***** (5 Stars)
Southwark Playhouse, London - Friday 16 May, 2014
In The Heights at the Southwark Playhouse is outstanding.
The production is an explosion of colour and fun. Under the direction of Luke Sheppard, the cast are incredible. The story follows Usnavi, played brilliantly by Sam Mackay, whose parents moved from the Dominican Republic to create a new life in Washington Heights, New York. The relatively sparse but colourful set is brought to life as the action unfolds and the audience meet the characters that impact on Usnavi’s life as they all struggle to make lives for themselves.
The hilariously sassy Daniela, who owns the local beauty salon, is portrayed perfectly by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and has the entire audience in hysterics after every line or movement. With standout company numbers such as “Carnaval del Barrio” and “Alabanza” the infectious, Latin-infused music, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, isn’t a genre typically heard in musical theatre and that’s what makes it so refreshing.
The entire production is so full of energy and it's so obvious that the cast are loving it as much as the audience. It feels so honest and that is down to the passion that every member of the cast clearly has for this musical. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as did the rest of the audience who made it clear as we leapt to our feet during the blackout before the music had even ended!
The vocals are flawless, Drew McOnie’s fast-paced choreography is perfectly executed and I’ve already booked tickets to see it again. This is a production that is NOT to be missed!
In The Heights is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 7 June. Buy your tickets here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/index.php/the-large/in-the-heights/
Of course, we all know those famous Grimms' fairy tales like Cinderella and Rapunzel, but mostly we've read or seen the Disney versions. The real Grimm tales are much darker and more frightening - some so frightening that we rarely hear or see them.
YMT's Summer Skills course in Belfast gives you the chance to discover and create a whole new world of scary tales, ones that could be set in Belfast city centre on any Saturday night or in the lonely mists of the Sperrin mountains or on a deserted island in Strangford Lough....
In the spirit of scares, YMT would like to give you a spooky insight into the parts of the Grimm stories that you were never told…
We all remember Snow White and her entourage of dwarfs: Angry, Slappy, Manic-depressy and so on. The moral of the story: When it comes to enchanted fruit never buy local. It doesn’t matter how juicy the organic insomnia apple looks, you’d probably be better off at Sainsbury’s.
At the end of the story the evil queen is punished; what the Disney version failed to mention was the method of punishment. A pair of glowing-hot iron shoes are brought forth with tongs and placed before the Queen. She is forced to step into the burning shoes and dance until she drops dead! Why can no one take an innocent poisoned apple joke anymore?
Hansel and Gretel
Two children lost in the woods far from home. They find themselves imprisoned within a gingerbread cottage by an evil witch, seeking to fatten them up with all manner of delicious sweets. Presumably they didn’t think to chew their way to freedom through the bathroom wall. Regardless they return joyfully to their family with the witch’s wealth and type-two diabetes. Hooray!
An important omission from the tale is that when a great famine settles over the land, the children’s abusive stepmother decides to take them into the woods and leave them there to die because they eat too much.
Impractical footwear, obsessive dance partners, running for the midnight tube home, Cinderella has all the hallmarks of magical and most likely messy night out. God knows we could all use a pumpkin cab home, especially after a few too many mystic brews.
The gruesome detail removed from the original story is that in the evil sister’s eagerness to fool the prince they actually cut off their toes and parts of their heel to fit into the glass slipper. Turning the shoe red with their blood.
In the next tale our heroine is having the mother of all bad hair days; Rapunzel is definitely not the person you want to be dancing next to in a club. But all this fails to put off our valiant prince who sees her as the ultimate girl next door… next tower?
On the prince’s penultimate rescue attempt he unknowingly climbs up Rapunzel’s severed hair, cut by the villain Mother Gothel. She tells him he will never see Rapunzel again. So he jumps out the window in despair and is blinded from the thorns below.
Little Red Riding Hood
"Goodness, what big eyes you have Grandma!"
"The better to see you with"
“No, seriously they’re like twice the size Grandma"
“I’m wearing my contacts”
“And what big hands you have!"
"The better to hug you with"
“Because they look a lot like paws to me”
“Carpal tunnel syndrome”
“And the fur?”
“You like my new gloves then? Come closer and see them”
The only way this story could work in reality is if the young girl already had an exceptionally hairy grandmother…
The Brothers Grimm actually wrote second part to Little Red’s story. It involved the girl and her grandmother trapping and killing another wolf, this time anticipating his moves based on their experience with the previous one. The girl did not leave the path when the wolf spoke to her, her grandmother locked the door to keep it out, and when the wolf lurked, the grandmother had Little Red Riding Hood put a trough under the chimney and fill it with water that sausages had been cooked in; the smell lured the wolf down, and it drowned.
Ankh-Morpork, the Discworld’s most notorious town is steeped in decadent squalor, with a corrosive aroma that would put most landfills to shame.
This is the setting of YMT’s stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s side-splitting novel, Soul Music. The town is the prime destination on the Disc, where many intrepid explorers go to seek fame and other people’s fortunes.
Enter Imp Y Celyn (literally translated ‘bud of the holly’) and his ensemble ‘The Band with Rocks In’ who begin taking the city by sonic storm. Soon a host of new bands spring up:
• We're Certainly Dwarfs (They Might Be Giants)
• The Whom (The Who)
• Lead Balloon (Led Zeppelin)
• Insanity (Madness)
• The Surreptitious Fabric (The Velvet Underground)
The city reverberates with the sound of tortured strings and the smashing of Stratocasters.
In tribute to Pratchett’s infamous Ankh-Morpork, YMT helps you decide which musical town is right for you. Leave behind the rain and rising rent; move to a city where there’s music in the air.
The smoke blackened spires of a grim Victorian London where murderous butchers and bakers stalk the streets.
• Gothic ambience
• Several specialist eateries
• Good standards of grooming amongst remaining city residents
• Cat abductions on the rise
• High rate of shaving related deaths
• Not suitable for vegetarians
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A small snow clad town encircling a mysterious factory; a sweet scent hangs in the air promising hidden delights behind firmly locked gates.
• Rapidly expanding confection industry
• Generous employers
• Everlasting gobstoppers
• Industrial candy floss fogs
• Oompa Loompa stag parties
• Absurd dentistry bills
Prohibition era America. A city awash with bootleg booze, controlled by sparring mobsters with a penchant for pie.
• Classy speakeasies
• Discounted pies
• Mob wars
• High dry cleaning bills
• Not suitable for lactose intolerant residents
A glamorous metropolis where fame, fornication and murder go hand in hand.
• Stylish prison inmates
• Killer cabarets
• You’re only ever one shot away from stardom
• Murderous lovers
• Corrupt courtrooms
• Another captivating killing might lose you your limelight
The Wizard of Oz
An enchanted land filled to the brim with technicolor characters and strange, fantastical creatures.
• Well-maintained highways
• Excellent standard of hygiene (courtesy of munchkin spa)
• You’re the tallest person in town
• Evil witches
• Farmhouse related injuries
• Flying monkey infestations
It’s a difficult decision, so before you make the move come visit YMT in musical Ankh-Morpork this August!
Thursday, 28 August 2014 - 7:30pm to Sunday, 31 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Rose Theatre Kingston
This July the thumping sound of Drum ‘n’ Bass cascades down the corridors of Dunsinane. An ominous beat reverberates through the dank fog of YMT's dystopian reimagining of Shakespeare's perennial horror story Macbeth. The talented YMT cast bring a new twisted take on the things that could conceivably go bump in the night.
As the host of ghosts, witches, cybergoths and neon-clad ravers waltz towards us through the apocalyptic murk this summer, YMT takes a retrospective on past attempts to set The Bard to music. The triumphs and the tragedies!
West Side Story (Romeo & Juliet)
Director Jerome Robbins transported Shakespeare’s iconic romance, Romeo and Juliet, to the boroughs of 1960s New York, where the streetlight crossed lovers were reborn. Replacing swords with scissor kicks and punches with pliés this vibrant adaptation remains exhilarating and poignant today.
Fun Fact: In the film adaptation of the musical Elvis Presley was approached to play the lead role of Tony, but Col. Tom Parker turned the studio down. If Elvis had done the movie, he'd have ended up playing opposite real-life ex-girlfriend Natalie Wood.
The Lion King (Hamlet)
If Hamlet were equipped with claws and a skull-crushing jaw strength, would he have been less indecisive about killing (or even eating) his traitorous uncle? According to The Lion King: apparently not.
Disney’s winning formula:
• Substitute the poison with a stampede of wildebeest.
• Switch the ghost with a talkative cumulous cloud.
• Finally provide the play’s royal family with some extra fur, a tail and some pleasant baritones.
Fun Fact: A wildlife expert brought a lion, a baboon and some vultures to the film studio so the animators could study certain behaviours. For example, in the movie, Rafiki carries a staff, so the animators had the real baboon carry a long stick around so they could sketch him in different poses.
Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew)
Kiss Me Kate tells the story of a theatre troupe’s haphazard attempt to stage a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. As life begins to imitate art the ensemble unravels into a farcical explosion of metathetrical romance and murderous mobsters.
Near the dénouement the theatrical thugs who endanger the production find themselves trapped onstage. With nowhere to run they are forced to improvise a tribute to Shakespeare in which they explain that understanding The Bard is the key to romance, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".
Fun Fact: The 1953 screenplay adaptation of the musical was originally filmed in 3D, which is why the actors often throw things (including themselves) at the audience.
It seems YMT’s Macbeth is in fine company! If you think The Bard could use a dose of dance or a medicinal jab of music then come join us at The Lyric Theatre Belfast this July!
Wednesday 23 July 2014 - 7:30pm to Tuesday 26 August 2014 - 7:30pm
BONUS: Not a musical but 10 Things I Hate About You, the high school bound adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, is home to a short light-footed performance definitely worth sharing
*** (3 Stars)
Richmond Theatre, London - May 8, 2014
In a new version by Anya Reiss, Frank Wedekind’s controversial play of teenage angst is brought bang up to date by the supremely successful theatre company, Headlong. Written around 1890 (but first performed in 1906), Spring Awakening was last seen in London in its musical form at the Novello Theatre in 2009. Reiss’ play utilises webcams and a killer soundtrack in this truly Brechtian piece.
The story follows a group of teenagers as they deal with all the horrors of adolescence. Written in reaction to the increasing rates of teenage suicide due to a lack of education around adolescence in late 19th-Century Germany, Wedekind’s original is tinged with sadness and frustration.
Reiss’ adaptation doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to representing this and instead feels rather superficial in its reliance upon technical tricks and projections. At times it feels as if it’s trying to be too clever, ultimately leading to a sense of pretentiousness.
This is partly down to the Brechtian nature of the piece – a style that I am not convinced entirely works with hard-hitting subject matters. The copious amounts of breaking character can be confusing to audiences unfamiliar with this style.
Young audiences will love it, and rightly so, for this is truly boundary-pushing theatre. However, for me, it lacks the emotional punch of Duncan Sheik’s musical version and focuses too much on trying to be clever.
Spring Awakening is currently on a UK Tour. http://headlong.co.uk/work/spring-awakening/