Heathers the Musical @ The Other Palace – Review

5 StarWhat’s your damage, Heather? Except for the wrecked vocal chords of a few hundred people screaming as if their lives depended on it, no damages have been caused as a result of the first fully staged professional production of Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s Heathers the Musical in the UK. First presented as a staged reading in 2017 as part of the Work in Progress initiative at The Other Palace, the cult musical has made its way from the studio downstairs up to the main auditorium where it is currently playing to full houses until August, which will be followed by a transfer to Theatre Royal, Haymarket for a 12 week run from September through to November.

The piece has been reworked and refined since its premiere off-Broadway in 2014 and it is much stronger as a result. O’Keefe and Murphy have managed to balance the dark nature of the plot with a great deal of humour and wit alongside an extremely catchy and boppy score. They also clearly want to the piece as good as it can possibly be as a new song for Heather DukeNever Shut Up Again, has been added and You’re Welcome, first heard in the workshop, replaced Blue.

The material is performed brilliantly by the extremely talented cast of theatre favourites. Leading the cast as Veronica Sawyer is Carrie Hope Fletcher, who is simply marvellous. Fletcher plays the quirky role with a grounded sense of humanity, making her character seem extremely real. Her singing is also incredible. Veronica’s songs are not easy to sing at all and she smashes her way through the belt-a-minute score as though its nothing: her effortless singing is a thrill to watch and listen to. As her troubled boyfriend, Jason Dean is Jamie Muscato who reprises the role from the workshop. He is exceptionally cast as J.D, really reaching deep inside this complex character and constantly showing how broken he is. It was lovely to not see the character just be portrayed as an evil villain which could be so easily done, and instead as a fleshed out person who was acting in the only way he could see fit. His Meant to Be Yours is a masterclass in acting and, especially from the front row, was truly terrifying.

In the eponymous roles of the Heathers were Jodie Steele as ‘mythic bitch’ Heather ChandlerT’Shan Williams as usurper Heather Duke, and Sophie Isaacs as timid onlooker Heather McNamara. Having been a fan of the show since its original run off-Broadway, it was lovely to see these roles played in such a different way. They also benefited from rewrites as each character seemed like a more fleshed out character. Steele is dastardly as Chandler, possessing a steely look on her face (the resting bitch face to beat all others, if you will). Watching her own the stage toward the start of the show is great and (no spoilers) after a drastic action is taken against the character, she gets to have a great deal of fun, particularly in The Me Inside of Me and Never Shut Up Again. Williams has received probably the most of the rewrites and boy, does she make the most of it! Never Shut Up Again is perfectly suited to give the character her moment to shine, which was always missing, and she rocks it. It was also very sweet to witness her redemption at the end of the show, showing her skill as an actress. Isaacs is adorable as McNamara, revelling in the weirdness and quirkiness of her character. She nails the comedy but her version of Lifeboat is something to behold. Seeing her fall apart is very moving to watch, she performs the song beautifully and it is no surprise why she reprised her role from the workshop when it is a role that is clearly suited perfectly to her.

As Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly, the school’s resident jocks turned gay forbidden lovers, Dominic Andersen and Christopher Chung relish these characters who must be great fun to play. The pair bounce off each other so well and they clearly have a great rapport. It is also frightfully clear how much more appropriate You’re Welcome is in context. Jenny O’Leary plays Martha Dunnstock, the butt of all jokes due to her weight, and her performance is absolutely stunning. The sense of unwavering optimism comes through in buckets and her rendition of Kindergarten Boyfriend was absolutely heartbreaking. Rebecca Lock absolutely smashes her dual role as Ms. Fleming and Veronica’s Mom (as well as a teenager during Big Fun, watch her during it, she’s great fun). Her Shine a Light is incredibly well sung, with her throwing an amazing new riff in at the end. Special mention has to be given to myself for my cameo as Steve (thanks Rebecca, I’ll make sure to not wear the sailor costume in public again!)

