Personal reflections on stage and concert performances other than opera and “classical music” – basically an ‘everything else’ category…

Putting It Together

Various Sondheim-collation shows have been put together over the years, seemingly attempts to mine his ‘best bits’ and avoid the longueurs that bedevil the sophisticated concepts in some of his full works. Surely, of them all, Putting It Together is the best. (more…)

Sweeney Todd, Adelphi Theatre

What a sensational night at the theatre. Sondheim’s masterwork can scarcely have had a better outing since Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou.

The production moved seamlessly and smoothly through the many shifting locations, with lighting always finely judged: the oven and the meat grinder brooded in the shadows, Mrs Lovett’s parlour was suffused with dim warmth and her newly-busy pie shop was lit so as to bring the bustling details to life. Cages and doors swung open and clanged shut across the back of the curved set, and the pie-shop-cum-tonsorial-parlour swung on and turned gently to throw up shifting perspectives and views, all adding slightly to the tension. People came out on to the galleries high up on the set to comment on the action (as the chorus), just to watch, or for some of the principals’ perambulations. Jonathan Kent has done the work proud, his opera experience perhaps contributing to skilful handling of many characters, chorus, and fast changing scenes. (more…)

Jessye Norman: still going strong, in her own style

A chance to hear Jessye Norman at the Royal Festival Hall (21/5/12). It could have gone either way, frankly, and I was unsure, maybe a little worried, at what might have been. In the event it was a sensational evening in the company of a remarkable artist. (more…)

Master Class – Tyne Daly does Callas

Earlier in the week, I dropped in on Master Class at the Vaudeville Theatre, the start of a run through to April.  Tyne Daly takes on Maria Callas, alternately developing and humiliating three students for the pleasure of an audience and it was my first encounter with the play.

I hadn’t expected it to be so out-and-out comedic at the beginning, but it darkens as it develops.  There are some great one-liners dotted through it, and each anecdote gets brought up short with a ‘But that’s another story. This isn’t about me.’  The staging is effective, directed by experienced opera director Stephen Wadsworth.  I do suspect that the transitions from the master class setting to the more intimate ‘flashback’ confrontations with her husbands, each time in a theatre setting and with Callas giving us both roles in the dialogue, would confuse some who weren’t so ‘up’ on her life story. (more…)

Bette, Joan and a lot of slap

In brief: Just had the pleasure of Bette and Joan, a new play by Anton Burge, just finishing previews at the Arts Theatre, on Great Newport Street in Soho.  Not going to change the world, but enough content to be interesting, and some well-timed lines and solid performances which manage to avoid grotesque pastiche. (more…)

Showtime in Shadwell and Greenwich

Cowardy Custard at the Greenwich Theatre

So, yesterday afternoon, to Greenwich for a romp through the world of Noël Coward in the company of Kit & The Widow and Dillie Keane, plus young talent Stuart Neal and Savannah Stevenson. (more…)

Noël Coward at Wilton’s Music Hall

The evening didn’t get off to a good start.  The foyer of Wilton’s was crammed with people queuing for (or, rather, ‘mobbing’) the ticket desk and the bar was slightly chaotic.  I got the wines, he got the tickets (eventually).  Then we went round the other side of the stairs which used to be one of two queues into the auditorium, and were told to go back round the other side.  Then, when we got to the ticket usher, we had to put everything down and faff about pouring our wines into plastic beakers.  Had the bar bothered to ask, I’d have said we were taking it in, and been given plastic from the start.  I know the place relies on volunteers for some of these roles, and it’s a lovely affair all round, but they need to get a bit of a grip on this sort of thing.  It’s anxiety-provoking enough wondering whether you’re going to get good seats (because it’s unreserved seating) but when you’ve slogged away at work for the day and turn up for your evening out, a scene of chaos and faffing is the last thing with which you want to be greeted. (more…)