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Apr 10th

The Addams Family - Northern Premiere, The People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

By Steve Burbridge

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They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky: The Addams Family! And their gloriously ghoulish, spooktacular shenanigans were a massive hit with the first night audience at The People’s Theatre, last night.

Nice Swan Theatre Company has the honour of presenting the Northern premiere of this new musical comedy – and it couldn’t be in safer or more talented hands.

Based on the characters from the well known film and TV series The Addams Family features an original story, and it's every father's nightmare. Wednesday Addams (Carly Burns), the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man, Lucas Beineke (Glen Townsend) from a respectable family. And if that weren't upsetting enough, she confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams (Dale Jewitt) must do something he's never done before - keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia (Jessica Brady). Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday's "normal" boyfriend.

No strangers to taking on bold and ambitious projects which challenge the bounds of technical creativity and push their performers far beyond any other musical theatre company for miles around, Nice Swan are, once again, triumphant with this slick and stylish production.

From sumptuous costumes to stunning sets, faultless performances and characterisation to complex choreography and a live orchestra, the show ticked each and every box on my reviewer’s list.

Obviously, much of the emphasis and action surrounds the ‘family’ characters, yet there were some fantastic performances from those in supporting roles, in particular Dylan Stafford (Mr Beineke), Bethany Walker (Mrs Beineke) and Jacob Anderton (Lurch), plus a whole host of ancestor ghosts. Indeed, there was not one weak link in the entire cast.

Special praise should also be given to the entire creative team who have collaborated brilliantly to produce a show worthy of the West End stage.

Marvellously macabre, wonderfully whacky and deliciously dark, The Addams Family is a hair-raising hit and meeting them once may not be enough – I have already booked tickets for Saturday!

Steve Burbridge.                      

To book call the box office on (0191) 265 5020 or visit www.niceswan.com

 

Mar 24th

Sam Dickinson: The Acoustic Nights Tour - The Mining Institute, Newcastle

By Steve Burbridge


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Who knew that a spring Saturday night in Newcastle would hold in store a rare and exquisite experience; that something would occur that only happens, perhaps, once in a decade? That I would have the privilege of watching a performer destined for a meteoric rise to success in the intimate grandeur of a Mining Institute?

Sam Dickinson is something quite exceptional - a singer/songwriter who has, in equal measure, an abundance of both talent and integrity. Thankfully, thus far, he remains untouched and, indeed, untarnished, by the commercial music industry who, all too often, process, package, brand and market the individuality out of many vocalists.

Newcastle was the second venue on his short ‘Acoustic Nights’ tour, and Sam performed to an appreciative audience. Interspersing his own songs (taken from his debut album, The Stories That Occurred) with covers of tracks by Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner, he effortlessly showcased a range that is nothing less than phenomenal. Indeed, although he undoubtedly has a style all of his own, at times I found myself being reminded of some of my favourite performers. There were the high notes that I thought only Jimmy Somerville could hit; the melancholy of a Marc Almond lyric, and the showmanship of Andy Bell.

Accomplished but never arrogant, confident but not cocky, Sam also introduced each song with the stories that provided the inspiration behind them – it gave each song an added emotional subtext.

Finally, I must make two brief apologies: firstly, the constraints of the word-count render it impossible to review, in the detail they deserve, the performances of supporting artists, Lily Clark and Alex Dobson; secondly, this review would have been online much earlier had I not spent so much time on Sunday playing Sam’s debut album!

Steve Burbridge.

Mar 21st

Tap Factory - Sunderland Empire & touring

By Steve Burbridge
Tap Factory – The Sunderland Empire Theatre (and touring)

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Billed as “a brand new show in the genre of Stomp, Tap Dogs and Blue Man Group”, Tap Factory is a thrilling combination of tap dancing, hip hop, acrobatics, street dance and percussion in one truly epic production.
 
It begins with a caretaker character making his way through the auditorium, whistling and humming, as he sweeps his way to the stage where we are then introduced to a Chaplinesque  character whose exaggerated mime evokes memories of the magnificent silent movies.
 
The show really gets going when the rest of the workforce of the factory take to the stage and the heady mix of amazing acrobatic agility, terrific tap dancing and precision percussion explodes into action before our very eyes.
Performed by a cast of World Champion dancers, Tap Factory draws on several genres including dance, acrobatics and cirque. Each exquisitely choreographed routine is executed with breathtaking brilliance and an abundance of enthusiasm – and never a foot is put wrong. The eight performers effortlessly dazzle and delight the audience with their dynamic displays of skill and discipline, receiving rapturous shrieks and whoops in return.

With swan-like grace and the litheness of a feline, these incredibly talented men continually astounded the crowd, setting female pulses racing; their toned torso’s sharing responsibility with their dazzling dance routines.
All in all, a breathtaking, showstopping, sensation of a show.

Steve Burbridge.
For tour schedule and booking details please visit www.tapfactory.com
Feb 8th

Tea With The Old Queen

By Steve Burbridge

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‘Tea With The Old Queen’ – The Customs House, South Shields

 Regardless of whether you’re a Republican or a Royalist, I bet that at some stage you have wondered what really goes on behind closed palace doors. What’s it like to spend Christmas at Sandringham and summer holidays at Balmoral?

Well, Tea With The Old Queen: The Fictional Diaries of Backstairs Billy lifts the lid on some of the monarchy’s best-kept comic secrets. Based on the fictitious diaries of William Tallon, steward and page of the backstairs to the late Queen Mother, this one-man show offers a glimpse into life below stairs at Clarence House. In over forty years of loyal service, ‘Backstairs Billy’, as Tallon became known, saw it all.

Written, directed and produced by Graham Woolnough, this production has enjoyed a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe and toured the UK, garnering some impressive reviews along the way.

The premise is a good one and Ian Stark, as Billy, certainly has sufficient charisma and presence to be watchable. However, as gently amusing as the writing is, I found myself lamenting a plethora of dramatic missed opportunities.

A significant amount of the show focuses on the period of Christmas 1999 and the dawn of the new Millennium and this deprives the audience of a whole variety of other juicy morsels. For instance, we are not made privy to Ma’am’s opinions on the exploits of both the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York, nor the impact of Diana’s death in 1997. Historic incidents such as the death, in 1986, of the Duchess of Windsor could have been utilised to resurrect painful memories from the past, too, thus providing a richer tapestry of drama

Nevertheless, the piece was a charming and inoffensive exposé – it’s just a shame that, as is the case with most gossip, we were only treated to part of the story.

Steve Burbridge.

Performed at the Customs House, South Shields, on Thursday 6th February 2014. For details of future performances and more about the play, visit www.facebook.com/twtoq

 

Jan 23rd

TESTING TIMES - Back by Popular Request

By Steve Burbridge
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MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT!!!


We are delighted to announce that Testing Times will be performed for a very limited run at The People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne. The run is strictly limited to ONLY FOUR PERFORMANCES between Monday 17th and Thursday 20th November 2014. The Studio Theatre only seats 90 per performance so availability will be limited. Early booking is strongly recommended. Tickets are priced at £11.50 (full) & £9.50 (concessions). You can purchase tickets via the Facebook page or by telephoning 07986 142281. Alternatively, contact the Box Office on 0191 265 5020 (select Option 2). Casting details to follow ...
Sep 26th

Storm In A Flower Vase - Arts Theatre, London

By Steve Burbridge

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Storm In A Flower Vase – Arts Theatre, London’s West End

Look behind the veneer of 1930s public respectability and deeper into the private world of the ‘redoubtable’ Constance Spry (Penny Downie), iconic floral designer (she is not a florist – ‘floristry is a trade!’) and cookery writer, celebrated by society matrons, and you’ll discover that a number of surprises lurk beneath.

Hailed as a pioneer for working women, Spry was considered to be ‘one of society’s new breed’. However, this accolade juxtaposed the insecurities of a complex woman who was born as ‘a child of Victoria’ and constantly sought approval from her peers whilst, simultaneously dabbling in a lesbian affair with painter Hannah ‘Gluck’ Gluckstein (Carolyn Backhouse) and co-habiting with her long-time lover, Shav (Christopher Ravenscroft).

Downie, leading a consummate cast, portrays Spry as a fragile, brittle and bird-like woman who is often as delicate as the flowers she arranges. Her performance is never less than totally compelling and completely charismatic.

This fascinating exposé, written with intelligence and intensity by Anton Burge, tells a story of marital discord, affairs and heartache in a manner that has pace but is never rushed and is reflective without any trace of a longueur.

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Ann Pinnington’s production values are exquisite: the conservatory style set; the period costumes and the stunning floral arrangements all set the tone sublimely.

Supporting characters are well-rounded and played with panache by Sally George (Val), Sheila Ruskin (Rosemary) and Carol Royle (Syrie).

Like the flowers that Constance arranged, this production is only in bloom for a short time, so see it while you have the chance – it’s a rare and beautiful specimen.

Steve Burbridge.

Storm In A Flower Vase runs until Saturday 12th October 2013.
http://www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk/whatson

Sep 16th

A TICKET FOR A TENNER - SPECIAL OFFER!!!

By Steve Burbridge
THREE WEEKS TO GO UNTIL THE LAUNCH OF THIS BRAND-NEW MUSICAL-PLAY .... AND A SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR UK THEATRE     NETWORK!!!

A "TICKET FOR A TENNER!" QUOTE "UKTN" WHEN YOU BOOK!!

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Subject to Availability; Terms & Conditions apply.
Jul 8th

Some Like It Hotter - The Customs House, South Shields

By Steve Burbridge

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Some Like It Hotter – The Customs House, South Shields

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon may be dead, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped working. Recently deceased fans of Some Like It Hot, the 1959 film that united the three stars in the first place, have the opportunity to meet their heroes before they properly pass through to ‘the other side’.

The premise for Some Like It Hotter is certainly an intriguing and imaginative one. Playwright Richard Hurford wanted to explore “the strange immortality conferred on actors who remain forever alive, often forever young and locked into one story on film” and what might happen if “the viewpoint of the fan came into being.”

Enter Charlie (Patrick Bridgman), a nerdy middle-aged man who has always lived at home with his mother. A huge fan of the black and white classic (and of Marilyn Monroe, in particular), he has dreamed – since boyhood – of being a member of the all-female band, Sweet Sue & Her Society Syncopators. Now, it seems, those dreams are about to come true as Tony Curtis (Paul Matania), Jack Lemmon (Daniel Lloyd) and Marilyn Monroe (Sarah Applewood) kit him up with a cocktail dress and high-heels and set about re-enacting the film.

There’s lots to praise in this show which boasts high production values (brilliant set design by Jane Linz Roberts, authentically lavish costumes by Becky Graham, slick direction from Karen Simpson) and compelling performances from the principals (all of which are excellent, but Applewood’s Monroe is a masterpiece in mimicry), yet it still falls a little short.

The first act tends to drag as the premise of the play is over-laboured by the writer. The pace steps up after the interval and there are some wonderful interpretations of musical numbers including ‘Runnin’ Wild’, ‘I’m Through With Love’ and ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’.

However, the production is ultimately dogged by a script that seems more like an early draft than a finely-honed finished piece.

Steve Burbridge.

Played at the Customs House, South Shields, from Thursday 4th – Saturday 6th July, 2013.

Tour Details:

8-10 July       Ark Theatre, Borehamwood

11-13 July     Northcott Theatre, Essex

16-17 July     South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell

18-20 July     Connaught Theatre, Worthing

23-27 July     Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

 

Jul 5th

Obituary: Bernadette Nolan

By Steve Burbridge

 

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OBITUARY – Bernadette (Bernie) Nolan, 17/10/1960 – 04/07/2013

Born in Dublin on 17th October, 1960, Bernie Nolan first found fame as the lead singer of The Nolans from 1974 until 1994. Along with her sisters, Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda and Coleen, she enjoyed phenomenal success both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Best known for their classic disco track, I’m In The Mood For Dancing, and a string of other unforgettable hits including Attention To Me, Don’t Make Waves, Chemistry, Gotta Pull Myself Together and Who’s Gonna Rock You (Bernie’s favourite track), The Nolans’ wholesome brand of pop earned them a place in British chart history as one of the most successful girl groups ever and cemented their status as disco divas.

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However, it was in Japan that The Nolans achieved some of their greatest triumphs, beginning with the Tokyo Music Festival where they were the first ever European act to win the much-coveted grand prize, and where competition included the likes of Randy Crawford and Jermaine Jackson. From there, they went on to sell an incredible 9.3 million records (exceeding The Beatles’ sales).

In 1994, after two decades at the helm of The Nolans, Bernie decided the time was right to go solo. Leading roles in The Devil Rides Out, City of Angels, Annie, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Godspell, A Slice of Saturday Night and Oh! What A Night soon established her as a rising star in musical theatre.

Bernie was also the first of four of The Nolans to play the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s smash-hit musical play, Blood Brothers. When Denise, Linda and Maureen followed in her footsteps, the sisters earned themselves a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most siblings to play the same role in the same show at different times.

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Indeed, it was when Bernie was performing in Blood Brothers that Paul Marquess noticed her and offered her the role of Diane Murray in the Channel 4 soap opera, Brookside. She joined the cast in 2000 and stayed for two years before leaving to play the part of Sgt Sheelagh Murphy in the ITV police drama, The Bill.

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Bernie continued to perform regularly in leading roles on stage in productions including Our Benny, Mum’s The Word, Flashdance, Calendar Girls and, most recently as Mama Morton in Chicago. She was also a regular and popular performer in summer season shows and pantomime.

However, she never ventured far from her musical roots and, in 2005, released her debut solo album, All By Myself, which consisted of mainly power ballads. Five years later, she was runner-up in the celebrity reality television programme, Popstar to Operastar.

Described by broadcaster and friend Lorraine Kelly as “one of the hardest-working women in showbiz”, Bernie was also a tireless charity fundraiser. She supported causes including Alzheimer’s, cancer and children’s charities.

In 2010, Bernie became the third sister to suffer from breast cancer (both Anne and Linda had beaten the disease in 2000 and 2006, respectively). After undergoing chemotherapy and a mastectomy, Bernie also seemed to have beaten the disease. However, two years later, she announced that the cancer had returned and was incurable. It had metastasised to her brain, lungs, liver and bones.

Characteristically, Bernie faced up to the disease with courage, dignity and strength. She chronicled her fight against cancer in the moving yet uplifting bestseller, Now and Forever, and, in doing so, was hailed as an inspiration to others affected by cancer.

Tragically, but inevitably, Bernie Nolan died at her home in Surrey on the morning of Thursday 4th July, 2013, aged 52. A spokeswoman for the family said: "Bernie passed away peacefully this morning with all of her family around her. The entire family are devastated to have lost beloved Bernie, a wonderful wife, adoring mother and loving sister; she is irreplaceable." 

 Bernie leaves behind her husband, drummer Steve Doneathy, whom she married in 1996, and a daughter, Erin, who was born in 1999. Her first daughter, Kate, was stillborn in 1997.

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A Personal Tribute

Having been a massive fan of The Nolan’s since the 1970’s, it was hugely exciting and an enormous privilege to be given the opportunity to be publicist on a theatre tour starring the wonderful Maureen Nolan. We clicked instantly and keep in regular touch to this day.

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It was through Maureen that I met two of her sisters, Bernie and Linda. By way of reputation and personal experience, I know that all of the sisters are extremely professional, hardworking and talented. However, they are also very grounded, down-to-earth women, too.

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I had first seen Bernie perform back in May 1998, when she starred in the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, and remember marvelling at her stunning performance and impressive vocal capabilities.  I’d also reviewed her performance in Flashdance at the Sunderland Empire and interviewed her in 2009 when The Nolans reunited for their big-budget arena tour. However, I did not get to meet her until the beginning of 2012, when she was starring as Malevolent in the pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, at The Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage.

Just as was the case with Maureen, the moment I met her I knew I liked her. She was completely natural, open and at ease with people. I soon discovered that, in addition to being a consummate professional, Bernie was a remarkable woman with a wicked sense of humour and genuine warmth.

She possessed a love of her work, her family and of life itself. But, at the same time, Bernie was nobody’s fool and wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade; she could spot a fake a mile away.

Bernie faced up to her cancer the same way she dealt with everything else that life threw at her: with courage, dignity, grace and selflessness.

Her passing, although inevitable, is still a terrible shock to her family, friends and fans. It is hard to imagine a world without Bernie; without her joie de vivre; her voice belting out from the stage to the back of the auditorium; her smile beaming out from a poster, magazine or newspaper.

However, we can all take consolation from the fact that her long battle is now over and that her pain and suffering is at an end.

And, you can bet that she has already got the party started in Heaven and that everyone up there is ‘in the mood for dancing’.

Rest in peace, the one and only Bernie Nolan.

Steve Burbridge.