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Feb 17th

The Sound of Music, The Alhambra, Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK

There seems to be a lot of the 1960's musical films being transferred to the theatre, I recently saw Mary Poppins and was transfixed in how well the show took to the stage. Now The Sound of Music is returning to the stage in a national tour and this too is a superb show.

Lucy O'Byrne who was the runner up of the TV programme The Voice plays Maria. It was always going to be an hard act to follow in the foot steps of Julie Andrews but O'Byrne fits into the role perfectly: she has the same mannerisms and pronunciation as Julie Andrews and brings to the character a youthful yet innocent charm not forgetting her powerful, rich vocals.

Within the first 5 minutes of the curtain going up The Sound of Music has been performed. It is like a greatest hits album as the melodic songs still sound as good as you remember them. My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Me and Sixteen Going on Seventeen are sung and reprised many times during the evening.

Gary O'Brien plays Captain Von Trapp, the father of the 7 children Maria comes to look after. I found that O'Brien portrayed a suave yet smooth character who when he let down his barriers found true love with Maria.

Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess brought some wisdom to the role and her version of Climb Every Mountain sent shivers down my spine. 

There was a pathos and comedy too with the likeable Max Detweiler played by Duncan Smith, I enjoyed every scene he was in.

Isla Carter played the cool Elsa Schraeder who had her eye on Captain Von Trapp but of course Von Trapp has his eye on Maria. Her aloof character was totally at odds with the warm and caring Maria and of course Maria gets always with the Captain's 7 children who were also a huge part of this spectacular show.

One thing that flew over my young head when I originally saw the film version was that the musical is set in 1938 in pre war Austria and the German invasion is about to take place, although there is no direct mention of Adolf Hitler, there are plenty of references which effect how the show ends with the family having to flee Austria.

The audience at The Alhambra loved it and gave the performers a standing ovation which was justly earned. A joyful evening on a cold miserable February night. Brilliant.

 

 Runs until Saturday 20 February 2016.

 

Tickets from: www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Dec 31st

Jack and The Beanstalk, Alhambra Theatre Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK

The Bradford pantomime is always seen to be one of the best in the north of England and this year's production is no exception.

Yorkshire comedian Billy Pearce as Jack makes his 17th Pantomime appearance at the Alhambra.  The show features him heavily and if you are a fan of him you will be in your element. The audience probably come to see him every year because they know that they can rely on him to make them laugh.

Also appearing is Lisa Riley who plays The Spirit of the Bean with a Yorkshire accent, all the children in the audience took to her and probably wanted her as a friend such was her down to earth and friendly nature.

John Challis from Only Fools and Horses brought some menace and authority to the role of Fleshcreep whilst from the TV series, Benidorm was barman Mateo who in real life is Jack Canuso who plays Benny-Dorm in this show. He is also an accomplished dancer and he is given the chance to show off his fancy footwork. It would have been nice to see some of the characters in the production interact more with Pearce more than they did.

Adam Stafford has played the Dame many times in panto and his experience in the role shows, he was funny and along with Billy Pearce they had some of the best one liners of the night.

Of course the jokes do have a local feel: "What is a herd of donkey's called?" is one of them, "Bradford City FC" comes the reply.

It would not be a panto without the cow, tonight it is Moo Moo who brings smiles to young and old. There are some amazing 3D effects with Pearce running through the Giant's castle and the Giant coming to life, it was so life like some of the children were hiding in their seats! 

A helicopter with Pearce piloting it flies literally over the heads of the audience in the stalls. It seemed very lifelike as did the giant beanstalk that grew from the side of the stage.

Sarah Vaughan plays a wistful Princess Apricot but her version of the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars hit, Uptown Funk might not be as strong as the song you remember.

The Bradford Sunbeams from the Sara Packham Theatre School were charming, they are as much a part of the Bradford pantomime as Billy Pearce now is.

It is a polished show and the special effects are some of the best you will see in any pantomime in the UK.

The evening was a real tonic from the miserable weather outside and if you want to witness some enjoyable family entertainment this is just the medicine you need.

 

Runs until Sunday 24 January 2016, tickets available from:

www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 26th

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time -The Grand,Leeds

By GRAHAM CLARK

It is not often you go to the theatre and see a dead dog centre stage with a garden fork through it, but this is what greets you as you enter the Grand Theatre.

I was not sure what to expect from The National Theatre's production of this highly amusing,entertaining and thought provoking play.

Central to all the action is Christopher Boone played with vivid detail by Joshua Jenkins. Christopher is a 15 year old boy who has special educational needs, or more to the point Asperger Syndrome.

His neighbour's dog called Wellington is found dead, so Christopher sets out to play detective to find out who murdered Mrs Shears dog. 

Christopher's dad informs him that his mother has died with heart problems but in fact she has been having an affair with Mr Shears. Christophers dad finds out about the affair and he kills the dog.

