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


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 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 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 for more information.

Hamilton @ Victoria Palace Theatre – Review

5 Star

Now hands up those of you who have heard of Hamilton? Its hard to get very far in the theatre world at the moment without at least knowing of this show and it’s success. The 2015, 11-time Tony Award winning hip-hop musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the life of America’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, opened in the West End in December 2017 and I was lucky enough to get tickets in the original pre-release for this February.

It’s difficult to say much about this show that hasn’t already been said time and time again: it’s exceptional. It’s a brilliantly crafted piece of theatre, one of the best of recent times I’d go as far as saying. Miranda has perfectly married hip-hop and rap with traditional theatre storytelling to create an exciting, emotional and exhilarating musical which makes the founding of America feel contemporary and fresh. Hamilton is the very definition of one of a kind and it’s not hard to see why or how it has become so critically and commercially acclaimed over its relatively short lifetime.

Despite being extremely familiar with Miranda‘s score and the Original Broadway Cast Recording going into the show, having been a fan since early in the show’s life, the West End cast were exactly what I wanted them to be and more, completely making the show their own with their well-executed performances. The ensemble of Hamilton are ridiculously hard working, performing Thomas Kail’s frantic direction and Andy Blankenbuehler’s demanding choreography with precision and skill, barely ever being offstage and it was thrilling and exhausting to watch. All were exceptional, but particular standouts in small featured roles were Jack Butterworth as the uptight messenger, Samuel SeaburyLeslie Garcia Bowman as the excitable and incompetent officer, Charles Lee, and Waylon Jacobs as the cuckolded husband, James Reynolds.

At the performance I saw, the dual track of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton was played by Ash Hunter with energy and at times, heartbreaking emotion. His Laurens was particularly strong, really capturing the spirit of someone who wanted to change the injustices in the world. Alongside him were Jason Pennycooke and Tarinn Callender as the Marquis de Lafayette / Thomas Jefferson and Hercules Mulligan / James Madison respectively. Callender, a recent graduate from Arts Ed, was perfectly bold and brash as Mulligan and suitably reserved and weedy as Madison, surprising me with the lovely velvety voice he had. If he is this strong in his West End debut, I predict great things for him and can’t wait to see where his career progresses to. Pennycooke, a recognisable name from West End shows such as Memphis the Musical and La Cage Aux Folles, was a delight in his dual track, particularly as Thomas Jefferson where he camped everything up to the max, taking dastardly delight in the response he got from the audience.

Also taking delight in the response he got from the audience was Michael Jibson as King George III. Jibson ticked all the boxes of the role and made a huge impact as the childish but ruthless ruler, despite a relatively short amount of stage time with only 3 songs. Obioma Ugoala played George Washington with the perfect amount of gravitas and strength, commanding the stage as you’d imagine an army general and President to do. His voice was brilliant, with a deep gravelly tone, giving Right Hand Man and One Last Time the power they need.

Extremely strong is Rachel John as Angelica Schuyler, playing the role with a great deal of subtlety and grace. John absolutely smashes Satisfied, really focusing on Angelica’s plight and experience, deservedly received a great deal of applause and cheers for her rendition of this song. Rachelle Ann Go also does a good job of playing Eliza Hamilton, absolutely smashing her Act 2 solo, BurnGo‘s performance is much stronger in the second act than the first: playing Act 2 with much more strength and power than Act 1, with her Act 1 performance drifting into the realm of stereotypical Disney Princess rather than a young woman who is still learning about the world and falling in love. Christine Allado makes a brilliant Maria Reynolds, her voice particularly suiting the sultry nature of Say No To This, but not making as much of an impact as Peggy Schuyler, which may be due to the nature of the role being very small.

The joint male leads were extremely strong, as I expected they would be. Giles Terera was a brilliant Aaron Burr, no longer making the role feel like a villain who set out to do bad as Burr can be played, but simply as a human who was pushed too far. He was heartbreaking towards the end of the second act, really making you feel a great deal for him despite what had happened. His voice was also absolutely gorgeous and he sang Wait For It and The Room Where It Happens extremely well. As Alexander Hamilton, recent graduate of RADA, Jamael Westman, shone, effectively showing Hamilton’s growth from a young, scrappy and hungry individual to a man on a downward spiral due to his ambition. He rapped extremely well and also had a lovely singing voice which was a pleasant surprise as this isn’t something vital to the character.

