Thursday, 15 December 2016

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.
Bingham Musical Theatre Company.
If anything is going to get you in the mood for Christmas, this play will. We all love a seasonal ghost story and with this classic you get four for the price of one. the three Christmas ghosts as well as that of Scrooge's old work partner Jacob Marley, resplendent in chains.
Performed as a promenade production at Radcliffe Hall in Radcliffe on Trent, this is the perfect location to stage the play. it's a beautiful house with great ambience surrounding it and fits in well with the Dickensian feel of the play. The promenading takes you from room to room and even outside the building.
While this makes for a novel experience for the audience member, it brings all sorts of possible issues for the director(Philippa Buchanan) and some of the cast members that need to change costumes. but if any issues were abound, then they were kept away from the eyes of the watchers. It all ran as smooth as mulled wine.
Scrooge was played by Graham Buchanan and he was classic Scrooge. i didn't see Graham I saw old Ebeneezer who was transferred from the mean old humbug to a generous caring employer after being shown the error of his ways by Jacob Marley (Peter Hall) and the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Zoe Stebbings), Christmas Present (James Parnham) and Christmas Future (Arun Hayes), who also doubled as Young Scrooge.
Bob Cratchett (Tony Alldread), Mrs Cratchett (Lindsey Parr), Tiny Tim/Young Scrooge (Harvey Taverner), Martha Cratchett.Maid (Alanna Brown), Dan/Julia/Want (Charlie Buchanan), Ignorance/Girl (Elizabeth Beech), Old Belle/Housekeeper (Philippa Buchanan), Party Guest/Other (Stephanie Brown/ Jenny Pike), belle's Daughter/Georgiana (Emma Swatton), Mrs Dilber/Party Guest (Rachel Barry), Charity Woman/Liza (Becky Morley), Dancer (Grant Hemmingway), Belle/Mrs Woods (Jess McLean), and Mr Fezziwig/Butcher ( Paul Green) completed the large cast. With a great smoothness for such a large cast list, the moving from one setting to the next was done with the greatness of ease.
The atmospheric lighting combined with the actual Hall settings made this quite an eerie experience at times, but there was also a lot of fun with the lively choreography, which if I remember rightly was also the work of Charlie Buchanan.
Watching Scrooge go back and remember his past was also quite an emotional journey because you could feel the regret and recognition of the error of his ways.
Being a period piece, you expect great costumes and that is exactly what you get. I know that a hell of a lot of hard work, blood sweat and tears have gone into this production and many early hours of the morning have been worked into to get these costumes as wonderful as they are.
This company are also not overflowing with cash in the coffers and when you look at the quality of the costumes and performance, the props, wigs, make up and everything else that went into this, you can not help but applaud the talent, hard work and passion that has been invested here.
Combine the wonderful acting skills of all of the above mentioned, the atmosphere of the location, the musical injections of Christmas carols and the hot mulled wine and mince pies made this production a seasonal sensation. You'll really get into the mood of the season with this Dickens classic.
"A Christmas Carol" by Bingham Musical Theatre Company is being performed at Radcliffe Hall, Main Road, Radcliffe on Trent until Saturday 17 December 2016. Tickets are £10.00 for adults and £5.00 for children.
Photos courtesy of Mitch Gamble Photos.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

"Dead A Musical"
Nottingham New Theatre.
A musical about the dead isn't a new idea, neither is a musical comedy, but this musical, written by Laurence Cuthbert & Josh Mallalieu, is an absolute, blinding success. Lasting about three hours long, I could've watched it for longer.
Laurence & Josh are musical geniuses (or is that geniii?). They have created a musical about a family who died in a fire in 1895 and have remained in their old home, waiting for God to call them up to Heaven.
There's The Baron, the patriarch of the family (Cameron Walker), The Baroness (Emilie Brittain), their daughter Liz (Alice Simmons), her suitor, George (Harry Pavlou), the butler Porter (Sam Morris) and the Baron's mistress, Louisa (Selin Aci).
Move forward 90 odd years and we hit the 1980's and Caroline (Rachel Connolly), a young girl, has moved in. There's the obligatory house-warming party which doesn't go down well with The Baron, who still sees the place as his home; he won't even allow his family outside the front door, keeping his family inside with the fear of what may happen to them.
George though falls for Caroline, but what can he do? he has been dead for over 90 years and Caroline is...well she's not dead!
Caroline feels that something isn't quite right and gets a medium in. Enter Madge (Sasha Gibson). Madge makes Madam Acarti from "Blithe Spirit" look like Madge from Edna Everage's show! Full of life (if you'll pardon the unintended pun) and she draws the six spirits into the open where only she can see them. that's when George confesses his interest in Caroline and Madge offers to help with the age old spiritual device of a Scrabble board!
And that's where the fun really starts. The fun and also quite a novel love story.
Having seen quite a few of the NNT productions this season, and I'm quite sad to say that this is the final one for this season, but what a show to end on. You get to see some of the actors in different roles and you see a different side to them. Harry Pavlou, in this, shows that he can carry a tune as well. He can do comedy, dance, sing and play a romantic leading role all in one. One of the many talented performers who has been consistent throughout the seasons.
The lovely Rachel Connolly, who I last saw in "A Midsummer Night's dream" at Lakeside, also turns in a wonderful performance as George's earthly love interest.
I adored the energy and comedy that Sasha Gibson put into the role of Madge, all the way through the show, never flagging in the energetic dance routines interspersed with the whirlwind medium role.
Cameron Walker is another consistent actor, having seen him perform in several roles this year at NNT. He is perfect for the role of The Baron and also delivers a fine sense of comedy timing.
Emilie Brittain is a very classy act; every inch the Baroness, and lovely to see the character break out a bit and enjoy the wonders that the Eighties could offer. A beautifully restrained performance.
Alice Simmons, and this is my first time seeing Alice, turned in a performance that matched the Baroness, restrained and perfectly controlled.
Sam Morris didn't get an awful lot to say in the play but what he didn't say was lovely. His 80's film adoration in Act two was wonderful fun to see.
Selin Aci makes her NNT debut as Louisa, which was, again if you pardon the pun, spirited as well as an energetic role to take on. I hope to see more in the next season from Selin.
With being a musical, you have to have a chorus/ensemble, whatever you wish to call it, and they consisted of a group who doubled up their parts, occasionally trebled up. Matthew Charlton, who also makes his debut NNT appearance, but what a wonderfully confident debut for them. Charlotte Kirkman, Rachael Baines and Emma Pallett, who debuts here as well. Brilliant support with great energy.
The songs, all original came thick and fast. And what wonderfully catchy tunes they were. They covered many different genres and musical director Jacob Lloyd did a brilliant job of getting the particular sound for each genre and era spot on. From rock to power ballads to disco, there was something for everyone.
Mr Mallalieu and Mr Cuthbert have done an amazing job, not only creating a very entertaining and novel musical, they have also done their homework on the Eighties, the music, the feel, the props etc. from the Human League "Dare" vinyl LP, the Cyndi Lauper "She's So Unusual" track listing to the rubik's cube, leg warmers, clothes and language of the era, nothing was missed out. Great spadework done.
The lighting design (Sam Osborne), which faded at the end of each scene to pitch, meant that the scenes could be changed with the minimum of fuss and created a natural end to the scenes and opening to the next. Nothing overly fancy, but that wasn't needed and being subtle, including the lighting through the opened door in Act Two to give the silhouette effect created just the perfect atmosphere and image.
The sound design (Darcey Graham) was clear, though there were times when it could maybe have been a smidge lower with the backing track as a few words went unheard by the singers. That said, it was a very minor detail, bordering on picky.
The choreography (Jess Millott) was brilliant. So energetic and exciting, and you could tell that a lot of hard work went into learning the moves from all the actors on stage.
The set was adaptable for the actors and worked on two levels which meant that at times you could concentrate on the action while the other side was being set up for the next bit without being distracting. Couldn't see a mention for the set designer but whoever you are, you created a wonderful working set.
Emily Sterling did a sterling job as producer, pulling this whole amazing new musical together with the writers and directors. Who's have thought you could have so much fun with legwarmers and woodlice. Yes, you did read that right!.
"Dead A Musical" is one of the best new pieces of theatre I've seen this year, and it's had some competition from some of their own productions, but I can honestly say that i loved every single minute of this musical, and I can't wait for the soundtrack.
"Dead" is being performed at Nottingham New Theatre until Friday 16 December 2016, but you may need to move heaven and earth to get one as they are practically sold out.

Monday, 12 December 2016

“Comfort & Joy” by Mike Harding
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Mike Harding is not so well known as a playwright and author even though he has written more than 40 plays and books over the years.If you get Harding's Northern sense of humour, you'll love this.
We see characters we recognise from our own Christmas pasts – the out-of-tune carol singers, the new neighbours, the relatives who come home for Christmas, the daughter’s new boyfriend, Crispin!
It turns out that Crispin has one of the funniest parts in the play when he attempts to play charades ... a game he has never played before with a family he’s never met before! I guarantee that you would never guess his charade in a million years.
Add to all this is an assortment of unseen, but heard animals.
Trumpton, the dog, who barks from the wings who has a nasty habit of producing windy bottom smells; two cats who’ve had an ‘accident’ or two in the car; 12 stick insects who get mixed up with a bowl of twiglets and not forgetting the turkey who, although cooked , was last seen being dragged down the path by the dog.
Goff, is played by Dan Maddison. bringing back all the best, and worst traits of Jim Royle from the TV series "The Royle Family", a wonderful character role for Dan.
Margaret (Helen Sharp) is the typical wife at Christmas She is in charge of everything to do with organising Christmas and she knows the full regime and timetable and keeps the family on track, despite everything that is thrown in her way. Helen does a fantastic job with the character filled part. At times it seemed as if Helen was channelling a mix of Victoria Wood and Julie Walters in this role
Helen (Amy Farmer) is a teacher and vegetarian and animal activist who takes the stick insects home for the festive break. A lovely, breezy and fun performance and you can tell from the twinkle in her eye that she loved playing this role; either that or she is an even better actress than I give her credit for.
Martin (Andy Taylor) is Margaret's Dublin born hubby who has a wicked sense of Irish humour, especially when he tells of his elocution lessons after listening to Crispin's arty revelations. A lovely bit of comedy writing. I'm not sure if Andy is Irish at all but he does a good and consistent job with de accent to be sure!
Fiona (Beverley Anthony) is the daughter who has returned from Australia for Christmas with her husband Jimmy after 30 years away from her father Goff. Beverley has one of those very expressive faces and at times she doesn't even have to say anything to get a smile from you
Jimmy (John Anthony) who, we discover is a bit of a dark horse at the end of the play, and we find out from him what really happened to Goff's saw!
Chapman and Hughie are both played by Marcus Wakely. Oh the things we discover the neighbours, Monica and Chapman have been up to. One role Marcus plays with a complete straight face, the second, he gets to let loose a bit! Two different roles but great fun to watch Marcus work them.
Also doubling up parts is Sue Drew who plays both Monica and Pat.As with Marcus' roles, great fun with the two different roles, and who'd of thought the fun you could have while walking your dog!! really out of this world. Pat at first is the hero but soon her past comes back to haunt her.
Kathy (Dani Wain) is the daughter of Martin & Margaret. She has brought Crispin home for Christmas as she has taken pity on him. Another brilliant character role, in fact all of the roles have been written packed with character as only Harding can do and Dani seems to be in her element as the slightly upper class role whose accent slips only when she forgets herself. The character that is not Dani..
The boyfriend, Crispin, played by Robert Chilton. The only Southern character in the play and, as such, a target for the Northerners. Bless him, he tries his best to fit in but just doesn't quite get there.
Directed by Mary Deane, at times it seems to labour a bit, but I imagine that this was deliberate in the same way that The Royle Family, at first were criticised for not doing much. This showed the "real" side of family life and, while on stage it's possibly not the best thing to have a gap or two, it reflects life in all it's Mike Harding naturalism. It was also noted that there were a few more modern nods which wouldn't have been there in 1998 when the play was written. Mentions of Trump and the TV series "Breaking Bad" refreshed the script just enough.
The set was designed by Max Bromley and i loved that retro look. it actually looked like someone's front room had been transported to the Lace Market stage.
Making us believe that there was more to the set than what you saw in those three walls was the job for the sound designer, Simon Carter as we heard the carol singers at the door, Trumpton the dog barking away on the other side and the approaching cars an the cat and dog fight. All these creating another world in our minds.
My only slight niggle was not with anything on stage, or from the actors but, at times, I thought, and I may be wrong here, the prompt jumped in a bit soon and was a tad too loud. He was though there to do an important job, and he did it.Not having seen this play before, i wouldn't know the pace straight off so I may be wrong and he saw the signs that prompted him to prompt the actor.
I love panto but I also love a Christmas play where Christmas isn't the main storyline and that is exactly what this very funny, and well written comedy is. An alternative to panto for all lovers of comedy theatre.
A wonderful cast, well produced and directed with some lovely human characters. Another smash hit for the Lace Market Theatre, proven by the sell out audience on Monday night and every night including Saturday.
“Comfort & Joy” is performed at The Lace Market theatre until Saturday 17 December 2016 but, as I said, it has sold out so you may want to check for returns or cancellations, as this is the only way that you’ll get to see this production.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

"Jack & the Beanstalk"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
All three pantos in Nottingham this year have really upped their game, and strangely enough also seem to be shorter in length than last year. Whether that is the case I'm not sure but if not, the time flew by with each panto.
There are three stars billed in the panto at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, but there are two other very well known names waiting to slither down that beanstalk.
Chico plays Jack and I knew it wouldn't be too far into the panto before his big hit was dusted off and revisited, and we found out that it really was Chico Time. He hasn't aged a bit since his X Factor days and is living proof that you don't have to win the X Factor to carve out a successful career, you just need to have the X Factor, which he most certainly has. He was swashbuckling fun to watch as the hero of the day.
Tony Maudsley was wonderful as Dame Trot. His several costume changes have been more than he has done in the past but he looked magnificent at every change. Constantly reminding us of his role in the hit TV comedy "Benidorm",
From the Benidrm Babe T Shirt he arrived on stage with to the end nod to the TV show, again a great bundle of saucy fun, the sauce obviously calmed because of the kids but there were a few cheeky double entendres for us bigger kids to enjoy. I also loved his opening musical number which took you back to the days of the music hall.
I knew that Paul & Barry, The Chuckle Brothers, would be good fun. What I didn't expect was just how good they really are live. You think that they are stalwarts of kids TV but they are clever, they are so much more than that. Playing to their strengths of childish comedy, they also occasionally strayed into sauciness with the aid of a cucumber and a very comical X Factor audition piece by Barry, as Barry Trot, which certainly revealed more talent than we may have seen before!
They also got rid of the kids on stage section or the tired old audience participation "12 Days Of Christmas" musical number seen for the last couple of years and gave us a very funny "Goldilocks and The Three Bears" section with members of the audience. Fresh and funny. i have now revisited my Chuckle Brothers fan status, and my teenage son also chuckled along with me.
Gemma Buckingham was the gorgeous Princess Apricot, the love interest for Jack, and if you squint a bit, she don't half look like a younger Kylie Minogue, and she can carry a tune as well.
Princess Apricot's father, King Crumble was played by Ian Gledhill with some nice flirty interaction with Dame Trot.
The first of two surprises came in the shape of West End star Sarah Earnshaw as The Spirit Of The Beans. This woman has an amazing voice, as you'd expect, but she is also a brilliant performer, again, what else would you expect.
Finally, we come to the baddie of the panto, Fleshcreep, and he was really good. I love the villainous parts because they are so much meatier and Daniel Boys, yet another big West End star was just fantastic . The complete look of lascivious glee in his eyes as he prowled the stage, berating and threatening the audience members was the meat to this panto gravy. Daniel is hardly recognisable with his jet black long hair, moustache and beard, but when he sang to open the second act, his wonderful voice resonated into every nook and cranny in the theatre.
There was a nod to the "Phantom" in his opening of Act two with Daniel but I also felt that the whole show leaned more towards the West End than in previous years and, as a musical theatre fan, I loved the style and panache.
The ensemble collection of the younger and elder teams were, as always absolutely en pointe, and it's always great to see choreography, by Paul Robinson, performed this good by the age ranges.
It goes without saying that the sets are amazing, as are the costumes, wigs, lighting and sound, though there were times when the orchestra was slightly louder than the singing, maybe a tweak on the mics? But I'd be very petty to let something like that affect the enjoyment of a panto of this standard.
There's a fluorescent section and a 3D section, produced by Whizzbang 3D Productions, which worked so very well in this panto as jack and the crew ventured around the Giant's kitchen. It has to be seen to be believed just how effective this added extra can be to theatre. it's been seen before in pantos but, in my humble opinion, this was the best I've experienced.

I was also really impressed with the research done by the writers of the panto who included the names of many areas of Nottingham within the storyline, really making the panto localised.
The Theatre Royal Orchestra, musically directed by Allan Rogers were superb. i couldn't believe that only five musicians produced that swell of sound.
Brilliantly produced and directed and very slick and tight with great pace, which could be the reason why the time seemed to fly by.It's a giant success that will have you (s)talking about this show and chuckling for ages after you leaf the theatre and gone home.
"Jack & The Beanstalk" is bean performed at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 15 January 2017 ( P.S. there was no spelling mistake in this last sentence).

Friday, 9 December 2016

"Alice In Wonderland"
Derby Theatre.
This is a new adaptation by Mike Kenny of the Lewis Carroll classic book. You sometimes wonder about adaptations and how far they will go, but no need to worry with this one.
The story is all there but it's told from a more up to date and conventional start where Alice is a school girl on the morning of her exams. Her mother is calling for her to wake up and letting her know just how important the exams are to her.
She awakes and is on her way to school, trying to remember everything that she needs for the exam, books, pen, pencil case, books.....calculator, when the bullies set upon her, but fortunately the teacher intervenes. The exams start and in a swirl of dizziness, the exam master, Mr Buck, evolves into the March Hare and the rest of the magical story begins.
It's a lovely pre Christmas piece of theatre for all ages with a very modern feel which is aimed, primarily at the school child age. With an aerialist section to emulate the falling down the rabbit hole by Alice, the revolving stage and several mini Alices to hand to get her through the right doors to the garden, this show is an absolute treat.
A wonderful revolving set which also provides part of the backdrop to several of the scenes; the set being the design of Neil Irish, who also did an amazing job as the costume designer. as you know this story is outlandish and therefore the costumes have to match that description.
There's also a very effective cinematic backdrop which gives an altogether bigger and freer feel to the musical as well as giving the feeling of dropping down the hole and being magically whisked off to another dimension. This being the design of Barrett Hodgson.
The cast are just amazingly good fun to watch and Dominic Rye who plays the Mad Hatter is wonderfully quirky. Abby Wain, who plays Alice is also a very gifted actor, singer, dancer as well as aerialist, which for those who don't know is when you dangle from a massive silk scarf from the roof and do marvellous aerobatic things with it.
The rest of the cast covered quite a large age range and the kids in it were simply adorable. The way they worked that stage in the choreography numbers (Kitty Winter) shows an incredible maturity and confidence.
The whole cast worked smoothly as one company and much as I'd love to highlight several of them, I just found that they all worked as equals and there was no one who stuck out for being any better than the rest. A rare thing with such a large cast.
The music is created by the actors themselves on stage and covered several musical genres.Ivan Stott wrote the original music which meandered from Madness style singalongs about the baby, to a gangsta rap piece, through to gorgeous Irish lilting melodies and a rock number by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. I wish the soundtrack was available to buy as a constant reminder of the show.
The lighting design by Emma Jones was perfect in every way and added to the magic of the musical. Very atmospheric.
Directed by Sarah Brigham, she kept the ship tight but pacy; just what was needed when part of your audience is at that age where concentration is not uppermost.
What is there not to like about this show? Well if there was anything, I certainly couldn't find it. At just under two hours, with break, this show is the perfect all family alternative to pantomime.
"Alice In Wonderland" is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 7 January 2017, so don't leave it too late!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

“As You Like It” by William Shakespeare.
Nottingham New Theatre.
The play features one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft-quoted speeches, "All the world's a stage", and is the origin of the phrase "too much of a good thing".
Rosalind (Grace Williams), the Duchess Senior's daughter, is kept at court as a companion to her cousin Celia (Daniella Finch), Duchess Frederica's daughter. Both Duchesses played by Emma White.
Orlando de Boys (Hugo Minta), has been kept in poverty by his brother Oliver (Edward Marriott) since his father's death. Orlando decides to wrestle for his fortune at Frederica's court, where he sees Rosalind and they fall in love.
The Duchess banishes Rosalind, fearing that she is a threat to his rule. Celia, refusing to be parted from her cousin, goes with Rosalind to the Forest. For safety they disguise themselves - Rosalind as the boy Ganymede and Celia as his sister Aliena - and persuade the fool Touchstone (Eric Crouch) to accompany them.
On hearing of a plot by his brother to kill him, Orlando also flees to the Forest. Posting love lyrics through the forest, Orlando encounters Rosalind disguised as Ganymede. She challenges his love-sick state and suggests that he should prove the strength of his love by wooing Ganymede as if he were Rosalind.
Elsewhere in the Forest love also blossoms: the shepherd Silvius (Ian Sheard) suffers unrequited love for Phoebe (Leah Briers), who has fallen for Ganymede, while Touchstone is pursuing the goat-herd Audrey.
Oliver, sent into the Forest to hunt down Orlando, has his life saved by his brother, becomes filled with remorse for his past behaviour and falls in love with Aliena.
Frustrated by the pain of his love for Rosalind, Orlando is unable to continue wooing Ganymede, so Ganymede promises he will conjure up the real Rosalind and that all the lovers will finally be wed...
Well that's the quick version of this two and a half Shakespeare classic musical comedy.It's known as a musical comedy because of the number of songs in the play. There are more songs in it than in any other play of Shakespeare. These songs and music are incorporated in the course of action that takes place in the forest of Arden.
Other actors and characters in the play are Jacques (Chris Trueman), Adam (Jeremy Dunn) and an ensemble consisting of Chrissy Courquin, Rose Edgeworth,Miguel Barrulas and Beth Wilson.
This would've been the ideal introduction to Shakespeare for any first timer because it was a modern take and was extremely easy to follow the rich language of the Bard.
This cast though made Shakespeare's lines roll off the tongue with complete ease, as if it were their first language, and they delivered the many tongue twister script with a natural gait, albeit some parts may have benefited from being a little slower, but I suppose when you're in that Shakespeare moment, you just go for it.
The comedy shone through, especially with Eric Crouch's Touchstone. If you can imagine Joey from "Friends" doing Touchstone, as Joey, then you can imagine the great fun that was had in this production.
The whole cast though were just magical to watch and having that modern feel made it so fresh, thanks to the talented directorial skills of Felicity Chilver and the production merits of Joanne Blunt. It really drove home to me as well how bawdy the Bard was with this script. If "Carry On" films were around 400 years ago, Bill could have been a scriptwriter!
There was also many really physical sections in this play, mainly between Oliver and Orlando and Ted and Hugo really went for it, which was great for realism, probably not for Ted's health though.
From the set design (Joanne Blunt and Tom Proffitt) to the lighting design (Harry Bridge) and the sound design (Emma Barber) to the whole production and technical and stage crew, this is one of the best Shakespeare pieces I've seen for sheer entertainment value alone.
"As You Like It" is on at Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 10 December 2016. As I liked it? As I loved it more like!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

"Into the Woods"
Bilborough College.
"Into the Woods" is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests.
The main characters are taken from "Little Red Riding Hood", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", as well as several others. The musical is tied together by a story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family (the original beginning of The Grimm Brothers' Rapunzel), their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.
This college group have never been shy at taking on challenges with drama and this is no exception. Sondheim is never the easiest and "Woods" has to be his most intricate musical. A lot of the music carries no actual tune until the words are put to it and then it comes alive. That said the lyrics can be the most tongue-twisty of any musical theatre tunes.
Put these two together and the fact that these are college students performing, it is no mean feat that this lot pull off. And pull it off they most certainly do. I've seen older actors perform this musical and they have told me how difficult it is so to see Bilborough College Drama Group perform this with such ease was mind blowingly good.
Dan Gribbin (The Baker) makes an ideal leading man with great charisma. His voice could cut glass it's that clear and excellent pronunciation with the ending of the lines gave him that air of professionalism. A lovely believable partnership with his wife played by Heather Greenhaigh who also had the most gorgeous of voices, matching Dan's perfectly in their duets.
Sofia Pilsworth (The Witch) certainly mastered that role and really was quite scary, even when she had lost her powers and continued to boss her daughter, Rapunzel, about. Sophie Bloor playing the lovely corn-coloured locked one with the angelic voice who fell in love with her Prince, played by Alfie Sanders who also had a really pleasant singing voice.
His duet with Cinderella's Prince "Agony" could not have been further from the truth with just the right amount of comedy thrown in. Again another well cast duo whose voices complemented each other. Adam Hunt played Cinder's Prince with some lovely comedy horse riding sections thrown in. A nice air of arrogance was also provided for his role.
Cinderella, played by Lucinda Buckley, is another student who has been blessed with a lovely voice and wonderful stage presence.
Louis Gosrani (Jack) played the simple village lad whose only friend was Milky White, the family cow, who Jack was taking to market to sell on the orders of his mum, played by Olivia Stringer.
Laurence Berridge (Milky White) was wonderful with his big eyes and sad mournful looks, especially when he was traded by Jack for the magic beans from the Baker, the audience fell in love with his character straight away. there can't be many actors who can make a cow so lovable to an audience with his facial expressions.
Georgina Banks (Stepmother), Jess Wheeler (Lucinda) and Kelsey Dorman (Florinda) were a lovely comedy trio, especially in the scenes where the two daughters were blind.
Kacey Scrimshaw played a very playful but feisty Little Red Riding Hood, complete with a rather large kitchen knife for protection.
Sam Holden got to show off some very impressive dance and gymnastic moves as The Wolf, and also had the best make up of the night, thanks to make up artist Deanna Ward.
The Mysterious Man, played by Archie Stephen, kept us guessing who he really was with his cryptic musings.
The narrator of the piece who was a real cool customer was played by the very tall Harvey Slater, who also had his fair share of script to deliver, and deliver he did in a very natural style.
Other actors in lesser, but also important roles were James Prempeh (Steward), Rachael Webb (Grandmother), Sophie Boettge, who voiced The Giant, Imogen Birkett (Cinderella's mother), India Smith (Snow White), James Hickenbottom (Cinderella's father) and Jasmyn Whitehead (Sleeping Beauty) with ensemble members including Eleanor O' Boyle, Sam Hughes, Phoebe Charlesworth, Paige Maitby, Lillie Wildman and Reanne Black.
A tidy 17 piece orchestra provided a sound that didn't overpower the singers too much and created a lovely musical backdrop to the show, musically directed and conducted by Fred Pashley-Johnson, assisted by Leah Roulstone, who also played saxophone.
Ably directed, and this is no walk in the park (or the woods) to direct by Dan Wolff and produced by Sharon MacInnes. Choreographed by Lucy Stanton-Lynch, assisted by Sam Holden.
The set was simple but very effectively thought out and designed by Toby Biggin and the costumes which were perfect for the characters were designed by Elle Stephens.
Adding to the magic of the story was the lighting designed and operated by Callum Roome.
All in all a very enjoyable evening out at Bilborough College, showcasing some big talent which I hope will be seen on bigger stages in the future. The musical lasts, with the interval, just about 10 minutes short of three hours but guess what? it flies by because the actors and the whole show are just magical to behold.
A show that will suit the whole family and is being performed at Bilborough College until Friday 9 December 2016. One not to miss this month.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

"Dick Whittington" by People's Theatre Company.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
I mentioned to one of the actors a few weeks ago that I could write most of this review prior to seeing the panto. I could write in advance how good the panto would be because I know many of the cast and I know that Amanda Hall was writing and directing the panto, so it was a given that the quality would be excellent. I hope that this didn't worry the person I was speaking to, thinking that what I was to see would be predictable, because it wasn't.
Every year I get to see an excellent show, and it must be difficult to top the previous year, but yet again Amanda and her cast and crew have done just that.
It is partly to do with the honed writing skills of Amanda and knowing her audience and cast as well as knowing what topical jokes to include with the classics. In essence it's like making the perfect cake that would be good enough to win the Great British Bake Off. the secret is getting every ingredient spot on, and I can report that there are no soggy bottoms here!
Nottingham pantos, in my humble opinion have two of the best writers for this particular art form in Amanda and Kenneth Alan-Taylor, because they really know their stuff.
As usual the sets are great (Cris Brawn), as is the lighting design (Tom Mowat), giving the staging a West End feel, especially the ending. You could hear every word from the actors, thanks to the sound design by Rob Kettridge. These three made for a very pleasurable experience to set the story and actors in.
With everything looking so smooth on stage, this shows that the stage management was also running as smooth as silk and the management team under the captaincy of Amy Rogers-Gee did a fine job of keeping everything tikkety boo.
Ray Samuel Mcleod was the musical director and he produced a wonderful crisp sound from that orchestra pit. I expected nothing less.
Mike Pearson played our Dick, as well as producing the show, All smiles, with the old adage of "eyes n teeth" running through his performance. His professionalism made this role a very easy watch.
Dick's love interest is, of course, Alice Fitzwarren played by Kimberley Allsopp, who blended in well with the stronger characters, making Alice more of a shy character, which at times made the character a little low key. that's not a bad thing though because there were plenty of very strong characters in this panto,
Dick's cat, Tommy, was played by a young man who's career I've followed for a few years now and have seen him grow into the confident and talented performer he is today, James Murray. So good to have a cat that could speak because otherwise this would limit James to just his excellent dancing skills. he playfully played up to the audience when Dick sent him back to London and milked the audience for the "aahhs". Thoroughly enjoyable role which showcased James' dancing, singing and acrobatic skills.
Laura Thurman (Idle Jack) was immense fun, encouraging the audience to make sure that she didn't drop to sleep on stage by shouting. A wonderful comedy partner to Jack's mum, Sarah the Cook. Forever with that twinkle in her eye and that great big old grin, she made sure that we knew that she was having fun on stage, which ensured that we too had fun watching her having fun.
Talking of Sarah the Cook, taking over the "dame" mantle from Robert Gollwas Matt Wesson. Matt was the sauciest dame I've seen for a long time, and as the audience tonight was practically all adults, he pitched the sauciness pretty well, which made sure that everyone had a great time watching him. Matt has an amazing personality off stage which also shone through in the part of Sarah on stage. Matt and Laura had the perfect partnership and naturally bounced off each other.
Mike Newbold was a lovely forgetful Alderman Firzwarren, who couldn't quite get Jack's name right, and at a quick glance you may think that Nigel Farage was playing the part, except mike is funny and Nigel.........
Alison Sheppard was gorgeous as Fairy Bowbells, bringing a bit of the old East End to the Nottingham stage, and what a voice she has ( I knew she has an amazing voice as I've seen her perform in the past). Her cockney version of Whitney's "One Moment In Time" sent shivers up my spine.
But what about the baddies I hear you cry! Oh yest you did!
Well King Rat was played marvellously evil and condescendingly by one of Shakespeare's finest local actors, Robert Goll. he got the audience boo-ing and hissing from the word "go" pitching that evil character just right with a twist of comedy, and what projection he has. Loved this baddie.
But every baddie has a sidekick and King Rat's was Twoey (if you can't work it out, go see the panto. Go see it anyway). Played by Cassie Hall and again a lovely fun character to watch. There's a duet that Twoey and King Rat do which is just so sublime, it's up there with some of the funniest but enjoyable duets in musical theatre.
I must also mention Stephen Gee (Captain Barnacle) and the incredibly funny Marie Rogers as Mr Bilge. Her facial expressions were hilarious, a wonderful comedy characterisation.
As I had come to expect, the ensemble were the best. the choreography by Amy Rogers-Gee incredible and everyone on that stage worked as a team, and you know what they say, "team work makes the dream work" and this dream performance worked for me.
You could see in the eyes of every one of the ensemble that they loved doing this show and the determination and hard work shone from them, as well as the incredible passion that they have for performing.
I can't fault anything here and it more than gives other pantos in the area a run for their money. It's packed with jokes and one liners, great singalong songs and great fun for any age who loves great family entertainment.
I probably say this every year but again, the People's theatre Company have once more reached the previous year's bar, snapped it in two and raised a new one just a bit higher. Well i probably don't say that, but you get my gist.
The perfect panto for 2016, "Dick Whittington" is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 18 December 2016. Go and support this amazingly talented and passionate group of people.
Photos courtesy of Mitch Gamble Photos