One hell of a musical…

A musical which opens with the song, Road to Hell, in which a fierce brass section create an infernal atmosphere, is probably not going to be like any I’ve seen before. How right I was. Hadestown (Lyric Theatre) is a reimagining of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and their encounter with King Hades and his wife Persephone. Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s creation – it has been on quite a journey to get to this point, including a very successful Broadway run – is one hell of a blast on Rachel Hauck’s saloon bar set (Ancient Greece), on which and through which the whole thing pulsates.
Although a story of love and loss, it delivers so much more as the lyrics and melodies command reflection on the themes of the challenges being faced in society today. Through the lens of Orpheus (Dónal Finn) – naïve, trusting and idealistic, and desperately trying to write the perfect song – coupled with downtrodden and resigned Eurydice (Grace Hodgett), and very powerful and emotional interplay, it also somehow encourages hope and despair rolled into one. Not unlike the human condition. The music keeps on giving with outstanding performances and no weak link in the cast. Melanie La Barrie is a fab Hermes and acts as our master of ceremonies.
The second half seems to go up a gear with an outstanding performance by Gloria Onitiri as Persophone who gives it her all and leaves everything on the stage. I wanted to leap to my feet to celebrate her. Zachary James is also a brilliantly twisted Hades. The diversity of the cast really adds another dimension to the experience contemplating race, class, colour, disability. Regional accents are not washed out but add flavour to an already captivating ride. Damnation and hellfire, this is a furnace of stomping, and original, entertainment.
Meanwhile, I was a last-minute stand in for an unwell Davit B at The London Coliseum for the fourteenth revival of Jonathan Miller’s vivacious and camp The Barber of Seville. The the story of an ageing man who puts himself between two young lovers, a classic opera scenario which descends into an farcical escapade as Figaro, a barber cum fixer starts machinating resulting in hilarious consequences, which revival director Peter Relton cleverly milks for every drop of comedy he can squeeze out of Miller’s original. It does occasionally lack the zip required to maintain the comical energy of the plot shenanigans. All this despite Roderick Cox’s energy and enthusiasm in the pit. His interpretation of the score is bright and brisk.
The cast includes the evergreen Lesley Garrett who is in fine fettle as chipper housekeeper Berta and Alastair Miles whose menacing Don Basilio is the strongest characterisation, and a fine bass singer too. South African tenor Innocent Masuku (an ENO Harewood artist) also impresses as Count Almaviva, a rich deep sound with top notes that have ringing clarity. However, it is Anna Devin who creates the strongest impression as Rosina. From the moment she sings her first note, you sit up and take notice, such is the quality of her voice. I’m also a sucker for coloratura singing and hers is out of the top drawer. This is a production that will undoubtedly be revived again and again such is its popularity and although I shouldn’t need to say so in 2024 London, I hope the diversity of this company is replicated in years to come.
Post-punk pioneers The Tiger Lillies join forces with cabaret legend David Hoyle for a new concert at Wiltons Music Hall about the meaninglessness and absurdity of existence. Avant-garden bliss with ‘lessons in nihilism’, savoured alongside the acid and gauche Hoyle, with his unique compèring throughout. Ninety minutes of fun and frolics, with songs such as ‘Sin’, ‘Dieing Clown’ and ‘Disintegrate’, where Bertolt Brecht meets the Sex Pistols. The seedy music hall aura is matched by the band’s ‘Cabaret’ look of waistcoats and painted white faces.
The amazing band talents are Jacques (on guitar and accordion), Adrian Stout – wonderfully deft on the double bass and a selection of glorious musical curios such as the theramin and playing the saw – as well as the brilliant Budi Buckentop on percussion. My only criticism was Jacques’s falsetto vocals, which at times are very hard to comprehend, which meant that many words in the amazing lyrics were not properly enunciated and therefore lost to the audience. The band was the first to tour Ukraine since the war broke out and they released an album to help people there. Bravo all round.

Hadestown –
The Barber of Seville –
The Tiger Lillies and David Hoyle –

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