Share |
Mar 22nd

Crazy For You

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

20th March 2018

Crazy for you

Originally presented as Girl Crazy in the 1930s, this light-hearted Gershwin musical was designed to brighten up the Depression years with some escapism and razzmatazz. The storyline was reworked in the 1990s by Ken Ludwig and director Mike Ockrent, the score was rearranged to include more of the Gershwin catalogue, and the title became Crazy For You.  Opening in the West End in 1993 it garnered Olivier Awards for Best Musical and Choreography.

Despite the beefing-up of the original storyline it is still rather flimsy and predictable. Briefly, Bobby Child (Tom Chambers), the son of a wealthy New York banking family but only interested in song and dance, is sent to Deadrock, Nevada to close down a failing theatre. Bobby falls for Polly (Charlotte Wakefield), daughter of the theatre owner. She thinks he’s a fool. Bobby pretends to be the theatre impresario Bela Zangler (Neil DItt), who Polly does fall in love with. The real Zangler arrives in Deadrock as does Bobby’s fiancée, Irene (Claire Sweeney). You can pretty much guess the rest! There are some very funny moments, mostly revolving around mistaken identity and the ingenious scene between Bobby and Bela Zangler in the second half is a great hoot.

There is some wonderful Gershwin music: I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, among many others, all performed on stage by the actor-musicians. Nearly all the cast play a number of instruments and herein lies something of a problem for me. While it is wonderful to see such a multi-talented cast, the dominance of the instruments on stage and the frequency with which the cast are required to play them means the performance flow is interrupted and that there is somewhat of a lack in high energy, exciting ensemble dancing.  It's a conundrum; cost-cutting attempts here - losing the orchestra and moving the music on stage have a detrimental effect on this production I'm sad to say.

The cast are all great; the leads’ strengths are underused though. Tom Chambers is a brilliant dancer but this talent isn’t fully exploited. He does get the chance to show his talent for comedy and the quirky, silly, self-effacing slapstick moments were reminiscent of Eric Morecombe. Charlotte Wakefield is a great dancer and has a cracking voice – again underused here. There’s a Doris Day/ Calamity Jane feel to her character and Wakefield balances this sweet/fesity aspect well. Claire Sweeney is domineering fiancée Irene appearing in Act one and then not again until the middle of the second half. She has one major moment; her Naughty Baby performance.

There are not a great number of glittery costumes, with only the New York chorus line in anything shiny until the odd, brief end scene where Polly wears a Hollywood gown. As the majority of the play takes place in Deadrock the costumes are pretty much of the dull brown dungaree ilk for the men and day dresses for the visiting New Yorkers; unexpected when looking at the programme and poster which present a glitzy, stylish Hollywood musical image - at odds with the actual production.

Lovely music, old jokes, not enough dancing and a happy ending is the order of the evening.

Plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 24th March

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies

Mar 20th

Strangers on a Train @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

 Strangers on a Train tickets

Have you ever wondered anything about your fellow passengers when you’re travelling by train?  Nowadays some people seem to enjoy having long conversations on their mobiles with no thought as to who is listening, so you get to know more than you ever wanted!  But, what if you were on a long journey and got chatting to someone over a drink or three, who turned out to be a psychopath?  That’s the premise of Strangers on a Train, written in 1950 by Patricia Highsmith and turned into a psychological thriller film noir by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. The film starred Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and Robert Walker and is number 32 on AFI’s 100 Years...100 Thrills.

Turning this classic into a stage play must have been extremely challenging on many levels.  Just how do you recreate a train and a series of rooms and sets?  Clockwork Scenery has designed and constructed a set that is absolutely incredible and deserves a huge credit for making this play work.  I couldn’t quite work out how they’d done it, but all I can say is it’s brilliantly clever and effective.  The play is written by Craig Warner, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.

Without giving anything away, the play opens on the train as two strangers get drunk together and Guy Haines (played by Call The Midwife’s Jack Ashton) bemoans the fact that his wife won’t divorce him.  Charles Bruno (Chris Harper) has a novel suggestion for dealing with this situation....

Chris Harper became a reviled soap villain playing the manipulative Nathan in Coronation Street, who lured Bethany into a life of prostitution.  Thankfully as soon as he started speaking in a very good American accent, we lost all traces of Nathan and accepted him as Charles Bruno.  He totally inhabits the role of this deranged psychopath, giving a dangerous and energetic performance that is totally compelling to watch.  With a good body of theatre work, including Shakespeare, to his credit I think Chris has a long and successful career ahead of him.  At the moment he is carving out a niche playing dark, tortured characters, but I suspect he could also play comedy equally well.

