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  • Writer's pictureThat Stagey Blog

My Stagey Week 34

Updated: Sep 21, 2019

I have had a rather fantastic week of great theatre as well as squeezing in a couple of days of filming.

On Monday my friend Maddie, her boyfriend Charlie and I went along to support and watch our mutual friend Susannah Marie compete in at The Stand-Up Club’s Get-Up, Stand-Up New Act Competition at The Comedy Pub near Piccadilly Circus.

I had never been to this venue but I love discovering new comedy.

Susannah trained at PPA before playing Tracey in Hairspray. We were all excited to see her compete with eleven other comedians. Susannah was one of only two women competing which is quite common in comedy circuits which are still dominated by men.

Susannah’s act is very Stagey and very funny as she draws from her own experience as an actress.

Each act had only five minutes to impress the audience, each of us had score cards and had to list our top four after watching them all.

All of them were actually really good, and I was beginning to worry that Susannah had some stiff competition. She was the eleventh act, so had a fair bit of time to wait and seemed a little nervous.

Her act was clever and funny as she seemed confident and assured. Susannah is quite new to this, but has definitely hit the ground running. She seems a natural.

There wasn’t much time to wait to find out if Susannah had made it through to the next round, as there was only one act left after her. There was then a short break while she counted the votes.

We sat with Susannah as she anxiously waited for the results, and then her name was called. She was joint forth, out of twelve and was through.

Susannah was surprised but delighted and we were all very happy for her. As we helped her to celebrate over a bottle of prosecco, a booking agent approached her with his business card.

On Tuesday I met my friend Aaron for lunch as he had time to kill between auditions. I had met Aaron a year ago in Edinburgh where he was performing in a musical called Skin Deep with my flat mate Shaun.

Aaron and I became great friends, and it was lovely to catch up with him.

I then popped in to the gym before going to watch a new production of Working at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

I had seen Working last year at the Southwark Playhouse where it had been produced by Jack Maple, starredPeter Polycarpou and Liam Tamne and was choreographed by Fabian Aloise, who recently choreographed Evita. I remember thinking it was brilliant, so I was a bit apprehensive whether this production would be as good.

It is a collection of monologues and music based on the book by Studs Terkel and adapted by Stephen Schwartz who wrote Wicked.With additional contributions from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Produced by HI Impact, this new production has been directed by Amanda Noar with her nephew Jamie Noar as musical director.

Amanda is an actress who I remember from the soap Brookside. She choreographs with Laura Allen who also stars in it along with Hannah Cheetham, Kris Marc-Joseph, Makeda Ansah, Ryan Owen, Shivam V Patel, Lara Beth-Sas, Mikey Wooster.

I had seen Kris Marc-Joseph in Plaid Tidings and he was very good.

The whole cast were brilliant and did a really great job of working individually and together, this show is a brilliant showcase from everyone, I especially liked the movement and when the devised staging elements. At one point they came together to form a bike, which worked particularly well.

The costumes were simple and effective, and the stage was designed as eight cubicles built within scaffolding which really used the space well and looked effective.

The small band were great although at times a little too loud, but I was really pleased that this production has invested in radio mics for all the performers so that they could be heard.

It was nice to see such a diverse cast, although my only complaint was that they were all relatively the same age, which made this production feel more like a drama school grad show. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of grad show are really good, as is this.

It is on until 22nd September

It was nice to catch up with Angie Lawrence who worked on this as a production assistant and who had invited me to watch it.

On Wednesday I attended the press night of Preludes at The Southwark Playhouse.

Produced by Danielle Tarentoin association with Citric Acid. It has music, lyrics, book and Orchestrations by Dave Malloy and has been directed by Alex Sutton, choreographed by Ste Clough with musical direction by Jordan Li-Smith

And stars Rebecca Caine. Norton James. Georgia Louise. Tom Noyes. Keith Ramsay and Steven Serlin.

Danielle Tarento is a formidable producer and is very lovely. Having been an actress herself, she knows her stuff and is very direct which I really respect about her.

Danielle has had a rocky start to the year with a portion of her Titanic tour collapsing after an investor pulled out, which was a shame, as it is a glorious show. She also suffered a blow when her production of Amourat the Charing Cross Theatre announced that it was closing early.

With Preludes Danielle has taken a gamble, because of how alternative it is. However I think her gamble has pulled off as I honestly thought it was a masterpiece.

The first thing you notice when you walk in, is the stunning set. They have reconfigured the seating arrangement to position the stage in the corner. This is a brand new seating arrangement that has never been used before and really works. The set is designed and assembled beautifully to compliment the sloping ceiling with a combination of neon strip lights and a beautiful parquet flooring of black tiles disrupted by the baby grand piano centre stage.

The piano is played throughout the show by the brilliant and accomplished Tom Noyes who masterfully delivers Rachmaninoff’s music. Tom’s piano playing is exceptional and his performance elevated further when he interjects into scenes as shows that he can act too.

Rebecca Caine similarly surprises and amazes beginning the play as a stern therapist before joining Tom at the piano demonstrating her incredible skills as a pianist too.

The play fuses the classical sound of Rachmaninoff’s music with an electronic undertone with Jordan Li-Smith and Billy Bullivant playing Dave Malloy’s exciting new arrangements on keyboards. It provides a brilliant juxtaposition and incomparable sound.

The sophisticated writing has the intellect and intelligent of American Psycho, and really make you think and work to keep up, which I think is brilliant.

Designed to reflect the inner workings of Rachmaninoff’s mind as he battles writing block. Keith Ramsay delivers a tremendous and exquisite performance.

Keith has the incredible ability to command a performance that is both chaotic and controlled. He is captivating to watch, as he portrays an erratic manifestation of Rachmaninoff’s inner psyche.

Keith is an incredibly accomplished actor and singer whose performance reminded me of an early Andrew Scott.

Joining Keith, Steven Serlin stepped into the role at short notice after the previous actor had to withdraw. Steven and Kevin both appeared together in Amour. Steven shows no indication of having to be slotted in late into the proceedings, together with Norton James and Georgia Louise the entire cast are brilliant.

Danielle Tarento’s success as a producer is accredited to her incredible skills as a casting director, she always gets it right.

The play is a brilliant portrayal of the inner turmoil of success and fame and genius, which dissects Rachmaninoff’s psychological state to illustrate the conflicts and pressure he faced as a successful composer.

It is on until 12th October.

On Thursday I spend the day Filming Eastenders. I can’t say much about it, but there might be a wedding coming up!

After this I went to watch Fleabag NT: Live at Cineworld.

I have an unlimited Cineworld card which meant I only had to pay £9 for a ticket. Which was much cheaper than paying to see it in the theatre itself, and the seats are far more comfortable. Plus the entire run at the Wyndham Theatre is sold out.

Fleabag is the phenomenal one woman play writtenand performed by Phoebe Waller Bridge. It was originally previewed at the Soho Theatre before being taken to Edinburgh in 2013. It returned to the Soho Theatre again in 2013 and 2014 before touring to South Korea. In 2015 Fleabag toured UK, this time with Maddie Rice performing.

It was then adapted into a six part series for BBC Three starring Olivia Colman in 2016, before another production at Soho Theatre that sold out in just over ten minutes.

Fleabag then toured Australian festivals in 2018, before a UK national tour starring Maddie Rice.

A second and final series was produced by BBC and screened earlier this year and the original play received a month long run in New York with Phoebe Waller Bridge returning to the role.

This production then transferred to the West End for a limited run from 20th August to 14th September, declared as the last ever production. Although that’s what Cher says with each farewell tour.

Returning to direct Fleabag is Vicky Jones who is a long term friend and collaborator of Phoebe’s and a writer herself.

Vicky used to also work at the Actors Centre where she was my acting mentor. I regularly worked with Vicky and took her classes. Vicky would often bring in early drafts of work that Phoebe was writing for us to practise with.

I remember seeing Fleabag in 2013 at Soho Theatre and being impressed and then also enjoyed the TV series.

Returning to it six years later. I still think it’s a brilliant piece of writing, and Phoebe, who trained at Rada is a superb actress.

NT:Live provide an incredible opportunity to watch theatre for anyone who financially might not be able to afford it, and they are always well shot and well directed. Often entirely changing the experience of watching certain pieces of theatre.

In this case. Phoebe delivers the entire performance from a solitary stool in the middle of the stage, which means there is very little you miss from this filmed version.

On Friday I was filming Truth Seekersa new series by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It is being described as the British version of Ghostbusters.

I finished later then expected so had to cancel plans to meet a friend, and instead went to watch It: Chapter Twoat the cinema in the evening. Having really enjoyed the first part, I was disappointed by this concluding part which was too long and quite boring.

On Saturday, the weather was glorious as I met my friend Drew for lunch at Broadway Market in north London. I had never been, but Drew highly recommended it. We treated ourselves to food from the market and caught up over a pint in the pub.

In the evening I went to watch Queen of the Mist at the Charing Cross Theatre.

Produced by Pint of Wine Theatre. This production had transferred from the Brockley Jack theatre where I had missed it, and so I was pleased to get the chance to see it here.

It is by Michael John LaChiusa, whose other work Hello Again is playing at the Union Theatre.

I had been warned that Queen of the Mist is a peculiar show based on the curious true story of Annie Edson Taylor, a 63 year old women who made a name for herself in the early 1900’s by being the first women to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and surviving.

Trudi Camilleri plays Annie, and delivers a conviction performance of this intriguing character, and does have an incredible voice although she does drop a few lines, which I was surprised by at this late stage in the run.

The music generally is pleasant and well performed by the cast Will Arundell, Emily Juler, Emma Ralston, Tom Blackmore, Conor McFarlane and Andrew Carter.

It’s directed by Dom O'Hanlon who struggles with the traverse staging, at times it definitely feels we are missing half the show. The set is also not particularly well thought out. It looks like an Ikea kitchen with pull out drawers along each side of the stage with props featured, tucked away and mostly obscured with the units depending where you are sat.

The audience for this Saturday evening was particularly small, suggesting that the show really isn’t selling very well at all.

To be honest. It wasn’t great. The story really is threadbare and although compelling to an extent is insufficient to occupy an entire musical. It rapidly loses pace and interest.

It is on until 5th October

On Sunday morning I met up with Alyn Hawke to talk all about his career and the various show that he has coming up.

These include:

Showtime Challenge 48 Hour musical Singing in the Rain

Floating Festivals

And his solo cabaret Understudy Jazz at Singeasy.

Later that day I spent the afternoon with the cast of A Night in the Piazza at Live At Zedel.

Produced by a new partnership of up and coming producers Tom Partridge and Danny Becker, whom I interviewed last week.

Tom and Danny are both successful West End performers who met during the production of The Light in the Piazza at Festival Hall.

Tom had already begun to take an interest in producing and had interned for Jamie Wilson Productions whilst he was also performing in Follies at the National Theatre.

Recognising the incredible hidden talents in some of the other ensemble members The Light in the Piazza, Tom and Danny began developing an idea to create a cabaret showcasing some of the cast and music of The Light in the Piazza, and named the evening A Night in the Piazza.

They secured the lustrous Crazy Coq venue and enlisted Chloe Hart, Rhona McGregor, Jordan Castle, Simbi Akande, Matthew Woodyatt, and Molly Lynch.

Molly in particular, I strongly admire as a performer, having interviewed her recently and seeing her one women show Rodgers & Hammerstein (& Me Too).

As well as presenting music from the show The Light in the Piazza, each of the performers were invited to choose a song to perform that held a special significance for them.

The boys had clearly worked hard preparing for the evening, with Danny also currently workshopping the new production of The Prince of Egypt.

Days before the evening, the night had already sold out. An incredible feat for any producer, let alone a new and emerging pair. Especially when you consider that they were up against Caissie Levy performing at Cadogan Hall on the same evening.

The Zedel and Cadogan Hall, continue to produce high end, top quality evenings attracting West End and Broadway stars, with audiences being spoilt for choice, so it’s incredible that a pair of unknown producers with an unknown show could hit the ground running with their first endeavour.

I was lucky to have been invited by Tom and Danny to watch the tech run on the afternoon and chat to the performers as they prepared for the evening.

I was greeted with a warm hug from the gorgeous Molly Lynch, and from Chloe who I had also met before, I then introduced myself to the rest of the line up who I had yet to meet. All were kind and friendly as I talked to them each in turn about how they were feeling and what they would be singing.

The evening was already lining up to be a truly special event, as I got tingles just listening to them soundcheck.

The audience began to arrive greeted excitedly by Tom and Danny. Some friends and family had turned out, along with other cast members from The Light in the Piazza, Malcolm Sinclair and Rob Houchen.

Tucked discreetly at the back of the room were also Michael Gracey and Ashley Wallen the director and choreographer of The Greatest Showman.

The evening began with the entire company performing Shock of Winter from The Light in the Piazza before each performing a song from the show as well as their personal choices. Each performer introduced the next with a warm familiarity, that was incredibly endearing.

One by one we were treated to music from shows including Ordinary Days, Ragtime, and Aida.

Rhona McGregor performed a beautiful song from Flowers For Mrs Harris, the stunning production that she was in at Chichester.

Jordan Castle astonished the audience with a stunning performing of Ordinary People by John Legend.

Simbi Akande received a rapturous applause for her exceptional performance of Kissing You, and Matthew Woodyatt beguiled the audience with his charm and humour.

As well as a brilliant self accompanied Kanye West song performed beautifully by Molly.

Danny Becker stepped up to impress the audience with his Italian and performed Il Mondo.

The evening was truly exceptional, and felt incredibly intimate and personal, down to the fact that this group of people clearly had strong connections and friendships with one another.

The personal touches of recalling stories and opening up about why they had chosen each song, gave an added insight into each of these performers, enabling us to feel connected to them, which other cabarets don’t always offer.

As a special surprise, to the delight of the audience, Tom and Danny brought out surprise guest Rob Houchen to perform a duet with Molly Lunch who had understudied the role of Clara in The Light in the Piazza. For anybody who hadn’t watched Molly go on as Clara it was beautiful to see her and Rob reunited.

Closing the show, Chloe performed Never Enough from The Greatest Showman. Anyone else might have felt daunted performing this in front of the film’s director, but not Chloe who gave an incredible breath taking rendition with elated audience taking to their feet.

It’s an enormous testament to Tom and Danny, who as entertainers in their own right have created a show that satisfies typical musical theatre audiences while offering and attracting something slightly different and new.

I watch a lot of cabarets, and they can often feel repetitive, but Tom and Danny present what feels like a spruced up alternative to the mundane format.

The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here:

And the audio version can be found as a podcast here:

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