Entertainment Views Interviews: Leo Mercer – Writer and Producer of GUY: A New Musical

The creators of multi-award-winning The Marriage of Kim K, leoe&hyde, return with an uplifting new musical about modern masculinity, body image, and the hook-ups and downs of dating in the 21st century. GUY’s heart-pounding electronic score will reel you in to this FOMO-arousing, catch-he gay rom-com, transferring to the King’s Head Theatre in a revised version after a successful premier and tour, winning multiple awards.

***** “exceptional cast… catchy [music]… a joy to watch” Theatre Box

Guy is a gay millennial looking for love. Guy is fat, nerdy and shy. Guy feels like he doesn’t fit in to the gay community. But when a rejection on Grindr pushes Guy to make terrible life choices, he is forced to confront his inner demons, all the while pushing away everyone close to him. With 12 heart-pounding electronic-pop anthems, this millennial odyssey through bingeing, gyming, prejudice, hook ups, beauty standards, and stolen identity is a much-needed reminder that the only person you can be is yourself.

****½ “[An] irresistible rom-com of the highest order… [this] show has the potential to be very big indeed” The Reviews Hub

Sometimes sexy, always real, GUY is a game-changing gay rom-com for the 2010s: with nakedly honest characters; an unapologetically moving portrayal of the hook-ups and downs of 21st-century dating; and a thought-provoking glimpse behind the veil of modern masculinity, male beauty standards, and unspoken prejudices within marginal communities. Tied together with a pioneering and infectiously catchy electronic score, GUY channels floor-filling EDM anthems, indie electronica, queer hip-hop, and PC Music with the lyrical charm of Sondheim, and the earworm melodies of Schwartz.

**** “A really fresh new musical with fantastic songs and great performances” West End Wilma

Following an acclaimed run at The Bunker, GUY’s tour won the show Best New Writing at the Buxton Fringe 2018, and the show now returns to London. The lead role of Guy is played by Brendan Matthew, who is joined by Seann Miley Moore. Moore first came to the attention of the UK public in The X Factor 2015, where he reached the finals. Since then, he’s toured gay pride internationally and launched a successful solo pop career, releasing his first EP last year. GUY is his UK theatre debut. The show is written and produced by leoe&hyde, following the success of their debut production The Marriage of Kim K (2017). The rising millennial musical theatre company received strong reviews, multiple awards and international attention last summer for the show, and have been called ‘a formidable partnership’ (Review Hub).

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Leo Mercer chatted to Entertainment Views about the musical, focusing on the challenges and what the audience can expect. 

Thanks for talking to Entertainment Views, Leo. Tell me about the production, how did the idea form, how long did it take before the script was ready to be read/work-shopped?

After the success of The Marriage of Kim K, Stephen and I wanted to do something a little bit different. Kim K was so ornate, operatic and complex, but we’d really been getting obsessed with electronic-pop. So in October, we just sat down and wrote the pop songs that we were feeling at the time, really raw, honest and emotional, without having to worry about crafting a story.

As it turned out, a few weeks later I had an “aha” moment, when I realised that those songs essentially tell a love story not dissimilar to those that my generation tend to experience, and I drafted a script around them. Some of the songs in the show – Mutual Prostitution, Is Your Body Who You Are – were written then, and as we’ve developed the show, lots of new material has been created to fill in the important moments.

This show really was an accidental baby – WE HAD OTHER PLANS! But once an idea grabs you, you’re grabbed. We then got performance slots at Hope Mill and The Bunker, and rushed through seven drafts of the show to get it ready. We’ve redrafted it again between those performances and the run we’re about to do at The King’s Head.

Did you have a clear ideas of who you wanted to cast?

Not at all: we went into auditions with a mega open mind. It’s always difficult rejecting auditionees – there are so many brilliant people out there deserving of a part, and you just want to send them each huge emails explaining why they’re wonderful too. However, we’ve never once doubted the cast members we ended up choosing: they’re dedicated, hard-working, lovely and absolutely talented. They’ve said they feel like the characters; the audience keep commenting on the fit between cast and character; it’s become a very lovely and collaborative process.


Has your vision for the piece altered during rehearsals?

Not really, but it has deepened. There are things we want to achieve in GUY – for example: a sophisticated, almost filmic show – and the chance to practice means we’re understanding what that actually involves more day by day. It often feels like when you have an idea for a show, and it’s so clear and simple in your mind, that the whole writing and production process is about trying to reach that simple, end point, but you go through lots of complex groundwork to get there.

What can the audience expect from the show?

Someone tweeted after the show saying the show fulfilled their expectations of being unexpected, and I think that sounds about right. Our shows always take a very pop culture matter – Kim Kardashian in The Marriage of Kim K, Grindr in GUY – but approaches them as if they’re something you’d expect from something much more “establishedly cultural”

What do you envisage audience reactions might be?

 Stephen and I always joke that we wish we had a mind-scanner, and as everyone leaves the show could collect all the thoughts that people have. Based on what we’ve heard, I’d imagine that mind-scanner would detect several earworms, an intense sense of connection with Guy, and a sense that they’ve seen some aspect of their own life mirrored back at them.

What do you hope they’ll take away from the piece?

I don’t really know what catharsis is, but I think that’s the aim? 21st century society has made a lot of humans very confused about their bodies and what love should be, and watching a closely observed character deal with this will hopefully let a reader go on their own psychological journey at the same time as Guy does.

Thanks to Leo for an insightful interview, wishing the cast and crew all the best for their run. The show runs until Saturday 1 September 2018. 

Book tickets here: GUY Tickets

 

 

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Bing Live! ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

Bing Live! continues its tour of the UK, check out all the dates and buy tickets here: Bing Live!

Star rating: *****

Bing Live! has long been a favourite of my four year old son, Cbeebies being his channel of choice and the young bunny having been a frequent ‘visitor’ in our living room over the past few years.

Seeing the rabbit himself come to life by way of innovative puppetry in a live show full of fun, frolics and Bing thing antics was a treat from beginning to end. Naturally, Flop was on hand to guide Bing as he met up with his usual circle of friends (Sula, Coco and Pando) to play dress up and be creative.

The toilet train is a prominent feature of course, and there’s a 15 minute interval to allow the smaller members of the audience to take a toilet train and refreshment break. In fact for the youngsters of all ages, the timing of the show is perfect. It’s just long enough to capture their imaginations and hold their attention.

Audience participation is encouraged and there are plenty of opportunities for everybody to get involved with singing and dancing. The puppeteers are highly skilled and talented individuals and it’s easy to forget they’re there as they subtly operate the television favourites.

There’s a vibrant set to engage the small ones too, with lots to see and a great view to be had from any seat in Town Hall, Birmingham. Highly recommended for little kids and big kids alike, this is one of the best shows for the tiny theatre-goer that we’ve seen.

Jersey Boys ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Jersey Boys stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 8 September so book your tickets to catch it: Jersey Boys Tickets

Star rating: *****

This musical was adored by a late, great friend of mine so watching Jersey Boys for the first time, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night was an emotional experience even before curtain up. Everything from the impressive back catalogue of The Four Seasons hits to the exceptional vocal ability of the main cast and ensemble to the sheer energy and vibe of the production was top class.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the original line up – the show walks you seamlessly through it step by step. From Tommy DeVito’s (Simon Bailey) brainchild and mentoring of a teenage Frankie Valli (James Alexander Gibbs) to the dodgy lifestyle choices which led to prison sentences for DeVito and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) to the introduction of their very own ‘genius’, Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan). There’s superb backing from the female ensemble members who play love interests and singers. Mark Heenehan was a subtle yet imposing presence as Gyp DeCario, the go-to man (I’m familiar with Heenehan as Peron in Evita, he’s an engaging performer).

JERSEY BOYS UK Tour 2017/2018

As the hits start rolling for the group and they establish themselves as The Four Seasons, the audience are treated to a cornucopia of blasts from the past which remain popular today. From ‘Sherry’ to ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ to ‘Walk Like A Man’. Each musical number sounded as though it was being performed by the band themselves, the cast’s voices are so in tune with the original sound we have come to know. James Alexander Gibbs is extraordinary as the main man, Frankie Valli – a ‘character’ who’s home life was complicated and tinged with tragedy. Simon Bailey is perfectly cast as Tommy DeVito, oozing ‘cocky’ DeVito style confidence and a stage presence that shines from the outset. Declan Egan also made his mark as Bob Gaudio, Gaudio’s slightly lacking in confidence and not so easy in the limelight yet brimming with love for music and overflowing with talent – a complex man indeed. Lewis Griffiths completes the picture as Nick Massi, a guy who’s cool, calm and collected until he has to room share with Tommy! The bass vocals that Griffiths offers are pure velvet, he’s one to watch in the future.

