Friday, 29 May 2015

Bonington Theatre, Arnold

"Unforgettable" is the story of a brother and sister, Jed and Rosie, who we meet at the wake of their father's funeral. We learn that their mother suffers from Alzheimers and it's how the pair have grown up and learned to cope with their mother's disease. It's what they've been through by putting their lives almost on hold to care for her and the far reaching results even after their mother dies, which is what closes the first act.In act two we discover that Rosie also has Alzheimers and the caring process continues with Jed looking after Rosie.

Although being a serious subject, there is so much comedy, and natural comedy in this play, wonderfully and lovingly written by Tim Elgood, whose mother in law also died from this disease. There's also some very poignant moments in act two, and especially at the end. There's a running "joke", if you like, from the very start of the play about Jed offering to give Rosie a hug and her rebuffing this show of affection. This carries through the play right up to the end with Rosie suffering from Alzheimers, where she allows him to give her, not so much a hug, but a bit of a cuddle, and this simple moment reveals the fact that Rosie has either forgotten what she normally says to turn down the offer, or she has given in and accepts the affection that her younger brother wants to give. I personally found this moment incredibly sad and touching.

The play is shown from the view point of the elder siblings and from when they were younger, as well as in the latter stages of their lives. The four actors were mesmerising to watch, especially in the late stages of their lives. The younger and latter periods were both played by Adam Donaldson and Hayley Doherty and the middle period by Lennox Greaves and Anna Lindup.

Tim really created a pair of wonderful characters in Jed and Rosie. The decline of Rosie from a fiesty divorcee to a the almost broken woman who seemed to have given up, where as in the past she would've fought for anything, was a beautiful piece of writing. It was almost the opposite with Jed though as he started, and we learned throughout the play, as being a person not at all confident with himself or his lot. Never married and as we learn, never had a relationship right up to his early sixties, and thanks to Rosie, he discovers the joy of sharing his life with someone outside the family. As one thorny rose withers, another flourishes.

A simple but effective set,designed by Gem Greaves, moved into place by the other pair of actors when not playing their parts. Mark Pritchard designed the lighting for this show and created a lovely, subtle highlighting effect to ensure that we were focused on what the writer wanted us to focus on. The soundtrack was of classic songs ranging from Sinatra and The Beatles to Leonard Cohen.

This wasn't like watching a play most of the time, more like eavesdropping on a conversation with two people, and this has to be the naturalistic approach of the director, Theresa Keogh.

It was a shame that more people did not turn out for this wonderful, powerful and sobering play which was the winner of the New Perspectives Long Play competition 2014. The play was on for just the one night but is touring. To find out more about the play and where you can see it, please visit

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal​.

I saw this last a couple of years ago and, to tell the truth, didn't warm to it back then, maybe because I was comparing it to the iconic film. So I didn't raise my hopes that high for this production. Oh how my opinions were changed!!

This production is smoking HOT! It so hot for so many reasons as well. The dancing was scorching hot, and with three choreographers on board to hone the different dance styles every move, every step was scorching into the stage. Some amazing split drags and the finale table lift was executed with such ease it was if "Baby" was on wires. The female dancers left the males in the audience with their tongues out and the male dancers raised the temperatures for the ladies watching as well. The dances ranged from mambo, to ballroom to down right dirty bump n grind and I loved every single move.

The costumes too were fantastic. Suits for the elder males, the tightest of vests and T shirts for the younger men. Well being set in 1963, this would be the fashion of the day. The ladies had their wonderfully complicated layered dresses as well as some thigh high split long dresses for ultimate glamour, and let's face it, without the split dresses, they would have had a bit of trouble making those incredible moves.

We all know the story of Dr Houseman and his family on Summer vacation to Kellerman's holiday park and apart from the games laid on for the holiday makers, so were dancing lessons which is where the ridiculously handsome Johnny Castle comes in. Frances "Baby" Houseman falls for the dance teacher when she steps in to take the place of Penny when she discovers that Penny has fallen pregnant with a work colleague's baby. This has to be resolved by arranging an abortion so that Penny does not lose her job as principle dancer with Johnny, Johnny teaches Frances everything she needs to know about dancing and a few things away from the dance floor as well. Dr Houseman isn't happy that Baby has lied to him about what had been going on but when he discovers the real truth, he gives both Johnny and Baby his blessing to go steady.Culminating of course with that famous line "nobody puts baby in the corner" before they go into that infamous dance routine.

Setting the women aflame with his swivel hip moves, good looks and ripped torso is Lewis Kirk. An excellent dancer who oozed sex appeal but also managed to come across as a caring human being, looking out for Penny and taking the blame for the accusations levelled at him for what happened to her.

"Baby" is played by Jessie Hart. A lovely transformation with her character from the little rag doll being tossed around by Johnny to start with, to a wonderfully sexy dancer by the end.

