29.01.2019 - London (England) / Wien, English Cinema Haydn (Österreich)

Everybody´s Talking About Jamie
The 5-Star production on the Big Screen!

Produced by a new musical production team and directed by Jonathan Butterell, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” proved to be an instant sensation. It won multiple awards and became a hit among audiences and critics. A West End transfer soon followed the opening in Sheffield, since then it has been extended twice. Following this streak of success, the show has been recorded live and been broadcasted all over the UK and Ireland. It didn’t stop there. Jamie made it over the sea and, on January 29 th, the musical was screened at the English Cinema Haydn in Vienna. 

Inspired by the documentary film “Jamie: Drag Queen at 16”, the musical, with book and lyrics by Tom MacRae, tells the story of sixteen-year-old Jamie New. Having almost finished school, there is just one thing in everybody’s mind: What do I want to be in the future? Jamie has already found his dream. He wishes to perform, but not only that, he dreams about becoming a famous drag queen. However, there is a long way to go until Jamie can achieve his dream. Some struggles even seem to be almost too big, the constant discouragements from teachers and bullies are just one of those, the absence of his father another. But with the support of his loving mother and true friends nothing seems impossible and might even become possible.

The music and dancing fit perfectly together and feel amazingly fresh. Written by Dan Gillespie Sells the melodies are catchy, there are bound to be some that the audience will hum after the show. The choreography by Kate Prince is sudden, emotional and just full of life. There is so much going on all the time and the ensemble emit a certain energy on stage that can even be felt through the screen in the cinema.

John McCrea is the perfect choice for the titular Jamie. He is flashy, funny, unafraid and fearful at the same time. His voice is just as adaptable as his acting, sometimes loud at others soft, almost at the brink of breaking and nothing more than a whisper. He is not only in the spotlight he is the spotlight. This is a story about growing up and becoming yourself and while nobody’s perfect, we learn and grow from all our mistakes, just as Jamie does. And while Jamie is not without failures, John McCrea’s performance lets him stay sympathetic. 

The show is heart-warming, funny and touching as well. The love between Jamie and his mother Margaret is just pure. The problems they face and overcome make their bond even stronger and real. Josie Walker does a great job expressing all of Margaret’s emotions, giving her a lot of depth as well. The audience instantly feels with her.

While there are a lot of struggles to overcome until Jamie can make his dream into reality, there is a lot of fun as well. Especially audience favourites Ray (Shobna Gulati), a family friend and moral support, and drag queen attire shop owner Hugo (Phil Nichol) provide quite a lot of the show’s humour, which can get indecent at times. There is a reason why the musical is recommended 16 upwards after all.

The show is as English as it gets. While it can be a little difficult to understand everything, especially if one isn’t familiar with slang, it’s still easy to follow the story, so one shouldn’t be discouraged by that.   

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a product of our modern time and it is for our time. The story is about one boy and is, at the same time, universal. Above all it is a story about love. It shows that life is not always great and sometimes you have to fight for your happiness. Ultimately it is a feelgood show with the heart in the right place. There is just something about it that captivates audiences from all over, be it London or Vienna, and it will undoubtedly stay in your mind for a long time. The musical works just as well on a cinema screen. It’s easy to forget that one is not really at the theatre, some people in the cinema audience even clapped along. It’s a show everybody really should be talking about and all should keep talking.

Infos:  www.jamieincinemas.com

Bewertung 5,5/6:
★★★★★²                                   © Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer

13.08.2018 - Staatsoper Hamburg, Deutschland

TITANIC - THE MUSICAL

Following its critically acclaimed tour through the United Kingdom, TITANIC – THE MUSICAL written by Peter Stone travels to the Staatsoper Hamburg for its final stop.

There are probably not many who have never heard of the Titanic, the greatest ship of its time that set sail in 1912 and collided with an iceberg leading to the deaths of approximately 1500 of the 2100 people on board. There is, however, a difference between knowing about the events back then and seeing them play out on stage. That is exactly what this musical, directed by Thom Southerland, sets out to do: to tell the tale and let the audience understand what happened not only to the ship but also to the people on board. 

Based on the historic events, every name that is mentioned during the musical belonged to a real person on the ship. While there have been dramaturgical changes, Titanic mostly stays true to the events that took place during the maiden voyage, a fact that gives the musical an additional weight, knowing that these people really existed and that most of them perished on that ship.

Though one knows right from the start that the musical will not have a happy ending, watching many characters die and hearing the survivors speak – without any sound in the background – how the others died is quite heavy. Nonetheless, with a reprise of “Godspeed Titanic” and the powerful chorus, Titanic does end on a hopeful note.   

The differences of the social class are one of the musical’s core themes. In the end, the remaining passengers all share the same fate, destroying the former barriers between the classes. The characters do share one thing. They all boarded the Titanic for the hope of a better life. Third-class Irish girl Kate McGowan, portrayed by Victoria Serra, dreams of becoming a governess in America. Her determination to realise her dream does not falter even with all the odds against her which ensures her survival with her lover Jim Farrell (Chris McGuigan).

Others are not as lucky. Stoker Frederick Barrett, played by Niall Sheehy – who possesses a voice that is easily heard even in the chorus –, for example. Barrett wants to get married and even sends his proposal while on the Titanic in “The Proposal/The Night Was Alive" – an ear-worm sung beautifully by Sheehy and Oliver Marshall as telegraph operator Harold Bride. First-class lady Caroline Neville (Claire Marlowe) travels with her second-class lover Charles Clarke (Stephen Webb) to finally get married. However, Clarke stays behind on the Titanic. First-class couple Isidor and Ida Strauss, portrayed by Dudley Rogers and Judith Street, also decide to not leave the ship to allow others to get to safety and the two die together in a heart-wrenching moment.  

Nearly everyone gets a solo. One of the most striking is “Mr. Andrews’ Vision” by Greg Castiglioni as Titanic’s designer Thomas Andrews. Showcasing his strong voice the song depicts Andrews’ descent into madness as he imagines how Titanic’s passengers are all going to die, before Andrews himself perishes as well. 

The characters do not know about the dreadful events about to happen. Most of them are indeed having the time of their lives. Especially Alice Beane, portrayed by Jacinta Whyte, a second-class woman who is always trying to get close to the first-class celebrities – much to the dismay of her husband Edgar (Timothy Quinlan), but to the amusement of the audience.

The music by Maury Yeston fits the historical time perfectly and the melodies will surely follow one home. It also sometimes has a quite eerie touch, especially apparent in one of the most powerful moments of the musical “No Moon”, the final song of act one sung by Joel Parnis as Lookout Frederick Fleet. The night seems calm, but as the song progresses an ominous touch is added to the music letting the audience know that the moment of doom is near. The last few moments are bound to give goosebumps, as the theatre begins to shake.

The set by David Woodhead is simple but efficient. It shows that there is not much needed – just a few props – to depict a believable change in location. The costume – again by David Woodhead – is inspired by the fashion of the 1910s and clearly shows the differences in class. The lighting by Howard Hudson creates a powerful atmosphere, starting with bright lights that get dimmer and darker as the story progresses – depicting the hope that ends in despair. 

With loads and loads of characters and no true protagonist the cast does an amazing job in their portrayal and deserves a huge compliment for depicting every character in a memorable way. The first act gives the characters enough room and time to grow, letting the audience get to know them while the knowledge where the story will end lurks in the back of the head. The characters all get their moments to let the audience feel with them, before everything goes downhill in the second act.

There is not much time left to watch this production live, TITANIC – THE MUSICAL sets its sails for the last time on August 19th and it would be a shame to miss it!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Scott Rylander und Anabel Vere

02.03.2018 - Union Theatre, London

CARMEN 1808

Adapted as a new musical piece “Carmen 1808” opened at the Union Theatre on February 7th under direction of Phil Willmott - who also wrote the book and lyrics.

Based on the novella by Prosper Mérimée the musical takes place in Madrid during the French occupation of Spain. The Catalan Captain Velarde has been transferred to enforce the French laws on the Spanish population. His loyalty is tested, as he meets the gypsy girl Carmen. Carmen works as a spy for the Spanish resistance and she is initially only out to use Velarde to gather information about the French’s plans. At first, Velarde seems to be reluctant to her advances, but soon he falls in love with her and Carmen does with him.

Velarde joins the resistance in their fight against the French. When the rumour spreads that the Spanish king has returned from exile, the resistance fighters gather in the streets to celebrate. However, as it turns out, they have been tricked and riled up by the French to destroy them once and for all. Velarde dies in the bloodbath. Unable to continue living without him, Carmen takes her own life.

With only ninety minutes, the plot seems sometimes rushed, but the acting is so strong that the sudden changes in character don’t feel forced. Especially Maximilian Marston as Captain Velarde goes through very fast changes in character. Velarde soon falls for Carmen, even though he has been hesitant in the very beginning. Marston manages to make these changes feel fitting and believable. 

The engery with which Rachel Lea-Gray performs is remarkable. Her Carmen is confident and seductive, she knows what she wants and how to get it. Beneath that strong, distant appearance Carmen also possesses a softer side. This is shown in Carmen’s realisation to her own feelings for Velarde and in the tender moments she shares with him. Lea-Gray portrays Carmen’s strength just as well as her insecurity. Lea-Gray and Marston make a great pair with an interesting power balance which is fun to watch.

Josephina, the former lover of Velarde, is played by Charlotte Haines. Soft and almost fragile Haines’ voice fits the delicate Josephina perfectly. However, there is more to Josephina than meets the eye and her innocent façade hides another side. These character changes are convincingly shown by Haines.

The painter Francisco Goya is put in the spotlight in this production. Portrayed by Alexander Barria he acts both as a character in the story and as a narrator, operating outside the character’s world. He emits an omnipresent vibe and he is almost all the time on stage, often painting the characters in the background.

Corporal Luis played by Thomas Mitchells seems to be rather cowardly in the beginning. A soldier who doesn’t dare to question the French orders he is given. He becomes obsessed with Carmen and in his rivalry with Velarde for her love, he doesn’t hesitate to turn his back on Velarde, even imprisoning him. In the end, Luis sides with the resistance, proving that he can make the right choice without thinking about Carmen.

The resistance’s leader Javier Rizal portrayed by Blair Gibson is defiant until the end. His dedication and sheer will is remarkable, accentuated by the performance of Gibson.

The sound effects, designed by Theo Holloway – and their absence! – are used effectively throughout the performance. The few gunshots truly get to the audience. Their absence makes one scene even more impactful, when the sound is instead replaced by a stillness of the characters – reminiscent of a painting, painted in the piece by Alexander Barria as Goya – making that scene even more impactful. 

The set by Justin Williams and Jonny Rust plays a lot with different levels, used to illustrate the power balances between the characters. Carmen uses all of the space, walking and even jumping on the different areas fitting her confident character. Since the set is quite static, the light, designed by Ben Jacobs, adds a lot to the atmosphere with the use of shadow and haze. Thus, creating different locations without making any changes in set at all.

The dances are beautifully choreographed by Adam Haigh. There are fast changes in pace, done effortlessly by the whole cast. Through the small auditorium the action is happening close to the audience and the energy of the dances can be felt as well. Georges Bizet’s famous music arranged by Teddy Clements for this musical rendition fits the dances and the tone of the piece perfectly.

Through the musical production of Carmen, the work has become more accessible in a way, especially appealing to a younger audience and those interested in the musical genre or those intimidated by the heavy tones – and duration – of an opera piece.

Though the story doesn’t end on a positive note, the musical certainly does with the audience clapping as the actors reprise the fast-paced dances. One doesn’t leave the theatre with a heavy feeling, a feeling of helplessness, but rather with a more hopeful one.

Carmen 1808 now playing at the Union Theatre until March 10 th!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Scott Rylander 

02.02.2018 - London (England)

HOT LIPS AND COLD WAR

Created by Lizzie Freeborn “Hot Lips and Cold War” takes the audience back into the 1960’s, the time of John F. Kennedy’s presidency. The threat of a nuclear war, the growing movements for social and racial equality define that time. Directed by Tim McArthur the musical explores what might have been, surrounding Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and both of their deaths. 

The musical opens with wide-eyed Maria (Sylvie Briggs) in Ireland. Maria is in love with White House worker Davy (Adam Small). When she reveals that she is pregnant she follows Davy to Washington, stealing money from the church to finance the flight. Maria starts working as a photographer for Jackie Kennedy (Marcia Sommerford). Mrs. Kennedy suspects that her husband (Robert Oliver) has affairs, among them Marylin Monroe (Freya Tilly), and she wants Maria to catch Kennedy in the act to finally have proof. Maria soon learns that the White House bears many secrets and she must decide where her loyalties truly lie. 

Sylvie Briggs does a great job portraying Maria. The world doesn’t treat Maria kindly, but she never loses her good heart and even though she did steal from the church, the remorse she feels seems genuine. Briggs’ has a great chemistry with Jamal Franklin as Marvin. As the Kennedy’s and Marilyn are the focus in Act II, Marvin is mostly absent, sadly since Franklin delivers a great performance. However, Marvin and Maria get their deserved attention near the end. The evolution of Maria’s and Jackie Kennedy’s maid and Marvin’s mother Grace, portrayed by Florence Odumosu, is done well. Having a rocky start, the two develop a mutual trust over the course of the musical. Odumosu also portrays her love for Marvin in a very convincingly way. 

Though Davy is a character one just loves to hate, Adam Small still manages to portray his character in a way that one even feels sympathy with him at times.

Robert Oliver gives a confident but conflicted John F. Kennedy. The love for his wife is evident, but his desire for other women – most of all for Marylin Monroe – is often stronger. Real speeches of Kennedy are used, to which Oliver gestures to with his back to the audience. An interesting choice that could have gone wrong but works. Marcia Sommerford as Jackie Kennedy depicts a strong woman and loving wife. Being aware of her husband’s infidelity, Sommerford effectively portrays the jealousy and despise Jackie feels, especially towards Monroe. 

Freya Tilly as Marilyn Monroe knows how to take the stage without much effort. Her Monroe is ambitious, but deep down a highly unstable and lonely woman, perfectly shown in her last song “Call Me” where a broken Monroe awaits a call from Kennedy before dying. Worth mentioning is Tilly’s wonderful rendition of Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President”.

The cast is joined by Lewis Rae as Kennedy’s secretary Kenny O’Donnell and Ashely Knight as racist democrat politician Jerome Kinsley. Both deliver a great performance.

The musical incorporates different musical styles – among other genres jazz, swing and more classical tunes – fitting both the atmosphere of America in the 1960s and the different characters with their backgrounds. Performed in the London Theatre Workshop – a small theatre space – the audience is never far away from the events on stage and the actors can be seen up-close. There are only minor set changes, Kennedy’s office is always shown – but not always the ‘real’ setting. Lots of details can be explored, photographs on the wall for example, adding a nice touch to the scenery.

Ending with Kennedy’s assassination, all characters gather on the stage. The true heart of “Hot Lips and Cold War” is not the Kennedy family or Marilyn Monroe but ordinary people represented by Maria, Marvin and Grace. Though history doesn’t remember their names, their representatives are given voices in this musical, showing that trust is what is truly important.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Jamie Scott-Smith

02.02.2018 - "London Park Theatre", London (England)

ROTHSCHILD & SONS

“Rothschild & Sons” first performed in 1970 on Broadway now opened in the UK for the very first time. With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick – Bock and Harnick have collaborated before in “Fiddler on the Roof” – and a book by Sherman Yellen it can now be experienced under direction of Jeffry B. Moss in London’s Park Theatre. 

The musical tells the story of the Rothschild’s, a Jewish family living in the ghetto of Frankfort in the late 18th century. Separated by a wall, Mayer Rothschild (Robert Cuccioli) dreams of tearing that wall down, finally regaining dignity and freedom again. To achieve that he prays that his wife Gutele (Glory Crampton) will give him sons. His prayers are answered and Mayer rises to fame with his five sons and builds a financial empire. However, when the Napoleonic wars start, Mayer realises that his family might have to overcome their own differences before they can make a difference.

Robert Cuccioli gives a sympathetic Mayer Rothschild. His strengths and flaws  his ambition to free his people and his want for control over his sons lives as well as his lack of faith in them  make him a well-rounded character. “In My Own Lifetime” is both bittersweet and hopeful, portraying Mayer’s wish to live to see the wall break down. The song captures the musical’s atmosphere best and Cuccioli’s voice shines.

Glory Crampton as Mayer’s wife Gutele always stands by her husband’s side, while also growing as an own person. It is her husband that makes most decisions as the head of the family, though Gutele’s emotions are put in the focus as well. While Mayer sends the sons on their missions all over Europe in “The Sons Depart”, Gutele gets the spotlight as she laments her sons’ departure and fears for their uncertain future. It makes one wish that she would have received more moments like this – especially since she is the only major female character –, as her character has a lot of potential.

Of the five sons it is Nathan, portrayed by Gary Trainor, who the audience gets to know most. Smart like his father but reckless too, a conflict between father and son is inevitable. Both Nathan and Mayer must learn to trust in each other to achieve their common goal. That conflict is portrayed believably by both Cuccioli and Trainor. 

Richard Dempsey, Tom Giles, Stephen Jacob and Kris Marc-Joseph playing the other sons all manage to stand out and give their characters different personalities. This is best depicted in “Rothschild and Sons”, showing how they work together with their father. The sons’ growth over the course of the musical – physically and in character – is shown convincingly by the actors.

The stage is small, apart from one adaptable prop there is no furniture onstage. This emptiness combined with the small theatre space puts the cast in the foreground. They can be seen from (almost) all sides. It is interesting to watch their facial expressions or gestures, particularly when they are not the centre of attention. Especially Glory Crampton does a good job portraying Gutele’s emotions, even when she doesn’t say anything and stands by the sides. Big compliments for performing the whole two hours without an interval, though the musical might have benefited from one.

The musical tells a personal family story, but general themes – conflict between the generations, overcoming obstacles – are relatable to all. “Rothschild & Sons” explores the Jewish history and oppression while not becoming a history lesson. The ending is a bittersweet one. The Rothschild’s achieve a victory that not all live to see. The audience knows that as history marches on, the future is not a happy one.

Even after almost 50 years “Rothschild & Sons” has a contemporary touch to it. The musical shows that storytelling doesn’t have to rely on a big stage design or a lot of props, if done well small gestures and expressions are enough. The Park Theatre’s stage is prefect for just that, seeing the actors’ expressions up close.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer, © Fotos: Pamela Raith 

18.01.2018 - "The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre", London (England)

RAMIN KARIMLOO - "Back From Broadway"

Broadway and West End star Ramin Karimloo returns to London with his new concert in The Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre. Ramin is perhaps best known for playing major parts in some of the biggest musicals, roles include both Raoul and the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera” or Enjolras, Marius and Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables”. His most recent role was that of Gleb in the world premiere of “Anastasia” on Broadway.

With “Back From Broadway“ Ramin once again returns to the UK following the successful tour in 2017. The enormous hall is filled and people have travelled from all around the world.

Starting with “Neverland” from “Finding Neverland” Ramin promises to take the audience on a journey. With music taken from famous musicals to songs not as known and even some of Ramin’s original compositions, it truly feels like a journey. A rather personal one giving this unique collection of songs. Though some of the big hits were included in the concert, it was nice to hear lesser known tunes as well.

The songs were very different, ranging from country to more traditional showtunes, but Ramin makes them all his own, his unique voice fitting all these different genres. Highlights include “Music Of The Night” from “Phantom Of The Opera”, “’Til I Hear You Sing” from “Love Never Dies” and, of course, the absolute touching performance of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables”. At the beginning, right after the first notes of “Bring Him Home” the hall bursts into an enormous applause. Ramin proves that he only needs a few seconds to take the audience into the song. He portrays the various emotions in such a convincing way, often sending chills down your spine.

Whatever the song, Ramin brings the right amount of energy to the performance. Speaking of which, the energy he possesses is remarkable. Not only can it be felt in all his performances but is also evident in the fact that there wasn’t an intermission during the whole concert. Ramin was on stage from start to finish. Nothing seems to stop him or seems to bring him down, be it injuries, guitars that need to be tuned – sometimes a couple of times – or the heat on the stage.

A big compliment to the band as well. Being on stage for almost the whole time is not an easy feat, but they never got tired and their performance was stunning. Especially “From Now On” from “The Greatest Showman” deserves a praise. Evolving from a quiet solo of Ramin into a triumphant chorus with incorporation of the band, it was a highly energetic piece. It can be seen that both he and the band are simply having a great time on stage, making the concert even more enjoyable.

Throughout the evening Ramin proves that not only is he an excellent singer but can play the guitar just as well. “High Flying Adored” from “Evita” comes to mind, which Ramin performed with singer Matthew Harvey. Apart from singing, Ramin also composes songs himself. Some of his original compositions were performed during the concert. “Cathedrals” is probably the one that instantly stays in one’s head with its bittersweet beauty. Questions about home and belonging are sure to resonate with the audience, a lot having come a far way for the concert. 

Even though The Royal Festival Hall is a truly enormous building, Ramin makes the concert personal. He acknowledges the audience. His gaze is often straight into the auditorium, giving the feeling of directly looking at the spectators. As Ramin takes the audience through this concert, he also gives insight into his personal story, telling about the roles he played and his time in the countries he worked in and the different stages he performed on. Ramin even actively encouraged the audience to clap and sing along –  if one knows the lyrics – to some of the songs.

In the end, the audience was on their feet, giving both Ramin and the band a well-deserved round of applause. One woman even stood up to dance right in front of the stage during one of the last acts “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” from Johnny Cash. The last song, “Ol’ Man River” from “Showboat”, was performed by Ramin alone. This gave an intimate touch to the concert’s end, fitting the personal tone felt throughout the evening. “Ramin Karimloo Back from Broadway” marked a successful return and the concert proved to be a very entertaining evening. The audience was thrilled. It came as a surprise as the end of the concert was announced. It hadn’t felt like it had already been two hours. Surely it couldn’t have been already over? However, the clock didn’t lie. Time flew by fast, too fast even. Hopefully, one day, Ramin will be back once more.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer

16.01.2018 - "Trafalgar Studios", London (England)

THE GRINNING MAN

“The Grinning Man” opened in London’s Trafalgar Studios on December 6th after its acclaimed run at the Bristol Old Vic. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel “The Man Who Laughs” the dark tone of the musical doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, neither “Les Misérables” nor “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are known as particularly happy stories. “The Grinning Man” is no exception to this. However, a surprisingly amount of humour can be found in this new musical directed by Tom Morris – who has written the lyrics with Carl Grose, Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler.

As the spectators enter the auditorium, they are taken in the surreal , carnival fair like, world. The walls are covered with dim, but various colours. The stage designed by Jon Bausor is shaped like the notorious grin of the Grinning Man. In the middle of one row a low table can be found, its purpose only revealed at the very end of the musical. A few rows before a pedestal is used by the actors for different reasons during the show.

Laughter is the best Medicine” the first song already sets the musical’s ambiguous tone. The clown Barkilphedro (Julian Bleach) takes the stage, looking into the audience for a long time before the music starts. The song is reminiscent of both Sondheim in terms of music and Tim Burton in terms of the atmosphere with the ensemble’s heads peeking out from under the curtain. Barkilphedro introduces the audience to, as he says, a truly miserable family: King Clarence (Jim Kitson) with his children Angelica (Julie Atherton), Josiana (Amanda Wilkin) and Dirry-Moir (Mark Anderson).

It is Dirry-Moir who stumbles upon the Trafalgar fair where he meets Grinpayne (Louis Maskell). Mutilated as a child Grinpayne’s face is half concealed, hiding a horrendous smile. Together with  the blind Dea (Sanne Den Besten), who Grinpayne once has saved from freezing to death, he was taken in by Ursus (Sean Kingsley). There he performs in Ursus’ show, displaying his own story. Showing it now to Dirry-Moir who is amazed by both Grinpayne and his smile. As Grinpayne rises to fame, he has only one goal: Finding the man who gave him his grin. 

Louis Maskell’s portrayal as Grinpayne is excellent. Being sympathetic it’s easy for audiences to feel with Grinpayne through his struggles. A challenging role, Maskell has to speak and sing through Grinpayne’s mask and with his lower face hidden most of Grinpayne’s emotions have to be conveyed through eyes and eyebrows. Maskell excels in all of this. His movements often feel puppet-like as well, with limbs and fingers bending farther than they probably should. This is especially evident in “I Am The Freak Show” where Grinpayne shows the audience his face for the first time. A big compliment to Susanna Peretz for creating the Grinning Man’s grin with the make-up. 

Ursus, the adoptive father of both Grinpayne and Dea, is played by Sean Kingsley. Despite his kind appearance, he hides a dark secret. His love for his children, however, is genuine. This conflict of Ursus wanting to keep the truth hidden from both Grinpayne and Dea was conveyed convincingly by Kingsley. Kingsley’s voice has a unique feel to it, rough but with warmth at the same time, which is fitting the divided nature of the character. 

On January 8th, the role of Dea was played by Claire-Marie Hall. Kind and almost fragile, but still firm, Dea’s love for both Grinpayne and Ursus was evident in Hall’s acting. Her portrayal of the blind Dea was also very believable. Hall’s voice resonates perfectly with both Maskell’s and Kingsley’s.

Julian Bleach’s Barkilphedro is a rather uncharacteristically clown, acting as the narrator at times. Being detested by most characters and fitting the role of the villain to some extent, he is nonetheless one of the audience’s favourites. Addressing the audience and commenting on the play serves as his defining sources of humour. No words can describe Bleach’s erotic breakfast dance. It’s charm simply has to be experienced live.

It’s fun to watch Mark Anderson’s Dirry-Moir being a spectator of Grinpayne’s story along the audience. Taking his place in the orchestra pit, his reactions are almost distracting from the events on the stage. Dirry-Moir is not the only one of the siblings strangely attracted to Grinpayne. The sexual frustrated Josiana played by Amanda Wilkin develops an obsession after seeing Grinpayne. “Brand New World Of Feeling” not only depicts her seduction but also gives Wilkin the chance to show her singing talent. Julie Atherton as Angelica goes from a mute recluse to a firm Queen, almost as cruel as her father, to one of Grinpayne’s fans. The drastic character changes are believable portrayed by Atherton.

One of the most defining elements of the musical are its inclusion of puppetry designed by Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié. Depicting Grinpayne and Dea’s history through puppets adds to the fair atmosphere of the show, while also incorporating the backstory nicely into the plot. These puppets were only used during the retelling of their childhood. The shift from the puppets to the actors as Grinpayne and Dea got older was done in a very creative, almost magical and fluent way. Another highlight is the wolf Mojo, brought to life on stage by James Alexander-Taylor and Loren O’Dair. The movements feel so real that it’s easy to forget that it’s not a real animal on stage.

With its dark but alluring atmosphere, THE GRINNING MAN feels like a twisted fairytale of sorts. Perhaps the song with the most ear-worm qualities, "Never Seen a Face Like This", sums up the musical quite well. Because "if you have not seen him you will never understand."

THE GRINNING MAN now with an extended run in the Trafalgar Studios until April 14th!

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Helen Maybanks 

 14.12.2017 - England (London)

The Legend of Zelda - Symphony of the Goddesses
Live in Concert

1986 marked the birth of “The Legend of Zelda” when the first game was realised. Over 30 years later, the series has evolved into one of Nintendo’s most successful titles with 19 games released so far – not counting remakes or spin offs. Apart from the classical storyline – a fight between good and evil – and the ever-evolving gameplay mechanics this huge success of the series can undoubtedly be explained by the beautiful music composed by Koji Kondo. Along with the games the soundtrack has changed and improved, but the iconic theme is still the same as it was back in 1986. It’s fitting that this concert “The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses” begins with exactly that theme in their “Overture (2017)”. 

Hearing a live orchestra is always an impressive experience by itself and “The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses” takes the audience on a journey. A journey through the rich soundtrack, reliving iconic moments from the games. This concert tour was created after the huge success of three concerts celebrating the 25 th anniversary of “The Legend of Zelda”. As with the anniversary concerts this tour is very successful as well, being presented in one of London’s major venues, the Eventim Apollo on the 21 st of November. 

It’s not hard to see why the demand to experience this music live is so high. The soundtrack differs from game to game, capturing the mood of the respective story, characters and settings while still sharing a unique vibe, which makes them feel like they belong to the “Zelda” franchise. Upon hearing, players are instantly transported back when first experiencing the games. With music ranging from harp soli to orchestral tracks, there is something for everyone to enjoy – even if they have never played the games themselves. 

The concert is designed as a five-movement symphony, changing between single music-titles and movements from specific games. Featuring both older and newer entries, the concert tells their stories through the selected musical pieces. Starting with the main theme, the music shifts to “Dragon Roost Island” from “The Wind Waker”. This playful melody transports the audience to an island inhabited by a human-bird species and the dragon living on top of the mountain. This theme is followed by a medley of “Majora’s Mask”, one of the game’s darker entries dealing with the impending destruction of a town by a falling moon. This dark atmosphere is perfectly illustrated by the music presented, getting gradually more unsettling as time runs out. The next medleys feature newer entries, namely “A Link Between Worlds” and “Breath of the Wild”. Upon hearing the peaceful music of “Breath of the Wild” the audience is instantly taken into the game’s vast open world. 

While the game clips shown on the screen above the orchestra help with illustrating the stories being told, the live music always takes the centre of attention. Hearing the orchestra conducted by Giacomo Loprieno and the choir is truly a marvellous experience. With Loprieno’s teasing way of getting the audience to applaud louder and the playfulness the orchestra members present their musical instruments during the curtain call, it can be seen how much fun everybody had on that evening.

The cutscenes are not the only things shown on the screen. Messages from “The Legend of Zelda” creator Shigeru Miyamoto, producer and director Eiji Aonuma and musical director Koji Kondo offer a deeper insight into the creation of the games and the music.

The next part of the concert is a symphony starting with “Prelude – The creation of Hyrule”, telling how Hyrule – the setting of most games – was formed by the three goddesses that give the concert its respective name. This is followed by “Movement I – Skyward Sword” with themes ranging from that game’s main orchestral theme “Ballad of the Goddess” to other calmer themes, the theme of supporting character Fi for example. The first act closes with “Movement II – Ocarina of Time” – reliving the story through the music of the arguably most ground-breaking game in the series serves as a worthy finale before the intermission.

Act two opens with “Intermezzo – Temple of Time”, which evokes the atmosphere of a religious shrine. This choral piece is the one where the choir can truly shine. The next suite “Movement III – The Wind Waker” takes the audience on a journey over the vast ocean with music like “The great Sea” as well as reliving the story with “Aryll’s Theme” – Aryll being the sister of protagonist Link that gets captured – and its gloomy reprise, played upon finding her again in her dungeon.

The following “Movement IV – Twilight Princess” features more choral numbers, like the “Title Theme” or “Spirit’s Lament” and the orchestral “Hyrule Field”.

Movement V – Time of the Falling Rain” is made up from music from “A Link to the Past” the first game to feature themes like “Zelda’s Lullaby” or “Hyrule Castle” which have become iconic soundtracks of the series. 

Despite its name the “Finale” is not the end of the concert. As a special bonus “Ballad of the Wind Fish” from “Link’s Awakening” and another rendition of “Breath of the Wild” make the true ending of the concert, reliving music from an older title and the newest addition to the franchise.

Loud cheers and applauding from the audience gave the concert its deserved ending. A few people even dressed up as characters from the series and quite a lot were humming tunes when leaving the theatre building. It’s amazing to see how many are touched by the games and their music, proving that the franchise is still thriving after three decades.

© Kritik: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Jordan August

24.11.2017 - Wales Millenium Centre (Wales)

TIGER BAY - The Musical

The new Welsh musical „Tiger Bay The Musical“, directed by Melly Still and co-director Max Barton, had its world premiere just on the 13 th of November in the Wales Millennium Centre. With the script written by South African author Michael Williams whose ancestors are from Wales and music by Welsh composer Daf James the musical couldn’t be more connected to the Welsh culture. In addition, many of the cast members are Welsh, as well. 

The musical takes place in the name giving Tiger Bay, the dockland area nearest to Cardiff, in the early 1900s. Tension is high as both immigrants from all over the world and the local “Donkeymen”, the workers who pushed the carts of coal, often live in extreme poverty. Themba (Dom Hartley-Harris) comes to Cardiff after having lost his wife and son. As he starts to work as a “Donkeyman” he meets young Ianto (shared by Louise Harvey and Ruby Llewelyn), an orphan who leads a gang of orphaned boys in the bay. Ianto recently stole something from the Third Marquess of Bute (John Owen-Jones) and when Themba protects Ianto from his cruel boss O’Rourke (Ian Virgo), an unlikely friendship begins. Meanwhile Rowena (Vikki Bebb) struggles with her given role in society along with the decision if she should marry O’Rourke, not knowing that he has mistress Klondike (Busisiwe Ngejane) on the side. And as it turns out this affair is not the only thing O’Rourke tries to hide. There are far darker secrets in his past, which connects him directly to Themba. 

John Owen-Jones as Bute gives a convincing performance, conveying the despair of Bute about losing his wife and not knowing where his son is. The soft melody sung by John Owen-Jones in Welsh in the opening is hauntingly stunning. His solo “Mary”, where Bute mourns his wife and “Shadowland” are just as beautiful. Especially “Shadowland”, which is performed by most of the main characters, is bound to get stuck in one’s head.   

While Bute can’t let go of his past, Themba, who is in a similar position, tries to leave his past behind and begin a new life. Dom Hartley-Harris’s portrayal of Themba’s struggle to let go and start anew and the bond with Ianto makes the audience easily sympathise with him. When his past catches up in “This is the Man” the struggle becomes a different one as Themba’s more merciless side comes through. Dom Hartley-Harris also shares the nostalgic duet “Taste of Home” with Vikki Bebb as Rowena. Their voices sound great together and one really sees the home they both describe in this song. 

Rowena goes from a woman not knowing if she should accept her role in society to a strong minded individual, standing up for her own and other’s rights. “Who I am” shows her change perfectly, Vikki Bebb rightfully earns a long applause after this performance. 

Acting as the antagonist, Noel Sullivan gives a convincing performance as O’Rourke judging from the booing, which he receives from the audience during the curtain call. Only out for his own profit O’Rourke doesn’t shy away from violence. Noel Sullivan possesses a great voice, which he can showcase in “Harbour Master of Your Heart”, which he sings with Rowena. This key and atmosphere change in this song is also amazingly done, as the light, romantic tone shifts into a darker one when Busisiwe Ngejane as mistress Klondike sings.   

The heart of the musical is Ianto, played by Ruby Llewelyn at this performance – evening on the 18 th of November. With a cheerful and witty attitude Ianto provides a lot of the humour of the show and steals himself easily into the heart of the audience and especially Ianto’s emotional bond with both Themba and Bute is heart-warming. By the end of the musical the audience gets to see how many characters of the musical connect to Ianto in their own, different ways, which creates one of the most beautiful and moving moments of the evening. It’s clear that Ruby Llewelyn is a rising star and possesses an immense talent. “My Name is John”, where O’Rourke forces Ianto to convince Bute of being his lost son, is the song where she truly shines, giving her the opportunity to switch between a range of emotions at a moment’s notice, which she does with ease. 

The musical features a large talented ensemble. Special mention deserve Suzanne Packer as the kind local pub owner Marisha, Rhidian Marc who can show his amazing voice as both Rowena’s firm boss Mr. Locke and the cruel First Mate who takes pleasure in punishing the orphan boys, Lee Dillon-Stuart as “Donkeyman” Gavin and bay resident Bogdan among other ensemble roles and manages to give each of these roles a distinct personality, and, of course, all the kids playing the orphaned gang. Not only is there always something happening on the stage, there are moments in the show where the auditorium becomes involved in the performance, as well. For example when the “Donkeymen” come in through the auditorium entrances handing out leaflets that fall from the ceiling and march on the stage. 

While this story is fictional, it draws upon real events and characters. Both Bute and Leonora Piper (Liz May Brice), a spirit medium supposed to help Bute in finding his lost son, really existed. These connections to reality make the story much more powerful. The inclusion of not only Welsh but also other languages, for example Zulu as spoken by Themba, illustrate the multicultural setting of Tiger Bay. Though the musical takes place in the past, a lot of issues addressed are highly relevant today. Without wanting to give too much away, while the ending is not a completely happy one, the main theme of the show is about a sense of community. 

At the end of the evening the cast rightfully earned their standing ovation for their performance. “Tiger Bay” proves that sometimes the best stories are the ones found right at our doorsteps. Despite being so deeply connected to Cardiff’s history, there is a lot in this musical for audiences from literally all over the world to relate to.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Polly Thomas

03.11.2017 - "The Drayton Arms Theatre", London (England)

When-Midnight-Strikes

“When Midnight Strikes” – with the story by Kevin Hammonds and music by Charles Miller – takes the audience to New York back in 1999. Jennifer (Elizabeth Chadwick) and Christopher (Simon Burr) host a party at their apartment to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It’s the end of a millennium and along with new resolutions come new beginnings. The party gets more complicated as Jennifer has reasons to suspect that Christopher is not faithful and that the woman in question is at the party herself...

It’s a small stage on the first floor of “The Drayton Arms Theatre”. The scenery doesn’t change, it depicts a New York apartment with a balcony in the back. This smallness of the stage is a nice contrast to the large ensemble. It often fills the whole stage when all characters appear together, truly giving the feeling of a crowded party. Producers Elizabeth Chadwick and Marc Kelly – the latter acts as the director as well – have found the perfect venue to tell this story.

There is always something happening on stage. While some characters are performing, it’s interesting to see what the others are doing. Even when they are not the centre of attention, their personalities and the relationships to each other shine through. An example is “Shut up”, where each character, while mingling with the other guests, expresses their annoyances with their speaking partner. These interactions add a lot of humour to the show, other highlights are “Party Conversation” sung by the rather awkward Edward (Andrew Truluck) and uninvited neighbour Muriel (Victoria Waddington) finally acting on their feelings for each other and “We’re here” featuring the arrival of Jennifer’s sister Twyla (Georgina Nicholas) and her best friend Bradley (Marc Kelly). There are touching moments as well, as, for example, “I never learned to type” by party hostess Josephina (Ellie Nunn), who is lamenting her dream to become an actress.

Invited party guests – including Christopher’s brother Greg (James Dangerfield) or friends Nicole (Stephanie Lysé) and Rachel (Marcia Sommerford) – as well as unexpected guests – as Alex (Matthew Boyd) brought along, because he has nowhere else to go – all share their own story throughout the performance. Each member of the cast manages to portray a complex character. Be it Christopher’s best friend Zoe (Victoria George) using her shallowness to hide her true feelings for Christopher, or Twyla seemingly heartbroken, because her boyfriend couldn’t make it to the party, everybody has hidden depths and sometimes hidden secrets, too. Unfortunately, this large ensemble means that it is not possible for the audience to get to know all characters as much as one would hope. There simply isn’t enough time in the musical to give everybody the attention they would deserve.

Nonetheless, humour, music fitting the story’s atmosphere, interesting character interactions and an unexpected ending make this – rarely performed – musical a memorable experience outside the main West End shows.

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Thomas Scurr


20.10.2017 - "The Vaults Theatre", London (England)

Join the Tribe and celebrate the 50th anniversary year of  HAIR

In London ist es seit dem 11. Oktober wieder haarig. Zum 50-jährigen Jubiläum des Musicals „Hair“ unternehmen Zuschauer eine wahrhafte Zeitreise in die 60er Jahre, wenn sie durch die Tore des Theaters „The Vaults“ schreiten. In einem intimen Rahmen wird das Publikum eingeladen, ein Teil des Tribes zu werden. Auch wenn 50 Jahre vergangen sind, „Hair“ könnte kaum aktueller sein, wie diese Produktion zeigt.

Stepping through the gates of „The Vaults Theatre“ feels like travelling back in time. Back into the 60s where the musical “Hair” takes place. “Hair” changed the musical theatre forever, showing what can be put on stage, breaking down barriers and fighting against both racism and discrimination fifty years ago. The opening of this production with speeches from Donald Trump that transform into speeches about the Vietnam War makes one realise that all these issues are still relevant today.

“’Hair’ is a reminder that while we might think we have come so far – and in a way we have – that maybe we haven’t changed as much as we would have liked and we should keep fighting”, says Koryann Stevens, who plays Mary. 

 “There is a message”, director Jonathan O’Boyle says. “About diversity, equality, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, about nuclear war and peace. That’s all still really present. Look at America today and what they’re going through with violence and with the way their current president is operating. The show is really permanent and it’s quite sad that fifty years on those issues haven’t been resolved.” 

At the same time “Hair” is not only a grim reminder of what hasn’t changed, but also about having a good time. Natalie Green, who plays Cassie, says: “If you go out feeling miserable, then something is wrong with you.” 

It is hard to summarize what the musical is about. “Hair” is about a hippie tribe and each tribe member brings their own story to the show, while the Vietnam War constantly lurks in the background. Claude (Robert Metson) is pressured by his parents – played by members of the cast Daniel Bailey and Natalie Green – to enlist in the army and fight in the Vietnam War. The rest of the tribe tries to convince him not to give in to that pressure. Especially Claude’s best friend Berger (Andy Coxon) and Sheila (Laura Johnson) try to convince him to stay. 

This fifty-year anniversary production is based on the critical acclaimed Manchester production which played at the “Hope Mill Theatre”, sharing the same director and many of the cast members. 

“The cast from Manchester had a lot of input from the new people who brought their own ideas and creativity to the production. At the same time, the new members had a lot of security the existing cast members brought with them about how the show works”, says Jonathan O’Boyle about working with both new and old cast members. “The energy , which is really important to the show, they bring is extraordinary.” 

This energy can especially be felt in the powerful “The Flesh Failures/Eyes Look Your Last” which transforms into “Let The Sun Shine In”, a performance which is bound to give the audience goose bumps. 

With its rich theatre history and many different productions all around the world, why should people come and see this production in particular? 

“It is different”, says Liam Ross-Mills playing Woof – a character that loves both plants and Mick Jagger and has a memorable moment when he is being swung around in the American flag. “You wouldn’t have seen anything like it before.” 

“It’s intense, funny, sad. It’s real life”, adds Natalie Green.

“This production of ‘Hair’ is unlike any show I have ever seen. It’s immersive, it works on the idea of a group of people coming together. I think it’s exciting, even for people that have never experienced theatre before”, says Robert Metson. 

“Our main intention was to breathe a little bit of new life into it – not that it needs that, because it’s fantastic – but to reinvent it for a new and younger audience”, says Jonathan O’Boyle. “We really wanted to immerse the audience in the show, because the more we worked on “Hair” the more we realised that the show is for the audience. The audience is as much part of the show as the music or the characters or the story, so we wanted to include them, which I think we have achieved.” 

The audience is the heart of this production and the audience participation makes every performance unique in its own way. “We were doing a show a couple of nights ago and about fifty people started singing “Good morning star shine” along with us and we were like: this is so cool. Everyone just knows the songs”, Liam Ross-Mills remembers. 

With only about 200 seats in the auditorium “The Vaults” offers the right place for a truly intimate and personal performance. The actors are never far away, always ready to come into the audience. “From the get-go we are there with you, the audience walks in on stage and we come out in the audience. And no matter where you are, we find a way to get to you”, says Robert Metson.

They do find a way to get to you. Be it touching you or your hair, talking to you or reacting to you. One memorable moment is before and during the performance of the song “Hair”. Margaret Mead played by Patrick George introduces her husband Gilbert, who in that performance – the evening show on October 12 th – was a man from the audience sitting next to his girlfriend. During the song Margaret takes her place between the couple, constantly interacting with “Gilbert” and other members of the audience. This interaction made it quite hard – in a good way – to focus on the song, which is a fast, energetic number featuring an amazing choreography by William Whelton. 

“If you come more than once, you would see a completely different show, depending on where you sat and because we are all going around, you can focus on different people who all tell a completely different story. It’s normal life. It’s watching people just be people and following their stories”, Kirsten Wright, who plays the naïve and sweet Crissy, says. 

“We invite the audience in straight away”, says Liam Ross-Mills. “Right in the beginning we say: You are one of us.” Coming into the auditorium before the show starts, the whole cast is sitting in circle in the middle of the stage with their eyes closed, illustrating the broken barrier between audience and actors. The smell and the whole atmosphere makes the room feel like a different world and for the next two hours it becomes just that. 

“Hair” really emphasizes the importance of every member of the cast. Everybody plays an essential part. This becomes apparent right at the start when the whole cast comes together in the opening song “Aquarius” sung by Shekinah McFarlane as Dionne. Even with a large ensemble, everybody manages to portray distinct characters that are memorable in their own way. Be it Adam Dawson as Jude, Abiola Efunshile as Tia, Jammy Kasongo as Hud or Jessie May as Jeannie.

When the audience fills the stage at the end of the show, dancing with the cast members, they truly become one with the tribe. “Our aim is to make the audience feel like part of the show as much as possible. That’s what’s really special about this show to me. The sense of community that we are all on this journey together and we are there as a group”, Robert Metson adds. This sense of community truly gives “Hair” its magic. That magic which puts one in a good mood, when leaving the theatre, still hearing the songs inside the head. As Natalie Green says about “Hair”: “If you go out feeling miserable, then something is wrong with you.”

 

Many thanks to Natalie Green, Koryann Stevens, Kirsten Wright, Liam Ross-Mills, Robert Metson and Jonathan O’Boyle for the insightful interviews.

Das Musical wird bis zum 13. Jänner 2018 aufgeführt. Wer also während dieser Zeit einen London-Tripp plant, sollte sich die Show nicht entgehen lassen.

Nähere Infos findest du unter: www.hair50.com

© Bericht: Lisa A. Murauer © Fotos: Claire Bilyard

 

 

 

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