Thursday, 19 April 2018

“Boogie Nights – The Musical” by Heanor Musical Theatre Company.
Mansfield Palace Theatre
“Boogie Nights-The Musical” tells the comical yet heart-warming story of Roddy, a Jack-the-lad, whose life of birds, booze and boogie is about to be turned upside down.
Roddy O'Neill is busy dreaming of life as a rock star! Debs, his girlfriend, has her own thoughts... basically that Roddy's a selfish, arrogant, horrible, unfeeling, rude, heartless pig! But the truth is that Roddy is in love with Debs, and Debs is in love with Roddy, but Debs knows that Roddy has more than a roving eye! Through all their tears and laughter - can they both find what they are truly searching for?
The musical starts with a wedding scene and Debs is looking lovely as the blushing bride. Roddy then relates how they got to this day, starting from the day that best mate Terry dared him to ask Debs out on a date. The ending comes full circle but there's a twist, well there always is..... isn't there?
For those who are too young to have experienced a 70s nightclub, this will be an eye opener. For those of us not too young (only just) it will be a nostalgic hustle down memory lane. I am quite proud to say that as a teenager I started my mobile DJ days in 1979 – two years after this story is set, but retro enough to count. The story is set around the day that Elvis Presley died - 16 August 1977 and that also is relevant in this story line..
If you can imagine being at the best wedding or retro party ever, then this is the atmosphere music wise because it has one of the best soundtracks around for a retro musical. “Ladies Night”, “Celebration”, “Blame It On The Boogie”, “You Sexy Thing”, “Kung Fu Fighting”, “Bye Bye Baby”, ”No More Tears”, “Play that Funky Music”, “Disco Inferno”, “I Will Survive”, “Boogie Wonderland”, “YMCA”… I could go on.
Part written by Shane Richie, this could be looked on as part autobiographical, as Richie was a jack the lad in his days of a holiday camp entertainer, dreaming of being a rock star and taking full advantage of the entertainer status,
There are several very good vocalists in this theatre group, Tom Lucking(Roddy) gets to wind the audience up with his sexist attitude but he really shone when he sang "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word". Very classy, and the ensemble backing made it sound like a church choir.
Katie Ward (Debs) also gets to show off her brilliant vocals on "I Will Survive" as well as in a spine tingling duet with Adela Green (Lorraine) with "No More Tears - Enough Is Enough" and the mash up of "Last Dance" and "Reach Out I'll Be There"
Adela has one of the really powerful voices and boy can she hold a long note! Her vocal skills made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, in a good way.
Adam Carpenter (Terry) provides the "not the sharpest knife in the box" character but makes a lovely pairing with Gemma Blake as the loyal girlfriend to Terry as well as Debs.
Roddy's Dad, Eamon is played by Roger Bode, and Eamon is the Elvis fanatic.
Spencer, the singer in "The Love Machine" duo - with Lorraine - is played by Paul Mills who performs an interesting version of "You Sexy Thing". Spencer also gets to wind the women in the audience up by being a controlling bully and drug dealer.
DJ Dean is played by Kheenan Jones, who I'd have loved to have seen perform this role a bit more over the top for a retro club DJ, but loved the cheesy behind the deck dance moves.
Getting us all in the mood from the start was Simon Ward (Baz the Bouncer) whipping the female audience members into a frenzy and encouraging them to provide audience participation throughout and to get up and party.
The live band recreated the 70's sound, and I loved the power from the pit. Under the Musical Direction of Lisa Mills she steered the retro inspired quintet, James Bowden and Birthday boy Martin Lewis on keyboards, Nick Alexander on guitar, Richard Hair on bass and Dave Shipley on drums.
Loved the set and especially the projection scenery by That with the colourful light show and set design by Paul Young made this production a visual delight.
Choreographed by Laura-Jane Jacobs, she made the ensemble pieces an exciting watch.
Directed by Patricia Church, she injected an energetic feel to the running of the production. There were a couple of places that could have been tightened up, bit this was opening night, things will be tighter on Day 2 onwards.
