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Sep 16th

CATS at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Suzanne Lowe

 

Cats holds a special place in my heart having seen it in the past countless times.  Being an avid lover of all things “dance” this show ticks all the boxes for me.

 

The show is based on the book of poems from T.S. Elliot’s “Old Possums’s Book of Practical Cats” a childhood favourite of its creator Andrew Lloyd Webber.  A completely “sung through” musical it has the added challenge for all characters, except “Old Deuteronomy” and “Grizabella”, to be accomplished dancers.

 

From the opening number, the iconic dance moves did not disappoint.  High energy and great vocals draw you into this show from the start with the exceptional level of dance awe inspiring.

 

Lucinda Shaw (Jennyanydots) gives a superb performance of The Old Gumbie Cat accompanied by her impressive troop of tap dancing Cats.

 

I was slightly bemused by the revamped version of The Rum Tum Tugger.  Having been a big fan of the original version and character this hip hop/rap style number didn’t sit well with me.  My first thought was “If it ain’t broke…….”  However my much younger companion who was experiencing Cats for the first time was completely enthralled by this number.  Marcquelle Ward (Rum Tum Tugger) produced some impressive dance moves even if it was not quite to my taste.  I felt the characters normally strong presence was perhaps diminished by the changes.

 

Marianne Benedict’s (Grizabella) moving performance of the iconic song “Memory” was a particular highlight of the night.  Her outstanding vocals ensured that the audience gave the longest applause I have heard in a long time for a solo number.   Joe Henry and Emily Langham (Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer) delighted the crowd with their high impact routine while still delivering impressive vocals.  Lee Greenway’s (Skimbleshanks) performance of the railway cat was a joy to watch.  Always a crowd pleaser this was excellently backed up by the Cats Chorus.   Mr Mistoffelees, played by Shiv Rabheru, executed a visually entertaining phenomenal dance routine.  His impressive “spin” skills a particular highlight.  Special mention also has to go to The White Cat played by Sophia McAvoy.  A joy to watch her beautiful transitions between moves and exceptional balancing skills were a particular favourite of mine.

 

I did however, feel that the first half of the show seemed to be a little less impressive than that of the second.  Perhaps this was due to finding myself in the Gallery.  A little high up to be drawn into the cat like movements which are always carried out superbly by cast members.  Although looking down from that height gave a great view of the overall dance numbers anything happening upstage on raised levels could not be seen.  I think perhaps this did spoil the spectacle that is “Cats”. 

 

Overall, another superb performance of “Cats” by the cast and well worth seeing.  However to immerse yourself fully in this show it is well worth spending the extra money on good seats.

 

CATS – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 13 Sep-Sat 17 Sep

Tues-Sat eves, 7.30pm

Wed, Thurs & Sat mats, 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost up to7p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge.

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Sep 13th

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2016 WITH A TEEN

By Kirstie Niland

The decision to visit Edinburgh for the last weekend of the Fringe with my son Cameron was a last minute one. So we put together a programme based upon advance recommendations from a Fringe veteran, coupled with impromptu choices when we got there. The result was three days of first class entertainment.

We returned home to a whirlwind of back to school and work commitments, and in between we pooled our views (Cameron's in blue) to write this joint account, beginning with Cameron’s first impressions.

At 14 years old, Edinburgh Fringe was my first big festival. Having always wanted to go to one I was excited and curious. It was only the day before our journey to the capital of Scotland that I realised the Edinburgh Fringe was not traditional towards other big festivals in that it was not revolving around one central ground, the venues were dotted around Edinburgh, but this did not then compromise the festival atmosphere.

I particularly enjoyed walking through this beautiful, historic city to explore various venues. Our first stop was Summerhall for two thought-provoking tales in the form of a one-woman and one-man show.

All the Things I Lied About – Katie Bonna

Here, Fringe First award-winner Katie poses the question in a TED-style talk: Would the world be a better place if we were all honest? This begins with a light-hearted journey from birth through to adulthood, looking at the ways in which we learn how to build layers of lies, and why we do it...to fit in, get out of trouble, flatter, protect, save others' feelngs...

We are in the round for this show, and Katie makes the most of the intimate setting with a gently comedic introduction, before unexpectedly disarming us with her family’s true-life story - a shocking account of how her mother was “gaslighted” by her father, who she says psychologically manipulated her into thinking and acting like she was crazy because she believed he was having an affair, which he denied for years. Katie says he was eventually exposed as a liar, but the damage had already been done to her mum, who was discredited as being paranoid and unstable throughout Katie’s childhood. Katie then holds herself to account for lies she herself has told, before giving a public promise to her current partner that although she probably will lie to her, if she does it will not be to hurt her, she will lie with love. She will break the circle.

Katie’s likeable, non-confrontational approach and raw honesty make this poignant story, peppered with humour, a lesson in lies - those we tell others, and the ones we tell ourselves.

Though I’m not really old enough to relate to some of the subjects covered, the show was still enjoyable. Katie started off the talk light-hearted, and ended on a note that was hard-hitting for many but with humour throughout that stopped the mood from dropping too low. It did make me think that if everyone was brutally honest with each other all the time we wouldn’t have any friends, and for most people I don’t think lies are told with the intention of hurting someone. In Katie’s Dad’s case he should have admitted the truth when he saw what his lies were causing.

