Posts Tagged ‘New Wimbledon Theatre’

Review – Halbwelt Kultur – PK Productions at New Wimbledon Studios

April 19, 2013

As a fan of burlesque, cabaret, Cabaret, and Weimar-era Germany, I was thrilled to get an email inviting me to review Halbwelt Kultur at the New Wimbledon Studios. I hadn’t heard of PK Productions before, but I’d sure heard of Marlene Dietrich, Bertolt Brecht, and Rosa Luxemburg.

The production was set up as a series of vignettes featuring seven different women of this era, with the cast each having a star piece while also providing support in each of the other women’s pieces. As a group, they were fairly varied in hair color, faces, and body types, but dressed in matching knicker/camisole set with garter-look stockings; when they came out to do their star turns they had special clothes (such as kimonos, evening gowns, coats, day dresses) that helped them efficiently take on their new personas. Then they performed a bunch of songs from the Weimar book (Spoliansky’s “I Am a Vamp,” Friedrich Hollander’s “Falling In Love Again,” Brecht’s “Supply and Demand”) with, I think, some new songs dropped in – I could be wrong as they did seem period appropriate but the program didn’t let me know, but they were delightfully accompanied by a three piece band that included a tiny little trumpet. And each vignette allowed the performer to talk about where the star they portrayed belonged in the cabaret constellation – although I didn’t feel like some of them were really in that galaxy at all, but rather in the larger society and pulled in to the show more because of their gender rather than their place in the “underworld.”

My favorite piece of the night was Claire Waldoff (Gabriella Schmidt), who did a crazy “dress tease” in which she saucily put on the clothes of a man while the various cabaret dancer girls flirted with her (updoing her zipper, playing with her tie, et cetera). It was full of sexual tension and laughter and was utterly charming and quite yummy. It then took the opportunity to switch into a more meaty view of the reality of her life, showing her relationship with her girlfriend Olga (Stephanie Hampton, I believe) and both the joys and then the dangers as life as a lesbian as the Weimar era was overtaken by the Nazi regime. It was both entertaining and extremely humane, though it didn’t give us any clues as to how things really resolved for them.

Halbwelt Kultur

As a piece, the evening felt a bit tacked together, as some of the non-performers featured didn’t really seem to fit in as members of the Halbvelt even though they were clearly on the edges of acceptable society; the numbers for Gabriele Tergit and Rosa Luxemburg just didn’t fit and seemed to be a case of filling out the show more than creating an artistic unity. And some of the numbers seemed very soft … Marlene Dietrich (Sarah Bradnum) just didn’t have much to say and came off a bit cartoony. I was far more interested to see the bizarre dancing and performance art that came with Valeska Gert and Anita Berber’s bits, which really pulled me into the era rather than just giving me a history lesson.

As this evening was a workshop production, I’d say it was a success – 40% of the show might be cut or reimagined, but there’s more than enough there for a good evening’s entertainment and it was a success as it stood – at least if you judged by the opening night house, which was quite sold out (as was most of the rest of the run). I’d say that between the actual performance style and the story that Halbwelt Kultur was tryign to tell, there is an even better show waiting to come out – and I’ll probably be back to see it again.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013. It continues through April 20th.)


Review – Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – New Wimbledon Theater

January 6, 2013

Since my initial exposure to the great British tradition known as “Panto,” I’ve been trying to see a new show every year. Sure, you all know that Aladdin features the Widow Twankey and Cinderella has Buttons, but if you grew up reading plain old fairy tales like me, you would have never learned about these things. This year I managed to see two new (to me) shows: Robin Hood (in Greenwich) and Snow White at the New Wimbledon. Now, I was a bit attracted by the idea of seeing Priscilla Presley; but mostly what I wanted to see was a panto I hadn’t seen before.

And WOW! Panto tradition that I had missed? The seven dwarves were ACTUALLY persons of reduced height, midgets and dwarves (if I understand the nomenclature correctly). I had never seen that many of them at the same time and was actually blown away. As a bonus, the seven of them were REALLY talented, as actors, comics, and with physical humor, and I couldn’t believe what a shedload of British specialty actors I was having the privilege to see on stage at the same time (star: Warwick Davis as “the Prof”). All of the best moments were when they were on stage: my very favorite was when they rescued Snow White and took her to their cottage in their woods, then sang a “House of Fun”/”Our House” medley while GIANT SQUIRRELS AND DEER AND BUNNIES DANCED AROUND THE STAGE. I mean, GIANT BUNNIES AND MADNESS that was my ticket covered RIGHT THERE. They had a show stealing end thing that I’d mention (as it was my second favorite point in the night), but I’d like to keep it a secret so you can enjoy it on your own.

