Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play -Palace Theater, London.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | bluchickenninja.com

This review will contain spoilers.

After sitting impatiently at my computer for 3 hours, waiting for the release of the tickets, I did a happy dance around the house when I finally got through to booking them. 10 months later and I was sitting, all the way at the back of the auditorium, excitedly waiting for the play to begin.

Having already read the script (my review), I knew the plot. I knew what I loved and what I hated from it but was open minded to be swayed to love the whole thing – after all, reading it is definitely not the same as seeing it. Because I’ve already discussed the plot in my review of the book, I’m not going to go into detail about that here.

The actors were brilliant. They reflected the book versions instead of the film versions. Hermione was sharp at times, Ron was a bumbling fool, Harry had his short temper and could be an idiot and we saw a stubbon and protective Malfoy. My favourite character had to be Scorpius, I loved him when reading the play and loved him even more seeing him. Unlike Albus, who just wound me up. The play also brough back lots of our favourite (and most disliked) characters. I could hear laughter when people twigged that they were seeing Hagrid and there were audible gasps when people realised they were seeing Umbridge.

I was hoping for magic and they sure did provide. Although it was occasionally out of sync, fire and lights were used for spells which were very pretty. There were numerous gasps from the audience for different disappearances including the transformations during the poly-juice potion and being pulled into the ministry’s phone box. Harry’s transformation near the end was very clever. My favourite bit was the dementors, especially as they appeared throughout the auditorium. Scratch that, my favourite part was the way the whole stage looked liked it wobbled when they went through time – I still can’t figure out how it was done! Green screen? Lighting?

I loved the little bits of detail on the stage and around the theater. The paneling on the wall was painted the maroon of the Hogwarts express and had little ‘H’s. The signs throughout the theater were designed like the signs used in the film. In the bar, there were hundreds of clocks all stopped at the same time. I really liked the clocks around the stage and how they all span as time reversed.


The one thing that I disliked about the play was the dancers. Every now and then they had dance scenes. Sometimes it was used to do set change, this was understandable. The infuriating bit was when there was dancing just for the sake of dancing. It didn’t fit in the play and it didn’t progress the story, it seemed to only be there to show their swishy cloaks.

I also had a problem with the theater. Part of the reason they created a play was to give more people a Image result for palace theatre london insidetheater experience. I personally had a horrible theater experience, through no fault of the play. The theater is very steep, with very cramped seats with very, very little leg room. It’s hard sitting in a room with people for an hour, let alone five. When you combined this with no aircon, it was an incredibly uncomfortable experience by the end of the play. If you’re going, definitely wear light and comfortable clothes and some water!

Overall, although I had problems with the plot, I really enjoyed the play. I would definitely recommend seeing it over reading it!

 

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Groundhog Day – Old Vic Theatre

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The creators that brought us the multiple award winning Matilda have joined forces once again to create this musical that I would watch over and over and over again.

Groundhog Day is the story of TV Weatherman Phil Connors who is sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in the small, isolated town of Punxsutawney when he finds himself in a loop, repeating the same day over and over again. As each day plays out exactly the same as the day before Phil starts going mad from frustration until he begins to use the days to try and help others and learn new things himself.

As I have never seen the film before, and not a lot of details about the musical are available on the website, it was very refreshing to walk into the theater knowing absolutely nothing about the musical other than the name of it and who has written it. I was not disappointed.

Andy Karl (Phil Connors) in Groundhog Day at The Old Vic. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Andy Karl as Phil Connors. Photo by Manuel Harlan.

The music and lyrics were written by Tim Minchin. As a huge fan of his, and one of the main reasons I went to see this musical in the first place, his wit and style are abundantly clear through the songs. If I didn’t know that they were composed by him, there would definitely have been something bugging me about how familiar the style sounded. There were numerous play on words. One would think, with the same day being played over and over again, that the songs would be the same too. This is absolutely untrue, with various songs throughout the play reflecting how Phil feels – I personal favourite was the one straight after the interval in which he sings about all the ways he’s tried to kill himself. Morbid but very entertaining. Like most musicals, there are individual solos and huge, whole cast songs. All were highly entertaining, and the duets between Andy Karl and Carlyss Peer (Andy and Rita) were beautiful and made the hairs on the back of my arm stand up.

Andy Karl and Carlyss Peer

The staging of the play was incredible. The floor has a series of rotating circles on the floor (similar to Les Mis but more). Sometimes one or two of the circles are moving and at other times all of them are. These are used to help show people walking and to move the props around. Whoever is in charge of moving them needs some sort of lifetime achievement award because they looked incredibly complicated and made the moving of everything seamless. The staging itself is simplistic, with a simple backdrop, the circles on the floor being used to move the props around. The main prop that was used was the room that Phil wakes up in repeatedly.

A show with catchy songs, amazing staging and incredible acting. I would happily see this numerous times! Make sure you catch it before it goes to Broadway.

 

Matilda The Musical -Cambridge Theatre

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A multi-award winning musical full of laughter, sillyness and magic. I have seen the musical three times now, each with a different cast, and have walked out delighted and full of joy each time.

