Memphis, Shaftesbury Theatre

It’s throwback week with two very different shows recalling the darkest days of America’s racial disharmony – but where The Scottsboro Boys shocks and satirises and has us choke on our own laughter Memphis is content to be the feel-good flipside. Throw a few home truths and a little grit into the mix – disturbing … [Read More]

Gypsy, Chichester Festival Theatre

There’s a moment of stunned silence in Imelda Staunton’s storming Mama Rose at the Chichester Festival Theatre, a long, long, moment where neither speaking nor singing she conclusively demonstrates what a difference a great actress makes in this most iconic of musical theatre roles. Just like her mother and husband before, her daughter June has … [Read More]

The Scottsboro Boys, Garrick Theatre

You come away from The Scottsboro Boys sure of two things: that the next Cakewalk you ever hear will induce queasiness; and that the show’s director/choreographer Susan Stroman is some kind of genius. This kick-ass UK premiere, now happily transferred from the Young Vic, has a simplicity, a precision, a visceral energy, a choreographic razzle-dazzle … [Read More]

The Girl of the Golden West, English National Opera, London Coliseum

Girl of the Golden West Susan BullockWell, there won’t be any complaints about performing this one in English – or should that be American. Thank heavens Richard Jones has made Puccini’s spaghetti western an operatic-home-counties-free-zone and got his cast delivering Kelley Rourke’s translation with enough of a trans-Atlantic drawl to affect a colloquial tang. Let’s face it, great swathes of this … [Read More]

BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers, Litton, Barbican Hall

The problem with programming Charles Ives’ Fourth Symphony – and only the very bold and resourceful and/or the BBC are ever likely to do so – is that it eclipses everything, and I mean everything, in its proximity. And if it was my 90th birthday – as indeed it was on this day for … [Read More]

Otello, English National Opera, London Coliseum

It is 30 years ago – but feels like another life – that David Alden first exploded on to English National Opera’s Coliseum stage with his forever notorious cut-price staging of Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa. None of us there will ever forget the high-drama of that evening on stage and off. The booing began with the … [Read More]

Prom 64, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Rattle, Royal Albert Hall

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker at the BBC Proms 2014.They were, of course, applauded on to the platform – all of them – and when at the close Simon Rattle turned to us and said “I think you know this already but there is no audience in the world like this one” the tacet response was surely implicit that there is no orchestra in … [Read More]

Prom 59, “Elektra”, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bychkov, Royal Albert Hall

Christine Goerke and Gun-Brit Barkmin BBC Proms 2014.How much familial dysfunction and lust – whether for sexual gratification or revenge – can one take in a single weekend? Salome and Elektra back-to back may on paper seem like a feast of divine decadence but no sooner had one become accustomed to the sickly sweet air of the former when the putrefaction of … [Read More]

Prom 58, “Salome”, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Runnicles, Royal Albert Hall

It has been said many times (and by Strauss himself) that the title role of Strauss’ Salome requires at least two different voices. Nina Stemme has both of them. And so seamlessly, artfully, are they rolled into one that it is hard to think of any other singer at the present time who better encapsulates … [Read More]

Prom 50: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Weilerstein, Belohlavek, Royal Albert Hall

Alisa Weilerstein  BBC Proms 2014.Even as orchestras began to sound more and more alike, there was the Czech Philharmonic. And many of its notable characteristics remain to this day: a modest, homespun, quality, warm and engaging and full of bright-eyed distinction in the woodwinds. In the pithy but immensely passionate overture to Janacek’s last opera From the House of [Read More]