King’s Theatre

A Year Without Blogging: A Brief Overview

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been over a year since I last published a review. For a very long time an essential part of my theatre experience was rushing home from the darkened theatre and pouring my feelings over my laptop keyboard. University, work and private life intervened and regular theatre-going and the fun of reviewing ebbed from my life.

You may be wondering if I have still attended the theatre during my unofficial hiatus. Of course I have. In an attempt to get my blog up and running again, here is a brief summary of the shows I have seen since my last publication…

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s production of West Side Story was incredibly moving and memorable with its geometrical stage design. Matthew Tomlinson was particularly fantastic as Tony with deliciously smooth vocals. I cannot wait to see what he will get up to after he graduates. The show’s choreography, too, was a delight to watch.

The King’s Speech at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow featured a fantastic sound design and a modern visual staging. Gaining points for the use of a ‘true story,’ the show was engaging and I particularly enjoyed the sections featuring the ever mysterious Wallis Simpson, oozing with glamour and forbidden seduction.

The Lyceum’s Hedda Gabler was a fascinating production. I was simply mesmerised by scene transitions as Hedda’s fantasies came to life before my eyes, her dark thirst for power and domination a startling contrast to the Victorian values of her day. A play that begs to be analysed, Hedda Gabler is dazzling on the page and slightly less captivating on stage. Nevertheless, an interesting and thought provoking production.

Barnum at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow was a riotous circus musical for all the family. The relationship between Barnum and his wife Cherry is heartbreaking to follow in the midst of a show of so much fun. Linzi Hateley shone as the often forgotten yet essential Cherry Barnum, her vocals providing some of the best moments of the evening. Brian Connolly’s tightrope walking is the ultimate nail biter of the show, providing an ‘you could hear a pin drop’ moment to remember. The score is full of fun numbers and the use of reprises really builds on the construction of the relationship between the two leads. Overall a very enjoyable production although I personally would have preferred less audience interaction.

I wrote a full review of Dance Til’ Dawn at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow which can be viewed here (and I liked this one so much that I had to see it twice).

I also wrote a full review of The Straw Chair at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow. It can be read here.

The Woman in Black at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow was brimming with perfectly executed moments of suspense and jump scares. An essential ingredient to the success of The Woman in Black is, of course, the mysterious lady herself who should, at least in my vision of the show, achieve an ethereal creepiness by slowly pacing across the stage, almost gliding towards her victim, graceful yet deadly. Instead, a terrifying moment perfectly built up through levels of suspense and loud noises, was all but ruined by a clumsy and almost comical ghost sprinting across the stage at top speed, her knees up to her chin and her legs flailing everywhere. This error diminished my respect for the thriller aspect of the show. Had the spectre remained chillingly ghost-like and threatening then The Woman in Black would have been a remarkably thrilling and fascinating theatrical experience.

Anything Goes at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow was a bittersweet experience due to the announcement of the UK Tour’s early closure which was made public only days before I sat in the theatre to see the show. However, it didn’t take long after the curtain rose to realise that the early closure was forgivable. It is difficult to pin point what was wrong with the show; there was simply something missing. In a show that demands slick choreography for showstopping numbers, the dance routines seemed basic and repetitive. Zoe Rainey’s vocals, however, redeemed the show from monotony and the set design, too, was very satisfying.

I wrote a full review of Fever Dream: Southside here and this one was a cracker.

The War Hasn’t Started Yet, part of the Oran Mor’s Play, Pie and a Pint series, was a political piece filled with Brechtian techniques and comical sketches that explored society’s fears and insecurities. The three performers flitted from sketch to sketch with remarkable ease, contrasting characters being brought to life and fleshed out in seconds. Anita Vettesse was particularly memorable as the abused wife in the latter half of the show. This production was something quite different from anything I’ve seen before and it was an enjoyable, intriguing experience.

The Songbook of Judy Garland at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow was a delightful showcase of Garland’s career, her signature songs revisited by a string of West End performers. Most enjoyable were the scenes featuring the fantastic Louise Dearman and of course it was a delight to witness Garland’s eldest daughter, Lorna Luft, pay tribute to her late mother. The finale was, appropriately, an emotional group performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, sending the audience drifting into the streets to remember the golden days of Hollywood and the troubled career of one of its greatest stars.

I’ve already written a review of my beloved Top Hat which I revisited (again) at the Sunderland Empire. You can read it here.

Swallow at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh was produced in conjunction with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was very well received by all who attended. A quirky script with hidden depth, Swallow was equally comic and tragic, exploring the desire to survive. The ever fantastic Anita Vettesse delivered an incredible performance as the troubled Rebecca and Emily Watcher, too, was shatteringly brilliant, the physicality of her performance was remarkable to watch. A well written play that somewhat let itself down with a cliche ending, I purchased the script for this show and cannot wait to read it at some point.

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None will always be one of my favourite plays. The production that visited the King’s Theatre, Glasgow featured a gorgeous set design and a fantastic execution of Christie’s twisted tale. To my delight, this production revived the original denouement, producing plenty of audible gasps from the audience. Always a chilling and captivating show, it is one that I would revisit again and again.

An Inspector Calls at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow proved to be one of the best shows I have seen. Heavily focusing on the construction of family, society, and public appearance, the set design embodied the show’s attack on capitalism and the destruction of the upper class through the slow disintegration and collapse of the dollhouse-like home of the Birlings that dominates the set. A show that begs to be analysed, I loved getting my teeth into this J.B. Priestley plot.

The UK Tour of Rebecca was an interesting adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier classic. Somewhat modernised and featuring an unusual score and puppet dog (!), one of my favourite novels was brought to the stage in a unique, quirky vision. Not my favourite adaption, this production still managed to capture the tension between the newlyweds and the deceased Rebecca in the midst of an absurd mix of dancing, puppetry and floating boats.

White Christmas at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre was the perfect Christmas treat. Martine McMenemey and Jamie Noar were stand outs amongst an incredibly strong cast in this faultless production that made me incredibly proud of the Scottish theatre scene. This was my first Pitlochry production and it certainly will not be my last.

As a fan of Tom Chambers, Private Lives at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow was a must see. This production was delivered with all the speed and humour of a typical Noel Coward play, overflowing with clever quips and quickfire bickering. Hugely enjoyable, this was a fantastic adaption of the Coward classic I adore.

Evita at the Barrfield Theatre, Largs was a surprisingly slick and innovative adaption of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This amateur production featured a superb range of moving performances and it was a delight to hear my favourite score performed live once more. Perhaps the best On This Night of a Thousand Stars that I have ever heard and a heartbreaking finale as Peron collapses in emotional exhaustion over his wife’s coffin. A strong musical and a very strong production.

This Restless House was a Greek tragedy trilogy at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow featuring haunting musical interludes that are still circling my brain. Pauline Knowles was incredible as Clytemnestra in Zinnie Harris’ modern take on The Oresteia.

Mary Poppins at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh was one of the most spectacular performances I have ever seen. Elaborate set and costume designs complimented the many showstoppers which continued to build in size and theatricality, making this show a thrill to watch. Zizi Strallen was ‘practically perfect’ as the titular role whilst Rebecca Lock provided stunning vocals as the struggling Mrs Banks.

Annie at the Edinburgh Playhouse gave a powerful punch with a strong young ensemble of orphans. A glorious design a la Matilda, Annie was a delight to watch and was aided by the appearance of Scottish favourite Elaine C Smith as the nasty Miss Hannigan. A tale of hope and determination, this spontaneous theatre trip proved to be one of my favourites over the past few months and one I wish I could relive again.

And so we are now up to date with all of my theatre-going. Admittedly, it has been several months since I last set foot in a theatre and I miss it terribly. Many UK tours are making their way to Glasgow over the next few months and I look forward to actively attending shows and getting back into the swing of reviewing the shows I love and hate.

