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Oct 17th

Alexandra Burke Leads The Bodyguard UK Tour

By Cameron Lowe



Following her sell-out run at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End, producers Michael Harrison and David Ian are delighted to announce that three-time Brit nominee and X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, will star in the leading role of ‘Rachel Marron’ in the forthcoming UK and Ireland tour of Thea Sharrock’s hit musical THE BODYGUARD 
www.thebodyguardmusical.comThe tour opens at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on 12 February 2015 and makes its Scottish premiere at the King’s Theatre Glasgow on 4 March 2015.

Alexandra Burke said "I couldn't be happier to be joining the tour and I'm excited to get started. Being on the theatre stage has brought me great happiness. It is an honour to have been asked to join the team and I look forward to creating new and long lasting memories with the cast.

Alexandra Burke photo by Uli WebberAlexandra Burke rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor. Her debut number one single Hallelujah sold over one million copies in the UK, a first for a British female soloist. Burke’s first album, Overcome saw the release of her subsequent number one singles Bad Boys and Start Without You. In 2011 she embarked on her first solo tour and was invited by Beyoncé to support her I Am... Tour. Her second album, Heartbreak on Hold, was released in June 2012 and later this year sees the release of her third studio album.

Alexandra Burke will perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at all evening performances. At the matinee performances, the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ will be played by Zoe Birkett.

Zoe Birkett is probably best known as the highest placing female contestant in ITV’s Pop Idol, 2002. Since then she has appeared in the West End productions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and originated the female lead in Thriller Live. Her other theatre credits include the Acid Queen in Tommy and Maureen in Rent.

Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. film, THE BODYGUARD, which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Set Design and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, THE BODYGUARD features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the NightSo EmotionalOne Moment in TimeSaving All My LoveI’m Your Baby TonightRun to YouI Have NothingI Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

Photo by Uli  Webber,  courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group 


THE BODYGUARD – UK AND IRELAND TOUR
 2015

 

THURSDAY 12 – SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY

MAYFLOWER THEATRE, SOUTHAMPTON -http://www.mayflower.org.uk

ON SALE NOW


WEDNESDAY 4 – SATURDAY 14 MARCH

KING’S THEATRE GLASOW -http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/kings-theatre/

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 17 – SATURDAY 28 MARCH

HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE ABERDEEN -www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

ON SALE NOW

 

WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL – SATURDAY 18 APRIL

THEATRE ROYAL NEWCASTLE - www.theatreroyal.co.uk

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 21 APRIL – SATURDAY 2 MAY

WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND THEATRE -www.grandtheatre.co.uk

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 16 JUNE –SATURDAY 27 JUNE

WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF -www.wmc.org.uk

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 7 – SATURDAY 18 JULY

THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH - www.theatreroyal.com

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 21 JULY – SATURDAY 1 AUGUST

BORD GÁIS ENERGY THEATRE -www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie   

ON SALE 17 OCTOBER

 

TUESDAY 4 – SATURDAY 29 AUGUST

BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME -www.birminghamhippodrome.com

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER – SATURDAY 10 OCTOBER

EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE -www.atgtickets.com/venues/edinburgh-playhouse/

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 13 OCTOBER – SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER

NOTTINGHAM CONCERT HALL - www.trch.co.uk/

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER – SATURDAY 7 NOVEMBER

LYCEUM THEATRE, SHEFFIELD -www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

ON SALE 8 NOVEMBER

 

TUESDAY 10 – SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER

NEW THEATRE OXFORD -www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-theatre-oxford/

ON SALE NOW

 

TUESDAY 8 DECEMBER 2015 – SATURDAY 2 JANUARY 2016

MANCHESTER PALACE THEATRE –www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester

ON SALE SOON

Oct 11th

Whingeing Women at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

Whingeing Women is made up of a series of monologues portraying the life experiences of ordinary women.  Every topic imaginable is covered from their thoughts on men, love, life, death and sex.  Their stories had the audiences crying with laughter and also, at times, with sadness.

