Monday, 29 December 2014

The Phantom of the Opera: Review

The Phantom of the Opera has been seen by over 100 million people worldwide, and is the most commercially successful entertainment event ever. I had always promised my mother that my first visit to Her Majesty's Theatre would be with her, and so we embarked this evening.

The hype that comes with Phantom is unfathomable; celebrating its 28th year in London, following a sell-out 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall starring Ramin Karimloo, and brand new productions touring the UK, US and further afield, it is easy to say that people can easily be swept up into the Phantom storm without seeing what is really behind that all to famous mask.

But if they were too look, as I did tonight, they would see a truly phenomenal production that, quite frankly, has blown everything I have ever seen out of the water. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's outstanding score, combined with an excellent book by Webber and Richard Stilgoe enables seamless transitions between song and speech.

The Phantom (Gerónimo Rauch) taking Christine to his lair.
The musical itself is based on Gaston Leroux's novel 'Le Fantome de l'Opéra' and tells the story of Christine Daaé, a very talented soprano, who rises to success through the help of an "angel of music". The angel is more commonly referred to as The Phantom, and haunts the Paris Opera House within which Christine performs, ensuring that it is run the way he wants it to be run, and that horrible events take place when it isn't. All the time, the physically deformed and grotesque Phantom seeks the love of Christine, with whom he is obsessed, much to the displeasure of her childhood friend, Raoul.

The Phantom, this evening, was played by Gerónimo Rauch, and what an excellent performance it was! The pain etched on his face within his lair as he let Christine go reduced me to tears - the kind of tears where your entire body sobs with your eyes - making it very clear how he had previously held down a phenomenal almost 3 year run as Jean Valjean in nearby Les Mis.

Emmi Christensson, who played Christine, and Raoul, portrayed by Liam Tamne, had fantastic on-stage chemistry.Their Act 1 finale has adorable, creating a delightful contrast with the violent outburst from The Phantom sending the phenomenal chandelier crashing back to the stage.

Within a very talented group of singers and dancers, Alicia Beck stood out as Meg Giry, Christine's friend and confident. Every single time she walked on stage, my eyes went straight to her. On top of this, she danced excellently along with the remainder of the fantastic cast, who proved that Phantom is truly a collaborative effort in the infamous Act 2 opener, Masquerade.

The cast perform 'Masquerade'. 
The production designs of Maria Bjornson are incredibly famous and rightly so; I gasped each time the chandelier began another epic movement, the scene transitions were epic yet perfectly seemless, and the fact that the boat which takes The Phantom and Christine to his lair is moved by Victorian machinery is absolutely phenomenal. I can't help but think that new productions of this show are missing something without her fantastic settings.

The Phantom of the Opera is one of only three shows I have given a standing ovation - the others being the National Theatre's King Lear, and Matilda: The Musical - but, I am certain, that it was the most deserving. The fact that these astonishingly talented people are able to go out each and every night and perform the way they do blows my mind. The spectral narrative, underscored by that of true love, combined with a phenomenal score, live orchestra and cast ensure that The Phantom of the Opera remains inside your mind for a long time to pass.

This review was for a production seen on the 29th December 2014. During this period, Christine was normally played by Harriet Jones.


The Phantom of the Opera is currently booking at Her Majesty's Theatre until 26th September 2015. Tickets are available from the theatre box office, by calling 0844 412 2707, or by vising their website

Sunday, 21 September 2014

West Side Story: Review

I hate West Side Story which seems a bit of an issue. I just can't stand it. Bernstein and Sondheim; sorry but I'd rather you just hadn't bothered. Annoyingly, however, I had quite a few friends in the show so was legally obliged to go and watch it.

WSS Web Image B

What I did like, however, was this evenings production at the Rhodes Art Complex in Bishops Stortford.  The cast, largely made up of graduates from Phoenix Theatre School, were an incredible ensemble unit and, it goes without saying, are an incredibly talented group of performers who need to ensure they carry on performing.

Whilst I do believe the character of Tony is a drip, Lewis Russell played him excellent. He showed the true determination Tony can possess when he is trying to stop the rumble, as well as the remorse and sorrow after he kills Bernado - who in turn, played by Sam Jackson, was incredible!

In terms of a shining star, however, there is only one winner. Abbie Middleton was a simply astonishing Maria. She has a terrific vocal range, is an  incredibly talented dancer and shocked me with her acting in the final scene of the musical. Abbie: I know you will read this. You are amazing. Go for it girl because you can do it!

Malvern Hostick's clever set design, combined with the superb direction of Phil Dale and choreography of Katie Barker-Dale, made this a very good piece of theatre. It was, however, the very talented cast that made it an excellent piece of theatre.

I look forward to seeing you all in the West End in a few years time.


West Side Story is running at the Rhodes Art Complex from the 19th -  28th of September. Tickets are available from:

Monday, 26 May 2014

Matilda the Musical: Review

I saw Matilda the Musical on Sunday for the second time. This was the first time I have ever seen a production twice, and I am already contemplating booking a ticket to see it for a third time. Is that bad?

No. No it most certainly is not. Matilda the Musical is one of the most recent productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company to transfer to the West End, having called the Cambridge Theatre home now since October 2011. It lays claim to 7 Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, Best Director, Best Set Design and Best Actress.

Well, I say Best Actress; but in reality the award was shared between the four marvelous young girls who play the titular role of Matilda. The Matilda who I saw this time around was Cara Jenkins who had an absolutely astonishing voice. I've never really been jealous of an eight year old girl before, but if there was to be a first I am glad it was her. She was not, however, the only brilliant young cast member, as Matilda's young classmates proved exceptional from the very first song to their hilarious rendition of Revoltin' Children at the end, led by the immensely funny Bruce, played by George King.

The adult cast members featured Haley Flaherty as Miss Honey, whose astonishing voice had even improved from the first to the second performance, the excellent James Clyde as Mr Wormwood, and the undeniably hilarious Alex Gaumond, playing Miss Trunchball. Whilst these three are arguable the most important of the adult leads, I remained blown away by the incredulous voice of Tommy Sherlock, who unfortunately only had one song.

A rapturous hand also has to go to Matthew Warchus (Director), Laurie Perkins (Musical Director) and Peter Darling (Choreographer) for their fantastic work in putting on such an excellent production. This, however, would not have been possible without the superb book, written by Dennis Kelly, and lyrics by Tim Michin. I couldn't imagine anyone but Michin rhyming Miracle with Umbilical in the very first song but he does and it is splendid!

I think the thing which I love most about Matilda is that it is an immense amount of fun, not just for the audience but also for the superb company who put it on night after night. I've never stood to applaud the company on their bows but I did that afternoon. I stood and cheered and possibly even sang along to all of the songs. If you do one thing over the next few weeks, make sure it is buying a Matilda ticket. It is, I can assure you, the best investment you will make. In the words of Matilda, "Never let a little thing like little stop you."


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Living Together: Review

2014 is a very special year for the playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn as he celebrates his 75th birthday and 50 years of his plays being stage in the West End. To celebrate, seasoned directed Jon McNamara from the Moot House Players presented this evening (08/05/14) a performance of his play ‘Living Together’, which follows the story of three married couples and how they intertwine over a night spent at one couples home, particularly the promiscuous Norman.

The technical crew of the show had put together a simple, but effective, set which clearly signified where and when the action took place. The fact that the props and set were assembled and put together largely by members of the cast highlights the strength of the Moot House Players in working together, with everyone getting involved not just on stage but behind the scenes as well.

The cast was largely made up of seasoned Moot House Players, however there was one debutant in the form of Ruth Lewis, who played the role of Annie. Considering this was her first time on the stage she showed some very good confidence and her projection was spot on and I look forward to seeing her in more productions to come.

A special mention must also follow for three other particular cast members. Michael Rees’ comic timing was superb in helping some of the play go down very well with the audience, and he portrayed the character of Reg with individuality which made, for me, his the most interesting character.

Geoff Leeds played the role of the socially awkward and slightly hopeless Tom excellently. It was good to see particular body movements and vocal qualities repeated as he had obviously explored his character in some detail.

In my opinion, however, the best actor of the night was Rosalind Barron, who played the role of Ruth. Unfortunately, she did not appear until the second act but once she was on she dominated the stage.

This show was the first of a three night run and it was not without its hiccups, however speaking to the cast afterwards they acknowledged this and sought to eradicate them for the next two nights. I will admit that I did find the first act fairly slow paced, and I was a little bit frustrated by the amount of promptings which the actors required, as I’m sure they were themselves.

I have seen productions recently which I have enjoyed more, but similarly ones which I have disliked more so. I believe that if the issues which the cast are aware of are ironed out and the performance becomes quicker, more confident and committed to ensuring that the audience is going to have a good time then it could be a very good show which I would still recommend seeing over the next two days.


Living Together is running at Moot Hall from 8-10 of May. Tickets cost £8 and are available on 01279 639170.