Review: “There’s a real classic in town” ★★★★ Salad Days, Union Theatre

If, like me, you’re a big fan of musicals, it’s likely that you will have a hit list of shows; revered masterpieces that you hope will be revived so you’ll get to experience them at least once, writes Nicky Sweetland.

Recently I’ve managed to tick off a couple (with wonderful productions of Side Show and The Wild Party) but with the return of the Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds’ Salad Days at the Union Theatre, there’s a real classic in town.

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The 1950s musical is well-known for its glorious and uplifting score, with songs like “It’s Hush Hush” and “We’re Looking for a Piano” immediately putting a smile on your face.

But if you look closely beneath the froth and frivolity you’ll find a huge amount of social comment. Written in the post war era, there are observations of the classist system and the pressures of entitlement as well as an insight into a time before the decriminalisation of homosexuality and all cleverly disguised as a kitsch and gentle piece of musical madness.

And it is completely bonkers. We find Timothy and Jane at the end of their university education wondering what the future holds, with overbearing parents breathing down their plummy necks. Timothy must find a job and Jane a husband, but after happening upon a magic piano, their fortunes take a different tack and a fairytale adventure ensues.

Director Bryan Hodgson extracts every inch of comedy from the script and, along with some vibrant choreography from Joanne McShane, there’s an addition of some jaunty innuendo to help alleviate the dated feeling of the action.

It’s magnificently over done, with Lowri Hamer steadying the ship as the enchanting Jane and keeping up the sunshiny pace throughout. Laurie Denman is charming as Timothy, although his somewhat cloudy diction does mean the dialogue is lost at times.

The musical highlight is provided by Maeve Byrne in an energetic Cleopatra Club scene and even with the ‘weird factor’ ramped up in act two (with the appearance of some aliens), the story is filled with touching subtext and intricate characters if you are observant enough.

Salad Days is at the Union Theatre until 9 September 

Photos by Scott Rylander

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We talk to Jack Ellis about the ultra scary ‘Wait Until Dark’ at Richmond Theatre

Audrey Hepburn earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1967 psychological thriller Wait Until Dark, writes Nicky Sweetland.

But fans of the film will soon be able to experience Fredrick Knott’s terrifying play – upon which the screenplay was based – when a new production embarks on a nationwide tour next week.

The play, which is set amidst the social turbulence of 60’s London, stars Oliver Mellor (Coronation Street) and Karina Jones (The Vagina Monologues and Crystal Clear) alongside Jack Ellis (Prime Suspect and Bad Girls) who took some time off from rehearsals to tell us about the new production.

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The play follows the story of Suzy, a blind woman who, left alone in her apartment, becomes embroiled with a group of conmen hatching an elaborate scam and Jack explains, “It’s a fantastic piece made better by the fact that we have Karina Jones, who is a blind actress, playing the Audrey Hepburn part. I think it’s the first time it’s ever been done. I think, were we to do it with a sighted actress, it might be slightly dated but having Karina adds a huge amount of poignancy and a totally different feel. It underlines disability and our attitudes towards disability.”

With her husband removed from the house, Suzy is left to fend for herself but with the phone line cut and the house plunged into darkness, how will she outwit her tormentors?

“Weirdly she becomes more and more resolute as the play unfolds.” Jack said.

Jack Ellis is perhaps best known for playing the dastardly prison guard Jim Fenner in the ITV television series Bad Girls. His previous theatre credits include A Clockwork Orange, Richard III and Hamlet (all for the Royal Shakespeare Company) but he was most recently seen onstage in the acclaimed UK touring production of Shawshank Redemption.

Jack, once again, portrays an unsavoury character in the new stage production of Waiting For Dark, which is often quoted as one of the top 100 scariest films of all time.

“Fans of the film will love it, but I think they’ll get a lot more from it. The film is just a scary film and this has got a lot of comedy in it as well.” Jack tells us, “It’s a bit like the Woman in Black, meets Hustle, meets Harold Pinter, meets the scariest film you’ve ever seen, particularly at the end.”

Waiting Until Dark will run at the Richmond Theatre from 4 – 9 September 

A Fantastic Festival of Film confirmed at the Royal Albert Hall

Bad Seed Barry Adamson, presenter and pianist Neil Brand, and Matt Johnson – frontman of The The, will join the likes of Michael Giacchino and James Newton Howard at the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Film in October.

Events confirmed in this eclectic, unmissable season – which brings movie music centre-stage – include Adamson discussing his work on Lost Highway as part of a celebration of David Lynch, Brand’s new silent comedy show for kids, and Johnson in conversation with Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy – digging into what makes a truly great score.

Movie producer Mia Bays, meanwhile, will present ‘The Many Faces of Marilyn’ – an exploration of Marilyn Monroe’s legacy, with a panel discussion and the chance to see Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot and the blistering film noir, Clash by Night, on the big screen.

Mehdi Aoustin-Sellami, Head of Programming at the Royal Albert Hall, said: ““There is even more to choose from at this year’s Festival of Film, both on our famous main stage, and beyond. These fantastic shows will add to your love – and understanding – of some of the greatest movies ever made, and celebrate the music that gives them so much of their power and emotion, in the company of some of the most important voices in cinema today.”

The Festival of Film, running from 7 October to 3 November is headlined by Film in Concert presentations of Jaws, Fantasia and The Addams Family, alongside a celebration of the legendary James Horner (TitanicAliensAvatar), and world premiere career retrospectives of Michael Giacchino and James Newton Howard – featuring the composers themselves.

Giacchino is an Oscar, Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe-winner, whose work can be heard in two of the summer’s biggest films – Spider-Man: Homecoming and The War for the Planet of the Apes­ – as well as LostRogue One, the rebooted Star Trek series, and Pixar’s Up and The Incredibles. James Newton Howard worked with the likes of Elton John and Diana Ross before embarking on a big screen career that has immeasurably enhanced the likes of The Sixth SenseThe Dark Knight, The Hunger Games series and Fantastic Beasts.

The season comprises 25 events across seven spaces, including a special Late Night Jazz date starring Robert Habermann and dedicated to movie musicals, a soundtrack silent disco in the venue’s underground Loading Bay, and Ali Hood from The Shark Trust trying to debunk a few myths about his subject, ahead of Jaws.

Opera Holland Park’s new ‘Opera and the Silver Screen’ show will explore arias used in popular films like The Untouchables and The Shawshank Redemption, with the help of some extraordinarily talented singers, while

Family events including Neil Brand’s Silent Laughter, a new, hour-long clip show especially for kids, featuring fast and furious comedy from the likes of Laurel & Hardy and Buster Keaton – all accompanied by the fastest piano fingers in the business – as well as Patrick Monahan’s Film Quiz for Kids, the interactive Heroes and Heroines concert from Albert’s Band, and a Fun DMC Film Special, with special guest DJ Yoda.

The Celebrating David Lynch evening will feature a double-bill of the new documentary portrait, The Art Life, and the director’s 1997 masterpiece, Lost Highway, and include a post-film Q&A with composer Barry Adamson, while Matt Johnson – frontman of The The and a big screen composer – will discuss what it takes to make a great film score, in a revealing chat with Classical Album Sundays founder, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy. Johnson has scored feature films Tony and Hyena, and the documentaries Moonbug and The Inertia Variations.

The Festival of Film tour, running throughout the season, will take you on a fascinating journey through the Hall’s history on the big screen, from the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Michelangelo Antonioni to Spice World, via Julie Andrews, Michael Caine and Woody Allen.

For a full list of events, or to buy tickets, go to www.royalalberthall.com

Martin Shaw returns to the Richmond Theatre

Martin Shaw leads the cast in the timely UK premiere of Gore Vidal’s award winning political thriller about ambition, political scandal, ruthlessness… and the race for the white house.

Written before the battles of Trump vs Clinton and May vs Corbyn, Vidal’s drama of dirty politics never seemed more real or relevant. At a time of political chaos, The Best Man mirrors the often surprising results of campaigning and the unscrupulous world of politics.

Two opposing presidential party candidates are neck and neck in an unscrupulous battle for the nomination. The only thing that separates the esteemed ex-Secretary of State and his newcomer populist opponent is an endorsement from a respected ex-President. But where does compromise end and corruption begin? And who in the end will be proven to be “the best man”?

One of the UK’s most respected actors, Martin Shaw, rose to stardom in the late seventies in The Professionals, launching a career that has hardly seen him out of the limelight. He is best known for starring in the multi award winning BBC drama Judge John Deed and more recently Inspector George Gently. On stage, his revelatory performance as Lord Goring in Peter Hall’s production of An Ideal Husband earned him a Tony nomination and the coveted New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Other West End triumphs include the acclaimed Twelve Angry MenAre You Lonesome Tonight? and A Man For All Seasons. He returns to the stage in a role made famous by Henry Fonda in the award-winning film adaptation of The Best Man.

Born into a distinguished political family, Gore Vidal was a prolific writer known for the waspish wit, which peppered his essays, novels, screenplays and Broadway plays. Among his most famous works are Myra Breckinridge and Lincoln. The Best Man premiered on Broadway in 1960 and was nominated for six Tony Awards, including ‘Best Play’. Vidal adapted it into a film with the same title in 1964 starring Henry Fonda,Cliff Robertson, and Lee Tracy who was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the crafty ex-President. The play received a major revival on Broadway in 2012 starring James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury, and earned two Tony award nominations including ‘Best Revival of a Play’.

The Best Man will visit Richmond Theatre as part of its UK tour from Monday 2nd – Saturday 7th October prior to a West End run. 

Cel Spellman joins the cast of Talk Radio at the Old Red Lion

Cel Spellman (Host of the Sunday Chart Show on Radio 1; Cold Feet, ITV; Cucumber, Channel 4) will join the cast of Talk Radio at the Old Red Lion.

He will costar alongside George Turvey (No Villain, Old Red Lion, Trafalgar Studios; Batman, Live arena tour; Artistic Director of PapaTango theatre company), Andy Secombe (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones; Mr Gillie, Finborough Theatre) Molly McNerney and Matthew Jure (Grantchester, ITV; Downton Abbey, BBC1; The Great Train Robbery, BBC1 and EIFF Best Actor in a Feature Film nominee 2017) in Eric Bogosian’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, thirty years after its inaugural production in New York.

Barry Champlain is abrasive and forthright, the ultimate devil’s advocate, willing to argue just about any point. He lives for his radio show and the minor fame it brings him but his on-air persona is just that: a persona. Barry despises the people he talks to every day; he loathes their views and he abhors their adoration.

His listeners think they know him but Barry is not even sure he knows himself. He is careless and cold with his lover Linda, downright ugly to his best friend and collaborator Stu and spiteful of his producer, the man who made him, Dan. But above all, he detests himself for the lie he is living.

While freedom of the press has always been viewed as important, Bogosian’s play highlights that, in the wrong hands, this freedom can be used to baffle and create prejudice. In a post-truth age of fake news and continued attacks against the press, this landmark hit has never felt more relevant.

Director Sean Turner comments, I’m elated by the cast we’ve put together. Cel is an extraordinary talent and having a bona fide radio guy in the cast helps too! Matthew is going to be a phenom in the central role and I’m thrilled to be building on previous work with George and Andy. Molly is a rare find – she’s going to be huge.

Talk Radio will run at the Old Red Lion from 29th August – Saturday 23rd September

Little Moe, Idriss Kargbo takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Idriss Kargbo really has had a life on the stage. From playing young Simba in Lion King at an early age, the triple threat performer has hardly been away from the West End and with other credits including Thriller Live and Oliver! under his belt even before he had left school, a career in musical theatre seemed almost inevitable.

Idriss joined the 10th anniversary cast of Wicked last year to portray the Munchkin Boq and is now preparing to play Little Moe in Five Guys Named Moe at the brand new pop-up theatre at Marble Arch.

Idriss took some time off from rehearsals to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Five Guys Named Moe

 

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful? 

Confidence

 

What is your favourite Book?

The Tracy Beaker books by Jacqueline Wilson

 

What are you currently watching on TV? 

I’ve just started to re-watch Sex and the City box sets

 

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

Theatre, always

 

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I would say a fruit pastel

 

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

An actor, performer, musician, all of the entertainment things

 

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I just didn’t have the time! I remember one time I got detention because I was dared to push over a girl when she came past.

 

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

My proudest achievement to date is being the first black person to play Boq in Wicked.

 

What’s next? 

The world hopefully and everything beyond, but we’ll see.

 

Five Guys Named Moe is running at the Marble Arch Theatre from 29 August until 25 November.  

West End leading lady Emma Hatton takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

From starring in We Will Rock You to Evita, with Wicked along the way, Emma Hatton has cemented her position as one of the most sought after West End leading ladies in recent years.

But the ultra talented performer is also an acclaimed jazz singer and will be showcasing her sultry vocals at the Pizza Express Live in Birmingham and at the newly opened venue in Holborn later this year.

Emma is currently playing Eva Peron in Evita at the Phoenix Theatre and took some time off to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

My set list for my Pizza Express jazz gigs in October.

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful? 

Support from my friends and family.

What is your favourite Book?

Little Women.

What are you currently watching on TV? 

The Affair.

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

Restaurant, I love food.

What’s your favourite sweet? 

The Strawbs from Candyking, but they’ve changed the ingredients so they’re not so nice anymore.

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

A window cleaner or a jockey.

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I bit my sister.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

I would probably say being moved up from standby to fulltime Elphaba.

