Posts Tagged ‘Leicester Square Theatre’

Review – Music Hall Menagerie – Leicester Square Theater

August 8, 2014

What does the British musical hall tradition mean for a night on stage? I’ve heard a lot about it since I moved here, but I feel like I don’t really have my head wrapped around it. Is it just basically American vaudeville redux, or were there some special elements to it? Or did everyone just have a lovely bunch of coconuts those days? With those burning questions in my mind, I accepted an invitation to a night that promised “the return of the glories of the music hall,” only at the Leicester Square Theater and with a drag queen as compere. But why not, right? I thought it wasn’t a traditional choice but still appropriate given the evolution of the fandom. To keep me on the music hall path of righteousness (provide quality control and give me an excuse to drink – if this was appropriate), I brought along a friend who is an aficionado.
I was surprised that this was actually at the small stage downstairs at the LST. So intimate! So … um … was this the right size? I thought music hall was a big thing! And our cast was four actors plus our besequined compere … somehow I expected a bit more, perhaps a clown or maybe a live band.

What followed was a mixed bag of schtick/sketch (i.e. two men dressed as women talking about where to go on holiday), diva belting from Miss Dusty “O,” and comic songs in the cabaret vein. We ended the first half with a sort of Cockney medley, including “Oom Pah Pah” and “Lambeth Walk.” During the interval, my companion confided that none of the material had been original; furthermore, it wasn’t really classic music hall, but rather classics of modern British comedy. I, as usual, was completely ignorant of the originals, but I was having a good time so I got another glass of wine and sat back to enjoy the second half. Highlights were, for me, the cast singing “Does Your Mother Know” on ukeleles, and the brunette actresses doing what I was informed was Victoria Wood’s “Pam” – absolutely the highlight of the show for me and delivered with deadly wit. There was also at least one original comedy number in this section as well as credits to the many originators of the sketches, which satisfied my companion.

As a person not familiar with music hall, I don’t feel like this performance gave me any real flavor of it, but it was a good comic variety evening and very pleasant light entertainment ideal for August – plus with its 7 PM start time the dancing nuns were done early enough to get me home in time for “a game of rummy and an Ovaltine.”

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014. It continues through September 13th.)

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Mini-Review – The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) – Reduced Shakespeare Company at Leicester Square Theater

August 7, 2013

As regularly as revivals of Cabaret, the Reduced Shakespeare Company has returned to London with their show The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged). For all that I’ve had a million opportunities to see it, well, it’s never seemed like anything special – I mean, it’ll be back, right? But this year my housemate gave me a glowing review of her trip, and when I had a theater loving visitor in for the weekend, I decided to take advantage of a cheap ticket deal and give it a try. I mean, hey, 90 minutes, if it was bad it would practically be over already, right?

I decided to approach this show from two different angles. First, was it a fun performance? Second, did it do justice to Shakespeare in any way, or was it really just a horrible attempt to make money off of a built-in audience (like the wretched Fair Em I saw earlier this year)? We settled into our third row seats at the Leicester Square Theater (only my second visit, and my first to the main house) and waited to find out.

The good news is, this show succeeds on its most important mission: being entertaining. The three American guys that perform it have it nicely set up as a comedy routine that gently eases us into Shakespeare, starting with why he matters, then doing a bit of bio. The laughs come on early, though, before they even make it to the summaries of the plays, getting bigger and bigger as the show went on. There’s a lot of audience interaction (my favorite bit was when an actor, pretending to vomit, got right up next to a kid in the second row and said, “This sure isn’t like TV, is it? I can see you, too!”), especially during Hamlet (which takes up nearly all of the second half).

So the next question is: does it do justice to Shakespeare? Well, _I_ think it does, but in order to agree you’ll need to share my view that his various plays are not all of equal value. In fact, some of them are tedious and other simply make no sense. Reduced Shakespeare handles this nicely in a discussion of the “problem” (a.k.a. not very good) plays and a giant blob that encompasses all of the comedies. (I personally might have gone for a tighter focus on Midsummer, but I very much enjoyed seeing the samey-sameyness of most of the comedies done on the bright lights of the stage.) The histories are likewise blazed through, which, given that ol’ Bill was finding his authorial feet while writing many of them is probably for the best (a tiny, moving Godzilla toy could only add needed drama, and did).

In fact, only two plays really get much of an extended visit: Hamlet (as mentioned above) and Romeo and Juliet. Is this bad? I think not. If the plays had all been given equal attention, it would have been about 2 minutes each, and I would have nodded off. Instead, RSC (Ooh! that acronym seems familiar) took the opportunity to discuss some of the more interesting aspects of writing, performing, and interpreting Shakespeare’s work while performing the (reduced) version of these two plays – giving us much more to think about that than if we had, say, seen Measure for Measure/Two Gentlemen of Verona/All’s Well that Ends Well done back to back. Overall, this was a very successful production: both funny, informative, and just plain good theater.

(This review is for a matinee performance that took place on Saturday, August 3, 2013. It continues at the Leicester Square Theater until August 17th.)

Review – Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens – Leicester Square Theater

August 4, 2013

One of the disadvantages of going to the theater as much as I do is occasionally getting on a run of bad shows that leave me feeling like I will never again have a really good night at the theater. That’s how I felt walking into the production of Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens at the Leicester Square Theater. I was horribly disappointed by the flat samey-samey-ness of the musical Titanic I’d seen three nights before, and truth be told, the last time I’d seen this musical performed, well, let’s say it was memorable and leave it at that. But I’d been invited by a friend and I found it impossible to say no; maybe the pleasure of hanging out with her would compensate for yet another painful night at the theater.

As it turns out, Saucy Jack was the most fun I’d had at a musical since Annie Get Your Gun at the Union Theater. In the basement bar, we had the advantage of a really intimate space (maybe 50 seats?), yet one they’d manage to trick out pretty well with lights. The show opened with a few of the lesser characters coming onto stage, wearing kind of tatty costumes and over-acting … oh, God, I thought, here we go again.

And then the Space Vixens arrived. Dressed in white and silver with the requisite shiny boots, they looked fantastic, with bubble “laser” guns and LED wrist bands adding to the effect. They launched into “Glitter Boots Saved My Life ” … and suddenly it all fell into place for me. I was no longer sitting in a muggy, tiny basement down a less frequented Leicester Square alleyway – I was on the Planet Frottage!

The three vixens had really good voices (even though the sound quality was varying immensely due to preview wobbles), and they had some whip-smart dance moves. In fact, the whole show had signs of being, not just deliberately, but competently choreographed. Furthermore, as performed by this cast, all of the horrible sexual puns/innuendo were actually making me (and my friends) laugh. As the tension and excitement built through the rest of the show, I found myself … well, singing along, bouncing in my seat, and finally joining the cast in the end of show boogie. Man, now THAT is how a musical is supposed to make you feel.

Anyway, it’s now two days later, and I’m still firmly earwormed with the soundtrack. I’m also planning on going back, maybe even twice, because that kind of up feeling is what I’m always hoping I’ll get from a musical. Only this time, I’m gonna wear my shiny boots and strap on my pocket laser, because I am ready to be a space vixen!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, August 2nd, 2013. It is booking until September 15th.)