THEATRE REVIEW: Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre

running until 4 February

Michael Wade, Robert Moloney and Keith Stevenson (c) Gavin Watson
Michael Wade, Robert Moloney and Keith Stevenson (c) Gavin Watson
“Hillbilly comedy” Out On Fried Meat Ridge Road has gained such success at LA’s Pacific Resident Theater that it has spawned two sequels, but it’s perhaps a risk to bring it to London without an audience’s local knowledge of state stereotypes and American references. Yet for every mention of Mountain Dew or prog rock bands, there is a dose of warmth and farce that give this show universal appeal.
Down on his luck, Mitchell (Robert Moloney) finds himself without much choice but to room with J.D. (Keith Stevenson, who also wrote the script) – who may or may not be the son of the son of God. Soon the full absurdity of the living arrangement becomes apparent, as a rag-tag collection of neighbours bring their problems to the ever-patient J.D.’s door. From Marlene the meth addict, to Flip the racist motel owner, to Tommy the gun-toting adulterer – the lovable J.D. can’t help but greet them all with kindness and patience. It’s this mixture of good-heartedness and sheer absurdity that lends this piece such a warm comedic focus, even as the other characters shout, swear and belittle each other.

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THEATRE REVIEW: A Christmas Carol – The Musical, Lost Theatre

running until 31 December

Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’s musical take on Dickens’s festive classic first premiered in 1994, and was performed annually in Madison Square Gardens until 2003. It’s a popular choice in London this year: while a concert version took place in the West End’s Lyceum Theatre on Monday, the Lost Theatre on Wandsworth Road have also chosen it as their family Christmas show.

Richard Lounds as Marley and Piers Garnham as Scrooge A Christmas Carol Lost Theatre
Richard Lounds as Marley and Piers Garnham as Scrooge

Menken is best known for his work with Disney – AladdinThe Little MermaidBeauty and the Beast to name but a few – so it’s no surprise that the score is a highlight of this almost sung-through piece. The rousing opening number sets the warm, Christmassy London scene, and is the first sign that this production is at its strongest when the whole company perform together with gusto. There are some gorgeous voices amongst the cast, including that of nine-year-old Ella Tidbury who performs with assurance beyond her years. In particular, Joe Brown (Scrooge aged 18) and Natalie Morgan (Emily) show off beautiful vocals that blend well in their brief duet.Read More »

Theatre highlights of 2016

It’s that time of year when we all start counting up the highlights of the year. On a global scale, this year has had rather more downs than ups, but luckily the theatre was there to transport us to other worlds. Here, in no particular order, are my favourites from the last 12 months.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre

Image result for harry potter cursed child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part 1)

I had to start with this. The theatrical event of the year, it felt like we were waiting for years before we finally got to see the result, but oh boy, was it worth the wait. Putting aside the cash-cow of having two separate plays (no-one is buying the “we just couldn’t fit it all into one play” argument…), this was a feat of theatre magic. From the utter nostalgic joy of reuniting with these much-loved characters, to the brilliant comedy by newcomers Anthony Boyle and Sam Clemmett, to the wondrous effects created by the illusions team – it was an all-round success and, put simply, just so much fun.

Groundhog Day, Old Vic

After the runaway success of Matilda the Musical, Tim Minchin returned with another new musical created with Matthew Warchus, new artistic director of the Old Vic. The result was a slick, sizzling and impressive production that was carried with huge energy by Andy Karl, and showed off a creative team at the top of their game. With a limited run, it’s only a shame that this new hit didn’t stick around in London for longer. With a Broadway transfer on the cards, let’s hope it comes back to town soon.Read More »

Christmas gifts for theatre-lovers

There’s a week to go until Santa pays us all a visit – unless you’ve ended up on the naughty list – so if you’re panicking about what to buy the theatre-lover in your life, I’ve got a few ideas for you. And it’s definitely not a big hint about what I might want to receive on Christmas Day. Obviously not.

Tickets and tokens 

dreamgirls-west-end

The obvious starting point for any frequent theatregoer – it’s an expensive pastime, so help them out with a gift of tickets. But where to start?

If you’re looking for a big, sparkling musical, you can’t go wrong with the newest hit in town: in the gorgeous setting of the Savoy Theatre, Dreamgirls has finally had its UK premiere and by all accounts it’s a hot hit. For comedy, you can’t go wrong (although they do frequently…) with The Play That Goes Wrong, which cranks up the comedy until you’re crying with laughter. And if you need something to please all the family, check out the National’s Peter Pan – contemporary and cool, wistful and nostalgic all in one.

If you’re struggling to pick one, Theatre Tokens are a great way to give the gift of theatre without the pressure of choosing.Read More »

THEATRE REVIEW: 2 Become 1, King’s Head Theatre

running until 7 January

2 Become 1 at the King's Head Theatre

All credit to the cast of 2 Become 1. This show is a fun, party piece that suits an animated crowd up for a good time. On this occasion, the night after most press attended, the cast were faced with technical issues, a delayed start and a small audience. Yet Swipe Right Theatre rose to the occasion, not letting the energy slide and throwing themselves into this tongue-in-cheek musical.

The quartet all inhabit their individual characters, like a Sex and the City-style gang: the heartbroken one (Jess, played by Natasha Granger); the flirt (Charlie, played by Eliza Hewitt-Jones); the comedic hopeless romantic (Amanda, played by Jessica Brady); and the wacky one (Molly, played by Kerrie Thomason). The personalities are a little one-dimensional, but it fits well with the girlband era.Read More »