John Middleton is best known for playing Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale and recently won Best Actor and Best Male Dramatic Performance at the 2017 British Soap Awards.  Here he plays the family friend, who used to be a policeman, Arthur Cerard who has an inkling of what’s been happening.

Helen Anderson, as Elsie Bruno, gives a good rounded performance as the mother of Charles who loves her boy no matter what he does.  Hannah Tointon plays Anne Faulkner who tries to understand why the man she loves has become distant and preoccupied.

The first 20 minutes need some concentration to get drawn into the intimate setting of the train and tune into the American accent, but after that the action moves on apace.  The play continues at The Waterside Theatre until Saturday 24th March 2018 and from 27th-31st March at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye



Mar 13th

The Barricade Boys @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Opening a show with a ballad is a high-risk strategy, but if I’d been a judge on The Voice I’d have turned my chair on the first note!  With the angelic vocals of Simon Schofield launching into ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, joined by the rest of the Barricade Boys with tight harmonies, the audience were captivated within seconds.  It was a superb start to what was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

The Barricade Boys was formed by Simon and Scott Garnham, two very seasoned West End Musical Theatre performers.  All of the team are industry professionals and the show was created to provide superior entertainment for the professional theatre market and corporate industry.  The Barricade Boys have played major roles in musical theatre from The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Billy Elliott to Jersey Boys, The Sound of Music and, of course, Les Miserables.

Since forming two years ago, they’ve toured the world on cruises, appeared at St James Theatre on Broadway with TV appearances including The Paul O’Grady Show and This Morning.  From 5th-23rd December 2017, the boys had a residency at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new theatre The Other Palace and featured an array of special guests including Matt Lucas, Michael Xavier and Rachel Tucker.

After the first number, the boys introduced themselves and upped the tempo to sing Stuck in the Middle With You, then a medley from The Blues Brothers, followed by Volaire before being joined by kids from the Pauline Quirke Academy.  It’s a great idea to involve a local stage school as you’re guaranteed seats will be filled with proud family and friends and it helps to connect with the audience even more.  A mix of songs from Motown and the hauntingly beautiful Going Home song from Les Miserables followed, ending the first half with songs from Jersey Boys

The second act opened with the boys being joined again by the Pauline Quirke Academy to sing A Million Dreams, from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman.  After some rock n’ roll, there was a lovely 4-part harmony version of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror.  These guys can sing anything and adapt to all genres of music, so the challenge was to create a jazz/swing song from the comedy song Master of the House.  As a jazz singer myself, I loved it and it really did work.

Supported by The Barricade Boys band, keyboard player and MD James Doughty had his own chance to shine, with a storming version of It Don’t Mean a Thing, showing his incredible vocals talents as well.

Next came a disco era of songs from the 70s, squeezing in a fabulous rendition of Uptown Funk as well, followed by a magnificent version of Bohemian Rhapsody.  They couldn’t forget The Beatles influence on pop music and sang a couple of numbers to finish.  The audience were on their feet stomping and clapping for more, so the encore had to be another song from Les Miserables, One More Day.

Their versatility, incredible vocals and harmonies, dance moves, energy, enthusiasm and stage presence make this a show not to be missed.  I was smiling all the way through, singing along to the songs and wished I qualified to become one of the team, but I’m the wrong gender!  They were having so much fun and the theatre was filled with a warmth and happiness that rarely happens.  Book your ticket NOW, it’ll be one of the best decisions you make!

Tour dates can be found on

This week:

Wednesday 14th @ Grand Opera House, York

Thursday 15th @ Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone

Saturday 17th @ Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

Sunday 18th @ Southport Theatre & Convention Centre, Southport

For more details about The Barricade Boys:


Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye


12th March 2018




Mar 8th

Mindgame @ Wycombe Swan Theatre

By Trevor Gent

Set in a remote lunatic asylum it hardly sounds a laugh a minute, but one of the (many) surprises of Anthony Horowitz’s sly and slippery play is that it invites us to laugh at the whole thriller genre. It is still dark though, exploring murder, madness, and evil, and questions what motivates people to commit terrible crimes. Nothing can be taken for granted, from the name of a pet Labrador to the identities of the three main characters.


Andrew Ryan plays Styler, a writer of gory serial killer biographies who’s come to Fairfield’s asylum to interview his latest subject. His path is blocked by Dr Farquhar (the Q is silent) played by Michael Sherwin, who seems reluctant to trust Styler, and even more reluctant to let him leave. Sarah Wynne Kordas plays Paisley (although it is while before we actually see her). Rather surprisingly having volunteered to don a straight jacket, he is trapped in a nightmare world that’s steeped in references to famous thrillers.


There are murders behind curtains, intercepted notes of warning, echoing screams, jerky snatches of tinny music, and questionable liver sandwiches. It’s all piled on so thickly that you soon realise you’re watching a kind of pastiche of the thriller genre – one that exploits our fascination with tales of murder and lunacy.


The play is set in a single room but things are never quite what they seem with doors turning into cupboards, and various difference between the acts and the brick wall slowly building in the background. The atmosphere is tense and you have to keep your wits about you to keep track of what is going on. However I won’t give it all away and certainly won’t tell you the ending like some reviewers (otherwise what is the point of going to see it?).


After watching this play the famous Nick Ross quote from Crimewatch came to mind

"Don't have nightmares, do sleep well”. Thankfully I did!


If you missed it at the Wycombe Swan there are still some performances to go:


March 14-17, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
March 19-24, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Mar 7th

Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them at the Richmond Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane


Some Mother's Do 'Ave Them

Some reviews are easy. They make you want to write and write. Stream of consciousness kicks in and you want to tell the world about the performance.

Tonight, I'm pleased to say, I saw something special.

Christopher Biggins, Jenny Eclair, Bonnie Langford....and that was just the audience.

It was press night at the Richmond Theatre, and there was something buzzing. The photographers were snapping away at the entrance. Those arriving seemed younger and cooler than the usual crowd. 20 something women constantly preening their hair, gay chaps standing around seeing and being seen and stars nodding at the bar, knowing their presence was noticed. Someone behind me asked her friend why it was such a different audience. Press night, I said.  

But I was taken by surprise by what I was about to see.

Buy tickets now is all I can say.

Joe Pasquale.

I had heard him talking about his role on BBC Radio 2 this week. He was suggesting he'd made the role his own.  He was of course talking about the classic Michael Crawford TV Series from the 70s which I used to love watching with my parents. 

Would it deliver, I thought. It was brave to take on an iconic role and I was suggesting on social media that it was going to get a great review just for that.  

However, it was incredible. Who'd have thought Joe Pasquale is an amazing theatre performer. The lines came thick and fast, and the dialogue was sharp, focussed and delivered at a pace that you'd expect from perhaps a farce.  This wasn't farce. This was something even better. 

Pasquale's performance was engaging, mesmerising, intriguing and just perfect. 

I want to see more of him in any comedy role. He's got a gift in his voice, his comedy timing, his natural delivery and warm character. 

All the other cast were truly amazing. Betty, played by Sarah Earnshaw was spot on. Susie Blake was delightful. Moray Treadwell simply exquisite. David Shaw, excellent. And Chris Kiely, perfect. 

I'm delighted to say it was the funniest thing I've seen for a long time..... in the Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong class.... and what impressed me more, was it reached out to young audiences. Those in front of me laughed as much as I did, and  stood up at the end for a well deserved standing ovation, whilst the cast were dancing to Mud's "Tiger Feet".

All I can say is, your life won't be complete unless you buy some tickets and get yourself and your belly, down to an Ambassadors Theatre near you, and laugh, and laugh and laugh.  I did, and it was a fantastic night at the theatre.  

I just love reviewing for gems like this.


Review by Douglas McFarlane


Coming to a theatre near you, including...



Tour Dates

LONDON Richmond Theatre

Tue 6 – Sat 10 Mar

Box Office: 0844 871 7651


BROMLEY Churchill Theatre

Tue 13 – Sat 17 Mar

Box Office: 020 3285 6000


PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal

Tue 20 – Sat 24 Mar

Box Office: 023 9264 9000


HULL New Theatre

Tue 26 – Sat 30 Jun

Box Office: 01482 300 306



Tue 3 – Sat 7 Jul

Box Office: 01325 405405


NORWICH Theatre Royal

Tue 10 - Sat 14 July

Box Office: 01603 630000


LEICESTER Curve Theatre

Tue 17 - Sat 21 July

Box Office: 0116 242 3595


See more at

Mar 7th

Son of a Preacher Man @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

  Son of a Preacher Man Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Dusty Springfield was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien on 16th April 1939 in West Hampstead, but was brought up in High Wycombe until the early 50s.  Starting her career in 1958, Mary was a folk singer and joined a band called the Lana Sisters, leaving them in 1960 to form a pop-folk trio with her brother Tom called The Springfields.  They chose the name whilst rehearsing in a field and so ‘Dusty Springfield’ was created.

