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Aug 15th

MAGIC CIRCLE at the Wimbledon Studios

By Douglas McFarlane

MAGIC CIRCLE

 

It’s always intriguing when you walk into an auditorium to take your seat, and there’s activity on the stage. Usually it’s someone sweeping, playing music or walking purposefully in full costume to set the scene. In the case of MAGIC CiRCLE at the Wimbledon Studios, a small fringe like venue run by the Ambassadors Theatre Group, there’s a guy in a circle sitting cross legged and finishing the arrangement of items and chalking symbols around him. He continues carefully and quietly for the duration of the 20 or so audience members to slowly trickle in and take their seats. It worked so well, that I realised we had a good production here with good patience and focus from the actor.

 

There’s a change in the lights, the audience quieten down and the actor on stage delivers his first line clearly and succinctly, with a tone of voice that immediately tells me he’s experienced with great projection. He sets the scene on why he’s there, a kind of evil hunter and in the blink of an eye, another actor enters. He’s the Detective from the CID who is here to solve a murder and is keen to understand why this man is here.

 

What takes place in the next hour, deserves much praise. When a play is a two hander, the ability to keep the audience gripped is in their hands. With some of the best acting I’ve seen on stage since I saw James McAvoy in the West End, this performance takes on another dimension.  The tight intelligent dialogue between these two characters is rattled off to perfection. They moved beyond just delivering lines, to having a conversation, one without hesitation, with clear conviction and tonal range that fits the emotions and frustrations that are building up.

 

Actor James Hyland also produced the play and it feels like a showcase for him, one that highlights his talents.  That’s not to say that Michael Shon in the role of the Professor is any less talented, but Hyland has most of the dialogue and is able to take a journey through a variety of different states seamlessly and effortlessly.  A truly epic performance and one that I was delighted to have seen.

 

MAGIC CIRCLE is touring a few locations this year, but you can find out more about the production company at http://www.brotherwolf.org.uk/

 


SEP 16 @ 7.30pm

BARTON UPON HUMBER - ROPERY HALL

Maltkiln Road, Barton upon Humber, North Lincolnshire, DN18 5JT

01652 660 380 www.roperyhall.co.uk

 

NOV 1 @ 7.30pm

STAFFORD - GATEHOUSE THEATRE

Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LT

01785 254 653 www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk

 

 

 

Douglas McFarlane is London based editor of UK Theatre Network

Aug 11th

Flashdance the Musical, Kings Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

80s revival musicals seem to come as frequently as downpours in August but this one is remarkably true to the original movie and has a rock solid cast to boot!  The bosses at Selladoor decided to launch this UK Tour in Glasgow and the local audience responded enthusiastically to this honour.

 

You can get a feel for the cultural impact of a movie by the number of times it is copied, mimicked or lampooned in other media.  With its iconic dance sequences, gritty characters and dark humour, Flashdance ticks all of the cult boxes … try typing Flashdance into Youtube to see what I mean!  So, a musical version of the movie might seem almost inevitable … but a successful conversion from celluloid to live theatre is far from certain and this revived production would have to work hard to match the grit of a tour almost 10 years ago.  Thankfully, the producers of Flashdance the Musical have not let us down.

 

At its heart, Flashdance is a story about achieving acceptance and respect.  By day, Alex (played by Strictly’s Joanne Clifton) is a female welder in “Steel Town” Pittsburgh working hard to be respected in the male dominated culture.  By night she is an exotic dancer in a ‘respectable’ joint.  She has aspirations to train at a dance conservatory but fears prejudice against her background.  Nick (played by pop icon, Ben Adams) is the son of her daytime boss.  He is immediately attracted to Alex but she has a rule about “dating the man who signs her pay cheques”.  This unlikely love affair is set against a gritty backdrop of mass unemployment, drug abuse and mobsters.

 

The musical avoids wallowing in its 80s roots by using down to earth costume and street language.  Matt Cole’s choreography adds real character to the piece with dazzling break dances contrasting well with ballet sequences.  Hairography was suitably present and even the slick scene changes were augmented with a dance accompaniment – sceneography?  Video projection was used effectively to change mood and depict thoughts feelings and dreams.  The score from Robbie Roth and Robert Cary develops character and helps to move the story along.  It has many changes from the last tour but still features original movie hits like “Maniac”, “Manhunt”, “Gloria” and “Flashdance - What A Feeling”.  The sound was suitably rocky and loud but sometimes overpowered the lyrics – especially in chorus numbers.

 

Onstage performances were superb throughout – although some minor characters suffered from a lack of consistency in accents.  Ben Adams really hit the high notes and delivered a convincing performance although, by the end of the evening, his signature nasal vocals did grate a little for me.  The entire cast showed impressive dance capability and, in some cases, eye watering flexibility!  The show was deservedly headlined, though, by leading lady Joanne Clifton who truly led from the front with her genuine triple threat skills on show.  You'd be a maniac to miss this.

 

Listings Information

Flashdance – The Musical

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Monday 7-Saturday 12 August

Mon-Sat eves, 7.30pm

Wed & Sat matinees, 2.30pm

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

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

 

 

TOUR DATES              

 

King's Theatre, Glasgow 04 AUGUST-12 AUGUST 2017

Empire Theatre, Sunderland 11 SEPTEMBER-16 SEPTEMBER 2017

New Theatre, Oxford 18 SEPTEMBER-23 SEPTEMBER 2017

Regent Theatre, Stoke 25 SEPTEMBER-30 SEPTEMBER 2017

New Theatre, Wimbledon 02 OCTOBER-07 OCTOBER 2017

Empire Theatre, Liverpool 16 OCTOBER-21 OCTOBER 2017

Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells 13 NOVEMBER-18 NOVEMBER 2017

Opera House, York 27 NOVEMBER-03 DECEMBER 2017

Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham 04 DECEMBER-09 DECEMBER 2017

Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh 15 JANUARY-20 JANUARY 2018

Palace Theatre, Manchester 29 JANUARY-03 FEBRUARY 2018

Victoria Theatre, Woking 19 FEBRUARY-19 FEBRUARY 2018

Princess Theatre, Torquay 26 FEBRUARY-03 MARCH 2018

DeMontfort Theatre, Leicester 26 MARC-31 MARCH 2018

Theatre Royal, Brighton 09 APRIL-14 APRIL 2018

Hippodrome, Bristol 25 JUNE-30 JUNE 2018

Milton Keynes, Theatre 16 JULY-21 JULY 2018

Aug 11th

La Cage aux Folles - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 8th August

Les Cagelles

image Pamela Raith

Opening with a WOW performance by Les Cagelles of ‘We are What We Are’ the scene is set for a visually exciting evening. The troupe are wonderfully polished, beautifully made up (Richard Mawbey) in fabulous feather costumes (Gary McCann) and performing slick and stylish choreography (Bill Deamer). This highly professional, high energy start to this touring production doesn't carry through the whole show though.  

La Cage aux Folles was in many ways a groundbreaking story when it first came to the screen in 1978. Hugely successful it then arrived on stage in the early 80s. The story of a gay couple, Georges and Albin, running a drag club in sophisticated Saint Tropez oozed style, panache, and humour but above all love.  

Georges has a son from a previous relationship (Jean-Michele) and with the mother completely disinterested Albin has devoted the past twenty years to bringing him up as his own child. When Jean-Michele arrives home with the news that his fiancée Anne comes from a puritanical family who cannot possibly know that Georges and Albin are his parents, farce ensues as Georges and Jean-Michel try to keep Albin secret; Albin has other ideas!  

Albin and Jacqueline

image Pamela Raith

 

While the story remains in this productionthe presentation and treatment is uneven. In large this is down to the fact that John Partridge, who plays Albin, seems to be under the false impression that the show is only about Albin, and from his behaviour at the curtain call, him. Oddly, he is the weakest link in this very strong cast, lurching bizarrely between accents, volume and behaviour even well beyond the scope of his already temperamental stage drag character ZazaThe ill-fitting section of improvised comedy in which Partridge channels a cross between a poor Dame Edna and a pantomime dame is unnecessary, overlong, only vaguely funny and stops the show dead in its tracks. References to Primark and Tess Daly, the singling out of individuals in the front row for sarcasm and the crass and corny ‘jokes’ with the conductor are more suitable for a low-level talent show rather than a supposedly high class production. Why this section is included just before the key performance of ‘I am What I Am’ is a mystery and undermines the emotion and storytelling. 

 

Albin and Geores

image Pamela Raith

 

Of course all the visuals are fantastic and full credit to all the performers who are solid; Adrian Zmed as Georges, a class act from Marti Webb as Jacqueline, Dougie Carter and Alexandra Robinson are suitably fresh as the young couple Jean-Michele and Anne, Samson Ajewole as Jacob the butler/maid is a riot and won the audience's heart within seconds of being on stage. He is the scene-stealer here. A fabulous live orchestra led by Tim Whiting give the evening the feel of a real club throughout.

 

There are very amusing moments and there is no doubt that the audience in general thoroughly appreciated the evening. A little less ego and centre staging and a little more humility from Partridge would help balance the overall feel of the production.

 

At Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 12th August and then continuing on tour

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 (bkg fee)

Groups Hotline: 01908 547609

Access Booking: 0844 872 7677

 Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)

Aug 10th

TRIUMPH IN THE RAIN

By Kirstie Niland

Sunday 6th August, West End Proms, Lytham Festival, Lancashire

Singing along to Jerusalem in the middle of a downpour, picnic hampers out, Prosecco in hand - where else except Lytham Festival’s West End Proms. With a host of musical theatre stars lined up for the finale of another week of excellence from Cuffe & Taylor there was no way a bit of rain was getting in the way of a celebration for Brits Up North.

BBC Radio Lancashire’s Sally Naden put her plastic poncho on over her party dress and stilettos and kept everyone’s chin up with a chat while we waited for it all to begin. The audience covered up in an array of hoods, hats and even a survival bag. The West End Proms Childrens’ Chorus opened the event with a welcome sunny and polished performance of Food Glorious Food, and Blackpool's own Jodie Prenger gave us a flash of her wellies under her ball gown and some characterful numbers including As Long As He Needs Me.

There’s no doubt there was less arm-waving than you’d expect for You’ll Never Walk Alone, even though English National Opera soprano Jo Appleby sang it beautifully. 

The charming Britain's Got Talent winning band Collabro livened things up with Let It Go and also impressed with a fantastic staging of This Is The Moment from Jekyll & Hyde.

Having never seen Marti Pellow in a musical theatre setting before Summertime proved a nice surprise, meanwhile Claire Sweeney provided oomph and entertainment with Hey Big Spender.

Young Britain’s Got Talent finalist, 13-year-year-old Beau Dermott, cut a tiny figure with a big voice on the grand Lytham Festival stage alongside the 60-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

The West End Proms Children’s Chorus made another appearance to accompany Jon Lee singing Joseph’s Close Every Door, and the ex-S Club 7 singer also performed a sweet duet of Sixteen Going on Seventeen with local lass and rising West End star Lucie Mae Sumner.

The highlight of the evening was clearly Lea Solanga who brought Broadway magic and the captivating stage presence which has won her awards as Kim in Miss Saigon and Fantine in Les Misérables. Singing a variety of the numbers she has made her own, including I’d Give My Life for You, she gave a heartfelt speech to the audience – and recommended the current Miss Saigon tour at Birmingham Hippodrome which is receiving sensational reviews.  

Ruthie Henshall showed her incredible versatility with a powerful delivery of Sunset Boulevard’s As If We Never Said Goodbye before joining the other female leads and ensemble as a jailbird for a spirited performance of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango.

The spectacle of Phantom of the Opera brought plenty of drama to the proceedings, with Jo Appleby’s soaring soprano the perfect match for Luke McCall’s dramatic tenor.

It was well and truly worth getting soaked for the part I was waiting for – a selection of songs from Les Misérables, including Collabro's fabulous alternative to Javert’s solo song Stars and Lea Salonga’s poignant rendition of Eponine’s On My Own.

No proms should finish without fireworks and a patriotic song and we were treated to two cracking displays as we all sang along to Land Of Hope and Glory. But this was still not the end - the climax was a full cast performance of the magnificent One Day More.

Cuffe & Taylor, the singing stars of West End Proms and the hardy audience - we salute you.

Save the date for Lytham Festival 2018 which has been brought forward to July 23 to 29 to avoid clashing with the Ricoh Women’s British Golf Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.

www.lythamfestival.com

Photos: Lytham Festival

 

Aug 9th

Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal, Windsor

By Kate Braxton

Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal Windsor 

by Kate Braxton 

Let’s cut to the cardboard car chase, this community production of Bugsy Malone at Theatre Royal, Windsor is an absolute delight. If anyone has dared to make you feel small this week, get down amongst young friends for this slapstick musical comedy, ‘cos this is where the fun’s at. 

Theatre Director, Robert Miles set the scene on opening night, as it was the first show since the theatre has been fully re-decorated, sponsored by fine paint and paper suppliers, Farrow & Ball. Nothing 34 young cast members with an arsenal of splurge guns couldn’t christen.

Most people know Bugsy Malone as the 1976 Alan Parker film, starring 13 year-old Jodi Foster as Talullah. I had forgotten just what a great score it is, and how much enjoyment a very simple story can bring to the stage.

Set on the streets of New York in the 1920s, Dandy Dan's hoodlums are terrorising the district with their splurge arms. His rival, Fat Sam Stacetto runs the Grand Slam Speakeasy and his gang are still using old-fashioned pies. Fat Sam engages the help of Bugsy Malone, a smooth city slicker, because most of his gang have been splurged.

 

Bugsy, who has promised to take his love interest and singer, Blousey Brown, to Hollywood, has to break his date with her. Meanwhile Bugsy and Leroy Smith - a guy with an awesome punch - witness a secret delivery of guns at Dock 17. A bundle of shenanigans culminates in a final splurge-down and the love split is resolved.  

Under the baton of musical director, Tim Hammond, the Windsor band keep the tempo moving for the young actors and actresses, many of whom have never performed on such a prestigious stage. Despite a few mis-timed cues between actors and technical, the cast is hard-working and a joy to watch.

Astonishingly, there isn’t a precocious BGT wannabe in sight. Most of the principals hold their American accents admirably, especially given they’re quite an international bunch. Australian-born Owen Barkla has a cute, Mark Lester-ish charm that puts him rightly in the role of Bugsy. Chloe Stammage’s performance as his sweetheart, Blousey, is controlled and mature. She has a natural style on stage, and a very promising singing voice.

One of my favourite moments in this show is Dizzy, the janitor’s wistful solo, ‘Tomorrow never comes’. It is a difficult song to sing, and Dilsher Bagri (who is Head Chorister in his school choir) hits the spot here, providing a solid, steady performance of the faithful, overlooked talent.

 

Confident performance of the production goes to the accomplished Mackenzie Foxtrot. A seasoned young actor, with an astonishingly consistent accent, his unique characterization of Fat Sam packs quite a punch when wrapped up with his natural comic timing. 

Originally from Ghana, Araba Blankson is wonderful as Tallulah. She makes the part her own, she is captivating and sassy, and holds the audience controllingly in her gaze as she takes centre stage for her big number. 

And for sheer inspired casting, and some watch-this-one factor, is the noticeable Lisbon-born Guilherme Barbosa as Leroy/Snake Eyes. He’s funny, he gets on with it, he has presence.

As a resident of the Royal Borough myself, I am proud that Bill Kenright’s theatre delivers this terrific learning programme and the kids look like they’re having the time of their lives. Big credit goes to director, Carole Todd and Camilla Rowland for her natty choreography. If anything, the finale could be shaped a little more tightly to sew up this joyful production, but there really should be a lot of happy punters in Windsor this week.

Bugsy Malone is running from Tuesday 8th - Sunday 13th August 2017.

For Tickets, call Box Office: 01753 853 888

www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

 

 

Aug 5th

WALK LIKE A MAN IS ROCKING THE GRAND THEATRE BLACKPOOL

By Kirstie Niland

Until 27th August 201

 

Walk Like A Man, the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, was like listening to the soundtrack of my life from childhood through to parenthood.

 

 

When I bought the Bay City Rollers' single Bye Bye Baby in 1975, never would I have imagined that 32 years later my son would be breakdancing to a song co-written by the very same man in 2007, at virtually the same age I was. It was a revelation to me that Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio co-wrote both of these tracks, and that so many happy memories would come flooding back with songs I loved in movies, or from before I was born but played to me by my parents.

 

The foursome playing the band were pitch perfect, with Valli’s distinctive voice incredibly well impersonated, and the show featured classics including Sherry, Let’s Hang On, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, My Eyes Adored You, and December 63 (Oh What a Night!).

 

The choreography and harmonies were spot on, as were the corny jokes which charmed the ladies in the audience. In fact their act is so similar to the real Jersey Boys that Walk Like A Man recently won the National Music Tribute Awards' Best Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons act. If that wasn’t testament enough then an audience full of happy faces singing, dancing and clapping along certainly is.

 

 

 

If you’re partial to a trip down memory lane and a night packed full of feel-good classics, then this is the summer show for you.

 

Book it here. 

Aug 5th

RAVE REVIEWS FOR HACIENDA CLASSICAL AT LYTHAM FESTIVAL

By Kirstie Niland

Combining an orchestra with acid house DJs sounds as unlikely as holding a rave on Lytham Green – but they did it and the audience was mad for it. 

Haçienda Classiçal is much more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane to 80s and 90s Madchester, it’s pure musical genius, blending opposite genres to create a concert appealing to all ages and backgrounds.

And Lytham absolutely loved it.

Following a warm-up by electronic dance band 808 stage, the Haçienda club’s original DJs Graeme Park and Mike Pickering took to the stage with the Manchester Camerata Orchestra and the AMC Gospel Choir.

Happy Monday’s singer Rowetta was tremendous, reaching a crescendo with the 1986 Candi Staton track You Got the Love – a track she sang on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in memory of those who died in the Manchester bombing.

Haçienda Classiçal gives Rowetta a sensational platform to showcase the impressive vocals she has lent to some of the world’s biggest bands, including Simply Red and the Black Eyed Peas.

A personal favourite was a rework of Mory Kante’s Yeke Yeke – and everybody’s favourites included Blue Monday, featuring the voice of New Order and Joy Division co-founder himself, Peter Hook.

The beachfront stage with the beautiful Lytham skyline as a backdrop was the perfect setting for a hugely uplifting rendition of the Ultra Naté floor filler Free.

And to remind us where the Mad in Madchester comes from, the legendary Bez gave us some signature dance moves in a bright yellow anti-fracking T-shirt.

Lytham Festival has gone from strength to strength since the event organisers Cuffe & Taylor first launched it in 2009. It has grown from a one-night show with Lesley Garrett and Alfie Boe to a week-long extravaganza attracting around 70,000 festival-goers to see stars such as Rita Ora, Tom Jones, Michael Ball, and this week Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson.

Haçienda Classiçal truly embodied the Lytham Festival’s billing of a "well-crafted mix of nostalgia, contemporary and classical music" with something for everyone to enjoy".

In the words of the Inner City classic, they’re having big fun, and the party’s just begun…

Still to come: Madness; The Official Aftershow Party featuring DJ Rusty Egan with Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet; and A West End Extravaganza and Firework Finale with Lea Salonga, Collabro, Ruthie Henshall, Claire Sweeney, Jon Lee, Jodie Prenger, Lucie Mae-Sumner, Beau Dermott, Jon Lee and Marti Pellow, accompanied by the 60-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

Book your tickets here.

Aug 5th

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Puppetry

By Clare Brotherwood

Boris & Sergey's One Man Extravaganza at the Omnitorium, Assembly George Square Theatre

A Heart at Sea at the Pleasance Courtyard: Below

 

Ever since War Horse, puppetry has been recognised as so much more than a simple entertainment for children. And among this year’s offerings in Edinburgh are two very different shows with adults in mind.

Flabbergast Theatre is a London company which features Bunraku puppetry in a riotous tale of Balkan bad guys Boris and Sergey and their rise to and fall from fame.

Although these little fellows are made of leather and have featureless heads which resemble cricket balls, at the hands of six skilled puppeteers they quickly come alive in a spirited show of black humour, brutality and bullying, but which had its opening night audience in stitches.

Bunraku puppetry originates from Japan and involves three people working one puppet which, in the confines of the Omnitorium (at the back of the George Square Theatre), only emphasises the physical skill and concentration of those taking part, especially in the scenes involving a dance routine and a sword fight.

This show is imaginative and entertaining with some audience participation, but some of its adult content may not be for everyone.

Half a String’s A Heart at Sea is, however, suitable for seven-year-olds upwards and while children will be enchanted by puppeteer Peter Morton’s creations, adults will no doubt gasp with admiration at his exquisitely crafted wooden chest which opens up to become every scene needed for this bittersweet story of a boy who, having bottled up his heart and thrown it into the sea, then goes in search of it.

Described as an ‘epic musical folk tale told on a miniature scale’, Peter, who also plays drum and harmonica, is complemented by the captivating performance of Avi Simmons, who composed the songs and accompanies them on guitar as well as providing a myriad of sound effects.

It’s no surprise that this ingenious show was 18 months in the making.

 

Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza is at the Omnitorium at Assembly George Square Theatre EH8 9LH daily at 9.25pm. www.edfringe.com/event/2017BORISSE_AYY

 

A Heart at Sea is at the Pleasance Courtyard: Below EH8 9TJ (venue 33) daily at 11.50am.

 

Box office: 0131 556 6550 www.pleasance.co.uk

 

 

Aug 2nd

RUSSELL WATSON TO PLAY THE VOICE OF GOD IN BRAND NEW MUSICAL HEAVEN ON EARTH

By Kirstie Niland


Russell Waston will play the voice of God in brand new arena spectacular Heaven on Earth which will be touring across the UK from December 2017 to May 2018.

 

 

This epic and inspirational journey of Adam and Eve is told through state of the art digital technology, innovative staging and stunning choreography.

 

Russell will star alongside Kerry Ellis as Eve (Wicked, Cats, Les Miserables, We Will Rock You) and Hugh Maynard as Adam (Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Lion King).

 

Find out more at www.heavenonearththemusical.co.uk

 

Heaven on Earth Tour Dates

  • Birmingham Barclaycard Arena 4 - 7 December 2017    
  • Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 15 - 18 Jan 2018    
  • Nottingham Motorpoint Arena 27 -30 Jan 
  • Leeds First Direct Arena 9th - 12 Feb 
  • Manchester Arena 22 – 25 Feb 
  • Sheffield Arena 7 – 10 March 
  • Edinburgh Royal Highland Centre 14 - 17 March   
  • Liverpool Echo Arena Liverpool 22 - 25 March 
  • Aberdeen AECC Arena 28 - 31 March  
  • Portsmouth Guildhall 4 - 7 April 
  • Newcastle Radio Metro Arena 11 - 14 April 
  • Glasgow Clyde Auditorium 18 - 21 April 
  • Exeter Westpoint Arena 26 - 29 April 
  • The SSE Arena, Wembley 9 - 12 May