Not only was this show’s cast brilliant but all the creative elements of it only added to its excellence. Thomas Kail’s direction was at times genius and inspired but did at other points feel overdone and as though it was overly stylised – I would’ve welcomed a tad few more of the quiet moments as a reprieve from how busy it all was. I also felt similarly about Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography. It was all extremely impressive though and I definitely enjoyed watching it. I did love the use of the revolve though and the non-stop energy it gave the show. The set resembling a dockyard by David Korins remained static throughout but still managed to impress with its depth and intricacy. Howell Binkley’s lighting was exceptional and impressed me in a way that lighting design rarely does. Paul Tazewell’s costume design was again simple but effective which worked extremely well, and Nevin Steinberg’s sound design worked perfectly with the modern music.

All in all, Hamilton is an extremely well-written musical which deserves all the hype it has received as everything comes together to create what is one of the greatest pieces of theatre in modern times. It is booked currently until the 15th December 2018 although this is sure to be extended. Visit for information about booking.

An American in Paris @ Dominion Theatre – Review

3 Star

On 17th June, I visited the Dominion Theatre to see the West End production of An American in Paris, based on the 1951 Academy Award winning film of the same name. Whilst as a whole I did enjoy the show and the performances, I have to admit I didn’t see it in the same light as many others who have given it rave reviews – in fact, I found it quite dull at times, mainly due to the use of dance.

Christopher Wheeldon both directed and choreographed this show and whilst I found the choreography visually interesting and impressive, I felt as though certain portions of it weren’t necessary and didn’t actually enhance the story – in particular, the dance number which ended the second act and the show’s title number An American in Paris. Both of these numbers, whilst containing great choreography (especially the title number), just felt too long for the amount of story they were telling. Other numbers were thoroughly enjoyable however, especially I’ve Got RhythmI’ve Got Beginner’s Luck and Liza.

For the most part, projections are used instead of set which I’m not the biggest fan of in general, however I thought they worked quite well for the style of the show and were very beautiful (created by 59 Productions Ltd.). The small amount of set there was worked but wasn’t anything to write home about and due to the large size of the Dominion Theatre’s stage, it often felt quite empty. The costumes were lovely, minus the cubist and abstract design of the title number which I felt jarred with the rest of the show.

Robert Fairchild, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, played the lead role of painter Jerry Mulligan, and his ballet background really shone through with his effortless dancing. With a gorgeous voice and strong acting skills to match, Fairchild is a real triple threat and I do hope he stays around the London theatre scene. Playing opposite him as ballet dancer Lise Dassin was Royal Ballet alum Leanne Cope who did a great job with the bland part she had to play, showcasing a gorgeous and strong voice, as well as being a stunning ballerina. The show was definitely at its strongest when Cope and Fairchild were dancing together.

Supporting Cope and Fairchild as various love interests were Haydn Oakley as aspiring singer Henri BaurelDavid Seadon-Young as composer Adam Hochberg, and Zoë Rainey as philanthropist Milo Davenport, each of whom I have seen previously. Every time I’ve seen Haydn Oakley perform in the past, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his performances and this was no different. He captured the essence of a struggling song and dance man extremely well, showcasing his talents in Act Two “showstopper” I’ll Build a Staircase to Paradise (which was actually quite underwhelming, due to the huge stage which made the number seem very sparse), whilst dealing with allusions to him being gay (which were never expanded on, something which could have made his character arc far more interesting). The last time I saw David Seadon-Young perform was in Assassins in 2015 where he gave a truly heartbreaking performance, and he was no less brilliant here, showing off his beautiful voice and giving a heartbreaking performance which pleasantly surprised me as I didn’t expect to be so moved in a show such as this. Zoë Rainey also fared extremely well, showing off her gorgeous belt and also giving a moving performance as she deals with her love for Jerry. Also featured were Jane Asher and Julian Forsyth as Monsieur and Madame Baurel, who were your typical strict parents who eventually softened to their son’s aspirations but neither were given enough to work with to make an impression.

If you’re a fan of old timey musicals and/or ballet, this show would definitely be one to check out! The role of Jerry Mulligan is now played by Ashley Day, except for Wednesday evenings when he is played by Max Westwell, and Daniela Norman plays Lise Dassin on Thursday evenings. Jane Asher will play her final performance on 2nd September 2017, with her replacement yet to be announced. The show is currently booking until 27th January 2018: check the website for updates –


Million Dollar Quartet – UK Tour – Review

4 Star

On 1st June, I visited my local theatre to see the current UK Tour of Million Dollar Quartet, a musical based on the events of the night of December 4th 1956, when Sun Records founder Sam Phillips brought together Elvis PresleyCarl PerkinsJohnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis by complete chance for an impromptu jam session which would become one of the most famous events of music history, especially in the world of rock and roll. The musical was first seen on Broadway in 2010, before transferring Off-Broadway in 2011, and to the West End in the same year, where it ran for a year.

