Category Archives: Music

Review: Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre

Dreamgirls has long been one of the most popular musicals of all time. It first began on Broadway back in 1981, which was followed by a number of national and international tours as well as residences, revivals and one-off concerts. Its most prominent revival was the award-winning 2006 film adaptation starring Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson as well as a whole host of other A-list stars – which has since gained a huge gay following. Riding off that box office success was the 2009 revival in the US and now its finally made its way to the West End.

In November 2016, the West End production opened to rave reviews. Starring Glee’s Amber Riley as Effie White, the show has consistently sold out and recently won 2 Olivier Awards – one for Amber. As a huge fan of the musical – particularly the film – Gay Homestays went along on Saturday 29th April to “check it over and check it out” at the Savoy Theatre and in short, we absolutely loved it!

Dreamgirls

In the first scene we are almost immediately introduced to “The Dreamettes” and although we are sure everyone was expecting Amber Riley to make her entrance as Effie, it was in fact her alternate Marisha Wallace who stepped out instead. Of course, for most this may have been a slight disappointment but nevertheless she very quickly proved why she was chosen as Effie as well – both her acting and singing chops were on point.

Most people who have seen the musical or film will already know the story and its timeline from start to finish, but being aware of what happens next or even memorising the script did not deter anyone from watching with intent and awe as the cast took back on a journey through this iconic musical as it retold the tale of The Dreams. Throughout the production, the urge to get up and sing is almost unbearable at times – you know the lyrics to every song and have been practicing them all week in preparation – but at the same time you marvel at them as they tackle every song with charisma and ease, injecting emotion and soul with every word and note.

Adam J. Bernard, who plays Jimmy Early, is full of energy and really fully embodies his character – and it seems like he studied Eddie Murphy’s interpretation very well, as his voice was almost like a clone. Some may have found this redundant, because of course you want every actor to have their own interpretation of a character, while others may have been gobsmacked that he sounded exactly like Eddie. Either way, it did not deter him from showing us why he won the Olivier award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.

Marisha passed every test and was almost too good to be true as Effie White – a role that has some very big shoes to fill. She nailed the legendary “And I Am Telling You…”, giving a rendition that dare we say, is actually better than her predecessors – her voice is warmer and less gritty than Jennifer Holliday, less piercing than Jennifer Hudson’s and richer than Amber Riley’s. Her incredible Dreams co-stars as Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson also played their parts well.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley's understudy and Effie White alternate.

Marisha Wallace: Amber Riley’s understudy and Effie White alternate.

In a brilliant scene between Effie and Deena, both actresses break out into an unexpected duet of “Listen”, which was originally written specifically for the film version and performed by Beyoncé. The song was reworked in 2009 for the stage revival as a rekindling of the pair’s friendship as Effie encourages Deena to be strong, leave Curtis and go her own way, and was a very pleasant surprise to people here and the two ladies gave it their all as they emotionally belted it out. Beyoncé would surely be both proud and shook by the performance.

One song however, that we do wish had also made its way onto the stage is “Love You I Do”, the soulful crooner that Effie White sings to Curtis. Jennifer Hudson originated the performance in the film and it has since become a fan favourite, but was sadly missed off this time.

In all, all the experience of watching Dreamgirls on stage is a joy. The entire cast were magnificent and the music leaves you wanting to re-listen to all the songs again even though you spent ages listening to them beforehand because you couldn’t sing along during it and the whole soundtrack really is that timeless.

The Savoy Theatre connects to the luxury Savoy Hotel in the Strand in London’s West End. It neighbours a number of other theatres with shows on such as Kinky Boots at the Adelphi (The Bodyguard was here previously, as we reviewed) and Stepping Out the Vaudeville. The Lyceum Theatre where The Lion King has a long-term residency and the Novello Theatre where Mamma Mia is, are not far away at all. The Strand is close to Westminster, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Soho, so is both a dream destination for tourists and LGBT people visiting London alike.

If you’re thinking of going to London and watching Dreamgirls too, then why not check out if any of our hundreds of fabulous host have got availability for you on your desired dates? You can book tickets to see Dreamgirls on their website.

Overall rating: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 5/5
Choreography: 5/5
Production: 5/5

Have you seen Dreamgirls in the West End or any of the other previous productions? What are your thoughts on the show? Let us know in the comments section below and on social media!

Manchester Pride Preview: Who we’re looking forward to seeing

Manchester Pride is just around the corner once again and there are some great artists who will be gracing either the main stage, Sackville Boutique stage or Gaydio Dance Arena. Here’s a few of our must-sees!

