Tuesday, 27 September 2016

"Singing In The Rain" by Encore Performing Arts.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
There are a few local theatre groups in and around the Nottinghamshire area who, over the last year, have been very prolific in their output, and as well as being prolific, they are prolifically excellent with the standard of their output. Encore Productions are one of these groups.
At the core of this local theatre group you have Adam Guest (director),Sam Griffiths (musical director/producer) and Siân Scattergood(choreographer). These are the first of several triple threats I'm about to mention. When these three surround themselves with layers of talent the result is an incredible ball of super talent. Andrew Bould was assistant director.
"Singing In The Rain" is Encore's fourth production within 12 months, proving that they don't shy away from a challenge.
I'm sure that everyone has seen, or at least heard of this classic Hollywood 1952 movie and the story of Hollywood's silent movie couple, Lockwood & Lamont, who if the papers and magazines are to be believed, Hollywood's answer to Posh and Becks, but it's only a celluloid image for their adoring public. Comes along the change to talking pictures and there's a problem with Ms Lamont's grating voice. When Don Lockwood takes a stroll he bumps into Kathy Selden, an aspiring actress, who just happens to have the kind of voice you, and Don, could fall in love with.... and did!. Ms Lamont though isn't going to take this love rival in her stride and the results are classic Hollywood MGM.
Mitch Gamble is our Hollywood leading man, Don Lockwood. It's Mitch's first leading romantic role, which begs the question, why has it taken so long for his good looks and voice not to have been used in a leading romantic role in the past?
Mitch has always been a bit worried about his dancing capabilities, he's told me so before, but in this role as a song and dance leading man, Mitch proved that he was every inch a song and dance man. There's a lot of it in this musical and he took it all in his stride, including the iconic "Singing In The Rain" section, complete with a stage that rained. My son, you smashed it and he even mastered the Hollywood glamour and suave of Gene Kelly. 
Lockwood's best friend is Cosmo Brown and filling the tap shoes for this role was the uber-talented triple threat, Lucas Young. This boy is still only 17 years old and can sing brilliantly, can act convincingly and boy can he dance. i know Lucas can dance but tonight he raised the bar, not just for himself, but for all the cast who had to match and keep up with him. His tap dancing is fluent and loose (that is a compliment by the way) and he does all this with ease. His comedy is natural and he's a really strong vocalist, showcased in his solo "Make 'Em Laugh".
Making up another triple threat is Lisa Ambalavanar as Kathy Selden. Oh if only I was 35 years younger and had Don Lockwoods good looks, I may have been in with a chance. Seriously,, Lisa is another wonderful dancer and what a beautiful voice to match that gorgeous face. it's hard to believe that this is Lisa's first musical and the first time that she has been on stage in nine years. Please don't leave it another nine years Lisa.
Alice Wright (Lina Lamont) was another perfect casting as the leading lady with the annoying voice. She played the role with great comic timing and I absolutely loved her.
It's a fairly big cast with some wonderful cameo roles Mike Evans (RF Simpson), the studio boss. I've seen Mike many rimes before but only on my bus home and I always thought that he looked classic actor, and should have been an actor, and guess what,,, he is an actor. Normally acting in Derbyshire, Mike's a welcome addition to the Nottingham stage.
Tom Preston, who I first saw in the ensemble of "Copacabana" in Long Eaton, and I'm sure that he won't mind me saying, he was incredibly nervous in that show, and it showed back then, but we all have to start somewhere. Tom played Roscoe Dexter here and I can truly say that he has left all nerves at the Copa. A really assured performance and it's like seeing a completely different actor tonight (I had to check that it was the same person).
A wonderful ensemble brimming with local talent providing a wonderful backdrop to the leads with dance and vocals. Sandy C LaneLucy Bailey,Rachel Barry, Rebecca Drysdale, Dan Gribbin, Harry IlykJess Lacey, Jacob Lloyd, Becky MorleyCibele Ponces Alvarenga, Sam Ward (who makes his stage debut in this show), Helen Whittle and Jess Woods.
The sets are colourful, as are the costumes. Such glamour and style. The filmed sections are wonderfully nostalgic and were filmed at Kelham Hall. The cast must've had such fun filming them.
This is a song and dance musical and Siân Scattergood must be one very proud lady with the wonderful choreography.It's always good to see classic choreography done well, and know Sian's past work, I know that she will push to get the standard she is used to and that showed tonight. So much hard graft for all the leads and the ensemble combined. Classic MGM style.
A brilliant orchestra under the musical direction of Sam Griffiths and lovingly directed by the mighty talent of Mr Adam Guest, who also clinched a couple of cameos for himself.
So many great songs here "Moses Supposes", "Good Morning", "Would You", "Fit As A Fiddle", "Make 'Em Laugh", "You Were Meant For Me" and of course the title track.
Practically perfect show, which i know will top perfect as the shows continue. For a wonderful slice of Hollywood glamour, the Nottingham Arts Theatre is the place to head for, but get there before Saturday or you may find yourself out in the rain, as opposed to inside with the rain. And on that note, long may Encore and all involved reign on the Nottinghamshire stages.

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Full Monty"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
I love a good old feel good play which includes, suicide attempts, impotence,despair, unemployment and marriage breakdowns and underdogs who, like a good topping of cream, always rises to the top. Throw in a big dose of realism and life, a wonderful balance of sadness and humour and a very cute 12 year old and you have a brilliant night out at the theatre. And I haven't even mentioned six very brave actors willing to get their kit off on stage for a baying audience predominantly of women.
The once-successful steel mills of Sheffield, have shut down and most of the employees have been laid off. Gaz and Dave are trying to make ends meet, with a bit of help from Gaz's son, Nathan, by "liberating" a big steel girder for scrap money, mainly so that Gaz can pay his child support. That fails and while Gaz and Dave are outside their local working men's club, Gaz sees a poster for The Chippendales, who are performing inside the club.
When he learns how much money can be made by taking his clothes off in front of a crowd of women, he sees an answer to all of his monetary worries as well as a lifeline to seeing Nathan and paying his child support, He ropes in some his old work mates as well as holding auditions for other male strippers which results in "Horse" and Guy. One has an unfair advantage over the others and the other........well, you can probably guess!
The six bond and go through a few close shaves while rehearsing , as well as discovering some secrets about each other, but in the end it all comes to a head with a standing ovation.
The play starts a bit different than the other versions I've seen with the voice of the Prime Minister of the 80's, Mrs Thatcher which straight away sets the scene for the despondency and lack of hope in the economical downturn for the workers. A nice touch from director Jack Ryder, who you may remember from Eastenders fame, but now a very successful director. Here's something that you may not know about Jack, his dad is Jack Hues, lead singer of 80's band Wang Chung, and their "Dance Hall Days" track is played in the play.
Gary Lucy (Gaz) revisits his role and is as cheeky as ever and very clear that he is a crowd pleaser with the ladies, even with his clothes on. Even more by the end of the play as he playfully flashes his backside as he leaves the stage.
Andrew Dunn (Gerald), who you'll know from "Dinnerladies" again revisits his role with great dryness, but with that little twinkle in his eye.
Louis Emerick (Horse) is another actor who is back in the saddle as he also has played the role the last time it came to town. The crowd loved his moves. This horse could pony alright! 
Chris Fountain (Guy) was tempted out of the wilderness by Gary Lucy to play this role and after much deliberation from Chris took the role and headed straight for the gym to make sure his role looked as buff as possible. It's good to see a young actor like Chris given the chance like this after, in my opinion, being tossed aside by TV. Chris is almost unrecognisable with his cropped hair and his weight loss, but a great performer and I hope that this role sees him being offered more theatre work because he is a really likeable and talented actor.
Anthony Lewis (Lomper) starts his role at rock bottom but shows that if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Lomper's confidence grows and he gets a few friends into the bargain as well. A really good life assuring character, played with sensitivity by Anthony.
Kai Owen (Dave) is the overweight one, but you know what, he had the audience in his hand and immediately won them over with his everyday worries and issues and especially with his wife, Jean, played by Fiona Skinner, who stood by him all the way, insecurities and all. And what a brilliant part Fiona plays, great fun to watch.
Charlotte Powell (Mandy) is Gaz's desperate ex wife, who you can tell still has a bit of a soft spot for him, but has to lay down the CSA law where Nathan is concerned. talking of whom...
There are four young actors playing Nathan on tour and I saw an incredibly talented young man called Felix Yates. Felix, from Sheffield, has amazing stage presence and a great naturalness about him and a wide range of emotions to offer. Then again he's been acting since he was three years old and has a very credible list of credits to his pre-teen stage and TV CV. Monday night was only his third time in this role.
With a set, designed by Robert Jones, that evolves from one scene to another just by a few sliding doors, creating simple but effective changes and great fluidity to the play.
The music from the film's there as well, Hot Chocolate "You Sexy Thing", Irene Cara's "Flashdance", James Brown "I Feel Good" and of course, the iconic Job Centre scene to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff". Choreography by Ian West, who I'm sure a lot of ladies would like to thank for the finale "You Can Leave Your Hat On". One man these actors do not want to upset would be the lighting man with the final scene! The whole show is produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, who between them have a whole history of theatrical successes in their wake. this is just another great production to add to their list.
You know what, if you don't leave this show with a broad grin on your face, male or female, there's something wrong with you.The Full Monty is just a brilliant "human" story played with great humour by a bunch of talented actors who have a whole history of TV, stage and radio experience behind them who also look like they are having the time of their lives on stage.
"The Full Monty" is on show at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 October 2016, and you won't need your binoculars ladies to spot the talent. Go on, you know you want to!

Friday, 23 September 2016

"One Man Two Guvnors" by Festival Players
Loughborough Town Hall.
The play is billed as "The Funniest Play In The Western World" and you know what, I second that because it's packed with so many incredibly funny lines, and I've seen it several times but it still feels so fresh.
Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect £6,000 from the dad of his fiancee. But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who has been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.
Holed up at The Cricketers Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with one Stanley Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be reunited with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart. Simple.
The play is like a bottle of wine, fruity, fizzy, very smooth and gets better with age and like a good cheese matures well and gets tastier every time you go back for a piece.
I could go into the history of the play and it's Italian roots and "Commedia Dell'arte" but what really matters here is that it is so very funny when performed with the panache and comedy timing of The Festival Players.
I've seen this play several times performed both by professional actors and non professionals (I don't like to use the word amateur), and I've loved every show, and this production is up there with the rest, showing that as long as you do a good play justice, you won't spoil anything.
James Daw is made for the role of Francis Henshall, or maybe Francis Henshall was made for James Daw. Either way this is the closest you'll get to James Corden recreating his role as our quick thinking hero. James works so well and so naturally, whether it's the frantic farcical moments, the slapstick or the audience working, her was in his element and so much more funnier than Rufus Hound or Norman Pace, the pros I've seen doing Henshall. 
Every single one of the cast were perfect for their roles and none more than Kirt Hammonds as Stanley Stubbers, the fiance of Rachel Crabbe and murderer of Rachel's brother, Roscoe. His portrayal was part John Cleese, part Robbie Rotten (kids will know Lazytown) and part Stan Smith (American Dad) in his look and sound and for me has just as good a script as Henshall. Great comedy timing and some wonderful facial contortions which made his role an absolute joy to watch.
Rachel Ingham (Rachel Crabbe) again perfectly cast as the Roscoe twin, and as Roscoe, well dead Roscoe. Rachel gets to deliver a mouthful of a speech, describing how twins are formed which richly deserved that audience appreciation she received.
Steve Illidge (Charlie Clench), don't you think Clench is a surname was made in comedy heaven? A wonderful wide-boy role who reminded me so much of how Bob Hoskins would have played the part.
Simon Page (Lloyd) providing some comic revelations and reflections of his time inside adds to the comedy.
Hannah Levenston (Pauline Clench) is wonderfully dotty, a beautiful airhead and played to simple (take that whatever way you wish) perfection. She has some incredibly well written comic lines which are delivered with spot on comedy timing and feeling.
Henry North (Alan Dangle) is the over the top wannabe thespian. it's not often that a play is written with so many secondary characters who have such wonderful lines and character driven and Henry is fantastic as this drama queen who's in love with Pauline, so much so that he will fight to the death for her, whether that be Pauline's death or someone else's. A wonderful fop of a character.
Nick Grainger (Harry Dangle), a solicitor and father of Alan Dangle. Another secondary character with a few funny passages to add to the play, especially the legal jargon section.
Julie Easter (Dolly) is the character with all the brains in this play and also the tightest clothes as well (I'm a bloke, I notice these things on a purely professional and artistic level). Dolly is Francis' object of desire, after haddock, chips and mushy peas that is. Played to perfection and for some reason I could see a glimpse of Yootha Joyce's sauciness with Julie. What a lovely character driven role for Julie.
Chris Marshall plays Gareth the chef, Dan Grooms has a wonderfully slapstick tole as the 86, or is that 87 year old Alfie. How he can act that bent double i don't know. Dan's performance reminded me so much of Dick Emery's old geezer character. Very very funny, and I hope that the bruises heal soon after the run.
A play like this needs good stage management, due to the high energy and slapstick comings and goings through those doors, which make a good farce, and Benjamin Hardy is quite obviously just as talented back stage as he is front stage. As far as you could see everything ran like clockwork, proof of a good stage manager.
Directed by Amy Walters, This isn't the easiest of plays to direct, I'd imagine, but what a success from a directorial point of view.
Classic set design by Andrew McGowan, The sets were very smoothly positioned, also thanks to the trio covering just long enough with their skiffle band. Ted Ragg, Michael Fenton and Brian Rodwell providing the musical fill ins.
Audience participation and Francis' improvisation skills, sorry James' skills, make for a different show every night. Additions to the script also keep that fresh feel and even back in 1963, when the action is set, they managed to predict two women Prime Ministers, keeping the show topical and up to date. Some lovely script additions making this show definitely one of the funniest shows I've seen, In fact I can't remember the last time I heard so many guffaws and proper belly laughs resounding around Loughborough Town Hall. 
An excellent cast, an excellent production and excellent to see such a full theatre this late in the run. "The Funniest Show In the Western World" I'd back that statement to the hilt!
This is the first production I've seen from The Festival Players, but I really hope that I get invited back to see more from this wonderful, talented group.
"One Man Two Guvnors" is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 24 September 2016.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"Say Something Happened/An Englishman Abroad" by Alan Bennett.
Lace Market Theatre, Nottingham.
One thing I love about Bennett's plays is his sharp eye for people watching and his sharp ear for the way people speak, as well as what they say, these two plays in this double bill reflect both of these talents.
The performances, as far as I know, are sold out all week with only a chance of cancellation tickets to see this wonderful presentation. While they could have sold more tickets by staging them on the Main Stage, the intimacy of the upstairs performance area suited both plays perfectly.
"Say Something Happened" features "Mam" and "Dad"; an elderly, in age only definitely not in mind, married couple and a visit from a "wet behind the ears" social worker, June.
You can see June's confidence grow from the start of the play to the end, thanks to the straight-talking Mam and affable Dad.
Mam and dad are played beautifully by Carol Parkinson and Leonard Jackson. They get the accent and the naturalness of being an older married couple spot on, making the performance very believable in their relationship. There's a part in this play which counters the natural comedy when Mam tells June something that the open discussions between the three didn't reveal while Dad was in the room. This is quite a poignant moment which is also something that Bennett does so well.
A good chunk of the play also features on their daughter, Margaret, who has done very well for herself. Her whole image is brought to life in our imaginations by Dad, but is an important thread for the play.
Rosina Reading (June) has a wonderful character role as the Social Worker.Her whole face tells the full story of her nervousness in her new job and the character's inexperience of interviewing people. And I love the wig!
The accents, you can tell, is the result of lots of work to get it right by all three actors. Lovingly directed by Jemma-Dawn Froggitt; you can tell by the pace of the play. Bennett's spaces between the script are just as important as the words themselves in creating a natural and real rhythm. The props and set have also received serious attention. Nothing has been overlooked from the scones on the side plates to the regal looking large tray and tea service that you just know would be paraded out for guests.
"An Englishman Abroad", directed by Jim Brooks, is another lovely piece of theatre and just as lovingly directed as the above. This play is the true story of actress Corale Browne and her meeting, quite by chance with the spy Guy Burgess. The setting for this play is a world away from the Leeds setting of "Say Something Happened" as this is set in Moscow in 1958 as well as in London for the latter part.
Malcolm Todd (Burgess) pulls in another lovely character role, painting a sad picture of his life in Moscow, Living with his partner, at a time when homosexuality was hidden, and pining for home. Burgess's drink problems were evident but subtly done. Furnishing his flat with items from London and ordering his clothes from Savile Row, which is where Corale came in useful to Burgess.
Bex Mason (Corale) is, at first sight, quite unrecognisable. It's amazing how a wig and make up can change a person's appearance. Classy with a very English accent and wonderfully aloof.
The two main roles are supported by three other character driven roles with even more accents which sound very natural to the roles. Piotr Wisniewski as the bitchy Tailor, Linda Croston as a wonderfully snobby sales assistant and Martin Pikett as Tolya, Burgess's young lover. 
Although this play is not as humorous as the first, it is yet again a wonderful observation piece on Bennett's part and the accents are once again superb. Romanticism of a different kind with this one but the comparisons are there. Once again the set and the props were all there,as well as the wonderful costumes in both plays, another thing that the Lace Market Theatre excel at.
Two excellent plays, not Bennett's most performed plays, which is why i was so eager to see them, and not overly long. What Bennett lacked in play length, he certainly made up for in observational humour and an ear for regional accents.
The quality is all in the writing and that is why Bennett's plays are such a joy to see, especially in the hands of a wonderfully talented cast and directors such as we have here.I sat through both plays with a constant smile on my face, such was my joint love for Bennett's writing and the wonderful cast. It really is worth contacting the Lace Market Theatre box office to check for ticket cancellations because these two plays are beautifully written and lovingly performed. If you do miss out this time though, that'll teach you to get in there earlier to get your tickets at Nottingham's hidden gem of a theatre.
"Say Something Happened/An Englishman Abroad" are being performed as an Alan Bennett double bill until Saturday 24 September 2016.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

"The Sound Of Music"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The musical originated from 1959 and the film, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was based on the musical in 1965. It's the story of the Austrian Von Trapp family and the woman who changes their family for good, Maria.
Maria is studying to become a nun in Salzburg in 1938 when she's sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp, to be governess to his seven children. After bringing love and music into the lives of the family through kindness and patience, she marries Captain Von Trapp and together with the children they find a way to survive the loss of their homeland.
The first thing that strikes you about this production are the lush sets, the absolute grandiose of the Von Trapp residence as well as the massive nunnery with its incredible arches and library. 
The musical itself transports me, personally, back to my childhood days with the music and remembering seeing the film several times as a youngster, mainly at Christmas, watching with my parents.
This time round though you can appreciate the magnificence of this classic Rodgers & Hammerstein II music and lyrics as well as the symbolism and future threat of oncoming war always being omnipresent.
Talking of the music, there are some of most loved and remembered songs from musical theatre, as well as being responsible for some big chart hits. "Edelweiss", "Maria", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" all best selling hits for contemporary singers. match these with wonderfully crafted songs like "My Favourite Things", "Do Re Mi", "Sixteen Going On seventeen" and of course the title track. All wonderfully reproduced live by an excellent orchestra.
This production is a massive step up from the last production at the Nottingham theatre Royal and I think that is due to the main actors here having a musical/singing background. it really does make all the difference.

Lucy O Byrne (Maria) is a name, I'll admit isn't one that i knew before today but boy, what a talent. Sounding as crystal clear and diction perfect as the original Julie Andrews, she has a very natural stage presence which made you feel safe with her taking on the perfectly crafted boots of Dame Julie Andrews, and you instantly relaxed into enjoying her character. What a beautiful voice; I heard every word.
Andrew Lancel (Von Trapp) is an actor I've seen several times on stage, the last time in Derby for "The Damned United", but this is the first time that I'd seen him sing. And let me tell you, he can sing! I was very surprised at the lovely smooth tone of his singing voice and he handled the big songs as well as the quieter songs like "Edelweiss". A confident and authoritative air as Captain Von Trapp and you soon forget that he was once in "The Bill", "Bad Girls" and "Coronation Street". A very talented, chameleonic actor who makes you believe in every character he plays. 
Jan Hartley (Mother Abbess) is the owner of one incredible and emotive set of lungs. her version of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is the best since I first heard Patricia Routledge sing the role (yes Pat Routledge can actually sing and very well indeed). Jan received a very warm round of applause when she came on stage for the final bows, and richly deserved it was as well.
Lucy Van Gasse (Elsa Schraeder) is absolutely gorgeous with the most incredible chiselled cheek bones and I was wondering where I'd seen her before and discovered from the programme that she performs with Amici Forever. That also explains that beautiful voice then!
Howard Samuels (Max Detweiler) is another absolute joy as the camp friend of the Captain and the Baroness. Some lovely comedic touches from Mr Samuels.
Heading up the eldest of the Vonn Trapp children was Annie Holland (Liesl). This is her debut UK tour and I'll be looking out to see what is next for her.
There's sometimes a danger of the children chosen to be a tad "stage school" but not here. There's a few names to look out for in the future in this production because the talent is obvious when you see them. Zach Loizou (Frederick), Elsa McKenna (Louisa), Zac Pile (Kurt), Ruby Stokes (Brigitta), Jessie Popkiewicz-Smith (Marta) and Alana Willis (Gretl).
I must also mention Kane Verrall (Rolf) who I can see being a good song and dance man in the future. he looked very natural in both areas in his duet with Liesl on "Sixteen going On Seventeen", especially for quite a tall actor.
The lighting, the sound, the production and the whole staging was nothing less that perfect, and this could be the perfect musical, Well let's face it, it's got to be one of the longest running ones at 57 years, and it's still getting standing ovations and packed theatres.
"The Sound Of Music" is being performed at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 24 September 2016.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"Bare-A Pop Opera" by Creatio Art Ltd. Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

This is one production that you should take a pack of tissues, just in case, and it even got this reviewer welling up.
I knew beforehand that this production was personal for several of the actors involved, and I wondered how that would affect, if at all,the actors. If anything it created a very passionate and powerful cast who gave a unified incredible performance.
The story is of Peter and Jason who are at a Catholic school and just happen to fall in love with each other. Peter is an altar boy and Jason is the school's golden boy. they room together and are also secret lovers. Throughout Peter wants to go public about their love but Jason is afraid to reveal his sexuality and even goes as far as sleeping with "party girl" Ivy. But Peter and Jason's affections have not gone unnoticed by Matthew, who also is in love with Ivy, but is rejected by her in favour of Jason. Soon the secret is out, but the consequences change several of the characters lives in a drastic way.

Apart from the main topic of being gay and teenage and Catholic, there are several other issues addressed which everyone will have encountered at some time in their lives, so we can all latch on to, and empathise with one or more of the characters. Whether it be weight issues, bullying, drugs, rejection or just wanting to belong, the whole teenage thing is highlighted here. It's a play that you can relate to on many levels, which is why there were several people in the audience openly dabbing their eyes.
Oliver Wheddon (Jason) gave a performance of a lifetime, and I've seen some incredible performances from Ollie. When he sang "Once Upon A Time" he was so impassioned that you couldn't help but feel so emotionally for his confused and treoubled character.
Hayden Fletcher (Peter) also gave one hell of a performance. I've seen Hayden in many roles over the last few years and this one sees Hayden in the most serious and adult role to date. his voice could cut glass, such is the clarity and emotion. just hear him perform "See Me" and I challenge you not to get choked up as he tries to "come out" to his mother by phone, who secretly knows anyway but tries to deny the fact that she has a gay son. just a very true and emotional performance from both Hayden and Laura Jones, who plays peter's mother.
Emily Gent (Ivy) delivers another amazingly passionate performance. Her impassioned performance of "All Grown Up" is another tear jerker. Emily peels back the layers from the "slut of St Cecilia's" to reveal the insecurities of a young girl who falls heavily and then has the bubble burst. Again, one of the most emotional roles I've seen the gorgeous Emily play. And those tears at the end were real!
Georgie Bond (Nadia) also hides the insecurities of Jason's twin sister who thinks she is overweight, by being bitchy. But when those cracks start to show, it's another emotive performance for Georgie. I loved the tender "A Quiet Night At Home" as well as the self depreciation of "Plain Jane Fat Ass".
Andrew Bould (Matthew) shows off his vocal talents as well as his ability to be just in the wrong place at the wrong rime to see and hear the things he doesn't want to see and hear. His character is rejected by Ivy and it's Matt who creates the fall out. You find yourself really feeling for Matt because I'm sure we've all fell for someone who didn't reciprocate those feelings, i know I have,and you can understand the anger that boils up inside Matt.
Jack Readyhoof (Lucas) is the boarding school drug supplier who is part of Jason's downfall. there's a wonderful rap sequence called "Wonderland"performed by Jack, as Lucas. One of the many highlights musically here and was rewarded with a rapturous round of applause. It's also one of the several lighter moments in the pop opera.
The other students are played by Lowri Spear (Dianne),Erin Keogh (Tanya),Rebekah Fearn (Kyra), Ryan Wiggins (Zach), Josh Birchall (Rory), Ben ヅ Jones (Alan),Sophie Robbins (Alysha), Sky Marsden (Christina) andRachael Webb (Lucy).
The gorgeous Monique Henry adds another religious sister to her CV as Sister Chantelle. Bringing more fun to the production with that sassy sister act. A wonderful soully, gospelly, chocolatey voice and a no nonsense but understanding, caring character who lets Peter know that she knows what is troubling him in the song "God Don't make No Trash" You can't help but fall in love with the Sister, as well as Monique.A wonderful, fun actor who could convert anyone.

Adam Guest plays The Priest. A completely different role from all of his recent pieces which just goes to show the variety in his acting ability. You also get to hear Adam sing in a serious mode. The Priest though also plays his part in the downward spiral of Jason.
I previously mentioned Laura Jones (Claire) as Peter's mother. You could really see the anguish and slight disappointment in the confirmation of Peter's sexuality but what a lovely turnaround performance at the end.
The ending is emotional and the tears from the actors on stage are not forced, neither are the ones in the audience. there's no curtain call or bows, just to hit home the seriousness of the message put over by this play.
The set was a piece of art with the massive stained glass window, constructed by Milly Shawcross and Terry Stevenson. What you may not notice is the giant cross projected on the stage from the window. Just stunning and incredibly effective thanks to the lighting of Dave Martin. Milly also did an amazing job as producer and stage managed the show; a woman of many talented hats.
Matt Powell directs this, what I first thought to be brave production, but after seeing it would now change that adjective to important. Why? I know that Matt, as well as many of the cast members are passionate about educating people about these issues played out. it's something that we should not see anymore but we do. I personally would rather see two gay people kissing openly than two straight people fighting in the street. This and the other issues covered in this play need to be seen by as many people as possible. 
Matt, who also designed the set, does not shy away from directing or putting on productions that some directors would pass on, which is why directors like Matt are important in today's theatre. It paid off as well because the theatre was practically full, which I was so pleased to see, and I hope continues for the rest of the week.
Great sound from a live band, directed musically by Morris Fisher, assisted by Martin Lewis. At first i thought that the music was recorded, just because of the quality, but no, it was all produced live.
Completing the production team is Stephanie Ure as choreographer and you almost don't notice the choreography because it is subtle at times and unobtrusive, which is a great complement to, not only the subtlety of Stephanie's choreography but to the actors also.
The pop opera has a brilliant soundtrack and this company have amassed some of the best talent in local theatre which makes for one amazing show. I had never seen "Bare" before and while I could say that this is the best performance I've seen of this show, that would not do the show credit due to my flippancy. What I can say is that this is an important production with a social commentary which needs to be taken on board. I hope that everyone who sees this show goes away and contemplates its' themes and tells everyone else to come and see this amazing and emotive piece of theatre.
"Bare-A Pop Opera" is at the Duchess Theatre until Saturday 17 September 2016. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

"The Glenn Miller Story"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Glenn Miller's music and his arrangements define a certain era in popular music and his sound was as recognisable as any artist through the ages. the band onstage did a good job of replicating his sound but you can never get that exact sound and feel as Miller's records, and it's the construction of his orchestra that gave that definitive Miller sound.
Alton Glenn Miller went missing on 15 December 1944 after boarding a plane, traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, His aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel. He was only 40 years old. 
Tommy Steele is 79 and, while it's always good to see a legend like Tommy in Nottingham and still touring, it was at times a bit difficult to see someone of Tommy's age playing a man more than half his age convincingly, especially with the scenes with his young wife, Helen. Mr Steele though does a really good job as the band leader, and while he doesn't stretch his vocals that much and the dance routines are minimal, there's just something about seeing a man with such a history steeped in the entertainment business like Tommy.
I'm obviously not the only one who thinks this as Tommy himself had doubts when the idea was presented by Bill Kenright to him a couple of years ago.

The actual story, which to start with I thought would be a "jukebox musical" but isn't because there was music other than Glenn Miller featured, touches on only some of Miller's career and isn't definitive. There isn't even closure on the missing Miller, which in a way I can understand because of the circumstances in which he went missing but maybe the production is missing a chance for a more sombre final section. I was almost expecting Helen to be listening to the radio and the announcement to be made about the lost in action Miller. That would have been a proper Kleenex moment.
Playing Helen Burger, the soon to be Helen Miller was Abigail Jaye. Abigail has a gorgeous voice, especially showcased with the wonderful vocal version of "Moonlight Serenade" and "At Last". With her scenes with Mr Steele though it was almost like watching a father and daughter act.
When Tommy puts on the Miller round specs though his age befits the Miller look and he seems more comfortable in the older Miller scenes. 
That aside Tommy Steele has a charisma and an easy-going aura that instantly makes you warm to him and his still very evident singing and shuffling talents. This is even more to the fore in the Glenn Miller medley and jokey audience participation section as a finale.
The 16 piece orchestra were excellent and the encore of Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" went down a treat, especially with the energetic jitterbugging and jiving tap dancers being brought back on stage.
There are many Miller tunes interspersed with other pieces from the Big Band period, "It Don't Mean A Thing", "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart", "Basin Street Blues", "A String Of Pearls", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "In The Mood", "Get Happy", "Little Brown Jug" among them.

My childhood was peppered with the hits of the Big Band era because that was the music my dad listened to, and so thought it only right to take him with me. He enjoyed the music and seeing a music and showbiz royal like Tommy Steele, so I think this sets the picture as to the age group who would get the most out of this enjoyable but fluffy piece of theatre.
"The Glenn Miller Story" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 17 September 2016.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

"Jesus Christ Superstar" by People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
I can sum my review up with just one sentence. The best non professional production I've seen. Not only that but it also rivals the Arena Tour production that featured Tim Minchin and Melanie Chisholm.
The show kicked off with that iconic opening rock guitar played by Richard Shaw and then the action exploded into a tension, open-mouthed production which highlighted some of the best local talent in Nottingham.
Who cares that the set was sparse, not I, because you don't need a set with this show. The set that was in place revealed a cross toward the end scene which looked just the way you'd expect a cross that was knocked together back in Jesus' day, nothing flashy but practical.
Jesus may have been nailed to the cross but that wasn't the only thing that was nailed. The singing, choreography, acting, the passion, timing, basically everything was nailed by everyone, even down to the sound and lighting by Tom Mowat and Richard Zamorski. Practically the perfect performance.
"JCS" was the first soundtrack I bought on vinyl when I was about 11 years old, remember the old Music For Pleasure record label, so this show has a special meaning for me as it must have actually influenced my love for musical theatre. I love every song and practically know the songs back to front. I've seen many performances of the show, so how do you make the show appear fresh? Well that was something that director Chris Teasdale(who also made an appearance on stage) and assistant director Luke Grainger achieved.
The musical arrangements were changed subtly by musical director David Hails, and there were certain bits which I hadn't noticed in other performances which made the whole show seem wonderfully revitalised. The attitude in the ensemble pieces were actually quite alarming, making you feel quite uneasy with the mob scenes, especially with the calls to crucify Jesus; there were real looks of anger and a thirst for blood coming from the stage. Really quite unnerving. 
Patrick McChrystal (Jesus) absolutely nailed the role. this being his first lead role must've added extra pressure but, if that was the case, it didn't show. The passion that oozed from his performance went from sublime to screaming anger. Paddy gave every thing he had in his performance which also came through his singing as well as his acting. Very controlled performance and his version of "Gethsemane" was the best I've heard outside the film version and Ian Gillan's version. I got the chills with this song, and Paddy's vocals, and you really felt for the broken, betrayed Jesus. 
PTC are blessed in this production with some incredible singers and Sam Barson bettered his previous version of Judas last year in Long Eaton in this production. Sam has an amazing rock voice, no surprise that he also sings in a local rock band called "Famous For Nothing", I know ironic isn't it? Sam looks the rock star with his guyliner and shadowy image, not as prowling and menacing as in his previous version but altogether a faultless and exciting performance. Again you really feel for Judas as he wrestles with his guilt at betraying Jesus; another big nod to the acting ability of Mr Barson.

Vivienne Tay was just superb as Mary, so much more charismatic than the touring theatre production of Mary, and what a gorgeous voice. her simple version of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" was truly hypnotic, as was her "Can We Start Again Please" duet with Peter, played by Connah Porter, who is another actor you need to watch out for who also possesses a really good musical theatre voice. 

I've seen Jason Wrightam in several roles over the years but, as far as I can remember, not in a singing role such as Pilate. Once more a very passionate and angry performance. You were drawn to him all the time that he was on stage as he spat evil at Jesus in his final hours.
I keep coming back to the very strong vocals in this show and Meng Khaw as Caiaphas exercised his wonderful deep tones in this role.
Luke Grainger lasciviously played Annas, What I noticed in this role was the absolute glee at seeing the infliction of pain on Jesus, quite frightening in fact, but a testament to Luke's acting. I knew Luke had a brilliant singing voice and again this was shown tonight. Powerful and controlled,acting and vocal wise.
Laura Ellis was quite unrecognisable as disciple Simon, and it wasn't until I looked at the programme that I realised it was her.
King Herod is the role that adds the comedy to the musical and again, a completely different spin given on this character. Choosing John Gill to play this role was a touch of genius and I loved the camp, but not too over the top camp, version of "Herod's Song". I'm now querying what I class as "too over the top". Maybe John has pushed the bar up for me, but I loved that costume, and only Herod could carry it off. You have to go and see this take on the King!
A very tight ensemble, vocal and choreography wise, which I was incredibly impressed by. You can see that Jenny Scott has really pushed everyone to get the wonderful choreographed results on show which wouldn't be out of place on a professional stage.
I must also mention the tight stage management by Amy Rogers-Gee keeping the smooth flow on and off stage. You should also take note of the make up by Sophie Mann and Annabel Moy because they made Patrick's bruises and welts look excruciatingly painful and tender, as well as Sam's stark white face and black eyeliner really stand out.
The costumes were every day garb which meant that the action could be shown as modern, again keeping that fresh appeal.
The band were incredible and very sympathetic to the vocalists, not once did they drown the singers, and for a rock opera, that is something that i feared, but the band, Tom Watkins and Morven Harrison (keyboards),Richard Shaw (guitar), Tom Preston (bass) and Dave Shipley (drums) created a comfortable and competent backing. 
Look, basically this is the only theatre show you need to see this week in Nottingham. It shoves that bar even further up for the Peoples Theatre Company as they get ever better with each production they do. can i also say that it was most satisfying to see the level of support for the theatre with the almost full theatre. After all you're seeing the West End stars of tomorrow here! 
"Jesus Christ Superstar" is being performed by The People's Theatre Company at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 11 September 2016, so get down and find out what the "Buzz" is all about if I didn't make it plain enough!