Chicago The Musical: A brilliant production with an outstanding band

To say I was excited to hear Chicago was coming back to the West End was an understatement, I absolutely love everything about the musical and I was pleasantly surprised with the stage show.

Director: Walter Bobbie

Writers: John Kander and Fred Ebb

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Ruthie Henshall, Sarah Soataert, Josefina Gabrielle

Running Time: 2hrs 20mins

Theatre: Phoenix Theatre, London

Most people will know the musical from the 2002 movie adaptation of the stage show and I was unsure as to what to expect from the revival on the West End, but it didn’t fail to live up to the popular movie.

The show follows nightclub sensation Velma (Josefina Gabrielle) who murders her philandering husband, and Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Cuba Gooding Jr.), is set to defend her.

But when Roxie Hart (Sarah Soetaert) also winds up in prison, Billy takes on her case as well — turning her into a media circus of headlines.

Neither woman will be outdone in their fight against each other and the public for fame and celebrity.

Although a small stage, the cast is relatively large and includes a number of brilliant dancers – both male and female – but nothing seemed out of place.

When I first sat down in my seat, I was curious as to how each of the memorable songs – including ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘I Can’t Do It Alone’ and ‘All That Jazz’ – would be brought on to the stage.

It doesn’t often help when a movie adaptation was widely praised, but I tried to see the two as completely different entities and it worked.

You can easily watch both productions and see two different works of art. They are different and similar in their own right.

Although the cast knew the songs and dance routines perfectly, not all of them seemed suited for their roles.

Gooding as Billy Flynn was an unusual choice. There were times were his singing wasn’t the best but I was able to see past that.

He is known for his acting and he didn’t fail to act well and I was surprised to see he wasn’t too shabby when it came to his dancing.

His singing may have let him down at some parts but you cannot knock him for trying and it’s not like Richard Gere has the best voice in the movie either.

Obviously, Ruthie Henshall as Big Mama was brilliant as always and really stole the show when she sang her big number, ‘When Your Good To Mama’, but I wouldn’t really expect anything different from a theatre veteran.

Both leading ladies – Soetaert as Roxie and Gabrielle as Velma – were great in their respective roles, but it often felt Gabrielle struggled to bring the character to life in some of the songs.

But nevertheless, the show didn’t fail to keep the audience laughing – and no doubt singing – throughout.

Without a doubt one of the best things about the production was the jazz band. It’s very rare that a orchestra has such a vital and prominent part in a stage production but Chicago really out did itself.

The band – which is place on the stage rather than in the den – really knew how to get the audience cheering and it was one of the best things, if not the best, about the entire production.

Even the cast members often directly communicated with the band – with some characters even asking for their “exit music”.

What I found I preferred with the stage show to the movie is the humour. There were times were I was laughing hysterically at some of the scenes, despite being in the film as well.

There is something rare and engaging about a live stage show, which is why theatre has and continues to be a fantastic medium for putting on a production.

Anyone who enjoys jazz or the musical should go see the show – which has a limited time on the West End – as it was a truly great night out at the theatre.

 

Advertisements

Young Frankenstein: A brilliant, hilarious twist on Mary Shelley’s classic novel

As a huge fan of both the book Frankenstein and a fan of Mel Brooks, I have waited to see this production since I heard it was coming to the West End, and safe to say it did not fail to disappoint.

Director: Susan Stroman

Writer: Mel Brooks

Starring: Hadley Fraser, Lesley Joseph, Cory English, Dianne Pilkington, Summer Strallen

Theatre: Garrick Theatre, London

Although the play was originally a movie starring the late Gene Wilder I hadn’t seen the film version nor read up on what the show was about and I am glad I hadn’t as I love seeing a production without any prior knowledge.

Of course, knowing it was a Mel Brooks production, I had some idea of that it was to be a spoof and comedy rather than a serious look at the dangers of man playing God – as Shelley’s novel is.

The play follows Frederik Frankenstein, a respected medical lecturer, who learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania.

Arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor, Inga and Frau Blucher.

Once he creates his own monster, new complications arise once the doctor’s fiancée Elizabeth arrive.

With a relatively large cast and a small stage, the production does not fail to utilise the entire stage through its simple set designs and clever ways to move the narrative along.

The entire cast is fantastic. Hadley Fraser as the titular character really gets into the mind of a doctor and, I have to applaud him for remembering all of the medical lines throughout the dialogue and songs.

Listening back to the soundtrack, I cannot fathom how long it had taken him to memorise and perfect it all.

One of the best performances is Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher. Being 72 and still able to sing, dance and keep in character with ease was truly amazing to see.

Cory English and Summer Strallen as hunchback Igor and assistant Inga respectively were perfect supporting cast and were often the most humorous out of the cast.

However, I must say Dianne Pilkington as Elizabeth was my favourite performance of the production.

Her voice was utterly brilliant and although her character isn’t in the show for that long, every time she was on stage you knew there was going to be a great song to follow including Please Don’t Touch Me, Surprise and Deep Love.

As most Mel Brooks productions and movies, there is references to popular culture and criticism of Hollywood’s similar narratives and instead of having the villagers having pitchforks and storming the castle, they decide to welcome Frankenstein to Transylvania instead.

Although originally a movie, some of the themes and the songs could be related to current issues affecting the world.

In particular, although it is a song about not touching each other sexually until saying their wedding vows, I couldn’t help but relating Please Don’t Touch Me to the current sexual harassment and misconduct allegations coming to light across the film, music, theatre and fashion industries.

As all Mel Brooks’ movies and plays there is often breaking of the fourth wall, whether it is through facial features, gestures or even directly speaking to us, which works wonderfully to add to the humour and comedy.

There is one particular scene with a blind hermit and the monster which had the audience roaring with laughter.

One thing to point out, while watching the show, keep an eye out for the set designs in the background, there are some references to the iconic gothic novel including a steam boat being named after the author.

The production truly is brilliant. The songs are catchy, the acting is outstanding and the script is hilarious.

It is a great addition to London’s West End and perfect to see on a cold, wintry day.

Hamilton: Brilliant songs, perfect production but slightly confusing story

I have been excited to see the West End version of the hit Broadway show, Hamilton, ever since I bought the tickets last year, but although I loved every part of it, I found myself asking more questions.

Director: Thomas Kail

Writer: Lin Manuel Miranda

Producer: Cameron Mackintosh

Starring: Jamael Westman, Rochelle Ann Go, Giles Terera, Rachel John, Obioma Ugoala, Jason Pennycooke, Tarinn Callender, Cleve September, Christine Allado, Michael Jibson, Waylon Jacobs

Running Time: 2hrs 45mins

Theatre: Victoria Palace, London

The show in itself was truly amazing and the performances were outstandingly brilliant and was a different show to anything I had seen before – music wise – but whether I missed something in one of the songs, there were times were I was left wondering what was going on.

Hamilton tells the story of one of America’s founding fathers Alexander Hamilton and his life throughout the American Revolution and working with close friend George Washington.

Although the show – which is one of the most Tony nominated productions ever – was perfectly executed I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on.

I was concerned when the Broadway show came across the Atlantic to London that it wouldn’t have the best reaction as, for me in particular, didn’t get taught much about America and it’s history.

And that’s how it felt watching it. OK I knew some of the more famous names – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – but the first half of the show seemed a blur.

This isn’t to say I loved it. Not at all! I found myself singing and humming along to the amazing songs – including Satisfied, Helpless and Hamilton.

However, because the show is renowned for using rap there were sometimes were I couldn’t understand what the performers were saying.

This isn’t by any means a negative critique on the actors. They were all brilliant.

Jamael Westman who played the titular role was outstanding and was met with a roar if applause when he first came on the stage.

Whether or not the theatre was full if Americans I do not know or whether the hype surrounding the show was more than I thought – although I was extremely excited myself to see it.

The role of Angelica Schuyler – played by Rachel John – was truly outstanding. She had one of the best voices I have heard on the stage and every time she entered the scene I knew it was going to be good.

As I mentioned earlier, if I had some more knowledge of American history maybe I would have understood it a bit more but I found that this was the intention by creator Lin Manuel Miranda.

At the end of the show they ask the question “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” and it does bring into account that Hamilton was the lesser known of the founding fathers which makes a bit more sense.

The production itself had a simple set design with a rotating stage – a characteristic it seems in most Mackintosh shows – and creatively brought in props using a dedicated dance troupe – who were fantastic!

As the show tells the story of Hamilton’s life, there were times were the actors – most notably Burr who was somewhat the narrator of the show – was talking directly to the audience.

Unlike some other shows who use monologues and songs to help the show move forward, Hamilton did break the fourth wall which I enjoyed.

Although I had listened to some of the songs before seeing the show, I was pleased to hear some that I never heard but thoroughly enjoyed.

The show itself, albeit slightly confusing, was much better in the second half. It felt more like a story than of Hamilton’s life.

What also left me shocked was what his real life wife, Eliza Schuyler, did after his death and, in a time where women are fighting to be heard, it felt relevant to modern day.

I did thoroughly enjoy the production and the songs and performances were outstanding and is a must-see – but maybe read up on who Hamilton was before seeing the show to help any confusion.

But it’s no surprise the show was met with a standing ovation.

Les Miserables: Moving, powerful and visually stunning

To say I was excited to see Les Miserables on the West End was an understatement, I had been dying to see it for years and it did not fail to disappoint.

Director and writer: Trevor Nunn and John Card

Producer: Cameron Mackintosh

Author: Victor Hugo

Starring: Adam Bayjou, Shaq Taylor, Charlotte Kennedy, Alice Ellen Wright, Emma Baar

Running Time: 3 hours

Theatre: Queen’s Theatre, London

It’s no surprise that Les Miserables is a sell-out show each night simply because of the powerful and emotional performances of the cast and crew.

After 19 years as a prisoner, Jean Valjean (Adam Bayjou) is freed by Javert (Shaq Taylor), the officer in charge of the prison workforce.

Valjean promptly breaks parole but later uses money from stolen silver to reinvent himself as a mayor and factory owner.

Javert vows to bring Valjean back to prison. Eight years later, Valjean becomes the guardian of a child named Cosette (Charlotte Kennedy) after her mother, Fantine’s (Emma Baar), death, but Javert’s relentless pursuit means that peace will be a long time coming.

As soon as the overture began, I immediately had goosebumps all over my body as I anticipated the characters to come on stage.

As the show covers various years in the life of Valjean, I was curious to see how the musical would show the time lapse but creatively it uses a projection screen informing the audience of the date and location of the next scene.

Plus characters like Valjean, Javert, Eponine (Alice Ellen Wright) and Cosette all “physically” grew up which helped show the time lapse.

Having seen the film adaptation before the stage show, I knew the story well and knew what happens to the characters but nevertheless I still found myself becoming emotionally attached to the likes of Fantine, Eponine and Marius (Paul Wilkins).

Although in the movie adaptation, I find myself bored of the characters such as Valjean and Javert but watching the show, I was truly captivated by their performances.

Bayjou’s portrayed the ex-convict brilliantly and his powerful rendition of Bring Him Home left me with tears falling down from my face.

He has clear mastered the moving song and I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who found themselves crying at multiple times throughout the production.

Using just a simple, rotating stage set design, the show is extremely creative in all aspects.

The way the barricade is built is truly fascinating and creatively simplistic and you could tell straight away the show was a Cameron Mackintosh production.

The final battle between the revolutionaries and the French army was done incredibly well. Although you do not see any of the French army, the way the production is done makes you feel like you are there.

With the rotating stage, you sometimes feel like you are behind the barricade with the students but there are times when it feels like you’re one of the French soldiers fighting against the revolutionaries.

Mackintosh must be proud of the production and as said, there is an obvious reason why the show is so popular – obviously the film adaptation helped – but without seeing the film first, you will still be captivated by the extremely powerful voices and moving story that the show has.

The stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel is something that needs to be seen by any musical theatre fan and is one of the most memorable performances to date.

SPAMALOT: The Musical: A hilarious, farcical reimagining of the King Arthur legend

It’s no surprise that a musical based around the sketches and films by Monty Python would have sell-out shows every night and the latest SPAMALOT tour doesn’t fail getting bums on seats.

Director: Daniel Buckroyd

Book and Lyrics: Eric Idle

Screenplay: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

Starring: Bob Harms, Sarah Harlington, Rhys Owen, Jonathan Tweedie, Norton James, Stephen Arden, Marc Akinforlarin

Theatre: Bridlington Spa

Touring: 2017/2018 – various locations across the UK

To many people, the characters and story will be familiar as it is based around the various films created by Monty Python but nevertheless the production doesn’t fail to keep you entertained throughout.

The story follows King Arthur (Harms) and his Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the Holy Grail.

Upon their journey they encounter a number of strange and unusual people including cow-throwing Frenchman, the Knights Who Say Ni, and the stage-stealing diva Lady of the Lake (Harlington).

Although I have already seen another stage version of this musical, this new touring production was without a doubt one of the funniest plays I have seen.

Judging by the fact that the whole theatre was full to the brim shows that it wasn’t just me who found it to be extremely hilarious.

Whether you are a fan of Monty Python or not, you’ll more than likely enjoy it and you’ll find yourself humming along to well-known songs from the films including ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

The show has everything from long dance sequences through to more heart-warming songs but the element of comedy was there throughout.

Although a musical, often the fourth wall is broken and the audience is spoken to directly. I usually am sceptical when it comes to direct conversations with the audience but the way the show is written perfectly executes this.

The audience interaction makes the play seem somewhat of a pantomime, however, it is definitely not family-friendly.

Despite the entire cast continually making the audience howl with laughter, the scene-stealer goes to Harlington as the Lady of the Lake.

Although the character is not actually part of the Monty Python movies, the Lady of the Lake is one of the funniest creations by the comedy group.

Constantly demanding to be centre stage and have the limelight on her at all times is amusing to say the least.

The character has a number of Dreamgirls-esque songs and Harlington doesn’t shy away from getting into character.

Belting out numbers such as ‘Whatever Happened to my Part’ and ‘The Song That Goes Like This’, Harlington clearly shows her talent as a singer and actress.

Using simple set designs and costumes, the show really reinforces the comedy that Monty Python were and are still known for today.

The original show opened on Broadway back in 2005 and ever since has been a popular hit among fans of Monty Python and those not so fond of it.

Luckily for those who haven’t yet seen the show, it is going on nationwide tour stopping at places including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester and Wimbledon.

I would highly recommend seeing the show as it truly captures the heart and comedy of Monty Python and will leave you with a quest to find your own grail.

Interview: Actor and producer Nick Moran speaks about Celebrity MasterChef and new Edinburgh Fringe show

Here is my interview with actor and producer Nick Moran. We spoke about his upcoming play Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe, doing Celebrity MasterChef and how he feels about the ongoing BBC gender gap dispute.

So, tell me a bit more about your play Performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What happened is I was attached to a film that Irvine Welsh had written about Alan McGee – the founder of Creation Records. It was a really slow project and was just driving us both mad. Irvine and his writing partner decided to turn it into a play instead at the Fringe. Irvine is such a big star in the Edinburgh circuit. So we organised a read-through with a couple of chaps and suddenly we had it up and running. All green lights. It’s a really rewarding project. It’s just great. I think people are going to love it.

So, is the play sort of based behind the scenes of the Mick Jagger gangster/psychedelic movie Performance?

It’s been great fun doing the research. David Lintoff is an incredibly interesting character. He used to find young waste and stray boys for the Kray twins and the slightly darker members of aristocracy. He was big in the underworld of showbiz but committed suicide a few years after Performance by unusual circumstances. Apparently the Kray twins gave him a big scar on his face. He was really fascinating and real. I didn’t know anything about him. As dark and strange as he was. In real life, Lintoff told real criminals to audition for a part in Performance and we have come up with two fictitious characters based around real people. It’s really funny. Two villains come into a casting audition. It’s hilarious. It’s such a simple but perfect premise.

We will all see you next on Celebrity MasterChef, how was that for you?

It’s been done now. I had a film fall through. I tend to get asked every year to do a show like this but I am usually busy but this time, I had come back from a big holiday and had nothing on the cards and I thought I had to keep myself busy. I got a job in HIX in Soho under a pseudonym and I was getting involved. I wasn’t watching another chef cook, some of the dishes going up were ones that I had done. I approached it as I was doing it as a film. It’s very stressful and not as fun as it seems. I wouldn’t do it again. I don’t think my wife would let me. It was a lot of stress. It’s a competition and I don’t think you learn on it. You show what you already know. You never see someone on there who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Obviously, you starred in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, would you be up for a sequel if Guy Ritchie wanted one?

I don’t know if that will happen. It’s down to Guy. It was fun after Trainspotting 2 was a success. A lot of people from the film haven’t seen each other for a long time. If he could afford Jason Statham now. Guy is my next door neighbour. I see him taking his rubbish out or carrying a baby. We moan about the bin men and those things because we are neighbours.

Guy recently put David Beckham in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and now Harry Styles has had a cameo, do you think these celebrities should be in films?

It is down to the director. I put cameos in my films. It would be very hypocritical of me to comment on it. The only problem is that it can jolt you out of movie if the celebrity is really big. But like Arthur, it is a great big, visual popcorn feast so why not have David Beckham? If it was Shakespeare maybe not. People look for faults. I use cameos and films are better for them. Nothing wrong with it.

Recently the BBC were forced to reveal the salaries of their employees, how do you feel about the gender gaps?

I think there is some easily spun facts. I laughed out loud when I read it. They were trying to make it out that there weren’t sexist. Journalists are always spinning information to serve an opinion they already have. I know the workings of TV and it’s paid in the real world. How much budget the broadcaster has etc. The BBC shouldn’t have been forced to reveal it but it was no surprise. Gary Lineker hosts a show at BBC World which is sold to the world. Everything he says or he presents is his image. And he is not on as much as EU or USA. These are people at the top of their game. The top journalists in the country and the frontline for the BBC. There was nothing ridiculous in there. I want to see what the executives get. They get paid enormous amounts for not doing a lot of work. It was reassuring and what I was expecting.

Hello Gorgeous: Funny Girl hits all the right notes

Funny Girl
Wales Millennium centre, Cardiff Bay

Starring:
Director – Michael Mayer
Music – Jule Styne

Sheridan Smith – Fanny Brice
Darius Campbell- Nick Arnstein
Joshua Lay – Eddie
Rachel Izen – Mrs Brice
Martin Callaghan – Mr Keeny
Jennifer Harding – Emma Nadler

 

Funny Girl opened to phenomenal requires in London’s Savoy theatre last year, and it soon became a must-see for theatre lovers.

And having seen it only last night in Cardiffs grand Millennium centre, it’s easy to see why.

Funny Girl is a heartbreaking tale of the fiery Fanny Brice, who lives at home in Brooklyn with her mother, convinced she will be ‘the greatest star!’

But she is often reminded, that ‘only pretty girls’ can be stars and she should stick to what she does best – being funny.

And boy, does she!

With her quick wit, two left feet and many quips (my favourite being ‘Paté? I drink it all day) Fanny rises to the top and even bags herself the handsome and charming, gambler Nick Arnstein.
But alas, this is a love story, and how many love stories in theatre have a happy ending? *sigh*

Sheridan Smith who took the starring role, proved she is more than just a great actress who can carry a note.

It’s not easy to try and step into the shoes of the feisty Fanny Brice, especially as we all remember the iconic singer Barbara Streisand taking on the role in 1968.

The supporting cast were just as good and as they broke into song every minute or so, how they kept their energy and enthusiasm all night was commendable.

Joshua Lay, who played the lovable but hapless Eddie, is a talented dancer and the two older women along with Fanny’s mother, played the nosy but caring neighbours who revelled in Fanny’s stardom.

Some cast members’ efforts at the Brooklyn/New York accent were better than others.. But hearing the famous songs such as ‘People’ and ‘Funny Girl’ sing with such passion, made more than up for the dodgy accents.

And ‘Dont rain on my parade!’, the one everyone was waiting for, was just as dynamic as you imagine it to be.

You will laugh and cry at this story, and you’re sure to be singing the songs for hours if not days after l.

Funny Girl is showing in Cardiff until July 8 and before travelling overseas to Dublin on July 11.

IMG_2248
A young Barbara Streisand as Fanny Brice

 

Little Voice: funny, moving stage adaptation

The stage adaptation of the hit 1998 Michael Caine movie of the same name doesn’t fail to keep you entertained.

Director: Paul Robinson

Writer: Jim Cartwright

Starring: Polly Lister, Serena Manteghi, Sean McKenzie, Laura Crowhurst, Gurjeet Singh, Sion Tudor Owen

Running Until: August 19

Theatre: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Although I have seen the movie years ago, I had forgotten most of what happens so sitting in the darkened theatre watching the events unfold in front of me instead of on the screen was refreshing and the play adaptation seemed to rely more on comedy from what I can remember about the film.

The plot follows the young, quiet Little Voice, or LV (Serena Manteghi), who lives with her alcoholic and in some ways abusive Mari Hoff (Polly Lister) in the northern town of Scarborough.

Despite her quiet demeanour and shyness, LV has a special talent and a fondness of records her late father gave her. She is able to mimic voices of celebrities while singing.

After being spotted by a talent agent Ray Say (Sean McKenzie , who is sleeping with her mother, LV is forced night after night to perform despite her objections.

Little Voice itself is indeed a success for the cast and crew with a standing ovation every night since it first opened and it’s not hard to see why.

With a simple set design of the inside of LV’s home, the show didn’t need excessive quick set changes simply because LV doesn’t ever leave the house.

However, the way the Round is set means some areas of the theatre were given restricted seats for vital scenes including when LV is performing.

Lighting was vital in the show for many reasons. The main being when the lights are out LV is able to sing and perform without any nerves.

The production relied on this with many scenes having minimal or no lighting at all.

One particular scene where the lights and electricity in her home explode makes the audience jump as it is completely unexpected. Actually bursts of electricity shoot out the various parts of the set.

The idea of the story if LV is trying to find her own voice and you cannot help feeling sorry for her. It’s never really explained why she is the way she is but you do feel for her.

Manteghi, who played LV, is a very talented actress with the ability to mimic voices just like her on-stage counterpart and even got teary at the end of the production when bowing.

LV’s cringe-worthy but funny conversations with the similarly awkward Billy (Gurjeet Singh) were particularly well executed and although he is somewhat of a stalker, you find their relationship to be something of pure innocence.

Although the villain of the show, Mari (Lister) stole the show and was the best character and whether it was through her drunkness or sex-manic outlook on life, she was an audience-favourite.

Similarly to LV and Billy, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. It’s obvious that she does love her daughter although she doesn’t often show it and when both the mother and daughter have reached a low point in their life, you don’t want both of them to be happy.

Something that is left ambiguous at the end of the production.

Despite not being a big fan of the film adaptation, the play was quite enjoyable and although there were some serious moments, the show relied heavily on the humour of Mari and Sadie (Laura Crowhurst).

A great production and whether or not you are a fan of the film, I am certain the play will not disappoint.

Annie: A perfect production to escape the horrors of the world

In a world where terror threats are every which way it’s nice to know there are places you can escape from reality and the West End production of Annie makes you forget your troubles for 2 hours.

Director: Nikolai Foster

Writer: Thomas Meehan

Starring: Miranda Hart, Alex Bourne, Madeleine Hayes, Jonny Fines, Holly Dale Spencer

Theatre: Piccadilly Theatre, London

Running time: 2hrs and 20mins

‘The sun’ll come out tomorrow’ will definitely be ringing in your head after seeing the West End revival of Annie and it will leave you with a positive outlook on the rest of your day.

The musical, which is based on the book by Thomas Meehan, follows the story of an orphan girl named Annie (Madeleine Hayes) who does what she must to escape the orphanage run by the cruel Miss Hannigan (Miranda Hart) and find her parents.

During the narrative, Annie is taken in by the rich and wealthy Daddy Warbucks (Alex Bourne) who grows to love the little, red-headed orphan.

However, Annie’s quest to find her true parents is still her priority and Warbucks takes it upon himself to try and reunite the orphan offering a reward.

Although she finally escapes the clutches of Miss Hannigan, the governess and her brother Rooster (Jonny Fines) try and scam Warbucks in order to get the money he was offering.

In all honesty when I heard Miranda Hart was to take on the role of Miss Hannigan I initially had doubts as she is known for her comedy.

However, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with her performance considering it was her West End debut. Her comedic abilities also helps keep the musical fresh and light-hearted.

In all honesty I was expecting her to be a bit more ruthless and evil but the show is aimed towards the younger generation of theatre-goers – with added comedy for the adults.

Of course, Madeleine’s performance as the titular character was well worthy of the praise it got from the standing ovation.

To go out on stage at such a young age and perform well-known classic musical theatre songs including ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Hard Knock Life’ was truly amazing and I am certain this will not be the only time we see this young star on the stage.

One criticism is that Annie no longer has the big, bushey ginger hair but instead has a more Pippy Longstocking look to her.

Not sure why this was changed but maybe it’s just nostalgia but I prefer the afro-style.

I was surprised to see how many cast members were actually involved in this production. It is becoming more and more common for West End productions to have larger casts.

I remember only a few years ago, productions were being cut left, right and centre but it is pleasing to see young stars getting the chance to star in fantastic productions such as this one.

All the cast from the rest of the orphans to the servants at Warbucks house brought to life this iconic musical.

But my favourite cast member had to be the amazing performance by Amber… the labradoodle who played Annie’s stray dog Sandy.

I usually hate seeing animals on the stage but when Amber was in a musical number you could tell she was treated well with various cast members giving her treats as they moved around the stage.

With a simple set design which changed depending on the scene was used to its full advantage.

The show reminded me a lot of the West End adaptation of Matilda and not just because of the child actors but because of the simplistic set design and general feel to it.

To say that the West End revival of the well-known musical does not make you escape from reality is an understatement.

Everything the show has to offer will leave you smiling, clapping and humming to the fantastic songs.

42nd Street: An immersive and lavish production hailing back to 1930s musicals

For anyone who is a fan of high-end productions then 42nd Street is the one to see – whether it’s the brilliantly perfected dance routines or the lavish costumes the play does not fail to entertain.

Director: Mark Bramble

Written by: Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble

Starring: Sheena Easton, CJ Johnson, Tom Lister, Claire Halse, Stuart Neal, Jasna Ivir, Christopher Howell, Norman Bowman, Graeme Henderson, Bruce Montague

Running time: 2hrs 30mins

Theatre: Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Without having any background knowledge of the narrative before seeing 42nd Street I went in completely unaware of what I was going to see and I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

Set during the 1930s depression the show follows a production company who are attempting to put on the next best show on Broadway.

The lead actress, Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton), who can only see but not dance, is torn between two loves – the show’s wealthy backer Abner Dillon (Bruce Montague) and Pat Denning (Norman Bowman)

While aspiring young performer Peggy Sawyer (Claire Halse) waits for her big break.

Words really cannot explain the lavishness of the production. With perfected choreography, it was hard to find anything out of place in the large-scale dance routines.

Halfway through the show, I found myself feeling like I was one of the audience members who paid to see their production.

Cleverly I feel this was the show’s intention by having direct communication with us (the audience) and regular digs at the orchestra and even looking down into the pit.

Anyone who is a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals will without a doubt find this production an homage to an era when musical theatre was at its peak.

Utilising mirrors, steps and other set designs the dances were truly spot on and the audience went crazy for them especially during ‘We’re In The Money’ – one of the many popular hits.

Although many people will be buying tickets to see star Sheena Easton perform as Dorothy Brock, it was actually her understudy who played the role.

CJ Johnson stepped into the role perfectly and it is no surprise she is cast as the understudy. Whether or not she is better than Easton can only be decided if I saw both play the role but nevertheless she was brilliant.

However, the praise really needs to go to Halse. Her performance as young, naïve Peggy Sawyer was absolute perfection.

How she, and the rest of the cast, can get on the stage sometimes twice a day to perform the mesmerising tap dance routines is beyond me – I got tired just watching them.

It clearly shows their talents and dedication to the show – plus it looks like it is just pure fun. Choreography Randy Skinner must be proud.

What surprised me about the production was the number of cast members. Although not all have speaking lines the show is still a large-scale production – something rare in West End shows these days due to funding issues.

However, you can see why 42nd Street needs the numbers it has. Playing homage to the 1930s musicals when they had large cast members they need them all – plus they add to the brilliant choreography.

With hits like ‘We’re In The Money’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway, you’ll have the tunes stuck in your head for days after seeing the show.

42nd Street is an all-around, feel-good production that will make you want to grab your old tap dance shows and dance around.