10. Kelly Wilde

Kelly is no stranger to Manchester Pride, having performed several times before and is a very popular act on the gay circuit. As well as some of her songs like “Gloria” and “Maria”, she is known for including covers of classics such as “Holding Out For A Hero” and “(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life” in her live sets, which you can watch from when she was at Manchester Pride in 2012 below:

9.Jade Ellis

Jade was a finalist on the 9th series of The X Factor in 2012 and was mentored by Tulisa (who will also be performing at Manchester Pride). She has a daughter who she raises with her girlfriend and received a lot of positive reactions when she was very open and candid about her sexuality. Here is one of her best performances from the show:

8. Katy B

Katy has spawned a handful of top 20 hits on the UK singles chart and her debut and sophomore albums reached No.2 and No.1 respectively on the album charts. Over a few short years she has already got to collaborate with some big names, including Miss Dynamite, Craig David, Tinie Tempah and Mark Ronson.

7. Jordan Gray

Jordan certainly made a big impression when she enchanted coaches and the public on series 5 of The Voice earlier this year as the show’s first transgender contestant. We are very interested to see how she progresses as an artist in the future.

6. Sophie Ellis-Bextor

A veteran to the pop-dance and nu-disco music scene, Sophie is probably the biggest global name on this year’s bill with 3 top 10 albums and 6 top 10 singles on the UK music charts and several entries on Australia and many European countries’ charts too. She has a new album out in September called “Familia” but here is her most famous hit, “Murder On The Dancefloor”:

5. Frankmusik

Vincent James Turner – a.k.a. Frankmusik – is one of Britain’s top synth pop artists who has been an ally of the LGBT community for many years and will be performing at Manchester Pride this year.

4. Will Young

One of the biggest names to come from any of the UK’s reality TV competitions and one of the UK’s biggest gay celebrities, Will Young has come a long from when he won Pop Idol in 2002. All six of his albums have reached No.1 or 2 on the UK albums chart and 11 of singles charted in the top 10 – four of which went to No.1. This will be his first time performing at Manchester Pride. Below is our favourite song of his. “Switch It On”, in which he channeled Top Gun in the video:

3. Groove Armada

Arguably one of the UK’s best dance acts of all time, Groove Armada will be rocking the Gaydio Dance Arena on the Saturday. Here is one of their most famous worldwide hits, “I See You Baby”:

2. MNEK

MNEK may only be 21 years old but the openly gay singer-songwriter and producer has already been nominated for a Grammy and worked with some huge names, including Beyonce, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Naughty Boy, Bastille, Little Mix and JoJo. This will be his debut performance at Manchester Pride. Listen below to “Never Forget You”, which was a top 5 hit:

1. Heather Small

Heather Small is THE voice of dance act M People. It’s been almost a decade since she last performed at Manchester Pride and we’re glad to see this gay icon return to the city where M People originated. With one of the most distinctively soulful voices the UK has ever heard, Heather is a legendary force to be reckoned with.

Check out the full list so far of who is set to perform here. Who are you looking forward to seeing most this weekend? Let us know!

Review: The Bodyguard, the musical

In 1992, Rachael Marron was brought to life as one of the most iconic divas on the silver screen in the 90s by, funnily enough, one of the world’s most iconic divas of all time – Whitney Houston. “The Bodyguard” was a huge commercial success, grossing over US$400 million worldwide and its soundtrack became the biggest-selling of all time, with over 45 million copies sold. Then, since 2012, not long after the untimely death of Whitney, a musical based on the film (that had been in production for several years already) directed by Thea Sharrock (the 2007 adaptation of “Equus” starring Daniel Radcliffe) and produced by David Ian (“Cats” and “The Sound of Music” among countless others) and Michael Harrison, was launched.

Tony award-winning actress and singer Heather Headley originally starred in the lead role and the musical was a critical and box office success, which continued after British soul singer Beverley Knight took over as Miss Marron and Tristan Gemmill replaced Lloyd Owen as Frank Farmer in September 2013. But how did Beverley fair in her first major acting role and her West End début and how does the musical compare to the film? We recently went along to see the show in London’s Adelphi Theatre on The Strand to see for ourselves and were pleasantly surprised that are high expectations were met.

beverley_knight

The storyline is very similar to the original film, with a few minor changes – the predominant ones being a small shift in the roles Rachel Marron’s sister, Nikki (experienced theatre actress Carole Stennett) and her stalker/assassin plays (the rather ruggedly handsome Michael Rouse). In addition to songs from the film’s original soundtrack, a number of other well-known Whitney Houston songs are included in the production and are cleverly weaved into the narrative in one way or another, like “Saving All My Love for You”, “All The Man I Need” and “One Moment in Time”. The musical also manages to give this romantic thriller a comedic and light-hearted edge that wasn’t in the film, which was perhaps aided by cheeky and more adult-based humour and one-liners and the introduction of more fun and uptempo Whitney songs such as “I’m Your Baby Tonight”, “How Will I Know” and the show’s closer “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”.

