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Jun 28th

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

28th June 2016

Joseph poster atg

Joseph, with music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, was first performed professionally in 1972 in Edinburgh by the Young Vic Theatre Company. After 46 years it is still a feel-good musical, the epitome of the narrative of good over evil. The musical, based on the story of ‘the coat of many colours’ from the Book of Genesis, features Joseph, complete with gaudy coat and the gift of interpreting dreams and telling the future. We follow the young man’s adventures – his brothers’ jealousy, his slavery, his life in Potiphar’s household, his imprisonment and eventually his rise to fame and fortune as the Pharaoh’s right-hand-man.
Joseph prevents starvation in Egypt and in so doing becomes the country’s most powerful man. When his brothers come in search of food it is Joseph who deals with them; this leads to his being reunited with his father. Thankfully we are led through the complications of the story by The Narrator (Lucy Kay). This role demands a constant presence on stage as well as great vocal talent. Lucy Kay fulfils this role admirably. Through song she tells the story while introducing a whole range of musical styles including pop, jazz, rock and roll, and Charleston. All add to the feel good factor especially with the lyrics of such catchy numbers as Go, Go, Go Joseph, One More Angel in Heaven and Any Dream Will Do. Especially bizarre were Those Canaan Days, complete with Breton T-shirts, an onion seller and the Eiffel Tower, and Benjamin Calypso with frou frou costumes and tango-like dancing. 
Heading the production is Joe McElderry as Joseph. Joe sings energetically and convincingly. He throws himself unreservedly into the part and the success of the show rests firmly on his shoulders. He is supported by Emilianos Stamatakis as Pharaoh (this Pharaoh has more than a touch of Elvis about him, complete with hip swivelling) as well as his eleven brothers (who also play other roles); they add zest and comedy to the musical with great confidence in all the singing styles. In fact under the direction of Bill Kenwright the whole cast shine, the dancing is choreographed dynamically and the production handled masterly with a brilliant set, clever lighting, wonderful costumes, remarkable musicians and unforgettable special effects. 
Mention must be made of the children from the Myra Tiffin Performing Arts School and Thornton College who act as the chorus. They are on stage throughout the performance and do not disappoint. 
This musical is wacky and off the wall. With its pantomime features – inflatable sheep, talking camels, a dismantled goat -  its unique assortment of musical genres and its talented cast, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat must give great enjoyment to a wide audience.
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dreamcoat is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd July.
 
www.atgtickets.com 0844 871 7652 Booking fee applies       
Jun 21st

Rehearsal for Murder - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

20th June 2016

Poster

The Classic Thriller Theatre has brought to the stage a clever, intriguing ‘whodunnit.’ The play was written by Richard Levinson and William Link as a 1982 TV movie, and adapted for the stage by David Rogers. The most striking aspect of Rehearsal for Murder is that it is a play within a play, a nested play (the rehearsal in the title is itself a misnomer). The story itself is straightforward. The playwright Alex Dennison (Alex Ferns) is heartbroken over the death of his fiancée and leading lady Monica Welles (Susie Amy). He is certain she did not take her own life, on the opening night of her stage debut, and is determined to discover who killed her. But the handling of the story is anything but straightforward. 

To unravel the truth, Dennison convenes the same cast and crew to read through a new play a year to the day of the death. The parallels between the new play and the real life situation are plain – even a similar, often muddled, name for the main protagonist. In flashbacks we are introduced to the characters who were present on that fateful night – the blonde starlet and her muscular lover, the sex-obsessed, ageing lothario, the money-obsessed producer – and, according to Dennison, they are all possible murder suspects. The dead leading-lady takes a main part in the unravelling of the mystery, appearing and disappearing into the darkness.

The set design is simple – a poorly furnished disused rehearsal room; the lighting of shadows and spotlights plays an important role in the play. Although these aspects add to the mystery of the play, it is the acting which kept the audience silent and enthralled to the final twist in the tale. Alex Ferns is excellent in his role of Alex Dennison, changing from organised and active to heart-broken and despairing in a few words; his cast, especially Susie Amy, Mark Wynter and Gwynfor Jones wittily personify theatre ‘types’.

Rehearsal for Murder is a well-written, well-performed murder mystery; the who and  why of the murder are ingenious and, I am certain, impossible for any audience to predict. 

Rehearsal for Murder is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25th June

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

Jun 16th

Guys and Dolls - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 14h June 2016

Guys and Dolls Johann Persson

image credit Johan Persson 

This Chichester Theatre revival of Guys and Dolls is in MK until Saturday 18th June following an extended West End run and wide critical acclaimOriginally performed in 1950 on Broadway, the portrayal of Prohibition-era New York has proved consistently popular over the years. Damon Runyon’s tales of the more colourful characters of the time – the gamblers, hustlers and nightclub performers – are the inspiration for the story. Some of the best-known show tunes ever - Luck be a Lady, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boatdirection by Gordon Greenberg and choreography by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright, means this should be a top show and a great audience experience, yet my impression last night was that this show must be quite different from the West End one that garnered all those incredible reviewsoverall it was enjoyable but felt rather lacklustre 

Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield)in desperate need of a thousand dollars to pay for an overnight illegal gambling venue, persuades hot-shot gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman) to take him on in a wager – the seemingly impossible task of getting straight-laced missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) of the Save-a-Soul mission down to Havana for dinner. In the meantime Nathan is trying to secure a venue, avoid Lieutenant Brannigan and deal with his long-suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman) who is frustrated by their 14 year engagementwants him to name a date and specifically to ‘go straight’. The complications that ensue provide much of the humour.  

 
Guys and Dolls Johan Persson
 
image credit Johan Persson 
 
Caulfield is vastly experienced on stage and on both small and big screens and should fit the role – he looks right as the low level hustler but often seemed tired in both action and delivery. Fleeshman also looks right - super-cool and while demonstrating some elements of the charming, wise-cracking character of Skythere was a lack of consistency last nightO’Byrne (Sarah Brown), perhaps not the strongest actress or singer, doesn’t seem to have found her feet with the character. It is Dearman who is the outstanding performer - commits to each moment on stage, has the strongest voiceplays to the audience, pitches Adelaide perfectly between sassy, sweet and vulnerable, and has superlative comic timing. She left the other leads in the shadows when she was on stage and her performances of Take Back You Mink and Adelaide’s Lament were extremely funny.
 
Guys and Dolls Johan Persson
 
image credit Johan Persson
 
Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and sidekick Benny Southstreet (Mark Sangster) were both played with panache and energy and give much of the humour. A sharp, strong and very energetic ensemble were superb really adding to the action and making the most of the choreography and set pieces. Staging is effective with seamless prop changes to depict the Mission, the Hot Box, the club in Havana. A backdrop of advertising signage from the era – Lucky Strike, Coca Cola – serves in most scenes and is lit in various ways.   
Guys and Dolls is not a modern musical, in that it packed full of dialogue - the sharp wordplay of Runyon’s original prose, developed in the Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows book and transformed into Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics are key to enjoyment and need to be transparently clear to pick up on the pace and wit. Perhaps something technically was amiss with the sound last night. From the stalls it seemed that the only source was from the performers’ head mics and from conversation with those in the circle this also seemed so – just not powerful enough, difficult to hear at times especially when performers were turned away from the audience, with lyrics occasionally drowned out by the brilliant orchestra directed by Andy Massey
All the elements are present for a really superb show but last night perhaps there seemed some lack of enthusiasm from some.    
 
Performances: Tue 14 – Sat 18 Jun 
Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee) online booking. www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)
May 31st

Annie at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Poster Annie MKReviewed by Alison Smith 30th May 2016

This Annie is a polished production of the well-known musical of the orphaned 11-year-old, who finds security and happiness after years of living in squalor and misery. The musical is concerned, unfortunately, with circumstances which still exist almost 100 years later – the effect of poverty on people’s lives. There is a scene in a Hooverville, the 1920s American equivalent of a shanty town, inhabited by people who, because of economic disasters beyond their control, are penniless and starving. The exact details of the circumstances of Annie’s parents remain hidden, but it is to be imagined that theirs was the same as many fellow Americans; subsequent recessions have had the  same effects.

Paul Coltas Annie 1

Paul Coltas Annie 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111image Paul Coltas

But this portrayal of 1930s America is not all doom and gloom – there is energy and optimism and ultimately this is a rags to riches tale. Orphan Annie, played by Anya Evans on the evening I saw the musical, dominated the stage and is a talent to watch; her dancing and singing were perfect.  Her orphanage friends (Molly, seven –year- old Andie Jordan must have a special mention) were Team Liberty and all excelled in their roles, portraying both vulnerability and strength. Their nemesis, Miss Hannigan, is brought to life by Lesley Joseph, who, apart from her accent, excels in the role of a  mean, drunken, self–centred harridan, who along with her detestable brother Rooster (Jonny Fines) and his sexy, lithe broad, Lily (Djalenga Scott) gratifyingly end up with their just deserts in the arms of the law. Oliver Warbucks is Hannigan’s ruination. Alex Bourne’s strength in this role is the care he takes of Annie (most notably when dancing) and in his imposing presence – this man must be trustworthy just through his height! The ensemble are lively; their roles are reminiscent of comic strip characters and with their delightful costumes and choreography exude exuberance and wit.