I know some may feel that the sexist jibes and attitudes of some of the male characters could be insulting but that is the way that Richie, Jon Conway and Terry Morrison created the script. This was the 70's and that caveman attitude was rife - remember "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" both had sexist pig characters. This is written in to extract audience reaction, and it succeeded, but in a jovial way because the women did get the upper hand in the end.
The musical is not meant to be a serious piece of theatre, just a good night out with a brilliant soundtrack - some bits better than others - and essentially fun and fluffy. There are some serious moments which come as a welcome break from all the dancing, singing and joking around. On all accounts it delivered.
Wonderful energy, some marvellous vocals, lovely ensemble work, a great soundtrack and some brilliant costumes, but through all this, somehow I just felt that there was something missing and I don't know what that was. It sparkled and fizzed, it just didn't explode. That said I have seen this musical a few times and I felt the same way with the professional touring production.
“Boogie Nights” is the best in town until the last dance closes the run on Saturday 21 April 2018 at the Mansfield Palace Theatre.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

“Spamalot” by Sellador Productions
Derby Theatre
Based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the musical follows King Arthur as he travels with the Knights of the Round Table in search of the Holy Grail.
Winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, “Spamalot” was written by Eric Idle and John DuPrez and features "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", “Not Dead Yet”, “I’m All Alone”,"The Song That Goes Like This", "His Name Is Lancelot" and "The Diva's Lament".
Having seen “Spamalot” several times now, I knew the comedy and the Python style, but a show like this is constantly updating with topical humour, so no two productions are ever going to be the same. Whether you’re a Monty Python fan or not, you can’t deny that the writing is very funny, even after all these years and has stood the test of time. Silly comedy hardly ever ages and is mostly very cleverly written.
The brilliant cast includes Bob Harms (King Arthur) Sarah Harlington (Lady of the Lake) Rhys Owen (Patsy) Johnathan Tweedie (Sir Lancelot) Norton James (Sir Galahad) Stephen Arden (Sir Robin) Marc Akinfolarin (Sir Bedevere) Joel Benedict (Prince Herbert) and Shane McDaid, Grace Eccle, Gleanne Purcell Brown and Ryan Limb (Ensemble).
There are too many highlights to pinpoint just a few, but I loved the "His name Is Lancelot" section. One of the campest versions of this section I've seen.
Directed by Daniel Buckroyd and designed by Sara Perks. Lighting is designed by David W Kidd, sound by Chris Bogg and the brilliant choreography is by Ashley Nottingham.
Dean McDermott is the Musical Director, and along with his band of three Adam Rustidge (Bass), Ruth Whybrow (Reeds/Woodwind) and Steve Hynes (Drums/Percussion) they create a wonderfully layered sound that filled the Derby Theatre.
“Spamalaot” is at the Derby Theatre until Saturday 21 April 2018, so grab yer coconuts and gallop on down for a wonderfully fun night, and don’t say “Ni” or the rabbit may get ya!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

“The Jungle Book”
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
This is a new adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic story brought to the stage from the same people behind”Goodnight Mr Tom” and Michael Morpurgo’s “Running Wild”.
Mowgli the man cub, has been raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger, Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.
The story is the same but this is a million miles away from Walt Disney's film. Straight away the setting looks like a metal block of flats, more "urban" jungle book that the setting we've come to expect from this story.
The trees are symbolised by ladders and the setting where the wolves live look more like a giant climbing frame you may see in a child's playground, again making the whole feel more up to date and urbanised.
Jessica Swale has adapted the story into quite a modern and relevant, as well entertaining piece of theatre. It reinforces, for younger viewers that everyone, no matter how different they are, can get along with each other. Given the current climate of the world at the moment, it's something that should be listened to, and not just by the kids..
Keziah Joseph plays Mowgli, and you forget that this talented actor with the big voice isn't a woman but really is a young boy racing around the forest without a care. Her energy is boundless.
The animals’ personality also shone through, as it did in the Walt Disney film.
Baloo (Dyfrig Morris) bumbling about,is great dun to watch. Let's face it, who wouldn't want a mate like Baloo?
The monkey’s cheeky playfulness and funky dance moves along with their "Essex" style vocabulary and naughty burp and fart jokes would have really hit home with the younger viewers.
The sleek panther, Bagheera (Deborah Oyelade) reflecting a more cool and sensible side of the jungle’s inhabitants all add to the fun. I must admit, I've always found panthers rather sexy.
Shere Khan (Lloyd Gorman) also has an air of cool, but shows that dangerous, edgy side of the animal. Almost like a panto baddie and I was almost expecting the audience to cheer when he got his comeuppance.
Kaa (Rachel Dawson) the snake, for me was not on stage long enough. just like a snake she was hypnotising.
The songs in the production, by Joe Stilgoe, are catchy and unique and had everyone clapping along in the high energy finale. Loved the song that Mowgli revisited several times about her identity, with a catchy "awooo" refrains.
The music was played live on stage, and while I'm normally not a fan of actors playing the instruments while in character, this time around the subtle approach meant that I hardly noticed it. I was so wrapped up in the story and the actors.
A revolving stage meant that the story could be moved on without any resetting of the stage. Not only that but with the running scenes, it gave distance and time span to the piece. The set, as well as the
wonderful costumes were designed by Peter McKintosh.
Some very energetic choreography by Lizzi Gee, once more adding to the fun element.
Directed by Max Webster, he made sure that everyone's attention was held because of all of the above, creating a fluid and entertaining two hour theatre piece.
The show is a fresh take on an old story and it breathes new life into a piece that is far from deceased. it's great fun for anyone who like to be entertained, but it also ticks the box for social commentary and awareness as well. Subconsciously educating without the preaching is a clever see saw to balance and this creative team and cast got the balance just right.
One other thing that i also enjoyed was the opening and the end because it gets you wondering if this was all a dream of a young boy who has a wolf cuddly toy, and we were invited onlookers into his sleeping mind...... or could it really have happened? You decide for yourself!
“The Jungle Book” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 21 April 2018

Friday, 13 April 2018

"Summer Holiday” by Good Companions Stage Society
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Four London Bus mechanics, Don, Cyril, Edwin and Steve strike up a deal with London Transport. They do up a double decker London Bus, drive it around Europe as a hotel to win a contract. While on the road in France they pick up three ladies, Mimsie, Alma and Angie, on their way to a gig as the trio Do Re Mi, whose car breaks down. So the lads agree to offer to take them to their next singing job in Athens.
They also pick up a stowaway. A young, American boy called Bobby. Meanwhile, a young American female singer, Barbara has gone missing. Her mother, Stella (who is a VERY ambitious woman) and her aide, Jerry, take the story to the press and it makes the front page. They do all they can to make the story run for as long as possible.
Well we all know that Bobby is really Barbara because of the classic film which transposed into a very successful stage musical.
Mayhem ensues as, Don falls for Barbara. Eventually, when the 8 bus riders reach Athens, they're arrested for kidnapping. In front of her mother, and a Ballroom filled with world-press, Barbara and Don declare their love for each other and the mother accepts (after realising how 'big' Don will become).
I’m a sucker for a happy ending and I love this musical and it’s wonderful soundtrack, “Bachelor Boy”, “Dancing Shoes”, “I Could Easily Fall In Love With You”, “The Last Time”, ”On the Beach”, "The Young Ones" and “Summer Holiday” are just a few of the classic Cliff Richard hits in this musical. They just put you in the mood for popping off to the seaside on a double decker.
Martin Counter (Don), Gary Heap (Edwin), Josh Robinson (Steve) and Ollie Hand (Cyril) are great dun to watch as the four mechanics.