We both agreed that Katie’s style of writing and performing is engaging, entertaining, and most of all, makes a difference.

Tell Me Anything - David Ralfe

The next show we had lined up was Tell Me Anything, written and performed by David Ralfe. When David was 15 he was in a relationship with a girl called Kate, who had an eating disorder. David tells the story of how he did his very best to help her in a diary-like fashion. It was emotional throughout, and pulled on the heartstrings of all in the audience. As I am about that age now it must have been difficult to know how to help someone you love when you don’t have the experience, and he missed out on the fun he should have been having at that age.

This is true. As David takes us backwards and forwards through his story, he rearranges tubes which are standing on the stage, as though navigating the maze of his relationship. He tries to make sense of Kate's compulsion to starve herself to achieve an ethereal/fairy like image; addicted to a disorder she admits is destroying her, but which also makes her feel good.

David begins the show with an inflatable dolphin attached to his back, as he had read that to help someone with a disorder, you shouldn’t judge, or force them to change, you should love them for who they are, and help them using dolphin-like traits of warmth, guidance and gentle nudging. However as his frustration and helplessness grows, with little support from her family or health workers, flashes of anger appear. Then David reveals his hatred of the media and its pressure on girls to look perfect, his dismay that Kate doesn’t see how beautiful she is naturally, and his revulsion when they kiss straight after she has made herself sick.

He loses the fight, the dolphin deflates, and he describes the ending of this, and his most recent relationship, touching on his need to be loved for who he is too. This was an intense insight into a boyfriend’s battle by proxy with an eating disorder, and the debilitating feelings men have too.

Skin of the Teeth – Fat Content

This was the last of the more serious acts we saw, and for me it was the most moving. Fat Content’s production, written by the award-winning poet and playwright Anna Beecher, is a reimagining of the Grimms' fairytale, The Boy Who Went Forth to Learn to Shudder. The story of a boy who can’t feel fear.

Nicholas is brought to life by Daniel Holme, whose exceptional portrayal of a young man’s vulnerability and simple wish to feel what everyone else does is heart-rending. Nicholas just longs to feel fear, and this, along with a naive belief that what is missing in him will not be used against him, leaves him exposed to adult manipulation. After a violent accident he is befriended by the charming Mr Bacon, who lures him away from his seaside home and makes a pet of him, cajoling him into carrying out dangerous tasks and dares. Nicholas agrees out of desperation to feel fear, with tragic results. Daniel acts out this dark and upsetting tale so urgently as Nicholas, the emotion in the audience is palpable. Despite being a grown man playing the part of a young lad, Daniel Holme, praised as a “talent to be reckoned with” by Onstage New York, shows Nicholas as so utterly open and exposed as the troubled and vulnerable youth, you’re convinced you are watching a young boy in real danger, willing him not to fall into Mr Bacon’s clutches and urging him to run as fast as he can to safety.

Nicholas describes how Mr Bacon and his gang sent him into a disused shopping centre in the dark to learn how to shudder, and blindfolded and whipped him to try and make him shudder at the pain he knew was coming. They even killed the dog Nicholas had adopted to see how he would react. If that was me I would have been terrified, but Nicholas was so determined to feel fear that he did everything they asked, and ended up stabbing another boy as they told him he might shudder if he hurt someone else and felt their fear. It made you want to tell him: “It might make you shudder but it will make you a murderer, and Mr Bacon is using you.”

Skin of the Teeth is billed as “a boldly physical one man show...taking an unflinching look at fear, fearlessness and the manipulation of young men.” It’s been described by Fringe Review as “A Work of Visionary Excellence”, and it is.

Our Show - Max & Ivan

Saturday night, time for some fun at the Pleasance, and what better way to start than with the dynamic and hilarious double act of Max, “the taller one” and Ivan, who “generally has a moustache.” They accurately promised Our Story to be the....Best – show – ever. Praised by The Times as “Astonishing: fast-paced and unflaggingly funny,” Max and Ivan took us through an action-packed, side-splitting adventure, directed by Tom Parry – and I haven’t seen Cameron laugh as hard at a show – ever.

This show tells the side-splitting tale of how the comedic duo first met, at two neighbouring summer camps. I can genuinely say this show was one of the funniest hours of my life. Having heard of Max & Ivan before I was excited to see what their show would be like, and I was not disappointed. I found myself laughing to the point where I didn’t even make a noise, just a combination of shaking and wheezing. It also included some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen, taking a random man from the audience and creating “Luke the Destroyer,” the incredible wrestler who would save Max at the end of camp wrestling match, where the best wrestler must have a one on one fight with the coach. Possibly the funniest show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Max & Ivan are a must see, and definitely on our list for next year.

Like all successful double acts, Max & Ivan have a chemistry and affinity which results in impeccable comic timing, drawing belly laughs from the audience, sometimes without uttering a word, simply with an expression or stance. True comedy talent, with a lovely montage of photographs at the end of Max & Ivan when they were little boys. Awww. I second Cameron’s vote to see them in 2017.

If you can’t wait until then, check out their live dates here.

The Naked Magicians

They promised sleeves up, pants down – and as for the traditional magician’s top hat...well it was used for something a lot more naughty than pulling a rabbit out of.