Paul Coltas Annie

Image Paul Coltas

The set design must be mentioned.  The design is simple – a map of NYC, hanging jigsaw puzzle pieces (Is it just Annie who is nie trying to fit the pieces of her life together11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 trying to fit the pieces of her life together?), moveable lights, gsaw puzzle pieces (  111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111beds and desks. The contrast between Hannigan’s squalid office, the orphanage dormitory and Warbucks’ gold , deco mansion office is marked. The orchestra is superb.  George Dyer’s interpretation of the well-known songs, notably Tomorrow and Easy Street is refreshing. My one negative comment is that at times the orchestra is so enthusiastic that it drowns the singers.

 This is a musical well worth seeing; the actors are talented, the production accomplished, and the direction exceptional.

Annie is at MK Theatre until Saturday 4th July

www.atgtickets.com

0844 8717652

Booking fee applies

 

Ani111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 cingrom her accent, ge1111111111111111111111111111

 

May 16th

Avenue Q - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith

If you thought humans and foam puppets, together, on stage, would be a complete catastrophe, you were wrong. The musical Avenue Q proves this. What the puppets do is allow the actors freedom to be silly, shocking and shameless. The actors are not ventriloquists; they act, sing and move along with the puppets. The show – a long running Broadway production created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx – is in places funny and in others lewd, but still relevant to personal quandaries. What actual use is my degree?  Can I pay the rent this month? Am I gay? But in 2016 Avenue Q is dated as social satire; such stereotypical characters have long been laughed at (and with), have long challenged our preconceptions and attitudes, and  have long provided easy solutions to the difficulties of being human.

 Avenue Q is the street where the characters live – think Sesame Street with swearing – and the story line is the adventures of Princeton (Richard Love) in his postgrad world of self-doubt and torments, searching for his purpose in life. In his new abode he meets a succession of characters – Brian, an aspiring comedian, (Richard Morse) and his girlfriend Christmas Eve, an unemployed therapist,  (Ariana Li), Rod, a gay  banker (Richard Love) and his straight flatmate Nicky  (Stephen Arden), Trekkie Monster – he lives up to his name -  raunchy Lucy and sweet Kate ( Sarah Harlington) and the caretaker, (Etisyai Philip). The action is centred on the relationship between Princeton and Kate, but supplemented with comments on the wider society, including sexuality, pornography and racism. Just eleven actors portray all the characters, yet still give the feeling of a crowded inner-city street. The actors segue into the different characters; Sarah Harlington changes from girl-next-door (Kate) to harlot (Lucy) seamlessly. Stephen Arden’s two roles are clearly created by his voice adaptations.

 The puppets, created by Paul Jomain, are gaudy– green, yellow, and blue – and the monster puppets, hairy; the actors are dressed somberly so as not to distract from their charges. The puppets and the characters ignore the puppeteers, who become invisible to the audience too. Occasionally one puppet even has two puppeteers and at times a puppeteer may be animating one puppet while voicing another. The songs are verbally entertaining, especially I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today, It Sucks to Be Me and There’s a Fine, Fine Line. The music for the show is provided by a live band led energetically by Dean McDermott. The cast are talented – they can act, sing and puppeteer. The negative aspect of this musical is that the material is dated; if the actors (and puppets) were given more relevant subject matter, the outcome would be a fantastic musical, not just a mediocre one.

At MK Theatre until Saturday 21st May

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

 

Apr 27th

Northern Ballet Swan Lake - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 26th April 2016

Swan Lake NB Emma Kauldhar

image Emma Kauldhar

David Nixon’s Swan Lake, performed by Northern Ballet, is far removed from traditional performances of this world famous ballet. This is a more contemporary Swan Lake set in New England in the early twentieth century, ‘La Belle Epoque’ – think Great Gatsby (or even Downton Abbey). The young men are dashing; the young women beautiful and independent. And yet for one young man this is a troubled world. Although there is no evil Von Rothbart or wicked spells, Anthony, the main protagonist, suffers. Since childhood he has been wracked with guilt over the drowning of his beloved brother in the lake. He is also unsure about his sexuality – is his best friend Simon the love of his life? Should he marry Odilia? His mental turmoil leads him into the arms of Odette, a beautiful swan-like creature who emerges from the lake – a reflection perhaps of his dead brother - and into marriage with Odilia, the human representation of Odette. The story begins with the lake and death and ends with the lake and death when Anthony, unable to face the realities of his existence, chooses a watery oblivion amongst the swans. 

Swan Lake NB Emma Kauldhar

image Emma Kauldhar

But the performance is not at all bleak because the dancing is exceptional. There is happiness and lightness in the antics of the men dancers - their skill and athleticism is remarkable -  beauty and grace in the perfect coordination of the swans, humour in some lake scenes and sensuality in the dancing of Odette (Ayami Miyata) and Odilia (Martha Leebolt). The change between the confident Odilia on her return from her travels and the suffering Odilia after her marriage to Anthony is beautifully choreographed. Simon (Giuliano Contadini) dances with repressed sexuality; the joy in his movements is almost tangible. Anthony (Javier Torres) expresses his conflicting emotions subtly through the choreography, at times light and delicate, at times dark and brooding; the slightest movement of his body conveys his deepest feelings. 

Swan Lake NB Lauren Godfrey

image Lauren Godfrey

The set is simple; reeds hide the lake until the third act when the swans – and Anthony - are in the water, which is luminously lit by a wafting blue sheet. The interiors are simple and classic, the lighting setting the mood. And of course the dancing is accompanied throughout by Tchaikovsky’s moving score, played flawlessly by Northern Ballet Sinfonia led by Geoffrey Allan. The original score has some omissions and some interpolations, but these changes seem to enhance the more contemporary version of this Swan Lake. 

Northern Ballet is an outstanding dance company and this Swan Lake a delight.

At MK Theatre until Saturday 30th April

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

Apr 13th

The Bodyguard - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 13th April 2016

Bodyguard Paul Colta

image copyright Paul Coltas

This national tour of the very successful London show has limited ticket availability for the remainder of its run at Milton Keynes. This is no doubt due to X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke in the lead role for the evening performances. She, along with Whitney Houston’s mega-hits, the nostalgia of the massively successful 1992 film starring Houston and Kevin Costner, and sharp direction and production create a sure thing here.

Starting X-Factor style and continuing with plenty of spectacle, pyrotechnics, very clever staging and fine performances all round, this show creates elements of a concert well balanced with moments of quiet storytelling. Such is the standard of polish, style and tip-top execution that this is definitely a show worth grabbing a ticket for.

The thin storyline of the film remains untroubled here; famous singer’s management team hire ex-secret service agent to protect said singer from obsessed stalker (played with effective menace by Matthew Stathers). Immediate mutual suspicion and dislike of singer for bodyguard and vice versa soon give way to passion and drama. 

The film is most certainly of its time featuring Houston and Costner at the peak of their careers and is looked upon with great fondness by many of us who were impressionable young women in the early nineties; those same women appeared with their daughters (and some male partners) to make up the majority of the audience at MK Theatre tonight and made their appreciation vocally apparent throughout the evening.

Rachel and Frank bodyguard Paul Coltas

image copyright Paul Coltas

Alexandra Burke is so well suited to the role of diva Rachel with a powerful voice and singing performance that is spot on. Her acting is believable and her on stage chemistry with Stuart Reid as bodyguard Frank Farmer is palpable. They have some very funny moments – look out for the Karaoke bar scene. Reid plays it cool and is smoulderingly sexy as the alpha male protector. Burke’s spoken sections have a tendency to be a little quiet at times. Being on stage throughout almost the whole show and performing most of the sixteen numbers, including the iconic ‘I Will Always Love You’ which is BRILLIANT, requires unlimited energy and Burke paces herself carefully. It is unfair to compare anyone to Houston and there is no sign that Burke is doing an impression; the more subtle interpretation of the numbers by her as a result of the musical direction and vocal arrangements by Mike Dixon are preferable in some instances; not to worry, the really big numbers are BIG!

Rachel John as sister Nicky is outstanding with a beautifully clear voice. Burke and John’s shared performances are stunning, their different tenors and ranges complement each other fittingly.

Rachel and Nicky - Bodyguard Paul Coltas

image copyright Paul Coltas

Staging is inventive with sliding frames, projections, screens and highly effective lighting to create depth of space and changes in mood and atmosphere.

A dazzling, sensational production and well worth a visit.

The Bodyguard is at MK Theatre until Saturday 23rd April

0844 872 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee applies) 

Apr 5th

Hairspray - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

 

Reviewed by Louise Winter 4th April 2016

What an absolute BELTER of a show!

How I have managed to not see either of the films or any of the London or touring theatre productions of this show is astounding especially after the evening I have just spent in Milton Keynes Theatre! The original film with Divine and Rikki Lake came out in 1988. The musical opened on Broadway in 2002, winning eight Tony awards. The London musical opened in 2007 picking up four Olivier awards and the film remake with John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer in 2007 was a box office hit. It’s been around for ages! My niece (my occasional reviewing partner) has seen the 2007 film and saw it on stage during its last run through Milton Keynes. She enjoyed it so much that she opted to come to this offering too. So, here we were, me with a rough idea of the story and vaguely familiar with one of the songs, my niece knowing the story well and songs almost off by heart. We were like the aficionado and the newbie but after an exhilarating couple of hours we are both confirmed fans of this warm and witty show. What an utter treat! 

Hairspray Lisa Kurttz

image Ellie Kurttz

Set in early 60’s Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the Corny Collins Show, the teen dance show of the time. Although not fitting the image of the show or conforming to society’s image of young women Tracy is reassuringly resilient in the face of the vile behaviour of the spoilt prom-queen-type Amber Von Tussle (Lauren Stroud) and her equally unpleasant mother Velma (Claire Sweeney) who directs the show and engages in a fair amount of nepotism. Sweeney is hilarious, particularly in the final scenes. 

This outstanding musical is packed with fabulously strong numbers – not a duff one among the twenty crammed into the show. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman clearly deserve their multitude of awards for the music and lyrics. Stellar turns from every committed, talented and believable performer of this exceptional cast, plus a six- piece band of superb quality, led by Liam Dunache, and we have an absolute crowd pleaser. Paul Kerryson has combined a team who gel brilliantly on stage and who were at the top of their game last night. I can’t recall the last time the whole audience was on their feet applauding and shouting with such enthusiasm at the curtain call.  

Tracy, played in such a lovable and warm way by the truly delightful Freya Sutton, is undeterred in her dreams for herself and for her friends. Her statuesque matriachal mother (played with great humour and style by the 6'4'' tall Matt Rixon) and diminutive kooky father (Peter Duncan) portray a loving and tolerant family who have overcome obstacles and maintain a positive attitude to themselves and to others. Rixon and Duncan have great stage chemistry and the fun they are having is infectious.

Every single member of the cast puts their all into it; standouts are the leads and the immensely powerful Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle. Her moving rendition of 'Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)' filled the auditorium and had us looking at each other with complete astonishment. She really is something else. Seaweed, played by Dex Lee is funny and sexy and his dancing/acrobatics are breathtaking. Ashley Gilmour as Link Larkin, the love interest for both Amber and Tracy, is just right. High energy and sharp choreography  by Drew Mconie, Simple, effective sets and fabulous costumes and make make for a riot of movement and colour on stage.

Hairspray Ellie Kurttz

image Ellie Kurttz

Though a high-energy musical and a pastiche of the times there are pertinent messages for today wrapped up in this all singing, all dancing bundle: racial integration, tolerance towards others, removing prejudice, body image issues for young women. Ok, so it's all over-simplified but it's not schmalzty, insulting or disingenuous; it's pitched very well.

An extremely energetic and entertaining show and a must see!

Hairspray is at MK theatre until Sat 09 Apr and then continues on tour.

0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkenes (bkg fee applies)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 14th

Chicago The Musical - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 Chicago logo Glitter.jpg

 By Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith 14th March 2016

The song Razzle- Dazzle sums up the musical Chicago. The audience is dazzled by the music and pace of the dancing, beguiled by the dishonesty, and mesmerised by  the characters into thinking that Chicago in the ‘20s was a sexy, sassy, exciting city. It was, however, a place of greed, gangster and murder. In the musical, murder and justice become a form of entertainment; and what entertainment!

