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THE ADAMS FAMILY at Birmingham Hippodrome

The UK tour of THE ADAMS FAMILY at the Birmingham Hippodrome was extremely entertaining. This show is all about the characters and every performance was spot on. I love Samantha Womack and she did not disappoint. She was sexy as Morticia. Cameron Blakey was charming as Gomez. Carrie Hope Fletcher was moody as Wednesday. Les Dennis was hilarious as Uncle Fester. Who knew he was so versatile. The more I see of Les Dennis the more and more impressed I am.

This production felt expensive with a great set, excellent band and a well choreographed ensemble who delivered with style. this show is a great night out at the West End in the West Midlands.

ANGELS IN AMERICA at National Theatre

I saw the original National Theatre Tony Krushner’s play ANGELS IN AMERICA in 1993 and I remember it was like peering into a whole new Universe as I sat on the edge. America and AIDS in the 1980’s.

Twenty Five years later this new production at the National Theatre was more like a familiar Universe I had visited after my own life experiences struggling to make sense of life’s cruelties and the inadequacies of those we love.

This epic play in two parts is an important and relevant journey I would recommend investing the time to take at least once in your life if you love theatre. The characters in the play are familiar to me now but watching this stellar cast recreate them was very rewarding.

I am a big fan of Russell Tovey who plays Joe Pitt. Andrew Garfield gives a perfect pitch performance as Prior Walter. Amanda Lawrence is particularly impressive as The Angel. Nathan Lane is a superstar and his character Roy M Cohn has even more relevance today as he was the lawyer of Donald Trump.

GLORIA at Hampstead Theatre

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins GLORIA directed by Michael Longhurst at the Hampstead Theatre is a little gem of a play. It is going to be difficult to comment and give this play all its due because I religiously avoid spoiling plots as I hate it so much when anything is revealed to me. This play takes the contemporary ordinary and makes it extraordinary. There are layers and layers that are revealed by the characters each step of the way. I was both shocked and delighted by the interesting expose of each of the characters in this story. Really interesting.

LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL at the Wyndham’s Theatre

Audra McDonald plays Billie Holiday in LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL at the Wyndham’s Theatre.

Emerson’s Bar and Grill has been recreated by Christopher Oram in a realistic set on stage with tables extending into the stalls. It is obviously late in the evening and as soon as Audra McDonald ascends into the spotlight it is clear that it is late in Billie Holiday’s life.

This play is so much more than just a gig in a bar. Cleverly written it weaves into and between the songs the tragic and heart wrenching story of Billie Holiday’s life. I left the theatre feeling I knew her story. However it really is the stunning performance by Audra McDonald that stands out. I should say that Audra McDonald channels Billy Holiday in a performance that gives chills.

INK at Almeida Theatre

James Graham’s play INK directed by Richard Goold at the Almeida Theatre is both entertaining and important. It is the story of how by buying The Sun newspaper Rupert Murdoch began the transformation of news in the UK into entertainment. The talented Bertie Carvel is excellent as the young Rupert Murdoch and Richard Coyle anchors the whole play opposite him as Murdoch’s editor Larry Lamb. Every character in the story is colourful because of detailed and nuanced performances by an experienced cast.

Goold has a way of bringing fun choreography and movement into his productions that just elevate the story making it all more flowing and entertaining. Bunny Christie’s design and Neil Austin’s lighting give this production the feel of an old technicolour movie. I really enjoyed this play.

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at Apollo Theatre

I love Tennessee Williams plays. After seeing Jack O’Connell and Sienna Miller in Benedict Andrews production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Apollo Theatre in the West End I now know why. The depth of insight in his play is like a bottomless pit of revelation after revelation. My mind is still spinning as I discover more and more about the inherent dysfunction in family and society from this play.

Magda Will’s staging design is bold and brassy and provides the perfect spaceĀ to expose the hidden truth at the heart of these characters lives. I have seen the play before and I enjoyed it for exposing me to life in a plantation mansion on the Mississipi Delta. In this production of the play Jack O’Connell is masterful casting and his perfect just under the edge performance provides the context for what this play is all about. Just why does he need to get so drunk to quiet his mind?

We think we get the answer in the first Act of this masterpiece in theatre and Sienna Miller is brilliant in what seems like a monolgue for the whole act. I was gripped throughout the act hanging off every word. I am not sure I have ever been pulled so deeply into the middle of a relationship on stage.

Colm Meaney, Lisa Palfrey and particularly Hayley Squires performances extend the story into the wider family during Act 2 and Act 3. I had some concerns about the blocking when there were more than three Actors on the stage but this was a minor irritant.This play has the gravitas and insight of Shakespeare’s King Lear but delivered with all of the contemporary class of a top HBO series.

 

ANASTASIA at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway

ANASTASIA at the Broadhurst Theatre is an excellent show. It is a great story that is told exceptionally well. There is a warm slow burn to the heart at the centre of this production. The extremely high quality digital backdrop projections augment a classical set and bring an authenticity to the setting. Finally the technology is actually supporting the production rather than overwhelming or even detracting from it.

The music is wonderful with memorable numbers. This is a tightly structured Broadway show with the form which reminds one why Broadway is the home of musicals.

The cast are an exceptional collection of voices. I adore Ramin Karimloo who has one of the best controlled voices on the stage. Derek Klena has everything you want in a young male lead; looks and talent. Mary Beth Peil brings a majesty to the production with a sense of Broadway aristocracy in her performance. Christy Altomare is just delightful as the lead with a powerful voice.

Every single aspect of this show is perfectly presented with the world class professionalism of a top hit Broadway show. There is a magical quality to this show which lies somewhere between theatre and a movie in the mind.