Sunday, April 21, 2024

London’s West End Musicals Rival Broadway

With the Tony Awards coming soon, London’s West End needs to pick up their game. And they’ve done just that.

“Waitress,” a transplant from New York, recently opened in London and with a big star: Katharine McPhee. McPhee, whose work on stage and screen has made us barely remember she was the first runner up on “American Idol,” takes on the lead role of Jenna.

McPhee’s warm sultry voice with a tiny bit of country twang make her ideal for the role. Her singing voice shows why she’s done so well on “Idol” and she brings down the house in the show’s signature song, “She Used to Be Mine.”

She is well supported by Marisha Wallace as Becky and Laura Baldwin as Dawn. One of the great things about this show is it truly gives everyone a chance to shine, thanks to Jessie Nelson’s book and Sara Bareilles’ songs.

Wallace’s big voice rang throwout the theatre with her number “I Didn’t Plan It” and Baldwin brings an awkward cuteness to “When He Sees Me.”

Another standout number is “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me,” sung by Ogie (a character that won Christopher Fitzgerald a Tony nomination and is also well done in the hands of Jack McBrayer in London).

To check it out in London, go to


London often gets some of Broadway’s biggest hits even before it comes to the Great White Way. London’s West End is often a trailblazer for shows that end up in the US.

Such is the case as “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”

Produced by Tina Turner herself, we know this is her own truth – with edits and modifications approved by Tina herself.

It covers a lot of the same ground as the movie “What’s Love Got to Do with It” but does go deeper and more real, including some of the graphic physical abuse at both the hands of Tina and Ike Turner.

While the original actress of Tina is off to Broadway to take on the role for the production that begins in New York in November. Her replacement in London Nkeki Obi-Melekwe brings a tremendous amount of depth to her role and her energy is beyond belief.

The role of Ike in London is a role originated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who won London’s Olivier Award for the show. He has left the show (maybe he’ll join the Broadway production). But his replacement Ashley Zhangazha is captivating and yet repulsive in the role.

A show truly not to miss. If you can’t see it in London, it’s also in Germany and coming to Broadway. Go to for full details.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical

An original show, of sorts, in London isn’t a musical – even though there’s a big musical finale. While it’s unique in its own way, it’s very familiar as it’s “Night of the Living Dead Live.”

The show spoofs the 1968 black and white film – including being live and in B&W, thanks to make-up and dark painted sets.

Some guests can be on the stage in the splatter zone but technically no one is safe from the carnage that comes from the stage (more so in the second act).  Not to spoil it, if you don’t want to get wet with blood, the likelihood of it hitting you beyond the first row is nill. But if you’re sitting on the stage, you definitely will be hit by blood, guts and body parts.

The show’s first act is almost a scene-for-scene recreation of the movie with just the right elements of overacting and camp to make it funny. The second act takes on a “what if…” idea and runs with it in its own direction, adding freshness to a familiar tale.

For my tastes, a few too many “what if…” ideas but a fun and unique theatre experience.

While it has a great social media following and a true fanbase, it’s only scheduled to run for the next few weeks, so get tickets at

Night of the Living Dead

That’s all the theatre I had time for, but some quick highlights of shows I technically didn’t see.

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a musical about a gay young man who fights prejudice and bullying as he tries to be his own true self. This has come to the US, sort of, via the Fathom Events, and it’s not only a delight and uplifting but it is definitely should cross the pond. Check it out at

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” based upon the novel and movie, makes its World Premiere starting a very short run beginning May 15. Blink and you missed it – but if you like the movie, it likely will leave you wanting more. Check it out at

While you’re on the site, look at some of the Playhouse’s other exciting shows including the US transplant “Afterglow” and an early show from composers Pasek and Paul, the men behind “Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land” and “The Greatest Showman.”

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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