Category Archives: Reviews

Romeo and Juliet – National Ballet of Canada

Romeo and Juliet National Ballet of Canada

star-rating-4.0

The National Ballet of Canada pay a welcome visit to London’s Sadler’s Wells with a new production of Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A classic of most ballet companies, this new production features stunning choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, and was first seen in 2011. The joy of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ comes from the timeless story that so neatly adapts into new mediums without feeling forced. There can be no one coming to the piece who is unfamiliar with the basic story, and adaptation such as Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’ and Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ both show how successful adaptations can be. Prokoviev’s score is most remembered for the bold ‘Dance of the Knights’ and perfectly blends the action sequences with the suitably romantic passages which accompany the star cross lovers. Ratmansky’s choreography complements the score in every respect, finding bold characterisations in the music that are formed perfectly, from the mischievous sound of Malvolio to the aggressive spikes of Tybalt. Each character is firmly presented and is both unique and engaging in their own way.

What makes this performance stand out is the care and attention made to staging, and not just the choreography. Key dramatic moments are beautifully executed, using the vast Sadler’s Wells stage to draw focus where necessary and provide perspective in the larger scenes. One of the most beautiful passages was a transition that showed a frantic Juliet searching for Romeo after being banished to Mantua, and the pair were close enough to touch for just a second, before their world was physically divided again. This attention to detail in the overall staging showed pure imagination and thorough commitment to storytelling, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a ballet production for some time. This in turn made the final scenes so focused and tense that it was

Romeo and Juliet National Ballet of Canada 2The light and shades of Prokofiev’s score were certainly felt particularly during the larger scenes in the market square. Some impressive work from the corps helped lighten the mood of the tragedy, with much of the energy stemming from Piotr Stanczyk’s incredible Malvolio and Robert Stephen’s Benvolio. Through their teasing of Romeo and his infatuation with Rosalind, through to their moments of aggression again Tybalt, they trivilased the ‘ancient grudge’ making the conclusion all the more tragic.

Design wise Richard Hudson’s costumes could have been more divisive, as it was never clear on which side the masses were on. Unlike some productions, there was no clear attempt to differentiate the Montagues and the Capulets, instead the two houses mirrored each other in style offering no conclusive divide which fuelled the story further. His sets were effective and provided seamless transitions from the external to the internal worlds the characters were living, a theme that was echoed firmly in both the direction and choreography. Juliet remained locked away, adding to her angst and trepidation as she comes off her balcony in the famous scene making the transitions exciting and suitably claustrophobic.

Viva Forever, Piccadilly Theatre

 

Viva Forever - Camden scenestar-rating-1.0Oh dear. The critics have given Viva Forever one of the worst slatings in recent memory, and its resultant poor sales have sent producer Judy Craymer into a tailspin, with rumours of heavy revisions to the book (or its being scrapped altogether) and pulling in one of the Spice Girls themselves to save the show running rampant in Theatreland. And yet seeing the production in the flesh, it feels like the critics were fairly lenient. Viva Forever is the kind of unequivocal disaster that only arrives once a decade, with every element failing altogether, often on multiple levels.

 

One of the funniest women in television, Jennifer Saunders, has handed in what has to be the worst work of her career in this show’s book. Grabbing the mother-daughter plot from Mamma Mia!, combining it with the silly assistants and showbiz skits from Absolutely Fabulous, and throwing in an extensive and wildly unfunny parody of The X Factor, the script has not a single original feature or laugh-line.  Moody Viva (a clearly bored-to-be-here Hannah John-Kamen) is part of a girl group who have made it through to the finals on a television competition show under Sally Dexter’s ageing diva Simone’s dubious eye. In a publicity stunt she selects only Viva to advance, and she must choose between her friends and fame. Poor Sally Ann Triplett is forced to play Viva’s drunk single mother and copes admirably. Viva’s irritating friends predictably turn on her quite aggressively, only to be reunited with no reconciliation or explanation for the finale.

 

The most disappointing aspect of Viva Forever is the music. For all their “girl power,” the Spice Girls had a distinct lack of hits (and even fewer which lend themselves to a theatrical interpretation), and the production highlights this fact while failing to celebrate their few true pop anthems. Rather than a rousing opener, we’re treated to fifteen minutes of tepid dialogue, and it’s a full forty-five minutes before we hear anything recognisable. “Too Much” emerges out of a conversation between two middle-aged women about there pubic hair (really), while the Act Two starter is left to the Spice Girls Pepsi commercial jingle, with its only lyrics “Generation Next” on an endless loop. The audience needs to wait until the finale to hear what they’ve been waiting for in “Wannabe,” and by then it’s a full two hours and thirty minutes too late.

