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Feb 21st

The Case of the Frightened Lady @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

By Yvonne Delahaye

Following the phenomenal success of The Agatha Christie Theatre Company, which sold approximately two million tickets over a decade of first class productions, comes a new chapter from Bill Kenwright’s Classic Thriller Theatre Company. The Case of the Frightened Lady by Edgar Wallace is adapted by Antony Lampard and directed by Roy Marsden with design by Julie Godfrey, lighting design by Chris Davey and sound design by Dan Samson.
 
Edgar Wallace is one of the most popular and prolific crime writers of the 20th Century and the brains behind the iconic film, KING KONG. Having written more than 150 detective novels throughout his career Edgar Wallace’s gripping page-turners are regarded as the bedrock of the modern thriller and The Case of the Frightened Lady remains one of his most celebrated works.
 
Featuring TV favourites Gray O’Brien (Coronation Street, The Bill, Casualty) and Rula Lenska (Rock Follies, Doctor Who, EastEnders); Denis Lill (The Royal, Only Fools and Horses), Charlie Clements (EastEnders), Philip Lowrie (Coronation Street), April Pearson (Skins), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier) and Glenn Carter (Jesus Christ Superstar). The cast is completed by Callum Coates, Owen Oldroyd and Rosie Thomson.
 
When Inspector Tanner is called in to investigate a ruthless murder at Mark’s Priory, the grand ancestral home of the Lebanon family, he quickly discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. The household is controlled by the family physician, the footmen behave more like guests than servants and the secretary Isla is afraid for her life. As Tanner moves closer to the heart of the mystery he uncovers a shocking and closely guarded secret…
 
The whole production takes places in the grand entrance to the Lebanon home where initially a fancy dress party is taking place.  Someone gets murdered and the detectives arrive to try and solve the crime.  It’s not a gripping play and with only one set, which overwhelms the stage and without different levels or seating to add interest and action, it’s hard to engage.  Vocally it wasn’t easy to hear a lot of the actors either, I’m not sure if there were technical issues, but it all felt very pedestrian and I actually didn’t care ‘whodunnit’!
 
If you enjoy seeing some of your favourite TV actors live on stage, the play runs at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre till Saturday 24h February Box Office, call 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee) or visit atgtickets.com/Aylesbury and continues touring, www.atgtickets.com for details.
 
Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
19/2/18

 

@yvonnedelahaye

 

 

 

Feb 20th

RADIUS Playwriting Competition 2018

By Carolin Kopplin

Spotlight on Humanity:
Radius Playwriting Competition 2018

Radius Playwriting Competition 2018 has now been launched in tandem with the Radius YouTube Channel. Judges of the competition are Neil McPherson and Sue Healy, Artistic Director and Literary Manager of London's Finborough Theatre, and the winning script is guaranteed a reading in the Finborough's prestigious Vibrant 2018 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights. There will be a prize of £500. Entry is free.

 

Radius provides high-quality drama scripts to churches and community groups. In addition to a collection of original takes on the Christmas and Easter stories, we specialize in plays that ask searching questions about how life should be lived, and we avoid offering easy answers.  Past winners of Radius playwriting competitions include Cell Talk by Dana Bagshaw, about the medieval women mystics Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, and Red Star by Les Ellison, exploring the astronaut Yuri Gagarin’s failure to cope with the pressures of celebrity.

 

Submissions should be emailed to info@radiusdrama.org.uk by 5 pm on 1 May, 2018.  The winner will be announced on 23 July 2018. Entries should last between one and two hours in performance and may be on any subject. Entrants should be UK residents and the winner will work with a dramaturg at the Finborough Theatre to develop the play for the Vibrant Festival in October 2018.

 

More information about Radius's playwriting competition, YouTube Channel, our unique script collection and other initiatives can be found here

Feb 20th

New Season for March-June 2018 Announced at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Our second season of 2018 – the 150th year of the Finborough Theatre building – features new writing with two European premieres from award-winning playwrights from Canada and the United States, and a UK premiere from controversial German dramatist Rolf Hochhuth in his fourth production at the Finborough Theatre including a performance in German; two rediscoveries from the 1980s – the first professional UK production since 1980 of a musical from the composer of Half A Sixpence, and a classic feminist play by Sarah Daniels; and, as part of our 150th birthday series, a London premiere in English from celebrated French dramatist Paul Claudel who was born 150 years ago.

The season opens with the European premiere of American playwright Bruce Graham's White Guy on the Bus, a shocking new play which blows open the racial fault-lines of Trump’s America, playing for a four-week limited season from 27 March–21 April 2018. It is accompanied by the UK premiere of Rolf Hochhuth’s Death of a Hunter, playing Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays between 1-17 April 2018, including a performance in German on Tuesday, 10 April.

The season continues with the long-overdue rediscovery of the feminist classic Masterpieces by Sarah Daniels, last seen at the National Theatre as one of their '100 Most Significant Plays of the 20th Century', playing 24 April–19 May 2018. It plays alongside Gracie by Joan MacLeod, winner of Canada’s most prestigious literary award, the Governor General’s Award. The European premiere of this one-woman play about growing up in a religious cult plays Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 29 April–15 May 2018.

The season culminates with the return of our ‘Celebrating British Music Theatre’ series with the first professional UK production since its 1980 premiere of The Biograph Girl, a joyous musical celebration of Hollywood's glorious era of silent film, by Warner Brown and David Heneker, the composer of Half A Sixpence, playing from 22 May–9 June 2018. It plays concurrently with the return of our Finborough150 series, celebrating the 150th birthday of our building, with the London premiere in English of Break of Noon (Partage de Midi) by Paul Claudel, the celebrated French author who was born 150 years ago. It plays Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays between 27 May–5 June.

By popular request, we have moved to a new ticketing provider, Spektrix, for all ticket bookings. The website address  remains www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk. Telephone bookings are now on a new number 01223 357851 which is free to call. There are no booking fees on online, personal or postal bookings, but there is now a 5% booking fee on telephone bookings.

Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson said: "Our new season features another eclectic season of work with writers from the UK, United States, Canada, France and Germany including hard-hitting new writing, musical theatre, and unique rediscoveries including another play celebrating our 150th birthday. Our work was also recognised in the recently announced shortlist of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the prestigious award given annually to women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre. Of ten finalists, three made their UK debut at the Finborough Theatre (Colleen Murphy, Fiona Doyle and Anusree Roy).” 

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

Feb 9th

Forever Dusty - Theatre Royal Windsor and touring

By Kate Braxton

It’s only fair to set the scene here and say I am an out and out Dusty fan. I live in a cottage behind her grave and have been hugely anticipating the arrival of Forever Dusty at Theatre Royal Windsor this week - a reviewer's life is Forever Uncomfy...

…This biographical new show has set off on tour with Strictly Theatre Entertainments, and ‘entertaining’ sums it up, in a beehive. It’s nostalgic, dramatic and a simmering pot of emotion from start to finish. Phew!

We’re stepped apace through Dusty’s life story by a script of chapter-style scenes, cataloguing her meteoric rise from shy Irish schoolgirl, Mary O'Brien, through fame and adulation, yet we are also a party to some of her darker periods overshadowed by mental illness, addiction and private struggles with love. The overriding feeling is that she was untouchably brilliant, yet humanly vulnerable. It’s hard not to be empathetic.

Both Springfield’s famous and lesser-known songs drive the narrative in this five person show, and although she physically bears little resemblance to Dusty, the big white boots are filled admirably by Katherine Ferguson. If the characterisation felt a little shaky through Act 1, there is very much a sense of ‘owning it’ come the latter part of the show.  She delivers sequences of magic, including her full rendition of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, the heady, lingering  'Look of Love', and we get the full force of her performance during ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself' as Katherine's Dusty is driven to her knees by the unmanageability of her life.

Mvula Tampa injects additional power to the production as Dusty’s ‘hidden’, and apparently long-suffering African-American lover, Clare. Her vocals are terrific, her stage presence, quite mystifying. In many of their scenes together, I was perhaps over-drawn to the intrigue of her performance and this ‘dunno what to make of this’ feeling was amplified in their duets, since the pair’s voices compete pretty hard for attention. In many ways, Clare personifies the controversy and conflict in Dusty’s life, so that element of unprettiness is strangely acceptable.

In stark contrast to this emotional heat – and I think for some respite to the audience’s nervous system from writers Jonathan Vankin and Kirsten Holly Smith - the more one-dimensional characters of Dusty’s brother, Dion/Tom and American Producer, Jerry, are given a safe pair of hands in the shape of Josh Harris.  Ashlea Lauren and Samantha Palin also provide strong additional support through musical numbers and anecdotal scenes.

A terrifically balanced selection of musical numbers is crisply delivered by musical director, Pete Dodsworth and his on-stage band, who sadly, but per the direction and writing, remain relatively detached from the stage work.

The unchanging set and simple production values focus all of our attention on the full company’s action and interaction.  With a little sharper attention to the dialogue flow, and some fine-tuning to the shared vocal balance, I believe the show has the potential to be something spectacular in performances to come. 

Runs at Theatre Royal Windsor from Weds 7 - Saturday 10th Feb

  • Show Times
  • Wed – Sat 8pm, Thu 2.30pm, Sat 4.45pm

 
Box Office: 01753 853 888 (10am - 8pm Monday - Saturday)
Feb 7th

Crazy For You

By Trevor Gent

High energy, high kicking and gloriously glamorous, the acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of Crazy for You is the ultimate feel-good musical. Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers stars in this multi-award winning, romantic comedy, featuring a fabulous score from the Gershwin brothers’ songbook. Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. Book by Ken Ludwig.

Crazy for You charts the troubled love story of Bobby (played by Tom Chambers), son of a wealthy New York banking family and frustrated Broadway hoofer, and Polly (Charlotte Wakefield), daughter of the proprietor of a failing theatre in Deadrock, Nevada. Sent to close the theatre down, Bobby falls for Polly and, in the guise of a Hungarian impresario, decides to save the theatre by putting on a show. The show also starrs Claire Sweeney in the role of Irene Roth.

Mistaken identities, heartbreak, happiness and a wealth of memorable tunes, including I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It and Embraceable You all feature in this exhilarating celebration of the great Broadway musicals.

The production is well worth its West End billing and is certainly a show stopper of a musical, a real feel good treat with energetic dance routines, fabulous costumes , comic moments and ofcourse some great song and dance numbers. The live on stage musicians added  to the experience as it is something you do not always see on stage. Tremendous entertainment.

There are some blind spot issues for people sitting on the sides of row due to blocked effects on the stage and so actors could not been seen when performing there, which was frustrating and disappointing. However, overall the experience was very pleasurable and this is certainly one I can recommend.

Unfortunately no production photos were provided for the performance but some can be found on the tour link http://www.crazyforyoutour.com/

 

 

The first touring performance of this production was at Plymouth Theatre Royal on Thursday 17th August 2017.

 

The show continues at the Swan Theatre High Wycombe until Saturday 10th February (Box office 01494 512 000) and then at the following locations:

 

13th to 17th Feb - Truro, Hall for Cornwall - 01872 262466

20th to 24th Feb - Ipswich, Regent Theatre - 01473 433100

27th Feb to 3rd Mar - Llandudno, Venue Cymru - 01492 872000

6th to 10th Mar - London, New Wimbledon Theatre -  0844 871 7646

20th to 24th Mar - Milton Keynes Theatre -    0844 871 7652        

27th to 31st Mar - Aberdeen, Her Majesty’s Theatre -  01224 641122

3rd to 7th Apr - Edinburgh, Playhouse - 0844 871 3014

10th to 14th Apr - Bradford, The Alhambra Theatre -     01274 432000      

24th to 28th Apr - Sunderland, Empire - 0844 871 3022

1st to 5th May - Swansea,  Grand Theatre - 01792 475715

8th to 12th May - Wolverhampton, Grand Theatre - 01902 429212

15th to 19th May - Woking, New Victoria Theatre - 0844 871 7645

29th May to 2nd June - Brighton, Theatre Royal - 0844 871 7650

4th to 9th June - Leicester, Curve - 0116 242 3595

                                   

Feb 7th

The Play That Goes Wrong, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

By Pete Benson

The Play That Goes Wrong has only one purpose and that is to make you laugh uproariously. Everything you need to know about it is in the title. This is an Olivier award winning comedy written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields for their Mischief Theatre Company.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

The conceit is that we are watching a murder mystery play staged by the fictional Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society. The plot of the murder mystery is of little interest to us because we are here to enjoy hapless actors and stage crew thwarted in their endeavour by varying measures of bad luck and incompetence. Much of the humour comes from broad physical set pieces and indeed the actual set does end up in pieces and what an amazing set it is.

The idea of a play, presented ostensibly by amateur actors, going wrong is not a new one. In the 80s we had the Farndale Ladies, a series of plays about a fictional village company destroying popular theatre genres and before that was The Art of Coarse Acting, a book by Michael Green which was the journalistic equivalent.

Portraying two stage crew, Gabriel Paul and Catherine Dryden, establish the tone of the play in a pre-show set piece as they try to make final adjustments to the set which defies them at every turn, leaving us in now doubt as to the tone of the performance. Their characters both have story arcs within the ensuing chaos. Catherine’s shy, lowly stage crew member transforms through reluctant actress into megalomaniacal leading lady while Paul’s laid back technician builds an endearing relationship with us in the audience.

The play is introduced with an almost stand up comedic monologue by the company director played by Jake Curran. He has also cast himself in the lead part of the detective. Gradually his controlled but self-important demeanour is slowly worn away until he finally snaps as he harangues the audience for laughing at his ‘serious work’.

Kazeem Tosin Amore portrays perhaps one of the more proficient actors and he moves nicely between his actor character and his real life persona which intrudes more and more as his life on stage reaches new heights of absurdity. My personal favourite was Bobby Hirston who plays, the young love interest and also the variously aged gardener.  There is something of the clown about Hirston who is want to smile broadly, abandoning all illusion of acting, whenever he feels he’s pleased his audience. His monologues are illustrated with nonsensical mime and at times he is paralysed by the intimate presence of his female performers. One of which is played by Elena Valentine who undergoes some of the most physically punishing trauma of the show. She gives a brilliant physical comedic performance as an enthusiastic over actor.

TPTGW Kenny Wax Ltd

Images courtesy ofKenny Wax Ltd

It’s good to hear a company tackle the large, impressive Waterside theatre without any radio mics. The portrayal of their amateur oration allows the actors to comfortably project without sacrificing subtlety, because there mostly is none though one of my favourite moments was a just audible whisper.

If I have to criticise, and I don’t really want to after being made to laugh so much, it is that as the play reached its frantic crescendo, volume perhaps was sacrificed for speed and chaos. Arguably this doesn’t matter as the play is now irrelevant and bedlam is everything but strangely it hindered my focus. It is a huge ask to keep up two hours, less an interval, of such broad comedy and for the most part this was achieved. Perhaps there were a couple of dips in comic energy but mostly the big set pieces were well paced giving a constant topping of what had gone before.

If you don’t like broad farcical slapstick taken to the limit and then way beyond, this is not for you. With that one proviso, this show will make you laugh with more fulsome gusto than you have in a long while.

 

Waterside Theatre

“Box Office: 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-play-that-goes-wrong/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/

 

The Play That Goes Wrong - Theatre tour dates.

BATH Theatre Royal Mon 12 - Sat 17 Feb   01225 448844            

GLASGOW King's Theatre   Mon 26 Feb - Sat 3 Mar          0844 871 7648           

DARLINGTON Hippodrome            Mon 5 - Sat 10 Mar     01325 405405            

EDINBURGH Festival Theatre         Mon 12 - Sat 17 Mar   0131 529 6000           

COVENTRY Belgrade Theatre         Mon 19 - Sat 24 Mar   024 7655 3055           

BIRMINGHAM Hippodrome           Tue 27 - Sat 31 March            0844 338 5000           

DERBY Theatre         Tue 3 - Sat 7 April      01332 59 39 39          

MOLD Theatre Clwyd           Mon 9 - Sat 14 April   01352 701521            

TRURO Hall for Cornwall     Tue 17 - Sat 21 Apr    01872 262466            

MILTON KEYNES Theatre Mon 23 - Sat 28 Apr   0844 871 7652           

CARDIFF New Theatre         Mon 30 Apr - Sat 5 May         029 2087 8889           

YORK Grand Theatre            Mon 14 - Sat 19 May 0844 871 3024           

HULL New Theatre   Mon 21 - Sat 26 May 01482 300 306           

CAMBRIDGE Arts Theatre Mon 28 May - Sat 2 June        01223 503333            

COLCHESTER Mercury Theatre      Mon 4 - Sat 9 June      01206 573948            

SWINDON Wyvern   Mon 11 - Sat 16 June 01793 524 481           

BRADFORD Alhambra Theatre        Mon 18 - Sat 23 June 01274 432000            

MANCHESTER Opera House           Mon 25 - Sat 30 Jun    0844 871 3018           

NEWCASTLE Theatre Royal            Mon 2 - Sat 7 Jul         08448 11 21 21          

LIVERPOOL Empire Theatre            Mon 9 - Sat 14 Jul       0844 871 3017           

BRISTOL Hippodrome          Mon 16 - Sat 21 Jul     0844 871 3012           

SHEFFIELD Lyceum Theatre           Mon 30 Jul – Sat 4 Aug          0114 249 6000           

BLACKPOOL Winter Gardens         Tue 7 - Sat 11 Aug      0844 856 1111           

MALVERN Theatres Mon 13 - Sat 18 Aug 01684 892277            

TORQUAY Princess Theatre             Mon 20 - Sat 25 Aug 0844 871 3023           

BRIGHTON Theatre Royal   Mon 27 Aug - Sat 1 Sep         0844 871 7650           

LEICESTER Curve    Mon 3 - Sat 8 Sep       0116 242 3595           

LLANDUDNO Venue Cymru           Mon 10 – Sat 15 Sep 01492 872000            

BILLINGHAM Forum Theatre         Mon 17 - Sat 22 Sep   01642 552663            

PORTSMOUTH King's Theatre         Mon 24 - Sat 29 Sep   023 9282 8282           

POOLE Lighthouse    Mon 1 - Sat 6 Oct       01202 280000            

 

Feb 2nd

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS Julia Cranney/Kate Treadell

By Elaine Pinkus

MOMENTS and EMPTY BEDS: Hope Theatre, Islington

Following its successful run in Edinburgh, (Double award-winning  - SCOTTISH DAILY MAIL AWARD 2016, EDDIES AWARD 2016 for Empty Beds) Pennyworth Productions has brought its double bill  Moments and Empty Beds to London’s Hope Theatre for a three week run, ending 17 February 2018.  Written by Julia Cranney and directed by Kate Treadell, both pieces are poignant and  provoke thoughtful reaction  from the  audience as they address issues of connectivity, mental health and the turmoil of solitude and isolation in the disconnect of modern life. Moments of seriousness  are broken by sardonic humour but the sadness remains in the hopelessness of the different situations.

Pennyworth Productions was founded in 2016. Their work’s intention is to raise questions about today’s world that we often circumvent as they may be uncomfortable in their acknowledgement. Through the medium of these two plays they have achieved their objective. The excellent performances and heartfelt delivery of the cast have steered the principle of this group to the deserved outcome.

The Hope Theatre is a small studio space above the popular Hope & Anchor pub in Islington. It seats approximately 50 and offers intimacy and proximity to the actors. Staging for this production was minimal with two large chests, housing a variety of props, which served as beds, buses and train seats. The productions relied on the skills of the actors who conveyed their roles with commitment, credibility and sincerity.

Moments features two strangers, Daniel and Ava. On first meeting them, we wonder what is their connection after all he is 56 and she is 25. What can they have in common? Ultimately it is their loneliness and mundane daily routine that brings them together. Ava believed she could start a new and exciting life in London but is desperate in her loneliness. Daniel has had a life changing experience and is rejected by his daughter. His sadness is evident in his solitude. Through the intriguing direction by Kate Treadwell, we are served a commentary through the dialogue which adds weight to their situations.

Daniel

Simon Mattacks as Daniel in Moments: photograph Nick Reed

In Empty Beds we meet the Wyld sisters. Despite being connected through their birth, they tend to avoid each other. Whilst on a train en route to visit their brother for his birthday they have agreed to show a united front. However, despite their agreement, 250 miles offers opportunity to vent their true feelings. This is strong acting which is emotionally charged. Like the swaying of the train as it journeys on its rails, we jostle from laughter to sadness, from empathy to anger and as such are transfixed to the unfolding relationships.

The Wyld Sisters

Julia Cranney, Debbie Brannan and Carys Wright: Empty Beds: photo Nick Reed

On a personal level, I was more invested in Moments.  Julia Cranney as Ava and Simon Mattacks as Daniel performed in harmony with a lyrical element. Perhaps the denouement disappointed but for the main part of the hour, it was spellbinding.

Watching Empty Beds was more objective and I felt slightly detached, less involved but intrigued all the same. This was an interesting insight into sibling rivalry. Moments of silence, elements of anger, attempts at laughter. Perhaps this was rather ponderous at times and some of the humour somewhat unnecessary in an otherwise interesting piece.

A thought provoking evening with excellent performances.

Photographs: Nick Reed

Running Time: 2 hours including a 15 minute interval

MOMENTS & EMPTY BEDS JULIA CRANNEY

The Hope Theatre 207 Upper Street London N1 1RL

30 Jan - 17 Feb 2018 Tuesday - Saturday7.45pmTickets £15 & £12 concs

Box Office: 0333 666 3366 www.thehopetheatre.com

Social Media Details

www.pennyworthproductions.co.uk

Twitter: @PennyworthProd Facebook: Pennyworth Productions

 

Twitter: @TheHopeTheatre Facebook: /thehopetheatre 

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