THE BLOG
11/07/2011 11:15 BST | Updated 10/09/2011 06:12 BST

My West End Week: Venice and Florence

When you go on a two centre holiday to Florence and Venice, my advice to all is do Florence first. Florence is stunning, beautiful and gorgeous. Venice is something else, magical, magical and more magical. This week I went to Venice first, Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, SE1.

When you go on a two centre holiday to Florence and Venice, my advice to all is do Florence first. Florence is stunning, beautiful and gorgeous. Venice is something else, magical, magical and more magical.

This week I went to Venice first, Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory, SE1.

First of all its the European premiere of a Stephen Sondheim musical. Stephen Sondheim, is it just me or is he not the greatest musician and lyric writer ever?

Secondly it is directed absolutely superbly by John Doyle, he designed it as well, using every inch of the fabulous Menier Chocolate Factory space.

Thirdly, it has a mega-ensemble cast who are to a man without a doubt the best cast in London. Its churlish to pick out some members of the cast, but I have to mention the brothers Mizner, who tell the story of their lives from their Yukon gold rush, to the ups and downs of their lives,culminating in their creation of Boca Ratan, a new Paris in Florida, book me in.

David Bedella and Michael Jibson are something else, they sing up a storm and keep the piece moving, Bedella as the man with so much charm who loves nothing more than making fortunes and losing them and Jibson who travels the world looking for architect dreams in Hawaii,India and Guatemala.

They find fame, love, drugs and so much money it isn't true, they also loose everything. In John Doyle's production the stage, set and audience are covered in millions of dollars. Gillian Bevan and Glyn Kerslake play Mama and Papa, both are brilliant and very moving on their deathbeds. Jon Robyns place the love interest with charm and great attractiveness. I'm sorry but I have to mention the rest of the stella cast, Adrian Der Gregorian, Fiona Dunn, Sarah Ingram, Julie Jupp, Elisabeth Marsh, Christopher Ragland, Robbie Scotcher and Phil Wrigley.

Not forgetting a beautiful script by John Weidman and a spectacular band led by the gorgeous Catherine Jayes. Oh how I love Venice, pure magic.

Now Florence.

If you loved the film of Ghost, you will love this spectacular production of the musical at the Piccadilly theatre. The effects are astonishing as are the performances.

Rob Howell, Jon Driscoll and Paul Kieve create something very special in design, video and projection design and illusions, quite brilliant.

Richard Fleeshman has overnight become an extraordinary leading man, boasting a great body and fine singing voice, and a great actor, he is partnered by the amazing Cassie Levy, what a voice, last seen in London as Sheila in the very underrated production of Hair, what an evening that was, here she is simply wonderful.

Playing the Whoopi Goldberg role, a very difficult role to step into,is Sharon D Clarke. Well step aside Whoopi you have been upstaged by this fantastic actress.

Towards the end when Sam enters the body of Oda, spiritually to dance with Molly, I cried, and at the curtain call I stood with the audience made up of a lot of women of a certain age and Dame Judi Dench. There is avery odd cheap tap dance which did nothing for me, but this show will keep the Piccadilly Theatre open for a very long time. Ah Florence.

Saw the movie Bridesmaids, wow did I laugh. Hysterical.