Whilst looking for his diary which his dad had hidden from him, Christopher discovers that his mum is still alive as he finds the letters she has written to him, hidden by his dad. On discovering she is living in London with Mr Shears he decides to go and visit her.

Joshua Jenkins has all the mannerisms of someone with Asperger Syndrome and he must have studied and watched a person who has this problem right down to the nervous twitch on his face.

With a brilliant supporting cast who all play many parts, the stage set is minimal but with elements of mime and some very clever effects they bring each scene to life. The sound effects work well too, especially the scene when Christopher is awaiting a train on the London Underground with the actors simulating the effect of the wind rush as the train arrives at the station.

The whole evening was like seeing the world though a fresh pair of eyes and although Christopher is slow and innocent in some areas of his life, he is a masternind at maths and as the show progresses there are some positive moments as he passes his maths exam, gaining a A plus. 

Examining relations between his dad, his mother and his future step father, there were many areas of the play that we can all relate too.

There was so much going on that if you see the show a second time you would probably see something that you did not see first time around.

The night ends on a high but if I tell you the ending it would spoil it for you, so if you  get the chance, go along and see this production that will have you crying with laughter and also with sadness. 

 

 Runs until Saturday 29 August 2015. Tickets from

www.leedsgrandtheatre.com

Jul 3rd

The Effect - The Sheffield Crucible Studio

By Paul Tyree

A Sheffield Theatres Production
The Effect
Thu 25 June – Sat 18 July

By Lucy Prebble

effect

(Photos: Johann Persson)


This show has a lot going for it. The acting is good and by and large so is the the script.
It has an interesting premise in that it explores the nature of love and that in itself is an interesting debate.
The idea that it could be chemically influenced is one that has swum about our society for a while. We all are now aware that love is about the same as huge amounts of chocolate, so a play about a clandestine relationship between patients being experimented on should be brilliant and groundbreaking.


This isn't. It's ok. It's an ok night at the theatre, but actually it has no ending and no conclusion because obviously the playwright hasn't formed a real conclusion either, which is such a shame. Had this piece had an actual ending (which it doesn't) it would have been fantastic. The actors and everyone did a great job. The set was good, the direction excellent so the only thing that could possible hold this production back was the writing and unfortunately this seems to be a play that is only 80 percent there and that has to be placed at the feet of the writer rather than anyone else.

effect1


Dont get me wrong it's a good play, but i's not a great play because it simply peters out without a real conclusion or idea to give it some meaning. You walk out at the end no wiser and no happier than when you walked in. Perhaps it is time that we remind our authors and playwrights that art either gives us wisdom, information or  entertainment and if it offers us none of the above then it probably isn't actually worth bothering with.


Decent but not groundbreaking.

 

http://sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/contact-us/

Jun 30th

Judy - The Songbook of Judy Garland - Lyceum Sheffield

By Paul Tyree

Judy - The Songbook of Judy Garland

 

judy

(Image by Simon Teller) 

You know no-one ever feels sorry for a critic! And 99.99 percent of the time I would absolutely agree with them!
We get to see shows, schmmooz, drink wine and generally have a lovely time of it. And then every now and again, in our darkest moments we whisper to each other about shows like this. And we quiver!!! We feel that suddenly the world has turned into a very dark place that we don't understand and can't cope with. Such is the effect of this show. It makes critics quiver and hide their faces in the dark and fear ever watching a play or theatrical producion ever again. We aren't bad people. We're generally quite nice if you get to know us and perhaps buy us a drink (no pressure...) But this is one of those shows that whenever we speak of it again a chill will run down our spine and we'll worry. We'll worry that maybe we'll be forced to watch it again and then we'll genuinely wonder why we ever liked the theatre in the first place and that might actually be quite an unnerving moment for any critic to have to go through.

Admittedly this is called 'the songbook of Judy garland' and that is presciscely what it is. All of the moments that you have already witnessed on film or television are here recreated for you. I dont know what the point of that is but they've done it and seem very committed to recreating something you can watch on youtube for free (and ps ....Judy Garland does it better!) So there we are in a sense. You might be wondering why Lorna Luft has done this, trawled through her poor dead mother's life and picked out the hits and put them all in a show? I'll tell you why. Money and self-glorification are powerful motivators because those are genuinely the only reason for this utter piece of fill your pockets, self indulgent, making money out of mommy crap.

On the plus side Ray Quinn is absolutely fantastic and is quality and a star prescence from start to finish. Lorna Luft actually has a better set of pipes than her more famous sister Liza Minelli because she can actually sing. What is totally tragic about this is the fact that had Lorna Luft had the honesty, decency and integrity to actually tell the Judy Garland story, with all the bad men, the childhood abuse, the drug abuse, the alchohol abuse and the desperate struggle throughout her life to be loved by someone, this could have been, not only operatic, but one of the best musicals that has ever existed. This is not a show. Its a Lorna Luft concert because she couldn't do it any other way.
And it's a missed opportunity!

I guarantee you if we ever see that musical you'll be at the theatre every week afterwards. But if you see this,....you may never go again!!

Not one you should bother with. The room was a quarter full. I feel for them!

 

http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/

Jun 7th

The Bodyguard - Alhambra Theatre Bradford

By GRAHAM CLARK

It is a very dramatic start to The Bodyguard: a single gun shot opens up the show before 4 huge flames fire up from the front of the stage as Alexandra Burke performs The Queen of the Night.

The Bodyguard

This is a classic story of woman meets man, falls in love with him and it ends up with  and ends up with him leaving, which is probably why the story appeals to the mainly female audience here tonight. 

Adapting the screen version to the stage was never going to be an easy task and with Whitney Houston who starred in the film having such a powerful voice, it was always going to be an intersting situation to see if X Factor winner, Alexandra Burke could pull it off.

She seemed to be saving her voice for the second half of the show, in fact at the matinnee performances her place is taken by anothe talent show contestant, Zoe Birkett. These are very hard songs to sing so perhaps Ms Burke is saving her voice for later. 

Stuart Reid plays her Bodyguard and is was convincing, authorative and charming too whilst her sister Nikki is played by Melissa James who too has a great voice.  At times the story seemed to be rushed: one minute Burke playing pop diva Rachel Marron hates the idea of having her Bodyguard around her following a note left by a stalker, the next minute she has fallen in love with him and there did not seem to be the time taken in the film version for this to happen on stage.

At times it was like a mini Alexandra Burke concert with the story fitted in between but it is still an entertaining night out.

In the second half of the show Burke comes into her own with the song lyrics fitting naturally into the narrative of the production, especially on the song I Will Always Love You as her Bodyguard leaves her to move on to his next assignment. You could hear the emotion in her voice as she sang this dramatic number. 

The audience rise to their feet as she performs I Wanna Dance With Somebody and the show climaxes to a brilliant finish. A captivating show that will delight audiences for years to come.

 

Runs until Saturday 13 June 2015. Tickets from: www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

May 20th

Pride and Prejudice at the Crucible Theatre Sheffield

By Paul Tyree

Pride and Prejudice

Inpolitic (Politically incorrect) or Copolitic (Politically correct) (Totally just made up those words) smile 

sisters

(Photos by Johan Persson)

The Crucible Theatre's latest interpretation of Pride and Prejudice is a curious beast of a thing.

Probably because of the familiarity of the story the decision has been taken to employ black and ethnic minority actors in roles traditionally played by white actors. Of course if this was an all black production it would be different but because most of the roles are still played by white actors you have to begin to question why it was felt necessary to employ black actors for these roles. 

Firstly one would have to say that this was a directorial decision and has therefore to be of importance. Perhaps the director is asking the audience to accept the actors cliche that any actor should be able to play any role. (Even though that is not true - you wouldn't ask Woody Allen to play Rambo). The decision certainly doesn't affect the quality of the acting which is fine, but you do wonder what point is trying to be made by having both white and black actresses play the Bennett sisters. 

Of course most people would say that the ethnic background of actors should not matter at all. Were that true then it should not matter that Laurence Olivier played Othello, but in these enlightened times you would be hard pressed to  find any white actor cast in that role. Is that right that white actors cannot play Othello? 

You may be wondering why I'm asking such a question, and I too am in two minds as to why the director of this piece is asking us to consider it. Are we perhaps becoming too politically correct so that we now feel the need to offer roles to ethnic minority actors simply because we wish to make a statement. And exactly what the point or statement that is trying to be made is still unclear to me.

It is therefore somewhat of a distracting rather than enlightening addition to the familiar tale of Pride and Prejudice. 

As to the play itself however it is a generally pleasing although not exceptional rendering of the piece. Whilst the acting in some places is fine, Isabella Laughland as Elizabeth Bennett and Michele Austin as her mother, Mrs Bennet are both excellent and add much to this production. There are however some weaker actors notably James Northcoat as Mr Darcy is completely ineffective in the role in a rather uninspired performance.

This is a generally pleasing evening at the theatre but it has to be said that this production has the feeling of something that could and should have been so much better. 

mr darcy

Box Office: 0114 249 6000

http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/

Apr 9th

Twelve Angry Men - The Grand Leeds

By GRAHAM CLARK

I had never seen the film version of Twelve Angry Men so it was with a fresh pair of eyes that I experienced this stage production.

Twelve jurors have murder on their minds and a life in their hands as they decide the fate of a young delinquent accused of killing his dad. What looks to be a clear cut case soon becomes a dilemma for the 12 men as things turn around.

