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Jan 18th

The Snowman at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter on 17th January 2018

 The Snowman and Boy

image copyright Alastair Muir

A charming and gentle production.

This iconic story is enchantingly presented here and there were plenty of appreciative children and adults in the theatre last night.

Spanning all generations, Raymond Briggs’ book appeared in 1978, the film was released in 1982 and the iconic music ‘Walking in the Air’ topped the charts in 1985. Birmingham Repertory Theatre first staged the story in 1993 with the show making its London debut in 1998 where it has continued to run each year since, making it the longest running Christmas show in the UK.

This show has been tweaked over the years,and now includes the roles of the Ice Princess and Jack Frost. Generally though, it is pretty faithful to the book and film as a result of the creative team remaining steady - Bill Alexander directing and Howard Blake as musical supervisor and joint executive director.

Presented here using a pretty straightforward set; floor to roof two-dimensional snowy covered fir trees frame the centre stage. There are a couple too many set changes in the first half where the audience sit in darkness waiting but this could be addressed by using the front panels to project imagery, as is done at other times during the show, mostly to depict falling snow.

ensemble snowman

image copyright Tristram Kenton

There are plenty of little instances of physical humour throughout. My nephew loved the penguins especially and the delightful woodland animals with their quirky and amusing movements and particularly wonderful costumes.  

When extending a show for the stage there are often, inevitably, moments that don’t appear in the story or film and whilst these felt a little bit out of place the children, most importantly, seemed unconcerned with this.

The much anticipated flying is enchanting and really well done with great reference to the imagery of the book and film. There’s quite a bit of it thankfully and it is magical and for many in the audience was emotionally nostalgic; there were tears!  The book and the film both depict the world below the Snowman and the Boy as they fly but this was not made the most of here which seemed  a mixed trick. The story is about the Snowman taking the Boy to a faraway place, another world in a sense, but this was not fully imagined in the staging. Again, employing projected imagery on the back drop or the foreground set could have added to this sense of travel and other-worldliness.

A cast of 17 dancers means there is some dance, but I was surprised that this element seemed underemployed.  This is movement to music mostly rather than a full dance production. There is a marvellous orchestra led by David Quigley but it was disappointing that the carol singers and on stage musicians appeared to be mostly miming.

My nephew commented that the Snowman was not fat enough and I agree; his costume was flapping around him sometimes and I initially thought that this was because he would need to move and dance extensively but this was not so. Indeed all the snowmen and women were rather lean. Although avuncular, they could do with a few more mince pies!

This is a sweet, nostalgic 90 minutes of escapism that rekindles thoughts of the magic of childhood.

The Snowman plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 20th January (There is are three performances on Saturday including one at 10.30am). This year’s tour finishes in Brighton on 28th January.

Box office 0844 871 7653

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-snowman/milton-keynes-theatre/

Booking fee applies

Dec 15th

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 13th December 2017 by Vicky Tomopoulou

 

Panto poster

 

A sparkling, flying pumpkin carriage, fireworks and lasers, magic tricks, live animals, flamboyant costumes, excellent sound, abundant special effects and most importantly, Brian Conley; his personality and humour dominate every scene. Alongside him, fashion guru Gok Wan, as the Fairy Gok Mother is the ultimate co-star. Their interplay is delightful and it’s obvious they are having a blast despite the multiple performances. 

 

While Cinderella (Lauren Hall) is looking forward to attending the Prince’s ball, her Ugly Sisters (Ben Stock and Neal Wright) make here tear up her invitation and stay at home instead. Buttons (Brian Conley) has a dream too – to snog Cinderella. In his effort to win her love, Buttons brings in the Fairy Gok Mother to help with a magical fashion makeover. The situation gets complicated when the Handsome Prince (Matthew Goodgame) develops a crush on Cinderella too. 

Cinderella

image by Barry Rivett

 

The rest of the cast is delivering first rate performances but the force of the Conley - Gok duo is sometimes sidelining everyone else. Nevertheless it should be said that probably every little girl in the theatre wished that she was Lauren Hall, playing the role of Cinderella with charisma and ease. Chris Ellis_Stanton as Prince Charming has a strong presence although his chemistry with Cinderella didn’t feel very real. The Ugly Sisters offer a visual thrill every time they come on the stage wearing a different whimsical costume.  

