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Mar 31st

Bugsy Malone Open Auditions, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Bugsy Malone Open Auditions

 

 

OPEN AUDITIONS AT THEATRE ROYAL GLASGOW ON SATURDAY 25 APRIL 2015

 

REHEARSALS FROM MONDAY 20 JULY – SATURDAY 1 AUGUST 2015

 

PERFORMANCE FRIDAY 31 JULY & SATURDAY 1 AUGUST 2015

 

For the first time Glasgow Theatres’ Creative Learning team is producing Stage Experience, an opportunity for aspiring performers aged 9-18 years to act, dance and sing on the prestigious Theatre Royal stage and gain an insight into the process of staging top class musical Bugsy Malone. Based on the hit 1976 film with pint-sized, pinstriped gangsters, Bugsy Malone is the ideal title to showcase young local talent.

 

Set in 1929 in New York’s criminal underworld, Mob boss Fat Sam is under threat from Dapper Dan’s new gang and their latest weapon – the dreaded splurge gun!  His only hope is Bugsy Malone, a washed up but well meaning boxer who is thrust into the gangster limelight.  With twists, turns, gangsters, showgirls and splurge fights galore the plot unfolds leading to a spectacular showdown at Fat Sam's Grand Slam! 

 

Aged 9-18 years? Want to be part of the Bugsy Malone company or work behind the scenes?  Open auditions take place on Saturday 25 April in the new purpose built education rooms at the Theatre Royal Glasgow. For more information and to register to take part please call 0141 240 1309/10 or email clglasgow@theambassadors.com. Registration closes Monday 20 April. No experience is needed, just a love of musical theatre and lots of enthusiasm. Please wear clothes suitable for dancing and trainers or dance shoes.

Following the auditions, places will be offered on the Stage Experience two week course (fees apply), from Monday 20 July until Saturday 1 August. Led by industry professionals, these rehearsals will culminate in three live performances of Bugsy Malone on the Theatre Royal stage.

Funny, riotous and irresistibly charming, Alan Parker’s joyous musical, with words and music by Paul Williams, is fun-packed and bursting with songs you’ll love including Bad Guys, My Name Is Tallulah and You Give a Little Love. Bugsy Malone is an amateur production by arrangement with Warner/Chappell Music Limited administered by Boosey & Hawkes.

Mar 12th

Saturday Night Fever, Bradford Alhambra Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Graham Clark

There have been popular stage adaptations of movie musicals such as Grease in the past, so it no surprise that Saturday Night Fever has proved to be a great success since it's original 1998 West End run.

 

Director Ryan McBryde has managed to bring the energy and magic of the 1977 film version to this high octane show.

 

Saturday Night FeverSet in Brooklyn in the late 70s, Tony Manero (Danny Bayne) is trying to escape his boring life and day job working in a paint store. The fuel crisis is in full swing and times are hard. The only light in his life is dancing at the local disco, "2001 Odyssey".

 

A dance competition is being held at the disco but Manero turns down one of his fans, Annette(Bethany Linsdell) in favour of social climber and girl about town Stephanie (Naomi Slights).

 

Of course it is the Bee Gees songs which make the show so special with the lyrics of the songs providing the narrative. A recurring theme is the lyric "Life going nowhere, somebody help me" with the lines being sung countless times throughout the evening.

 

The talented cast sing, dance and act as well as playing musical instruments; their brass section bringing the full force of the Bee Gees' songs to the fore. Without a star name in the musical the cast work hard to bring the film to life.

 

CiCi Howells plays the club singer at the disco.  She has a fine voice; always there in the background, reminding me of the narrator in Blood Brothers. She slows down the tracks at times turning them into a jazzy late night version of the original.

 

Unlike the film version ,the cast perform the Bee Gees hit, Tragedy, which actually was recorded and released 2 years after the film was released in 1977; but the words of the song work well within the context of the musical.

 

As is often the case in live theatre, the cast feed off the audience.  I saw the show at Blackpool a few weeks ago where the audience were much older and less enthusiastic than the Bradford crowd. The cast seemed to perform better and put more into their delivery than the previous version I witnessed.

