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”

Review: Cats, London Palladium

Published in What's on Stage on October 27, 2015

Cats is back – again – with a new leading feline: Beverley Knight. Billing her as the “queen of British soul” might be overselling it, but the pop singer has successfully carved a new career for herself in big-budget musicals: she starred in The Bodyguard and then in Memphis. But can her performance as Grizabella live up to the memory of previous star-turns in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical? Continue reading “Review: Cats, London Palladium”

Review: Dusty, Charing Cross Theatre

Published in What's on Stage on September 8, 2015

It may be the latest musical to open in the West End, but Dusty is already a little, well, dusty: it’s been playing in previews since May. Ominously, several directors, choreographers, and cast members have come and gone already. The positive spin on this is that it’s already exceeded its initial run; some people had to scoot for prior commitments. But, having seen this woefully misguided show, I’d bet they had other reasons for scrabbling for their contracts to see how soon they could leave… Continue reading “Review: Dusty, Charing Cross Theatre”

Kinky Boots: Is this a musical to fall head over heels for?

Published in The Independent on Sunday on August 16, 2015

The heels are six inches tall, the legs above them long, lean, and shapely, and the smiles are 100-watt. But if you think musical theatre is all tits’n’teeth, then the stars of Kinky Boots fail on one count at least… the show’s most glamorous performers are cross-dressing men. You see, Kinky Boots began life as an independent British film in 2005, based on the true story of a Northampton shoe factory saved from bankruptcy by diversifying into making sexy heels for transvestites. Continue reading “Kinky Boots: Is this a musical to fall head over heels for?”