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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Deiling’

This audacious musical / pop concert, subtitled Divorced * Beheaded * Live!, puts Henry VIII’s six wives into a contemporary girl group, individually telling their story in song, competing for who had the hardest time, and together commenting on their common ground, and it’s huge fun, this week’s second breath of fresh air for the West End.

Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss’ show has some of the catchiest tunes you’ll hear on a theatre stage, and clever lyrics too. Though there is dialogue between songs, much direct to the audience, the story is largely told through music by the six sassy, bitchy girl power Queens, backed by a cracking all-girl rock band. The excellent costumes and lighting – Gabriella Slade & Tim Deiling respectively – both have a girl band aesthetic, and the audience were cheering and whooping as if they were at a pop concert rather than a musical.The six performers – Jarmeia Richard-Noel, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Alexia McIntosh, Aimie Atkinson & Maiya Quanasah-Breed – give the wives their individuality in uniformly great performances, and Katie Richardson’s band – the Ladies in Waiting – are great too. Jamie Armitage co-directs a playful production with writer Lucy Moss.

It shouldn’t really work, I’m hardly the target audience and you wouldn’t think it’s my thing, but I loved it!

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This 2009 musical is an adaptation of 90’s US band Green Day’s 2004 comeback concept album of the same name, a ‘punk rock opera’ along the lines, conceptually, of The Who’s Tommy. I’m not a Green Day fan, but it’s clear you’d be hard pressed to find a better score for a rock musical. The original production, directed by Spring Awakening’s Michael Meyer, ran on Broadway for a year then toured the UK in 2012, ending with a short residency at Hammersmith Apollo, but this is its first proper West End outing.

It tells the story in song of three friends who leave home together. One turns back before the adventure has started when his girlfriend announces she’s pregnant. Another is seduced by the military en route and is soon heading for Iraq. Johnny continues his drug-fuelled adventure under the influence of St. Jimmy, falling in love with a girl called Whatshername. There’s next to no dialogue and the sound doesn’t allow all of the lyrics to get through, so if you’re unfamiliar with the music you struggle to fully comprehend the narrative, but it’s clearly an examination of the plight of the American youth post-09/11.

I thought The Arts Theatre might be too small for it, but it isn’t. Sara Perks grungy design, with excellent rock show lighting from Tim Deiling, makes great use of the space. This is a big gig for director / choreographer Racky Plews (who I will forever be grateful to for her wonderful Guys & Dolls Upstairs at the Gatehouse) and she does a terrific job. The four male leads are all great. Aaron Sidwell has huge charisma as Johnny. Alexis Gerred’s journey from punk to GI injured in war is very well played. Steve Rushton has the less ‘sexy’ role of stay-at-home Will, in which he acquits himself well. Lucas Rush plays the faustian St. Jimmy with just the right combination of danger and dark humour. Much has been made of the casting of X-Factor’s Amelia Lily, but it’s not a big role (particularly in the vocal department), though she performs it very well. There’s a great ensemble and a crack 4-piece band on the upper level.

I’m not a Green Day fan, but I was impressed by this. They need to work on the sound before opening night to make it less muddy and to make all of the lyrics fully audible. That done, I think this will be a hit and may well transfer after its three months at the Arts. Next month provides an opportunity to re-visit Tommy, the first rock opera, in Greenwich. I can’t wait.

 

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After Saturday’s adult fairy tale, Sunday’s new British musical was a fantasy in moledom! I’ve never read William Horwood’s novel of the same name (or the five sequels!) so I came to this musical adaptation cold. It’s set in communities of moles, who have a society which includes a king, some sort of religion based around a stone, a healer and rival factions.

The story begins as King (I think) Mandrake casts out his daughter Rebecca for consorting with someone from another group of moles (there are pasture moles, stone moles and Duncton moles, though I never really got to grip with these different sects). He’s even mean enough to kill her and her babies, though she is healed herself and adopts Bracken’s baby. Rune is the real baddie, who’s out to dispose of any opposition and usurp Mandrake. To be honest, the book by James Peries isn’t at all clear and I never really unravelled the story so there’s little point in me elaborating further.

Mark Carroll’s score fares better, with some nice tunes and choruses, though a little too much sung dialogue for my liking (particularly from Rune). There are moments when it becomes too pompous in a pop opera way, but there are also lovely moments like the duet Moonshine and the chorus Hulver’s Dream.

Whatever you think of the material, you can’t help but be impressed by Michael Strassen’s production. I wasn’t convinced at first by the configuration, with the audience on two sides of a square, bit it quickly made sense. Beautifully lit by Tim Deiling, with a very imaginative design by Jean Gray, the look is great and the movement by Strassen himself outstanding. There were some good vocals, particularly from Oli Reynolds as Cairn, Amelia-Rose Morgan as Rebecca and especially Josh Little as Bracken. The keyboard heavy 5-piece backstage band sounded good.

The second half is better than the first (and began to make sense before it lost me again!) and if the story were made clearer and the first half cut a bit, it would be a much better show. As it is, it’s worth a visit but not a rave.

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