What’s next? 

I’ve got my gigs at the Pizza Express on October 21st and 22nd.

Emma Hatton will be performing at Pizza Express Live Birmingham on 21 October 8:30pm and Pizza Express Live Holborn on 22 October 8pm. https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/emma-hatton

Carley Stenson takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Carley Stenson first rose to fame as Steph Cunningham in the Channel 4 television series Hollyoaks, but went on to star in the big budget stage musicals Legally Blond, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Spamalot and as Princess Fiona in Shrek.

She is now playing the iconic role of Fantine in Les Misérables and is one half of a Musical Theatre power couple, as her fiancé Danny Mac has just finished in On the Town at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and is about to star in Sunset Boulevard.

Carley took some time off to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Les Miz

 

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful? 

My family and friends support.

 

What is your favourite Book?

I loved the BFG when I was little and To Kill a Mockingbird

 

What are you currently watching on TV? 

We’ve been watching Suits and I love Nashville.

 

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

We try and squeeze it all in, but because we’re stagey we’d probably say dinner and then the theatre.

 

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I really like vegie Reversy Percys

 

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

This!

 

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I wasn’t that naughty, I was just a bit thick sometimes (which is no surprise if anyone knows me). I remember I used to have a habit of locking doors, either when I was in them or on the outside and I locked my uncle in the bathroom once and didn’t tell anyone and he was banging for ages. I remember when I was in South Africa – we were living over there, so I was about 5 – Rand, which was like a 50 pence piece over here. I had a game where I would throw it at the chandelier and the goal was to hit it, but I didn’t realise that the chandelier would smash. My Aunty, bless her, she loves me now but she hated me then.

 

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

It would be quite easy to say the career I’ve had but I think your friends say a lot about you so I’d have to say the company I keep.

 

What’s next? 

I’m contracted for a year in Les Miz, so that’s a while off, but I am getting married at the end of August so that’s my focus at the moment.

 

You can see Carley Stenson in Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue www.lesmis.com

Concert-style Starlight Express to be staged at The Other Palace

The Other Palace have announced three concert-style workshop performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical STARLIGHT EXPRESS, in The Theatre at The Other Palace on Thursday 14 , Friday 15 andSaturday 16 September at 7.30pm.

Members of the original creative team of STARLIGHT EXPRESS will collaborate again, along with a group of carefully chosen actors and musicians to explore the piece. Focussing on the score and lyrics, and working for a week before the public showings, Andrew and the team will continue to work on the show in the daytime before evening performances, responding to audience reaction and feedback as they navigate the exciting process of revisiting this classic work.

STARLIGHT EXPRESS originally opened in the West End in 1984 where it ran for over 7000 performances, and continues to run in a purpose built venue in Bochum, Germany where more than 15 million people have seen it. The Bochum production celebrates its 30th anniversary next year.

The Other Palace opened in February 2017 as a new home for musical theatre. The Other Palace workshops are a great way to utilise what The Other Palace is all about; a place to discover, develop, explore and reimagine work, whether that be new or existing and established pieces.

All tickets are priced £25 and go on sale at 12.00noon on Friday 11 August. Tickets are only available from The Other Palace Box Office, online at theotherpalace.co.uk or by calling 020 7087 7900.

The Exorcist will be unleashed in London

“I’m telling you that ‘thing’ upstairs isn’t my daughter…”

Forty-five years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel terrified an entire generation, The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.

Widely considered the scariest movie of all time, the film adaptation of The Exorcist sparked unprecedented worldwide controversy when it was released in cinemas in 1973. Winner of two Academy Awards, William Friedkin’s masterpiece saw audiences petrified to the point of passing out and went on to become one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

When the medical profession fails to provide answers to young Regan’s strange symptoms her desperate mother Chris turns to a local priest for help. But before Father Damien can tackle what’s before him, he must overcome his own shaken beliefs, as this fight is for more than just one girl’s soul…

Sean Mathias has worked at the Royal National Theatre and many times in the West End and on Broadway, as well as extensively internationally. In 2009/2010 Sean’s production of Waiting For Godot played two seasons at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and toured the UK and internationally. In 2013 Godot played Broadway along with his production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land, the latter transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre in October 2017 starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and won Best Revival at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2016.

The Exorcist is designed by Olivier Award-winning Designer Anna Fleischle (Hangmen) with lighting by Tim Mitchell (RSC/Guys and Dolls), composition and sound design by Adam Cork (London Road) and illusion design is by Ben Hart (Impossible).

The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018. Tickets will go on general sale at 4pm on Friday 11 August.