Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Critiquing a show you don’t like is a tough job

It’s always difficult to critique a show you know you don’t like. After I’ve seen a couple of versions of something and have been unimpressed by it, I then try my best to avoid future presentations.

For example, I’ve managed to completely sidestep the new West End production of Annie – starring Miranda Hart – and with the announcement this week that Craig Revel Horwood is to take over the role of Miss Hannigan; I will continue to actively avoid the Piccadilly Theatre until something more interesting comes along. It’s not that I don’t like Craig – he is a really lovely person – but having seen Annie six times within the last two years and previously witnessed his portrayal in the touring production, I know I can manage without another viewing.

There are lots of other shows too, which I would quite happily never see again like South Pacific (in my opinion, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s worse show), 42nd Street (rubbish story and a dull score) and The Sound of Music (or the Sound of Mucus as I call it). It’s not that it’s a bad musical, but I’ve just seen it far too many times and have started to hope that a curtain call is on Maria’s list of ‘favourite things’.

There are also highly acclaimed shows that I just don’t get, like Ragtime, Godspell and Into the Woods, and loads of plays, which – with my limited intellect – I struggle to understand. Some are just far too worthy for this working class girl and I therefore find them extremely difficult to write about.

There are occasionally things that surprise me however, like last year’s Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After being part of a detestable amateur production, I despised the classic rock opera, but Tim Sheader’s fab adaptation made me see it through fresh eyes.

I also had my mind changed by Evita last week. I have previously called the musical ‘excreta’ – such was my loathing of it – but after seeing Emma Hatton in the leading role at the Phoenix Theatre I found myself willing to give the story another go.

I am yet to watch any Gilbert and Sullivan operetta however without feeling the need to cry in desperation and don’t get me started on village pantomimes (I endure an average of 15 each season!).

Gosh, it sounds like I don’t like anything doesn’t it? There are lot and lots of shows I love – which is why I’m so lucky to do what I do – and I also get to discover new things, which I wouldn’t ordinarily choose.

Anyway, I had another fab evening at Alice’s Adventures Underground last week (a real recommendation); I finally watched Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (very good) and enjoyed Evita (a bit!). I also interviewed former Wicked star Idriss Kargbo, who is working on one of my real favourites, Five Guys Named Moe – which will open at the new popup theatre at Marble Arch next month – and I went to the launch of the new season at the New Wimbledon Theatre and had a chat with Kara Lily Hayworth, who will play Cilla Black in the new stage show about the singer’s life.

This week I’m off to interview Carley Stenson – who is currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables (love it!) – at the Queen’s Theatre and then I’m heading down to Underbelly Festival to see Velma Celli’s Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, with special guests Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace. I’m then talking to RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon, before chatting to Emma Hatton about her illustrious career and her sensational performance in Evita.

You can follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

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ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND for children aged 5 to 10 returns to the Vaults

Les Petits Theatre Company and ebp in association with Creature of London are bringing “ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND” back to the Vaults beneath Waterloo station later this  month. The critically acclaimed immersive theatre experience created and directed specifically for children aged 5 to 10 returns from 13 May 2017 to 3 September 2017.

Pushing the boundaries of children’s theatre “ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND” allows families to explore Wonderland up close, in an immense multi-room set in the Vaults under Waterloo station. In this hour long show, children will play a part in controlling their own experience, as they search for Alice, who is missing in Wonderland. On entering Wonderland you will either ‘Eat me’ or ‘Drink Me’, which determines your unique path. Tumble with the Tweedle twins; follow the White Rabbit and take Tea with the Hatter at the Maddest Tea Party of all!

“ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND” was originally conceived as a celebration of the 150thanniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and is adaptedfor the stage by Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo and directed by Emma Earle.

The cast consists of Benedict Chambers (Twelfth Night, Mr Popper’s Penguins, Adventures in Wonderland), Adam Collier (The Railway Children, Henry V, Adventures in Wonderland), Liam Harkins (Captured, Love of the Nightingale), Susanna Jennings (The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie, The Gruffalo), Hannah Miller (Blackbird, Peter Pan), Chandni Mistry (A Colder Water Than Here, Wonderful Wizard of Oz), Angelina Reilly-Szostak (Goosebumps Alive, Adventures in Wonderland) and Noah Young (Mary Rose, What Lovely Weather).

Emma Earle is a director and producer, and associate director Les Enfant Terribles, she is also the co-Artistic director of Pins and Needles.  For Pins and Needles, Emma is developing a new adaptation of The Little Mermaid with writer Bea Roberts. The show premieres this Christmas at the egg theatre in Bath.

Her adaptations of Mr Popper’s Penguins (New York/West End) and Raymond Briggs’ books The Bear and Father Christmas are being remounted in 2017.

Emma’s credits for Les Enfants Terribles include: Dinner At The Twits’, The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory, The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie, Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs, and Ernest And The Pale Moon.

Read our five star review of the grown-up version of the show  Alice’s Adventures Underground 

Adventures in Wonderland runs at the Vaults from 13 May until 3 September. 

Review: “This adventure makes a perfect night out” ★★★★★ Alice’s Adventures Underground

The Vaults at Waterloo are an unusual and pretty spooky venue and as such provide the perfect backdrop for an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, writes Nicky Sweetland.

Carroll’s beloved tale itself blends the fantastical with the sinister and Les Enfants Terribles’ Alice’s Adventures Underground goes even further to establish a world where you don’t ever feel quite comfortable but at the same time totally exhilarated.

First performed at The Vaults back in 2015 the Olivier Award nominated immersive experience has received an overhaul and introduced 10 new characters and a different layout in order to make audiences feel completely submerged within the fairytale world from the very first moment they enter.

The bar area alone is a work of art, with a black and white forest and multilevel lounge area where you can sup on one of the specially designed cocktails. In fact, you can even buy edible cocktails if you are feeling more of an ‘eat me’ rather ‘drink me’ vibe going on.

Your penchant for consuming either liquid or solid is eventually how you choose your path around the myriad of tunnels and fascinating subterranean hallways, as after a brief mooch around the study – which is filled with so much detail you could spend hours pouring over the intricate design – you are invited to fall down the rabbit hole and select your pathway into Wonderland.

The experience you then receive is a mixture of theatrical performances, theme park fun and circus tricks, but all in perfect measure, so as to ensure the pace is always maintained and the 90 minutes flies by.

You can even join in with some crazy speed dating or have a game of Flamingo croquet in the bar afterwards to make the adventure last a bit longer.

Beautifully designed and wonderfully performed this adventure makes a perfect night out.

Alice’s Adventures Underground is at The Vaults until 23 September