Thursday, 15 February 2018

“Sister Act” by Musicality
Nottingham Arts Theatre
In 1978, Disco Diva Deloris Van Cartier is a cabaret/lounge singer, which is run by her mobster boyfriend, Vince LaRocca. Deloris witnesses her mobster boyfriend commit a murder, and reports it to the police.
Deloris just happens to recognise the policeman as an old college friend called Eddie, or “sweaty” Eddie as she remembers him. He has an idea to hider Deloris in a convent for her safety under the witness protection act.
At first, obviously she does not fit in with the nuns but when she discovers that music is something that she has in common with the nuns, she turns the convent around with the power of disco and soul music and discovers the importance of friendship along the way.
That's the story, just in case you've never seen the film, now I have a question for you.
This show has fun written all over it and when you think these actors are full time students, how did they perform this show so good when they have studies and a social life? Well I know they have forgone one of the above!
Produced by Nathan Penney and Sascha Cornelius and Directed by Rhodri Denton, assisted by Jake Gelernter, The show is full on entertainment with some wonderful choreographed pieces by Maria Bennett; some pieces, I couldn't remember from other productions I've seen, making this production seem very fresh.
A massive cast, so forgive me for not mentioning every one of this amazingly energetic cast.
Adaeze Olugbemi absolutely shone as Deloris. Her energy and fizz bubbled with every move. Her dancing was exciting and wild in places which was right for Deloris and her enthusiasm was catchy as hell in this heavenly performance.
Boyfriend and gangster bad boy, Curtis was played by James Thacker. I've seen James act before but never noticed what a really strong voice he has. His cheekiness though dilutes that bad boy image but takes nothing away from a splendid gangster role.
Curtis' henchmen Joey (jack Butler), T.J. (Matthew Charlton) and Pablo (Matt Talbot) injected the comedy. Their cheesy choreography was spot on and their main song "Lady In The Long Black Dress" was as spot on as their 70's dance routines.
Our hero cop, "Sweaty" Eddie Souther was played by Curtis Kane. Can I just say that this man has a singing voice to die for. He gave soul to the part of Eddie and could see him being a hit with the ladies and a possible recording artist. Old soul with a modern feel, making Eddie's character feel very fresh. this boy can dance as well!
Monsignor O'Hara was played by Jack Linley. Again I love his enthusiasm, but I just couldn't place the Irish accent.
Mother Superior was played by Charlotte Mann, and she was another one that made me mouth "WOW" when she started to sing. her voice is made for musical theatre.
Sister Mary Robert, played by Amy Foden is another actor blessed with one of those voices that you could listen to all night. When she sang "The Life I never Led", I believed every single word.
It would be difficult to pick out any nun over the next for gusto and entertainment value so I'm not going to. Emily DerveyHannah Kitching, Charlotte Howarth, Laura Gallagher and the rest of the ensemble were great fun to behold.
Providing backing vocals, and dancing their socks off for Deloris were Claire Wimbush (Michelle) and Toni Ruta (Tina).
The band, under the Musical Direction of Matthew Herbert were amazing. the sound was so clear and oozed a 70's feeling, and great to see them on stage.
No set as such, but that didn't matter, the props were all you needed to place the police station, the nightclub and the nunnery.
This show is such great fun, and the cast and production team made sure that this was the feel of the whole production. Loved the costumes and hair. in fact I couldn't find anything that didn't make me smile throughout.
This possibly could be the best production to date from Musicality, and that's a bold statement having experienced their previous productions.
Now, why haven't you got your tickets? Go now and buy them before the devil smites you down!
“Sister Act” is raising the roof while Musicality are raising their voices at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 17 February 2018

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Nottingham Theatre Royal
The place is Baltimore, USA. The year is 1962. Tracy Turnblad is a big girl with big hair and has big dreams. She wants to dance her way onto national TV, and into the heart of teen idol Link Larkin. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for integration. But can she win equality – and Link’s heart – without denting her ‘do?
What is there not to like about this brilliant, bouncy and bubbly musical? Nothing that I could find anyway! It’s like opening a shook up can of pop. Release the ring pull and be prepared to be showered in fizz.
