London-based composer and violinist Layale Chaker will be performing Inner Rhyme at St Marylebone Church with the Sarafand Ensemble. Here, Layale shares with us: what inspired her to compose Inner Rhyme, how her rich Lebanese heritage influenced her musical style, and her professional experience performing as member of the West-Divan Orchestra.
Twang!! The Musical, originally written by Lionel Bart and Harvey Orkin in 1965 is now showing at the Union Theatre. An adapted version has been rewritten by Julian Woolford and Richard John (my review here.) Its director, Bryan Hodgson, shares his intrigue in Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and the production’s journey so far in the all-singing and all-dancing Sherwood Forest.
John Savournin, artistic director of Charles Court Opera (CCO) and professional opera singer, met me at Rosemary Branch Theatre in the middle of rehearsals (on a chilly Saturday) to discuss CCO’s new and fresh production of The Mikado, which opens this week at the King’s Head Theatre. John talked to me about Gilbert & Sullivan’s inspiration behind the comic work and his optimistic outlook of the opera landscape for Off-West End companies and productions.
Dublin-born actor Rory Keenan has entertained audiences on TV, film and theatre, from the BBC’s War & Peace, Peaky Blinders and Donmar Warehouse’s Saint Joan to the National Theatre’s production of Liola. Currently performing the role of James (Jamie) Tyrone Jr. in Richard Eyre’s revived production of Eugene O’Neill’s Tony award-winning play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, alongside Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville, Rory tells me what it is like to perform the inebriate and enigmatic role of Jamie – son of a dysfunctional family. He also tells me how he manages to remember all his lines and his fondness for south London and sport — all kinds of sport!
Showing from the 13 and 25 March at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham, is The Beyond Borders season, which focuses on Britain and the Middle East. The mini season includes a part theatre and part drag cabaret show, Lipstick: a fairy tale of modern Iran, written and directed by Sarah Chew. In the middle of rehearsals, Chew spoke to me about the challenges she faced writing Lipstick, how cabaret and vaudeville fed into the work and the discourse of telling a story that has political, legal and religious implications.
Canadian costume and set designer Michael Levine has worked in a variety of prestigious theatres and opera houses internationally for more than three decades. He created the original set designs for Robert Carsen’s production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is currently being revived at the English National Opera (ENO), London Coliseum. I spoke to Michael (on the first day of Spring) to discuss the inspiration behind his work; the usage of the green and blue colours, the symbolic relationship between the world, Tytania and Oberon, as well as the floating beds on the ENO set. He also shared his experience of a dramatic transition within design over the course of his career and gave an in-depth account of the role of a set designer.
Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert this week (Wednesday 7th) to mark the bicentenary of Anglo-Italian soprano Nancy Storace (1765–1817). The concert includes significant works composed by Mozart, Haydn, Stephen Storace, Sarti and Salieri, which were associated with her, and arias that will be sung by American soprano Jacquelyn Stucker. Here, Jaquelyn, a Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House, shares her insight and admiration for Nancy Storace and the works she shall be performing at the concert, as well as her love for cooking a hearty Sunday roast.
Liam Forde is a musical theatre performer and cabaret artist from Connecticut, now based in New York. He is performing the lead role of Eugene in the tour de force musical Eugenius!, all about superheroes, the ’80s and comic books, at The Other Palace Theatre. (My four-star review here.) I caught up with him to discuss his role as Eugene as it comes towards the end of the run. He also talked to me about his journey to becoming a musical theatre star, advice he’d give to aspiring theatre performers and his love for Noël Coward, and polenta.
(Reading time: 11 minutes.)
(Header photo by Billy Bustamante.)
It was a bright Saturday morning in London, and I managed to speak to musical theatre performer and actor Rachel Lea-Gray on the phone. She is currently playing the lead role of Carmen in Phil Willmott‘s new production, Carmen 1808. The production’s run has already begun at the Union Theatre. I got to talk to Rachel about what she finds fascinating about Carmen, what challenges she faces performing her role, her love for Disney’s The Little Mermaid and what steaming your voice means. Much more below.
‘Don’t trip. Don’t trip and fall on your face.’ Tonight (January 16th, 2018), the Royal Opera House shall broadcast director David McVicar’s revived production of Rigoletto live to cinemas across the UK and abroad, and its conductor Alexander Joel tells me what he hopes won’t happen on his first Live Cinema event. ‘I’m excited, but the cameras won’t be on me anyway. I don’t like cameras on my face. They’ll probably film me for those first five seconds I come into the pit… and then the orchestra will start.’
Alexander Joel has performed multiple times at the Royal Opera House since his debut in 2013, conducting La bohème. He was invited to conduct again at the Royal Opera House in 2015 and 2016 for their productions of La Traviata and Carmen. He has also performed a wide range of pieces from operas, ballets and symphonies in various countries and worked with many international orchestras including the Vlaamse Opera orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, to name a few.