Ugly sisters

image by Barry Rivett

 

The play is supported by a team of eight talented dancers delivering the choreography with passion and intensity and accompanied by charming little dancers from Milton Keynes DanceBox Studios. At the same time the orchestra creates a party-like atmosphere with a good variety of songs for all ages and tastes to which the audience is clapping, singing and even dancing along.  

 

The humour is a mix of fart jokes, which keep the kids entertained, and innuendos directed at the adults. The real fun starts when Conley diverts from the script causing Gok to break into laughter as he tries to follow.  

Gok and Conley

image by Barry Rivett

 

The two hour long show was captivating and the next morning my 8 year old daughter declared that she wanted to watch the whole thing again. Even though it’s the simple tale of good versus evil, the adaptation of the storyline is perfect for pantomime with an abundance of visual effects and slapstick.  

Everyone walks out of the theatre with a big smile on their face and for that reason the standing ovation the cast gets at the end of the show is well deserved.  

 

Cinderella is at MK theatre until 14 January 2018

 

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/milton-keynes-theatre/

0844 871 7653

Booking fee applies

 

Nov 30th

Sunset Boulevard at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Sunset Boulevard is not, unlike Phantom of the Opera or Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most seen and most loved musicals and this is because the plot - the tale of an ageing film star - is not particularly gripping; on Press Night at MK Theatre  there seemed to be little empathy between audience and characters.  What is the plot?  It is simply poverty meets wealth, young meets old, man meets woman and a violent ending .The ending is not tragic because there is no downfall of a great person – rather the death of a gigolo and the madness of a faded movie star.

However the elements within the musical are spectacular - the music, actors , singing and staging. Firstly the music is complex – there are sweeping ballads, powerful solos, nostalgic and amusing numbers and dramatic songs – The Lady’s Paying, The Greatest Star of All, Girl Meets Boy and Too much In Love to Care. The  16 piece orchestra under Adrian Kirk are virtuosos.

As for the actors Ria Jones plays the role of Norma Desmond the ageing star. She makes the part her own and dominates the stage – imperious at times, vulnerable at others but ultimately pathetic.  Her rich vocals are flawless – especially in  As if We Never Said Goodbye - and her depiction of the deluded actress is completely believable.  The young man she shares her life with, for a time, is Joe Gillis, a budding film writer. This part is played confidently by Danny Mac. Mac has two characters to play – the first as the ‘toy boy’ and the second as Betty’s sweetheart. He is excellent in both. His singing in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ in Act 2 – a great improvement by the way on Act 1 – is powerful. But the actor with the most wonderful vocal range is Adam Pearce as the butler/ex-husband, Max. He glides seemingly effortlessly from bass to falsetto, transmitting heartfelt emotion as he does so.

The musical is complex in its staging. A film set transforms into a bar then into Norma Desmond’s dilapidated mansion and vice versa many times. The two main props are a moveable stair case and two flats, the latter useful for the projection of images of film studios and stars throughout the production.

It is a surprising that all these good elements do not make a perfect whole.

 

Sunset Boulevard is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd December.

 

 

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7653

Booking fee applies

Nov 16th

Tango Moderno at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 By Alison Smith

Yesterday evening the audience at Milton Keynes Theatre was witness not only to a great mix of dance at Tango Moderno – street, modern, jazz and, of course, tango, - but also to a wonderful variety of music  by a seven piece band sequestered at the back of the stage enlivening the proceedings. The highlights of the music? Flight of the Bumblebee played faultlessly by Oliver Lewis, The First Time Ever I saw your Face sung emotionally by Rebecca Lisweski and the charismatic Tom Parsons, the narrator, with his guitar.

 As for the dance, it was disappointing that through injury Vicent Simone was unable to partner Flavia Cacace; two dancers replaced him one of whom was unbelievable. This was Leonel Di Cocco, who in el tango argentino impressed with flawless footwork, restrained passion and his undivided attention to his partner. Unfortunately the same could not be said about Pasquale La Rocca, who although a competent dancer, was minimally attentive to Flavia.

 Flavia is an exquisite dancer, supple, graceful, passionate, proficient in any dance genre. The dances for Tango Moderno were choreographed by the talented Karen Bruce, together with Flavia and Vicent, and executed perfectly by the young, energetic, dynamic company. The narrative behind the show is rather weak – Flavia and her partner have some magic dust which makes the isolated techno-obsessed young couples they meet fall in love. But the story line is merely an excuse to get the people dancing – hip hop or cha cha cha, foxtrot or whatever.   

