April 20th, 2012

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Chicago, The Musical, Garrick Theatre

Photo credit: http://www.londontheatredirect.com/news/726/DON-T-MISS--CHICAGO-AT-THE-GARRICK-THEATRE-STARRING-AMERICA-FERRERA.aspx

Cut and pasted from the Chicago Website:

Chicago, The Musical, Garrick Theatre

"Murder, Greed, Corruption, Exploitation, Adultery, Treachery ... all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts"
... so begins CHICAGO, one of the most phenomenal musicals of our times. With over 6000 performances, CHICAGO is the longest running Broadway show in the West End.

The kiss-and-tell story of chorus girl Roxie Hart who kills her lover; Velma Kelly, the glamorous double-murderer; and Billy Flynn, the slick and manipulative lawyer keeping them from death row while promising to make them stars; has all the topicality of our celebrity-seeking times. It also provides some of the most sensational roles in all musical theatre.

Be razzled and dazzled by CHICAGO a true Broadway and West End classic.

Follow the link for all the details and to book tickets:

Cast today:
Sarah Soetaert as Roxie Hart
Rachel McDowall as Velma Kelly
David Bedella as Billy Flynn
James Doherty as Amos Hart
Jasna Ivir as Matron "Mama" Morton
R. Whitehead as Mary Sunshine

Raks's Reaction

Photo credit: http://www.londontheatredirect.com/news/651/CHICAGO-BECOMES-LONGEST-RUNNING-BROADWAY-MUSICAL.aspx

I have never before reviewed a musical but I am going to make an exception for Chicago (I have created a new "musical" tag especially!). It is an honour and a privilege to open my account with Chicago, The Musical. I am a real sucker for a good West End musical and I have seen all of the long-running musicals at some point or other over the years, some of them a few times; and I also often see new musicals when they look promising eg I am going to see "Singin' in the Rain" next month because it stars Adam Cooper.

There is a particular story to me and Chicago. It returned to the London stage late in 1997, and I went to see it in 1997 or 1998, not because I wanted to see it, but because at that time I was working for Bromley Health and there was an older women's theatre group who went on theatre outings every couple of months. The group was going to see Chicago. I went along, not because I had any desire to see the musical, but because I enjoyed the group outings and the company and the chatter of the older women (I was young at the time; still in my twenties). I went along to all their theatre outings no matter what they were seeing because I enjoyed their company, and I was trying to be sociable and make new friends and build new networks. I knew nothing about Chicago but I had seen the poster which seemed to advertise women dancing in their lingerie so it was not a production that I, left to my own devices, would have chosen to see. How wrong I was! I remember seeing it all those years ago and just being blown away by it - the dancing, the singing, the music and the sheer spectacle of it. It took my breath away.

Fast-forward to 2012. I had been meaning to revisit Chicago for some time so when a special offer came up on lastminute.com I decided to carpe diem and bought a ticket (I bought a £15 ticket and my seat was in Row E of the Stalls - one of the best bargains in town!). So what did I think this time round?

First and foremost, most of the musicals in town are "family" shows. There is nothing wrong in that. But one of the reasons that I absolutely love Chicago is that it is most definitely an adult musical, with adult songs and dancing, and adult themes. I like that and it sets it apart from many of the other long-running West End musicals.

I am passionate about diversity, but one of the diversity strands that I cannot get very excited about is gender. However, even for me, one of Chicago's strongest suits is that, unusually, it puts women centre stage, telling the story from the women's viewpoint, and it has two female leads (Roxie and Velma) who have to carry the show. I also like the fact that the show celebrates women's sexuality, rather than seeing it as sinful and as something to repress.

The choreography in the production is sublime, the singing and the dancing spectacular. Again, I am happy to stick my neck out and say that the choreography and the dancing in this piece is amongst the best, if not the best, in the whole of the West End.

I love all of the songs in Chicago but the ones that are closest to my heart, and therefore deserve a special mention, are:
- "When You're Good to Mama" - Matron "Mama" Morton, as she explains the horse-trading that goes on in prison.
- "Cell Block Tango" - Velma and the Murdresses, as each of the six women describe the crime that they have committed and why (most of them are guilty as sin and readily confess to this!). "He had it coming!"
- "A Little Bit of Good" - Mary Sunshine. This is just such a positive joy as Mary sings about seeing the good in everyone. I wish more people were like Mary!
- "We Both Reached for the Gun" - Billy, Roxie, Mary and the Reporters. There is a fantastic sequence here where Roxie is shown to be just a puppet and a mouthpiece for Billy Flynn's words.
- "Mr. Cellophane" - Amos. One of the more moving songs in the musical where Amos describes what it is like to be a nobody, someone whom nobody notices and everyone ignores (Mr Invisible). The song really stirs the heartstrings!

I loved the fact that the whole band were upfront on the stage, part and parcel of the action and the production; the conductor even has an acting and a singing role in the production! You rarely see musicians and orchestras in the theatre; they are hidden away down in the pit or up in the wings; so it was great to see them on stage with the actors and an integral part of the production.

There was a small touch which I wanted to highlight which shows what a special production this is. The production has many beautiful touches like the one that I am highlighting, and I could have chosen any one of well over a dozen features to comment on. I have chosen the trial scene and I want to talk about the jury. One dancer plays all six members of the jury; very different characters. He sits in one chair as one character with a prop eg scarf or a pipe, and then as the next verse starts he will move to the next chair along and become a totally different character just by changing his whole persona and by using a different prop - and yes he plays both men and women. It is a touch of genius. There are many moments of genius like this throughout the production.

There are no big stars or names in the production at the moment although Robin Cousins is joining the cast soon as Billy Flynn. I always think you can tell the true quality of a production if the show is just as good, and gets as positive an audience reaction, when there are no big stars in it. The show at present is just excellent and the audience reaction tonight acknowledged that. You don't need star names if you have a great show.

Finally, the big glossy souvenir programme being sold for £5 is great value. It has all the information that you would want about Chicago, The Musical, and it is packed to the brim with the most beautiful photos. Normally, programmes of this quality retail for around £10; at a mere £5 it is a bargain and a glorious souvenir.

In a nutshell, I just LOVED this production. It is fun, fun, fun and a real celebration. I was as blown away by it, over ten years on, as I was the first time I saw it. Highly highly highly recommended - get your tickets in now!

Photo credit: http://www.show-and-stay.co.uk/chicago-the-musical.html

Of course, THIS is the version of Chicago which I really wished I could have seen, but I was stupid enough to miss! (I am a huge Marti Pellow fan!).

Photo credit: http://www.martipellowonline.co.uk/yabb/YaBB.pl?num=1254839733/20
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Mayor of London presents: St George's Day Festival

Cut and pasted from an email from the Mayor of London's office:

St George's Day Festival

This Saturday an English garden will spring up on Trafalgar Square for the St George’s Day festival.

Come along and enjoy a free day of outdoor fun for all ages at this central London oasis. There’ll be pop-up gardening installations, exhibits and talks for the urban green-fingered, entertainers, English rose making origami, face painting and a garden trail for children. You’ll also be able to take a traditional afternoon tea accompanied by soothing sounds from the ornamental bandstand courtesy of the Brick Lane Music Hall as well as up and coming performers including the Robbie Boyd Band.

Follow the link for all the details:
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Hollywood Costume, V&A

Cut and pasted from the V&A Website:

Hollywood Costume, V&A
Sat 20 October 2012 – Sun 27 January 2013

Hollywood Costume is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see over 100 of the most iconic costumes in the history of film-making.

It explores the most beloved characters in Hollywood history and gives insight on the role of the costume designer and their vital contribution to cinema storytelling. The exhibition includes costumes from many of the greatest films of all time including The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Vertigo, Taxi Driver, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, plus recent releases including Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man, Sherlock Holmes and The Iron Lady.

Follow the link for all the details and to book tickets:
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Dark Shadows, BFI IMAX

Photo credit: http://cinecite.co.uk/index.php/dark-shadows-character-posters

I saw a trailer for this film at the BFI IMAX today and I am tipping it on the basis that it is a Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp, and it has Edward Scissorhands (one of my favourite films of all time) written all over it!

Cut and pasted from an email from the BFI:

Dark Shadows - The IMAX Experience (12A)
Opens 11 May

In 1752 the Collins family sails from Liverpool to start a new life in America. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas (Johnny Depp) is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy until he breaks the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who turns him into a vampire and buries him alive. Two centuries later Barnabas is freed and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. Tim Burton's gothic vampire tale is based on the cult TV series of the same name.

Tickets are on sale now.

Follow the link for more details and to book tickets:
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Globe to Globe, Shakespeare's Globe

Cut and pasted from the Globe to Globe Website:

Globe to Globe is taking place over 6 weeks, from 23 April to 3 June 2012, and will present all of Shakespeare’s plays, each in a different language, by 36 international companies. The finale of Globe to Globe will be the Globe's own production of Henry V, which will continue after the festival throughout the summer.


... says the chorus in Henry V, inviting the listener to travel with him in a voyage of imagination. And the wild journeys of his plays, first travelled in English, soon multiplied into many fresh journeys, in a whole host of different tongues.

We are bringing together artists from all over the globe, to enjoy speaking these plays in their own language, in our Globe, within the architecture Shakespeare wrote for. The artists will play the Globe way – telling stories through the word and the actor, complemented by costumes, music and dance – and will complete each play within two-and-a-quarter hours (we hope).

The Globe to Globe festival will be a carnival of stories. There are inspirational stories – companies who work underground and in war zones; momentous stories – the first ever visit to these shores of some of the world’s most prestigious national theatres; and returning stories – groups which have already wowed audiences at the Globe, in the Barbican and in the West End, coming back for more.

Many of the world’s greatest directors, over six hundred actors from all nations, and audiences from every corner of our polyglot community, will assemble to celebrate the stories, the characters and the relationships, which are etched into all of us. Shakespeare is the language which brings us together better than any other, and which reminds of our almost infinite difference, and of our strange and humbling commonality. And above all there are the plays themselves, plays which have travelled far and wide, and which on their travels have midwifed new theatre cultures, spread light and laughter, and helped nations, new and old, to define themselves. A Globe beside the Thames is where many of these plays began their extraordinary journey. Another Globe beside the Thames is delighted to be bringing these plays, dressed in the clothes of many peoples, back home …

Please come and join us!

Dominic Dromgoole – Artistic Director
Tom Bird – Festival Director

For full details and to book tickets follow the link:

Globe to Globe is part of the World Shakespeare Festival for the London 2012 Festival.

Raks's Says

I have booked to see 10 productions (all at a £5 a time!) - The Merchant of Venice, Anthony and Cleopatra, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Othello, Richard II, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Pericles. I have chosen on the basis of my favourite plays and those where I want to see that particular theatre company.

My feature on the Globe, which talks about why it is such a special theatre, is here: