Asmeret Ghebremichael joins the company of Dreamgirls to play the role of Lorrell Robinson

Asmeret Ghebremichael joins the company of Dreamgirls to play the role of Lorrell Robinson
  • Original London Cast Recording due for release in April. Pre-orders available now on  Amazon

Sonia Friedman Productions announced today that Asmeret Ghebremichael has joined the company of Dreamgirls to perform the role of Lorrell Robinson. She began performances this week. Ghebremichael is best known for her performances in The Book of Mormon (West End and Broadway), Legally Blonde, Elf The Musical, Spamalot and Wicked (Broadway). She also appeared in the US television production The Wiz Live!.

Asmeret Ghebremichael

The critically acclaimed, hit UK premiere of Dreamgirls has been nominated for five Olivier Awards and stars American actress and singer Amber Riley as Effie White with Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav alternating the role of Effie, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones and now Asmeret Ghebremichael as Lorrell Robinson making up the soulful singing trio ‘The Dreams’. Ghebremichael replaces Ibinabo Jack who has had to withdraw from the production due to health reasons. Joe Aaron Reid plays Curtis Taylor Jr, Adam J Bernard plays Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley plays C.C. White, Nicholas Bailey plays Marty andLily Frazer plays Michelle Morris.

The highly anticipated Original London Cast Recording of the new, hit West End musical Dreamgirls, will be released on Sony Masterworks Broadway mid-April and is available to pre-order now via Amazon.

The cast of Dreamgirls also includes Michael Afemaré, Jocasta Almgill, Callum Aylott, Hugo Batista, Samara Casteallo, Chloe Chambers, Carly Mercedes Dyer, Joelle Dyson, Kimmy Edwards, Candace Furbert, Nathan Graham, Ashlee Irish, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Gabriel Mokake, Siân Nathaniel-James, Sean Parkins, Kirk Patterson, Ryan Reid, Rohan Richards, Noel Samuels, Durone Stokes and Tosh Wanogho-Maud.

Full information on performance schedules can be found on the official website www.dreamgirlswestend.com/ticket-information

Dreamgirls is Directed and Choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award®-winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with Set Design by Tim Hatley, Costume Design by Gregg Barnes, Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone, Sound Design by Richard Brooker and Hair Design by Josh Marquette. The Musical Supervisor is Nick Finlow, the Orchestrator is Harold Wheeler, with Additional Material by Willie Reale.

Swarovski is delighted to be the Set and Costume Design partner for Dreamgirls, bringing to life the incredible visions of Tim Hatley and Gregg Barnes. Over one million Swarovski crystals have been incorporated into the production, adorning 275 costumes and 3 crystal curtains.

Dreamgirls transports you to a revolutionary time in American music history. Dreamgirls charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called ‘The Dreams’, as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous, and features the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘I Am Changing’, ‘Listen’ and ‘One Night Only’ .

With Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, Directed and Choreographed by Michael Bennett opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony Awards®. The original cast recording won two Grammy awards for Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ In 2006 it was adapted into an Oscar winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

Liisi LaFontaine, Asmeret Ghebremichael and Marisha Wallace are appearing with the support of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.

Tickets

Website: Dreamgirlswestend.com
Telephone: 0844 871 7687
Prices: From £20
At every performance there will be 100 accessibly priced seats for £20 or under available in advance, including 15 £15 Front Row Lottery tickets available on the day exclusively through the TodayTix app.

Dark Vanilla Jungle, Theatre N16

Dark Vanilla Jungle, Theatre N16

Second Son’s Production of Dark Vanilla Jungle can be compared to watching a sunset. It starts off quite bright, with tales of hot summers and ice creams with her mother, ending in Epping Forest as we, along with Andrea, work out what went what wrong for her in his revival of Philip Ridley’s monologue.

I also found myself comparing it to Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle as Andrea enters the life of a disable soldier and his mother. Andrea doesn’t have the excuse of being the devil but simply a messed-up woman who has been abandoned and unloved throughout her short life. Her mother and father abandon her with an equally unloving grandmother she doesn’t know, her first love isn’t who he says he is and is it any wonder she turns to a man who she knows can never love in return.  Ultimately it looks at how an abuse of power to one, can turn into an abuse of power to others.

This production has its weaknesses; Emily Thornton seemed unsure of her lines and the decision to portray this native outer Londoner with her native Bradford accent seemed at odds with everything we had been told about the character. If it was about portraying Andrea as an outsider, then her story does that. The two simple props seemed to be a hindrance rather than a help and it is a shame. We need that feeling of claustrophobia in her cell, a feeling that Theatre N16 space did to great effect in Swifties, but here it felt like a poor direction decision from Samson Hawkins rather than the stumbling of a woman telling a big story in a small space.

It is a very out of sorts piece. Strengths, weaknesses, timelines and locations are all explored by this one character in 80 minutes. Ridley’s vivid detail from beginning to end, can be hard to stomach but it needs the minimalism this production provides to be truly believable. The piece fails to tidy up all the loose ends but this is part of the charm of the story and monologues in general. Can I trust Andrea? Can her despicable actions be boiled down to her despicable treatment? It is a timely revival as women constantly look at their place and role in society.

Dark Vanilla Jungle is on until 31 March 

Tickets £14/£12

Q & A with Laura Kressly and Katharine Kavanagh (Network of Independent Critics)

Q & A with  Laura Kressly and Katharine Kavanagh (Network of Independent Critics)

On March 20 Network of Independent Critics launched the second year of their Edinburgh Festival Scheme, inviting independent critics to spend a few days covering shows at minimal costs. I spoke to Laura (LK) and Katherine (KK) about the network, the scheme and their tips for surviving one of the biggest arts festivals in the world.

How did your relationship with the theatre begin? 

LK: I’ve been a performer since I was little and decided at 10 years old I wanted to be an actor after joining my school’s drama club. That eventually led to drama school in the US (where I grew up), and a Master’s in Shakespeare Performance in the UK. After a few years working as an actor in London, I spread into producing and directing, but had to give up doing it actively when the economy crashed. I ended up working crappy day jobs to fund my producing projects whilst other people had all the fun. Eventually I chucked it in altogether and became a Drama teacher. Giving up on a lifelong dream was hard, but that’s what brought me to reviewing – I could fit it around a day job and still feel like I was contributing to the industry.

KK: When I was still in infant school I had a friend who went to speech & drama classes, so I went along with her and never looked back. A degree in contemporary theatre, a drama school diploma and several acting jobs later, and I found myself touring for two seasons as a volunteer with NoFit State Circus. A couple of years after that, a fire destroyed the theatre-bus I was living on, so I had to remold my career, which led me to the circus criticism role I hold today 🙂

How did you both come to be bloggers? Did you have a writing/journalist background?

LK:I covered that in my answer above, but to add – no, I have no background in journalism or writing. My drama training, as it was in a drama school and a practical-based postgrad, weren’t writing focused at all.

KK: I always got good marks in my essay assignments at school and university, but that was about it. I started a correspondance course in freelancee writing, but after the first few modules I was able to get myself up and running. I keep intending to go back to it one day, but work keeps getting in the way!

 

critics photo.jpg
Circus reviewing masterclass from Edinburgh 2016

 

What made you launch the scheme in 2016 ?

LK: It’s expensive going to Edinburgh on your own, so I thought why not get a bunch of bloggers together and share the cost of housing? I approached Katharine (who I’d worked with before) to see what she thought and if she wanted to team up. She did, so we did!

KK: The big draw for me when Laura approached me with the idea was the chance to implement a scheme I had been dreaming up to develop critical discourse around circus arts. We had 4 participants take part in the #CircusVoices residency, which was fantastic but, sadly, it looks like we may not have funding this year. I will do what I can to keep circus criticism on the map though! Specialist areas of work benefit from expert write-ups. Overall, I was taken aback by how popular the NIC opportunity turned out to be. As I am not based in London or part of the theatre-bloggers circle, I hadn’t expected such a volume of response.

What opportunities will Edinburgh provide to any blogger new to the Festival?

LK: An intensive week to totally focus on reviewing and developing critical practice, advice and guidance from more experienced reviewers, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people. The fringe is like no other arts festival and reviewing there is completely different than ‘regular’ reviewing, even in London.

Do you think the camaraderie of NIC scheme in Edinburgh will improve independent blogging in the long term? In my experience, it can be quite a lonely endeavour.

LK: I’d like to think so. Whilst there are numerous ‘tribes’ and approaches to criticism – with bloggers often criticised by ‘proper critics’ and performers for not being ‘professional’ – we’re certainly stronger in numbers – by supporting each other we can better show the influence we have in the industry.

It’s also a nice way to find friends with similar interests. Last year’s group was incredibly diverse, and reading each other’s work and talking about criticism is a great way to develop your own practice.

KK: It is so nice to have people to talk to when things get stressful, and realise you are not alone in dealing with these situations!