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MINI REVIEW: The Bodyguard, King’s Theatre

The Bodyguard UK Tour is one of the hottest tickets in town – and rightly so. An explosive opening number makes way for a spectacular showcase of concert-like performances of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits. Notably, most of the directorial emphasis seems to be placed on the musical numbers throughout the show, the sections of spoken dialogue therefore seem somewhat sandwiched between numbers and rendered as unimportant. Regardless, The Bodyguard is an emotional and powerful show of love and commitment. Zoe Birkett is phenomenal as superstar Rachel Marron, her powerhouse vocals are spectacular to witness whilst her acting is tender and moving. Her renditions of One Moment in Time and, of course, I Will Always Love You are stand out moments in the show, bringing an excited Glasgow audience to a hypnotic hush of awe.

REVIEW: Ghost the Musical, King’s Theatre

In 1990 Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore starred in the tear-jerking romantic fantasy movieGhost. The successful movie gathered 17 awards including two Academy Awards and is remembered for its powerful love story, haunting soundtrack and that iconic pottery scene…
 
Over twenty years later Ghost the Musical has arrived to capture the hearts of another generation with its timeless tale of love, loss and heartache. Ghost the Musical has enjoyed time on the West End and on Broadway and has now set out on its first ever UK tour. With a book and lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin (the screenwriter behind the movie) and music and lyrics by Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart (one half of the successful pop duo Eurythmics) this show promises to be a night of laughter, tears and excellent music.
 
For the benefit of the rare person who is not familiar with the plot of Ghost, it centres around young lovers Sam Wheat and Molly Jensen who have just moved into their first apartment together, helped by Sam’s close friend and fellow banker, Carl Bruner. On their way home one evening Sam and Molly discuss getting married even though he struggles to say the three little words Molly yearns to hear him speak. They are attacked at gun point during their journey home and Sam is shot and killed. Sam is unable to pass through to the next world, determined to protect Molly after discovering that she is in extreme danger. Sam must try to persuade Oda Mae Brown, a fraud medium who is not as fake as she thinks she is, to help him save Molly from a fate similar to his own.
 
Stewart Clarke shines as Sam Wheat. His vocals are strong and full of passion, providing the audience with a very convincing and lovable Sam. His determination to protect Molly is apparent throughout and his chemistry with Rebecca Trehearn (who portrays Molly Jensen) is fantastically convincing from the first scene till the last. Trehearn provides unique and clear vocals that are full of emotion, as does David Roberts who was wonderful as the somewhat suspicious Carl Bruner. Wendy Mae Brown as Oda Mae Brown brings the comedy relief required in this powerful and emotional show, channeling Whoopi Goldberg all the way. The acting by all on stage is of a very natural and realistic nature which, from the moment the Overture fades, instantly grabs your attention and pulls you in to the iconic story line. I believe that these performers provided some of the strongest and most convincing portrayals that I have ever seen, making this one of the most moving and memorable shows around. The only fault I could find in this production was that, on several occasions, I felt the vocals were being drowned out by the orchestra. This was obvious during the musical numbers More and Are You A Believer? But it did not take anything away from this excellent show.
 
Visually, the tour’s set is (from the production shots I have seen) identical to the West End production. Around the stage there are large screens that helped to create illusions such as a subway train and often helped to set the scene. Although I felt these screens were overused in the first ten or so minutes of the show, their use was afterwards balanced and effective, giving Ghost the Musical a very modern edge. This modern feel was continued by the musical numbers, often upbeat, catchy and sometimes haunting.
 
It would be impossible to write about Ghost the Musical without mentioning the special effects, designed by illusionist Paul Kieve. Eye-catching, clever and moving, these illusions are the icing on the cake and help to make Ghost the Musical the phenomenal production that it is.
 
If you have the opportunity to see this show then I highly recommend it. Remember your tissues – you’ll need them! It seems appropriate to end this review with the word most commonly associated to Ghost the Musical: Believe.

REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, King’s Theatre

For two weeks only, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s touring musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is residing in Glasgow’s King’s Theatre. Starring a cast of eighteen members include a very strong ensemble, Joseph transports the audience “way way back, many centuries ago” and tells the iconic biblical story of Joseph, his adoring father and eleven jealous brothers.
 
