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Feb 8th

The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Following the successful tour in 2015 of The National Theatre’s production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the play makes a welcome return to the Waterside Theatre from 7th-11th February. The play is adapted by Simon Stephens from  the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon and is directed by Marianne Elliott. The story concerns a mystery surrounding the death of a neighbour's dog that is investigated by 15 year old Christopher Boone, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and explores his complicated relationships with his parents, interspersed with advice and support from his school mentor, Siobhan.

The play received seven Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design and five Tony Awards on Broadway including Best Play.  The play's West End Theatre debut was 2 August 2012 at the Royal National Theatre, playing in the round. It transferred to the Apollo Theatre in 2013, but following a roof collapse it closed down. It reopened on 9 July 2014 at the Gielgud Theatre, where it will continue until 3rd June 2017. A Broadway theatre production debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on 5 October 2014. It won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, 2015 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play, the 2015 Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play, and the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play. 

I saw the live screening of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a few years ago and was enthralled by the clever set, which the cameras showed from different angles, enabling the audience to see the action from other dimensions.  It’s a really amazing piece of ensemble theatre and I remember thinking how wonderful Una Stubbs was to be throwing herself around the stage, when she was then 75! 

In this tour, playing the demanding central role of Christopher Boone is Scott Reid, who is currently appearing in BBC1’s comedy Still Game. Scott totally inhabits the role and gives an energetic, committed performance that allows us to experience the inner turmoil of Christopher’s world.  The cast all work hard to create a range of characters and the action moves along at a pace.  I was disappointed that some of the actors seemed to be struggling to project in the space at The Waterside and a few of the performances were rather weak. 

What really makes this play work is the incredible set and the production is designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Paule Constable, video design by Finn Ross, movement by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Ian Dickinson for Autograph.  The Associate Director is Elle While.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time allows the audience to experience life from the perspective of a mathematical genius, who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome, giving us an insight into his turmoil and struggles.  It was good to see so many teenagers in the audience and to hear them raving about the play at the end, so if it helps bring about more tolerance in our society then this play should continue running for years.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Tour of the UK and Ireland 2017

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury                                  7 – 11 February

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh                                    20 – 25 February

Grand Theatre, Leeds                                               28 February – 4 March 

Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury                                   6 – 11 March

Theatre Royal Bath                                                    14 – 25 March

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton                            27 March – 1 April

Nottingham Theatre Royal                                        4 – 15 April 2017

Grand Opera House, Belfast                                     18 – 22 April

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin                            25 – 29 April

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff                              2 – 6 May

Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield                                         9 – 20 May

New Theatre, Oxford                                                  22 – 27 May

Theatre Royal, Newcastle                                         30 May – 10 June

Bristol Hippodrome                                                   13 – 17 June

Theatre Royal, Plymouth                                          26 June – 1 July

Birmingham Hippodrome                                          3 – 8 July

Venue Cymru, Llandudno                                         11 – 15 July

Cliffs Pavilion, Southend                                           17 – 22 July

Liverpool Empire                                                        25 – 29 July

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford                                     31 July – 5 August

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen                              8 – 12 August 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow                                            14 – 19 August

Norwich Theatre Royal                                              29 August – 2 September

Milton Keynes Theatre                                               4 – 16 September

 

Check with individual theatres about dates and prices     

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

7th February 2017

@yvonnedelahaye

Jan 26th

Dreamboats and Petticoats at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

Ain’t life strange! After three days of wallowing in family photos, mainly from the Fifties and Sixties, as I prepare to move house, last night I was pitched into another journey down memory lane. It felt like I’d never left home - except I don’t have live music on tap where I live!

And what music! It would have certainly awakened the neighbours! There really was dancing in the aisles as this feel-good celebration of pop songs circa 1960 exploded onto the Windsor stage at the start of yet another mammoth Bill Kenwright tour.

Dreamboats and Petticoats has been on the road before but this latest version celebrates the 10th anniversary of the million selling album of the same name.

It starts with Bobby reminiscing to his granddaughter about the good old days when, as a gauche 17-year-old at his local youth club, he first encountered love, and fame as a song writer.

The action, of course, goes back to those days when we see the young, enthusiastic Bobby ousted by an know-it-all by the name of Norman, played by a swaggering Alastair Hill, who steals his place as lead singer with a band (oops, sorry, group), and his girl. It’s no surprise that it all works out, but until that happens we are treated to a feast of rock ‘n’ roll, served up by a company of versatile and talented musicians who also double up as dancers and actors. There are no less than 46 songs in the show, each of which links together the story of Bobby, Laura and their friends at St Mungo’s Youth Club at a time when songwriters really knew how to write. I especially like To Know Him Is To Love Him, poignantly sung by Elizabeth Carter as Laura, a 15-year-old geek with pigtails and national health specs. It is hard to imagine she is anything but a little girl until she blossoms into a 16-year-old, and Carter’s voice proves she is no child.

Alistair Higgins also puts in a good performance as Bobby - his duet with Carter of Let It Be Me brought tears to my eyes - while Jimmy Johnston adds gravitas as Bobby’s father and the older Bobby.

The music isn’t the only good thing about this show, however. It really is very funny in places. Look out for Mike Lloyd as the Southend Slugger and a scene in slow motion. Brilliant! And then there are the references to all sorts of things that were popular around 1960 - much appreciated by members of the audience who are of a certain age! But it’s not only for people who were around back in the day. If you like a good night out, exciting music and are into retro fashions, this is the show for you.

Dreamboats and Petticoats is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Feb 4.

Box office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

 

It then tours:

Feb 6-11: Southsea Kings Theatre

Feb 13-18: Cardiff New Theatre

Feb 20-25: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

Feb 27-Mar 4: Manchester Palace Theatre

Mar 13-18: Billingham Forum Theatre

Mar 20-25: Southport Theatre

Mar 27-Apr 1: Chesterfield Winding Wheel Theatre

Apr 3-8: Everyman Cheltenham

Apr 10-15: Stoke Regent Theatre

Apr 18-22: York Grand Opera House

Apr24-29: Blackpool Winter Gardens

May 2-6: Birmingham Alexandra Theatre

May 8-13: Edinburgh Playhouse

June 12-17: Glasgow Kings Theatre

June 19-24: Sunderland Empire Theatre

June 26-Jul 1: Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Jul 3-8: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 10-15: Leeds Grand Theatre

Jul 17-22: Torquay Princess Theatre

Jul 24-29: Bristol Hippodrome Theatre

Jul 31-Aug 5: Liverpool Empire Theatre

Aug 7-12: Norwich Theatre Royal

Aug 22-26: Mayflower Southampton

Aug 29-Sept 2: Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Jan 20th

Dead Simple at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

 

It’s taken me a while to get down to writing this review because, there are so many elements to The Mill’s latest production, I don’t know where to start.

I wish I could just stay with… it’s outrageously entertaining. Words fail me (which isn’t a good thing for a writer!). It’s a storyline which is so jam-packed full of completely unexpected surprises, all I can say is, how one man can think up such a plot is beyond my wildest imagination. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in a lifetime of theatregoing, and gave me huge enjoyment. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted so much. It left me open mouthed, gasping with surprise and incredulity and, at one point, I was even stuffing my fist into my mouth. Best-selling author Peter James, whose book Shaun McKenna’s stage version is based on, is a genius!

It begins with the run-up to Michael Harrison’s wedding. His business partner is arranging a stag night but when armed men turn up at his flat, kidnap him, bury him alive in a coffin in the middle of a forest and then go off and get killed in a head-on crash, the question on everyone’s lips is, will he get out alive?

That remains unanswered for most of the play, but in the meantime all sorts of sub-plots keep us literally on the edge of our seats, as psychopaths and even the supernatural abound.

It’s a hugely complicated and technical production for all actors involved, and my huge thanks to them and to director Keith Myers for presenting us with such thrilling entertainment. I don’t really want to single out anyone as I can’t say why without giving some of the game away, but Louise Stewart as Michael’s fiancée; Martyn Stanbridge as her gloriously camp uncle; Lewis Collier, who has to go through physical torture as Michael, and Matt Milburn as Michael’s emotional business partner, are the protagonists, together with a seriously disturbed young man, magnificently portrayed by Daniel Buckley.

If you like a cracking good story that is likely to scare the hell out of you, this is a must-see!

Dead Simple is at The Mill at Sonning until March 11

Box Office: 0118 969 8000

 

www.millatsonning.com

Jan 19th

Gaslight @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Click for more details and to book tickets for Gaslight at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Written by Patrick Hamilton in 1938, Gaslight is one of the greatest thrillers of all time.  Frequently performed by amateur groups, the play can sometimes be turned into melodrama.  Set in fog-bound London in 1880 in the upper middle class home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella, the scene opens late afternoon being the time ‘before the feeble dawn of gaslight and tea’ as Hamilton wrote in his notes.

