SpongeBob Squarepants Review.

‘SpongeBob Squarepants has reached Broadway… What a new low…. ‘ is what you might be saying right now, and rightly so. I was thinking it when I first heard. However, and despite my reservations, it was a surprisingly relevant and good piece of theatre, which worked because it wasn’t trying to have artistic integrity.

As you can imagine, the plot lacks imagination and substance, however an all-star score, which included music by Aerosmith, David Bowie and Panic at the Disco, redeemed it. Along with a seemingly limitless budget, the production value distracts the audience enough to ignore non-existent story.

Ethan Slater, SpongeBob, embodies the childish and playful sponge, giving a truly standout performance. With his signature voice and surprising upper-body strength, he transports everyone in the audience back to their childhood. Gavin Lee stole the show as Squidward with a full tap dancing number called ‘I’m not a Loser’. Sandy, Lilli Cooper, was a brilliant role model for everyone in the audience. She brought this fearless, assured, and bisexual Texan Squirrel to life.

The most surprising thing about SpongeBob has to be how political it ended up being, which in our political climate, especially in America is unavoidable. By putting real life situations in this make-believe world, With older characters telling Sandy to ‘Go Home’ because she didn’t belong, and government declaring the media as wrong, it made their points strikingly obvious and the show completely relevant.

I hated how much I loved the show, it’s a money making pit. It’s commercial, and has very little substance. However, it was a fantastic night, with some brilliant performances, and annoyingly catchy music.

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Top Shows of 2017.

Top shows of 2017.

Happy New Year! What better way to reflect on the past year than in theatre, so with much further ado, here are my top shows that I saw in 2017. I usually do them in order, however I saw so many shows this year, that the best I could do was rattle it down to my equally top five.

Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theatre

Sweeney Todd 
Barrow Street Theater

I saw this a couple of weeks ago, just before I left New York. It was, surprisingly, the first professionally done Sondheim musical I’ve seen. I was surprised as you are! It was a brilliantly immersive piece of theatre, definitely aided by our cheeky upgrade from a very nice usher from $30 seats to $200 seats, right in the middle of the action. The acting was fantastic, and I was both terrified and thrilled throughout the whole show.

Torch Song

TORCH SONG
By HARVEY FIERSTEIN
2ND Stage

I saw this at the right time in my life I think. It was what I needed to see. The acting was brilliant, and I loved the whole story. The attention to detail from the neon sign of the title to the motif in sign language of “I love you, but not enough”. The simplicity of the show and the symbolism made the punch that more powerful. I think it’s an important piece to be shown, and it was very moving. It had an air of melancholy, however still left you with a tiny bit of hope to reach out for at the end.

Dear Evan Hansen

ap_17163052478915_wide-2a31b8b8ade54f82e40d59e9a5989d1fb11a0788-s900-c85It’s no surprise that this made my top five this year. Again I think it’s one of those shows that you have to see at the right time in your life. I was very lucky to see the original cast, and I enjoyed the show immensely. It is no surprise Ben Platt won a Tony for his performance. It’s a contemporary story, that flourishes within the music and the production aspects of the piece. The production designer did a brilliant job of capturing a limbo of technology.  was a melancholic, funny, technical wonder, with a hint of hope strung throughout it.

Much Ado about Nothing

Much-Ado-About-Nothing-Shakespeares-Globe1-700x455

This being my favourite Shakespeare I was thrilled to see it at the Globe Theatre. This production was full of life, love and colour. The Mexican revolution breathed new life into the show, encouraged by the cast that was completely in sync, and the vendetta against Americans. I love the play and I loved this production. It’s Shakespeare in the Shakespeare Globe, what could be better?

Once on this Island

04onceisland1-superJumboI loved this show, because it felt different from the other things I had seen on the New York stage. Probably due to the lack of white actors, and western narrative, that despite all the cries from diversity on the west end and broadway stages, still seems to dominate the theatrical world. The cast were extremely talented, however the stage and costume design of the production is really what shone for me. Starting with simple ideas they flourished into a fully immersive set and colourful array of costume. This show was dripping with passion, culture, life and colour.

Honourable mentions. There are so many shows that I just couldn’t leave out. 

Woyzeck – An intense and foreboding production, with brilliant acting from John Boyega.

The Mad Ones–  A Brilliant off-broadway coming of age musical, with sweet music and a moving narrative.

Spongebob Squarepants– I know, I know, but it was surprisingly good, and weirdly political. The music was fantastic and the production value was insane.  Ethan Slater, Spongebob, made the show.

Life of Galileo– A beautiful show, with the stars, science and politics interwoven into the production. “Truth is in the trial of a moment, not in the past”

Amadeus – A whirlwind of human emotion and the madness of genius, with a very contemporary look on a very classic story.

Hamlet – Fantastic acting from Andrew Scott, with a darker and more modern outlook on a classic Shakespeare.

Trainspotting – A Brilliantly immersive and inherently Scottish production, with brilliant acting and a dingy and dark feel to it.

Twelfth Night – A fun, fantastical, detailed production.All the gender-bending it made the show into a colourful queer-fest, with a brilliant, and practical set.

Best Wishes into the new year, and I hope it is full of Happiness and Theatre!

Once on this Island

Yesterday I went to see Once in this Island at the Circle in the square Theatre. Once on this Island is a broadway revival,   that brings culture, life and passion to the New York stage. It explores the importance of storytelling, telling the audience, and a little girl, who was scared, the story of an island where the rich and poor are divided, and how the Gods remove the divide through the power of Love. I loved this show and thrilled that I got to see it before I left NYC.

The most impressive thing about the show was the community created among the audience and the actors. The show never really began. The house lights didn’t come down until the audience was fully immersed in the show, and the characters developed over time. The audience was thrown into the island, and not just because they were surrounded by actors, props and the set. The Gods began to take form with simple accessories, such as blue paint, or scrap chiffon. Once the storytelling fully began, they were transformed into full costumes, based off the accessories. Clint Ramos did a fantastic job in throwing the audience into the story.

Hailey Kilgore, Ti Moune, brought a childlike wonder to the show, with eyes wide at everything. And Lord knows she can belt. And of course Emerson Davis, who played the little girl, had beautiful voice and was very talented. The whole cast was extremely talented, and lured the audience into the action.

The cast were so evidently passionate and I wanted to go up and dance with them. You could tell the audience knew this. They were so supportive, and there for the performance. I have noticed that on Broadway, the audiences tend to be more audible, than I’m used to. However with this show, you could see it was genuine love, and support, when people applauded, and the instantaneous standing ovation. Even I found myself cheering the whole performance and itching to stand up at the end. The run time was 90 minutes, it felt far longer, and yet I could have watched it for four times as long, and still want to have seen more.

I was reminded of something someone once told me. “Passion of theatre always shines through and makes any performance transcendent. It cannot be rewarded by a single part, but by a lifetime of a dramatist” This show was dripping with passion, culture, life and colour. I would highly recommend- and I would be very surprised if it doesn’t become a front runner for the Tonys next year.

Torch Song Trilogy

Today, I got to see the Torch Song Trilogy Revival at the 2nd Theatre, by Harvey Fierstein. Torch Song is a play made up of three parts; International Stud; Fugue in a Nursery; and Widows and Children First! The story centers on Arnold Beckoff, played by Micheal Urie, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen and Torch Singer who lives in New York City in the late 1970s, and early 1980s.

One of the most wonderful things about this play, I think, is that it shows the development of Arnold Beckoff, subtly and yet painstakingly obvious. It shows very real characters, and gives you a protagonist that is deeply flawed in many ways, yet ultimately likeable, and inherently real. The first two acts were good, however the third act, Widows and Children first! Is where the play truly shines.

The staging was fantastic, with neon lights constantly reminding the audience that this was a queer play set in the 70s and 80s. The whole cast gave brilliant performances. I was very excited to see Michael Urie perform, but I must say, at times his acting was a little over-the-top, extra comical, and sitcom-like. The character, and Urie himself, were always making jokes, whether it was written, or a not so sly look to the audience. You can say that, that is just how the character is, which I think it is. But I want to go deeper. In Urie’s acting I was reminded of a quote from my favourite Scotsman, Alan Cumming. “I had to be a grown-up when I should have been a little boy, and now that I’m a grown-up my little-boyness has exploded out of me. I’ve lived my life backwards.” I think this quote applies to a lot of the LGBTQ+ Community, I think it applies here, because it truly embodies the character of Arnold. Urie didn’t over-act any other factor of the part, not the sexuality, or the inner emotion. Just the facade he placed over himself. In the third act, when you see the facade begin to crack, during a fight with his mother, Mercedes Ruehl,  about his sexuality and his decision to foster a child, it is truly, truly moving.

I heard one audience member call this play dated. And I can see their argument, although, I think it is only dated, because it is set in Manhattan, and we are seeing it here. New Yorkers, and myself, I think, can very easily forget that the world isn’t as accepting, as it is in this liberal bubble. Everywhere across the world, families are unaccepting of peoples sexuality, calling it a delusion or a disease. Hell, even our Vice President, Pence, thinks homosexuality is a disease and needs to be cured. It was only in 2016, that same-sex adoption was made legal in the United States- and even then, it is still loudly spoken out against.

I have a lot of love for this play, if you can’t tell. I think it’s an important piece to be shown, and it was very moving. It had an air of melancholy, however still left you with a tiny bit of hope to reach out for at the end.

Waitress- Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Today I got to see Waitress, the new musical by Sara Bareilles, starring Betsy Wolfe, and Jason Mraz. Waitress follows the story of Jenna, a waitress at a pie diner, and the ‘mess’ she’s making of her life.

I loved the overall direction of this piece. It was a really good balance, between realism and abstract art. Using the ensemble, and choreography to portray the true heart of the piece. I was surprised by the music, Sara Bareilles did a brilliant job of writing a musical, especially for a pop singer. The story was heartwarming, and had everyone craving pie in the interval, not helped by the fact that they pump the smell of baking pies into the theatre. It was dripping with Southern American charm, whilst driving a very universal story.

Betsy Wolfe, Jenna, was fantastic, she portrayed an endearing, but determined young woman, who knew what she wanted. This was of course, helped by her powerful voice. I was surprised by Jason Mraz, he was far better than I expected, he portrayed a chaotic, clumsy, but ultimately sweet Dr. Pomatter. The surrounding ensemble, were brilliant. An honourable mention has to go, however, for Christopher Fitzgerald, who played Ogie, and absolutely stole the show in his number ‘Never Getting Rid Of Me’

I don’t have much to say about it otherwise. It was, a perfect musical. However I wouldn’t call it revolutionary, or substantial. It’s a perfect rainy-day sort of musical.

I finally wanted to note, that every time I go to the theatre, I am reminded of the impact of it, and why it’s so important. At the end of the show, over 1000 people were standing and clapping in unison. The sense of community was undeniable. They held a live auction for Broadway Cares, auctioning a page of sheet music, signed by Jason Mraz. They raised $3200 in around five minutes. They raised that much, because of theatre, a love of music and the arts. They, like the other broadway houses, are using their platform for good and It’s beautiful to see.

Dear Evan Hansen – Music Box Theatre.

Tonight I got to see Dear Evan Hansen at the Music Box Theatre in NYC. Dear Evan Hansen is a new musical by Pasek and Paul starring Ben Platt. Pasek and Paul are notable for their music in La La Land. The musical follows the story of Evan Hansen, a socially anxious high school senior; a letter that was never supposed to be read; and a lie that should never have been told.I had been itching to see this since I saw Ben Platt perform ‘Waving through a Window’ on Seth Meyers. With Dear Evan Hansen winning six Tony awards and having been heralded as the Hamilton of the 2016/17 season, I was expecting big things. I was not disappointed.

DEH is a deeply emotional show. This is definitely aided by Ben Platt’s brilliant performance, but also by the directing and staging of everything, particularly the musical numbers. ‘You will be found’ and ‘Waving through a Window’, both gave me chills. The most wonderful thing about the staging was that it was so simplistic. The musical felt so contemporary, which is so hard to do. Of course, another factor that made it feel so modern was the use of social media as a part of the narrative and the set. The set was so sparse and bare; with rotating platforms that was just a small part of the set. The technology used in creating the set and atmosphere was fantastic. The design of social media, videos, emails and letters constantly bombarding stage, made you feel so overwhelmed, but so alone at the same time.The cast were fantastic. Ben Platt was brilliant, however not the only star of the show though, Colton Ryan, Connor Murphy, and Laura Dreyfuss, Zoe Murphy, were both fantastic and definitely contributed towards those six Tony Awards. The music by Pasek and Paul was fantastic. I can’t imagine this story being told in any other form. The music was vital in showing how the characters felt, without being too ‘musical theatre-y’, again another factor in why the show felt so contemporary. Despite the story being very melancholic and emotional, it was surprisingly funny. They managed to make it funny effortlessly, without it being too corny.

I think one of the reasons the story resonates with so many people, is because it’s so relatable. It’s so easy to feel alone in a time where everything is instant, and validation is usually given in the form of shares and likes. People get to curate their lives. It’s so hard to see what people actually feel. To use the cliché – you can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone. Almost everyone has felt like Evan Hansen at least once in their life (minus the dubious moral choices). It’s a story that’s been told before, but now it’s been brought to 2017, with the music and the technical aspects, it’s so much easier to see in everyday life.

I absolutely loved the show, despite my fears. I’m so glad I got a chance to see it with the original cast. It was a melancholic, funny, technical wonder, with a hint of hope strung throughout it.  I have so much else to say about this, but luckily that will be in an essay, so you don’t have to worry. I’m sorry that this is still so long. Hopefully, this show will transfer to London next year!

Groundhog Day- Musical

Today I saw Groundhog Day at the August Wilson Theatre in NYC. This is the third show I've seen on Broadway – And the first one I've thoroughly enjoyed. Groundhog Day is a musical adaptation of the film by Tim Minchin. I've never seen the film, so this was my first encounter of the story. I didn't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I saw.

The film translated surprisingly well to the stage, with the lighting providing a clear visualisation of the days repeating themselves. Usually I would hate a show that tried to be a film, however in this production, they did that, but very effectively, when dealing with scenes that were hard to adapt to the stage – For example, the police chase scene. The show was repetitive, but not boring by any stretch. Tim Minchin brought the wackiness and surreality of the film to the stage. Notably with a wonderfully, darkly comedic song about suicide, called 'Hope'.

The cast were fantastic, you couldn't help but fall a little in love with weatherman Phil Conners (Andy Karl). And everyone found comfort in Barrett Doss's Rita Hanson. The duo worked brilliantly together, and their voices complimented each other beautifully. The characters were full of life. Every character had their own story. They were never just there for the sake of it.

It was wacky, fun, truthful- with a message without being condescending, and it was funny.

Unfortunately Groundhog Day is closing tomorrow, however it is rumored to be returning to London, and I would highly recommend checking it out if you can.

 

( I do have a backlog of reviews to get up- mainly from the Fringe and I will get them up when I have a chance! But from now until December, I will be based in New York, so will be reviewing shows over here)

Exile- Ed Fringe

On Monday morning I went to see Exile at the Space Triplex (At 9.30am I might add). Exile is a feminist piece of theatre, that depicts six women thought history and fiction exiled to a non-descript island.

It was a really interesting piece of Theatre, where time was non-existant, but yet omnipresent throughout the whole piece. Creating a bubble of time, which almost felt suffocating. The use of physical Theatre was very effective in exploring the gentle and loving relationships between the women, whilst at the same time exposing the brutality of the world outside of the exile. This was all aided by the acting which was just fantastic. The cast embodied the array of characters which all complimented each other, and worked very well as a company.

Overall definitely worth getting up for at 930am!

Commons- Ed Fringe

Yesterday afternoon, I saw Commons, from the St Andrews Theatre company, directed by Louis Catliff, written by Elliot Douglas.

Commons explores the relationship between an MP and his rent boy, the power dynamic between them, and the story of their unconventional love (?).

I really enjoyed the script and the characters. They were well thought out and very defined, ( If not a tad obvious in some places). This was aided by the distinct acting from the two leads. The two leads had an interesting chemistry between them, on occasion very awkward, and at other times like a newly wed couple- All fitting to the script.
The order of the scenes was very insightful, by going backwards it gave all of character background, without slowing down, or becoming clunky. The use of the chorus provided a much needed comedic relief, and a break from a script that could become very stuffy.

Overall a solid Fringe show with an interesting story.

Alex Morris:Apologies

This afternoon, I went to see Apologies, a sketch comedy show, part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe. Alex Morris is an emerging comedian from Kings College London, previous work includes his YouTube series, Teachurs.

In this sketch show, he portrays several different characters who are distinct, defined and notable in their own right. The costumes were a nice touch, however unnecessary as the acting was good enough to suffice.

I was pleasantly surprised by it, and kept laughing throughout the whole show and I would have loved to see more!