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Apr 11th

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

I felt an air of excitement as I made my way to the King’s Theatre, knowing that the original version of its latest production was written by Edinburgher Robert Louis Stevenson, who is said to have based his story on Deacon Brodie, by day a respected businessman and councillor, but by night a housebreaker - and who lived not a mile from the theatre.

That excitement never left me. Adaptor David Edgar, famous for his award-winning reworking of Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby for the Royal Shakespeare Company, has teamed up with Jenny KIng’s Touring Consortium Theatre Company, Olivier Winner for Best Entertainment for its production of The Railways Children at the Waterloo Station Theatre, for this latest version of the classic Gothic horror.

And good, all-round entertainment it is.

Simon Higlett’s two-tiered set depicts, on the upper level, a foggy London street, while below, despite modest props, various scenes change seamlessly and effectively to provide an atmospheric backdrop, helped enormously by Richard Hammarton’s chilling music and sound effects and Mark Jonathan’s creepy lighting.

But Edgar’s version of this dark tale has an unexpected lighter side. He introduces to the story a sister for Jekyll, a fun-loving mother of two played with much warmth and humour by Polly Frame, while Phil Daniels, playing both title roles, becomes an almost Vaudevillian villain as Mr Hyde, mostly making us laugh more than shrink back in horror - although a couple of scenes are frighteningly graphic and had me worrying for the lives of the actors involved! It was also amusing to hear Daniels sporting a soft Edinburgh accent as Dr Jekyll while as Mr Hyde he is the epitomy of a Glaswegian drunk, and sounding not unlike Billy Connolly. It’s a brave act indeed for a Londoner to play Scots in Scotland, and I wonder, had he been playing these roles in Glasgow, if he’d have given Hyde the Edinburgh accent!

Adding to the more chilling aspect is Rosie Abraham who not only plays Jekyll’s niece and a maid but will remain in my memory as ‘the singer’, an enigmatic figure who bridges the scenes and whose plaintive strains sent shivers down my spine. Grace Hogg-Robinson, as Annie, also gives an emotion-driven performance, in contrast to Sam Cox as Poole, every inch the restrained butler.

As I said, this is good, all-round entertainment with some nice little touches from director Kate Saxon.


King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Tues 10 – Sat 14 April 2018

Box Office

0131 529 6000

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Tues 17 – Saturday 21 April 2018

Box Office

01274 432000

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Tues 1 – Saturday 5 May 2018

Box Office

01902 429 212

Cambridge Arts Theatre

Tues 8 – Sat 12 May 2018

Box Office

01223 503 333

Darlington Hippodrome

Tues 15 – Saturday 19 May 2018

Box Office


01325 405 405


Apr 11th

Cilla The Musical @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Cilla - The Musical Tickets at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,

When Jeff Pope’s iconic TV series, Cilla, aired in September 2014 featuring an incredible performance from Sheridan Smith, no-one could have predicted that within a year Cilla Black would sadly be dead.  Initially she was very nervous about her life story and romance with Bobby Willis (who became her husband and manager), being portrayed in a TV series.  Once she read the script though, she felt reassured and once she saw the TV show she was thrilled.

Cilla was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White in 1943, but when she signed a recording contract with Brian Epstein in 1963, he changed her name to Cilla Black.  When Cilla sang with her friends, The Beatles, Brian came along but a poor choice of song meant he left early and Cilla almost gave up. Fate was on her side though, as he heard her singing again and this time the rock song delivered and he signed her up.  The first recording failed to make a mark, but once they’d selected the right song ‘Anyone Who Has A Heart’ hit the number one slot in 1964, Cilla’s career was assured.

Adapting his TV series for the stage musical, Jeff Pope has concentrated on these early years up until the launch of Cilla’s own TV series for the BBC in 1967, which ran until 1976.

Fellow Liverpudlian Bill Kenwright, seized the opportunity to turn the successful TV mini-series into a stage show and Cilla the Musical opened in September 2017 at the Liverpool Empire and has been touring ever since. Giving a fantastic performance as Cilla is Buckinghamshire lass Kara Lily Hayworth.  She nails the accent, humour and character of one of the UK’s best-loved personalities.  Kara’s voice is stunning and she commands the stage with her presence and has the same star quality as Cilla, so expect to see and hear a lot more of her over the coming years.

Carl Au plays Bobby Willis, the totally besotted man who becomes indispensible to Cilla and gives up his own career potential to take care of her. Andrew Lancel is the manager, Brian Epstein, who adores Cilla but has a self-destruct button that can’t be switched off.  Neil MacDonald (as Cilla’s dad John White) has brilliant comic timing and is a joy to watch.

Supported by a talented cast of musicians, dancers and singers, this really is a fabulous night’s entertainment.  The costumes were stunning, particularly the long glittery dresses designed to maximise Cilla’s famous red hair.

The Waterside Theatre has a special connection with Cilla, as she opened the theatre in October 2010.  She went on to appear in Cinderella and I’ll never forget her entrance flying in wearing a long gold sequined dress with a long train...amazing!

Cilla’s memory and the legacy of her work will never be forgotten and she will always be fondly remembered by her adoring public.  This is a wonderful tribute and everyone was on their feet at the end singing and dancing along.  Adding in an extra song (which I didn’t know) after that made everyone sit down and I wasn’t sure that it actually added anything to the show, but that was only my observation and it’s a great night out!

The show runs at The Waterside to Saturday 14th April and from 17th-21st April at Norwich Theatre Royal.  Further tour dates will be available later this year.

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye



Apr 10th

Hairspray at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Alison Smith


Hairspray at Milton Keynes Theatre

One of the producers of Hairspray, Mark Goucher, says’ theatre has an obligation to both educate and to entertain’.  And the educational message in Hairspray is as relevant in 2018 as in the original 1988 film – that segregation and intolerance are immoral and that differences, be they of skin colour or weight should be a cause for celebration. On the surface such issues would not seem to be elements of entertainment, but with creators of the calibre of Waters, O’Donnell, Shaiman and Whittman, Hairspray becomes outstanding entertainment.

 It is, above all, a feel - good musical; the main character Tracy Turnblad has not been endowed with the best physical accomplishments to become a dancer on the Corny Collins TV Show, but with youthful determination , optimism and a strong sense of right and wrong she succeeds, and, moreover, gets her man. It is a most pleasing example of the winning of good over evil, a battle accompanied with great dancing and music .Short, chubby Tracy (Rebecca Mendoza) with her school satchel is an unlikely heroine, but rather than change herself to fit in with the American ideals she changes the attitude of most of those around her; Collins says ‘put kids on the show who look like the kids who watch the show’ and as a result  the monthly Negro Day on his show is abolished and teenagers of all colours and sizes dance together. Hairspray is the professional debut for Rebecca Mendoza. She is almost continuously on stage and does not lose any dynamism throughout her performance.

The musicality of all the performers is exceptional, but most notable is Brenda Edwards with her rich powerful voice. She excels in I know Where I’ve Been – a story of hope, tinged with great sadness. And the Dynamite Trio – Emily-Mae, Melissa Nettleford and Lauren Concannon - in Welcome to the 60s are as good as the Supremes. The dancing is uplifting, but the prize for flexibility and athleticism must be awarded to Seaweed (Layton Williams), who back-flipped across the stage with ease.

The ‘different ’relationships of the characters play an important role in the musical –  especially that of Edna Turnblad  the overlarge, agoraphobic wife of the weedy Wilbur. Their well- practised ad-libbing caused hilarity in the audience and their good natured relationship caused, I feel sure, envy. Penny and Seaweed, Tracy and Link are also examples of how external appearances have little effect on love.

