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Nov 18th


By Cameron Lowe
Dirty Dancing

Review by Graham Clark

Dirty Dancing is advertised as "the biggest live theatre sensation of all time": a bold statement but one which is not far from the truth.
This stage production of the 25 year old movie is a magical, energetic and colourful show. If you liked the movie then you will not be disappointed by this production. With the success of TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, the public's appetite for dance musicals seems to be in favour again.
At times it was like watching Strictly with the choreography being tight and in perfect timing. The story is light: set in 1963, Penny Johnson (played with flair and innocence by Claire Rogers) becomes pregnant so she can no longer dance with her dancing partner, Johnny Castle (Gareth Bailey); a suave and muscle chested heart-throb.  Her place is taken by Frances "Baby" Houseman (Roseanna Frascona) but there is a flaw … Houseman can't dance!  The newly formed duo blossom together as Castle teaches ‘Baby' the steps and, inevitably, they become a romantic couple as well as dancing partners.
The songs in are a mix of early 1960's hits mixed with elements of the original movie soundtrack which work well in the production as there are more songs than dialogue.
There is some humour, too, with corny lines such as" Are you going to take a bath?" with the answer, "I didn't know one was missing".
It is easy to make comparisons to the movie but Gareth Bailey portrays Johnny Castle well; his dancing and good looks seemed to be a hit with the female members of the audience who probably have fond memories of Patrick Swayze playing the role.
Colin Charles as singer Tito Suarez is one of the overlooked characters but he added to the 1960's feel of the night.
With a standing ovation, the feeling was that this is a musical which lifts the spirits and is as enjoyable as the movie. For fans of the movie this was an early Christmas present.
Runs until Saturday 6th December 2014.
Tickets from £15.00 available from: 
Nov 17th

An Evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger

By Cameron Lowe
SHOWBIZ Arnie 6.jpg

I didn’t grow up as an Arnie fan. Never quite “hit the spot”. But a reserved seat requires reserved judgement and a man who won Mr Universe five times can’t be wrestled with. 
This night of ‘Total Recall’ hosted by Jonathan Ross on Saturday at Lancaster London Hotel explored his progression from ‘The Terminator to The Governator’. Expendable time it was not, and the evening taught me he’s passionate in an unconventional way.
By day I’m a live show producer, so the 30-minute wait for Ross to appear with 1,200 fans, tapping their toes to a music-free room didn’t feel quite right. However, once the big man was there, he was greeted with a standing ovation and slowly it became a more interactive experience, with a live Q&A session, arm-wrestles with Ross and lots of heart-pumping, muscle-bulging laughter. 
Arnie had extraordinary presence. You could palpably feel that the audience was in awe. Parts of what he spoke about were quite emotional, because of his honesty. You’d think someone who has been THE visual power-house, THE action man, THE politician couldn’t possibly be authentic. Preconceptions can be True Lies. He was beautifully open.
SHOWBIZ Arnie 10 (1).jpg
Ross didn’t say much throughout Arnie’s initial storytelling. It began as a virtual monologue, because he’s done so much and by ’eck he knows how to talk. He was watchable, humorous, funny, obviously attractive, but a little sweaty on the big screens - possibly having just sprinted from California, so we’ll forgive him at the age of 67.
Arnie talked about his start in life and “wanting to be a body man”,yet by the time he was The Terminator, realised he didn’t have to keep taking his clothes off. Only 500 press-ups at lunch-time while the rest of us are chillin’ at Costa Coffee. And then a political Governor of course. It doesn’t come much more eclectic or fascinating than this.  
One drop-side to the event: I work in such spaces as the Westbourne Suite at Lancaster London Hotel on a daily basis, so I’d hoped not to be wedged into a conference chair with no room to exercise my biceps. People were tightly crammed. I therefore chose to watch the show with the production team at the rear of the room, sensing how they reacted to such an important night, and they dealt with various changes brilliantly. I’m a naughty reviewer/producer, but also nice. Musical act Cosmic Sect jumped on stage when required and were supermen.
The stage had two large projection screens which could have had slightly tidier surrounding edges and there were added 60-inch plasmas for those who weren’t sufficiently close to His Muscles and Wossy. The interviews happened mid-stage, with a retro drawing (or should I say dwawing?) room feel: standing lamps and studded armchairs, aiming to be intimate and re-create a Wossy-style TV studio set. 
I’d be giving you a Raw Deal to suggest that the whole evening was awesome because I was hoping for him to go Commando. But in “breaking the rules and not the law”, I did find him inspiring and I could become a Predator.  More of these events from Rocco Buonvino please and big thanks to Show Manager Chaz DaBat for letting producer-cum-reviewer Kate loiter with the very strong production team. Even if Arnie isn’t, I’ll be (at the) back. 

Reviewed on 15th November 2014 at Lancaster London Hotel by Kate Braxton. Pictures Yui Mok/PA
Nov 5th

Thriller Live at Bradford Alhambra Theatre

By Cameron Lowe
Review by Graham Clark

Thriller Live celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. If you are a fan of his music then this is the show for you. Otherwise, the quality of the presentation ensures that this remains an entertaining and uplifting evening's entertainment. 

Thriller Live

This musical has been running in the West End in London for over 5 years now and has toured the UK previously. Every time it tours there are a few changes to the production.
The young Michael Jackson who used to start the show has now gone, though we do still get the Jackson 5; albeit without the afro wigs that they wore in previous incarnations of the production.
Following his career, the tracks are performed in chronological order starting off with I Want You Back when the Jackson 5 were the "the new Teen sensation", with Michael singing lead vocals.  We get the disco period from 1977 and their Number 1 hit, Show You the Way to Go before moving on to his golden period of the Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad albums of the 1980s.
There is a live band in the show: the guitarist's become an integral part of the performance later on.
The dancing is energetic and the dance crew work hard throughout, but it is the lead vocalists who make the difference with an outstanding performance by Wayne Robinson. 
As the title, suggests the production's highlights are the songs from the Thriller album with the video of the title track being performed with the dancers dressed as the walking dead ghouls.
This is an easy on the ear show; sometimes gushing too much towards Jackson "he influenced everyone from Justin Timberlake to Beyonce to Usher to Maroon 5" the former names maybe true but I'm not too sure about Maroon 5. 
The audience were on their feet for the reprise of Thriller at the end of the show. Although a musical jukebox, this remains a high quality entertaining production. Thrilling indeed.
Thriller Live runs at Bradford Alhambra until Saturday 8 November 2014.
Tickets from£14.00 available from: 
Image courtesy of Bradford Theatres.
Oct 22nd

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

The star of this mesmerizing production is director Marianne Elliott. Her co-star is video designer Finn Ross. Of course, Alex Sharp is superb as the intense, erratic, edgy, wound-up Christopher, the 15-year-old autistic youth whose mind works like a machine but who can’t get personal connections in gear. He is literal, as precise as math. “Where is heaven?” he asks the pastor. He speaks in great detail but doesn’t like metaphors, because they obscure reality. When a cop says, “Park yourself,” he goes “beep! beep!” and moves backwards.

Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

The play by Simon Stephens is adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, which is told in the first person. Here is a case where the play may be better than the book. The visualization of how Christopher thinks and perceives the world is stunning and one of the best uses of video in a theatrical production I have seen.

The set is a box made of sides of graph paper, white lines on black. Sometimes, objects are taken out of a square of wall that suddenly becomes a shelf or drawer. Christopher thinks like that mathematical graph. The people of the story all sit on ledges around the set, as they exist in his mind.

The story, which is rather thin, revolves around the mystery of who killed Wellington, the neighbor’s big white dog. The murder weapon, a large garden fork, is still stuck in the animal when we see it. Christopher is accused of the crime, denies it, and resolves to find the culprit. In the course of his detective work, he writes down everything he learns or that happens.

Ian Barford as Ed, Alexander Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

Ian Barford as Ed, Alex Sharp as Christopher, photo Joan Marcus.

The play title is from a line in the Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze,” about a dog that doesn’t bark, because it knows the killer. And Christopher of course is as methodical as Holmes.

So much is in his mind, and Francesca Faridany as Siobhan, his special-education teacher, recites from his chronicle, which tells us what goes through it.

His father, Ed (Ian Barford) had informed him his mother had a heart attack and died in hospital. (Barford is good as the broad-shouldered working-class guy.)

His investigation turns up the fact that his mother was having an affair with a neighbor. He writes that down. In fact, Judy (Enid Graham, fine as the distraught mother) could not handle Christopher’s behavior — he even screamed when she held him — decamped from Swindon to London with her lover (Ben Horner), the ex-husband of the lady who owned the dog.

Alexander Sharp as Christopher finding the letters, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher finding the letters, photo Joan Marcus.

The plot takes another turn when Ed comes across the journal. And hides it. But ever the detective, Christopher methodically searches and finds it. And a cache of letters. In the visualization, letters fall out of the sky and he collapses. (Here’s a metaphor made real!)

It turns out his mother had written repeatedly to Christopher from London.

He resolves to go to London to find her. Here’s where the set (by Bunny Christie) and lighting (by Paule Constable) become spellbinding. Planning the trip, he uses little houses to represent the village where he is and the place where his mother is. They are connected with a train track complete with model train.

Alexander Sharp as Christopher navigating the Tube, photo Joan Marcus.

Alex Sharp as Christopher navigating the Tube, photo Joan Marcus.

In London, the Tube is a projection of diagrams and staircases – one of which he slides down. He is never intuitive, only arithmetically exact – using a map book, he walks at right angles to find a destination. Red lights dance on the wall map as he walks through streets.

As in any Holmes mystery, the boy’s pulling together the strands of everyone’s motives will solve the killing. But by then, we don’t care about Wellington, we care about the amazing young man whose psychological handicap is overshadowed by a special kind of genius. It’s a riveting production.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Written by Simon Stephens, adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel, directed by Marianne Elliott. The National Theatre at the Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street, New York City. 212-239-6200.  Opened October 5, 2014. 10/21/14.

Lucy Komisar is a New York journalist and theatre critic. Her web site is The Komisar Scoop ( 
Oct 21st

LAFFALANG Returns to Westovian Theatre for Yuletide Japes

By Cameron Lowe
The Laffalang will return to the Westovian Theatre,  South Shields,  in December due to popular demand.

The comedy show, which was first performed last December at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle (250 attended), has already gained a strong following with 275 people attending the Summer Laffalang in July.
The Laffalang, which comprises themed comedy sketches linked by a stand-up comedian, was performed at the Westovian Theatre in Ocean Road and it will return to the venue on Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6, when the theme is Christmas.
Laffalang producer and director Gareth Hunter said: “The response to both shows has been fantastic. People are now talking about the Laffalang and constantly asking when the next one is.
“The sketches are written by Ed and the cast includes Paul Dunn (Dracula in Dracula: Die Laughing), whose latest success is I Left My Heart in Roker Park, and panto legend Bob Stott who dons the Widow Twanky costume for three sketches (including the Queen’s Speech). A special sketch has been written for the original Dirty Dusting trio of Helen Russell Gwen Doran and Jean Southern, who are sold off as slaves. Other sketches include the Geordie Nativity (Part 2), The Fabulous Five in an all-new spiffing adventure (huge favourites since their introduction in the Summer Laffalang) and The End of the World is Nigh. The other wonderful cast members are Viktoria  Kay (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham) Dylan Mortimer (Son of Samurai) and Rosie Ramsey (I Am Christ Ramsey TV sketch show).  
Gareth added: “Every sketch is different from last year’s Xmas Laffalang. Once again it will be hilarious. The read through took a lot longer than it should have because we were howling with laughter.
“Any work groups looking for a great Christmas evening out should come along. It’ll be a cracking night.”
Tickets for the Christmas Laffalang cost £10 and are now on sale from the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point Sports Centre (opposite the Westovian Theatre).  0191 424 7788
Oct 17th

Alexandra Burke Leads The Bodyguard UK Tour

By Cameron Lowe

Following her sell-out run at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End, producers Michael Harrison and David Ian are delighted to announce that three-time Brit nominee and X-Factor winner, Alexandra Burke, will star in the leading role of ‘Rachel Marron’ in the forthcoming UK and Ireland tour of Thea Sharrock’s hit musical THE BODYGUARD 
www.thebodyguardmusical.comThe tour opens at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on 12 February 2015 and makes its Scottish premiere at the King’s Theatre Glasgow on 4 March 2015.

Alexandra Burke said "I couldn't be happier to be joining the tour and I'm excited to get started. Being on the theatre stage has brought me great happiness. It is an honour to have been asked to join the team and I look forward to creating new and long lasting memories with the cast.

Alexandra Burke photo by Uli WebberAlexandra Burke rose to fame after winning the fifth series of The X Factor. Her debut number one single Hallelujah sold over one million copies in the UK, a first for a British female soloist. Burke’s first album, Overcome saw the release of her subsequent number one singles Bad Boys and Start Without You. In 2011 she embarked on her first solo tour and was invited by Beyoncé to support her I Am... Tour. Her second album, Heartbreak on Hold, was released in June 2012 and later this year sees the release of her third studio album.

Alexandra Burke will perform the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ at all evening performances. At the matinee performances, the role of ‘Rachel Marron’ will be played by Zoe Birkett.

Zoe Birkett is probably best known as the highest placing female contestant in ITV’s Pop Idol, 2002. Since then she has appeared in the West End productions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and originated the female lead in Thriller Live. Her other theatre credits include the Acid Queen in Tommy and Maureen in Rent.

Based on Lawrence Kasdan’s 1992 Oscar nominated Warner Bros. film, THE BODYGUARD, which starred Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, was nominated for four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Set Design and won Best New Musical at the Whatsonstage Awards.

Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge; what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A romantic thriller, THE BODYGUARD features a host of irresistible classics including Queen of the NightSo EmotionalOne Moment in TimeSaving All My LoveI’m Your Baby TonightRun to YouI Have NothingI Wanna Dance with Somebody and one of the biggest selling songs of all time – I Will Always Love You.

Photo by Uli  Webber,  courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group 

























































Oct 11th

Whingeing Women at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

Whingeing Women is made up of a series of monologues portraying the life experiences of ordinary women.  Every topic imaginable is covered from their thoughts on men, love, life, death and sex.  Their stories had the audiences crying with laughter and also, at times, with sadness.

  Whingeing Women

Tasked with sharing these life experiences with the audience were Gail Porter, Joyce Falconer, Janette Foggo and Angela D’arcy. 

Standout performances came from Joyce Falconer (of River City fame) who had the audience roaring with laughter even before she opened her mouth to speak.  Her portrayal of a pushy mother trying to secure the lead role in “Annie” for her daughter was a highlight of the show as was her final scene which saw her trying to involve the audience in a sex therapy class!!  Very interesting.

Janette Foggo (known  for  Doctor Finlay, Rab C. Nesbitt, The Bill and Taggart  to name but a few) also shined with her very moving performances of a mother who was trying to come to terms with the fact that her son had just ‘Come out’ and the sadness at the loss of a daughter.  Perhaps her biggest triumph of the night was one which involved a mask, long coat and a change of name which highlighted the very colourful pastimes of some couples.  I couldn’t quite believe that this accomplished actress was portraying this character; but portray it she did and she had the audiences rolling around with laughter.

Angela D’Arcy (RSAMD graduate, Director, Singer) gave the audience the views of a somewhat younger woman.  Her relationship with men and her incredibly heartfelt performance of a young woman raped by her uncle resulting in a baby created a silence around the auditorium.

Gail Porter (TV Personality/Presenter) gave a well rounded performance but perhaps my only criticism would be that during the first half of the show her stories were incredibly self indulgent.  The need to include her own real life experiences into this production were, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Whingeing Women, although at times cringe worthy, is definitely a play worth seeing.  A typical “Girls Night Out” evening (although I did count at least 4 men in the audience and yes they were laughing) which should be accompanied by a glass of wine.  It will have you laughing and crying for all the right reasons and taps into what we all know and think but don’t say out loud.

Whingeing Women

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

9-11 October 2014

Tickets £16.90 - £38.90 (plus booking fee)

Oct 2nd

Colette Kelly Discusses the Return of Testing Times to Newcastle

By Cameron Lowe

Interview by Fiona Harvey

A compelling new play, coming to the Studio at The People’s Theatre, explores the impact of being diagnosed HIV+. Colette Kelly tells us more.

“People still have misconceptions and are ignorant about HIV,” states Colette Kelly in response to my asking her why she felt Testing Times was an important production to be involved in.

The Dublin-born actor, who made her debut in the original West End production of Hair, will take on the role of Brenda, a mother who discovers that her only son is HIV+, at The People’s Theatre in November.

“Testing Times will inform and educate people but, at the heart of it lies warmth and humour as the three characters strive to make sense of the situation they find themselves in,” she adds.

Surely, though, after the many public health campaigns surrounding HIV and AIDS, the need to ‘inform and educate’ is no longer an issue in the twenty-first century? Not according to Kelly.

Colette Kelly
Photo: Carl Procter 
“When I told a friend I’d be doing the play, she exclaimed: ‘A play about HIV? That’s a bit old hat, isn’t it?’ And there you have more than a good enough reason to give it another airing.”

Testing Times returns to the stage after a successful try-out at The Trent House last year, during which the play received critical acclaim and inspired cathartic outpourings of emotion from audiences.
“The play centres around Dominic (who contracts HIV), his partner, Chris, and his mother, Brenda,” explains Colette.

“Mine is a very meaty role. Many issues are raised for her: class, loyalty and her relationship with her husband Bob.”

The three-hander play has been described as being ‘as witty and uplifting as Calendar Girls; as profound and engaging as The Vagina Monologues; and as moving and emotive as Blood Brothers’.

“I think the set-up of having three characters on the stage, simultaneously, lends itself to the style of the play. Such is the quality of the writing that even those characters who are talked about, but do not appear, have a presence that is deeply felt.”

With an acting pedigree that includes stints on the West End alongside the likes of Richard Gere, repertory seasons throughout the United Kingdom and touring Ireland in a series of Beckett plays, what attracted Colette to a four-night run in Newcastle?

“The script and the issues it deals with,” she answers without hesitation. “The language is blunt and to the point, at times, so the play is not for the faint-hearted. Having said that, Testing Times will resonate with any audience – whatever their sexual orientation.”

Colette cannot wait for rehearsals to begin.
“I am looking forward to being part of a very collaborative process in the rehearsal room. I think all three of us have ideas and observations about our individual characters that we would like to explore, whilst also being conscious of not upsetting the balance of the script. I love the way in which the playwright has mixed humour with the seriousness of the issues concerned.”
Testing Times
The People’s Theatre Stephenson Road, Newcastle NE6 5QF 
Monday 17 – Thursday 20 November, 2014,
Tickets are priced at £11.50 (full) & £9.50 (concessions).
Telephone 07986 142281 or call the Box Office 0191 265 5020
Oct 2nd

Witches Take Flight in Eastwood in Support of Birds

By Cameron Lowe
“The Witches of Eastwick” Musical Plays at Eastwood Park Theatre
The Witches of Eastwick

Following on from sell-out productions of “Footloose” and “Fiddler on the Roof”, Theatre Guild Glasgow will be performing the hit musical “The Witches of Eastwick” at Eastwood Park Theatre from 7th – 11th October. 
The Witches of Eastwick is a  musical  based on the  novel of the same name  by  John Updike . It was adapted by  John Dempsey  (lyrics and book) and  Dana P. Rowe  (music), directed by Eric Schaeffer, and produced by  Cameron Mackintosh. 
The story surrounds Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont who are social outcasts in the sleepy town of Eastwick. Frustrated and bored by their mundane lives, a shared longing and desire for "all manner of man in one man" comes to life in the form of a charismatic stranger, a  devil -like character; Darryl Van Horne. Seducing each of the women in turn, Darryl teaches them how to further expand their powers locked within and, though their new unorthodox lifestyle, they scandalise the town. As their powers become more sinister and events spiral out of control, the women come to realise that Darryl's influence is corrupting everyone he comes into contact with and they resolve to use their new-found strength to exile him from their lives. 
RSPB In deciding whether to use the power of this bewitching musical for good or for evil, Theatre Guild elected to support our feathered friends via a donation to the RSPB. 10% of tickets sales from the Tuesday evening performance will be donated to the society dedicated to the protection of winged creatures around the UK.  As the show features ‘flying’ witches, this association couldn’t be more appropriate.  

The show is accompanied by a live band and directed by an experienced professional production team led by Artistic Director Alasdair Hawthorn, choreographed by Suzanne Shanks and musically directed by David Fisher. The cast of 40 local residents have been rehearsing for six months on evenings and weekends to ensure that this £35,000 production (which features some stunning effects) is ready for a live audience on the opening night. 
Tickets are already selling fast with only a small number remaining for the Friday and Saturday night.
Fly down to Eastwood Park Theatre where tickets are only £14.50 - £16.50.
 “The Witches of Eastwick”
Eastwood Park Theatre, Rouken Glen Road, Giffnock, Glasgow, G46 6UG
7th– 11th October 2014
Evenings:  7.30pm
Sat Matinee:  2.30pm
Tickets: £14.50 - £16.50
Box Office: 0141 577 4956
Web site:
Sep 22nd


By Cameron Lowe

By Lucy Komisar in New York 

Can a director and a set designer destroy a play? The production of Samuel Beckett’s “Embers” at BAM provides a strong argument.

Set of

Set of “Embers,” photo Ros Kavanagh.

A huge skull sits in the center stage. Inside are two actors (Andrew Bennett and Áine Ní Mhuiri) who read the lines of the various male and female characters of Beckett’s play. I thought the production was dreadful. And I thought that maybe the play was also dreadful.

But then I read the script. I realized the play is much better than this production would have you believe. Beckett’s play is about a man, an unsuccessful writer, who is thinking over his life and relation with his father, who may have committed suicide by walking into the sea. His father had told him that he was a “washout,” a failure.

The man does not have happy memories about his late wife, who is presented as a nonetheless affectionate lady. He also hates his daughter, whose only fault appears to be playing Chopin badly.

As lights flicker over the skull, illuminating one part and then another, taking your attention from the text, I realized that director Gavin Quinn of the Pan Pan Theatre decided that he was the star, not Beckett. So, he overwhelmed the script and the characters with a kitchy “avant garde” set (the skull by Andrew Clancy) and direction.

If the play had been done with the characters, and different actors for the various characters in the script, in a relatively normal setting where everyone was seen (normal meaning not naturalistic, but that you can see the characters interacting), it might have been interesting. The way director Trevor Nunn did superbly last year in “All That Fall,” another Beckett radio play. Pan Pan did the same play a year earlier and used no live actors: the audience sat in darkness listening to recorded voices. Not too sorry I missed it.

Quinn destroyed Beckett’s “Embers,” entombing the actors in a giant skull, so you never see them. Sitting on stage left, I sometimes saw the female character though the ghastly eye of the skull, but never the male. That was for the audience at stage right. And the loud miked voices provided no difference or subtlety in delivery.

The skull in fact was a perfect commentary on this production. Deadly.

Embers.” By Samuel Beckett. Directed by Gavin Quinn. BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. 718-636-4100. Opened Sept 17; closes Sept. 20 2014. 9/19/14

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

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