One of the few female singers who were iconic enough to be known just by their first names, Dusty enjoyed huge chart success throughout the 60s. With her rich mezzo-soprano voice, she garnered fans from around the globe and had hit after hit. The Look of Love was written by Burt Bacharach for the 1967 Bond parody Casino Royale and was nominated for an Oscar for best song.

After the huge international success of Mama Mia, there’s been a huge demand for shows based on the music of some of the best known singers.  Son of a Preacher Man is set in a former Soho club, where three broken-hearted people meet to try and find the ‘Preacher Man’ to help heal their hearts.  Trying to match lyrics with a storyline is not an easy task and this conceit is very clunky and at times ridiculous.

The actors try their best to believe in this ludicrous plotline and I really felt for them as it’s so hard to give credibility to this bunkum.  There were some very odd decisions taken which had the audience laughing for all the wrong reasons, e.g. someone popping in and out with a trombone, dancing with a chair as if in love with it and ending a song with everyone collapsing on the floor….?  We were all looking at one another in disbelief! 'Wishin' & Hoping' took on a new meaning.....

The second act was a fraction better than the first and there was a very good version of ‘A House is Not a Home’.  The songs of course are what people want to hear and if you can filter out the rest of the show I’m sure people will go home singing ‘I Only Want to Be With You’, ‘The Look of Love’, ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. 

A new authorised biographical musical 'Dusty' is in production and starts touring in June.  Meanwhile, if you’re a big fan of the songs, Son of a Preacher Man tours the UK till 2nd July and continues at The Waterside until Saturday 10th March.


Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye



Mar 5th

Hedda Gabler at Milton Kenes Theatre

By Alison Smith


Hedda Gabler at Milton Keynes Theatre

 Hedda Gabler is a timeless, distressing portrayal of a self-centred, purposeless woman.  Although the play was written by Ibsen in late 19th century  such female ‘victims’ still exist in the 21st century -  women  whose lives are desolate – echoed perfectly  in Jan Versweyveld’s design of the Tesman’s empty, cold, grey apartment, the only colour the flowers scattered by the neurotic Hedda.

 The other female roles in the play  - the New Women in the 1890s– Mrs Elvsted and Juliana, Telsman’s aunt, have found  their roles in society – the former in writing, the latter in caring; but Hedda can find no justification to her life. She married to avoid being alone and to have a comfortable existence, but she finds herself isolated , with a husband  who is not living up to her societal expectations, and she is pregnant. None of this matches the vision she had of her life.

 The other men in Hedda’s life, Brack and Lovborg, were once her lovers; Lovborg still feels affection for Hedda; Brack, a brute, abuses her. Does Hedda bring this on herself? To some extent she does. She is cruel, manipulative and dishonest .Even  the fact that she is beautiful can in no way justify her treatment of others – her disdain towards her academic husband, her contempt towards Mrs Elvsted and her manipulation of Lovborg, leading to his death. But the men are also controlling – physically as well as mentally – they feel they can caress her at their whim, and, in the case of Brack, violently .

Lizzy Watts gives an excellent portrayal of Hedda; angular, cold, scantily dressed in a dressing gown and silk shift – perhaps too depressed to dress. Tesman  - why doesn’t Hedda take his name? – is acted by Abhin Galeya. He gives a very rounded performance and clearly delineates Tesman’s obsessive yet caring and humane nature, the antithesis of his wife’s character.

One modern touch was Joni Mitchell’s Blue,  music which only Hedda heard. The words ‘crown and anchor me, or let me sail away’ echo her feelings as do the words by Cohen in Hallelujahe words  crown and anchor me or let me  dressing gown and silk shift - , ‘the only thing I’ve learned from love is how to shoot somebody’. Hedda was not alone in her despair.


Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen in a new version by Patrick Marber is at Milton Keynes Theatre until  1111111111111111111111111111Saturday 3rd March

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies