Share |
Nov 16th

Tango Moderno at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

 By Alison Smith

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

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

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

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

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

www.atgtickets.com

0844 8717652

Booking fee applies

 

Nov 10th

Awful Auntie at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter 8th November 2017

poster AA

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

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

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

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

At Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 12th November 2017

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

Box office 0844 871 7652

Groups Hotline 01908 547609

Access Booking 0844 872 767

 

 

Nov 8th

The Nutcracker - Vienna Festival Ballet at Theatre Royal, Windsor

By Kate Braxton

The Nutcracker has long been the ballet of choice for Christmas. Tchaikowsky’s world-famous masterpiece is an enchanting tale set in a winter wonderland of twinkly lights, snowy peaks and includes a trip to a magical Kingdom of sweets.  What’s not to like, for all the family?!

The highly popular Vienna Festival Ballet begins its touring production of the classic this week in Windsor, where we join a Christmas Eve party for Clara and her brother, Fritz. Their mysterious uncle – a bit of a magician -  brings a special toy soldier doll (Nutcracker) for Clara, which at midnight, he transforms into a handsome Prince.  Clara finds herself amidst a nightmarish war between giant mice and the toy soldiers. She saves the Prince from the Mouse King and they journey onward to the Kingdom of Snow as we head into the interval.

Founded in 1980 by world-renowned Austrian dancer, Peter Mallek, Vienna Festival Ballet devise a beautifully classical show. The scenic backdrops are simple, yet effective. The costumes capture imagination through dream-like softly coloured hues and the choreography is traditionally styled.

I'm a great fan of the tableaux and realistic life-scenes that the company creates. This is well displayed during the Act 1 party setting where the ensemble characters come to life, expose personality and draw us into the scene. Naomi Solomon’s slippered shape-throwing as Grandmother is a treat.  The individual dances are also delivered with passion, although there is missing chemistry between some dance pairings, with the exception of Jodie McKnight as Clara, and Ashley Selfe as The Nutcracker. They are well-matched and have evident mutual respect.

In Act II, The Nutcracker Prince escorts Clara to The Kingdom of Sweets where they dance with the Sugar Plum Fairy. Casey Pereira delivers the classic solo dance with sweet control, well supported by Dean Rushton as her Cavalier.

My favourite sequence is the celebration of sweets from around the world; chocolate from Spain, tea from China, coffee from Arabia etc, we have the Trepak dance from Russia and a Waltz of the Flowers. It provides the opportunity for classical ballet to be taken to different levels, and demonstrate the versatility of the dance form to ballet newcomers. Vienna Festival Ballet’s style might have been a notch more contemporary at this juncture, but it is the artistic director’s choice to present with tradition at the fore. The Arabian and Trepak dances were the delight for me, but each to their own colourfully-wrapped picking.

And this is what The Nutcracker allows; there is something for everyone, thanks, in some way, to the ‘Strictly’ factor. So if Widow Twanky’s become a bit Wishee Washee for your family, consider The Nutcracker for a highly touching festive experience.

The Nutcracker runs at Theatre Royal Windsor from 6th - 11th November 2017

For tickets call Box Office: 01753 853 888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

For details of tour, go to www.viennafestivalballet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 7th

Hairspray @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Hairspray tickets

Based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray, this American musical was written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman who co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman. In 2003 it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, out of 13 nominations and ran for 2,642 performances closing on 4th January 2009. The London production was nominated for a record-setting eleven Laurence Olivier Awards and won four, including Best New Musical.

It’s Baltimore in 1962 and Tracy Turnblad, the big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance programme. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, whilst trying to win the heart of local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way!

Sadly the themes of bullying and racial segregation are still as relevant today as in the early 60s when the show is set.  The 2007 film starring Nikki Blonsky as Tracy and featuring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer, became a cult and has ensured the continued success of the stage musical.

Personally, I can’t say that I enjoyed the film, but I was interested to see how it translated onto the stage.  There were some brilliant dance routines, lots of energy, gorgeous costumes and some powerful singing....but something just wasn’t there for me.  As my actress friend said ‘I just don’t care about anyone and the script seems quite thin.’ OK that doesn’t  stop any of the fans enjoying the show and there are some really great performances.  Whenever Gina Murray was on stage, playing unscrupulous TV producer Velma Von Tussle, the show lifted to a higher level. Gina really knows how to work the audience and her belting voice was sublime.

Another powerful performance came from Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and boy how appropriate is that name...what a tremendous voice she has and again she’s someone who knows how to command the stage.

Some lovely comedy moments were provided by Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad and Matt Rixon as his wife Edna Turnblad.  They certainly made ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ their own and eked out every bit of comedy.

Layton Williams as Seaweed acrobatics and dancing were mesmerising.

Showbusiness is a very fickle world and some people get incredibly lucky early on, whereas 95% of people work hard for years and years before getting a break.  So Rebecca Mendoza should count her blessings as she walked straight out of stage school into playing the lead.  She has an awful lot to learn as the stage swallowed her up and she doesn’t have the presence yet to carry the role.  I found the high-pitched little girl voice and nasal singing very irritating all the way through.  It’s a shame for her that she didn’t have a few years learning her craft before being thrust into the starring role, so she’s very lucky to be able to learn on the job and with such strong adult cast members around I’m sure she will!

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

6.10.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye