Review: ‘A nippy night out’ ★★★ Venus in Fur, Theatre Royal Haymarket

With more and more revelations surfacing about sexual exploitation in the world of showbusiness, the new production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket couldn’t be more relevant.

Starring Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer alongside David Oakes (Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare in Love), the two-hander perfectly depicts the desperation felt by actors who may succumb to the casting couch in order to get on in the industry.  But the clever twist in David Ives’ play (directed by Patrick Marber) is the shift of power during a seemingly typical process.

The play centres on an actress, who although late for an audition, convinces the director to allow her to perform and what follows is an intricate game of cat and mouse, which is surprisingly funny.

Dormer is wonderful as the somewhat boorish Vanda; seamlessly moving from a wise cracking New Yorker to the well spoken English rose, to which we are more accustomed. In fact, the transition is so seamless that I found my ears were struggling to auto tune to the vast difference in accent, which occurred sometimes mid sentence.

Oakes on the other hand provides us with a much more sedate role, grounding the performance and allowing for flow to the dialogue, although at times the sexual chemistry between the pair is so electric, it derails the pace of the action altogether.

At just 90 mins straight through, it’s a nippy night out, but one that’s well worth the trip.

Venus in Fur is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 9 December.

Photo by Tristram Kenton

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Broadway Star Adrienne Warren to portray Tina Turner in new musical

Adrienne Warren was announced by Tina Turner as the actor who will portray her in the world premiere of the new musical Tina. 

Adrienne Warren said: “Growing up watching Tina, I knew how to shake my hips before I could tie my shoes!  I am so grateful to our creative team and producers for entrusting me with this responsibility.  I say responsibility, because I am a Tina Turner fan first. I am elated, honoured and humbled.  Meeting and working with Tina is and will always be one of the great moments of my life.  Can’t wait to see you in London!”

Tina Turner said:  “It has been my joy to introduce Adrienne today.  From the moment I met her at our last workshop I saw her exceptional talent. Playing this role will require immense physical and emotional commitment, and bravery too. We are thrilled to have found Adrienne, and I very much look forward to spending more time together and developing a special friendship I know will grow even stronger as we prepare the production for the Aldwych Theatre. We can’t wait to welcome her to the show.”

From humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee, to her transformation into the global Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner didn’t just break the rules, she rewrote them. This new stage musical, presented in association with Tina Turner herself, reveals the untold story of a woman who dared to defy the bounds of her age, gender and race.

Adrienne Warren will make her West End stage debut as Tina.  Her most recent theatre credit was in Shuffle Along at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, for which she received a Tony nomination.  Her other US theatre credits include Bring it On the Musical at St. James Theatre, Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theater, which was followed by a National Tour, and The Wiz at Encores City Center.  She has toured and recorded with the multi-platinum selling Trans Siberian Orchestra in which she received her first Platinum and Gold records.  Her television credits include the Amazon Pilot Point of HonorOrange is the New BlackBlue BloodsRoyal PainsPeople in New JerseyIrreversible, and Black Box.  In March this year, she made her Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops.

With a career that has spanned more than half a century, the legendary rock performer Tina Turner is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time.  She first rose to fame in the 1960s partnering with her then-husband Ike Turner, achieving great acclaim for their live performances and catalogue of hits.  Later, Turner enjoyed an international solo career with her 1984 album Private Dancer earning her widespread recognition and numerous awards, including three Grammys.  She went on to deliver more chart-topping albums and hits,receiving a further eight Grammy Awards and reportedly selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history. The revered singer was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and has often been voted as one of the most successful female Rock ‘n’ Roll artists of all time.

Tina begins previews on 21 March at Aldwych Theatre  www.tinathemusical.com

Mischief Theatre will return to the West End with Mischief Movie Night this Christmas

Mischief Theatre, the award-winning company behind The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, today announce their return to the West End with Mischief Movie Night, the improvised movie live on stage, which will play for a strictly limited season at the Arts Theatre from 13 December 2017.

