**** (4 Stars)
Shaftesbury Theatre, London - Thursday 23 October, 2014
There was an air of excitement and expectation at the opening night of Memphis at the Shaftesbury Theatre and the London Premier did not disappoint.
Set in 1950s southern America in an era of racial hatred, segregation and violence, Memphis follows the story of a small-time DJ, Huey Calhoun, and his dream to share black music with his radio listeners. “White people won’t listen to black music” was the protestation from radio station owner, Mr Simmons. But of course, station ratings go through the roof as the catchy rock and roll music transcends racial divides.
Stunning harmonies, infectious rhythms and fantastic choreography are executed with skill and style. The eagerly-anticipated performance from Beverly Knight does not disappoint. Knight’s heartfelt portrayal of the conflicted star-singer Felicia Farrell is notable, fortifying and enriching with her breath-taking vocals. Killian Donnelly also gives a standout performance as the loveable rogue with charming quirkiness and offbeat comedy.
Not only a quality piece of West End entertainment, Memphis is rich with socio-political history and does not shy away from the horrific acts and injustices of the time. At times, the message of racial harmony is preaching to a converted cosmopolitan London audience, nevertheless, the song "Say A Prayer", which brought a close to Act One certainly made me sit up and listen. Huey and Felicia have been attacked by white mob for their interracial relationship, and in the chaotic aftermath, Gator (Tyrone Huntley) - a young man, mute since his father was lynched - breaks his silence with a beautiful message. "Say a prayer that change will come" resonated with the ongoing racial, religious and sexual discrimination that still troubles human-kind in modern times.
Far from the many juke-box musicals that crowd out the West End, Memphis is full of original hits, vibrant choreography and a story that will hook you from start to finish.
Memphis is currently showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London - tickets can be booked here: http://www.memphisthemusical.com/
*** (3 Stars)
Southwark Playhouse, London - September, 2014
Set in the vibrant city of San Francisco in the rock ‘n’ roll year of 1963, this remarkable show follows the complicated relationship of the eager young Marine, Eddie Birdlace, with the gentle, charming waitress, Rose. Along with his fellow Marine chums, ‘The Bees’, Birdlace embarks on his final night out, before leaving for Vietnam the following morning. Their journey takes them on a whirlwind ride, they’ll never forget.
The story is told effortlessly by the talented cast and flows smoothly through Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s beautiful music and lyrics along with, YMT's Catfish! The Musical’s own, Lucie Pankhurst’s, quirky and bright choreography. Although the show as a whole takes time to gather momentum, once it does you won’t want it to ever end! Each performer is as dynamic as the next and the chemistry between the entire cast was a joy to watch, both on and off stage. Combining a great balance of emotional solos along with high-energy group numbers, the show offers a splendid variety for the audience.
The wonderfully witty book, by Peter Duchan, questions the need for war, highlights the strain it causes on relationships and humans’ natural instincts; yet has the ability to make the audience both laugh and cry uncontrollably. I feel the show really captured the essence of the camaraderie war brought upon young men, against the realistic fear it held in the hearts of young women. Although it’s set in San Francisco, 1963, I feel the messages portrayed are universally relatable and current.
Located in the intimate Southwalk Playhouse Theatre this show is only available until Saturday 13 of September. Therefore if you’re in need of a stimulating, moving, fresh and captivating evening, book your tickets now!
Imp Y Celyn and his ‘Band with Rocks In’ strut onto the Rose Kingston stage this weekend in YMT’s melodic adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel Soul Music.
Members of this eclectic ensemble include:
Imp Y Celyn (Centre)
The band’s guitarist, lead singer and only human member, although many other characters constantly comment that he looks a little “Elvish”. His name’s literal translation is "Bud of the holly".
Lias Bluestone (Left)
The band’s troll percussionist. Whose technique, in typical troll fashion, consists of banging large rocks together. He later takes the name "Madonna", despite his colleagues' warning that no-one would last long in the music business with a name like that.
Glod Glodsson (Right)
A dwarf who plays the horn, he’s not ashamed to admit he is in it for the money.
In honour of this eccentric cohorts YMT would like to present its Top 5 Animal Musicians:
#5 Louis the Alligator
An aspiring alligator musician from the Louisiana bayou. A friendly yet neurotic companion for the main characters in The Princess and the Frog, Louis’ dream is to become human so he can join a jazz band. His name comes from the famous jazz artist Louis Armstrong.
Fun Fact: Louis is the first crocodilian character in a Disney film to be friendly in nature since Ben the dancing alligator from Fantasia.
#4 Rowlf the Dog
Rowlf, the Muppet’s resident deadpan pianist. His first musical contribution to the show was ‘You and I and George’. According to Rowlf the song only sold two copies. One bought by him, the other bought by the eponymous George, who is depicted falling off a bride and drowning in the lyrics.
Fun Fact: Rowlf was actually the first true Muppet "star" as a recurring character on The Jimmy Dean Show, first appearing in a show telecast on September 19, 1963.
#3 The Cadbury’s Gorilla
One of the most memorable adverts of the last few years, who could have guessed that this musical primate with a penchant for Phil Collins be so loved? After the success of the campaign and a heavy waxing session the gorilla went back to his roots and can now be found drumming for the Foo Fighters under the stage name ‘Dave Grohl’.
Fun Fact: When asked about the gorilla, Collins commented that "Not only is he a better drummer than me, he also has more hair”.
#2 The Aristocats
Free food, perfect balance and a talent for the trombone, just a few reasons this 70s Disney classic reminded us why “Everybody Wants to be a Cat”. Despite the occasional fur-ball caught in their trumpets this furry ensemble nevertheless curls up proudly on our No. 2 spot.
Fun Fact: Scat Cat was originally written with Louie Armstrong in mind, with his original name being Satchmo Cat.
Our No 1. Animal! The crazed drummer of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, the fictional band from The Muppet Show. Spending many of his performances chained to his kit this musical maniac must often be reminded to beat, and not eat, his drums.
Fun Fact: Animal was the official mascot of the U.S. Ski Team during the 1998 Winter Olympics. He was also featured in one of eleven commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
Join YMT and our cacophony of monstrous musician at Terry Pratchett's Soul Music this weekend!
To book tickets CLICK HERE!
Thursday, 28 August 2014 - 7:30pm to Sunday, 31 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Rose Theatre Kingston
Although 40 days and 40 nights of rain sounds like a typical British summer it was evidently more of a big deal in biblical times! But with the theme of climate change looming over the world like a tidal wave this biblical tale has caught the imagination of both YMT and those on the sun scorched hills of Hollywood.
YMT’s Not the End of the World is a brand new interpretation of Noah’s mythic story based on the novel by Geraldine McCaughrean, winner of the Whitbread Children's Book Award (2004). Told from the perspective of the Ark’s animal cargo this is a bold adaptation of the brutal saga.
With Darren Aronofsky’s Noah being released yesterday it feels like the perfect time to decide once and for all whether Hollywood or YMT hosts the best apocalypse!
Filming for Noah began 20 months before its release this April. Not the End of the World will be devised and performed in just 2 weeks this August. Get it together Hollywood!
The budget for Noah: 125,000,000! Budget for YMT: 40,000x less. Is their ark made of gold? Personal champagne fountains for all the elephants? You could put all the animals on a luxury cruise for that and still have money left over to give Russel Crow some much needed singing lessons.
#3 Celebrity Endorsements
Crow and Aronofsky have been hounding clerics in search of a religious endorsement for their new film. The pair stopped just short of carjacking the Popemobile. They may have the Archbishop on their side… but we’ve got Ed Sheeran.
Ed Sheran: "At YMT I realised I love performing. Audition NOW - just go for it!"
Christian Bale and Michael Fassbender were both offered a role in Noah, but they declined due to scheduling conflicts. Conversely both actors applied to YMT’s Not the End of the World, but we were forced to turn them down due to the age restriction.
Crow’s grim prehistoric sailor would undoubtedly have been cheered up with some rousing sea shanties. But alas it was not to be. Whereas YMT knows that when an apocalyptic quantity of rain pours down, sometimes all you can do is…
So round up your neighbourhood’s household pets, an apocalyptic quantity of animal feed and join YMT this August for an unforgettable voyage to the end of the world and back.
Plymouth: Barbican Theatre
Friday, 29 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Saturday, 30 August 2014 - 2:30pm
Saturday, 30 August 2014 - 7:30pm
Miss Julie: **** (4 Stars)
Black Comedy: ***** (5 Stars)
Minerva, Chichester Festival Theatre - 15 July, 2014
Rebecca Lenkiewicz's adaptation of Miss Julie (originally written by August Strindberg) proves to be intense, intriguing and volatile. Rosalie Craig brilliantly portrays the eccentric, temperamental and demanding Miss Julie, daughter of the Count of the Manor house, (previously played by Maggie Smith at the Chichester Festival Theatre). Between her terrible tantrums, Craig shows the dangerous uncertainty of her own self worth. This comes to light as Jean (Sean Evans), a valet, takes full advantage as their forbidden love affair leads to the couple unable to continue living in the Count's manor house. Their plan to move to Northern Italy to run a hotel seems their only way of escape. Meanwhile, Kristen (Emma Handy), the cook, observes the madness of the situation, being the voice of reason and aptly shows the struggle the lower class.
Director, Jamie Glover, previously credited as an actor at CFT proves to know exactly how to please the audience as the Farm Workers' drunken dance was equally bawdy as it was a refreshing relief from the complications between Miss Julie and Jean's conflicting intentions.
The entire cast performed wonderfully and as the relationship between Miss Julie and Jean is at the core of the performance, both Craig and Evans should be credited for such a strong performance. Between Miss Julie's tantrums she shows how insecure and unsure she is of her own self worth as her submissive attitude toward Jean allows him to take full advantage of her. The chemistry between the actors was fascinating. A very strong performance by both the cast and creative team.
Following Peter Shaffer's prior success of Black Comedy at Chichester Festival Theatre, Director Jamie Glover, provides a fantastic evening where I left totally exhausted after laughing so hard for the entire performance. Glover's Black Comedy is the best comedy I have seen as I was continually laughing like a hyena throughout and close to tears on many occasions.
The stage is set in Brindsley Miller's (Paul Ready) apartment in mid 1960s South Kensington. When suddenly an electrical fuse blows and the characters are set in complete darkness. Glover had obviously spent a vast amount of time making sure the cast were realistically lost in the dark which each cast member did tremendously.
Ready's performance as Brindsley was fantastically hectic and a flawlessly terrible host at his cocktail party. As Brindsley awaits a millionaire, George Bamberger (Samuel Dutton) to arrive to purchase one of Brindsley's sculptures. Brindsley also has to conceal antique furniture from which he stole from his neighbour; Harold Gorringe (Shaun Evans) who was brilliantly snooty. Brindsley's girlfriend Carol Melkett (Robyn Addison) had an impressive squeaky voice, which added one more element to her fabulous character. Brindsley's elderly neighbour, Miss Furnival (Marcia Warren), stood out with her brilliant random drunken rant which had me rolling in my seat.
I wish I could say each character stood out without rewriting another cliché but truthfully they all did, each cast member had such a strong comedic presence; all I can suggest is that it is a must-see!
Miss Julie / Black Comedy are running at the Chichester Festival Theatre until 9 August - book here: http://www.cft.org.uk/5014/MISS-JULIE-BLACK-COMEDY/623