Talking of sexy dancers, Penny is played by Claire Rogers. What an amazing set of pins she has and you can really tell that her background in ballet honed that flexible gorgeous body of hers to a dancing machine. Great light and shade with the acting from fiery mambo dancer to her scenes about the unwanted pregnancy and her interaction with Johnny as well as Dr Houseman and his wife.

Other stand out performances from James Coombes as Dr Houseman and Kane Verrall as Neil Kellerman, who at times reminded me of the "Happy Days" character, Richie Cunningham with his geekiness, a wonderful character driven role for Kane. The whole cast worked so hard and were all brilliant  in this whirlwind of teenage lust driven dance drama.

Great songs throughout which included "Time Of My Life" which brought a rapturous round of applause because we knew what was coming from Baby and Johnny.

A live band situated on stage, or I should say above the stage level, created a rich sound which complemented the vocalists perfectly. Clever cinematic video and projection design by Jon Driscoll transported us swiftly from the various locations including the lake scenes where Johnny and Baby practised the table lift.

Basically this is a show that you will not want to miss on many levels, whether it be for the amazing dance routines, the story or for the basic sex appeal of the very appealing actors on stage, you will leave that theatre wanting to dance like them. You'll want to be Johnny Castle if you're a man and if you're a woman you'll want to look for your own Johnny Castle after your visit.

"Dirty Dancing" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 13 June 2015. Go and have the time of your life.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

NEW YORK NEW YORK by Beeston Musical Theatre Group​
The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton​

An evening of music and songs from musicals celebrating The Big Apple, or relating to the city that never sleeps, is on offer this week at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton​. Music from "West Side Story", "Avenue Q", "Little Shop Of Horrors", "Sweet Charity", "Guys n Dolls", plus many others. There's also "My Way", performed in such a way that you wouldn't have guessed that it wasn't a song from a musical, and "Empire State Of Mind" which was just out of this world, I wanted to get up and sway to it but I don't think the rest of my seated row would have appreciated it.

There were slightly different arrangements of "Tomorrow" from "Annie" and "Theme from New York New York" which were just jaw droppingly good, really highlighting the ensemble work that Beeston Musical Theatre Group do so well.

It would be unfair for me to highlight any one song or singer as every single piece tonight was just so good, whether by solo, duo or group sections. All different but all as much as a jigsaw as you can get. With this not being a musical performance per say, but a musical tribute to NY, the music was almost non stop which gave musical director, Nathan Truesdale​ a full on job for two hours, including the interval.

The four piece band created a full rounded sound and apart from a little racing on the keyboards right at the start, everything sounded just perfect. It was opening night after all so any nerves that were maybe the cause of any wobbles, will now be out of systems, as they were in the second half.

If I were to be picky, and I am, if only because this theatre group are one of the best in Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire, my only slight bug bear was that the follow spot at times didn't. Follow that is. Again a minor issue which by the second half seemed to have been sorted out.

Some nice choreography courtesy of Keli Wain and the cast as a joint effort and I appreciated the tap section and the ensemble choreography in "The Rhythm Of Life" and "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" from the musicals "Sweet Charity" and "Guys n Dolls" respectively.

Aurally and visually pleasing and great entertainment value with something for everyone tonight, and even a special pre show announcement from a well known Sesame Street character.

So, if you want an evening of great songs, sung, nay performed with wonderful enthusiasm, all slotted into two fleeting hours, then this is the place to be, the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 30 May 2015. Start spreading the news......

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Nottingham Playhouse​

Billed as the Quentin Tarrantino of the theatre, I didn't know quite what to expect from Martin McDonagh, especially having seen "The Pillowman", another of McDonagh's works. After seeing the play, I think that title may have been stretching it a little too far.

Now that's not to say that I didn't enjoy this very dark comedy, because I did, and I liked it because it left some of the answers that could have been resolved unanswered, as well the story being very dark and being a comedy, and being of Irish descent, I appreciated and recognised the wonderful sharp Irish wit and the sense of humour, there is a difference, believe me, and both were brought to the fore here.

The characters were "real" characters who you'd recognise in your own circle of friends or family, and this makes it so easy to associate with, and understand why they do what they do and what they say.

Ged McKenna plays Mick, and it's very clever of McDonagh to create a character who you can't decide is just lonely and remorseful after his wife dies in a car crash, a character who has regrets about his drunk driving that ended his wife, Oona's life. Or is he a cold blooded killer? His actions slightly blur the lines and it's left up to the viewer to decide.

When Mick Dowd and his young side kick Mairtin (Rhys Dunlop), have to dig up some of the older graves to make way for new burial grounds and he is forced to excavate Oona's grave, but when the grisly task is due, they along with the police officer, Thomas, discover something they did not expect!

Rhys is a cracking comedy actor, the comedy is natural, and the script is clever and relevant to what a character of his age would say.

Ged made you believe that Mick could be possible of doing what was rumoured in the play that he may have done, but still poses questions in your mind. Clever acting and Ged plays Mick as both sympathetic and sinister.

Paul Carroll plays Thomas,the police officer, who, as in all small villages knew everything that went off. The only problem with a little knowledge is that it can be a dangerous thing. Could that be levelled at Thomas though?

And completing the cast is Paddy Glynn who plays Mairtin's grandmother, Maryjohnny, and friend of Mick's. Maryjohnny and Mick known each other for years, there's no secrets between them....or is there? Paddy is excellent in this role as the God fearing, bingo playing woman who knows more than she lets on!

Cleverly directed by Fiona Buffini who managed to create quite a creepy atmosphere with the grave scenes, and kept the mystery rolling along nicely with the scenes before and after the excavation scenes, which was the crux to the whole second act.

With the running time being under two hours including the interval, this meant that the impact of the play was kept to maximum, and no way would you be bored with this sharply directed play.

Loved the set design by Madeleine Girling, both the cosy looking cottage and the eerie grave yard set, complete with sunken grave digging below the stage eyeline. Very realistic which left you feeling a little on edge at the unemotional way that the bodies (bones) were dug up and relocated.

Dark? It definitely is, Comedy? Oh yes, no question about it. Grisly? I think you could add that description to the list as well. "Not for the faint hearted"? That may be a quote too far, but if you like black humour then this is the play to see, and I guarantee that your answer to what may, or may not have happened seven years ago, will differ from the next person.

"A Skull In Connamara" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse​ until Saturday 6 June 2015

Thursday, 21 May 2015

"THE MUSIC MAN" Derby Theatre
by Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company​

The Music Man is about a travelling salesman, "Professor" Harold Hill who arrives in the fictional location of River City, Iowa, intent on swindling the natives of Iowa into paying him to create a boys' marching band, including instruments, uniforms, and music instruction. Once he has collected the money and the instruments and uniforms have arrived, he will hop the next train out of town, leaving them without their money or a band. As usual there's a girl involved which makes him change his ways and produce the goods, but not before he is rumbled.

The "Professor" is played here by Chris Grantham who has some real tongue twisting, lyrically impressive songs to perform; just listen to "Trouble" for example, which he delivers without a hitch.

Hill's associate Marcellus Washburn, who is now living in River City and is the only one who knows Hill's real name, "Gregory," is a great role for Richard Hill​, who also has several vocal highlights, not least the wonderful "Shipopi" which turns into a full scale ensemble number, straight out of one of Hollywood's finest.

Marian Paroo, who is the gal to keep Harold in River City, after a great deal of wooing from Harold. Sharon Stringer, who plays Marian has a beautiful clear and powerful voice which reached the very back of the Derby Theatre.

There is something rather special about hearing a barbershop quartet,and this show has one. Some lovely harmonies from the foursome of Stephen Godward​. Andrew Dennis, Richard Miller and Ian Thompson.

Such a large supporting company, and I'd love to mention them all but two others who I feel deserve spotlighting are Hugo Carter who played Winthrop Paroo. What a great show of confidence and he has the making of a really strong singer in a few years' time. Joan Self, who played the mayor's wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, was an absolute joy to watch with her wonderful comic role.

There are some classy tunes in this musical, two of which you'll know in "Till There Was You" and "76 Trombones" which will have you clapping along at the end. Very colourful costumes make this show a bright affair, and while there was just a slight spotlight issue in one part, on the whole David Marsden did a cracking job with the lighting design.

There's some great choreography, especially in the large ensemble numbers and a job well done by choreographer, Jackie O Brien. Some one else who had a task and a half was director Andrew Nicklin but again, you can see the hard work that has obviously been put in by Andrew, and it paid off.

A crisp and tight orchestra, which complemented the singing on stage and created a full and rounded sound. I only had one little picky thing with the show and that was  when the scenes were being changed behind the curtain there was a bit of noise and you could hear voices behind the actors. Didn't spoil anything but I thought that maybe the background noise could have been monitored more.

On the whole though I was really impressed with the first show that I'd attended from The Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company, and I can see why their name is known, and respected worldwide for their grand shows.

It was a shame to see another half full theatre, and what a gorgeous theatre it is, so to make sure that those seats are filled, go and see this show which has such a wide age range on the stage, there's something for any age.

"The Music Man" is on at Derby Theatre until Saturday 23 May 2015

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

WIZARD OF OZ by Bingham Musical Theatre Company
Grange Hall, Radcliffe On Trent.

With the tools, props and scenery that the Bingham Musical Theatre Company had at their disposal, they turned out a wonderfully entertaining show for all the family with this classic fantasy tale of witches and wizards.

Everyone knows the old Judy Garland film and this was a loyal representation of the film directed by Abby Riddell and produced by Philipa Buchanan, They managed to get round the special effects of the "twister" by some clever cinematic work and some inspired and energetic choreography by a very talented dancer and choreographer, James Buchanan. His acrobatic work drew a few gasps from the audience where I sat.

Katie Taylor​ took on the part of Dorothy and did Ms Garland proud. There was great emotion in the scenes where she thought she was to lose Toto and when she thought she was not to make it back home to Kansas and some lovely vocals from Katie. You can see Katie in Nottingham in October 2015 when she takes part in "Hairspray".

The scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion were played by Graham Buchanan​, Shane MacLóchláinn and James Parnham​, respectively. All three gave really energetic and enjoyable performances which again drew all the right reactions from the audience.

Our witches were traditionally lovely in shimmering white for the good witch Glinda, played by Helen Whittle​ and evilly dark and in black by Zoe Stebbings​. I love the opposites of good and bad characters and these two revelled in both roles, but I get the feeling Zoe was in her element having the juiciest character.

Arun Hayes delivered a solid performance in his dual role of Professor Marvel and The Wizard and Paul Green, as with all the characters apart from Dorothy, again had dual roles as the guard at Oz as well as  Uncle Henry.

And finally I must mention Whiz, one heck of a cute dog, who plays Toto, what a great faultless performance from Whiz.

An ensemble of varied ages created the munchkins kingdom and fleshed out the musical in various other parts. This all went to show what a great deal of hard work has been put into this show by everyone from the smallest to the lead roles. there was great energy from everyone and the enthusiasm shone through, which flowed over to the audience.

There was nice use of the aisle up to the stage which gave more scope for the choreography as well as the entrances and exits to and from the stage.

Some additions to the script resulted in some very corny one line jokes and puns which were designed to raise a groan, and the odd laugh of course and this refreshed the original film script.

The cinematic sections worked well and the lighting created just the right atmosphere. there was only a slight issue with the sound at the start, being too loud on Dorothy's microphone but this was swiftly sorted out by the sound crew. A job well done and identified by Mark Shardlow and Sherborne Sound and Lighting.

I've never really been a fan of recorded backing tracks, favouring a live band or orchestra but if funds don't run to these luxuries, you make do with what you have at your disposal and musical director Joel Hall​, created a really good sound consisting of pre recorded backing and synthesised pieces which worked very well indeed and certainly did not detract from the overall sound.

You don't have to follow any yellow bricked roads to see"The Wizard Of Oz", just head to The Grange Hall in Radcliffe On Trent where you can catch it up to Saturday 23 May 2015

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

"CRAZY FOR YOU" by Greasepaint Productions​
Loughborough Town Hall​

Also known as the New Gershwin Musical Comedy because of the songs being from the collective pens of Ira and George Gershwin. It's the story of Bobby Child, the rich son from a banking family, who is told by his mother to go and close down a theatre in Deadrock, Nevada because the mortgage was not up to date. Bobby is a singer/dancer who is chasing his big break in the theatre, and closing down the theatre is the last thing on his mind, especially after he meets Polly, the daughter of the Gaiety Theatre owner, Everett.

Polly rejects Bobby's advances, so to show her that he is not the bad guy she thinks he is, he decides to put on a show to save the theatre, the town and his infatuation for Polly. Bobby has been trying to impress theatre impresario Bela Zangler and so decides that to impress Polly he would trick her into thinking they were friends and sets about a cunning plan to do this by pretending to be Zangler. The only problem is, Polly then falls for Zangler who is really Bobby, and when the real Zangler turns up, all mayhem ensues. there are also several other intertwined love interests in the background as well which are fun to watch develop.

James Nelson​ is our leading man and hero of the piece and shows his nifty footwork skills off with some handy hoofing. If you remember James from "Ghost" a few weeks back at the same venue, you'll already know what a wonderful voice he has, and with this show, he puts both his singing and dancing abilities to great use. James is engaging and is totally believable as the lovelorn Bobby.

James swaps Molly from "Ghost" for Polly in "Crazy" and paired with James, Charlotte Dolling makes a wonderful leading male and female duo. Polly is spunky and feisty as well as being incredibly loyal to her father and the theatre, and is not going to allow Bobby to take away the theatre that her mother performed in. Charlotte has a gorgeous voice that sends a shiver up your spine when she sings the classics "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "But Not For Me". Beautiful vocal control over those long notes as well.

There's a classic comedy scene when Bobby, dressed as Zangler, and Zangler, played by Gareth Wynne, meet up in the bar, which is classic Hollywood style comedy. Timing is of the utmost with this scene and it brings a great response from the audience.

Shane Perry is also well cast as the hotel owner, Lank Hawkins, who is totally against the theatre being kept open because he wants it for his own devices, to extend his hotel business. he also is against Bobby from day one as Polly is also the apple of Lank's eye.

A talented large ensemble and supporting cast with some excellent, sometimes complex, dance sections, choreographed by Tania Hutchinson and directed with real passion by Shane Perry.

A score that is bursting with well known, and loved songs. Songs like "Embraceable You", "I Got Rhythm", "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and an amazing orchestra under direction from James Stevens. And not forgetting those wonderful costumes!

