From big budget to fringe to retro to quirky and ironic, musicals have swept the London stage as a feel-good formula destined to pack houses. A gothic rock musical that requires a team of cleaners to de-gore the stage after the first half and should include earplugs in the programme just could become a cult.
Even in times when rehash is more common than originality, the risk with a revival of Burt Bacharach’s late 1960s musical Promises, Promises, in turn based on Billy Wilder’s 1960 film The Apartment, is that it feels doubly derivative.
One of the most vexed questions around prostitution today concerns the legal status and rights of sex workers. Feminists and policy makers fall into two camps.
The Italian word for cheerful, allegro in music implies a happy kind of brisk walking pace. As the title of that rare thing – a virtually unknown Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – it is both apt and poignant given that maintaining an allegro mood throughout life is next to impossible.
If you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone, not so much because of the dangers that lurk there as for our far greater ability to fight them as a team. That’s the standout message from this dark and gleeful take on a clutch of fairy tales and on real relationships.
In our modern, toxic world, the perfect embodiment of the endless struggle between good and evil could be the green warrior versus the polluter.
Ultimately, that’s the premise of The Toxic Avenger, the rock musical, which director Benji Sperring happened to see during one free afternoon off-Broadway in New York in 2009.
Some lies are so pleasant that we cheerfully believe them. It’s the premise that underlies the illusory appeal of theatre and especially musical theatre. And it makes the 19th-century scandal of a beautiful young woman who lied her way from rags to riches by pretending to be a shipwrecked princess perfect subject-matter for Phil Willmott, one of the nation’s most adept musical theatre professionals.
Wars of the Roses/Pure Imagination (Rose Theatre, Kingston; St James Theatre, London) – reviews by Carole Woddis.
Peter Hall and John Barton’s The Wars of the Roses in 1963 was a defining moment, one of many for the RSC in the 1960s.
On a completely different note, award-winning writer/composer/songwriter Leslie Bricusse is being celebrated in a musical entitled Pure Imagination – a compilation of his best-known and other songs.
Set in a Berlin hotel, just before The Third Reich, the guests are an ageing ballerina, a penniless baron, a dying Jew and a typist who dreams of a Hollywood career. Everyone is desperate and the stakes are high. Thom Southerland’s stylish production, on a traverse stage, is fast moving and theatrical.
Oh What a Lovely War – the musical (Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London, then touring) – review by Carole Woddis. Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War has turned into one of those shows that goes beyond iconic.
Kathy Clugston is one of Radio 4’s most familiar voices. Any morning of the week, you’ll hear her in her light Caledonian accent introducing the news, the shipping forecast and much else besides.
One of the great classic Broadway musicals, those brazen chords by Jule Styne (music) as the orchestra limber up in the Overture let you know immediately you’re right in the heart of razzmatazz Broadway showbiz, where the lights shine brighter, the feathers are bigger and everything sings of a world of glitz and dreams.