Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The Curve, Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home

***** 5 Stars

“ As if we never said Goodbye“

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s undeniable masterpiece of filmic composition will always be Sunset Boulevard. Telling the story of faded silent movie star Norma Desmond (the utterly divine Ria Jones) who longs to reclaim her stardom when studio writer Joe Gillis (the gorgeous Danny Mac) happens upon her mansion thus leading to a story of love, forgotten dreams, broken hearts and lives forever changed.

The show came to life in 1992 in Webbers Sydmonton festival with then unknown Ria Jones performing the role of “Norma” to great success but due to her youth she never travelled to Broadway or the west end with the production. Fast forward over 25 years and following a stint covering for Glenn Close in the Colosseums famed 2016 production, the original star Ria Jones returns once more to reclaim the greatest role of all and succeeds in style.

The Curve originally produced this show in 2017 and toured it extensively in 2018/19. To accommodate social distancing the production was to be revived for socially distant run, however the closures of theatres to audiences led to a change in plan and Director Nikolai Foster working with Crosscut Media have produced a filmed version of the show that is truly Astounding.

Using every inch of the theatre, including the auditorium, fly tower and lighting rigs this is an astonishing tour de fore production that is the perfect blend of live theatre and motion picture which is enhanced by Douglas O’Connell video and projection design. Ben Cracknell’s Lighting design is everything and more from sweeping vistas of the balcony to a stunning moment in the spotlight for Norma.

Jones performs with consummate grace with a voice that soars through the lens of the camera and into the heart of the viewer, especially during numbers such as “with one look” and “as if we never said goodbye. She grips the audience with her utter conviction as Norma, her’s is the Ms. Desmond for all time, played with style and class she grips from the off and never let us go, her descent into madness is both thrilling and breathtaking

Danny Mac also delivers spectacularly, imbuing Gillis with wisdom, corruption, and an honesty the role demands and possess a powerful voice and understated charm the character needs. Special mention must also go to Adam Pearce as Max Von Mayerling his voice is thrilling for his depth and warmth. Completed by a strong supporting cast and a large 16-piece orchestra, Director Nikolai Foster has delivered the most awe-inspiring production of the show to date.

Whilst we still await being able to sit in the darkness of theatre auditoriums once more The Curve have achieved the almost impossible, delivering the thrill of live theatrical performance for audiences at home, this production truly does teach us all new ways to dream, unmissable, thrilling and delivered with love. Sunset Boulevard has never shone brighter.

The Curve Leicester presents Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The run has been extended to Sunday 17th of January to book tickets for the live stream go to: https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/sunset-boulevard-in-concert-at-home/

Brett Herriot Review

A Christmas Carol, The Dominion Theatre, London Review

A Christmas Carol:

**** 4 Stars

“ A Classy Classic Christmas Treat“

A Christmas Carol is a musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens. The musical is based on the classic Dickens  novella of the same name. The show went on to become an annual festive treat at New York City’s Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden from 1994 to 2003.

It was adapted into a TV film in 2004 for NBC America before arriving in London’s west end at Christmas 2016 at the Lyceum Theatre and returned in 2017 and 2018. Its now back once more for Christmas 2020 for a socially distant run in London’s massive Dominion Theatre, well it was until the Pandemic put paid to the run-on December 15th.

The age-old tale of the Mizer Scrooge played with Craggy understatement by Brian Conley, who values money above all else is taught the errors of his as he is visited by 4 ghosts over the course one long night on Christmas Eve. A Tale of love, family, and redemption its message has never been more fitting for the restricted Christmas we are all facing.

This new production is a staged concert and features the London Musical Theatre Orchestra and 40 strong company. The decision to use the Dominion has paid off as they borrow the set from the resident production “The Prince of Egypt” wrapping the orchestra around the back of the stage and forcing the actors to use the front of the stage whilst remaining totally socially distant from one another.

Menken is acclaimed for his work especially the Disney Classics Aladdin, Beauty, and the Beast amongst others. Christmas Carol is not as strong as those but does remain nevertheless utterly charming and the music captures the child like wonder of Christmas crossed with the emotion of musical theatre.

Performances are uniformly excellent especially from the Principals, Conley delivers in style, he usually spends his Christmas in panto, but he has allowed his locks to go silver and inhabit a shrewd and emotional Scrooge but also knows how to mine a laugh from a line. Matt Jay-Willis (yes he of Busted) plays Bob Cratchit to wonderful acclaim  he has a real talent that’s been hidden by the trappings of the pop world for too long. The same is true of former EastEnders Jaqueline Jossa as old hag/Emily/Ghost of Christmas Future. She has a rich strong voice and a beguiling honesty in her performance.

The ensemble cast are also excellent and inhabit the Dickensian world  with ease. It does feel as though more could have be achieved from the staging, its often feels more concert than staged concert. That said the clever use of projection really opens up this classy Classic Christmas treat, and the audience can’t help but be whisked along on the emotional journey.

Speaking of emotion, the curtain call to a resounding standing ovation in the Dominion was totally deserved as Brian Conley said himself the cast feel lucky and blessed to have been able to perform for just 11 performances, they have proven that theatre can be done safely during a pandemic. They did this by working as a tight family fuelled by the love of performing. They will all be back in a theatre as soon as the time is right.

London’s west end once again sits in a calm silence lit only by the Ghost Lights, it is apt that A Christmas Carol should be the show to lower the curtain, whilst the Government may not care Dickens Tale has stood the test of time and theatre and indeed the Arts will too, Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today. This production while indeed live long in the memory until perhaps next Christmas.

Freddie Tapner and Gary England Present A Christmas Carol, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.

Brett Herriot Review

Pantoland at the Palladium, The London Palladium Review:

Pantoland at the Palladium,

***** 5 Stars

“Tears, Laughter a Panto Masterclass“

Despite the Odds, South of the border a handful of venues have staged socially distant pantomimes  leading the charge is the world-famous London Palladium. With a solo bubble seat secured, temperature check complete, lashing of sanitizer and social distancing in full force we at Scotsgay Arts were proud and honoured to see what turned out to be just 1 of 6 performances of Pantoland at the Palladium.

What a joyous experience it was to be back in a theatre and not just any theatre, The Palladium which has lit up Argyll street for over one hundred years and to do so during the glitz and sparkle of pantomime. Yes, it feels different but also life affirming and joyful too, for those who adore the arts in whatever capacity they work within it or choose to view it from those glorious auditoriums the over whelming feeling of being back will never be forgotten.

This year Qdos have forgone a “traditional” plot driven fairy tale, time was short,  and it was important to celebrate the return of live theatre. Director and Producer Michael Harrison has struck gold with this celebration of the last 5 years of creating panto at the palladium as well as celebrating the masters of the genre that built the palladium panto to where it is now.

The big differences first, this is presented on one set, Ian Westbrooks gorgeous palladium Cinderella set is back accompanied by a brand-new front portal that is bedecked in posters from the history of palladium pantos, there is no ensemble cast or babes and the stars of the show clearly follow social distancing to the letter.

This production is nothing short of a Masterclass of pantomime, this panto reprises moments from Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Snow White and Goldilocks and three bears and adds some new material in a glorious display of pantos past, present and future.

Palladiums regular Team Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Gary Wilmott and Nigel Havers all return and are joined by Dick Whittington’s Elaine Page, Charlie Stemp , Ashley Banjo and Diversity, and making their Palladium Pantomime Debuts are Beverly Night and star of Joseph Jac Yarrow.

This really is a show about paying tribute to the venue, the overture by the Orchestra is the Classic Sunday Night at the London Palladium and sets the bar high, that is matched by the incredible talent of Beverly Night playing a fairy type role as she belts out “Finding Pantoland” (lyrics rewritten to the tune of Finding Neverland) its obvious the cast much like the audience are glad to be in a theatre. Gary Wilmot is next up in his Dames Frock he delivers several wonderful moments the best of which is his tribute to the London Underground that names every single station on the network that was updated to include new stations opened since Dick Whittington Closed!.

Julian Clary is in the form of his life; the innuendo  laden comedy has laughter ringing around the building he also gets to parade some of the best of Hugh Durrant eye popping costumes from the last 4 productions. Clary is master of his craft his ability to work the audience whilst knowing how far to push the outrageousness is epic.

There may be no ensemble, but dance is well catered for with Ashley Banjo and Diversity who have formed a work “bubble” that allows them to work at close quarters to pull of those breath-taking routines.

Nigel Havers does exactly what he does best, perform out of his skin in ever more outrageous costumes whilst continuing the schtick of the previous years of simply wanting a role to play and watching him work with Julian it clear there is genuine affection between them.

