Tag Archives: musical

The Commitments @ The Palace Theatre

The Commitments is the story of an Irish band that tries to bring soul back to Dublin. Based on the book by Roddy Doyle, the storyline of the musical version follows a very simplified tale of how the band form, break up and reform to play their biggest show yet. Throughout all the great soul hits of the time are played, including Uptight, Mustang Sally, and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.

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Musically the performances were amazing. Killian Donnelly who plays lead singer Deco had one of the best male singing voices I have ever heard, and was perfectly complimented by backing singers Imelda (Sarah O’Connor), Natalie (Stephanie McKeon) and Bernie (Jessica Cervi) – who each get their chance to shine during the performance. My only musical critique would be that the songs could have been worked better into the storyline. The songs are only performed when the band is rehearsing or actually performing, rather than being used by the characters to express their feelings as in traditional musicals. For example, Try a Little Tenderness could easily have been sung as a love song between any number of the couples that form throughout the show, instead of being a number in the final performance.

In terms of the story it was very simple, and odd at times. The band must deal with the ego of lead singer Deco, the promiscuity of trumpet player Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (who incidentally is a born again Christian who is repenting for his former hedonistic lifestyle), and the doubts of others about their potential success. There is a definite lack of any proper character development (which I am assured does occur in the book) and the non singing characters, which includes manager and founder Jimmy, feel a little surplus throughout.

The set was phenomenal – the street, a bar, Joey’s garage, various venues, and the interior of Jimmy’s house were all created to give a realistic representation of Northside Dublin in the 80s. The street scene stayed constant, while all the other sets were individual moving parts which was hugely impressive visually. The costumes were also fantastic, and very true to the time. I especially loved the pink boiler suit warn by Natalie during rehearsals.

THE COMMITMENTS

The band rehearsing in Joey’s garage. 

Despite this is would really recommend The Commitments – it isn’t ground-breaking theatre, but it is a really fun show to take your family to, and the choice of amazing songs that most people know is enough to get everyone standing up and singing along at the end.

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West Side Story @ Sadler’s Wells

I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend to see the Sadler’s Wells production of West Side Story. I am a huge fan of the film version, but have never seen a stage performance, so was really excited to see one of my favourite musicals live on stage.

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I have to say, unfortunately, I was not blown away. Many of the singers were very good, especially Tony and Anita, and the choreography, following the original by Jerome Robbins, was superb. However much of the actual dancing was pretty lacklustre, and the actor playing Riff wasn’t obviously the strongest singer or dancers in the Jets group. Indeed one of the most enjoyable songs was “Gee, Officer Krupke”, in which Riff doesn’t feature. However, the performances were generally strong, and really picked up in the second act. The ending in particular brought me to tears – Maria was exceptionally powerful in the final scenes.

I think my main problem with the stage version of West Side Story is that I just prefer it in film. While the choreography is fantastic, much of the ‘fighting’ requires way too much set up for my liking, and this makes a lot of the main scenes lose pace. It is very obvious where the film has changed scenes around or cut them out altogether, and I think in some places this was for the better. There was a rather strange dream sequence where Tony and Maria envisage a world where everyone gets along. While this is a good message it didn’t seem to fit into the flow of the musical in general. However it did showcase the style of dance that seemed to come most naturally to the cast, which was nice to see.

This review may seem quite negative, but I have to say I did enjoy West Side Story, and I am very glad I have experienced the original stage version. I suspect the problem was just that it did not quite live up to my expectations, and I think that is quite a typical problem with ‘summer stock’ performances.

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Review: The Book of Mormon @ The Prince of Wales Theatre

I don’t think I have ever had such high expectations for a new musical. The Book of Mormon, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q’s co-writer Robert Lopez, has had so much hype around it, and I am happy to report that it lives up to all of it! Opening on Broadway in 2011, the musical finally made its way over to the UK this year, and I jumped at the chance to get tickets (under the pretext of my sister’s birthday present).

The Book of Mormon follows the story of two young Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent to Uganda on their two year missionary duties. With big dreams about what they can achieve, the Elders (in particular Elder Price) are sorely disappointed when they find out that the Ugandans are much more worried about war, famine and AIDS than joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While Elder Price is disheartened and attempts to transfer to his dream place, Orlando, Elder Cunningham embellishes on the Book of Mormon to get the local village to join the Church, with great success. Joy, misfortune and a reinvention of the scriptures follow!

photo (1) The set (the trumpeter at the top spun around to announce the start of each act.)

As can be expected from the writers of South Park, the Book of Mormon is highly satirical, not only of Mormonism, but of Africa and the musical as a genre. I was laughing the whole way through, and while much of the humour comes from sheer shock at the explicitness of the language, there are luckily clever and witty jokes as well. While the music is quite similar in most of the songs, I think this had the desired effect of both allowing the customary mash-ups of songs and also mocking the musical as a genre. The two leads were played by Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner, on (for want of a better word) loan from America. They were fantastic, and really stood out in terms of ‘peppiness’. Stephen Ashfield also  deserves a mention, he was great at the closet gay District Leader of the Church. The rest of the cast was also very strong, and really threw themselves into the ludicrousness of the musical.

My favourite songs from the musical were ‘Man Up’, ‘Turn it Off’, and ‘Hello’. While all the songs were amazing, and really fitted the ridiculous nature of the musical, I found these the most entertaining.

Overall I really enjoyed the Book of Mormon, on my review notes I genuinely just wrote ‘SO GOOD’. It was fun, stupid, rude, and everything you would expect from a musical about Mormonism written by the creators of South Park. If you offend easily though, I probably wouldn’t recommend it… But otherwise do try to get tickets, I had such a great time, and I think you will too!

photo (2) A cheeky picture from the programme (centre: Elder Price, right: Elder Cunningham, left: Nabulungi)

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