Edward Baruwa and Jon Boydon are also featured in a multitude of roles, but most notably as Ram and Kurt’s Dads and they are both great! Also deserving named special mention for how individual and brilliant they all were, are the 5 piece ensemble made up of Lauren DrewCharlotte Jaconelli, Alex James-HattonOlivia Moore and Sergio Pasquariello.

The production feels extremely slick and polished because of the direction of Andy Fickman who obviously cares a great deal about this show and had been involved since the beginning of its journey. The choreography by Gary Lloyd is explosive in nature and fills the relatively small stage well. David Shields’ design is well suited to the show and the space at The Other Palace, as is Dan Samson‘s sound design which for a space which sometimes does struggle with an even sound, was brilliant. Ben Cracknell’s lighting, in particular, was brilliant and worthy of mention. Props to the production also for its all-female band, led by Simona Budd.

To sum up, Heathers has finally graced London with its presence and in what is an extremely well put together production, performed by an extremely talented and hardworking cast of theatre favourites. Although the run at The Other Palace is sold out, a lottery is being held every Friday for performances in the following week and returns may become available from the box office or online. It will begin performances at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on September 3rd and is due to close on November 24th. At this stage, other than Carrie Hope Fletcher as Veronica, a cast hasn’t yet been officially announced but this is expected in due course. Visit http://heathersthemusical.com/ for more information on the transfer and to book tickets.

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Spamalot – UK Tour – Review

4 Star

I must admit I have never been the biggest fan of Monty Python so seeing Spamalot, the musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, has never really been a priority of mine but seeing as the UK Tour was in my local theatre for a week, I decided to go along and check it out and I absolutely loved what I saw! It was great to see a comedic show that genuinely made me laugh (unlike some others).

Monty Python member Eric Idle wrote the music, lyrics and book for the show, with additional music by John Du Prez. I was virtually unaware of the score going in, minus The Diva’s Lament and The Song That Goes Like This, but found it surprisingly catchy and very enjoyable. The book was as funny as you’d expect, with some classic moments from the film it is based on featured such as the Knights of Ni and the Rabbit of Caerbannog, and I also loved the local references, especially when about getting drunk in our Wetherspoons. I also found it very funny to watch the cast react to some of the adlibbed moments and fail to stifle their laughter.

Speaking of the cast, they were led by Bob Harms as King Arthur who was suitably up himself and pompous, showcasing a very strong voice as well. Opposite him as devoted servant Patsy was Rhys Owen in an adorable performance that tugged on the heartstrings at points, especially in I’m All Alone. In the now iconic role of the Lady of the Lake was Katherine Glover who was delightfully self-aware and sassy, and gave a very assured performance despite only joining the cast shortly before I saw the show. I found a moment of hers during The Diva’s Lament involving some lip-synching particularly funny.

Stephen Arden played Sir Robin with such camp hilarity and it was brilliant to watch, his standout act 2 number, You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, being a massive crowd-pleaser. Johnathan Tweedie was particuarly charismatic as Sir Lancelot, also playing smaller roles such as the Head Knight of NiTim the Enchanter and the French Taunter to a great reaction from the crowd. Norton James also did a great job as Sir Galahad, singing a great rendition of The Song That Goes Like This and was also brilliantly funny as the King of Swamp Castle in the second act. Marc Akinfolarin was also hilarious as per usual as Sir Bedevere and Mrs Galahad in particular. A new name to me was Matthew Pennington who played the effeminate Prince Herbert with all the weediness the role requires, as well as various other roles, and was fantastic in each. The show’s small but extremely strong ensemble also did a great job in multiple roles throughout the show.

Daniel Buckroyd’s direction was assured and strong throughout, really capturing the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show. Also deserving mention are Ashley Nottingham for some great choreography, as well as Sara Perks for her design (I especially loved the costumes) and David W. Kidd for the lighting.

A thoroughly enjoyable show which definitely surprised me, showcasing a really strong cast, all of whom are clearly at the top of their game! The tour has now concluded.

Pieces of String @ Mercury Theatre, Colchester – Review

5 Star

So I see a lot of shows, a lot of great shows, a lot of moving shows, but I can safely say I’ve never been as moved by one as I was by Pieces of String playing at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. This brand new British musical is absolutely sublime, telling the story of the same family in two different time periods: a young man and his wife moving into their first home together before he is called to fight in World War Two and his experiences there; and his family on the day of his funeral in modern day and the secrets they learn of the past.

Part of the show’s charm is due to the gorgeous score by Gus Gowland. It feels completely fresh and new, having some real standout tunes, most notably Standing in the Shadows which was a phenomenal number, sung brilliantly by the 4 male performers. The book was also very powerful, shifting from moments of hard-hitting emotion to genuinely humorous yet never making a gimmick of its subject matter which all-too-often happens in musicals. This was where the show excelled: at telling an LGBTQ story with heart, respect, and honesty, and it should be applauded for doing so. Ryan McBryde’s direction was also extremely strong, as he managed to weave together two time periods into one space and having it never feel forced or contrived. This was aided by a lovely set and costumes by Fin Redshaw and gorgeous lighting by Ben Cracknell. I particularly enjoyed their use of shadows and backlighting in certain moments. It was great to see this new show have such a well put together and fully realised premiere production.

The cast of this show were also first-rate. Carol Starks played the role of Jane, the hardened and cold mother, who constantly pushes away her gay son as she cannot accept his homosexuality. She had some great emotional moments, especially in the second act, after the revelation that her dad was also in love with a man. Playing her son Ed was Andy Coxon, who I have wanted to see in a show for some time now, and he didn’t disappoint. He got to show off his lovely voice and was deeply honest in his portrayal of this guy who was struggling to please everyone and wasn’t entirely comfortable with himself. Playing his rebellious sister Gemma was Ella Dunlop who was also brilliant, bringing some levity in what was an emotional show and still getting to show off her acting chops with some more serious moments. Gary Wood also shone as HarryEd’s boyfriend, especially when he cried whilst Marilyn Cutts as Rose was singing to him in the first act. Cutts was also extremely strong as the kooky visitor with an unexpected link to the past. Similarly to Dunlop, whilst adding a sense of levity to proceedings, she also did get to sink her teeth into some more emotional material.

In the World War Two scenes, Edward was played by Craig Mather, another performer I’ve been wanting to see for some time, who was absolutely brilliant. His voice was gorgeous and he acted the role really beautifully, definitely showing the struggles his character was going through as he was torn between two people he loved. He had brilliant chemistry with both Lauren Hall as his doting wife, Anna, and Joel Harper-Jackson as his lover during the war, TomHall played her role with a refreshing wide-eyed naivety to start with but slowly became more desensitised as the show progressed which I thoroughly enjoyed watching. As TomJoel Harper-Jackson showed why he has become a new favourite performer of mine with how excellent he is onstage: his voice is absolutely beautiful but his acting is also brilliant. There was such power in his performance and I loved it.

Pieces of String runs at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester until May 5th. It is an utterly gorgeous show that deserves support from as many people as possible because it most definitely deserves a further life! To buy tickets for this run, visit https://www.mercurytheatre.co.uk/event/pieces-of-string/

Spring Awakening @ Hope Mill Theatre – Review

4 Star

A play about a group of German teenagers going through puberty in sexually oppressive 1800s Germany doesn’t sound like the source material for one of the most groundbreaking and popular musicals of recent time, but Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater‘s Spring Awakening has become just that. Instantly becoming a hit with audiences after its 2006 Broadway premiere, the musical won 8 Tony Awards and has now returned to the UK in a new production at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre.