Returning to their comedy roots, Mischief Theatre will bring the audiences’ genre, location and title suggestions to life complete with rewinds, fast forwards, directors’ cuts and a live score. The cast includes Josh Elliot as Not Sure, Dave Hearn as Uncertain, Harry Kershaw as No Idea, Henry Lewis as Don’t Know Yet, Ellie Morris as Couldn’t Tell You, Charlie Russell as TBC, Jonathan Sayer as Who Knows and Henry Shields as Guess Who. They will be joined onstage by musicians Chris Ash and Richard Baker.

Mischief Theatre was founded in 2008 by a group of graduates of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and began as an improvised comedy group. Mischief Theatre performs across the UK and internationally with improvised and original scripted work. This Christmas Mischief Theatre will have three shows running in the West End. Their Olivier and Tony award- winning production of The Play That Goes Wrong is currently at the Duchess Theatre and running on Broadway; it will also complete a UK tour from January 2018. Their other production The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is currently at the Criterion Theatre. The company is led by Artistic Director Henry Lewis and Company Director Jonathan Sayer.

http://mischieftheatre.co.uk/shows/mischief-movie-night

Bring your bagpipes for an evening to celebrate the best of Scotland & Musical Theatre with Shona White & Kieran Brown

A pair of seasoned Scottish West End performers are bringing a touch of Celtic charm to the Arts Theatre just in time for St Andrews Day, in an evening to celebrate the best of Scotland and Musical Theatre.

In a show entitled Scots in the City, Shona White (Wicked, Mamma Mia, Chess) and Kieran Brown (The Phantom of the Opera,Wicked Les Miserables), alongside musical director Niall Bailey will be joined by talented Scottish musicians and some of the best Scots voices in the West End, showcasing the rich Celtic musical history of Scotland in this unique celebration of all things Caledonia! There will be a special Scottish quiz with prizes to be won and ticket holders will be treated to some real tastes of Scotland!

“We are delighted to be sharing this evening of song celebrating our mutual love of Scotland with a London audience. We are both fiercely proud of our deep Scottish roots, and also proud to be Londoners, so this is a unique opportunity to combine both. We are planning a few surprises along the way, and alongside Niall, our musicians and special guests, we hope the audience will leave with smiles on their faces and an understanding of the unique rich musical landscape of our bonnie bonnie homeland!”

So bring your bagpipes, flash your very best tartan and prepare to be swept away by sweeping Scottish melodies – and Andrew Lloyd Webber as you’ve never heard him before!

Scots in the City will be at The Arts Theatre on Thursday 30 November at 8.30pm

All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical to get West End transfer

Following a third, critically acclaimed, sell-out tour, All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical, based on the story of the Small Faces, will play a limited West End season at the Arts Theatre, London.

The producers of All Or Nothing  have also announced the release of a 29-track cast recording, as well as a limited edition 15-track blue vinyl LP, available to buy from venues hosting the show on the current tour, as well as from the show website, www.allornothingmusical.com, and, when it is playing there, from the Arts Theatre.

Written and directed by the award-winning actress Carol Harrison, All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical is the story of four charismatic young kids from East London with humour, attitude, passion and, above all, talent.  They became the Small Faces and were rocketed into the big time, only to discover the path to success is paved with exploitation, betrayal and, ultimately, tragedy.

The cast at the Arts Theatre will be led by Carol Harrison as Kay Marriott and Chris Simmons as the older Steve Marriott.  Further casting is to be announced.

In 1965, a new phenomenon erupted out of London’s East End.  It was the essence of all that was cool.  It was Mod.  All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical  follows the rise and demise of the Small Faces, the band who encapsulated all that was Mod – a unique blend of taste and testosterone, clothes-obsessed and street-wise – but most of all, a dedication to rhythm ‘n’ blues.  The musical celebrates the unique sound of this iconic Mod band, with all the Small Faces’ hits, including Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Tin SoldierLazy SundayHere Comes the NiceItchycoo Park and, of course, All or Nothing.

