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Jun 2nd

Green Day's American Idiot at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

The King’s Theatre in Glasgow offers an introduction to a rare musical beast; the “Punk Rock Opera” Green Day’s American Idiot.  This truly is a ‘beast’ of a show in every aspect; powerful, wild, (at times) ugly but also AWESOME!

Green Day’s 2004 release of the album “American Idiot” saw the modern punk rock band take a new direction.  It wasn’t originally intended that the album should convert to stage; more that it emulate a more thoughtfully developed album like the great rock operas ‘Quadrophenia’, ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ or even ‘Sgt. Pepper’.  In creating their Punk Rock Opera they were able to throw away their unwritten “rule book” and approach song writing from a whole new direction – a concept album.  What was written may well have started as a ‘concept', but what emerged on stage was REAL – very real, deep and (sometimes) purposely repellent.

Brit singer / songwriter, Newton Faulkner, leads the cast as Johnny (or Jesus of Suburbia) on a year-long journey against the backdrop of reality for the lower middle classes of America following the 9/11 terror attacks.  Johnny’s experience forms the basis of social comment on a nation which was fighting a culture war to determine its own morality while desperately trying to put a face on faceless enemies overseas.  Faulkner’s image, presence and voice are perfect in this role – I found his presentation of the ballads particularly appealing and a great contrast to heavier sections of the score.  Kudos to him for playing a lead role largely in his underpants, too!

Johnny is joined by two competing characters.  “Whatshername” (beautifully voiced by X-factor’s Amelia Lily) represents ‘love’ while “St. Jimmy” (played with suitably manic fervour and equally powerful vocals by understudy Llandyll Gove) represents ‘rage’ – Johnny’s inner demon.  Both characters are a massive influence on Johnny’s actions and lead to a dramatic downward spiral.

The supporting cast are small but fantastically talented.  Each gets a chance to shine in this dark dystopian world.  The band clearly play a strong role on stage and Steve Rushton (as Johnny’s mate, Will) plays a double role as guitar #2 – typical of this multi-talented cast he sings, dances, acts and play’s some serious licks!

The choreography from Director / Choreographer, Rocky Plews, is also a major player in the show as the story unfolds almost like a ballet.  Being a rock musical, Billy Joe Armstrong’s lyrics can sometimes be overtaken by drums and guitar, so the choreography often plays a key role in outlining the lyrical intent.  The exciting (and often comedic) movement is delivered with verve by the energetic cast.

I highly recommend you see this show!  It’s not for the faint hearted – it’s deep, dark, thought provoking, lyrically colourful (they swear a lot) and sexually provocative … but this serves to deliver Green Day’s original message in a powerful format that is the perfect fit for your first ever Punk Rock Opera!

 

American Idiot

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Tue 31 May – Sat 4 June 2016

Tue, Wed, Thu evenings 7.30pm

Fri 5pm and 8.30pm

Sat 4pm and 8pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

May 17th

UK Theatre Network Announces Resignation of North East Editor

By Cameron Lowe

It is with sadness and regret that I have accepted the resignation of Steve Burbridge as UKTN’s North East Editor. Steve leaves us to focus on ever-more-demanding family commitments in parallel with his career as a theatrical writer and producer.

Steve has occupied this role for an amazing 8 years following recruitment by UK Theatre Network Founder, Douglas McFarlane in 2008. His contribution to UK Theatre Network will certainly be missed - not merely his prolific works, which are recorded on our pages, but also his contribution to the culture of UK Theatre Network driven by his infectious spirit and his passion for theatre and the creative industries.  His influence will, indeed, be long-lived. However, that being said, UKTN will not be the same without him.

I would like to thank Steve for his years of service and wish him the very best for the future.

 

Cameron Lowe

Editor, UK Theatre Network

May 11th

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

If I was to try to identify a show that first got me interested in musical theatre, it would be Joseph.  Growing up in the seventies, my generation was among the first to enjoy the experience, the fun, the outright joy of learning, loving and performing the school version of what has now become a worldwide favourite. I took my seat fully aware that I would set high standards for this production.

 

The first collaboration of the fantastically successful partnership of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the show was originally written for schools as a short teaching and performance piece.  Their second work was what made this duo household names, though, as Jesus Christ Superstar became an instant hit. Buoyed by this success, Webber and Rice revisited Joseph; extending the piece and staging for a ticket paying audience.  The result of this labour was, once again, a smash hit.

 

The story is well known … if you are unfamiliar with it, I’m sure that you can find a copy of the Book of Genesis nearby!

 

So what about this latest incarnation of the family favourite?  Is it hitting the high notes like an x-factor winner … or scraping the bottom of an empty grain barrel?

 

Let’s begin with our hero, Joseph, played by Joe McElderry.  X-factor winner, Joe, really impresses in this role.  Traditionally this is a headliner part – a none-too-demanding character for a soap star or a presenter to easily step into (putting bums on seats into the bargain).  Joe was certainly a popular choice with the Glasgow audience.  However, he totally excels here.  His energy levels were excellent and he presented easily the most impressive vocals of all of the Josephs I have seen over the years.

 

Joe was ably supported by Lucy Kay who delivered impressive vocals and tangible charisma as the Narrator.  Lucy was a graduate of Glasgow’s own Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  Further support came from a talented male cast playing Joseph’s 11 brothers and the various key characters as the story unfolds.  I did feel that (as uplifting as their songs and characters were) some of the male cast could have given an extra 5% of energy to their performances to add that ‘sparkle’ to an already good performance – particularly when out of the limelight.  The 3 female supporting cast members held nothing back, giving their all throughout.

 

Technically, the show was deceptively simple in presentation but anyone who has programmed lighting and sound cues in a theatre would be most impressed.  With these effects added, the show was a dazzling display! Sadly, I could only see the Musical Director playing live music in the pit and the lack of a live band detracted somewhat.

 

Joseph is a great family show.  A production of this caliber cannot fail to bring a whole series of smiles that will be sure to merge into a massive grin!  Don’t miss your chance to catch this enduring classic of musical theatre.

 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

10-14 May 2016

Tue at 7.30pm

Wed at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Thu at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Fri at 5pm and 8pm

Sat at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm

Tickets £17.90 to £46.40

 

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-2016/kings-theatre

 

Mar 30th

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Chris Lowe 

 

If you are looking for an evening of glitz, glamour, hysterical laughter and some deeply moving moments look no further than Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the King’s Theatre Glasgow for this week only!

 

The story begins with three drag queens Tick/Mitzi (Duncan James), Adam/Felicia (Adam Bailey) and Bernadette (Simon Green) set off on a road trip through Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform a show at a casino. Unknown to Felicia and Bernadette, Mitzi has a wife and son Marion (Naomi Slights) and Benji (Jack Burns/Connor Paton) who reside at the casino. The trio set off on their adventure with a bus they christen Priscilla. Needless to say fun and frolics ensue.

 

It was an absolute pleasure to watch Simon Green as he played one of the most complex characters of the show (Bernadette). Oozing style and sophistication with a hard exterior but a soft gentle side.

 

Adam Bailey (Felicia) was by far the most energetic and enthusiastic of the trio. With his care free and almost naive approach to life he is a wonderful display of youth and he is absolutely fearless.

 

After a successful career in Blue and various TV and Theatre performances, Duncan James gives a very convincing performance as Mitzi. It’s a role that requires the perfect balance of masculinity and femininity; which he managed to achieve.

 

Another strong performance was delivered by the three divas of the show who performed for the lip syncing drag queens. Played by Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort their strong and soaring voices left the audience stunned.

 

Catherine Mort plays another character named Shirley the Bartender. The character is nothing short of a red-neck stereotype with a mullet, poor hygiene and bouncing breasts. The reaction of the audience was priceless. Truly one of the funniest moments of the show.

 

The ensemble cast could not be faulted in their performance. Great effort and enthusiasm all round.

 

The costume plot delivers everything that an audience could wish for from a tale of three musical drag queen divas touring Australia in a multi-coloured bus named Priscilla! With a flamboyant display of colour and sparkle they provide a dazzling spectacle.  A true delight to the eyes.

 

You will find yourself absorbed in the story and falling in love with the three fashionable drag queens. Priscilla is a real feel good musical with lots of excitement and plenty for you to enjoy. I urge you to go see Pricilla Queen of the Desert you will not be disappointed!

 

Priscilla Queen of The Desert The Musical

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Tue 29 March – Sat 2 April 2016

Tues – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 Photography by kind permission of Paul Coltas

Feb 11th

Annie The Musical at The King's Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Chris Lowe

 

For those of you looking for a great night out, look no further than the touring production of Annie at the King's Theatre Glasgow! This is an evening filled with music, song and dance.

The story is set in the 1930s in New York during the great depression. Young Annie (Elise Blake) is forced to lead a life of pain and misery at Miss Hannigan's (Elaine C. Smith) orphanage. Annie is hopeful that one day she will meet her real parents. Her luck turns when she is chosen to spend Christmas with a famous billionaire named Oliver Warbucks (Alex Bourne). However, Miss Hannigan is determined to spoil her fortune.

The musical started off with a bang with Annie and her fellow orphans singing the well known 'Hard Knock Life'. These child stars were fantastic and showed outstanding rhythm and vocal skills. Natasha Arabestani, who played Molly (the youngest of the girls) stood out amongst the rest with her totally adorable performance. The dancing, as you might expect, from the rest of the cast was stunningly flawless.

Elise Blake is an incredible actor with amazing talent. Her voice was nothing short of breathtaking in the lead role. Other honorable mentions would include the dynamic duo Rooster (Jonny Fines) and Lily (Djalenga Scott) who showed great chemistry while performing together. Grace Farrell (Holly Dale Spencer) was superb. Let’s not forget Sandy the dog who melted every member of the audiences’ hearts.

This is an excellent cast who take their performance very seriously and pull it off with huge success.  Although the production is not the same as the original film it is still filled with explosive song and dance numbers that will not leave you disappointed.

The set and costume designs were spectacular. Together, these gave the audience a real taste of what it was like during the great depression and the conditions in which ordinary Americans lived.   

With breathtaking choreography and amazing performances, Annie is a musical production not to be missed. 10 out of 10.

 

Annie The Musical

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Mon 8 – Sat 20 Feb 2016

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

 

 

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Nov 22nd

Miracle on 34th Street - The Musical at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Our evening began with a false start as the red velvet curtain was raised two feet and then lowered hurriedly revealing that the cast were not in position for their opening tableau! Sadly, this was the first of many technical hitches on the opening night of Miracle on 34th Street in Glasgow's King's Theatre.

The show itself began with some promise as the energetic cast burst into a cartwheeling and high kicking rendition of "Big Ca-lown Balloons" which segwayed directly into the colourful Macy's Parade. However the energetic performances on stage could only briefly mask the electronic soundrack underscore which we can only assume was pre-recorded because we were never introduced to the band or musical director. The opening number also overstayed its welcome revealing that this show might be somewhat out of touch with the modern musical theatre audience who prefer short punchy (catchy) numbers and a story that pulls us in. Sadly, the narrative falls a little short in that department, too ... and there is NO PLACE for a dream ballet in 2015!

The cast certainly gave it their all with solid delivery from all the principals backed by a talented and effervescent chorus. Hannah Thompson was delightful and charming in the central role of Susan Walker. Ms Thompson's youth was wonderfully balanced by a consummate Kris Kringle (Santa to you and me) who was played by a remarkably youthful Danny Lane! Mr Lane gave the audience exactly what we wanted from this most famous of characters - no mean feat from one so young. Brendan Matthew gave a wonderfully OTT performance as Shellhammer - a great distraction for the younger members of the audience. Claire Hawkins and Carl Lindquist delivered the romantic interest well; within the limits of a somewhat old fashioned script.

Technically, the production was quite a disappointment with christmas lights on the blink, misplaced spotlight specials and a truck sliding into the wings. The show was also a victim of that annoying habbit that lighting crews have on opening night of 'nudging' gobos into place bit by bit as though the audience will not notice the 8 foot "window pane" illumination moving across the set if it only moves 2 inches at a time. Many things did go well, though and the set was well designed by David Shields. The snow effects were delightful and much appreciated by the audience.

The production certainly has the ingredients to deliver a little early Christmas cheer but, for me, was only saved by performances which (thankfully) outshone the faulty Christmas Lights onstage.

 

Miracle on 34th Street

Tour continues:

MANCHESTER Opera House

23-25 November

CHESTERFIELD Winding Wheel

26-28 November

CARDIFF New Theatre

1-5 December

EASTBOURNE Royal Hippodrome

9-12 December

WORTHING Connaught Theatre

14-17 December

PETERBOROUGH Broadway

18-19 December

WATFORD Colosseum

21-28 December

 

Oct 20th

My Theatre Matters - And The Winner Is ....

By Cameron Lowe

Huge congratulations to Newcastle Theatre Royal, winner of the coveted My Theatre Matters! UK's Most Welcoming Theatre Award 2015, in association with Smooth Radio.

The award was presented by Smooth Radio's Paul Phear at the UK Theatre Awards ceremony at London's Guildhall on Sunday, attended by over 400 UK Theatre members and guests. The ceremony was compèred by Michael Xavier, with a performance from the cast of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged13 ¾ and appreances from guest presenters including Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, Barbara Windsor MBE, Richard Wilson OBE, Anne Reid MBE and Lee Mead.

Amongst the other awards presented were;

• Matthew Bourne OBE received The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre
• Dame Eileen Atkins was awarded the prestigious Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts
• Imelda Staunton won Best Performance in a Musical for her performance in Gypsy, which also won Best Musical Production
• York Theatre Royal received the Clothworkers’ Theatre Award for £150,000 as part of The Clothworkers’ Foundation’s five year £1.25 million Dramatic Arts initiative

A full list of winners can be seen online atwww.uktheatre.org/awards.

Sep 24th

FOOTLOOSE Cuts Loose on a Brand New National Tour!

By Cameron Lowe

FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL

RETURNS IN A BRAND NEW PRODUCTION

WITH GARETH GATES AS WILLARD

Worldwide smash hit musical Footloose: The Musical will burst back onto the stage in 2016 in a major new UK Tour.

 

Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet. Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let's Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, Footloose: The Musical is set to take the world by storm once again in this brand new production, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music. 

 

When the film was released in 1984, it became the highest-grossing February release in US film history.  The soundtrack album ended the year-long reign of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at number one and went on top album charts all over the world, eventually selling in excess of 17 million copies.  Footloose was nominated for a Golden Globe, and both the title song and Let’s Hear It for the Boy received Academy Award nominations. Footloose: The Musical first opened on Broadway in 1998 where it ran for 709 performances, with a London production following in 2006, opening at the Novello Theatre following a UK Tour. 

 

Gareth Gates will play Willard. Gareth rose to fame through the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, going on to sell over 5 million records worldwide and have hits across the globe. His version of Unchained Melody sold over a million copies in the UK and is the 3rd best-selling single of the Noughties. Gareth is also the youngest ever-male solo artist to debut at number 1. More recently Gareth has enjoyed a successful career on stage, with credits including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. In 2014 Gareth appeared in the final series of Dancing on Ice, and joined boyband 5th Story as part of ITV’s second series of The Big Reunion, touring arenas with bands including Blue and Five.

 

Gareth Gates said: “I have been so lucky to perform in some of the greatest musicals over the years, from Joseph to Les Misérables and Legally Blonde, and I am so excited that Footloose will be my next. It’s such a high energy show full of incredible dance and music, and this brand new tour is going to be a fresh and exciting new take on it.

 

Further casting and tour dates to be announced.

Aug 31st

Curtain Falls on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015

By Cameron Lowe

WHAT THE FRINGE?! AFTER 50,459 PERFORMANCES OF 3,314 SHOWS, THE 2015 EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE DRAWS TO A CLOSE


After 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues across Edinburgh, the curtain falls and the house lights go up on the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

 

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has announced that by Monday afternoon, with hundreds of performances still to take place, an estimated 2,298,090 tickets had been issued for shows across Scotland’s capital. The number of tickets issued reflects a 5.24% increase in comparison to tickets issued by the same point last year. 

 

Kath M Mainland CBE, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said:

 

“As this year’s Fringe draws to a close we can reflect on what a spectacular success it has been. Once again artists and audiences have travelled from across the globe to be a part of this unique cultural event. And with an estimated 2,298,090 tickets issued and many thousands of people attending the 800 free shows in the programme, I’ve no doubt every single person who watched a Fringe show, or experienced this wonderful festival city, will take away unforgettable memories. 

 

“With incredible talent from 49 countries from all over the world taking part this year, the Fringe has once again demonstrated itself to be both truly international and profoundly Scottish.  The 2015 season has firmly cemented Edinburgh’s reputation as the world’s leading festival city. “

 

Fringe Society Chair, Sir Tim O’Shea added:

 

“On behalf of everyone who visited and enjoyed this year’s Fringe, I would like to thank all the creative souls, both onstage and backstage, who brought their work here. Their courage, creativity and sheer hard work is unrivalled anywhere in the world, and without them, the Fringe simply wouldn’t be possible.”

 

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs added:

 

“This has been another incredible year for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The festival continues to evolve and work with the city to expand and offer more and more to audiences from across the world. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe demonstrates the innovative spirit that makes Scottish culture so vibrant. “

 

One new initiative this year was a scheme launched by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, in collaboration with the City of Edinburgh Council and Virgin Money aimed at providing complimentary tickets to Fringe shows for children and young people who are being cared for by City of Edinburgh Council. The project called Access Fringe – Looked After Children made £173,172.00 worth of tickets from 233 shows in 38 venues available to children and young people whose circumstances would not normally allow them to participate in cultural activity. Access Fringe – Looked After Children is a part of the Fringe Society’s commitment to making the Fringe accessible to all and is one of a series of initiatives over the years to come to tackle the physical, economic, social and geographic barriers that prevent people from participating.

 

Other highlights in 2015 included the participation of a total of fourteen new venues across the city. These included the return of the famous St. Stephen’s Church in Stockbridge under the banner of Momentum Venues, Underbelly launching their Circus Hub on the Meadows in the city’s southside and SpaceUK debuting a new three floor venue called SpaceTriplex in The Prince Philip Building on Hill Place.

 

The Fringe Society unveiled two new commercial partnerships in 2015; with Airbnb and the Caledonian Sleeper. Both these relationships offered new opportunities for Fringe participants and audiences.

 

The Royal Mail celebrated this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe by issuing a special postmark, applied to stamped UK mail from 07-31 August. Royal Mail’s postmarks are reserved for special occasions and are used to recognise significant events, historical anniversaries or support of charity. It was the first time in the Royal Mail’s 500 year history that a festival has been featured on a postmark.

 

Award-winning comedian and theatre-maker Bryony Kimmings delivered the 2015 Fringe Central Welcome Address to participants, organised by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. The welcome address, designed to welcome and inspire participants, was attended by a record number of people. Bryony Kimmings, an Associate Artist at Soho Theatre and a Fringe participant herself, encouraged participants to take advantage of over 85 free events hosted throughout August, to help develop performance skills, expand networks and advance careers. 

 

A wide range of awards were on offer throughout the festival organised by a range of organisations. Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website launched their Fringe awards, acknowledging a show and a venue for their outstanding efforts to include disabled audiences at this year’s Fringe.

Jul 29th

Love Me Tender at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

 

 

What a great way to start a week!

Last night’s performance of “Love Me Tender” at Milton Keynes Theatre was enough to give you a boost to last the rest of the week!

Based around Elvis Presley’s famous songs, this very humorous, happy musical featured 25 of Elvis’s back catalogue!  I could sing all the words, as I expect the rest of the audience could too.  They were cleverly woven into a story of a 1950’s, behind the times, small time American town.

The townsfolk were “All Shook Up” by the arrival of a charismatic, full of life biker stranger, who brightens up everyone’s lives.  This guitar playing Romeo, steals the heart of several young women, none more strongly than motor bike mechanic, Natalie, (superbly played by Laura Tebbutt).  The best in town!  She gets her man eventually, after posing as a male sidekick, and going through various funny adventures!

Although Mica Paris led the cast list as Sylvia, and as good as she was, others stole the show for me.

Chad, the afore mentioned gigolo, was brilliantly played by Ben Lewis.  He had everything going for him, good looks, Elvis projecting hips, good voice and well timed humour!  

His first sidekick, Jim (in love with Natalie.  An unrequited love!) played by Shaun Williamson was a perfect, soppy, intellectual, lacking in any romantic feelings man.  He tried so hard to learn from Chad, but unsuccessfully!

There was no-one in this cast who did not, dance, sing and act superbly!

The 1950’s costumes (designed by Vicky Gill) were excellent, as was the set.  It amazes me that now, in the theatre, there does not seem a need for stage hands to move the sets from one scene to another.  If it needs to be moved, and can’t be done by technology, it is done by the cast and hardly noticed by the audience.  Set designer, Morgan Large needs to be congratulated.

Lighting, by James Whiteside, too enhances the atmosphere.

Last, but not least, the choreography (Karen Bruce) was awesome, executed by a brilliant cast! 

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