 Flavia and Leonel’s last dance was haunting and smouldering; the dance an Argentine tango , the music Codigo de Barras by Bajofondo , the musician Oliver Lewis. This dance was perfection, and worth seeing time and time again.

Tango Moderno is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 18th November

www.atgtickets.com

0844 8717652

Booking fee applies

 

Nov 10th

Awful Auntie at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 8th November 2017

poster AA

My nephew has read all David Walliams’ books and greatly enjoyed Gangsta Granny when it was at MK theatre last year so he’s here with me again reviewing this latest offering from the massively Walliams. Neil Foster, of Horrible Histories fame, has adapted Awful Auntie into this stage production with somewhat less success (at least with this audience) than was achieved with Gangsta. Perhaps this is because there is nothing original in this tale. Gangsta was a great modern adventure story full of humour and emotion. Awful Auntie has less of both.  

Twelve year-old Lady Stella Saxby (Georgina Leonidas) wakes up from a coma to find her parents have died and she is confined to Saxby Hall at the mercy of the Awful Aunt Alberta (Timothy Speyer). Stella suspects her Aunt has killed her parents and tries to escape with the help of the house ghost, Soot. An adventure of sorts unfolds but there is more talking than action; the on stage car chase couldn’t be slower and more could be made of Auntie on a motorbike which was visually very amusing but short lived.

Jacqueline Trousdale’s set is great with turning, sliding turrets and her garb for Auntie is fittingly garish and awful. The actors do a good job; Timothy Speyer is super as Alberta, Richard James (Gibbon) has far and away the funniest moments and makes the most of them. Ashley Cousins (Soot) and Georgina Leonidas (Stella) make the most of rather one dimensional characters though Leonidas is miscast as a twelve year old.

There’s not enough mayhem, silliness or laughs. Williams’ has stated that he hopes the stage show will be a hoot but we thought it was lacking in the hoot department. He also states that Stella is a ‘pretty self-reliant heroine, and so I hope children will be inspired to find the strength within themselves to deal with bad situations’. Well, his story is rather old-fashioned and the moral – that it’s not important whether you are ‘posh’ or not - appears rather dated within the context of this partiuclar story. Walliams doesn’t purport to write great literature but entertaining, fun, absorbing books for children with some sort of moral attached. IIt seems that this story maybe is the most suitable to bring to the stage.

At Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 12th November 2017

Book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

 

 

Oct 27th

The Addams Family at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

24 October 2017

Tour poster Addams

The Addams Family was the creation of illustrator Charles Addams. His characters first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1938 as a cartoon strip which was developed many years later in 1964 into an ABC TV series where the clan was fleshed-out, so to speak. Although unconventional and positively odd in many ways, they were portrayed as happy, loving and functional. The show was a huge success even with the highly popular and similarly unconventional Munsters on rival CBS. The cast was excellent, the scripts were funny and imaginative and the catchy four-note theme tune, along with the finger clicking, found its way into popular culture. After over 60 episodes the show was cancelled and it took a lull of a few years for the family to find a new home; this time on the big screen in 1991. This was a massive hit with an incredible cast: Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester. It led to a sequel, an animated series, video games and a range of merchandise and introduced the family to a whole new and young audience; it is the definitive portrayal of the family for many fansAfter all these incarnations the only place left was the stage and this musical, first performed in 2010, is the result of a collaboration between Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice along with songwriter Andrew Lippa. 

Addams Blakely Matt Martin 

image by Matt Martin

Whilst understandable that producers and directors will want to put their own stamp on a production it is puzzling why there would be such a move away from the elements that are integral to the Addams family and the basis of their popularity. Andrew Lippa (music and Lyrics) states that the story is inter-generational’. Indeed, it always has been and this is a fundamental aspect of thAdamms family; that it has an appeal for quite young children through to adults. So, this begs the question why the children Wednesday and Pugsley have been moved into their teenage years and why the only storyline is that of the tedious and overdone theme of two teenagers from different types of families falling in love against family wishes. The result is that the younger members of the audience (of which there were many on tuesday) have nothing to relate to and the positioning of much of the humour as purely adult-appropriate further narrows the scope and alienates even those young teenagers in the audience. This is baffling; The Addams Family has always had an all-age appeal and had something for everyone but this is not so here and this show is definitely poorer for it. It’s not a family show.  

Designer Diego Pitarch states that the production has ‘been faithful to the original’. This is true generally of the visual aesthetics where nearly all is fixed and enclosed within the house The Addams’ residence is in the middle of Central Park providing the opportunity to exploit a wealth of visual elements and create some interest on stage but we are instead given the obvious haunted house set.

Addams Fester Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The show starts dynamically enough with the full company onstage for the catchy ‘When you’re an Addams’ and over the next couple of scenes the main players are introduced. Cameron Blakely as Gomez is outstanding and has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. He is hilarious and the source of most of the humour – not necessarily from the script. While well matched on stage by the rest of this cast he is far and away the strongest player. Scott Paige (standing in for an ill Les Dennis) as Fester was brilliant as gentle uncle Fester, Samantha Womack plays Morticia as elegant and cool but rather too still throughout. Wednesday (Carrie Hope Fletcher) is a fairly generic American teenager here if you remove her specific Addams traits, but Fletcher does a good job. Pugsley (Grant McIntyre) is funny but underused as his sister’s attention is elsewhere rather than tormenting him. 

Addams Matt Martin

image by Matt Martin

The story, such as it is, introduces Wednesday’s love interest Lucas Beineke (Oliver Ormson) as another generic American teenager. Ormson has a very specific voice which becomes thinner and whinier the more he talks and sings unfortunatelyThe two families meet for dinner with the Beineke’s coming to the Addams’ mansion. Here the engagement is due to be announced with, according to the blurb, ‘hilarious consequences’, overselling this momentarily vaguely amusing scene! If anything it is mostly odd, introducing a game called Full Disclosure, and sending Mrs Beineke (Charlotte Page) into some sort of realisation that her marriage isn’t as it could be setting up the second act for the realisations that all relationships have problems and all families are ‘normal’ in their own way. So what’s new? 

This is a very long show as a result of the number of musical pieces that are packed in to make up for the lack of a storyline. The music and lyrics are original, very catchy and excellently performed by the cast who mostly have very powerful voices and are accompanied by an orchestra led by Andrew Corcoran; this makes all the difference in this show. However, the original Addams family theme tune and finger clicking is missing until a few seconds at the end. This was a disappointing for the audience near me who were expecting this to hear this and enjoy some participation. Perhaps there is a copyright issue here otherwise it is unclear why this iconic music would not be used throughout this show. While the music and lyrics along with Blakely are the strongest part of the show they cannot make up for the almost non-existent plotline.

Plays MK theatre until Saturday 28 October 2017

book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

Oct 19th

English National Ballet: Song of the Earth/La Sylphide at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

17th October 2017

English National Ballet have created two stunning pieces for this tour.

SoTE/La Sylph

image by Jason Bell

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Song of the Earth and August Bournonville’s La Sylphide recreated by Frank Andersen and Eva Kloborg are both new to ENB and showcase the incredible talents and abilities of the ENB as a whole.

Song of the Earth has three primary characters, a man, a woman and ‘the messenger of death’. This is a poignant study of life’s journey and of death’s constant presence. Mahler’s mesmerising Das Lied von der Erde score is performed by the splendid English National Ballet Philharmonic led by Gavin Sutherland and each of the six songs is exquisitely performed by Mezzo Soprano Flora McIntosh and Tenor Simon Gfeller.

SotE Laurent Liotardo

image by Laurent Liotardo

Macmillan’s choreography is stunning, drawing out Mahler’s musical phrasing through the performers who are propelled across the whole of this expansive empty stage. Simply attired in monochromatic dress the three key performers present a powerful synergy. Aaron Robison is a fabulously commanding presence as the messenger of death. His height and elegant body line and shaping are well suited to the role and his seduction of firstly the Man, the powerful Joseph Caley, and then the delicate and seemingly vulnerable Woman, Tamara Rojo.  Caley’s character, initially hopeful and robust, is continually confronted and tested by Robison’s ominous messenger. Rojo’s expressiveness is perfect for her character’s journey from spirited purity to the desperate end acquiescence.

This is a challenging, powerful work which slowly draws you into it absorbing you as it reaches its dramatically sad close.

La Sylphide

image by Laurent Liotardo

The second piece here is Bournonville’s La Sylphide, exploring all-absorbing love which ultimately leads to tragic end. Choreographers Frank Anderson and Eva Kloborg stay faithful to this classically romantic ballet’s original 1830s presentation and the feel, in sharp contrast with the first piece is of the traditional. There is a wonderful melding of classical ballet steps and Scottish folk dance which is exciting, in its speed and precision.

This is a captivating piece in part due it sumptuous nature. It is a massive production with full scenery, costumes and cast. Erina Tagahashi as the Sylph, is engagingly, vulnerably magical and her physical expression in the death scene is heartbreakingly moving. Jeffrey Cirio (James) is a thoroughly dynamic performer and Francesca Velicu as his bride to be Effy, is prettily innocent.

La Sylph LL

Image by Laurent Liotardo

Milkael Melbye’s design is fabulous and adds a further layer of magic into the production; gorgeous costumes of rich golds, greens and red tartans and exquisite traditional soft, white tulle for the huge cast of sylphs.

Two completely contrasting pieces which complement each other perfectly in this superb evening’s ballet.

at Milton Keynes Theatre until 21st October 

book tickets at http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/song-of-the-earth-la-sylphide/milton-keynes-theatre/

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

 

Access Booking 0844 872 7677

 

Sep 27th

Cilla The Musical

By Alison Smith

Cilla the Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

Reviewed by Alison Smith 

For those in the audience who were teenagers in the 60s in Liverpool, Cilla the Musical, is a most pleasing nostalgic journey; for others the musical brings to life a plethora of great foot- tapping pop songs, belted out by a young girl with a great voice. Kara Lily Haworth portrays Cilla – a confident, somewhat brash, character. Kara is easily able to cover the needed vocal range and her acting ability gives a believable portrait of the life of Cilla, her triumphs and her heartaches. 

Priscilla White’s life is one of those extraordinary, heart-warming true stories of an ordinary girl hitting the high life. In the right place at the right time, blessed with a strong voice, determination and a good manager/husband, Cilla was a pop star with two number ones in the charts, before she segued into a ‘national treasure’.

Jeff Pope has adequately adapted his TV series Cilla for the stage. However,  the first act is slow  - the setting of the scene somewhat dull , a Liverpool Club, supposedly  the Cavern , Bobby and Cilla’s first meeting, the introduction of Brian  Epstein. There is little to enliven the backs of the jigging fans in the Cavern, with low lights and little energy. The last song of this act – Anyone Who Had a Heart – does at last bring relief to the monotony.

The second act is much more entertaining; there are more set and light changes, lively choreography and a more interesting story line –  will Cilla be a success in the States, will Booby become a singer ,will they part or not? But again it is the music of the 60s, which is the most captivating - the ironic ‘You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away, the moving Alfie ,the touching Liverpool Lullaby.

Two other members of the cast deserve praise. Bobby, played by Carl Au and the tormented Brian,  Andrew Lancel. Both actors are totally believable in their roles,  generously supporting Kara.

The finale was lively – the audience on their feet , dancing and clapping. It is just a shame the first act did not have an equal amount of energy.

Cilla the musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th September

 

 www.atgtickets.com 

0844 8717652

Booking Fee applies

 

Sep 6th

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 4th September 2017

poster Dog

The Curious Incident phenomenon has been ongoing since the publication of Mark Haddon’s novel in 2003. Although it quickly became an international bestseller it wasn’t staged until 2012. Since then it has become an established fixture in theatre-land.

A most unusual book turned into a most unusual play; Simon Stephens’ adaptation is faithful to and respectful of Haddon’s story and Marianne Elliot has brought it to life with her challenging and stimulating direction. The treatment of the book by these creatives must be a primary element in the success of the play; Stephens has been true to Haddon’s novel and Elliot has created a visually innovative and utterly absorbing 3D world from her imaginings of Christopher’s experience of the world.

Dog Scott Reid

photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

When Stephens was asked during the construction of the play in 2012 if he was nervous that he was in part responsible for taking such a loved book to the stage, he responded that he comforted himself with the knowledge that nobody could love the book more than he, Elliot and all the performers involved did.  This love is tangible on stage, not just in the adaptation of the story line, direction, production and staging but in the performances of all the actors. This cast portrays a great compassion, integrity and drive in bringing the story and the ‘messy’ side of some of the characters to life and the depiction of Christopher’s perception and management of the world around him, and in turn that worlds’ perception and management of him, is extremely well crafted, neither trivialising nor stereotyping.