While the whole cast, bar Beverley, consists of seasoned screen and stage actors, singers and dancers and none of them, including Beverley are bad actors at all, we were a little unsettled by some of their overly fake American accents, though this thankfully did not take anything away from their overall performances. Beverley, who has never really acted before, did surprisingly well in fulfilling the role of Rachel Marron and taking over from Heather; we already know she can sing, but her acting was pretty impressive too, particularly as we see her stepping out of her usual humble and down-to-earth persona and become a world-class diva (in fact, very similar to Whitney, whose acting début was in the film). And sing she does. Known for her combined rich and beautiful tone, extensive range, vocal power, agility and control, technical skill, intricate musical and lyrical interpretations, and the soul and emotion she put into her songs, Whitney will forever be hailed as one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. But Beverley is most certainly a vocal force to be reckoned with herself, possessing similar traits Whitney had and showcasing them brilliantly throughout the show. Not only does she retain the integrity, meaning and emotions of the original recordings but she also puts her own little twist to a few of them as well, some of which are given a slight re-arrangement to suit a musical setting and a theatrical performance – and she does so without a missing a note, a riff, run, trill or a beat. Carole Stennett also proves she’s a fine singer as she steps into the spotlight on a few occasions to sing solos and duet with Beverley, the latter of which showed great vocal precision and beautiful harmonies from the pair of them.

Though we felt (in a similar way to the film) that the story did lack a bit of depth and detail and there was little character improvement (except for Nikki Marron), it was definitely compensated by its slick direction and production, a great all-around cast and ensemble and of course its musical numbers that at times made it feel more like we were at a concert than a stage show. It was however, a shame that so many other great Whitney songs that could have been included were not and that there is no cast recording available to buy, though despite this we were left with a rush of tingles up our a spines and an energy that the cast gave us as they sang and danced their way through some of the biggest and catchiest pop songs of the past 30 years. And we’re sure Whitney Houston would have enjoyed it too if she was still alive to see it today.

“The Bodyguard” is currently taking bookings until 30th August and Beverley Knight will finish her run on the show on 31st May, with former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke taking over on 2nd June. The Adelphi Theatre is located on The Strand in the Westminster area of London near Covent Garden and is around a mile from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The area is not far at all from a number of London’s top gay bars and clubs, so is perfect for those wanting a night out in the city after watching the show. Check out our guide to gay London and see a full list of London’s gay scene, as well as view our 300 properties there right here.

Overall rating: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Music: 5/5
Vocals: 5/5
Acting: 3/5
Choreography: 4/5
Production: 4/5

Top 10 singles from 10 Mariah Carey albums

Today marks the 20th anniversary since the release of one of Mariah Carey’s biggest singles (well, one of her many hit singles), “Dreamlover”, taken from her most successful album, Music Box. The song became her 7th Number One single (of her overall 18 chart-toppers) in the US and the album has sold an astounding 30 million copies worldwide. Mariah is still one of the world’s top-selling artists of all time, especially for a female, with an estimated 250 million records sold, so what better way to celebrate her achievements and this landmark date as well as to anticipate the release of her upcoming fourteenth studio album, Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, with a rundown of 10 of her best singles from 10 of her albums – one for each? Albums not included in this are her two Christmas albums, the soundtrack to the film Glitter and her as of yet unreleased album.

Mariah Carey

“Vision of Love” from Mariah Carey

Her début single, “Vision of Love” immediately secured Mariah her first of many hits and put her on the map as a vocal force to be reckoned with.

“Make It Happen” from Emotions

A tale about her past that tells us of her trying to scrape money together to record a demo, this is Mariah’s “rags to riches” story that is full of gospel gusto.

“Hero” from Music Box

Probably arguably her most popular song to date, “Hero” remains as one of Mariah’s signature songs and is one of the most covered songs of all time on talent shows.

“Fantasy” from Daydream

One of her first forays into full-on R&B music and hip-hop, “Fantasy” helped Mariah shift into the urban music scene with ease.

“My All” from Butterfly

Connecting with her Latin/Hispanic roots, “My All” was a musical masterpiece that had influences of Latin music, used Latin/Spanish instruments and further showed Mariah’s versatility.

“Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” from Rainbow

Mariah released two versions of this Phil Collins classic – a solo version and a duet with Irish boy band Westlife, which was more successful (particularly in the UK) than the first one, giving her her second No.1 single in Britain.

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” from Charmbracelet

“Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” is another cover by Mariah, this time of the song by rock band Def Leppard. This remains one of Mariah’s best covers and one of her first and rare songs that has a rock element to it.

“We Belong Together” from The Emancipation of Mimi

After a shaky few years, “We Belong Together” – a huge torch ballad of a song that was the second single from this album – saw Mariah back in top form and on top of the charts once more and almost beat her own record of the longest-running Number One on Billboard. It also earned Mimi her fifth and sixth Grammy awards.

“I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” from E=MC²

After many years of sticking to R&B and hip-hop, “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” hinted at more pop and soul elements, which Mariah first started off with at the beginning of her career and has been seen by many as a standout track from this album.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

Another cover of a rock ballad, Mariah’s version of “I Want To Know What Love Is” adds more gospel influences to the song and dispelled rumours of her voice having suffered a huge decline.

What are your favourite Mariah Carey singles? Let us know in the comments section below!