My Reviews for February 2023
My Reviews for February 2023
My reviews for February 2023 comprise a Chicago theatre show, a US TV series, Caribbean-based cosy crime, a Welsh thriller and two NetGalley early reads.
Reading took a back seat this month as I travelled with my family to my son’s wedding in Chicago. Despite being busy preparing for the big day, his bride and her family spent a lot of time showing us their home city and we felt very welcome. And the wedding was a wonderful day.
Casey longs to make it big as an Elvis impersonator but the downbeat bar where he performs is failing to attract customers. Bar owner, Eddie, dumps Casey’s act in favour of his cousin Bobby/Tracy’s drag show. When one of the drag queens can’t go on, Eddie and Tracy persuade Casey to step in. It’s not Casey’s scene, but with a pregnant wife and a landlord demanding the rent, he has no choice but to don the tights and lipstick.
Drawing on his Coco Sho–Nell persona, actor Raymond K. Cleveland gives a bravura performance as the glamourous and glorious Tracy. Talented dancer and singer, Ty Schirmer, is endearing as Casey. Valerie Gorman has world-weary Eddie to a tee and Tuesdai B. Perry draws the audience’s sympathy as Casey’s long-suffering wife, Jo. Jeffrey David Thomas takes on two roles: Casey’s deadpan landlord, Jason, and inebriated drag artiste, Rexy. The tone of the piece is light and breezy, but, when Thomas delivers Rexy’s short second-act monologue on life as a gay boy growing up, the play’s poignant message lands with a delicate yet powerful punch.
With high production values maintained by the backstage team, the show is thought-provoking, heartfelt and jolly good fun.
While in Chicago, I discovered US television and found a channel showing back-to-back episodes of Project Runway where would-be designers competed in different challenges to win a spot in New York Fashion Week. The show was hosted and judged by Heidi Klum and the designers were mentored by Tim Gunn. I loved seeing their creations take shape and glide down the catwalk. I saw various episodes across several seasons, and when I got home I found Heidi and Tim’s new series, Making the Cut, on Amazon Prime. It will keep me going nicely until The Great British Sewing Bee returns.
When I got home, I caught up with the current two-parter story in Death In Paradise. This is the BBC’s cosy crime series set in the Caribbean and features a fish-out-of-water British detective inspector (currently played by Ralf Little) working with a dedicated team of local police officers (Tahj Miles, Shantol Jackson and Ginny Holder) under the kind but stern control of the police commissioner (Don Warrington), with chic and motherly support from beachfront bar owner, Catherine (Élizabeth Bourgine).
The two-parter sees Ralf Little’s character in hot water when he’s accused of murder. The writers did a good job of building the story arc across the series to make this climatic storyline land well. There were no great shocks in the denouement – like most hard-core Death in Paradise fans, I spotted the wrong’un a mile off. However, the British senior officer sent to oversee the investigation was a real breath of fresh air. Jaye Griffiths gave a commanding performance as fair but by-the-book Detective Inspector Karen Flitcroft. Will we see her again, I wonder. Here’s hoping.
I’m not normally a binge-watcher of boxsets, but I couldn’t resist devouring The Light in the Hall before I went on holiday.
At first sight, the premise seemed well-worn: killer is released after serving his sentence; bereaved family hope he’ll reveal where he buried their daughter; ambitious journalist wants a story about the case. However, the emphasis shifts in this drama. Of the three protagonists – killer, grieving mother and journalist – two are depicted sympathetically and one less so, but it’s not the one you’d expect.
The series has an atmospheric Welsh setting and is beautifully acted not only by the three leads – Iwan Rheon, Joanna Scanlan and Alexandra Roach – but also by the wider cast.
This was one of the most emotional and powerful mystery dramas I’ve seen.
My reviews for February 2023 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning books. Despite the American holiday and wedding, I managed to fit in a little reading. With thanks to the authors, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read advance copies in exchange for independent reviews:
Ideal for fans of slow-burn thrillers. Told across two timelines and from two points of view in an engaging tone reminiscent of the dry humour of Clare Chambers. It was one of those stories where you know a twist is coming and you’re circling above what it might be, but you can’t quite grasp it before it happens. It will do very well.
Written in a simple style but dealing with violence and racism, this book is suitable for mid-teens up. Hanan’s role as the quiet, hardworking student who ignores the bullies is ripped apart when devastating violence is unleashed in her school and suddenly every Muslim in the neighbourhood is seen as guilty. It provides a thought-provoking insight into life in Britain from the viewpoint of the Somali schoolgirl narrator. The main theme explored is the difference between integration and a true acceptance of diversity.
My reviews for February 2023 have been a bit different from usual but I’ll be back to reading next month. First up will be Broken Places by Tracy Clark, a private investigator series set in …. Chicago. I’m already a fan of this author having read her latest title Hide before I went to the Windy City.