The musical is based on Roald Dahl’s book Matilda. The arc of the story stays true to the original but it has some wonderful deviations from the book, including a sweet back story for Miss Honey, some elaborate story telling and some Russian mafia. The story is of Matilda Wormwood the child who is able to read Dostoyevsky and speak Russian by five but has misfortune of being born to parents who would rather she were watching telly, like her brother, or born a boy. Her father, Mr Wormwood, is a dodgy second-hand car salesman while Mrs Wormwood enjoys Latin American dancing. When Matilda goes to school she surprises her teacher Miss Honey with her mathematical skills but does not impress the child-hating headmistress and former hammer-thrower Miss Trunchbull.

The play is captivating and humorous from the beginning with intelligent songs and witty lines. It begins with Miracle where the children sing about how “My mummy says I’m a miracle” and how special they are, except Matilda who’s mummy says she’s a “lousy little worm” and a “good case for population control”. The play has some great up beat songs that include a large amount of the cast, including Miracle, When I grow up and Naughty. However, this is juxtaposed with some slow individual songs like This Little Girl and Quiet which are hauntingly beautiful. You can easily spot the people on the train home who have seen this musical as they will absentmindedly be humming the songs to themselves. I have also caught myself on various occasions singing the songs out loud, especially Revolting Children.

As many of the cast are children, they change around the cast regularly, which I imagine is a nightmare for rehearsals. However, each time I have seen the musical it has been exceptional with every person being extremely professional, giving it their all, hitting every note and perfect choreography. Played by a male, currently Craige Els, the terrifying headmistress is one of my favourite characters. Despite towering over everyone and screaching awful teaching pedagogy such as “to teach the child, we must first break the child” they provide a lot of laughter. The gym scene was a particular audience favourite. Although I liked her, Miss Honey was my least favourite character as I found her too timid and I grew a little tired of her singing.

The stage for the play was gorgeous with tile pieces, like from scrabble, all around the stage. I enjoyed finding lots of words hidden during the interval. Throughout the songs, various props were brought on, using the whole stage, including height. Highlights include the wall (picture below) and swings! The transitions between the acts and songs were all seamless, which couldn’t have been easy.

Matilda is, in my opinion, one of the best performances in the West End at present and easily ranks in my top three favourite musicals. With fantastic acting, catchy songs and a gorgeous set, it is a must see. And if you pass up an opportunity to see it, then you need to be sent to The Chokey.

All photos taken from: http://uk.matildathemusical.com/

 

Disney’s Aladdin The Musical – Prince Edward Theatre

Disney’s Aladdin

Aladdin is the brand new musical in the West End that takes you on a magical carpet ride to a whole old world of Panto Land.

The story is the classical one that we all know and love, Aladdin is a poor boy who falls in love with Princess Jasmine and with the help of an all powerful (with limitations) genie, overcomes the wicked vizier to save the day and get the girl.

I love the Disney film Aladdin, it is probably one of my favourites, with catchy songs and humorous parts. The musical is in many ways very similar, including the snappy classics of Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and A Whole New World.  As well as many songs from the film, there are also new songs added in too, which are also upbeat. Unfortunately, the transitions between the songs were not always smooth, with them pausing at the the end as if to tell the audience when to applaud and in some instances, at the end of Friend Like Me, break character.

I heard from people before I saw the show that the Genie is one of the best characters, with Trevor Dion Nicholas coming over from the Broadway cast to play the Genie. In many ways I agree, he had an amazing voice and stage presence and was highly entertaining. The character did many references to other Disney films, singing snippets of songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Mulan, in addition to doing topical jokes including Donald Trump and ain’t no body got time for that. However, the Genie was also one of the main reasons it felt like a Panto, with him breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the the audience at various points. As Daz pointed out, this also occurs in the film, however it also meant that at the end of one of the songs he was milking the applause which led to Aladdin also acknowledging the audience and breaking the fourth wall too. This may be an element that other people like, and it does make it very child friendly, but it is not a style I personally like, especially not in musicals. The vizar, Jafar, and his sidekick, Iago, also made it feel like a panto with “evil laughs coming on”, the hiss as they came on the stage,  explicitly telling the audience their evil plan and begin used at the front of the stage as they did the set changes behind the backdrop. Once again, I am sure this is mainly used to make the musical more child friendly, however I personally disliked it and found that it meant it didn’t flow as well and was rather clunky.

A few of the settings were spectacular, especially the cave scene (to the left) in which everything on the stage was magnificent and had a purpose. Additionally, the carpet ride was amazing and was visually spectacular. 

I also loved the costumes, with bright colours and intricate detail that you could see from the seats at the back of the auditorium. They must have taken hours to design and create! I would want to be in the musical just to try on the ensemble’s costumes. There were numerous costume changes, especially during the Prince Ali number, with each costume more elaborate than the next.

In conclusion, Aladdin is a bright and high beat musical, with spectacular costumes and scenery but be prepared for it to be very panto-esk.

All photos taken from http://www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk/