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Jul 7th

MAMMA MIA! - THE MUSICAL - BLACKPOOL OPERA HOUSE

By Cameron Lowe
Review by Graham Clarke

As musicals go it does not get any brighter or more uplifting than this international touring production of Mama Mia!

Mamma Mia in Blackpool

The film version of this his show was built around major stars such as Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth who were chosen for their acting  and being able to add star names to the film rather than their singing ability. In this production, it is the strong vocals, dancing and chemistry between the main characters that give it that added sparkle.
 
Since the film was taken from the show it is not surprising to see that the storyline is very familiar. Bride to be Sophie Sheridan (Niamh Perry) is due to get married to Sky (Bart Edwards).  She is unsure who her father could be; is it builder Sam Carmicheal (Richard Standing), City Financier Harry Bright (Keiron Cook) or Australian traveller Bill Austin (Michael Beckley)? Whilst looking through one of her mother's old diaries she decides to invite them all to her wedding, under the false pretence that is her mother, Donna (Natalie Langston) who has sent out the invitations.
 
Set on a Greek island, the lighting and the azure blue and ghost white that are prevalent throughout the show bring Mediterranean sunshine into Blackpool.
 
The Abba songs fit perfectly into the dialogue of the show and it feels like they were written for this superb production.
 
Providing some humour and well-timed jokes are Donna Sheridan's friends Rosie (Sue Devaney) and Tanya (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Devaney plays the role Julie Walters played in the film. This is a hard act to follow but Devaney pulls it off with ease. 
 
The choreography is tighter than a Scotsman's wallet: the scene where all the cast perform Voulez Vous at the end of the first act is performed with the precision of Strictly Come Dancing finalists.
 
As in the latter part of Abba's career the songs in the second part of the show become more solemn as the story unfolds and the wedding day approaches. There is a twist in the tale, though, and the ending might not be what you expect.
 
The show ends as the audience are brought to their feet for Mama Mia!, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.
 
With the show running until 14 September, it is definitely worth a trip over the Pennines to witness this entertaining, dazzling and uplifting show. Would I recommend it? In the words of an Abba it: I Do, I Do, I Do.
 
Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk and www.visitblackpool.com
Jul 3rd

Tynesiders 'Laffalang' for Charity

By Cameron Lowe
A Summer Laffalang is guaranteed to bring fun and raise money for South Tyneside charity Cancer Connections.
 
LAFFALANG

Written by Ed Waugh, co-writer of international comedy hits Dirty Dusting and Waiting For Gateaux and writer of Dracula: Die Laughing and the Christmas Laffalang, the Summer Laffalang will be produced and directed by Gareth Hunter whose most recent show The Fifteen Streets received rave reviews at the Customs House.
 
The Summer Laffalang will be performed at the Westovian Theatre in Ocean Road, South Shields, on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26, and feature comedy sketches performed by top actors from the region.
 
One of the sketches will be Bobby Elliot, a piece written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood and performed to laughter and high praise at the 2014 Sunday for Sammy shows at Newcastle City Hall in February.
 
Other rib-tickling Summer Laffalang subjects include the Great North Run, No Holidays this Year, The Unluckiest Man in the World, The Blaydon Races and other off-beat sketches and monologues specially written for this hilarious extravaganza.
Micky Cochrane, the rising star of North East stand-up comedy, will host the event.
 
Gareth Hunter, explained: “Following the huge success of the Xmas Laffalang at The Stand in Newcastle last December, which raised £1400 for St Oswald’s Hospice, we wanted to put on the Summer Laffalang in our own borough for a local charity and we are delighted to be associated with Cancer Connections.”
 
The Harton Lane-based charity supports people diagnosed with cancer and their families.
 
Cancer Connections co-founder and services manager Deborah Roberts said: “Dealing with cancer is stressful and upsetting. People need laughter and this will be an ideal tonic. The Laffalang will be a fantastic show. We would encouraged people to come along to help the work of Cancer Connections and to have a great laugh at the same time.”
 
The Summer Laffalangs are on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 and can be obtained from the Westovian Theatre, Ocean Road, South Shields (opposite the new Haven Point sports centre) answerphone 0191 4560980, the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point sports centre, South Shields (0191 424 7788) or via Cancer Connections (0191 4565081) or via 07751246176.
Jul 1st

One Man, Two Guvnors at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
The National Theatre treat the UK to a second tour of their highly acclaimed comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.
 
One Man Two Guvnors
As we took our seats in the auditorium we were entertained by “The Craze”; a talented 60’s style skiffle band who set the scene nicely for the 1963 based madness to follow. Gavin Spokes (as Francis Henshall) led the cast as the titular “man” bringing the nigh on 300 year old text of Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters” (almost) up to date. Henshall left carnage in his wake in his desperate attempts to secure (first) some food for his belly and (second) the affections of the remarkably endowed Dolly (comically portrayed by Eastenders star, Emma Barton). With unrelenting manic energy he delivered an action packed storyline which featured some of the most impressive physical comedy I have ever seen – particularly from Michael Dylan playing 87 year old Alfie! At one point, so much “pain” seemed to be inflicted on stage that the audience appeared to be rolling around in sympathetic agony (or, perhaps, rolling off their seats with laughter).
 
There were plenty of laughs, too, from the pacey script by Richard Bean featuring some excellent character contrasts and witty dialog which truly wrung every last chuckle from the base concept. Some of the action onstage escalated so quickly that it had the audience first gasping and then guffawing in the same breath. Excellent performances from the character cast included a somewhat underused Shaun Williamson (as Charlie Clench) and a ridiculously entertaining OTT Actor turn from Edward Hancock (as Alan Dangle).
 
The suitably solid scenery was changed behind some nice additional turns from “The Craze” who were joined by various members of the cast to produce a nice variety of numbers (songs by Grant Olding). Altogether this made a highly entertaining evening which I must highly recommend to anyone who has ever enjoyed a laugh.
 
Listings Information
One Man, Two Guvnors
King’s Theatre, Glasgow
Mon 30 June – Sat 5 July
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)
Jun 11th

NEW YORK REVIEW: The Killer

By Cameron Lowe
By Lucy Komisar in New York

http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/MichaelShannon-as-Berenger-delighted-by-the-Radiant-City-photo-Gerry-Goodstein.jpg
Michael Shannon as Berenger delighted by the Radiant City, photo Gerry Goodstein.
 
Ionesco’s absurdist satire is a vivid dark commentary on the popular refusal to acknowledge the horrors of the rise of Naziism. And the belief of some Germans that Hitler was ushering in an era of shining, sparkling glory. They could ignore that some people were disappearing, perhaps murdered.
 
Director Darko Tresnjak’s staging is part straight, part bizarre, to make every line resonate in contemporary reality.
 
Berenger (a too naïve Michael Shannon), Ionesco’s Everyman, gets off a wrong bus he rode to the last stop. A civil servant (a properly officious Robert Stanton), tells him he is in the Radiant City which he, the architect, built. He says how wonderful it is.
 
Berenger declares, “I just knew that in the middle of our gloomy city, right in among all our sad, dark neighborhoods full of mud and dirt, I would find this bright, beautiful area, not rich or poor, with these sunny streets, these avenues streaming with light.”
 
http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/RobertStanton-as-the-architect-photo-Gerry-Goodstein.jpg
Robert Stanton as the architect, photo Gerry Goodstein.
 
We don’t see it – the green lawn, the flowers he remarks on. The set is an open space into which we pour our imaginations. Then the architect gets a phone call from his secretary Dennie (Stephanie Bunch) to say she is quitting. She can’t take it. When she arrives, Berenger quickly falls in love with her.
 
He wants to move to the wonderful place. But the architect informs him that the people who live there want to leave. They go out only in groups of ten or fifteen. And even that doesn’t necessarily reduce the danger.
 
There is a murderer stalking the populace. He kills three people a day. Everybody in the neighborhood knows him. He meets people at the bus stop in the guise of a panhandler and latches onto them. When they arrive at the lagoon, he offers to show them the photo of the Colonel. When they look over to see better, he pushes them in.
 
The architect invites Berenger to a café for some wine. There is a cry, and the next victim is killed. It’s someone we know.
 
Shannon appears a bit too wide-eyed and flakey as Beringer, and the hour of the first act could be cut, condensed. (When the original Paris director wanted to cut the play, Ionesco refused.)
   
But in the second act, the symbolism thickens, or darkens. Berenger has a room in a building whose concierge (the delightful Kristine Nielsen) is a quirky, grimacing, philosophizing character. She is cantankerous: “These days, there’s just too much education, if you ask me. That’s why everything’s gone downhill. Even sweepin’ the stairs is harder than it used to be.”

Berenger discovers that everybody knows about the killings, they have for years. When he returns to his cluttered room, he discovers that his friend Edward (the excellent Paul Sparks), has somehow gained entrance. 

Edward is a white-faced fellow with a sharp noise, black coat and weird demeanor. Sparks creates a chilling character. Berenger tells Edward about the killings and says, “what amazes me is that you’re no longer upset by this. I’ve always believed that you were a sensitive, humane man.”
 
Edward has a large satchel which he clumsily knocks against a table, dumping a sheaf of photos of a colonel on the ground. Berenger notes, “It’s an army officer with a handlebar mustache, and epaulets – a colonel with all his decorations.” He declares, “The monster’s things! These things belong to the monster! It’s extraordinary.” There are children’s watches and a diary and writings of the criminal’s philosophy.
 
He makes no connection to Edward. The people who saw the evidence of Hitler’s crimes also discounted them.
 
Suddenly, everything comes together in a third act that begins powerfully with a rally led by Ma Piper (Nielsen) in a military uniform decked with medals. Flags have the image of a white goose. A large poster of a goose is on the wall. She declares, “You can trust me to drive the chariot of state, which is drawn by my geese. Vote for me. Put your trust in me. My geese and I claim the right to govern you….Good people, you’ve been deluded. We’re going to de-delude you!” Nielsen is a brilliant fascist “Pied Piper,” subtle, soothing, then aggressive.
   
Her followers wear black arm bands emblazoned with a goose, and they punch the air in salutes. We recall that Edward wears a black armband. The crowd shouts, “Hooray for Ma Piper. Hooray for the geese.”
Ma Piper says, “I’ll change everything. To change everything we don’t need to change anything. We don’t change things, we change their names. The old delusions couldn’t stand up to psychological and sociological analysis. The new delusions will be unshakable. It will only have misunderstandings. We will perfect the lie.”
 
We’re going to de-alienate humanity! To de-alienate humanity, we must alienate each individual – and there will be free soup for everybody!
    
She pledges, “We will never persecute anyone, but we will punish….We will not colonize the people but occupy their lands to liberate them! ….Forced labor will be called volunteer work. War will be called peace, and everything will be changed, thanks to me and my geese!”
And suddenly, she declares, “And as for the intellectuals – We’ll teach them to do the goose-step! Hooray for the geese!” And, “We only have to take a few steps backward to be at the forefront of history!” So now it’s clear. Where are the protestors?
 
A man, a hero, comes, and says “The hero battles against his time and creates a different time.” “Down with Ma Piper” he says.
And Ma Piper declares, “Me and my geese, we’ll distribute all public funds! We’ll all share equally. I’ll take the lion’s share for myself and my geese.”

He shouts, “And freedom for critics!” Of course, they will beat him up. And the police and military arrive.
 
In the dénouement, Berenger finds himself alone with “the killer,” a man in a slouch hat whose face we never see, who he tries to persuade against hatred. “I’m determined not to give up on you,” says Berenger. “We can both speak the language of reason, I thought I sensed that, the cerebral kind. You deny love, you suspect charity, they don’t compute in your calculations, you think charity’s just a big fraud!” Still the naïveté of liberals. And he goes on.
 
This part of the play again is too long and repetitious. And the killer’s repeated sniggering (he has no other lines) gets tiresome.
Forget such quibbles. “The Killer” is not performed frequently. If you care about political theater, you must see it.
 
“The Killer.” Written by Eugène Ionesco; directed by Darko Tresnjak. Theatre for a New Audience at Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn. (Nevins or Atlantic Avenue stops on subway.) 866-811-4111. Opened June 1, 2014; closes June 29, 2014.

- See more at: http://www.thekomisarscoop.com/2014/06/ionescos-the-killer-is-surreal-dark-commentary-on-a-public-that-welcomed-naziism/#sthash.7srWptit.dpuf
Jun 3rd

Tonight's The Night at King's Theatre, Glasgow 

By Cameron Lowe
Ben Elton and Rod Stewart form an unlikely collaboration to produce a rockin' comedy musical that unashamedly entertains and features over 20 of Rod's greatest hits.
 
Tonight's the Night

Running like something of a cross between "Jekyll and Hyde" and 50s classic musical "Damn Yankees" the story follows young Stuart (Ben Heathcote); a painfully shy garage attendant in present day Detroit.  Stuart is desperately in love with Mary (Jenna Lee-James) and makes a deal with the Devil (Tiffany Graves) to trade his soul for that of his idol Rod Stewart - after all, Rod was never shy with the ladies!  However, as is the way with Satan, all does not work out as promised and Stuart is torn between his sweet likeable self and the unfaithful, irresponsible babe-magnet that he perceives Rod Stewart to be.  His rock and roll lifestyle has the effect of disillusioning his friends but they eventually rally round to try to snap him out of whatever has changed his character.
 
Ben Heathcote was outstanding in this leading role.  His voice had that great ‘Rod Stewart' gravelly rock quality and his overwhelming character marked this young man out as a star of the future.  Jenna Lee-James gave a sympathetic performance as Mary and her rich voice had character and power.  Rosie Heath excelled as Dee Dee delivering a pure country soprano which had the audience holding their breath!  Tiffany Graves, reprising her role as Satan / Baby Jane, blew the audience away with raw power and a wicked soul.  And yet, with all this talent on stage, Ricky Rojas still managed to steal every scene he was in as the irrepressible - and aptly named - Stoner.
 
The production design was worth a mention as the band took centre stage on a purpose built mezzanine to deliver more than 20 Rod Stewart classics including Maggie May, Baby Jane, Hot Legs, Do Ya Think I'm Sexy and Sailing.  Lighting, too, was excellent with several effects bringing the audience into the action.  
 
Unfortunately, for a fuddy duddy theatre lover like me, the over eager audience sang over the top of a beautifully rendered solo "I Don't Want To Talk About It" by Andy Rees as Rocky.  All was forgiven, though, when, at the end of the show, I joined over 2,000 Glaswegians wearing white sailor's "pork pie" hats (issued by theatre staff) and waved my arms in the air singing "Sailing" at the top of my lungs.  It's a tough job ….
 
King's Theatre Glasgow
Mon 2 - Sat 14 Jun 2014
Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)
Jun 3rd

EDINBURGH’S TRAVERSE THEATRE ANNOUNCES 2014 FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

By Cameron Lowe
Thirteen Premieres, including Eight World Premieres
 
Traverse Presents Unfaithful by Owen McCafferty and Spoiling by John McCann
 
Traverse Breakfast Plays Back on the Menu as Traverse commissions Six New Plays from former Traverse Fifty writers
 
Sunday 27 July – Sunday 24 August, 2014
 
Traverse Theatre Edinburgh

The Traverse is delighted to announce its 2014 Festival programme. Over four weeks, the Traverse Theatre will host nineteen shows and events with eight World Premieres, two UK Premieres, two Scottish Premieres, and a European Premiere.
 
Speaking about her third programme as Artistic Director for the Traverse Theatre, Orla O’Loughlin said, “Embodying the spirit of the Festival all year round, The Traverse continues to be a unique landmark on Edinburgh’s cultural landscape and is the beating heart of new writing in Scotland. This August we are proud to present and produce a Festival programme which celebrates some of the most compelling theatrical voices from the UK and beyond.” 
 
The first of four Traverse Theatre Company productions presented this Festival is the World Premiere of Unfaithful, by Fringe First award-winning playwright Owen McCafferty. Directed by guest director Rachel O’Riordan who is the newly appointed Artistic Director of Sherman Cymru, Unfaithful is a stark and searing glimpse into the reality of relationships following two couples, Joan and Tom, Tara and Peter as they struggle to comprehend their roles as lovers, partners and individuals. As Tom and Tara face the tedium of daily life, the impulse of the moment distracts them from the inevitable emotional fallout. Performed as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (3 – 24 Aug).
 
Heartfelt political satire, Spoiling is the Traverse Theatre’s second World Premiere this Festival. Written by emerging playwright and former Traverse Fifty writer John McCann, Spoiling imagines a newly independent Scotland with the Foreign Minister Designate preparing to deliver a keynote speech in front of the world’s media. Directed by Traverse Artistic Director, Orla O’Loughlin and starring Gabriel Quigley, a familiar face to the Traverse stage, Spoiling will be Orla’s first Festival production for the Traverse 2 stage. Originally developed during the Traverse Fifty project, the piece first appeared in a triple bill scratch performance during 2013’s Write Here, the Traverse New Writing Festival, and returns as a full length piece as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
 
Traverse Theatre Breakfast PlaysTraverse Breakfast Plays is back on the menu this Festival. Six plays are set to have their World Premiere as part of the popular script-in-hand breakfast slot during the Traverse Festival. Commissioned following the Traverse Fifty project, the six – Tim Primrose (Broth), Sylvia Dow (Blinded by the Light), Martin McCormick (The Day the Pope Emptied Croy), Alison Carr (Fat Alice), Molly Innes (Mother Ease) and Lachlan Philpott (Walter) – were announced as the playwrights for this year’s Breakfast Plays at the end of 2013. Each Traverse Breakfast Play has only two performances on the same day over the last two weeks of the Festival, (12 – 24 Aug).
 
Following a sell-out run in March, the popular verbatim piece Bloody Trams will return to the Traverse 2 stage this August. A public response to one of Edinburgh’s most contested and emotive debates over the last decade, two actors will recreate the opinions of the People of Edinburgh incorporating tram passenger interviews and stories from Edinburgh Festival visitors, with composer and pianist David Paul Jones performing live accompaniment and original songs, (5 – 10 Aug).
 
The Theatre’s main house, Traverse 1, also plays host to writer, director and performer Valentijn Dhaenens with the UK Premiere of the political and personal drama SmallWar. Alone on stage, Valentjin Dhaenens tells the tragic fate of those who are forced to live in the wake of man as a belligerent creature in war. The noble, heroic, exalted side of war gets ample coverage; SmallWar investigates the reverse side of the medal, the clash between underlings and the massive structures crushing them, (3 – 24 Aug). Premiering to sell-out Fringe audiences in 2012, SmallWar’s partner piece BigMouth offers a platform to leaders through history and from across the world, people who invariably spurred masses on to war: praising the fallen and smooth-talking their families and loved ones. The Traverse offers Festival audiences a second chance to see this critically-acclaimed performance for three nights only, (19, 21 & 23 Aug).
 
One of comedy’s elder statesmen and all-round arty mischief-maker, Mark Thomas returns to the Traverse Festival with his World Premiere, Cuckooed. Revisiting his theatrical roots with a comedy of betrayal, Mark Thomas tells his true story of how Britain’s biggest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, came to spy on a comedian in this tale of hubris, planes, demos and undercover deceit. This show is personal, political and, as usual, incredibly funny, (3 – 24 Aug).
 
This year, the Traverse Theatre also welcomes two shows from Irish companies. From TheEmergencyRoom and Galway International Arts Festival comes the highly-praised riverrun, an adaptation of the voice of the river in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake devised, directed and performed by acclaimed theatre artist Olwen Fouéré, (3 – 24 Aug). Directed by Ben Kidd, Dead Centre present the UK Premiere of LIPPY by Bush Moukarzel and Mark O’Halloran, an interpretive piece that tells the true story of four women dying in a starvation pact, meditating on the inexplicable fact of death and this event that took place behind closed doors and without explanation, (6 – 24 Aug).
 
After their successful 2013 Festival with Long Live The Little Knife, Scottish company Fire Exit return to Traverse 2 with the World Premiere of Horizontal Collaboration, written and directed by multi award-winning ‘theatrical maverick’ David Leddy, (1 – 24 Aug). An intense live drama where sex, power and politics collide with emotion, seduction and destruction, the piece is performed daily by new actors who never see the script in advance. Four U.N. lawyers have been brought in at short notice to read pre-prepared texts in an explosive tribunal. They are reading blind and have no idea what happens next.
 
Fire Exit also introduce new downloadable drama, City of the Blind, an epic political thriller available anywhere via smartphone or tablet. Available online via www.davidleddy.com, this online experience is an emotionally complex and intellectually provocative piece. Throughout six thirty-minute-long chapters, you can follow U.N. investigator and whistleblower Cassie Al-Khatib caught in a web of surveillance, violence, and counter-intelligence. Created over three years and featuring thirty performers recorded in sixteen different locations, City of the Blind is ground-breaking production for small-scale technology. Horizontal Collaboration and City of the Blind are both presented as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
 
The Theatre’s studio space, Traverse 2, will host the World Premiere of Men in the Cities, the latest from three-time Fringe First winner Chris Goode (Monkey Bars). Starring Chris Goode, this incendiary piece of experimental storytelling presents fractured snapshots of dozens of seemingly disconnected lives that together offer a challenging but radically humane portrait of how we live now. (1 – 24 Aug).
 
After 2012's hit Born To Run, writer and performer Gary McNair returns to the Traverse Theatre with a coming of age story that deconstructs the darker side of comedy, and sees McNair performing at his 'brilliant best'. Donald Robertson has no mates and he isn't funny, but with guidance from his new mentor Gary, he hopes that this is all about to change, (1 – 24 Aug).
 
Following their 2012 and 2013 Festival hit The List, the Traverse welcomes Stellar Quines to the Traverse 2 stage with The Carousel, a poignant play about one woman’s journey of discovery. While driving to her dying mother’s bedside, a woman calls upon the spirit of her dead grandmother and begins a quest through a labyrinth of memories. This is the second in the trilogy from celebrated Québec dramatist Jennifer Tremblay, translated by Shelley Tepperman and starring Maureen Beattie, (1 – 24 Aug).
 
Theatre artists Shona Reppe and Andy Manley return to the Traverse Theatre for the third time with family installation piece, HUFF. Based on the well-loved story The Three Little Pigs, HUFF is a unique walk-through experience with no performers or live action in Traverse Upstairs, a new space on the ground floor level. In groups of three, audience members set off on an expedition through a series of chambers that represent the trials and tribulations of the builder-pigs and their arch enemy, the wolf. HUFF is suitable for anyone over the age of 8 and is presented as part of the Made in Scotland Showcase, (1 – 24 Aug).
 
Award-winning performer and video artist Kim Noble brings his latest show, Kim Noble: You’re Not Alone to the Traverse Theatre this August. Blending performance, comedy and film Kim Noble: You’re Not Alone is a provocative, moving and comic production that chronicles one man’s attempts at connection, friendship and employment at B&Q. He takes his audience on a journey through tower blocks, supermarkets and Facebook, seeking an escape from the loneliness of modern society, (20 – 24 Aug).
 
Engagement and debate remain key this year at the Festival: Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland will present TalkFest 2014, a series of inspirational discussions with leading writers and theatre-makers involved in this year’s wider Festival Fringe, including Fleur Darkin, Caroline Bowditch and Christine Devaney. TalkFest 2014 is presented as part of the Made in Scotland showcase, (11 & 18 Aug).
 
A unique collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Traverse Theatre and the Playwrights’ Studio Scotland has resulted in Pre-View, four readings from four brand new plays by four emerging writers from across Europe (11 & 18 Aug). The Traverse welcomes back the James Tait Black Prize for Drama, judged by students and academics of Edinburgh University, as well as representatives from the National Theatre Scotland and Traverse Associate Artist, Zinne Harris and Traverse Associate Director, Emma Callander (11 Aug).
 
Fringe First, Herald Angel and Spirit of the Fringe award-winning, political, Theatre Uncut returns with Theatre Uncut 2014, exclusive previews of brand new commissioned plays over three nights, including five new plays exploring the debate around the upcoming Scottish Independence referendum and six new plays created in a collaborative project with Istanbul-based DOT Tiyatro, and written by leading Turkish and British writers, (4, 11 & 18 Aug).
May 29th

Tip Top Cast Announced for Top Hat Tour

By Cameron Lowe

UK TOUR: 12 August 2014 – 25 July 2015

Top Hat
Top Hat, winner of three Olivier Awards, for ‘Best New Musical’, ‘Best Choreography’ and ‘Best Costume Design’ from a total of seven nominations and winner of the Evening Standard Award for ‘Best Night Out’, is setting off on an epic 47-week UK tour, visiting 24 theatres nationwide. Opening at New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday 12 August 2014 the production will tour until Saturday 25 July 2015. 
 
The world premiere stage production of Top Hat opened in the West End at the Aldwych Theatre on 9 May 2012 where it played over 600 performances during its run of nearly two years. Prior to the West End, the production previously enjoyed a sell-out UK Tour in 2011.
 
Stepping into the shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, are Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch, who both return to Top Hat having previously performed these roles in the West End. They are joined by Clive Hayward who returns as Horace Hardwick, the role he played in the West End, Rebecca Thornhill as Madge Hardwick, Sebastien Torkia as Alberto Beddini and John Conroy as Horace’s valet Bates. 
 
Top Hat is directed by Matthew White and choreographed by Bill Deamer (Olivier Award winner for Best Choreography), set designs are by Hildegard Bechtler (Olivier Award nominee for Best Set Design), costume designs by Jon Morrell (Olivier Award winner for Best Costume Design), lighting design by Peter Mumford, sound by Gareth Owen (Olivier Award nominee for Best Sound Design), new orchestrations by Chris Walker, musical supervision by Richard Balcombe.
 
Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), the famous American tap dancer, arrives in London to appear in his first West End show. Travers meets the irresistible Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch), the girl of his dreams, and follows her across Europe in an attempt to win her heart.  
 
With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and based on the RKO motion picture, the screenplay by Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott has been adapted for the stage by Matthew White and Howard Jacques and is presented by arrangement with RKO Pictures LLC, Warner Bros Theatre Ventures Inc. and the Irving Berlin Music Company.  
 
Performed by a cast of 29 and accompanied by 11 live musicians, this multi award-winning musical comedy includes Irving Berlin classics from the movie such as Cheek to Cheek, Isn’t It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain and Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.  In addition, from Berlin’s 1200 strong back catalogue, a further ten numbers have been interpolated including well-loved favourites Let’s Face the Music and Dance and Puttin’ On the Ritz.

Alan Burkitt Alan Burkitt started his career winning the All England Tap Dancer of the Year award. A member of the original West End cast of Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre, Burkitt understudied the lead role of Jerry Travers for both Tom Chambers and Gavin Lee. He received rave reviews when he stood in for Lee on press night, a success story documented by Channel 4 for the TV series ‘The Sound of Musicals’. Other recent stage credits include: Singin’ in the Rain, Andy Lee in 42nd Street (Chichester Festival Theatre), the Prince in Adam Cooper’s Shall We Dance (Sadler’s Wells), Cats (German Tour) and We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre).

Charlotte Gooch Charlotte Gooch took over the lead role of Dale Tremont from Summer Strallen in the West End, performing alongside Tom Chambers as Jerry Travers. Gooch performed the lead role of Penny Johnson in Dirty Dancing in the West End at the Piccadilly Theatre and also in the original national tour. Other recent stage credits include: the lead role of Sandy in Grease (UK Tour), Cats (German Tour) and the workshop of Swing Time, dancing a duet with Anton du Beke.
May 29th

20th CENTURY BOY - Grand Opera House, York

By Cameron Lowe
20th CENTURY BOY

Review by Graham Clark

There have been musicals in the past about 1950's rock stars such as Buddy Holly, so it is only natural that in time there would be a musical based on rock stars from the late 60's and early 70's.
 
20th Century Boy is based on the life of the glam rock star Marc Bolan. It follows his rise to fame, how he handled the success and his death in a car crash (driven by his girlfriend Gloria Jones, who survived) weeks before his 30th birthday.
 
Bolan is played superbly by Warren Sollars. Sollars has obviously studied old videos of Bolan as he has the Bolan mannerisms perfected and at times you think you are watching the real Marc Bolan.
 
The musical starts in 1992 in America with Bolan's son Roland (Luke Bailey) asking his mother, Gloria Jones (Donna Hines) about his father. Roland flies to London to find out more about his father's career.
 
He goes to stay with his grandmother's house in London. Sue Jenkins plays a convincing part as Marc Bolan's mothe, Phyllis Feld. She still carries a grudge against Gloria Jones for killing her son in the car she was driving. She has some of the funniest lines too. When showing Roland a photo album they come across a photo of Cliff Richard, "Who is he?" asks American born Roland, to which Phyllis replies "That's Cliff Richard, mind you, you haven't missed much!"
 
The musical shows Bolan's early days as Tyrannosaurus Rex, how his sound changed from folk to electric rock when record producer Tony Visconti (Andy Coxon) discovers Bolan. Visconti suggests the name change to T Rex. Lucy Sinclar plays a leading part as Bolan's first wife June Child. His love for her was the inspiration for many of his songs.
 
After teaming up with Visconti, Bolan's career takes off and we see him headling Wembley stadium. Visconti introduces Bolan to a new backing singer; this is when he meets Gloria Jones. Bolan tries to replicate the European success in America but middle America does not take to an English glam rock star with Bolan sacking his band in the middle of the tour and he turns to drink and drugs.
 
He falls out with Visconti and starts an affair with Gloria Jones. The musical moves on to Bolan getting the health kick and him becoming the godfather of Punk as he asks The Damned to support him on tour.
 
His career seems to be taking off again in 1977 as he had his own TV show too but after visiting his favourite restaurant one night, Jones decides to drive him home with the story ending as the Mini car that Jones is driving hits a tree.
 
Bolan's songs such as Get It On, Ride a White Swan, Metal Guru, Hot Love and of course, 20th Century Boy feature in the show.  An entertaining show, sad in parts and happy in others. Surely a West End run is on the cards. A must see show. 

Tickets (until 31 May) : www.atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/ 

Tour details: www.20thcenturyboythemusical.co.uk/
May 23rd

A Midsummer's Night Dream at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Cameron Lowe
David Nixon’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”

Review by Thia Cooper

Northern Ballet

To say that I was mesmerised by last night’s performance of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” by Northern Ballet, is an understatement! From the moment the curtain went up, to the moment it went down, I was lost in the beautiful performances and amazing working of Mendelssohn's music, intertwined by extracts from Brahms, played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia under Nathan Fifield.
Then there was the interpretation of the original story by wonderful dancing, superb scenery, lighting and costumes.
Set in the 1940’s, the opening shows a classical ballet company rehearsing for a tour. The dancers are warming up for the final rehearsal and the personalities and emotions come to the fore, showing their various rivalries for both affection and dancing prowess in the company.
When the tour begins, the scene changes to the railway station and the Flying Scotsman to take them to their destination. Designer of the train, Duncan Hayler, has done a magnificent job. It’s surprisingly realistic and is technical wizardry of the highest standard.
I asked Mark Skipper, Chief Executive of Northern Ballet, about the logistics of moving such complicated scenery for a tour. He said they had five trailers and a good crew! I discovered he goes to every opening night and as far as I’m concerned that shows a terrific, supportive CEO. I’m sure the company appreciates that!
The dream sequence takes place on the journey and we see the fantasy dream world of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in all its glory!
Above the stage are sleeping-car bunks (I was quite nervous when I saw one of these swaying precariously with the dancers on board!), a spacecraft on its way to the moon and a huge eye.
Outstanding performances were given by Kevin Poeung (Puck, the ballet master), Javier Torres (Lysander in love with Hermia), Tobias Batley (Demetrius, also in love with Hermia), Pippa Moore (Helena, in love with Demetrius), Martha Leebolt (Hermia, in love with Lysander), Hironao Takahashi (Artistic Director, in love with Hippolyta) and Antoinette Brooks-Daw (Hippolyta, in love with Theseus).
Northern Ballet

The romantic confusion is choreographed so very beautifully by Nixon, testing the splendid versatility of the dancers. He demands some breathtaking manoeuvres which are delivered seamlessly!
There are lots of comical instances especially when Helena literally throws herself at Demetrius and when Bottom turns into the donkey, executed very well by Darren Goldsmith.
Everything ends happily with everyone engaged to the correct person after they snap out of the dream and come back to reality.
Let yourself spend a couple of hours being transported into fairyland and go and see this production. You won’t be disappointed!!
Milton Keynes Theatre
Tue 20 May 2014 to Sat 24 May 2014
Tue - Sat 7.30pm, Thu & Sat 2.30pm
Tickets from £12 to £37.50
0844 871 7652
atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes
May 22nd

Rock of Ages at the Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
Review by Christopher Lowe

Following a three-year run in London’s West End, audiences around the country will get the chance to enjoy ROCK OF AGES The Musical as it continues a UK tour arriving in Edinburgh from 19th - 24th May and Glasgow from 4th - 9th August.
Rock of Ages

Set in Hollywood’s Bourbon Room around the mid-to-late 80s, we follow young busboy Drew (Noel Sullivan), who dreams of being a rock star in his own glam-metal band.
He meets country-girl Sherrie (Cordelia Farnworth) – who, like thousands of other hopefuls, has just arrived in town with dreams of making it big.
Enter Stacee Jaxx a charismatic, sexually-charged, narcissistic rock singer who threatens to steal Sherrie away from Drew!
Noel Sullivan In the middle of all the chaos and the competing for young Sherrie’s affections, two German developers are trying to close down the bar and take over the strip!
Set in the late eighties, this is pure jukebox musical territory, with a playlist that is soft-rock to its carefully manicured core. ROCK OF AGES The Musical is the ultimate rock mix-tape musical, a hilarious story of dreams, love and - of course - rock.
A modern twist to the plot demonstrates that it knows exactly the demographic it is playing to. Here are strong female roles, with lots of skimpy outfits; this show is not for the faint hearted!
This 80s-themed hilarious musical features over 30 hair-raising tunes including: “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “We Built This City”, “The Final Countdown”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Here I Go Again”, “Can’t Fight this Feeling” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”.
Rock of Ages is a kick ass musical filled with spandex , studs , skimpy outfits and a collaboration of some of the best rock ballads of all time! The music is delivered by astonishingly talented musicians who are the true stars of the show!
Grab your leather jacket, bring out the glitter and get ready to rock!
Monday 19 May 2014 – Saturday 24 May 2014
EDINBURGH PLAYHOUSE
http://www.atgtickets.com/edinburgh
Box Office: 0844 871 3014
Tickets: £10 - £37.50
Website: www.rockofagesmusical.co.uk