Tuesday, 29 September 2015

"1984" by Northern Ballet
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

I was interested in how they would create the intensity and "fear factor" of Orwell's 1948 novel and while they succeeded in creating an atmosphere of being watched, thanks to the large back screen with the overseeing eyes, they didn't quite create the same "fear" as a conventional play of the book.

That aside, to say there's obviously no dialogue with ballet, they relayed the tale of Winston Smith and his lover, Julia, extremely well. The story of Smith who, after buying a blank book in a junk shop, he fills it with his thoughts, which of course is against what "Big Brother" wants everyone to do. He takes a lover in Julia, who works for the Ministry, and only embarks on the illicit affair to bend the rules of the society.

Needless to say the Society catch Smith and Julia and they "disappear" in an impressive end to the ballet.

The dance is spectacular, passionate and emotive but all the while they deliver the story with help of a backdrop and screens to tell you where they are up to in the story. the two principals, Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt are enigmatic; you can't take your eyes off of them and they rule the stage when performing. A brilliant ensemble of talent from all over the world have you captivated by their strict, jaunty and contemporary movements and smooth faithful ballet lines.

If you can remember having one of those kaleidoscopes when you were young, the sort where you'd see several images of the same thing, mirrored many times, well that's what this group looked like. Absolutely spot on timing.

Talking of timing, this amazing orchestra, under the direction of John Pryce-Jones, had to get the music aligned with the visuals and images on stage. A second out of sync and the whole feel and atmosphere of the story may just have been lost. No fear here because everything was split-second timed.

To sum up, this production is just a delight to see and hear; beautiful music composed by Alex Baronowski and breath-taking ballet. A classic story, but lacking the tension of a standard theatre production. But don't let that deter you from seeing one of the best ballet troupes, with some incredible choreography from Jonathan Watkins, who also directed the piece.

"1984" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 October 2015.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

"The Pirates Of Penzance" by Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton

When your reputation goes before you, as it does with the Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company, you expect an excellent show. Guess what? That's exactly what we all got on Thursday night, an excellent evening of comedy and rousing song from the pens of W.S Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan, masters of their craft. Not unlike the Derby G&S Company!

From the first bar of the Overture to the last breath of the Finale, we were transported musically to a land far away, well Cornwall; Penzance to be exact by an amazing wall of sound from the singers and the excellent orchestra under the musical direction of Andrew Nicklin, who also directed the show. The ensemble sections were powerful and the solo parts were clear as a bell.

I marvelled at the costumes, not just for the pirates but for the ladies too, Everything was spot on, showing this company knows their stuff and are confident in delivering it. The police uniforms were straight out of the Keystone Cops wardrobe and the Major General attire was exuberant and bright.

Andy McPhee as Frederic, the pirate who tried to choose another vocation away from piracy, but as he was born on February 29th, it was brought to his attention by the Pirate King (Matthew Siveter) that his duty didn't expire until his 21st Birthday, As his birthday only came around every four years, he was really only five and a quarter, so he couldn't relinquish his role. Andy's voice was clear and strong and his facial expressions and comedy stylings of the role were wonderful to see.

As too was Matthew, one of the youngest on stage, but one of the tallest as well. You couldn't mistake him in the crowd of pirates. G&S is in his blood as he has been performing their works from the age of twelve. He looks like he's having fun on stage and I'm sure that he is and that floods over to the audience, making sure that we have as much fun watching him.

Sarah Carlin played Mabel, Frederic's desired one. What a gorgeous, clear and powerful voice, and so natural and easy to listen to. She just opens her mouth and all of these wonderful notes just tumble out effortlessly.

G&S love their tongue twisters and of course the character of the Major-General has the job of delivering THE one in "Pirates". Phillip Fry delivers a speedy and faithful version of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General" which drew a rapturous round of applause at the end of the song.

I love the role of Ruth, the only girl Frederic has seen in his life, and the bench mark he judges the female form on until he sets eyes on the ladies of Penzance. She is fiesty and will fight to keep her man, well she thinks that Frederick is her man. Ruth is played by Julie Bjerregaard.

