Five Guys Named Moe ~ Marble Arch Theatre ~ 08.03.2018

Another show where I purposefully didn’t do too much research about as I often like the element of surprise – and another show where it paid off!

What a joy this show is – an explosion of song and dance in an immersive setting. Because this isn’t just walking into a room, seeing a show, then leaving. Let’s start from the beginning of the entire experience.


Showing at the purpose-built  Marble Arch Theatre, the first thing you notice from the approach to the theatre is that you are about to step right into the world of the characters in New Orleans. The exterior of the theatre, the bar serving Louisiana’s finest cocktails, the jukebox, the try-on costumes – the bandstand. The entire room decked out to look the part.

Shortly before the show, members of the band take to the bandstand to give you a taster of the live entertainment to follow. Always nice for a show to have a pre-show – if there is any show you don’t just show up to 5 mins before curtain, it’s this one!

Entering the main venue – a circular theatre with a band of seating in a circle, a walkway running around the venue connecting to the stage, and a couple more rows of circular seating inside the circle and then cabaret seating in the middle. Taking time to wander around the theatre, and taking into account the staging, I don’t imagine there is a bad seat in the house. The cast are continuously walking around the audience on that circular walkway, so you can be sat in the back row but still only 5ft away from live action due to the immersive feel of the show.

The energy of this show is contagious and the audience interactions keep the party feel going. If you’re here for a deep review of plot and character development, this might not be the show for you – the plot is paper thin and the show is all about showing the impressing vocal, dancing and comedy skills of this very talented cast.

The show centres around Nomax, a lost soul who we encounter drunk in his flat following a confrontation with his girlfriend. As he passes out to the radio, the Five Moes appear and impart all their worldly knowledge in a bit to help him clean up his act and get his lady back. All through song and dance, of course.

The live band onstage are incredible and fully deserving of their own ovations at the end of each half – the first slightly obscured by the entire audience forming a conga line out of the theatre towards the bar. But they get an extended run out at each end of the second half to allow you to show appreciation. Running through a variety of songs by Louis Jordan, blending genres from jazz to blues/rock, having the band there onstage rather than down in an orchestra pit really adds to the atmosphere.

It’s impossible to pick out anyone in particular for praise because all six performers had brilliant comic timing, superb vocals and moved through the dances with ease. It’s no surprise several nominations for individuals have poured in, resulting in the cast often up against each other  in various categories.

The show is only running until the end of the month, and I’m curious to see what will pop up at the theatre afterwards, or whether the theatre will be taken down again. It’s such a great venue the team have built here – with the themed bar area, it would be great for other pop-up venues to create more of a package around the show. Having the bar area open for an hour after the show finished was unusual but helped make the night.

Tickets for Five Guys Named Moe are available here until 24th March. Don’t miss your chance to see this.


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Medieval Banquet ~ St Katherine’s Docks ~ 05.01.2018

This was an unexpected surprise, and whilst I’m not really here for restaurant reviews, I’ll make an exception for this because the event is more about the entertainment than the food, but I probably ought to briefly mention the dining anyway.

I’ll hold my hands up and say as someone who really enjoys the history of music and especially the Renaissance and the culture that goes with it, I had my reservations about this night. But I needn’t have worried – in the end what was offered up was a fun night of mess hall dining as the entertainment continued in the centre of the space.

So let’s start with the layout and dining element of the night – a central performance area with blocks of seating either side. Each seating section comprised two long tables and had its own serving wench, who brought the four courses; soup, cheese and ham platters, chicken and vegetable dinner, and slices of fruit pie. Prior to attending (and again on the night) the venue checked for allergies, intolerences or other dietary preferences so they can substitute options for non-carnivores if you advise them when booking. The food was simple but nice and was accompanied by free-flowing ale and wine all evening.

The entertainment is where the night comes into its own. As you enter the venue, singers, dancers and jugglers are wandering around the main space, performing in turn as crowd gather around the costume hire and various trinket stands before taking their seats. During the event, there are structured times for serving a course, allowing people some time for eating, then a section of performance.

