Saturday 28 August 2021

Cirque Berserk - Review

Garrick Theatre, London


Returning to London's West End, Cirque Berserk deliver an evening of timeless human genius.

Bursting onto the stage like a pride of lions huddled together in perfect unison, were 7 agile men that hooked the audience into the very first extraordinary act of the night. The Timbuktu Tumblers, so aptly named, dazzled the crowd with their acrobatic prowess. The way they held each other up creating several different and quite literally, man-made structures, with such ease is a sight to behold. The danger was ramped up later in their routine when they danced under fire limbo sticks, with nothing short of a whispers breath between the floor and the flaming bar! A marvellous and rare performance to behold.

Another mesmerising act of the night comes from a more traditional circus acrobatic troupe, heralding from Mongolia these acrobats were flying through the air as a fish swims through the ocean. Traditional trapeze artistry accompanied by death defying gymnastic stunts kept the audience clapping through there whole act. One of their stunts being so dangerous a safety mat is required to prevent serious injury or death. Demonstrating both beauty and skill, their ribbon bound performance mesmerised adults and children alike. The tranquil, yet energetic music matched the way they moved so perfectly entwined with the silk, it was impossible to look away. A pin drop could have been heard amongst the audience, for all eyes were entranced by the talented act. 

Special mention must be given to 3ft 6inch tall comic, acrobat and showman Paulo Dos Santos who inadvertently came on stage between acts. His is a silly yet charmingly brilliant turn, one which engaged the children and kept them on their toes, with nuances that only the adults would understand to keep them giggling. It truly was a fulfilling sight to behold when a man who was from first initial reception seen as merely there to fill some laughs on stage, was also able to also perform some of the most challenging circus acts of the night. A touching tribute to the show.

The finale, a diesel fuelled spine tingling danger act was truly the definition of ‘Berserkus’. The Lucius team a group of professional dirt bike riders and the Globe of Death. Up to three riders flying inside the globe riding upside down while practically touching elbows as they zoom past each other at upwards of 60mph. A wild finish to an exhilarating show that, for family entertainment in the West End, is up there with the best.

Runs until 11th September. Tickets available here
Reviewed by Christian Yeomans
Photo credit: Piet-Hein Out

Saturday 21 August 2021

Jersey Boys - Review

Trafalgar Theatre, London


Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Directed by Des McAnuff

The cast of Jersey Boys

A cast - each stars in their own right - perform a riveting, but also humble take on the lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Jersey Boys is a story about growing up, the sacrifices that we make along the way and the heartbreak of those left behind, with phenomenal songs to tie it all together.

Ben Joyce leads the cast in his West-End debut as Frankie Valli, with an uncanny musical resemblance to that of the man himself. His voice is distinctive and powerful and manages to capture Frankie’s uniquely powerful falsetto. You won’t leave the show forgetting about his voice any time soon. The audience were in uproar at his solo performances, in particular, the very famous “I can’t take my eyes off of you”, which is without a doubt one of the best renditions of the song. Joyce plays a star, but his authenticity and emotional depth that he brings to Valli is what makes the character truly come alive.
Supporting Joyce to make up The Four Seasons are Adam Bailey as Bob Gaudio, Karl James Wilson as Nick Masel and Benjamin Yates as Tommy De Vito. All three give sublime performances in their roles and are just as much stars of the show as Joyce.

Indeed, when the four perform together it is a truly fantastical experience. From Sergio Trujillo's brilliantly choreographed dance moves (Joyce does the splits!) to their 1960s costumes, this show does everything to make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. A live, black and white video is even displayed at the back of the theatre screen while they are performing the timeless hits. 

Special mention must be given to Yates who encapsulates everything De Vito was about. Being the first character story that the show begins with, Benjamin’s cocky, confident and downright smooth performance firmly thrusts the audience into the golden era of doo-wop quartets performing under the late night street lamps of New Jersey. De Vito is the progenitor of the group, bringing ‘green’ Frankie in and taking him under his wing, despite all his floors, if it wasn’t for De Vito we wouldn’t have the Frankie as we know it. And Yates' portrayal stays cool from beginning to end, eyes are often drawn to his background dancing which just oozes 1960s style.

The set with mics emerging from the stage and street lamps descending from the rafters is the fifth member of the ensemble, truly transporting the audience to the time and period. A fantastic show that the whole family will enjoy.

Photo credit: Mark Senior

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Singin' In The Rain - Review

Sadler's Wells, London



                Kevin Clifton, Adam Cooper and Charlotte Gooch

Music by Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Arthur Freed
Book by Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Directed by Jonathan Church

One of the two classic tales that defined the impact of the ‘Talkies’ on Hollywood (the other of course being Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard) Singin’ In The Rain is an unashamedly joyous celebration of talent in both song and dance.

The story is an age-old fable. Silent movie Lina Lamont finds herself overtaken by the trend towards sound recording, and where Lamont may have the looks of a screen-goddess, her voice of course is an unbearable screech.

It takes the genius of Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown to spot the hidden talents in studio-hand Kathy Selden and as everyone knows, the dubbing skills of Selden go on to save the day with Selden herself being finally recognised for the vocal star that she is.

The story is simple, timeless and an endearing tribute to the triumph of good over evil. The show’s title of course derives from Lockwood’s deliriously happy discovery of both Selden’s voice and his own feelings for her – and while the title number has little impact upon the story’s arc it is a Broadway and Hollywood classic and here, under Jonathan Church’s deft direction, the front rows of the Sadlers Wells’ stalls are appropriately drenched in watery appreciation

Church and his choreographer Andrew Wright have reunited to recreate their 2011 Chichester triumph and they have been given a platinum cast to work with. Even more so in the fact that ten years ago it was Adam Cooper who starred as Don Lockwood and it is Cooper who returns to Sadler’s Wells.  With Kevin Clifton and Charlotte Gooch  as Cosmo and Kathy respectively, the trio are an unbeatable combination. Vocals and footwork are breathtaking in their pinpoint accuracy with even Faye Tozer’s squawky Lamont proving a further flawless joy.

For an evening of unqualified delight, this production of Singin’ In The Rain has to be one of the best shows in town.

Runs until 5th September, then tours, with tickets available here

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Dad's Army Radio Show - Review

Crazy Coqs, London


Written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Directed by Owen Lewis

David Benson and Jack Lane

Originally penned as a radio show back in 1968, Dad’s Army could be described as unique in its comedic genre: despite being dated, somehow this comedy series centred around the doings of a Home Guard platoon in the fictional town of Walmington-On-Sea during World War II, manages to survive and is still much-loved (although, one suspects, probably by more senior audiences).

The genius of the original series was of course not only its inspired casting, but also the incisive wit of its writers, who managed to lovingly satirise so much of England's classic charm within their scripts. From radio, to television sit-com, to stage and screen translations, this latest iteration of Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s brilliantly observed comedy masterpiece is a selection from the TV series’ latter episodes, all newly adapted for stage but performed here as a radio show – and thus the form in which it was first presented. As such, there are scripts on stands and microphones on stage and even an old-fashioned radio atop a cabin trunk centre stage. What makes this production unique however is that the show’s twenty-five-plus characters are played by just two actors!

A tour de force indeed, and it has to be said that the duo of David Benson and Jack Lane, dressed in khaki uniforms as befits the Home Guard, rise to the challenge admirably. The latter’s portrait of Private Pike, the wet-behind-the ears youngest member of the platoon is spot-on and he segues, seemingly effortlessly, into the voice of the unit’s Captain Mainwaring. Equal kudos must go to Benson, brilliant as the voice of laid-back Sergeant Wilson and more. The comic timing is excellent and any inadvertent pauses are well covered up by ad-libs, much appreciated by the live audience.

Even the female voices are well managed and if there was the occasional corpsing it was in the main managed well. Interestingly the evening's radio play format allows for an amazingly comprehensive picture of the mores of the time. Opening with Churchill’s famous ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ speech and with atmospheric musical interjections, it is all very effective.

Dad's Army Radio Show makes for an evening of charmingly witty nostalgia, immaculately performed.

Touring across the UK from September. Tickets via this link
Reviewed by Barbara Michaels

Monday 2 August 2021

Janie Dee In Cabaret - Review

The Pheasantry, London



Janie Dee

 “Leave your troubles outside!
Life is disappointing? Forget it!
Here, life is beautiful!”

And with those immortal Kander & Ebb lyrics, Janie Dee opened her cabaret set to a full house at The Pheasantry. Indeed, set against a world still battling the ravages of the pandemic, to say nothing of the horrendous London weather, life did appear to be briefly beautiful in the gorgeous intimacy of that Kings Road basement.

Dee is one of London’s finest musical theatre and cabaret performers. Her wisdom, experience, talent and sensational voice imbue her with a presence that not only earns our attention but rather commands it, allowing her to take the audience’s emotions on a rollercoaster ride of perfectly pitched pathos and playfulness, masterfully supported by musical director Stephen Higgins.

A selection of Kander & Ebb numbers followed their Wilkommen opener, with Dee sharing how the composers’ 1971 song Yes! had recently seen John Kander graciously permit her to tweak that number’s lyrics so as to accommodate Dee’s passionately held concerns over climate change, a belief that allowed her to seamlessly segue into a delicious delivery of What A Wonderful World.

An early guest slot saw Dee's guitarist son Alfie Wickham play a brief set, commencing with an enchanting take on the classical melody Spanish Romance. Wickham played with confidence, skill and an on-stage assuredness - the young man has remarkable potential.

Dee closed her first act with her first Sondheim number of the night, Send In The Clowns. Close-up and cocooned on this Chelsea stage, and having played Desiree Armfeldt on a number of previous occasions, Dee gave the song a rare intensity in her interpretation. Indeed, having heard the song sung live on countless occasions I found that listening to Dee's Desiree, the one that I wanted was hers.

Sondheim's Another Hundred People got the second act underway in what was to prove another carefully crafted setlist that fused merriment with melancholy. Copytype was a sharply satirical look back at the days when typewriters were a thing, while Dee again gave a hauntingly contemporary resonance to Jerry Herman’s Time Heals Everything. Wickham returned to the stage to accompany his mum on Fly Me To The Moon, as Janie wrapped up events with a resounding The Ladies Who Lunch.

Everybody rise? – such was Dee's commanding gravitas that we very nearly did as we were bade!

It’s great that cabaret is back in town and helmed by their supremely well-connected resident host Ruth Leon (herself an 'Emcee' who could give Joel Grey more than a run for his money), The Pheasantry is destined to be packing them in over the next few months.

Photo credit: Angie Lawrence