Sheik and Sater have taken Frank Wedekind’s 1881 play and turned it into a hugely relevant and contemporary story about how dangerous miscommunication between youths and adults can be. The direction by Luke Sheppard and choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves helps the show’s contemporary feel, the choreography being particularly impressive. Gabriella Slade‘s set and costumes are also brilliant, along with very strong and impressive lighting by Nic Farman and sound by Leigh Davies. Considering the size of the venue, I was pleasantly surprised by how strong the production values were and considering the success of previous Hope Mill productions Hair and Pippin in their respective London transfers, it would not at all surprise me if this followed suit as it is extremely deserving of it.

The extremely young cast made up of mostly recent, or even some soon-to-be, graduates were insanely talented and gave this already vibrant and youthful show an even more punchy and rambunctious feel. Future graduate of Guildford School of Acting, Darragh Cowley played Melchior with a playful smirk and a blend of both cockiness and naivety, ideal for this role. Nikita Johal played female lead Wendla with the perfect amount of wide-eyed wonder and a longing to understand and experience the world. Closing up the leading trio as Moritz was Jabez Sykes who had the necessary intensity and vulnerability that has become synonymous with the role. The three also gave exquisite vocal performances, coming together for the heartbreaking penultimate number, Those You’ve Known.

Teleri Hughes as Ilse gave a lovely performance showing off a beautiful voice, leading the company in the rousing finale, The Song of Purple Summer, and being joined by Seyi Omooba as Martha in what was an arresting rendition of The Dark I Know Well, which proved to be my highlight of the show. Omooba was particularly powerful in her role and I came away needing to know where her career goes from here on. Alongside Hughes and Omooba were Beth Hinton-Lever as Thea and Sophia Simões da Silva as Anna who both performed with gravitas and strength, as well as Gillian Kirkpatrick who was quite frankly hilarious as Adult Woman in a multitude of different characters.

Adam Dawson played Hänschen with the typical sardonic wit and deadpan looks alongside Luke Latchman’s innocent and unassuming Ernst. The pair had great chemistry and their beautiful version of Act 2 duet, The Word of Your Body (Reprise), was a sign of this. Alongside them were Christian Tyler-Wood as Georg and Tim Mahendran as Otto, who both had small moments to shine, Tyler-Wood‘s involving an electric guitar, and Neil Stewart as Adult Man, who was as strong as his female counterpart in a variety of different roles.

With a hardworking young cast and very strong production values for what is such as small theatre, this production of Spring Awakening has a lot of merit and will no doubt go on to have a brilliant life elsewhere in the country. This production runs at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester until 3rd May. Visit their website for tickets and more information: https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/ 

For more updates on this production, visit https://twitter.com/Spring_Mcr, or for further updates from producer Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment, visit http://aria-entertainment.com/ or https://twitter.com/AriaEnts

Myth @ The Other Palace – Review (Workshop)

5 Star

In September 2016, a new rock musical called 27, written by Sam Cassidy and directed by Arlene Phillips, hit the London fringe scene, about the rise and fall of an aspiring rock star. I was interested in seeing it but for whatever reason, it passed me by and I missed my chance to see it… until now, that is. A year and a half later, 27 has been reworked into Myth, staged at one of my favourite venues, The Other Palace, which, since being taken over by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Taylor-Mills early last year, has become a hub for staging and trying out new material in a safe and supportive environment. Myth has become the latest in a number of public workshops held, following well-known shows like HeathersBonnie & Clyde, and Starlight Express (also directed by Phillips).

This production has been billed as ‘semi-staged’, but seemed to me to be very well produced with excellent lighting and a fitting set by Nick Eve, with effective sound design by Harry Barker. The minimal costuming also worked as it added to the modern and contemporary feel of the show. Phillips direction was very well thought out and it felt like I was watching a full production, not a workshop, so congrats to her and the other creatives for managing to make everything so slick and polished in a short space of time.

Cassidy’s score is brilliant: although rock scores are fairly prevalent in theatre, few are as true to ‘real’ rock music as this is. It felt fresh and new, and you can tell how passionate he is about this project. I just wish I had a way to hear these songs again as I loved them and to appreciate the score even further, I feel like I need multiple listens. It also felt like a score that you could listen to out of context and would still make sense. Complimenting the score were a fantastic 6-piece band who sounded exquisite under the direction of Matt Nalton and the supervision of Jimi MaddisonCassidy also wrote the book and I felt like the incorporation and modernisation of the Greek myths were very well done, not feeling shoehorned in at all. Some of the elements may have been difficult to an audience member who didn’t know the original myths but I doubt this would hamper their enjoyment of the show.

Of course, what helped to make the show so brilliant was it’s hugely talented cast. Leading the show as Orpheus was Joel Harper-Jackson who I saw last September in the ensemble of the tour of Curious Incident and automatically wanted to see him do more. Something about him just intrigued me and getting to see him lead this show definitely fulfilled that. His voice is exceptional and he sang the score effortlessly, especially considering how demanding it is. His acting was also wonderful, really moving me in ways I wasn’t expecting to be moved in. He’s a brilliant performer, one who I can’t wait to see in more shows.

Opposite him, as girlfriend Eurydice and bandmates Jason and Theseus, were Diana VickersRichard Carson, and Damien Walsh respectively. Vickers (known for appearing in the 5th series of The X Factor, and for starring roles in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and The Rocky Horror Show, the latter of which I was lucky enough to see her in) really showed her skill as an actress in this role. Of course, her voice is gorgeous but she is a very skilled actress and is really compelling to watch, again moving me in ways I didn’t expect. I previously saw Carson when he was understudying for Chris in the West End revival of Miss Saigon and was eager to get to see him again. He didn’t disappoint and it was great to see him in a completely different role. Walsh was delightfully cheeky in his role, clearly having a great time and is another cast member I’ll be sure to keep an eye on.

Also in the cast as the ever-observant Fates, AtroposClotho, and Lachesis, were Jodie JacobsEloise Davies and Jodie SteeleJacobs (well known in the theatre community for performances in such shows as Rock of AgesLegally Blonde, and Carrie the Musical which I saw her in) had the perfect amount of threatening and menacing in her performance as the eldest of the Fates, playing a role that seems completely different for her. She got to show off her phenomenal belt which I loved hearing again. Eloise Davies was a name I was previously unaware of but she’s got a new fan in me. I found her delightfully creepy as she went around trying to sniff out a new star, and her voice is exquisite, mixing the powerful chesty belt of Jacobs with the high and light belt of Steele, who I also thought was brilliant and will be keeping an eye on in the future. These three women constantly caught my attention as they watched and oversaw the story unfold, their use in the show as omnipresent narrators who began to alter the story being very well done.

Also deserving special mention are Zoe Birkett and Matthew McKennaBirkett was sultry and sexy as Miss M, getting to show off the multiple different flavours to her voice, going from a high belt to bluesy and jazzy throughout the show. McKenna grasped his opportunity to shine as the slimy and manipulative Hades and got to play around with different characters too (a favourite of mine was a very camp talk show host). The ensemble were also extremely talented and had some great harmonies, especially in the finale. I liked that they also each had an opportunity to come to the front in small featured roles, such as the band’s management team or a superfan. To sum it up in a sentence, this is a kickass cast all around and they smashed it!

A new British musical, workshopping at The Other Palace until the 17th March, with an incredible and hardworking cast. Not for everyone, granted, but an extremely well crafted musical that no doubt will have another life somewhere. For updates on the show once it’s run at The Other Palace has ended follow @MythMusical or @sammalcassidy on Twitter. Until then, tickets for this production are available from https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/myth

Girl from the North Country @ Noël Coward Theatre – Review

4 Star

Play? Musical? That’s one thing no one can agree on with one of London’s newest transfers from a critically acclaimed run at the Old Vic Theatre, Girl from the North Country, featuring an array of Bob Dylan’s hit songs but not in the way you know them. They have been weaved into a story of longing, sadness, and missed opportunities but not in the usual ‘jukebox musical’ fashion: in this show, a lot of the songs don’t serve to advance the plot; Conor McPherson, the playwright, has said that instead, the show is ‘a conversation between the songs and the story’. This is at times deeply affecting but at others, rather confusing, leaving the audience wondering what a certain song was supposed to be showing. The story also had elements of this: it was very emotional and moving at times, almost reducing me to tears, but some of the plot threads just didn’t seem as though they were going anywhere.

This is not to detract from any of the performances which are absolutely fantastic across the board. Sheila Atim plays Marianne Laine, the adopted daughter who is black, pregnant and unmarried in a time of great prejudice, capturing brilliantly the innocence of youth, constantly hoping for a better life. She sings beautifully, particularly with a rendition of Tight Connection to the Heart which was the first moment in the show to start making me emotional. Also particularly impressing me with their singing were Emmanuel Kojo who was on as Joe Scott when I saw the show, giving Slow Train Coming and Hurricane a new twist with his smooth and velvety voice, and Claudia Jolly as Katherine Draper who sings I Want You gorgeously.

Bronagh Gallagher is absolutely heartbreaking as Mrs. Burke, in what was one of the most emotional plot threads of the whole show. Her rich and gravelly voice is also lovely to listen to and I loved her rendition of Sweetheart Like You. Playing her disabled son, Elias, and husband, Mr. Burke, were Jack Shalloo and David Ganly respectively, who also both gave beautiful performances, again showcasing extremely powerful voices and playing their emotional scenes with grace and respect. Sam Reid gets to show off his raspy and gravelly voice as Gene Laine, the aspiring writer struggling to find meaning in his life.

Notable West End actress Debbie Kurup (known for performances in such shows as RentAnything Goes, and Chicago) plays Mrs. Neilson, the disgruntled mistress of Ciarán Hinds’ character, Nick LaineKurup‘s character wants more from life, showing her sarcastic side with some great one-liners and reactions, and singing Went to See the Gypsy and True Love Tends to Forget with her signature rasp and gravelly tones. Hinds plays Nick Laine impeccably well, really showing his skill as an actor in a difficult role that he plays with strength, vulnerability and compassion, relating to the audience a sense of desperation and wanting the best for the people he cares about but not being quite sure how to go about this. His performance is deeply compelling and its a joy to watch him play a difficult role so effortlessly.

The show only belongs to one person, however, and that is Shirley Henderson as Elizabeth LaineNick’s wife and Gene and Marianne’s mother, suffering from dementia. Henderson (best known for her role of Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter series) is the epitome of phenomenal in this role, beginning the show as little more than being portrayed as mad before growing to show that she is far more aware of goings on than people realised. Her performance is deeply emotional and moving, but she is also very funny, getting some great one-liners, and shows off what is a phenomenal voice, which surprised me when I first heard her: her performance of Like a Rolling Stone gave me chills!

Rae Smith’s set and costume design serve the show well, fitting the bleak world very well, with Mark Henderson’s lighting also fitting this, definitely adding a great deal of ambience to the show. Simon Baker’s sound design gives the musical numbers a great deal of power and oomph, adding to the joy of hearing them.

If you want to hear some amazing singing and see some extremely strong performances in a show that is well put together, but a bit muddled at times, visit https://www.girlfromthenorthcountry.london/ for more information. Emmanuel Kojo takes over from Arinzé Kene from 10th March and plays all matinée performances until then. The show closes on 24th March but will transfer to the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in February 2019 – visit https://www.mirvish.com/shows/girl-from-the-north-country for more information. Casting for the transfer is to be announced.

The Grinning Man @ Trafalgar Studios – Review

5 Star

Victor Hugo’s novels have a history of being turned into successful and highly acclaimed musicals, most notably Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and his 1869 novel L’Homme qui rit, or The Man Who Laughs is no different. Premiering at the Bristol Old Vic in October 2016, The Grinning Man has received a great deal of acclaim and transferred to the Trafalgar Studios in December 2017, receiving a similar amount of acclaim there.