The Sergeant of the police is an ideal role for Stephen Godward. Comical and so much fun to watch, and I loved the simple police choreography. Stephen got to sing one of my favourite pieces of Gilbert & Sullivan, "When A Felon's Not Engaged In His Employment" also known by "A Policeman's Lot Is Not A Happy One".

The whole cast are wonderful and at times you forget that you're not watching a professional production in a bigger venue.

There are several really well known pieces in this operetta. "With Cat-like Tread", the afore mentioned "Modern Major General", "Felon" and "How Beautiful Blue The Sky" being among them, all wonderful fun to hear performed so splendidly.

Watching this production you can see where the comedy greats over the years, Monty Python, The Two Ronnies and even comedians like Eric Sykes got inspiration from because the action borders on over the top, camp and slapstick which makes watching shows like this so very entertaining and I for one could have done with at least another chorus or two as the night came to end quicker than I realised.

"The Pirates Of Penzance" is docking at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 26 September 2015.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

"A Chorus Line" by Encore Performing Arts.
Djanogly Theatre, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham.

Celebrating 40 years of "A Chorus Line" and having its' Nottingham debut, The Encore Performing Arts make its' debut show, Nottingham's debut outing for this musical. The show focuses on the auditionees' stories over the dancing, although, as this is about auditioning for a chorus line of dancers, there is of course more than a modicum of choreography here.

Based on true manuscripts of original chorus line auditions, the monologues and stories will bring a smile to your face as well as get you angry and sad at, at least one of the revelations. You feel the pain and the heartache at the rejections for various reasons on behalf of the dancers, especially Cassie who is one of the older ones auditioning.

Cassie (Sian Scattergood) has history with director/choreographer in the show Zach (Adam Guest). Cassie hasn't had a dancing job for two years and just wants a chance but without Zach showing any favouritism to her and their history. Zach tries to be professional in his role but can't resist trying to get the answers to what happened in their past.

Sian is a brilliant dancer and showed this off with her solo section to "The Music And The Mirror". My only very minor criticism here though was the follow spot, well didn't, follow her that is and it would have been nice to have Sian in the spotlight at all times instead of the static spot,especially as the self-choreographed piece was a joy to watch. She was hypnotic.

I'd said in my mind that I was not going to highlight any one of the actors because they were all so very good, and each brought a little something to the stage and the roles that they portrayed. The play itself is a rare one as there are no principals, no special costumes, to speak of, apart from the hats and next to no scenery apart from four large mirrors. The simplicity of the play belies the complexity of the storylines.

You can buy into the background stories of the dancers in the auditions but there's one particular dancer whose story is quite heart tugging, and you could have heard a pin drop on a carpet while Paul (Andrew Bould) told his story. A really emotional performance.

An excellent director in Adam Guest keeps the show tight and flowing. He gets the best out of his actors but is also a very "giving" director as well. He's not too bad at playing Zach, the director/choreographer on stage either!

Choreography of the show, Siobhan Parker, plays Zach's right hand woman, Laurie. Siobhan has a long history of choreography in theatre and this isn't her first time at choreographing this show either. A brilliant job.

Musical director Sam Griffiths, who also produced the show, created a classy and tight musical backdrop, sometimes musically lurking behind the monologues and then bursting into life to give a powerful and rousing backing to "Chorus" favourites like "Nothing". "I Can Do That", "One" and of course "What I Did For Love". This particular song performed with wonderful passion by the character Diana, played by Alana Moran, sending the hairs on your neck tingling.

You may notice some regular faces in the cast from all over the region and from different theatre groups, and that's one thing that Encore are happy to promote. There's no core set of actors and each production is open to any actor who wants to try out, which is very refreshing way of conducting a performing arts group.

As I said, there's no way that I could single out one actor over another because this show is a team effort and, in the same way as the musical was written with no principals, Encore have a troupe of principals.

There's a lot of comedy as well a lot of pathos which works really well and these 25 actors put on a brilliant show which I would personally urge you to attend in your droves. If this is Encore's debut then they've started at near the top of their game. They've set themselves a very high bar to maintain, which I've no doubt, with the quality of the people involved, they will do, and exceed the bar.

"A Chorus Line" is playing at Djanogly Theatre, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham until Saturday 26 September 2015.

Monday, 21 September 2015

"Brassed Off" Derby Theatre production
Derby Theatre.

Having seen the film many years ago and seen it in the theatre a few years ago, I know what a good story this play has. What I hadn't prepared for was the great production of that good storyline.

Music is everything to Danny Ormondroyd (Garry Cooper), but it's not top of the agenda for some of his band, especially when there's the threat of their jobs going due to the closure of the mines during the political climate of Thatcher's Britain. It's hard for his son Phil (Jimmy Fairhurst) and his family of four and his wife to make ends meet which brings several difficult decisions for Phil, who's just trying to literally juggle his life and finances to keep a crust of bread on the table.

Elsewhere Andy (Adam Horvath) is reunited with Gloria, an old flame from 11 year's previous and the memories of their bus shelter fumblings re-emerge and are re-ignited. What Andy, and the rest of the miners aren't aware of though, is that when Gloria (Seren Sandham-Davies) joins their band as a talented flugelhorn player, she has a secret that could bring her new found fame and romance short lived.

Danny dreams of winning competitions and playing at the Albert Hall but just when this seems to be in his sights, ill health gets the better of him, and with the pits closed and the men jobless, will Danny see his dream become a reality if the band splits? After all, what use is a colliery band when there's no colliery?

The story is as gritty as it gets for a Northern play. Set in Grimley, Yorkshire in 1992, there's a lot of passion and anger which overspills into personal situations. You'll find a lot of laughter, as you do in real life close knit communities, but you'll then find yourself welling up in sympathy of the heart-wrenching situations, as well as the passion of the music.

A brilliant cast which also includes Lisa Allen (Vera), Jo Mousley (Sandra), Darren Bancroft (Jim),Howard Chadwick (Harry) and Kate Wood (Rita) and an equally brilliant ensemble. The kids in the play are also little stars in the making, especially Joe Mothershaw who, in the production I saw on Monday night, played Shane was outstanding, showing a true maturity in the role of Phil's eldest son. Joe is one of three "Shane"s.

Directed by Sarah Brigham, this is a masterpiece in Northern drama. The accents are spot on, the acting totally believable, not afraid to use many choice words throughout to reflect the anger and bitterness. And the actors actually played the instruments. And what a gorgeous sound provided by The Derwent Brass Band. A totally British sound is the sound of a brass band, a sound that is evocative, a sound that can have you marching one minute and crying the next, and when they played "Danny Boy" when Danny was in hospital, well I defy you not to feel emotional.

A packed auditorium were on their feet at the end of the night and rightly so because this is an amazing piece of theatre provided by an excellent cast and musicians.

"Brassed Off" is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 10 October 2015, and I can't rate this show highly enough for drama, passion and humility.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

"An Evening Of Comedy and Song" by A Company of Friends
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

As the old Bette Midler song goes "Oh you gotta have friends...." and Saturday night in Long Eaton at The Duchess Theatre there were many friends joined in one aim, to raise money for the Bone Cancer Research Trust and the Haematology Department of the Nottingham City Hospital, by raising smiles. And they certainly succeeded in doing that.

Rachel Bates, one of the members of A Company of Friends, was treated at the hospital, was one of the performers tonight along with her husband Dan. Joining them were Kay Cocks, Andrew Honman, Howard Mackintosh, Louise O' Boyle, Dave Dallard and his band, Andrea Kemish, Jane Maltby, Adrian Perkins, Tyna Burnett, Hayden Fletcher, Gary Lever, Martin Mould, Zak Charlesworth and Sophie Robbins.

We were treated to an evening of comedy with sketches and monologues and a whole range of music from well loved musicals and more contemporary numbers, as well as a trip down memory lane and back to the 50's. We were also treated to a taster of a few songs from upcoming productions at The Duchess Theatre up until Christmas.

There was a running gag with Adrian doing whatever he could to get a song into the show and always being sent off, much to the pleasure of the audience. Gorilla suits, Elvis costumes and even drag was attempted to get his way but it wasn't until the end when he got his way, and it was well worth waiting for with his duet with Tyna of Bobby Darin's "Thing" and Gerry & The Pacemakers' "I Like It".

There were some lovely acoustic numbers performed by Dan Bates, who not only can carry a song but plays guitar extremely well, a very pleasant surprise for anyone who didn't know of this talent. Rachel, Howard and Gary also performed acoustic numbers but it was Louise O'Boyle, who blew me away with her version of Sting's "Fields Of Gold" that really made me sit up even further. Louise has a gorgeously pure voice which she also put to good use in later on in the show with "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" and "Cry Me A River".

Many of the singers are regular faces at The Duchess through their work in the many musicals performed there, among them were Hayden Fletcher and Martin Mould who gave us the chance to see them sing something more contemporary. Hayden put his stamp on Michael Buble's "Just Haven't Met You Yet" and Martin got everyone swaying to "That's Amore" and "Moon River" as well as teaming up with Gary for some cracking duets.

I don't know who created the choreography but that too was cracking. the disco dancing of the 70's music section all the way through to the "Strictly" routines. I made a special note as well that the hands were well extended in the Bossa Nova, something non professional dancers quite often forget to do. Some lovely waltz steps as well, especially during "Moon River".

Sophie Robbins gave us "Somewhere That's Green" from the upcoming "Little Shop Of Horrors", Zak Charlesworth performed a beautiful version of "Love Changes Everything" from "Aspects Of Love" (6-10 October 2015 at The Duchess) and Martin Mould and Claire Collishaw gave us " Love & Weather" from "White Christmas" (20-24 October 2015 at May Hall, Trent College, Long Eaton). All backed by the very sweet sounding, as ever, Dave Dallard and his band.

The evening was topped off by an original song written especially for the group, called "A Company Of Friends".

The audience, and it was packed to the rafters, lapped up and loved every minute of this very entertaining fund raising evening of entertainment, which managed to raise 1200 pounds for Bone Cancer Research and 600 pounds for the City Hospital.

Friday, 18 September 2015

"Hood-The Legend Continues" by New Perspectives
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Purists of the image of Robin Hood may find this production a little hard to understand or take in. On the other hand, free-thinking and open minded dreamers, like myself, will relish the six separate playlets written by the seven individual writers. Each writer given a specific period in history to create a story around Hood over 150 years.

There's Hood the Outlaw who, armed with bow and arrow and his merry men, rob a train passing through St Annes, Hood the agitator as the first Labour M.P., the romantic, set during 1940's wartime. This is moved on to the 1960's and we see Hood and his gang as protesters of the motorway due to split Nottingham in two, Come forward two decades and it's all white Don Johnson suits for the moonwalking Sheriff and leather jacketed Hood. Finally it's brought bang up to date in 2015 where the tables are turned and the story starts all over again with a modern day Robin Hood taking on the old Robin Hood.

Writers Andy Barrett, Tim Elgood, James Graham, Laura Tomas, Mufaro Makubika, Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon create the very different characters and storylines which, as a whole, move Hood through the 150 years and re-imagine what Hood's role would be like in each decade of the story.

The show starts off with Alan Adale (Ed Thorpe) serenading us with his ukulele to the traditional folk mash up of "Robin Hood" and "Everything I Do, I Do It For You". Ed stitches the scenes together with his various instruments and musical offerings and adds a lot of the comedy to the play.

One face you may recognise is that of Little John, played by Ewen MacIntosh, who you may remember as Keith from "The Office", There's quite a comical fight scene right at the start involving Robin Hood and Little John which almost borders on slapstick.

Loved Adam Morris who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham. From his first role as owner of the railway, or was that just bragging to impress Marian, all the way through to the modern day, Adam was comical and almost panto-esque at times, making him an arrogant, lovable, and sometimes simple rogue was a touch of brilliance.

Will Scarlett (Alex Bedward) was fresh and feisty, sometimes switching from being Will to Wilhelmina but all the time fun and fruity to watch.

The lovely Marian was played by Jasmine Blackborrow and again portrayed throughout as a strong, independent woman who knew what she wanted and how to go about getting it. A nice twist on the Hollywood/Disney portrayal of Marian in the movies.

And so to Hood. Our hero of the piece was played by Jonah Russell in a way that would be worthy of the "Horrible Histories" style of history telling. Great fun and engaging, which would describe the whole cast and the overall history lesson.