Ellie Mallinson (Mimsie),Kat Adey (Alma), Cat Howourth (Angie) and Claire Jarman (Barbara) are the four lead females. their sense of fun is great to see, matching the lads fir the energy that they put in to their singing and choreography.
Paul Brenham-Foster (Jerry) and Yvonne Taylor (Stella) are also great fun to watch and I loved how over the top Stella was and the mild campness of Jerry.
Brian Counter played Wilf the cafe owner, as well as owner of every other cafe and gelatin seller on the continent.
Directed by Barbara Ashmore, this is her first musical that she has directed but didn't she do well? Nice and tight with some smooth scene changes carried out by a slick stage crew.
Pauline Reader choreographed the piece and made sure that there were loads of energy in the show with a varied selection of dance moves typical of the era.
Loved the bus, which looked like a proper bus as well
Musical Director was Dave Adey with Jeff Widdowson on bass, Tim Wright on guitar, Ben Ward playing a mean sax and Andy Shelton on drums.
Great energy, some lovely voices and a passion for what they do shining through, and what a colourful and fun way to start your weekend off with.
“Summer Holiday” is at The Guildhall theatre in Derby only until Saturday 14 April 2018.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

“Whistle Down The Wind” LEOS
May Hall, Long Eaton.
Long Eaton Operatic Society present the wonderful “Whistle Down The Wind”; the musical written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Jim Steinman, and you can really see the influences both had in these songs.
The musical is based on the Mary Hayley Bell's novel and 1961 Bryan Forbes film and set in the Louisiana bible belt of the late 1950’s.
Three children, Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby are struggling with the loss of their mother and as Christmas approaches, the children are desperate to find something to hold on to and believe in.
One day, they find a stranger injured and hiding in their run-down barn. Unknown to them, the Man is probably an escaped convict, but Swallow seizes on the idea that he is Jesus and, along with the other children in the town, they vow to protect him.
Meanwhile, the townsfolk are on the lookout for a runaway convict, and are urged by their Sheriff to stay vigilant. When they discover where the stranger is hiding, the residents all descend on the farm. As fantasy and reality collide, Swallow is torn between the two and begins to discover who she is and where she is going.
Is he Jesus, or an escaped convict? It’s never revealed and leaves the audience to make their own mind up.
Eleanor Carty plays Swallow, and what a very strong role this has turned out to be for her. Her voice has really matured since I last saw and heard her,a s to has her acting.
Lilly Simons-Clark plays Brat, and once more we discover what a promising strong young actor and vocalist is coming through the ranks of LEOS.
Jude Yellop plays Poor Baby. Again such a strong and confident performance from such a young actor.
Adam Daniels plays The Man. This I am sure is the first time that I have seen Adam on stage and I was suitably impressed with both his acting and his voice. there were a couple of shaky moments in "Nature Of the Beast" which I thought he had trouble with getting the higher notes, but his tenor voice was strong and clear.
Motor bike riding Amos is played by Jack Draper, and there’s even a real motor bike on stage,Jack is one of those actors who has natural stage presence and his young rebel part in this play suited him down to the ground. As with Adam though I felt that the higher, falsetto moments in "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste" didn't quite come off for him, but this soundtrack isn't the easiest to master.
Candy, Amos' friend who he was going to ride off into the sunset with, but didn't, is played by Katie McDonald. Loved the harder outer image which really softened in the later stages of the play. A convincing young actor.
Martin Mould plays the kids' Father, Boone. Always a safe bet with Martin in any production and his vocals in "It just Doesn't Get Any Better", just couldn't get any better. Real emotion as Boone remembered his late wife and the children's mother.
Lots of local theatre regulars in this cast as well. Rob Holsman as Edward, Jack Woolley as Earl, Kheenan Jones as the Preacher at the start and Louise Watkins as the Snake Preacher, and plenty of others in the ensemble.
A large cast consisting of both young and not so young cast members, all complimenting the other age range and accurately depicting a Southern Louisiana community town.
Long Eaton Operatic Society have really pushed the bar with this production, not only with the amazing set they have, but they also include real snakes. They could have made use of puppets but no, actual snakes make an appearance.