The singing was superb – both solo and choral numbers from all singers were strong on the night. The contortionist was unbelievable good and I still can’t quite get my head around some of the bending. The juggler was very entertaining – I was most impressed when he was juggling upside down using his feet – rather incredible.

But the main event is the sword fighting, and that didn’t disappoint. The knights encourage their supporters to get involved and the crowd went with it. Up close theatre combat is always fun and this was no exception.

The night at the Medieval Banquet comes in at £50 per head for adults, and all things considered I think it provides good value for money. £50 would be more than I would pay for a meal generally, but if you factor in the entertainment and drinks being included then I think this is more than fair. Still, if that stretches your budget there are often group deals for more than 4 people – family discounts and general group “6 for 4” deals, so keep an eye out for those on their webpage.

The Medieval Banquet runs all year but timings are seasonal, so check their site for event details and any special event news.


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Vamos Cuba! ~ Sadler’s Wells Theatre ~ 11.08.2016


My first foray into the world of live dance performances was an explosion of colour, noise and energy, in the way you would expect of a Latin dance extravaganza.

Even with the small grasp of Spanish that I have, the humour and passion shone through as the loose narrative progressed. A collection of people stuck in an airport, trying to get to Havana, dreaming of what they’ll see contrasting with the stark reality of their situation.

The show mines from the rich seams of Cuban culture, with a fantastic range of musical stylings on offer from the live band and two principle vocalists – who were all absolutely superb throughout the evening.

The dancing I cannot offer much critique of as I have absolutely no knowledge of what is technically good dancing and what might be poor technique and execution, but I suspect much of the audience will be as qualified as I am so – on the basis that everyone moved to the beat, the costumes were stunning and the movement was liquid smooth – I would say it was a very fun show to watch and would happily see this cast perform in other shows again.

What struck me most about the performance was how international a show like this can be. It was a timely affirmation of how important body language and non-vocal expression can be when communicating. Without language barriers, it really frees up the performance to attract people from all walks of life and from every inch of the globe. Humour unites us all, and nonverbal delivers the message clearly.

Vamos Cuba can be seen at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 21st August.


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Ad Libitum ~ St Mary-le-Bow ~ 02.06.2016

In the spirit of transparency, I ought to mention that I was invited to attend this concert by a lovely colleague of mine who sings in the Ad Libitum choir, so the chances are that I was going to enjoy myself, being able to support him.

This is the second Ad Libitum recital I have been to now, in all honesty I rarely know the music (being more familiar with classical orchestral works than vocal arrangements) but I always leave having learned something new, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Let’s start with the venue itself – a curious blend of history and modernity following a post-war rebuild – the latest in a long line of corrective restructuring including being completely destroyed and rebuit following the Great Fire of London. Fantastic acoustics in the church which famously is the measuring point from which people ascertain whether they are a true cockney.

The choir is an auditioned amateur choir and typically perform 3 or 4 times a year, with a mixture of secular and sacred music, ranging from early Renaissance to modern composers – all ably conducted by Julian Collings and accompanied by Colin Spinks on what is a truly impressive church organ on display at the back of the hall.

On this occasion, the organ and choir were joined by harpist Daniel De-Fry and James Bower on percussion, as they took as through a set which included West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and Missa Brevis by Zoltán Kodály.

For me, however, the highlight of the evening was a choral representation of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings – I have often enjoyed listening to the orchestral piece, but had never before heard the choral Agnus Dei version. What an immense joy! I’ve discovered that the piece is so soothing in either form and it’s one I look forward to listening to again and again.

Every visit to see this choir has brought me something new to take away – do keep a look out for future dates, it’s guaranteed to give you two hours of soul nourishment and add to your musical education.

Details of upcoming concerts can be found on the Ad Libitum website.

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Pentatonix ~ Albert Hall, Manchester ~28.05.2016

As this was a surprise to me, courtesy of my sister and an upcoming birthday, I did no prep prior to this gig and had nothing to write notes on, so in terms of reviewing this won’t be the strongest.

I’ve long admired the work of Pentatonix since discovering their videos on YouTube. I’d never seen the US Reality Show which propelled them to fame, but their recreations of classic hits in their inimitable style has been something I’ve enjoyed watching for a few years.

Prior to the main event, we were entertained by husband-and-wife team Us The Duo – also known as multi-instrumentalists Michael and Carissa Alvarado. These two were amiable enough, playing a selection of instruments and singing well, but I wasn’t especially grabbed by the music itself. Nice enough to have in the background, but didn’t leave any lasting imprint in my mind.

Then it was time for good old PTX to take to the stage at the Albert Hall – which is a converted Wesleyan chapel and a phenomenal venue for a music gig. Beautiful structure and wonderful acoustics.


For those who don’t know, Pentatonix are a five-piece a cappella band – a beatboxer, a bass and three additional singers who provide fantastic harmonies. They came to my attention through a series of intriguing cover versions they released on YouTube, most notably one entitled Evolution of Music, whereby they catalogued musical history from 11th Century Gregorian Chanting to the present day chart hits (admittedly they skate through the first few centuries pretty quickly!)

Whilst appreciating their talent, I haven’t much followed their own musical output so the evening was split pretty evenly for me in terms of entirely new music and some firm favourites, but the rest of the crowd appeared to be fully immersed in each number, singing along with the harmonies of the three main vocalists. Personally, the main draw for me is the combination of bass and beats – vocalist Avi Kaplan’s range is incredible, such a rich sound he produces. And Kevin Olusola’s beatboxing skills keep breathing life into the songs throughout the night.

Their Michael Jackson and Daft Punk medleys stormed the night, as one expected they would. Covering the entire career of an artist like MJ in a five minute segment is pretty impressive, but the stylistic delivery of his various musical changes throughout his life is equally wonderful. The Daft Punk medley is cleverly done, attributing vocal performances to electronic music is no mean feat, and they achieve a rich sound and give songs like Technologic a whole new feel.

For me, the highlight of the night was a pretty low key but special solo moment, where most of the band left the stage for a short break, leaving the group’s beatboxer Kevin Olusola to take centre stage with his cello for a rendition of the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No.1. A single spotlight, a cello, and a beatboxer might not sound the most electrifying event but the atmosphere was incredible. Whilst initially providing an intimate contrast to preceding events, the piece built up to a thunderous applause at the finish. I could gladly listen to that over and again.

Pentatonix are currently continuing their tour around Europe throughout May and June, and will tour the USA from September.


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The War Of The Worlds ~ Dominion Theatre ~ 21.03.2016

I’ll admit, I’m a recent convert to Jeff Wayne’s masterpiece, having missed this growing up, and then later upon seeing the Hollywood film, not really being inspired to track back and read HG Wells’ classic or listen to the album. However, a chance mention on the Vitriola Music podcast at Christmas – where Robin Ince led a choir of bemused audience members in a rendition of ‘Spirit of Man‘ – piqued my interest enough to lead me to listen to the album, and head along to the live show.

< Note: Do have a listen to the Vitriola Music podcast. Robin co-hosts with fellow angry man Michael Legge, as they discuss up-and-coming bands, classic records, and share random stories between themselves. >

So after having heard the album and being inspired to head out to the live show, I still had no real idea what to expect. I understood there was to be a live band – a rather stunning mix of string orchestra and rock band, but as to what degree the show was a sung-through concert or full theatre production I had no clue.

It turned out to be a glorious mixture of both. An absolute delightful audio-visual experience. Background projections took us to the many geographical locations with ease, and filmed sequences projected behind and amongst the onstage action helped magnify large battle scenes. The films, live action, puppetry and special effect set pieces combined to great effect to amplify the dramatic moments,and the energy emanating from the live band placed central stage really drove the show from start to finish.

