Mystère by Cirque du Soleil, Las Vegas

Cirque du Soleil shows are always amazing, wherever you see them in the world, but in Las Vegas this theatrical circus company has found a real home. There are currently seven permanent shows performing in the desert funfair city, all residents of huge hotel complexes where specially designed theatres are built into the buildings. These auditoriums are playgrounds for the talented acrobats, comedians and musicians, and they bounce and fly around the arenas with ease and genuine enjoyment.

Mystère was the first show to arrive in Las Vegas in 1993, with the first performance thrilling audiences at Treasure Island on Christmas Day. 22 years and 10,000+ performances later this magical show is still considered by many to be the best show to see in Las Vegas. Loosely following the theme of the mystery of life, the show begins with two wailing prams left stationary on stage. There are a few other hints towards this subject, though in true Cirque du Soleil style the piece of theatre takes on a life of its own.

A number of acts have been with the show since it started, a dedication that is testament to the company. We were first greeted with the mischievous clown Brian Dewhurst, marching around the theatre, deceiving innocent guests and throwing popcorn around. He has been on the show for 17 years and still has boundless energy at 83 years old.

The stage is an impressive feat of technical design, no surface is permanent, every part constantly evolves and the scale is astounding. The performance runs seamlessly for 90 minutes, without an interval, which keeps the audience’s attention focused and immersed. A series of dramatic acts in spectacular costumes grace the stage, each with their own supernatural talent. I found the Hand-to-hand act particularly moving, two brothers illustrate super strength, balancing in a range of spectacular poses. As expected the most awe-inspiring acts are left for the finale. A group of acrobats hurl themselves into the air, catapulting each other onto giant trampolines and forming human pyramids. Then we watch high above our heads as brave performers swing on trapezes and swap mid air – it has a dreamlike impossibility.

Every sense is entertained with this award-winning show from the Cirque du Soleil team. I have always loved their circus extravaganzas but somehow it feels bigger, better and more unbelievable in the setting of Las Vegas’ Treasure Island theatre.

More information and book tickets to Mystère here.

London’s Best Shows

As a singer, attending musical events and gigs in London is always top of my wish list but is often forgotten in favour of restaurant reviews. In the past few months I have prioritised performances and I’ve witnessed some phenomenal music and theatre.

Paul Simon and Sting – Paul Simon is one of my all-time favourite singers. His albums were the soundtrack to my childhood, and even now his songs remain top of my ‘most played’ list. When a rare opportunity arose to see him live at the O2, I jumped at it. He took to the stage with Sting and they shared an epic three hour set. It was a well-balanced evening of melancholy melodies and upbeat hits. The Sound of Silence was particularly memorable sung poignantly with only guitar at the front of the stage, and it was impossible not to dance when he performed the African-influenced songs from his album Graceland, complete with full band and gospel choir. Despite being seated in the cheapest seats at the top of the auditorium, I enjoyed every second of this momentous concert, Sting was surprisingly good too! If you ever get the chance to see this legendary man in concert I would recommend doing whatever you can to get hold of a ticket.

Alice in Wonderland – The Old Vic tunnels are a versatile space used for a range of theatrical projects and exhibitions. To celebrate the 150 year anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Les Enfants Terribles have created an imaginative production cleverly transforming this mysterious space into an immersive land of curiosities. As the trains rumble above, you will forget the real world as you follow the whisper of books down the rabbit-hole to meet the Mad Hatter and all his friends. Due to vast popularity, the show has been extended so you can now book tickets until the end of August 2015. Book here.

Sweeney Todd – I almost found out too late about this Sondheim production at The Coliseum, which was only on for a few weeks in April. I am often sceptical about semi-staged shows but with a stellar cast including Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson, I quickly felt involved in the production. The tickets (though pricey) sold instantly, so I queued up very early one morning to get myself a seat. Sitting on the front row, the singing was thrillingly chilling and the acting brilliantly intense. I hate horror films, but would never turn down the chance to see the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Calamity Jane, New Wimbledon Theatre

Calamity Jane is not a musical which you get the opportunity to see very often, so when my friend announced she was going to be in the new touring show, I jumped at the chance to watch and support. Travelling around the country theatre by theatre, it was only a matter of time before the cast arrived in London and the capital was certainly pleased to have them, packing the New Wimbledon Theatre to the brim.

The narrative is based loosely on the life story of Martha Jane Cannary, the American frontierswoman known for fighting Indians! It has famously been adapted for film, and stage. Recently there has been an economic trend for actor-musician shows where the orchestra are incorporated in onstage performance, and the instruments are played by the talented multi-tasking cast. Nikolai Foster uses this technique to make the show snappier and more powerful, and luckily the cast seems able to flit between acting, playing, singing and dancing with staggering ease. This style of production definitely suits this vintage show. To create the scene authentically, Matthew Wright has designed a set that is simple and rugged evoking the Western character.

Jodie Prenger, known for winning the part of Nancy in Lloyd Webber’s televised search, is a powerhouse. She stomps about the stage, with the perfect twang and a very fluid, natural comic acting style. She is complemented by the cast of versatile performers around her. I was delighted to see my good friend Giovanna Ryan stepping up to the role of Susan, and storming the stage as if she’d been playing the part her entire life. Amazing too to see her full set of musical skills illustrated in the show – she tinkles virtuosically on the piano, plucks away at her bass and beautifully bows the cello. I felt very proud. I also really enjoyed Phoebe Street’s rendition of Katie Brown, the pretty girl who offers some contrast to the rest of the rowdy cast.

It is a joy to see this Sammy Fain musical revival, if you can visit any of the tour venues, I highly recommend a trip to this brilliantly modernised version of an old-fashioned classic.

More information and book tickets to see Calamity Jane here.