The setting is simple – the streets of Baltimore in the main; the lighting and wardrobe colourful and the band tucked in at the back played the rhythm and blues numbers with expertise and gusto. The choreography was impressive and the vocal numbers great. Hairspray is a wonderful evening’s entertainment of music and dance together with a thought provoore in the main; the lighting  'reography was impressive and the vocal numbers great. A wonderful evenong'de of most of those wking message.

 Hairspray is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14th April 

0844 871 7652

 Booking fee applies


Apr 5th

Jersey Boys at The King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe


A review by Suzanne Lowe


Having had the pleasure of watching Jersey Boys before I was more than a little excited to discover that the show would be returning to Glasgow.  You know how it is, you build up a show in your head only to actually find out it wasn’t quite as entertaining as you remembered.  This show certainly lived up to my expectations.  With a superb cast, well known songs and fast paced scene changes this was indeed a great night out at the theatre.


Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Cleverly revealing a past through the eyes of each band member.  A past which was well hidden from fans and record industry moguls.  Prison sentences and associations with the Mafia only coming to light as Jersey Boys came to fruition.  Each member’s memory of events slightly different.


Of course along with the revelations of a life behind the stage we get to experience the wonderful sounds of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  With hits such as ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Oh What a Night’, and ‘Who Loves You?’ resonating around the auditorium, it was difficult not to find yourself singing along (normally a practice I would frown upon!)  The slick dance moves and exceptional voices a joy to watch and hear.


The supporting cast totally embraced the era and performed every number with gusto, many performing several roles.  Top marks have to go to Dayle Hodge (Frankie Valli), Simon Bailey (Tommy Devito), Declan Egan (Bob Gaudio) and Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi).  All four giving outstanding performances.


With his amazing vocal range the unique voice of Frankie Valli was superbly recreated by Hodge.  Along with the incredible sound came a solid acting performance with a particularly moving scene depicting the moment Frankie learns of his daughter’s death.  A brief moment in the evening when the audience fell silent.


As Tommy Devito, Bailey gave us an insight into this stereotypical New Jersey tough guy.  As his connections with the mob and gambling debts become clear we are also drawn to his vulnerability.


Egan played the part of Bob Gaudio the genius behind the hit songs we all know and love.  His portrayal revealed a rather sensitive but focused individual endearing himself to the audience.  With superb vocals his performance has to be admired.


We are also introduced to Nick Massi with an intentionally laid back performance by Griffiths.  As the quieter member of the group and somewhat downtrodden by Devito, Griffiths gives us an insight into how Massi actually felt being part of The Four Seasons.


All four incredibly talented performers gave the audience a great night with their outstanding vocals added to memorable acting pieces.   Be assured that the life of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons was a story which had to be told.


And yes….definitely just as great a show second time round.


Jersey Boys - King's Theatre Glasgow

03/04/18 - 14/14/18

Matinee (Thu, Sat) 14:30, Evenings 19:30

Tickets £18 - £63.50

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



Apr 5th

TOSCA at Milton Keynes Theatre

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Quentin Fox

4th April 2018

TOSCA RIchard Huber Smithimage copyright Richard Huber Smith

Puccini was, in his time, derided for not being genius enough. Such a brilliant talent, contemporary critics said, should be shooting for the heaven of musical invention rather than dwelling in the verismo gutter of small lives and sordid passions. The Welsh National Opera’s production of Tosca explodes that notion and reveals a composer who was not only musically innovative but an absolute master of modern narrative, almost filmic in its construction and pace.

Tosca’s themes are simple: love and loyalty. How far, Puccini asks, would you go to save someone you loved? He poses this universal question a specific place and time. Set on a single day in the Rome of 1800, the background to the tale is one of political uncertainty. The Eternal City became a republic under Napoleon who drove out the forces of the monarchy and the Pope. With Napoleon’s retreat, these fragile states were re-occupied by the forces of reaction intent on revenge and rounding up the usual radical suspects.

A republican, Angelotti, breaks out of prison, pursued by Scarpia, head of the secret police, and rushes into a church to seek help from his old comrade, the painter Cavaradossi. In hiding his friend the painter arouses the suspicions and insecurities  of his jealous lover, the singer Floria Tosca. Scarpia tricks Tosca into going to Cavaradossi’s house where he is arrested while Angelotti escapes.

Scarpia tortures Cavaradossi but Tosca, in order to save her man, reveals Angelotti’s whereabouts, But with the news that Napoleon is victorious and set to return, Scarpia condemns Cavaradossi to death. Tosca begs Scarpia to save her lover's life. In return for staging a mock execution and arranging safe passage for the pair, Scarpia, who delights in rape, demands that Tosca yield to him. As he touches Tosca, she stabs him to death.

So where are we? A murderous woman on the run is making a bid for happiness that depends on the word of a duplicitous secret policeman and a firing squad armed with blanks? Crumbs. The politics may seem remote but you know that this is not going to end well…

The production matches the simplicity of the themes and is a bitter-sweet delight. In the title role Claire Rutter (soprano) brings a real sense of coquettishness in her first scene which emphasises her eventual transformation into the resolute and tragic woman at the end. While her acting is strong, questions have to be asked about the power of her voice, though her rendition of the aria Vissi d'arte was well received. As Cavaradossi, a superb Gwyn Hughes Jones (tenor) conveys tenderness, anguish and resignation by turns. In his hands E lucevan le stelle is hugely moving. His stagecraft is magnificent, too: a single look to the audience during Tosca’s jealous hissy fit in the first act is enough to say ‘I know, she’s barmy, but I love her.’

Mark S Doss sings Scarpia with a sense of restraint which makes him less of a pantomime villain than a malign but human figure who uses his position to slake his lusts. Praise, too, is due to Michael Clifton-Thompson who offers up a splendidly weaselly Spoletta, Scarpia’s henchman.

The WNO orchestra performs with real panache under the baton of Timothy Burke and the sets offer a richness that makes the production unforgettable. The church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, Scarpia’s room in the Palazzo Farnese and the battlements of the Castel Sant’Angelo are all rendered on a monumental scale emphasising the real power and the glory in a tale of small people.

This production offers us a Tosca for the 21st century: we’ve seen what power and chaos have done in Iraq and Syria and the debasement that has resulted in #MeToo. That’s the enduring genius of Puccini.

Tosca plays MK theatre April 6th 7.15pm. The conductor will be Carlo Rizzi 
and Cavaradossi will be played by Hector Sandoval
Don GiovanniThursday 5 April 7pm  
La forza del destino Saturday 7 April 6.30pm
Box office 0844 871 7652
Booking fee applies





Apr 5th

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

By Trevor Gent

Arriving at the theatre to see lots of empty seats for the first performance of this horror thriller by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the Swan theatre, High Wycombe was a shame. This was perhaps due to the delay of one day to start the week run due to technical issues, but hopefully a few more people will come to see this one. This production is from the Rose Theatre Kingston in cooperation with the Touring Consortium Theatre Company. Stage play adapted by David Edgar and produced by Kate Saxon.

It was a signed performance and although I did not need it, but should you have needed this facility I was pleased to see that the subtitles kept up with the dialogue on stage, unlike watching TV with text which is usually playing catch up. There were also a lot of younger people in the audience as it seems that this is in the curriculum for GCSE, but as the action on stage unfolded I found myself thinking I hoped they had more of a clue as to what was going on than me.

Being penned by a Scot it was perhaps inevitable that some of the main actors in this play portrayed their role using a Scottish accent, some better than others though.

I liked the simple set and staging albeit somewhat dark in a lot of places for effect should the scene require a more sinister feel or mood. It was clever how the space was used to scene change almost immediately just by a backdrop change, swing of a side wing or bringing on a work bench.

Originally written in 1886 it is a Gothic novel where Dr Jekyll transforms into Mr Hyde, a man without a conscience, through the use of potions. Eventually the transformations get out of control, and his friends become aware of his situation. Drug abuse of the Victorian era one could say and the consequences that it brings. A struggle between two personalities, one good and one bad, where one eventually takes over.

There is a lot of dialogue and at times it is quite difficult to follow, and hear at times, especially in the first half but try and stick with it. I found it much easier in the second half.

Phil Daniels takes the main role as Dr Jekyll, he is a fifty year old Doctor, fascinated by the workings of the human brain and intrigued by notes he has discovered in a book left by his late father, outlining a way by which a man may separate the two opposing elements of his personality. Jekyll is a highly intelligent man who enjoys his own company, and, despite his wealth, is careful and lives simply. As Hyde, he is younger, smaller and dangerous. Hyde has no inhibitions, and engages in violent, depraved acts, not caring if he is observed. In the play, he is a murderer and rapist. Hyde is released, and Jekyll is restored, with the consumption of specific and mysterious potions.

On the whole he does quite a good job as it is quite a daunting challenge to change from one character into another, right before your very eyes so to speak.

There is quite a large cast and they all play their parts well. I especially enjoyed Annie the parlour maid who originally works for Katherine (Dr Jekyll’s sister) However, she leaves Katherine’s employ after her father is violent towards her, and seeks refuge with Dr Jekyll, who takes her in and gives her a position in his household, despite the disapproval of his valet, Poole. Annie is a perceptive young woman, who nevertheless falls foul of the devilish Mr Hyde. She is dismissed by Jekyll when he realises she is pregnant.

The chilly temperature in the theatre certainly helped to keep you alert and added to the tension on stage. I always enjoy an evening spent in any theatre and it you want to catch this production at the Swan it continues there until Saturday 7th April and after that at the following venues.

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Tues 10 – Sat 14 April 2018

Box Office
0131 529 6000

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
Tues 17 – Saturday 21 April 2018
Box Office
01274 432000

Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
Tues 1 – Saturday 5 May 2018
Box Office
01902 429 212

Cambridge Arts Theatre
Tues 8 – Sat 12 May 2018

Box Office
01223 503 333

Darlington Hippodrome
Tues 15 – Saturday 19 May 2018

Box Office
01325 405 405

Apr 4th

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

By Clare Brotherwood

I moved to Edinburgh for the theatre.

There are five main ones, all within half an hour of my harbourside home, and each has something different to offer.

The Traverse is the flagship for new creative talent but, not surprisingly since it was founded to extend the spirit of the Edinburgh festivals, it offers something I’ve not come across anywhere else, though it is now world famous - a lunchtime theatre experience where your ticket includes a play, a pie and a drink, all for £13.50.

Apparently, it was first conceived in 2004 by the late David MacLennon (he of 7:84 fame), at the Oran Mor in Glasgow, as a platform for new Scottish plays. Now theatres in Cardiff, Bristol and Aberdeen also present PPP, while the Traverse has been collaborating with Oran Mor to present a varied programme from established names and new first time playwrights since 2009.

Its two five-week seasons are, from what I hear among the locals, eagerly awaited, so it’s best to book early for a seat in the 115-capacity Traverse 2 studio theatre.

The programme covers all sorts of themes, characters and stories. The latest season features new works by actor, director and playwright Rob Drummond, crime writer Val McDermid, screen writer Ann Marie di Mambro, and actress Meghan Tyler. But it started this week with an exciting and very enjoyable new approach to an historical figure in Gary McNair’s McGonagall’s Chronicles.

McNair’s dialogue is in the true style of Scotland’s best worst poet, and as the Victorian bard his delivery is spot on; his timing is better than any stand-up comedian’s and yet the story he relates of McGonagall’s quest for fame, is at times as moving as it is hilarious.

McNair is ably abetted by Brian James O’Sullivan, not only on keyboard and accordion but in various other guises, and musician Simon Liddell.

This play, together with a tasty haggis pie and - er, a coffee (I was to be driving later and in Scotland drinking is totally out if you’re going to get behind the wheel) is a great way to spend your lunch hour, have an excuse to meet up with friends or, at just 50-minutes long, an ideal introduction to the theatre for newcomers.

I’ll definitely be back!

McGonagall’s Chronicles runs until April 7 at 1pm with a 7pm performance on Apr 6.

April 10-17-21: Margaret Saves Scotland by Val McDermid

April 24-28: Eulogy by Rob Drummond

May 1-5: The Persians by Meghan Tyler


0131 228 1404

Mar 27th

The Case of the Frightened Lady at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh

By Clare Brotherwood

After 30 years of reviewing productions at the Theatre Royal Windsor for various publications, on-stage regulars, not to mention Bill Kenwright, may have wondered where I have been for the past year.

The answer is… Edinburgh! With five theatres on my doorstep, various other venues and a plethora of festivals, what better place to indulge my love of performance and performers, and I have come to Scotland’s capital city not only as a reviewer but as a theatrical landlady.

As fabulous as this city is, there are of course times when I feel a little homesick and crave for the familiar, so I was delighted to discover that my first press outing to the King’s would be to see a production by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company, the successor to Bill Kenwright’s The Agatha Christie Theatre Company which, for the last 10 years, has mounted new productions at Windsor before going on tour.

It was like coming home seeing familiar faces such as Rula Lenska, Denis Lill and Ben Nealon, though I missed being able to chat with the lovely Roy Marsden who, as director, was always to be found around the theatre at Windsor.

Productions like these are not ground breakers but they are certainly crowd pleasers. Everyone likes a good mystery, and this play by ‘the king of the detective thriller’ Edgar Wallace, adapted by Antony Lampard, doesn’t disappoint on that score.

Julie Godfrey’s imposing stately home sets the scene for an evening of murder and mayhem as Lady Lebanon does everything in her power to continue her family’s lineage.

Rula Lenska is to the manner born as the lady of the house. In real life a member of the Polish nobility, she is a class act, elegant and aloof. In vast contrast, Ben Nealon fizzes with nervous energy as her spoilt son, while April Pearson as long lost relative Isla is a quivering jelly as a frightened lady - but is she the one in the title?

One murder down and Chief Supt Tanner from Scotland Yard makes an entrance, played by an authoritative Gray O’Brien, assisted by Charlie Clements as Sgt Totti, who doesn’t seem to know who he is at times. There’s a nice understated performance from Philip Lowrie as the butler, and Denis Lill always makes a huge impact, this time as a rather sinister, conniving family ‘friend’. He’s not the only menacing character. Footmen Gilder (Glenn Carter) and Brook (Callum Coates), in particular, are downright creepy, but we could do with some shadows for them to lurk in!

Writing of lighting, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between the scenes. There is a lack of atmosphere, which lighting designer Chris Davey could have created. Sudden claps of thunder, until nearing the end of the evening without any sound of rain, and disembodied screams, are also obviously for effect and are not believable, as are the scenes where the jodphered and booted Lord Lebanon walks through the house with a horse whip and a saddle to emphasise he has been out in the stables!

But this production is set in 1932 and is a period piece, somewhat stylised and melodramatic. And they say the old ones are the best!

The Case of the Frightened Lady is at The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until March 31. Booking

01315 296000

The tour then continues:

April 3-7: New Victoria Theatre, Woking 08448 717645

May 21-26: Milton Keynes Theatre 08448 717652

June 11-16: Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 024 7655 3055

June 18-23: Palace Theatre, Southend 01702 351135

July 2-8: Grand Theatre, Swansea 01792 475715

July 23-28: Grand Theatre, Leeds, 08448 482700

Jul 30-Aug 4: Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, 01284 769505

Oct 2-6: Theatre Royal, Glasgow 08448 717647


Mar 22nd

Crazy For You

By Louise Winter

Reviewed by Louise Winter

20th March 2018Crazy For you Richard Davenport

image copyright Richard Davenport

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