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Member Since 07 Dec 2012
Offline Last Active Apr 10 2014 11:10 PM

#289875 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Kat1985 on 19 January 2014 - 06:16 PM

I saw the Saturday matinee and really enjoyed it. I can't stop listening to the soundtrack. The cast were outstanding. I hope people give this show a chance and go and see it.

#289343 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Theatregoer54 on 13 January 2014 - 12:24 PM

As someone who has been fortunate enough to see nearly 150 shows over the past twenty years and as an avid reader of the Forum for the past year.  I decided that after seeing Stephen Ward at the weekend I would make my first Forum comment. I have seen every Musical currently playing in the West End and alongside ‘Book of Mormon’ I have to say I found Stephen Ward the most entertaining and enjoyable.
The performances are uniformly excellent throughout, Alexander Hanson for his excellent voice and charismatic stage presence, Charlotte Spencer for her sweet singing voice and Joanna Riding for her outstanding performance of one of the best songs I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing onstage in particular.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but as someone who has seen a range of shows from the truly wonderful (Oklahoma at the National Theatre) to the truly dire (Boogie Nights at the Savoy) I have to say that Stephen Ward is definitely one of the best shows I’ve seen. I really hope that more people will take the opportunity to see one of the finest pieces of original theatre for a number of years.

#288490 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Jay78uk on 05 January 2014 - 10:04 AM

It's a shame many posters are doing a post mortem on this show which has barely been open a fortnight. Given its clearly (and intentional) niche appeal I am not sure comparing its potential longevity versus previous ALW musicals is helpful or relevant. Good on him for tackling unusual subject matter, taking an angle and trying something different.

I agree this piece has some flaws and an uneven score, but I keep going back to the stunning songs- a great theme in human sacrifice, a gorgeous trio of songs in the when you get to know me/ you're so very clever to have found this/ this side of the sky, and the heart breaking 'I'm hopeless when it comes to you'.

I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

#288062 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Steve10086 on 31 December 2013 - 08:33 AM

View Postmallardo, on 31 December 2013 - 08:20 AM, said:

I have to say, your ability to rationalize away all the faults and deficiencies of this show impresses me more than the show itself does.  Happy New Year.

I have to say I fully agree with what Sjh13 said.  When I first saw the show I was initially thrown by the change in musical style as this is not typical Lloyd Webber at all, but I soon became hooked on the music and I think the story is fascinating.  I also greatly admire his reasons for writing this show, and even if it does close in March I think it's been very worthwhile.

#288053 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Sjh13 on 31 December 2013 - 01:05 AM

In terms of collaborators, playwrights don't come much better than Hampton, directors than Sir Richard and DB is very experienced and can turn a phrase. I just don't think its "that kind of score". This is ALW with his foot off the commercial pedal for the first time ever - he is under no pressure here for the big key change, the sort of song that Spamalot took the piss out of ("the Song that Goes Like This") - for this show he has written what he wants to do at this time in his career and I actually like how it has turned out. It has an authenticity to it that scores which demand a big tune for the sake of it may not have. There are songs here that are way different from what many would consider a typical ALW and I am enjoying getting to know the numbers more. I actually quite like the scaled down orchestrations as well.  Hopefully I can get to see it before it closes.

#287714 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted unknown21 on 24 December 2013 - 03:50 PM

I actually really enjoyed this show. I thought the curtains and projections lousy - I was probably sitting too close to be able to work out what most of the images were. I enjoyed the subject, most of the music and cast. It was nice to see something new. I also thought it told a quite complex story well. I personally didn't find it dull or repetitive. I liked something more intimate and simplistic, rather than a large OTT lavish production.

#287472 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted Jay78uk on 21 December 2013 - 10:26 AM

It's rare enough a decent musical revival comes along (this year that accolade goes to Merrily, saw that three times it was so damn good with a score that keeps giving), and even rarer that a decent NEW musical comes along, rather than the dross filling up the west end like thriller live, let it be, we will rock you, mama mia, the commitments... I could go on...  So I hope people do make the time to see Stephen Ward, and the inevitable chatter of it not being a 'big hit' like cats and phantom etc doesn't kill the show off early.

