Reviews

Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Producer/Narrator: Raul Esparza. Director: Paul Wontorek. Musical Director: Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Streamed 27 April 2020, and available on broadway.com/YouTube

Technical hitches mired the first six minutes of this celebration which began half an hour after its advertised curtain time, but the edited version which can now be picked up on the net is a musical theatre aficionado’s delight. Musical geeks will salivate over the roster of Broadway stars who deliver their most intimate performances in their living rooms, studies and kitchens.

Bandstand

Music: Richard Oberacker. Book & Lyrics: Robert Taylor & Richard Oberacker. Direction & Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler. Playbill On-Line. April 11 – 17, 2020.

Director and choreographer Andy Blankenbauehler won a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award and the Chita Rivera Award for his choreography for Bandstand, and it’s the thing that sweeps and elevates you away with this musical.

Set in the post-war period after World War 2, it’s about returned vets trying to re-establish their lives as civilians.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 50th Birthday Celebration

Royal Albert Hall. The Shows Must Go On Live Stream. Screened May 2 & 3, 2020

Instead of streaming one of his musicals, this past weekend Andrew Lloyd Webber treated musical theatre fans to a 22-year-old 50th birthday celebration concert filmed at London’s historic Royal Albert Hall in 1998. Crammed with musical theatre stars, it was a lavish get-together and a wonderful time-capsule of 90s musical theatre culture. Of course everyone looked and sounded so much younger but the filmed event captured some iconic West End performances.

Frankenstein

Written by Nick Dear. National Theatre (filmed live). Directed by Danny Boyle. Live streaming via National Theatre At Home until May 7, 2020

Whilst we may have bemoaned in the past the lack of access to some of the West End’s most challenging offerings, London’s National Theatre goes a long way to rectifying the problem with its series of filmed plays.

One Man, Two Guvnors

By Richard Bean. Based on “The Servant of Two Masters” by Carlo Goldini. Songs by Grant Olding. Director: Nicholas Hytner. National Theatre Live, London, Screened 2-8 April 2020

Let me say upfront that I consider James Corden is the most singularly spectacular talent to have emerged from Britain during the last twenty years. A brilliant comic actor he can do anything and make it funny, even traffic lights which he does do during his CBS “Late Late Show” when he and a group of actors perform a musical at a traffic stop when the lights are on red (his Mary Poppins is hilarious).

Flowers For Mrs Harris

Music & Lyrics: Richard Taylor. Book: Rachel Wagstaff. Based on the novella “Mrs ‘Arris Goes To Paris” by Paul Gallico (1958). Director: Daniel Evans. Movement Director: Naomi Said. Music Supervisor & Musical Director: Tom Brady. Chichester Festival Theatre, 8 September 2018/Download for free until 8 May 2020 on the Chichester Festival Theatre website

Flowers For Mrs Harris was first produced by Sheffield Theatres in May 2016, and directed by Daniel Evans. It won three UK Theatre Awards: Best Design (Lez Brotherson), Best Performer in a Musical (Clare Burt in the titular role) and Best Musical Production. This new production was again directed by Evans, with design by Brotherston, and Burt playing the eponymous char for Chichester Festival Theatre in 2018.

Love Never Dies

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics: Glenn Slater. Book: Andrew Lloyd Webber & Ben Elton, with Glenn Slater & Frederick Forsyth. Additional Lyrics: Charles Hart. Director: Simon Phillips. Choreography: Graeme Murphy. Musical Director: Guy Simpson. Regent Theatre, Melbourne, 12-15 September 2011/Screened free on April 25-26 2020 on The Shows Must Go On YouTube Channel

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies has had a chequered history. Its London opening was marred by “phans” ,who picketed the theatre because they didn’t believe there should be a sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera. The reviews were mixed but mostly downbeat and the show was nicknamed “Paint Never Dries”, an appellation that stuck.

During the London run they closed the production to implement new script changes. They didn’t help.

The Phantom of the Opera

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics: Charles Hart. Additional Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe. Book: Richard Stilgoe & Andrew Lloyd Webber. Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux. Director: Nick Morris. Stage Director: Laurence Connor. Choreographer: Gillian Lynne. Conductor: Anthony Inglis. Royal Albert Hall, London, 1-2 Oct, 2011. Screened free on April 18 and 19 on The Shows Must Go On YouTube Channel.

Last weekend over 11 million people around the world watched The Phantom of the Opera when it was available for screening for free on YouTube channel “The Shows Must Go On”. From 4AM Saturday 18 April it was available for a limited 48-hour period. The channel had previously shown Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which both pulled over 2 million viewers.

À Ố Làng Phố

Vietnamese Bamboo Circus. Asia Topa. Art Centre Melbourne. February 27, 28 and 29 - 2020

Haunting and scenic, accessible and engaging this amazing Vietnamese Circus, directed by Taun Le, played to very full houses at the State Theatre.  It is such a treat sitting in amongst and audience with children giggling and older Vietnamese chatting excitedly about what they are watching.

We are treated to the seamlessly choreographed (Nguyen Tan Loc) ground and aerial work of a troupe of 16 exceptional acrobats, of whom, I think, 5 are women.   This team is sublimely in-sync.

Mamma Mia!

Music and Lyrics by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus. Additional songs by Stig Andersson. Book by Catherine Johnson. Redcliffe Musical Theatre. Directed by Madeleine Johns. March 13 – 22, 2020.

Australians can take much credit for the success of Abba, the group who these originally made these songs hits. Since its debut on the English stage in 1999, this musical has drawn mass audiences around the world and was the basis for the movie of the same name – and a sequel. Set at a small tourist stop on a Greek Island, it tells of the coming wedding of Sophie who does not know her actual father and thus invites the three possibilities to give her away. It goes from there and is driven by the popular Abba music.

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