Suffice to say this show features full frontal illusions. However there is nothing offensive about this Australian duo. The Naked Magicians are all about sauce not sleaze, and a little bit striptease. There are lots of surprises up the boys’ sleeves, when they’re wearing them, some (not too risqué) audience participation, and plenty of jokes along the way. I don’t want to give too much away about this one as part of the magic is all about the reveal – literally.

Currently wowing audience in the West End until 24th September. More info here.

Stop the Train Musical

From day two onwards the shows we had planned were mainly comedy, and it was well needed after the starting shows from the previous day. Following a good night’s sleep we set off to Paradise in Augustine’s, the venue for Stop the Train, written by Lancashire’s own Rick Guard and Phil Rice. Probably the most relatable show at the Fringe for me, and every other teenager. Stop the Train highlights the overuse of technology, not just among teens, but among working adults in the UK. Similar to All the Things I Lied About this show kept the mood aloft throughout with humour. One of the highlights has to be my favourite song, describing how the show’s financially struggling Welshman is waiting for his balls to drop (his lottery balls of course).

This is a personal favourite of mine, having already seen the show in Lancashire last year. Still in development, the musical merges catchy songs and humour with thought-provoking twists and turns – and lyrics that are current and relevant. Again, the best performance for me was by the beauty therapist and wannabe wag, who detailed her: “Ten steps to being famous, with no discernible talent.” Stop the Train sold out throughout the Fringe, so it’s no surprise to hear that very soon after, Rick Guard was sitting in Cameron Mackintosh's London office! I look forward to seeing this upbeat, characterful musical make a stop at the West End.

http://stopthetrainmusical.com/

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

And so on to the Pleasance Grand for the first improv show of our visit, which was given a huge build up - billed as a musical, made up on the spot, using ideas from the audience. It’s “Edge-of-your-seat, laugh-out-loud funny. Raw and satirical,” proclaimed BritishTheatre.com.

When I first heard what the idea of this show was I wondered what could happen if the whole thing just fell apart. However this was not the case, and how the performers kept this going for a full 70 minutes I have no idea. Showstopper! is a musical, but completely improvised, I don’t know how they manage it but they do, and then some. With the audience suggesting what the play should be about, the winning idea was brilliant; a musical set at Queen Elizabeth II’s hen party, and the same man who suggested this idea then followed it with an equally brilliant title, Liz on the Lash. Using wit, excellent vocals and hilarious acting, Showstopper! put together a better musical on the spot than most people ever could.

Suggestions were also taken from the audience for the show’s themes, and these were Chicago, Hair, Into the Woods, Hamilton and Kinky Boots. Clearly such a tall order calls for a cast who are completely in tune with each other – and they were. Working together with such intelligence and wit resulted in one of the best displays of teamwork I’ve witnessed. Their tale of a reluctant Queen who has promised to marry the son of Greek, who doesn’t think he loves her – but then realises he does after Liz disappears incognito, and has a few too many tipples with a commoner in Portsmouth, is laugh out loud funny. The quickly improvised choreography is amusingly clever. The stand-out performance for me came from Ruth Bratt, who has many radio and TV comedy credits (including Radio 4's Sarah Millican’s Support Group) and played Queen Liz with aplomb. In words taken from one of the improvised songs, Liz on the Lash made a splash.

Eurobeat

Eurobeat is a comedic parody of the annual continental song contest we all know and love, and watch every year, even though we realise the UK will do terribly. The show plays on the common stereotypes of the countries in Europe. Probably not the most PC show at the Fringe, but definitely one of the funniest.

Eurobeat is held in Moldova, hosted by local celebrities Katya (Rula Lenska) and Nikolai (Lee Latchford-Evans). Basically this is a kaleidoscope of sequins, schmaltz and stereotypes, much like the real version with a double dose of irony. As we queued we were given flags to wave for our country of choice, and we all joined in the fun. Rula Lenska and Lee from Steps were a great foil for each other, playing the upright Katya and the goofy Nikolai, and we were treated to a couple of cameo roles for the results by satellite, including the excellent Patti Clare, aka Corrie’s Mary Taylor.

The vocals and choreography were strong and polished, with the cast clad in country-themed costumes. This is guilty pleasure at its best with no cliché left unturned. From the robotic Jedward-inspired Irish duo with flashing green trainers, to the innocent English Morris dancers in white (all probably related and from Portland we were told), and the girl group from Morocco with the culinary inspired lyrics: “His love was hot like Vindaloo...turmeric is sour, cinnamon is sweet, mixing it together makes it good to eat...”

Thank you Eurobeat!

Aaand Now for Something Completely Improvised – Racing Minds

On our last day of the Fringe we had our first morning show, another improv. Expecting something brilliant after seeing Showstopper!, yet again I wasn’t disappointed. Racing Mind’s Aaand Now for Something Completely Improvised is exactly what it says. Using a few props that are already on set at the start, appropriate music, and their own creative imaginations, Racing Minds produce from scratch, a play lasting a whole hour. Like Showstopper! they took ideas from the audience to create their show, asking random audience members to name the characters, a secret, and a title. We ended up with a mesmerising production named “The Missing Radioactive Submarine” in which the main character was Dave, whose big secret was that he had a very large breakfast this morning... with half a bottle of wine. In a cafe in Sau Paulo. Using this alone as a template for their story the group produced a fantastic, political satire, the majority of which I was doubled over laughing at.

What can I say, we were completely in awe of the comic genius involved in developing a plot from such a random and bizarre set of suggestions. As TheNewCurrent.co.uk says: “Insanely original.”  Amidst the actual story there is some good-natured leg-pulling amongst the group and some real life insights, such as the reason for Chris Turner’s absence. He was at a wedding in Germany apparently (due to return for his own show that night), and had texted to say it which was well worth going as he had met several people who owned planes.

The emerging plot involved two Smashie and Nicey type DJs, who are active on the radio (nice twist). They are broadcasting from a submarine captained by a Russian crew, and this is misconstrued as a political threat and potential nuclear disaster, which David (Dave) Cameron manages to avert, thereby redeeming himself following his resignation. There were inspired performances from all, and an intelligent weaving of world politics into a topical comedy on the spot.

Daniel Nils Roberts – Honey

Racing Minds were so good that we decided to see one of the group’s one man shows - Daniel Nils Roberts’ Honey. We entered this show with high expectations, after seeing Daniel’s brilliant performance in the previous show. One by one Daniel plays different characters, and I became part of the show when one of them, the ambitious American UNICEF employee, asked me to feed him yoghurt and jam, using what was essentially a cardboard spoon shaped like a hand, holding it under my armpit. This was supposed to prove the point that the problem with babies is their tiny little arms. After departing this show, past Daniel snogging a bear wearing a blonde wig and skirt, we made our way to the Pleasance Beside for our last show of the Fringe.

The exit was as alternative as the entire act, which begins with a man dressed as a bear (the show’s device), sitting, arms folded, surveying us as we enter. This introduction alone sets an anticipatory tone for some daft humour, so we are already on the brink when Daniel begins what has been billed as “An explosion of gag-stuffed sketches and unhinged characters from this mischievous man-child.”

There’s a multi-media backdrop to set the scenes, including the UNICEF employee’s presentation, and a simple pink screen for the lovelorn romantic author who reads aloud to us. Daniel’s guide of historical art, with famous works of art studied and given alternative names, is simply hilarious. This is “had-to-be-there” humour at its best. Difficult to describe but impossible to forget. One fantastically funny moment, a 120 second one in fact, was when Daniel announced we were having a two minute break. And we did, as Daniel sat, to our surprise, doing nothing. Apparently the aim was to tackle the "Edinburgh slump," the 40 minute stage where audiences lose concentration. Was he really going to wait for two minutes? Yep, he did. And it worked. We paid avid attention for the remaining 18 minutes. We will be keeping an eye out for more of Daniel Nils Roberts, and his fellow Racing Minds comics.

Observational Tragedy – Chris Turner

To finish off a great few days, our finale to the Fringe was Chris Turner’s Observational Tragedy. This show was probably one of my favourites. Chris starts off the show talking about what he is good at, freestyle rapping. On entrance to the Pleasance Beside you are handed a post-it note and a sharpie to write down an object or topic. The post-its are stuck on the wall in a row, along with with hundreds upon hundreds of ideas written by previous audience members. With this being the last show the wall was almost covered beneath a sea of yellow squares. Chris randomly chose a few, and then from nothing except what he has in his head, rapped about them – a tornado, a flat screen TV, the big bang theory, and “Kalahari mice shit”. Chris had the whole audience in awe of his talent. After this however, Chris told us what he can’t do, he can’t recall long term memories, and has to anchor them to music in order to remember them further down the line. I can’t imagine how hard it must be not to have memories, but at the other end of the scale he has an exceptional gift and is using that to combat his problem, as well as stun audiences.  Chris is doing another show next year about feeling inadequate, and it will be top of our list.

I had read about Chris Turner prior to booking this show, and was intrigued to see the “lanky, intelligent white guy, leaning slightly on the posh side, who can really… rap.” His reputation as a talented freestyle rapper is well deserved, his skill at composing a track-length rap, with witty rhyming lyrics, from just a few post-it note prompts is jaw-dropping. So this rare talent underlines the poignancy of his revelation that he remembers facts but not experiential memories. Chris is a charming, sensitive young man, with evident love for his partner who he bonded with over her fondness for inspirational quotes, which she pins to her bedroom wall. The show hinges on one particular quote from Iris Murdoch’s The Sandcastle, and its reflection of the speed and ease with which something beautiful and full of hope can flip to sadness and loss.

“I saw a butterfly flying out to sea. It will get lost out there and die.”

Chris takes us through photographic evidence of his childhood experiences, much of which he relates to his grandparents. He describes the painful loss of his grandmother, prior to her death, to Alzheimer’s. This was especially tragic for Chris because she was a powerful key to his long term memory. Despite the sadness of the stories, the mood is never low, Chris adds touching and funny anecdotes throughout, and asks for volunteers to share their own childhood memories, which he then turns into a second astounding rap.

Chris’s last show talked about his mortality, as he celebrated the approach of his quarter-century birthday - the age at which a doctor predicted he'd die from the genetic medical condition he has, Marfan Syndrome. His ability at just 25 to take the cards he’s been dealt and not let them define him, to turn things on their head, find solutions, and share that in such an original, highly intelligent and humorous way is laudable. Chris also has an uncanny knack of chatting easily with the audience like it’s circle time. Overall, a unique show which is clever and funny, and tackles some serious subjects without getting too deep. As I tweeted after the show, Chris Turner is pretty fly, pretty awesome. He’s also pretty damn inspirational. What a finale.

Reflecting on all of this when Cameron and I arrived home, I discovered a quote to hang on our own wall.

“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has changed, and that changes everything.” Jonah Lehrer

Edinburgh Fringe 2016 was one of the highlights of the year for us both. It made us think, laugh, and plan things for the future, and know, that if in doubt, you can always improvise.

And most of all laugh a lot. In the right circumstances, there is humour in everything. Even mouse poo.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 27th

Wizard of Oz (RSC Version) Theatre Royal Glasgow, 22nd – 23rd July 2016

By Jon Cuthbertson

Well a twister certainly hit the Theatre Royal last week with an energetic production of Wizard of Oz.

 

As part of ATG’s Stage Experience, in only its second year, local children were given the opportunity to rehearse and perform in a professional theatre environment. However, they were given much less of a chance than a professional performer and had to pull the whole show together in less than two weeks of rehearsal! Glasgow must have some very talented kids to have delivered such polished vocals and choreography in that short space of time. Lisa Kennedy, assisted by Greg Robertson, created some wonderful and varied routines which the children delivered with precision and energy. From ballet moves to modern street dance all genres were covered and made to look like they were intended to fit the classic score.

 

Anna Cowen as Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of The West had some of the best lines in the show and these were delivered with a great helping of sass making her for me the The Wisest Wit in the West! Managing not to upstage the 75 strong cast (but only just due to extreme levels of cuteness) was Angus as Toto. Also a newcomer to the stage, Angus seemed perfectly at home and worked extremely well with Cara McQuiston as Dorothy.

 

Another part of the Stage Experience remit is to have young people assisting in the technical roles for the production too. This is no mean feat and they made a sterling effort at keeping the show running well. It looked like ATG had put the budget to good use here too with some good effects making the magic happen on stage.

 

Ryan Moir, Musical Director, pulled some brilliant vocals from the cast and even the smallest of munchkins could be heard clearly. He also must have been delighted about the cast he had to work with - in particular Alastair McLeod’s lovely warm tone as the Tin Man which had the audience, as opposed to the witch, melting. However he did save the best til last and used the finale to showcase once again the wonderful vocals of Cara McQuiston as Dorothy. Singing a reprise of Somewhere Over The Rainbow unaccompanied to a full auditorium was surely a risk for this 13 year old, but there was no sign of nerves here, just a beautiful lilting voice with more than a nod to the young Judy Garland which left many of the audience with tears in their eyes.

 

 

This is a fabulous showcase from the creative learning department, who provide some great opportunities throughout the year for young people, and I am already looking forward to seeing what production they’ll pull together next year.

Jun 15th

Footloose the Musical at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

When one of your favourite shows comes to town you are faced with a choice … either to enshrine your beloved memories forever, or to see the show again and again.  For the theatre lover, the natural choice is to see that show over and over but there is always that small risk that you might taint those hallowed memories …

I was faced with just such a choice as one of my all-time favourite musicals comes to the King’s Theatre in Glasgow this week … and as ever the theatre lover in me won the day.

Footloose, the Musical is, in many ways, irrepressible.  It’s got that uplifting 80s soundtrack (Footloose, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, …) and a heart rending coming of age storyline of personal loss and overcoming impossible odds.  There are plenty of comedic characters and a laugh out loud script to lighten the drama too.  This production aims to capitalise on all of those positive elements and to add another impressive factor – a cast who play live instruments!  On the face of it, it’s a great idea.  What’s not to love!?  

But, while the onstage band / cast are certainly accomplished in their delivery of this fabulous score, the inventive choreography from Matthew Cole is inevitably somewhat stifled by a cast who are carrying some extra weight – in the form of instruments! And, for many fans, this is a dance show.

Direction from Racky Plews felt a little over engineered to me.  Characters were rightfully at the heart of this show but there was a little too much pacing around the stage when Dean Pitchford’s excellent script should be left to do the talking.

On the positive side, the cast are vocally talented as well as great musicians.  Hannah Price, as Ariel, delivers a knockout big hitter in the form of “Holding Out for a Hero” but also impresses with subtle harmonies in “Learning to be Silent” where she is joined in perfect harmony by Nicky Swift and Maureen Nolan as Ethel McCormack and Vi Moore.  Joanna Sawyer,  as Rusty,  delivers possibly the best rendition of "Let's Hear it for the Boy"  I've ever heard! Comedy is delivered in spades by former 911 heartthrob, Lee Brennan, as Willard along with his talented sidekicks.  Luke Baker as Ren ticks all the boxes in an impassioned performance which showcased his many talents.

From the choreography, fans of the film should look out for a mock car race scene and a great ‘angry dance’ from Ren.

All in all, I felt that this production punched a little below its weight.  But this is a heavyweight musical with many knockout elements and it should be seen nonetheless.

Footloose the Musical

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Mon 14 – Sat 18 June 2016

Evenings 7.30pm

Wed and Sat 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

Jun 9th

That’s Entertainment, Theatre Royal Glasgow - 7th-11th June 2016

By Jon Cuthbertson

Billed as “The Dazzling Song and Dance Extravaganza” and “The Greatest Hits of the 40s and 50s”, That’s Entertainment sells itself to be quite a show. With a rather strange mix of songs and guest stars who don’t seem to exactly fit the remit of the show, the promise seemed to be going amiss. However, the energetic cast turned all that around and the show title says exactly what they provide and That’s Entertainment.

 

It’s actually hard not to like this show, 4 excellent lead vocalists, 10 energetic ensemble dancers and Elaine C Smith doing what she does best – entertaining a crowd. The show doesn’t get off to the best start – opening with the title number – when the tap dance routine is “enhanced” by recorded tapping. Such a shame as the cast looked like they could easily have coped without this extra help (and that goes for the recorded voices too!). And while we are discussing music – my biggest bugbear in this kind of show – no live band! Billed as an Extravaganza should mean that we at least see some live musicians! Trying to ignore these bad points (difficult as the recorded tapping appears another 3 or 4 times) is made a lot easier by the talent that is on the stage. The dancing during “Puttin’ On The Ritz” was wonderful. The lead vocalists all take a turn of wowing the audience. Sean Smith (famous as one half of X Factor Act, Same Difference) showcases the clarity in his vocal with On The Street Where You Live and Some Enchanted Evening amongst others. Simon Schofield and Emma Kate Nelson not only show off brilliant vocals, but great dancing skills too during “Good Morning”, “A Couple Of Swells” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and Simon continued to show his excellent range of voice in the closing of Act 1, a simply staged and very rousing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Loula Geater gave a wonderful version of The Trolley Song (with very clever choreography and staging) and pitched her version of Stormy Weather just perfectly. The 10 strong ensemble gave great support and it seems a shame to single anyone out, but Bethany Dows’ routine with the boys during Luck Be A Lady was dynamic and it was hard not to be drawn to her during other routines too – much like Charlie Barker who was full of character during his dancing too.

Throughout the tour the show has a different guest star, and I’m sure they will all bring something different to the show – Jane McDonald was in Edinburgh and Ruthie Henshall and The Overtones join at other points on the tour. In Glasgow, we were presented with our very own Elaine C Smith (suppose it saved the producers another hotel room!). In her first spot, it seemed like this didn’t entirely fit with the style of the show, but if anyone knows how to work an audience, it’s Elaine C Smith. In each of her guest spots we had our own little mini cabaret – some stories, reminiscing about the movie musicals and also some songs too. Getting the crowd going with an a cappella version of Deadwood Stage lead seamlessly into her version of Secret Love. In later appearances she covered some Billie Holliday (My Man) and Jack Jones (Wives and Lovers) showing off a warm and rich voice that easily works without all the comedy too.

 

Although the set is simple, the lighting design by Martin Perkins elevates the class of the production. With the beautiful costumes (of which there are many – the ensemble females barely make an entrance to the stage without changing costume each time) and the slick transitions make it a visually pleasant show and minus the few flaws (the cockney knees up section? Yes, they even played the spoons – and even those were recorded too!) it could make itself an exceptional show. If you are looking for a west end type musical – then head to the Kings this week for Guys and Dolls. However, if you are looking for an evening of laughter, classic songs and energetic, enthusiastic and polished performances, then head to the Theatre Royal and catch That’s Entertainment – this is a cast that deserves and audience and deserves their applause.

 

Listing Information

 

Tue 7 – Sat 11 June 2016

Evenings: 7.30pm                                            

Matinees: Thu & Sat at 2.30pm

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (booking fee)

 

0844 871 7647 (booking fee)

Jun 2nd

Green Day's American Idiot at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

The King’s Theatre in Glasgow offers an introduction to a rare musical beast; the “Punk Rock Opera” Green Day’s American Idiot.  This truly is a ‘beast’ of a show in every aspect; powerful, wild, (at times) ugly but also AWESOME!

Green Day’s 2004 release of the album “American Idiot” saw the modern punk rock band take a new direction.  It wasn’t originally intended that the album should convert to stage; more that it emulate a more thoughtfully developed album like the great rock operas ‘Quadrophenia’, ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ or even ‘Sgt. Pepper’.  In creating their Punk Rock Opera they were able to throw away their unwritten “rule book” and approach song writing from a whole new direction – a concept album.  What was written may well have started as a ‘concept', but what emerged on stage was REAL – very real, deep and (sometimes) purposely repellent.

Brit singer / songwriter, Newton Faulkner, leads the cast as Johnny (or Jesus of Suburbia) on a year-long journey against the backdrop of reality for the lower middle classes of America following the 9/11 terror attacks.  Johnny’s experience forms the basis of social comment on a nation which was fighting a culture war to determine its own morality while desperately trying to put a face on faceless enemies overseas.  Faulkner’s image, presence and voice are perfect in this role – I found his presentation of the ballads particularly appealing and a great contrast to heavier sections of the score.  Kudos to him for playing a lead role largely in his underpants, too!

Johnny is joined by two competing characters.  “Whatshername” (beautifully voiced by X-factor’s Amelia Lily) represents ‘love’ while “St. Jimmy” (played with suitably manic fervour and equally powerful vocals by understudy Llandyll Gove) represents ‘rage’ – Johnny’s inner demon.  Both characters are a massive influence on Johnny’s actions and lead to a dramatic downward spiral.

The supporting cast are small but fantastically talented.  Each gets a chance to shine in this dark dystopian world.  The band clearly play a strong role on stage and Steve Rushton (as Johnny’s mate, Will) plays a double role as guitar #2 – typical of this multi-talented cast he sings, dances, acts and play’s some serious licks!

The choreography from Director / Choreographer, Rocky Plews, is also a major player in the show as the story unfolds almost like a ballet.  Being a rock musical, Billy Joe Armstrong’s lyrics can sometimes be overtaken by drums and guitar, so the choreography often plays a key role in outlining the lyrical intent.  The exciting (and often comedic) movement is delivered with verve by the energetic cast.

I highly recommend you see this show!  It’s not for the faint hearted – it’s deep, dark, thought provoking, lyrically colourful (they swear a lot) and sexually provocative … but this serves to deliver Green Day’s original message in a powerful format that is the perfect fit for your first ever Punk Rock Opera!

 

American Idiot

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Tue 31 May – Sat 4 June 2016

Tue, Wed, Thu evenings 7.30pm

Fri 5pm and 8.30pm

Sat 4pm and 8pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

May 11th

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

If I was to try to identify a show that first got me interested in musical theatre, it would be Joseph.  Growing up in the seventies, my generation was among the first to enjoy the experience, the fun, the outright joy of learning, loving and performing the school version of what has now become a worldwide favourite. I took my seat fully aware that I would set high standards for this production.

 

The first collaboration of the fantastically successful partnership of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the show was originally written for schools as a short teaching and performance piece.  Their second work was what made this duo household names, though, as Jesus Christ Superstar became an instant hit. Buoyed by this success, Webber and Rice revisited Joseph; extending the piece and staging for a ticket paying audience.  The result of this labour was, once again, a smash hit.

 

The story is well known … if you are unfamiliar with it, I’m sure that you can find a copy of the Book of Genesis nearby!

 

So what about this latest incarnation of the family favourite?  Is it hitting the high notes like an x-factor winner … or scraping the bottom of an empty grain barrel?

 

Let’s begin with our hero, Joseph, played by Joe McElderry.  X-factor winner, Joe, really impresses in this role.  Traditionally this is a headliner part – a none-too-demanding character for a soap star or a presenter to easily step into (putting bums on seats into the bargain).  Joe was certainly a popular choice with the Glasgow audience.  However, he totally excels here.  His energy levels were excellent and he presented easily the most impressive vocals of all of the Josephs I have seen over the years.

 

Joe was ably supported by Lucy Kay who delivered impressive vocals and tangible charisma as the Narrator.  Lucy was a graduate of Glasgow’s own Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  Further support came from a talented male cast playing Joseph’s 11 brothers and the various key characters as the story unfolds.  I did feel that (as uplifting as their songs and characters were) some of the male cast could have given an extra 5% of energy to their performances to add that ‘sparkle’ to an already good performance – particularly when out of the limelight.  The 3 female supporting cast members held nothing back, giving their all throughout.

 

Technically, the show was deceptively simple in presentation but anyone who has programmed lighting and sound cues in a theatre would be most impressed.  With these effects added, the show was a dazzling display! Sadly, I could only see the Musical Director playing live music in the pit and the lack of a live band detracted somewhat.

 

Joseph is a great family show.  A production of this caliber cannot fail to bring a whole series of smiles that will be sure to merge into a massive grin!  Don’t miss your chance to catch this enduring classic of musical theatre.

 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

10-14 May 2016

Tue at 7.30pm

Wed at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Thu at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Fri at 5pm and 8pm

Sat at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm

Tickets £17.90 to £46.40

 

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/joseph-and-the-amazing-technicolor-dreamcoat-2016/kings-theatre

 

Apr 27th

END OF THE RAINBOW - THE KING'S, GLASGOW

By Mark Ridyard

 

End Of The Rainbow
PHOTO: PAMELA RAITH PHOTOGRAPHY

“Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true…”

Probably the most famous words ever sung on film will forever belong to the legendary Judy Garland, from the 1939 movie The Wizard Of Oz. However, despite her huge fame and star-status, her life itself has all the characteristics of one of the greatest stories ever told. Last night, at The Kings Theatre in Glasgow, End Of The Rainbow attempted to tell at least some of that story.

Concentrating on Garland’s five-week-run of shows at The Talk Of The Town in London, shortly before her death, the show dramatises her relationship with her fiancé, Mickey Deans, and her pianist friend Anthony. Some of Garland’s biographers, such as Gerald Clark and David Shipman, have theorised about the dynamics of Garland and Dean’s relationship, and End Of The Rainbow explores their complex bond and inner demons.

The audience filing into the auditorium were greeted with an open curtain - the inside of a large hotel suite. As it turned out, this room was the main setting for most of the action, with scenes set within the nightclub taking place with most of the walls and furniture still in situ. This may sound a little jarring at first, but was in-keeping with the production’s overall feel.

A glance at the programme revealed a very small cast – just three main performers supported by one other. It was obvious that strong stage presence, coupled with polished acting, would be required from each of them, and it’s here that the production really came to life.

In the lead role of Judy Garland was Lisa Maxwell – star of No Limits, The Lisa Maxwell Show, The Bill and Loose Women – and possibly not everyone’s first thought when it comes to casting the role. However, any reservations the audience may have had were soon swept away by both Maxwell’s credibility when acting as Garland, but also when singing as Garland.

Rattling-off numbers such as Come Rain Or Come Shine, The Trolley Song from Meet Me In St Louis and, of course, Over The Rainbow, Maxwell’s singing was a wonderful attempt at capturing the voice of an aging, troubled star, but one who could still hold an audience spellbound as they reminisce about times-gone-by.

Playing Mickey Deans was Sam Attwater, known for his appearances in Eastenders and Dancing On Ice, and he provided a well-rounded, constantly conflicted character who was just desperate to get Garland to the end of her singing engagement. Lastly, and by no means least, the stalwart Gary Wilmot (So You Want To Be Top, Me And My Girl, Copacabana) gave a loveable performance as the pianist Antony who, over the course of the story, tried to persuade Judy to turn her back on her fame completely.

With some surprisingly strong language in places, the production highlighted the challenges faced not only by Garland but by those people closest to her who thought they knew how to protect her. In particular, the changes in those who loved her, but the lack of deep-rooted change in Garland herself, provided moments of comedy and tragedy in equal measure.

End Of The Rainbow was a sympathetic look at a small but pivotal time in the life of one of America’s greatest ever stars and, last night, that star shine a little brighter on a chilly April evening in Glasgow.
END OF THE RAINBOW
at The Kings Theatre, Glasgow
Tuesday 26th – Saturday 30th April 2016
Click here to buy tickets 

Mar 30th

Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Chris Lowe 

 

If you are looking for an evening of glitz, glamour, hysterical laughter and some deeply moving moments look no further than Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the King’s Theatre Glasgow for this week only!

 

The story begins with three drag queens Tick/Mitzi (Duncan James), Adam/Felicia (Adam Bailey) and Bernadette (Simon Green) set off on a road trip through Australia from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform a show at a casino. Unknown to Felicia and Bernadette, Mitzi has a wife and son Marion (Naomi Slights) and Benji (Jack Burns/Connor Paton) who reside at the casino. The trio set off on their adventure with a bus they christen Priscilla. Needless to say fun and frolics ensue.

 

It was an absolute pleasure to watch Simon Green as he played one of the most complex characters of the show (Bernadette). Oozing style and sophistication with a hard exterior but a soft gentle side.

 

Adam Bailey (Felicia) was by far the most energetic and enthusiastic of the trio. With his care free and almost naive approach to life he is a wonderful display of youth and he is absolutely fearless.

 

After a successful career in Blue and various TV and Theatre performances, Duncan James gives a very convincing performance as Mitzi. It’s a role that requires the perfect balance of masculinity and femininity; which he managed to achieve.

 

Another strong performance was delivered by the three divas of the show who performed for the lip syncing drag queens. Played by Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort their strong and soaring voices left the audience stunned.

 

Catherine Mort plays another character named Shirley the Bartender. The character is nothing short of a red-neck stereotype with a mullet, poor hygiene and bouncing breasts. The reaction of the audience was priceless. Truly one of the funniest moments of the show.

 

The ensemble cast could not be faulted in their performance. Great effort and enthusiasm all round.

 

The costume plot delivers everything that an audience could wish for from a tale of three musical drag queen divas touring Australia in a multi-coloured bus named Priscilla! With a flamboyant display of colour and sparkle they provide a dazzling spectacle.  A true delight to the eyes.

 

You will find yourself absorbed in the story and falling in love with the three fashionable drag queens. Priscilla is a real feel good musical with lots of excitement and plenty for you to enjoy. I urge you to go see Pricilla Queen of the Desert you will not be disappointed!

 

Priscilla Queen of The Desert The Musical

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Tue 29 March – Sat 2 April 2016

Tues – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per min plus your phone company’s access charge

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 Photography by kind permission of Paul Coltas

Feb 11th

Annie The Musical at The King's Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Chris Lowe

 

For those of you looking for a great night out, look no further than the touring production of Annie at the King's Theatre Glasgow! This is an evening filled with music, song and dance.

The story is set in the 1930s in New York during the great depression. Young Annie (Elise Blake) is forced to lead a life of pain and misery at Miss Hannigan's (Elaine C. Smith) orphanage. Annie is hopeful that one day she will meet her real parents. Her luck turns when she is chosen to spend Christmas with a famous billionaire named Oliver Warbucks (Alex Bourne). However, Miss Hannigan is determined to spoil her fortune.

The musical started off with a bang with Annie and her fellow orphans singing the well known 'Hard Knock Life'. These child stars were fantastic and showed outstanding rhythm and vocal skills. Natasha Arabestani, who played Molly (the youngest of the girls) stood out amongst the rest with her totally adorable performance. The dancing, as you might expect, from the rest of the cast was stunningly flawless.

Elise Blake is an incredible actor with amazing talent. Her voice was nothing short of breathtaking in the lead role. Other honorable mentions would include the dynamic duo Rooster (Jonny Fines) and Lily (Djalenga Scott) who showed great chemistry while performing together. Grace Farrell (Holly Dale Spencer) was superb. Let’s not forget Sandy the dog who melted every member of the audiences’ hearts.

This is an excellent cast who take their performance very seriously and pull it off with huge success.  Although the production is not the same as the original film it is still filled with explosive song and dance numbers that will not leave you disappointed.

The set and costume designs were spectacular. Together, these gave the audience a real taste of what it was like during the great depression and the conditions in which ordinary Americans lived.   

With breathtaking choreography and amazing performances, Annie is a musical production not to be missed. 10 out of 10.

 

Annie The Musical

King’s Theatre Glasgow

Mon 8 – Sat 20 Feb 2016

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee) Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

 

 

 

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)