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Dec 15th

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed 13th December 2017 by Vicky Tomopoulou

 

Panto poster

 

A sparkling, flying pumpkin carriage, fireworks and lasers, magic tricks, live animals, flamboyant costumes, excellent sound, abundant special effects and most importantly, Brian Conley; his personality and humour dominate every scene. Alongside him, fashion guru Gok Wan, as the Fairy Gok Mother is the ultimate co-star. Their interplay is delightful and it’s obvious they are having a blast despite the multiple performances. 

 

While Cinderella (Lauren Hall) is looking forward to attending the Prince’s ball, her Ugly Sisters (Ben Stock and Neal Wright) make here tear up her invitation and stay at home instead. Buttons (Brian Conley) has a dream too – to snog Cinderella. In his effort to win her love, Buttons brings in the Fairy Gok Mother to help with a magical fashion makeover. The situation gets complicated when the Handsome Prince (Matthew Goodgame) develops a crush on Cinderella too. 

Cinderella

image by Barry Rivett

 

The rest of the cast is delivering first rate performances but the force of the Conley - Gok duo is sometimes sidelining everyone else. Nevertheless it should be said that probably every little girl in the theatre wished that she was Lauren Hall, playing the role of Cinderella with charisma and ease. Chris Ellis_Stanton as Prince Charming has a strong presence although his chemistry with Cinderella didn’t feel very real. The Ugly Sisters offer a visual thrill every time they come on the stage wearing a different whimsical costume.  

Ugly sisters

image by Barry Rivett

 

The play is supported by a team of eight talented dancers delivering the choreography with passion and intensity and accompanied by charming little dancers from Milton Keynes DanceBox Studios. At the same time the orchestra creates a party-like atmosphere with a good variety of songs for all ages and tastes to which the audience is clapping, singing and even dancing along.  

 

The humour is a mix of fart jokes, which keep the kids entertained, and innuendos directed at the adults. The real fun starts when Conley diverts from the script causing Gok to break into laughter as he tries to follow.  

Gok and Conley

image by Barry Rivett

 

The two hour long show was captivating and the next morning my 8 year old daughter declared that she wanted to watch the whole thing again. Even though it’s the simple tale of good versus evil, the adaptation of the storyline is perfect for pantomime with an abundance of visual effects and slapstick.  

Everyone walks out of the theatre with a big smile on their face and for that reason the standing ovation the cast gets at the end of the show is well deserved.  

 

Cinderella is at MK theatre until 14 January 2018

 

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

0844 871 7653

Booking fee applies

 

Dec 15th

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

Walking gingerly along ice-covered pavements with snow stacked up on the side and seeing the glittering Christmas lights glowing certainly puts one in the festive mood!  Without the lights, December would be very bleak as we wait for the winter equinox on 21st, heralding the start of winter and longer days. Pantomime plays an important role in these dark days, bringing colour, fun, laughter and mayhem to brighten up our lives.

This year’s pantomime at The Waterside is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starring the sublime Su Pollard as the Wicked Queen. Su is a real trooper, with her unique energy, humour and enthusiasm she captivates you and it’s hard to think of her as ‘the baddie’, as she’s so likeable. She also has a great singing voice and her opening number ‘One Way or Another’ sets the scene nicely.

Often the leading lady is someone who’s made their name on reality TV and not for having any specific talent, so they can be quite weak.  This year it was good to see Jenna Innes as Snow White, who can actually act, sing and dance, having recently graduated from the Musical Theatre Academy in London. Walking straight into a leading role, she nailed it and I can see a great career ahead for her.

Jon Moses really looks the part of the tall, handsome Prince who rocks a pair of tights and a sparkling tabard, charming Snow White and you could believe they would fall in love at first sight.  Best known as a finalist in ITV’s Superstar, Jon has a wonderfully rich singing voice and I imagine he would be the Prince kids would envision.

In his seventh year of panto at the Waterside, Andy Collins makes his entrance on an inflatable ‘My Little Pony, introducing his character ‘Muddles’ to start the merriment. We have the usual setting up of whether or not he’d be doing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, without any doubt that he would of course as we all love to join in.  Be prepared for a good water dousing though and you could do (as I did) and take an umbrella! 

To complete the comedy double act with Muddles, La Voix returns for the second year to play the Nurse.  She has a dazzling array of outrageous costumes and is a strong singer and performer.  The only thing that I was concerned about was that a few of the lines were verging on being cruel.  Insulting the audience is par for the course in panto, but one or two of the lines felt a bit too personal.

A buzz of excitement permeated through the theatre, as the real-life dwarfs arrived to cheers and claps.  Some theatres use children dressed up and that really isn’t right, as there are plenty of actors who can play the roles.  With Kieran Dumont as Pop, Andy Herd as Sneezer, Kyle Herd as Soppy, Darren Horan as Kip, Emma Jones as Smiler, Trevor Jones as Grouchy and Kevin O’Leary as Twicher, we were a bit confused as to why the names had been changed, perhaps it’s something to do with copyright?

It’s all good fun and the elaborate opening up of the dwarfs’ house was very clever.  The finale costumes were gorgeous pinks and silver and the sheer energy, cornucopia of dazzlingly colourful costumes, impressive sets, mischief and hilarity is the perfect way to get us into the mood for Christmas and forget about the weather!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury until Sunday December 31 with morning, afternoon and evening performances. Tickets cost from £11.75. Box office 0844 871 7607 or book online at ww.atgtickets.com/aylesbury

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

 

@yvonnedelahaye

Dec 10th

THE FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR'S 'A CHRISTMAS CAROL'

By Elaine Pinkus

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Adapted from Charles Dickens by Tom Mallaburn with Jon Edgley Bond Directed by Owen Lewis playing at the Paradiso Spiegeltent, Leicester Square

Nestling in the centre of Leicester Square is the Paradiso Spiegeltent theatre, similar in layout to a circus tent where visitors access the main auditorium by walking through a large bar area. Seats are not numbered. My advice, get there early so that you can be sure to grab a decent seat with a good view of the stage, the props and the impeccably attired cast, who are suitably dressed in formal evening suit with bow ties and elegant cocktail dresses.  

A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL_1.jpg

Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley and Dorothea Myer-Bennett

My husband, who is a keen supporter of the National Theatre of Brent, was very excited to be accompanying me to this review. Those of you familiar with that radio drama will be aware of the format, which is very similar to that of the Fitzrovia Radio Hour. Others who have enjoyed the theatre frolics and capers of productions such as ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ will be anticipating fun and high jinks. The promise that awaits is enticing. The stage is laid out with a myriad of accessories, ranging from washboards, cereal packets and rubber gloves as the source of the sound effects; there are microphones and general clutter on stage suggesting potential chaos and cue boards inviting the audience to cheer, applaud and make strange noises. Reminiscent of bygone days this takes us back to those times where audiences would sit glued to their wireless sets and tune in to the current comedy and theatre played over the airwaves.

A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL_8079_preview.jpeg

With plum 1940s accents and reflecting the attitudes of the time, our five actors take to the stage to deliver their classic literary adaptation of Dickens A Christmas Carol. But of course there are issues here and we are told at the onset by the ambitious and dastardly Ernest Andrew that the Fitzrovia Radio Hour cast have had to relocate to this rather noisy tent after a tragic and suspicious accident befell their lead, Stanley de Pfeffel, at the Wyndham Theatre where the scenery from The Importance of Being Ernest collapsed on top of him. Now it so happens that Ernest had yearned for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, having played Tiny Tim for the last 18 years and is clearly delighted at this opportunity. Valiantly putting his best foot forward he will rise to the occasion in this tented venue, situated in the heart of Dickensian London and where ‘pickpockets, prostitutes and suchlike’ in the nearby streets add to the authenticity of the time. Ironically his humorous apologies for the noise from the proximity of revellers in Leicester Square’s winter wonderland are in fact what mars this performance. The external noise did intrude and in some cases prevented the audience from appreciating the sound effects which were overcome by the volume.  

The retelling of the story was delivered in best English Received Pronunciation by the excellent troupe of Samuel Collings, Alix Dunmore, William Findley, Dorothea Myer-Bennell and Michael Lumsden. Each consonant was exaggerated and rang comically through the hall with words such as chris – t – mas! In true tradition, this festive tale was related, with its ghosts and spirits supported by the crunching of cereal bags (to denote fires). And of course, there was the constant reference to their sponsor: a gin brand, their Christmas friend. But it was in the ‘intermissions’ that the chaos was exposed, with excellent comic timing. Resentment by the cast towards Ernest, opportunist flirting between Vanity Fair and Beau Belles and innuendo a’plenty - all of which raised many a chuckle in the audience.

But, somehow the laugh out loud responses were not there. Was it the noise that infused the tent from the local Leicester Square crowd, or was it the extreme heat inside the theatre?  We had so wanted to love it. This is a group with a noted track record whose past productions have been heralded and who hold a regular spot at London’s Globe Theatre. Certainly the jokes were there, the premise was just right, the content had been well considered and the characterisation was spot on. And yet ... Audience reaction is so important in a production such as this and I am sure the cast will have been a little disappointed. I suspect that the sound may need to be adapted and the thermostat lowered so that future audiences can really enjoy themselves and laugh out loud.

So bah humbug to those who were sidetracked and distracted and in true festive tradition (and in keeping with Tiny Tim): A merry Christmas to us all: God bless us everyone, and here’s hoping that future performances of this delicious festive broadcast will be appreciated more.

Photography: Geraint Lewis

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Friday 8 December – Saturday 30 December 2017 (full schedule below)

The Paradiso Spiegeltent, Christmas at Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DE

Running time 75 minutes without interval – Age guidance 12+

Tickets: 8, 9, 10 December -  £20 
13, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30 Dec - £25

16, 17, 22, 23, 24 December - £27.50

All performances at 3.30pm except 24 December 2.00pm

​Concessions £1.50 off all prices / Family deal: £10 off 4 tickets

 

Box Office 0333 344 4167 / Book online at www.christmasinleicestersquare.com  

Dec 9th

DAISY PULLS IF OFF by Denise Deegan

By Elaine Pinkus

Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London.

 

 

Ah hah! Bully off, jolly hockey sticks, it’s back to those halcyon days of Angela Brazil and the bygone era of girls’ boarding schools with midnight feasts, pillow (or in this case hot water bottle) fights and, of course, jolly hockey sticks.  Inspired by her childhood reading, and wishing to create a platform for women actors, Denise Deegan wrote the successful, award winning Daisy Pulls If Off in 1980. Since then it has played in many theatres with varying cast sizes. In this revival, it is being performed in its original cast size and, as such, relies heavily on the artistry of the actors and the skill of director Paulette Randall MBE.

 

On entering the intimate space of London’s Park Theatre, the audience is greeted with the Grangewood school motto 'Honesta Quam Magna' (how great are noble things). Yes, in this privileged world it is honour, loyalty, honesty and of course social class that dominates. Will Daisy Meredith, a mere elementary school girl who has won a scholarship to these hallowed halls, manage to bridge the gulf? Will she be accepted by those who consider her their inferior?

 

 

Pauline McLynn and Anna Shaffer (l-r) in Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 35_preview.jpeg 

Pauline McLynn as Trixie and Anna Shaffer as Daisy

 

And so it is that the play within a play begins. It is the 25th anniversary of Grangewood School and the girls are to create and perform a play for the parents, aunts, uncles and all who have come to celebrate. This is to be the story of Daisy Meredith and her chum Trixie Martin who set about solving the mystery of the Beaumont treasure, creating for this purpose their Dark Horse secret society. It is a world of latin expressions, ‘oh jubilate’, of social expectations and of course, sporting prowess. And in this world, there is no sneaking or telling of tales.