The set was one of the best that I have seen , and even better than the professional tour of "Whistle Down the Wind" from a few years ago. it has to be seen to appreciate the magnitude and detail that has gone into it. Scenic Projects have added to the pleasure of this musical no end.
Directed and Produced by Kathryn McAuley, and to say that this is her debut as a director she did amazingly. Such a smooth running piece of theatre. Of course this was also helped along by the help of the hard working stage manager, John Woolley and his incredible stage crew.
Laurie Trott is in charge of the choreography and again, a brilliant job she has done with this large cast.
Great costumes, hair and make up topped off the whole feel of the era and location.
Also loved the lighting and the effects by Tom Olding which created such an atmosphere, especially in Act Two.
Musical director is Tom Watkins and leads a fifteen piece orchestra which really brings out the lush arrangements of Lloyd-Webber and the excitement of Steinman. a beautiful clear sound.
The soundtrack is possibly one of Lloyd-Webber’s most under-rated, with songs that have made it to the pop charts, most notably “No Matter What”, which was a hit for Boyzone and the title track which crept into the lower reaches of the charts by Tina Arena. These aside there are several other pieces which are classic musical theatre with some complex arrangements.
My only bug bear is with something that LEOS and other theatre companies have no control over and that is the sound in the theatre. i don't know what it is but I've never really heard a perfect sound from this place. It may just be the acoustics of the place or it may just need a new sound system. the live orchestra though were crystal clear, so i think it may just be the sound system itself. I knew that this would be the only, very tiny fly in the ointment, because the rest was a massive success for everyone involved.
“Whistle Down The Wind” is at May Hall, Trent College Long Eaton until Saturday 14 April 2018.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

“Private Peaceful” by Michael Morpurgo
The Festival Players
Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough University.
From the same writer as “War Horse”. Private Peaceful, like "War Horse", began life as a book for older children by Michael Morpurgo, and the concept is similarly stark and devastating.
The play covers the years 1903 to 1916. Tommo and Charlie have an older brother with learning difficulties and the play starts with Tommo, dressed in army uniform, starting to count down the hours until 6am when he tells us that there is an appointment with the firing squad.
The story then takes us back in time telling the story of the Peaceful family, their school days and the boys' love for Molly, who is made pregnant by Charlie, just before he signs up for the war movement. Charlie has been Tommo's hero so wanting to emulate his brother, Tommo also signs up, even though he is too young - mirroring the "War Horse" story.
From there on we are shown the horrors of war, including the bullying Seargent Hanley. Hanley had it in for Charlie and had his card marked when during a manoeuvre, Charlie was injured in his foot which sparked suspicion from Hanley
When Charlie returns to the war front Hanley gives an order which Charlie does not agree with, as Tommo was injured and Charlie told Hanley that he had to look after his brother..
Interspersed with the flashback sequences, Tommo is counting down the hours through the night, with the 6am firing squad looming. At 5.59am we discover the twist.
Fred Wardale (Tommo ) and Tom Grainger (Charlie) are excellent in their roles and you really feel that brothely love between the two characters, as well as the emotion, especially when Tommo confesses that he felt responsible for their Father's death, which Chatlie says that he had known about all along.
Grace Lavender (Molly), Gilly Clarke (Mother), Jez Melpas (who doubles as father as well as the bullying Hanley), Billy Harris (Big Joe), play the other main characters.
This is a big cast of all ages with several well known local actors taking a back seat to play minor parts, which also meant that the cast is well fleshed out, giving us a sense of the busy village atmosphere.
Directed by Nick Grainger, he kept the emotion bubbling along right up to the end and, unless you have a heart of stone, you will be affected by the incredibly poignant ending.
Setting us up at the start were the Hathern band, playing music from the era of the First World War.
The screens at the back where the video creating the settings and atmosphere moved us from setting to setting and allowed us to see the countdown to the firing squad, which in turn helped to build up the
tension in this play.
