Friday, 27 February 2015

VERONICA'S ROOM by Zodiac Theatre Company
Create Theatre, Mansfield.

Veronica's Room is a play by Ira Levin, best known for Rosemary's Baby. A middle-aged Irish couple, John and Maureen Mackey, bring a young couple, Susan and Larry, to their Boston home where the Mackeys are caretakers. Susan and Larry have recently begun to date, and the Mackeys approached them at a restaurant due to Susan's resemblance to a dead woman, Veronica. The Mackeys explain that Veronica's elderly, senile sister, Cissie, is now their charge, and Susan agrees to dress up as Veronica in an effort to bring Cissie a sense of closure. The year is 1973, but Cissie believes it to be 1935. Larry and the Mackeys leave Susan alone in Veronica's preserved bedroom to change into a period outfit. But all is not as it first seemed when the Mackeys return to the room.

This action all takes place in the first half of the play and boy does part two bring some real surprises including TWO quite shocking and disturbing final sections.

Directed by Simon Ward, he keeps the shocking reveals a well kept secret. Only the last ten minutes of the play finally brought all the pieces of the jigsaw together in  what was for me, one of those light bulb "eureka" moments, only to find even more to come that unless you knew the play, you may not have guessed. I deliberately did not read up on the play as I like to be shocked by great theatre and that was what I got. Great suspense in such a short time span kept you on the edge of your seats all through the second part and your mind wondering what was afoot in the first half.

There are several chunks of the play that I've left out because I would hate to present you with "spoilers" for this one, and if you do know the play, you will understand why I have done this.

The Zodiac Theatre Group have pulled, again, a very talented quartet of actors together for this little shocker, but then again they are well rehearsed in the dark side of theatre knowing some of their back catalogue, which shows that through Simon and the cast, they do not shy away from plays like this one, and thank goodness for that.

Anna Sanderson played Susan and you could really feel her fear for the situation she found herself in and the build up to that situation, proving what a talented actor she is. But i already knew that after seeing her in "Agnes Of God" at the Lace Market Theatre last year.

Lindsay Foster​, who played "Agnes" in last year's production takes on the role of Maureen, who could give Kathy Bates in "Misery" a good run for her money for creating an atmosphere on stage.

Her "husband" John in the play is played by Craig Foster, who succeeds in providing even more menace.

And finally Darren Randall completes the cast as Larry, Susan's new beau, who also is not quite who he seems at first light. In fact  it's not until right at the end that you discover who all the characters really are and then nothing is really confirmed, leaving your understanding of the four characters and who you perceive them to be within your head.

It's fast, so as to make the maximum impact, sharp, definitely not one for the children and, as I said, quite shocking with a good many twists along the way and definitely one to see if you like TV programmes like "Broadchurch".

"Veronica's Room" is on at The Create Theatre, West College Notts, Mansfield, Friday 27 to Saturday 28 February 2015. Tickets are £9/£7 Concessions and can be bought via Zodiac Theatre directly on: 07723 419071 or just turn up on the night and it all, quite literally, kicks off at 7.30pm

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Nottingham Playhouse, Neville Suite.

Based on the diaries of politician Tony Benn, this play shows Tony as an obsessive recorder of his thoughts and the things that have happened to him and in his world. These are recorded on several recording devices ranging from reel to reel tapes to dictophones to cassette tapes.

He's recorded and documented everything over the last 50 years but he has reached the point that he now thinks that enough is enough and he has decided to record his last tape.

Philip Bretherton is in residence in this one man show as Benn and does actually sound a bit like him, and is strangely captivating, maybe because Benn's private life and diaries were never really splashed over the papers so it's like discovering some secret. The contents of the diaries though turned out to be not so exciting or revealing, but the man himself, Benn that is, has a certain magnetism and wit, which was brought out by Bretherton in this 75 minute or so incite into the private world of one of Britain's most respected and celebrated MPs.

Written by local author Andy Barrett, whose other well known work for the Nottingham Playhouse include "The Day That Kevin Came" and "Garage Band" and directed by Giles Croft.

"Tony's Last tape" can be seen at The Neville Suite, Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 28 February 2015 but tickets are only available for Saturday matinee, but they're few and far between so check first.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

ME & MY GIRL at Nottingham Arts Theatre.
West Bridgford Operatic Society - WBOS​

Me & My Girl is the story of an unapologetically unrefined cockney gentleman named Bill Snibson, who learns that he is the 14th heir to the Earl of Hareford, madly in love with his girl, Sally Smith.

From start to end this is one feel good production with some very funny lines and put downs and some memorable songs. Songs like " The Lambeth Walk", " The Sun Has Got It's Hat On", "Leaning On A Lamp Post" and of course the title song.

Bill is played by Rob Harrison, and Rob puts in a brilliant portrayal of the Cockney rogue, complete with some great facial expressions and some of the best lines in the script, especially with Sally when they are having their history lesson. Very funny scene and great characterization. He raised titters from some of the audience where there should not have been titters though due to a slight wardrobe malfunction, which I am sure the costume department will have fixed for the rest of the run. Let's just say it was a good job he was wearing something under those pants!!

Sally Smith was played by Lauren Gill, who has a gorgeously crystal clear voice as well as being lovely to look at. A lovely pairing with Rob as the lovestruck couple, making for a very believable partnership you felt comfortable watching.

Stephen Godward (Sir John Tremayne) is a class act. He has great comic timing and watching Stephen act is like watching a cross between John Savident and Richard Wilson, two of my favourite comedic actors. Mix this comedy with that voice that he has and you cannot go wrong. Stephen also plays a very convincing "squiffy" person too! Sir John is the hero of the piece when he gets Bill and Sally back together for the final scenes.

The Duchess, who tries to change Bill from being a Cockney geezer to someone worthy of the title of Earl, was also a dream to watch. Played by Julie Fowler, she really looked like she was having a ball in the role and what a singing voice she has. The Duchess gets some great put downs in towards Sir John, which drew some hearty laughs from the audience.

Meng Khaw​ was the family solicitor, Mr Parchester, a role which involves him occasionally bursting into song and dance, but would you take advice and pay for his services?

Alice Hands played Lady Jacqueline, a character who, believe it or not for the era actually responds to a bit of spanking from Gerald Bolingbroke, on the advice from Bill. Lady J was all for dumping Gerald, played wonderfully by Richard Hill​, when she heard about the wealth due to be heading to Bill, deciding Bill would be the better catch. Shallow or what?

Alice plays it playful with her seduction of Bill with great comic aplomb and if Richard had been more aloof, he would have been through the roof. I last saw Richard in "The Lion In Winter", in some ways similar to Gerald's character and in other ways miles away. Richard showed some lovely vocals and some impressive tap dancing, and well recovered from a minor slip during his tap routine.

A large supporting cast also made the show a wonderful experience in the choral sections and the choreographed scenes by Maxine Loydall.

Lovingly and imaginatively directed by Max Bromley and a tight musical group under the direction of Steve Williams​. Never too loud to drown the vocals and a perfect accompaniment to the clever and witty lyrics.

As I said, this is a lovely feel good, fun show with songs that you can tap your foot to, a warm story line and some wonderful characters, brought to life by a group of very talented and lovely actors. A show and group that deserves your support.

"Me & My Girl" by the West Bridgford Operatic Society can be seen at The Nottingham Arts Theatre​ until Saturday 28 February 2015

Monday, 23 February 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal.

The book is a modern day literacy classic which, after seeing this performance, now makes me want to find that book out and read it all over again. The book was first published in 1960 but the content as relevant today as it was back in the segregation days of 1933 - 1935 when the story was set.

Thomas Jefferson had famously stated that all men were created equal but this story of injustice and the fight for what was right in the face of absurdity, and humanity, proved his statement to be way off the mark. The story has a hell of a lot of warmth and humour even though it deals with rape and racial inequality as the core storyline, but it is interesting to see how the minor storylines revolve around the main story.

Such was the power of the written word that British librarians once ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one "every adult should read before they die".

Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch is set to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. He wants to do what's right by Tom but the whole town of Maycomb, Alabama just knows that he ain't got a chance of getting Tom off due to the deep hatred of "niggers" of the town.

The story is narrated through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch, who lives with her older brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus. Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill, who visits Maycomb to stay with his aunt each summer. The three children are terrified of, and fascinated by, their neighbour, the reclusive "Boo" Radley.

At the trial Tom is found guilty but that is not enough for Mayella's father, Bob, who gains his revenge when Tom is murdered while awaiting trial. Bob though is also mysteriously killed after breaking Jem's arm but who stabbed Bob? Did he really fall on his own knife as told by Sheriff Tate? Or did "Boo" have some involvement when he saw Jem being hurt by Bob?

This cast were just amazing and the children who played Scout, Jem and Dill were so professional, confident and focused, never straying from their Southern accent for  a second. Not only working the stage but the stalls as well, Rosie Boore (Scout), Billy Price (Jem) and I think it was Milo Panni who played Dill tonight, I say think because there are three sets of young actors playing these parts.

Daniel Betts played Atticus, just as good as Gregory Peck in the film, if not better with Christopher Arkill as "Boo". You really felt for Tom who was played with such feeling by Zacharay Momoh, you could feel the fear he emitted as he fought for the freedom that he hoped would come his way. Susan Lawson-Reynolds was fabulous as the children's "nanny", Calpurnia,and when she broke down in tears when she heard of Tom's death, well it brought a tear to my eye as well. I won't mention all the cast, only to say that every single actor earned their pay with this play because they were all brilliant.

Sensitively directed by Timothy Sheader with a simple but effective set which included a full grown tree. How did they get that tree to be so solid on that rake stage? Only designer Jon Bouser knows! Majella Hurley also deserves a mention as being the dialect coach for this show. One thing that bugs me is when  the accent "wanders" but there were no wanderings here.

A standing ovation at the end of the show let the cast know what an amazingly emotive piece of work we had just witnessed, and I don't doubt that this will be repeated every night while in Nottingham.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday  28 February 2015, continuing what is turning out to be an equally amazing season at the Theatre Royal.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

HOW TO BREATHE by Mufaro Makubika
Neville Suite, Nottingham Playhouse​.

From a small age we all enjoy listening to stories and as we grow older that love of listening to stories does not diminish. The stories just get more real. I also love theatre that doesn't shy away from being different and so as both of these come together in "How To Breathe", it made it all the more exciting.

Joseph ( Trevor Mugarisanwa ) tells the story of his childhood, his memories of his family and friends and his choice to join the army. Joseph is black and because of this he is viewed in a different way to the others; they call him "Toke" in the barracks, which is short for "token black". He tells of his army life and why this causes the downfall of his best friend and his friendship. It also weighs heavy on his mind and causes him to take drastic action.

Set in The Neville Suite of the Nottingham Playhouse, which is the smaller, more intimate setting above The Cast Bar, and is perfect for a play of this kind. Very powerful and emotive and Trevor is excellent at interpreting the story and words of the plays' author Mufaro Makubika.

It is a story that will make you think while you are at the theatre and also when you leave, such is the strength and the power of the spoken word.

The set is not important and the props are minimal. the seating has been removed and replaced by billet beds. This creates such an atmosphere in itself as you feel that Joseph  is just telling you his story in the privacy of his mess hall, and it is easy to forget that there are others in the same room. (That is until some idiot's mobile phone goes off... on several occasions... Get some theatre etiquette and do not answer your phone during the performance. Switch it off!).

Trevor delivers a full hour of passionate outpourings and the ending will come as quite a shock. There is imaginative lighting from Nick Morris and some nice sound effects sourced and created by sound designer Adam P McCready and directed with great feeling and passion by Esther Richardson.

"How To Breathe" is definitely worth seeing and is on at The Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 21 February 2015

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

POSH by Laura Wade
Nottingham Playhouse​

Ten of the finest students from Oxford hire a gastro pub for their term meal. They are the elite so you would expect a genial and high brow get together, but how wrong can a dinner party go? Gradually with the induction of alcohol the night escalates into total chaos where several lives change for the worse.

It is based on the real life Bullingdon Club which counts some of our political hierarchy as former members and has had a film, "The Riot Club", made from the stage version of Laura Wade's shocking but humorous story of what the "posh" lot think, feel and act like behind closed doors.

It's not for the easily offended, which is part of the reason why I made my mind up to see this play, and it certainly lives up to its' premise. There are parts of the script which had large chunks of the audience taking a sharp intake of breath, and nervously laughing at parts which they were unsure as to whether it were politically and morally correct to laugh at. There's lots of strong swearing and some of the subject matter is shocking and at times controversial. But isn't that what theatre is all about? Getting some kind of a reaction from the theatre goer? Well it certainly worked out that way here.

"Posh" has a brilliant script, not the easiest to digest at times, again part of the impact of the play, and Laura Wade really makes us love, hate and at times even pity the characters for just the way they are, "Hooray Henry's" with a distinct lack of understanding and respect for anyone lower down their food chain and a belief that money can resolve any crime. The culmination of this play proves that this is not so, but with the right people, it can soften the blow!

A wonderful cast who really throw themselves into their roles. Talented enough to make you laugh out loud one second and then grow to detest what they stand for and their lifestyle the next. You may not be able to turn a ship on a sixpence but emotions, they can manage to make you turn.

And what a brilliant set. this is the first thing you see as you step into the auditorium and the opulence is clear to behold. The set itself only uses, possibly about two thirds of the stage area but it is strangely deceptive with its' expanse and attention to detail. Ellan Parry has earned her stripes with this one.

From what I knew about the play from the film, I expected it to be a. literally, messy affair but this was not the case in the play, but it was quite shocking in both actions and words and if you like a play which gets you thinking as well as being evocative and emotive, then you will love "Posh", which you can see at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 28 February 2015.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal.

There are two versions of The Full Monty in the theatre world; the musical version and then there is this one which is a stage adaptation of the movie. Much as I enjoyed the musical version, this adaptation is just as good, if not slightly better. The reason for this is that I found, bursting into song by the actors for the musical didn't quite feel right.

Described as a feel good production, you may wonder when part of the subject matter includes attempted suicide, depression, unemployment, repressed sexuality, impotence and parental issues. But this is all vital to the story of a group of men who lose their jobs which then brings money and relationship issues, only for one bright idea to be the answer to all of their current problems.

Yes there is nudity but it's all done with great humour and of course the final reveal is hidden by the excellent lighting design of Tim Lutkin' one man you don't want to fall out with as an actor in a show like this!

The six brave, and well cast actors who shed all their inhibitions, as well as everything else are Gary Lucy (Gaz), the initiator of the "Full Monty" at his local working men's club, so that he can raise the money to pay his ex the money owed for his son Nathan. Nathan was played tonight by a wonderfully confident 12 year old actor called Fraser Kelly, but there are three others who take on Nathan's mantle throughout the tour.

Gaz's best mate is Dave ( Martin Miller), the reluctant one of the gang, due to his hang ups about his weight which has been causing problems with his love life, or lack of it!

Andrew Dunn (Gerald) is well recognisable from his roles in "Dinnerladies" and "Coronation Street". Gerald is lying to his wife about his job loss until it all comes to a head when the repo men take away everything bar his beloved garden gnome.

Louis Emerick, known from his "Brookside" and "Last Of the Summer Wine" roles plays "Horse". the reason behind this nickname is revealed in the show but does he live up to the nickname? Some smooth moves from Horse on the dance front in his audition, which gets him a place in the dance group.Another character with hang ups, but of a different kind.

Then there is the proper eye candy for the ladies in Guy (Rupert Hill) and Lomper (Bobby Schofield). Rupert has grown his hair long for this role and he's the first to flash the flesh and his "Big" secret, but also finds a soul mate in Lomper. Bobby Schofield is  a newcomer to me but has a respectable CV of TV, film and theatre roles. Lomper is the security guard who doesn't leave you hanging about to find out about his depressed state of mind, but ends up finding happiness in a way he hadn't expected.

All six give the mainly female audience what they want to see, Gary Lucy not being able to resist mooning cheekily at the audience after the final bows, and everyone went away happy.

A good supporting cast add a little meat to the bones of the story and flesh out the history of the roles and main characters.

Some great scene changes, which are very cleverly incorporated within other sections of the set. Plus there's an explosive final entrance from Mr Lucy for "You Can Leave Your Hat On". Most of the original soundtrack from the film is used, such as Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff": for the dole queue scene.

It really is a fun, feel good show with serious undertones which are overcome after their one night only show. Thankfully this show is on for more than one night only, in fact it's on all week until Saturday 21 February

Friday, 13 February 2015

BEDROOM FARCE by Alan Ayckbourn
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre​

We often think of seventies comedy as a bit outdated but take away the obvious 70's decor and clothes from this play and the comedy is as funny today as it ever was, transcending the decades nicely.

Four couples interwoven within three bedrooms and spanning the ages of the couples and their sometimes complicated relationships with the others, we delve into what happens within the four walls of their sleeping quarters and the talk that is touching on the candid at times.

We start with Ernest and Delia (Roger Newman and Hazel Salisbury), the mature couple of the four and parents to Trevor (Alistair Jack), as they are getting ready to go out for an anniversary meal, but this night will be one that they don't forget in a long time. Both Roger and Hazel provide some wonderful comic moments and lines throughout, and the look on Ernest's face when Delia is cleaning up the pilchards on toast is a delight, as is the mother in law/ daughter in law chat about the "B-E-D" side of their relationship. Absolute classic!

Trevor is married to Susannah (Tilda Stickley). They are a couple at war in their relationship and cause absolute havoc at Malcolm and Kate's housewarming party. Susannah is the epitome of neurotic and the sort of woman you'd hate to be stuck in a lift with! Trevor is the immature counter to Susannah and also the ex of Jan (Charlie Osborne), who has left hubby Nick (Adam Roberts) in bed with a back problem. You get the feeling that Nick's problem is slightly overdone but provides some wonderful comedy moments, especially when Trevor pops back in the early hours to Nick's and Jan's to stay the night after Trevor's and Susannah's latest set to, and to fess up to what happened at the party with Jan!!

And then there are the hosts with the most, Malcolm and Kate (Damien Frendo and Nicky Ubhi). Starting off as the playful pair, playing tricks on each other but ending the night feeling a little bit unsure of their relationship. Malcolm more interested in "locking pin C" than Kate's emotional outpouring of doubts. If you don't know the play you won't understand this, but I'm not going to say any more.

Ayckbourn is a master of writing characters who we can all recognise and the script is a wonderful vision of the different age groups involved, along with their wonderful little foibles, and these eight accomplished actors bring the words and characters alive. Some wonderful comic timing from all involved.

And talking of timing, this play is also a wonderful test for the lighting designer due to the highlighting of the three bedrooms to focus the attention on. Ben Walker, Alex Caven and Allan Green have got the timing, if you'll pardon the pun, spot on. As to did the sound effects designer Darren Coxon. The "backroom" engineers are so often just as important as the actors on stage as they create pictures in the mind and expand the vision you see on stage to make you believe that there really is a bathroom off to stage left and the doorbell or phone is ringing at stage right. get the timing wrong and the magic is gone.

Friday's performance was supposed to have been the final dress rehearsal but so popular is this play that next week is completely sold out so director Graeme Jennings​ took the decision to open the Lace Market doors for an extra performance.Dress rehearsal? As professional as I would have seen next week during the main run.

An excellent play created by a talented group at the Lace Market, but the only way you'll now be able to see it next week, is if there are any tickets returned to the box office. Friday was a sell out and so is every day next week, and I for one am really chuffed about that, because everyone involved deserves this success.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

LES MISERABLES (School Edition)
Nottingham Arts Theatre​

Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, we follow the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption through to his death.

Very powerful and at times emotional; especially striking was the black silhouettes of the barricade revolutionaries against a blood red backdrop as they sang "Red & Black".

Forget the film version, this is so much better on stage and the 62 student actors were just amazing in their roles.

Jean Valjean was played by a newcomer to my eyes and ears, believe me I would have remembered that voice, Curtis Taylor-Tipton. An amazing stage presence and WOW! what a voice he has. The kind of voice that makes the hairs go up on your arms and the back of your neck. Just hear him sing "Bring Him Home". Curtis is destined for a long career in the theatre if he wants it. An incredible piece of casting.

So many other characters were also so well cast. Luke Grainger as Inspector Javert, another very strong voice and stage presence with a natural acting air about him.

Natasha Brown as Eponine, crystal clarity in her voice, Scarlett Wainwright (Fantine) dragged every little bit of emotion out of "I Dreamed A Dream", you really felt her pain about what she had to go through to try and provide money for her daughter, Cosette, played by alternating actors Izabella Keen and Jasmine Warder, depending on which performance you see.

Callum Shay​ was the best that I have seen him as The Foreman. I think nasty characters suit Callum because he really looked like he relished intimidating the women in his workhouse. Nice to see him up front on stage as opposed to one of the lesser characters as in last week's "Out There" at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

Paice Lees (Enjolras), also turned in another very strong performance vocally and character wise.

Two roles that I especially enjoyed, if only for the light relief they bought to the proceedings were Monsieur & Madame Thenadier, played so well by Lucas Young​ and Celia Brown. They looked like they were having the times of their lives as the "guardians" of young Cosette while treating her like a slave. Lasciviously greedy by selling her to Valjean and then robbing the dead as they lay in the street. Nasty pieces of work, played by two of the nicest people you could wish to meet.

One particular young actor, who I think has a good career on stage ahead of him is Lennon Bradley (Gavroche). Has that boy got confidence or what? A wonderfully confident performance and voice. For the opening performance there was not a sign of nerves from one so young, or in fact from anyone on stage today.

It was great to hear everyone's voices on that stage and what a gorgeous sound they made. there are some very strong vocalists along with some very sweet voices. Harry Ilyk, who played the Bishop who took in Valjean after his release when no one else would has a lovely tone to his voice and hopefully will get to show it off more in future productions.

As  mentioned , it was a large cast but everything ran so smooth. Set pieces were moved on and off with no detriment to the actors or our enjoyment of the musical and the lighting was absolutely brilliant, as was the overall sound and sound effects. Both lighting and sound the work of College Street Technicians and stage management by Christopher Collins​.

Good to see a live orchestra under the musical direction of  David Hails and waving her directorial wand, which practically guaranteed the show to be a hit, was Maggie Andrew.

Everything about this production was spot on, couldn't be more professional, even down to the souvenir programme, designed by Mike Pearson​, and I'm not just saying that because I got a mention in the acknowledgements.

"Les Miserables" is on at the Notts Arts-Theatre​ until Sunday 15 February 2015. Don't leave getting your tickets to the last moment because once word spreads on just how good this show is, you may have trouble getting them.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

OUT THERE at The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton​

"Out There" is a musical all about not giving up on your dreams, no matter how old or young you may be, and how apt that this musical is performed by the Erewash Musical Society Youth Group​. There isn't, as far as I know a musical written about space but James Bourne​ of McBusted and Elliot Davis have come up with a cracking little musical here, with an amazingly catchy soundtrack.

The hero of "Out There" is Logan Carter, a teenager who has fallen foul of the U,S, law and decides to run away, and with a little help from his Aunt Celia, he goes to hideout in Hope, Texas staying with an old man in a shack, who has more than one secret he is hiding from the townsfolk and Logan.

Logan is played by a young man who in the past I have said is a name to look out for in musical theatre, Hayden Fletcher​. He has an amazing voice for musical theatre, so controlled and pure. Just hear him sing "Space" for control and perfect pitch. He is a worthy lead and has a real presence in his acting, natural and comfortable to watch.

Logan's dad, David Carter, was played by another young man I have had the pleasure of seeing on stage many times in the past, Zak Charlesworth​, again a performer who does not disappoint, and while he said afterwards that he was suffering a bit with his voice, this didn't come across in his performance; professional as ever.

The old man with the secrets and the dreams is Newman Carter, who turns out to be Logan's Grandfather and is very well characterized by another EMS Youth Group member, Dylan Singfield. Very convincing as an old man, which is not something that would come naturally to a 15 year old. Shows what a good actor can do!

There must be a love interest for Logan and this is the role of Jamie Pack, the Sheriff's daughter and garage mechanic ( Katie Lawson). Another teenager with a really lovely voice and natural ability.

Sheriff Pack is a brilliant little character role, confidently performed by 17 year old Lucy Judson.

The comedy pairing of the Sheriff's men, Billy and Stan are well cast in Oliver Wheddon​ and Lewis Haycock, bringing out a panto/camp personality in Pack's lap dog type employees. Just see them dancing and you will see what I mean, lovely comic touches!

