Skip to main content

Review of Xanadu at Southwark Playhouse, London

So with alert level set to pink and at camp factor ten, I ventured to the Southwark Playhouse for Xanadu. Originally produced on Broadway in 2007 it is perhaps surprising that a musical featuring the music of British born Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) alongside John Farrar has taken so long to get to the stage in the UK. However those eight years have been worth the wait as this production for such a small London venue is of devastating quality, with a cast and crew at the top of their game and surely destined for the West End.

The film itself starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly is a rather average musical fantasy blessed  with a quality soundtrack. Therefore for the stage version it was perhaps wise to make this an outrageous comedy and send up (the many) flaws of the original film. Constantly poking fun at the film and indeed itself, this is one of the funniest stage productions I have had the pleasure to see. The reoccurring theme of Kira (Carly Anderson) having an Australian accent is a particular masterstroke, as is the rather strange sight of a singing cyclops. One of many, many magical moment and also features many things that simply shouldn't work but just do.

It helps that is features some excellent classic tunes delivered to perfection by the nine strong cast and four piece band. The songs from the actual film include the familiar Evil Woman, Strange Magic and of course Xanadu. While the musical includes a couple more Newton-John songs, Have You Never Been Mellow and added for this production, Physical, which features perhaps one of the most overtly gay experiences in the theatre you could ever see.

The cast are all sublimely brilliant, multi skilled in the extreme from singing, dancing, acting and yes, roller blading. The leads Carly Anderson and Samuel Edwards (Sonny) are both brilliant, with the former irritatingly (in a good way) over the top Aussie accent quite superb, as are their vocals, clean and crisp throughout. As already suggested this is one flawless cast, where the so-called smaller roles by Joel Burman, Nicholas Duncan, Emily McGougan and Micha Richardson are performed with such skill and overwhelming love of what they are doing that you cannot help but to love every minute.

Nigel Barber in the Gene Kelly role of Danny at first appears to bring the authoritative figure to the show, but soon with his tie firmly tied around his head he has given in to the love of utter madness. Also teetering on that edge is a quite brilliant Alison Jiear as Melpomene. Quite brilliant and very upfront with the front row. Those stares during Evil Woman will perhaps haunt me for many a day. There were actually a mix of moments during the show where I was both sad and happy to be in the slightly safer second row, however with the venue so intimate, you constantly felt within the action at all times. It is a shame perhaps that this is one thing that may be lost in a larger venue.

Back to the cast and my favourite had to be Lizzy Connolly as Calliope, comically brilliant in delivery and movement, and with no disrespect to the others as this was a top notch cast, I could have watched her all night. Also that cast restriction line and Connolly's reaction was quite superb.

Indeed the book from Douglas Carter Beane is a stunningly brilliant feast of entertainment throughout and where this production lives and breathes and gives the performers so much glorious material to work with. I have rarely felt the need to stand at the end of a production, but for Xanadu I happily rose with the capacity audience and applauded till my hands were raw and the cast had roller bladed from our sight. Quite, quite brilliant and when the West End transfer happens, which it most surely must, get your tickets, this is one place that you must dare to go. I myself would happily be there eternally.

«««««


Performance viewed: Monday 16th November, 2015 at the Southwark Playhouse, London

Xanadu runs until Saturday 21st November, 2015. Details here: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/xanadu/


Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c

Review of Hacktivists by Ben Ockrent performed by R&D Youth Theatre at Royal & Derngate (Underground), Northampton

The National Theatres Connections series of plays had been one of my highlights of my trips to R&D during 2014. Their short and snappy single act style kept them all interesting and never overstaying their welcome. So I was more than ready for my first encounter with one of this years Connections plays ahead of the main week of performances at R&D later in the year. Hacktivists is written by Ben Ockrent, whose slightly wacky but socially relevant play Breeders I had seen at St James Theatre last year. Hacktivists is less surreal, but does have a fair selection of what some people would call odd. Myself of the other hand would very much be home with them. So we are presented with thirteen nerdy "friends" who meet to hack, very much in what is termed the white hat variety. This being for good, as we join them they appear to have done very little more than hacked and created some LED light device. Crashing in to spoil the party however comes Beth (Emma-Ann Cranston)