The Londonist theatre team constantly scours the West End and Fringe for shows to recommend... or to warn you about. Here's a fistful from the past week.
Even though it's had several four and five star reviews and some top talent, we didn't quite 'get' Vanities the Musical in which three actresses harmonise at each other for two hours through their ages as teens, students, wives and in middle age. It's an American musical designed for the college circuit and they don't always go well over here. The trio are best when cheerleaders, and Lizzy Connolly is a surefire comedic star who'll be the new Sheridan Smith — but we couldn’t hum you a tune from the piece.
Ronald Harwood's marvellous comedy about the last of the great theatrical actor-managers and his depleted company in wartime, The Dresser comes to the Duke of York's on October 5 with tickets up to £85. You can see it this week at Richmond, for £20-£48, but while Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott are both terrific actors, they don't quite make a double act. Even the wonderful Selina Cadell, whose stage manager character carries a torch for Stott just as much as her Mrs Tishell does for Doc Martin, wasn't on her usual crackling form. Maybe it needs a bit more time, although at two hours 45, it takes plenty.
In the 1920s, a very famous comedy tracked the goings-on of an argumentative couple, each travelling with their new partner and fetching up at the same hotel. It's possible Noël Coward took inspiration for Private Lives from father-of-Pooh-Bear AA Milne's The Dover Road, but Nichola McAuliffe’s clever and funny production at Jermyn Street Theatre adds touches of the surreal, the macabre and Jeeves and Wooster to shake a delicious cocktail. Patrick Ryecart has huge and infectious fun in the lead, and if there's an Olivier for eye-rolling, he's already won.
The Naked Magicians were a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe this year and have settled into Trafalgar Studios for the rest of the month. If you set aside the fact they are only fully naked for the last minute of the show, there’s fun to be had with their illusions and their laddish Australian banter which is aimed pretty firmly at a hen night audience. The tricks are nearly as slick as Derren Brown, and at a fraction of the price.
We're about to go to School of Rock on your behalf, but before that — long before if you accept that Matt Wills and Sam Cassidy wrote it before becoming actors or singers — there's 27. It's a brash and bombastic musical and unlike School of Rock overloud and over-lit so the throbbing soundtrack can be a bit relentless when the 'hits' of the band who've made a pact with the devil are occasionally as diabolical as the plot. Directed by veteran choreographer and ex-Strictly judge Arlene Phillips, it's dividing audiences at the Cockpit Theatre into those who love it and those who don’t.