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Oct 1st

The Bristol Boogies - Michael Jackson at the Hippodrome

By G.D. Mills

Thriller Live
Bristol Hippodrome
Wed 2nd Oct - Sat 5th Oct




Thriller Live
may have been less than thrilling and at times, one suspects, not quite live, but it was at least an engaging “juke box” exploration of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, from his earliest years as a boy-wonder in The Jackson Five right through to his box-office wrecking Thriller days. Part tribute act, part super-karaoke, this was a fast moving, hyperactive, colour-drenched show, with stage fireworks thrown in for free.

Cleopatra’s former lead singer Cleo Higgins was among the five vocalists, supported by a troupe of around half a dozen or so feverishly energetic dancers. There was some experimentation with the original music, and the singers took it in turn to emulate, in their own way, the King of Pop, though occasionally there were so many gyrating incarnations of Michael Jackson on stage it was difficult to know where to focus your attention.  

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I was a little peevish about being strong armed into audience participation – Who can shout the loudest? I can’t hear you! One more time! Etc – but then I represented a sedentary minority. With a simple static set and a large bank of ever-flashing LED screens as the backdrop, one did at times yearn for a bit more visual variation, not to mention some form of narrative thrust. A biographical account, however, would have been problematic. How do you render sanitary the life of a figure associated so famously with drugs, weirdness and child abuse?

You can’t. So they didn’t.

Despite my own relative phlegmatism, there was no denying the fervour of those around me. Die-hard Jackson fans, many kitted out in the signature white glove and trilby, screamed and whooped and boogied in the aisles. And there is no refuting the skill of dancers capable of performing the moon walk in sync, or the success of a show capable of engaging audiences from almost every walk of life.

This may not have been The Greatest Show on Earth, but it certainly embraced the spirit of one of the greatest showmen ever to (moon) walk the earth. 
 

Thriller Live
Bristol Hippodrome
Wed 2nd Oct - Sat 5th Oct
http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/bristol-hippodrome/

Oct 26th

American Idiot - UK Tour - Mayflower, Southampton - 10th October 2012

By Andrew Tickner

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Having been a Green Day fan for almost two decades, I was delighted to see that "American Idiot" was coming over the UK from Broadway.

 I have to say, overall this show was slightly above average. Considering that Green Day's 2004 album "American Idiot" is a highly political statement of an album with a equally political, although lacking, following album "21st Century Breakdown", I was expecting a powerful and moving show interlaced with classic and great Green Day tracks.

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 The technical production was fantastic and the music was great. However, the choreography was uninspiring and at times resembled little more than a "mosh pit" with the cast resorting to stereotypical "head banging" as if that was the best the choreography could come up with at the time; and to be honest as a rock fan of many years, found quite offensive, as did many other audience members I spoke with after the show.

 Finally, when it comes to the story holding all this together, to say I have seen pornographic movies with more of a story would be an understatement and a huge disservice to the movies. 

Don't get me wrong here. The story, although very basic, was there; although the additional information in the programme adds a vast amount to the understanding of what the writers were trying to get across.  However, having to get the background and basis of the story from this is concerning.

Also, I cannot take anything away from the cast, the performers were excellent, energetic and enthusiastic; and the production itself is quite a ground breaking format.  But that doesn't take away the feeling that something important is missing. 

 Overall - Average. if you are a fan of the music, it is worth seeing; however don't expect to see something with an enthralling story or anything as politically charged and the albums the music comes from.

Jan 26th

Cinderella - Theatre Royal, Plymouth

By Steve Burbridge

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Cinderella

Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Cinderella is ‘the greatest pantomime of them all!’ exclaim the posters and handbills at Plymouth Theatre Royal. Well, I’m always slightly sceptical about such tag-lines and I prefer to make my mind up for myself, thank you very much.

However, on this occasion, I must confess that the proclamation is absolutely spot-on. I should have known, really. After all, with this production having been written and directed by the King Midas of Qdos Pantomimes, Michael Harrison, and starring the sensational Lesley Joseph, it couldn’t be anything other than pure gold.

Michael Harrison has given audiences a production that exudes quality, sophistication and spectacle - not a corner has been cut, nor a penny pinched. The script retains the charm of the original fairy tale by Charles Perrault, but is given a spectacular 21st century make-over with stunning special effects, lavish scenery and sets and fabulous costumes.

Lesley Joseph, one of this country’s most popular and versatile actresses, plays the Fairy Godmother and she magically flies onto the stage on a crescent moon. Miss Joseph, a panto favourite with audiences up and down the country, delivers a performance that is more than just a little reminiscent of Dorien from Birds of a Feather, one of her best-loved characters. Never taking herself too seriously, she incorporates slapstick, parody and elements of vaudeville into her interpretation of the role, delighting the audience in the process.

Matt Slack hurls himself wholeheartedly into the role of Buttons, arriving in an aeroplane and soaring straight into the hearts of the kids in the audience with his affable nature and cheeky charm. His talent for mimicry and physical comedy garners lots of laughs and his antics in the scenes with Lesley Joseph are hilarious.

Laura Evans plays the title role of Cinderella and is a delight as the heroine. Blessed with angelic beauty and a singing voice to match, she brings to the role a warmth and innocence that works wonderfully.

David Robbins and Martin Ramsdin don the frocks and false eyelashes to play the Ugly Sisters, Trinny and Susannah. Robbins, in his prosthetic nose, could be mistaken for Cherie Blair’s prettier sister and Ramsdin bears a slight resemblance to Vicky Pollard. Their costumes, wigs and head-dresses are fabulously outlandish and the pair make a hugely entertaining double-act.

Trevor Jary plays Prince Charming and Kevin Brewis is his effeminate valet, Dandini. Jary is the archetypal hero and shines in his musical numbers, whilst Brewis skilfully adopts the mannerisms and traits of the late Kenneth Williams to convey Dandini’s foppishness.

The ensemble perform energetically in the musical scenes which are effectively choreographed by Jon Bowles.

The Theatre Royal Babes are cast as Lesley Joseph’s troupe of little trainee fairies, Whitney, Britney, Myleene and Biggins, and they almost steal the scene from her in the number, Spread a Little Happiness.

However, it is the stunning transformation scene that has the audience gasping in wonder and amazement as Lesley Joseph, singing Anything’s Possible, waves her fairy wand and a golden invitation descends in a mini hot air balloon, before a cloud of dry ice and a pyrotechnic display herald the arrival of a glittering coach and an animated flying Pegasus. This is the stuff that magic is made of, sheer entertainment!

This production has raised the benchmark for all future professional pantomimes and should serve as a warning to other inferior production companies that Michael Harrison and Qdos Pantomimes intend to retain their position as the UK’s biggest and best pantomime production company.

It must be acknowledged, though, that amazing special effects, sumptuous sets, spectacular costumes and sparkling script would count for nothing without a consummate cast of actors to carry the story and engage with the audience – Cinderella ticks all the right boxes and its star, Lesley Joseph, emerges, triumphantly, as the undisputed Queen of Pantoland. Bravo!

Steve Burbridge.

Performances

Friday 19th December 2008 – Saturday 24th January 2009

Running Time

2 hours, 30 minutes (including interval) approximately

PLEASE NOTE: Performances of this production have now ended!