REVIEW: The Wind in the Willows ★★★★★ – London Palladium

“…a heart-warming and enchanting tale of friendship – an uplifting, timeless masterpiece”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, follows the story of the speed-obsessed and frivolous Mr Toad, the loyal Rat and Mole, and the wise and revered Badger.  The tale revolves around themes of love, enduring loyalty and everlasting friendship which are embodied in the musical number ‘A Friend Is Still A Friend’.

The plot contains reckless driving, car theft, prison break, and identity impersonation, making it an unlikely children’s story.  Mr Toad is carefree and reckless and he is never really punished for his mischief and wrongdoing and nor does he learn from his errors, but this really embraces the playfulness of the story.  Rat is reluctant to help with Mr Toad, being content to row on his river all day long, but is ultimately compelled to support his childhood friend, with a little persuasion from Mole, enforcing the championing of friendship over all else.   Badger acts as a wise guiding hand over all of them and joins in celebrations after the re-taking of Toad Hall from the rascally weasels and stoats.

The cast of animals are powerfully brought to life by elaborate and colourful costumes, an imaginative set and props for all the animals’ homes and vehicles and vessels, and mostly by the actors’ fantastic interpretations of animal mannerisms.

The novel has been adapted to the stage by Julian Fellowes with a musical score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.  The musical debuted in Plymouth, Southampton and Salford before it transferred to the West End, aided by crowdfunding, showing the immense popularity and warmth for this tale.

Simon Lipkin (Whisper House, Honeymoon In Vegas, Guys and Dolls) and Craig Mather (Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Spring Awakening) gave truly outstanding performances as Rat and Mole.  The two perform a lovely duet, ‘Messing About On A Boat’, which is the standout number of the show.  Rufus Hound (What the Butler Saw, Trollied (TV), Doctor Who (TV)), Neil McDermott (Shrek, Follies, Eastenders (TV)) and Denise Welch (Yesterday’s Children, Coronation Street (TV), Waterloo Road (TV)) starred as Mr Toad, Chief Weasel and Mrs Otter.

This production is a heart-warming and enchanting tale of friendship – an uplifting, timeless masterpiece which is suitable and enjoyable for all ages.  Despite being published over a century ago, in 1908, The Wind in the Willows continues to charm and captivate audiences to this day.

The Wind in the Willows is showing at the London Palladium and is currently booking until 9th September 2017 (to book tickets, click here).  For more information on your visit to the London Palladium, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Bat Out Of Hell ★★★★★ – London Coliseum

“…an epic musical extravaganza which is spectacular, wonderfully over the top, and decadent”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

Jim Steinman’s rock ‘n’ roll creation is set in what was formerly Manhattan and now Obsidian, in the year 2100, where a power struggle between a tyrannous ruler and butcher, Falco, and a riotous, eternally young and reckless gang, The Lost, rages.  In the midst of it all is a post-apocalyptic love story: having been cocooned and imprisoned in Falco Towers, Falco’s daughter, Raven, longs to break free; the Lost leader, Strat, oozes and radiates wildness, danger and liberation, and there is an immediate connection between them, starting a pursuit of love and passionate romance.

The musical begins with a recital of ‘Wasted Youth’, immediately inciting violence, blood, fender guitars and rock ‘n’ roll dreams and damnation.  Following this is an explosion of debauchery, decadence and splendour.

Featuring numerous Meatloaf’s classic hit songs and two original songs by Steinman, the musical is packed full of electrifying music, with standout numbers including, ‘Bat Out of Hell’, ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ and ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’, to name only a few.

Benjamin Purkiss (Allegro) made a sensational West End debut covering the role of Strat in place of Andrew Polec (The Fantasticks, The General From America, A Christmas Carole).  Christina Bennington (Sweeney Todd, Show Boat, Oklahoma!), Danielle Steers (Beautiful, The Bodyguard, We Will Rock You), Rob Fowler (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You), Dom Hartley-Harris (Beautiful, Accidental Brummie) and Sharon Sexton (Billy Elliot, The Commitments, Copacabana) all gave standout performances as Raven, Zahara, Falco, Jagwire and Sloane.

“On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?”  After seeing Steinman’s creation, we’d say, unconditionally, yes!  Bat Out of Hell is a masterclass of stunning set design and lighting effects, a showcase of outstanding acting and singing talent, with a thrilling score – an epic musical extravaganza which is spectacular, wonderfully over the top, and decadent!

Bat Out of Hell is showing at the London Coliseum and is currently booking until 5th August (to book tickets, click here).  For more information on your visit to the Coliseum, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Working ★★★★ – Southwark Playhouse

“…beautifully captures everyone’s yearning for leaving a legacy”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

Working is a musical by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, with additional music from selected composers (Lin-Manuel Miranda, James Taylor, Mary Rodgers & Susan Birkenhead, Craig Carnelian and Micki Grant).  It was inspired and based on Studs Terkel’s oral histories and books.

In 1952, Studs Terkel began his weekly broadcast ‘The Studs Terkel Program’ which aired for 45 years.  On his show, Terkel interviewed a wide variety of famous guests (including Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan and Tennessee Williams) and also ordinary working people.

The musical spans from the mass manufacturing era, when working conditions were poor, exploitation high, and workers’ rights non-existent, through the height of workers’ unions and those then being crippled by the politicians of the time, and also the loss of manufacturing jobs due to foreign competition and technology.  Through all of these changes and transitions, one thing was constant: that people often define themselves by what they do for a living.

The musical is presented in a series of sketches, where workers, in the words of Studs Terkel’s show subtitle, “Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do”.  From “Satan bosses”, driven executives, frustrated interns, delivery boys and waitresses delighting at the words “keep the change”, call centre workers, housewives, steelworkers, from those starting out in an industry, to juggling work and family, and the anti-climax of retirement, Working strikes a chord with every worker.

This production was cast with the purpose of having six experienced actors and six actors entering show business for the first time.  The whole cast were outstanding, with Krysten Cummings (Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Descent Part 2), Peter Polycarpou (Follies, City of Angels, The Pajama Game), Izuka Hoyle (debut) and Huon Mackley (debut) giving standout performances.

The musical score covers a wide range of genres, including country, with ‘Brother Trucker’, theatrical, with ‘It’s An Art’, and rhythm and blues with ‘Cleanin Women’.  The musical’s closing message beautifully captures everyone’s yearning for leaving a legacy in something they’ve built, something they’ve contributed or created – something to point to that makes their life worthwhile.

This production is showing at the Southwark Playhouse from 2nd June to 8th July (to book tickets, click here).  For more information on your visit to the Southwark Playhouse, read our guide.

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