Bella has recently moved to a new house with her husband Jack, but she has started to misplace objects and is worried that she may be losing her mind as her mother did.  Jack leaves her alone every evening as he visits the town, but mysterious footsteps are heard overhead and a ghostly flickering of the living room gaslight makes Bella believe she may be going mad. Does the terror exist in her imagination or are dark secrets living in her home? The surprise arrival of retired Detective Rough leads to a shocking discovery that will shake her respectable Victorian marriage to its core.

The play was turned into a British film in 1940 with Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard and Frank Pettingel.  Encouraged by the success of the play and film, MGM bought the remake rights, but with a clause insisting that all existing prints of Dickinson's version be destroyed, even to the point of trying to destroy the negative, so that it would not compete with their more highly publicised 1944 remake  starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. It was also released under the title Angel Street.

Having seen the films and the play on stage many years ago, I was curious to see how it would be staged in this new touring production.  This suspensful thriller can easily be turned into a Victorian melodrama, but this production keeps it truthful with controlling husband Jack playing on Bella’s vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Acclaimed TV and stage actress Kara Tointon has a natural radiance and warmth that makes her very watchable in everything she does and as Bella begins to lose her grip on reality, Kara gives a compelling , multi-layered performance. BBC 1 ‘s ‘Merlin’ star  Rupert Young joins Kara as husband Jack Manningham and in the second act we see more of his sinister, menacing traits. Bringing some light comedy to this darkly twisted thriller, is multi-talented Keith Allen as Detective Rough.

The production has an authenticity that draws you in and the first half raced along.  Even though we’re kept in the picture throughout, the play still has the ability to surprise. It also provides an interesting observation of human frailties and the dynamics of an abusive relationship.

The play tours to Woking, York, Brighton and Richmond and tickets can be booked at:

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/gaslight

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

16.1.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Jan 12th

A Judgement in Stone at the Theatre Royal Windsor

By Clare Brotherwood

If the opening night audience was anything to go by, Windsor theatregoers are ready to shake off the panto season and embrace the Theatre Royal’s programme for 2017.

A packed auditorium heralded the first of this year’s productions which celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company with a tour of, so far, 29 theatres, which will keep the cast in work until at least September. Some marathon!

That cast includes familiar favourites such as Mark Wynter, a pop star in another life who gets to sing in this play; star of classic films such as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Entertainer and Alfie, Shirley Anne Field; Andrew Lancel who won the Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards for his role of Frank Foster in Coronation Street; Deborah Grant, best known for A Bouquet of Barbed Wire and Another Bouquet, and Sophie Ward, who has numerous film and TV credits.

A Judgement in Stone is considered to be one of Ruth Rendell’s greatest works, but unlike the queen of crime novelists Agatha Christie she is more concerned with the psychological sources of a murderer’s actions.

So we don’t have a whodunnit here, rather a whydunnit, and how did it come about.

The play alternates between real time and the months leading up to the murder of a wealthy family of four. We know where we are because of Malcolm Rippeth’s atmospheric lighting - warm and homely for when the family is still alive, and cold and stark for the time after the murders when the police are investigating the crime and questioning various suspects. It’s an intricate business. At the flick of a switch the scene changes and, last night, characters sometimes didn’t get on or off stage in time for the next scene. But it was, after all, opening night, and under Roy Marsden’s skilled direction I’m sure the production will be tightened up in no time.

It is beautifully set, in an oak panelled room with large leaded windows looking out onto a garden, so top marks to designer Julie Godfrey who makes the whole thing look so realistic.

There are surprising performances from some of the actors. Sophie Ward plays Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper whose attempts to keep her illiteracy secret lead to the tragic deaths of her employers. As such she is wonderfully withdrawn but with a very dark side, quite the opposite of Eunice’s only friend Joan Smith, the village postmistress. She’s not at all like you’d expect a postmistress or Deborah Grant, for that matter, to be. I love Grant’s performance as a bleached blonde, mini-skirted common ex-prostitute who has found God. Way over the top and hilarious with it, the funniest scene is when she is dancing on the table.

I wouldn’t have expected Shirley Anne Field to be playing an embittered cleaner, either, but that’s showbiz!

