Monday, 16 December 2013

Lace Market Theatre,Nottingham

THE Firebird, by Neil Duffield, is not so much a pantomime as a classic fairy story in the style of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.Although there are moments throughout the play where typical pantomime audience interaction is required, the play itself is a magical story - a true family Christmas experience.

The play is a fantastical tale set in Russia, of handsome Prince Ivan (Martin Pikett) shunned by his father, the Tsar (Richard Fife) because of his sister's evil deceitfulness (Michelle Smith). The bird has been stealing golden apples from his father's tree! After catching The Firebird, (Hannah Lily) but then releasing it, after the Firebird gave up one of it's feathers in return for it's freedom, the young prince is eventually banished from the Tsar's Kingdom.

The prince roams the woods looking for the magical Firebird - the only way he can regain his father's love and respect. On his travels he meets an evil sorcerer (Richard Fife), a friendly wolf (Damian Frendo), a cannibal witch (Lorna McCullough) and the beautiful Princess Vasilisa ( Francesca Lawson).

The show is interwoven with marvellous songs and incidental music. composed by Piotr Wisniewski, which give the play a real atmosphere and are a delight to young and old. The Firebird has all the elements of a traditional Christmas show for all the family - laughter, romance, baddies and goodies, friendship, jealousy, some audience participation and last, but definitely not least, a happy ending.

The whole cast throw themselves into the play with great gusto, great lighting effects and a well utilised stage make for a very enjoyable piece of Christmas fare.

The Firebird is roosting at The Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 21 December 2013

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Bilborough College until 13th December 2013

The students of Bilborough Sixth Form College follow up last year's Madness fest "Our House - The Musical" with the Queen musical, written by Ben Elton, "We Will Rock You" and the large cast did just that. A packed auditorium clapped, stomped and applauded 21 of Queen's best known hits weaved into a futuristic image of life 300 years into the future where music and musical instruments have been banned.

But there's hope in the guise of Galileo, Brit (short for Britney Spears), Scaramouche and the Bohemians in their battle against the Killer Queen and Commander Khashoggi to bring back live rock music to the planet.

Bilborough College have an impressive record of producing talented music and theatrical students like recent Les Mis star, Andy Coxon, who recently returned to the college to give a Masterclass in musical theatre.

Well, there's more talent of the future here in WWRU. Sam Gosrani (Galileo) has a really strong voice and looked to really enjoying playing the saviour of 2313's rock music scene, along with his "chick" Scaramouche (Emily Newsome). To start with I didn't realise (because I'd never seen this musical before), that Galileo had a stutter and it wasn't Sam with the stutter. A tribute to Sam's acting.

Brit (Gomolemo "Hummer" Nyakale), is another one with a really strong, soulful voice with a natural acting ability. When I met him earlier this week, he came across as quite a quiet kind of guy but he really comes alive on stage.

Loved the arrogant Khoshoggi, played by Tom Boyden and Khoshoggi's boss The Killer Queen, very reminiscent of The Acid Queen in "Tommy" , played with great attitude and swagger by Natalia Brown. And this wasn't the only strong female role in WWRU, the aforementioned Scaramouche and Meat (Brit's love interest) portrayed by Hannah Lewis.

Must also mention the role of "Pop" ( Ben Rose - another really strong vocal on "These Are The Days Of Our Lives" ), who was the key to Galileo and Scaramouche saving the day by locating the Hairy One's axe.

A more than able chorus and dancers backed the main roles, with a few recognisable faces, (Hi Curtis), and a live band completes this very enjoyable evening of future talent. A hit for directors Ben and Tadek and a great showcase for choreographer Beth Ross-Wadell. A great script as well which is packed with miscellaneous lyrics and name checks of some of the greats in music...and the Teletubbies!

I started the review by saying that the place was sold out tonight, so I suggest you get those tickets fast, while you still have the chance!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 22 December 2013

Why does Christmas seem just a little closer with the People's Theatre Company pantomime at the Nottingham Arts Theatre I wonder? There are some wonderful performances in Nottingham this Christmas, so strong and all the theatres seem to have upped their game this year. If you want sparkle and glitter then the Playhouse is the place to go. If you want big names then drop in at the Theatre Royal, but if you want fun and endless chuckles then you need to go to the Arts Theatre.

