Friday, 26 January 2018

Hamilton West End: A Review

Phonebox's Cara Lee recently visited one of her absolute favourite musicals for the first time - having fallen in love with the soundtrack a few years ago due to its amazing success over the's her review:

You don’t need to be a theatre aficionado to know that Hamilton (which tells the life story of the eponymous American founding father who wrote his way out of poverty, into the American Revolution and eventually into ruin, all using the modern language of hip hop with a multi-racial cast) is a pretty big deal. It’s got 11 Tonys, Pulitizer Prize and Grammy – but is it really worth the hype? Well, I’m happy to say that I can answer that question with a resounding yes (I already could have to be honest, but that’s besides the point).

First of all, as most of you will know, the music is fantastic- insanely catchy tunes combined with swift and clever lyrics make for some of the best written musical theatre in years. This fast pace is also matched by incredibly energetic choreography which constantly fills the revolving stage. These words are brought to brilliant life by a fantastic cast, especially the surprisingly fresh out of drama school Jamael Westman who encapsulates in his performance both Hamilton’s more than slightly arrogant swagger in addition to his emotional side, without missing a beat of the show’s often dense libretto. Giles Terrera’s Aaron Burr (Hamilton’s mentor and friend turned rival) comes across as more of an outsider than Broadway original Leslie Odom Jnr’s cool and emotionless portrayal, especially considering his unique voice, but this suits the character brilliantly.

These two distinct portrayals also bring out an even starker contrast between Hamilton and Burr, which is of course the driving force of the entire show. And Michael Jibson practically steals the show as the often hilarious King George III, who pops in at a few intervals to comment on events across the pond. Jason Pennycooke also has a spring in his step which suits the roles of both Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson perfectly. Rachel John brings Angelica Schuyler’s strength to life wonderfully, whilst Rachel Ann Go has the exact combination of sweetness and the power that makes Hamilton’s wife Eliza such a great character. And those are just the standouts in what is an all-around stellar cast.

A surprisingly great aspect of the live production of Hamilton is the impressive lighting, which swiftly shifts from song to song in a very effective manner. The staging and costumes are simplistic, but this truly allows the music and performances to shine- additionally, the majority of the costumes take enough historical aspects to fit with the story, whilst reflecting on the modern atmosphere of its telling.

All in all, this is a fantastic production of a wonderful show, which is quite rightfully one of the biggest shows in the West End right now.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at MK Theatre

Jersey Boys at Milton Keynes Theatre


Wednesday 24th January 2018


We are all interested in the story of how a band becomes as famous as  Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. There's an amazing rise to fame for the four boys from New Jersey and also from the wrong side of the tracks. The musical tells their story fantastically through their music. And what fantastic music it is too. All of our favourite songs are sung in full or in part measure. I had certainly forgotten how prolific they were in having some of greatest songs that have stood the test of time. Who can forget “Walk like a Man” and Sherry Baby”?

The show is an award winning one with a fabulous score and arrangements enhanced by the iconic dance routines of the band. Surely this must be the greatest forerunner of the boy bands we see today although possibly with more talent! I particularly loved the harmonies of the boys.

The show was fast moving with multiple changes of set that one could never be bored. It was really a feel - good show of outstanding quality. 

Credit must go to the four boys Michael Watson, Simon Bailey, James Winter and Karl James Wilson who took the main leads. Also well done to Arnold Mabhena who seemed to mop up so many different roles I lost count!

Jersey Boys is on at MK Theatre until Saturday 3rd February.
Tickets from the Box Office 0844 871 7652 (fees apply) or online at

Friday, 19 January 2018

The Snowman, Milton Keynes Theatre, January 17th 2018

Production by Birmingham Repertory Theatre
The Boy - Cameron James Sutherland
The Snowman - Martin Fenton
The Ice Princess - Emanuela Atzeni
Jack Frost - Davide Fienauri
Music Box Dancer - Tomoyo Jequier
The song “Walking in the Air” sung by Aled Jones

Based on the original book by Raymond Briggs of 1978 and the animated cartoon in 1982.
This is an adaption by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre which dates back to 1993 and has over the years been much extended to make this familiar and heartwarming story into a most excellent 90 minute show.

There is no dialogue but the simplicity and slightly ethereal production of the story and the clever mime and dance to put it across, easily convey it to the audience both young and old and it is truly magical. The original music by Howard Blake enables the various scenes to be set and compliments the story being told. The additional members of the cast, which includes various additional snowmen, penguins and of course the “boys” mum and dad, all perform their parts in the story well too.
The orchestra a vital part in expressing the wonderful mood of each scene. However, it is the “goose bump” moment when Walking in the Air starts to play and the Snowman and the Boy start to fly that is the high point of the show and again is truly magical.
They portray a slow and gently grace with their movement above and around the stage. The show is full of gentle humour (and scary bits with Jack Frost an addition to the film) that will appeal to young and old alike. The stage sets, costumes and falling snow graphic are simple but excellently done. The theatres sound was great as usual. 
Highly recommended. Thank you to all concerned.
For tickets, visit