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Jan 24th

The Jersey Boys - Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

24 January 2018

 The Jersey Boys 1 Brinkhoff

Image copyright Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg

This hugely popular, multi-award winning show, at an early point in this second national tour, wowed Milton Keynes last night. I was definitely one of the few in the audience that was seeing this show for the first time and am delighted that I finally have. I had never been that keen before as I had the impressions it was 'just' one of those jukebox musicals that do the rounds. How wrong I was!

This show tells the story of the hard won success of The Four Seasons from their very earliest days. Definitely not a run of the mill jukebox musical but a fully rounded play about the lives and music of this band. Told from the viewpoints of all four members there is a weaving together of their individual perspectives and  as a result, no clear, definitive account is presented at the end. What you have are left with are different versions of events which further add to the element of intrigue about some areas, particularl where Tommy Devito's links with crime and the mafia are concerned. There is a real grittiness to this show and no glossing over of the the bad times. Instead a light is shone on the tensions and difficulties in sustaining intensely creative and personal relationships over a long period of time. It seems quite incredible that the three surviving members, Valli, Devito and Gaudio allowed the writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to have full access and a pretty free rein over the storyline and interpretation; it certainly makes for a very interesting and informative couple of hours.

Along with this faschinating story is an absolute onslaught of the hits of the Four Seasons brilliantly woven through the storyline and performed to perfection by the cast - all excellent actors, singers and musicians. Particularly outstanding are Simon Bailey as DeVito who brings a real swagger and dynamism to the stage as the cocky gambler, James Winter as Bob Gaudio, the man responsible for so many of the compositions, is excellent as the calmer, steadier character and Joel Elferink as the lyricist and innovative producer Bob Crewe gives a very stylish performance. Central is Valli played by Michael Watson here; his vocal performance is superb.

Jersey Boys 2 Brinkhof

Image copyright Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg

Extremely fast paced storytelling with never a pause, there are moments when the dialogue is not completely clear in the auditorium, a combination of the speed of delivery and the acoustics, The music in contrast is loud and sharp as a pin.

Klara Zieglerova's scenic design is fabulously creative and is almost constantly in motion as it is changed to depict different envirnonments from intimate domestic scenes, to the the Ed Sullivan show, to the recording studio. These changes all happen as part of the on stage action and are part of the play so appear natural and seamless. Add in Howell Binkleys creative lighting design and the plentiful costume changes and you have incredibly dynamic and highly effective staging. 

There are six consummate musicians on stage throughout giving the production integrity and authenticity; it is the standard of musicianship of all the performers in giving us brilliant renditions of over 30 of the bands fantastic hits over the course of the show that is the abiding memory of this excellent production.

Highly recommended.

The Jersey Boys plays an extended run at Milton Keynes Theatre until 3rd February.

Box office 0844 871 7653

http://www.atgtickets.com

Booking fee applies

Jan 23rd

START SPREADING THE NEWS

By Kirstie Niland

The Winter Gardens Open Day, this Saturday, will feature an exciting programme of events, including Frank Sinatra’s Live at the Opera House 1953.

Frank Sinatra appeared only twice in Blackpool, on 16th July 1950 and on 26th July 1953, both times in Sunday concerts at the Opera House. For the first time since, there will be the opportunity to hear in its original setting, his 1953 performance, which had been recorded privately.

 

The hour-long recording will begin at 1pm, in between demonstrations of the Wurlitzer organ. You will be able to sit in the auditorium and try to imagine that you are there back in 1953 listening to Frank Sinatra live.

Doors open for the 2018 events at 11am to the wonderful sounds of the much-loved Wurlitzer Organ playing live in the Opera House. Further events will run throughout the day, with resident pianist, Brant Nuttall playing in the Mazzei Café and afternoon tea served in the Empress Grill from just £9.50 per person.

A slideshow of historical posters and programmes, will be shown in the Pavilion Theatre, taking guests on a journey back in time, bringing to life bygone days of Blackpool’s most magnificent venue – Guests will also have the opportunity to learn more about the restorations taking place and new conference and exhibition centre currently in development.

Throughout the day, guests can explore every nook and cranny of the world-famous grade 2* listed building during this exclusive access all areas event: treading the Opera House boards and viewing rooms where stars and world leaders have gone before them.

Resident experts Ted and Anne Lightbown will be on hand in the Floral Hall to answer questions about the illustrious building’s 140-year history.

The event offers the opportunity for guests to view the 3,000 capacity Empress Ballroom, which has played host to countless party conferences and politicians; and to marvel at areas such as the stunning Spanish Hall suite with its lavish courtyard, reminiscent of a 1930s Hollywood film set along with the other many halls, suites and hidden areas normally closed to the public.

Blackpool's Winter Gardens first opened to the public on 11 July 1878, with a lavish ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor of London and Mayors and Mayoresses from 68 towns throughout the country. Today the venue is home to over 20 unique and breathtaking spaces, and a hive of activity for concerts, plays, national theatre tours, business lunches, exhibitions, weddings and conferences.

