Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘London Theatre Workshop’

Best New Play(s) – The James Plays

First up its plays, new ones, and when I counted I was surprised to find I’d seen 75 of them, including a pleasing half-dozen at the NT. My long list only brought that down to 31 so I had to be real hard to get to the Top Ten short-list of Versailles at the Donmar, Good People & Wonderland at Hampstead, Wet House at Soho, The Visitors at the Arcola (now at the Bush), 1927’s Golem at the Young Vic and 3 Winters & The James Plays from the National Theatre of Scotland at the NT – a three-play feast which pipped the others at the post.

Best Revival (Play) – shared by Accolade and My Night With Reg

I saw fewer revivals – a mere 44! – but 18 were there at the final cut. The Young Vic had a stonking year with Happy Days, A Streetcar Named Desire & A View From a Bridge, the latter two getting into my top ten with the Old Vic’s The Crucible, the Open Air’s All My Sons (that’s no less than 3 Millers) the NT’s Medea, Fathers & Sons at the Donmar, True West at the Tricycle and the Trafalgar Transformed Richard III. In the end I copped out, unable to choose between My Night with Reg at the Donmar and Accolade at the St James.

Best New Musical – Made in Dagenham

I was a bit taken aback at the total of 25 new musicals, 10 of which got through the first round, including the ill-fated I Can’t Sing, Superman in Walthamstow (coming soon to Leicester Square Theatre) , In the Heights at Southwark and London Theatre Workshop’s Apartment 40C. I struggled to get to one from the six remaining, which included the NT’s Here Lies Love and five I saw twice – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dogfight at Southwark, Hampstead’s Kinkfest Sunny Afternoon and Dessa Rose at Trafalgar Studio Two – but eventually I settled on a great new British musical Made in Dagenham.

Best Revival (Musical) – Sweeney Todd in Harrington’s Pie Shop, Tooting

An extraordinary year for musical revivals with 38 to choose from and 22 serious contenders including 7 outside London (two of which I short-listed – Hairspray in Leicester and Gypsy in Chichester) and not one but two Sweeney Tood’s! Difficult not to choose Damn Yankees at the Landor, a lovely Love Story at the Union, more Goodall with the NYMT’s The Hired Man at St James Theatre, Blues in the Night at Hackney, Sweeney Todd at the ill-fated Twickenham Theatre and Assassins at the Menier, plus the Arcola’s Carousel which was so good I went twice in its short run. In the end though, expecting and accepting accusations of bias, I have to go for the other Sweeney Todd in Harrington”s Pie Shop here in Tooting – funnier & scarier, beautifully sung & played and in the perfect location, bringing Sondheim to Tooting – in person too!

Best Out of Town – National Theatre Wales’ Mametz

I have to recognise my out-of-town theatregoing, where great theatre happens too, and some things start out (or end up!). The best this year included a superb revival of a recent Broadway / West End show, Hairspray at Leicester Curve, and one on the way in from Chichester, Gypsy, which I will have to see again when it arrives……. but my winner was National Theatre of Wales’ extraordinary Mametz, taking us back to a World War I battle, in the woods near Usk, in this centenary year.

Best Site Specific Theatre – Symphony of a Missing Room (LIFT 2014)

Finally, a site specific theatre award – just because I love them and because it’s my list, so I can invent any categories I like! Two of the foregoing winners – Sweeney Todd and Mametz – fall into this category but are  now ineligible. The two other finalists were I Do, a wedding in the Hilton Docklands, and Symphony of a Missing Room, a blindfolded walk through the Royal Academy buildings as part of LIFT, which piped the other at the post.

With some multiple visits, 2014 saw around 200 visits to the theatre, which no other city in the world could offer. As my theatrical man of the year Stephen Sondheim put it in the musical revival of the year – There’s No Place Like London.

 

Read Full Post »

London seems to have more Christmas shows than ever this year, so here’s the antidote – a lovely home-grown new musical without the tiniest fragment of tinsel in sight. Tom Lees & Ray Rackham, London Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Directors, have written, produced, directed and MD’d a hugely impressive show.

Apartment 40C is in New York City and newly graduated Eddie & Katie discover it has been leased to both of them. The fighting doesn’t last long before they agree to share it, and more. Their older selves Ed & Kate, now successful lawyer and journalist respectively are still living there when they arrive at a turning point in their relationship. The even more mature Edward & Kathryn, now divorced, meet back at the apartment where their son has been living at another turning point in their lives.

The show moves back and forth in time between these three life-changing moments and as it does you unravel the story for yourself; I very much liked the jigsaw effect this creates. There are often more than one pairing on stage, with an occasional glance between an older and younger self. The space doesn’t need much of a makeover to pass for an apartment and given the resources of this small company there’s a real authenticity to the set-up. I really liked Tom Lees songs and arrangements, played by himself on piano, with others on cello and violin, and Ray Rackham’s book and lyrics tell the couple’s story well.

They’ve got a uniformly excellent cast. Alex James Ellison & Alex Crossley (an impressive professional début) invest Eddie & Katie with youthful energy and optimism. Drew Weston, who seems to be a new arrival from Australia, and Lizzie Wofford, particularly impressive playing older than her age, are both outstanding as Ed & Kate (four years ago, before her training at Mountview, Lizzie was a terrific Mrs Lovett in NYMT’s Sweeney Todd https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/nymt-sweeney-todd). Peter Gerald & Nova Skipp provide both maturity and musical theatre experience as the mature Edward & Kathryn.

I’m not sure why they chose to set this in NYC, given that its a new British musical – perhaps it seems more plausible there? I’m also not sure how we get from a (controlled rent) apartment to an owned one, but these are minor points in a major achievement. If you are interested in musical theatre or sick of Christmas fare, or both, you really shouldn’t miss this lovely show.

 

Read Full Post »

What a delicious hour of musical theatre for Sondheim fans, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sondheim Society, who co-produced the show. Based on an idea of the society’s administrator Lynne Chapman, who has been collecting material and ‘incubating’ the show for sixteen years, and staged by London Theatre Workshop at their new base in Fulham, it was both a tribute and a loving parody of the undoubted god of musical theatre.

Presented as a revue, it contained existing songs like Andrew Lippa’s Marshall Levin, Alan Chapman’s Everybody Wants to Be Sondheim and the late Jonathan Larsons homage / riff on Sunday plus excellent new material from Eamonn O’Dwyer, Matt Board and the show’s musical director Alex Parker. It’s set in a rehearsal space where writers, directors and performers step out to give us a song alone, in combination with one or more of the three others or as an ensemble, with terrific accompaniment from MD Alex Parker and excellent staging by Alastair Knights.

Most of all though there are four stunning vocal performances from recent winners and finalists of the society’s annual Student Performer competition. These were faultless star turns from four future stars which completely blew me away. They sang beautifully alone and together they soared. It is rare to see such uniformly fine and faultless performances on any stage and the ovation afforded to Emma Odell, Kris Olsen, Corrine Priest and Jay Worley was richly deserved.

The performance I saw was being recorded, so I hope God gets to see it as he cannot fail to be impressed and moved by this affectionate homage.

Read Full Post »

I missed this show on its brief visit to Trafalgar Studios, so it was good to catch it here at London Theatre Workshop’s new home above The Eel Brook pub in Parson’s Green.

Without a book, this is more songspiel than musical, though you learn as much about its characters as you do in many book musicals. Four young New Yorkers, a couple and two singles, navigate their city entirely in song. Jason and Claire are moving in together, so we see the uneasy first stage of their co-habitation. Deb and Warren meet when he finds her post-graduate notes and seeks to reunite them with their owner. In Jason & Adam’s apartment and in other locations around the city, they sing eighteen songs, mostly as solos but some in combination.

It’s nicely set, surrounded by NYC street signs with a handful of props, by director Ray Rackham and the unbroken score is played extremely well on piano, on stage by Thomas Lees. Four-hander chamber musicals like this are common currency in the US but the music of this Adam Gwon show seeems a cut above to me and it’s particularly sharp lyrically. The songs were very well sung by Oliver Watton & Marcia Brown and Olga-Marie Pratt & Anton Tweedale, the latter pairing with better characterisations (probably more to do with writing than performance).

Theatre Workshop have an exciting programme over the next four months, strong in musical theatre, but they may have to soften the venue’s natural acoustic which is a bit unkind to this type of show. A great start at a welcome new venue, though (and a very good pub!).

Read Full Post »

TENN refers to Tennessee Williams and Four is the number of short plays that make up this evening, none of which I’ve seen before – but that’s hardly surprising given he wrote over 70! What makes these four particularly interesting is that two of them were the source of two of his biggest hits.

The Pretty Trap is a precursor of The Glass Menagerie. The four characters are the same, but young Laura doesn’t have a disability or a collection of glass animals. In other respects it really does feel like a miniature of the later play. In Our Profession is a quirky piece which centres on actress Annabel who has only known Richard for a couple of days but expects lifelong commitment. He gets neighbour Paul to gatecrash to take the pressure off him, but Annabel then makes a move on Paul with a more positive outcome, before Richard calls for further reinforcements. This was the shortest but great fun.

Interior : Panic is the genesis of A Streetcar Named Desire, though here Stanley is Jack and Stella is Grace. It’s like a compressed version of the full play, with all the core story and ingredients. In fact, it made you wonder if the later version had more than a bit of padding! The Case of the Crushed Petunia is another quirky piece about a shopkeeper distraught at the damage to her flower-beds, which leads to an absurd turn of events. It developed an unpredictability which I very much liked as it became ever more surreal.

They fit rather well together and provide a fascinating insight into early TW. They were all written between 1939, just three years after his first play, and 1945, a year after The Glass Menagerie was a full length hit and two years before Streetcar repeated the success. Here they are well staged with just period props effectively conveying period and location. Six actors share all of the roles, each playing in two or three plays, with three directors sharing staging duties and design.

A must for TW fans.

Read Full Post »