Carol Harrison said of the West End transfer, “I am honoured that All Or Nothing  has been embraced by so many wonderful audiences who have laughed, danced, wept and sang with us across the length and breadth of the country.  I am so thrilled that we can now bring the All Or Nothing  experience to the West End.  Watch out, ‘cos the Mods are coming ……Or maybe we just never went away!”

Carol Harrison is probably best known for her role as Louise Raymond in EastEnders.  Other television roles include seven years as Gloria in Brushstrokes, Loretta opposite Ray Winstone in Get Back, and Dorothy in two series of London’s Burning.  Carol’s theatre work includes Michael Rudman’s production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at the National, Ripen Our Darknessat the Royal Court, Alan Parker’s production of Alfie at the Liverpool Playhouse and Lee Hall’s Cooking with Elvis at the Lyceum Theatre, Crewe.  She was also a founder member of Half Moon Theatre in London’s East End.  Her film credits include The Elephant ManQuadrophenia and Human Traffic.

Chris Simmons is probably best known for playing the role of DC Mickey Webb for over twelve years in the long running ITV series The Bill.  He has also appeared in EastEnders as Mark Garland and in the Tracy Beaker spin-off CBBC show, The Dumping Ground.  Chris’s theatre credits include Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends (Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage), Entertaining Strangers (Lyric Hammersmith), Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (tour), Iago in Othello(tour) and Epicoene (Tristan Bates Theatre).

The show is endorsed and supported by many of those who feature in its story, including singer P.P. Arnold and Steve Marriott’s daughter, Mollie Marriott, who is the show’s vocal coach and creative consultant.

All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical will run at Arts Theatre from 6 February – 11 March 2018.

Watch trailer for The Exorcist with Ian McKellen as the voice of the Demon

Ian McKellen will feature in the West End premiere of The Exorcist as the voice of the Demon.

From 20 October at the Phoenix Theatre, the stage adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s iconic best-selling novel will be unleashed onto the London stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted by John Pielmeier.

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop!”

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…

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

As previously announced, Jenny Seagrove will play Chris MacNeil opposite Peter Bowles as Father Lankester Merrin, Adam Garcia as Father Damien Karras, Todd Boyce as Doctor Strong, Elliot Harper as Father Joe, Isla Lindsay as Sharon, Mitchell Mullen as Doctor Klein, Tristram Wymark as Burke and Clare Louise Connolly as Regan.

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.

Multi award-winning Ian McKellen has had a 55 year long career on stage and on screen. For the Royal Shakespeare Company he has played Romeo, Macbeth, Iago and King Lear and at the National Theatre, has appeared in productions of Coriolanus, Richard III, Uncle Vanya and The Seagull. He gained his first Oscar nomination for Gods and Monsters and his second for Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is Magneto to Patrick Stewart’s Xavier in the X-Men movies,Richard III and most recently Mr Holmes. He is currently starring in King Lear in Chichester and was last seen on stage in London with Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land.

The Exorcist starts performances at the Phoenix Theatre on 20 October

Ronan Keating to lead star-studded West End Charity Gala

Platinum selling music icon Ronan Keating leads a star-studded line-up – for one night only – of songs, laughter and variety, at the Phoenix Theatre in London on 19 November at 7:30pm, for the Mane Chance West End Charity Gala Spectacular.

Ronan Keating said, “I am thrilled to be part of this very special concert and supporting such a worthy charity. The work Mane Chance does in the community for both horse welfare and enriching the lives of disabled and disadvantaged children and young people is invaluable.  Along with the brilliant line up of other performers, I know it will be a fantastic night and I hope we raise a huge amount of money for Mane Chance so they can continue with their great work!”

Ronan is joined by triple-reality TV singing sensation Joe McElderry, pop star Amelia Lily, America’s Got Talent winner and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, chart-topping singer-songwriter Sandi Thom and superstar soprano Margaret Keys. With Jake Quickenden, Marti Webb, Patti Boulaye, Beau Dermott, Jenny Seagrove and a host of other favourites from the world of music, theatre, TV and entertainment, supported by a sensational live on-stage band. With all profits to Mane Chance charity.

Mane Chance and its beautiful sanctuary is dedicated to the rescue and recovery of abused and abandoned horses, and their subsequent mentored interaction with disabled and disadvantaged children and young adults. Improving lives, well-being and rehabilitation, the results for children and animals alike are often extraordinary and can be life-changing.

More details on Mane Chance at www.manechancesanctuary.org

The Mane Chance Charity Gala Spectacular is on Sunday 19 November 2017 at 7.30pm at Phoenix Theatre

Ticket Prices: From £15

 ATG Tickets: www.atgtickets.com/shows/mane-chance-charity-gala/phoenix-theatre/

Review: ‘An energetic and mesmerising musical treat’ ★★★★ Hair, The Vaults

Unlike other critics, I don’t have multiple memories of watching the rock musical Hair. In fact, my only previous experience of the show was from watching the film as a teenager and I was so underwhelmed that I have actively shunned it for years. But after hearing great things about Jonathan O’Boyle’s 50th anniversary revamp at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, the transfer to the Vaults Theatre became a more appealing prospect.

And packed into the dingy bowels beneath Waterloo station I found a show full of life. Performed in a semi immersive manner – the audience surrounding the playing area frequently makes up part of the action – the musical is executed to perfection by an extremely talented young cast.

Hair follows a group of disillusioned young hippies in the late sixties, who are struggling with the prospect of being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. We are shown the moral battle of one in particular, Claude (played with an extraordinary subtly by Robert Metson) who – along with his tribe of peace-loving friends – expostulates the merits of going to war. Should he be a patriot (and honour his family) or stick to his own guns (if you’ll pardon the pun), burn his draft card and stay in America to protest for peace?

The story is really pretty flimsy and the effort to bring it up to date with some audio of recent politics doesn’t really fit. But it’s the music that’s the real winner in this show and with a fantastic band (led by Gareth Bretherton) filling the dungeon-like auditorium with soft-rock melodies, you feel as if you’re in a trendy club. Songs like “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In” are given a renewed energy by William Whelton’s electrifying choreography, which has elements of pastiche mixed with more modern movements to give an affectionate nod to previous incarnations.

And when it’s performed by the tremendous cast – with vigour and conviction – the result is an energetic and mesmerising musical treat.

Hair is running at the Vaults Theatre until 13 January

Review: ‘A fiendish feast’ ★★★★★ Young Frankenstein, Garrick Theatre

With the celebration of Halloween becoming more and more part of the British psyche the West End has really delivered this year with not one, not two, but three shows which are set to feed the insatiable hunger of horror fans.

For hardcore horror you’ll have to wait for the Excorcist to open at the Phoenix Theatre, but in the meantime you have two monster comedy musicals to choose from in the form of The Toxic Avenger at the Arts Theatre and Young Frankenstein just down the road at the Garrick.

Having been unimpressed by The Toxic Avenger when it had its European premiere at Southwark Playhouse last year, I decided to instead get my fiendish fix from Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein and I was not disappointed.

Lovingly ripping off the budget horror movie genre, the musical is based on the 1974 film and ran for two years on Broadway to mixed reviews.

But it’s been revamped by Brooks for the UK market and after a run in the North East comes to London feeling fresh and new but with the winning structure of a classic musical comedy.

Think Carry on Screaming with a soupçon of Me and My Girl and you’ll get the idea. There’s an abundance of near knuckle titillation and silliness, but with great music, a solid story and some utterly fantastic performances.