 

Productions have generally been played in a straight way, after all the script is so exaggerated that the humour is obvious within the writing. However, Randall has admitted to changing the rules this time and to allow licence to the talented group of actors who embrace their diverse roles with relish. From the prim headmistress (Lucy Eaton), to the bullying Sybil and Monica (Shobana Gulati and Clare Perkins) to the adorable Trixie Martin (Pauline McLynn), we settle into that world and experience the injustices netted out to poor Daisy. 'Play up and play the game' is central to her story. It may be enacted through hockey (Lucy Eaton as Alice), or led by the faultless headgirl Clare, (Melanie Fullbrook), adored by all but at its centre is integrity and fair play.

 

There are some wonderful spirited moments and delicious effects of gales and hockey games. As the play returns to its second act the cast settle confidently into their roles and perform with a sense of fun and enjoyment, winning the audience over with their antics. We celebrate the win at hockey through the excitement of Belinda (Freddie Hutchins) in his/her lap of honour and cheer when Daisy saves the day. 

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off at Park Theatre. Photo by Tomas Turpie 32_preview.jpeg

 

The cast of Daisy Pulls It Off: Anna Shaffer, Freddie Hutchins, Lucy Eaton, Melanie Fullbrook

 

There are some wonderful comic moments with characters bringing to life those glorious boarding school stories. Pauline McLynn as Trixie was an absolute delight, playing her role with uninhibited joy and vigour. Anna Shaffer as Daisy was playing her stage debut and will have gained much from the support of her accomplished fellow actors. 

 

Although I was reticent about the poetic licence and freedom of this interpretation there is no doubt it can be enjoyed by all and is an evening of fun and festve spirit.

 

Photographs: Tomas Turpie

 

Venue: PARK200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP

Tel: 020 7870 6876

Dates: Tuesday 5 December 2017 - Saturday 13 January 2018

Age guidance: 8+

 

Tube: Finsbury Park (Station Place Exit)

 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including a 20 minute interval

 

 

 

Dec 8th

Sleeping Beauty, The Kings Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

 Review by Suzanne Lowe

It’s that time of year again (oh yes it is….) when children and adults flock to theatre’s around the country to see their favourite pantomime.  The Kings Theatre, Glasgow has always produced top quality productions featuring top quality stars and this year was no exception.

 

The audience were transported to the magical city of Glasweedgia and the delights of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.  This is the classic fairy tale of the beautiful Princess cursed by a spell as a baby, who falls into a deep sleep on the night of her 21st Birthday after a rather unfortunate incident with a spinning wheel.  You know the story….

 

The show opened with the usual colourful singing and dancing one would expect.  A stage filled with beautiful people dressed in very pastel shades belting out a rather forgettable opening number!

 

However the arrival on stage of Johnny Mac as ‘Muddles’ set the tone for the rest of the evening.  A veteran of pantomimes all over the country, this award winning comedian delivered the usual corny jokes with great enthusiasm endearing himself to the audience instantly.  His interaction and comedy timing made this the stand out performance of the night.

 

Making a welcome return to The King's Panto for the first time in 8 years was the hugely talented Elaine C. Smith.  Taking on the role of ‘Fairy Bella Houston’ saw her opening number announce her great return.  Perhaps this felt a little self-indulgent and unnecessary for someone with her acting repertoire.  However this was soon forgotten as we moved through the show.  Her usual comedic delivery had the audience laughing for the rest of the evening.  Perhaps her most memorable moment would be that of taking on the classic Adele Song “Hello” and of course re-naming it “Hey You” in her best Glaswegian accent.  She was a perfect match to her onstage son ‘Muddles’ and the two played off one another brilliantly.

 

Juliet Cadzow played the panto baddie this year taking on the role of ‘Carabosse’, the evil witch who placed the spell on poor Princess Beauty.  Perhaps best known for her roles in Balamory and River City she received the usual ‘Boo’s’ from the audience one would expect from the villain of the show.  Playing along-side her, was Paul-James Corrigan (also of River City fame) who took on the role of ‘Slimeball’.  As the son of ‘Carabosse’ the two worked well together giving the audience the roles they love to hate.