CI Dog

photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg

Christopher, played with absolute passion and integrity by the utterly brilliant Scott Reid, is a fifteen year old with a collection of eccentricities which combine to create a set of complicated behavioural quirks. These make negotiating everyday life challenging for him and his family. Finding people very difficult to deal with, Christopher doesn’t venture out of his street unaccompanied but when he discovers his neighbour’s dog Wellington has been murdered, he turns detective in order to unearth the killer. A complex adventure/whodunit/family drama unfolds as the key players experience a journey of discovery. None experiences so much as Christopher who is, I suggest, a fitting hero for the 21st century. His travels outside of his comfort zone are gripping and realistically alarming accompanied as they are by an onslaught of ear-assaulting sounds, flashing lights and visuals which shake the auditorium. It’s this use of technology throughout the play that gives the play its uniqueness in creating an all absorbing, fresh experience.  

All is confined within a stage-filling, imposing 3 sided ‘box’, the walls of which serve as huge screens upon which images, text, video, and the mathematical equations that Christopher turns to in times of stress, are projected. Drawers and doors open to reveal props – the combined elements of Christopher’s slowly growing train set is a revelation at the close of the first half – and mobile entrances and exits for characters. The physical dynamism created by Movement Directors, Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, is wonderfully creative, particularly so into the travel scenes.

This is a stunning production - challenging, exciting, uplifting, funny and heartwarming. It was packed at MK on Monday night and received a rapturous response. 48 hours later I am still excited and happy as a result of experiencing it!

Do get tickets – it’s on a longer than usual run in MK until Saturday 16th September

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 7677

 

Online booking:  www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Aug 30th

Grease at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 

Reviewed by Alison Smith

We were hit full blast with nostalgia of the 50s tonight at the first performance of Grease at MK Theatre. There was upbeat music from the excellent 7 piece band led by Griff Johnson, innovative choreography thanks to Arlene Phillips and voice, energy and emotion from the talented cast.

Although Grease is over 40 years old – it first appeared on Broadway in 1972 and then the film became a box office hit with Travolta and Newton-John in 1978 – it still buzzes with fun. Partly this is through the simple story line: boy and girl meet, boy and girl part, boy and girl meet and don’t see eye to eye, and then boy and girl make up and the fairy tale comes to a happy ending and who isn’t a sucker for that ! Of course there is drama on the way, but not too much - this is only the beginning of the Rock and Roll, teen revolution after all. The Pink Ladies have their troubles, a school drop-out and a teen pregnancy, but Frenchy goes back to school and Rizzo’s guy sticks by her. And the black leather jacketed T–Birds are not so tough at all – this is not West Side Story.

 The story and dialogue are secondary in Grease. It is the music  - around 18 songs  - and dance which are spell binding. The best numbers are when the ensemble is on stage for numbers such as Shakin’ at the High School Hop and Grease is the Word. Individuals to mention are Kenickie (Tom Senior) who almost flew  in Greased Lightning and Rizzo ( Louisa Lytton), who pulled at the heart strings in There are Worse Things I Could Do .Teen Angel (George Olney),  gave a wonderfully polished camp performance of Beauty School Dropout. Of the two big names, Danielle Hope and Tom Parker as Sandy ‘goody-goody shoes’ and Danny Zuko , it is the former who gets the accolade. She has a stage presence and a powerful voice with a great range. Her transformation into a seductress, complete with 4 inch heels and skin tight trousers when she belts out You’re The One That I Want is amazing. Tom Parker is, unfortunately, the weak link in the show – his singing, dancing and acting do not reach the standard of most of the cast. I did wonder what Sandy saw in him! 

The set is simple – neon lights and moveable ranks of seats and a bar; the band, such an integral part of the show, is perched high at the rear – sometimes hidden but at other times a sight to appreciate. The lighting is extreme at times – bold, bright with a lit-up guitar and a flashing car. The costumes - 140 costume changes – give credence to the actors. Rizzo’s red and black dress, Sandy’s droopy dress and cardigan, the Pink Ladies net underskirts and  elasticated belts, the T-Birds black leather jackets and winkle-pickers –the rollered hair, the Brylcremed quiffs, the  red lipstick and the sequins , all layers of perection

 This is a show of real musical excellence – a first class production and a musical not to miss.

Grease is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd September

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies