Left in LIMBO: My trip to the Wonderground

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As a child, I was deprived. I had food, shelter, loving parents… BUT I NEVER WENT TO THE CIRCUS! “WHAAAT?” I hear you cry! Tis true. I had never been to the circus, until last Tuesday that is. So when Mr Boyfriend won free tickets to see LIMBO at the London Wonderground, I jumped at the chance to go!

LIMBO has returned to the London Wonderground and promises a night you will never have experienced before. As a “Circus Virgin” I was relatively open to anything and had no expectations, so essentially.. MY MIND WAS BLOWN. Upon entering the venue iIwas transported into the centre of a circus tent, decorated with glittering lightbulbs. The atmosphere was dim, almost seedy, and I was already on the edge of my seat just waiting for the performance to begin. The Sirens blared, and we were introduced to a crazy group of misfits whose story was told only through music, composed and performed by the remarkable Sxip Shirey, alongside the hip-thrustingly good (you’ll see what i mean) Mick Stuart and the brilliantly-bearded Grant Arthur (and his trusty tuba). The music is catchy, interesting and creates some beautiful ambience in some of the simpler moments. Who knew you could make stunning music out of sirens, harmonicas, and marbles in bowls?

With the expectations set by the incredible feast of music and dancing in the opening, the cast were slowly introduced. Favourite performances came from Jonathan Nosan, whose spine proved to be completely unsnappable, Heather Holliday, the sultry sword swallower and fire breather who, quite frankly, I would sway the other way for, and the incredibly cheeky Hilton Denis, constantly working the crowd and showing how tap dancing should be done – with wit and charm! The show’s succession of solo acts were punctured by ensemble moments, my favourite being what only can be described as the extraordinary “Bendy Poles” which resulted in Mr Boyfriend almost having Heather Holliday’s ass on his face – No complaints from him!

It was a night of pure wonderment. The gasps and screams from people around me showed that LIMBO provided the shock and awe that has only really been experienced as kids at the circus (Unless you’re me – of course!) It captured your attention from the moment the first sirens blared, to the moment you got back home to your flat, still reeling over everything you had just seen. It was a spectacular that was sexy, beautiful, hilarious, scary, enthralling, surprising. It was LIMBO – it took you out of time entirely and left you in a daze.

– Koko x

Catch LIMBO at the London Wonderground, Southbank until 28th September 2014.

Oooh a Cheeky Review: THE PLATFORM LDN

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TODAY I BRING YOU TWO BLOG POSTS IN ONE! And now for a first, my first review!

I had the pleasure of attending twenty something productions “THE PLATFORM LDN” cabaret at the Spice of Life last weekend. In case you didn’t know, twenty something productions are a company formed by Ben Vivian-Jones and Amy-Jean Ward, lovers of contemporary American Musical Theatre and passionate about bringing it to us via talented young things in London. THE PLATFORM is a concert series that was started by composer Drew Gasparini in New York (one of the contributors to the cabaret here in London) as an opportunity for contemporary american writers to showcase their work. Upon seeing the show in NYC, the pair decided that us Brits shouldn’t be deprived from the talent across the pond, and so THE PLATFORM LDN was born.

Their recent showcase featured songs by Gaby Alter, Drew Gasparini, Ryan Scott Oliver, Alex Wyse, Robert Baumgartner and Joey Contreras. I had actually only heard of three of these composers but still only heard one song that I knew which was so refreshing for showcases such as these. It’s so easy for the same amazing songs to be re-produced again and again so it was great for me and the audience to be introduced to some writing we’d never heard before.

The show opened with group number “21” by Gaby Alter which i think set the energy that was to remain for the rest of the evening. It was a song full of 20-something angst at life, love, and growing up, and was performed with zeal by the cast and the band. It was actually great to see the band giving it some balls too – kudos to the pianist who spent the majority of the performance seriously rocking out! A favourite of the first half was “Happy Times” by Alex Wyse and performed by Nicola Kill. The generic american contemporary musical theatre song can get monotonous ,but Alex Wyse has shown that contemporary doesn’t mean you can’t tackle other genres ,and Nicola Kill gave a suitably vamped up and empowered performance of this jazzy number. Another highlight of the first half came from Amy-Jean Ward and John Sandberg in “Pinch Me” by Drew Gasparini. Both fully committed to the awkwardness of this number, and Amy-Jean’s expression during the “awkward embrace” (youtube it if you haven’t seen it!) was an absolute picture. A great comedy duet, brilliantly performed that really helped to create a well-rounded first act of entertainment.

My pick of the evening would definitely be the catchy-to-the-point-where-it’s-still-stuck-in-my-head “Valley High” also by Drew Gasparini. The songs subject matter is centred around a high school shooting (I’m not sure which hence why i don’t want to quote!) but despite this, it was a light and thoroughly interesting song. Performed by Andrew Osbourne, Nicholas Corre and Ben Vivian-Jones, each provided their own take on the inner thoughts of thecharacter and it proved to be a really captivating performance for the audience, as well as toe-tappingly good! Taking it full circle, the night ended with group number “The Wreck” by Drew Gasparini, all about not caring about whether you’re a “wreck” which was a nice bookend to the start of the show. It was upbeat, fun and again summed up the energy, talent and brilliance of the evening.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time and cannot wait to see what twenty something productions have in store for us next. My only wish is that something like this existed for British writers too (See my recent blog post about why!)

THE PLATFORM LDN does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides a platform to launch new music here in London. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talented writing and performances (From the cast and the band) that evening, and it gives me hope that this industry is still something worth being a part of, if only just to see what new work we can discover. I look forward to following their progress in the future.

You can find out more about twenty something productions here:

http://twentysomethingproductions.co.uk/

Or follow them on twitter: @20sumthin

They’re also taking a new musical “6” by Zack Zadek to the Fringe too, so if you’re up in Edinburgh – Check them out!

THE PLATFORM LDN 27/04/2014 Set List:

GA – Gaby Alter
DG – Drew Gasparini
RSO – Ryan Scott Oliver
AW – Alex Wyse
RB – Robert Baumgartner
JC – Joey Contreras

• 21 – GA
• My Time With You – AW – Nicholas Corre
• Sorrow Done – RSO – Olga-Marie Pratt
• What Lies Ahead – AW – Gregory Hazel
• Happy Times – AW – Nicola Kill
• Pinch Me – DG – AJ Ward & John Sandberg
• The Flood – AW – Andrew Osbourne
• Make Me Happy – RSO – Chelsea Taylor-Day & Ben Vivian Jones

• The Princess – GA – Charlotte Bradford
• On Monday – RSO – Chloe Nicolson
• Picking Up Speed – AW – Nicholas Corre & John Sandberg
• Pictures of the Bordersigns – RB – Olga-Marie Pratt
• Love Me Love Me Not – JC – AJ Ward
• Twirler Girl – GA – Olga-Marie Pratt & Nicholas Corre
• Valley High – DG – Andrew Osbourne, Nicholas Corre, Ben Vivian-Jones
• Ruination – RSO – Chelsea Taylor-Day
• The Wreck – DG – John Sandberg, Nicola Kill, Chloe Nicolson & AJ Ward.

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STAGEY ALERT: why British Musicals are still amazing.

Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Good Afternoon one and all,

I hope we have all been enjoying a suitably merry and relaxed bank holiday weekend. Mine has consisted of takeaways, Despicable Me 2 and making a batch of cookies far too big for two people (of which i shall share the recipe on here… one day… when i’m nice enough to share the yumminess!)

So yes, first of all. I AM LATE! I usually post every Thursday but this week became suitable manic so apologies first of all. But I also wanted to wait for the dust to settle surrounding the closure of I Can’t Sing the musical. This week I wanted to get a bit stagey and discuss the state of Musical Theatre in Britain at the moment. Having only seen I Can’t Sing three weeks ago, I was shocked to hear it was closing mid-May. Now, I Can’t Sing may not be a mind-blowing spectacular but it is providing very talented people within our industry a great showcase for their skills. In my opinion, the cast and crew made something great out of what they were given and i didn’t stop laughing throughout! But still this show is closing after only 6 or so weeks.

I Cant’ Sing is following in the very recent footsteps of From Here to Eternity and Stephen Ward – two more British musicals that didn’t have the run they had hoped for. Again, all of these shows have their merit. But why are they losing out? It seems that our industry (or at least the marketing and advertising companies) seem to be turning their back on shows written by British writers. Why didn’t these shows get the marketing that they deserved? Is it not budgeted? Or is it simply assumed that these shows will have a safe run because they are British? Maybe it’s that producers are going for the “safe bet” when really the public are looking for something more from our British writers? We could try and figure it out but, as we all know, the nature of this industry is that nothing is based on real reason. It’s all subjective. My fear now is that this trend of “failing” musicals will now hinder the production of new brilliant British writing, with producers now seeing it as risky business.