The stage design is simple; the set is stark, just a few wooden chairs, two ladders, some feathers and the band, but this plain, dull setting offsets the action. The story is loosely based on the lives of two women, Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan who were accused of murder, but acquitted. In Chicago The Musical their personas have become Velma Kelly ( portrayed by Sophie Carmen-Jones) and Roxie Hart ( Hayley Tamaddon); the former is accused of shooting her husband and sister when she caught them in flagrante, and Roxie of killing her lover when he threatened to leave her -  her defence cleverly and masterly sung in We both reached for the gun. Velma and Roxie, aided by the corrupt gaoler, Mama Morton (Sam Bailey), hire the high-priced slick, sleazy criminal lawyer, Billy Flynn (John Partridge). Roxie understands that her trial is a show-biz opportunity which will bring longed for fame and fortune. In court Flynn convinces the judge and male juror– helped by the woman’s charms – of her innocence. The journalists in the court scene are not so different from those of today – hungry for an exclusive story and paper- selling headlines.( A D Richardson gives voice to a wonderful Mary Sunshine.) The four main characters shine and sizzle. The now classic songs, especially All I Care About and Cell Block Tango, are sung with confidence verging on abandon. This is a story of unlikeable, self-centered  people and the audience should take against them and yet, strangely, the show, through the music and energy is wonderfully cathartic

The band occupies centre stage throughout and this gives immediacy to the music, composed by John Kander with unforgettable lyrics by Fred Ebb. The musicians seem to be straight out of the ‘20s. The 2nd Act opens with Entr’acte  and for once the musicians become movers too -  with some great individual styles. This piece is one of the highlights.

The choreography by Ann Reinking is in the style of Bob Fosse and the dancers’ interpretation of the music is superb; their synchronisation is step perfect. The female chorus in short, sequined dressed are brash, sexy and gutsy; the male dancers, rippling and grinding, match them in sexiness, energy and athleticism.

All in all, this musical is brilliant, forceful, sexy and gutsy. It should not be missed. 

 CHICAGO. Sophie Carmen-Jones as 'Velma Kelly'. Photo by Catherine Ashmore (1).jpgimage copyright Catherine Ashmore

At MK Theatre until Saturday 19th March

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

 

Mar 2nd

Goodnight Mister Tom - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

Reviewed by Alison Smith 1st March 2016

Mister Tom promo poster

The portrayal of child cruelty in Michelle Magorian’s 1981 novel, Goodnight Mister Tom, is, heartrendingly, still relevant in 2016; but in the portrayal of an old man’s love for a battered child  we are shown the positive side of humanity, the resilience of human beings and the value of love. Although the story has a traditional happy ending, issues such as bullying, mental illness and death are dealt with unsentimentally.

The story is set in the years of World War II. William, an evacuee from Deptford, East London, is placed in Dorset in the home of unsociable Tom Oakley, an elderly widower, whose wife and infant son had tragically died 40 years previously. Tom, or Mister Tom as William calls him, is taciturn and antisocial.  The arrival of William, bruised physically and mentally, a boy scared of his own shadow, who quails at the sight of Sammy the sheepdog, awakens in Tom feelings of kindness and altruism. In the old man’s gentle care William blossoms; he learns to trust, he makes friends ( Zach, played by Sonny Kirby is confident and extrovert,  a future entertainer, and a most unlikely friend for William)  and  from such human closeness and through the knowledge that he able to learn and, more importantly, that he is  valued, William’s self- esteem rises. This happy, rural idyll is shattered when William’s mother demands his return. The poverty and misery of William’s London life with his religious fanatic of a mother are heart- breaking; the woman is a hypocrite – she follows the bible strictly yet she has had a daughter and there seems to be no husband. She leaves the children locked up and the baby dies of starvation. Tom, sensing the situation is dire, goes to London and against ‘the regulations’ kidnaps William and eventually adopts him.

The production, an adaptation by David Wood and directed by Angus Jackson is spell binding. Tom, played by David Troughton captivates from the outset. His goodness and gentleness are apparent. William, Joe Reynolds on the evening I saw the play, transforms seamlessly from frail waif to independent boy. Zach’s character captivates with humour, singing and dancing (although he can be somewhat annoying!)  And Sammy the dog, controlled skilfully and charmingly, by Elisa de Grey, adds a touch of canine humour to the story. The stage setting is simple; apple boxes, chairs, an  easel  and a bicycle are the main props.  The 1940’s atmosphere is obtained from posters advertising rationing and Dorset, from the songs made famous by Gracie Fields, and from the girls’ games and plaits.  But it is through the relationships of the main characters that we realise the impact war can have on children and in Goodnight Mr Tom the impact of war on one child in particular.

At MK Theatre until Sat 5th March

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies