Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

As American as, well, apple pie, this Broadway musical is adapted from the 2007 film about a small-town waitress stuck in an abusive marriage who pours her dreams into the pies she makes.

Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson’s musical arrives in the West End with its cherry still on top, in the form of Katharine McPhee as the lead Jenna, with a fantastic, full-bodied voice. 

Bareilles’ music is a treat, with peppy, confident melodies, lovely harmonising between the waitresses and lyrics that are funny and tart.

Jenna gets pregnant, reluctantly keeps the baby, and then falls for her obstetrician. When she hears of a pie-making contest with $20,000 prize money, it looks like her way out.

There are goofy subplots with fellow waitresses Becky and Dawn, the former getting it on with their grumpy chef while the latter finds love with a civil war re-enactment enthusiast.

Director Diane Paulus does well to give all three women a sense of joyful sexual empowerment, but they are rarely more than caricatures. Marisha Wallace’s Becky is written as a sassy black-woman stereotype, while Dawn (Laura Baldwin) becomes pretty when she takes off her glasses.

There is something jarring, too, about mixing the abuse plotline with such zany comedy.

Waitress has bags of charm and polish – but also a little too much sugar.

Review: Six the Musical, Arts Theatre

Published in Time Out on August 31, 2018

‘Remember us from your GCSEs?’

It’s Henry VIII’s six wives – and they’re back, bitch, to re-tell ‘her-story’ as a slick, sassy girl band. Think Euro-pop remixes of ‘Greensleeves’, Anne Boleyn spouting tweenage text-speak (‘everybody chill/it’s totes God’s will’), and K-Howard warbling #MeToo tales of gropey employers. Continue reading “Review: Six the Musical, Arts Theatre”

Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Published in Mail on Sunday on September 1, 2018

This 1982 cult musical has always been a potty favourite: hapless florist Seymour cultivates an alien plant with an appetite for human flesh – a Faustian pact that wins him fame, fortune and Audrey, the girl of his dreams. Continue reading “Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre”

Imelda Staunton on the National’s new blockbuster musical Follies

Published in The Telegraph on July 14, 2017

It may not open till next month, but the first release of tickets for Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the National Theatre are already entirely sold out. However thousands more are on sale today from 8.30am, at the same time as a first-look photograph of the cast is unveiled.

The level of love for the musical has surprised its star, Imelda Staunton – but then, it hasn’t had a full staging in London since 1987. The story of the Weismann Follies’ vaudeville showgirls, who return to the theatre they performed in 30 years previously, features standards such as ‘Losing My Mind and ‘I’m Still Here’, and garners serious devotion among Sondheim fans.

Continue reading “Imelda Staunton on the National’s new blockbuster musical Follies”

Review: The Girls, Phoenix Theatre

Published in What's on Stage on February 22, 2017

You’d have to have a heart dry as an old sunflower seed not to moved by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical version of The Calendar Girls. Based on the – by now very familiar – story of a Yorkshire WI group who posed for a nude calendar to raise money after the husband of one of their members, Annie, died of cancer, the musical follows the hit film and play of the story (both also by Firth). But it proves a tale that still has the capacity to raise a smile – as well as funds for Bloodwise, a cancer charity. Continue reading “Review: The Girls, Phoenix Theatre”

Review: Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum

Published in What's on Stage on April 5, 2016

This semi-staged production is the second musical-in-an-opera-house collaboration between ENO and the GradeLinnit Company, following Sweeney Todd last year; this time, it’s star-powered by Glenn Close. She’s making her West End debut as Norma Desmond, the faded, reclusive star of the silent screen who enlists a screenwriter named Joe (Michael Xavier) to work on her come-back project, a movie of Salome. Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard, London Coliseum”

Grey Gardens: how a hit musical adapts the cult 1975 documentary

Published in The Independent on Sunday on January 3, 2016

“If there’s anything worse than a staunch woman … S-T-A-U-N-C-H – there’s nothing worse, I’m telling you. They don’t weaken. No matter what. ” So said “Little Edie” Beale in the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens – but generations of viewers have not agreed with her, taking this staunch woman fully to their hearts. So much so that it spawned a hit musical. Continue reading “Grey Gardens: how a hit musical adapts the cult 1975 documentary”

Review: The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion, SSE Swalec Stadum

Published in The Independent on December 20, 2015

Only the imagination of Gruff Rhys could have come up with this singular show. He expands his 2007 album Candylion into a psychedelic fable – for all the family! Billed by National Theatre Wales as a “theatre gig”, live music propels the story, with the audience standing or moving about the space. Continue reading “Review: The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion, SSE Swalec Stadum”

Why Christmas shows are going down a psychedelic rabbit hole

Published in The Independent on Sunday on December 4, 2015

At no other time of the year are family-friendly shows more welcome than at Christmas. Yet it’s also often a time of boringly traditional, bankable fare. Panto reigns and theatre can tend towards the literary, twee and old-fashioned: Dickensian orphans in the faux snow, endless visits to Narnia and Neverland. This year, however, there’s a sleigh-full of alternative shows hurtling down a distinctly psychedelic rabbit hole. Continue reading “Why Christmas shows are going down a psychedelic rabbit hole”