The set gives the audience enough to know when the venue has changed, however it doesn’t detract from the music and the story – which are at the heart of the musical. An over the top backdrop would have been too showy and unnecessary. The choreography by Sergio Trujillo is eye-catching and fits perfectly.

Odds on you’ll be up on your feet dancing to popular hits such as ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’ and you’ll probably feel like I do, one trip to see this show isn’t enough! I’d rather not say ‘bye bye baby’ and be ‘beggin’ for another ticket instead.

Photo Credits: Brinkhoff & Mogenburg

Peppa Pig’s Adventure! ~ Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Peppa Pig’s Adventure! is on UK tour, check out all the tour dates and book tickets here: Peppa Pig Live

Star rating: ****

Peppa Pig’s Adventure! What a fantastic opportunity to introduce young ones to the theatre and to pay a return visit to the theatre with your little ones who may already be seasoned theatre-goers, like the young critic we have here at Entertainment Views!

Peppa Pig remains such a popular television programme for children of varying ages, that the live show has something for everyone, from a tiny age to school age and beyond. There are well-known songs and some that were new to my son and I, all of which we enthusiastically joined in with. The characters are portrayed by multi-talented puppeteers and costumed actors all of whom seamlessly pulled off a thoroughly convincing ‘episode’ of the show. It took me some time to realise that the cast were using their own voices to voice the characters and that it wasn’t being done with pre-recordings, that’s how accurate they are. Kudos to Stephanie Houtman (Peppa Pig), Maryann O’Brien (George), Eleanor Aldridge (Mummy Pig/Madam Gazelle), David Sandham (Daddy Pig/Pedro Pony), Sarah Barbet (Suzy Sheep), Matthew Brock (Gerald Giraffe) and Bronte Tadman, who played a ‘human’ character, Daisy.

The characters go on a camping adventure with their school, the bus is of course driven by Daddy Pig and Madam Gazelle is at the helm. The Bing Bong Song has made it to the live show and the theatre was rocking with it!

If your kids love Peppa Pig, they will find this magical, seeing their favourites come to life before their eyes will doubtless be a special moment for them. It’s a great family day out too, even older children may well be fascinated by the portrayal of the characters even if they’ve outgrown the show itself. My one complaint is that a number of the popular characters were missing. I appreciate the reasons why all of them can’t be present, however my little lad was bereft at the lack of Miss Rabbit, even though I was delighted that Madam Gazelle was included (unashamedly naming her as my favourite character!!).

Go and see it, you’ll be sorry to miss this – from scenery to the atmosphere in the theatre, all absolutely brilliant.

Switzerland ~ Theatre Royal, Bath

Star rating *****

Phyllis Logan may be due to reprise her role of TV’s favourite Scottish housekeeper, Mrs Hughes in the ever-popular Downton Abbey. However her latest role at Theatre Royal, Bath in the Ustinov Studio couldn’t be further from the kindly yet no-nonsense character that viewers were desperate to see romancing the Downton’s Butler. In ‘Switzerland’, writer Joanna Murray-Smith has characterised the late great Patricia Highsmith, author of such novels as ‘Strangers on a Train’ and ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ thus providing Logan with a wondrous challenge. It’s one that she meets head on and indeed as Highsmith, I believe Logan gives one of the best performances of her career. Given that I was already a fan, this opinion speaks volumes.

The play takes place in the last days of Highsmith’s life, she’s holed up in her Switzerland home where she lives a fairly simple life. Although she’s surrounded by a multitude of weapons which are her pride and joy, perhaps not an unusual interest for a crime author. Clouds of smoke billow frequently as the dying writer puffs away on cigarette after cigarette and she’s also keen on an early morning beer or many, many wee drams. A visit from a representative from Highsmith’s New York based Agent catalyses a chain of events which ultimately leads the audience to question everything they’ve just seen. Yes, Edward Ridgeway (Calum Finlay) arrives and he’s hell-bent on cajoling Highsmith into writing another Ripley before she succumbs to whatever illness he seems to know is ultimately going to claim her. Certainly, we see the worst of the author’s character as she bays bear every ugly nuance, even going so far as venturing into Ridegway’s bedroom in the middle of the night with the latest knife in her grizzly collection. However, changes in Ridgeway’s persona as the piece unfolds suggest that all is not as it seems.

Logan’s American accent never falters, she’s embraced this monstrous, bizarre, show tune loving (I’ll never listen to ‘Happy Talk’ the same way again), homosexual in ways that I could never have anticipated. To be able to forget that it’s the actor playing a part is always testament to their capabilities and I forgot that Phyllis Logan was playing Patricia Highsmith. Calum Finlay is a superb match as Edward Ridgeway – antsy, edgy and subtle before the crux of the matter unfolds. The chemistry between the pair is palpable at times and the pace they create between them is nothing short of overt perfection. Director, Lucy Bailey’s touch is evident throughout – the symmetry between the actors and the director is quite remarkable. The set invites the audience into the home of an intelligent, troubled mind and you almost need to be able to have your eyes everywhere all at once to take it all in. There are clues everywhere in relation to Highsmith’s personality. Joanna Murray-Smith has written an intricately woven script so intense that 1 hour 40 minutes without an interval is thoroughly necessary.

If you enjoy dark humour, a twisting tale of solitude, doubt and indeed, love awaits you and it’s truly glorious.

The production closes on Saturday 1 September, book your tickets here: Switzerland Tickets

Photo Credits: Nobby Clark

Peter Pan ~ Malvern Theatres

Star rating: ****

The story of Peter Pan is well known by many, film adaptations (live action and animated), pantomimes and musical versions are plentiful and everybody has their favourite incarnation.

ABD Productions have staged this latest production for a limited run at Malvern Theatres. It’s a hybrid of musical theatre and pantomime, with catchy musical numbers, frequent audience interaction and a mixture of both professional and local juvenile performers.

Elliott Hanna (he once played Billy Elliott in the West End, which is where I remember him from – he’s certainly grown up since!) starred in the title role which he played to perfection. He was accompanied by Phantom of the Opera and Opera North star Janey Cowley as Mrs Darling (and the Spirit and the Mermaid!) who was in spectacular voice, a superb choice for all of those characters. There was a fantastic performance from David Thomas who played Mr Darling with a firm hand and later on, Captain Hook – terrorising his crew whilst in hot pursuit of Peter Pan. It makes a delightful change to see a show of this genre in the summer months as usually one has to wait until the festive season to attend a production that all ages will appreciate.

The choreography which was created by Elliott Hanna was a notable feature, plenty of ensemble scenes and opportunities for the juveniles to showcase their ever-growing talent. It was also a pleasant surprise to see juveniles in the roles of Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily. It’s also worth mentioning that Elliott Hanna was tasked with teaching the rest of the cast ‘how to fit in’ – at the tender age of 15 himself, this was surely no mean feat for the young star.

The scenery provided an atmospheric backdrop to the action as Peter Pan whisked the Darling children away on a journey to Neverland. Neverland itself was a beautifully engaging set, imaginative and creative. There’s flying too, as would be expected – not always seamless but it certainly captured the imaginations of the young audience members.

My four year old son was entranced by the entire piece, his favourite was undoubtedly Captain Hook! This production is fun for all the family and it’s an adaptation that’s easy to follow too. The run at Malvern Theatres has finished, however it’s worth looking out for in the future.

The Last Movie Star ~ Review

Star rating ****

Burt Reynolds is a legendary film star who’s name attracts me to a feature film when he’s associated with it. The Last Movie Star is no exception. The film does exactly what it says on the tin, in that it centres around a very soon-to-be-has-been by the name of Vic Edwards, Reynolds plays him and epitomises the fading movie star legend in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. In fact the sheer wit of the piece was one of the surprises of the film for me, personally.

With a certain decline into alcoholism more prominent in Vic’s present than any film roles on the horizon. When a Nashville Film Festival offer a Lifetime Achievement Award he’s not keen to attend and accept the honour – however when his old buddy persuades him that this could change the ever-growing rut, Vic heads off to collect his prize. Chevy Chase plays said mate, Sonny and he’s brilliant, I thought he was a great choice to play opposite Reynolds.

