My Stagey Week -21
Updated: Jun 5, 2019
On Monday I managed to catch Ain't Misbehavin! at the Southwark Playhouse in it's final week. Having transferred from the Colchester Mercury Theatre.
Starring Adrian Hansel who is an old friend as well as Renee Lamb, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Landi Oshinowo, Wayne Robinson.
As a show, there isn't much to it. It's basically just the five of them rattling through over 30 jazz songs. Some of which I recognised. Each act was only 45 mins long with some dialogue peppered through the show, but essentially it is just a song cycle. It was directed by first time director Tyrone Huntley and choreographed by Oti Mabuse and James Bennett. With some very nice work by all.
The stage was glitzy and sexy as were the boys, although the dresses the girls were given were unflattering.
All five have impeccable voices and charisma as well as plenty of sass ensuring for a great night out that had the whole audience clapping along, although some were hideously out of time. As Renee Lamb began singing I instantly recognised her voice from my favourite song off the Six album, 'No Way' which she recorded as the original cast. In the audience watching and supporting Renee were the writers of Six, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Who I had now met a few times, and they are always lovely. They had just returned from Chicago where Six has opened. Toby was telling me that he was going to Brighton later in the week to perform Hot Gay Time Machine again. After the show, I said hello to Renee and told her that her that 'No Way' was my favourite song on the Six album, she laughed and said "Mine too!" she then told me I had cute dimples as I tried not to fan girl. As I sat and had a drink with Adrian after the show, I spotted Matt Lucas, and had a quick chat with him. He said he was excited when I asked him about his upcoming return to Les Mis. After this, I raced over to Freedom bar, where Kinky Kabaret were hosting Emma Lindar's debut album launch, 'As We Grow Older'.
Emma is an extraordinary talent and one third of the girl group The I-Dolls. Formed by Emma with Charlotte Riby and Portia Emare when the three of them played the divas in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Emma went on to appear in Groundhog Day and Made in Dagenham. Her album was produced following a successful crowd funding initiative and features duets with Alice Fern and John Partridge.
Joining Emma at her album launch was Harriette Mullen and Kinky Kabaret host Carl Mullaney as well as her band made up of James Dibble, Tom Knowles, Tom Leach and Jack Pennifold. The audience was full of supportive friends including Brenda Edwards and Bianca Del Rio. Emma sang a selection of songs from her album as well as some with the I-Dolls.
A selection of these I filmed and can be found on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/Xbj-A1Tcg_I Emma is also taking part in the Big Smoke Fesitval on at Zedel. On 16th July. With tickets at £15. https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/emma-lindars-july-2019?date=185583546
On Tuesday morning I watched the understudy performance of All My Sons at the Old Vic.
Along side Oliver Johnstone, Russell Wilcox, Sule Rimi, Gunnar Cauthery, Kayla Meikle, Ruth Redman, Hana Pascal Keegan, Theo Boyce, and Bessie Carter all took part in the special one off performance for a specially invited audience. Getting the opportunity to all play the parts they are understudying. Bessie Carter is the daughter of actors Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton and took over the part that Jenna Coleman usually plays.
I also got to sit with my friend Peter McPherson who was telling me all about his small part in the BBC series Years and Years, and was telling me what it was like to work with Emma Thompson.
In the evening I returned to the Southwark Playhouse to watch the musical adaptation of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that was made in to a film with Brad Pitt. This folk musical is produced and directed by Jethro Compton who also wrote the book and lyrics, along with Darren Clark wrote the music and lyrics.
It stars an incredibly talented all actor-muso cast Matthew Burns, Rosalind Ford, Joey Hickman, Philippa Hogg and James Marlowe, who each multi role and play all the instruments. Their work is exemplary. On the whole it generally a very good piece. I did wonder how they were going to present the central character's ageing process, and they do this neatly with puppets to represent the older and younger stages of Benjamin. The music is glorious, although my only complaint is that the whole piece struggles at times with pacing and repetition, some of the songs were unnecessary and perhaps should have been cut. Although I enjoyed the show I so feel that it could have been refined and tightened. It did make me wonder had Jethro Compton not directed and produced as well as writing the show whether bringing in a different director would have made a difference. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button plays at the Southwark Playhouse until 8th June. https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/the-curious-case-of-benjamin-button/ On Wednesday, I made my way up to Manchester for the Spice Girls concert.
I was fourteen when the Spice Girls took over the world with Girl Power, and I was obsessed with them. I had all the merchandise, the duvet, the posters. My bedroom was a shrine to the girl band. I saw their first tour Spiceworld in 1998 at Wembley, then Christmas in Spiceworld at Earls Court in 1999, then the Return of the Spice Girls at the O2 in 2007, so needless to say I couldn't wait for this, their forth tour, even if Posh wasn't going to be there. My friend Zara had flown up from Cornwall to join me as my guest, and we checked in to a rather grim hotel on the edge of Manchester. I brought a bag full of snacks from M&S and Zara bought two bottles of prosecco which we had while we got ready. With Spice Girl music playing as we gossiped. The weather was bleak and the rain had started as we made our way to the stadium in a taxi. I was dressed in a Union Jack vest and spangly rainbow jacket from Primark, with glitter smeared across my face. We were ready, and the rain wasn't gonna bother us.
Once we were inside the stadium, we stocked up on drinks and found our seats as Jess Glynne began her set. I then bought us some chips as the stadium continued to fill. We were sat in the east stand protected from the rain, overlooking the audience in rain ponchos watching from the pitch. At 8.30, the stadium came to life as the intro to Spice Up Your Life begin, and then before our eyes Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty rose up through the stage and the 14 year old me, relieved every memory of my all time favourite band.
The concert was everything I wanted and more. As a production it was spectacular, with their costumes designed by Olivier nominated Gabriella Slade who designed the costumes for Six. The dancers were also fantastic as The Spice Girls worked through songs from their three albums. Unlike their last tour the girls didn't do any of their own solo work, and there was no mention of Victoria's absence over than a lyric change in 'Wannabe'. Where Geri used to sing "Easy V- doesn't come for free". She know sang "Easy V- where is she?".
As 55,000 people tried to leave the stadium, I stopped to buy a programme for £20 and a T-shirt for £30. My -now rather very drunk- friend Zara tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to book us a taxi as we followed the crowds to a near by chip shop, where I got into a fight with a rather aggression northern women who accused us of pushing to the front of the queue. I told her to shove her chips and we left without. We then had to board a bus into Manchester centre where we were able to then get a taxi home to the hotel. I showered the glitter off as Zara stumbled into her bed complaining that she had lost her watch. It turned up the next morning on the coffee table with the left over M&S spread we hadn't eaten. I boarded the train back to London on Thursday, in time to catch up with my old friend and colleague from the Actors Centre, Susan. She had travelled up for the day from Wales for an audition. We went to a pub in Covent Garden for a catch up before she caught a coach home.
I then went back to the Actors Centre to watch a new play as part of their Queer Season. It was called Works of Art and had caught my interest because the music and lyrics were by Robin Simoes Da Silva, who also starred in it.
Robin is an inspiring young trans man, who had played Anna in Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill theatre before coming out as trans.
Robin was then invited to perform with the cast of Spring Awakening later that year at the What's On Stage Award, where rather than reprise the role of Anna. Robin now dressed and played one of the boys. It was a beautiful moment, with Robin receiving an incredible amount of love and support online. Works of Art with the book written by Pete Machale, also starred Evie Rose Lane and Francesca Ellis and Adam Dawson who was also in Spring Awakening with Robin.
It tells the story of two brothers. One a young trans man, who after his mother embraces her son's transition, struggles with depression and takes her own life.
The music and songs by Robin were lovely, and if they were part of an album I would buy and listen to it, but as a musical this piece did not work.
The story flits between scarcely examining the mother's depression and touching on her son's transition. In this story the mother accepts her son coming out, and although this is wonderful, it leaves little room dramatically for any conflict. Although it was only a workshop presentation with two performances, I still felt a lot of work could have been with the story before it was presented. Interestingly, I wrote and starred in my first play Fragments at the Tristan Bates, seven years ago, and as a theatre they continue to nurture and cultivate new writing. Although it is superb to see a trans story written and performed by a trans man, I'm sure Robin is able to offer much more than this, and sadly Works of Art isn't quite there. Having said that the music was beautiful and excellent performed between Evie and Adam on the piano and Robin on guitar.
It was also nice to see Darragh Cowley who was also in Spring Awakening in the audience supporting. Darragh has just been announced to be joining the cast of Bare at the Vaults. On Friday, Club 11 and Take Two Theatricals released tickets for a very exclusive gig at Lola's Underground Casino with Keala Settle which sold out within three minutes.
Formed by Darren Bell and Jack Maple and Brian Zeilinger these two companies recently joined forces to produce and programme some of the best cabaret and concerts to grace Cadogan Hall. Bringing an array of broadway legends across the pond for one off shows. Lambert Jackson Productions is another producing partnership that programmes concerts for Cadogan Hall, and on Friday it was their turn with Main Men of Musicals, featuring Trevor Dion Nicholas, Ben Forster, Luke Bayer and Liam Tamne.
An oddly titled show, that would have sounded better had they called it 'leading men'. It was unnecessarily hosted by Lucy Drever depriving the four main men of any of their own chat or banter between songs. Although well conducted by an enthusiastic Adam Hoskins, the song choices were far from original or inspired. Luke Bayer only left Everybody's Talking About Jamie three months ago, and yet here they had him singing 'And You Don't Even Know it' again. Similarly Ben Forster was made to churn out his greatest hits from Jesus Christ Superstar and Phantom of the Opera. The whole concert seemed devoid of any originality or creativity, and in turn was relatively dull.
Don't get me wrong, Ben and all four of these main men have such charisma and incredible voices, that it's a joy to watch and hear them sing anything, but I would just liked to have heard them sing something different.
Having said this, the concert did draw a healthy audience who certainly seemed to love every minute, rising to ovation throughout the show. So perhaps Lambert Jackson Productions are getting it right, and as long as an audience leaves happy then that's all that matters. On Saturday afternoon, whilst every gay man in London took their tops off and took to Clapham Common, I was in Clapham for a return visit to the Omnibus theatre, and to see how Country Music had progressed since I watched a run through during their rehearsals and interviewed the cast.
Country Music is one of Simon Stephens early plays which has been revised by Scott Le Cras. It is Stephens at his best, writing believable drawn characters and realistic dialogue.
Rising star Cary Crankson, is the only other actor to professionally perform Sea Wall in the UK other than Andrew Scott. He is joined by Rebecca Stone, Frances Knight as well as Dario Coates who was brought in at last minute to take over one of the roles. It is a stunning production, brilliantly written by Stephens and superbly directed and crafted by Scott Le Crass who has also produced this show. There is a subtlety and authenticity to each of the performances which makes this a truly captivating play. Country Music is on at the Omnibus Theatre until 24 June https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/country-music/ And you can watch my interview with the cast here: https://youtu.be/LCD9ot5-NWI On Saturday evening, while the Barricade Boys were performing in Bromley, which I sadly had to miss, I went to watch Immortality at the Drayton Arms.
It describes itself as an electro-pop musical about the pursuits of fame and eternal youth. Now, I always try to look for the best in anything, and I don’t like to be negative. But this show was categorically one of the worse things I have ever seen.
I was there to support my friend Stewart Briggs, who is a fantastic singer and actor, and he does the best he can with this terribly written musical.
Written by Matthew Andrewes, there was no live band, instead the tracks had been pre-recorded, which is not uncommon for a fringe production. However the tracks which were clearly all engineered by Andrewes on his computer, sounded automated and basic.
Rhihannon Drake produces and has a small part, and Jordan Veloso also does his best with the terrible chorography and the music he is having to work with.
The musical has been in development for two years, and I honestly wouldn’t know where to start to salvage this show. With some shows you seem a glimmer of potential, but with this one, sadly I can only be honest and objective.
On Sunday I went to watch the matinee of Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre.
This is honestly one of the best pieces of fringe theatre I have seen this year, and I could not resist coming back to see it again.
I sat with chorographer Adam Haige and our friend Kirk Jameson who has directed several shows at the Union and most recently has directed the UK tour of Madagascar the Musical.
After the show we were joined by Bryan Hodgeson the director, as we all went for drinks.
They are such a fun company. It was really nice to hang out with them, and to catch up with Marcus Ayton who used to be my flatmate.
Elegies for Angels Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre, runs until 8th June. http://www.uniontheatre.biz/elegies.html
You can also watch my interview with the cast here: https://youtu.be/FZ02YkjKNz0
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my You Tube channel here: https://youtu.be/s6V3yIanmk0
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-21--Audio-e48715