Saturday, 30 June 2012

New Shows at the West End!

Our weekly update for theatre in the West End, check out these shows, new this week and last.
Democracy
A revival of the Michael Frayn play transfers from The Newcastle Theatre.   One of the most inspirational post-war politicians, West German Willy Brant, conducts the rebuilding of Europe.
Starring: Patrick Dury and Aidan McArlde
Showing at the Old Vic Theatre, booking for shows until July 14.
Chariots of Fire
Transferred from the Hampstead Theatre, this year’s summer of sport for Britain, the legendary film has been adapted for stage.  It tells the true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abraham and their battle to become the fastest men in the world.
Starring: James McArdle and Jack Lowden
Showing at the Gielgud Theatre, booking for shows until Saturday November 10.
A Walk On Part
The diaries of Chris Mullin, New Labour MP at the time of Blair’s fall from grace, brought to stage.   It shows the vulnerability and decency of Mullin, a small cog in a stuttering political wheel.
Starring: John Hodgkinson
Showing at the Arts Theatre, booking for shows until July 14.
Friday, 29 June 2012

Excitement levels build in preparation for Hop Farm

Combining the enjoyment that comes with camping and watching top music acts young and old, this year’s Hop Farm Music Festival is better than ever.
hop-farm-music-festival
(Photo courtesy of chrissy polcino on Flickr)
Ever since it first started in 2008, this Kent-based weekend festival has attracted the best and brightest talents from the music world.
Did you know that it was actually set up by fans that were sick of going to other festivals and being treated by the organisers as little more than a source of income?
What’s unique about Hop Farm is that it has no branding, no sponsorship and no VIPs: this festival is simply about the fans and the music.
The fact that more music fans than ever are coming to this festival is reflected in this year’s stellar line-up, which, for the first time, has a stand-up comedy tent.
The three headliners for this year’s event are Bob Dylan, who plays on the Friday, the recently reformed Suede (Saturday) and on Sunday, Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra.
Among the other great acts featuring on the main stage include Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice, former Kinks frontman Ray Davies, Patti Smith and Her Band, former Verve singer Richard Ashcroft and, rather surprisingly, veteran TV presenter Sir Bruce Forsyth.
Meanwhile, the Big Tent features acts such as Primal Scream and Gary Numan, while the Bread & Roses stage has Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook making his bow with The Light.
The Comedy stage is headlined by Russell Kane, while other attractions at Hop Farm include the Acoustic Tent, Power’s Bar Stage and Buskers Boulevard.
The Hop Farm Music Festival 2012 takes place from Friday 29th June to Sunday 1st July at Hop Farm, Paddock Wood in Kent. Despite its rural location, it’s easy to get to, and there are extra trains and coaches plus a courtesy shuttle that can get you to the festival site.
And don’t forget to check out our festival survival guide for a few tips to make sure you enjoy the whole festival experience.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012

50% Off What The Butler Saw Tickets

Good news! The Flash Sale rates on What The Butler Saw tickets has been extended!
Upper circle tickets worth £35.00 are down to £17.50 - that’s half price!
Starring: Omid Djalili
Venue: Vaudeville Theatre
Offer valid: On all performances until 25th August
Seats: Upper Circle
Joe Orton’s play superbly mixes social commentary and hilarious farce.  ’An absolute blast’ and ‘witty and shocking’ says the Sunday Times.
Buy your tickets for What The Butler Saw now!

From Ghost to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Projection Designer, Jon Driscoll

The future of set design is here, with the likes of Jon Driscoll, a leading projection designer for London shows. At the National Theatre, he has designed projection for the new release The Last of the Haussmans, and his projection designs are currently lighting up the West End in The Wizard of Oz, and Ghost the Musical.
Ghost, already a hit in Broadway, will be moving to Melbourne, Australia in 2013.  It is a spectacular feat in colourful, jazzy projection, throwing you into the heart of  downtown New York, from the ghostly metro to the tall corporate tower blocks. Driscoll creates such depth in his projections, that they open up the stage to the actors beyond its physical confines, appropriate when the main character, Sam Wheat, is a ghost.  It met critical acclaim in New York particularly for this techno-spectacle, and the dynamic set was nominated this month for the Tony awards in the states, and in the summer for the Olivier awards.
What will Driscoll turn his hand to next?  Well, it has just been announced that one of his future projects will be on the forthcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical.  It will be showing in the Piccadilly Theatre where Ghost will be closing in October.  Ghost proved the power of technology in modern, city productions.
The imaginary land of Wonka’s factory is perhaps a return to the land of Oz, rather than NY city, for Driscoll.  We can expect edible grass and a chocolate river, a great glass elevator and oompa-loompas.  The bright colours of Tim Burton’s film (see the photos on IMDB) give us some idea of where this can go.  Driscoll may draw on his superb work in the Wizard of Oz in designing this children’s tale. 
The primary colours of The Wizard of Oz design might be echoed by the colourful design of the Wonka factory.

More Jukebox Musicals Announced! – Good Or Bad?

As Mark Shenton wrote in his article, “the challenge for West End producers trying to make a go of new plays is even greater”. This got us thinking about musicals too, as Viva Forever and Top Of The Pops Live, two more jukebox shows, have just been announced. Is there any room left for original musicals in London?


london jukebox musicals

Ghost Replaced With Spice Girls Musical
It has been announced that the West End’s Ghost The Musical, currently being played at The Piccadilly is to come to an end in October but no word yet on if or where it is moving.
Although we don’t know where Ghost will be moving to, it has just opened on Broadway, and is set to open in Melbourne in August 2013, so it does seems it’s success will continue.
Replacing Ghost, will be jukebox musical, “Viva Forever” inspired by the music of girl band the Spice Girls. Judy Craymor, the mind behind Mamma Mia! and comedienne Jennifer Saunders are the writers of the forthcoming musical which is to open in December.
Viva Forever joins other jukebox musicals that are currently playing in the West End; Thriller Live, Jersey Boys as well as recently opened Soul Sister and ever popular Rock of Ages.
As well as Viva Forever, an interactive stage show version of the popular music chart show, Top of the Pops has been announced to play in Eastbourne later this year, and is expected to transfer to the West End after. The show will be directed by Thriller Live’s Gary Lloyd. The show will enable the audience to vote for the songs they want the cast to perform, and will have the choice of classic songs from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
The Bigger Picture
This announcement has raised the question, do we really need another jukebox musical? Viva Forever is bound to draw in fans of the 90’s girl group and reignite that girl power! However it’ll be interesting to see if Viva Forever is ‘just another jukebox musical’ or pushes the boundaries of this overcrowded genre.
At first Jukebox musicals were a novelty; a way to reminisce in the good ol’ days . However more recently they seem to be a ‘safe bet’ to ensure large crowds. Million Dollar Quartet, a jukebox musical featuring the music of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis closed early in January 2012, less than a year into it’s West End run. Could this be the direction that other jukebox musicals may have to take?
Their popularity with fans is obviously positive for London but is the lack of originality in story and songs beginning to become predictable and putting off writers and directors creating original shows? Or are jukebox musicals here to stay! Is this the new age of musical theatre?
Tell us what you think!
Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Announcing The In-Between – A New London Musical

A new original musical has been announced at the West End LIVE event this past weekend.
The In-Between: A New Musical which has been written by Laura Tisdall is “an original story of love, friendship and letting go, with both humour and heart” and is set in a fantasy sci-fi world.
Flick Wimple, a 19 year-old misfit, has always been in the shadow of her older sister, Alice, who raised Flick after their parents died. Flick doesn’t expect much from life , and is forced to rethink her ways as she steps through a doorway that leaves her trapped in a parallel world, called ‘In-Between’.
It is here she meets Guide Calicus, a geeky young man that leads people between worlds. He offers Flick the chance to start a new life in a new world, but as they grow closer he starts to think about living his own life too.
Other Guides start to go missing and holes appear in the walls of In-Between. Flick must make a choice; to hold on to her past, her sister and the world she knows, or risk everything to try and save much more…
No announcement has been made about when and where The In-Between: A New Musical will open, but a CD of nine songs that will feature in the musical can now be purchased. The songs are sung by popular musical stars Daniel Boys (Grease, Avenue Q), Hadley Fraser (Les Miserables), and Julie Atherton (Mamma Mia!, Sister Act).
The musical sounds completely different from anything we have seen before; a departure from film adaptations and jukebox musicals we are so used to hearing about. We can’t wait to see and hear more about this!
You can have a listen to some of the songs on The In-Between: A New Musical Website, and check out the trailer below!


Monday, 25 June 2012

West End LIVE 2012 – A Round Up

This past weekend saw Trafalgar Square transform into a huge outdoor auditorium! Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the famous London landmark to watch every West End musical perform for free in West End LIVE!
Look back at past blogs on West End Live!
The line up over the weekend included Billy Elliot, Wicked, Phantom Of The Opera, and literally every other musical showing in the famous theatre district! Our personal favourite was We Will Rock You. The crazy costumes looked amazing on the stage and of course they performed “We Will Rock You”  - the crowd were absolutely loving it!  We are sure the echoes of foot stomps and clapping could be heard for miles around!



As a special surprise a new original musical, written by Laura Tisdall called “The In-Between” was announced. As a taster of what to expect, some songs that will feature in the show were performed by West End favourites, Sabrina Aloueche (We Will Rock You) and Scott Garnham (Les Miserables).
As well as the brilliant performances, the crowd were treated to tasters of other popular attractions, such as the galleries and museums. Madame Tussaud’s – featuring the new Lady Gaga waxwork was a particularly busy marquee. This was such a special and unique event was that it allowed anyone to enjoy the magic of musicals and hopefully will encourage more people to come to see the shows in West End over the summer.
The two day event – part of the London Festival 2012, is the summer long campaign to celebrate the Olympic Games as well as the art and culture that London also has to offer!
Saturday, 23 June 2012

West End Live! 23-24th June 2012

This weekend sees the massive return of West End Live, a free showcase of West End theatre in Trafalgar Square!


Taking place in London’s Trafalgar Square the West End Live will, for the first time, feature every musical currently playing in the West End. The event will take place on 23-24 June and is expected to pull crowds of over 200,000 children and adults into London.The line-up includes theatre favourites such as,

  • Billy Elliot The Musical
  • The Lion King
  • Les Miserables
  • Blood Brothers
  • Matilda The Musical
  • Mamma Mia!
  • And loads more!
It is a great opportunity to see what the West End has to offer and to showcase the quality and range of all the different musicals, as well as enjoy singing along to your favourite musical hits! For theatre first-timers this is a great way to taste what each musical is about, and for theatre regulars, an opportunity to decide on your next theatre experience!
The event, part of the London Festival 2012 is celebrating arts and culture in London ahead of the Olympics. As well as the musical showcases, other exhibits are on show to promote London attractions. The museums, galleries and other popular attractions will have their own marquees where they will be promoting new exhibitions and feature a taster of what they can offer.
A great event for families, or anyone who wants to indulge themselves in the capital’s culture. This exclusive event is unmissable!
Where else would you see 2 days of FREE, world famous theatre?
If you need any other ideas for things to do in London this summer, take a look at our preparation guide to visiting London during the summer and escaping the sport in London, if the Olympics is not appealing to you!
Friday, 22 June 2012

London £20 Challenge: a play, a contemporary dance show and a photo exhibition

Last weekend we set out to show that you don’t need to plan your entertainment months in advance in order to grab a bargain.

The Play: Sunshine Boys (paid £13.00, booked: 7 hours before the curtain)

Not sure whether I was more thrilled by Danny deVito’s hilarious performance or the height of Savoy’s Upper Circle section. Although the ticket read ‘Restricted View’ there were no visible obstacles to my vision (we had to lean a little forward to avoid the railings from getting in the way, but that was a minor inconvenience). It was a great light-hearted comedy with many laugh-out-loud moments and a deeper underlying theme of reconciling a rocky friendship. Danny deVito and Richard Griffiths teach the audience a great lesson of looking past minor disagreements and letting go of ancient grudges in order to enjoy wonderful memories together. All in all, a fantastic night of A-class comedy + a heartwarming story which (thankfully) does not get too preachy. As a bonus you get to enjoy the grand interiors of Savoy Theatre and a pleasant post-theatre discussion must be had while walking down the Strand on a warm June’s evening.

The Dance Show: Laban Historical Project (paid £6.00, booked: 11 hours before the curtain)

This year at Trinity Laban (Conservatoire of Music and Dance) BA2 students performed 3 contemporary pieces; “Living Temple”, “Torelli” and “Smithereens”. The choreography was reconstructed from historical pieces and modified to suit the dancers. The first dance was reconstructed from the memories of Valerie Preston-Dunlop, originally choreographed by Rudolph Laban himself this dance was first performed in 1922 in Germany. It highlighted the struggle between human individualism and the need to conform in an urban setting. While watching the dance my imagination took me into London’s tube at rush hour. Torelli – the second dance, was performed mostly without music and gave the audience a sneak peak of what it is like to be a dancer (constant stretching, wearing mismatched training clothes and restlessly searching for a perfect combination of moves which will hopefully lead to ultimate self expression and maybe a dance). The final piece was the most visual, the costumes were inspired from early 20th century cabaret outfits, there was an element of darkness, some comedy including silent-movie facial expressions.