Always looking for that big news item are TV reporter Claudia Pointers and her cameraman Stuart Prince (Rebecca Groombridge and Jasper Males), but do they get the scoop they are after?

A big cast who really work well together, at times moving across the stage like a well choreographed wave, smoothly crossing from one side to the other, all thanks to Carol Lawson for the choreography.

Having such a large cast, and I apologise that I can't mention them all because they all deserve a mention, is no easy job for a director, but Alysa Gomes does a sterling job in this production.

I just knew that the music side of "Out There" was going to be good when you have a musical director with the talent of  Joshwa Kemp​ at the helm, What I appreciated was that Josh, having the experience of being a music teacher/singer/songwriter/musical director as well as acting and directing, he knew when to lower and soften the volume of the live four piece band so that some of the not so strong singers could be heard and not drowned out. Pure class and professionalism!

Lighting is also important in this musical for highlighting stage areas and Dave Dallard and the sound and light crew stepped up to the mark.

The scenery and props were introduced on stage without being obtrusive and smoothly taken off, which is no mean feat when there is a car, kitchens, shacks and barns to be wheeled into place. Often this isn't mentioned or credited but they are vital for any play and the smoother this is done the more enjoyable for the viewer.

A great story, some wonderful songs that will stick in your head for days to come, just try to forget "Learn To Dance", "Space", "Out There" and "Weekend On The Moon" if you can. James Bourne uses his catchy pop songwriting talents so well in the songs in this musical. Ridiculously talented cast and crew for this out of this world new musical which I have a feeling may become a bit of a mini musical classic.

"Out There" is on at The Duchess Theatre, Chatsworth Arts Centre​, Long Eaton until Saturday 7 February 2015 but if tonight was anything to go by, you need to get those tickets fast, because tonight was a sell out!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal

Barnum is the story of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the Greatest Showman of them all, a title that could also be levelled at its' star, Brian Conley.

The entertainment starts even before curtain up with some of the jugglers and acrobats roaming around the stalls, balancing on seat edges and throwing balls the full width of the theatre.

The theatre now demands so much from an actor. Before if you could walk, talk and maybe sing, you had a good chance of being cast. Now, and especially in "Barnum", the actors have to juggle, be acrobatic, sing, dance, act, play instruments and in the case of Brian Conley, juggle, dance, do illusions, stilt walk, fire eating and walk a tightrope ten feet from the floor as well as sing and tell jokes.

There are not many actors, nay entertainers, who would be able to play Barnum because of these additional skills, and Brian also draws the audience in by involving them in with his role, making them extended tools of his trade. Looking so at ease on stage he automatically instilled every confidence in the audience that he could do anything he wanted and we would lap it up, and it certainly worked.

Mr Conley twinkles his way through the musical and expresses varied emotions throughout, further rounding out his already all round entertainer label. Is there nothing this 53 year old can't do?

It's exciting, it's breath taking, it's colourful and fast moving and your eyes will not leave the stage for fear of missing something. A live band, under the musical direction of Ian Townsend, housed at the top of the stage area provided a really tight, crisp sound, As you would expect from the story of the circus showman, the lights were bright and exciting, creating a wonderful atmosphere.

While we were all there to see Brian Conley, he was surrounded by a wonderfully talented cast of dancers, acrobats, tumblers and probably some ex circus performers, Two wonderfully experienced singers in Linzy Hately (Cherry Barnum) as his wife and Kimberley Blake (Jenny Lind) the Swedish opera singer who Barnum fell for when he took her on tour.

This is a musical of split second timing for the acrobatics and of great trust from Conley and co, as many of the cast were either caught from great heights or tossed about in the same way as Barnum tossed his coin he used to make his decisions with.

Giant elephants, Tom Thumb, tongue twisting lyrics, silk dancers. 160 year old women and so much more lie in wait for you in what was billed as The Greatest Show On Earth. While I wouldn't quite go that far, I would say that, with one of the Greatest Showmen at the helm, this is way above average in the musical entertainment stakes.

"Barnum" is at The Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14 February 2015 but, and quite rightly so, tickets may be scarce, so I should check at the box office before just turning up.