#286033 Andrew Lloyd Webbers New Musical Stephen Ward

Posted Val Brooks on 06 December 2013 - 03:03 PM

I went to see Stephen Ward last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only is the cast exceptionally good; the songs are good and most memorable; the dance and 'action' in keeping with the story and era, and the fashions, totally authentic. If one is expecting Cats or Phantom, you could possibly be disappointed but, if you research the subject first, especially those whom are too young to remember, those whom have forgotten or the straight-laced (one comment, "I did not expect that') and go with an open mind you will not be disappointed and will find yourself enjoying a musical that is different and works extremely well! I was just sixteen when the Profumo affair broke and it has always fascinated me for I too always believed Stephen Ward was made a scape-goat!!

#286137 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted KevinUK on 07 December 2013 - 10:31 PM

Overall I think it's a good piece of theatre. I think the subject matter itself lends itself (surprisingly well) to musical theatre and now that I've seen it, believe ALW was right to pursue the project.

However, I can't help but want more - I've left the theatre wanting to know more about the story, so think it could work better as a TV drama.

But as a piece of theatre I think it does it's job well. The cast are great - especially Charlotte. The actor playing Stephen (I forget his name) was quite happy to announce at the start of act 2 he'd forgotten his line, but it's only week 1.

Musically I'm not qualified to talk about it - god only know what the technical terms would be - but some of it reminded me of Evita: but does it matter? After 40 years his work is going to become reminiscent of his other works. There's a lack of songs which I feel will become 'classics', but plenty of shows manage without one of their numbers passing into popular culture.  

I don't like the set design: projections into curtains in this day and age are (ironically) dated and lack creativity.

The only thing I can't decide on overall is who on earth the audience for this is. But, looking at his past productions, a British sex scandal should be more commercially viable than a bunch of cats, trains or the wife of an Argentinian dictator.

I went into this thinking the only reason ALW is probably still making new musicals is because he enjoys composing them and it's possibly something of a hobby at this stage. But I've changed my mind - I think he probably feels he still has at least one good musical in him. If Stephen Ward happens to be his last, then it's a good one to end a career on - and I don't think he could ask for fairer than that.

#285768 Stephen Ward - The Musical

Posted ecm on 04 December 2013 - 10:26 PM

As my rather enthusiastic late-night post yesterday showed, I rather enjoyed this! I wouldn’t say it was perfect but by golly I thought it was a great piece of theatre. I woke up this morning with the experience still buzzing in my head. Evidently my views are not in the majority here so far and I would say that a lot of what I like about it is what others have criticised it for, which only goes to show that you can’t please everybody!

I would personally argue that it is really well constructed. It feels like a classic tragedy, in that the seeds of the ending are sown early on, in subtle ways, and then as the piece gathers momentum towards its inevitable conclusion the world created in the first act unravels before our eyes in Act Two.  This is reflected too in the score – Act One sets up the themes, Act Two tears them apart. Act One is melodic, wistful, exciting as the scenes demand, with a succession of great songs (and, to be fair, one or two that don’t quite hit the mark.) Act Two is dramatic and jagged and pits the themes against each other to thrilling result. The only really obvious ‘song’ song in Act 2 is Valerie Hobson’s number, I’m Hopeless When It Comes To You. Paplazaroo says that it would mean more if performed by a character we had spent time with and grown to care about. Personally, I think it’s all the more powerful being sung by an outsider who has no real part in the proceedings. It helps bring everything into focus – someone watching from the sidelines who is helpless and totally floored by the insane events which are unfolding before her. It adds to the sense, common to all great tragedies, that once events start to slide out of control there is no way to stop them.

