Review round-up: What the critics said about ‘Black and White Ball’

Black & White Ball

Last night marked the reopening of the newly-refurbished Kings Head Theatre in Islington with the first show in its new season, which also marks its new beginning as a fully-fledged producing house.  Black and White Ball is billed as “the new Cole Porter musical”, but is in fact a ‘collaboration’ between Cole Porter and Warner Brown, alebit one where the latter has written a new book that incorporates the music of the no-longer-alive Cole Porter.

This sounds like an intriguing project to me, so I am keen to see what the critics have to say… It hasn’t yet been reviewed everywhere (nothing from the Guardian or Independent yet) so if they publish something later, I will update this post.

Thus far, the reviews has been mixed. A few decent, but not exceptional responses, and a reasonably negative view from Mark Shenton at The Stage. For more information, read on: 


Telegraph review – Dominic Cavendish (click here)

  • “Actually, this isn’t some startling discovery but an act of canny, if never altogether persuasive, reconstitution.”
  • “The problem is that Porter’s songbook doesn’t supply enough supporting material.”
  • “the cast hold it together with charm and panache, with fine singing from Katherine Kingsley as the spurned spouse”


Times review – Benedict Nightingale (click here)
3 stars

  • “Imagine a collaboration between Porter and Raymond Chandler, and here it embryonically is.”
  • “Porter’s numbers are more seamlessly cut into the plot than Abba’s songs are into Mamma Mia!.”
  • “There’s not much tension in the story or surprise in its solution, but any disappointment is offset by stylish performances from Kingsley, Ellis-Stanton and, especially, Mark McGee as a drag-queen who combines human slyness with musical energy.


Evening Standard review – Fiona Mountford (click here)
3 stars

  • “The Black and White Ball is an accomplished start to this season”
  • “Matthew White’s production is so darn elegant that we soon stop quibbling and start smiling.”
  • “The plot basics are wheeled out in some clumsy initial exposition, which owes more than a passing debt to Sondheim’s Follies.”
  • “An impressively exuberant relaunch.”


The Stage review – Mark Shenton (click here)
“stubbornly fails to give much cause for celebration”

  • “it veers uncomfortably into the realm of a thriller mystery, with some of the flavour of City of Angels and Lucky Stiff, but none of the wit or intrigue of either of them”
  • “The cast of Matthew White’s production give vocally strong, unmiked renditions of the songs to provide some passing pleasures, but the show fatally stalls whenever they attempt to return to the plot.”


Roundup – a reminder of where you can find the full reviews…
Telegraph review (Dominic Cavendish) – click here
Times review (Benedict Nightingale) – click here
Evening Standard review (Fiona Mountford) – click here
The Stage review (Mark Shenton) – click here

For more information about the show, and to book tickets, visit the official website


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