The Photo Exhibition: The Black and Whites by Ben Hopper (paid £0.00, RSVP’d: 1 week before the launch party)

Ben’s photo exhibition launch party was held at The Yard, part theatre part storage space wonder in Hackney Wick. The black and white photographs taken in the last 3 years featured various performers during practice and off-duty. There was also a guy with two talking socks, a host who sang songs about bankers and teachers, a mime from Germany and some circus/cabaret performers to entertain the public.
Total: £19.00 - Brilliant!!!

Hugh Jackman on his Love of Theatre & Les Miserables

As the longest running musical in the world, Les Miserables is one of theatre’s best loved shows, so it is no surprise that the magic from the stage is soon to be transformed on to the big screen.
hugh jackman in les miserables
(Photo courtesy of newnownext.com by Chris Spargo)
December 2012 sees the release of Les Miserables, a film inspired by the much-loved West End musical. Originally based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, the story is set in the French Revolution. The cast list for this epic, ensemble musical is an impressive one, with actors such as Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter… and the list goes on! However it is Hugh Jackman who is set to star as the iconic Jean Valjean in the upcoming film adaptation of the musical.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Roald Dahl Revolution: Who is Your Next Willy Wonka?

Here is some very exciting news! It has just been announced that a stage musical of Roald Dahl’s classic book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will open in London’s West End in June 2013 at the London Palladium. It follows the success of the Olivier award winning, RSC production of Matilda The Musical, based on the book by the same author, which is about to open in Broadway!
This got us thinking here. Who would play the best Willy Wonka? And what other books by Roald Dahl would make brilliant musicals?

Potential Willy Wonkas?

Russell Brand has the eccentricity, the dandy style, the humour and the hair to pull this role off perfectly, and what a theatre debut that would be! His fabulous way with words would surely help him get to know his boggleboxes from his quogwinkles!
Tim Minchin was the genius behind the music for Matilda The Musical and has just been cast as Judas in the West End production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He would clearly have the imagination for a role as wacky as Willy Wonka, and could follow in the footsteps of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp playing the iconic role.
Daniel Radcliffe Although young, we think he could turn his hand to the quirky character of Willy Wonka and really make the role his own. He’s proved he is screen and stage worthy, having finished How To Make It In Business Without Really Trying on Broadway. And he was sexy and touching in Equus.  Not sure how he is at singing though…

willy wonka, jonny depp
Jonny Depp as willy Wonka, 2005 - Image: www.bbc.co.uk

Could these be the next Dahl adaptations?

The BFG would make an amazing stage show! The set design on its own would be magical to reflect the wonderful imagination of Dahl. We can see this being a big hit with everyone, introducing little kids to Roald Dahl’s stories, and reminding the big kids of snozcumbers, the fleshlumpeater and whizzpoppers!
George’s Marvellous Medicine as a musical could be a real belly-laugh of a show! The list of ingredients for the George’s potion alone conjures up sniggers as we type; Golden Gloss hair shampoo, curry powder, anti freeze and a bottle of gin are just a few! We can really see this transforming onto the stage!
So what do you think? Who should have the golden ticket to play Scrumdiddlyumptious Willy Wonka? Or which of Roald Dahl’s stories could be the next page-to-stage adaptation?
Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Carley Stenson: The New Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical

Carley Stenson as Fiona in Shrek the Musical

Kimberley Walsh has starred as Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical for the last time and has now passed the baton to fellow west-end actress Carley Stenson.
Carley, who was a part of Hollyoaks for 10 years left her beloved character of Stephanie Cunningham behind her in 2010 to make the leap into theatre which had always been the biggest dream of hers. Saying at the time that leaving “Hollyoaks is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. It has been my dream job for ten years… I am very sad to leave but I’m ready for new challenges and I’m looking forward to pursuing a career in musical theatre.”
It seems as if the risk was worth it! Having already starred in the West End musical, Legally Blonde, playing the lead role of Elle Woods, we think she’ll easily be able to fulfil Kimberley’s shoes! Judging by the pictures of her as Princess Fiona, she looks made for the part, leaving the blonde behind her and embracing the red hair, which we must say, she does suit very well!
She took to Twitter to finally announce her new role saying “ I will be playing princess Fiona in westend’s shrek from 23rd may”, and explained that she is very excited and has always wanted to be one (a princess, not an ogre we assume!).
It seems that performing in West End has opened up some great opportunities for both Carley and Kimberley. We are sure that Carley will make the perfect princess… and ogre.
Shrek The Musical is booking until March 2013 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London. 
For those curious, you can read The Telegraph's critic's review for Shrek the Musical here.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Celebrating 7 Years of Billy Elliot The Musical in the West End

Courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk

May 30th marked the 3000th performance of Billy Elliot The Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre which happened to coincide with the 7th anniversary of the west end musical too. A special gala performance marked the occasion and attracted many celebrity fans – including Sir Elton John, to celebrate the show’s massive achievement.
John, who famously composed the music for the musical, has been suffering with pneumonia resulting in him cancelling three shows in his Las Vegas tour. However he was seen enjoying the evening at the Victoria Palace and BBC reported him saying, “I shouldn’t really be here because I’m recovering from a bout of pneumonia,” and that he “didn’t want to miss this for anything.”
It is clear Sir Elton is very proud of what Billy Elliot has achieved in it’s 7 year history – and so he should be! The musical based on the 2000 film directed by Stephen Daldry opened in 2005 and has since won four Olivier awards, including ‘Best New Musical’.
The gala performance incorporated the celebration of everything British, a popular theme in 2012! The director, Stephen Daldry and writer Lee Hall were joined in the audience by two Olympic medalists – Dame Kelly Holmes and James Cracknell. Daldry explained how the gala was a joint celebration for him saying, “London’s very much our home and we really wanted to celebrate the best of British as well as this extraordinary landmark in the history of Billy Elliot.”
The Broadway production of Billy Elliot The Musical closed earlier this year with over 1.5 billion people thought to have seen it. Thankfully, here in London it seems there is no sign of it disappearing from the West End, with bookings being taken until December 2013!
Here’s to the next 7 years for Billy Elliot!
Monday, 18 June 2012

Visiting London during the summer? Be prepared!

London things to do
(Photo courtesy of neate photos on Flickr)
London is gearing up for a busy few months.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations took place early this month as millions took to the streets and this four-day festival of events will now be followed by the 2012 Olympics in July and August as well as the Paralympics in late August and early September.
Add in the usual influx of seasonal tourists and it’s clearly going to be an eventful summer with millions of people keen to get involved and be part of it all.
If you are thinking of organising a trip to London over the next few months of already have done then here are a few things to consider so you’re properly prepared.
Entertainment
London’s entertainment scene is always a popular lure for visitors keen to watch current West End shows or attend a music or comedy gig. And this summer there’s certainly plenty going on!
A quick word of warning for anyone that wants to see the best West End shows or go to the more high-profile events – book in advance to avoid disappointment.
Demand for tickets is always high in peak tourist times so secure your tickets early and even save yourself a few quid with the West End show offers available. Don’t run the risk of turning up ticketless when you can save time and money sorting it all out online.
Getting around
The excellent transport network in London will be busier than usual this summer, so allow extra time to make journeys around the city.
Print off one of the many free street maps available online – like this one – to help you get about more easily and so you don’t need to buy one. Bonus. It may also be useful to download a free smartphone Tube map app so you can negotiate your way quickly and easily around the Underground.
Speaking of the Tube, assess whether getting an Oyster Card is a good idea financially depending on how long you plan on being in London. It may work out cheaper to get one rather than buy a day pass every day. Hiring a bike is also a different way of seeing the city – weather permitting, of course.
Food
Are you a foody? Research is the key if so because there’s definitely no shortage of places to eat in London, no matter what your budget.
Most well-known chain restaurants are likely to have online offers and money-off vouchers so print off a few before arriving in the city. Even if you don’t end up using them and dine elsewhere, stick a couple in your rucksack just in case.
Security
Show common sense and your stay in London should (hopefully!) be incident free, but it’s important be security conscious.
Don’t leave any bags unattended, be wary of pickpockets in crowded areas, leave expensive items such as jewellery at home, avoid carrying around large amounts of cash, never get in an unlicensed taxi and try to blend into your surroundings a little.
Enjoy London!
Thursday, 14 June 2012