I've seen several productions of "Hairspray" in the past and have not seen a bad one. This production though pushes the Hairspray bar a notch higher. It has even more of a WOW factor with its' very clever video design (Dick Straker), fluorescent outfits, wonderful set design, lighting design (Philip Gladwell) and the amazingly sexy and energetic choreography (Drew McOnie).
Norman Pace stars as Wilbur Turnblad and his on stage chemistry with Edna, especially with his duet, "Timeless To Me", was very evident.
Matt Rixon reprises his role of Edna Turnblad and he was a joy to watch; like watching an artist at work.
Also returning to the production, Layton Williams plays Seaweed.His moves are sexy and that slight air of naughtiness and danger makes this performance fresh to watch. How he could sing and dance with that level of energy, I'll never know!
Brenda Edwards is Motormouth Maybelle. What can I say about Brenda that can describe the absolute joy of hearing her soulful, gospel tones. Her voice gave me shivers, and when she performed "I Know Where I've Been", I could have died at that moment and had been happy. I have not seen an audience give a standing ovation for a performance before the end of a show for a long time, but tonight that happened with Brenda.
Playing Little Inez was a dynamite little actor, Monifa James, and like all the actors, had an amazing energy about her performance.
Gina Murray played the obnoxiously fun Velma Von Tussle and another powerful voice in the cast that had no weak link.
In fact the only link in the cast was of the Larkin variety, Link Larkin, played with just the right amount of arrogance by Edward Chitticks.
I love a bit of corn and I love the character Corny Collins, who was based on a real life U.S. DJ called Buddy Deane. Jon Tsouras was excellent as the TV DJ Presenter who was all in favour of breaking down those race barriers.
Amber Von Tussle, spoilt daughter of Velma, was played by understudy Gemma Lawson.
Penny Pingleton, the best friend of Tracy, played by Annalise Liard-Bailey. One of my favourite roles in the play because she brings such a comedy element to the play. Just perfect casting.
Playing Tracy Turnblad tonight was understudy Rosie O Hare. this show is blessed with some excellent understudies as shown with Gemma and Rosie. If we hadn't been told that there had been replacements in the cast, no one would have been the wiser because every member of the cast we saw tonight were spot on. Everyone nailed their roles.
i must also mention Tracey Penn who played the female authority figures, who was so entertaining.
A brilliant ensemble made this production an exciting, fresh and breath taking show to watch.
Great live band under the musical direction of Richard Atkinson. the soundtrack is one of the catchiest with songs like "You Can't Stop the Beat", "Good Morning Baltimore", "Welcome To The 60's" and "Mama I'm A Big Girl Now" among several wonderful musical theatre gems that will have those toes tapping and hands clapping.
It's a forgone conclusion that you'll be on your feet at the end because this cast is one of the best I've seen, it;s got a fresh feel about the show and because you'll want to.
“Hairspray” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 17 February 2018. Follow the bells!!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

“Our House-The Madness Musical” by Act One
Iveshead Theatre, Shepshed.
“Our House” is possibly one of the best “jukebox musicals” ever, with the songs featured having been hits and album tracks by Madness. It’s also an excellent piece of theatre for the younger theatre performer, therefore a perfect vehicle for Act One.
The story follows Camden lad Joe Casey who, on the night of his 16th birthday, makes a decision that will change his life. Trying to impress Sarah, the girl of his dreams, Joe breaks into a building development overlooking his home on Casey Street. But things take a turn for the worse as the police turn up. Joe’s life splits into two; the Good Joe who stays and gives himself up and Bad Joe who flees and leaves Sarah to run from the police.
The play then follows the two paths that Joe’s life could take after that fateful night; one path means a criminal record and social exclusion, while the other will lose him the girl that he loves. Over a period of seven years and two alternative lives Joe deals with the consequences of that night.
Whilst one Joe fights to keep Sarah, the other is marrying her in a glitzy Vegas wedding and, ultimately, while Good Joe fights to save his house on Casey Street, Bad Joe is determined to demolish it with tragic consequences. All this is watched over by Joe’s deceased father, who pulls the two stories together.
While the story lines and the music is greatly entertaining, there’s a moralistic thread throughout, proving that preaching from the musical pulpit can work.
Such a large cast means that I’d be here until tomorrow giving mentions to all of the talented cast, so I’ll highlight some of the shining stars
Joe Harrison (Joe Casey ) is one of the best Joe Casey's I've seen. He is a confident performer who can sing, act and dance really well. This may seem a weird thing to say but Joe has very expressive hands, and I noticed this in his choreographed pieces. Anyone who is a "Strictly" fan will know just what I mean,and that's not something that comes naturally to a young actor.
Olivia Needham (Sarah) again is a very confident performer, and like Joe, is a triple threat with her singing, dancing and acting skills. The pairing of these two was a natural one as they have performed together in other shows. they compliment each other very well.
Tom Hetzel (Joe's Dad). You sometimes forget that these actors are only kids, because the maturity of these lot make you believe that they can play an older character, just like Joe's Dad. I for one didn't see a teenage actor, I saw Joe's Dad. And I loved the supernatural air this character created.
Lulu Wright (Kath Casey). I am a sucker for an Irish accent, and I don't know whether Lulu is Irish, but if not she fooled me. A very passionate performance from Lulu.
Ben Dawson (Emmo) has that knack for comedy if this performance is anything to go by. It wasn't forced and that's what made his Emmo comical, when it was called for.
Jed Leafe (Lewis). Another excellent pairing and foil for Emmo. Another very confident performer and performance.
Beth Edwards (Billie) and Paige Brierley (Angie). This play is packed with great pairings. the characters come across as great friends and I imagine that Beth and Paige are also great friends away from the stage because the chemistry, as with all of the pairings are natural on stage.
Oliver Halford (Reecey). Playing the not so nice characters are always much more fun and meaty and Reecey is the bad (ish) guy, well one of them here. And if, like Oliver did, you can stir up some kind of emotion from a character, you know you've done your job as an actor, and Oliver certainly did his job.
Alex Leeson (Mr Pressman ). Oh he is a nasty piece of work who will do anything to get what he wants, even trying to force Joe to arrange to have his Mum's house burnt down when she was still in it. A nice meaty performance who, like Oliver, did the job well.
The ensemble work was very good and really fleshed out the stage. Some lovely choreography pieces, especially in the large ensemble sections, thanks to the talents of Wendy Spencer, assisted by Helen Starkey & Michelle White.I absolutely loved the "Sun & The Rain" choreography as well as the "Wings Of A Dove" Vegas scene.
The arrangements of these Madness classics still sound fresh and take on a new life when stripped back so that you can hear the words. A brilliant job done by the Musical Director for this show, Hazel Needham. And the band sounded amazing!
Several highlights but the delicate and heart felt arrangement of "One Better Day" and the comedic interplay with the lyrics in "My Girl" were scene stealers.
Another massive plus were the costumes (Sue Penver & Lorna North). Very classy!
I must also mention the programme, which was designed by Joe Harrison. Well laid out and presented with a load of information.
Produced and Directed by Adrian Dobson, who is also responsible for the set design as well,
Act One grow on their successes and last year's "Annie", which was the first I'd seen from Act One, was wonderful, and I wondered if they were able to better that, well they certainly did.
Everyone involved in getting this production should be extremely pleased with themselves, as I couldn't think of anywhere that I would rather have been on a rainy afternoon than in the company of such talent.Here's to "Anything Goes" in 2019; can't wait!

Friday, 9 February 2018

“Animal Farm” by Spotlight Theatre
Nottingham Arts Theatre
Sick and tired of maltreatment under their enslavement from man, the animals of Manor Farm revolt. Released from all chains, there is but one key rule: All animals are equal. Yet, as the story progresses we soon see some animals are more equal than others…
Orwell uses the turmoil faced on the farm by the animals as a metaphor for the Russian Revolution. It shows how a people's fight for freedom can quickly morph into a power play as chaos ensues.
Orwell plants lies, illiteracy and even a head hunt throughout the play to explain the oppression, propaganda and excuses that led to the rise of the Soviet dictatorship.
It's relatively easy for a film to create the feeling of power and fear, but not so easy in the theatre, but both of these feelings are well portrayed here. It takes a talented group to create such an uneasy feeling over an audience but in the second part of this play, the unease of the power pig, Napoleon was apparent.