In fact I think that’s the key to the whole show. It is a piece about individuals who think, rightly or wrongly, that the world is a fun and benevolent place who soon discover that all actions have consequences and that the fates can sometimes conspire to turn against us and leave us at the mercy of bitter cold winds with no real idea of why. It’s a bit like the Abba song – ‘the gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice.’ In fact, that’s makes me think, the show this most reminds me of is Chess. It’s a show about somewhat self-centred but still well-meaning individuals who get caught up in power games that they don’t really understand. Like Chess it shows how the machines of power, the press and social convention can crush the individual and how personal relationships, love and friendship survive (or not) against that backdrop. The reason why I’m Hopeless When It Comes To You is almost self-defeating is because that’s the only reaction the character can have. The reason why there is no big denouement at the end, and Ward’s final number isn’t a big belter but more a confused monologue, is because he is a broken, confused man. I applaud the creators for not going for the big all-out number. From what I recall, Too Close To The Flame is much more of a character number that fits the situation perfectly. It keeps attempting to soar but always falls apart. It’s bittersweet and baffled and that makes it all the sadder. This is capped with Keeler almost calling on Ward and then backing out. It’s a beautifully judged moment of incredible poignancy – the moment that almost happens but then slips out of our grasp.

Given that Lloyd Webber is so often criticised for writing vacuous over-the-top ballads I love the way this show has the guts to stay true to the characters and situations and not give us false money notes and bland platitudes in the form of big numbers. It’s not devoid of soaring melody by any means, but it uses melody intelligently, in the way that Evita does.

Overall, I think the real reason this show works is that Lloyd Webber has finally allowed himself to concentrate on the music (he sole orchestrates here for the first time in donkeys years, which gives the score a pleasingly rock and roll/visceral aspect – it’s less glossy and ‘Disney-fied’ than we’d usually get). What’s more, he has joined forces with really good collaborators. You can tell he’s worked with an actual playwright rather than Ben Elton!) and with an experienced lyricist who understands the world of 1960s London. He’s working with a great director, too, and the result is we don’t feel like we’re being plunged into some half-baked theme park/multinational event but instead just watching a piece of theatre. The choreography is also fantastic (You’ve Never Had It so Good is one of the best production numbers I’ve seen in a long time) and the performances superb all round. You would never have believed it was a first preview – it felt spot-on to me.

I do agree that the use of the clichéd Caribbean music whenever a black character is being addressed can be seen as clunky and a bit embarrassing but I on the other hand in a sense it is justified. The point of view of the establishment, the police and so on towards the black community in the 1960s was even worse than it is now, in the sense that whilst not always overtly racist it did always tend to caricature black people as a clichéd ‘other’ and the use of this music in, for example, the police interrogation scene points this up rather neatly. So I like to believe it was done with dramatic intent!

I did find the early scene in the club where Ward meets Keeler to be the low point of the show and it’s a shame it happened so early as it didn’t get things off to the best start. The song the girls in the club are singing (a Hula-Hooping number in the style of cheap early 60s pop) may be accurate for that kind of club at that point in time but it’s still a pretty weak song. The ensuing meeting between Keeler and Ward also feels a little clunky and it’s not helped by the fact that for the first few scenes Keeler is such a petulant teenage character – again accurate dramatically but kind of off-putting for an audience.

That’s my only real negative, though. I’d say that the show may bear some passing resemblance to The Beautiful Game in its song/dialogue structure but it’s so much better handled here and the singing definitely dominates over spoken scenes. Really, it feels like something fresh and new. An intelligent, dramatic musical play made by people who are skilled at what they are doing.  That’s my opinion, anyway. You may dislike it, but it certainly won’t be for the same reasons people disliked Love Never Dies!

#249951 Review: Salad Days ****

Posted Whatsonstage.com on 24 December 2012 - 09:32 AM

Salad Days is one of those musicals that shouldn't work on paper, but really does in practice. A pleasingly bonkers romp through a tale of a magical piano that makes those who hear it dance uncontrollably, complete with aliens, dodgy nightclub singer...

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