Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

It’s The Rat’s Way of Life For Me! 🐀 | Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical Thoughts | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #3

Hal, it’s about rats.

If you haven’t heard of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, let me tell you the bizarrely uplifting backstory of this show. Back in August, TikToker Em Jaccs posted a short video singing a song she had made up for an imaginary Ratatouille muscial. And, yes, by Ratatouille, I do mean the Disney Pixar film about the rat who becomes a top Parisian chef by whipping up some damn fine ratatouille for a snooty food critic. As more people saw Em’s catchy video, other TikTokers started creating their own songs for this completely hypthetical Ratatouille musical. Then, it grew even more. Soon enough, the non-existent show had choreography, a full set design, a logo and more. It had everything except from, you know, being an actual real-life musical. Well, that was until recently.

A virtual and socially distanced version of the show was made to raise for money for The Actors Fund with full versions of each of the songs created for the musical on TikTok and it was available to stream at the start of this month. It was directed by Six’s Lucy Moss and starred Tituss Burgess with some pretty cool guest stars, including Adam Lambert and Mean Girls and Emily in Paris star, Ashley Park. I bought a ticket not really knowing what to expect. I don’t use TikTok much so I only knew about this whole thing from following plenty of theatre accounts on other social channels.

But, honestly, I loved it. Sure, the live stream clearly had its restrictions. It was short and a lot of the storytelling relied on Remy’s narration but the production did a great job at embracing its TikTok origins. And, those songs are so catchy! It’s beginning might not necessarily sound like start of the next big Broadway hit but seriously, between the thriving pre-existing legion of fans and these genuinely brilliant songs, Disney would be really missing a trick to not pursue this project further. So, come on, Disney, maybe at least release a concept album because I need to be able to listen to The Rat’s Way of Life whenever I need my eardrums blessing!

I LOVED the cast so much, I thought they were all spot on. Tituss Burgess is a star who needs more recognition for his stunning vocals and although I was initially surprised at his casting choice, I’m now completely convinced that he’s perfect for our favourite Little Chef. Adam Lambert and Wayne Brady were brilliant as Remy’s brother and father and I especially appreciated how Wayne went hard with the whole rat-theme. Hell, he even came with his own trash props for his big solo! Andrew Barth Feldman IS Linguini. I have no idea how they managed to get a casting spot-on but he looks nearly identical to the animated character and his performance was beautifully over the top in the best possible way. The last cast member I want to shout about, although I really did love them all was Ashley Park, she totally nailed her solo song and the speed at which she sang in a French accent deserved an applause.

I love that this fun project brought so many people together online, especially at a time when there really isn’t a lot of new theatre out there. It’s inspiring in a truly weird way. I mean, I’m getting deep and sentimental about a musical about rats here(!), but, really it is so heart-warming to see the theatre fandom community come together to bring this show to life. I’m really glad the show paid tribute to and reimbursed all the contributing TikTokers involved (to my knowledge). I really hope to see more from Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical in the future and who knows maybe we’ll even have more TikTok musicals!

What did you think of Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and what movie would you love to see turned into the next TikTok musical? Let me know in the comments. Bye for now!

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

Does Rent Stand the Test of Time? | | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #2

Christmas bells are ringing! It’s December 24th, (and nearly!) 9pm Eastern Standard Time, which means it’s a great time to talk about one of my favourite musicals of all time, Rent. I watched a production of Rent online recently by the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and it genuinely was a brilliant production. It still kept the 90s vibe but had some very clever staging choices to keep it feeling fresh. The cast were also brilliant. But, it got me thinking about Rent’s place in contemporary theatre as it is very much a 90s show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it got me wondering, does Rent really stand the test of time?

Is it TOO 90s?

Ah, the days before smartphones and social media, when people communicated mostly through phone calls and meeting up in person (something fairly rare in 2020, at least!). When I watch or listen to Rent, there are aspects of the story that do feel a bit dated but in the grand scheme of things, the 90s weren’t that long ago. They haven’t crept into the 40-year cycle yet so Rent doesn’t feel old enough to be thought of as a historical piece. However, no one watches Shakespeare and is surprised when they throw in a few “thees” and “thous”, yet when we hear 90s slang in a musical, there’s something weirdly dated about it.