Last year’s open day welcomed thousands through the doors. This year’s takes place this Saturday 27th January 2018 from 11am – 3pm. The event is FREE of charge but donations to the Winter Gardens Trust are welcomed.

Photographs courtesy of Winter Gardens Blackpool

Jan 18th

The Snowman at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter on 17th January 2018

 The Snowman and Boy

image copyright Alastair Muir

A charming and gentle production.

This iconic story is enchantingly presented here and there were plenty of appreciative children and adults in the theatre last night.

Spanning all generations, Raymond Briggs’ book appeared in 1978, the film was released in 1982 and the iconic music ‘Walking in the Air’ topped the charts in 1985. Birmingham Repertory Theatre first staged the story in 1993 with the show making its London debut in 1998 where it has continued to run each year since, making it the longest running Christmas show in the UK.

This show has been tweaked over the years,and now includes the roles of the Ice Princess and Jack Frost. Generally though, it is pretty faithful to the book and film as a result of the creative team remaining steady - Bill Alexander directing and Howard Blake as musical supervisor and joint executive director.

Presented here using a pretty straightforward set; floor to roof two-dimensional snowy covered fir trees frame the centre stage. There are a couple too many set changes in the first half where the audience sit in darkness waiting but this could be addressed by using the front panels to project imagery, as is done at other times during the show, mostly to depict falling snow.

ensemble snowman

image copyright Tristram Kenton

There are plenty of little instances of physical humour throughout. My nephew loved the penguins especially and the delightful woodland animals with their quirky and amusing movements and particularly wonderful costumes.  

When extending a show for the stage there are often, inevitably, moments that don’t appear in the story or film and whilst these felt a little bit out of place the children, most importantly, seemed unconcerned with this.

The much anticipated flying is enchanting and really well done with great reference to the imagery of the book and film. There’s quite a bit of it thankfully and it is magical and for many in the audience was emotionally nostalgic; there were tears!  The book and the film both depict the world below the Snowman and the Boy as they fly but this was not made the most of here which seemed  a mixed trick. The story is about the Snowman taking the Boy to a faraway place, another world in a sense, but this was not fully imagined in the staging. Again, employing projected imagery on the back drop or the foreground set could have added to this sense of travel and other-worldliness.

A cast of 17 dancers means there is some dance, but I was surprised that this element seemed underemployed.  This is movement to music mostly rather than a full dance production. There is a marvellous orchestra led by David Quigley but it was disappointing that the carol singers and on stage musicians appeared to be mostly miming.

My nephew commented that the Snowman was not fat enough and I agree; his costume was flapping around him sometimes and I initially thought that this was because he would need to move and dance extensively but this was not so. Indeed all the snowmen and women were rather lean. Although avuncular, they could do with a few more mince pies!

This is a sweet, nostalgic 90 minutes of escapism that rekindles thoughts of the magic of childhood.

The Snowman plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 20th January (There is are three performances on Saturday including one at 10.30am). This year’s tour finishes in Brighton on 28th January.

Box office 0844 871 7653

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-snowman/milton-keynes-theatre/

Booking fee applies

Jan 17th

Tango Moderno, The Kings Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 

Vincent and Flavia (Simone and Cacace of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing fame) present a wonderfully diverse evening of entertainment at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre this week featuring their famous style of choreography.

 

Let’s face it … we’ve all been there, right?  We have a ‘significant other’ who is super excited to see a new show and we go along … doing the right thing to be there (reluctantly) while our loved one grins enthusiastically at the stage for a whole evening.  It has to be done!

 

But anyone arriving (reluctantly) to this latest production featuring Vincent and Flavia might be pleasantly surprised as this remarkably varied production has something to entertain even the most jaded of persuaded partners!

 

So, it’s basically an evening of dance.  That is a given.  And we should celebrate that dance element first and foremost.  Strictly fans will be delighted to see Vincent and Flavia deliver some lovely routines throughout the show including some steamy hot Argentine Tango choreography.  Most impressive to me was the powerful subtlety of the lifts – less “look at me” in a ‘Strictly’ style and more emotive and powerful; relying as much on Flavia’s core strength as that of Vincent. 

 

But the show adds so much more through the ensemble cast.  Each routine is presented as a short vignette – telling a short story of couples or groups.  Lovers, work colleagues, groups of friends, etc.  The stories are connected through a loose theme of couples coming together and there is a real sense of conclusion at the end of the show which is quite satisfying – not bad for a show with no dialogue! 

 

The vignettes are introduced and connected by a narrator (Tom Parsons) who speaks in cool contemporary prose.  There have been a spate of TV adverts in this style recently and for good reason … it is so on trend!  Tom also sings lead vocals on the majority of numbers – beautifully accompanying the dance activity and covering a broad range of modern artists from Ed Sheeran to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to Lucus Graham and many more.  Tom is joined by Rebecca Lisweski on vocals.  Rebecca takes the lead from time to time, too, and together they deliver first class entertainment worth the ticket price alone.

