Saturday, 17 March 2018

"Mystery Magic and Mayhem" by Musicality.
Studio Live Nottingham University.
What I love about showcases like this is that i always come away from them with something I've not heard before or something that I've not heard in a very long time. This was true on both accounts with this particular showcase put on by Musicality at Nottingham University.
The programme was well put together and included pieces from older musicals like "Chess" ( I Know Him So Well), "Les Miserables" (Who Am I), "West Side Story" (Gee Officer Krupke) and "Footloose" (Holding Out For A Hero) as well as a very modern selection of pieces from some of my favourite newer soundtracks like "Dear Evan Hansen", "The Greatest Showman", "Kinky Boots" and "Hamilton".
The theme of the night was Mystery, Magic and Mayhem and this ran through the musicals theme or the songs that were performed, so it was no mystery to me why this evening was so magical, with no sign of mayhem at all.
Linking the performances together was master of ceremonies Jake Gelernterwho sprinkled his own comic touches to the evening as well as performing as part of the ensemble and solo with "Who Am I" from "Les Mis".
The evening opened and closed with full ensembles and in between we were treated to solos, duos, trios as well as group numbers, showing the variety within Musicality.
I'd not heard "Times Are Hard For Dreamers" from "Amelie" so this was my educational addition, Charlotte Mann performed this song with such feeling, she made me want to find out more about the musical and get a copy of the song and the soundtrack. She sold it to me good and proper.
I love the "Hamilton" soundtrack and Claire Wimbush and Matt Talbotperformed "That Would Be Enough". This duo made me think that they would be perfect to perform Jason Robert Brown's "The Last Five Years" because they sounded good together and had the right chemistry for this musical. Just a thought!!
I've heard several versions of "I Know Him So well" but Eleni Kite and Bethany Ward performed this song so well, it felt like the first time that I'd heard it.
Another wonderful duet was "In His Eyes" from "Jekyll & Hyde" by Becky Fryza and Megan Smith.
Loved the fun in the dance section to "My Strongest Suit" from the Tim Rice/Elton John musical "Aida" chotrographed by Rowena Fry and Sophie Mitchell. "Requiem" from "Dear Evan Hansen" performed by Charlotte HowarthRhodri Denton and Emily Dervey gave us something to think about. Comedy was also highlighted in "The Negative" from "Waitress" played out by Bryony Kirby, Rowena Fry and Adaeze Olugbemi.
Looking down the programme I saw "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked" and my first thoughts were that this song is such a big one that it's going to need someone who can really pull this off or else it could be a disaster. I really need not have been worried because Siska Yustina absolutely nailed it. Kerry Ellis watch out!
Mix in songs from "Shrek", "Spring Awakening", "Tangled", "Anastacia","Avenue Q", "Beauty & The Beast" and "The Little Mermaid" and you have a greatest hits of classic and modern musical theatre.
"Mystery, Magic and Mayhem" is on again Sunday 18 March 2018 and monies raised will help to fund the Fringe show that Musicality are taking to Edinburgh this year "Ordinary Days"
I'd have loved to have been able to say thanks to everyone personally for a wonderful evening of entertainment but with such a large group of people involved, I may have been there a while.

Friday, 16 March 2018

“Black Comedy” by Peter Shaffer
Nottingham New Theatre
First performed in 1965, this one act farce which opens on a darkened stage, when there is then an outage of the lights, and then the play becomes lit, reversing the “blackout” and creating the pun in the title.
Brindsley Miller (Harry Pavlou), a young sculptor, and his debutante fiancée Carol Melkett (Lois Baglin) have borrowed some expensive, antique furniture from his neighbour Harold Gorringe (Sasha Gibson)'s flat without his permission in order to impress an elderly millionaire art collector, George Bamberger (Reilly Salmon) coming to view Brindsley's work, and Carol's father Colonel Melkett (Hugo Minta). When the power fails, Harold returns early, and Brindsley's ex-mistress Clea (Selin Aci) shows up unexpectedly, things slide into comedy disaster for him.
Throw into this mix an elderly neighbour, Miss Furnival (Emilie Brittain) and a foreign electricity board worker, Schuppanzigh (Jack Ellis) who they mistake for the millionaire art collector and the recipe for comedy madness is complete.
I's seen this play a few years ago and knew how funny it is, so I eagerly anticipated this production, and I was not disappointed.
It takes talented actors, directors, producers etc to bring the comedy from the page alive and they certainly did that.
Louis Djalili I am so glad that your Dad pointed you in the direction of this play because you did a cracking job of it. Farce is not the easiest of forms to get right but the whole pace of this play was perfect and you obviously got the very best out of the cast and crew. If this is the last play you work on for NNT, I think you can say that you went out on a massive high.
Harry Pavlou, I've seen you in many plays and have nothing but compliments for your talents. This play for me is the cherry on top of the cake - even though I still love "Dead The Musical" to bits. Your comic timing and physical comedy is an absolute joy to watch. Comedy obviously comes as second nature to you.
Talking of physical comedy, Lois Baglin matched Harry every step of the way and I love the "posh" debutante accent which added so much to the character and comedy.
Hugo Minta was wonderfully over the top as the Colonel, a proper archetypal shouty army old timer.
Emilie Brittain is a wonderful character actor, Playing Miss Furnival really put the "fun" into Furnival as the character spirals slowly from God-fearing goody goody tea total neighbour into the most wonderful lush ever. Method acting at its' best.
Sasha Gibson just makes me smile whenever I see her perform and playing a man made me smile even more, Like Emilie, Sasha is a talented character actor and I loved the camp overtones of the character.
Selin Aci really looked to enjoy this role. Not only did she get to grips with Harry but to play a sexy,
mischievous and naughty character seemed to be something that she relished, and she did it well!
The two cameo roles causing some confusion within the play's storyline are played by Jack Ellis as the electrician who turns up to resolve the fuse outage and Reilly Salmon who's come to view the sculptures, and share the same accent. No wonder there was confusion!
Farce is all about comedy timing and this cast have obviously worked hard on this. The laughs come thick and fast, and not just giggles or chuckles, proper belly laughs. It is great to see comedy written in the 1960's getting such a brilliant reaction from the students.
The split level set could just be the best that I've seen. Designed by Beth Mullen.
One thing that could make or break a production like this is the Light design and Ian Webster smashed this, Again it's all in the timing and the timing was split second spot on.
Can i just say that I also loved the programme design. Very reminiscent of the old 90's hip hop style drawn characters
This will be the last NNT production for some of the students, and I for one hope that they will continue with their theatrical talents, as it would be such a waste if they didn't. I've enjoyed watching everything that you've done at NNT, and I hope that I get to see you in more stuff away from NNT, I'll watch out for your names.
“Black Comedy” is at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 17 March 2018. it's one not to be missed if you want to exercise your chuckle muscles.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

“Tommy” by Gatepost Theatre
Guildhall Theatre, Derby.
Based on the iconic 1969 concept album, The Who’s "Tommy" is the multi-award winning epic rock musical written by Pete Townshend.
After witnessing the murder of his father by his mother's lover, Tommy is traumatized into catatonia, and as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbours.
As a teenager, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball, and when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia by smashing the mirror he sees Captain Walker through, he becomes an international pinball superstar.
The musical is something special. This production is also something very special with parts of the musical being signed by the cast as they performed.Knowing how difficult it is to learn the basics of signing, this cast did a smooth job, thanks to the help of their signing consultant Jean Collington.
Tommy is played by a young actor called Harrison Ince who oozes confidence and can hold a tune as well.
Captain Walker is played by Christopher Collington, who doubles as the narrator, co-designed the set, choreographed the musical and directed it. One man, many hats.
Kirsty Vastenavondt (Mrs Walker), Daniel Collington (The Lover), Simon Owen (Uncle Ernie), Simon Collington (Cousin Kevin) and Sarah Knight (The Acid Queen) were all incredible. Their vocals were amazing. This is a rock opera and singing this style can be quite difficult, but it was if they had sung rock music all their lives. The power and clarity of their voices were fantastic.
This production features a brilliant live band faithfully recreating the sound and score of Pete Townshend and The Who. Tracks like “Amazing Journey”, “See Me Feel Me”, “The Acid Queen”, "I'm Free", “Smash The Mirror” and of course “Pinball Wizard”
At the start they warned the audience that they would need to switch their mobiles off as well as their hearing aids, and they delivered what they promised. Being loud doesn't always mean being comfortable to listen to but in the hands of Musical Director James Bowden, this band were loud and very comfortable on the ears. If I'm going to listen to rock music, it has to be loud! It has to have clarity!
The sound inside The Guildhall is always crystal clear and you could hear every word of every piece of dialogue and every song. Sound technician, Harry Greatorex made sure of that.
A simple set, co designed by John Cliff and Chris Collington, made sure that nothing detracted from the story, and this musical is all about telling a story. the first five minutes or so was all done with no words and that set the tone for the rest of the show.
From the Producer, Jim Dawkins, to the costumes provided by Mina Machin, to the wonderful ensemble and stage management team, you could tell that this show has been a labour of love for everyone involved. The passion and energy behind the performances is clear to see, and that is what makes this show one not to miss.
“Tommy” by Gatepost Theatre Company is at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby until Saturday 17 March 2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