Some wonderful costumes through the different time periods and a bright and lively soundtrack keeps the feel and atmosphere of the various time stops over the 150 years.

All in all this just great fun and shouldn't be taken too seriously, and after all, who knows what our people's champion would take on as he passed through the ages, but it's great to keep the legend alive with a fresh outlook.

"Hood-The Legend Continues" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 26 September 2015.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

"Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare
The People's Theatre Company.

"Much Ado" is one of Shakespeare's finest comedies and the People's Theatre Company bring out every comical line to the best effect. It's the story of two sets of lovers, Hero and Claudio are to be married in a week. To pass the time, they conspire with Don Pedro to set a "lover's trap" for Benedick, an arrogant confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice, his favourite sparring partner. Meanwhile, the nasty Don Jon conspires to break up the wedding by accusing Hero of infidelity. In the end, though, it all turns out to be "much ado about nothing."

Set in modern times in a blank canvas setting that could be anywhere, this production took the Shakespearian script and made it sound modern as well. Some folk are against sexing up Shakespeare's plays but when it's done well, it's very entertaining and opens up the Bard's works to a whole new audience of young people to the joys of the rhythm and rhyme of Shakespearian time.

What I really enjoyed was that this cast spanned the full age range of the cast members and I found that the younger cast had really worked hard to, not only get their teeth into the text, they delivered the words with fluidity and naturalness as if they had been born to perform the piece. There's nothing more off putting to see an actor deliver lines that they themselves didn't either understand or believe in. No fear of that here because the script was delivered as if it were their natural tongue.

Ryan Chadwick (Benedick) for me was the stand out performer, combining great comedy with the more passionate speeches. A fluid actor with a flair for expressing with his face the emotions of the speech naturally as if he had been doing this all his life.

His sparring partner to be, and like all great theatrical lovers they start out seemingly bitter enemies, is Beatrice, played by Hannah Rose. Again a very natural actor who delivers a great show of veiling her feelings for the "class clown" Benedick, even up to the end.

Jak Truswell (Claudio) and Lauren Stephenson (Hero) are the two, soon to be married lovers and both young actors delivered solid, comfortable performances which created a natural pairing between the two, making their scenes believable.

Richard Fife (Leonato) delivered another solid performance, as did Robbie Robb in his dual role as Antonio and Friar Francis, Tom Spencer (Don Pedro), Liam Dexter as the trouble making Don John, Chris Collins (Borachio), Danielle Hall (Conrad), Carly Smith (Balthasar), Mariana Kyriacou (Margaret) and Corrine Welford-Proctor as Ursula. A truly talented and supreme cast. Thou hath not a thumb that is sore within! These were also supported by quite a large ensemble of talent as members of the Watch, townsfolk, messengers and friends and family.

A directorial masterpiece by Sally Nix, cleverly splicing faithful text with modern costumes, swag and attitude, bringing a fresh new coat of paint to an old favourite. It's like hearing a remix of your favourite oldie which brings a smile to your face.

The scene and prop movers unobtrusively placed and removed the props easily with the pace of the action being just as it should be. I was quite surprised that the first act was over so soon, a really good sign for any play, and act two soon came to a close deceptively fast. I was amazed that the whole lot was over in just under two and a half hours. Time really does fly when you're enjoying a class play and troupe of performers such as the People's Theatre Company.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is on until Saturday 19 September 2015 at the Nottingham Arts Theatre and if you have any doubts about Shakespeare, then go and see this bright, fresh and comical play; it may just change your outlook on Stratford Bill as a stuffy old playwright and you may come out thinking him as a dope dramatist, innit!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

"1984" by George Orwell
Nottingham Playhouse.

Orwell's classic book telling the story of Winston Smith and he rebellion against the monstrous world in which he lives in. A world that is controlled by "Big Brother" who dictates what he does, says and even thinks. This does not stop him though from keeping a diary which is also monitored by the thought police and eventually cleared from existence and from Winston's memory in a violent and bloody way.

This production is almost the same as the production we first saw  previously at the Playhouse and has since toured the West End and is set to travel to Australia and America. I say almost the same as there are a  couple of "tweaks" here and there which only enhance this brilliantly thought provoking but shocking play.

A very talented cast headed by Matthew Spencer who played Winston and Janine Harouni who played Winston's "partner in crime", Julia who in the end betrayed him to the powers that be... or did she? Did he betray her? Very powerful in the messages given here and shows a possibility that by 2050, what Orwell wrote about could, by this date, be what we can expect. After all, with the rise of CCTV keeping us in check, this could be a diluted stepping stone to what could be a frightening future for our children and grandchildren.

I may seem an extremity to think that in the relatively free living society we live in today that some time in the future we may be told what to say, do and think by a minority bureaucratic group, and if we don't follow the rules......

What I particularly loved about this production was the seamless timing between the sound design team, the lighting design and the actors, which can only really be appreciated by seeing the play itself. Split second timing between the three areas combine to create a visual and aural splendour, creating instant and maximum effect, sometimes quite shockingly. Expertise like this closes the gap between film makers and theatre productions when producing visual images and shocks.

There's no visual "horror" in the torture scenes of Winston, but you don't need to see the fingernails being removed or the electric shock treatment because the sound and light design build the intensity and horror and you know what's coming so you see it in your own mind. The scene with the starving rats in the rectangular tube about to be unleashed onto Winston's face is, at least, hair-raising, especially for one like myself who can't stand rodents. Again the imagination and the human mind is shown to be a wonderful thing.

Setting the scene is all important in this production and  with the "double think' sections of the play, you often question what you're seeing, and could you really be seeing inside the mind of Winston, again questioning what you see on stage in the same way that Winston himself is unsure of what he is seeing and hearing.

The ending of the play is set in stark white, in contrast to the busy library scene and the "secret room" scene, which is played out on the upper screen, as well as being revealed at the rear of the library style setting. This blank white canvas lets you concentrate on the full horror of the "mind changing" scenes where the mysterious six white clad, and face hidden workers, calmly and unemotionally convince Winston that what he thinks and feel are not what he should be thinking and feeling.

Possibly not for the squeamish,but most definitely for the lovers of powerful, shocking and great theatre, because that is what you'll get. A show that will make you appreciate where you are in life and question where you think you are, because who knows what may happen in the future!

"1984" is being played out at the Nottingham Playhouse until 26 September 2015 and is part of the Playhouse's Conspiracy Season.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

"School For Scandal"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Who would've thought that a play written in 1775 could be so entertaining? Well, believe me, it is and "Scandal" kicks off the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Theatre Royal. "School For Scandal" was the first play to be performed on the Nottingham Theatre Royal stage, 25 September 1865.

One thing I thought may be an issue was the language in which Richard Sheridan wrote this play all those years ago but The Royal Company, the theatre's community ensemble, made the script very easy to understand.

There are several sub plots running alongside the marital issues had by Sir Peter Teazle (Mik Horvath) and Lady Teazle (Victoria Murphy) which, once you start to notice the plots become easy to understand and follow, in the same way as a modern day soap opera can run several story-lines within the same episode,revisiting the action when needed. I won't give the sub-plots away because they have to be seen within the context of the play to be understood.

There's plenty of comedy and action in this promenade play,and it's all moved on swiftly and musically by the three clowns, MC and musicians. Taking the audience along with the actors to several parts of the theatre; parts where you wouldn't normally get to see, it made for a fascinating tour of the theatre as well as a rolling set of sorts. The players made sure that their audience were seated, acting as part time ushers, before continuing with the action and story, occasionally using the audience in part of the play.

One of the first thing that struck me were the brilliant costumes and even more brilliant wigs, constructed from modern magazines, but still looking like the wigs of the period. A great deal of hard work went into the imagery of the actors with the costumes, wigs and make up and all this added to the wonderful atmosphere.

The acting troupe of twenty were excellent, and much as I'd like to single out separate actors, I'm not going to because as a throng of actors they were like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece fitted in and the whole would be incomplete without the other pieces.

Also loved the musicians who played all the way through the promenading, entertaining us as we moved from one part of the theatre to the next. The design of the piece by the Nottingham Trent University students successfully blended the period of the play with a modern feel. Throw in a soundtrack from Tom Jones, Deborah Harry and Iggy Pop among others and the whole experience is a very different, but so enjoyable piece of theatre.

"School For Scandal" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 12 September 2015, and it's be a scandal if you let this one slip by!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

"Our Moment" Zak Scott & Friends
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

Following Zak's charity concert from last year, "Our Moment" went one better and Zak and his very talented friends performed over two nights, hopefully raising twice as much money this year. The recipients of the raised funds being the Duchess Theatre and Maggies Cancer Care Fund.

It's always a pleasure being entertained by young, talented singers and performers, and when you know some of them quite well, you also appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into putting on a show of this calibre.

Both openings of part one and two showcased the collective performers with "The Stars look Down" from "Billy Elliott" and part two with a track from "Avenue Q" called "It Sucks To Be Me" and from these openings we were treated to separate performances from the individuals. Zak's name is in the title of the show but he's a very generous performer allowing each artist to shine individually and with several duets.

Last year Zak seemed to focus on the more serious side of musical theatre and took time to look as if he was comfortable on stage. This year was such a turnaround because from the moment he stepped on stage he looked as if he owned the place, comfortable and at ease which really made me feel at ease watching him. He also mixed in some lovely uptempo and comic performances like his opening solo "All I Care About" from "Chicago" and "Well Did You Evah" as a duet with Oliver Wheddon, from the musical "High Society". He didn't forget that he is also a class act when it comes to those emotional musical theatre songs like "Why God Why" from "Miss Saigon" and a piece that really suited his more contemporary vocals from McBusted called "Beautiful Girls", accompanied by guitarist Chris Renshaw.

Oliver, who also appeared last year in the fund raiser also has matured so much from last year. His voice has grown ever stronger and variable. Taking in opera. "Lascha Chio Pianga" through to a rather cheeky "Let's Face The Music And Dance" and "When I Get My Name Up In Lights" from "A Boy From Oz" as well as duetting with Tayla Evans on "Suddenly Seymour".from "Little Shop Of Horrors". Tayla also gave a gorgeous performance of "My House" from "Matilda"

So many classy performances, two of my favourites came from Emily-Rose Gent who performed "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and an equally beautiful version of "With You" from "Ghost" which literally brought a tear to my eye it was so emotive. Emily-Rose made me believe every single word of both songs, she didn't just sing them, she performed them.

Nice to see Curtis Salmon perform again and his voice too has matured well. Curtis has a very distinctive voice which complemented his duet partner, Amy Parker perfectly.

Georgie Bond also did more than sing her songs, she performed them, especially "Climbing Uphill" from one of my favourite musicals, "The Last Five Years" and also another emotional performance of "On My Own" from "Les Miserables". Georgie has a wonderful tool in her voice and sounds perfect for musical theatre and I'm sure we'll get to hear more of in the future.

Holly Pilgrim was on fine form showing both sides of her vocals with Rihanna's "Take A Bow" and "Over The Rainbow" from "Wizard Of Oz".

There was also dance from Cara & Rosie Verney, a sublime version of "Sister Act" from the musical of the same name from Emily Horner, Showcase Drama showcasing some very talented youngsters in scenes from "Annie" and "Jungle Book", directed by Elaine Clemerson, and all kept running smoothly by compere Mr David Allen, reprising the excellent job he did from last year. I even laughed at his jokes... "ex tractor fan"... you had to be there!!!

Backing these performers was a four piece band who were excellent, under the direction of Leon Wade There was Dave Dallard on keyboards, Chris Renshaw on guitar, Jeff Widdowson on bass and Adam Baskil on drums. Combining to make a well rounded and full sound. they performed on the stage and didn't manage to drown the performers once.

So many other people also went into making this special night run smoothly, from the excellent choreography of Cara Verney to the management of the invited and VIP guests, Nicky Wheddon, as well as the front of house staff managed by Sarah Charlesworth, the set building, which was classy, unfussy and practical by Roydon Charlesworth to the lighting man, Tom Olding. So many people did so many wonderful unseen jobs on the night which also goes to show what an excellent tight knit family they all are at the Duchess Theatre.

Thank you, every single one of those stage performers tonight for putting together a brilliant show for an amazing cause. Keep on having those big ideas, Zak, because as an audience member and someone who knows you, we love those big ideas, and it's great to see such positive energy from an age group who so often receive negative press.