Vic finds himself in a whole new world of youthful unfortunates, he’s unwittingly attend a not so slick operation. The organisers couldn’t organise anything – they’re film fans who are delighted to have attracted a film star to their small-time event. The driver they provide is a moody teenager, Lil (Ariel Winter) full of attitude and she couldn’t care less, she’s also into most illegal substances! Ariel Winter is another well cast actor, she plays the role with gusto and provides many a laugh out loud moment.

It’s a predictable story in many ways, however it’s easy viewing with plenty of humour and heart. The set up reminds me of a poorly organised and attended comic con I once went to! The combination of thoughtless youth and equally thoughtless older adult works on many levels and the chemistry between Reynolds and Winter is extraordinary, helping to move the story along.

There’s notable direction from Adam Rifkin and some fantastic locations too. It’s extremely watchable and a great humorous take on the trappings of fame.

The Last Movie Star arrived on digital release from Second Sight on 20 August. 

 

 

 

The Incredibles 2 ~ Review

Star rating: *****

It’s been a long time coming, and following the success of the first Incredibles film, I’m surprised it’s taken so long to be reunited with the family of superheroes and my personal favourite, Edna the costume designer (played by Brad Bird who also directs the movie). We re-join the madcap life of the Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack at a time when non-superhumans have turned against them.

Time has not moved on much since the close of the original film, baby Jack-Jack is still a baby. At the close of the first movie, we knew that Jack-Jack had powers, so did his babysitter, she understandably freaked out and wasn’t inclined to give notice of her intention to leave… hurriedly.

So, with almost everybody within an immediate radius and beyond against them, the five-some are moved into a motel and laying low. Violet’s teenage love-life is still an ongoing ‘issue’ revisited too. However, fortunes take a sudden turn for the better when Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) bumps into a Super Hero fanatic hell-bent on finding a more positive place for them in the modern world. Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk) and his somewhat reluctant sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) are responsible for offering an opportunity to be seen as the heroes they are and along with that comes a very stylish gadget-laden home.

With the spotlight on Elastigirl as the super heroes are thrown back into the spotlight, and Mr Incredible holed up at home as a gloomy house-husband – we are left wondering who ‘Screenslaver’ is, the arch enemy whom Elastigirl finds herself up against. Meanwhile, Dash is struggling with Maths homework, Violet is nursing a broken heart and Jack-Jack’s powers are discovered. He has many powers, which make him attractive to super hero costume designer, the quirky and theatrical Edna Mode.

The storyline appears to be more engaging than in the original movie and the characters have lost none of their appeal – so this is a win/win in every way. Disney at its best, go see!

DC Exhibition: Dawn of the Superheroes

Batman, Superman, The Joker, Wonder Woman and a selection of characters from The Suicide Squad have broken into London’s O2 and they’re running amok!

That’s what I like to think anyway, however in reality there’s a kick-ass exhibition at the O2 which will appeal to the DC super hero fans and indeed any movie buff or comic book aficionado.

Have you ever compared the Superman costumes through the ages? Have you wondered what it would be like to come face to face with Batman’s arch enemies? Are you familiar with the popular characters who’ve stood the test of time and the journey they’ve taken from pencil and paper to digital age? Then this exhibition should not be missed.

Audio commentary is provided in the form of your own hand-held device as the flow of the curation leads a fascinating journey into the world of super heroes. I found it interesting to consider the height of such actors as Christopher Reeve as I admired his Superman costume, compared to that of Jack Nicholson in the Batman section of the exhibition. A full scale model of Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Danny DeVito as the Penguin were two of the highlights for me, personally. Both slightly unnerving to be faced with, yet so intricately replicated. It was also awe-inspiring to view one of Batman’s modes of transport, his motorbike was a work of art to behold.

Suicide Squad is one of my favourite present-day films and the section showcasing the characters from the movie including the transformation of personalities such as Harley Quinn, over the years, drew my attention.

There was plenty to keep all age groups entertained, from our four year old son to us big kids. There’s still time to book tickets to see this spectacle, and it’s an event that can be combined with a visit to the O2 and indeed the Greenwich area, as depending on the pace you choose to take – the length of time taken to complete the full tour is approximately one hour. Don’t forget to check out the merchandise too!

DC Exhibition: Dawn of the Super Heroes will stay at the O2 until 9 September 2018. 

Book your tickets here: DC Exhibition: Dawn of the Super Heroes Tickets

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