Be warned that the show’s special effects such as strobe lighting may have adverse affects on some people, so do check with the theatre beforehand. But if you are fine with that, then the lighting and pyrotechnics add such a thrill to proceedings.

It was a superb ensemble cast – Michael Praed and a filmed Liam Neeson shared the role of the protagonist, the Journalist. The story shifted between his older self recalling his diaries (Neeson) and the live action portrayal of the Martian invasion (Praed). Madalena Alberto as Praed’s wife had little stage time, but shone during those moments nonetheless.

David Essex as the voice of humanity was superb in his role, and notable mention to Jimmy Nail and Heidi Range as the Pastor and his wife Beth. Nail’s descent into madness at the invasion and his wife’s pleas to return reason to him was particularly captivating.

However, it has to be said, the man who won it for me on the night was Si Shorten. Stepping in for an absent Daniel Beddingfield, Si took the role of Artilleryman and absolutely wowed the audience with his vocals, particularly during ‘Brave New World’. I’ve never had the opportunity to see Si taking on some of the larger roles he has understudied for – including Jean Valjean and the Phantom – but I’d seen him perform various ensemble roles at Les Misérables and he has such an incredibly powerful voice, he deserves more recognition for his work. It looks like he has stepped up on a number of occasions for this limited run, so the chances of seeing him perform are high. Of course, do check with the cast listings on the day.

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds is playing at the Dominion Theatre throughout March and April.


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An Evening With Hadley Fraser ~ Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond ~ 10.01.2016

A long-awaited public return to the acoustic guitar for Hadley Fraser, and once again he doesn’t disappoint.

It’s been two years since his last showcasing of original works and exquisite selection of covers back at the St James Theatre in February 2014, but the excited chatter pre-show from the crowd showed that time has not dampened enthusiasm for his music gigs.

No doubt many present at the Orange Tree Theatre – a lovely venue in Richmond and one which I will be dropping in on again – will have been able to see Hadley in the various productions he has been involved with since his last music performance, most notably City of Angels at the Donmar, and the soon-to-be-ending run at the Garrick, where he is involved in both productions the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company are performing in rep – The Winter’s Tale and Harlequinade. But despite the appreciation of his deserved success as an actor in a string of high-profile shows, there is more than ample demand to see him perform onstage as himself with guitar – mic is optional, as he proved with a fantastic unplugged finale, wandering around the stage area, performing to the audience surrounding him on all four sides.

As a solo performer he served up a number of his well-loved self-penned songs from his EP, Just Let Go, effortlessly blending in some Ray Charles and Bob Dylan to the delight of the audience. When joined by his guests, Dougal Irvine and Ramin Karimloo, the combination of the three was an absolute delight. Pairing up with old Sheytoons partner Ramin to perform several of their original songs, additionally surprising the audience with an unexpected duet of Bring Him Home, provided some of the high points of the evening.

The easy chat between the three as they discussed what songs to perform next was almost as enjoyable as the music. Listening to people play because they love to play is one of the great joys. It felt like a low-key jamming session at someone’s house, and the vibe really suits Hadley’s style. Couple that with a few stories shared from their youth (Dougal and Hadley were at university together) and professional theatre experiences (Ramin and Hadley have crossed paths several times – notably perfoming as nemeses in Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables).

The night, as always, ended too soon, but the audience trailed out happy. I’ve long been an admirer of both Ramin and Hadley separately, but in harmony I cannot think of any superior pairing. Their original pieces suit the strength of Ramin’s vocals and the richness of Hadley’s. Just perfection, and I could listen to those two play all day. Dougal Irvine is someone relatively unknown to me until now, but I will be keeping an eye on his projects coming up – such as his new piece Buskers Opera at Park Theatre this Spring.

For those who enjoy the work of Ramin, he himself is hosting two shows in Islington (19th and 20th January) and Hadley will be appearing as a guest on the second show. This promises to be much fun too.


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