P/REVIEW:View from the sofa 6

Brian Butler April 24, 2020

Hello fellow sofa-sitters! This edition looks at theatre, piano bar entertainment, virtual art and more besides.

When I moved to London in the late 1980’s one of the weekly highlights was going to sing -along piano bars at locations like Brief Encounter, City of Quebec and the Redcliffe  Hotel. I was sad to see it all disappear, and so on trips to New York I was delighted to go to the likes of Don’t Tell Mama , the Townhouse and Marie’s Crisis.

Well now you can experience Marie’s Crisis with virtual sing-alongs nightly – including the legendary Franca Vercellloni. Check out Marie’s Crisis Facebook for more information.

The wonderful Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester will this Sunday ( 26 April) host an online concert of the best of Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was due to premiere R and H’s Cinderella , now cancelled , but this is a fitting antidote to that bad news . Some Enchanted Evening  will be starry in the extreme, featuring among others , Maria Friedman, Louise Dearman, Matthew Baker and Georgie Buckland – who would have played Cinders.

It will be hosted by Hope Mill’s William Whelton and Joseph Houston . Donations welcome . More info at

This week’s offering from Lord Lloyd Webber is his ill-fated Phantom sequel Love Never Dies. Unfairly labelled Paint Never Dries by hateful critics it remains his Lordship’s favourite and he has long planned to revive it. It has some stunning songs and its setting -if reproduced in this version- is equally breathtaking, complete with Coney Island replica and as I recall an animatronic skeleton playing the xylophone ! Catch it on YouTube for 48 hours from 7pm Friday.

The Royal Academy has released virtual tours of two of its blockbuster exhibitions – A Bigger Picture and One Still-Life , both by the incomparable David Hockney. A Bigger Picture comprises  exactly that – huge landscapes of his native Yorkshire . I recall seeing it in 2012 and being blown away by its sheer colourful beauty and expanse.

In 2016 Hockney gave a glimpse of the Los Angeles art scene – equally stunning. You can see them at

This weeks offering from the National Theatre – to mark Shakespeare’s birthday- is a gender-bending Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig as Malvolio  – available free for a week from Thursday evening on the NT’s YouTube channel. Don’t forget to donate to any of the free shows being  streamed to keep entertainment a viable concern.

I know the sun is blazing down on us but we still need comfort food , so here is my good friend Randall Shields’s recipe which he sent from San Francisco for Mississippi Pot Roast. He makes it in a pressure cooker but I’ve adapted for a slow cooker !

You need: 2lbs chuck roast steak; 3/4 cup chicken stock; teaspoon of onion powder and garlic powder; teaspoon each  of dried dill, parsley and chives ;olive oil; 1/4 cup unsalted butter;  3-5 assorted peppers – pick  your own strengths; salt and pepper , and thickener – like cornflour and buttermilk.

Method: lightly season meat with salt/pepper and brown in a pan with the olive oil. Remove meat and deglaze pan with chicken stock. Place in slow cooker with the herbs and stir well. Add peppers and put the butter on top of the steak pieces. Cook till the meat is tender and almost shredded – 2 to 3 hours. Set meat aside ,add the thickeners to contents of slow cooker  to make a rich  sauce. Serve with your favourite sides – I would say garlic or herb mashed potatoes and green cabbage. But that’s just me.

Next time on the sofa , my friend William Halsall, head chef at Le Caprice reveals his simple flapjack recipe and tells me what his restaurant and others are doing to provide meals to NHS workers and the vulnerable.