The show has music and lyrics by Tim Phillips and Mark Teitler, as well as additional lyrics from Carl Grose, the show’s book writer, and Tom Morris, the show’s director (known for his collaboration with Marianne Elliott on War Horse), and I have to say, it is brilliantly put together. The score flows seamlessly with the dialogue and fits this dark but uplifting tragicomic musical extremely well. It also gives its performers a great deal of room to show off their abilities without just being song after song of vocal acrobatics. The writers have truly grasped how to mix song and scene and it’s wonderful and refreshing to see and hear. The book is also surprisingly funny, with a great deal of adult references, which I was not expecting. It’s also deeply heartfelt and emotional, really tugging at the heartstrings at times.

Morris’ direction also deserves a special mention as he has managed to mix fairground lightness with an extremely dark and deeply moving story, along with a lovely bit of puppetry. Similarly to how the puppets were used in War Horse, you almost forget that there are people holding the puppets because of how brilliant the direction is. This is aided by the wonderful work of the cast who control the puppets with grace and care, making them feel completely real. Deserving special mention for this are James Alexander-Taylor and Loren O’Dair who bring Mojo, the pet wolf, to life. At no point did it feel like two actors controlling a puppet; the puppetry heightening the joy this show brought me.

All the creative elements of this show only add to its brilliance. The set by Jon Bausor was perfect for this show, heightening the dark world that the show was set in, as well as being surprisingly large for what is a relatively small theatre. Jean Chan’s costumes were also perfectly suited to the world of the show, running the gamut from torn and grubby, to regal and royal. Rob Casey’s lighting design and Simon Baker’s sound design also deserve mention for being particularly well done.

This show features some absolutely brilliant performances, most notably from its leading pair, Louis Maskell as the Grinning Man himself, Grinpayne, and Sanne den Besten as his devoted blind companion, DeaMaskell was simply phenomenal, only having the upper half of his face to act with, still managing to convey the complex emotions that come with the role. His singing was also impeccable, showcasing his expansive range from low to high, performing the second act opening aria Labyrinth extremely well, proving to be a show highlight. Sanne den Besten fared similarly, effectively acting as blind throughout the show and never faltering from this. Her voice was also stunningly beautiful, performing big number Born Broken gorgeously. The pair had great chemistry together and were an absolute joy to watch.

Supporting them are an extremely talented group of actors. Special mention must go to Julian Bleach as the clown, Barkilphedro, who played the part with menace but also a real sense of self-belief: he didn’t play the role as a simple villain, he played someone who only did what they did because they felt they had to to get where they wanted in life. David Bardsley played the role of Ursus at the performance I saw, in what was only his second performance in the role. He played the role with a great deal of heart and warmth and underlying guilt, and showcased a gorgeous voice in his Act 1 solo, Stars In The Sky.

Also featured were Mark AndersonAmanda WilkinJulie AthertonEwan Black and Sophia MackayAnderson was delightful as the pompous and arrogant Dirry-MoirWilkin was thrilling to watch as the sultry and orgy-obsessed Josiana, showing off her deeply rich voice; West End leading lady Julie Atherton (known for such shows as Avenue QSister Act and The Last Five Years) was hilarious as Queen Angelica, clearly taking delight in the fun of her role. Ewan Black, who I was previously unaware of prior to this show, was a joy to watch, singing beautifully as Trelaw and showing off a natural charm as showman OsricSophia Mackay also fared the same as Black, blowing me away with her singing as Mother and showing off good comedic chops as Quake. The small but hardworking ensemble were also a joy to watch.

If something new and fresh is your thing, with a gorgeous score, wonderful performances, and phenomenal direction, you ought to give this new British musical a go, it really is something special that we don’t get a chance to see all the time! The show is running until 14th April so don’t miss your chance to see it! Visit https://thegrinningmanmusical.com/ for more information.