 

No one expected Viva Forever to be the next Les Miserables, but even the most loyal Spice Girls fan will be palpably let down by this production. How the production will fare if Craymer continues with her plans to export it to Broadway (where the Spice Girls managed only 4 top ten hits…and “Viva Forever” was never even released as a single) is uncertain, though my guess is it won’t be pretty.

Goodnight Mr Tom, Phoenix Theatre

It is certainly strange approaching the Phoenix Theatre without seeing the usual Blood Brothers signage and even stranger to sit in the auditorium and not be faced with the set of Mrs Johnstone’s council house crumbling before your very eyes. Goodnight Mr Tom is the first new production at the Phoenix in 21 years since the closure of Willy Russell’s famed musical…and what a show to start off the Phoenix’s new era!

Goodnight Mr Tom

Goodnight Mr Tom runs from November 27th – January 26th 2013

Goodnight Mr Tom, adapted from Michelle Magorian’s award novel, tells the tale of a war torn Britain through a young evacuee sent from London to the idyllic Dorset countryside. However it soon becomes clear that even the most welcoming of havens can be devastated by war. Considering the show runs over the Christmas season, it is not exactly a traditional festive tale of tidings of comfort and joy…or is it?

The production was a visual treat. Director Angus Jackson and designer Robert Innes Hopkins worked together to create a symbolic use of colour, the most apparent of which was the stark contrast between the grey scale London and the bright colours of Dorset. Furthermore the transformation of evacuee, William, into a young healthy country boy was highlighted by him changing from his grey ‘London’ clothes into a vibrant green jumper and back again on his return to the city. Similarly the personality of the young and vivacious Zach is reflected in his rainbow coloured jumper, that is later poignantly passed on to William. It was subtle stylistic touches such as this that made the play a cut above the norm. Also the surprise transformation of the stage in the second act was genuinely astonishing and delightfully unexpected, further defining the different locations within the play. The show was truly a delight to watch!

Similarly effective was the use of onstage puppetry, most notably in the border collie Sam but also in the various other woodland animals that populated the small Dorset Village. Sam, with the aid of an expert puppeteer, behaved like a real life dog, which added to the magic of the show as audience members were able to suspend their belief, which really is the marking of a good play. It is worth noting the man behind the puppets is Toby Olié, who has both been in War Horse and worked with the Handspring Puppet Company, who created the notorious animals for the show. Olié certainly brings the high standards of his theatrical credits to Goodnight Mr Tom.

Other than the acting veteran Oliver Ford Davis, who played Mr Tom with all the believability one would expect from such an established actor, it is difficult to single out specific actors as there were no weak links in the chain; every performer from ensemble to principle were able to deliver solid and often emotional performances. The book is hard hitting, and without a strong cast to back that up the effect of Magorian’s text would have been lost. Luckily this was not the case and often I was moved to tears. There. I admit it.

Whilst at first Goodnight Mr Tom may seem like an odd choice of play over the festive season, the themes of redemption and love in the face of tears and bloodshed is perhaps more truthful and heart warming than any other Christmas tale I can think of. This show is one to watch.

Goodnight Mr Tom runs through 27th November – 26th January 2013. Click here for tickets.

Where I Sat: Dress Circle, D18. This seat had a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage. I would definitely recommend it.

Recommended for: Fans of plays wit a bit of content. This show is not a slap dash musical and requires some attention.

Let It Be London Review

 

Let It Be Musical London reviewWith Backbeat – a musical about the early days of the Beatles – closing earlier this year, it came as a surprise to hear that a new show focusing on the Fab Four was to play at another venue in London, with Let It Be opening this month at the Prince of Wales. I was sceptical that I would enjoy the show that much, as although I am a fan of the Beatles’ music, I thought that seeing a tribute act performing their songs would be a little tacky, and assumed that no one could fill the shoes of the four Liverpudlians who were part of the most successful band of all time. I was wrong, however, as Let It Be was an incredible show that brought the swinging 60s to life inside the theatre with the band performing some of the greatest songs ever written.