There were a few technical sound issues which slightly marred the flow of the story but I am sure that these will be ironed out for the rest of the run.
That apart this is a wonderful piece of theatre which was really well acted by all. The younger actors showing the same amount of professionalism and ear for accents as the elder actors. The other main thing that this play has in common with Morpurgo's "War Horse" is the intense emotional impact that the story has on the viewer. Be prepared to get choked up.
“Private Peaceful” is at the Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough until Saturday 14 April 2018.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

“Otherwise Engaged” by Simon Gray
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
With his wife away, Simon Hench, a successful publisher and avid fan of Wagner, is looking forward to a long, luxurious listen to his brand new record of "Parsifal". But the love life of his lodger, Dave, and his brother’s desire to share his anxiety over his prospects for an Assistant Headmastership turn out to be just the beginning of a string of interruptions which increasingly draw Simon himself into a whirlpool of accusations and recriminations.
I'll admit that i knew nothing of this play and its' author, but Simon Gray writes a humorous tale with some very colourful characters which would not be out of place in an after the watershed soap opera.
Ian Currie (Simon Hench) plays the character practically comatose, he is so laid back. With all the things that disrupt his afternoon, as well as the revelations that become revealed, he is remarkably cool about it all.
Richard Young (Stephen Hench). This character doesn't have his brother's placidity and Richard's almost neurotic performance is a lovely opposite.
Beth played by Dawn Price, makes an entrance towards the back end of the play but provides the spark in the tinderbox of Simon's existence. Her secret has been revealed but what has she been hiding for the last 10 months?
Jeff played by Malcolm Todd is one of my favourite characters in this play - don't get me wrong, all of the characters come with a back story that is of interest. Jeff likes a drink or twenty and his gradual decline after his love life becomes even more complicated than it was is a piece of comedy gold. Let's face it, we all love to laugh, maybe snigger, at a drunk and Malcolm plays an entertaining drunk.
Davina is Malcolm's other bit on the side and played by Danielle Hall. Davinia is a tease where the men in the play are concerned, and doesn't take her long to latch on to Simon.Danielle looked as if she was enjoying every second of this fun and flirty character, and it was fun watching Davinia.
Dave is played by James Whitby. Quite the typical 70's student, I imagine, but in line with what I can remember from those 70's sit-coms where there is a student featured. Either stoned or drunk or both, again it's great fun watching someone on the verge of tipping over. With a back story of an unlucky love life, Dave gets quite a bit of a sympathy vote, especially neat the start.
Wood, played by Richard Fife, has an interesting past, as well as an interesting present. To the onlooker, Wood has had a pretty varied life which we find out is still far from boring!
Directed by Christopher Collins, this is his debut as a Director but he seems to have chosen not the easiest of plays to direct, but he has turned out a very impressive debut. Chris has a brilliant cast and tech team and any nerves that he may have had before the play started were rapidly hidden. Running for the full 90 minutes straight through, he made the right choice to do it in one act because of the smooth flow of the script and action. I look forward to seeing more directing from one of local theatre's Mr Nice guys.
Sound Design by Gareth Morris and Lighting Design by Rose Dudley. As far as i could tell all of the sound cues were spot on and everything ran very smoothly for both Gareth and Rose.
The wardrobe department sourced some wonderful typical 70's garb, especially for Dave and I also loved the props which straight away set the feel of the era up for the audience.
To summarise, even though this may not be one of the most well known plays by a well known writer, it's sometimes an education to see something slightly off of the beaten track such as this. It's remarkably well written with some brilliantly observed comedy lines. The cast deliver their roles brilliantly and with the sprightly pace of a good farce, for me it all came to a close sooner than the elapsed 90 minutes. Always a good sign for any piece of theatre when you don't notice the time!
I have it on very good authority that it's practically sold out all week but don't let that stop you checking for ticket availability because I think anyone who likes a good pacy comedy will love this one.
“Otherwise Engaged” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 14 April 2018.