All killer and no filler at Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages musical London
(Photo courtesy of meglet127 on Flickr)

The film version of Rock of Ages featuring Tom Cruise and Russell Brand is released this month – and the soundtrack to both the movie and the musical is a brilliant trip down memory lane!
If you love 1980s power ballads like Europe’s The Final Countdown then this is the show for you.
Here we look at some of the tunes that make Rock of Ages essential viewing either at the theatre or at the cinema:
Don’t Stop Believin’
Everyone knows the words to Journey’s 1981 smash hit, especially after the cast of Glee covered it. Strange, then, that it has never topped the charts either in the UK or America. In fact, Don’t Stop Believin’ didn’t even make the top 40 when it was released over 20 years ago in the UK! Nevertheless, it remains a firm karaoke favourite.
We Built This City
Starship’s debut single reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in America in 1985 and entered at number 12 in the UK. It may have been included in The 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs…Ever by one magazine, but it’s fantastically catchy and instantly recognisable.
The Final Countdown
With long blonde hair and decked out in all leather, Europe announced themselves to the world on a truly global scale with The Final Countdown. The Swedish band’s biggest track made it to number one in no fewer than 25 countries, which is some achievement.  
I Want To Know What Love Is
And we STILL want to know what love is nearly two decades after Foreigner’s 1984 smash hit first hit the airwaves. Foreigner are often referred to as one-hit wonders, but the band have actually shifted over 70 million albums and are still touring to this very day.
Cum On Feel The Noize
Superb opening riff – check! Charismatic frontman – check! Catchy chorus – check! Factor all this together and Slade’s iconic Cum On Feel The Noize was only ever going to be runaway success. And so it proved. The song itself turns 30 next year and made ripples in the early 1970s as glam rock arrived on the scene.
Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Broadway star Corden charms the US critics

Broadway musicals
(Pic courtesy of mografik on Flickr)

Comedian, presenter, writer and now award-winning Broadway actor – James Corden has enjoyed a stellar rise to stardom.
Corden’s latest career milestone saw him steal the limelight at Sunday’s Tony Awards when he scooped the prestigious Best Actor gong, much to the surprise of many people, including the man himself it seems.
A mesmerising and energy-fuelled performance in the slapstick One Man, Two Guvnors has propelled Corden into the spotlight in America.
The fact he beat actors of the calibre of James Earl Jones, Frank Langella, John Lithgow and Philip Seymour Hoffman speaks volumes about how the Gavin and Stacey star is making his mark on the other side of the Atlantic.
“Honestly, I am overwhelmed,” beamed the 33-year-old after being crowned the King of Broadway.
Here’s a look at Corden’s career to date…
TV work
JC started appearing on the small screen in the late 1990s in shows such as Fat Friends and Renford Rejects. He also had cameo roles in Little Britain and Hollyoaks before getting his big break in 2007 in Gavin & Stacey, which he wrote along with co-star Ruth Jones. An avid West Ham fan, Corden currently hosts sports panel show A League Of Their Own.
Treading the boards
Corden’s theatre CV includes spells in The History Boys and A Respectable Wedding, but it’s his portrayal of the riotous Francis Henshall in One Man, Two Guvnors that has paved the way for his recent success, taking it from West End to Broadway.
From small screen to big screen
While success on the small screen and stage has already achieved, Corden is arguably still waiting to really make his mark on the big screen. Having said that, it’s surely only a matter of time before this talented all-rounder proves a hit at the box office.
What next?
Another big gig awaits JC…as he’s due to wed fiancee Julia Carey.
Friday, 8 June 2012

