London Theater Reviews: 42nd Street, Half a Sixpence and Lady Day at Emerson’s

My timing this summer was off in a lot of things. In terms of London theater it meant that whilst I was there, it was the scheduled summer vacation of Amber Riley, therefore I didn’t go see Dreamgirls and decided to wait to see it with her. This is what I saw:

42 Street

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Official Blurb: 42nd STREET, ‘The mother of all showbiz musicals’ (The Daily Telegraph) is the song and dance, American dream fable of Broadway. Broadway’s biggest show has arrived in London to rave reviews and nightly standing ovations, featuring the iconic songs 42nd Street, We’re In The Money, Lullaby of Broadway, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, Dames and I Only Have Eyes For You.

Young Peggy Sawyer is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show. But when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy might just have the shot at stardom she’s always dreamed of…

Grammy Award winner Sheena Easton joins an all singing, high-kicking cast as Dorothy Brock with Tom Lister as Julian Marsh and Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer.Mark Bramble, co-author of the book for the original Broadway and West End productions of 42nd STREET and director of the 2001 Tony Award® winning revival, returns to direct the new West End production on London’s biggest stage, Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

My Take: For me 42 street has always been a bad book of a musical with amazing dancing and two of the most iconic songs in the musical theater catalogue (lullaby of Broadway hasa very soft spot in my heart). In this production the strengths of 42nd street are beautifully heightened. The grandeur of the Drury lane stage and the numerous ensemble lends itself for gorgeous dance numbers. The beautiful costumes just heighten the visual delight you are experiencing. Its an overwhelming spectacle for the senses, who cares if the story is trite, you heard lullaby of broadway and saw tap dancing like you’ve never seen before. I actually did not recognice Shena Easton, but once she started signing her voice was unmistakeable and beautiful. if you like dance this is your show.

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Half A Sixpence 

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Official BlurbArthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to? With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices.

My Take: A cute nice show beautifully staged and very energetic.  The book is snappy and well constructed, props to mr. Fellows for it. There are no songs you will hum to yourself on your way back home, but they are energetic and fun, and very appropriate for the story. This is probably the best word to describe the show: lots of energy! Of the cast, Emma Williams and Charlie Stemp are absolutely deightful, yet Devon-Elise Johnson as Anna jsut grated me. She has a beautiful voice but her acting was annoying me to no end.

Probably would not recommend it unless you’ve seen a lot of what’s on stage, but it does make for a fun and lively night out, it was perfectly appropriate for our jetlag.

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Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

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Official Blurb: Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald makes her West End debut as legendary jazz icon, Billie Holiday.Spend an intimate evening filled with some of the most inspiring and moving songs ever written and hear the personal stories of Holiday’s loves and losses through a turbulent but extraordinary life.With a glorious score featuring God Bless the Child, What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Strange Fruit, Crazy He Calls Me and Taint Nobody’s Biz-ness you’d better pull up a chair and order a drink because this legend’s got a life to sing.Audra McDonald, a Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winner, is one of Broadway’s biggest stars and holds the record for Tony-winning performances including her Best Actress winning performance for LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL.

My take: Audra McDonald is a theater legend and goddess. That is all you have to know to run see this show. A one woman play with singing – it plays to all her strengths. The performance is superb, her vocals are not only gorgeous and smooth but so similar to Billy holidays that it’s Erie. Apart from the performance, which is the highlight of the day, I was actually quite impressed with the book. In between side comments and little conversations here and there you get quite a lot of content on what the life of Ms. Billy Holiday (aka Lady Day) was. Bonus points: the show is only 1 hour and 45 minute without intermission. I love myself shows without intermissions!

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