My Stagey Week 41
The plans to reinvigorate the Charing Cross Theatre by transforming their seating configurations has so far failed to build back their dwindling audience. Amour closed early and Queen of the Mist was practically empty the Saturday night that I saw it.
With another visiting production taking residence at the theatre until Christmas, does Stiles and Drewe’s Soho Cinders offer the potential to turn the theatre around? On paper, it certainly ticks enough boxes to pull in an audience.
With Mary Poppins beginning previews the same week, writers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are having a much welcomed resurgence.
Soho Cinders was first showcased in 2008, followed by a sold-out gala concert production and recording in 2011.
A full scale production followed in 2012 running for five weeks at the Soho Theatre. It was then revived in 2016 for a five week run at The Union Theatre. Three years later, it arrives at The Charing Cross Theatre for a nine week run.
Produced by Will Keith for Theatre Syndicate London, Michaela Stern for Starting Over Theatricals Ltd and in association with Kyle Tovey for AKT Management.
Will Keith directed the 2016 production at the Union Theatre, and now returns to direct and produce, teaming up with Michaela Stern also a first time producer, and reprises her role playing one of the ugly sisters.
Lewis Asquith reprises the role of James Prince originally played by Michael Xavier.
The original showcase also featured Amy Lennox, David Bedella, Hannah Waddingham, Sharon D Clarke, and Great British Bake Off’s Sandi Toksvig as the narrator.
Stephen Fry then provided the voice of the narrator for the Soho run, with Jenna Russell replacing Hannah Waddingham.
Although the original production wielded a notable cast, it is fair to say that the 2016 production at the Union Theatre, produced by Sasha Regan failed to pull in a star cast. Understandably due to the constraints of mounting a production with a cast of nineteen, in a ninety seat venue with tickets capped at £25.
Moving up to a venue with 265 seats, and with the commendable move by this new production to pay their cast above Equity minimum, this new production of Soho Cinders at Charing Cross Theatre seems to align somewhere in the middle.
They have brought back Lewis Asquith, Christopher Coleman, Natalie Harman, Michaela Stern, Jade Bailey and Luke Byrne, but have now also brought in the star power and popularity that is currently being afforded to Luke Bayer and Millie O’Connell.
Both Luke and Millie now have a huge allegiance of fans from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Six, making them both hot commodities.
It’s smart casting.
With Ewan Gillies, Tori Hargreaves, Thomas Ball, Ben Darcy, Laura Fulgenzi, Danny Lane, Savannah Reed and Melissa Rose completing the cast.
Smart, yet noticeably not diverse. With Paul Vale from The Stage drawing particular attention to this by saying “even more disappointing that the diversity of Soho, though referenced in the script, isn’t reflected in the casting.” An opinion, that I have to support.
The character of Sasha was originally played by Richard David-Caine and later by Raj Ghatak and portrayed as Sikh. The part has now been gender swapped to female and is played by Melissa Rose to allow for a subplot involving a sexual harassment.
The production largely remains the same, but with some lines added to reference up to date pop culture. These are done effectively without feeling contrived.
One most notable and hugely welcome revisions, comes courtesy of new choreographer Adam Haigh, who I noticed included some same sex partnering within some of the dance sequences.
By coincidence, sat in the audience watching on the press night, was figure skater Matt Evers, who will soon become the first professional skater to be paired up in a same sex partnership in ITV’s Dancing On Ice with Ian ‘H’ Watkins from Steps.
It’s a bold and brilliant move to reflect and recognise same sex relationships and visibility.
On the whole, the cast are brilliant. The dancing is nice and slick. Ewan Gillies steals the show for me, with a brilliant and hilarious dog howl, and Tori Hargreaves who I had seen in Boom Bang A Bang at Above The Stag is particularly good. It was also nice to see my old flat mate Thomas Ball making his West End debut, and looking fabulous in a pair of very tight white shorts.
Luke Bayer and Millie O’connell are brilliant in their roles, both showing what superb performers they are. With Luke using a southern accent and Millie given more to do than just sing and dance, both demonstrate their prowess as actors.
As director, Will Keith does a very good job of guiding the cast to effectively use the traverse stage which is well lit by Jack Weir.
It’s a fun show, with some catchy songs, that is ultimately harmless and enjoyable, and is a perfect festive offering.
It is clear that this new team of producers really care about this show, and everyone in it, and are dedicated to making theatre that will do well.
It was also really nice to see George Stiles attend the press night, aided by a walking stick after suffering from a stroke earlier this year.
Soho Cinders runs until 21st December https://charingcrosstheatre.co.uk/theatre/soho-cinders
After this I went along to watch the second half of Kinky Kabaret’s Halloween special at Freedom Bar Soho.
Resident host, Carl Mullaney sang Defying Gravity, which he acclaims was the first time he has ever sang this song, the video can be found on my YouTube page:
📺 Video https://youtu.be/gomqoNxltFc
Resident diva, Emma Lindars sang, I Put A Spell On You.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/7krvn6OgDdA
And the brilliant S.Q.U.A.D. Goals. Made up of drag queens Gingzilla and Cazeleon with Seann Miley Moore from the X Factor performed. These guys are brilliant, and always look and sound incredible, especially when they come together to perform.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/8HALcBhkJMM
On Wednesday evening I attended Funnyboiler a new monthly comedy night at The Natural Philosopher in East London.
Hosted by Victoria Garo-Falides, she introduced Mae Martin, Adam Hess, Meryl O'Rourke, Joey Page, Gabby Killick, Rob Copland, Stephen Trumble, and Caitlin Powell who all presented and tried out some of their new work.
It was a mismatch of styles, with some brilliant and hilarious moments, and was very enjoyable, and very reasonably priced at only £6.
Follow @gazfunnyboiler if you would like to keep up to date about future events.
On Thursday, I was at the press night for Different From The Others at the White Bear. Written by Claudio Macor and directed by Jenny Eastop.
I had seen two of Claudio Macor’s plays before, Savage, and The Tailor-Made Man, both I thought were brilliant.
Starring Christopher Sherwood, Beth Eyre, Simon Stallard, Jordan Alexander, Benjamin Garrison, and Jeremy Booth Different From The Others explores the real life story of making of a silent movie in Berlin in 1919 called ‘Different From the Others’ which depicted same sex relationships.
Different From The Others tells the back story about the people that made the film, and how the film was banned and almost lost.
The play then jumps forward in time to 2012 where a remaining copy was found in the Ukraine, smuggled out of the country and published.
The cast of six do a brilliant job of telling this reflective story. The set is minimal but effective.
It’s on at the White Bear until 16 November.
On Saturday afternoon, I was invited to West End Musical Theatre Brunch at Cafe De Paris and took my friend Dev as my guest.
I had heard and seen lots of videos from these events which have been running now for over a year, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, selling out weeks in advanced.
It’s fair to say they mainly attract large groups of women, celebrating birthdays and hen parties.
From arrival, once everyone is seated, we were offered an hour of bottomless prosecco of gin cocktails, whilst a white cat and green witch mingled amongst us.
The service was great, with waiters and waitresses keeping the glasses full.
After this, plate fulls of mini burgers and chips were brought out for everyone followed by chocolate cake and sorbet. To be honest the food was pretty basic, but after copious amounts of prosecco, I don’t think anybody much cared.
Following this, host Carl Mullaney kicked off two hours of entertainment introducing Laura Emmitt and Vanessa Fisher who both performed various show tunes.
Some of them are on my YouTube channel:
Laura Emmitt performing:
‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman
📺 Video https://youtu.be/8SnGtH1H7cs
‘Memory’ from Cats
📺 Video https://youtu.be/whpdaASc8ss
‘No Good Deed’ from Wicked
📺 Video https://youtu.be/98zrPHUGF0M
Vanessa Fisher performing:
📺 Video https://youtu.be/xmdbsf7UxyM
‘The Wizard and I’ from Wicked
📺 Video https://youtu.be/SNKMknamJlc
All in all, it was a very fun and very Stagey afternoon, and just goes to show the popularity of musical theatre as entertainment. Events like this, along with Overtures and SingEasy which both opened this year prove that there is a market for tourists who love musical theatre.
Tickets range from £55-£75 depending on how early you book.
To book tickets visit their website:
On Saturday evening, still a bit squiffy from brunch, I went to watch Buffy The Vampire Musical at The Two Brewers.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether this was a brand new musical based on the hit TV series that ran between 1997 and 2003 or not. It turned out to be a semi staged recreation of the classic episode from season six, ‘Once More, With Feeling’.
For any fans of the series, they will know, this was an episode specifically written as a musical, with the whole cast singing and dancing in character, and it was brilliant.
It was written and directed by the show’s creator Joss Whedon.
From 2003 until 2007, ‘Once More, With Feeling’ was toured around America as a theatrical sing-along show, with huge popularity.
In 2007, after a dispute with the Screen Actors Guild over unpaid residuals, 20th Century Fox pulled the licensing for public screenings of ‘Once More, with Feeling’ and it has since been forbidden to screen it.
Despite this, TwoBox Productions, put on their own presentation of ‘Once More, with Feeling’ for two evenings bridging Halloween.
With an edited version of the original TV show projected behind them, live actors dressed in characters sang and recreated the dance sequences on stage.
The cast included Rich Watkins. Phil Lee-Thomas. Niall Hemingway. Sara Lynam. Jax Braithwaite. Ashley Racov. Lawrence Bolton. Mark Wickens. Rachel Blaney. Alan Hunter. Tia Kofi/ Poppycock.
Both shows sold old, proving the continued popularity of Buffy and the audience were in raptures as the episode was brought to life, in a very tongue in cheek way.
The cast were collectively very good, and played on the humour, cranking up the jokes and silliness to effectively parody the show rather than explicitly replicate it.
Using the space well and at points immersing themselves within the audience the cast did well without microphones, and created a fun and enjoyable recreation of the show.
It was the perfect way to present ‘Once More, with Feeling’ as a live show, and it’s only a shame that licensing rights prevent this show being fully staged and produced as it would definitely be a hit.
Videos from Buffy The Vampire Musical at The Two Brewers can be found in my accompanying vlog on my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/tHz0elAIi7U
On Sunday I returned to The Union Theatre for this month’s Roles We’ll Never Play.
The format continues to be working, with Tom Duern bringing together twenty-four of his mates to each sing a song from a show that they would not normally be cast in.
Although with the way casting is evolving, I would say nothing is ever impossible.
This series of cabarets continues to sell out, notably because you can guarantee they’ll be a least one former queen from Six the Musical performing. Tonight, they gave us three, with Renee Lamb, Grace Mouat and Maiya Quansah-Breed all on the line up.
Joining them were, Lauren Soley. Jak Skelly. Caroline Kay. Jed Berry. Lewis Cornay. Luke Bayer. Reece Kerridge. Chris Howell. Josie Kemp. Pearce Barron. Rebecca Ridout. James Hinton. Tom Duern. Aoife Clesham. Andrew Patrick-Walker. Lawrence Smith. Lauren Byrne. Rodney Vubya. Bernadette Bangura. Alisa Davidson. Michael Mather, and Lloyd Daniels.
They were joined by a choir of backing vocalists Dan Gray. Matthew Ellis. Matthew Michaels. Kara-Lianne Jones. Joely Barbour. Grace Roberts. Sophie Mallender. Emily Jayne Fryer. Cameron Jacob Foster and Jack Donald.
It goes without saying each of the thirty-five people singing are ridiculously talented. Each vocal was simply stunning, and it is always brilliant to hear new arrangements thanks to the incredible talents of musical director Flynn Sturgeon and his band.
It’s difficult to pick any highlights, because they were all so good, and I shouldn’t single any one out, but I do have a huge soft spot for Andrew Patrick-Walker whose voice is consistently stunning. Lawrence Smith always delivers a phenomenal performance. Caroline Kay is just gorgeous and hilarious and flawless. Bernadette Bangura is an undisputed powerhouse. Tom Duern is effortlessly brilliant. Aoife Clesham has so much charisma and her voice often reminds me of Jessie J, and Pearce Barron just looks and sounds gorgeous every time I see him.
Michael Mather continues to impress me, his version of ‘Without You’ from Rent is probably one of the best renditions of the song I have ever heard, and Lloyd Daniels’ vocals in ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress were just sublime, he may not have a uterus and neither do I, but if I did it would have fluttered listening to him.
I also quietly chuckled to myself when my ex boyfriend Reece Kerridge sang ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ from 9 to 5 the Musical. I did wonder whether this was directed at me. Nevertheless he did look and sound amazing.
What I love about these evenings is the sense of comradery and support within the community that these performers each have for one another.
As each perform, the rest all hover at the side of the stage to watch and support each other. Friends often pair up to duet, like Jed Berry and Lewis Cornay did, as well as Grace Mouat and Maiya Quansah-Breed each representing their strong friendships which is really lovely to see.
I always feel honoured to be invited to these evenings by Tom, and privileged to film all the videos from the evening which can all be found on my YouTube page:
Lauren Soley. Schadenfreude from Avenue Q
With Dan Gray, Matthew Michaels, Matthew Ellis, and Joely Barbour
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/5kLUGNwCGpQ
Jak Skelly. Always Starting Over from If/Then.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/pJS8tJ6lYqY
Caroline Kay. Share Your Address by Ben Platt
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/cOeUmWXr3tQ
Maiya Quansah-Breed. Home from The Wiz
With Kara-Lianne Jones, Joely Barbour, Grace Roberts, Sophie Mallender, Emily Jayne Fryer
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/ekCksSoOjqM
Jed Berry & Lewis Cornay performing ‘I Will Never Leave You’ from Side Show
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/xZryB2y0VGk
Luke Bayer performing ‘I Won’t Say I’m In Love With You’ from Hercules with Emily Jayne Fryer and Matthew Ellis
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/Dz3L_thZG38
Renee Lamb performing ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’ from Hairspray. With Kara-Lianne Jones, Grace Roberts, Emily Jayne Fryer and Cameron Jacob Foster
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/wBfr1WkBRgE
Reece Kerridge ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ from 9 to 5 the Musical
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/0rfHi4YC9Lk
Chris Howell performing a medley from Man of La Mancha. With Dan Gray. Matthew Ellis. Matthew Michaels. Cameron Jacob Foster. Donald Jack.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/Jo5N7q0pPpU
Josie Kemp ‘Breathe’ from In The Heights.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/zbLhqEaSI1U
Pearce Barron ‘Ring of Keys’ from Fun Home
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/3qxH9DEZAGM
Rebecca Ridout. Till I Hear You Sing. Love Never Dies.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/9ApOHMux9xA
James Hinton performing a Disney Princess Medley.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/45ut3bAc9Y0
Tom Duern. Bless the Lord. Godspell. With vocalists Dan Gray. Matthew Ellis. Matthew Michaels. Kara-Lianne Jones. Joely Barbour. Grace Roberts. Sophie Mallender. Emily Jayne Fryer. Cameron Jacob Foster. Jack Donald.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/kHqMkiqJvYQ
Aoife Clesham. Run and Tell That. Hairspray.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/fPMTxJTmJbc
Andrew Patrick-Walker. I’ll Never Love Again. Lady Gaga from A Star Is Born.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/toLZ3ixgCkI
Lawrence Smith. I Won’t Mind from The Other Franklin.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/z4kZvvIXxvQ
Lewis Cornay. Natural Woman from Beautuful. With Tom Duern and Dan Gray
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/XcmypW7T-Rg
Jed Berry. Don’t Lose Your Head. Six. With Grace Mouat. Maiya Quansah-Breed. Renee Lamb. Lauren Byrne.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/mV3Qsg8cuh0
Lauren Byrne. Once medley.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/c9b1B5zBrX4
Rodney Vubya. What’s Love Got To Do With It. Tina Turner. With Grace Roberts and Jack Donald.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/Wh05zxQZ3Os
Bernadette Bangura. Flying Home. Songs From A New World. With vocalists Dan Gray. Matthew Ellis. Matthew Michaels. Kara-Lianne Jones. Joely Barbour. Grace Roberts. Sophie Mallender. Emily Jayne Fryer. Cameron Jacob Foster. Jack Donald
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/GHdwdNEMRyo
Grace Mouat. Maiya Quansah-Breed. Macavity from Cats.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/C2W_6NTu5qg
Alisa Davidson. If I Didn’t Believe In You. The Last Five Years.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/ZD4CTaCPZU0
Michael Mather. Without You from Rent.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/FJAvlnKdx2g
Lloyd Daniels. She Used To Be Mine. Waitress.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/IO536-8JUtI
Caroline Kay. You Will Be Found. Dear Evan Hansen. With vocalists Dan Gray. Matthew Ellis. Matthew Michaels. Kara-Lianne Jones. Joely Barbour. Grace Roberts. Sophie Mallender. Emily Jayne Fryer. Cameron Jacob Foster. Jack Donald.
📺 YouTube https://youtu.be/2ypZTNP1lZQ
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/tHz0elAIi7U
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-41--Audio-e8tb6s