REVIEW: Jersey Boys ★★★★★- Piccadilly Theatre

“…captivating in every way and it is impossible to exit the theatre without a smile.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

 

Jersey Boys tells the story of The Four Seasons. The musical was the idea of Bob Gaudio, one of the original Four Seasons. Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman are the writers and Des McAnuff is the director. Brickman suggested the musical should tell the story of the band’s history.

It begins with Tommy DeVito, who brings Frankie Castelluccio (soon to be Frankie Valli) under his wing. Frankie is taught to sing by Nick Massi, and the trio form a group. However, trios are no longer ‘in’ so the band search for a fourth member. Joe Pesci introduces Bob Gaudio, a songwriter who had previously had a hit with ‘Short Shorts’, and Tommy reluctantly allows Gaudio into the group. They start their journey first as backing singers and then touring, after numerous hits, and the story is a rollercoaster of emotions.

The music is fantastic, with famous songs such as ‘Sherrie’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Walk Like A Man’, ‘December ’63 (Oh What A Night)’ and ‘C’mon Marianne’. There are some very tender and emotional moments in the show, such as ‘My Eyes Adore You’ when Frankie Valli’s first marriage to Mary Delgado breaks down.

Frankie Valli, at this performance, was played by Sandy Moffat (Rock of Ages, Dirty Dancing, We Will Rock You), who is the understudy, with Michael Watson (Imagine This, Sister Act, Shrek the Musical) playing the role full-time. Moffat’s Valli was fantastic. His voice is perfect and he manages Frankie Valli’s iconic falsetto with ease. ‘Can’t Take My Eyes off You’ is Valli’s solo song, which Moffat performs beautifully, and ‘Fallen Angel’ is another very tender and also extremely sad moment of the show, after Frankie’s daughter, Francine, is killed.

Jon Boydon’s (Rocky Horror Show, Grease, We Will Rock You) portrayal of Tommy DeVito was excellent. DeVito gets the band into almost one million dollars of debt, but they make allowances for him for a time because he was the one who discovered Frankie’s talent and got the band’s gigs organised. Eventually though, the debts lead to the break-up of the original line-up.

Nick Massi (A Chorus Line, Mamma Mia, Hair), the bass player in The Four Seasons, is played by Gary Watson. Massi is a quiet individual and is always, comically, threatening to start his own band. When the size of the debts came to light, Massi decides to leave the band to spend time with his kids (who believe him to be their uncle, not father).

The band’s songwriter, Bob Gaudio, was played, at this performance, by Chris Stoddart (Evita, Cinderella, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), the understudy, with Edd Post (We Will Rock You, West Side Story) playing the role full-time. Gaudio plays a very important role in the Four Seasons’s journey because his music produced countless hits, and he formed the early partnership with Valli, bound by a ‘Jersey handshake’.

Bob Crewe gives the band their recording contract and helps them get their music played. Crewe is played by Simon Adkins (Singin’ In The Rain, Gotta Sing Gotta Dance, Cats), who portrays the role very well, making the character very flamboyant and likeable.

The four harmonise perfectly and take turns narrating the show, giving the story of events from their points of view. The show reveals a lot of information about how the music was released and how close the music was to not being released at all (particularly ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’).

The story is a rocky one, with the band facing many challenges, changes and setbacks. The show starts off slowly and then explodes into life, which reflects what happened to the Four Seasons in real-life. It is captivating in every way and it is impossible to exit the theatre without a smile.

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REVIEW: The Lorax ★★★★ – Old Victoria Theatre

“…an excellent show…magical and full of hope.”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

 

The Lorax is an adaption (by David Grieg) of the much-loved children’s book by Dr Seuss. This is the first stage production ever of the children’s book and what an excellent world premiere it is – five fish and five bird puppets as well as the Lorax himself, outstanding puppeteers, uplifting and touching songs, and great scenery and props. Although it is a production which children will love, there is something for everyone, and the story is comic and fun, as well as delivering a serious inspirational and moving message.

The show is the story of The Onceler, who is kicked out by his family and sets out to ‘dream some big dreams’ and make it rich. Through his own greed and vanity, he turned a great forest into a city which pollutes the air and the water. His abuse of the Earth’s resources drives away his friend, The Lorax, his family (who are greedier than him and set off for pastures new once all the trees are gone where they are) and the rest of the people who lived there, and, despite his great business and money, he ends up alone. Simon Paisley Day (Urinetown, The 39 Steps, Private Lives) plays a fantastic and relatable The Onceler.

The Lorax first appears when The Onceler chops down a tree to reach the tufts to make ‘thneeds’ (a kind of incomplete, misshapen scarf). The Lorax speaks for the trees and tries to stop the Onceler from cutting them down and insists if one ‘looks after the forest, the forest will look after you’. However, The Onceler carries on and The Lorax sadly leaves as the last ‘truffula’ tree is cut down – it is a really touching scene with a tenderly delivered song. The Lorax’s last word to The Onceler is ‘unless’.

We learn the answer to the ‘unless’ riddle at the end of the show, when a ‘truffula’ seed is planted by a young woman who cares and the seed begins to grow – ‘unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing will ever get any better’. In other words, we can all be a Lorax and speak for the trees if we care enough about our world.

The show features a lot of puppets which are magnificently crafted and controlled. The Lorax itself has three puppeteers controlling it: Laura Cubitt (War Horse, Women Beware Women, Oppenheimer) moves the right arm; Ben Thompson (War Horse, Beforr the Dawn, Madam Butterfly) moves the feet; and Simon Lipkin (The Assassins, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Rock of Ages) moves the head and left arm and is also the voice of The Lorax. Lipkin demonstrates incredible skill in acting through the puppet and conveys emotion brilliantly.

The show features many animals (both puppets and human) which bring the production to life, and there are some very comic moments, such as the fish with a briefcase. The Lorax himself steals the show of course – he’s such an enchanting, endearing little guy!

It’s an excellent show to see over the festive season because it’s so magical and full of hope. The ushers handing out seeds at the end of the performance is a lovely touch, reminding us that everyone can be a Lorax – we just have to care.

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REVIEW: Jest End ★★★★★ – Waterloo East Theatre

“…current jokes, iconic musical songs and four amazingly talented Jesters.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

Jest End is a celebration of the most popular musicals, taking some of the most iconic musical numbers and ‘Jest-End-ing’ them. It is West End’s version of Forbidden Broadway and debuted at the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2008.

This satirical show is hilarious, stagey, with a fantastic cast. The four Jesters in this production were outstanding, true class acts.

Simon Bailey is a natural showman with a fantastic voice. He sings a wonderful version of ‘Thank You For The Music’ from Mamma Mia, ‘Wishing I’d Been On TV’. The salute to Cameron MacIntosh was fantastically played by Bailey.

Scott Garnham has a great voice and charmed and interacted with the audience well. He sang ‘My Fans Believe In Me’ (Memphis Lives in Me’), impersonating Killian Donnelly. He also performed the parody of John Barrowman (I am What I am, La Cage) which was very funny.

Jodie Jacobs has a truly amazing voice and interacts with and bounces off the audience perfectly. Jodie as Sheriden Smith, singing ‘I’d Rather Be Poor’ (I’d Rather Be Blue, Funny Girl), was outstanding. She also sang ‘When Will It Be My Time? ‘while playing a nervous actress auditioning for a part.

Lizzy Connolly gave a fantastic performance bringing wonderful energy and perfect vocals. She played Christine Daae in the Love Never Dies and Phantom of the Opera numbers and really showed off her voice. ‘Superchore’ was a wonderful number where Connolly is Mary Poppins singing an adaption of ‘Supercalifragalisticexpialadocious’.

‘Rely On Me The Lead’ (Defying Gravity, Wicked) is a standout number performed by Jacobs and Connolly. It is a salute to Rachel Tucker and Louise Dearman who famously performed the song before being in Wicked together.

The Les Miserables part was hilarious and brilliant – absolutely inspired and performed wonderfully by all of the cast.

Overall, an absolutely fantastic, hysterical show featuring current jokes, iconic musical songs and four amazingly talented Jesters. It is stagey heaven! Garry Lake’s (director, creator, writer and producer) arranging and direction was flawless and inspired.

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REVIEW: Blues Brothers ★★ – Arts Theatre

“…lacked style and refinement.”

★★

West End Theatre Guide London

The Blues Brothers Xmas Special is currently showing in London’s Arts Theatre for a strictly limited run over the festive period. The show is essentially a tribute to the 1980 Blues Brothers film which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and featured many, many famous blues and soul artists of the era. This show features the music from the film with some added blues classics and some Christmas songs.

The production stars David Kristopher-Brown and Joshua Mumby as Joilet Jake and Elwood Blues, ably supported by Simon Ray-Harvey, Sasi Strallen, T’Shan Williams and Hannah Kee.

Mumby was fantastic as Elwood with wonderfully goofy dancing (characteristic of Elwood) and great harmonica playing. Ray-Harvey gave a standout performance playing various different roles, including Ray Charles singing ‘Shake Your Tail Feather’, James Brown with ‘The Old Landmark’ and Cab Calloway singing the crowd pleaser ‘Minnie the Moocher’. A star performance truly! T’Shan Williams sang ‘Think’, which was performed by Aretha Franklin in the film, beautifully.

Unfortunately, the show experienced some technical issues throughout the performance with sound, such that at times you couldn’t hear the singers for the band (who were all fantastic incidentally). There were some lulls in the show where we felt it lacked a bit of “oomph”. We saw a preview performance though, so once these technical issues are ironed out and the cast grow into their roles more, we think it has a lot of potential and is a good fun show for over the festive period.  Overall, the show lacked style and refinement.

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REVIEW: Wicked ★★★★★ – Apollo Victoria Theatre

“…a wonderful show featuring amazing music, lively dancing and humour.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

 

Wicked is a musical telling the untold story of the witches of Oz – Glinda the Good and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. The show is based on the book ‘The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire which provides an alternative story to the one told in the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The musical was developed by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.

Wicked is currently celebrating its 9th year of Defying Gravity in the West End. It is the story of Elphaba Thropp and her journey begins when she accompanies her younger sister, Nessarose, to Shiz (the school where most of the first Act takes places). She is laughed at and stared at for her green-ness by other students but is looked upon with favour by Madam Morrible who spots her unique talent and powers.

She is put in the same room as Glinda, and, initially, the pair clash, singing ‘What Is This Feeling?’ but in the end come together and appreciate what they have learnt from each other, singing ‘For Good’.

Natalie Andreou (Rock of Ages, Mamma Mia, Footloose), standby for Elphaba, with Emma Hatton (We Will Rock You, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Cindrella) playing the role full time, played the green witch. Her portrayal of Elphaba is wonderful. Her performance of ‘Defying Gravity’ was breathtaking and sung with control and power. ‘No Good Deed’, another standout number in the show, is performed outstandingly by Andreou.

Savannah Stevenson (Aspects of Love, Follies, Gone With The Wind) played Glinda Upland (The Good). Glinda (Galinda in the beginning) starts out as a rather spoilt, shallow character who everybody loves and praises for being good. As the story goes on, the character evolves and becomes more caring, deep and questions things going on around her. Stevenson plays the role perfectly. Her performance of ‘Popular’ is wonderful.

Fieyro is played Oliver Saville (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Les Miserables) who recently (the October cast change) took over the role from Jeremy Taylor. Intially, he is self-centred and shallow, falling for Glinda, but develops, thinking more, questioning things and falls in love with Elphaba. ‘Dancing through Life’ was performed excellently by Saville and he harmonising beautifully with Andreou in ‘As Long As You’re Mine’, a very tender moment in the show where Elphaba and Fieyro realise the strength of their feelings for each other.

Madame Morrible, in this performance, was played by Kerry Enright (Alice, Sister Act, Checkout Girl), the understudy, with Liza Sadovy (Oliver, Into The Woods, Annie Get Your Gun) playing the role full time. Morrible is a teacher at the university along with Doctor Dilamond, played by Sean Kearns (The Commitments, Billy Elliot, The 39 Steps), the only animal teacher left at the school as animals are being discouraged from speaking.

Tom McGowan’s (Chicago, Casa Valentina, La Bete) portrayal of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is excellent, singing ‘Wonderful’ with style, and shows a character who wanted to make people happy and got carried away in the process.

Nessarose, Elphaba’s disabled, younger, more favoured sister, is played by Katie Rowley Jones (Sister Act, Grease, Rocky Horror Show). Nessarose is a rather tragic character who falls in love with Boq, played by Daniel Hope (Alice, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan), a munchkin who is in love with Glinda, and takes measures to keep him by her side but ends up pushing him away and making him resent her.

Wicked is a wonderful show featuring amazing music, lively dancing and humour. It also makes a serious point about the misjudgement of character and stereotypes. All of the main characters are changed for the better by the end of the musical.

Wicked is showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and currently booking until 26th May 2018 (to book tickets, click here).  For more information on you visit to the Apollo Vic, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Miss Saigon ★★★★★ – Prince Edward Theatre

“…a heart-breaking story of love, separation, betrayal and sacrifice.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

Miss Saigon is a heart-breaking story of love, separation, betrayal and sacrifice. It is set primarily in Saigon during the time of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The story begins in a strip club owned by the Engineer and visited by American servicemen. Chris, an American soldier, tries to help Kim, a young girl who has just been forced to work there, when she is being mistreated by the club owner and taunted by the other girls, and ends up in her bedroom. They fall in love and marry and there is a very poignant wedding scene.

The story then shifts on three years to where Kim is living on the streets, in what is now Ho Chi Minh City, when it is revealed that she and Chris have a son. Thuy, a powerful officer in the North Vietnam Army (played by Sangwoong Jo – Les Miserables, Wicked, The Lion King) and the man Kim was to marry before she ran away, demands that the Engineer find her for him. Seeing Tam, her son by another man, Thuy is heartbroken and is about to stab him to death, but Kim shoots him dead in order to save her son.

Chris, now back in Atlanta and married to a fellow American, Ellen, finds out about his son and goes to Bangkok to meet Tam and Kim. Kim visits his wife and begs her to take Tam so that he can have the better life that she wants for him, but Ellen refuses, and the story ends with Kim killing herself, seeing it as the only way to make Chris and Ellen take him so that her son can grow up in America where he can have a better life – an opportunity that she herself never had.

It is a tale of a doomed romance, with Kim being abandoned by her American lover, in a time when marriages were seen as lifelong commitments by Eastern women but easily then put aside by Western men on their return home. It is the tragic story of innocent women and children during times of war – sadly, still as relevant today as it was then.

Miss Saigon is an adaptation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. This production was a revival of the 1989 London production which closed in 1999. It was created by Claude-Michel Schönberg with Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr.

Kim is played by Eva Noblezada who makes her professional debut in this production. Her vocal performance is outstanding, delivering an emotional performance of ‘I’d Give My Life For You’ and harmonising beautifully with Chris Peluso in ‘The Last Night of the World’.

Chris is played by Chris Peluso (Beautiful, Mamma Mia, Assassins). His performance of ‘Why God Why?’ was incredible, conveying his confusion about his feelings and experiences.

Jon Jon Briones (Les Miserables, Into The Woods, Little Shop of Horrors) plays The Engineer who owns ‘Dreamland’, the strip club in Saigon. He plays a wonderfully funny, sleazy yet endearing Engineer singing ‘If You Want To Die In Bed’ and ‘The American Dream’.

John, another American soldier who was based in Vietnam, is played by Hugh Maynard (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King, Follies). His performance of ‘Bui Doi’ about the children who were the result of liaisons between Vietnamese girls, often prostitutes, and American servicemen, is highly emotive, with his and the other American ex-soldiers’ desire to help the children of Vietnam jarring with their behaviour when they were in Saigon, a reflection of the guilt and shame felt in American society at the time, and the clash of cultures between East and West.

Ellen, Chris’ American wife, is played by Siobhan Dillon (Cabaret, Ghost, Grease). She sings ‘Maybe’, a song about her doubts of Chris’ love for her as he hasn’t been totally honest with her about events in Saigon. The duet between her and Kim, ‘Room 317’ is incredible and emotional as Kim finds out Chris has remarried. Dillon has an outstanding voice with immense power.

A standout number of the show is ‘The Movie in My Mind’ which is sung by Gigi (played by Natalie Mendoza (Cats, Les Miserables, The Importance of Being Earnest) and Kim.

The most famous and incredibly breath-taking moment of the show is ‘Kim’s Nightmare,’ set at the time of the fall of Vietnam, where a helicopter is flown over the stage as Chris desperately tries to find Kim to take her out of Saigon and back to America with him but fails. The helicopter’s flight is a heart-pounding moment and leaves the audience awestruck – and Kim to then wake to her reality.

Miss Saigon will take its final flight on 26th February at the Prince Edward Theatre. It is set to open on Broadway for a limited run in spring 2017 before embarking on a North American tour in 2018. Eva Noblezada and Jon Jon Briones will continue their roles in the Broadway run.

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REVIEW: Cats ★★★★★ – London Palladium

“…mesmerising dancing, wonderful music and builds a fantastic atmosphere.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

 

Cats is a musical based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by TS Eliot and is an adaptation by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Cats made its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981 and opened on Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre the following year. The show closed in the West End in 2002, its 21st birthday, having closed on Broadway in 2000.

The show features mesmerising dancing, wonderful music and builds a fantastic atmosphere.  There is very little dialogue in the show which is usually the main storytelling device.  The dance numbers tell a very powerful story, with all the cats moving in perfect synchronicity with incredible musicality. One of the main group dances is the prologue, ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’.

There are very many different styles of dance on display: ‘The Old Gumbie Cat’, performed by Jennyanydots, played by Jane Quinn (My Fair Lady, Sound of Music, A Class Act), has tap dancing in it.;’The Rum Rum Tugger’, played by Marcquelle Ward (Cats, Jack and the Beanstalk), has a hip-hop influence to it; ‘Mr. Mistofelees’, who is played by Mark John Richardson (Billy Elliot, La Cage Aux Folles, Cats), is a magical number and Richardson’s pirouettes are outstanding – a truly magical cat!  Another standout number is ‘Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer’, played by Harry Francis (Chicago, Wicked, A Chorus Line) and Georgie Leatherland (Come Fly with Me, The Nutcracker, Peter Pan), featuring two mischievous cats who perform a fantastic double act.

The defining moment of Cats is ‘Memories’.  This song is sung by Grizabella.  This part is considered to be the main role in the show, although the cat only spends around twenty minutes on the stage.  It is a highly coveted role, with so many great actresses having played the cat over the many years and in the different countries it has run in.  Most recently, Nicole Scherzinger and then Kerry Ellis played Grizabella in the revival of Cats in late 2014 into early 2015. In this production, Beverly Knight (Memphis and numerous albums) plays Grizabella.  What a voice! Her performance of ‘Memories’ was incredibly powerful and emotional.

Cats has returned to London for a limited season.  It opened at the London Palladium on 9th November and runs until 2nd January 2016. For more information on your visit to the London Palladium, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined ★★★★★ – Criterion Theatre

“…a feel-good show, with great music, amazingly talented singers and musicians”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

 

 

Close To You Bacharach Reimagined is simply a celebration of the music of Burt Bacharach. The ‘reimagined’ part comes in the form of quirky instruments, tweaking here and there with rhythmic back-beats and clever arrangements. It is beautifully done and manages to give a fresh, modern take on these classic songs whilst still maintaining the beauty of the original music. It is a work of art and I think everyone would smile at the new life which has been given to the fantastic music of Burt Bacharach.

The production started its life as a Broadway five week workshop at the New York Theatre and then came to London for a run from 3rd July to 5th September at the Menier Chocolate Factory, an off-West End theatre, and also did a set at West End Live on 21st June. It has now transferred to the West End’s Criterion Theatre where it is booking until early January 2016. The show was originally called What’s It All About? It has now been renamed Close To You.

The show was co-created by Kyle Riabko (Spring Awakening, Hair (Broadway)) and David Lane Seltzer. The production is directed by Steven Hoggett. Riabko, as well as creating and arranging, leads the cast and is the centre of the production tying the whole piece together. His guitar playing is absolutely amazing and there is a wide collection used throughout the show.

Stephanie McKeon (The Commitments, The Wizard of Oz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) demonstrates outstanding vocal ability during ‘Walk on By’ and harmonises so well with Anastasia McCleskey (The Book of Mormon, Hairspray, Hair) with ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. McCleskey gives a powerful and emotional performance of ‘Don’t Make Me Over’.

Renato Paris (singer/songwriter) is on keyboard and piano for much of the show but also shows off a wonderful R&B voice, with his background in singing at church really showing. He harmonises nicely with Greg Coulson (Isle of Wight Festival, numerous tours in Europe, North America and Australia) with ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’. Coulson himself a soft, gentle voice with a lovely tone and plays guitar with amazing skill throughout the show. Daniel Bailen (numerous opera credits with Metropolitan Opera) is also on guitar and harmonises with the cast very well. James Williams is the only cast member who doesn’t have a singing role. He plays a beatbox, various jingles and drums with amazing rhythm and skill.

A highlight of the show is ‘Making Love’ where Riabko and McKeon sing and dance together with Kyle playing a guitar on Stephanie’s back. It is a lovely, tender moment which really stands out. ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’, ‘What’s it all about?” and ‘Message to Michael’ are other stand out songs. The encore of ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ is one of the crowd favourites and was a nice way to close the show. There is an added surprise when the cast are singing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ outside the theatre as you leave, a really lovely send off.

It is a feel-good show, with great music, amazingly talented singers and musicians just having so much fun. The integrity and melody of the songs are preserved, but given a fresh, updated sound that people of all ages can enjoy. The modern take on it should attract the younger generations and help ensure this wonderful music lives on. It is a joy of a show and deserves a much longer run!

Close To You is playing at the Criterion Theatre and currently booking until February 2016.  For more information on your visit to the Criterion Theatre, read our guide

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REVIEW: The Ushers ★★★ – Arts Theatre

“…the height of all stagey-ness”

★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

The Ushers came to the Arts Theatre after being very popular on Edinburgh Fringe and made its London debut at the Hope Theatre and then the Charing Cross Theatre in 2013/14. It is the front of house musical and follows the story of theatre ushers and their trials and tests with customers, careers and love.

This production is directed by Max Reynolds and written by Yiannis Koutsakes and James Oben. The musical features a lot of dance sequences which were brilliantly choreographed by Russell Smith.

It is a simple show with five ushers and a sleazy manager who work at a theatre playing ‘Oops I Did It Again’. Simple and brilliant in this case. The story begins when a new usher, Lucy, played by Corrine Priest (Girlfriends, Les Miserables (while training)), joins the front of house team. Priest has a wonderful voice, performing ‘Dreams and Ice Creams’ with a lovely tone.

Gary and Ben, played by Ben Fenner (The Confession Room, Sleeping Beauty) and Rory Maguire (Kiss of Spiderwoman, Betty Blue Eyes), are a gay couple with their relationship on the rocks because Ben has taken an acting job in Austria. Ben feels that Gary is not serious about their relationship and leaves the team without a word, singing ‘It’s Time to Let Go’. Gary is unsure he has made the right choice singing ‘Half Finished Story’ he is torn.

Stephen, played by Cameron Sharp (Rock of Ages, Rent), is an actor who is an on and off usher. He sings ‘The Parts I Could Play’ which is performed wonderfully by Sharp who demonstrates incredible vocal talent in this number.

Rosie, played by Alexandra Parkes (Grease, Ruthless), is perhaps the outsider of the group as she’s not an actress but rather a stagey ninja who stalks various ‘leading men’ of the West End. She performs ‘Leading Men’ a very comic scene, wonderfully performed by Parkes.

Harry Stone (A Midsummer Nights Dream, Fame, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) plays Robin the rather sleazy, slimy manager and failed opera singer. He cares about nothing other than ‘spend per head’ and harasses and blackmails his employees.

It is a very funny show with a satisfying ending where the ushers win over their manager who is forced to resign and the relationships and potential relationship come together. It is the height of all stagey-ness – what’s not to love? A fabulous show performed by a very talented cast.

The Ushers runs at the Arts Theatre until Sunday 18th October.  For more information on your visit to the Arts Theatre, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Dinner with Saddam ★★★★ – Menier Chocolate Factory

“…witty, sharp, thought-provoking and perfectly executed by the cast.”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

Dinner with Saddam is a political comedy play written by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz based the play on a newspaper article he read a decade ago. The article was about Saddam Hussain, more specifically, his habit of visiting ordinary peoples’ homes for dinner without warning around the time that his regime was under threat from Western forces.

It seems, on the surface, a strange event to base a comedy play on – possibly the biggest unresolved scandal of recent times. An invasion which involved missiles falling down on a city full of citizens, weapons of mass destruction never found, protests ignored… Doesn’t sound funny – does it?

The play is a masterpiece. It manages to be comical but also make a statement taking shots at Western leaders of the time. It makes no attempt to excuse Hussain’s actions which were, at times, brutal, but makes a point of saying Iraq was stable under his regime and his removal has left a vacuum. It is a very thought-provoking piece.

The play begins with a normal family scene with Sanjeev Bhaskar (Spamalot, Unforgotten (TV), Doctor Who (TV)) and Shobu Kapoor (A Night in Tunisia, House of the Sun, Eastenders (TV)) playing Ahmed and Samira Alawai. Their daughter, Rana, played by Rebecca Grant (Bombay Dreams, Around the World in 80 Days, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), has an arranged marriage to Jammal, portrayed by Nathan Amzi (Rock of Ages, In The Heights, Urinetown), but she is reluctant to go through with it despite her father’s insistence. Their world is turned upside down when Colonel Farouk, played by Ilan Goodman (Bad Jews, Dorian Grey, Austentatious), arrives on their doorstep and announces President Hussain, played by Steven Berkoff (Salomé (stage), A Clockwork Orange (film), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (film)), is coming for dinner and possibly staying the night!

The actions of a ruthless dictator, anti-President groups, rat poison, suits and farts, while sounding like a very bizarre description, are all elements so a superb piece which works on so many levels.  Overall, Dinner With Saddam is witty, sharp, thought-provoking and perfectly executed by the cast.

This production is playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory until November 14th. For more information on your visit to the Menier Chocolate Factory, read our guide.

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