Let It Be comprises over 20 of the Beatles greatest hits in chronological order, from the early days with hits such as She Loves You and I Want to Hold Your Hand, to the hippy trippy stage with greats performed like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Strawberry Fields Forever, and through to the last years, ending in, of course, Let It Be. The show doesn’t have a story line and is more like a brilliant tribute act performing an incredible catalogue of Beatles songs as if they were doing a gig, but the oversized TV screens on each side of the stage provided context to the era, showing news reports, funny adverts and crazy Beatlemania footage from the height of their popularity. I loved this idea and it really made me wish it was the 60s again, when so much had never been done before and all seemed exciting!

With each Beatles era came different sets and costumes, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the band looked like the actual Fab Four, especially Italian Emanuele Angeletti who plays Paul McCartney in the show. His head sways and expressions were spot on, and his actual features were very similar to Macca, as well as his voice! The resemblance to the band was a bonus and as I was sitting halfway back from the Circle of the stage, I think it helped give the illusion of extreme likeness – being on the front row I might not have been saying this!

My favourite performance of the night came during the acoustic section of the show, which featured songs such as Blackbird and Here Comes the Sun. A brilliant interpretation of While My Guitar Gently Weeps which included an incredible guitar performance by ‘George Harrison’ simply blew me away.

I was truly impressed with Let It Be, so much so that I am thinking of going again, and would definitely recommend it to young and old Beatles fans alike – young to get a feel of what Beatlemania really was like, and older so as the reminisce about an age long gone where mainstream music was actually worth listening to! It is a great show packed full of hits, interesting video clips and great performances from a classy and talented tribute band.

Carousel Opera North Review

 

 

Carousel may be a musical that is not to everyone’s taste. It has every danger to be over sentimental, unrealistic and un-watchable (it clocks in at 3 hours long), and many people have issues with the message it sends about domestic violence. It is however without a doubt the finest score in the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon, and one of the only shows that can routinely bring me to tears. Any new production of this musical classic has to stand in the shadow of Nicholas Hytner’s definitive 1993 National Theatre production, but Opera North’s revival that has finally settled into the Barbican after a UK tour comes so close to perfection on many counts. From the engaging and refreshing take on the Prologue to the final anthemic chorus of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ this production is full of energy, intellect and genuine emotion that peaks in all the right places, sashaying between the intense duologues and the beautifully staged ensemble numbers. In this score (which was reportedly Richard Rodgers’ favourite) raw human emotion is mixed in with pure triva, and you find yourself listening to a chorus about Clambakes next to the simple yet harrowing ‘What’s the Use of Wond’rin’, which affirms Sondheim’s observation of Carousel’s superiority, as “Oklahoma! is about a picnic…Carousel is about life and death”.

Whilst the spectacle has been perfectly pitched between impressive yet simple (a problem with the gawdy 2008 Savoy production) some detail is sadly lost in the book scenes, in particular those early on in the first act that help justify the later choices by the gutsy Julie Jordan and Byronic hero Billy Bigelow. Scenes are often a little too fussy and overcooked, with too much movement and not enough focus on what they are saying, and indeed what they are leaving unsaid. Some work on physicality would have helped these lapses, as all too often posture and movement was distracting from the text and the honesty being sought by Joe Davis’ otherwise genuine direction. The famous porch scene in act two however is played to perfection, and had me fighting back tears, as Billy returns to earth to help guide his daughter Louise and tell Julie for the first time that he loves her. Characters such as Enoch Snow and Carrie Pipperidge are played with just the right level of energy and zest to add to the comic subplot, with their number ‘When the Children Are Asleep’ thoughtfully delivered by Joseph Shovelton and Sarah Tynan, making a memorable moment out of one that is often overlooked.

With an unusual structure, the crux of the show relies on the first scenes and the audience’s engagement with both Julie and Billy from their first meeting. Their destructive relationship needs to have a sense of inevitability yet remain believable and Katherine Manley and Michael Todd Simpson work hard to ensure this comes across. The transition to heaven was played with a knowing nod, which allowed you to suspend your disbelief for the transcendental coda to Act II, and Billy’s humility was allowed to come through as he passes his strength to Louise to ‘walk on through the wind’.

James Holmes’ orchestra are a delight from beginning to end and are never overbearing on the unmiked singers, who are given space to craft each number without danger of overindulging. The chorus at times were slightly overwhelming in size but delivered a fine vocal performance, with perfectly clipped diction and well thought out deliveries of the show’s less significant numbers. Kay Shepherd and Kim Brandstrup’s choreography shone throughout, no more so than in the stunning ballet sequence that made you wonder why this ingredient ever went out of fashion.

