“Overtures are out of style now. I miss them. It’s the show’s way of welcoming you.”The Drowsy Chaperone.
The Drowsy Chaperone’s Man in the Chair had a point. Overtures may have somewhat fallen out of favour, but they serve an important purpose – allowing the audience to settle, sweets to be unwrapped and, most important of all, to introduce the audience to the show’s musical themes; a little amuse bouche to whet the appetite before the main course arrives.
If the thought of “Peace, Love and Goodwill to All” fills you with horror, you just might need a trip to Balham’s Theatre N16 where Simon Stephens’ play, Christmas, puts a brutally honest, deliciously cynical twist on the holiday season.
Set in a bleak East End pub where Frank Sinatra looks down from the wall and landlord Michael (Brendan Weakliam) is up to his eyes in debt, the first punter to arrive is casual labourer Billy (Jack Bence). Billy still lives with his mum and although he thinks f**king is an adjective, his limited vocabulary still has a sardonic wit – “I couldn’t, Michael, help but notice the striking economy of your Christmas decorations”. It’s not just the decorations that are sparse – so are the customers.
When I was eight I remember subjecting my family to a puppet version of Cinderella, performed entirely from behind the settee. Theatre N16 have created a not dissimilar effect with their Christmas family show, The Snow Queen which runs until 22nd December. But rather than feel cheap, its home-made special effects and seemingly non-existent production budget lend it a charm so utterly beguiling that no lavish pantomime could possibly hope to compete.
Thrills, stockings, drag queens and swingers – Christmas in London never disappoints and this year along with the traditional treats, there are some real crackers to chase the winter blues away.
So while the wine is mulling, the goose is getting fat and the halls are decked with boughs of holly, it’s high time y’all get yourselves into the wonderful West End – here are our top tinselly tips for a Rocking Yule and an unforgettable Xmas!
Scenes From the End is a powerful solo opera starring the virtuosic Héloïse Werner. Described by Classic FM as “extraordinary” we were dying to know more about this gifted performer, so we met Héloïse to delve deeper into the highly unusual world of opera-for-one, and discovered a truly unique talent with a flair for the dramatic and a gift for communication.
Hi Héloïse. How would you describe your style of performance?
When Sam Shepard’s Buried Child premiered in the US in 1978 it propelled him to national celebrity. New Group’s towering new production now arrives at The Trafalgar Studios from an acclaimed Off-Broadway run and feels as important and shocking today as it must have done nearly 40 years ago.
The Wind in the Willows is the latest collaboration between Julian Fellowes (book) and song-writing team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Their adaptation of Half a Sixpence is enjoying rave review in the West End, and George and Anthony are no strangers to creating hit shows for the whole family to enjoy having previously won an Olivier Award for Honk! (which famously beat The Lion King to the top honours) and also written new songs for Mary Poppins.
The Wind in the Willows starts promisingly with company number Spring, its richly layered harmonies making full use of the large cast (and bearing more than a passing similarity to Riverdance).
There is a gentle elegance to Half a Sixpence, the latest retelling of H G Wells Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, which American tourists will adore. It has oh-so British charm by the bucket and spade and leading man Charlie Stemp truly deserves every plaudit heaped upon him following the show’s out-of-town reviews in Chichester.
Thank you for asking for an update on Andrew’s progress this term. Andrew is an extremely capable pupil and clearly enjoys the movie “School of Rock”, so we were very pleased when he decided to adapt it for the stage as his most recent school project. The whole school had very much enjoyed his earlier projects The Phantom of the Opera and also the one about the cats.
When Ruth inherits her Aunt’s hair salon, she gets more than she bargained for: Belligerent blue-rinsers demanding their weekly shampoo & set, an untimely visit from Health and Safety and a snooty judge from FAB HAIR all pale into insignificance with the discovery of a dead body under the drier!