From The Box Office reviews The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice

This sensational production is a treat for children and parents alike, guaranteed to have you singing to your favourite classic Disney songs and have little ones dancing along with much-loved characters.

From the energetic warm-up dance to the final incredible ensemble performance, The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice is a stunning demonstration of awe-inspiring ice skating. The masterful stunts and tricks will leave your jaw on the floor, as characters from Elsa and Anna to Jessie, Buzz and Woody glide across the ice performing fun, charming and daring routines. Looking around at the children’s faces throughout the performance, it was amusing to see that their amazement was mirrored in their parents’ expressions as well!

The show is the perfect balance for a great family day out – with a run time of just 2 hours (including a 20 minute interval), children were engaged and enjoying themselves from start to finish. Dancing to the songs, singing along and waving to their favourite characters, the joy and excitement was palpable, with anticipation building after every routine as we wondered which characters and songs we’d be treated to next.

The best part of this experience for me (because this is far more than just a show), was seeing the wonder in my 5-year-old niece’s face as the cast skated around, performing dazzling stunts while special effect fireworks and lighting lit up the arena, and the joy and excitement that she felt as her favourite characters waved to her in the crowd. Disney holds a special place in the heart of many children (as well as many adults, as was evident from the parents around me!) and this production is merely another example of what makes Disney so very special. With such a wide variety of characters, both from the older classics, such as Aladdin, and new favourites, such as Frozen, there is something in the show to please every generation that grew up watching the heart-warming films.

Note: if you’re worried that you can’t book tickets to see the show because you don’t have children – don’t! I saw a number of groups who had decided to leave the kids at home and have a day of child-like joy with their friends.

The tour still has dates available in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiffbook tickets at your nearest arena now from £20.70.

Review: Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam shoots an arrow right at the heart of the human condition ★★★★

Tired of unrelentingly bad news? Need some sunshine to drive away the rain? Then follow the rainbow to the Arts Theatre, currently home to the sensationally funny and deeply moving Olivier Award-winning transfer of Rotterdam. With its central themes of transgender identity, sexuality and non-linear relationships, I must admit that I expected an evening of tense, serious theatre – not a bit of it. Read more

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child: Preview Reactions Round Up

Could the Palace Theatre be seeing the end of Press Nights as we know them? There are a month of previews, but already the internet is ablaze with comments from audience members, soundbites and buzz from the Part One of the hottest ticket in the West End: Harry Potter & The Cursed Child. So what are people saying? Read more

People, Places and Things – The Reviews

Following a hugely successful run at the National Theatre, Headlong Theatre’s gritty, bleak and darkly funny tale of addiction and redemption as seen through the eyes of actress Emma has now moved to the Wyndham’s Theatre. The reviews are in – so what did the critics think of the show’s West End transfer?

"A character you can't tear your eyes from"
“A character you can’t tear your eyes from”

Chris Bennion for The Telegraph said Denise Gough’s Emma was Read more

Motown The Musical – The Reviews

Following a dazzling Press Night on Tuesday 8th March 2016 in the presence of soul legend Smokey Robinson and Mr Motown himself Berry Gordy, the reviews are in! So what did the critics think of the show?

Britishtheatre.com’s Douglas Mayo called Motown: Read more

Mrs Henderson Presents – Flawed, naked and oh so British

3star

It’s London, 1937, and recently widowed Laura Henderson just bought a theatre. Mrs Henderson Presents premiered in 2015 at the Theatre Royal Bath and now transfers to the West End’s Noel Coward Theatre. I snuck in during London previews a few days before press night to see if everything was tickety-boo. Read more

Review: Grey Gardens at the Southwark Playhouse

4star

I approached Grey Gardens aware of its 10 Tony Award nominations. That it has taken 10 years to find a London home was a concern. Would this tale of two frankly batty old American socialites fallen into squalor on a Long Island estate in the East Hamptons even make sense to a British audience? I’m delighted to say it does – and Southwark has a sizeable hit on its hands. The house, home to 52 stray cats, a few rabid racoons and its two reclusive inhabitants may make an unlikely setting for a musical. But then again, Cats was set on a rubbish tip.

Jenna Russell: Edith Bouvier Beale 1941
Jenna Russell: Edith Bouvier Beale 1941 [Scott Rylander]
The inhabitants in question, “Little” Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith Bouvier Beale, were cousin and aunt to Jackie Kennedy Onassis – and therein lay the scandal.

Danielle Tarento’s production is brave and mesmerising. From the moment you set foot inside the home of this most eccentric mother and daughter, Tom Rogers (Set) and Howard Hudson (Lighting) create a feeling of stifling suffocation in the industrial Southwark Playhouse. The set nods to both Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and the interior of Dickens’ Satis House. Grey Gardens is both mausoleum and mansion. Lamps are set on an angle. Upturned chairs, whisky and dirt rise up from an ochre sea of discarded hats and scarves; faded photographs peer down at the bare floorboards. Suitcases which clearly haven’t travelled anywhere in decades lie filled with unworn clothes. Only a Bakelite telephone on an upright piano hints at what is to come.

Sheila Hancock (Old Edith) enters like a ghostly Miss Havisham, momentarily followed by Jenna Russell (“Little” Edie) who trudges down the stairs like a weary Norma Desmond who can’t really be bothered. These women live in a social enclave where you can be arrested for wearing red shoes on a Thursday. So perhaps it’s perfectly normal to want to elope with the cat or believe that “if you can’t get a man to propose then you might as well be dead”?