  Whingeing Women

Tasked with sharing these life experiences with the audience were Gail Porter, Joyce Falconer, Janette Foggo and Angela D’arcy. 

Standout performances came from Joyce Falconer (of River City fame) who had the audience roaring with laughter even before she opened her mouth to speak.  Her portrayal of a pushy mother trying to secure the lead role in “Annie” for her daughter was a highlight of the show as was her final scene which saw her trying to involve the audience in a sex therapy class!!  Very interesting.

Janette Foggo (known  for  Doctor Finlay, Rab C. Nesbitt, The Bill and Taggart  to name but a few) also shined with her very moving performances of a mother who was trying to come to terms with the fact that her son had just ‘Come out’ and the sadness at the loss of a daughter.  Perhaps her biggest triumph of the night was one which involved a mask, long coat and a change of name which highlighted the very colourful pastimes of some couples.  I couldn’t quite believe that this accomplished actress was portraying this character; but portray it she did and she had the audiences rolling around with laughter.

Angela D’Arcy (RSAMD graduate, Director, Singer) gave the audience the views of a somewhat younger woman.  Her relationship with men and her incredibly heartfelt performance of a young woman raped by her uncle resulting in a baby created a silence around the auditorium.

Gail Porter (TV Personality/Presenter) gave a well rounded performance but perhaps my only criticism would be that during the first half of the show her stories were incredibly self indulgent.  The need to include her own real life experiences into this production were, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Whingeing Women, although at times cringe worthy, is definitely a play worth seeing.  A typical “Girls Night Out” evening (although I did count at least 4 men in the audience and yes they were laughing) which should be accompanied by a glass of wine.  It will have you laughing and crying for all the right reasons and taps into what we all know and think but don’t say out loud.

Whingeing Women

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

9-11 October 2014

Tickets £16.90 - £38.90 (plus booking fee)

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/whingeing-women/kings-theatre/

Oct 2nd

Colette Kelly Discusses the Return of Testing Times to Newcastle

By Cameron Lowe

Interview by Fiona Harvey

A compelling new play, coming to the Studio at The People’s Theatre, explores the impact of being diagnosed HIV+. Colette Kelly tells us more.

“People still have misconceptions and are ignorant about HIV,” states Colette Kelly in response to my asking her why she felt Testing Times was an important production to be involved in.

The Dublin-born actor, who made her debut in the original West End production of Hair, will take on the role of Brenda, a mother who discovers that her only son is HIV+, at The People’s Theatre in November.

“Testing Times will inform and educate people but, at the heart of it lies warmth and humour as the three characters strive to make sense of the situation they find themselves in,” she adds.

Surely, though, after the many public health campaigns surrounding HIV and AIDS, the need to ‘inform and educate’ is no longer an issue in the twenty-first century? Not according to Kelly.

Colette Kelly
Photo: Carl Procter 
 
“When I told a friend I’d be doing the play, she exclaimed: ‘A play about HIV? That’s a bit old hat, isn’t it?’ And there you have more than a good enough reason to give it another airing.”

Testing Times returns to the stage after a successful try-out at The Trent House last year, during which the play received critical acclaim and inspired cathartic outpourings of emotion from audiences.
“The play centres around Dominic (who contracts HIV), his partner, Chris, and his mother, Brenda,” explains Colette.

“Mine is a very meaty role. Many issues are raised for her: class, loyalty and her relationship with her husband Bob.”

The three-hander play has been described as being ‘as witty and uplifting as Calendar Girls; as profound and engaging as The Vagina Monologues; and as moving and emotive as Blood Brothers’.

“I think the set-up of having three characters on the stage, simultaneously, lends itself to the style of the play. Such is the quality of the writing that even those characters who are talked about, but do not appear, have a presence that is deeply felt.”

With an acting pedigree that includes stints on the West End alongside the likes of Richard Gere, repertory seasons throughout the United Kingdom and touring Ireland in a series of Beckett plays, what attracted Colette to a four-night run in Newcastle?

“The script and the issues it deals with,” she answers without hesitation. “The language is blunt and to the point, at times, so the play is not for the faint-hearted. Having said that, Testing Times will resonate with any audience – whatever their sexual orientation.”

Colette cannot wait for rehearsals to begin.
“I am looking forward to being part of a very collaborative process in the rehearsal room. I think all three of us have ideas and observations about our individual characters that we would like to explore, whilst also being conscious of not upsetting the balance of the script. I love the way in which the playwright has mixed humour with the seriousness of the issues concerned.”
 
Testing Times
The People’s Theatre Stephenson Road, Newcastle NE6 5QF 
Monday 17 – Thursday 20 November, 2014,
Tickets are priced at £11.50 (full) & £9.50 (concessions).
Telephone 07986 142281 or call the Box Office 0191 265 5020
Oct 2nd

Witches Take Flight in Eastwood in Support of Birds

By Cameron Lowe
“The Witches of Eastwick” Musical Plays at Eastwood Park Theatre
 
The Witches of Eastwick

Following on from sell-out productions of “Footloose” and “Fiddler on the Roof”, Theatre Guild Glasgow will be performing the hit musical “The Witches of Eastwick” at Eastwood Park Theatre from 7th – 11th October. 
 
The Witches of Eastwick is a  musical  based on the  novel of the same name  by  John Updike . It was adapted by  John Dempsey  (lyrics and book) and  Dana P. Rowe  (music), directed by Eric Schaeffer, and produced by  Cameron Mackintosh. 
 
The story surrounds Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont who are social outcasts in the sleepy town of Eastwick. Frustrated and bored by their mundane lives, a shared longing and desire for "all manner of man in one man" comes to life in the form of a charismatic stranger, a  devil -like character; Darryl Van Horne. Seducing each of the women in turn, Darryl teaches them how to further expand their powers locked within and, though their new unorthodox lifestyle, they scandalise the town. As their powers become more sinister and events spiral out of control, the women come to realise that Darryl's influence is corrupting everyone he comes into contact with and they resolve to use their new-found strength to exile him from their lives. 
 
RSPB In deciding whether to use the power of this bewitching musical for good or for evil, Theatre Guild elected to support our feathered friends via a donation to the RSPB. 10% of tickets sales from the Tuesday evening performance will be donated to the society dedicated to the protection of winged creatures around the UK.  As the show features ‘flying’ witches, this association couldn’t be more appropriate.  

The show is accompanied by a live band and directed by an experienced professional production team led by Artistic Director Alasdair Hawthorn, choreographed by Suzanne Shanks and musically directed by David Fisher. The cast of 40 local residents have been rehearsing for six months on evenings and weekends to ensure that this £35,000 production (which features some stunning effects) is ready for a live audience on the opening night. 
 
Tickets are already selling fast with only a small number remaining for the Friday and Saturday night.
 
Fly down to Eastwood Park Theatre where tickets are only £14.50 - £16.50.
 
 “The Witches of Eastwick”
Eastwood Park Theatre, Rouken Glen Road, Giffnock, Glasgow, G46 6UG
7th– 11th October 2014
Evenings:  7.30pm
Sat Matinee:  2.30pm
Tickets: £14.50 - £16.50
Box Office: 0141 577 4956
Web site: www.theatreguildglasgow.co.uk
Sep 22nd

NEW YORK REVIEW: Embers

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

Can a director and a set designer destroy a play? The production of Samuel Beckett’s “Embers” at BAM provides a strong argument.

Set of

Set of “Embers,” photo Ros Kavanagh.

A huge skull sits in the center stage. Inside are two actors (Andrew Bennett and Áine Ní Mhuiri) who read the lines of the various male and female characters of Beckett’s play. I thought the production was dreadful. And I thought that maybe the play was also dreadful.

But then I read the script. I realized the play is much better than this production would have you believe. Beckett’s play is about a man, an unsuccessful writer, who is thinking over his life and relation with his father, who may have committed suicide by walking into the sea. His father had told him that he was a “washout,” a failure.

The man does not have happy memories about his late wife, who is presented as a nonetheless affectionate lady. He also hates his daughter, whose only fault appears to be playing Chopin badly.

As lights flicker over the skull, illuminating one part and then another, taking your attention from the text, I realized that director Gavin Quinn of the Pan Pan Theatre decided that he was the star, not Beckett. So, he overwhelmed the script and the characters with a kitchy “avant garde” set (the skull by Andrew Clancy) and direction.

If the play had been done with the characters, and different actors for the various characters in the script, in a relatively normal setting where everyone was seen (normal meaning not naturalistic, but that you can see the characters interacting), it might have been interesting. The way director Trevor Nunn did superbly last year in “All That Fall,” another Beckett radio play. Pan Pan did the same play a year earlier and used no live actors: the audience sat in darkness listening to recorded voices. Not too sorry I missed it.

Quinn destroyed Beckett’s “Embers,” entombing the actors in a giant skull, so you never see them. Sitting on stage left, I sometimes saw the female character though the ghastly eye of the skull, but never the male. That was for the audience at stage right. And the loud miked voices provided no difference or subtlety in delivery.

The skull in fact was a perfect commentary on this production. Deadly.

Embers.” By Samuel Beckett. Directed by Gavin Quinn. BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. 718-636-4100. Opened Sept 17; closes Sept. 20 2014. 9/19/14

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic. Her web site is The Komisar Scoop (www.thekomisarscoop.com).  

- See more at: http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/2014/09/embers-is-deadly-vision-of-beckett-play/#sthash.kCuLrtT0.dpuf
Sep 16th

Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
Agatha Christie’s record breaking whodunit returns to Glasgow to keep a fresh audience guessing.
 
The Mousetrap 60th Anniversary Tour

The Mousetrap is famously the longest running production in British Theatre history; having been performed in London’s West End continuously since its opening in 1952.  With over 25,000 performances in its London home alone, this play is clearly doing something right!  To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the play licenced 60 productions worldwide including a tour of UK regional theatres for the first time.  With phenomenal success, the tour has been extended to give an even wider audience access to this record breaking production.
 
Understandably, the play is in the classic mould being based in an imposing manor house in post war Britain where 8 principal characters are cut off from the outside world by a heavy snow storm.  A murder has been committed in nearby London and during the first act we come to appreciate that among the assembled characters are two more prospective victims … and the murderer.
 
The styling throughout will please any Agatha Christie fan.  The standing Great Hall set is suitably grand and reassuringly solid with an imposing fireplace and panelled walls.  Costumes and furniture fit the bill beautifully and even sound is very subtly amplified to maintain an intimate and authentic feel to the performance.  Direction from Ian Watt-Smith also fits the period nicely where (particularly female) actors are called upon to deliver melodrama and knuckle-in-the-mouth stifled screams – think Grace Kelly in “Dial M For Murder”.  Helen Clapp delivered this beautifully as Mollie Ralston with excellent support from this small cast including Luke Jenkins as Sgt. Trotter.
 
All in all, this production delivers what you might expect from a 60 year old Agatha Christie classic which has been faithfully preserved.  Unfortunately, for me, this included a rather pedestrian plot and 8 caricature personas along with a reasonably obvious conclusion.  I think that modern audiences expect more of the unexpected from their intelligent suspense dramas these days.  However, I don’t want to detract from this production too much as it clearly achieves what it set out to achieve.
 
Agatha Christie fans will love it.
 
The Mousetrap
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
15 – 20 Sep 2014
Tickets £11.90 - £34.90 (bkg fee)
 http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-mousetrap-2/theatre-royal-glasgow/ 
Sep 12th

Journey's End at Bolton Octagon

By Cameron Lowe
Review by Kirstie  Niland

Journey's End

Playwright R. C. Sherriff originally considered calling Journey’s End "Suspense" and Waiting" and this is exactly what it entails. The horrific reality of the First World War, where men were sent out to the trenches and waited to die.

The Octagon’s theatre-in-the-round gives heightened intimacy to this remarkable and moving performance, directed by internationally acclaimed Director David Thacker. The arena layout also lends itself perfectly to the stage set of an officers’ dugout.
 
Enormous attention to detail has been paid to the set, built from 50 scrap pallets, 100 recycled scaffolding boards, 21000L of top soil, 700 hessian sandbags & 200m of steel. The result is paradoxically inviting, belying the horror that lies beyond. Even with the sound effects of gunfire and bombs going off around us, it seems the officers are relatively safe in their cocoon.
 
So it’s understandable that Hibbert (Ciaran Kellgren) would rather let Stanhope (James Dutton) shoot him dead in the dug-out than face the torturous walk to the terror of the frontline. Even though Stanhope brands him a “little worm” you know that every one of the men there must feel the same, they just don’t say it.
 
Under David Thacker’s brilliant direction, asking the actors to believe it is really they themselves waiting to die, allowing them to improvise, Journey’s End comes painfully alive.
 
The rawness of Ciaran Kellgren’s emotion as Hibbert breaks down before Stanhope’s revolver is truly palpable; as is Stanhope’s when his school friend Raleigh (Tristan Brooke), who annoys him so much, meets his fate with the same ready acceptance that he goes to the fontline. His eager innocence, finding being chosen for the raid “frightfully exciting”, contrasts sharply with Stanhope’s shame when he censors Raleigh’s letter home, only to discover words full of praise not the disappointment he expected.
 
Journey's End
 
Every single actor gives the play depth. James Dutton is riveting as he shows the audience the stark complexity and vulnerability of Stanhope beneath the angry aloofness. And even without speaking, the local drama students guarding the dug-out throughout, playing cards and polishing their weapons, underline the agonising wait.
Based on Sherriff’s own experiences, each of the men he has written into the play has his own coping mechanism, and each of the actors manages to convey the hidden pain poignantly. 
 
When Stanhope mentally pushes Trotter (Richard Graham) to react, accusing him of always feeling the same, you want to shout “Stop”. Titanic star Richard Graham, for once in a role like his own real self, rather than the film and television bad guys he’s become famous for, makes you warm to his gentle, jovial nature. But you know that his retreat into conversations about food and 8ft dahlias is a safety net, not a lack of emotion.
 
Similarly, Osborne, the heroic tower of strength, finds his distraction in poems from Alice in Wonderland. David Birrell who plays him exudes courage and kindness, making it entirely credible that he would reassure the others and protect Raleigh to the death.
 
The actors in this performance successfully lay bare the concealed and raw emotions of the real men who waited for death in dugouts, where the smell of bacon mixed with the stench of rats.
 
Journey’s End is played out over “6 eternal days”, which as Trotter informs us, is 144 hours, or 8640 minutes. This moving performance makes you feel every second of it.
 
Journey’s End is at the Octagon from Thursday 4 September – Saturday 4 October 2014. Tickets are from £26.50 - £10 on 01204 520661, or at  www.octagonbolton.co.uk 
Sep 10th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Cabaret

By Cameron Lowe

by Lucy Komisar in New York 

Take a trip back to Berlin circa 1930. Inside a cabaret, red lamps light round black tables, a waiter brings wine and food for you, and scantily clad musicians play jazzy music. It’s a charming evening for a sophisticated audience – or is it?

Alan Cumming as the emcee with the Kit Kat Klub dancers, photo Joan Marcus.

Alan Cumming as the emcee with the Kit Kat Klub dancers, photo Joan Marcus.

The decadence is represented by the master of ceremonies (Alan Cumming), who is in-your-face crude, sexual, raunchy, almost elegantly so with his white face, glinty eyes and red lips, white suspenders pulled over a nude chest and twisted around his crotch, nipples colored red. He has a German accent.

Cumming is excellent and chilling in the role, which he created in 1998 and which is smartly directed by Sam Mendes. The memorable songs were written by John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics). Orchestra seats set up as cabaret tables pull you into the drama. If you see one musical these days, make it this one.

Dancers sing Wilkommen (welcome). And everyone is. Into the cabaret comes Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Hecht), an American arriving in Berlin to work on a novel. At the Berlin train station, he had met Ernst Ludwig, a German who offered him to way to make some money. He just has to deliver a briefcase. Ludwig is a Nazi. He referred Bradshaw to Fräulein Schneider’s boarding house.

Michelle Williams as Sally and Alan Cumming as the emcee, photo Joan Marcus.

Michelle Williams as Sally and Alan Cumming as the emcee, photo Joan Marcus.

At the club for diversion, Bradshaw meets Sally Bowles (Michelle Williams), 19, an American singer who is not very sure of herself or her future, and is sleeping with the club owner who can help her career.
As Bradshaw appears to be bi-sexual (as was Isherwood, who wrote the stories on which this is based), he turns out to be more than a good friend to Sally when she needs a place to stay. Hecht is fine as the cool American. Williams’ voice is rich and sexy, but she is rather bland and too wholesomely blonde as Sally. She makes you wish for Liza Minnelli, who did the movie role.

Bill Hecht, as Cliff, Michelle Williams as Sally, Danny Burstein as Herr Shultz, Linda Edmond as Fraulein Schneider, photo Joan Marcus.

Bill Hecht, as Cliff, Michelle Williams as Sally, Danny Burstein as Herr Shultz, Linda Edmond as Fraulein Schneider, photo Joan Marcus.

Fräulein Schneider (a very good Linda Edmond) is keeping company with Herr Shultz (the excellent Danny Burstein), a Jewish fruit vendor. Also at her boarding house is the prostitute Fräulein Kost (Gayle Rankin), who does business with visiting sailors. When Schneider catches her at it and warns her, Kost gets revenge by telling Ludwig that Schultz is a Jew.

A Kit Kat Klub waiter starts to sing a patriotic song that turns into the unnerving Nazi theme, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

Can Fräulein Schneider marry a Jew. Shultz tells her, “It is not always good to settle for the lowest apple on the tree, climb a little. I will catch you.” Then a brick is thrown threw his shop window. And Fräulein Schneider is singing a Nazi song.

The most stunning number shows the emcee/Cumming and an actor in a gorilla suit.

I know what you’re thinking:
You wonder why I chose her
Out of all the ladies in the world.
That’s just a first impression,
What good’s a first impression?
If you knew her like I do
It would change your point of view.

If you could see her through my eyes,
You wouldn’t wonder at all.
If you could see her through my eyes
I guarantee you would fall (like I did)
When we’re in public together
I hear society moan.
But if they could see her through my eyes
Maybe they’d leave us alone.

How can I speak of her virtues?
I don’t know where to begin
She’s clever, she’s smart, she reads music
She doesn’t smoke or drink gin (like I do)
Yet, when we’re walking together
They sneer if I’m holding her hand,
But if they could see her through my eyes
Maybe they’d all understand.

I understand your objection,
I grant you the problem’s not small.
But if you could see her through my eyes…
She wouldn’t look Jewish at all.

Alan Cumming as the emcee, photo Joan Marcus.

Alan Cumming as the emcee, photo Joan Marcus.

Earlier productions excised the word “Jewish.” (I couldn’t find a production photo for this scene; maybe it’s still too controversial.)

The collapse of the personal connections in the play trails the collapse of German society. Cliff wants Sally to come with him to the U.S. She ignores what is happening around her. She’ll hang onto the glamor of the Kit Kat Klub.

At the end — also not in earlier versions — the emcee pulls open his black leather coat to show a striped shirt of the kind worn by camp inmates with the yellow star for Jews and pink for homosexuals. The darker version belongs.

Cabaret.” Book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed by Sam Mendes. Based on the play “I Am a Camera” by John Van Druten, based on stories by Christopher Isherwood. Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street, New York City. 212-719-1300. Opened April 24, 2014; closes end of March 2015. 9/8/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist aand theatre critic. Her web site is www.thekomisarscoop.com 

Sep 3rd

NEW YORK REVIEW: Lady Day

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday, photo Evgenia Eliseeva.

Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday, photo Evgenia Eliseeva.

Wrapped in a white gown, an iconic white gardenia in her hair, Audra McDonald channels Billie Holiday — her voice, her accent, her manner — till you believe you are sitting in the slightly tacky Philadelphia dive where Holiday sang her last songs. “What a little moonlight can do” becomes a magical mood changer. It’s helped by the dreamlike direction of Lonny Price.

One great –McDonald — sings another great, Lady Day. Her imitation is brilliant. She has mastered Holiday’s accent, a slight trill, a broad vowel. Lady Day did blues with a jazz beat, following mentors Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.

McDonald sings Holiday’s well-known songs as if they were dramas. Her phrasing in “Strange Fruit” is a distinctive intense call of pain.

The back story of her “God Bless the Child” is a parent refusing to help a child. The projection on the wall is of Arthur Herzog Jr., who wrote the song with Holiday. Herzog’s father preferred his sister, who ended up with most of the family money, so the song-writer wrote, “God Bless the Child, who’s got his own… [money]!” Holiday’s mother also refused the generosity her needy daughter required.

Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday with bass player, photo Evgenia Eliseeva.

Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday with bass player, photo Evgenia Eliseeva.

As an actress, McDonald movingly interprets the story of Lady Day – arrested on a drug charge after her lover put drugs in her suitcase. As a result, she couldn’t get a cabaret card to work in New York City, which destroyed her career. The play shows her harassed by a parole officer.

The story is not only the tragic drama of one of America’s greatest artists, but a commentary about America’s repressive drug laws, which destroy people — black users jailed, white upper class Wall Street/Hollywood users given a pass — while more harmful cigarettes and alcohol remained legal because of the powerful corporations that market them.

Holiday would have had an appropriately dark musical comment about this happening in a country with a black president.

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.” Written by Lanie Robertson; directed by Lonny Price. Circle in the Square, 50th Street between Bway & 8th Avenue, New York City. 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250. Opened April 13, 2014; closes Oct 5, 2014. 8/1/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is "The Komisar Scoop"  (www.thekomisarscoop.com)  

Sep 2nd

West End Heroes to Return to The Dominion Theatre

By Cameron Lowe
Michael Ball, Britain’s leading musical theatre star, a double Olivier Award winner, multi-platinum recording artist and a hugely popular radio and TV presenter, is announced today as the host of the 2014 West End Heroes gala concert.

West End Heroes

Following the phenomenal success of West End Heroes last year, which saw the casts of many of the biggest West End musicals unite with the finest UK military bands and musicians in a stunning performance that raised over £88,000 for the Help For Heroes charity, the newly refurbished Dominion Theatre is to once again host the event, this year on Sunday 28 September at 7.30pm Michael Ball will oversee proceeedings and also perform in The 2014 West End Heroes gala concert, which will again unite the country’s top military musicians with even more West End performers and productions in a dazzling showcase of showstopping numbers, unlikely song mash-ups and stunning choreography and precision drilling.

He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to take part in West End Heroes and to show my respect, admiration and support for the amazing men and women who‘ve literally put their lives on the line for us all. It’ll be a joy and a challenge to host the entire evening (as well as hopefully performing a couple of songs) and I can promise it’s going to be a concert not to be missed. And, if all goes to plan there will be some wonderful surprises in store!”

Returning to form the centerpiece of the gala and under the directorship of Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs will be The Central Band of the Royal Air Force, which is widely regarded as one of the finest military bands in the UK and incorporates the celebrated RAF Squadronaires Big Band. West End Heroes will once again be generously supported by many TV and theatre stars and will feature line-ups from current and past West End Shows.

This year’s event has set a target to raise more than £100,000. General Manager of the Dominion Theatre, David Pearson, said: “It is an honour and a privilege to once again host West End Heroes and we are delighted to announce Michael Ball as our MC. He is the biggest musical theatre star in the UK and we know he will do a magnificent job as MC as well as delivering some stunning numbers himself. The Dominion is looking forward to welcoming the concert as one of the first major events following the extensive restoration and refurbishment programme, which will be completed over the summer.”

www.dominiontheatre.com