What would be your top ten tips to surviving Edinburgh in August?

  1. Sleep as much as you can
  2. Drink water and eat well
  3. Do as much pre-planning as you can so you can hit the ground running
  4. If you’re there the whole month, make sure you take time off
  5. Leave time in your schedule to be surprised and follow impulses
  6. Talk to people – you never know who you’ll meet or what they might introduce you to
  7. Wear comfy trainers
  8. Make friends with the press offices
  9. Enjoy it!
  10. Don’t drink too much booze

Ian Mckellen In Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You at the Park Theatre

Ian Mckellen In Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You at the Park Theatre

 

 

International star of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen is to perform an exclusive one man show at Park Theatre for nine performances only, from 3 – 9 July 2017, directed by Park Theatre’s Artistic Director Jez Bond. Guiding audiences through some of the most exciting pages and stages of the last fifty years, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You will offer a rare chance to see the multi-award winning and twice Oscar nominated actor perform in the intimate surroundings of Park Theatre. The production will be accompanied by a never before seen exhibition of iconic posters, paintings and photographs from Sir Ian’s plays and films, with a number of pieces for sale.

Sir Ian, one of Park Theatre’s key Ambassadors and champions from its inception, is performing Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You in order to raise funds for its work (registered charity 1137223).

Sir Ian McKellen in Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You 8. Photo by Mark Douet.jpgOver nine special performances from one of the world’s finest actors, Sir Ian will reprise some of his renowned performances, from Gandalf to Macbeth. Audiences will have opportunities to ask questions and participate in the performance, as well as hearing Sir Ian discuss his work with other notable actors and directors. An intimate and unforgettable evening with one of the world’s finest actors.

 

Sir Ian McKellen said: “I’m performing at Park Theatre to help raise funds for the charity. In a short time the theatre has established itself on both the theatrical and local maps. But with no public subsidy for core costs they need to bring in donations of around £250,000 every year just to keep the doors open. The monies raised from the higher ticket prices for this production will support their core ambition of producing accessible theatre throughout the coming years and furthering their work with the local community. A number of £10 seats will also be available on the day. I do hope you’ll support this wonderful cause.”

 

Artistic Director Jez Bond said: “As one of our country’s leading actors, I can’t imagine there is anyone better placed to understand both the power and importance of smaller scale theatres and the challenges they face. Ian has been a staunch supporter since the building was a hard-hat site – and I continue to be grateful for and humbled by his incredible generosity. He has donated his time to help raise vital funds by performing this show – and I am honoured to be working with him to bring it to the stage.”

 

Courtesy of Tikveš, certain ticket types include a bottle of their award winning Vranec Special Selection wine, produced with a limited edition label for the show. There will also be the optional extras of dinner, drinks and photos with Sir Ian himself as a bonus package for audiences to add to their evening.

Network of Independent Critics return to Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Network of Independent Critics return to Edinburgh Fringe 2017

•    Providing accommodation for independent critics to cover Edinburgh Festival Fringe without breaking the bank.

•    Enabling increased media coverage of niche interest and emerging work, which struggles to find representation in the mainstream press.

•    Not a publishing platform, but a support system for established and developing critics who work independently for little or no pay.
•    Participants will be selected based on passion, knowledge and a proven track record within their chosen area of the performing arts industry.

Applications open today for participants to join the Network of Independent Critics for their second season at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from 4th-28th August 2017.

A city centre apartment will become home to up to 24 selected arts commentators over the course of the Fringe, allowing for networking and social opportunities as well as a cost-effective base from which to cover the Festival. Each participant will focus on a specialised selection of the Fringe programme, which could range from puppetry to solo performance, new musicals to street busking.

Last year, over 400 reviews were produced by 19 participating critics, as well as additional Social Media content and reportage. These represented interests including LGBTQ work, children’s theatre and female-led performance. The NIC scheme was launched in 2016 by Laura Kressly and Katharine Kavanagh to support the work of independent critics and facilitate their continued practise, and to generate visibility for arts that regularly slip below the radar of the mainstream press.

‘By ‘independent’, we mean mean someone who produces arts criticism unsalaried, and maintains their own platform for doing so – although they needn’t be producing content for this outlet exclusively,’ explains Kavanagh, who runs the UK’s only publication dedicated to circus critique at TheCircusDiaries.com, and also writes for The Stage and Exeunt. ‘We’re keen to open up the Festival to those working primarily in online media, which means those who produce video and podcast reports, as well as those who run their own blogs and websites for written reviews.’

Whilst this coverage is an increasingly valuable resource for the arts industry, the work remains largely unpaid and the cost of visiting Edinburgh during Fringe season can be prohibitive. By joining forces to rent an apartment as a group, the costs are considerably lowered, and participants can seek their own funding to cover the remainder if they wish. Following feedback from last year’s scheme, a choice of shared or private rooms is being offered, catering for different budgets and preferences.

Application forms are available from NICritics@mail.com until the deadline of 9th April, and successful applicants will be notified by 17th April after an anonymised selection process. The NIC will also be running free, open networking events as part of the Fringe Central programme, continuing their mission to seek out, disseminate and create opportunities for independent critics.

WHIMSY, Theatre N16

WHIMSY, Theatre N16

It is a real shame that Scram Collective’s Whimsy, written by Alex Newport, is such a poor, over the top and nonsensical display. There is much potential, ranging from the anti-Faust storyline of Aoife (Beth Smith) who finds herself a beneficiary of a pact she never chose to make to David’s (Neil Gardner) male domestic abuse storyline, which focuses on a topic rarely discussed anywhere not even theatre.

These should under no circumstances be in the same play. It feels like Newport wrote one play involving Aoife and her ability to get whatever she wanted and clumsily turned it into a storyline about domestic violence. Why did the reality-bending aspect even come into this? Why weren’t Aoife and David just in a relationship that took a turn, instead of Aoife blaming her powers for her problems. I felt it made light of a very serious issue all because the production had been sponsored by a male domestic abuse charity.

The other issue is the performances. If the performances were not utterly lacklustre (Smith, Gardner) then it was at 11 with nowhere to go as Aoife’s reality bending helpers, rough and Norther Calli (Laura Bentley) with weak and serious Sebastian (Alex Newport). The only consistent and thought through performance was Lucy Saunders as the innocent and kind helper, Bea. There was a scene where Bea uses her powers and kindness to help Aoife sleep and it is such a shame that the play didn’t use more elements of this connection between the characters.

The need to create your own work as performers is obvious, there isn’t the funding for someone else to create it for you but not only was this indulgent piece misjudged it is not a great showcase for any of the performers. The sense of arrogance was only heightened by the cast’s decision not to take a bow.

My advice to this production is that it needs to remember to focus, to take a step back from being the performer and wonder what the audience is seeing and thinking. It has potential, but work out what you want to write and don’t fit inappropriate stories to keep backers happy. It was a thousand different ideas without a script editor. It also felt uninspired, the director Heather Millar, made poor use of the limited space and scenes with all five cast members were crowded and not thought through. The audience is not so mindless to forget characters if they go off stage so we can focus on the scene in question.

Company co-founder and writer of Whimsy Alex Newport says:

 “Scram Collective was formed with an attitude of ‘doing it ourselves’ rather than waiting for the phone to ring. While this presents a massive challenge, it also gives a wonderful sense of creative freedom, and we’re so pleased that we can create work for ourselves and other emerging artists. Writing Whimsy has been a terrific experience, mainly due to having such a positive and hard-working team. A team who will be brutally honest on whether a scene works or not, helping to create a piece that is personal, but well-rounded.”

The play at times needed someone to just say “Stop”.

Vines, Theatre N16

Vines, Theatre N16

Metalmouth Theatre’s monologue is very hot take on being a woman, a feminist and wondering if there is more to life. Alex Critoph plays a young woman hiding from the world. Friends are a necessity and she has taken to wearing a headscarf because it might give her privacy and respect.

This 30-minute piece, directed by Leah Fogo, is very up to date looking at the women’s march and what it means to identify as female in 21st century Britain. It is also a cold hard look at how distressing being a millennial can be, it is a subject that will dominate a lot of plays but this show looks at a character who decides to find herself spiritually through an ayahuasca ceremony.

Despite its, short,  running time it is a very vivid look at hallucination and extremes people will go to to find themselves. Critoph’s unnamed woman takes an extreme and expensive (how can her character working in a restaurant have £300 spare) but I was drawn to Critoph’s performance and it was enhanced by Ella Simkins makeup.

There were glimpses of other stories, her relationship with her manager Rob (purely platonic?) and hints of an abusive childhood but whilst the retreat scene was beautifully done, I particularly enjoyed the lighting in the scene where Critoph meets with a healer, Lola. It is just a shame the experience we have with Critoph isn’t a bit longer. It feels like there was a lot more the character had to say and the audience is shuffled out before we even get a chance to get to know what it might be.It touches upon being quite an emotionally draining with moments of liberation.