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Feb 22nd

Beautiful - The Carole King Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 20th February 2018Tour poster Carole King

This musical takes us from King's teenage years, around 1958, to the release of the 'Tapestry' album and her subsequent performance at Carnegie Hall in 1971. It's a short period of her life under the lens here but goodness did she pack in a hell of a lot!

King really was a gifted young woman with an incredible talent for songwriting. She knew she had something to share and when she was sixteen recorded 'The Right Girl' to showcase her talents to prospective labels. Falling for Gerry Goffin and marrying him in 1959 meant these two brilliant writers formed a personal and professional partnerhship. Taken on by the impresario Donnie Kirshner at the Brill Building they became part of his songwriting business and together wrote for The Shirelles, (Will You Love Me Tomorrow), Bobby Vee, (Take Good Care of My Baby) Little Eva, (The Locomotion), The Drifters (Up on the Roof), and The Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday). Others who recorded Kings music are The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and the list goes on. As a solo artist she has recorded 25 solo albums; Tapestry, the first, was at number one for 15 weeks in the US, sold over 25 million copies and remained in the charts for six years.

This show depicts what must have been a hugely exciting time professionally and doesn't shrink from the drama of her personal life with Goffin and his infedilities and mental health issues. King had two children with Goffin and despite divorcing him in the late sixties continued to work with him intermittently over the years. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Working in the Brill Building at the same time as King and Goffin were Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. The friendship and 'competetive' drive of the two couples is a central theme to the storyline.

Carole King Weil and Mann

Image copyright Graig Sugden

Bronté Barbé as King has a cracking voice when she really lets go but is a little shrill and fast with her dialogue at times. Kane Oliver Parry as Goffin is a good match for Barbé and they work well on stage together. Amy Ellen Richardson as songwriter Cynthia Weil is wonderful and her relationship with Barry Mann (Matthew Consalves) is a source of much of the humour; they have the best lines among some very funny ones throughout. Weil and Mann had some major hits too with 'On Broadway', 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling', 'We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place', which all feature in the show

Carole King Craig Sugden

image copyright Craig Sugden 

Centre to this show is song after song after song, performed by a very energetic ensemble moving the story on dynamically. They have numerous parts and are chopping and changing characters  throughout. Strong of voice and exuding confidence, they bounce on and off the stage as The Drifters, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers. 

A really good evening out with a crowd pleasing playlist and a high energy cast who are committed making this a show well worth seeing.

Plays MK Theatre until Saturday 24th Feb and then continuing on tour

Tickets from 

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/beautiful-the-carole-king-musical/milton-keynes-theatre/

Box office 0844 871 7653 Booking fee applies

Feb 7th

The Play That Goes Wrong, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

By Pete Benson

The Play That Goes Wrong has only one purpose and that is to make you laugh uproariously. Everything you need to know about it is in the title. This is an Olivier award winning comedy written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields for their Mischief Theatre Company.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

The conceit is that we are watching a murder mystery play staged by the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. The plot of the murder mystery is of little interest to us because we are here to enjoy hapless actors and stage crew thwarted in their endeavour by varying measures of bad luck and incompetence. Much of the humour comes from broad physical set pieces and indeed the actual set does end up in pieces and what an amazing set it is.

The idea of a play, presented ostensibly by amateur actors, going wrong is not a new one. In the 80s we had the Farndale Ladies, a series of plays about a fictional village company destroying popular theatre genres and before that was The Art of Coarse Acting, a book by Michael Green which was the journalistic equivalent.

Portraying two stage crew, Gabriel Paul and Catherine Dryden, establish the tone of the play in a pre-show set piece as they try to make final adjustments to the set which defies them at every turn, leaving us in now doubt as to the tone of the performance. Their characters both have story arcs within the ensuing chaos. Catherine’s shy, lowly stage crew member transforms through reluctant actress into megalomaniacal leading lady while Paul’s laid back technician builds an endearing relationship with us in the audience.

The play is introduced with an almost stand up comedic monologue by the company director played by Jake Curran. He has also cast himself in the lead part of the detective. Gradually his controlled but self-important demeanour is slowly worn away until he finally snaps as he harangues the audience for laughing at his ‘serious work’.

Kazeem Tosin Amore portrays perhaps one of the more proficient actors and he moves nicely between his actor character and his real life persona which intrudes more and more as his life on stage reaches new heights of absurdity. My personal favourite was Bobby Hirston who plays, the young love interest and also the variously aged gardener.  There is something of the clown about Hirston who is want to smile broadly, abandoning all illusion of acting, whenever he feels he’s pleased his audience. His monologues are illustrated with nonsensical mime and at times he is paralysed by the intimate presence of his female performers. One of which is played by Elena Valentine who undergoes some of the most physically punishing trauma of the show. She gives a brilliant physical comedic performance as an enthusiastic over actor.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

It’s good to hear a company tackle the large, impressive Waterside theatre without any radio mics. The portrayal of their amateur oration allows the actors to comfortably project without sacrificing subtlety, because there mostly is none though one of my favourite moments was a just audible whisper.

If I have to criticise, and I don’t really want to after being made to laugh so much, it is that as the play reached its frantic crescendo, volume perhaps was sacrificed for speed and chaos. Arguably this doesn’t matter as the play is now irrelevant and bedlam is everything but strangely it hindered my focus. It is a huge ask to keep up two hours, less an interval, of such broad comedy and for the most part this was achieved. Perhaps there were a couple of dips in comic energy but mostly the big set pieces were well paced giving a constant topping of what had gone before.

If you don’t like broad farcical slapstick taken to the limit and then way beyond, this is not for you. With that one proviso, this show will make you laugh with more fulsome gusto than you have in a long while.

 

Waterside Theatre

“Box Office: 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-play-that-goes-wrong/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/

 

The Play That Goes Wrong - Theatre tour dates.

BATH Theatre Royal Mon 12 - Sat 17 Feb   01225 448844            

GLASGOW King's Theatre   Mon 26 Feb - Sat 3 Mar          0844 871 7648           

DARLINGTON Hippodrome            Mon 5 - Sat 10 Mar     01325 405405            

EDINBURGH Festival Theatre         Mon 12 - Sat 17 Mar   0131 529 6000           

COVENTRY Belgrade Theatre         Mon 19 - Sat 24 Mar   024 7655 3055           

BIRMINGHAM Hippodrome           Tue 27 - Sat 31 March            0844 338 5000           

DERBY Theatre         Tue 3 - Sat 7 April      01332 59 39 39          

MOLD Theatre Clwyd           Mon 9 - Sat 14 April   01352 701521            

TRURO Hall for Cornwall     Tue 17 - Sat 21 Apr    01872 262466            

MILTON KEYNES Theatre Mon 23 - Sat 28 Apr   0844 871 7652           

CARDIFF New Theatre         Mon 30 Apr - Sat 5 May         029 2087 8889           

YORK Grand Theatre            Mon 14 - Sat 19 May 0844 871 3024           

HULL New Theatre   Mon 21 - Sat 26 May 01482 300 306           

CAMBRIDGE Arts Theatre Mon 28 May - Sat 2 June        01223 503333            

COLCHESTER Mercury Theatre      Mon 4 - Sat 9 June      01206 573948            

SWINDON Wyvern   Mon 11 - Sat 16 June 01793 524 481           

BRADFORD Alhambra Theatre        Mon 18 - Sat 23 June 01274 432000            

MANCHESTER Opera House           Mon 25 - Sat 30 Jun    0844 871 3018           

NEWCASTLE Theatre Royal            Mon 2 - Sat 7 Jul         08448 11 21 21          

LIVERPOOL Empire Theatre            Mon 9 - Sat 14 Jul       0844 871 3017           

BRISTOL Hippodrome          Mon 16 - Sat 21 Jul     0844 871 3012           

SHEFFIELD Lyceum Theatre           Mon 30 Jul – Sat 4 Aug          0114 249 6000           

BLACKPOOL Winter Gardens         Tue 7 - Sat 11 Aug      0844 856 1111           

MALVERN Theatres Mon 13 - Sat 18 Aug 01684 892277            

TORQUAY Princess Theatre             Mon 20 - Sat 25 Aug 0844 871 3023           

BRIGHTON Theatre Royal   Mon 27 Aug - Sat 1 Sep         0844 871 7650           

LEICESTER Curve    Mon 3 - Sat 8 Sep       0116 242 3595           

LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru           Mon 10 – Sat 15 Sep 01492 872000            

BILLINGHAM Forum Theatre         Mon 17 - Sat 22 Sep   01642 552663            

PORTSMOUTH King's Theatre         Mon 24 - Sat 29 Sep   023 9282 8282           

POOLE Lighthouse    Mon 1 - Sat 6 Oct       01202 280000            

 

Jan 24th

The Jersey Boys - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

24 January 2018

 The Jersey Boys 1 Brinkhoff

Image copyright Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg

This hugely popular, multi-award winning show, at an early point in this second national tour, wowed Milton Keynes last night. I was definitely one of the few in the audience that was seeing this show for the first time and am delighted that I finally have. I had never been that keen before as I had the impressions it was 'just' one of those jukebox musicals that do the rounds. How wrong I was!

This show tells the story of the hard won success of The Four Seasons from their very earliest days. Definitely not a run of the mill jukebox musical but a fully rounded play about the lives and music of this band. Told from the viewpoints of all four members there is a weaving together of their individual perspectives and  as a result, no clear, definitive account is presented at the end. What you have are left with are different versions of events which further add to the element of intrigue about some areas, particularl where Tommy Devito's links with crime and the mafia are concerned. There is a real grittiness to this show and no glossing over of the the bad times. Instead a light is shone on the tensions and difficulties in sustaining intensely creative and personal relationships over a long period of time. It seems quite incredible that the three surviving members, Valli, Devito and Gaudio allowed the writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to have full access and a pretty free rein over the storyline and interpretation; it certainly makes for a very interesting and informative couple of hours.

Along with this faschinating story is an absolute onslaught of the hits of the Four Seasons brilliantly woven through the storyline and performed to perfection by the cast - all excellent actors, singers and musicians. Particularly outstanding are Simon Bailey as DeVito who brings a real swagger and dynamism to the stage as the cocky gambler, James Winter as Bob Gaudio, the man responsible for so many of the compositions, is excellent as the calmer, steadier character and Joel Elferink as the lyricist and innovative producer Bob Crewe gives a very stylish performance. Central is Valli played by Michael Watson here; his vocal performance is superb.

Jersey Boys 2 Brinkhof

Image copyright Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg

Extremely fast paced storytelling with never a pause, there are moments when the dialogue is not completely clear in the auditorium, a combination of the speed of delivery and the acoustics, The music in contrast is loud and sharp as a pin.

Klara Zieglerova's scenic design is fabulously creative and is almost constantly in motion as it is changed to depict different envirnonments from intimate domestic scenes, to the the Ed Sullivan show, to the recording studio. These changes all happen as part of the on stage action and are part of the play so appear natural and seamless. Add in Howell Binkleys creative lighting design and the plentiful costume changes and you have incredibly dynamic and highly effective staging. 

There are six consummate musicians on stage throughout giving the production integrity and authenticity; it is the standard of musicianship of all the performers in giving us brilliant renditions of over 30 of the bands fantastic hits over the course of the show that is the abiding memory of this excellent production.

Highly recommended.

The Jersey Boys plays an extended run at Milton Keynes Theatre until 3rd February.

Box office 0844 871 7653

http://www.atgtickets.com

Booking fee applies

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