Well, 2021 hasn’t been a great one for theatre in… well, theatres so far but from the line up of film adaptations of stage musicals expected to come out this year, 2021 certainly is shaping up to brighter for theatre fans after all. So, let’s dive into the musical movies that we should be seeing on our screens very soon.
In The Heights – Expected UK release date: 25th June 2021
After being pushed back, the In The Heights movie is finally expected to hit the big screens this summer and I can’t wait. I adore the music from In The Heights and I can’t wait for all the new Lin Manuel Miranda fans who only know his work on Hamilton and Moana to see the big screen version of his other huge Broadway hit. The trailer is absolutely stunning for this movie and it looks like it’s going to be the perfect pop of colour and musical movie magic we need this summer.
Dear Evan Hansen – Expected UK release date: 24th September 2021
No trailers for this one yet but we should be seeing Dear Evan Hansen in cinemas this autumn. I have to say I’m not quite as excited for this one as In The Heights but I’m still curious to see how the show will be translated to the film medium. I’ve read that there are a few new characters and some switching around of the relationships of characters (Larry is now Connor and Zoe’s stepdad for some reason) so I’m definitely intrigued as to how this will play out.
West Side Story – Expected UK release date: 10th December 2021
Another one with a release moved back to 2021 to give it a splash in cinemas is Steven Spielberg’s take on this Broadway classic. With this one, I’m excited to see Rachel Zegler’s take on Maria and Ariana DeBose as Anita as well as seeing how Speilberg is going to make it his own. It’s an iconic show and there haven’t been many recent movie adaptations of classic musicals in recent years so it’s an interesting choice.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Expected UK release date: TBC
The only original British musical on this list and I’m so excited to see Max Harwood strutting about in those red heels as Jamie New. This one has also had it’s release date pushed back but as of right now, there hasn’t been a new date announced just yet. We all could do with a new proper feel-good movie musical so let’s hope it comes out soon!
Tick, Tick… Boom! – Expected UK release date: TBC
This is from Netflix’s now foray into musical theatre and features the directorial debut of Lin Manual Miranda. I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually listened to Tick, Tick… Boom! all the way through yet for two reasons. One, because it’s hard to get hold of the music (why is the cast recording not on Spotify?!) and two, because, after Rent, this is only other complete show from Jonathan Larson and as a huge Rent fan, it makes me sad to think once I’ve heard Tick, Tick… Boom! songs, that’s it. Saying that, I genuinely can’t wait to see the movie and I have high expectations for it. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Garfield in a musical, who knew he could sing?!
Which movie musical are you most excited to see this year? For me, In The Heights has the edge but I’m looking forward to all of them. Thanks for reading and bye for now!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!