If you can't get a man to propose to you then you might as well be dead.
If you can’t get a man to propose to you then you might as well be dead. [Scott Rylander]
 

Grey Gardens (book Doug Wright, music Scott Frankel and lyrics Michael Korie) takes a documentary probably better known to US audiences and with a little embellishing of the truth, turns it into an accomplished stage musical. Jenna Russell plays both “Little” Edie Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale, with Sheila Hancock taking the role of the older Edith in 1973. Both performances are quite remarkable, with both Hancock and Russell providing charm and fallibility in equal measure. The mother-daughter bond is at once touchingly sad and horribly claustrophobic -and never less than delightfully eccentric.

Much of 1941 seems to have been spent around the piano or ruining their children’s relationships. Edith’s “gin and platonic” amour George Gould Strong (Jeremy Lagat) provides a succession of fantastic one-liners and bitchy asides, “I just adore children – especially grown ones”. Their relationship is one of mutual benefit – she adores singing and he adores glamour. At times Lagat’s acting can’t quite match the women on stage but his versatility as a pianist and singer more than compensates.

Piano
If your mother hangs out with pianists, what do you expect? [Scott Rylander]
Edith’s father J.V. Major Bouvier (Billy Boyle) is a man obsessed with responsibility and devastated that his daughter did not turn out republican. He makes no secret of his revulsion for the effeminate Gould or his disappointment of a daughter who is “An actress without a stage.”

If there were any doubt of Gould’s homosexuality, it is soon put to bed with the arrival of the strikingly handsome Joseph Patrick Kennedy (Aaron Sidwell). A study in assured ego and chiselled features, Sidwell’s Kennedy is perfectly described by Gould – “Somewhere…there is a pedestal missing its statue”. Sadly his love for “little” Edie expires as soon as he realises that she isn’t First Lady material.

You're just not First Lady material...
You’re just not First Lady material… [Scott Rylander]
Men don’t come off very well at all in Grey Gardens. Edith’s husband fails to arrive at his daughter’s engagement, preferring instead to send a telegram from Mexico to inform her that he is divorcing her mother. Although the musical’s book does take some fairly dramatic liberties, it perfectly highlights a world of hypocrisy in which society women were often trapped.

“Little” Edie quite possibly suffered what would now be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, leading to sometimes extreme behaviour. Her relationship to Edith is often that of Rapunzel to the Witch – both so determined to protect one other from the world outside that neither is truly free to enjoy it.

In 1941, little Edie is played by relative newcomer Rachel Anne Rayham who is out-performed by the more experienced cast before coming into her own in the terrific “Two Peas in a Pod” and “Daddies Girl”. The musical numbers lift a plot which might otherwise lag. This is particularly true of the beautiful “Drift Away” which beautiful paints a man more faithful to Edith than the husband who promised to be.

And that's the revolutionary costume of today!
And that’s the revolutionary costume of today! [Scott Rylander]
Act Two leaps forward to 1973 with one of the great performances of Musical Theatre as Jenna Russell’s now 56-year-old “little” Edie takes to the stage in a revolutionary knitted costume, designed to cover her alopecia though not her dignity. It’s pant-wettingly funny and worth the cost of a ticket alone. Hancock’s deadpan delivery of put-downs as “Old” Edith is second to none. What daughter doesn’t want to hear “Is it my fault that you’re unmarried, bald and fat?” and “You look horrible”. But as Edith says, it’s very difficult to raise a child of 56 years old.

Aaron Sidwell returns in Act Two as the beguiling houseboy, Jerry and somehow maintains pretty-but-dumb sex appeal amongst piles of meat, trash and cat faeces. The desperation of two lonely women competing for his attention, including the euphemistic desire of old Edith to get him to “eat her corn”, is both heart-breaking and slightly unsettling.

Jerry likes my corn...
Jerry likes my corn… [Scott Rylander]
56 year old Edie is never lost for a comeback to her mother’s put-downs with lines such as “I can’t lose weight – the ice box is too near” or more practially when  we’re not too sure if Edie is feeding her mother pate or a tin of giblets meant for the cats.

Thom Southerland’s direction is light and deft and Lee Proud‘s intelligent choreography cleverly interprets a strong score performed well under the supervision and direction of Simon Lee and Michael Bradley. The only time the music really seems incongruous is in the (admittedly) uplifting “Choose to be happy” which adds some light relief in a gospel number performed entirely in old Edith’s bedroom and up the staircase.

Choose to be happy.
Choose to be happy. [Scott Rylander]
Grey Gardens is best summed up by one line. “The definition of character? To take a scandal and make it a triumph.” And Grey Gardens is most undoubtedly triumphant.

Grey Gardens
Southwark Playhouse until 6th February
020 7407 0234
www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Photograph 51: Our review

4star

“One sees something new every time one looks at truly beautiful things.”

There is a crackle of electricity as the house lights dim in the Noel Coward Theatre. London has waited 16 years for the return of one of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s nineties and noughties. This Oscar Winning Best Actress has that rarest of things – genuine star quality – and the starkness of the contrast between Kidman’s radiance Read more