DRACULA - The Musical by Alex Loveless at London College of Music
I am ashamed to say that Bram Stoker’s iconic Dracula is still a classic on my ‘to be read’ list. Having watched Dracula a new musical by Alex Loveless at the University of West London I am now eager to rectify this.
The musical based on the novel by Bram Stoker is told in diary form. Directed by David Henson we witnessed a simple yet extremely effective setting of coffins and extraordinary acting by the London College of Music’s third year students. The props and costumes were well thought of and fit the era perfectly.
Jarvis Linert is a compelling Dracula his stage presence is both captivating and terrifying. He manages to portray sensuality as well as to appear a tad creepy, which is exactly what vampires were like before the likes of Twilight. I would love to see him in a completely different role after his performance in Dracula.
Matt Szadura was enchanting as Jonathan Harker – the change in the confident man at the beginning to the man haunted by nightmares was extremely impressive, a character I was rooting for throughout. Such a strong cast of actors and actresses I was hanging on there every word.
Dracula was alluring, seductive and compelling. The music was pitch perfect and the songs were addictive. A few of the songs reminded me of Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. A truly impressive selection of new music that you will remember long after leaving the show.
A university production worthy of a West End stage. I would love to see this show again, it would definitely become one of my favourites.
ALFIE by Eden Phillips and John Cameron
Alfie the Musical is performed by London College of Music BA Musical Theatre third-year students at the University of West London, Ealing until 22 November. The musical version of one of the landmark films of the swinging sixties has been given a fair few tweaks since last seen at Watford’s Palace Theatre nine years ago when Darren Day played the role that made Michael Caine a star.
That production met with a mixed reception but it’s hard to think why because Eden Phillips’ book and witty lyrics (from Bill Naughton’s racy-for-its-time novel) and John Cameron’s catchy music provide, in this reincarnation, a cracking evening full of tuneful ballads and lively ensemble numbers that would not look out of place in the West End (and be a distinct improvement on Dance ’Til Dawn). Director David Henson sets the period immediately with key voices from the time and a back-screen montage – the Beatles and Stones, Kenneth Wolstenholme’s unforgettable words when England won the World Cup (“they think it’s all over… it is now”), Henry Cooper’s big moment against Cassius Clay, the Profumo scandal, Twiggy, Ravi Shankar, Harold Wilson’s devaluation speech, the assassination of President Kennedy.
Making hay through all of this is Alfie Elkins (played by Kiefer Bryson) , a Jack-the-lad chauffeur with a youthful bravado and unchecked sexual swagger who beds as many women as he can lay his hands on with no feeling for them, and damn the consequences.
But what starts as a comedy turns into a dark tale of abortions, shattered lives and a richly deserved come-uppance as the mistreated women bite back, spitting out the now-slightly-paunchy Lothario as yesterday’s man.
There’s a huge amount of talent in this London College of Music company with the terrific voice and acting skills of Ariane Sallis, as Gilda, the sweet-natured, put-upon girlfriend with whom Alfie has a child but can’t handle the responsibility, standing out. It would be a pleasure to see and hear her again.
Leah Godbold, as Annie the girl from Barnsley he steals from his best mate who fattens him up with too much pie and TLC, is also impressive, Jessica Amy Mullock has a strong, likeable voice as Siddie, Lara Tipper played Ruby with authority as the more mature married woman who eventually tosses Alfie aside for a fitter, younger model (Craig Kenneth Smith with an enviable six-pack), and Sophie Towns tears the heartstrings with her solo ‘Easy’.
As Lily, the wheelchair-bound Harry’s wife who falls prey to Alfie’s dubious charms, Towns superbly invokes that haunting scene from the 1966 film when the struck-off backstreet doctor, memorably played by Denholm Elliott, aborts Vivien Merchant’s unwanted baby and Alfie, seeing the bloody foetus, cracks, finally realising it’s time to grow up and that life is real, life is earnest.
But excellent as this quartet of girls are, and most of the supporting cast – the Chelsea Girls in cowgirl outfits a sight for sore eyes (great choreography by Emma Evans and costumes by Mike Leopold) – the story truly works with Alfie […] an irresistible, love-’em-and-leave’-em, never-look-back cheeky chappie who can charm all manner of birds off the trees and into his bed…
Still, this is a most appealing show, well up to the standard of Merrily We Roll Along (performed in May by last year’s third-year students), with some smashing songs like ‘Your Turn Now’, ‘I Call It Love’, ‘In the Driving Seat’ and ‘Look at You’ that deserve to be better known. In fact, there isn’t a dud among the 28 well played by a band of five under musical director Matt Ramplin and I would cheerfully go again tomorrow.
Musical Theatre Review
© David Henson 2017