The show was conceived by Floyd Mutrux, who also co-wrote the book with Colin Escott, and they have managed to create a jukebox musical that doesn’t feel tacky or cheap, or as though it’s just an easy money grab. While the action is limited (although it does get heated at several occasions in the second act), what can be expected when the show is based on a one night recording session? Although the first act felt clunky and slightly repetitive at times due to the way it is presented (first half of a song is done, then interrupted by Sam Phillips describing how he met the artist, then the song continues – still very entertaining, I must add, just repetitive and clunky to me), the second act felt much more coherent and well thought out, with some quite moving moments which I must say I wasn’t expecting in the slightest (the final moment before the curtain call being particularly powerful).

The headliner of the tour so far has been TV, music and stage star Jason Donovan in the role of Sam PhillipsDonovan doesn’t sing in this show, meaning his acting skills are on full show and he doesn’t disappoint. He shows off a consistent American accent and shines in the second act when things start to go downhill for him with some quite powerful acting. The “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley, is played by Ross William Wild who emulates his voice and persona perfectly, getting a huge response from the audience for his amazing performance. Alongside him as the influential “King of Rockabilly”, Carl Perkins, is ex-Jersey Boy Matthew Wycliffe who, similarly to Wild, emulates Perkins to a tee, showing off his amazing voice and great guitar skills, resulting in another thoroughly enjoyable performance.

Robbie Durham plays icon Johnny Cash and he does it brilliantly, portraying Cash’s calm demeanour extremely well, in addition to his iconic bass-baritone voice. Durham in particular has some stand-out acting moments when his calm demeanour drops and lashes out at Jerry Lee Lewis. Speaking of the loud and brash pianist from Ferriday, Louisiana, Lewis is played by Ashley Carruthers, who gets the majority of the humorous moments with his well-timed delivery and exuberant nature, whilst showing off excellent piano skills and his great voice. WildWycliffeDurham and Carruthers all deserve huge amounts of praise for the outstanding performances they give, playing their instruments live and paying homage to the real life stars they are portraying.

Standing out amongst the male-dominated show is Katie Ray who plays the fictional DyanneElvis’ girlfriend (a stand-in for the real life Marilyn Evans). Her voice is absolutely stunning and she blew myself and the rest of the audience away with her renditions of Fever and I Hear You Knocking. Joining the 6 actors onstage are Ben Cullingworth as Fluke, the drummer, and James Swinnerton as Jay Perkins, the bassist and brother of Carl Perkins, who are also thoroughly entertaining throughout.

This production has been directed by Ian Talbot and he has done a brilliant job. It seems easy for this show to turn into a tribute concert to the artists involved and Talbot does a great job of making sure this doesn’t happen, keeping it realistic and natural. Lizzi Gee, credited as the Movement Director, does the best with what she can, the small amounts of natural choreography being very well done. The set and costumes have been designed by David Farley and they are great, the static set being especially effective, as is the lighting, designed by David Howe, which during the dialogue is completely natural but becomes concert-like during the songs which I personally loved. The sound designer, Ben Harrison, also deserves credit as the songs sound absolutely brilliant, very much like what they would’ve sounded like back in the day, even though some of the dialogue was at times underpowered.

Million Dollar Quartet is a thoroughly enjoyable musical that is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. The performances are brilliant and deserve huge amounts of praise. The tour will take a break over the summer but returns at the of September, travelling to York (19th – 23rd September), Hornchurch (25th – 30th September), Cheltenham (2nd – 7th October), High Wycombe (9th – 14th October), Inverness (16th – 21st October), Edinburgh (24th – 28th Ocotber), Eastbourne (30th October – 4th November), Poole (14th – 18th November) and Ipswich (20th – 25th November). Be sure to check the website for updates on cast information –

The Life @ Southwark Playhouse – Review

4 Star

On 22nd April, I visited one of my favourite venues, the Southwark Playhouse, to see the first UK production of Cy Coleman, Ira Gasman and David Newman’s musical The Life. The Life first hit the Broadway stage 20 years ago in 1997 with direction from Michael Blakemore, starring Pamela Isaacs, Lillias White and Chuck Cooper, and proved to be a huge hit, offering a stark look at prostitution in New York City in the time before Disneyfication (the clean up of the city and the commercialisation it soon saw afterwards). The production ran for over a year and garnered 12 Tony Award nominations, with wins for White’s and Cooper’s stellar performances as Sonja and Memphis respectively. I didn’t know a huge deal about the show going in but the casting of Sharon D. Clarke and Cornell S. John intrigued me enough to book a ticket.

The show itself was a mixed bag for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it (even if the first act felt like it was about 20 minutes too long, especially sat on the not-so-comfortable seats of the Southwark Playhouse) but there was something off to me. At times, it was dark and chilling, where you genuinely felt terrified for the women (in particular, Memphis’ act 1 solo, Don’t Take Much, in which he sang about being able to turn any woman into a prostitute for his use) but at others, it was jaunty and jolly as though there was absolutely nothing wrong with the world they lived in. This may have been a deliberate choice by ColemanGasman and Newman to show how the city carried on despite the plights of many of it’s residents but regardless, there was something that felt off about it. This didn’t hurt my enjoyment in the slightest though, and at multiple moments, I was truly moved by what I was seeing.

The cast were brilliant and each and every one of them deserve great praise for the stellar work they did. T’Shan Williams led the company as Queen, the hopeful young woman looking for an escape with her boyfriend FleetwoodT’Shan acted the role brilliantly, breathing such life into this complex character, and had a gorgeous voice to match. I see great things ahead for her. Another member of the cast with a great career ahead of them is David Albury who played Queen’s boyfriend, Fleetwood, the Vietnam War veteran struggling to get rid of his drug addiction that eases his PTSD-style flashbacks. David showed off his lovely voice and strong acting throughout the show and had such wonderful chemistry with T’Shan.

Playing the role of Sonja, the aging hooker who has seen better days, is Olivier Award winner Sharon D. Clarke who showed why she is such a sought after actress in the UK with her multi-faceted and heartbreaking portrayal of this woman who knew there was nothing left for her. Her rendition of The Oldest Profession got the largest audience response of the whole show, and her stellar acting during My Friend and the scene that followed moved me to tears. Cornell S. John was the perfect antagonist, showing such subtlety as Memphis. His chilling, calm speaking voice, deep baritone, and icy glare only added to his menace and visibly terrified a lot of the audience. Other stand outs include John Addison as Jojo, the scheming, manipulative hustler, and Joanna Woodward as Mary, the small town country girl who wasn’t as innocent and wide-eyed as she originally seemed.

The show was filled out by an extremely talented ensemble of people who each got their chance to shine in their individual featured roles. Jalisa AndrewsAisha JawandoCharlotte Reavey and Lucinda Shaw played the other prostitutes we meet during the show, each with a thrilling belt on them and great levels of sass, and were joined by Jo Servi as Lacy, the charming barman, Johnathan Tweedie as Theodore, the smarmy adult film director, and Matthew CaputoLawrence CarmichaelOmari Douglas (who made a cameo as a transgender prostitute in the act 2 number, ‘Someday’ is for Suckers) and Thomas-Lee Kidd, and an 11-piece band led by musical director Tamara Saringer which sounded brilliant and was the perfect backing to this cast of extremely strong singers.

This production was in fact directed by the original Broadway director, Michael Blakemore, and it definitely showed. It was slick and well thought out, Blakemore clearly knows what he is doing with the piece. Whilst I enjoyed the choreography by Tom Jackson-Greaves, I thought some bits were unnecessary and felt shoehorned in but it didn’t ruin the show at all. The production showed a new light to the Southwark Playhouse for me, with the usual static set replaced by automated pieces emerging from behind a sliding metal gate (which surrounded the entire space, adding a fully realised feel to the show), designed by Justin Nardella, and projections to show the multiple different locations the show took place in, designed by Nina Dunn, both of which I thought fit the piece and venue extremely well. Nardella also designed the costumes which were probably the best I’ve seen at the venue, perfectly suiting each individual character and the feel of the late 70s/early 80s. The lighting was designed by David Howe and I thought it was brilliantly atmospheric, representing the mood of each individual moment extremely well, and a special shout out has to go to Sebastian Frost who designed the sound in a venue that is notoriously hard to get sound balance right in.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable show despite a couple small misgivings, with excellent performances all around and if it were still running, I would definitely recommend it to any theatre fan who wanted to see something a little bit out of the ordinary.