Paul Zerdin and Little Sam deliver something for everyone, Zerdin must be the great Ventriloquist act in the world. Its a childlike charm that also captures the adults when needed is the very epitome of Pantomime.

Cheeky chappie Charlie Stemp a veteran of two palladium pantomimes shows his west end leading man smile as well as performance skill and he is an absolute delight when he reprises “Dick”. Jac Yarrow is utterly charming and gorgeous and matches Stemp every step of the way. There is also a wonderful moment in the “12 days of Christmas” when Nigel Havers rips down a back cloth to reveal the cast in an off moment, it appears Mr Yarrow likes to parade around in his dreamcoat!

The last star to enter the show is the Queen of the West End Elaine Paige, she does not appear until halfway into act 2 but its worth the wait, reprising her Queen Rat role we are treated to a rewritten “New Ways to Dream” from Webbers Sunset Boulevard, the moment she sings, “we’ve come home at last” is one that has never rang so true. Paige is joined again by Clary for a rousing rendition of “I know Dick so well” it’s as funny now as it was in 2017.

The most touching moment in the entire show comes with Beverley Knight performing the sketch “The Great Clowns of Pantomime” which sees the posters on the proscenium arch lit up in a fitting tribute to the many stars who are no longer with us, the sense of loss is deepened this year as we have seen Bobby Ball, Des O’Connor and Dame Barbara Windsor to name but a few to leave us.

Pantoland at the Palladium brings Tears and Laughter in equal measure not just for the cast but also the backstage and production team. This show has the absolute best including outstanding musical arrangements by Gary Hind, faultless lighting by Ben Cracknell and on point sound design by Gareth Owen.

At the Curtain call the vastly reduced audience gave the longest and loudest standing ovation ever seen in the Palladium, even in the middle of a Pandemic live theatre can happen and happen safely people do want to be entertained. Despite the shocking lack of communication and treatment from the Government it was moment that will always be remembered as Julian Clary and his fellow cast stood on stage drinking in the ovation and humbly said thank you and made us one promise, they will be back next year same time same place! Just one question remains just what Fairy tale adventure awaits us in Pantoland at the Palladium next.

QDOS Productions Present Pantoland at the Palladium, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.

Brett Herriot Review

Camp As Christmas, Bare Productions Virtual Review:

Camp As Christmas,

*** 3 Stars

“Frothy Festive Fun“

Edinburgh based Bare Productions were scheduled to perform “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at this years Edinburgh Fringe but this has been put back to Fringe 2021, meantime the cast have gathered for a virtual festive offering.

Hosted by “Jovid” Jo and David are bringing us some camp festive nonsense with sketches, interactive challenges interspersed between cast members singing festive tunes drawn from the world of Musicals, Film, and Pop.

After the introductions and a charming performance of “Let It Snow” by Rebecca Drever, the first challenge is watching our hosts devour an entire chocolate advent calendar, watching someone shovel chocolate into themselves is not the most thrilling thing to watch and the build up to revealing who won said challenge takes a tad too long.

An Interactive dance challenge is next up, which will allow audiences to vote for the best “Priscilla Inspired” dance routine. This challenge is cascaded across the entire broadcast which does add a nice sense of freshness that outstrips many other online offerings.

The company’s youngest member Luke Murray is next up with sweet performance of “Last Christmas” Luke has a strong voice for his years and great presence on screen which hopefully bolds well for his stage performances. “Jovid” are they tasked with recreating a scene from “Love Actually” which does deliver some funny lines in amongst the pathos.

The Sketch from the three actors playing Tick, Adam and Bernadette in Priscilla is shrewdly judged with laughs aplenty and is seriously very adult and all the better for it! Just watch those Aussie Accents!

Closing out the first act of the virtual offering is Charlotte Jones with a full throttle and big voiced “ All I Want for Christmas is you.” It is a powerhouse performance that really Hits those big notes and brings the curtain down on Act 1 in style.

Following a 10-minute interval that features adverts from businesses that’s support Bare Productions is into Act 2 and Performance of “Driving Home for Christmas” by Darren Johnson a naturally gifted vocalist who brings the right sense of festive charm to the number.

What follows is more anarchic sketches from “Jovid” accompanied by further updates from the “Dance Challenge”. A second challenge is opened for a Ru Paul inspired Lip Sync battle, set to East 17’s festive favourite “Stay” its gonna be a close run challenge to get a winner.

After more challenges, we get the final performances in the dance challenges after which its time to vote with the results announced via social media. Closing out the virtual festive romp is Zoe Brookes who gives a beautiful rendition of Have Yourself a “Merry Little Christmas”. With a voice that touched by warmth and honey its an emotional performance with just the right mix of runs and riffs. A truly lovely end to virtual performance.

Over all its pure Frothy Festive Fun with a warm heart at its centre, however the links could be tightened up to shorten the overall length and technically if all the contributors had filmed in “Landscape” it would have given the overall product a smoother finished. That said you cant help but be charmed by this offering and its worth every penny of the five pounds! So why not pop online for a festive treat.

Bare Productions present, Camp as Christmas, for tickets go to: www.facebook.com/Bareproductions

Brett Herriot Review

Big Band Does Halloween, BBD Productions, Virtual Review:

Big Band Does Halloween,

**** 4 Stars

“Spooktacular Charming Fun“

Edinburgh based BBD productions launched themselves at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 to critical acclaim infusing some of the biggest songs from Broadway and the west end with the incredible sound of a live jazz big band. Think Glenn Miller meets Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, and you get the flavour.

The company were slated to return for the 2020 fringe season but Covid took its grip, but the performers have decided to bring some Halloween cheer with there own virtual offering and what a charming fun affair it all is.

Macauley Burns opens the show with a powerful and committed performance of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ from the same titled musical which wowed audiences in the Coliseum in London’s west end and is scheduled for a UK tour in 2021. . Rachel White then gives her take on ‘Dead Mom’ from the Broadway hit musical adaption of the Tim Burton film, ‘Beetlejuice’. Rachel’s performs with conviction and commitment which suits the piece.

Rachel Stanley steps into the Iconic Bette Midler’s shoes for a rendition  of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ from Hocus Pocus. Rachel brings the right sense of fun to the song and is ably assisted on backing vocals by Sarah Docwra and Rachel Flynn. 

Its then time for a spot of Sondheim as  Chris McLeish performs ‘Not While I’m Around’ from Sweeney Todd his is a sophisticated take on the song accompanied by solo piano while a million miles away from a big band sound it’s an endlessly watchable performance. Moving swiftly to  ‘Pulled’ from ‘The Addams Family Musical’, performed by Jenny Kinnear. It was inevitable that song from “Addams” would pop up as the most Halloween of musicals. Kinnear delivers the goods with vocal precision.

Former Queen Jane Seymour from “Six” Caitlin Tipping performs ‘Monster’ from ‘Frozen the Musical’ which is slated to open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane later in 2021. Tipping is flawless in her vocal power and control and is indeed a skill, hopefully future BBD productions will showcase the other side of her voice with a ballad. Speaking of ballads,  ‘With You’ from ‘Ghost the Musical’ is next up performed by Dannielle Logan. This is a song which details the emotional tragedy of loss. Logan’s performance is uniquely beautiful, honest, and truthful take that touches the heart and soul in equal measure and is indeed the highlight of the virtual show.

Marc MacKinnon changes the mood to late night new York supper club with a touch of jazz with a performance of  ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ from ‘Pal Joey’, Mackinnon knows his skills well and is an engaging performance to watch through the lens of the camera. Attention turn to comedy and finally turned in performance of ‘Together Again’ from ‘Young Frankenstein’ performed by Scott Coltman. His vocals are matched by his comic timing and characterisation as he duets with himself. Closing the broadcast is  Claire Moore performing ‘Last Midnight’ from ‘Into the Woods’. Claire throws herself into the role and indeed into the woods with a atmospheric and chilling Spooktacular conclusion to the show.

Overall, this is 30 minutes of fast musical fun, even if the songs are only connected to Halloween by a mere word, and the overall show would have benefited from a group number to bring the strings together at the end.  For that being said BBD have shown what a gifted roster of talent are at there fingertips.

The broadcast is available to stream until 5th November and is well worth checking out.

BBD Productions present, Big Band Does Halloween for tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/big-band-does-halloween-tickets-126789890977?fbclid=IwAR3jToJle2olJB8MlgTHVg1uQxZDomswBm7-_rdKfGRG4ETzrDt2__xBLKU