But, isn’t that dated feeling a part of the show’s charm? Ultimately, the story works because it’s set during the AIDS Crisis and at a time when American counterculture was starting to reject the hyper-commercialism of the time. By which I mean, it is a story intrinsically linked to the 80s/90s. The Bohemian lifestyle celebrated by the characters and lifted straight from the show’s source material, nineteenth century opera La Bohème, sees the characters choosing poverty and a life of uncertainty over giving in to the “yuppie” lifestyle. They choose art over career, instant gratification over forward planning, though some of this attitude is also presented as being a reaction to the confirmation that they’ll die young from AIDS. It’s a sad show representing a sad time in modern history. It weaves in and out of social injustices and presents a diverse cast of well-meaning modern Bohemians. From addiction to illness and homelessness to relative poverty, the show explores themes that are are both timeless and strongly contemporaneous to the 90s.

It might not be as easy to relate to Rent now as it was back in the 90s when it first hit Broadway but the show didn’t close over there until 2009, a time pretty far beyond its supposed relevancy. I think one of things that ultimately led to Rent closing may have been the 2005 movie adaptation. There was definitely an attempt made to make the show more suitable for film e.g. some songs were turned into dialogue or removed completely, but the film ended up being criticised for feeling a bit old school and for featuring many of the Broadway actors in roles they originated. The response was that, only 11 years after the show first debuted, the film version already felt dated and the actors felt too old. The critics’ responses to the film mostly coming to the same conclusion, that Rent was past its time, may very well have indirectly led to the show closing just four years later.

However, this wasn’t be the last the stage would see of Rent so, what has been done to update the show since its original Broadway run?

Let’s Talk About Rent Remixed

Rent created a pretty unusual situation. By the mid-2000s, Rent was still a well-respected show (it’s still only one of nine musicals to have ever won the Pulitzer Prize). But, it was feeling dated and new productions were struggling to find a middle ground between embracing the 90s nostalgia and attempting to update the show for modern audiences. Unfortunately, it was from this conundrum that Rent Remixed was realised. This was a revised production that opened in 2007 in the West End. The music was stripped of its 90s grunge sound and instead replaced with more of a noughties pop vibe and the show was updated to the then present day. It was absolutely panned by critics and closed after five months.

I never saw Rent Remixed but from what I’ve heard, everything that was changed about it took away what made Jonathan Larson’s show so poignant and well-respected in the first place. The diversity, the tackling of taboo issues with a mix of boldness and sensitivity and the use of modern-sounding music in a musical was all fairly new in 1996 theatreland but, bizarrely because of the original production of Rent, none of these things would have felt nearly as noteworthy in 2007. In fact, whilst all of those things are still to be praised in modern musical theatre, by taking a musical that had all of those elements anyway and changing it in an attempt to be more commercial, doesn’t it kind of feel like you’re missing the point in taking the risk of being original in the first place?

So, does it matter that it’s dated?

Back to the subject at hand. There are a few issues with the 90s setting that perhaps do cause problems and some of this is down to the problematic aspects of Rent. It’s not a perfect musical by any means. And, while the liberal views of the characters may make them feel almost like proto-millennials, there are a few issues with representation, stereotyping and hypocritical attitudes that might make the show feel a little bit misguided in places to a modern audience. For example, Maureen is a character who has dated both men and women and is presented as promiscuous. Whilst this isn’t an issue in itself, it does play into a recurring negative stereotype in fiction that bi-and/or-pan-sexuality is synonymous with promiscuity. There are quite a few more examples of times in Rent where I, as a modern viewer, get caught between wanting to praise the show for being a pioneer of diversity at the point of its inception and cringing at certain parts of the show that would likely be changed were it a new show doing through workshops now.

Ultimately, how I feel about Rent feels like a microcosm for how I feel about modern political correctness and cancel/call-out culture. I think these things are important but we all get things wrong sometimes and that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. Rent gets some things wrong but when it first appeared on Broadway back in the 90s, it was the first of its kind and actively tried to promote diversity and have something to say. Rent’s not perfect but it tried. We should be able to appreciate that. Sure, the show’s a bit dated and doesn’t always feel totally politically correct but I think we can forgive that for all the things it got right and for all the shows that it paved the way for.

The Hope Mill’s production really renewed my love for Rent. And, hey, as 90s nostalgia is due to come back more and more over the next decade, maybe we’ll be seeing a little bit more of Rent love on the horizon.

Posted in Musings on Musicals 🎵, Theatre

My Favourite Musicals | Musings on Musicals 🎵 #1

Hello! Welcome to the first in my Musings on Musicals, this is a new post series where I will be sharing my thoughts on everything musical theatre-related. It’s basically the content I was doing before I had my year hiatus but under a flashy new name that gives it it’s own special category. To kick this new series off, I wanted to share my absolute favourite shows. And, I mean these are my all-time favourites, not just current favourites.

Now, it would be impossible for me to actually put them into a list so I’ve instead picked my top nine and put them into tiers – everyone loves a good tier ranking system don’t they? So, tier one includes my top three absolute favourite musicals but I can’t put them in a 123 order so just know that I love all three of those equally. Tier Two is the my next three favourites which although I completely adore, just don’t quite make it to tier one and again, within their tier, they aren’t in any particular order and so on. I hope this makes sense, it did in my head!

Tier One

Hamilton – Some say it’s overrated, I say we don’t talk about it enough for my liking. I really do think Hamilton is the best musical ever written. It’s achingly smart and the impact it has made, not only on theatre, but in modern pop culture is an incredible feat.

Rent – This is the musical that catapulted me from musical fan to super-fan. I think I’ll write a whole post about it when I’m feeling sentimental but the first time I encountered Rent was when I watched the film and I cried at four different moments. Rent is a total marmite show, you either love it or hate it and I completely adore it.

Les Miserables – This is another show that really got me into musicals and, well, it’s just a classic, isn’t it? This is a show that all my family love and we used to play the songs on long car journeys. For me, this show is greater than just my love of theatre, it’s also a part of my childhood and reminds me of family memories.

Tier Two

Bare: A Pop Opera – It’s the style of the music – to me more rock than “pop” – and the heartbreaking story that I really love with this one. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever related to a song from a show so much as Nadia’s A Quiet Night At Home. I wish more people knew this show because it deserves so much more love.

Come From Away – I always think of Come From Away as a musical hug. I’ve seen it twice in the West End and can’t wait to see it again once theatres reopen. I can’t help but smile listening to this amazing true story and Me and the Sky is one of my favourite songs.

Jesus Christ Superstar – I’m slightly ashamed that this is the oldest musical on this list as it’s only from 1970 but I’m usually more of a contemporary musical gal. There’s something about this show that I love though. It’s thought-provoking with amazing songs and I couldn’t tell you the amount of times we’ve watched the Glenn Carter version in my house.

Tier Three

Once On This Island – This is a really recent favourite as I only listened to it this year but it has grown so much on me from multiple listens – I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t move up a tier in time. This show is just gorgeous.

In The Heights – Weirdly, when figuring out this list, I was a bit surprised I found myself putting In The Heights this high but I can’t not put it here because it really is one of my favourites. I can’t wait for film next year so that I can rewatch the story whenever I want and more people can discover In The Heights.

The Last 5 Years – Again, I didn’t really expect to put this here and I was actually between this and Bat Boy which I’ve bumped down a tier. It’s the lyrics that I love most of all with The Last 5 Years, especially in songs like Nobody Needs To Know.

Honourable Mentions

Whistle Down the Wind – Although Whistle Down the Wind isn’t an especially high-ranking favourite for me anymore, it was my first ever favourite musical so I think it needs an honourable mention. After seeing a production as a kid I fell in love with the show and it was the first musical I bought to play on my portable CD player.

Bat Boy – As I said earlier, this show nearly made it to tier three but I’ve moved it to honourable mentions instead. I love Bat Boy and it’s my favourite funny musical.

Dear Evan Hansen – It’s here because I felt weird not putting it somewhere, I love Dear Evan Hansen and You Will Be Found is a song that easily brings a tear to my eye.

What are your favourite musicals? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in Blogtober, Theatre

Blogtober Day 7: Musicals to Stream This Halloween

It’s no secret on this blog that I enjoy a good musical. The diverse range of shows we’ve been blessed with in recent years means there are a good selection of spooky shows that are the perfect shows to listen to this Halloween. All the shows on this list are available to stream on Spotify now. Saying that, I want to give The Addams Family some recognition. It would have earned a place on this list if only there was a cast recording was on Spotify (why isn’t there an album on Spotify?!).

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors

Florist Seymour tackles a mysterious, wish-granting, blood-guzzling Venus flytrap in this hilarious Halloween classic. It’s got that campy take on horror that musicals do so well and the film version is an absolute Halloween classic. I nearly put it on my list of Halloween movies but I wanted to put this musical on here instead.

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds

Ok, this isn’t really a traditional musical, it’s more like a concept album that was turned into an arena spectacle but I’m counting it as a Halloween musical because it’s got aliens in it. Martians, to be exact. Also the sound effects of the Martians communicating in the 2012 recording really do make me shudder.

Carrie

Despite an exceptionally short initial Broadway run, horrific reviews and… ergh I hate to type this… a Riverdale episode themed around it, Carrie has risen up from the ashes and is now considered to be a surprisingly good musical. Parts of it are genuinely quite creepy. I wonder if Carrie’s more recent success will introduce more Stephen King stories to the stage… It: The Musical maybe?!

Sweeney Todd

The Tim Burton film is a decent take on Stephen Sondheim’s show but, for me, listening to the original Broadway cast recording is way more sinister, especially as the film cuts out The Ballad of Sweeney Todd, arguably one of the creepiest songs in the whole show. The film’s good but the stage version is better!

Bat Out of Hell

The story itself isn’t massively Halloween-y and the songs existed before they were given the stage show treatment but there’s something about Bat Out of Hell that I just love and the title alone gives it a reason to be here. The story is a loose retelling of Peter Pan but set in a post-apocalyptic society and features songs written by Jim Steinman for the Bat Out of Hell albums.

Beetlejuice

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not yet listened to Beetlejuice all the way through but I’ve heard enough to know I like it. Also, this show is incredibly popular right now and definitely has strong Halloween vibes so it deserved a mention. Since it’s been so big on Broadway (pre-Music Man situation anyway!) I’m hoping it might come to London soon.

The Rocky Horror Show

Speaking of shows I haven’t properly listened to but deserved a place on the list, let me also throw in this one. Look, I’ve seen the Glee episode and have heard the Time Warp plenty of times, I think that’s enough to put it here. I am determined to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show soon because it’s been on my list of films to watch for far too long. Strong Halloween vibes though, am I right?

Buried

This is a show about two people who meet speed dating and fall in love. The twist is that they’re both serial killers. There really aren’t enough shows out there that truly capture dark British humour and this show does just that. There’s also folk-sy sounding music in this one that’s different from the other shows on this list.

Bat Boy (TW: sexual assault reference)

This is one of those shows where the origin story of the show is nearly as weird as the plot itself. Bat Boy is a character created for a fake news tabloid and now he has his own spin-off musical. Bat Boy, or Edgar as he’s called in the show, goes on a quest of love, self-discovery and… well… blood in this darkly comedic musical.

Zombie Prom (TW: suicide theme)

I only just listened to this show and honestly, I’m not totally sure what I make of it yet but it’s definitely Halloween-y enough to be here and it pretty funny in places. After Toffee’s boyfriend comes back from the dead she must decide whether or not she still wants to be with him after he vows to clean up his bad boy ways in the afterlife.

Heathers (TW: suicide theme)

This is another show that is so popular it needs a mention even though I don’t think there are many musical fans that haven’t listened to this show yet. Based on the cult classic movie, this satiric musical features Veronica trying to put a stop to her boyfriend’s killing spree whilst turning her high school’s hierarchy upside down.

Honourable mentions: Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera

Both of these shows are musical theatre classics and have been running in the West End and on Broadway for ways (although whether or not Phantom is actually going to continue to run after the West End reopens is still a bit of an unanswered question right now!) but they both have some spooky themes so I wanted to include them too.

I hope you’ve now got some spooky tunes to carry you through the month. Let me know if I’ve missed any great Halloween musicals in the comments. Bye for now!

Posted in Theatre, Travels

Life Updates: Mini Show Reviews and an Athenian Adventure

I’ve had a bit of break from blogging recently. Apart from the odd couple, I’ve not posted much on here over the last two/three months. That’s because it has been a fairly busy time for me. There have been some changes in my life and I went on holiday to Athens recently (scroll down to read more about that!). That doesn’t mean I haven’t been seeing shows or haven’t had anything to blog about though. So, I wanted to do a post about what I’ve been up to these past few months and get back to blogging regularly.

A few shows I’ve seen that I didn’t get around to reviewing…

In June and July I saw three shows, the touring productions of Little Miss Sunshine and Titanic and Bare: A Pop Opera at The Vaults in London. Of these three, I definitely liked Bare best. I already knew I loved the music going into the show and I think the cast did a great job at bringing the emotion to it. When I left both my sister and I were fighting back tears after this production’s powerful addition to the ending.

            I’ve read negative reviews which take issue with the layout of the venue and the staging. Whilst I completely understand these issues I think they did a good job with what they had. The choreography sometimes looked a bit dangerous as the cast were dancing so close to one another on the small stage but I didn’t feel like I missed any of the action due to the staging or direction.

            Little Miss Sunshine is a film I have loved for years. After seeing the musical I have to say I think the story works better in film format but the stage show was still fun all the same. The actress playing Olive was incredible and the VW van staging was clever but the songs weren’t as memorable as other shows.

            I had a similar experience with Titanic, I liked it and thought the cast did a great job. The songs were quite epic but not the kind I’d add to my Spotify playlist. It was a good show but maybe not really my kind of thing.

Six days in Athens…

Earlier this month I went on holiday with my school friends to Athens. Although temperatures during the day made us feel like we were slowly frying, we had a great time. We had a look around the Acropolis, which included stopping at the world’s oldest theatre (of course!), the Theatre of Dionysus.

            The hike up to the top of the Acropolis was tricky in the heat, especially with all the tourists stopping at every patch of shade you come across on the way, but it was so worth it. The views you get over Athens are stunning and it’s amazing to think you’re treading the paths that people have walked along for millennia. We passed the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, another ancient theatre, and the remains of a temple for Asclepius before reaching the great staircase where the audio tours we’d downloaded began. From the staircase, you can see the temple of Athena Nike and the Propylea, the gateway. We walked around learning history and seeing the Erechtheion (this is where history and myth well and truly collide as the holes in the side of the building are said to be the damage left after Poseidon stuck the wall with his trident), and Old Temple of Athena before walking around the Parthenon, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

            Another one of my favourite places we visited was Aegina, an island near Athens. Aegina has a lovely beach but even better yet for me, more ancient history. We visited a museum, which led to a ruined Apollon Sanctuary. The views were beautiful and the area itself was amazing to see. As well as visiting the Acropolis and Aegina, we also went to an inspiring Turtle Sanctuary, watched the sunset from Lycabettus Hill, went around Hadrian’s Library, rode a ‘Happy Train’, visited some museums and ate some amazing food. So, all in all, it was a great trip!

Other bits and bobs…

I turned 23 in July and it’s officially been two years since I graduated university, I’m still a little puzzled about where the time has gone! As I said, I haven’t been posting as much as usual recently but I am planning on getting back to regular blogging from now on so expect a lot more on here.

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back very soon.

Posted in Theatre, Travels

My Top 5 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Tips

It’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe time again and I’m sad to not be heading up to Scotland’s beautiful capital this August (I’m determined to go back next year!) but I have been a couple of times before and it is a brilliant experience. So, for anyone lucky enough to be heading there this year, here are my top five tips for making the most out of your trip to the Festival…

1. Don’t have a plan

There are so many shows to see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that it’s best to go in not being sure what you’re going to see and when. Likewise, if there’s a show you desperately want to see it probably is worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment but, for the most part, you can figure out what to see while you’re there. Trust me, take a walk along the High Street and you’ll be handed hundreds of flyers for all kinds of performances, many of them cheap and many of them great.

2. But also do have some of a plan

This is probably more advice for next year at this point but make sure your travel and accommodation is booked well in advance. So many people descend on the city of Edinburgh in August that all the cheap accommodation is snapped up quickly so book ahead to avoid paying a fortune unnecessarily.

3. Surprise yourself with what you see

There are so many shows to see at the Festival and so many of them are so cheap that it’s a great opportunity to push yourself to see something you wouldn’t usually see without the pressure of paying out a lot of money to see it. I’ve seen musicals, stand-up comedians, magic shows, spoken word, bizarre one-person comedy plays, a live sketch show, a beat boxer, burlesque shows, improvised performances and more at the Fringe and trust me, it’s always the shows you’re most unsure about that end up being the most memorable.

4. Make the most of free fringe but make sure you also have cash on you

Free Fringe shows are perfect for filling your free time between shows but you should be aware that ‘Free’ doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to pay anything. At the end of Free Fringe shows the performers will usually stand by the doors with a bucket for you to add a tip so it’s important to carry around some cash with you so you’re always prepared.

5. See some variety shows

As I’ve said already, there are so many shows that you could see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that even if you’re planning to see five or six shows a day (which is actually perfectly doable), you’re still not going to get through them all. A great way to counteract this is to see some variety shows and cabarets. A lot of performers at the Fringe promote their full shows by doing short segments at variety shows. This means you not only get to see a lot of different short performances but it can also help you pick your next show to see if you particularly liked one of the performances. One particular variety show I’d recommend is The Midnight Show at Just the Tonic. It’s a bunch of comedians doing 5/10 minutes of stand-up to promote their shows in a cool underground venue at midnight. I went to The Midnight Show both times I went to the Fringe and saw some brilliant comedians both times.

So, there you have it. If you are heading to Edinburgh for the Fringe this year, lucky you, I’m very jealousI hope you have an amazing time and make sure you take photos and cram as many shows into your time there as possible, you won’t regret it!

Posted in Theatre

Six Reasons to See Six the Musical

The six wives of Henry VIII + sassy pop music = one of the best theatre shows in recent years… who knew?

Six may be a hit in the West End (and now over in Chicago too!) but if you’ve yet to see this amazing show about girl power and rewriting history to turn it into “herstory” (see what they did there??!), I’ve got six reasons why you need to give Six a shot.

No.1 It has an all-female cast and band

Theatre is traditionally populated with more men in the significant positions than women. A couple of months back the National Theatre came under fire for not including any plays with a female writing credit in their upcoming season. Women are so often overlooked off the stage so to see a show where ten talented and diverse women are on the stage every night is so refreshing. Henry VIII doesn’t make an appearance in the show because, for once, the story that’s being told isn’t really about him, it’s about the six fascinating and fabulous women he royally screwed over.

No.2 It’s contemporary theatre at its finest

Each queen’s song style takes inspiration from some modern-day muses, from Ariana Grande to Adele. This means that though these ladies are from Tudor England, nothing about this show feels stuck-in-the-past, in fact it’s about as contemporary a show on the West End can get. There are catchy tunes with pop and RnB vibes and you can learn a lot about history in a way that is a lot more fun than opening a textbook.

No.3 It rewrites history from the women’s points of view

The separation of Henry VIII and Catherine and Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn is one of the most significant events in English history for bringing about the English Reformation but this is a story that is always taught from a very political and *yawn* male angle. If that’s not tiresome enough, all four other wives of Henry VIII are pretty much always glossed over when this topic comes up in school. To steal a quote from Cathy Parr in Six “there’s so much more” to them than meets the eye. I could tell you all about the amazing things these queens did and their truly awful experiences during their reigns but I don’t want to spoil anything so just go and see the show, it’s all based on real fact just told in the sassiest and catchiest way possible.

No.4 It’s a new British show

Ok, I’m not trying tot get into a debate about whether new British theatre is overshadowed by the Broadway shows that have been coming over to the West End of late. I’m certainly not hating on the Broadway-to-West-End hits either, I was one of the first in the virtual line to get tickets to the likes of Hamilton, Waitress and Come From Away (all fantastic shows, I might add) but it does feel like new British shows are sometimes lost in the sea of already-popular Broadway hits. Six has managed to gain a strong following online (with one of the sweetest fanbases I think I’ve seen for anything but more on that soon) and rightfully so because it’s so damn good. The writing team behind it, Marlowe and Moss, came out of university and got a show on the West End nearly straight away, those are some top musical-writing skills right there!
No.5 Every. Single. Song. Is. A. Jam.

Who doesn’t love a sassy feminist bop? In this show there are half a dozen sassy solo bops with three pretty unique ensemble numbers thrown in as well. Sure, the show might be short with only nine shows in the whole performance but those nine songs were chosen wisely and each one serves a clear purpose (even if Haus of Holbein is a bit weird). The cast album is short and sweet and the songs sound like something you’d hear on the radio yet still have that magical musical theatre quality to them so what’s not to like?

No.6 It appreciates its alternates

The cast is terrific and if you don’t come out of the show wishing you were a part of that girl squad, you’re lying to yourself. And when I say cast, I mean the whole cast. Including the three fabulous alternates. Back when this current cast first took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe, quickly followed by its first run in London, there was one alternate, Grace Mouat, who covered every single queen. How? Some serious talent and presumably a bloody good memory. Since then, as the show’s grown so have the number of alternates. Now Grace is joined by Vicki Manser and Courtney Stapleton and for the first show where all three alternates were going to be on together, the Six Instagram shared a video hyping the audience up to see them all perform! No other shows do that! And they should! It’s created the nicest fandom in the West End. I never see any nasty tweets from people who were sad not to see the main cast because the alternates are so celebrated that audiences treat seeing the alternates like catching Pokémon – you want to see them all! That’s amazing and how I really think theatre should be.

Have I convinced you yet? Go book some tickets and listen to the songs – they’re all on Spotify waiting for you!

How can I see it?

Six is on at the Arts Theatre in London and will be going on a UK tour later this year.

There is also a production in Chicago at the Shakespeare Theatre.

Posted in Theatre

Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre Review

Last night I saw the last performance of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. It was a play I’d been meaning to see for some time and ultimately I ended up leaving seeing it to literally me last opportunity but I’m so glad I didn’t miss out.

            Emilia tells the life story of Emilia Bassano Lanier, an Elizabethan poet and proto-feminist. She was one of the first published female poets in the English language and is thought to be the “Dark Lady” from Shakespeare’s sonnets. All this was pretty intriguing for me. If she was such an important figure in English literature, why had I never heard of her and why did she never even get a mention on my English Lit degree? Because her story has been silenced and her work forgotten for years.

