Matthew Rickson joins the cast of UK Tour of Hairspray as Edna Turnblad

Matthew Rickson.

Matthew Rickson. Credit Darren Bell

MATTHEW RICKSON JOINS THE CAST OF THE UK TOUR OF THE SMASH HIT MUSICAL HAIRSPRAY AS EDNA TURNBLAD

HAIRSPRAY CONTINUES ON TOUR ACROSS THE UK UNTIL MAY 2016 WITH CLAIRE SWEENEY (VELMA VON TUSSLE), PETER DUNCAN (WILBUR TURNBLAD) AND BRENDA EDWARDS (MOTORMOUTH MAYBELLE)

Matthew Rickson will join the cast of the UK tour of Hairspray as Edna Turnblad, Matthew’s first performance will on 15 March 2016 at New Victoria Theatre, Woking. This new production of the international smash hit Hairspray embarked on a major UK tour in 2015 and continues into 2016 visiting Aberdeen, Sheffield, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Inverness, Bristol, Woking, Cardiff, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Llandudno, Plymouth, Canterbury, Bromley, Stoke and Southend.

Matthew Rickson’s recent theatre credits include The Producers (Theatre Royal Drury Lane), The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Royal Shakespeare Company), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), Cinderella (Richmond Theatre), Casa Valentina (Southwark Playhouse), The Ladykillers (New Vic Theatre & UK Tour), Around The World in 80 Days (New Vic & Royal Exchange Theatre), Aladdin (Wimbledon Theatre), See How They Run (York Theatre Royal), The Legend of King Arthur (York Theatre Royal), Aladdin (Theatre at the O2 Arena) and The Governess (UK Tour).

HairsprayMatthew joins TV and stage actress and presenter Claire Sweeney (Educating Rita, Guys and Dolls) as Velma Von Tussle, Olivier Award nominated actor and much-loved Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan (BBC1 Tumble) as Wilbur Turnblad and British singer and West End performer Brenda Edwards (Chicago, We Will Rock You, The X Factor) as Motormouth Maybelle.

Freya Sutton will continue in her role of Tracy Turnblad alongside established musical theatre performer Jon Tsouras (A Chorus Line) as Corny Collins. Dex Lee (The Scottsboro Boys) as Seaweed, Ashley Gilmour (Miss Saigon) as Link Larkin, Lauren Stroud (Wicked) as Amber, Monique Young (Top Hat) as Penny, Karis Jack (Urinetown) as Little Inez, Adam Price (Hairspray) as Male Authority Figure, Tracey Penn (Made in Dagenham) as Female Authority Figure and Layton Williams (Bad Education, Billy Elliot) as Duane.

Hairspray is directed by Paul Kerryson, with choreography by Drew McOnie and musical direction by Ben Atkinson. The show has music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

It’s Baltimore 1962, where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.

Hairspray is a musical based on the 1988 film of the same name which starred Divine and Ricki Lake by cult filmmaker John Waters. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray originally opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently won eight Tony Awards. The production opened in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2007 and won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. Proving to be an international success, Hairspray has also opened in South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai. Following the musical’s phenomenal success on stage, a film of the musical was released in 2007 which starred John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden.

Hairspray is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers, Tom O’Connell Productions Ltd., Just for Laughs Theatricals, Gale King Productions, Gary Brown and Curve theatre, Leicester.

LISTINGS INFORMATION
2016 UK Tour – Hairspray

8 – 13 February
The Lyceum, Sheffield
55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1DA
Box Office: 0114 249 6000
www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

15 – 20 February
Cambridge Corn Exchange
2 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, CB2 3QB
Box Office: 01223 357 851
www.cornex.co.uk

22 – 27 February
Edinburgh Playhouse
18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Box Office: 0844 871 7627
www.atgtickets.com/venues/edinburgh-playhouse

29 February – 5 March
Eden Court, Inverness
Bishops Road, Inverness, IV3 5SA
Box Office: 01463 234 234
www.eden-court.co.uk

7 – 12 March
Bristol Hippodrome
St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ
Box Office: 0844 871 3012
www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome

15 – 19 March
New Victoria Theatre, Woking
The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ
Box Office: 0844 871 7645
www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-victoria-theatre

21 – 16 March
Cardiff New Theatre
Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3LN
Box Office: 02920 878 889
www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk

29 March – 2 April
Norwich Theatre Royal
Theatre Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1RL
Box Office: 01603 630 000
www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

4 – 9 April
Milton Keynes Theatre
500 Malborough Gate, Buckinghamshire, MK9 3NZ
Box Office: 0844 871 7652
www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre

11 – 16 April
Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Promenade, Llandudno, LL30 1BB
Box Office: 01492 872 000
www.venuecymru.co.uk

18 – 23 April
Theatre Royal Plymouth
Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR
Box Office: 01752 267 222
www.theatreroyal.com

25 – 30 April
The Marlowe, Canterbury
The Friars, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2AS
Box Office: 01227 787 787
www.marlowetheatre.com

2 – 7 May
The Churchill Theatre, Bromley
High Street, Bromley, Kent, BR1 1HA
Box Office: 0844 871 7620
www.atgtickets.com/venues/the-churchill-theatre-bromley

9 – 14 May
Regent Theatre, Stoke
Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 1AP
Box Office: 0844 871 7627
www.atgtickets.com/venues/regent-theatre

16 – 21 May
Southend Palace Theatre
430 London Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9LA
Box Office: 01702 351 135
www.southendtheatres.org.uk

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Review of Ideomotor at the Vault Festival London

IdeomotorAfter selling out at the London Horror Festival, Ideomotor returned for one night only at the Vault Festival, and it did not disappoint. High energy, hilarious, and just plain ridiculous, Ideomotor dealt with uncommon themes which continued to surprise throughout. Using a Ouija board to find a missing hamster sounds like an odd basis for a play, and it definitely is – but it worked.

Marketed as a “dark supernatural comedy”, there was a lot of room left for the horror elements – there was only one moment of actual fear in terms of the supernatural, and there was such a build up to it that its impact was unfortunately lessened. That said, the comedy was free flowing and incredibly entertaining, with the climax of the show – the final line – gaining uproarious laughter. The dialogue was witty and consistently funny, whilst still remaining down to earth, and there was not a single joke that fell flat.

The cast of three were very strong, and effortlessly bounced off of each other to keep the energy levels high in the small space. David Ahmad particularly stood out as the nervous and timid Charlie, who actually harboured incredibly dark secrets. Finally seeing the darker side to this character was a thrill, and perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the whole production. Brydie Lee-Kennedy and Paul Duncan McGarrity as the hippy and the cynic of the show respectively were electrifying together, with their near palpable loathing flooding the theatre.

The only thing that held them back was the rather static set, with very limited space for movement causing the pace to occasionally drop. However, in later scenes they used this to heighten the atmosphere, with the close proximity leading to tension rapidly building with nowhere to hide, turning this problem around to their advantage. Characters that initially appeared plain were revealed to have layer upon layer of personality and problems and it became thrilling to simply anticipating what would be exposed next.

Ideomotor as a whole provided an hour of great entertainment, stuffed full of hilarity and chaos. Though the subject matter is far-fetched, the dialogue and scenes flow naturally, with heightening tension creating an atmosphere which is simply brilliant to witness. This show was a real treat, and I cannot wait to see if it receives another life – much like its starring hamster.

Three and a half gold stars

Review by Grace Hans

For centuries people have used the Ouija board to help quench their thirst of the unknown:  “Is anybody there?” “What happens when we die?” “Have you seen my pet hamster?”

When Leo returns home to find his flatmates dabbling in the dark arts, it’s not long before the night takes a sinister turn. A dark supernatural comedy about contacting spirits, unlocking secrets…and a missing hamster. Sell Out Show London Horror Festival 2015. One night only.
http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/ideomotor/

Cast: David Ahmad, Brydie Lee-Kennedy, Paul Duncan McGarrity
Gavin J Innes: Writer & Director
Isabella Van Braeckel: Set Design & Stage Manager
Heather Doole: Technican
Ian Jackson: Sound Design

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Janis Joplin: Full Tilt – a tour de force with equal intensity and warmth

Janis Joplin: Full TiltJanis Joplin is not a name I had very much familiarity with – until now, enlightened by Janis Joplin: Full Tilt. Perhaps it was that her untimely death in October 1970 came so soon after that of Jimi Hendrix’s passing. At one point, as a schoolboy, I partly enjoyed but mostly endured a ‘journey through the sounds of the twentieth century’ as part of the music curriculum. It was quite an absurd assertion by either the school and/or the Department of Education as the twentieth century was still in progress at the time. In any event, the ‘journey’ was sanitised and biased, with the music of Elton John included but not that of The Clash, lots of Abba but no Black Sabbath. Miss Joplin, whose music is classed as ‘psychedelic rock’, unsurprisingly didn’t get a look in.

This, then, was as educational as it was entertaining. Granted, I could simply read biographical details online – ‘she’ even has a Twitter account, run by her estate – however, there’s something special in this engaging delivery from Angie Darcy as Janis Joplin. Plenty of spoken word is combined with live performances of Joplin’s back catalogue, supported by a thrilling and flawless band. This isn’t the sort of music I would ordinarily listen to, but I can see its appeal.

It is, I suppose, a ‘jukebox musical’, if this production really must be categorised. But how many jukebox musicals are generously lavished with philosophy and politics? Songs are not crowbarred into a thin and artificial plot, although the diehard Joplin fans oohed and aahed at key milestones in her life, and they knew what tune was coming.

Whether speaking or singing, Joplin certainly doesn’t mince her words, and had she still been around, her no-nonsense approach would have been refreshing in our politically correct times. But in Angie Darcy, who completely inhabits her role, Joplin is here after all, and her assured and confident responses to her critics went down a hoot with this cosmopolitan east London audience. She’s opinionated, but never preachy.

Unencumbered by (the lack of) lots of set, the show flows very smoothly between concert performance and reflective monologue and back again. It’s all interwoven so well that it’s part of one inseparable package. You couldn’t easily separate the songs and the spoken word of this show any more than you could easily separate milk from cereal once mixed together.

Garry Boyle’s sound design is impressive – ranging from the echoey but distinct sound of a Joplin gig (without ever threatening to perforate anyone’s ear drums) to the living room ambience of the monologues. I admit getting completely lost in the moment and, had I not known any better, I would have honestly thought Janis Joplin was talking directly to me in a private room, putting the world to rights.

I ought to have done a tally of how many times Joplin and what I assume to be her manager (Barry

Ward) – the character is not named – used the word ‘man’. It’s well into three figures, man. Man, this show would be 20 minutes shorter if they didn’t say ‘man’ quite so often, man. But if that’s the way Joplin conversed, man, then well, whatever, man.

The show was over all too soon, just like Janis Joplin’s life. It’s simply wonderful that a passionate artist with a distinctive voice (politically as well as vocally, that is) is being introduced to new audiences long after her passing – while still being enjoyed afresh by those who recall the first time they indulged themselves and took a little piece of her heart. This mesmerising and extraordinary performance is pure brilliance – a tour de force with equal intensity and warmth.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

On stage a woman stands, the greatest rock singer of her generation.  Behind her is the hottest band that a record company can buy. In front of her, an audience of thousands of expectant fans. She is Janis Joplin. She is utterly alone.

Created by multi-award winning writing/directing team Peter Arnott and Cora Bissett (last here in 2013 with the Olivier award-winning Roadkill and in 2012 with the brilliant Glasgow Girls), Full Tilt is a celebration of a sound, a scream of protest at the universe.

Age Guidance 14 + Contains strong language
Running Time aprox 2 hours and 20mins including interval

Janis Joplin: Full Tilt
Thu 11th February – Sat 5th March 2016

The 5 star Edinburgh smash comes to London for the first time. On stage a woman stands, the greatest rock singer of her generation. She is Janis Joplin…
http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/

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Review of The End of Longing at the Playhouse Theatre

The End of LongingI would rather drink alcohol than do just about anything there is to do on the face of the planet. I need it. I really need it. And I can’t picture a life without it.

Well, it’s ‘The One Where The Guy Who Used To Play Chandler Is Now In A West End Show’, although if you’re looking for an episode of Friends, please stay at home and watch the repeats. This is more like a Neil LaBute play, with lots and lots of swearing. The characters could well have been from a LaBute play, too – none are particularly well-adjusted people, and it seems that The End of Longing is based on the premise that abnormality is more interesting and absorbing than normality.

Not that The End of Longing feels any longer than its running time – it’s simply a matter of taste. If you can stomach the zany characters and the effing this and effing that, the punchlines in the script are very much to be enjoyed. To be fair, the play does indulge in a moment of recognising there is too much strong language going on, but some lines will fall rather flat for the more intellectually minded. When Lloyd Owen’s Joseph introduces himself in the opening scene as ‘stupid’, for instance, he surely can’t be so, else he wouldn’t have the intelligence to know that he is. Either that or there’s a British level of sarcasm going on in this very American play. It’s so very American that Stevie (Christina Cole) wants to know what’s wrong with people that aren’t in therapy.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, I’m being too over-analytical and need to do what most people in the audience seemed to be doing: simply sitting back and enjoying proceedings unfold. But even this proved difficult, because just as I was getting into a particular storyline, yet another scene change would come along, accompanied by slightly overly loud rock music. The stop-start nature of Act One was, to be as blunt as the play itself, effing annoying.

But, stay the course, and while there’s no let-up in the number of expletives, Act Two is more comfortable viewing, insofar that the show stays in one place for more than it takes to microwave a ready meal bought from the supermarket. The narrative becomes deeper, too, as Jack (Matthew Perry) finally gets around to doing something about a two decades-long personal problem, and his relationship with Stephanie (Jennifer Mudge) goes in an unexpected direction, as does Joseph’s relationship with Stevie.

What of Matthew Perry’s performance? It’s stilted and clunky in the first half, if I’m honest, even if this is in the context of his character being the sort of man he is. Still, he seems to be shown up a little by his fellow actors on stage, and it is not until a powerful monologue well into Act Two that he fully convinces and has the audience enthralled; he does vulnerability better than brashness. He seems to be enjoying himself on stage, though, an aspect of theatrical performance that should never be underestimated.

I wasn’t exactly longing for the end of The End of Longing. If I were a person with a religious disposition watching this, I’d be rather peeved at the words ‘Jesus Christ’ used in a blasphemous manner over and over again, then thrilled at the deft sensitivity and honesty with which a heartfelt prayer from Joseph is portrayed. Being me, for that is who I am, while there’s not much in this play that I can relate to, I think the play deals with the issues of life and the facing of personal demons with a mixture of humour and poignancy. The script could do with yet more tightening. However, it’s a good debut effort from Matthew Perry, even if the play’s ending is a little too sugary sweet and implausible. But then the ending of The Comedy of Errors is just as conveniently tidy.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Internationally acclaimed actor Matthew Perry (Friends, The Odd Couple) leads the cast in the World Premiere of his playwriting debut, The End of Longing, at the Playhouse Theatre, London, from 2nd February to 14th May 2016. This fast paced, and bittersweet comic new play, will be directed by the critically acclaimed and award-winning director, Lindsay Posner (Speed-the-Plow, Other Desert Cities) reuniting the pair, following their first West End collaboration on Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the Comedy Theatre in 2003.

Meet Jack, Stephanie, Joseph and Stevie: four lost souls, entering their forties and searching for meaning. After sharing one raucous night together in a downtown Los Angeles bar, their lives become irreversibly entwined in a rollercoaster journey that forces them to confront the darker sides of their relationships.

A sharply written and hilarious dark comedy, The End of Longing, will make you realise that broken people don’t need to stay broken.

The End Of Longing – Matthew Perry

Buy Tickets

The End Of Longing
The Playhouse Theatre
Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DE
Booking From: 2nd February 2016
Booking Until: 14th May 2016

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London Show Boat tickets on sale for the New London Theatre

Show BoatShow Boat transfers to the New London Theatre, with bookings from 9th April 2016 to 7th January 2017.

Show Boat cast moving from the Crucible Theatre to London’s West End include Gina Beck, Rebecca Trehearn and Emmanuel Kojo (as reported by Baz Bamigboye).

Read our interview with Emmanuel Kojo where he talks about Show Boat.

Spanning 40 pivotal years in American history, this epic musical follows the lives and loves of three generations aboard a show boat as it plies the Mississippi River. One of the most romantic musicals of all time, this lavish new production is directed by Daniel Evans and features classics of musical theatre including Make Believe, Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, and the landmark Ol’ Man River.

Show Boat premiered on 27th December 1927 at the Ziegfeld Theatre, New York City. It is a musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Show Boat is based on Edna Ferber’s bestselling novel of the same name. The musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over a period of forty years, from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love.

Show Boat on Broadway was a watershed moment in the history of American musicals. Compared to the trivial and unrealistic operettas, light musical comedies, and “Follies” that defined Broadway in the 1890s and early 20th century, Show Boatwas a radical departure in musical storytelling, marrying spectacle with seriousness“. The Complete Book of Light Opera:

Show Boat
Music by Jerome Kern
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Based on the novel “Show Boat” by Edna Ferber

BOOKMARK BOOKING PAGE AS TICKETS ON SALE SOON!

Buy Tickets

Showboat
New London Theatre
Booking from 9th April 2016
Booking to 7th January 2017

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5-star The Perfect Murder at The Churchill Theatre Bromley – Review

The Perfect MurderDarkly comical and hilariously macabre, The Perfect Murder has us hooked from the moment we see our protagonist Victor complaining to a prostitute about the state of his desolate marriage. Life would surely be easier if he had his wife killed; and so the seeds of his twisted plan are sown.

Victor is compellingly portrayed by the enigmatic Shane Ritchie, husband of twenty years to Joan, artfully played by the effervescent Jessie Wallace. Domestic life is fraught, and we are invited into their world of petty bickering and arguments – this is clearly a couple for whom the spark has long since faded. Comedy at every twist and turn keep the audience belly laughing from the on-set (Joan states it’s their 20th wedding anniversary, the ‘china’ anniversary – to which Victor replies, ‘china? Well, we both married each other: we’re both mugs.’)

Both Ritchie and Wallace have a fantastic natural onstage chemistry, created in part through their years working alongside each other on Eastenders – their partnership has won them critical acclaim and numerous awards, including ‘Best Onscreen Partnership’ at the British Soap Awards.

The Perfect Murder UK Tour - Shane Richie as Victor Smiley and Jessie Wallace as Joan Smiley

The Perfect Murder UK Tour – Shane Richie as Victor Smiley and Jessie Wallace as Joan Smiley – credit Honeybunn Photography

Momentum builds throughout the first half as we learn that not only is Victor having an affair with a prostitute, but Joan has her own skeletons in the closet, in the form of young hunk Don Kirk, portrayed by the gorgeous Stephen Fletcher. Also deserving high praise for their excellent character portrayals are Simona Armstrong – playing headstrong and cunning prostitute Kamila – and the fantastic Benjamin Wilkin, as intelligent Detective Constable Roy Grace.

As the suspense ramps up, there are moments of true horror which make the audience genuinely jump out of their seats. It’s remarkable that even during the most fear-inducing moments onstage, the actors craft every turn as wonderfully comic. Staging is simple yet effective; a cross-section of Victor and Joan’s marital home, and a cross-section of Kamila’s ‘working lair.’ The action jumps between both set-ups, creating suspense which peaks right up to the very last shocking twist.

This particular performance was staged at the beautiful Churchill Theatre in Bromley, before touring around the UK, in what is sure to be an exceptionally successful run. A special nod is given to director Ian Talbot for this masterpiece of comedy theatre – macabre, farcical, yet delicious, it really is just perfect.

5 Star Rating

Review by Louise Czupich

Award-winning actors Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace star together on stage for the very first time in the ingenious and critically acclaimed stage hit of Peter James’ No.1 best-selling thriller, THE PERFECT MURDER.

Victor Smiley and his wife Joan have been married for a long time. But their marriage has reached crisis point and Victor has decided that there is only one way to get Joan out of his life forever… but he’s about to get a nasty surprise. As a young Detective Roy Grace starts to investigate his very first homicide case, dark forces intervene and he begins to realise that nothing is quite as it seems…

Have you ever wondered how to commit the perfect murder? This highly entertaining dark comedy thriller, directed by Olivier Award-winner Ian Talbot, might just be your answer!

Television and stage stars Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace have famously appeared together in EASTENDERS for more than a decade. Their magnetic partnership has won them both critical acclaim and multiple awards including ‘Best On-Screen Partnership’ at the British Soap Awards.

Peter James has been acclaimed as “one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters” (Daily Mail) and his brilliant Roy Grace novels have sold over 16 million copies worldwide.

Perfect Murder – UK Tour 2016 – ATG Tickets

The Perfect Murder
Booking to 13th February 2016
Churchill Theatre Bromley

Monday 7th to Saturday 12th March 2016
Theatre Royal Brighton

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The End of Longing review – Matthew Perry’s flimsy play about friends in need

Playhouse, London
The actor best known as Chandler Bing returns to the London stage with a self-written confessional drama that feels like an extended sitcom

Matthew Perry is a likable actor who brings with him a fund of goodwill from his 10-year stint as Chandler Bing in Friends. In writing, and starring in, his first play he has stuck closely to the format of the TV series: short scenes, smart lines, characters trying to make sense of their relationships. But what works in half-hour bites on television looks decidedly thin on the stage.

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Motown The Musical tickets now booking to 18th February 2017

Motown The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre London now extended its booking period to 18th February 2017.

Motown The Musical

Motown The MusicalWith just $800 borrowed from his family, Motown founder Berry Gordy, goes from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul, discovering and launching the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye and many more.

Motown The Musical uncovers the story of the legendary record label that changed music history and created the soundtrack of a generation.

Featuring an eighteen piece orchestra playing 50 Motown tracks including “My Girl”, “Dancing In The Street”, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, Motown The Musical is a musical sensation with real soul.

Motown the Musical – Trailer

Book Motown Tickets

Motown The Musical
Shaftesbury Theatre
Booking From: 11th February 2016
Booking Until: 18th February 2017
Performances:
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 3.00pm

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Letter: William Gaskill’s talent for friendship

Bill Gaskill had a talent for friendship. While he was always honest and unsentimental, he was also kind, thoughtful, funny and good company. I first met him as an undergraduate at Oxford (which he left without regrets or a degree but with a considerable amount of reading and directing theatre under his belt) in 1952. Forty-seven years later, we found ourselves to be neighbours in Kentish Town, London, and spent many happy years playing Scrabble in the garden and enjoying cheerful meals and parties.

Jameson’s was his drink and the Guardian his newspaper. Both had to be brought to the Marie Curie Hospice in Belsize Park until his last days; and there was a roster of more than 20 devoted friends to make sure this was done. He will be very much missed.

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Tar Baby review – passionate comedy slams the sham of a post-racial America

Vault festival, London
Desiree Burch invites the audience to rebut racist cliches and face up to centuries of injustice in a show that loses some impact due to its scattershot approach

The US performer Desiree Burch is the current Funny Women award champ, but don’t mistake Tar Baby for (just) a comedy. Yes, it starts as a jokey pretend-carnival about racial politics – but Burch is also being very serious indeed about prejudice, privilege and the sham of supposedly post-racial America. The passion and articulacy of Burch’s cri de coeur are stirring to experience, but the show’s anger, however justified, confuses its increasingly scattershot arguments. At the end, Burch tells us it’s our job to make meaning out of what she’s said, but I’d rather she’d made her own.

In the first half of Tar Baby, Burch dragoons audience members on stage to demonstrate her broad points about black history and racism. One game compels her stooges to convincingly rebut racist cliches: “All Colombians are drug dealers,” say. It’s intentionally uncomfortable, as is the sequence when Burch asks the audience for advice on how to be “more black”. But it doesn’t feel like a productive discomfort. Burch is such a domineering personality, and the subject so sensitive, punters tell her not necessarily what they think but what the show seems to require.

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