Breaking news: I’ve found my new obsession. Since theatres across the UK have been shut for over a year now, I’ve not had much to say about musical theatre. Well, that was until I discovered my new favourite cast recording, The Mad Ones. And you should listen to it too.
The Mad Ones is a Kerrigan and Lowdermilk musical formerly called The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown. The show follows 18-year-old Sam as she tries to decide what to do with her life following the death of her best friend, Kelly. As Sam works through her memories and learns to fully come to terms with what happened, she is guided by Kelly in her imagination. The show also touches on Sam’s relationships with her mum and boyfriend too as she works through her grief and struggles to decide what her next step in life should be after graduating high school. That’s really all you need to know about the plot going into your first listen.
Though grief is a huge theme of the show and some songs are really packed with emotion, it’s not a downer at all. There’s plenty of comedy and lighter moments. I especially love the way the show presents friendship, especially teen female friendship. The people you grow up with shape your personality so much that when you spend more time apart after leaving school and entering adulthood, you almost learn to be yourself all over again without those people having as big an impact as they once had. For Sam, this is so much more intense after Kelly’s death. But, the process that Sam goes through with trying to find herself and learning to not just see her identity through comparisons to Kelly (“She was everything I’m not, my whole universe”) is really touching and shows just how intense and impactful friendship can be. The song Go Tonight, when Sam finally confronts all her emotions over losing Kelly is truly heartbreaking as she confesses the darker side of her grief, including her feelings of inferiority compared to Kelly and how she feels partially responsible for Kelly’s death.
One small part of the story that really gets me is Sam trying to recall the specifics of her last interaction with Kelly and struggling to pinpoint the details. Memories are so important in the grieving process but they’re also so fragile. I think the way the show explores Sam piecing together her memories of Kelly and all that’s happened since she died is such a unique but realistic take on grieving.
I also love the small, intimate vibe of the recording. The whole show only requires four people, which reminds me of the likes of Next to Normal. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and ultimately, I think I miss smaller shows like this the most since theatres have been closed. Don’t get me wrong, I love a big West End show as much as the next Wicked or Les Mis fan, but there’s something special about these smaller-scale productions in off-West End and off-Broadway venues. That’s not to say that I don’t believe this show has a place on the West End or Broadway, I just think it would suit a smaller, more intimate venue more.
The three songs I’ve been listening to the most are The Mad Ones, Go Tonight and Run Away with Me. And, I mean, these songs aren’t just beautiful and emotional, they’re also serious earworms!
Thanks for reading and if you haven’t listened to The Mad Ones yet, get on it! Bye for now!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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?!
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.
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?
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!
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
A few shows I’ve seen that I didn’t get around
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
hate to Ashley Roberts though, this situation is definitely not her fault and I
wish her all the best for her run as Dawn.
I don’t know where Hadestown came from but
it seems like suddenly it’s everywhere. And everyone loves it. So, I did a bit
of Googling to figure out the background of the show before going into my first
listen of the 2017 cast recording. Turns out it’s a musical based on a concept
album by Anaïs Mitchell from 2010 that has since had
a few small runs and a live cast recording and was even on at the National
Theatre recently (I’m so mad I didn’t go and see it because, spoiler, I’m now
obsessed with Hadestown) before making its way to Broadway with an amazing
But, what’s the story? Hadestown is a
modern/modern-feeling retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. If
you don’t want anymore Hadestown spoilers, I’d stop here because I’m about to
have a natter about Greek mythology and the show itself now so will probably
spoil the ending for you.
Are you ready for a slightly-random-and-kind-of-unrelated-but-actually-kind-of-is-related
anecdote? I sure do hope so, because you’re getting one. About two weeks ago I
knew very little about Greek mythology. That was before I stumbled upon a copy
of Mythos. Mythos is essentially a book of Greek myths retold in a comedic
style by Stephen Fry. It’s great, I’d definitely recommend it and I’ve already started
his second book on Greek mythology, Heroes. But, honestly, I have no idea why I
bought Mythos. It’s not the kind of thing I’d normally pick up. It’s not a
novel and I don’t really read short story collections or anything similar but
something made me really want to read it. As I said, I’m glad I did because I
loved it and now have a new-found love and appreciation for Greek mythology.
Naturally then, when I found out Hadestown, as the title
suggests, had a link to Greek mythology, I was keen to start listening. So I
did. I listened to the first song of the live recording and… I didn’t really
Here’s the issue I had. I’m not a big fan of jazz, it’s
just not my thing and that first number (Road to Hell) is very jazzy and
bluesy. I really wanted to like it but it just didn’t click with me on first
listen so I stopped and that was it for a couple of days. But, then I saw Amy
Lovatt (a theatre YouTuber who makes brilliant videos so if you don’t watch
her, you should!) did a cover of All I’ve Ever Known and it didn’t sound jazzy
at all. It just sounded nice. So I decided to give it another try.
Livin’ It Up on Top was more fun to me and I love Amber
Gray from the Great Comet cast album so I enjoyed that song but it wasn’t until
I listened to All I’ve Ever Known that I fell properly head-over-heels-and-walk-right-into-the-Underworld-just-to-get-tickets
in love with a Hadestown song. It’s just beautiful. I have nothing else to say.
I just love it and have listened to it on repeat several times.
I’m not going to go over every song in this live
recording especially since it’s so fresh in my mind but here are a few further
is amazing and I love her voice so much, please God may I see her live one
I love chantey
numbers in musicals and there’s literally a song called “Chant” so of course it’s
one of ,my faves!
Patrick Page’s voice goes low in Songbird, I hope he has some throat sweets
back stage with him on Broadway.
Wait For Me
is beautiful ahhhhhh and I can’t wait for the new cast recording so I can listen
to the new lyrics ahhhhhh
Ow my heart
hurts. Orpheus, why? You literally had one job. Even if she didn’t follow you
out you were getting out of Hades anyway, why did you turn around?!
getting sad at having to sing the tragedy over again in Road to Hell II is
almost more painful than when Orpheus looks back.
Maybe I do
like a bit of jazz and blues after all…
I just want to go way
down way down to Hadestown (not literally, I think I learnt the lesson) and see
this show. Why I didn’t go and see it at the National Theatre I don’t know but
maybe the Broadway hype will bring it back over here soon. I did look into the
cost of tickets to see it on Broadway and they were literally the same price as
the flight to New York so might just park that idea for now.
ANYWAYS, the moral is
listen to Hadestown. And read Mythos. Bye for now!
I’ve seen a few West End shows lately so I
wanted to group them all into one post and natter away about them for a little
bit. Wicked is the only one of these shows I’d seen before and the Waitress
tickets were a birthday surprise for my sister because I am, clearly, the best
Overall, I thought Aladdin was bright, fun and colourful. The changes they’d made from the Disney’s animated movie (side note, even though I’m a bit over the Disney live action remakes, I am quite excited about the Aladdin movie, anyone else?) made sense and for the most part worked well. There are no animals in the show but Aladdin actually gets some real friends which is good for him. The new songs are nice but it’s the ones that come from the film that really have the entertainment factor, particularly the high-energy and genuinely spectacular Friend Like Me scene. Trevor Dion Nicholas is hilarious as the Genie, his comedic timing and stage presence lights up the stage almost as much as his glittery head.
The World New World scene was also executed nicely even if the actors did look a little scared to be floating around the stage on a “flying carpet”. The main criticism I have for the show, however, is the way they’ve worked Jafar and Iago into the stage show. As I said, there are no animals in the show so how do they get Iago in there? Well, he’s Jafar’s pretty annoying pantomime-esque sidekick. Sure, Aladdin is a pantomime classic and Jafar is widely considered to be one of Disney’s best villains but it felt a bit too over-the-top for me. I guess, maybe I’d feel different if I’d been to see the show with kids because that, for sure, would work for them. But, not for me and considering how many adults there were in the audience, it just felt a bit much.
Stepping away from the negatives though, this show is lively and, like I said, oh so colourful and visually spectacular. Fans of Disney will love it, families will love it, everyone else will probably enjoy it too.
How can I see it?
Aladdin is showing at the Prince Edward Theatre and booking through to July 27th (it will be closing in the coming months though so if you’re keen on seeing it, make sure you get tickets soon!)
This wasn’t my first trip to the Emerald
City. Seeing Wicked again was a bit of nostalgia fest since it was the first
show I ever saw on the West End back in 2014 and is now the only London show
I’ve seen twice (though there are quite a few I’m desperate to see again).
Every musical fan seems to love Wicked, there’s something about it that just transports you into a magical realm where people can say slightly cringey non-words like “braverism” without anyone batting an eyelid. What I found most exciting about seeing it again was 1. Re-realising how funny it is and 2. Getting to see the amazing cast that is currently in the show. Alice Fearn as Elphaba and Sophie Evans as Glinda are brilliant and great when they perform together.
We were sat very far back right up at the top of the dress circle but you forget you’re so far back because the belting is so damn powerful and you get a great view of the random but awesome dragon at the top of the stage.
Whether you have or haven’t seen Wicked on the West End yet, the cheap seats at the top do actually have quite a good view so I think you should treat yourself this summer if you can.
How can I see it?
Wicked is showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and booking until May 2020.
I was so excited to see Waitress and it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s funny, moving and inspiring. The cast were fantastic. Katherine McPhee had such a long applause after She Used to Be Mine and rightfully so because her performance was so heart-wrenching. She was just amazing. So were her co-stars, Laura Baldwin as Dawn (who was also fab in Eugenius last year) and Charlotte Raby (who was understudying for Marisha Wallace) as Becky. Their friendship felt real to me and it was so great to see a show so focused on women’s issues and humour relating to what it’s like being a woman. I already knew I loved the songs but I didn’t realise how much I’d love the book and choreography as well. Also, I did not know how awkward and adorable Dr Pomatter is from just the songs. David Hunter was hilarious and played the lovable doctor really well.
got too much merch – including a Waitress cookbook even though I rarely bake
but I appreciate clever merch and I’m far too tigger-happy when it comes to
buying things I don’t need so I got it – and obvs bought a pie there which came
in a cute little jar.
about this show was brilliant, I feel like I was grinning the whole way
through. I’d recommend it to everyone I know. I feel like I’m probably as
enthusiastic about this show as Ogie is about Dawn… maybe… if that’s even
possible. Just, if you can, go and see it. It makes for a great feel-good
How can I see it?
Waitress is showing at the Adelphi Theatre and booking through to October 19th. Go see it!
Let me know if you’ve seen any great shows lately. I already have a long list of shows to see but I’m constantly extending it anyway so feel free to give me recommendations! 😀