 

The choreography from Karen Bruce is excellent throughout.  Each piece advances the story or theme and the variety is astounding covering the spectrum from hilarity to pathos.  The dancing cast deliver all of this with aplomb – in particular, their characterisation is evident with every step and leap.  The piece accompanied by Lucas Graham’s “7 Years” was astonishing and moving and left we wanting to pause and rewind to see it again.

 

I’ll confess that I was already looking forward to seeing this show …  but, having seen it, I’m bursting to tell people who might not normally buy a ticket to see a “dance show” to go and see this one!

 

Tango Moderno, King’s Theatre, 297 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4JN

Tue 16 - Sat 20 Jan 2018

Tue-Sat, 7.30pm

Thu & Sat matinees, 2.30pm

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

0844 871 7648* calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge

 

Jan 9th

An Opportunity For All Creatives to Meet the Finborough Theatre Team

By Carolin Kopplin

To ensure our work remains accessible to all, and following the success of Introduce Yourself for playwrights during our annual Vibrant– A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, we are now extending Introduce Yourself to provide an opportunity for emerging creatives (other than writers) to engage with the Finborough Theatre.

 

Introduce Yourself is for new directors, designers, lighting designers, sound designers, choreographers, movement directors, actors etc etc etc from the UK who have never previously worked at the Finborough Theatre and who would like to meet us.

 

On Tuesday evenings during February 2018 Neil McPherson, Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre (13, 20, 28 February), and Alex Marker, Resident Designer of the Finborough Theatre (6 February), will be in the Finborough Arms pub below the theatre between 6.00pm and 9.00pm for you to Introduce Yourself personally.

 

Bookings will open for each fifteen minute slot at the Finborough Theatre on Thursday, 1 February 2018 by email to admin@finboroughtheatre.co.uk

Following a discussion on social media which can be read on Facebook here, both Neil and Alex will be accompanied by a female member of staff, and you are welcome to bring someone along with you if you would like to.

 

Jan 6th

One Night of Queen @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Image result for one night of queen

There has never been a greater showman than the sorely missed Freddie Mercury.  He knew how to strut his stuff, totally owning the stage beaming his colossal personality out to tens of thousands of people.  He was unique with his extraordinary vocal range and incredible musical talents and no-one can compare to him.  Many have tried to emulate him, but he’s a one-off and we’re unlikely to see the like ever again.

Prior to the formation of Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor played in a band called Smile. Freddie Mercury was a fan of theirs and suggested the name Queen when he joined them in 1970.  Prior to their first eponymous album release, in 1973, John Deacon joined the band and that was the beginning of the legendary band we all know and love.  With the release of the album A Night at the Opera, featuring Bohemian Rhapsody, in 1975 the band went stratospheric.   ‘Bo-ho Rap’ stayed at number one in the UK for 9 weeks and the music video helped to popularise their use to promote songs.

Hit after hit followed We Will Rock You, We are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust to name but a few.  Their performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert has been ranked among the greatest in rock history by various music publications, especially as Freddie captivated the world with his energy and exhibitionism.  Tragically, Freddie died in 1991 and we must wonder what other extraordinary music he may have created.  John Deacon retired in 1997, but May and Taylor continue to perform under the name Queen with guest lead vocalists Paul Rogers and Adam Lambert.

Gary Mullen, as a lifelong fan of Queen, decided to enter ITV’s Stars in Their Eyesfor a laugh’ and ended up winning the Live Grand Final!  That was in 2000 and Gary has been touring globally ever since creating his show, after forming a band called The Works.  

No-one can doubt Gary’s energy as he gives 110% from the moment he comes on stage.  He keeps himself fit and flexible by lifting weights and practicing yoga on tour and he wouldn’t be able to do his job without regular exercise.  He certainly has Freddie’s strut and moves off to a tee, as he is constantly moving around the stage.  Unfortunately that means that sometimes he puts too much energy into the movements and less into the vocals.  We found it hard to hear the lyrics on most of the songs and the tempo was so fast the band had problems catching up.  It was very much a ‘one-man’ show and most of the band weren’t even lit!  David Brockett (Brian May) had a few opportunities to shine with some iconic solo instrumentals, but overall the band weren’t as tight as they should have been.

Half-way through the first half, we overheard one lady saying ‘he’s beginning to grow on me’, which was very telling.  I felt that if he’d spent less time on the showmanship and more on working together as a band, the show would have been a lot better.  Not that most of the audience minded, as people stood up and sang along to all the timeless songs.  The theatre was nearly full and although the average age would seem to be people in their 60s, it was good to see new generations of fans being introduced to Queen’s music.

Freddie Mercury is inimitable, but this show is entertaining and Queen fans may enjoy a night of memories.

For further info: http://www.garymullenandtheworks.com/tour-dates

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

@yvonnedelahaye

 

05.01.18