Everyone deserves praise: Andrew Lancel is suitably authoritative as DS Vetch, up from London to head the investigation, while Ben Nealon adds a homely touch as the local DS. As master and mistress of the house, Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson are full of bonhomie and pretty smug, and I also like the performances of their children. Although not the biggest parts Joshua Price makes his mark as the moody Giles, as does Jennifer Sims as the friendly, lovable Melinda, while Antony Costa as the wayward gardener may seem just a nice country lad, but he does show his hidden depths.

 

A Judgement in Stone is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 21

It then continues to tour:

Jan 23-28: Richmond Theatre

Jan 30-Feb 4: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

Feb 13-18: Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

Feb 20-25: New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

Feb 27-Mar 4: Eastbourne Devonshire Park

Mar 6-11: Hall for Cornwall, Truro

Mar 13-18: Buxton Opera House

Mar 27-Apr 1: Northampton Theatre Royal

Apr 4-8: Cardiff New Theatre

Apr 10-15: The Playhouse, Weston-Super-Mare

Apr 18-22: Bromley Churchill Theatre

Apr 24-29: Leeds Grand Theatre

May 2-6: Malvern Festival Theatre

May 8-13: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre

May 15-20: Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells

May 22-27: Crawley The Hawth Theatre

May 30-Jun 3: Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Jun 5-10: Southend Palace Theatre

Jun 12-17 Derby Theatre

Jun 19-24; Glasgow Theatre Royal

Jun 26-Jul 1: New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jul 3-8: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Jul 10-15: Harrogate Theatre

Jul 17-22: Stoke Regent Theatre

Jul 24-29: Milton Keynes Theatre

Jul 31-Aug 5: Newcastle Theatre Royal

Aug 19-23: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Sept 25-30: Orchard Theatre, Dartford.

 

Box Office: 01753 853888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

Jan 9th

Rumours of Fleetwood Mac @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

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The last time I saw Rumours of Fleetwood Mac was in January 2012 and 5 years on, I’m happy to say that the concert is still as brilliant as ever.  Close your eyes and you would believe you’re listening to the original artists.  The vocals are extraordinary with the band reproducing hit after hit in their latest ‘Hit to Blues Tour’, which began in October 2016, encompassing nearly five decades of this legendary band’s music.

With over 600 major concert events behind them to date the British Rock Anthology Tribute Concert ''Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac'' has now performed to over 600,000 MAC fans across the world. 'Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac' is now recognised globally as the ''Ultimate Fleetwood Mac Concert Experience'' and is endorsed by founder 'Fleetwood Mac' member Mick Fleetwood. 

From the exultant heights of such classic hits as ‘Rhiannon’, ‘Don’t Stop’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’, and ‘Seven Wonders’, to the cathartic relationship autopsies contained on the bestselling Rumours album, ‘Hits to Blues’. Like previous Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac concert performances, the show guarantees to offer its audiences a rich and emotive musical experience, blowing away the cobwebs and rekindling those precious personal memories in a way that only the best music can. 
  
True to the band’s roots, ‘Hits to Blues’ features a comprehensive profile of the work of legendary British bluesman, and Fleetwood Mac founder, Peter Green. With faithful renditions of early Mac masterpieces such as ‘Albatross’, ‘Oh Well’, and the plaintive ‘Man of the World’, the show promises to bring the full depth and power of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac back to life. 
  
From the outset, the Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac musicians and performers have always striven to combine their deep personal love and reverence for the music of Fleetwood Mac with the excitement and spontaneity of live performance. Immersed in this music as they are, they know that these are songs which simply refuse to be played without passion and intensity. 
  
It is now half a century since Fleetwood Mac first emerged onto the world stage. Over the intervening five decades it is fair to say that both the band and the world have been through some considerable changes. Throughout it all, however, the music of Fleetwood Mac has retained its place in the hearts and souls of hundreds of millions of fans the world over. Join Rumours of Fleetwood Mac this Autumn and experience the very best of Fleetwood Mac, from ‘Hits to Blues’.

Further establishing Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac as the world’s premier Fleetwood Mac concert experience, RFM Concerts welcomes original Fleetwood Mac guitarist, RICK VITO back to the RFM tour. Catch Rick on the following tour dates...

Fri 19 Feb - Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Sat 20 Feb - Northampton Derngate, Tue 23 Feb - Glasgow Pavilion, Wed 24 Feb - Aberdeen Music Hall, Fri 26 Feb - Inverness Eden Court, Sat 27 Feb - Dundee Caird Hall, Sun 28 Feb - Edinburgh Queens Hall, Mon 29 Feb - Gateshead Sage.

Full tour dates can be found on their website www.rumoursoffleetwoodmac.com

The songs are a mix of instantly recognisable rock, pop and blues tunes, appealling to all ages and it was good to see lots of people in their 20s & 30s in the audience. The only thing I’d like them to change would be to introduce the band a bit earlier, and get the audience up on their feet for ‘Big Love’ and ‘The Chain’.  We were all itching to dance at this point and felt a bit stuck in our seats, so having a few more songs to join in with towards the end of the concert would have been perfect.  The original Fleetwood Mac are still touring and should be releasing a new album later this year, so I can see that with over 50 years of material to reproduce, Rumours of Fleetwood Mac will continue to tour for many years to come!

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

7.1.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Dec 13th

Aladdin @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Aladdin Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Forget the Christmas ads starting in October, the festive season actually begins when panto starts!  Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a visit to your local theatre to see a pantomime, with its colourful costumes and sets, bawdy humour, audience participation, romance, singing and dancing, there’s something for everyone.

This year’s panto at The Waterside Theatre is Aladdin, with not one but two genies.  Former Eastenders actress, Michelle Collins, plays the Genie of The Ring , with Joel Ekperigin making a spectacular entrance as the Genie of The Lamp.  Joel started out as a street dancer before training full-time at the Wilkes Academy in 2014.  His acrobatic jumps and tumbles are breathtaking and add a new dimension to the show.

The cast work their socks off, especially Andy Collins who is run ragged as Wishee Washee in his annual rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist La Voix is perfectly cast in the role of Widow Twankey, with her garish costumes and has a mighty powerful singing voice.

Danny Colligan is also perfect as Aladdin, with just the right balance of sweet innocence and determination to win the hand of his beloved Princess Jasmine, played by reality TV star Jasmin Walia.

Nicholas Pound’s wonderfully deep, resonant voice is very strong as he creates the evil Abanazar, the audience loved to boo.  In his second panto at the Waterside, David Whitworth plays the Emperor and Chris Nelson plays PC Pong, as well as being the director.

The costumes and sets are absolutely divine, with a wonderful use of colours, textures and glitter, making the scenes look spectacular.

The show is full of energy and fun making it perfect family entertainment to make the most of the festive season.

To book tickets: www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

12/12/16

@yvonnedelahaye

Dec 5th

The Elves and the Shoemaker at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Clare Brotherwood
 

For many youngsters, Norden Farm’s Christmas show is their first experience of theatre, and this year’s production from the Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company should ensure that they come back for more.

Excited chatter turns to squeals of delight as two little green men set about helping hapless shoemaker Sam Lacey make magic shoes in artistic director Niki McCretton’s adaptation of Vera Southgate’s all time favourite.

Stuff and Nonsense’s claim of making ‘energetic, mischievous and inspiring theatre’ is spot on.

The fun starts when Sam’s neighbour Belinda bustles through the audience, chatting animatedly to all and sundry, making the little ones feel part of the production.

Her enthusiasm continues throughout the show, not only for life but for Sam and his good fortune. She’s desperate to make friends, and Chloe Conquest’s lively performance endears her to all.

Sam spends the entire time in his pyjamas, which may be a clue to the fact that he is a bit slow and sleepy. Certainly, his ideas of making shoes out of bricks and bread show that he is not the brightest, and Graham Elwell portrays his ineptitude in such a way that he has his audience screaming with laughter and offering plenty of support when the elves appear to shouts of that Christmas anthem ‘Look behind you!’

The elves, looking like distant cousins of Kermit the Frog, are also the subject of great hilarity and excitement as they turn up when least expected and from all sorts of hidden places, keeping little minds engaged. Sarah Moody’s quirky music, which sounds like a collection of kitchen utensils banging together, also adds to the mix.

There is, of course, a feel good factor, a message about helping each other and making friends, but most of all it’s an entertaining 55 minutes which will hopefully nurture future theatre audiences.

 

The Elves and The Shoemaker is at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead until December 30.

Box office: 01628 788997

www.nordenfarm.org

www.aloadofstuffandnonsense.co.uk

Nov 30th

High Society at The Mill at Sonning

By Clare Brotherwood

Think of High Society, and Cole Porter classics such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire, True Love, Just One of Those Things, and Samantha, come to mind, sung by original cast members Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

It’s a frothy, funny, feel good show you’d think would only be at home in Hollywood movies or on the West End stage. But, to quote Mr Porter, you’ll be ridin’ high if you join in the swell party this is at The Mill at Sonning.

Just how this ‘big’ musical fits so comfortably in The Mill’s small space must be an illusion. The audience is certainly not short changed by the intimacy of its surroundings, nor the calibre of the performers. It’s full-on, fast-paced, all-singing, all-dancing entertainment, yet it isn’t in your face - and we must thank director and choreographer Joseph Pitcher, who has been resident director on the RSC’s West End production of Matilda for the past two-and-a-half years, for striking the perfect balance.

Perfect is an adjective I think I shall be using more than once in this review.

High Society is set on Long Island in 1938 and charts the events leading up to the wedding of the fabulously wealthy Tracy Samantha Lord to the humourless George Ketteridge. Enter Tracy’s ex-husband, a couple of undercover reporters wanting to dig the dirt on Tracy’s erring father, and a lot of Champagne, and things don’t always go according to plan.

From the outset, Kirsty Ingram proves she is a star in the making as Tracy’s kid sister Dinah. Although aged 22 and only in her second professional production, she sparkles throughout her perfectly portrayed role as a petulant child, bossy and cheeky, but with a vulnerability, especially in scenes with Tracy’s ex, on whom she obviously has a crush.

At the other end of the scale, David Delve is an old hand at musicals, both in the West End and on tour, and although his larger than life performance as Tracy’s Uncle Willie would satisfy audiences in big theatres, it is not over the top in this smaller venue. The big expressions, flashing eyes, swivelling hips (and wandering hands) all make for a great deal of hilarity.

All 11 members of the cast must be congratulated on their fine contributions to this perfect way to celebrate the festive season, not to mention musical director Charlie Ingles’ hard-working band, Callum White on percussion, Pete Hutchinson on double bass and the impressive Joe Atkin-Reeves on clarinet, sax and flute.

As Tracy’s mother, Elizabeth Elvin, a regular at The Mill, fits right in with a cast whose background is in musical theatre rather than as actors who sing. Bethan Nash has an amazing voice and sings and dances her way through the role of Tracy Lord with fluidity, pose and an endearing sense of fun, but among my favourite scenes are those between Rachel Moran as Polly the maid, and Grant Neal as Chester the butler. Every time the stiff, poker-faced servants launched into a wild, abandoned song and dance routine the audience erupted. A swell party indeed!

 

High Society is at The Mill at Sonning until January 14. Box office 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

Nov 3rd

Pierre Bensusan at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead

By Clare Brotherwood

Occasionally, when I find myself moved so much by a performance other than acting, a review about music finds its way onto this website.

Last night was such an occasion. Pierre Bensusan is recognised as one of the premier musicians of our time. Winner of the Independent Music Award and voted Best World Music Guitar Player in 2008, his humility is touching as he tells his audience he is privileged to be playing for us. But let us tell you, Monsieur Bensusan, the privilege is all ours.

I had gone along to the theatre disgruntled - by too many things happening in my life. By the start of the second half I was in a state of quiet euphoria, totally at peace with the world. I was even moved to the odd tear. Music at its best is like that, isn’t it? It’s magical; it can make a difference, and Pierre Bensusan makes a difference.

Not that his music is an easy ride. He is famous for using the Dadgad method of tuning which isn’t always melodic, but it does wake up your senses, and makes you aware of the complexities of the guitar. You wonder, are there really only six strings on this instrument which seems a living extension of this gentle yet passionate performer? His music is both soothing and invigorating, and his songs, which he and his wife, Doatea, compose, can be moving or amusing. It doesn’t seem to matter that they are in French. Infact, that adds to the appeal.

Bensusan may be known as The Mozart of the Guitar and, as such, is worthy of the title, but he takes after no-one. He is unique.

Pierre Bensusan tours continuously worldwide, and his remaining dates in England and Scotland are:

Nov 5: Bristol Folk House

Nov 6: The King Arthur, Glastonbury

Nov 9: Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Nov 10: Broadoak Hotel, Ashton-Under-Lyme

Nov 11: Crown and Mitre Hotel, Carlisle

Nov 12: Milngavie FC, Milngavie

Nov 14: Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

 

www.pierrebensusan.com