Amanda Hall has written one of the best pantos yet. OK so the scenery is fairly basic but you know what, after the first five minutes you don't even notice because you're swept along with some wonderfully entertaining, and talented actors who give their all for their art. Now, they make it look so effortless, but having just a bit of an insight into these things, I know that, from the lovely and welcoming front of house staff to the actors on stage and the back stage helpers who get no recognition, it's damn hard work!

It's traditional with a slight twist at the end, which I won't reveal, but gorgeous as he may be, it's not the Prince who awakens Sleeping Beauty from her 100 year sleep!

The cast are well known to the regulars of the People's Theatre Company productions and many of the chorus, such as Roy Smith, Glenn Murphy and James Murray have all taken a back seat from featured roles throughout 2013.

So many highlights that I'll give a quick mention to some of my favourites. I loved Gavin Alston as Nanny Nettie Nettle, a "Dame" in the traditional sense of the word, who nailed not only the role but walking and dancing in incredibly high heels. Either a lot of practice and rehearsing has gone into those heels or he's worn killer heels before!

Marie Rogers gave some wonderful facial expressions as Queen Augustine and reminded me a bit of Una Stubbs, and I love Una Stubbs!

King Augustus was played by PTC regular Mike Newbold, and a comical foil for his Queen.

Katie Inglis was no shrinking violet either and definitely not weedy in voice or character, as the gardener, Dandelion, who caught the eye of our Princess "Rose"/Aurora.

It's always lovely to see Hannah Rogers-Gee in any part and was cast as the lead role this year (If I'd have known I'd have auditioned for the Prince).

Talking of which, newcomer Adam Tomas-Monk made his debut as Prince Gorgeous. The Prince with a twist (and we're not talking Chubby Checker here) who has something in common with our Queen, both carry lipgloss and a vanity mirror in their bags! I look forward to seeing Adam in  more productions in the New Year as I feel he has more strings to his bow, but what a way to make a debut.

Mike Pearson (Chester The Jester) was the glue in the panto and kept it all rolling along nicely and along with Liam Hall (Heap) and Laura Thurman (Bogweed) formed a brilliant comedy threesome, especially in their rendition of "The 12 days Of Christmas". I'd seen this done a couple of years ago at the Theatre Royal by The Grumbleweeds but Mike, Liam and Laura matched that version easily. Also keep your eye on Heap and Bogweed in the dance routine for "I Only Want To Be With You", as they are very funny.

And in all good pantos there are the "goody" and the "baddie", Fairy Lilac and Fairy Black (Sophie Petruccie and Maggie Andrew). Yes that's right, award winning director Maggie Andrew as a baddie! And boy does she go for it. Itr was great to see Maggie spreading her acting wings again and, in my opinion, something she ought to do more often as she was amazingly boo worthy as the evil Fairy Black.

The jokes were corny but funny, there was loads of audience participation, a lovely variety in music, ranging from musical numbers such as "On A Wonderful Day Like Today", "The Timewarp" and "Timeless To Me" from "Hairspray" to singalong pop like "Knowing Me Knowing You" and McFly's "Love Is Easy" to the ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith, culminating in a Christmas singalong of "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

Amanda Hall has smashed it again and has surrounded herself with equally talented people like Ray McLeod (musical director), Josh Kemp (Assistant Musical Director), Jessica Royce (Choreography) and a talented group of costume designers with thanks to The Burton Joyce Players and the amazing seamstress extrordinaire, Yvonne Wright  who were responsible for Nanny Nettle's costumes.

If you've never been to the Arts Theatre before, then go and see "Sleeping Beauty" as an introduction to the excellent work they produce, and support your local actors and theatre. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Lakeside Djanogly Theatre

Directed by Martin Berry

As you walk into the Djanogly Theatre auditorium at Lakeside, there's one thing that strikes you even before the play starts. What a brilliant set! It's the sort of front room you'd want to live in yourself and has so much atmosphere, especially with the French Windows with the view of the snow covered garden. But that set holds magic, which I'm not going to reveal.

Between the Designer, Helen Fownes-Davies and the Digital Designer, Barret Hodgson, they create a lovely warm and magical feel to the atmosphere before any one of the three actors enter into our midst.

The play is written by Toby Hulse and based on the classic Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, but Toby drags Dickens kicking and screaming right up to date for a wonderful hour of entertainment for all the family, apart from the really little ones who may be a little scared of the odd ghostly apparition. And yes, it was just an hour. Just long enough for the little ones not to be bored, which I don't think there will be any fear of that as all three actors, Alec Fellowes-Bennett, Josephine Rattigan and Matthew Bloxham all play to the childlike in us all, whatever our age!

Theatre now has to offer more to keep up with the special effects that today's movies offer, and Lakeside, I feel, have done just that with the digital imagery, special effects and the wonderful experience and wizadry of Martin Berry and his incredibly talented crew. From the lighting design to the puppetry and the classic festive music choices, this is one Christmas production you don't want to miss out on this year.

So different from the pantos that are on this year, this is an alternative to the staple Christmas entertainment, keeping in with traditional but using the technology of today to keep the story fresh and interesting.

"A Christmas Carol" is on until Sunday 29 December 2013.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Theatre Royal
Starring David Hasselhoff, Su Pollard and Barney Harwood

The story of the "boy that never grew up" and casting Barney Harwood as Peter Pan was a stroke of genius as he still only looks like a teenager. He has the energy of a teenager, the looks and the child like qualities that go to make an ideal Peter, oh yes and he has a rather good singing voice as well. being an ex Blue Peter presenter and daredevil, he was well placed to take on the flying roles as well.

Nottingham's very own Queen of the stage, Su Pollard, no stranger to the Theatre Royal, played to her local strengths and Hi De Hi past as she made her entrance as Mimi the Magic Mermaid, complete with lots of fishy jokes and a costume to rival Lady Gaga.

But the undoubted star of this year's panto was indeed David Hasselhoff as Hoff the Hook. In the past, some of the panto villains have taken their character just a little too far, but The Hoff got it spot on with Hook, and he was an absolute joy to watch him take the mickey out of some of his past roles from "Baywatch" to "Knight Rider" and his stint on "Britain's Got Talent", and it seemed as if his singing wasn't taken as seriously as some may have expected, and all of these really endeared him to the audience, to the point that many of them forgot to boo and hiss. This obviously shows the love Nottingham has for David.

I had mixed opinions on Ben Nickless, who played Smee, and I really started to enjoy his act when he was being more like the comedian that he is, instead of the script which seemed to have been written for Billy Pearce a decade ago, and it's just a shame that more of Ben's own comedic style couldn't have materialised, but the kids thought the script funny.

There are some really good original songs, well I think they were original; I'd not heard them before, which wouldn't have sounded out of place in any new West End musical, as well as a few modern tracks like Lady Gaga'a "Applause" and the odd oldie, "Hooked On A Feeling" and a rock n roll medley for the finale. All of which really blended well.

Topical jokes about Tom Daley and Ed Milliband were slipped in nicely and kept the humour bubbling along. The dancers provided a solid backing for the dance routines and the sound was very good... most of the time.

If I was to be very picky, I'd say that it could do with being a little tighter in parts, but this was only the second performance and it's usually the case that as the run gets going and the actors start settling in, that this normally eradicates the odd second delay, and believe me, that's all it is, the odd second that needed tightening up on.

The couple of little hiccups were professionally recovered, especially by Barney when his flight was delayed, so to speak, but I can't see this happening again, the delay not the recovery!

It's a very enjoyable evening for the whole family with comedy that,as expected, worked on all levels, just as panto should do. Well worth your hard earned luka this Christmas.

Peter Pan is on until Sunday 12 January 2014