 

There are a few loose ends to tie up at the end and some parts felt rushed but, other than that, this is an appealing show.  Disco Dynamite, no less.

 

Runs until Saturday 14 March, tickets from £25 available from:

 

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

Mar 6th

The Bodyguard (King's Theatre, Glasgow)

By Cameron Lowe

Alexandra Burke leads a fabulous cast in this spectacular production at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow!

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard (Photograph of West End production) - photo by Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard (Photograph of West End production) - photo by Paul Coltas

 

Let’s be honest, musicals based on movies don’t have the best reputation on the UK touring circuit.  But, when that movie was the Hollywood debut of pop superstar, Whitney Houston, and it is packed with her greatest hits, there is certainly enough to pique the interest of even the hardest cynic.  

For those who have not experienced the 1992 movie … The Bodyguard tells the story of Rachel Marron, a pop diva making her big break into movies (sound familiar?).  Rachel is being threatened by a mysterious assassin and those who care for her hire a new Bodyguard.  Frank Farmer is a professional and makes changes that most of Ms Marron’s entourage dislike and that Ms Marron herself detests.  However, when Farmer is proved correct in his assessment of the danger, Ms Marron comes to appreciate him more.  But mixing business with pleasure does not sit well with The Bodyguard.  Has he put his client in danger?

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard (Photograph of West End production) - Photo by Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke in The Bodyguard (Photograph of West End production) - Photo by Paul Coltas

Step forward Ms Alexandra Burke!  Alexandra doesn’t just “do” Whitney Houston … she is Whitney Houston for a new generation.  She has the power and, more importantly, the vocal finesse to deliver the full range of this amazing back catalogue of hits from the 80s and 90s.  Ms Burke went one stage further by generating a believable onstage chemistry with co-star Stuart Reid as Bodyguard, Frank Farmer.  Mr Reid had a difficult role as “the one who doesn’t sing” but he dazzled in other ways by balancing his sometimes ‘remote’ character with wit and comic timing.  In fact, both lead characters somehow manage to remain very likable despite their words and actions – very impressive.  Melissa James was delightful as downtrodden sister, Nicki.

Director, Thea Sharrock, delivered a pacey production without the tedious dramatic pauses evident in the West-End show.  The result was a lighter, more entertaining performance where the audience could appreciate the comedy sprinkled throughout the book by Alexander Dinelaris and delivered well by the supporting cast.  This show was an FX masterclass with real heat from flamethrowers felt on faces throughout the sizable auditorium of the King’s theatre.  Laser and light shows combined with breath-taking smoke effects and wonderfully cinematic wipe scene changes from Set Designer, Tim Hatley.  The set also delivered wonderful perspective effects giving the illusion of great depth; particularly in the mansion scenes.  The score features not only the best hits from the movie but the very best of the Whitney Houston catalogue prior to the movie too including “Queen of the Night”, “One Moment in Time”, “Greatest Love of All”, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “I Will Always Love You”.

All in all, this is a breath-taking production which is well worth the ticket price.

THE BODYGUARD

4 – 14 March 2015

Mon - Sat 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat 2.30pm

Tickets: £18.50 - £57.50

Box Office 08448 717 648 (Bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

Feb 24th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Churchill

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

The back story of “Churchill,” the solo play finely adapted and performed by Ronald Keaton, is class politics. Though I’m not sure the author meant it that way. Winston Churchill was to the manor born. His grandfather was the Duke of Marlboro and Viceroy of Dublin, his father Henry Spencer-Churchill (Lord Randolph) was a Conservative member of parliament who hadn’t done well at Eaton. Winston couldn’t get into college and took the exam three times to finally get into Sandhurst, the British military academy. Privilege screams.

Keaton is very good as the middle aged Churchill, offering a view of the man that shows personal sensitivity as well as political astuteness. And director Kurt Johns, moving Churchill through time and the backdrop slides seen through large windows, makes you forget there is only one performer in the space.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill at table, photo Jason Epperson.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill at table, photo Jason Epperson.

Churchill starts out typical Brit upper upper. He recalls that he was closest to his nanny, and declares that, “She’d lived such an innocent and loving life in service to others that she had no fears at all and did not seem to mind very much. She’d been my dearest and most intimate companion for all of the first twenty years that I’d lived.”

What the upper class thinks of servants who don’t seem to mind very much that they have no lives of their own!!!

His own father apparently cared much less about him. He says he had five conversations with his father over his lifetime. He was sent to boarding school at 7 and recalls a sadistic headmaster who flogged students with a cane. When he was at Harrow, his father never visited, and he died at 45.

The inherited sickness of that upper class, the inbred cruelty, perhaps explains why Churchill despised socialism – a system that attempts to share wealth and opportunity, dominated by the very privileged, such as the Churchills, with the ordinary citizen.

The set is a table with a red cloth and a couple of black leather chairs. The back windows are used for slides of place.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill making a point, photo Jason Epperson.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill making a point, photo Jason Epperson.

Keaton as Churchill is a slightly rotund fellow. He is dressed in a striped suit and vest with gold watch chains. He doesn’t sound like Churchill, but that’s not important. He gives you the feeling of the man.

The play starts in March 1946 and much is in flashbacks. After being wartime PM in Britain, he is defeated for reelection by a Laborite, Clement Attlee. We see him before an easel at Blenheim Palace, home of his grandfather, the Duke of Marlboro.

It’s not explained why he was defeated. Well, the war was over, maybe Brits who had suffered a lot didn’t feel the need to suffer more at the hands of a conservative aristocrat who despised socialism.

So, flashbacks. He holds a cigar he picked up in Cuba where he went as a military office. Then he is assigned to India. He writes a best seller, then goes to Sudan and with influence – influence is always important — gets onto that commander’s staff. He sends columns to a newspaper. He makes money from a book on Sudan, resigns his commission and runs for parliament in 1898. What else could an upper class boy trained only in war do?

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill rolling up sleeves, photo Jason Epperson.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill rolling up sleeves, photo Jason Epperson.

Churchill wins in 1900 and in 1901 enters the House of Commons as a member of the Conservative party. Then curiously he switches to the Liberals of Lloyd George, the son of a Welsh coal miner. The party supports legislation that FDR incorporates into the New Deal. Churchill says, “I was regarded as a traitor to my class.” Lloyd George makes him secretary of state, then First Lord of the Admiralty. He is prescient about World War I and fights in France. There’s no clear explanation of why Churchill changed his stripes.

Afterwards, the Liberal government is defeated by the Socialist Party, led by Ramsey MacDonald. Churchill attacks him as “a Calvinist. A pacifist. A teetotaler.”

Still, Churchill doesn’t have to scrounge for a job. At his Chartwell estate, he paints and keeps race horses. And switches back to the Conservative party.

He opposes the Munich deal of his fellow Conservative Neville Chamberlain, arguing, “You will get war.” Keaton has him say that, “All but one of Britain’s newspapers had supported Chamberlain” and “some even in my own cabinet wanted me to negotiate with the Nazis at home and even abroad. Like your own ambassador Joseph Kennedy, who predicted our defeat and counseled surrender.” Churchill is put in charge again and rouses Britain to commit their “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill, Chartwell estate seen through window, photo Jason Epperson.

Ronald Keaton as Winston Churchill, Chartwell estate seen through window, photo Jason Epperson.

After the war, when there are calls for his retirement, he says, “I leave when the pub closes.”

But, one can appreciate the Sandhurst military man’s achievement in wartime without wanting the hater of socialism and the patronizer of his nanny to run the peace.

Back in Chartwell, Churchill gets an invitation from U.S. President Truman to speak in Fulton Mo. There, he gives his famous Iron Curtain speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” The speech announces the beginning of the Cold War.

Ronald Keaton’s very absorbing play is both a history lesson, of a statesman defending Britain, and a chronicle of class, of an aristocrat opposing the political influence of workers. Plaudits to Keaton if he meant it that way.

Churchill.” Adapted and performed by Ronald Keaton; directed by Kurt Johns. Based on the life and words of Winston Churchill and the teleplay “Winston Churchill” by James C. Humes. New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, New York City. (212) 239-6222 or (800) 872-8997. Opened Feb 18th, 2015; tickets through May 31, 2015. 2/23/15.

 Lucy Komisar is a New York Journalist and Theatre Critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.

Feb 17th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Kill Me Like You Mean It

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York

A hokey funny spoof of film noir, the mood set by 1940s music, this play by the inventive Stolen Chair company mines every verbal and physical cliché in the book. And the ensemble, whose members have been together for a decade, do a superb job in bringing to life the characters, one of whom is soon to be dead. It was written by Kiran Rikhye and directed by Jon Stancato, who must have gotten bleary-eyed watching Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

Nathan Darrow as Ben Farrell and Natalie Hegg as Lydia Forsythe, photo Carrie Leonard.

Nathan Darrow as Ben Farrell and Natalie Hegg as Lydia Forsythe, photo Carrie Leonard.

Private eye Ben Farrell (Nathan Darrow) has the mystery of his career to solve. Crimes are happening after they are written about in a pulp mystery magazine, “Murder Monthly.”

When the publisher of the magazine, Lydia Forsythe (Natalie Hegg), hires him to find her most important writer, who has missed a meeting, she covers her desk with pie charts that show how important he is to circulation. Lydia Forsythe (Natalie Hegg) is good as the glamorous and 1940s assertive woman. Farrell takes the job. (Darrow is perfectly smooth and comically understated in the role.)

Sarah Skeist as Vivian Ballantine, photo Carrie Leonard.

Sarah Skeist as Vivian Ballantine, photo Carrie Leonard.

Meanwhile, a mysterious woman, Vivian Ballantine (Sarah Skeist), phones to ask him to come to see her. She hires him to find her brother. She does a good job as the femme fatale in a tight red dress. She is sultry, so is the music. She tells him, “I live for my jewelry and my gowns.” He says, “I like knowing what makes you tack.” She says, “You mean tick.”

Turns out her brother Tommy Dickie (David Skeist) is the mystery writer. Farrell finds him in a bathtub dressed in a red satin smoking jacket and black patent leather shoes. A tray across the tub holds Scotch. They walk around, stepping into and out of the bathtub. Dickie says have a seat. Farrell says I’ll stand, and he sits down.

Nathan Darrow as Ben Farrell and Jon Froehlich as Detective Jones, photo Carrie Leonard.

Nathan Darrow as Ben Farrell and Jon Froehlich as Detective Jones, photo Carrie Leonard.

But soon he discovers that the next story this crime raconteur is telling has him, the detective, dead.

A running gag is that whoever Farrell meets offers him a cigarette, which he sticks behind his ear, first throwing on the ground the one that’s already there. Soon the floor is littered with cigarettes.

In another shtick, he is confronted by Detective Jones (John Froehlich) who had turned him in for turning in some corrupt cops. The two do an antic à deux throwing their fedoras back and forth. And then trading noisy faked blows.

A knock on the door becomes a drum tattoo.

Can’t tell you how it ends, because even a shaggy dog mystery has secrets.

Bogart and Darrow as Farrell.

Humphrey Bogart circa 1942 and Nathan Darrow as Ben Farrell, photo Carrie Leonard.

“Kill Me Like You Mean It.” Written by Kiran Rikhye; directed by Jon Stancato. Stolen Chair at Fourth Street Theater, 83 East 4th Street, New York City. Opened Feb 16, 2015; closes March 8, 2015. 2/14/15.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic.  Her web site is The Komisar Scoop.

Feb 10th

Return to the Forbidden Planet at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Glasgow’s King’s Theatre celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Return to the Forbidden Planet in style last night as a stellar cast blasted the audience into orbit!

Return to the Forbidden Planet is a musical revival based on a 1956 B-movie which, in turn, was based on a play written in the 17th century.  Sorry?  I’m not selling it?  OK, I’ll reveal that the sci-fi B-movie in question was the worldwide cult classic “Forbidden Planet” (the movie which introduced us to Robby the Robot) and the play upon which it was based was “The Tempest” written by the most famous bard of them all, William Shakespeare.  I will also add that the musical score is based on the best music from the late 50s and early 60s including hits like Good Vibrations, Gloria, Great Balls of Fire, Johnny B Goode and many, many more!

Captain Tempest (Sean Needham) leads the crew of the Starship Albatross on a routine survey mission when their ship is mysteriously drawn to the surface of Planet D’Illyria where we are introduced to scientist castaway Dr. Prospero (Johnathan Markwood) and his eerily pretty daughter, Miranda (Sarah Scowen).  Miranda falls instantly head over heels for Captain Tempest; blatantly ignoring the affections of young Cookie (Mark Newnham).  Meanwhile we discover that Prospero has some significant “previous” with the ship’s Science Officer (Christine Holman).  With all these hormones flying around, something was bound to blow … and that “something” comes in the form of a deadly tentacled “green eyed” monster which attacks the ship just in time for an interval cliffhanger (neatly delivered by Narrator, Brian May, via video feed).

So, with the scene set on the sturdy bridge of the Albatross and characters poised for love, lust and jealousy, surely all that is required for a successful musical is to add a hilarious script, a first class rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack and a few dance moves?  Yes, yes and yes!  All of these are delivered in spades … but that is only HALF of the joy of this musical.  Into the mix comes some crazily complex handheld radio mic-ography, hilariously intelligent dialog which lampoons 17th Century prose, Sci-fi movies and everything in between, brilliantly delivered B-movie effects and a joyous sense of togetherness from the cast that tells the audience that every performance is special and fun! Oh, did I neglect to mention that all of the music is played live onstage by the cast themselves?  Yes indeed, if this production wasn’t impressive enough, each of the characters plays an average of FOUR instruments each!

Onstage we find that individual performances come together beautifully to form a great ensemble show.  Sean Needham plays the stoic Captain like an American Richard Hannay.  Jonathan Markwood is a great protagonist as Prospero, strutting the stage in Dr Who-like tartan trews. Christine Holeman and Sarah Scowen provide the sax appeal (in more ways than one) and vocals from Ms Scowen, in particular, were stratospheric.  Mark Newnham gave the audience a great comic character and a first class guitar solo while Joseph Mann (as robot, Ariel) gave a lovely physical comedy performance.

With the music covering genres from rock ‘n’ roll to country via a beautifully blended a cappella number, there is something here for everyone.  Book your tickets quickly before they vanish into a black hole!

KING’S THEATRE , GLASGOW

Mon 9 – Sat 14 February

Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £12.90 - £48.40

Box Office: 0870 060 6648 (bkg fee)

www.ambassadortickets.com/glasgow  (bkg fee)

 

Dec 17th

Peter Pan at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

50 years of Panto!  Quite an achievement.  Having in the past never been a huge fan of Pantomime I went along hoping to be suitably enterta
ined on this special panto year with a family favourite performance of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan 

I was accompanied by my young niece and nephew who, having recently moved from France to Scotland had never been in a theatre before let alone experienced the delights of panto.  From the off they were intrigued by the theatre itself and its noisy audience.  They were delighted to join in with the booing, clapping, cheering and singing from “the clout”.  Although trying to explain to two French children exactly what a “clout” was proved to be a challenge.

On stage the performers didn’t disappoint.  With a standout performance from Greg McHugh best known for his hit television series “GaryTank Commander” and as Howard in the highly successful Channel 4 comedy “Fresh Meat”.  Playing the character of Smee he was a huge hit with the audience from the moment he made his rather flamboyant, yet not unexpected, entrance.  The stage always seemed a little brighter when he made an appearanceand his ad-libbing was second to none.  Captain Hook, played by Alex Bourne, was a convincing “baddie” and, despite his successful theatrical career, Peter Pan marked Alex’s pantomime debut.  The first of many I am sure.  His side kick pirates also provided the usual injection of slap stick comedy.  The character of Peter Pan himself was played by Scott Fletcher; currently on our TV screens in River City playing Angus Lindsay and previously seen on Gary: Tank Commander and Taggart to name but a few.  Scott proved to be an audience favourite too with his delightful singing voice and graceful flying skills.   

Joining the Kings Pantomime for a third year, Des Clarke played the character of Starkey.  Being a comedian, TV and Radio presenter, Des has slipped into the world of panto with ease.     Delightful performances were also given by Joanne McGuiness as Wendy and Jenny Douglas as Tiger Lily.  Tiger Lily being a particular favourite of my ten year old nephew!  A semi finalist at the age of 18 on the BBC1 programme Over The Rainbow, Jenny’s impressive vocals filled the theatre.   Perhaps of all the females the character of Tinkerbell played by Francesca Papagno made the biggest impression.  Her portrayal as the mischievous fairy protecting Peter Pan was so convincing that at times the audience almost booed.  Francesca also impressed the audience with her powerful vocals.

The juveniles onstage were as always a delight with some rising stars amongst them.

As Pantomimes go this one was perhaps not as side splittingly funny as one would expect.  Nevertheless, the children in the audience (and adults) seemed to enjoy it.  Peter Pan has everything you would expect from a Pantomime.  Colourful sets, energetic dance routines and sing-along songs for the audience to enjoy.  The audience needed very little persuasion in rising to their feet and joining in with the singing and dancing.  So, was I suitably entertained?  I have to say “Oh, yes I was”.

Runs until 11 January 2015 (excl. Dec 25th & Jan 1st)
Matinee performances every day.
 http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/peter-pan-2/kings-theatre/

Dec 16th

NEW YORK REVIEW: Winter Rhythms

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

Between the rock and roll of the sixties and the disco of late seventies stood the golden age of the great singer-song writer.

Laurie Krauz

Laurie Krauz, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Urban Stages, in its sixth season of December cabaret, this year presented twelve days of performances that ranged from the songs of Stephen Sondheim to a tribune to Big Crosby. The performers were major cabaret artists.

One event was a “Salute to Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies” curated by cabaret critic Stephen Hanks. The writers were Carole King, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon and Elton John.

Carole J. Bufford

Carole J. Bufford, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Each artist brought her special flair to the songs, showing how different a writer’s work can sound depending on the interpreter. Laurie Krauz, with her middle range modulated voice, turned King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” into a drama. When her voice soars, it is thrilling. Lauren Fox, dressed as a barefoot flower child, gave her “Sweet Season” a country mood.

And Carole J. Bufford took over the stage with “You made me feel like a natural woman.” A bit of twang entered the rich bluesy inflection. Bufford’s performance in this and other songs made it clear that this young woman, who has made a name for herself in recent years, is bound for great things. You will hear about her.

Barbara Porteus, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Barbara Porteus, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Barbara Porteus proved a fine dramatic story-teller in Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.” Meg Flather was a charmer, exuding style and spirit in “Kodacrome.” Natalie Douglas added a swinging sound of soul to “American Tune.”

Meg Flather

Meg Flather, photo Maryann Lopinto.

Bare-midriffed Lauren Fox was just right for Joni Mitchell’s “Furry Sings The Blues” about a dying Beale Street. Barbara Porteus called forth a torch singer in “All I Want.” Meg Flather had a country sound that pulled us into the scenery “In France.”

Carole Bufford’s rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” was a strong, jazzy interpretation about how the “powers keep on lyin’ while soldiers keep on dyin’.” I liked Laurie Krauz’s dusky voice in the bluesy dramatic “All in Love is Fair.” And then Barbara Porteus’s jazzy rhythmic “Superstition.”

Lauren Fox

Lauren Fox, photo Maryann Lopinto.

There came a different mood with Carly Simon’s songs. Natalie Douglas did “That’s the way I always heard it should be,’ with the words you know: “You want to marry me.” Douglas’ voice climbs and circles us as she expresses the fears of a woman who is not sure that marriage won’t leave her in a strait jacket.

A more hopeful sensibility was found in Meg Flather’s bell voice rendition of loving you’s “The Right Thing to Do.”

I loved the terrific jazzy country duet that Laurie Krauz did with pianist Jon Weber of Simon’s “Mockingbird.”

Natalie Douglas

Natalie Douglas, photo Maryann Lopinto.

The last writer was Elton John who didn’t write his own lyrics but teamed with Bernie Taplin. His country temperament was made for Lauren Fox in a moody rendition of “Tiny Dancer,” telling a seamstress for the band that “you married a music man.” She gives us the feeling that didn’t quite turn out.

Bufford came back with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” an ironic piece about a road” where the dogs of society howl,” in which this terrific story-teller declares, “You can’t plant me in your penthouse, I’m going back to my plow.”

Natalie Douglas took us to a jazzy brassy place in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” about a sugarman.

The production was conceived and directed by Stephen Hanks. Musical director Jon Weber was at the piano, Skip Ward on bass guitar. Value for money, the cabaret at Urban Stages’s intimate theater is the best you can get in New York. Heads up for next year the first two weeks of December.

“Winter Rhythms: Salute to Singer/Songwriters of the Seventies.” Produced by Peter Napolitano. Conceived and directed by Stephen Hanks. Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street, New York City. 212-868-4444.  Most tickets are $25, a bit more for drink receptions. December 13, 2014. 12/14/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic. Her web site is The Komisar Scoop: http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/2014/12/cabaret-artists-salute-singer-songwriters-of-the-seventies/#.dpuf
Nov 22nd

Wicked at Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
WICKED is set to bewitch Edinburgh audiences for almost 2 months as this whirlwind production blows in to take up residency at The Playhouse theatre across the peak Christmas season.
 
Wicked

BELIEVE THE HYPE! If you haven’t seen Wicked on stage, you will be mesmerised – if you have seen the show, you will want to see it again and again! Wicked, in case you haven’t heard, is the untold story of the witches of Oz. The question from the uninitiated is “how could there possibly be another side to a tale which we have all known to be the truth since early childhood”? It’s more than a prequel; it explains EVERYTHING! 
 
We settled into our seats in the shadow of a giant smoking animatronic dragon with the highest possible expectations … only to have them promptly exceeded. This is an amazing show!
 
Let’s do this one superlative at a time … Music first; you’ve heard some of the music, right? The big hits from Stephen Schwartz are popular (ahem) at concerts and on TV and Radio and the original cast recording has been a massive hit on Amazon for years (a worthy purchase even if you haven’t seen the show). The live music, under the direction of Dan Jackson, is every bit as fabulous as you might hope and the characters really bring the score to life on stage.
 
Direction from Joe Mantello (and Petra Siniawski in the UK) was crisp - giving the audience barely time to catch their breath or dab a tear before we moved smoothly into the next scene - yet allowed for character development throughout. On my second viewing of this production I can't help but think that (from time to time) I would like the cast to revel a little more in this first class material. But, for the modern audience, PACE is king! The visual effects were spectacular without overwhelming the events onstage. Choreography from Wayne Cilento blended perfectly with the action giving us exciting partner work down at the Ozdust Ballroom and atmospheric character movement in the dramatic scenes. 
Despite the blockbuster nature of this huge touring show, one of the most impressive aspects was the styling; with credit largely going to Eugene Lee, Susan Hilferty and Kenneth Posner being respectively responsible for Scenery, Costume and Lighting. There was a wonderfully cohesive steampunk style throughout with the Act 1 scenes at “Dear Old Shiz” integrating appealing Harry Potter overtones. This manifested itself in glorious costumes featuring tail coats, canes, sunglasses, bustles and the most beautifully outlandish hats. These were complemented by sympathetic lighting and a set adorned with fantastic clockwork machinery and 19th century props and vehicles – most appropriate for a story based on characters from a novel written in 1900.

Wicked Costumes
 
Performances from Ashleigh Gray (Elphaba) and Emily Tierney (Glinda) were nothing short of amazing. Truly. Ms Gray brought emotional shivers from the low tones of I’m Not That Girl all the way up to goosebumps at the dizzy heights of Defying Gravity. I was literally astonished by Ms. Gray's vocal range and power combined with a delightfully likable characterisation of this fast developing leading role. Meanwhile Ms Tierney had us in stiches during Popular yet we were welling up as she sang Thank Goodness. Both characters developed smoothly (almost imperceptibly) throughout the performance. Let’s face it, we were all asking “can they bring talent the equal of Menzel and Chenoweth all the way to Scotland?” – the answer is a resounding “YES”! Samuel Edwards transformed Fiyero into a hero to the audience’s delight. The supporting characters were flawless, humorous, beautiful and grotesque just where we needed them to be.
 
With a wickedly modern sense of humour this show delivers a fiendishly clever plot and a spellbinding score in a perfectly styled steampunk package. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself floating 6 inches above your seat and return home to find your cat doing the crossword!
Tickets are being snapped up quickly for dates in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Whatever you do, order your ticket today!
 
WICKED – Edinburgh Playhouse
Wednesday 19 November 2014 – Saturday 10 January 2015
TICKET PRICES
For Online and Telephone Bookings a £4 Transaction Fee per booking applies
Monday – Thursday: £52.50, £42.50, £32.50, £25, £20
Friday, Saturday, Sunday 28 Dec & w/c 29 Dec: £55, £47.50, £35.50, £27.50, £22.50
Premium seats available at all performances (£75 / £72.50)
Box Office (0844 871 3014)
 
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
Tuesday 5 May 2015 – Saturday 30 May 2015 
TICKET PRICES
Monday – Thursday: £53.50, £49.50, £44.50, £38.50, £26
Friday & Saturday: £56, £52, £47, £41, £28
Premium seats available at all performances (£73.50 / £76)
Box Office (01224 641 122)
Nov 18th

Testing Times at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle

By Cameron Lowe
It is a rare occasion, indeed, when a play lives up fully to the rhetoric contained within the marketing material. Billed as being “poignant and provocative, funny and frank” and being audacious enough to boast quotes that compare the piece to The Vagina Monologues, Calendar Girls and Blood Brothers, the creative team responsible for Testing Times had set the bar about as high as it goes. As I first suspected, the play did not live up the rhetoric – it surpassed it by far!
 
Testing Times by Steve Burbridge
Image: David Thorman 

Steve Burbridge, who has written, directed and produced the piece has bestowed upon the theatrical world a play that is nothing less than a modern-day masterpiece. The script crackles along at a pace that makes the time fly by and the performances from the cast of three exceed outstanding. 
 
The story centres around the extremely camp but very likeable Dominic – a young gay man who, throughout the course of the play, is diagnosed HIV+, his feisty mother, Brenda, and Chris, Dominic’s “straight-acting” partner.
 
Based upon genuine interviews with HIV+ men from the North East, the script rings with authenticity. The dialogue is deliciously conversational and never stilted for a moment. Laced with wonderfully wicked on-liners, moments of genuine tenderness and flashes of conflict, the actors really have a script to get their teeth in … and they don’t disappoint.
 
Christopher Strain (Dominic) takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride, switching from carefree, youthful effervescence to the dark depths of despair and back again. Pauline Fleming draws upon her wealth of experience as a TV soap regular and depicts a no-nonsense matriarch who has the audience on side from her first speech, her forthright opinions and nagging of Dominic making her all the more funny and real. Jamie Brown completes the line-up perfectly as the g committed, caring and compassionate partner of Dominic.
 
The chemistry between the three is something special to behold and there isn’t a weak link amongst them. And the tears that are shed by all three, when Dominic is given his HIV diagnosis, were certainly not manufactured in their dressing rooms – they were real and heartfelt.
 
Testing Times is an utterly compelling, really enjoyable and hugely important piece of new writing: it made me laugh, it made me cry and, more importantly, it made me look at HIV and AIDS in a completely different way. 
 
This is a must-see show and I cannot recommend it highly enough! 

Until Thursday 20th November 2014

www.peoplestheatre.co.uk
 
Review by Erica Clements.