There were a couple of lighting issues where the spotlight seemed to be missing off of Bobby and some of the cast and the one occasion when there seemed to be just a tad too long left with nothing happening on stage, I spoke to James Nelson after the show and he said that they only had a limited time available in the theatre before tonight, which I expect if more time had been made available these couple of very minor things would have been worked out. But Tuesday was opening night and I know that this technical kind of issue is easily tweaked and tightened up, so if you go and see the show I doubt that you'll even see this.

The theatre was by no means busy which is a real shame because this is a top notch show, and I can only feel that maybe it might have been affected by recent reviews in a local Loughborough paper of a previous show, or the time of year, or that it may be pay day coming up. Whatever the reason, and we can speculate all day long, it's so important to support local theatre and local theatre groups whenever possible, especially when the standard of production is as high as the productions I've had the pleasure of seeing this year at Loughborough Town Hall. These actors give everything for the love of performing, so please support them.

"Crazy For You" is on at Loughborough Town hall until Saturday 23 May 2015.

Monday, 18 May 2015

DEAD RINGER by Charles Ross
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre​

Set in the 1980s and on the eve of a General Election in the PM's study at No.10, the fictional PM, Randolph Bolton has a heart attack in front of his cabinet colleagues. What are they to do? They are ahead in the polls and this is the last thing the cabinet members expected, or needed, not just for their party but for themselves as well. All they need is some way to make the country think that nothing has happened to the Prime Minister, just  until he has been confirmed the election winner.

Fortunately Ms Frances Cowdrey, the Minister for the Arts, has a brain wave and she remembers an actor she once saw who was a dead ringer for Bolton and offers him the role of his acting career. He decides that the money for this gig is just too good to turn down and takes the role, but all is not as it seems behind the doors of No. 10 when Colonel Hardacre of MI5 reveals that Bolton's heart attack may not be quite as it first appeared!

This is a brilliant comedy/thriller which will keep you guessing right to the very end. A classy whodunnit with several twists along the way and possibly one of the best murder mysteries I've seen.

Prime Minister Bolton, and of course the dead ringer is played by Lace Market Theatre regular Jason Wrightam​, and possibly one of the best performances I've seen from Jason. Can't say too much about the character of Gerry Jackson the PM lookalike as there may be more to his role than meets the eye, but to see what that may, or may not be, you'll have to see the play.

Home Secretary Dick Marr is at first reluctant to go along with the dead ringer idea but is soon in over his wallet. Brilliantly acted by John Parker​, and he still reminds me of Leonard Rossiter, especially with a nod to one of Mr Rossiter's characters snuck into the play as well for the sharp eyed and eared.

Bex Mason​, always real joy to watch, as Ms Cowdrey. This character got me changing my mind so many times,as all good thrillers should do, A real tribute to the character, the script and of course the actor for making the audience believe in the character, her motives and what she had to gain....or lose from Bolton's death.

Andrew Haynes, played the thorn in every one's side in the play, Ray Turnbull, the Foreign Secretary. He's the one who looked to have had the most to gain from the PM's passing, well at least from his political standing anyway.

And then there's Bolton's wife, Eva. They weren't getting on too well in their private life, but what would she gain from his untimely death, apart from freedom from what we assume to be a loveless marriage?

The PM had a Private Secretary and Nigel Harwood was played by Vejay Pal. The scenes between Bolton and Harwood were similar to the scenes on "Little Britain" between David Walliams and Anthony Head, but not as overtly camp. From the start you got the idea that there was something more than a working relationship going off there, and this also inadvertently adds to the comedy element of the play.

Finally to Colonel Hardacre of MI5, the man who opened the proverbial can of worms. Hardacre was played with great authority by Craig Russell.

So, was this just a tragic accident after all, and if not how did he really die, and who did it. There are six possible suspects but if he was murdered, then why, and who really had the most to gain?

Find out by seeing "Dead Ringer" at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre all this week until Saturday 23 May 2015

Friday, 15 May 2015

SYLVIA'S WEDDING by Jimmie Chinn
presented by The Beeston Players​

This is the second play in as many nights that I'd not previously been aware of, and ended up loving. A wonderful comedy with recognisable characters which means that you instantly warm to and associate with.

Sylvia and Gordon have been going steady for ten years when all of a sudden, on Valentine's evening, Gordon pops the question in a chip shop. Sylvia reveals this proposal to her best friend, Yvonne before telling her parents. Unfortunately for Sylvia the secret is revealed to Joyce and Vic, her parents, in quite an explosive way when Gordon's parents, Stanley and Myrtle pay a visit with Gordon in tow.

The two fathers are at different ends of the class scale, or so they think, but both are not in favour of the wedding going ahead, for different reasons. The mothers again were polar opposites who grew closer as the play went on. Joyce a confident woman who wore the trousers in the relationship and Myrtle the subservient wife, not wanting to cause ripples whereas Stanley wanted to cause tidal waves.

Sylvia was a dream to watch as the innocent bride to be and Nicole Adkin who played her captured every nuance of Sylvia's character.

Gordon, played by Gary Frost, equally innocent in every aspect of life was again wonderful to watch. He grew from a doormat character into something very different by the end of the play.

Lynn Howard, as Joyce, was a brilliant piece of casting and the character reminded me of Dandy Nichols, from "Till Death Do Us Part", a really strong character who did her best to keep Vic under her thumb. Some great comic put downs with Joyce.

Vic, played by Rob Jackson, reminded me of another 70's comedy actor, Jack Smethurst from "Love Thy Neighbour". Another strong character driven actor in Rob.

Barbara Barton​ was the slightly mousey Myrtle who knew her place behind Stanley. You really got behind Myrtle and wanted her to rise up against Stanley, but Myrtle was not as far back in the shadows as you first think. She turned out to be a very aware character. Barbara turned in a lovely understated performance.

Stanley was brilliantly. and brashly played by Ian Greatorex, stamping Stanley's middle class self made business man nose in the air attitude on the wedding proceedings, doing his best to scupper the wedding, but did it work?

And finally there is Yvonne, Sylvia's best friend. Twice married, mother of one who looked like she had been through the mill and back. A proper kitchen sink Northern gritty female who was not afraid to say what she thought,and my favourite character of them all because of this. Like all Northern female characters though she had a heart buried deep under all that exterior bluntness. She also had a weakness which led to the twist in this story. Yvonne was played with great comic style by Sue Frost.

All seven roles are marvellous character driven parts and Jimmie Chinn's creations are typical of kitchen sink drama characters that appear in soaps like Coronation Street.

Director Mark Robbins did an excellent job with this little realised or performed play. While it being a fairly modern piece of writing, Mark decided to place the action in the modern day using Bruno Mars' song "Marry You" as the opening and closing music. This created the image of being more recent than its' mid nineties creation.

A very funny play with plenty of irony and some classic comedy lines. The writing of Jimmie Chinn highlights his talent for observational humour which was well presented through this talented cast.

Pop along to The Round Hill School on Foster Avenue, Beeston tomorrow to see if Sylvia does get married, and what the twist is at the end. And I'll also mention what a really welcoming, warm group of people Beeston Players are. Thank you for a really enjoyable night's entertainment.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The People's Theatre Company​

With very little background to this play, most of which I gleaned before hand from director Robbie Robert Robb​, Alex Meade and Richard Ian Macduff Fife​ who played the Postwoman and Khlestakov, respectively in the play, I opened myself up to the joys of Russian humour. And a joy it turned out to be as well!

The play is all about mistaken identity in a town full of corruptness which seems to be around every corner. The Mayor gets wind of a visit from the Government Inspector and thinks that he is staying at the local hostelry with his servant. The pair, Khlestakov and his servant Osip, although penniless and being starved out of the inn by the innkeeper for non payment of their bill, suddenly find themselves being treated like royalty by the Mayor and the dignitaries of the town.

The Mayor (Rob Suttie) is a wonderful character and Rob has a wonderful voice for theatre work. You could hear every word from his character and he delivered every comic line with ease. Rob's expressive face also adds to the comedy of the character

Khelestakov (Richard Fife) is another wonderful character, deceiving all and sundry, conning the town dignitaries out of as much money as he could and taking complete advantage of their corruptness as well as their misguided kindness. A beautifully character driven comedy performance.

Although first performed in the 1830's, director Robbie Robb, brought it up to date and we even have our very own "wideboy" in Osip ( Christopher Collins​ ). A lovely, cheeky and confident performance as the "inspector's" sidekick who also revelled in taking advantage of the corrupt townsfolk.

Luke Steven Grainger​, who also has a wonderfully clear, strong voice for the stage, showed he could do comedy as well as the next actor as the Health Commisioner, The Director of Education, played by a newcomer to the People's Theatre Company, as far as I can remember, Matthew Humphries, seemed to fit that role perfectly. Looking like he just stepped off the set from "Glee", I hope that we see more of Matthew in future productions as I feel he has a lot more to give with his acting.The Magistrate, who completed the trio of dignitary corruptness was played by Wendy McLoughlin.

A capable supporting cast completed the comedic crew. Nikolai Gogol's most well know comedy may be a new theatre experience to many, as well as myself, but it's most definitely worth seeing this weekend. It's silly, and I mean that in the best possible way, script and storyline won't tax your brain but it will exercise your chuckle muscles.

A brave choice of production for the People's Theatre company but if you're willing to spend a few quid, you'll see it was well worth the risk. "The Government Inspector" is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre​ until Saturday 16 May 2015, so you've not got long to get your tickets!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Oscar Wilde's classic comedy just gets better, and funnier, every time I see it. A story of deception, family values, love and elitism. best friends Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing are both telling porkies to their friends, John to Gwendolen Fairfax, the lady he wants to marry,and Algernon to just about everyone to get him excused from occasions where he would rather not be, by inventing a friend who is sadly on the decline, health wise.

John is found out by Algernon that he is passing himself off as Earnest to his young ward, Cecily, as well as Gwendolen, and Algernon sets out to find out who Cecily is by deciding to turn up unannounced at John's country spread where Cecily lives, but passing himself off as John's invented brother, Earnest.All manor of mayhem is caused until thanks to Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's aunt, the truth is outed.

Algernon and John are played with great gusto by Philip Cumbus and Michael Benz respectively and make a marvellous quick fire comedy pairing. A lot of the comedy surrounds the eating of sandwiches and muffins, believe it or not! The wonderfully, if not slightly ditsy, Cecily is another lovely comedy role and Imogen Doel turns in a beautiful performance of over exuberance which was infectious as the young ward.

Michelle Dotrice plays Miss Prism, the governess who once worked for Lady Bracknell and was responsible for leaving the baby in the handbag while out briskly pushing the perambulator, all those 29 odd years ago. Again a wonderfully comic performance, especially in her scenes with the Reverand, played by Richard O Callaghan.

Gwendolen is played by Emily Barber and again the scenes with Cecily are just perfect. The confusion caused by the two suitors with these two created a perfect recipe for laughs and both ladies delivered with excellent comic timing.

And so to the star of the play, Lady Bracknell. With her sharp, often acidic tongue, she knew how to stamp class on a family and wither a man with just one look, the ultimate matriarch, Now David Suchet is not a name that would instantly come to mind to play such an iconic woman from comedy literature, but he completely nailed the role. For those who may only have seen his Poirot character this is as far away from the Belgian detective as you can get but he has great presence of character and can deliver a comic line at the same time as darting a look to place you six feet under. Of late Lady Bracknell has been played by a male actor in films and on stage and far from it taking on a panto image, get the actor right and the role takes on a completely different, but believable edge, David Suchet was wonderful and an inspired piece of casting. Maybe with the role being so far removed from his TV detective persona is what made the casting so inspired.

Wilde's lines are just as funny, doesn't matter how many times you hear them, with a good cast they still sound fresh and funny. The scenery was gorgeous with three acts, as Wilde wrote them, having three different sets of scenery. All three reflecting the decadence of the era and have that wow factor.

With the two 15 minute intervals, the play comes in at just under two and a half hours, but every time I see "Earnest" it seems shorter than the given time, a sure sign that time really does fly when you're having fun.

Let's face it, this is one of literature's comedy masterpieces and director Adrian Noble didn't put a foot wrong here. Great atmosphere, great costumes, great scenery, a great bunch of actors and supporting actors and a silly but very funny story. you'd be a fool not to see it.

"The Importance Of Being Earnest" is on at The Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 16 May 2015.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

"Ghost" by Christchurch Theatre Club​
Loughborough Town Hall.

It's a brave step for any amateur theatre company to stage a musical as technical as this. If you think back to the film there are many special effects involved, which would be impossible to replicate on stage. Although you can only recreate certain effects with restraints on funds, Christchurch Theatre Club (CTC) have done a marvellous job with the technical side. A triumph for producer and director John R Lewin.

The lines were blurred between the movie and the stage production, as part of the magic of this show was taking you out of the standard confines of the theatre walls by using cinematography, something that is becoming more and more popular in theatre today, keeping the theatre experience fresh. The projection side was designed and managed by Craig Butterworth and Skrinkle Studios.

With this expertise of projection and a cast of quality to match the professional tour, you can guarantee an exciting roller coaster of emotional entertainment.

The story is of two young lovers, Molly and Sam, who have just moved to Brooklyn and are setting up home. All is good with the pair until on their way home from an evening out, they are mugged and Sam is killed leaving Molly to be consoled by Sam's best friend and work mate Carl. Due to the violent way Sam died, his spirit remained in limbo and he hung around to discover that his death, although accidental, was not quite what he originally thought, and the motive for this was closer to home that he dared to anticipate.

Molly was played by Lucy Maden and what a lovely emotional performance she put in. One of my favourite songs from the modern musical is from "Ghost", called "With You", and she pours everything into this song, making the hairs on my neck and arm stand up. Great control over those long notes.

Sam is played by James Nelson, and is on stage for the majority of the musical. Here is someone else who has an emotive voice, just perfect for musical theatre. His physicality of the role is also spot on. Just see him in the slow motion scenes in the subway. A good mix of emotions, from his tender scenes with Molly to the anger and confusion he feels of being dragged from the living world and his betrayal by Carl, as well as his protectiveness towards Molly and Oda Mae, the psychic who he goes to to contact Molly..

Carl Bruner, Sam's work colleague, is the catalyst for Sam's departure from the human world. Carl is another strong character, played by another strong actor with an equally strong voice, David Burton​. Carl's moods swing from regret to greed, willing to do anything to get his hands on what he wants, but he gets his comeuppance thanks to Oda Mae and Sam.

Oda Mae, the psychic, is just the ideal role for Monique Henry​. Or is Monique the ideal actor to play Oda Mae. Over the top, fun, fiesty and she has some brilliantly comic scenes. As usual her vocals are right up there, note perfect, and she can belt a song out. Rightly so she received a big round of applause when she took her bows at the end.

The 21 strong supporting cast did the principals proud with a special mention to Sean Hickling who was excellent as the subway ghost who protects his haunting ground from Sam, but also helps him to move things on. Also Carl Unwin as the hospital ghost who helps Sam come to terms with his in limbo state. The ensemble  proved themselves more than capable as well with the eye catching choreography, which was the responsibility of Michael Gamble.

Lovely comfortable sound mix from the orchestra, engineered by Total Theatre Ltd. The scene changes were engineered smoothly which enabled the easy flow of the scenes. Some catchy songs that only remain catchy until you leave the theatre but there is the biggie, "Unchained Melody" which is revisited throughout the musical and the gorgeous "With You".

Everything you could want from a love story where good triumphs over evil. But is the ending happy or sad? Depends on how you view it.

"Ghost" is on at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 9 May 2015

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

"LEGALLY BLONDE" by Carlton Operatic Society.
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Oh My God You Guys! What energy! What pinkness!

After a bit of a sound issue with the microphones, which as it was first night can be forgiven "Legally Blonde" rolled along at a cracking pace. It's the story of Elle Woods who is madly in love wither her man Warner Huntingdon III, but when he takes her to dinner, a dinner she thought was going to see her becoming Warner's fiancee, he announces that he is off to Harvard Law College and needs to break up with her. Elle takes this badly and vows to win him back by also applying to get into Harvard to show him that she is what he wants.

Director Amanda Hall has form with picking strong female leads and she follows up last year's smash "Sister Act" with another great female led musical. Rosie Wade​ takes the lead role of Elle Woods and boy has she got a strong and powerful voice on her. Another director told me that the way you can judge a good actor is if you can believe in the role the actor is playing and the actor believes they are the character they are playing. Well I can confirm that Rosie is most definitely a good actor as I was drawn into her performance and believed in her character. Headstrong and passionate about what she wanted,and she got what she aimed for, albeit not what she initially thought she wanted.

Mark C-Bainbridge​ was Emmett Forrest. Mark is always consistent with his roles and this second Theatre Royal stage gracing just seems to cement my opinion that big stages are where he should be, or small stages. he looks comfortable wherever he plays. He's an actor you can also feel comfortable watching and his singing voice is the same, comfortable on the ear.

Elle's boyfriend, Warner, was played by Rob Holsman, another regular face on the Nottingham stages and a good choice to cast him as Warner. I seem to think that Rob's voice has either become stronger, or with him having an upfront role it's become more noticeable. Another convincing performance.

Another classy performance was from Graham Ward as Professor Callahan. A strong voice and a performance that was full of authority

I loved Helen Eadsforth's Paulette. She becomes one of Elle's best friends after a visit from Elle to her hair and nail parlour and they strike up a very believable friendship which helps Paulette not only get her dog, Rufus, back but also wins her the man of her dreams in Kyle the postal delivery man.

Although Kyle is only a small part, but with a large package, he certainly makes his presence felt, getting the first wolf whistle of the night (is that legal nowadays). Tom Keeling looks like he enjoys every single second he is on that stage as the flirty kyle as he struts and flounces across the stage, forever smiling at the audience as if there were a camera just poised on him. I think Paulette, and the audience, appreciated the shorts he wore! A great little fun role for someone who enjoys his work,and made it show.

Sarah Kelly played Warner's Harvard love who saw the light and dumped him and turned from prospective super bitch to being one of Elle's allies, and another classy vocal performance to boot.

Jessica Royce has my admiration for playing the accused Brooke Wyndham and keep fit guru. There is a section where Brooke is skipping, with a rope, and singing as well. Never a beat missed, a skip out or a sign of breathlessness during the energetic routine of synchronised workout. Top points MissJessica Royce​ for stamina!

And who can forget Rufus the bulldog and Bruiser, the Glee loving chihuahua who both definitely had the "aaahhhh" factor.

A solid large cast with many well known faces from the various local stages combine to create a very entertaining evening of fun and music which has a heart warming happy ending.

Slight sound issues didn't detract from the show. The lighting by Tom Mowat​ as professional as ever, and I must mention the smoothness and unobtrusive way the scenery was moved, and removed from the set. With your focus being on the actors on stage the scenes and props were moved and placed without any distractions. And that is also important for the rapid flow of the scenes. No waiting for blackouts or instrumental orchestral sections while the scenes changed, it was like watching a film moving from scene to scene. A job well done by the combined stage managers Jon Higton, Robin Meadows, Samantha Tibbs and Ian Mccarthy

A lovely sound from the orchestra under the direction of Christopher Rees​ and some  energetic and entertaining choreography from Rachael Rees​.

As I said, this is another BIG smash for everyone involved,and this really is a team effort from all involved, and that is probably why it all looks so effortless, which makes your evening with The Carlton Operatic Society​ such an enjoyment.

"Legally Blonde" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 May 2015