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.

Advertisements

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.

 

Flash, Bang, Wallop! Half a Sixpence is a toe-tapping success

To say that Cameron Mackintosh’s adaptation of H G Wells’ novel is a light-hearted, toe-tapping and fun show to see would be an understatement.

Director: Rachel Kavanaugh

Writer: Julian Fellowes

Lyrics: George Stiles, Anthony Drewe, David Heneker

Starring: Charlie Stemp, Devon-Elise Johnson, Emma Williams, Vivien Parry, Jane How, Gerard Carey, Ian Bartholomew

Theatre: Noel Coward Theatre, London

Ever since hearing Half a Sixpence would be coming to the West End I have wanted to see it and now I can say it is a fantastic production.

The story follows young Arthur Kipps who, after splitting a sixpence in half and gives one-half to his childhood crush Ann, moves away to become a tailor’s assistant.

Seven years later, Kipps finds out he has a large fortune and then his life takes a dramatic turn when he meets Helen Walshingham and he falls in love with her forgetting about Ann.

However he begins to see the reality of the new rich ‘friends’ and becomes in a love triangle after meeting up with Ann who is a maid in one of the households.

With a film adaptation back in 1967, some of the main songs were familiar with me when watching the show but there is nothing as good as watching people perform in the rarest forms.

After being shown the film as I was growing up the basic premise was known to me but during the show there were some parts and characters I completely forgot.

With an all-round brilliant cast, the highlight was watching Charlie Stemp in the leading role.

His ability to act as the young, naïve millionaire was brilliantly executed. He also managed to dance and sing without, what appears to be, a shed of nerves.

Stemp’s performance alone is a reason to see the production and the whole cast, which was considerably large compared to other West End shows, were perfectly suited to their roles.

Not only were the songs and acting more or less perfect, the set was quite creative using rotation platforms to change the setting or to add something to the scene.

The panels also helped make it look like the characters were walking around different parts of Folkstone – where the play is set.

Knowing Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes adapted H G Wells’ novel is already a reason to see the production.

Despite not winning any awards at the Olivier’s this year, the show definitely deserves much more recognition.

Half a Sixpence will leave you toe-tapping and humming one of the many ‘simple tunes’ long after the show has finished.

I would happily see the production again. Hopefully there will be live stage screening just like Mackintosh did with Miss Saigon – however we can only wait and see.

Adam & Eve… And Steve: A gay, hilarious musical comedy

If you think you know the story of Adam and Eve think again.

Director: Francesca Goodridge

Writer: Chandler Warren

Cast: Joseph Robinson, Hayley Hampson, Dale Adams, Michael Christopher, Stephen McGlynn

Running time: 75 minutes

Theatre: Kings Head Theatre, Islington

Adam & Eve… And Steve will have you howling with laughter throughout the entire play whether it is the musical numbers or simply the gestures of the characters.

Set in a time when God had just created the Garden of Eden and has made the first man Adam. However, Beelzebub interferes and God creates Steve instead of Eve.

Adam is delighted with Steve and the two of them live harmoniously until the two BFFs are confronted by Eve herself.

Fights ensue and arguments erupt as both Steve and Eve fight for the attention and love of Adam.

With a simple set design of just a tree and a few dangling apples, the play manages to hold the audience’s attention – but that could be because of the costumes, or lack of costumes, the three humans wear.

Adam, played by Joseph Robinson, portrayed the naive and confused man who was simply searching for someone so he would not be alone.

Giving him a Welsh accent was a brilliant addition after all everyone loves a Welsh accent.

Robinson, who had already played Adam in a previous production, confidently came onto the stage in nothing but a leaf-made loin cloth.

Dale Adams was cast in the role of overly camp and twink-styled Steve. Adams, who originated this role in the UK production, was hilarious to watch.

Introducing himself as ‘Saint Eve’ as ‘St’ is short for Saint was very clever and his character has many one-liners that add to his character.

Using all the stereotype-jargon and gestures, Adams was perfectly cast as Steve and at one point had the audience in tears of laughter.

Hayley Hampson was Eve and both her and Adams brought to life their respective characters and they managed to portray their characters in a sort of teenage-like manner.

With many references to the gay culture including Grindr and other such ‘dating’ apps plus other contemporary references including Trump and Nicole Sturgeon the Chandler Warren, who wrote the book and lyrics, clearly knew what they were doing.

Winner of Best New Musical at the Hollywood Fringe 2015, the play then performed a sold-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 and it is no surprise it was a hit.

Although the play does not run on for very long there are some parts where it is simply filler including a dance routine between Beelzebub (Stephen McGlynn) and God (Michael Christopher).

Whether or not this was actually needed is debatable as it was not like the rest of the cast needed a costume change.

The theatre itself was an off-West End show in the heart of Angel and it could not have been a better venue. The small theatre in its own way added to the show.

Although a bit of air condition would not have been criticised.

Nevertheless, the play was brilliant and left me with a sort of sense of joy after.

I would happily see the show again although to see it the first time does not ruin the jokes and hilarious parts that had me wiping away tears of laughter.

A brilliant production!

 

Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf – a triumph for Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill

If you think you have a turbulent relationship you have not seen anything like Martha and George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Director: James MacDonald

Starring: Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots

Running time: 3 hours and 10 minutes

Theatre: Harold Pinter Theatre, London

Dates: May 27 last performance

The production, a 1962 play by Edward Albee, examines the breakdown of the marriage of the middle-aged couple Martha and George.

One evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple Nick and Honey as guests and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.

At the start of the play we are introduced to Martha (Imelda Staunton) and George (Conleth Hill) who stumble into their home after a night of drinking.

Immediately you gain a sense of their relationship through their dialogue and you cannot help but laugh especially at the reoccurring statement that George is six years younger than Martha.

With the production in three parts, it does seem to drag on but with the cast you are kept hooked and engaged throughout the whole play.

Staunton proves just how much of a star she is during this production. Her ability to portray the fragile mind set of Martha as well as keeping the audience entertained throughout.

It is no surprise Staunton was incredible as Martha but Hill’s performance of George was just as enjoyable to watch.

Known for his portrayal as Varys in Game of Thrones, Hill was perfect at bringing to life George and their turbulent relationship together.

Nick (Luke Treadaway) and Honey (Imogen Poots) also make the production worthwhile to see. It seems all the characters have their issues and problems and it is as the play goes on more and more of these come to the forefront.

Despite already seeing the 1966 film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton I already knew the story and twists.

But seeing it on stage was a completely different experience. The brilliant writing by Albee does help with the production but the delivering of the script by Hill and Staunton added that little extra.

With a running time of more than three hours the atmosphere of the play starts in a comedic way but the end of the production will leave you feeling sorry for Martha and George.

Her last words ‘I am George’ will haunt you as you leave the theatre.

The production is definitely a must see for everyone. Staunton, Hill, Poots and Treadaway are truly amazing portraying their respective characters.

Performed at the Harold Pinter Theatre, in London, the show will run until May 27.

Image by John Persson

Death Takes A Holiday: A brilliant, melancholy musical

New musical Death Takes A Holiday is a brilliant production full of fantastic songs, charismatic characters and will keep you wondering just how it will end.

Director: Thom Southerland

Starring: Zoe Doano, Chris Peluso, Mark Inscoe, James Gant, Kathryn Akin, Ashley Stillburn, Scarlett Courtney, Matthew McDonald, Helen Turner, Sophie-May Feek, Trudi Camilleri, Anthony Cable, Gay Soper and Samuel Thomas

Book: Thomas Meehan

Theatre: Charing Cross Theatre

Running time: January 16 – March 4

I got the privilege to see the new musical at Charing Cross Theatre, Death Takes A Holiday and I cannot express how great it was.

Adapted from a book, the plays sees Death (Chris Peluso) taking a holiday and spending a weekend at the home of Duke Vittorio Lamberti (Mark Inscoe) at the edge of the Lago di Garda in northern Italy.

During his time at the villa, his presence begins to have an impact on not just those who live in the house but the entire world. No one dies and everyone seems to have a fresh new step in their lives.

Death becomes attached to Lamberti’s daughter Grazia (Zoe Doano) and his quest to find out why men are terrified of him is answered.

Peluso’s portrayal of Death is both charismatic and charming but at the same time you feel a sort of stern and powerful persona.

His ability to walk onto the stage and immediately grasp the audience’s attention is applaudable. Sadly Peluso will be leaving the production in February.

Peluso will be replaced by James Gant – who is currently playing the part of butler Fidele. Gant brings to life the cowardly and hilarious character who accidentally finds out the truth about Death.

When on stage Gant stays in character and even when eyes are focussed on other characters Gant is one I would recommend to keep an eye on.

Small things he does emphasises Fidele’s character including downing a glass of champagne that was meant for the rest of the family.

The whole cast is perfectly suited to their role and you will be humming the songs hours after the show has ended.

In particular the opening song In The Middle of Your Life is extremely catchy and relatable – you never know what will happen on a daily basis – which seems to be the premise of the narrative.

There is one song that I found to be moving and memorable. Losing Roberto is sung by Stephanie Lamberti (Kathryn Akin) who sings about losing her son during World War One.

This is both an emotional song but Akin brings out the despair and upset a mother must go through after losing a son. This song is so moving it makes Death think about his plans.

With a narrative focussed around the character of death, it is not surprisingly both the set and the costumes have a sort of melancholy and dark theme.

The play is a soaring story of the preciousness of life and the overwhelming power of love. Anyone who is a fan of Phantom of the Opera will thoroughly enjoy this one.

I would highly recommend seeing Death Takes A Holiday. It is one I would happily see again.