Leading the way is Hadley Fraser, whose Frederick Frankenstein (he’s very particular about the pronunciation) follows in his notorious monster making uncle’s footsteps with the encouragement of his henchman Igor, played by standup comedian Ross Noble.  You’d expect Noble to have impeccable comic timing but what is unexpected is his masterful grasp of the other stage disciplines. Their duet “Together Again” sets out the stall for a night of high-energy dance and song, which I loved so much, I would happily watch again this week.

They are matched with some perfectly pitched frivolity from Summer Strallin (the “Roll in the Hay” sequence is so wrong it’s somehow right) and a bit of comedy gold from a pair of stage stalwarts in the shape of Lesley Joseph and Patrick Clancy.

And then there’s Dianne Pilkington, who plays Frankenstein’s spoiled socialite fiancé. She may not be on much but my goodness does she take the limelight when she is with some stonking numbers including the innuendo filled “Deep Love” with the creature, which had me crying with laughter.

And I guess I should mention the creature, who is played so convincingly by Shuler Hensley that I found myself rooting for him in the infamous “Putting on the Ritz” scene, completely forgetting that there is a renowned musical theatre star inside the grizzly façade.

Young Frankenstein is a fiendish feast, which I would like to indulge in again and again.

Young Frankenstein is booking at the Garrick Theatre until 10 February 2018 

Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle to star in new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights at Wilton’s Music Hall

Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights.

The original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the gloriously Christmassy surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.

Joining Kelly and Gabrielle as part of the stellar cast will be Mark Extance, Safiyya Ingar, Tom Kanji, Samuel Simmonds, Rosalind Steele and Alistair Toovey.

Matthew Kelly is an Olivier-award winning actor best known for television and stage acting and presenting family favourites Stars In Their Eyes and Game For a Laugh. Having appeared in several West End productions; Of Mice and Men, Waiting For Godot, Funny Peculiar and Sign of the Times to name a few, Matthew has most recently been appearing in Desire Under The Elms at the Sheffield Crucible. Three-time Olivier-nominated Josefina Gabrielle has appeared in countless West End shows, including Stepping Out, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Sweet Charity and Merrily We Roll Along. Her television credits include Miranda, Doctors, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Heartbeat.

The original great British children’s literary classic, which has inspired authors from C S Lewis to J K Rowling, The Box Of Delights was reinvented as an award-winning BBC television show in the 1980s and became an instant cult classic, creating a fanbase of thousands around the world. This brand-new stage show, written by beloved children’s author Piers Torday whose work includes the bestselling Last Wild trilogy and new novel There May Be A Castle, tells the story of young orphan Kay Harker, the boy who must save Christmas. On the train home for the holidays he encounters an old magician, Cole Hawlings, who tasks Kay with protecting his Box of Delights, a wondrous device with time travelling powers. And so begins a tale of adventure that transports Kay through time and space, as he must protect the Box against Cole’s nemesis, the evil sorcerer Abner Brown.

Matthew Kelly says I couldn’t be more delighted to be returning to Wilton’s, a magical venue and the perfect setting for the Christmas classic The Box of Delights. How they will achieve the effects of snow, flood, talking animals, miniaturised children and flying cars in this exciting time-travel adventure I have no idea. If anybody can do it, Justin Audibert directing and Tom Piper designing can and that’s why I’m on board. Hurrah.’

Josefina Gabrielle says ‘I’m so excited to be joining the cast of The Box of Delights. And I can’t wait to see what this incredible creative team has in store for us in bringing this wonderful story to life at the very special Wilton’s Music Hall this Christmas.’

Packed with Christmas spirit, festive fun and magic, this classic family show is brought to life by an acclaimed creative team including Director Justin Audibert (Royal Shakespeare Company; National Theatre) and Olivier award-winning Designer Tom Piper and takes place in the wonderful Wilton’s Music Hall, a venue so Christmassy the smell of mulled wine positively oozes from the walls…

The Box of Delights will be at Wilton’s Music Hall from 01 December 2017 to 06 January 2018