Well producers of Great Britain – I AM HERE TO CHANGE YOUR MIND. Here are my reasons for putting on BRITISH musicals in the west end:

We have the best source materials to create musicals from!

(I Can’t Sing – The X Factor Musical)

Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Monty Python, The X Factor – Britain has a crazy amount of history and brilliance to draw inspiration from. The fact that we can even have a musical about the X Factor and then a musical based around Monty Python shows how amazing this tiny little island is. If we can make a musical about winning a reality show.. then we still have hope to create something more brilliant yet!

We have companies in the UK dedicated to creating new musicals.

(Lift the Musical)

Perfect Pitch and Mercury Musicals who are both dedicated to nurturing new musical theatre writing are just the tip of the iceberg of developing writing in Britain. The National Theatre, RSC and now the English National Opera are also leading the way in developing new musicals for the masses. So big-wig West End Producers, follow suit please! Matilda is proof enough that a bit of trust, some development and a whole heap of talent (even if it is Aussie Mr Minchin!) can create an international hit! The talent is there, it just needs to be found!

(If you hadn’t heard about ENO’s new announcement, read more here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/10795780/ENO-moves-into-the-West-End-musical-business.html”

We have produced some of the best talent… and there’s still more to be discovered.

(Sweeney Todd)

Britain has been the birthplace of Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, JOHN BARROWMAN, PEOPLE!! Classic musical theatre talent (Alongside the whole list of people in the West End, Off-west end and the fringe that are killing it 8 times a week). We are graced with Tony and Olivier award winners even in our smallest venues. We train brilliant actors over here (some who may not have even had the chance to shine yet) and as actors, choreographers, musical directors, techies, we all deserve to have new British material to work with.

We create shows.. that require awesome costumes.

(Dogs the Musical….. Just Kidding)

Oh thank you Lord (Yes i mean you Andrew!) for giving performers everywhere the opportunity to dance around in cat costumes. (The cat lady in me wishes i was more flexible!)

Jokes aside though, it seems we are losing out to Broadway transfers or jukebox musicals that producers know will “pull in the punters” when we deserve better. We need to showcase the talent we have on offer in this country and show the British public what brilliant home-grown talent we have.

I was lucky enough to attend a cabaret last Sunday called THE PLATFORM LDN created and produced by twenty something productions. The evening was created and inspired by PLATFORM NYC where new composers were given a place to showcase their work for the general public, using new talent. Now although twenty something used American composers again, I feel the premise for this evening is something that more young companies should be taking inspiration from. I’d be really intrigued to know if people could give me a list of 5 young musical theatre composers that are from Britain. I honestly don’t know very many and it seems that either we don’t have many (LIES) or they are hiding in the shadows of their American counterparts. WELL BRITISH WRITERS – IT’S TIME TO TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT I’M AFRAID! I recently put a call out for new British writers to send me some links – THE OFFER STILL STANDS.

I’m looking for British writers who I can showcase on my blog, and hopefully, in time, in an evening of new work, performed by fresh actors who haven’t already been circulating the cabaret scene. (That’s another thing that ticks me off… a lot of cabarets with the same “fresh” faces! It was nice to see some actual new talent I hadn’t seen before at PLATFORM LDN, so thank you twenty something! See my full review of the show here!) If you want to test the waters with a newly recorded song, or you are interested in potentially being featured on my blog then please do get in touch – who knows where it could lead to in the future?

So where does the future of British musical theatre lie? It lies with us – the crazy people brave enough to be in this industry! We have to make the choices to put on new work or spread the word about that composer whose music deserves to be heard. So, my lovelies, start making the choices! Go out and see new work, support new writing, and take opportunities to show that we have something worth investing in. And if all else fails – don some Cat face paint and remember why it is that we put ourselves through this torment.

My best of wishes goes to the I Can’t Sing cast and crew, and i hope that each and every member of the team moves on to bigger and better things!

ENOUGH STAGEY NOW.

Have a brilliant week all!

Koko xx

If you have some material you would like to be showcased then please do tweet me @koko91 or email kayleigh.mcknight91@gmail.com

Featured links:

http://www.perfectpitchmusicals.com/

http://mercurymusicals.com/

http://www.icantsingthemusical.com/