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.

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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 – http://milliondollarquartetlive.co.uk/