Cinderella and the Beanstalk: Theatre503

They’ve booked the venue
They’ve bought the costumes.
There’s just one problem. They’ve forgotten to cast any actors.

When award-winning comedy trio Sleeping Trees brought their unique brand of slapstick comedy to Battersea’s Latchmere last year, they sold out with their fast, furious and madcap humour.

Now James Dunnell-Smith, Joshua George Smith and John Woodburn return, jumping from character to character with a seemingly supernatural elasticity. Sleeping Trees comes from a tradition of anarchic buffoonery – but don’t let that fool you – it’s all choreographed with military precision.

Cinders and the giant vegetable
Three men with an unusual gift for climbing vegetables…

Join Cinderella on her perilous adventure as the scheming Rumpelstiltskin blackmails the would-be princess into retrieving his golden eggs from the top of the beanstalk. Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother and Jack’s pregnant cow all do their best to get in the way, so the delicious, oversized eggs may not be so easy to reach. Is poor Cinders doomed to spend her life climbing vegetables with just one shoe?

The Latchmere Battersea
The Latchmere Battersea

If you’re looking to treat the family to a magical Christmas but you fancy a change from the usual celebrity-over-substance, try this gem of a show.

★★★★ WHATS ON STAGE
★★★★ WEST END WILMA
★★★★★ BRITISH THEATRE

The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
Booking: 020 7978 7040
https://theatre503.com/book-online/
Tickets £15/£12 (Plus pay what you can Sundays at 7pm)

Until Saturday 2 January 2016

If you’re looking for other seasonal treats, why not also try one of these fabulous festive fancies:

A Christmas Carol (Rose Theatre Kingston)
Will Scrooge open his heart to the true spirit of Christmas before it’s too late? Find out in the Rose Theatre Kingston’s beautiful production of the Charles Dickens classic.

La Soiree (Southbank)
LA SOIRÉE’s heady cocktail of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety is more potent than ever.

La Soiree's Blue Bunny
La Soiree’s Blue Bunny…jump to it!

Wonder.Land (National Theatre)
A giant green screen, astonishing dance numbers and a cast of extraordinary characters make this ambitious and modern production a hugely satisfying re-telling of Carroll’s masterpiece.

The Little Match Girl (Lilyan Baylis Studio)
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, this touching tale of an impoverished young street girl’s hopes and dreams is beautifully told through dance, song and original music performed live on stage.

The Lorax (Old Vic)
Inspired by Dr. Seuss’s classic tale, The Lorax tells of a moustachioed and cantankerous critter who’s on a mission to protect the earth from the greedy, tree-chopping, Thneed-knitting businessman known only as The Once-ler.

Derren Brown: Miracle (Palace Theatre)
Hot on the heels from his sensational sell-out show Infamous, master of the mind Derren Brown returns to London’s Palace Theatre with his most daring magic show yet.

Finally…don’t miss the BBC4 broadcast of Gypsy on Sunday 27th Dec. The show was filmed live at the Savoy Theatre, and stars Imelda Staunton and the delightful Gemma Sutton – you can read our interview with Gemma here.

Whatever you choose to do this festive season,
May your days be merry and bright,
Happy Christmas to all,
And to all a good-night!”

An interview with Gypsy’s Gemma Sutton

This week we met the enchanting Gemma Sutton who has been wowing audiences in hit West End show Gyspy as Rose’s daughter June and now takes over from Lara Pulver in the role of Louise, a character who undergoes a chrysalis-like transformation to become the complex and eponymous Gypsy.

There’s still time to catch Chichester Festival Theatre’s jaw-dropping West End transfer of possibly the greatest of all American Musical, Gypsy. The show is booking until 28th November at the Savoy Theatre and features music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.

Hi Gemma. You’ve been playing June since Gypsy started – when did you take over the role of Louise?

Read more

MURRAY LANE: UNDRESSING THE WEST END (Part One)

Fancy rubbing shoulder-pads with Norma Desmond or helping Oliver Thornton out of his Basque? When Tiffany Graves, star of Chicago and The Producers gave us her “leading lady” list of the West End’s most interesting characters, one name was at the very top. Murray Lane has been dressing the biggest stars in the West End for three decadent decades, and we’re thrilled to say that he’s agreed to share his dressing room secrets and tales from the theatrical closet with us. In this two part interview, we meet the man who knows Patti LuPone, Elaine Paige and a host of West End stars very intimately indeed!

Patti Lupone: Every performance is a Masterclass
Murray with Patti LuPone: Every performance is a Masterclass

Hi Murray – let’s start at the very beginning – how long have you been a dresser?

Read more

Knight of a Thousand Stars: Why the Ladies Love Kenneth Branagh

Like pubs, the Royal Family and cheese rolling, Kenneth Branagh is one of Britain’s greatest phenomena. Hollywood loves him, and so have a succession of incredibly talented and high-flying British women.

Kenneth Branagh
Knight of a Thousand Stars: Sir Kenneth Branagh

So, what is it about our Ken that attracts the likes of Emma Thompson and Dame Judi Dench to love and Read more

The West End’s Scariest Leading Ladies

From Females to She-males and from Queens of Carthage to Queens of the Desert, The West-End and Broadway both have long lived love affairs with not-to-be-messed-with women who’ve been pushed just that bit too far. Let’s face it, if you’d been left to raise a child in a warzone by a bloke who married you in a fake wedding and then dumped you for a helicopter before the interval, or had to sell your hair to pay for medicine for your French daughter and then had to spend the whole of Act Two making ghost noises behind a curtain, you’d be pretty hacked off too.

From the big and ballsy (think Hairspray’s Edna Turnblad or Chicago’s murderous Roxie & Velma) to the emotionally over-wrought (Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond or Miss Saigon’s Kim), it’s tough to pick our favourite Woman on the Verge – the type of terrifying leading lady you might love to watch from the safety of the Dress Circle, but definitely wouldn’t want to leave alone with your kids. Read more

Gypsy – Chichester Festival Theatre

Theatrepaws review, 26 October 2014

“You Gotta Get a Ticket”.

a

When Imelda Staunton battles onto the Chichester Festival stage, you could be forgiven for at first feeling underwhelmed. Rose Hovick (Momma Rose) is drab, diminutive and like the apartment in which she later performs her opening number (Some People), a little dowdy. Less Ethel Merman, more Mrs Overall. But there’s a delicious hint of what’s to come when, faced with a child covered entirely in balloons threatening to upstage her daughter Dainty June, she takes out a hatpin like she’s unsheathing a dagger. If looks could kill…

Staunton won the 2013 Best Actress Olivier Award© for her portrayal of Mrs Lovett in another Chichester Festival production, Sweeney Todd. If she repeats that success as Rose Hovick depends on two factors; firstly will Gypsy transfer to a West End Theatre (a prerequisite for nomination), and secondly, will the other nominees seek out and kill her in time? Because they’re going to have to.

Staunton brings such guts and bravery to Momma Rose that it’s impossible to despise her; and despicable she most certainly is. The ultimate pushy show-business parent, Momma Rose pushed so hard that one daughter, forced to dance on point at the age of two, eloped at 15 – the other became a burlesque stripper. Both were suffocated by the nightmare of a mother making her children live her own dream.

“What I got in me– what I been holding down inside of me– if I ever let it out, there wouldn’t be signs big enough! There wouldn’t be lights bright enough!” By the time Momma Rose utters those immortal lines, you can hear a pin drop (presumably a hat pin). Staunton proves every bit as big and ballsy as Merman, let there be no doubt.

Behind the greasepaint and limelight beats the dark heart of the American Dream at its very worst. Despite the scrolling marquees and razzamatazz, Gypsy is so bleak that that at times one has to pinch oneself to remember that this is a true story.

Staunton describes playing the part as like “competing in my own mini-Olympics”. But it’s not just Staunton who deserves plaudits. Gypsy is a masterclass of writing, direction and performance that render this harridan’s story as horrific as it is spellbinding – like a terrible accident that you can’t look away from. Staunton’s Rose Hovick is part Mommie Dearest, part Rose West. Hearing her shout “Sing out Louise” brings a shiver to the spine. One can only imagine the terror it inspired in her daughter.

There are deliciously funny moments – any woman who furnishes her entire kitchen by stealing cutlery from the local Chinese restaurant is my kind of woman. There are stand-out comic set pieces – one a panto-like farm sequence with June, her Farmboys and a cow, during which Staunton inadvertently steals the show by simply trying to move a chicken on wheels – with achingly funny results. The other propels June into Burlesque (Gotta Get a Gimmick) performed with sass by Louise Gold, Anita Louise Combe and Julie Legrand as three deliciously ropey strippers.

Dan Burton sings and dances (All I Need Is The Girl) like a young Gene Kelly, oozing masculinity through sublime Stephen Mear choreography. I have a feeling if the Olivier committee ever bring in an award for Best Featured Dancer, then Burton’s got it in the bag. Gemma Sutton and Lara Pulver excel as Rose’s long-

suffering daughters, and its credit to their acting strength that they aren’t completely blown off the stage at times by their mother. Kevin Whately (TV’s Lewis) makes a credible and likeable Herbie, supported by a company who work their socks off.

With the combined talents of Jule Styne (Music), Stephen Sondheim (Lyrics) and Arthur Laurents (Book), its small wonder that Gypsy is widely acknowledged as one of the great oeuvres of American Musical Theatre. Gypsy takes no prisoners. The show is littered with sparkling dialogue and show stopping songs. It sings to anyone who has ever dreamed and ever failed. Momma Rose sums up her desperation late in Act Two:

“You wanna know what I did it for? Because I was born too soon and started too late, that’s why! With what I have in me I could have been better than any of you!”

Staunton’s greatest triumph is that even at her most monstrously selfish, we never doubt that she loves her children. She is simply ruthless in pursuit of success. It is perhaps because we can all relate to her feeling of unfulfilled destiny that Gypsy is so hugely moving and so utterly chilling.

Gypsy plays at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 8th November 2014
http://www.cft.org.uk/gypsy
A West End Transfer surely beckons