Matty Collins (Napoleon) gives a strong performance which is controlled at all times. The danger in his character quite evident as we go through the play.
Even though Boxer, the cart horse is a solid supporter of Napoleon's, even though there's doubt towards the end, he too is sold down the river by Napoleon. Dan Wolff makes his debut for Spotlight in this play and , as all the cast, turns in a solid performance.
Snowball is one from the old school, following the rules of Old Major, but when he comes up against Napoleon and his dogs, he is soon dispensed. Joseph Stafford plays Snowball in this, his first Company show.
Isabella Elliott, as Squealer is Napoleon's right hand pig and helps convince the rest of the farm animals that what Napoleon says is the best way forward. This too is Isabella's debut for Spotlight.
Lottie Martin (Mollie) gets her very own round of applause mid way through the play with an accapella piece which provides one of several poignant parts of this play.
Several of the actors double up the parts but as an ensemble there's not a bad performance to be seen. Charlie EvansJack Grace-Buttenshaw, Louis Barnes-Cupit, Stan Cook and Ryan Dickson complete this hard working cast.
Directed by Cassie Hall, and her follow up from the very successful “The History Boys” from last year, she can add this to her growing list of successful pieces of theatre.
What I was unsure of before seeing this play was how were they going to distinguish the animals from each other. Even though there was nothing to do this apart from the power of the spoken word, it showed that you didn't need this classification and the genus of the animal really didn't have any bearing to the story, apart from the setting being a farm.
Why do I say that? Well I'll tell you. The story is such a classic, well written piece of literature that character of the role wins through. This is why sometimes you can have a female play a male character and as long as you get the characteristics right, nothing else matters, so the breed of animal comes second.
This also spotlights the actor's power to make you believe the character they're playing, making you, the audience member, use your imagination of the physicality of the role.
Using your imagination also works as Napoleon's dogs deal with some of the animals in act two!!
Look, this is just flowery speak to say what a brilliantly talented cast they all are and that you need to pop down and get your tickets, if there are any left, and see this absolute classic. Agreed? Agreed!
The novel is a timeless classic which makes it just as relevant in today’s society as it did when first written, proving that this play still has legs, be it two or four!
“Animal Farm” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 10 February 2018. You can have my assurance that you will not be boared (see what I did there).

Photos by Gavin Mawditt.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

“High School Musical” Erewash Musical Youth Society (EMUS)
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
If you like your theatre pink and fluffy, then this is the one for you. It’s not meant to tax the brain but is there purely for entertainment purposes, and on that point it does not fail.
Disney’s “High School Musical” is a great vehicle for younger theatre groups because of the fun element and the catchy songs.
Loosely based on Shakesperare’s “Romeo & Juliet”, the story is of two High School juniors from rival cliques. Hunky Troy Bolton and the gorgeous Gabriella Montez are our modern day Romeo and Juliet who try out for lead parts in their school musical.
This causes a bit of a division between the two camps who try to thwart the pair’s romantic dreams. The High School diva Sharpay Evans and her twin brother Ryan will do anything to sabotage their relationship, as well as their school musical debuts.
I have three words to describe this show, fun, fun and FUN.
I have a few more though, don't worry.
There are a few stars in the making here and they shine bright like Rihanna's diamond.
Ethan Lee as Troy. I've seen Ethan before and he is so comfortable to watch on stage. And what a voice, as smooth as anything with the likeability of a young Justin Bieber. His relationship with his co stars are believable and his duets wuth Gabriella make your spine tingle.
Talking of which, Daya Khosse (Gabriella) is also the owner of a mighty fine and smooth set of tonsils, again really easy to listen to. She has a natural stage presence and makes her character instantly likeable.
Emily Bridge (Sharpay) is wonderfully sassy without being too bossy, and she has an amazing locker!
Ryan Evans, Sharpay's brother is played by Ethan Fletcher. this is one young actor who really throws himself into a role, making his character a fun watch. It is camp comedy and I loved the characterisation. And what a mover Ethan is as well!
Eliza Charnock (Ms Darbus) is another wonderful young actor who really got under the skin of her character. I've known some drama teachers like Ms Darbus, and Eliza makes this character a joy to watch. Again I loved the dancing at the end as well. Was it choreographed or was it free stylin'? Who cares it was great fun.
Reuben Gotts played Coach Bolton. Loved the way this character performance was more mature than some of the other adult characters as this set the character apart. But he softened when he knew his son, Troy, wasn't just a jock "playmaker" and had other talents to show. Lovely characterisation from Reuben.
Charlie Pierson, (Chad) again another actor I've seen in the past and enjoyed his work. he is another one that gives 100% every time and looks like he is having fun doing it as well. he is shaping up to be an all rounder with his deep singing tones and his nifty dance moves. He does comedy well.
Katie Baddiley (Taylor) is also a star in the making, and again a very confident performer who is easy to watch on stage.
William Robbins, who played DJ Jack Scott, can i sign you up as my replacement for when I'm on holiday from my radio show? Go you wild cat!
The ensemble are brilliant and they really come into play with the big choreography pieces. There are some very clever dance routines in this musical, especially the one for "Get Your Head In The Game" which introduces basketballs into the routine, all managed excellently by the cast. A choreographical smash by Georgie Kemish.
The music was, as it always is just lately at the Duchess, excellent. Musically Directed by James Bowden, his team of musicians kept this show fizzing and didn't overpower the singers.
A wonderful job done by Set Designer/Producer/Director and guitarist, Chris Renshaw, assisted in the Directing by Lucy Judson, making sure that this musical bounced along at a wonderful pace. The show was over quicker than I realised, I was having so much fun.
I always say that if you don't really notice the lights, unless there is a big light-show in the show, then the lighting team have done a good job. well I do notice these things and for all the good reasons. Great job done tonight with both sound (overlooking the odd mic) and light by Dave MartinMatthew Cook and Dave Dallard.
It's always a test of a good musical if you can leave the theatre and be able to hum at least one of the songs, and i could. Some really catchy numbers like "Breaking Free" and "We're All In This Together" will have you earwormed for hours to come.
Great to see that this show is a sell out because it is proof that local theatre is booming and a wonderful recognition of all the hard work that everyone involved in putting on these shows does. This was also echoed by the standing ovation the cast received and richly deserved at the end.
“High School Musical – On Stage” is on stage at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 10 February 2018.

Monday, 5 February 2018

“Hedda Gabler” by Henrik Ibsen
Nottingham Theatre Royal
This is one Ibsen play that I’ve never seen so this modern production by Patrick Marber is my introduction to this classic.
Billed as one of the greatest dramatic parts in theatre and regarded as the female Hamlet, Lizzy West plays Hedda and Abhin Galeya plays Jurgen.
On their return from their honeymoon, Jurgen and Hedda Tessman (nee Gabler), Hedda shows that she is the one who really wears the pants in this relationship and often shows her scorn for Jurgen, his relations and friends.
Hedda, obviously bored, feeling stifled with Jurgen and having no respect for him and the material things that he has provided for her.This mainly due to the fact that she has discovered that she won't be getting the accoutrements that she had set her heart on.
Hedda is a real nasty piece of work, deceiving and lying her way through the play, not bothered about who she upsets, even providing Lovborg, Jurgen’s academic rival for many years, with the weapon that caused his death, after she destroyed his precious manuscript and then lied about it.
As Hedda is associated with the death of Lovborg which may, as Brack gleefully points out to her, cause scandal for her, Hedda takes back the puppet strings that she had previously held and again takes control, with shocking consequences.
Annabel Bates (Thea), Adam Best (Brack), Christine Kavanagh (Juliana), Madlena Nedeva (Berte), Richard Pryos (Lovborg) are all very well cast and all make for an hypnotic cast.
Ibsen's trademarks consist of writing strong, powerful female roles, as this 1890 play readily shows. He also is the master of the long pause in scripts which are wonderful for building the tension, something Director Ivo Van Hove showcases so well.
The set, which is not too dis similar to the one for "Curious Incident" is designed by Jan Versweyvelo, as is the evocative and clever lighting design.
Just listen to the creeping soundscape (Tom Gibbons) behind the actors and the tension grows and stalks you, quite literally making your heart beat just a beat faster than it did a while ago. Every sense in this play is heightened.
I also loved the Joni Mitchell track "Blue" and Nina Simone's "Wild Is The Wind" and "Hallelujah" snuck into the play creating a tasteful and sublime modernisitic soundtrack.
The modern feel is very stylised and if you didn't know that the play was written in 1890, you would never as guessed.
This truly is a classic and I loved the tension and the story. That feeling of danger evoked by Hedda and all of the hidden secrets that are discovered throughout then play, like unwrapping a pass the parcel with its many layers, but will the prize discovered at every layer be a gift?
It drew me in and it was if I was the only person in the theatre, such was the quality of the hypnotic pull of the cast and the writing.
“Hedda Gabler” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 10 February 2018 and is a must see piece of theatre. Don't let this classic power play pass you by.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

“Son Of A Preacher Man”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Who is this Preacher man and who is his son? Well, back in the Swinging 60’s, apparently, there was a record shop in London called “The Preacher Man”. It was a place where all the hipsters hung out and discussed the topics of the day, which of course included relationship issues.
Now, as well as dispensing records from his shop, the owner, who also became known as The Preacher Man, also dispensed relationship advice. An agony uncle of the day if you like.
Fast forward to the present day and three people, Paul, Alison and Kat, all at a crossroads in their life, meet up with Simon, the son of The Preacher Man. The three, from three different generations, ask for help and guidance but can the son of The Preacher Man offer help and guidance or will he make things worse with his meddling?
The story line is as flimsy as a cheap paper tissue, and as easy to see through.
The music consists of songs that are associated with Dusty Springfield, and while the songs are stand-alone classics, at times they seem to just be slotted in merely to just have a song at that point of the proceedings.
Classics like “I Only Want To be With You”, “Spooky”, “The Look Of Love”, "In The Middle Of Nowhere", "I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten", "Goin' Back", "A House Is Not A Home" and the title song are well performed, if not at times a little soul-less in some of the songs but, as I said, seems to be a little disjointed to the plot of the musical.
Dusty performed these songs with great soul and feeling. She may not be spinning in her grave at some of these renditions, but she may be turning rather fast.
Directed and Choreographed by Strictly’s Craig Revel-Horwood. I was a tad disappointed as I was expecting much more from the choreography than what I saw. It was fun but I've seen better from local theatre groups around the area.
Starring Debra Stevenson as Alison, the ex teacher who fell for a pupil she was tutoring called Liam (Lewis Kidd). Alison knew that this was wrong but can she fight her feelings?
Alice Barlow, who younger theatre goers may know from “Hollyoaks”, plays Kat. Alice surprised me with the quality of her voice, especially in the gospel finale version of "Son Of A Preacher Man", which is where most of the audience started to stir.
Michael Howe plays Paul, who we discover through the story line is gay, and is now looking for the young man who who had eyes for back in the 60's, but didn't follow up on his feelings. Michael has a lovely voice with feeling which showed in the group version of "How Can I Be Sure" and his duet of "Spooky".
Nigel Richards played Simon, the Son of the Preacher Man, and for some strange reason I was picturing Allan Carr in this role! But Allan Carr will never have Nigel's singing voice.
Playing the preyed upon Scottish, kilt clad plumber Andy, is Liam Vincent-Kilbride. Unashamedly the eye candy for the ladies, and possibly some of the men as well.
While all of the main leads were good in their roles and the singing wasn't bad. The one actor I was completely drawn to was one of the Cappuccino Sisters. Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong was the one who my eyes were drawn to. Not only for her stature but for the great fun she was having on stage and her stage presence.
Michelle Long and Kate Hardisty complete the trio of Cappuccino Sisters, who look fantastic and sound the same.
The set and the costumes were eye catching, the band were good, but I am not a fan of the actors playing their instruments on stage, especially when they are not relevant to the character or the role. It's not needed, irrelevant and slightly distracting.
The basic choreography and the flimsy story apart, this is held together by the cast and the music of Dusty's hits. I'm glad that I've seen the musical, but it's not going to make it into my list of musicals to see again in a hurry.
“Son Of A Preacher Man” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 February 2018. I won't be waiting though to see this musical in the shortlist for an Olivier award any time soon, but it's fluffy and fun and we have to wait until Act Two for the action and the fun to start.