Saturday, 25 June 2016

"MADD Showcase"
Nottingham Playhouse.

This is the first time that I have seen any of the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama and I left tonight wondering why they have evaded my attention until now.

You know how you can get a compilation album of your favourite artist and there are tracks on there which you don't know and after listening to the whole lot, every track becomes your new favourite. That is how I felt after tonight.

This showcase is the best showcase I have ever seen. You would think that this was a West End Show on tour, I'd go as far as to say that this, on entertainment and production values alone was better than a lot of the professional shows that come to town.

The show opened with an explosion of talent with a piece called "Teacher's Pet" from "School Of Rock", they also ended with another track from "School Of Rock" called "Stick It To The Man".

What i really liked about the whole showcase was that the choice of performed pieces were not your standard performance pieces, but form modern musicals, as well as some well chosen classics plus some excellent choreographed pieces to tracks that you wouldn't think of including. i absolutely loved the choreography to The Disturbed's version of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound Of Silence".

Instead of performing the Elvis version of "All Shook Up" they decided to perform the West End musical version. There were swing tracks, hip hop dance routines, pop, dance, ballet, contemporary, tap, ballroom, every type of dance style you could think of.

Many solos and duets and ensemble numbers all incredibly professionally performed. And who ever chose to include tracks from the new musical "Something Rotten" deserves a massive pat on the back. "It's Hard To Be The Bard", "Welcome To the Renaissance", "A Musical" and "Will Power" are brilliant modern day musical tracks and Brogan Flanagan and Luke Haywood was the right choice for these songs. Great sense of humour and fun and brilliantly performed. i loved it.

The tap routines were just amazing, as were all the choreographed pieces. brilliant dancers and very talented choreographers. The "I Got Rhythm" section was pure Broadway.

A brilliant comedy duet on "Moses Supposes" as well by George Metcalfe and Phillip Anderson, who also showed off some nifty footwork.

I'd love to pass gushing comments on all the pieces performed but I would still be writing this tomorrow morning and you'll be asleep.So apart from every single performer and performance what else did I love?

I loved the way that every scene merged into the previous one making sure that there was someone on stage at all times. Directed. conceived and staged by Emma Clayton.

i loved the lighting, designed by Russell Grubiak and supplied by Leigh Mulpeter which made the stage and the performers look like a Broadway production.

I loved the sound, designed by Rob Ketteridge, and the orchestra on stage which provided an absolute powerhouse of sound under the musical direction of Mike Cotton.

The costumes were fantastic and added to the overall class and style of the show, which as I've said before was just to the highest professional standard.

I can see any one of the performers from MADD in professional productions as either dancer, singer or whatever because by the looks of this group they are all primed and ready to slot into the world of theatre at a drop of a hat.

Thank you everyone on stage and all the hard working people behind the scenes for opening my eyes to the incredible talent that MADD produce. I left the theatre exhausted from just watching you. i also had to restrain myself from giving a standing ovation after every piece, but I couldn't wait to get to my feet at the end of an amazing awesome night of excellent entertainment.
"The Mikado" Derby G&S Company
Derby Theatre.

In many ways Gilbert & Sullivan are very similar to William Shakespeare.They both write excellent, unrivalled comedy and a lot of people are afraid of attending anything bearing their name. maybe that might be because they still think that this kind of entertainment is for the upper/middle classes or that they feel that they won't be able to understand what they see. On both accounts, you'd be wrong.

The Mikado has become my favourite of their works. Why? because in the right hands, such as those belonging to the Derby G&S Company, The Mikado is an hilarious romp.No wonder this company can boast so many awards for their work.

The son of The Mikado, Nanki Poo, has run away to marry Yum Yum, who is betrothed to Ko Ko, who is the Lord High Executioner, who has been ordered to execute someone, and guess who that someone might be?

With the help of Pooh Bah, Ko Ko deceives The Mikado into thinking that Nanki Poo had been executed, and then finds out that The Mikado has come about a different matter altogether, which also involves Nanki Poo being promised to Katisha. Worry not as it all turned out well in the end!

A large cast with some excellent ensemble work and some wonderful lead parts. Brilliant comedy songs, a beautiful sound from the orchestra, led by Derek Williams, and a very bright and colourful set.

Gari Glaysher (Nanki Poo), looks like a leading man and carries the comedy scenes well, and what a voice, well they all have fabulous voices, as you'd expect from the style of music they perform.

Matthew Siveter (The Mikado) looks like a cross between Scary Spice and a cast member from the musical "Cats", thanks to his brilliant costume, supplied by Lichfield Costume Hire. A wonderfully rich, full bodied voice that could be heard all over the theatre.

Sharon Cutworth (Yum Yum), a good choice for the lead female role and has one of those voices you could listen to all night.

Stephen Godward (Pooh Bah) returns to the role and adds a lot of the comedy to the show in his many guises of various dignitaries of Titipu. The laughs came easy with his physical comedy as well as his facial expressions, regional accents and the brilliant G&S script.

Jean Krzeminski (Katisha) also provided comedy with her descriptions of why she was so sought after by members of the opposite sex. Doing all this in that gorgeous singing voice she has.

Alan Smith (Ko Ko) was the star of the show though with this wonderful comedy role. At one point slipping into Leonard Rossiter's character of Rigsby to deliver one passage. Ko Ko also has the job of delivering the song, commonly called "The List Song" but correctly titled "As Someday It May Happen".

This is a piece that in every production they have the leeway to re-write the song to make it topical, and after the events of this week, politically, we had Brexit, The EU, SNP, Boris Johnson, Donald
Trump, The Voice and The X Factor on the list. Needless to say this section received a massive round of applause.

There were other updates to the script as well with Pooh Bah being bribed by contact-less payment methods and Act two opening up with Yum Yum being pampered in a spa pamper party with her friends.

The other highlight of the show though was the song "Here's A How De Do" when Ko Ko has advised Nanki Poo and Yum Yum that if she marries Nanki Poo, as the wife of the intended executionee, she would be buried alive.In an almost Pythonesque performance involving a coffin with Yum Yum's name on and a wedding cake that has the groom beheaded and the bride disappearing into the icing grave. Ko Ko relishes this thought and plays up to it marvelously. Again another crowd pleaser.

Other main players in the cast were John Carter (Pish Tush),Elaine Bishop (Pitti Sing), Beth Bucknall (Peep Bo), all three completing this very entertaining cast.

Some lovely choreography, also in stages quite modern, by Jackie O Brien and Andrew Nicklin deserves all credit levied to him for his innovative direction. A truly wonderful production of a much loved Gilbert & Sullivan favourite

The company richly deserved the standing ovation they received and you can see why the Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company are so well respected when they turn out incredibly entertaining shows such as this.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Bingham Musical Theatre Group
64 Sports Bar, Radcliffe On Trent.

There aren't many playwrights who can write a classic piece of theatre and have it performed in so many different ways, but yet again, this is a very different and fresh production of Shakespeare's classic comedy.

Anyone who doesn't know the story should be shot, so i don't need to tell you the plot, so let me get on with the performances etc.

It's a brave director who decides to stage a play outdoors knowing how unpredictable the weather can be, but on Thursday night the gamble paid off with just a spit of rain just before the play's commencement. And I will get the pun out of the way here and now, there was no soggy Bottom (bdoom chhh!).

With the play being set mainly in a wood, what better setting than the woody backdrop of the Radcliffe On Trent's 64 Sports Bar garden area. The birds were singing and the breeze ruffled my silver hair. The sweet smell of nature, the leaves rustling in the breeze and the smell of the grass all added to the wonderful atmospherics.

Graham Buchanan (Oberon/Theseus) borrowed hints of his role as Basil Fawlty from "Fawlty Towers" in his interpretation of the King Of The Fairies with his staccato movements and slightly manic looks, bringing a great fun feel to the role. his Theseus role was a more sterner image, bedecked in German uniform. His Oberon costume a masterpiece of a costume which Dr Who would have given his tardis for. Feathers, scarves, tailcoat, top hat, waistcoat, almost as if he had just stepped out of the Looking Glass. A very entertaining performance which also drew chuckles from the kids who also popped down to see it.

Zoe Stebbings (Titania/Hippolyta) matched Graham's performance well and another two wonderful costumes here. Playing two of Shakespeare's most well known female characters could have been pressurised but another relaxed performance from the lovely fiery-haired Zoe. It's always a joy to watch Zoe act and she didn't disappoint in her dual roles.

Jessica McLean (Hermia) makes her debut with Bingham but is no stranger to the Nottingham stages. Always produces a confident performance and Lysander's intended is another one of those wonderful character roles.

Lindsey Parr (Helena) really brings out the comedy in Hermia's BFF. This is Lindsey's third time in the play and her third different character having played Titania and Hermia in the past. Playing it for laughs really suits this fun lady.

Brandon Ros (Lysander) also makes his debut with Bingham, and again no stranger to the stage. i loved this tall actor's take on the part making Lysander a Bohemian romantic poet and literally throwing himself into the part. He's a lovely physical actor and also has a lovely comedy feel for the role, highlighted in one scene when he is wrestling on the floor with his love rival Demetrius, almost bordering on slapstick at times.

John Stebbings (Demetrius) looks like he could be the serious one in the bunch, but that serious suited and booted image for Demetrius is just a veil for some more comedy. A comedy style at times very typically British with the sword fight with the umbrellas.

Sally Nix (Puck) was always going to be this character in my eyes because she has a certain impish fun trait about her and that transcends to Puck perfectly. Great fun to watch.

The Mechanicals, for you who need to brush up your Shakespeare, hang on that's another show, they are the touring acting troupe whom perform the play within the play, were slightly updated in their normal professions in the play Paul Green Peter Quince/Egeus), Peter Hall (Starveling), Arun Hayes (Flute/Philostrate), Chris McAughey (Pam Snout) who was also the production manager for the show, Jenny Pike (Snug The Lion) and James Parnham (Nick Bottom) were all amazingly good. I love the new occupations and also the slapstick comedy shown by Arun and Peter, and that ladder comedy section never fails to get the audience's reaction. A very physical comedy piece from these two. James, as Bottom was very funny and he showed that he didn't need a microphone as I'm sure the neighbours heard every word of his part. Great fun group who have transformed The Mechanicals into a more updated version of Shakespeare's originals.

Finally, there's the fairies, Alana Brown (Cobweb), Charlotte Buchanan (Peasebottom), Becky Morley (Mustardseed) and Helen Whittle (Moth). These four again were updated with more fiestiness than some of the fairies I've seen in some productions. And what about those final costumes? WOW! a wonderfully colourful ending which literally lit up the night, as did the other character's finale costumes.

We need to thank Becky and Philippa Buchanan for the amazing costumes for all the characters. That's one thing that struck me about this production, just how eye-catching the costumes were. Philippa was also director for this production and by giving the actors free reign to re-imagine what their characters should be like, made for a really interesting and eclectic mix of characters, spanning several decades of style.

Choreographed by a very talented dancer and passionate choreographer, Jamie Buchanan. Did i spot a few Bollywood moves in there? Music wise the playlist ran from Vivaldi's "Summer" from "The Four Seasons" through to "Zorba the Greek", well it was set in Athens.

A very entertaining production which stood up to any of the many other productions that have been performed this year by being different again. It's fresh and funny and by the reactions of the younger members of the audience, a show for all ages, also showing that Shakespeare isn't that difficult to understand and that he is down with the kids.

A brilliant cast and a great idea to take the stage outdoors, especially when the background is as beautiful as it is in Radcliffe On Trent's finest flora and fauna.

You can see "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Radcliffe On Trent at the 64 Sports Bar until Saturday 25 June 2016.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

"One Man Two Guvnors" by Encore.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

Shakespeare once said "All the world's s stage" and "laughter is the best medicine", well maybe not the last one, but if said quotes are true then tonight made a world of difference and, had I had been ill I would have been miraculously cured. I can't remember the last time |I laughed so heartily, tell a lie it was at "Fawlty Towers" by the aforementioned Encore!.

Billed as the funniest show on earth by the theatrical powers that be, Encore proved that to be true. I've seen Rufus Hound and Norman Pace play Francis Henshall but neither made me laugh as much as Adam Guest. I can't be accused for being biased with these very talented, funny, wonderful, brilliant, excellent, consummate, outstanding group of actors who, most of them I know reasonably well, so here goes.....

One Man, Two Guvnors, written by Richard Bean, is an English adaptation of Servant of Two Masters, a 1743 Commedia dell'arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. The play replaces the Italian setting of the original with Brighton in 1963.

Henshall becomes separately employed by two men – Roscoe Crabbe, a local gangster, and Stanley Stubbers, an upper class criminal. Francis tries to keep the two from meeting, in order to avoid each of them learning that Francis is also working for someone else.Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise, her twin brother Roscoe having been killed by her lover, who is none other than Stanley Stubbers. Pauline Clench was originally meant to marry Roscoe but is now set to elope with over-the-top amateur actor Alan Dangle.

There's plenty of old skool slapstick and in between the scene changes, "entertainment" is laid on by several of the cast members, all adding to the comedy.

I've almost ran out of superlatives for most of the actors, most of which I have seen in several productions across the county many times in the past. It's almost like having a super-group of actors on the one stage.

Adam Guest is Francis Henshall, although in real life Adam is more intelligent, but just as quick thinking and funny as his character. He handles the improvised sections really well while being mindful of the script, flowing in and out of improvisation as if it had all been written in.

Ross Lowe (Stanley Stubbers) wonderfully upper class and echoes of the Major again from "Fawlty Towers".

Emma Collins (Rachel Crabbe) breaks her duck in her first ever play without being a musical, and hopefully she will add more plays to her roster because she is wonderfully funny.

Jack Readyhoof (Alan Dangle) is hilarious as the actor whose spotlight is always on "full". A hammy character from a brilliant comedy character actor.

Aston Fisher (Pauline Clench), far from the dippy blonde character of Pauline is Aston but always a bundle of fun in real life as well as on stage in character.

Gary Lever (Harry Dangle), another great role to add to Gary's theatrical CV as the Latin spouting solicitor to the Clench's.

Lewis Haycock (Charlie Clench) plays one of the best parts I've seen him perform, and although the character role is aged about mid fifties, he totally made the gangster character believable.

Amy Clover (Dolly) plays Henshall's love interest and the Clench's book-keeper. Voluptuous and sexy, reminiscent of Ruth Jones with some brilliant comedy lines.

Clive Williamson (Lloyd Boateng) is the one actor that that I've not seen before and one that i look forward to seeing again in whatever he does next. He reminded me a little of Paul Barber who played Denzil in "Only Fools & Horses". Clive is a seasoned actor and director and he makes his Encore debut in this role. Boateng is an ex-con from Parkhurst where we discover he learnt most of his life skills!

Kathryn McAuley (Gareth) plays the head waiter at The Cricketer's Arms. Lovely and upper class, who did well not to crack a smile. professional as always.

Kheenan Jones (Alfie) plays the most aged of the characters as the doddery old waiter with the pacemaker who is great fun to watch. You were just hoping that he would drop or spill one of the meal items, but he didn't.

Brilliant audience involvement, which at one stage even had the ever professional Mr Guest and Ms Collins lose composure for a second or three, and there was a near possibility that Lewis almost slipped from character (which he held on to steadfastly) with the scene surrounding the diary and a comment to an audience member.

Director Ollie Turner did a brilliant job, and with comedy there's always that pressure to keep the comedy rolling and the timing tight, all of which Ollie achieved, along with his assistant director, Verna Bayliss.A ridiculously talented and experienced team behind this show including producer Sam Griffiths.

This is the premiere of this play by a community drama group. A group who are not afraid to take on performances that other groups may shy away from. They take risks and so far they are paying off. It was just a shame though that Tuesday night was not better attended because you're missing out on a very, very funny piece of theatre, performed by a very talented and hard-working band of actors who deserve to be supported. And not only that, they are all really nice people in real life.

"One Man Two Guvnors" is on at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 25 June 2016. Go on , you know you deserve a laugh, oe several, you've earned it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

"Guys and Dolls"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

One of the greatest Noo Yoik based musicals of all time is back in Nottingham. The story of Nathan Detroit and his doll Adelaide and Sky Masterson and his newly discovered doll Sarah, who is in the process of saving souls. Will Sky's soul be one soul she can't save, or will Sky give up his gambling evil ways and succumb to the word of the Lord?

Based on the stories and characters written by Damon Runyon, the action starts in Runyonland where Nathan is looking for a place to hold his latest "crap game". The only way he can think of raising the funds to pay for a venue is to bet Sky $1000 that he can't take take a "doll" of Nathan's choice to Havana for dinner, and Nathan chooses Sarah Brown from the mission.

In the background Adelaide, Nathan's fiancee for the last 12 years, wants to get married and they plan to elope, but all does not go to plan while Nathan is still planning the latest "crap game".

This is Hollywood though so it's all bound to end up happily ever after, and it does, leaving you with a fluffy, warm, squidgy feeling in your tummy.

Maxwell Caulfield, who you may remember from "Emmerdale" and of course playing the lead in the movie "Grease 2", plays Nathan Detroit, and is suitably slippery as he wriggles in and out of Adelaide's grasp and away from the law, namely Lieutenant Brannigan, played by Anthony McGill. Having met Maxwell in the past and have spent time chatting to him, I know that he has a brilliant sense of humour and playing a role like Detroit, that humour seems to spill naturally from him into the character.

Richard Fleeshman (Sky Masterson) exudes confidence in the role and has a cheeky way of shoving his tongue into his cheek, which shows his character to have a fun arrogance at the start, but then we see the change as he falls for Sarah, and his devil-may-care attitude to "dolls" is broken down. Richard is a very talented singer and a songwriter, but I've not heard him sing in such a low key as he did tonight. Whether this is because he has expanded his vocal range I'm not sure but it just seemed a tad too deep for him. Nevertheless he did a brilliant job in the role and his version of "Luck Be A Lady" was powerful and pacy.

I love Adelaide's character and Louise Dearman was just wonderful in the role, and what a voice she has, She also sounded good singing with a broad New York accent, which didn't waver a zip code throughout. Great fun to watch and lovely to listen to her controlled clear voice.

Along with Louise, one of the other stand-out voices of the show was from Anna O'Byrne (Sarah). She has a voice that is made for Hollywood musical style shows. you can listen to her all night if you had to. A boon to the musical side of the cast.

Brilliant ensemble pieces and some amazingly athletic choreography devised by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Weight and.performed brilliantly, and effortlessly by a very talented group of dancers.

I loved the costumes and there were so many suits and outfits which oozed glamour and style, making this show a visual delight.

A wonderful set which set the era just right by way of advertisement products in lights and covering the stage. The changing of the sets were smooth and also very quick, meaning that there was no hanging around with fill in instrumental sections. it all moved along at a nice pace, thanks to director, Gordon Greenberg.

There are many memorable songs in this classic musical,"A Bushel & A Peck", "If I Were A Bell", "Luck Be A Lady", "I've Never Been In Love Before", the brilliantly comic "Take Back Your Mink" (with a wonderful choreography piece to this song), and a rocking gospel version of "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat".

A wonderful cast, great songs, fun and frantic dance routines and some lovely comedy pieces, This is one musical which has stood the test of time and will continue to be performed for many decades to come, especially when it is performed to the standard that it was performed here.

"Guys and Dolls" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 25 June 2016.