"War Horse" National Theatre production.
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall.
This was the play that I've been looking forward to seeing for the past 18 months or so, and I tell you what, it was well worth the wait. I'd heard so many excellent reports of "War Horse" and every single one of them were true.
The young horse was bought in an auction when Ted Narracott out bids his brother, Arthur, using the mortgage money of $39.00. This obviously doesn't go down well back at home and his son, Albert is then given the job of looking after the horse, now named Joey.
Arthur then makes a bet with Ted which involved the horse being able to pull a plough within a week, which Albert trains Joey to do, winning the horse for himself.
As war comes, Ted sells the horse to the war behind Albert's back for $100. Albert is resigned to bring Joey back from the war which involves signing up for war, even though he is too young.
"War Horse" exceeds other theatre productions, for me, on two accounts. The first is the whole depiction of war. It shows the true horrors of the first World War; soldiers being blasted off of their horses, horses being mutilates by soldiers riding them into barbed wire fences, soldiers with limbs blown off and the horror of the whole involvement of war. I may say at this stage that it's not quite as graphic as I've made out but the presentation makes your imagination work overtime.
The second is the amazing puppetry. You soon forget that these horses are puppets and there are people involved in making the magic, and you truly believe there are horses on stage. there's one piece where one horse was put out of its' misery which will really get to you; it did me and you just feel helpless, and then you have to bring yourself back to reality and think "it's a puppet"!
That said, these puppeteers, the award winning Handspring Puppet Company, are incredible. The flicks of the horses' tail, the subtle movements, the mane shaking, the breathing of the horse, every mannerism makes you feel they're exquisite equines in front of your very eyes.
It;s not just the wonderful horse puppets though, as there's the comical goose, the birds in the sky, as well as the savage ones picking at the flesh of the dead soldiers and the horses. Pure theatrical magic.
It's this magic that will get you choked at the end. A lesser individual would have released a tear; I just had dust in my eye making it water. Must have been all that dust from the several gunshots on stage.
Seriously though, this has to be one of the most amazing pieces of theatre of the last however many
years, and you'd have to be inhuman not to be moved by the incredible actors, puppeteers, singers etc, If you allow yourself to invest emotion into this show, you'll leave this theatre drained.
The lighting design (Paule Constable) was spectacular, as was the sound design (Christopher Shutt); both bringing your heart rate down as well as making you jump out of your skin.
Music was beautifully evocative folk music, written by Adrian Sutton and performed live on stage by Bob Fox.
Several times I've built myself up for a piece of theatre and have found that the production fell below what I'd hoped for. This production exceeded anything I could have hoped for. It's a beautiful piece of theatre, which I'm sure that the Directors,
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris are incredibly proud of. If I was a director and produced a piece like this, I'd be happy to retire knowing that I'd be hard pushed to better it.
I really can't impress on anyone wondering if they should see this show just how much they will love this piece of theatre, as I did. My only disappointment was why so many people in the audience didn't stand to show their appreciation at the end. Maybe they were just a wee bit more reserved than I at showing how much I appreciated the talented actors!
"War Horse" is stabled at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 7 April 2018.
"Our Country's Good"
Nottingham Playhouse.
Written by Timberlake Werenbaker and based on the Thomas Keneally play "The Playmaker". This is the story of a group of convicts in a penal colony and focuses on four British men who have just arrived in Sydney, Governor Arthur Philip, Captain Watkin Tench, Captain David Collins, and Midshipman Harry Brewer.
They debate the purpose of imprisonment. On one side of the debate is the idea that it is to punish criminals—on the other side, that it exists to rehabilitate them.
They also argue whether or not criminals are born as such, or whether crime is a learned behaviour. Tench tells the others that the convicts are entertained by hangings, so the governor orders the midshipman to find a hangman.
There are three criminals who have been found guilty of stealing food, and they will be hanged, one of them a woman which doesn't lie well with some of the men. The governor also wants the convicts to put on a play, as less violent entertainment.
This production is in association with Ramps On The Moon who last put in an amazing production of "Tommy" at The Playhouse.
Ramps On The Moon are a company with around 60% of the cast members having some level of disability, which adds a special element to their plays. It also shows that disability in any way is nor a barrier where talent is concerned. Their role in this beautiful piece of theatre injects something very special to the story and performance.
While there's a lot of "in your face" and shocking stuff in this play - The Hangman reluctantly measuring up Liz Morden to be hanged, so that the "drop" would be right, was unnerving, as was the sound and screams of one of the other prisoners being flogged, chilled the blood.
There's also a great deal of comedy in this play, both physical and verbal, much of this provided by Caroline Parker as Meg Long.
I also love the theatrical etiquette nods to the audience as well. As someone who believes that an audience should show respect for the actors and the other audience members, I felt like applauding these nods.
Directed by Fiona Buffini, she has helped bring the beauty of the play and the writing, and has presented this in a most entertaining way. Along with the actors, Fiona has brought out the humour and human side of the characters.
Loved the simple but beautiful set (Neil Murray) and the incidental music (Jon Nicholls) which moved the scenes on with fluidity.
It's an excellent cast which nudges the boundaries of theatre, which is something as an avid theatre goer, and a lover of boundary pushing productions like this, I absolutely adore.
This play is as relevant today as ever. It's an education, an intelligent and entertaining watch and is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 24 March 2018.

Friday, 9 March 2018

“Why Is John Lennon Wearing A Skirt” by Claire Dowie
Nottingham New Theatre. 
Just one of the many reasons why I love the Nottingham New Theatre is their choice of productions and the fact that I’ve remained unaware of these plays prior to seeing them at the New Theatre. This is one of those plays, and as you can tell from the title of this play, it gives no indication of what the play is about.
Dowie’s best known ‘stand-up play’ is a powerful monologue about gender expectations and stereotypes by someone who doesn’t want to be a ‘girl’, doesn’t want to wear skirts and wants to be John Lennon.
What begins as frustration at the impracticality of the compulsory school skirt – only good for showing off legs and no good for playing football – becomes an articulate and passionate argument against obligatory femininity and individualism.
Usually performed as a one woman play, NNT have cast four actors to play John - Michaela Green, Rosie Hudson, Kate Maguire and Lillian Race.
It's refreshing to see what it's like to look at life from a female point of view, and they make it fun to see what women think of men at different stages of their lives.
That said they can turn a comical moment completely on its' head to pathos and really make you think long and hard about some of the issues people, not just women, feel with self identity, gender equality and the respect we all demand, but often fail to receive.
Although written in 1996, the issues covered by Dowie are just as relevant, if not more, today, which is why this play feels so fresh.
Directed by Chloe Richardson and produced by Darcey Graham, they have presented a powerful piece of theatre which fires home a serious and thought provoking message whilst being entertaining, and plenty of sass.
i loved the lighting design (James Fox) which spotlit the individual "Johns" which made you focus on that one character, making sure that your eyes and ears were on what that actor had to say at that time. This made the speech and actor even stronger from an audience point of view. Another clever directorial decision.
The music design (Georgi Paxton) was fun and ranged from John Lennon, as you'd expect, to the Beatles, T Rex and Marc Bolan and the very cool Sampha.
Another vital piece of theatrical education for me tonight thanks to the NNT bunch.
"Why Is John Lennon Wearing A Skirt" is on at the Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 10 March 2018

Thursday, 8 March 2018

“Annie Get Your Gun” by EMS
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
This is one Erewash Musical Society production that has "FUN" written all over it from start to end.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West show is in town and visits Cincinnati, Ohio, Frank Butler, the show's star, challenges anyone in town to a shooting match. Foster Wilson, the local hotel owner, doesn't appreciate the Wild West show taking over his hotel, so Frank gives him a side bet of one hundred dollars on the match. Annie Oakley enters and. when Wilson learns she's a brilliant shot, he enters her in the shooting match against Frank Butler.
Annie meets Frank Butler and is instantly smitten with him, not knowing he will be her opponent, which she then discovers and ends up winning the contest. She is invited to join the travelling show, which she accepts because she has fallen for Frank, and even though Frank proposes to Annie, things have a way of not running too smooth for the love struck sharp shooters!
Based on the true story of Miss Annie Oakley, this is one of those musicals that is packed with show tunes that you’ll know, “The Girl that I Marry”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “Doin’ What Comes Naturally”, “They say It’s Wonderful”, “Anything You Can Do”, “The Sun In The Morning", all instantly recognisable. I can guarantee that you will leave the theatre with one or all of the above rattling around your head for days afterwards
Frank Butler is played by Dan Bates. Now this is the first time that i have seen Dan in an acting role, as far as i can remember. I'd heard Dan sing and knew that he could sing. From tonight i now know that he can act and sing in an American accent. A champeen performance!
Simon Parker (Buffalo Bill) rocked that silver wig (i take it, it was a wig) and looked every inch the boss clad in white.
Alex Tavener, as Dolly Tate, was wonderfully fun to watch and it looks like Alex was having as much fun on stage as we were watching her in the audience.
Zak Charlesworth played Tommy Keeler, the half Indian half Irishman.Good to see Zak carrying on with the less serious roles. he also has one of the best voices in the show.
Playing Tommy's wife is Giselle Tavener, and a lovely chemistry there is between these two characters.
Charlie Davenport is played by Richard Dawson and manages to be that stepping stone between Frank and Annie while still being the business manager for Buffalo Bill's show.
Keith Butcher looked every inch Chief Sitting Bull in that cool, calm , collected way that the man who has all the answers can be.
The shapely sharp-shooter, Annie, is played by Rebecca Charnley, and what a role to play. She is a feisty one and Rebecca gets the character of Miss Oakley on the button. Mix that feistiness with a massive dollop of fun and you have the perfect Annie. As with Dan, learning to sing in an accent is not easy but this show is all about the fun factor and that American singing accent only adds to the fun of the role. And boy does Rebecca throw everything into the role.
Annie's siblings are played (Thursday night) by Dylan Hoodle (Little Jake), Katie Fitzpatrick (Jessie) and Nadia Potter (Nellie) and are a trio of cuteness with endless confidence.
There's also a very talented ensemble working in with these main characters who flesh out the dances and crowd scenes, who we must not forget.
Directed by James Bowden, he keeps the pace going nicely, which you need to when the production is two and a half hours long, but boy do you get your money's worth.
Martin Lewis is the Musical Director for the show with his talented posse of musicians making up an 11 piece orchestra.
A couple of times the music did swamp some of the lines from the actors but that's just one of those things. It certainly didn't detract from the performance.
This show has a lot of numbers which means that there is also a lot of choreography,and I loved the energy levels of these dances and dancers. Victoria Palmer is the choreographer we have to thank for this area of excellence.
Sets can be a problem in smaller theatres but EMUS get round this by use of cinematic sets (Paul Young) and this worked really well. The clarity of these projection designs is wonderful, especially the one for the boat in Act Two. There are also additional bits of scenery to enhance the projections, so it;s not just a flat backdrop picture, which also shows this company's set building talents.
Loved the costumes, and they must be great dun to wear. let's face it who wouldn't want to dress up as a cowboy or indian and prance around on stage?
And last but not least, because where would we be with the sound and light guys (in the dark and silent), the four musketeers of the S&L world, Ben TennettDave DallardDave Martin and Matthew Cook, creating the final aural and visual experience.
Yet another brilliant production from everyone involved, and the packed audiences echo such local talent. Quite rightly so!
“Annie get Your Gun” is up the town at The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 10 March 2018.