Five theatre villains we love to hate

Phantom of the Opera musical
(Photo courtesy of Valerie Everett on Flickr)
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, villains are an essential part of the drama of live theatre.
Here are five theatre villains we love to hate:
A worldwide audience of over 130 million have watched The Phantom of the Opera down the years – and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece is still as popular as ever! Part of its appeal is down to the disfigured, sewer-dwelling Phantom as his infatuation with Christine DaaĆ© simmers away before he takes drastic action to try and win her over.
Bill Sykes
Oliver! just wouldn’t be the same without good, old Bill Sykes. Well, that should be bad, old Bill Sykes, but you get the idea. A violent drunk, Sykes beats up his trusty sidekick Bull’s Eye, long-suffering girlfriend Nancy and pretty much anyone or anything that gets in his way. Sykes is old school, really old school.
Miss Trunchbull
“They’re all mistakes, children! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one,” is a memorable line from Miss Agatha Trunchbull that tells you everything you need to know about her. It’s fair to say she doesn’t have much time for Matilda, but she gets her comeuppance when she is outwitted by the enchanting Matilda Wormwood.
Scar
Who thought cute lions could be so evil? Mind you, Scar is not exactly cute in The Lion King and he does little to endear himself to audiences as he attempts to plot the downfall of the plucky Simba and Mufasa with mixed outcomes. Needless to say, Simba has the last laugh after an epic fight scene and Scar is savaged by hyenas.
The man dubbed The Demon Barber of Fleet Street had a penchant for pies with unusual fillings in Sweeney Todd. It’s gruesome, it’s graphic, it’s gory and it’s good fun in a twisted kind of way. Brutally brilliant, Todd is played by Michael Ball in the current West End performance and the experienced entertainer revels in the dark side of a role portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2007 film version.
Who’s your favourite West End baddie? Let us know…
Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Yes, Prime Minister Review

We were wary that this production of Yes, Prime Minister would have a set of ideal viewers restircted to fans of the original 1980s sitcom, but extremely pleased to find that this was not the case. Although it retains the same core of characters, and the same writers (duo Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn reunited for the 30th anniversary revival), the issues, moral dilemmas and the channels which present potential for corruption in politics have all been superbly updated for the second decade of the 21st century.

yes-prime-minister-west-end-play
It is set at Chequers, during a conference planning a pipeline to transport oil from Kumranistan, in eastern Europe. The characters debate the morals of a dubious affair with the Foreign Secretary of the country, which is necessary to shake on the deal. Simon Williams is brilliantly cast as the superior Sir Humphrey Applebly, who towers over the PM Jim Hacker (Richard McCabe) and Private Secretary Bernard Woolley (Chris Larkin). He hardly stopped to draw breath in his long-winded, jargon strewn speeches, which more than once earned an appreciative round of applause from the audience. The constantly scapegoat of a civil servant, Bernard, earns 90% of audience sympathy, which comes to a head in the pathos of his line near the end of the production, ‘I think I’ve lost my moral compass tonight’. The remaining 10% of sympathy is reserved for the pathetic PM. Though you’ll despise his self-importance and incapabilities, a small part of your heart will go out to him in the hilarious episode when he climbs under the table to hide from his imploding career.

After a slow start, presumably while the audience members unfamiliar with the show gauged the tone of the production, the show was reliably producing laughs every few minutes. Every tender spot in 21st century politics is tried and tested, from Global Warming controversies to banking crises. The super-up-to-date reference to phone hacking marks just how flexible is the script, constantly tweaked to reflect the changing political culture. It works because the foundations of political satire remain unchanged. Jay and Lynn pinpoint the areas which demolish our trust in politics, and squeeze them to breaking point.

The return of Yes, Prime Minister to the West End this summer shows that it has widespread appeal. Sir Humphrey, Bernard and Hacker are such clear characters, and the political content so up-to-date, familiarity to the 1980s sitcom is totally unnecessary. Adult humour and controversial racial and sexual content make this production unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15. Yes, Minister creates the perfect blend of edginess and farce, thanks to great comic acting from the four core actors, and an expert script.

You can see Yes, Prime Minister at Trafalgar Studios in the West End.

Friday, 1 June 2012

We Talk About... Wicked London

Wicked musical, Apollo Victoria
(Photo Courtesy of Pedro Plassen Lopes on Flickr)

Regular theatregoer Emma Barnes recently went to watch Wicked in London’s West End – and here’s what she thought of it in her own words.
Toplondonshows: Hey Emma, thanks for your time. Okay, first things first, what’s Wicked all about then?
Em: Essentially it’s a re-telling of the classic ‘Wizard of Oz’ – it goes back to Elphaba (or The Wicked Witch of the West) in her school days and how she progresses to become the ‘Wicked Witch’ that everyone knows her to be.
Toplondonshows What made you want to go and see it in the first place?
Em: I’ve always been a big fan of the Wizard of Oz and I had many friends who have seen Wicked. I actually got bought the soundtrack for my birthday, and from that I knew I really wanted to see it live.