 

As a stalwart of Scottish theatre and television George Drennan played the part of ‘King Hector’ ably accompanied by Louise Ludgate as Queen Morag.  Their rendition alongside ‘Fairy Bella’ and ‘Muddles’ of the classic Scottish version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” had the audience crying with laughter.

 

Will Knights as ‘Prince Calum’ and Maggie Lynne as ‘Princess Beauty’ also delivered faultless performances as the romantic leads.  They brought a sense of calm to the chaotic proceedings going on around them.

 

Perhaps the stand out, jaw dropping moment of the evening has to go to the flying car!  Yes indeed while trying to get to Dunoon, ‘Fairy Bella’ and ‘Muddles’ decided not to take the conventional ferry but instead take to the skies in a sports car.  Having seen many things ‘fly’ over the years on The Kings stage this has to take the crown.  Not only did it lift up on stage it then ‘flew’ out over the audience above the stalls.  An amazing piece of theatre wizardry.

 

As panto’s go this has to be one of the funniest I have seen in a while.  Written by Alan McHugh the up to date topical references have to receive credit.

 

If you want a great night out then get yourself along to The Kings to watch ‘Sleeping Beauty’, you will not be disappointed.

 

(Images courtesy of Ambassadors Theatre Group) 

Sleeping Beauty The King's Theatre, Bath Street, Glasgow

Sat 2 Dec 2017 - Sun 7 Jan 2018

Tue-Sat at 7.00pm, Sun at 5.00pm

Matinees daily at 1pm, 2pm or 11am

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

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

Dec 7th

Mamma Mia! – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

The warmth of a Greek Summer will be keeping the Winter blues at bay at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal throughout December  as the ultimate feel-good musical, Mamma Mia!, takes up residency there throughout the Christmas period.

Mamma Mia! (in case you haven’t heard) is the wonderfully crafted musical woven around the hits of 70s and 80s pop sensations, Abba.  Sophie (delightfully characterised by Lucy May Barker) is a 20 year old girl about to marry the love of her life.  Her idyllic upbringing on a sun kissed Greek island seems to have only missed one thing – her father.  But, a quick look at her mother’s diary is all it takes to discover that the lucky man could be one of … 3 men.  So, she does the natural thing and invites all 3 to her wedding in the hope that her real father will step forward and walk her down the aisle – while keeping the plot a secret from her doting mother of course!

This was my fourth time in the audience for Mamma Mia! – and it NEVER gets old!!  It is an absolute joy from start to finish … and I think that this touring production may just have been my favourite so far.  It wasn’t “perfect” … the vocals were not the strongest I’ve heard from the principals … but this was more than made up for in quality characterisation and outright GUSTO!  And, anyway … Mamma Mia! is not a show to get too tied down in artsy critical detail over.  It's how it makes you feel that is important - and that is simply wonderful!

Lucy May Barker was wonderful as Sophie.  She immediately won the audience over with her “girl next door” charm and then set about wowing us with an energetic performance and some beautiful shared scenes with stage mum, Donna (played by Helen Hobson).  Ms Hobson led the ‘older’ generation cast in confident style; portraying extremes of fun and drama with solid believability.  Her combination of “Slipping Through My Fingers” as she describes her changing relationship with her growing daughter followed immediately in the second act by the showstopper “The Winner Takes It All” overpowered the audience with emotion.

Supporting performances were all of an incredibly high standard.  Jon Boydon, as Sam, impressed with vocals that left Pierce Brosnan in the dust.  Brilliant character performances from Emma Clifford, Gillian Hardie, Jamie Hogarth and Christopher Hollis had us all in stitches as they brought Catherine Johnson’s book to hilarious life.  I must also credit Louis Stockil who brought acrobatic skill to the role of Pepper along with pin sharp comic timing.  Energy and vocal harmonies from the ensemble cast were second to none.  The music was note perfect on the night (a must for such popular tunes) but I also noticed that the volume was tempered when underscoring important dialogue and this kept the audience fully engaged with the story – 10 out of 10 from me.

If you have seen Mamma Mia! before, my advice to you is to see it again – this month!  Saying you don’t like this show is like saying you don’t like Christmas!

 

Mamma Mia! Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 3QA

Tue 5-Sat 30 Dec 2017

Mon-Sat, 7.30pm

Wed, 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

 

Dec 5th

JANUARY-MARCH SEASON AT THE FINBOROUGH THEATRE ANNOUNCED

By Carolin Kopplin

During 2018, the Finborough Theatre celebrates 150 years of the Finborough Theatre building with the FINBOROUGH150 series, an anniversary selection of the best plays from 1868. Our first season of 2018 features the first rediscovery from 1868 in the FINBOROUGH150 series, alongside five premieres of new writing – three from brand new British and Irish writers in their formal professional debuts, and two multi-award-winning American playwrights with two hard-hitting and controversial new plays.

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: "A recent article in the press bemoaned the lack of new British playwrights at some of London’s funded “new writing” theatres. As always, it is up to venues such as ours to redress the balance. This season features three new debut plays from British and Irish playwrights, alongside two new plays from multi-award-winning American playwrights. Three of the new plays this season were first seen in our acclaimed Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights seasons which will celebrate its tenth consecutive year in 2018. As always, too, we celebrate the old alongside the new, and this season we begin celebrating the 150th anniversary of our building with the first in our new FINBOROUGH150 series.”

Commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nanking massacre, the season opens with the European premiere of Into the Numbers by the multi-award-winning playwright Christopher Chen, commemorating the 80th anniversary of ‘The Rape of Nanking’, one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, playing for a four week limited season from 2-27 January 2018. It is accompanied by the world premiere of Imaginationship by Sue Healy, a new play on love, sex, obsession and death in Great Yarmouth, originally seen as a staged reading as part of Vibrant 2017 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, playing on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 7-23 January 2018.

The season continues with the world premiere of a debut by Cornish playwright Henry Darke, Booby’s Bay, a passionate, comic fable about the housing crisis in Cornwall and beyond, and a maverick’s mission to turn the tide, playing 30 January-24 February 2018. It plays alongside the opening production of the FINBOROUGH150 series – the first London production since 1890 of the 1868 hit, Cyril’s Success, a semi-autobiographical satire on playwrights and theatre folk, by local resident Henry J. Byron, playing for nine Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees from 4 February 2018.

We end the season with the world premiere of the first English-language adaptation of the classic novella by Ghassan KanafaniReturning to Haifa, adapted for the stage by Naomi Wallaceand Ismail Khalidi, a compelling story of two families – one Palestinian, one Israeli – forced by history into an intimacy they didn't choose. It concides with the 70th anniversaries of both the Nakbaor “catastrophe” (the mass dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948) and the foundation of the State of Israel, and plays from 27 February-24 March 2018. This production marks the play's world premiere, following its banning by the Public Theater, New York City. It plays concurrently with the world premiere of Checkpoint Chana by Jeff Page, a new play examining the point where pro-Palestinian criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism blur. Originally seen as a staged reading as part ofVibrant 2017 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, it runs on Sunday and Monday evenings and Tuesday matinees between 4-20 March 2018.

From 30 January 2018, by popular request, we will be moving to a new ticketing provider, Spektrix, for all ticket bookings. The website address will remain www.finboroughtheatre.co.ukFrom 30 January 2018, telephone bookings will be on a new number 01223 357851 and will be free to call. There will no booking fees on online, personal or postal bookings, but there will be a 5% booking fee on telephone bookings.

The Finborough Theatre has had a superlative year to date with acclaimed sell-out productions, transfers in London and to New York City, our tenth Channel 4 Playwrights Scheme Playwright in Residence Bursary, and nominations for both The Stage Debut Award and an Olivier Award.

For full information, please visit www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk

 

Nov 30th

Sunset Boulevard at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith

By Alison Smith

Sunset Boulevard is not, unlike Phantom of the Opera or Evita, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most seen and most loved musicals and this is because the plot - the tale of an ageing film star - is not particularly gripping; on Press Night at MK Theatre  there seemed to be little empathy between audience and characters.  What is the plot?  It is simply poverty meets wealth, young meets old, man meets woman and a violent ending .The ending is not tragic because there is no downfall of a great person – rather the death of a gigolo and the madness of a faded movie star.

However the elements within the musical are spectacular - the music, actors , singing and staging. Firstly the music is complex – there are sweeping ballads, powerful solos, nostalgic and amusing numbers and dramatic songs – The Lady’s Paying, The Greatest Star of All, Girl Meets Boy and Too much In Love to Care. The  16 piece orchestra under Adrian Kirk are virtuosos.

As for the actors Ria Jones plays the role of Norma Desmond the ageing star. She makes the part her own and dominates the stage – imperious at times, vulnerable at others but ultimately pathetic.  Her rich vocals are flawless – especially in  As if We Never Said Goodbye - and her depiction of the deluded actress is completely believable.  The young man she shares her life with, for a time, is Joe Gillis, a budding film writer. This part is played confidently by Danny Mac. Mac has two characters to play – the first as the ‘toy boy’ and the second as Betty’s sweetheart. He is excellent in both. His singing in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ in Act 2 – a great improvement by the way on Act 1 – is powerful. But the actor with the most wonderful vocal range is Adam Pearce as the butler/ex-husband, Max. He glides seemingly effortlessly from bass to falsetto, transmitting heartfelt emotion as he does so.

The musical is complex in its staging. A film set transforms into a bar then into Norma Desmond’s dilapidated mansion and vice versa many times. The two main props are a moveable stair case and two flats, the latter useful for the projection of images of film studios and stars throughout the production.

It is a surprising that all these good elements do not make a perfect whole.

 

Sunset Boulevard is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 2nd December.

 

 

www.atgtickets.com

0844 871 7653

Booking fee applies

Nov 21st

Flashdance @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Click for more details and to book Flashdance tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

It’s interesting to see how things have changed since 1980 when the film Fame (which spawned the popular TV show set in a performing arts academy), showed aspiring actors/dancers/singers that to succeed you’d have to go to an academy to train. Nowadays today’s reality TV talent shows offer people a fast route to fame and fortune without necessarily having the training to support them.

Following on from the success of Fame, came the 1983 American romantic drama film Flashdance directed by Adrian Lyne.  Although it opened to negative reviews from the professional critics, it became a surprise box office success, becoming the third highest-grossing film that year in the US. Worldwide it grossed more than $100 million and its soundtrack created hit songs, including the Academy Award winning song ‘Flashdance – What a Feeling’ sung by Irene Cara.

The story is a familiar one of how someone can triumph over adversity, despite the obstacles thrown in the way.  Alex Owens (Joanne Clifton) is a factory welder, who dances at a cabaret club in the evening, but dreams of becoming a professional dancer and aspires to win a place at the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy.  Along the way she falls in love with factory boss Nick Hurley (Ben Adams), but the course of true love never did run smoothly and with friends whose dreams of stardom also turn sour, will they all find what they’re searching for?

The opening number in a show really needs to grab your attention and set the scene, but this one didn’t do it for me.  The band seemed to be drowning out the vocals throughout the show and the tune and lyrics to the opening number failed to set the stage alight.   There are some great tracks in the show though, which were hits in their own right, ‘Maniac’, ‘Gloria’, ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ and the title track ‘Flashdance...What a Feeling’, which also won the Golden Globe as well as the Oscar for best original song.

The 80s was the time of big hair, Jane Fonda work-out videos, lycra and leg warmers and the show captures all of these.  For a show about dance though, I felt the dancers were a bit short-changed as there was potential for using more of the stage space on different levels with more acrobatic moves.  It was a shame we didn’t see enough of their talents until the encore.  Some of the routines before were so frenetic to the fast beats of the music, there wasn’t time to appreciate them.        

Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton works incredibly hard throughout the show and by the end you almost feel you’ve been watching an aerobics workout. A1 pop singer Ben Adams has a lovely voice and the chemistry worked really well between them.

The show runs at The Waterside, Aylesbury until Saturday 25th November.  For further dates, visit: http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk/tour-schedule

 

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

@yvonnedelahaye

 

20/11/17

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