The sad thing, though, is what a flabby and lifeless evening it was otherwise. Not only could Mrs Presley not act, she could barely remember her lines (making her exit comment about it rather ironic) and was outacted by each and every one of the dwarves, including the one who didn’t talk (but did a great Susan Boyle interpretation). And the two sidekicks, the henchman and the jester, just weren’t funny. The audience responded by being flat and unresponsive; they didn’t take the clue and speed up their timing or cut the unfunny stuff, and we could have about been watching a movie for as much as we were interacted with. LAAAAME.

But, you know, it was only 15 quid: and I saw 7 little people jigging with people in funny animal costumes to some of the favorite songs of my youth; so I got my money’s worth and it was all over at 9:30 so I got a good night’s sleep to boot. Worth what I paid but generally flabby.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 and was my FIRST OFFICIAL SHOW of the year. Oh well.)

Aladdin’s Magic: Limp (Review of Pamela Anderson/ Brian Blessed “Aladdin”) – New Wimbledon Theatre

December 16, 2009

Pam Anderson in a panto? Pam Anderson? As an American, I figured her visit to the annual extravaganza at the New Wimbledon Theater – which I’d previously skipped due to its sky-high prices – presented nearly unlimited opportunities for naff, whether due to her slim acting skills, her utter inexperience on the stage, or her complete lack of familiarity with the panto form (and as an American I can guarantee she had no idea what was going to be going on). And then there was the Brian Blessed factor. I only knew him as King of the Hawkmen from the 80s camp classic Flash Gordon; but per my intended fellow Pantonian Wechsler, Blessed is also well known … for a near pathological obsession with large bosoms. “Basically,” he sold it to me,”the two of them should work like baking soda and lye. I expect the fire brigade will be on alert.”

Two months later, the entire premise had degenerated into farce. Pam was now only scheduled for a third of the run; wait, no, she wasn’t going to even do that much & Ruby Wax was filling in for her on what was supposed to be opening night. And then my party of six went down to five, no 6, no (day of show flu) five, then finally six, then yet another person cancelled and even my original recommender said a work emergency might keep him away. It all seemed so doomed, really; was this a panto Black Mariah?

As it turns out, this is a perfectly servicable panto, with all of the requirements; silly costumes, silly dances, and silly songs. The audience participation is rather limited, though; while we got lots of booing in, there was a real shortage of “it’s behind you”s, the “oh no you’re not”s were forced, and the call-out to Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee was unnecessarily complex.

Fortunately the overwhelming presence of Brian Blessed ably compensated for these deficits. As evil sorcerer Iwanna Banana (or suchlike), he eagerly engaged the audience, keeping us on point and the story moving along. Of _course_ he had the villainous laugh down pat, and he threw in references to his previous star turns and even his personal achievements to up the humor, but what he really had was stage presence in buckets. Twanky got the good costumes, but Blessed unequivocably owned this show.

Now that’s not to say that Pam wasn’t entertaining as the genie of the lamp – she got her lines right, participated gamely in an extremely comic dance routine, and mocked her own fame – but it was the slave of the ring (Djalenga Scott) who was cranking out the sex appeal. And Twankey (Jonathan D Ellis) was a pretty sharp dame, but …

I think this may have been where the blah dialogue, by-the-book costumes, and completely unimaginative songs cut this show off at the knees when it could have really shone. It should have gone for gaudier and even more over the top, and then this could have been the panto I was hoping for, but ultimately it felt canned and unengaging. Blessed is utterly brilliant, a panto force to be reckoned with, but even the power of Pam couldn’t keep this Aladdin from being limp.

*Now get Blessed and Ian McKellen in a show written by that genius at the Hackney Empire and _then_ we’d have a show to talk about for years!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009. Performances continue, with a variety of genies, through January 10th. For other reviews, see the Evening Standard and the West End Whingers.)

Two for one deals on Christmas shows (mostly pantos) courtesy of the Evening Standard

December 5, 2008

Well! Today’s Eros cardholders email included a list of great two for one deals on various holiday shows. I noticed the Hackney Empire’s “Mother Goose” isn’t on the list, but given that seats are already quite affordable, who cares? On the other hand, the New Wimbledon Theater’s Cinderella is runing £30 a seat – outrageous! Anyway, here are a list of the deals, with details – the original page is here.

Aladdin, The Rosemary Branch, N1 ,Offer valid 17-22, 27-31 December and 2-4, 6-11 January 7.00pm. Tickets: £15 (£12 concessions). Matinees 20, 21, 27, 28 December, 3, 10 January 2.30pm. Tickets £12 (£8 under 16). Offer is valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December – Sunday 11 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 7704 6665 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Amazonia, at the Young Vic, SE1 (I’m going to see this one!): Offer valid on shows from Wednesday 3 December- Saturday 24 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 7922 2922 and quote Evening Standard Offer. (Looks like normal prices are £10 to £22.50, so a good deal!)

Cinderella at The Churchill Theatre Bromley Offer valid for the following shows: 10 Dec 7.30pm, 13 Dec 7.30pm, 15 Dec 7.30pm, 19 Dec 7.30pm, 20 Dec 10.30am, Tickets £18-£25. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 0870 060 6620 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Cinderella at the New Wimbledon Theatre, SW19. Mon 15 – Sat 20 Dec – all 2pm and 7pm performances. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 0870 060 6646 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Dick Whittington at the Queens Theatre Hornchurch, RM11. Offer valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December – Saturday 10 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 01708 443333 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Hansel & Gretel, Theatre Royal Stratford East, E15 Offer valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December- Saturday 17 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 8534 0310 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Mirror Magic Market Tales, The Riverside Studios, W6. Offer valid on shows from Wednesday 3 December- Sunday 4 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 8237 1111 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Pinocchio, at The Polka Theatre, SW19. Offer available for the following shows: 6 Dec 5.30pm, 30 Dec 11am, 31 Dec 11am, 2 Jan 11am, 3 Jan 5.30pm, 17 Jan 5.30pm. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 8543 4888 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

The Nightingale Mystery at The Rosemary Branch, N1 Offer valid on shows from Wednesday 3 December- Wednesday 10 December. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office 020 7704 6665 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Tombstone Tales & Boothill Ballads at Arcola Theatre, E8 (I want to see this one too, but I don’t know when I can possibly fit it in!) Offer is valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December – Saturday 20 December 2008. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 7503 1646 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Twelve Days of Christmas at the Chickenshed Theatre, N14. Offer is valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December- Saturday 17 January. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 8292 9222 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Young Dick Barton, The Warehouse Theatre, Croydon. Offer valid for shows from Wednesday 3 December – Sunday 22 February. To book 2 tickets for the price of 1 call the Box Office on 020 8680 4060 and quote Evening Standard Offer.

Great deal on Matthew Bourne’s “Edward Scissorhands” at Sadler’s Wells (various dates)

November 21, 2008

I very much like Matthew Bourne and was quite excited to get to see this show some three or so years ago at Sadler’s Wells (December 2005, to be precise). Now, after seeing four or five more of his shows, I consider this to be the weakest of the lot – a nice story but not particularly interesting dancing. His Nutcracker and Swan Lake retell stories and make them better; this does not.

That said, it’s still fun and a good night out and I’m sure plenty of people would enjoy seeing it. With this in mind, I’m pleased to say that the Metro has a deal for half priced tickets for this show at Sadler’s Wells – 50% off two top riced tickets (£50 or £40) – it advised in the paper that you call the ticket office at 0844 412 4300 and quote the “metro offer,” or do it online and use the promo code pcdmetro when prompted. It’s only good for shows on Sunday, but there’s a 2:30 ashow and a 7:30 show, so lots of opportunities to see it there, and it runs from December 2nd to January 18th (2009).

NOTE: They’ve since published a second offer, good on these dates:
Dec 7, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30, 31, Jan 1 and 2
50% off two top ticket prices (normally £50 and £40) – call 0844 412 4300 and quote “metro offer” or buy off of their website with promo code pcdmetro.

FYI if you’re looking to see it at the New Wimbledon Theater, has them for £27 on up, and they also have them for sale for the Sadler’s Wells dates as well.

Anyway, enjoy!

Review – West Side Story – Sadler’s Wells (New Victoria Theatre, Milton Keynes Theatre, The Lowry, The New Wimbledon Theatre, etc.)

August 18, 2008

(Note: this show has now moved to New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Tuesday 2 through Saturday 13 September 2008, from whence it will be at Milton Keynes, The Lowry in Salford and then The New Wimbledon Theatre – even Glasgow and Cardiff.)

As a big fan of the American musical, I was determined to add West Side Story to my “seen” list – and not a cheesy high school production or a remount of the movie, but something very much like the version that’s at Sadler’s Wells right now (and through August 31st, after which it’s touring, including a two week visit to the New Wimbledon Theatre starting October 14th). It’s billed as the 50th anniversary version and “very true to the original choreography,” so I figured it was going to really to give me an opportunity to judge this show in its purest form. Does it deserve to rank with the best of the best, or was it just a 50s flash in the pan that people cling on to because of the Romeo and Juliet connection? Old chestnut or classic? There was only one way to find out … and on Friday, Katie and J and I headed out to Get Experienced.

As it turns out, this show is rather painfully popular and nearing the end of its run, so, as a blogger, I don’t consider it worth my while to spend a thousand words talking about it. You’ve either got tickets or you weren’t going to go (though perhaps you’ll go see it in New Wimbledon). I found it … well, fun, really! Jerome Robbins is a great choreographer, and the initial fight choreography was high energy and a blast to watch. The dancers were totally on form, and I had to think actually better than they would have been in the 50s – although (I think) there were way many performers to choose from back then, technique has really moved forward, and I felt like Joey McKneely’s version had a likely better execution than the original might have had. (Not that one can replace Chita Rivera, but …)

So … the music. Wow, the music was really dated, in a way I found occasionally painful. Xylophones, bizarre not-quite-melodic songs … West Side Story‘s score sounded like it was blended from some record of 50s exotica and more experimental opera of the era. Only a few of the songs were hummable, and “Tonight” was not! This left “America” and “I Feel Pretty” as the only songs I could remember after the show. The other songs were interesting and moved the narrative forward, but weren’t … well, let’s say I won’t be buying the soundtrack and singing them to myself (or an audience of amused strangers).

The set: good, very flexible, nice use of projections (shock!), kept the attention focused on the actors but still did a good job of creating the different “scenes” (the balcony scene, with “Romeo” climbing up the fire escape ladder, was especially cute).

The accents: for once, they were GOOD. Maria had an honest, fresh from a Spanish-speaking homeland young woman, and didn’t sound forced, but rather very much real. This was a huge relief to me (and based on her name I think she was probably not pushing herself too much to get it right). The rest of the performers – not once did I have my “Good God, why can’t English actors do American accents?” button pushed. Were they all Americans? I didn’t read the program (too busy watching the show), so who knows, but what they were was competent and believably American or Puerto Rican.

What does this leave? The acting and the story. Who would think that by coming to London I would have suddenly been put into a frame of mind where young toughs getting into a knife fight would become much more poignant rather than quaint (in America, we just expect street toughs to shoot each other). So when we got to the climactic knife fight, which seemed like a bit of a throwaway in Romeo and Juliet, it became so much more – young kids throwing their lives away for a stupid sense of pride in a way that meant more than it did in R&J (rich fools duelling, not very sympathetic) and very much seemed like “look, nothing’s changed.” And Tony’s role is very different – he’s a nice guy trying to break things up, he’s a completely sympathetic character. Maybe it’s a bit unrealistic that he would fall in love with a girl he only just saw at a dance, but once the fight happens, far more so than in a tale of star cross’d lovers, Tony and Maria really and truly to seemed to have no chance in the world of keeping their relationship together in a world where no one, really, wants to see them succeed.

How was the acting, though? I think it all comes down to this: we all knew how it was going to end, right? And yet way up there in the second balcony, the second balcony, mind you (where I could afford seats), I could here scores of people sniffling at the end – reserved old English people having a cry about the tragic end of what could have been a beautiful romance. And me, uh, I had some dust in my eyes and my contacts were dry, okay?

(This review is for a performance that took place on Friday, August 15th, 2008. Performances continue through the 31st of August though it’s mostly sold out, but, hey, if you just want a single, you can always call the day of and get a return ticket. More information on the official “West Side Story 50th Anniversary Production website. This show will be touring for a while so you have many chances to catch it still!)