With many directors feeling the need to drastically reinvent shows for the ‘modern’ audience, it is refreshing to see an honest and subtle performance of a musical theatre gem. No tricks, no gimics, just utter bliss. Rush to see this show at the Barbican until September 15th, and bring plenty of tissues.

Where I sat: Stalls A 15. Front row centre. Perfect view of the stage. Felt totally absorbed in the whole production, extended leg room in front as the pit started quite far back. Comfortable chairs and overall excellent view.
Recommended for: Any fan of classic musicals, expertly delivered by a talented Opera Company.

DJWOH, 20/8/12

The Hurly Burly Show, Duchess Theatre

 

As a long standing fan of Burlesque, and a dabbler in the performance myself I was extremely excited,  yet wary, when preparing to see The Hurly Burly Show, back for a second run on the West End, this time at London’s Duchess Theatre. Let me explain my caution; until a recent upsurge in interest in the now trendy style of seductive cabaret, Burlesque was almost a bit of an underground institution, one would have to visit special Burlesque clubs or bars for an evening of comic debauchery. Now it has been commercialised and adapted for a West End crowd and Miss Polly Rea’s assets can be seen plastered on posters and Billboards across London.

The Duchess theatre is one of the more appropriate West End settings for the performance; one must travel down a staircase to an underground and slightly seedy looking stage, with luxurious red velvet chairs for the voyeurs to sit on. Unfortunately the audience is greeted with bright purple lights, glitter ball effects and Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ before the show even begins. Sadly this level of class (or lack there of) sets the theme for the show.

There are glorious moments of big band music, sexy sequin costumes and feather headbands that are associated with the traditional art of burlesque. I was green with envy as the Hurly Burly girls appeared on stage in a classic foray of corsets, stockings, pasties and pin curls. Their moves were classy and comically alluring, the way that burlesque was intended. Then, all of a sudden, Rihanna tunes would be blasted, glittery cowgirl outfits would be donned and men would be ridden onstage like rodeo bulls. The show descended from classic burlesque into a strange mix of a hen night and a stag do.

That is not to say that some of the modern interpretations were not effective, the injection of Madonna’s Material World into a Marie Antoniette inspired scene, during which the girls striped from 18th Century court costumes and  danced with powder puffs, was pure genious. As was the naughty balloon popping sequence! These scenes used a clever combination of creativity, comedy, and cheeky provocation. Others numbers, such as the ‘S&M’ church act, and the fire yielding, almost nude, bendy ballerina, lacked this imagination and bordered on cheap and trashy. That is not what I was taught burlesque is about.

The end sequence, a geisha inspired act set to Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’, was a bit of an anti climax, instead I felt the show should have closed with the last number of act one, a traditional and visually impressive tease routine using vast feather fans: Burlesque at it’s most glorious and recognisable.

All in all, The Hurly Burly Show was enjoyable, however its more modern and perhaps crowd pleasing interpretations let the ingenuity of the show down. I would hate to think of Burlesque virgins going away and thinking that what they saw was typical Burlesque. It’s not. If you want to see some bum cheeks and a bit of thigh, definitely go and see this show, but if you are after something a bit more tasteful in it’s teasing, I’d recommend a less commercial, classic show. Also…Hurly Burly ladies…where were the tassels? A two hour Burlesque show without a twirl? Criminal!

Where I sat: N9 in the Stalls. The Duchess theatre is pretty small, so although this is fairly fair back in the Stalls, there is still a clear and intimate view of the stage.

Recommended for: Hen nights, stag dos, people out for some light hearted but equally naught fun.

 

The Wah Wah Girls, Peacock Theatre

As the eyes of the world turn to London in advance of the Olympics, the World Stages festival seeks to celebrate the capital city’s diversity, with mixed results so far. Its latest offering, The Wah Wah Girls, seeks to celebrate the diversity of the capital city with this vibrant musical set in the East End. Though the book and casting are both uneven, there’s no denying the cast’s exuberance and stellar choreography salvage the production.

Bindi (a hilarious Rina Fatania), a middle-aged housewife sits down to watch a Bollywood-style film and soon becomes a part of the story, weaving in and out of the action with her plush leather armchair on wheels. Soraya (Sophiya Haque) has emigrated to London from India and set up a dancing club, specialising in traditional Mujra techniques as performed by her squad of young, glamorous girls. After fleeing from her controlling brother in Leeds, talented Sita (Natasha Jayetileke) joins the troupe, attracting the eye of Soraya’s management-minded son Kabir (Tariq Jordan). She soon invokes Soraya’s ire by encouraging the girls to pursue more Westernised dancing styles, setting off an overly complicated chain of events that culminate in dramatic reveals and inexplicable plot developments.

