Three New Musicals to See in London

I’ve spent the first few months of 2019 catching up on the new musicals showing on the West End. The start of 2019 saw many of the best hits from Broadway come over for a season in Britain, and I’ve rounded up my three favourites to book for a fun night out…

come from away

Come From Away – A touching true tale which documents the stories of the passengers from the diverted planes, who landed in Newfoundland after the 9/11 catastrophe. The music and lyrics are by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and the characters are based on real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travellers they housed and fed. The musical is 1 hour and 40 minutes with no interval and is an emotional and uplifting show that engrossed me from the first note to the last.

Waitress

Waitress – The broadway smash hit Waitress premiered on London’s West End at the Adelphi Theatre in February 2019. It is the first ever musical on the West End to be written, composed, directed and choreographed by women. The narrative follows Jenna (played by Smash’s lead Katharine McPhee), a waitress and expert pie-maker, who is trying to escape small town life and an abusive marriage. The set and score are fun with a vintage American charm.

9 to 5

9 to 5 – The 9 to 5 Musical by Patricia Resnick is based on the 1980 musical of the same name with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. The musical premiered in LA in September 2008 and opened last month at The Savoy Theatre on the Strand. Dolly herself flew to London for the Gala show to celebrate with the all star cast – starring Louise Redknapp, Caroline Sheen, Amber Davies, Natalie McQueen, Bonnie Langford and Brian Conley. The story is slightly bizaare, but if you can overlook this you’ll enjoy the upbeat songs sung by a very talented cast.

The Nutcracker, English National Ballet

A growing Christmas tree, a floating hot air balloon, hurrying ice-skaters, mean rats, dancing snowflakes, a heroic nutcracker… Tchaikovsky’s magical ballet is the ultimate Christmas show, always elegant and wonderfully imaginative. Slump into a comfortable velvet Coliseum seat and let the immaculate dancing and mesmerising set entertain you.

Nutcracker

The orchestra brings a new energy to this familiar score, conducted by a confident Gerry Cornelius. The narrative is slightly overcomplicated by the part-sharing and splitting: James Forbat dances as the masked Nutcracker, whilst Francesco Gabriele Frola dances him unmasked as well as taking on the role of the Drosselmeyer’s nephew; meanwhile grown-up Clara (Alina Cojocaru) also dances as the ethereal Sugar Plum Fairy. At least the dancers seem to know what they are doing and seamlessly float from scene to scene, excelling in Wayne Eagling’s virtuosic choreography.

The lead couple complement each other, and move effortlessly in the main sequences. While Daniel Kraus is fantastically gruesome as the shudderingly menacing King Rat. It is Eagling’s ensemble dances which really shine in this production, the pretty snowflake chorus and the second act Waltz of the Flowers highlights the English National Ballet talent.

The Tring Park School kids are a joy on stage. Assured and adorable, they animate the production, and dance and sing with an excited spring in their step.

Another magical production of the Nutcracker at the Coliseum… this show always completes my Christmas festivities.

Continues until 30 December 2018. More information and book tickets to the Nutcracker here.

Guest Review: La Traviata, ENO

Verdi’s La Traviata is a firm favourite of many opera lovers: rich, languid music narrating a tragic love story of sacrifice, separation and sickness.

These themes are perfectly encapsulated within the painfully beautiful overture, and in this production the curtain remained down throughout, allowing the audience to enjoy the shimmering clarity of the orchestra undistracted. From the start these musicians brought subtle flair and diversity of colour to their rendition of the score, following the singers with sensitivity and assurance.

La Traviata

Making his debut as Artistic Director of the ENO, Daniel Kramer has attempted to update La Traviata, bringing the setting forward 100 years to the early 20th century – but when specifically is unclear. Loose, visual references to the last century obscure the plot, which relies on a specific cultural context for coherence. Modernisation of the narrative backdrop lacks nuance, and supposed signifiers for the 20th century are muddled, over-sexualised and jarring with the story of a love forbidden by 19th century social convention. A successful updating of La Traviata requires a careful socio-historical understanding of this 19th century setting and how it can be coherently converted into a specific modernised equivalent. There doesn’t appear to be any artistic or intellectual reason for Kramer’s recontextualisation, and the darker themes of vulnerability and isolation present in the opera are overlooked in favour of lavishness and vulgarity, which alienate the audience, preventing full emotional sympathy with the protagonists.

La Traviata

Irish Soprano Claudia Boyle gives a controlled, virtuosic performance as Violetta, manoeuvring the score with dexterity, and her voice possesses a soft youthfulness, at times perhaps too muted, but at others appropriately sweet and gentle. Her onstage counterpart, Lukhanyo Moyake is vocally powerful as Alfredo, but had moments of technical instability, and together they lack chemistry. There was a sense that the three-dimensionality of their characters had not been fully explored, and therefore their love story was deficient of profundity and poignancy. Despite this, there were instances of great atmospheric impact, such as in the third act, where a dimly lit, mostly empty stage is filled momentarily with carnival goers. Darkly clothed figures emerge and surround the dying heroine before disappearing again into the shadows. It is a conceptually strong and visually beautiful innovation from Kramer, showing what can be achieved when the material is well handled.

This production of La Traviata was at times moving and rousing, but it is unfortunate that the emotional impact was dampened by some clumsy aesthetic and directoral decisions.

La Traviata continues at the ENO until 13 April, book tickets here.

Written by Eloise Kenny-Ryder.