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Beyond Broadway: Broadway Bound Preview:

Beyond Broadway: Broadway Bound 

Beyond Broadway the Edinburgh based producer of large-scale musical theatre productions aimed at emerging talents who take part in short training schools was scheduled to perform its latest work “Broadway Bound” in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing lockdown makes that impossible.

The company are fulfilling the best of theatrical tradition by ensuring the show does indeed go on, by taking the show online as Murray Grant, director of Beyond Broadway, said: “We were determined not to let down the young performers, who were all so keen to gain a taste of featuring in a professional production. By taking The Beyond Broadway Experience online, we are exploring a form of performance that has become popular with theatres and companies in recent weeks. As the saying goes, the show must go on and we are so proud of how well the young performers and our creative team have adapted to this new way of working and rehearsing.

broadway bound 3

“Through delivering the programme online, we’re also giving the students an important focus and chance to socialise with each other, in addition to the professional tuition on which we have built our reputation.

“The cast have been put through their paces, rehearsing online and filming and recording everything themselves while in isolation. All the material has been mixed and edited and will, we hope, provide some superb entertainment for our virtual guests on Saturday night.”

The show will be broadcast at www.facebook.com/thebbexperience. Donations by viewers are being encouraged, with proceeds to be split between the NHS and The MGA Foundation, which offers funding for those from disadvantaged backgrounds towards performing arts training opportunities.

The company are also continuing there plans for a full-scale production of “High School Musical” at the cities King’s Theatre however should theatres still not be open this too will move into the virtual realm.

broadway bound 1

Beyond Broadway are joining theatre companies up and down the country in keeping live theatre going by streaming productions via the internet. Andrew Lloyd Webbers back catalog, productions from the National Theatre Live as well as Les Misérables are now joined by local companies! While our theatres remain closed and ghost lights burning bright as we stay safe at home at least we can enjoy the best of theatre.

So why drop in tomorrow night from the comfort of your sofa and watch the next generation of performers take to the stage.!

Beyond Broadway: Broadway Bound Streaming Live, 8pm Saturday 18th April 2020 go to: www.facebook.com/thebbexperience.

Arts News!

Edinburgh Festivals Cancelled for 2020!

Edinburgh Festivals Cancelled for 2020! 

As the world continues the battle against COVID 19 and we here in Scotland continue in our Lockdown lives and making social distancing a reality. The theatre world remains closed down and annual summer events continue to fall one by one into cancellation or rescheduling for later in the year.

For the last few weeks, the combined Edinburgh Festival organizations have painstakingly been meeting with officials, stake holders, performers and the city itself to find the right answer to the question, do we continue with this year’s planned festival events? The answer is sadly No.

For the first time in 70 years The Edinburgh International Festival, The Edinburgh Art Festival, The Edinburgh Book Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival are cancelled for 2020.

It’s a heartbreaking time for the industry and for the city and the repercussions of this decision will be felt well beyond August. However, this is the right decision and we at ScotsGay arts commend those who had the difficult job of making this decision.

Yes August may be four months away but with those most vulnerable being shielded for 12 weeks our city and country will still be coming back to some sense of normality, there is simply no way the infrastructure and planning which takes months for every venue to go through could be achieved in the time frame that’s left.

In the bigger picture it will be a time for reflection and a chance to breath and welcoming the world to Edinburgh would at best be insensitive and at worst utter madness. A fallow year may be just what the Combined Festivals need to refocus and rediscover the true spirt that saw the birth of the festivals in the first place.

Speaking of the true spirit of the festivals, who knows where we will be in four months, if restrictions are eased and theatres do reopen, perhaps it will be a chance for local companies to take centre stage and entertain the great city that Edinburgh is, and the world can be reassured, Edinburgh and Scotland will be ready to welcome the world back in 2021.

For now, people matter, and the message remains clear, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Official Statements can be found at the following links:

https://www.edfringe.com/covid-19

https://www.eif.co.uk/festival-guide/news-and-blogs/a-message-from-our-festival-director

https://edinburghartfestival.com/news/item/edinburgh-art-festival-2020-cancelled

https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/about-us/news/festival-2020-announcement

https://www.edintattoo.co.uk/news/the-tattoo-response-to-the-covid-19-pandemic

Mary Woodward Review

Choice Grenfell Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Review

Choice Grenfell

**** (4 Stars)

Joyce Grenfell will be best remembered by film buffs as the toothy, angular spinster games mistress in the original St Trinian’s films. Unfortunately film makers couldn’t see her in other types of role and so film audiences never got to see her many other talents. Joyce was born into a privileged world – her aunt was Nancy Astor, and she spent a lot of time at Cliveden, the Astor’s country house – but she found an outlet for her singing and comedic talents when in 1939 she was invited to take part in the Little Revue in the West End. Her impersonations and characterisations were an unexpected hit, and she never looked back. She appeared in more revues, entertained the troops with ENSA in the second world war, wrote many books, collaborated with Stephen Potter to produce radio programmes, became a well-known and well-loved television performer, and worked with pianists Richard Addinsell and William Blezard, performing her intimate shows on stage and television all over Britain, Australia, and America.

I’ve known and loved Joyce’s work all my life – and so, obviously, had the audience at the Brunton last Friday. Suzanna Walters and Andrew D Brewis gave superb performances as Joyce and Bill Blezard, in the first half arriving at the Brunton for a warm-up and preparation for the evening’s show, and in the second half giving us a full-on, sparkling performance of some of Joyce’s best-known songs and loving, accurately-observed monologues.

The audience was quiet at first – possibly concentrating very hard on listening appreciatively – but there were laughs right from the start – when Joyce asked is this place run by the council?, when Bill complained of the nylon sheets in his hotel, and when Joyce expressed surprise that people still wanted to come and hear her in an era when others were going crazy for the Rolling Stones. Songs and monologues were interspersed with chatty conversation which cleverly gave an outline of Joyce’s career and mentioned some of the people who crossed her path, including a young Clive James and Johnny Ball.

The second half was outstanding right from the start, as both performers came in in their concert gear and moved immediately into Joyce’s signature tune I’m going to see you today. We re-encountered all our favourite characters – Lumpy Latimer, so exquisitely awkward at her first old girls’ reunion after innumerable years in the colonies; the prize worrier who simply didn’t know how to cope with having won a rabbit [still in its skin] in a raffle; the professional singer who gave up her career to look after her children while her husband globe-trotted and met up with a number of ‘good [female] friends’ – but always came home; the anxious mother on her first transatlantic flight to meet her son’s African-American wife, and hoping desperately – I just want to do it right.

The night would not have been complete without Stately as a galleon – the humorous description of women forced by a shortage of men to dance with each other – and I have three brothers, a seemingly loving celebration of a woman’s involvement first in the lives of her three brothers and then in those of their children which reveals the tragic loneliness of her servitude to these uncaring siblings. A woman’s hymn-singing worry about whether or not the gas had been left on under the saucepan of chicken bones was followed by the monologue we’d all been waiting for – Free activity period in a kindergarten class, with not only George, don’t do that…but an unending stream of little disasters culminating in the summoning of the fire brigade to release a finger deliberately stuck in a keyhole, the crowning glory of an evening we’d all been eagerly anticipating and which magnificently lived up to our expectations.

Suzanna Walters was superb as Joyce, though I was a little concerned for her singing voice which seemed to be rather strained – maybe the result of an extensive tour of this delightful show. The piano playing of ‘Bill Blezard’ was at all times delightfully impressive [looking so ridiculously easy!] but he got a special round of applause for playing while lying underneath the keyboard… The audience obviously loved every minute of the show and were sorry to see it end.

Choice Grenfell, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, RUN ENDED

Kieran A Wilson Review

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,

**** 4 Star

” this musical is a must see event”

Inspired by the 2011 television documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie is the life-affirming musical telling the story of Jamie New, who wishes to attend his high school prom in full drag, as a outward statement of his inner self. Following an award winning transfer to the west end, a production which is still running, this year see’s the show receive its first ever UK Tour!

The musical plunges into the story of the 16 year old from Sheffield who dreams of becoming a drag queen; his emotional journey as he overcomes bullying and the prejudices he faces. With a strong cast of performers – many who have transferred straight from the West End cast – the show sparks life and energy throughout, although this is somewhat lacklustre in the first half from Leyton Williams, in the starring role of Jamie New.

Whilst Williams has gorgeous vocals and stand out dance moves, his energy lacks a little in both scene and song throughout the first act. However, his energy levels magnified dramatically in Act Two of the performance; matching those around him. Unfortunately, his overly fast rate of speech and lack of diction continued throughout both Acts, making it a challenge to understand his dialogue at points.

The role of Jamie’s mother, Margaret New, is played by the impeccable Amy Ellen Richardson, who’s stand out performance shone from the second she graced the stage. Her truly heart wrenching performance of ‘He’s My Boy’ shows real emotional connection to text, with impeccable vocals that could take easily her straight to Broadway.

Shobna Gulati is incredibly relatable in the role of Ray, playing both comedy and heartfelt emotion perfectly throughout the show. Alongside the strong principle cast; George Samson proves that he is more than just a dancer in his powerful portrayal of Dean, the story’s villain. The part of Pritti Pasha is fulfilled by Sharan Phull; who stuns the audience with her gorgeous voice in her warming rendition of ‘It Means Beautiful’.

Surprisingly, Shane Richie’s flawless acting and impressive vocals place him as the true star of the show, as he portrays the role of Hugo; allowing him to transcend into drag superstar Loco Chantelle. With a stunning transformation, the incredible Costume team’s work is evident in these scenes.

The set and props throughout the show are flawless, with scene changes carried out seamlessly and innovatively. Directors Jonathan Butterell (Original Director) and Matt Ryan (Tour Director) ensure the stage is always full of life and Kate Prince entices the audience with creative, modern and visually stunning choreography.

In summary, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie keeps the audience engaged with toe-tapping musical numbers, emotionally charged vocal performances and a cast of very talented individuals. With such a strong cast and a story that inspires many, this musical is a must see event for all ages.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Festival Theatre, Runs until Saturday 7th March for tickets go to: http://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie

Tour Visits Glasgow later in the year.

Mary Woodward Review

Handel Agrippina Metropolitan Opera relay, Review

Handel Agrippina

***** (5 Stars)

Agrippina was first performed in 1709, but the plot is still relevant today. The Roman empress Agrippina, wife of Claudio, wants her son Nerone to be made heir to the imperial throne, and is prepared to use any means to ensure this. Claudio, however, favours his general, Ottone, who is in love with Poppaea – who is also pursued by Nerone and Claudio. Agrippina, hearing that Claudio has died in a shipwreck, leaps into action. Lying right left and centre, she promises her sexual favours to her two freedmen, Pallente and Narciso, if they will assist her. Just as it appears that her machinations will succeed she learns that Claudio is not dead: she simply regroups, and starts blackening everyone’s characters to everyone else. People start to see through her plots, and everything begins to unravel around her – but just as it seems that she is about to receive her comeuppance, she wriggles out of everything and manages to achieve her dearest wish – her son Nerone is confirmed by Claudio as his heir. Familiar, or what???

The cast are superb. Joyce di Donato is the scheming empress, counter-tenor Iestyn Davies the lovelorn Ottone, and soprano Brenda Rae the fiery, intelligently scheming Poppaea. Mezzo Kate Lindsey plays the twitching, unpredictable, self-obsessed brat Nerone, while Matthew Rose as Claudio is at times a powerfully majestic emperor, at times a suspiciously Trump-like fool. Duncan Rock and Nicholas Tamagna make a beautifully-contrasted and gullible pair of lapdogs for Agrippina.

Aprippina’s theme song could well be I will survive – though her drive to succeed centres round her son, to whose disturbingly volatile nastiness she is totally oblivious. Joyce di Donato is more usually seen as a melancholy heroine or a steely queen: here she is allowed to give full rein to her brilliant comic powers as she manipulates everyone around her and makes it clear to us, but not to her victims, how she despises them. Only when she is alone in act two does her underlying fear of the consequences of her evil deeds appear – but it is quickly beaten into submission, and she sweeps onwards in her obsessive quest. Even when defeat stares her in the face, she can twist everything round and convince Claudio that everything she has done was to keep the throne secure for him. Yet again she triumphs: her son is proclaimed heir to the imperial throne – but during the final triumphant chorus she fails to see Nerone standing behind her with his hands reaching out for her neck…

If Agrippina’s tale is one of a lust for power that she wants for her son, Ottone’s is one of a desire for power that is easily relinquished to achieve his overwhelming need to be with the woman he loves. He saves Claudio’s life in the shipwreck, and the grateful emperor names him his heir: he is overjoyed – but power is meaningless without the woman he loves by his side. When Agrippina’s lies turn everyone against him, he is desolate – but because he has lost his love, not the promised power. When Poppaea demonstrates her fidelity, cleverly evading the advances of both Claudio and Nerone, he is overjoyed: and when Claudio, finally realising Ottone’s honesty and Agrippina’s duplicity, decrees that Nerone shall marry Poppaea and Ottone succeed to the throne, he has the courage to speak out, refuse the offered power, and ask instead for Poppaea.

All the other characters are driven by desire – Nerone wants power, but he also wants Poppaea; Claudio is also pursuing Poppaea; she, believing Agrippina’s lies, wants vengeance; Pallante and Narciso desire Agrippina and blindly involve themselves in her plots. They rejoice in others’ misfortune – most tellingly when Ottone is accused of treason: one by one they show their contempt and leave him alone in his misery, the social outcast whom it’s disaster to be seen to support.

The contemporary setting chosen by David McVicar for this production starkly reveals the immediacy of the situation and the choices facing the characters. A giant golden staircase leading to the imperial throne dominates the stage, while massive pillars display the might and power of the emperor, and provide dark shadows in which the conspirators can hide. Only once does the desire to play up the humour potentially overwhelm the characters’ emotions – in the bar scene that opens the second half, with an outstanding on-stage virtuoso performance from harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire. Poppaea’s hung-over antics rather make light of the depth of Ottone’s real misery – but at the same time one has to admire her impeccable comic timing, along with the antics of all the characters surrounding her in the bar. Nerone’s frenzied coke-snorting outburst furiously promising vengeance on Poppaea for her rejection of him was another outstanding performance, again chillingly hinting at her ultimate fate.

It’s astounding to realise that this was the Met’s premiere of Agrippina, and Joyce di Donato’s first Handel role at the Met. Handel was only twenty-four when he wrote this opera, but his understanding of character and motivation and how to display this musically was already outstanding. His ability to pace the drama and provide moments of heart-stopping pathos and genuine depth of feeling amongst the outbursts of passion and cold-blooded machinations is extraordinary when you consider how new opera was as an art form. Agrippina and Poppaea have a seemingly unending succession of bravura displays of passion, drive, and anger; Claudio and Nerone each have superb opportunities to reveal their inner desires; Pallente and Narciso each display their willingness to be led by the nose and believe Agrippina’s promises.

In the middle of all this stands Ottone, whose despairing lament soars out into the blackness that slowly encloses him when he believes himself abandoned by Poppaea, and whose delight in her proven faithfulness leads to the only duet in the whole piece as the two declare their mutual love and trust. The third deeply heartfelt piece comes, surprisingly, from Agrippina: all her plots have been unmasked, and shown Claudio the lengths to which she was prepared to go to get her son on the throne. He sits dejectedly and she sings a tender aria urging him to let go of his anger – if you want peace, my love, let go of your hate: if only she could have listened to her own advice…

A stellar cast gave a timeless and spine-chillingly accurate depiction of the lengths to which people are prepared to go in pursuit of power while Harry Bicket and the Met orchestra gave a masterclass in baroque playing and ornamentation. At the final curtain it seemed as though the entire stalls audience were on their feet – a fitting tribute to one of the most enjoyable and satisfying Met relays I’ve seen in a long time.

Handel Agrippina, Metropolitan Opera relay, RUN ENDED