Tom Conti plays juror 8 - a New York architect. He votes against all the other 11 jurors who believe that the defandant is guilty. Conti plays a logical and thoughtful man in the play and is convincing throughout.  Slowly, with his methodical approach changes the minds of the rest of the jurors.

There are some strong characters who are as different as chalk and cheese and it is the difference between each of the personalities which makes this play work.

Andrew Lancel (better known as Frank Foster from Coronation Street) plays Juror 3, an angry young man who has a rocky relationship with his young son which has left him tainted.  Robert Duncan as Juror 4 plays the his stockbroker role to a tee whilst Sean Power as Juror 7 is excellent as a wide boy come baseball fan who just wants to declare the defandant guilty so he can get to his baseball match on time!

Denis Lil as Juror 10 pays a long in the tooth garage owner who shows no sign of giving in but of course he does in the end.

It is a thought provoking experience, challenging pre-conceived ideas, stereotypes and thoughts but Tom Conti holds it all together; always on the outside. The jurors come around to his way of thinking.

Entertaining and durable - whilst set in the 1950's the show is as relevant as it always was

Runs until Saturday 11 April 2015

Apr 9th

Barnum - Sheffield Lyceum

By Paul Tyree

Barnum

A Cameron Mackintosh/ Michael Harrison Presentation 

of the Mark Bramble/ Michael Stewart/ Cy Coleman Musical

barnum

Review by Paul Tyree

This barnstorming musical featuring Brian Conley as Phineas T Barnum is quite literally one of the best musicals I have ever been fortunate enough to see. I know this because my friend who accompanied me hates musicals and she absolutely loved it, even going so far to say that it had changed how she saw Brian Conley - a fact he would be thrilled by.

Telling the story of PT Barnum and his wife as she supports his dreams and helps him realise them it features some excellent songs, but it is in the performances where this musical really comes alive. 

As you would expect the feeling of circus and show folk is all around you in the auditorium as you are entertained by some fantastic talent. From juggling to tightrope walking you really feel that the circus truly has come to town.

The direction and the look of the show are first rate and together this company have produced some highly technical set pieces combined with a wonderful sense of comedy which keeps the feel of the show both fresh, lively and more to the point alive. Each moment carries with it an intensity that truly feels electric.

barnum 1

Photography by Michael Le Poer Trench

Brian Conley as you would expect carries this show with a first rate performance full of humour, singing talent and physical dexterity. He is ably supported by Linzi Hately as his wife. She gives a wonderful performance full of pathos and humour and the story they create of their life together is incredibly touching.

Without a doubt there are sometimes musicals that deserve their high reputation and trust me this is certainly one of them.

http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

NEXT STOP
LEEDS
GRAND THEATRE

14 - 25 APRIL 2015

BUY TICKETS ONLINE
OR CALL 0844 8482700

PERFORMANCE TIMES
Tue - Sat 7.30pm
Wed, Thu & Sat mat 2.30pm

 

Apr 3rd

La Boheme and The Siege Of Calais - The Lyceum Theatre

By Paul Tyree

English Touring Opera 

La Boheme and The Siege of Calais

la boheme

(Image by Richard Hubert Smith) 

English Touring Opera brings these two operas to Sheffield’s Lyceum theatre on successive nights and both in their own ways do much to serve the reputation of opera around the country.

La Boheme was by far the most successful for them financially as the Lyceum appeared jammed to the rafters with patrons, whilst sadly The Siege of Calais appeared half empty. Being a much less well known piece perhaps this was always going to be the case although I for one found The Siege of Calais much more satisfying artistically.

In La Boheme the story of Rodolfo and Mimi whilst tragic and very moving has undoubted issues. The structure of the opera is incredibly episodic and leaves the audience with a lot of blanks to fill in for themselves. Whilst I enjoyed the piece my companion for the evening was willing Mimi to die as quickly as possible so that we could leave the auditorium. Also the positioning of the subtitle screens was such that you would continually have to look away from the action to read and then back again. This almost tennis like turning of the head became incredibly frustrating throughout the evening. Certainly last year when ETO performed the screens were nearer the stage and so you could see both at once.

The story of The Siege of Calais, the plot of which is inherent in the title felt far more satisfying as a piece of storytelling. The story of a city under siege where good men have to sacrifice themselves in order to save their home felt just as tragic as La Boheme but far more fulfilling and memorable.

siege

(Photo by Bill Knight)

As always it has to be said that both pieces were sung by all concerned fantastically well. The orchestra were fantastic and the staging of each opera whilst simple was very effective and served the pieces well. In summary,  these are two operas that remind us of how powerful this art form can be. They are both incredibly accessible and, minor issues aside, I would urge anyone to give them a try. 

Click here for tour dates

Contact number: Telephone: 020 7833 2555