            The play stars an all-female diverse cast of very talented women. The three actresses who played Emilia, who each took on the role for a different portion of her life, were fantastic. Saffron Coomber who played Emilia 1 took the character from a bright-eyed child, scared to go to court but still mostly untouched by tragedy to a grown woman who had experienced the unfairness of the world she was living in repeatedly and had faced great losses, both personal and professional. The part of the play when Saffron walks from the stage for Adelle Leonce to take her place as Emilia 2 was genuinely incredibly moving and I think it was this section that created the most humour. Seeing the stage transformed into the Globe (the show was performed at the Globe before transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre so this scene must have been amazing to watch at the Globe itself) and the actors going into the boxes to watch a scene from Othello was brilliant. This scene created comedy and gave a lot of fuel to Emilia’s fire when Emilia 2 realises not only has Shakespeare stolen her words, he’d also put them into the mouth of one of his characters who is, unsubtly, called Emilia.

            It was Emilia 3, played by Clare Perkins, who had the most powerful speeches however. At the end of the show, her final monologue is more like a rally cry for women to not forget their history and to keep fighting for equality in their present and future. It’s a powerful moment which is followed by an amazing dance sequence which sees the whole cast punching the air and shouting.

            Overall I really loved the humour, history, quirkiness and raw emotion of the play. To see what Emilia went through, even creating a school to educate women, is so inspiring and I can’t praise the cast and creatives enough for bringing this incredible story to light and for making me feel so genuinely proud to be a woman.

            I do think the men were played more as caricatures than human beings most of the time but women have been for years so maybe it’s just evening the playing field. Shakespeare is still shown to be literary genius, I particularly liked the last exchange between Emilia and Will when he’s trying to make sense of her and Henry Carey is at least understanding of Emilia’s plight even if he’s still just interested in getting his leg over.

            I love the current focus on retelling the stories of women forgotten in history in London theatre right now in shows like Emilia, Six and Sylvia. And it’s not just these shows that are forming a feminist revolution on the stage, walking around the West End district you see female faces on so many theatres with the likes of Waitress, 9 to 5, Wicked and Tina on right now. It just feels like a good time to be a female theatre fan. Emilia was funny and inspiring and I hope it goes on to have a life beyond this short run at the Vaudeville so even more women can see it and hear Emilia’s incredible story.

Posted in Theatre

May 2019: Current Musical Theatre Jams

It’s time for May’s top tunes. These are the MT songs have I been enjoying this month…

Livin’ It Up on Top – Hadestown

Well it’s like he said, I’m an outdoor girl.
Livin’ it, livin’ it up.
Married to the king of the Underworld.
Livin’ it up on top.
Trying to enjoy myself.
Livin’ it, livin’ it up.
Six months out of every twelve.
Livin’ it up on top.

I’m keeping this to one song per musical so this is the only Hadestown track to appear in May’s top five. But, seriously I’ve listened to so much Hadestown this month, I’m one step away from booking flights to New York. Livin’ It Up on Top is probably the song I’ve listened to the most from the original live cast recording. It’s fun, jazzy, funny and it’s got Amber Gray in it. What’s not to love? I just can’t wait for the new cast album to come out next week, I need it now (even though I think this song is really different in the Broadway version!). Check out my blog post on the Hadestown Live Cast Recording to read more about my love for this show.

I Don’t Need Your Love – Six

So I sent that letter to my love,
Got married to the king,
Became the one who survived.
I’ve told you about my life, the final wife.
But, why should that story be the one I have to sing about,
Just to win? I’m out.
That’s not my story.
There’s s much more, remember that I was a writer.
I wrote book and psalms and meditations.
Fought for female education,
So all my women could independently study scripture.
I even got a woman to paint my picture.
Why can’t I tell that story?
‘Cause in history, I’m fixed as one of six.
And without him I disappear.
We all disappear.

Just like Hadestown, I could probably put any Six song on this list since I’ve been loving them all lately but I said one song per show so I’m going with I Don’t Need Your Love. Not only is this a sad and powerful break-up song for Catherine Parr and her one true love (not Henry, obvs), it’s also a ode to the idea that women are way more than what the men in their lives have made them. Cathy P was basically a proto-feminist and this song has probably one of my favourite verses of any song ever. It’s strong, sassy and shows just how amazing and inspiring Parr was and how much of a shame it is that she’s been reduced to just the “one who survived” in history. Thank God Six is changing that. Thank you to our current English history Lord and saviours, Marlowe and Moss.

Somewhere That’s Green – Little Shop of Horrors

I’m his December bride.
His father, he knows best.
Our kids watch Howdy Doody
As the sun sets in the west.
A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Far from Skid Row,
I dream we’ll go
Somewhere that’s green.

I feel like I’ve been rediscovering Little Shop of Horrors lately. I completely forgot how funny this show is. I really need to rewatch the film. I’ve been listening to Somewhere That’s Green a lot because it’s one of those songs that combines comedy with sincerity in a genuinely quite moving way. Poor Audrey, she just dreams of the simple things in life and a sweet little guy… like Seymour.

We See the Light – Something Rotten

We see the light.
You’ve changed how we’re thinking,
‘Cause we were blind but you showed us the way.
We’re wrong, you’re right.
Salvation is yours if you do what is true to you
And you do it with Luh-uh-uh-uh-ove.

Goddam is this a jam. Portia loves Nigel, Nigel loves Portia but her preacher dad is stopping them from running off into the sunset together so they imagine what it would be like if their families (and her dad’s whole congregation!) approved of their love and damn is it a tune. There are several real jams in Something Rotten but this has to be my absolute fave.

The Wizard and I – Wicked

Unlimited. My future is unlimited.
And I’ve just had a vision almost like a prophecy.
I know, it sounds truly crazy
And true the vision’s hazy.
But, I swear someday there’ll be
A celebration throughout Oz
That’s all to do with me!

I saw Wicked for the first time in years back in April and of all the songs in the show, this is the one that I left the theatre thinking “I need to listen to that one again”. It’s such a big song for Elphaba but it comes so early in the show that it almost gets forgotten about once the show gets to Defying Gravity but it really is quite a show-stopping moment when this song gets belted out. I won’t be skipping this song when I listen to Wicked ever again!

So there you have it, my favourite musical theatre jams from May. Check out my top April jams as well and thanks for reading! 

Posted in Theatre

Stunt/ Celebrity Casting in Theatre

Today I want to discuss the topic of stunt/ celeb casting in theatre so please pass me a ladder so I can get myself up onto a fence because I don’t really have a clear side on this. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the celeb is fantastic for the role, sometimes they’re not.

            Usually celebrity casting is done in theatre to keep the show running. Most of the time, investing in theatre is a really risky affair. A lot of shows lose more money than they make and it’s not uncommon for shows to close early or sometimes not even happen at all when the ticket sales aren’t looking great. Oftentimes, the show itself, even if it is a well-known show, isn’t enough to guarantee strong enough sales figures so casting a celebrity in one of the roles (or multiple celebs in multiple roles) is a handy way to get a few more seats filled. This means some amazing shows that don’t have the advantage of being well-known already or have missed out on awards, don’t lose their audiences to other shows that are sustaining their popularity. Which, also means that if the celebrity casting can keep the show open, the people working on that show get to keep their job. This also means that there are plenty of cast and crew members who could be getting their big break in theatre world and are getting to keep a job for a significant period of time (which can be unusual for some people working in theatre. For some, moving from one project to the next with periods of unemployment is common) because the celebrity casting is keeping the show running and therefore benefitting the rest of the team working on it.

            Except, when you think about how that role is now unavailable for aspiring actors and actresses who have trained for to work in theatre and are potentially missing their chance to get a leading role that could see their career take off. Plus, sometimes the stunt casting is done purely to bring in a ‘name’ regardless of whether they’re the ideal fit for the role or not. Working in theatre is hard work, I don’t think you need to be a professional actor to see that (I’m certainly not!). So, it can be really noticeable when someone on the stage doesn’t really have the skills or training required to be there. This then can make the show suffer in its storytelling and can be especially annoying for anyone who is more of a fan of the show itself than the cast in it.

            The other issue with celebrity casting is when the celeb has a day off and the understudy fills in for them. Now, I am a big advocate for celebrating understudies. They work incredibly hard and nearly every time I’ve seen an understudy perform, they have been amazing. So, when the understudy goes on for the celeb role you’d hope the audience would appreciate they’re seeing the show and support whoever is playing the role. But, unfortunately, not everyone thinks that way. I’ve heard really nasty things said by disappointed audience members who are there to see the celeb but see the understudy instead. Ergh. I swear, people that hate on understudies are worst people in theatre and celeb casting can make these people even worse for moaning and causing a negative atmosphere. This really is another topic for another time though.

            Overall, celebrity casting is not always a bad thing. Sure, sometimes the celeb clearly wasn’t the best choice for the role and it’s kind of annoying to see the part being taken away from someone who could have done it better but equally sometimes the celebs are brilliant and manage to keep the show open by increasing ticket sales. As I said at the start, I’m really on the fence about this but would love to hear your thoughts.

            Also, this post was totally inspired by all the drama that’s been going down at Waitress in London and I just want to say another issue with stunt casting is when there’s fantastic actor or actress in a role but then suddenly they’re dropped from the production for a few months to bring in a celeb*. Not cool. #JusticeforLauraBaldwin!

 *No hate to Ashley Roberts though, this situation is definitely not her fault and I wish her all the best for her run as Dawn.