Tanika Gupta’s simplistic book and lyrics let down the production severely, being so riddled with clichés they have the audience laughing for all the wrong reasons. Though Fatania, Haque, and Jayetileke are all standouts, the rest of the cast struggles with the “triple-threat” demands of a musical. As Polish builder Pavel, Philip Brodie is unable to demonstrate one let alone all three of the skills required, and his accent frequently fluctuates between Warsaw and Washington. With underdeveloped sets and just 14 actors to create a series of large-scale dance numbers, Emma Rice’s production does seem like Bollywood on a budget.

Choreographers Gauri Sharma Tripathi and Javed Sanadi are the real stars of the show, with their work perfectly demonstrating the competing dance styles and creating spectacular numbers with few dancers at their disposal. The rousing dances coupled with the personality and talent of the three female leads make it impossible not to get carried away by the show’s charm. It’s clear to see that despite its technical limitations, this production has plenty of heart to make up for it.

Where I sat: Dress Circle B28-29. The Peacock Theatre is quite small, and there were no visibility problems, but these seats had the most limited legroom I’ve experienced in the West End and made for an uncomfortable experience. The stalls have considerably more legroom than the Circle.

Recommended: An enjoyable but rough-around-the-edges evening, this is a must for Bollywood fans.

Cantina, London Wonderground

The whole set up of the Southbank Underbelly site feels a bit surreal; a mushroom garden with colourful lanterns, a bar that looks like it has been lifted from a Western, dodgems as outdoor seating, and oh yes, the gigantic upside-down purple cow.  Therefore walking into the Wonderground’s Spiegeltent tent to see the freakish circus, Cantina, did not disappoint.

The production of Scott Maidment and Chelsea McGuffin’s Cantina takes place in the round, with the audience sitting ‘ringside’ to the action. Initially onlookers are presented with an old time 1920’s style busking band playing tunes on antiquated instruments. The music then continues throughout the piece, providing a backing to a procession of tense physical tricks. This seating arrangement was a theatrical aid to the piece as part of the joy of watching the show was witnessing other audience members shocked reactions to ‘tricks’ which heightened both moments of tension and comedy. This was particularly apparent during moments of full frontal (yes FULL frontal) nudity, during which each onlookers face turned as red as the clown nose pulled from various parts of an ensemble members anatomy.

The aesthetic of the production was true to the dusty 20’s feel of the Spiegeltent, with gentlemen in waistcoats and comb-overs and ladies in a slightly moth-eaten elegance. There was dancing on pianos, sipping from champagne bottles, corsets, fishnet tights couples with frilly knickers and the odd violent brawl. This show reeked of decadence and sexual tension and the audience, on the whole, lapped it up.

The acts, all seeming to centre on themes of desire and fantasy, were real nail biting, hold your breath, squint your eyes sort of tricks, with one ensemble member practically hanging himself in a noose from the ceiling. The performances had the potential to look and feel excruciating, as cast members flexed on broken glass or walked a tightrope in a pair of glittery heels. There was a real and extremely raw element of danger to the goings on as all acts were performed without safety nets or harnesses. Yes they were very impressive, but mostly I was hoping that I would not see someone die.

It would be impossible for an audience member not to be effected by the action, even if it is just to squirm at the cracking of bones or to feel the urge to duck and cover when an acrobat without a safety net flies over their head. This show is not for the fainthearted or easily offended, however Cantina is a circus or, what with all the unnatural bending, a freak show at it’s physical finest.

Where I sat: 
I sat in the ‘Ringside’ seats which meant I was up close and in the thick of the action. Although these seats are not for the fainthearted; many acrobatic tricks happen right above you, meaning of an actor fell you may well be squashed!
Recommended for: 
Fans of circus performances and fans of Burlesque will love this intimate yet ballsy production. Also, due to moments of full frontal nudity, this show has the potential to be  a big hit with hen parties!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park

There is no perfect setting other than the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to see a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The birds flying overhead, the gentle breezes and the tall trees rustling nearby help transport you to the magical woodland forest in this tale of fairies and young love, and it certainly made this season’s showing of the classic play all the more enjoyable.

As this story has been told countless times in many adaptations over hundreds of years, it comes as no surprise that this time, another new element was thrown in –  the setting of a gypsy community, complete with a caravan and the chaviest clothes known to man. The four young lovers – Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius – look strange juxtaposed with the enchanted and dream-like visuals of the fairies that manipulate and poison them, fusing the classic and the modern in quite a convincing way thanks to the performances from the actors.

Rebecca Oldfield played Helena with the perfect amount of humour and lustful devotion as she tottered around the stage in heels and a crop top, doting on and borderline stalking her love, Demetrius. George Buckhari plays Bottom, whose head is turned into that of an ass and who Titania, Queen of the Fairies falls in love with. His performance was brilliant and stole the show in terms of laughter, along with the other members of the acting troupe in the forest – builders and workmen – as they put on their performance at the end of the play.

The music mixed haunting and poignant melodies by Olly Fox with songs such as ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’, ‘YMCA’ and Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, again blending the classic with the modern in a way that brought rapturous laughter around the auditorium.

The staging by Jon Bausor was quite simple but effective, with the caravan being the central piece at the beginning and dangling from a crane above the stage for most of the rest of performance as the main characters head into the woods. With a trailer transforming into a grassy patch of the forest and mist emitted throughout, the atmosphere seemed authentic, helped by the real trees from the park in the background.

Shakespeare’s enduring story of interweaving plots of love, magic and comedy cannot be criticised, and this new adaptation by Matthew Dunster is as amusing and evocative as ever. If, however, you are after a straight and standard version of the classic play then the outrageous costumes and music in this adaptation will leave you wondering what on earth Shakespeare would have made of the garishness of it all. But the beautiful setting and comedic genius cannot take away from the fact that this is one of the greatest Shakespeare plays. Were the traffic cones on heads and the dancing on the roof of a caravan nothing but a dream? You will have to watch it to find out.

Ragtime at the Open Air Regent’s Park

As this was my first trip to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, I was filled with expectations and pre conceived images of how wonderful and picturesque an outdoor theatre, surrounded by trees and singing birds, would be. These images were shattered the moment I walked into the auditorium.

Smoking rubble; among it a torn down McDonalds signs, a scrap heap Ford car, a small Statue of Liberty and to top it all off, a torn election campaign poster with a 10ft image of Barack Obama’s face looking over the chaos. Welcome to America in ruins, or director Timothy Sheader and scenographer Jon Bausor’s image of it anyway.

I have never seen Ragtime in its original 1902 setting, so I was able to take the ‘radical’ set at face value. Characters were introduced in modern day clothing, however with a nurse in scrubs, a runner in lycra and with kappa’s and headscarves a plenty, this bordered on a stereotypical presentation of the modern cosmopolitan way of life.

Having sat through the play from start to finish, I came to understand Sheader’s present day decision that linked the radical actions of a persecuted ethnic minority and the destruction of racial struggle in general to the supposed harmony of today. However, as the cast took on their 20th century characters and donned their period costumes, I couldn’t help but wish he had stuck to the original Vaudeville setting of the play.

The music was beautiful. There wasn’t a moment that the harmonies and joviality of the rag didn’t feel me with intense joy. The cast were superb in their delivery of the music and choreography (which unlike the set, was true to the original score), with a special mention for Rosalie Craig who delivered Mothers song in the second act with expert zeal and heart rendering emotion.  However, on enjoying the music so wholeheartedly, I couldn’t help but wish it was set against the original era. There were moments when the juxtaposition of modern day clothing and 1900’s melodies felt awkward – such as the opening number.

My irritation with the modern era aside, the staging did have its redeeming qualities; the building site crane became a stylised platform for showcasing characters. For example it provided the perfect theatrical swing for the sultry performer, Evelyn Nesbit as well as adding magic to the clever demonstrations by Harry Houdini.

Due to the energy and superb cast performances, I came away from the show with a smile on my face and the music running through my mind. However I was definitely left wanting more than the small flash of early 20th century Sheader allowed his audience. With 110 years between now and the plays original setting, I felt saddened by the thought that, like Bausor’s set, the period of Ragtime may well be lost in a pile of historical rubble.

Where I sat: D 12 in the lower tier. From this position I had a spectacular view of the stage as I was close to the front and very central to the action. I also had ample leg room. The chairs are plastic as this is an outdoor theatre, so a bit less comfortable than the usual theatre seat, however bringing a cushion could have easily solved this.

Recommended for: True fans of musical theatre will love this show; the musical score and lyrics are excellent, as are the costumes of the early 1900’s era.