Ian H Watkins, best known as H in the successful band of the late 1990s and early 2000s Steps is featured in many advertising campaigns for this tour of Joseph and indeed is the star of the show. No matter if he is sporting some rags, a coat of many colours or simply a loin cloth, Watkins looks like he is having the time of his life playing the role of his dreams. His vocals are surprisingly strong and clear, his rendition of Close Every Door being a stand out moment of the show that promises to raise more than a few goosebumps towards the climax of the well known song. 
 
Jennifer Potts was far from the vocally powerful actress required for the role of the Narrator. Her voice was lost among the harmonising choir of children thus most of the storyline drifted over the audience’s head, the essential lyrical guide to the musical completely drowned out. This makes Joseph a very hard show to watch, it is near impossible to relax and simply enjoy the show, even for those familiar with the biblical story. When Potts could be heard, her voice was not pleasant to the ear, making her a curious choice for the character that must carry the show.
 
However, it must be acknowledged that the rest of the company were of an excellent standard. Go Go Go Joseph soloists Meg Astin and Sackie Osakonor provided some of the best vocals of the night. The choreography by Henry Metcalfe is a delight to watch, another stand out moment being the Parisian dance during Those Canaan Days. 
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a feel good show that doesn’t quite reach the heights it has the potential to reach due to unfortunate casting. A mishap with Joseph’s multicoloured coat resulted in a somewhat tangled mess that was no where near the impressive fan effect usually seen in promotional shots for the show – another disappointment to add to the collection.
 
If you are a fan of Steps then it is worth a trip to see Ian H Watkin’s fantastic portrayal of Joseph. If you are a fan of the show then perhaps it is better to steer clear of this production of the show.

REVIEW: Evita, King’s Theatre

For two weeks only Glasgow is being treated to superb performances of the iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical Evita! A touring production that was last seen in Glasgow only two years ago, this show has not lost any of its sparkle and is drawing audiences from all over (at the Saturday evening show I was sat beside a group of English ladies and an American couple along side the usual Glasgow punters). 
 
Based on real events, Evita tells the story of the bold young Eva Duarte who, determined to become a star, travels to Buenos Aires and begins her astonishing climb from the “sticks” to the powerful status of First Lady of Argentina. As Eva Peron, she dazzles and seduces the nation, make her one of the most loved – and hated – women of all time. No expense is spared to portray the contrasting lives of the young, lower class Eva and her extravagant lifestyle as she reaches the peak of her fame and power. The set, lighting and costumes are of excellent quality and as a fashion enthusiast, I thoroughly enjoyed admiring the 1940s fashionable glamour featured in the show, the climax of such glamour being successfully reached during the highly anticipated “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.” A finger must also be pointed to the lighting, designed by Mark Howett, complimenting both the performers and the set, dramatising some scenes and creating shivers in others.
Portuguese powerhouse Madalena Alberto stars as Evita, charming her audience and transporting us back in time to the days of Peronism. It is evident from the beginning of the show that Alberto is an extremely talented actress; her “Buenos Aires” contains so much energy and enthusiasm that it would simply be impossible to disbelieve anything that she says. One of many highlights of Alberto’s outstanding vocals would have to be “Rainbow High,” a song that challenges most performers and this one certainly showed no signs of being phased by the many challenges laid out in front of her as she tackles one of the most talked about roles in musical theatre. She is accompanied by Glaswegian Marti Pellow, the lead singer of band Wet Wet Wet. As Che, Pellow acts as the narrator of the show with amusing asides and entertaining antics. Whilst he may not be the strongest singer to take on the role of Che, Pellow puts his heart and soul into his performance and is embraced warmly by the Glasgow audience. Mark Heenehan once again reprises the role of Peron, one he has been playing on and off for the past seven years and is supported by two returnees, Nic Gibney as tango singer Magaldi and Sarah McNicholas as Peron’s young mistress, providing a beautiful version of the song “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” The ensemble, like their predecessors in the 2011 Evita tour, are excellent, portraying both the descamisados and the oligarch with ease, their vocals and dance moves thrilling the audience. 
 
Evita is a masterpiece, providing joy and jerking tears along the way. With a strong cast and an impressive production, this tour should not be missed!