars all round.

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There was a time when I wasn’t interested in hearing songs from musicals performed out of context; now I can’t seem to get enough – this is the second of three evenings this month. There are five Sondheim compilation shows and this is one of the two most famous, but after it’s premiere run in Oxford 22 years ago (starring Diana Rigg, no less) it never got to the West End – well, until now. It’s been worth the wait.

It’s an unpredictable selection, with four from the film Dick Tracy, two from rarity The Frogs (which co-incidentally I will be seeing for the first time on Saturday) and numbers from the less well-known Do I Hear A Waltz? and Anyone Can Whistle and that’s actually part of its appeal. They are not just sung, they are performed by the characters for whom they were written by a quintet of seasoned musicals professionals – David Badella, Daniel Crossley, Janine Dee, Damien Humbley & Caroline Sheen. I loved the arrangements for piano, double bass, trumpet and three woodwind and they were played beautifully by an extraordinarily young band under Theo Jamieson.

As solos or in various combinations, these songs are interpreted with meaning and you savour every word of Sondheim’s incomparable lyrics. You know they’ve worked when you’re on the edge of your seat willing Janine Dee to make it through the manic Not Getting Married Today (which she does, to perfection), you’re laughing uproariously at Daniel Crossley’s hysterical take on Buddy’s Blues and Being Alive brings a tear to your eye just by being uplifting. There’s some sprightly choreography, a conceit that they’re all at a cocktail party and the only props are a chaise longue and a drinks table, but it’s the songs that make the show.

Producer & musical supervisor Alex Parker, director Alastair Knights & choreographer Matthew Rowland, like MD Theo Jamieson, have all graduated in the last 18 months and there’s a youthfulness, energy and freshness about the whole thing; a towering achievement indeed.

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Sometimes you look back on an old classic and it seems ever so of the moment, but on a more modern classic and it seems ever so dated. So it is with this 30-year old three-acter (not a trilogy i.e. three plays, in my view). Having said that, there was much to enjoy at this Menier Chocolate Factory revival.

In the first act we meet drag queen Arnold as he meets Ed. This takes place in his dressing room, in front of a row of light bulb bordered mirrors. In the second act, Ed is now in a relationship with Laurel and Arnold with the much younger Alan. This is brilliantly staged in one big bed as they writhe and turn into different combinations. In the third act, Arnold is in the process of adopting a dysfunctional youngster when Ed comes back on the scene and mother turns up.

The first act doesn’t get the play off to a particularly good start, but it hits its stride in the second. There are some great lines and the relationships between Arnold and his typical though somewhat stereotypical mother is nicely spiky and with David, the potential adoptee, very moving. Ed isn’t a particularly believable character though, and this proves to be a fatal law. Even though I saw the original West End production of Harvey Fierstein’s play (with Anthony Sher as Arnold), I’m not sure if this is the character or the characterisation of Joe McFadden.

Douglas Hodge stages the second and third act well and Soutra Gilmour turns this small space from dressing room into bedroom into virtually a whole apartment cleverly (using the same row of mirrors / windows). David Badella is very good as Arnold and there’s a lovely cameo in the third play from Sara Kestleman as his Jewish mom.

I enjoyed the evening, but more as an opportunity to check out the play after 30 years than anything else. 2 hours 50 mins is a long time to spend on the Menier’s unrelentingly hard seats (on a uncharacteristically hot evening), so perhaps it’s a tribute to it that it held my attention despite this. Worth a re-visit or a first visit, but don’t go expecting too much.

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I was lucky enough to be passing through Chicago (as one does) when the second incarnation of this show, then named Bounce (it’s first title was Wise Guys), was playing in 2003. It was OK, but seemed a bit slight for Sondheim – a light musical comedy about a con man. Well, this certainly isn’t that show!

From his deathbed, Addison & Wilson Mizner’s father encourages his sons Wilson and Addison to go off and make names for themselves and change the world, as you can only do in the US of A. The story of their attempts to fulfill his wishes start with the Alaska gold rush and ends with a property development in Florida, the idea of which comes from Addison’s new partner (in every sense of the word), rich boy  Hollis Bessemer. In between, the brother’s relationship moves between closeness and antagonism, with Wilson’s con man tendencies and Addison’s relationship with Hollis piling on the pressure.

It had little depth back in 2003 and one was left with a ‘what are you getting at?’ feeling. ‘This is Sondheim; it can’t be as simple as all that’. Following a number of re-writes and productions, and more significantly for me, the fact that it comes after the credit crunch, and we get a show that examines both the American dream and brotherly love. In many ways it resembles Assassins – both in terms of musical style and the fact that both are poking around in the American psyche. This new incarnation does have depth and is now very much a Sondheim show. Thank god he and John Weidman persisted for so long; many would have given up.

John Doyle’s traverse staging has extraordinary pace and intimacy. There’s no set as such, just props piled up at both ends to be brought on when required and a lot of fake money to be thrown around. The 8-piece band under Catherine Jayes play the score superbly. I do think it is musically a bit derivative, though – but of Sondheim himself; there were a number of occasions when I was thinking ‘ I’ve heard that before’.

Michael Jibson and David Badella as the brothers are both absolutely brilliant, with real chemistry between them. Jon Robyns is excellent as Hollis and both Glyn Kerslake and Gillian Bevan make much of the relatively small roles of mama and papa. The tightly knit ensemble of eight play all other characters and constitute a chorus that glides and flows with the story.

It zips along so quickly that I felt I’d not been able to take it all in, so when I got home I booked to go back!

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