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  • Writer's pictureThat Stagey Blog

My Stagey Week 42

On Monday, I was back at Zedel to watch The Four Harps.

Founding members Ryan Lynch, Kevin Fagan, and Conor O’Kane we’re joined by new member Fergal O’Hanlon to present an evening of their unique Celtic fusion arrangements.

Individually the boys each have incredible voices, collectively they put on one hell of a show, packed with energy and charm.

The Crazy Coq, although a beautiful intimate venue, perhaps wasn’t the best setting for an Irish band. The boys made an admirable effort to get the audience going, but it wasn’t really the place to get up on your feet which was a shame. I would really love to see the boys perform a gig in a pub environment, rather than a bistro with low lighting.

Having said that, I love these boys and would watch them anywhere. The show sold out, with people queuing to get in, and I along with the entire auSpence enjoyed the show tremendously, as the boys had such banter and presented a mixture of songs ranging from traditional Irish folk songs to new arrangements including Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and songs from the Greatest Showman.

They each sang one solo song:

Ryan sang Black Velvet Band. ‬

Conor O’Kane sang She Moved Through The Fair.

Kevin Fagan sang Dirty Old Town.

Fergal O’Hanlon sang The Galway Girl.

Here is also their version of This Is Me.

On Tuesday, I was at the press night for

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. at the Chiswick Playhouse.

Formally known as a the Tabard Theatre, it has recently been rebranded as the Chiswick Playhouse, with improvements beginning to be made through out the theatre including realigning the seats to improve visibility.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Is the second longest running off broadway musical running from 1996 to 2008. In 1999 it had short runs at the Churchill theatre in Bromley and the Comedy Theatre.

I saw it In 2015 when it ran at Above The Arts and starred Julie Atherton, Simon Lipkin, Gina Beck and Samuel Holmes.

It now stars George Rae, Dominic Hodson, Laura Johnson and Naomi Slights.

I first met George Rae when he did his own show Life is a Caba-Rae, which he took to Feinstein's/54 Below in New York. He has a sweet charm.

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is a series of vignettes that explore love and relationships. The four actors play multiple characters portraying different scenes ranging from dating through to marriage.

It is hilarious, and relatable reflection of romance and very enjoyable. Directed by Charlotte Westerna it has been updated to include some same sex relationships which were really well.

The cast do an incredible job of transforming into each set of characters, ranging in age using an array of accents.

The scene transitions are slick and allow for props and set pieces to be brought out without any kerfuffle. The cast also do a remarkable amount of quick changes.

It’s testament to the nature of love and relationships that this twenty-three year old show still feels fresh and modern.

I really enjoyed this show, the songs are catchy and the whole cast are brilliant.

On Wednesday I was invited to the press launch for Cahoots new bar in Kingly Court, Carnaby Street.

The successful cocktail bar that’s designed to look like an underground station from the 1940’s has expanded through to the bar next door, and looks brilliant.

I took along my flat mate Maddie, her boyfriend Charlie and my friend Millie who loves the era. Millie worked on the production of Judy as a costume designer and helped us pull together some costumes for the evening.

Celebrity guests included Caroline Flack and Great British Bake-Off contestant and presenter Liam Charles.

We all had a brilliant evening, trying out some of their amazing food and cocktails, while music from the 1940’s was played.

On Thursday afternoon, I visited the Turbine Theatre to watch High Fidelity.

The Turbine Theatre was opened earlier this year by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills following his departure from The Other Palace.

I saw their first production Torch Song, although was asked not to write about it, as Paul told me that he did not want bloggers to review it and had only invited national press.

I was not invited to review High Fidelity either, but wanted to see it, so bought myself a ticket and programme.

Based on the novel written in 1995 by Nick Hornby, it was adapted into a film in 2000, starring John Cusack and Jack Black with the story being switched from it’s London setting to Chicago.

In 2006 writers David Lindsay-Abaire, Tom Kitt and Amanda Green adapted High Fidelity into a musical still set in Chicago. After a try out in Boston it opened on Broadway, and closed after 18 previews and 13 performances. With Ben Brantley writing for the New York Times describing it as one of Broadway's "all-time most forgettable musicals."

Paul Taylor-Mills has a habit of finding obscure musicals that flopped and attempting to un-flop them.

In 2015 he produced Carrie at the Southwalk playhouse which famously flopped on Broadway in 1988 closing after 16 previews and 5 performances.

Paul also strongly champions choreographer turned directors, having given Drew McOnie his first job as a director. Drew then went on to direct Kong Kong on Broadway before returning to direct Torch Song at the Turbine Theatre. This time he has brought in choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves to direct High Fidelity. Tom recently choreographed Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Amelie.

High Fidelity has been adapted by British comedian Vikki Stone to relocate the story back to London.

It brings together an impressive cast including Shanay Holmes. Eleanor Kane. Oliver Ormson. Rosie Fletcher. Carl Au. Robbie Durham. Joshua Dever. Lauran Rae. Jessica Lee. Bobbie Little and Robert Tripolino.

I recently saw Robert Tripolino in Jesus Christ Superstar and thought he was incredible. In this he convincingly plays a hippy.

Carl Au, I first met when he covered Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and then went on to play Bobby in Cilla. He is adorable.

Oliver Ormson leads the cast. The incredibly handsome actor played Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, and Rum Tum Tugger in Cats and has just been announced to join the production of Back To The Future.

Set in 1995, High Fidelity tells the story of a self absorbed record shop owner who reflects on his string of failed relationships whilst his business is also failing around him. It’s pretty generic.

Yet, alike the original production, it has divided opinion Ray Rackham gave it a rather generous 5* for British Theatre, Michael Billington who recently announced his retirement gave it 4* for the Guardian, Nick Curtis 3* for Evening Standard, Tim Bano 2* for The Stage and Sarah Crompton gave it 2* What’s On Stage.

It’s fair to deduce from this, that if you’re a middle aged white man then you’ll probably enjoy this story of a “self-obsessed white men with overlarge record collections and over-sized egos.” as Sarah Crompton describes it.

The underwritten female characters feel restricted but are given the better of the bad bunch of songs to sing, of which all are pretty bland and instantly forgettable.

For a musical set in a record shop, in which characters list and reference some of the greatest songs ever written, it only serves to highlight how bad the music here is.

In the question I ask of any show I see, why this story and why now? With High Fidelity I struggled to find an answer.

It’s feels an odd choice for Vikki Stone to adapt, who is currently writing and developing her own female-led musical Southbound that was presented at the Other Palace last year by Paul Taylor-Mill. He also successfully pioneered the British production of female-led teen musical Heathers which returns next year.

Although I can’t speak for a young female audience, but I would struggle to imagine what they would get out of this show, other than seeing Oliver Ormson in his boxer shirts. Although oozing his own charm Oliver struggles to make this unlikeable character any less shallow or appealing.

On Thursday evening I watched Poisoned Polluted at The Old Red Lion.

Finally! A play self produced and starring it’s writer that works on every level.

I have talked before about the ‘Fleabag’ trend to write and produce your own work, and the trepidation I have when I watch anyone attempt it.

In Poisoned Polluted, writer and actor Kathryn O’Reilly proves herself accomplished and brilliant in both fields.

Joined on stage by Anna Doolan, they portray two sisters in a story that transcends from their child hood into adult hood, and tackles the emotionally charged issues of addiction and child abuse.

Directed by Lucy Allan, Kathryn and Anna are convincing and believable as sisters, illustrating their conflict and love for one another.

Using no scenery or props and some physical theatre, the set is designed superbly with large torn away prints of trees and scattered leaves.

The characters are beautifully portrayed and written with incredible sensitivity to the subject matter.

In this, Kathryn also successfully portrays a drug user which is not always easy. It’s a very moving story, unveiled well and delivered brilliantly.

It is on at the Old Red Lion until 30th November

The benefit of Poisoned Polluted starting at 7pm and only being 75 minutes long, meant that I was able to walk up the road to The Kings Head Theatre straight after to watch Jerker.

Produced by Making Productions and DeVere Productions, I had seen the art work for Jerker and initially dismissed it as another over sexualised gay romp that the Kings Head Theatre puts on to appease their main audience base of highly sexualised gay men.

I’m allowed to say that, because I am one. Even so, and although I certainly no prude, I still often feel uncomfortable and awkward watching plays they are extremely sexually explicit.

Jerker lives up to its marketing and suggestive title. Sub titled ‘A Pornographic Elegy’ it spares no blushes with it’s simply conceit of two men, talking dirty to each other on the phone.

The stage is effectively set with two opposing bed sets, with each actor occupying the space in and around their bed.

Tibu Fortes and Tom Joyner give bold performances, dressed for the most part and removing just their underwear. They both simulate masturbating whilst talking to each other on the phone.

Their sex talk is frank and brazen, yet accurately right, and entirely authentic. The writing by Robert Cheslry gives a very honest insight in to gay sexuality and fantasy, which at times probably felt so uncomfortable because it was so recognisable.

At this point I was beginning to feel uncomfortable watching two actors “jerking” off, but the emotional resonance does then come through as the under pinning story begins to filter through.

Set in the 1980’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic, this becomes a very moving and very well represented story reflecting the impact that AIDS had on the gay community.

Tibu Fortes and Tom Joyner’s performances ascend to brilliant as they build to an emotional climax, which is effectively achieved.

For me, this was easily one of the best plays I have seen to tackle a HIV and AIDS storyline.

It was also, for me, one of the best productions that I have seen the Kings Head Theatre produce.

After this, I raced across to soho to watch Fra Fee in the first of a brand new series of late night cabarets at Boulevard Theatre called Finale.

Programmed by Nadim Naaman, they promise to present some of the West End’s brightest stars, and Fra Fee certainly qualifies.

Currently appearing at the National theatre in Translations, Fra is an incredible musician with an eclectic taste in music and influences.

I had seen Fra put together his own cabaret before at the Other Palace, and although this was a very similar set, with some of the same guests, it was brilliant to watch again how at ease Fra seems on stage.

Supported by musical director Michael Bradley, Fra was joined by guests Laura Tebbutt, Declan Bennett, Rob Houchen and Laura Jane Matthewson, who ate each close friends of Fra’s and equally as talented.

This was also my first look at the Boulevard Theatre, which is a spectacular new taste of the art theatre and is truly gorgeous.

As well as the multi purpose theatre space itself. The theatre boasts and expansive bar and restaurant area which all looks beautiful.

It’s an exciting space which I hope to revisit a lot.

On Friday and Saturday, I travelled to my home town of Yarm, in the North-East near Middlesbrough for my sister-in-law Rebecca’s 40th birthday.

It was lovely to get out of London and to go home for a couple of days, and to have a couple of days off from watching theatre.

We ate a lot of cake, drank a lot of prosecco and generally had a gorgeous time.

On Sunday I returned to London for Alyn Hawke’s solo cabaret Understudy Jazz at Singeasy.

Having been planned ever since Alyn took part in the cabaret Guys Sing Dolls, with Adam Dawson and Ryan Anderson, Alyn is the last of the trio to present his own solo show here at SingEasy.

Having trained at Arts Ed, Alyn has spent most of his career understudying leading men in many West End shows including 42nd Street. Follies. Oklahoma. An American In Paris and Top Hat, and recently took the lead in Singing in the Rain.

In his cabaret Alyn was accompanied by Joe Hood and presented new jazz arrangements of many songs that have featured in his career as well as a stunning rendition of ‘When She Loved Me’ from Toy Story 2.

He was joined by Michael Lin who did two tap solos as well as Sarah-Marie Maxwell who performed ‘Another Suitcase in Another Hall’ from Evita.

Alyn Performing ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ with Michael Lin.

Sarah-Marie Maxwelll performing ‘My Funny Valentine’

Alyn and Sarah-Marie performing ‘People Will Say We’re In Love’ from Oklahoma.

It was a brilliant evening, and Alyn is already planning his next cabaret, promising to bring in a big band, which would sound amazing.

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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