Saturday, 21 July 2018

“The Tempest” by Oddsocks Productions
Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.
The second of two nights at Lakeside following on from last night’s excellent Mods V Rockers re-telling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Tonight “The Tempest” gets the science fiction make over; boldly taking Shakespeare where no other Shakespeare play has gone before!!
In this production Prospero is marooned in a galaxy far, far away from his daughter, Miranda. Years later a spaceship, containing his enemies passes nearby and Prospero gets his chance to wreak revenge. He conjures up the force to bring his enemies to him and a meteor storm causes them to crash land, leaving them at the mercy of Prospero. It’s like Star Trek meets Star Wars meets Shakespeare with a nod to "Alien" on the way!
Even more like panto than last night but just as much fun with crazier costumes and a disappearing Ariel in Act Two.
Andy Barrow gets the lead role as Prospero in his Obi Wan Kenobi style outfit and also doubles as Scottie from Star Trek... and another accent!
Matt Penson gets to play Captain, Ferdinand as well as Ariel 3 - the disappearing one, and I love the little attention to detail as he gets the pose of Captain Kirk in his chair spot on. You can tell, as with the others, that Matt is an avid Shakespeare fan just in the way that his Shakespearean lines are delivered.
Alice Merivale plays Miranda as well as Ariel, and another cracking pair of parts she portrays with boundless energy and fun.
Amy Roberts, again gets three parts in Alonsa, Stephanie and Ariel 2.
Dom Gee Birch gets to play the fishy monster Caliban and Sebastian.
Gavin Harrison plays Antonio and Trinculo.
These actors work so well together, it's impossible to pick any particular actor, or role, to highlight over the other, so i won't even try.
As with last night, the cast also perform all of the songs live and play the instruments and we were treated to some more pop classics. Hits like Fat Larry's Band's "Zoom", Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" and a great finale with Take That's "Rule The World".
What i also find good about this group is that they mingle in the interval with the crowd, which really makes you feel part of the gang, breaking down any barriers between the actor and their audience.
If you want to introduce your kids to Shakespeare then take them along to one of Oddsock's shows and I guarantee they will want to learn more about the man, and want more of Oddsock's unique and out of this world productions.
I for one can't wait for their winter shows.

Friday, 20 July 2018

"Romeo & Juliet” by Oddsocks Theatre Company
Lakeside, Nottingham
I’d heard of Oddsocks Theatre Company but had never had the joy to see this innovative theatre company actually on stage. What had I missed?
Friday night in the open air of Lakeside’s grounds the Capulets and the Montagues clash, but these hearts beat to the sound of a different drum and beat as Oddsocks have time travelled these two warring families to the Mods and Rockers era.
The Capulets own a rock bar and the Montagues a pizza restaurant and we, the audience are asked to join in the fun with several activities which really make you feel involved, a little bit like in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".
The members of the cast also make up a band who play music live on stage, something you would not expect from a Shakespearian classic. Hits from the 1950’s and through some well-chosen party/rock classics are performed throughout. "Black Betty", "Rhythm Of The Rain", "Sweet Child Of Mine", "Be Bop A Lula", "Every Breath You Take/Chasing Cars" mash up and many more.
There’s an enormous amount of energy brought to this production along with some brilliant comic slapstick and comedy accents. When can you ever remember a Capulet – played by Director Andy Barrow - having a Birmingham accent? Andy also doubles up as Tybalt.
Playing Romeo is Matthew Penson, on his first tour with Oddsocks and Juliet is played by Alice Merivale.
.Juliet’s nurse is played by Amy Roberts who also debuts in this tour.
Dominic Gee Burch played Mercutio, Officer Prince and and Friar Lawrence
Completing the line-up is Gavin Harrison as Benvolio and Paris.
All of these actors make this production something very special and unique with smatterings of ad libbed sections while reacting to the activities of the audience. A warning - don't get up and go to the toilet and be seen by the cast!!
There are some brilliant fight scenes in here, Directed by Ian Stapleton.
Shakespeare’s plays have been performed in various ways and it’s great to see the classics viewed from a very different perspective through the eyes of Oddsocks Theatre company, making it all fresh and new again.
You can’t beat the classics and the way that they were originally written to be performed; but why try to beat them when you can show a different slant and make them just as interesting as the original.
It’s also a wonderful introduction to the Bard’s scripts for people who may not have discovered the glory and richness of his work.
Oddsocks are unique and great fun to watch,and they certainly make Shakespeare fun and relevant for a new and younger audience, as well as open minded bard fans like myself.
If you want to experience Oddsocks for yourself, they are back at Lakeside on Saturday evening for a science fiction version of "The Tempes

Thursday, 19 July 2018

“The Museum Of Tat” by Milk Bottle Productions.
The Old Library, Mansfield.
It's always interesting when you're asked along to see something brand new because you have no preconceptions of what you're about to see, and as a reviewer that is fresh and very exciting.
This piece of theatre follows on from the podcast series “The Museum of Tat”, This is a send up of all of those antique programmes you see on TV where you take a piece you think is worth thousands to be told it’s worth 50p.
It pokes a gentle finger at how serious people can be when they think there may be a fortune loitering in their attic, cellar of bottom drawer, as well as the “experts” valuing the objects
Simon Nader co stars in this production, ahead of its relocation relocation ( no that’s another TV show) to the Edinburgh Fringe, and plays the Presenter, Derek Knowless, desperately trying to keep the online show going, and by the end he is quite literally at his wits' end.
Robert Crighton plays Professor Jeffrey Collins, the specialist who gets to value tat from audience members, who are asked to join in and bring their favourite pieces of tat for a professional evaluation. This pre-empts the main feature and also carries on after the theatrical performance ends.
At times it borders on organised anarchy as Collins works out the last minutes of his contract and Knowless appears to have a secret bottle of something to get him through the live staged podcast.
All great fun and the audience are only too willing to take part in the show. there was also an auction for a piece of tat which went for much more than both Collins and Knowless expected.
This is one of those productions where it's very hard to work out if this show is a scripted one or if it's improvised; maybe a bit of both. I say this because the comedy seems instant and anarchic, and sometimes this style of comedy is better off the cuff, especially when the two actors are well tuned in with each other.
This show is going to go down a storm in the Fringe, for a couple of reasons.
One: It's funny and it's fun and it's novel.
Two: The antiques TV show format is watched by many students and has a cult status; a bit like "Supermarket Sweep" was a massive hit for students. The Fringe is the place for students to get to see a wide host of great entertainment, ergo It's a hit!
Cleverly conceived and recognised as being a gap in the market that needs filling - let's face it I have never seen a play based on this theme before, have you?
Spotting that gap to fill in theatre is not easy but that has been well spotted and well developed into an hour show which not only includes comedy, but has audience participation, an auction and a sing along with choreography. Not only that but you can see this show several times and never see the same show twice. Clever!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

"Legally Blonde" by Spotlight Theatre Company.
Nottingham Playhouse.
It may give you an incite to how successful this production was when I say that this audience on Sunday night were the most appreciative and excited audience that I've seen in a while.
Legally Blonde is the story of Elle Woods who is completely smitten with Warner Huntington III when he tells her that she is dumped as he is off to Harvard to study law, and feels that he needs someone more "serious". Elle decides to show him that she is serious by enrolling in Harvard to win him back, unbeknown to her, he has already found his someone serious in Vivienne.
Elle discovers that she has a flair for this legal thing by using unconventional methods and manages to win the day by winning the murder case and freeing the accused, the fitness queen Brooke Wyndham.
In the interim she finds herself a new love, an unlikely ally and a an enemy in Professor Callaghan when she turns the tables on him and shows what a slimeball he really is.
This production is on a par, if not better than the recent touring production. The energy levels, dancing, vocals and comic skills of this immense cast shows what an incredible talent Nottingham's local theatre has. Something that I've known for many years now.
Playing the iconic Elle is Ella Greenwood. She nailed every single aspect of this character. A cross between Marilyn Monroe sexiness with the powerful vocals of Christina Aguilera. O Mi God was she incredible.
Emmett Forrest, who Elle fell in love with, was played by Patrick McChrystal. he is turning out to be a really credible leading man and his voice is getting better all the time. His pitch and his note holding are absolutely spot on, and he was a big hit with the audience as well.
Laura Thurman was so good as Paulette the hairdresser. Again great vocals and lovely comic timing. Great fun to watch and so nice to see her back on stage again after a bit of a hiatus.
Paulette's ideal man is an Irishman and when she finds out that her new UPS delivery man is not only an absolute hunk, but is Irish as well..... Kyle, the UPS man is played with great twinkly-eyed confidence by Alex Huntley, who I have been told has spent several hours in the gym to get that physique that had the ladies in the audience even hotter under their collars!
The slimy Professor Callaghan was played by Robert Goll. he completely embodied this role and this musical suits his voice so well. I saw Bill Ward play this part in the National tour and much as I enjoyed Bill, I really enjoyed Rob's portrayal.
Warner Huntington III is played by Jacob Fowler. A wonderful leading man and what a voice this man has. I noted his voice in another production earlier this year. In this show we got to hear more from Jacob and he has one of those voices that would sound great on the radio. He has a current sounding tone but also quite old school 90's soul. His voice is made for musicals, as well as recording and his timing is spit on.
Charlotte Howarth plays Vivienne. I have been lucky enough to have seen Charlotte in several parts and shows all over Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and every time I see her, she grows as an actor and that voice is a belter.
Brooke Wyndham, the fitness queen is played brilliantly by Georgia Hodgett-Young, and you have to admire her energy levels as she sings, skips and acts without missing a beat. the skipping scene is one of my favourites, and the timing in this scene alone is one that has to work, and it does.
Elle's best friends are Margot (Bethany Wear), Serena (Grace Hodgett-Young) and Pilar (Laura Ellis). Three very capable actors who again, I've seen grow in their acting roles, and I love the harmonies created by these three. Really well cast.
Enid Hoopes is another Harvard intern who is on the case in Callaghan's team, and a lovely comedy part for Cassie Hall.
Holly Neil, who is a newcomer to me, plays Chutney - who would name their child Chutney? - Wyndham. Holly has been in several productions before making her Spotlight debut, and I look forward to seeing her in the future, especially as she can do accents and sings soprano.
Tano Gangemi is another new name to me but plays Nikos, the man in the dock who works for Brooke as a pool man. A minor comic role where we have to decide if he is gay or European. The truth is out, quite literally when his best friend, or is that boyfriend Carlos, played by Matthew Wesson, a scene they both steal and attracts a massive round of applause for both.
Stan Cook, who I think I last saw in Spotlight's successful "The History Boys" pops up again as Aaron Schultz, as well as other various roles.
Talking of playing various roles, Matty Collins, i think, gets the record for this in this production including Dewey, Paulette's ex who has a disgusting habit of sticking his finger in his naval and sniffing his fingers.
Now we must not forget the two canine lovelies here. So well behaved they are and they seem to have enjoyed their thespian roles as their tales never ceased to stop wagging. Hugo played Rufus and Lady played Bruiser.
I said that this production had a massive cast and there were another 28 in the ensemble and playing other roles.
The production team are Amanda Hall (Director), Jessica Royce(Choreography) and Geoff Burnhill (Musical Director); the dream team.
A wonderfully clear sound by Rob Kettridge and a great lighting design by Tom Mowat.
I knew from just a few minutes in that this show would warrant a standing ovation, and they certainly got one.
It's just a crime that this wonderful production was only on for two nights because it could have so easily have ran for longer.
Photos by Gavin Mawditt

Saturday, 14 July 2018

"You're The Voice" by Zak Scott & Friends.
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
I can remember four years ago at the end of the first Zak Scott & Friends, Zak saying "never again". Four years later this is the fourth fundraiser Zak has done, and the shows get better every time.
Over the years I have seen Zak grow and mature and every year I seem to notice something extra in his shows and performances. This year his voice has again matured and he has injected a mature emotion into his performances. I can tell that because you could not only hear the difference in the way he sings but you can see the emotional connection he has with certain songs.
"Electricity" was the song that got him noticed when he was just nine years old at school and watching him sing this, you can see him reliving the last decade through the song.
"Bring Him Home" is HIS song and as soon as he opened his mouth the hairs on my arms went up. He is note perfect and I still think that he does the ultimate local theatre version of this song, such emotion.
Just watching and hearing him sing "Proud Of Your Boy" and also "Not My Father's Son" show how emotionally involved Zak gets with his songs. His parents, Sarah and Roydon, who I know have invested so much of their time (and money) in backing Zak all the way, are extremely proud of this talented and unassuming young man. Rightly so as well.
It was also nice to see him do something not quite as serious in "Baptise Me" (Book Of Mormon), a song with a slightly naughty double meaning.
One slight criticism though. You had a big sign at the back of the stage saying "Zak Scott & Friends", so why was this not lit up? Your name should be up in lights! Just a thought for the next one.
Now in that sign there was the "& Friends" section and what a talented bunch of friends he had on that stage.
Erin HillEmily HornerEllie Simmonds all have wonderful voices and presented such an array of musical styles, and not just from the musical theatre genre. The Supremes and George Michael both received tributes from Emily.
Providing backing vocals were Millen ScrivenerMolly Parkinson and Jake Truman.
Cara Verney choreographed the dance sections and with sister Rosie Verney and Courtney, Androulla, Anthasia, Malachi, Izzy, Beth, Jessica and Anita, entertained with some hypnotic contemporary dance.
And of course I can't leave out Zak's compere for the evening, Mr David Allen, who's jokes get worse every year, but that is what we love about David's sections of this show. A bit of something for everyone.
The brilliant lighting for the show was by Tom Olding and the sound was managed perfectly by Sean Renshaw.
The evening was for a very good cause; Project Defib. This is a project that saves lives and it's Zak's aim to supply the local community in Long Eaton with Public Access Defibrilators that can be used when someone is in cardiac arrest.
These things save lives and you don't have to be a First Aider to use them, as explained by Zak last night, as well as demonstrating the correct way to perform CPR. Time is of the essence when saving lives and these things will provide that bridge between cardiac arrest and an ambulance getting to them. I know you'll agree that this project is so important.
Last night was not only very entertaining but also educational as Annie also made a special appearance on stage. First Aiders will know who i mean.

Friday, 13 July 2018

"Sweeney Todd” by Encore Productions
The Space, Arboretum Street, Nottingham.
Encore present a semi-staged production of Sondheim’s musical about the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Complete with a 22 piece orchestra and the Encore choir, this was a production I was really looking forward to seeing.
Sweeney Todd, whose real name is Benjamin Barker, uses his new alias to resume work in his barber shop above Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop after being wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment by the corrupt Judge Turpin. After swearing vengeance against the judge that tore his family apart, Todd and Lovett plot a unique plan that helps them both and leads them down a dangerous, thrilling path with deadly consequences.
Encore go from strength to strength, and sometimes you wonder just where the ceiling is for this group's talent, because at the moment it seems infinite
The casting is perfect and with that incredible orchestra and choir on stage with the actors, it was reminiscent of when they had the big "Les Miserables" semi staged concert on London a few years back. The lack of scenery, for me, didn't matter because the story is a strong one and the music is so incredibly lush while being intricate and complicated, bordering on the operatic.
Duncan Leech (Judge Turpin) like everyone gave a wonderful performance as the bullying and slightly unnerving Turpin; thrashing himself in a state of undress while spying on his ward, Joanna. He made you feel quite uneasy, a sign of a good actor to evoke such emotion in an audience.
George Lamb ( Beadle Bamford) has dot to be one of my favourite comic characters in this musical, and possibly one of the best performances I've seen George give on stage. He just completely embodied the camp but comic character. His facial expressions, changing from salacious, manic and sadistic pleasure to practically bored rolled eyes look really gave a brilliant fun element to this very dark piece of theatre. Like Turpin, a character you weren't sorry to see get their comeuppance.
Christopher Mundy (Tobias) showed a believable transgression from
innocent servant to Pirelli to the protective and faithful young man who ended up being driven mad by the visions that he saw in the hell hole of the Lovett's pie ovens.
Lucas Young (Anthony) showed again what a fine voice he has as the romantic and lovelorn sailor who fought to free Joanna from the clutches of Turpin and the walls of the city's asylum.This man has the ability to play any role he wants just like a chameleon.
Helen Whittle (Johanna) is another actor who has an incredibly good voice and her operatic talents are well suited in this musical. It is with ease that she reaches those gorgeous Sondheim high notes.
Kimberley Allsopp (The Beggar Woman) plays a crazy woman so well, but there's a secret hidden in this character, which if you don't know the story of Sweeney Todd, I ain't gonna spoil it for you. A fine vocal style as well as she switches pace in her songs so fast.
Jorge Diniz (Adolfo Pirelli), a new name to me, gets to play quite a complex character in Pirelli. An Irishman who has a secret and pretends to be an Italian, but we all know what happens to faux Italians who try to blackmail the demon barber of Fleet Street... don't we?. Another adept vocalist who hasn't the easiest of pieces to sing but must have vocal chords made of elastic.
Danielle Hall (Mrs Lovett), well what can I say? I can't recall hearing Danielle sing before but she has kept this talent well and truly hidden. I love this role, as Danielle really extracts every piece of humour from Lovett. This is especially true in the duet with Todd "A Little Priest". Wonderful character acting and a brilliant vocal; nothing is forced with Danielle, and this makes her very easy to watch.
Adam Guest (Sweeney Todd). As with Danielle, you know you can relax watching Adam, which is not so accurate a description of his character, because they know what they are doing on stage. I did not realise though just how unnerving Adam's acting can be, and I've seen Adam act many times. His wild eyes are quite frightening and he looks completely manic on some scenes. The people sitting on the front row I imagine may have been a little nervous as he took to the audience, razor in hand seeking revenge on Turpin, or anyone who took his fancy. A brilliant character performance and wonderful vocals to match. Possibly the perfect performance of Todd.
Musically Directed and produced by Sam Griffiths. He had the incredibly difficult job of bringing out the joy, pain, fun and darkness of Sondheim's music. Practically a non stop score and he was on his feet all evening. A beautifully layered and lush arrangement of this wonderful score, and when you add the additional layer of the Encore Choir to the mix, it takes you to aural heaven.
Directed by Andrew Bould, he was not content on presenting this as a faithful copy of what had gone before. For one it was semi staged which could have given limitations but not in the eyes of Mr Boult. I loved what he did with "By the Sea" and created a whole new feel and comic image. The song is not really a major song within this musical but this visionary rework made it one of the many highlights for me.
The lighting, and may I say that the "inferno" lighting effect for the "bakery" was very effective, was the responsibility of Richard Heappey. Creating the right feel for the different areas of the piece by a change of hue; subtle but did the job.
Dave Dallard is the man behind the sound desk and while at the start there were a few lost words from the songs, this was quickly sorted out and the wonderful acoustics of the theatre was taken full advantage of and the beauty of Sondheim's words were heard by all.
Encore are very good at using the best people and this musical shows this to full effect. What i also love id that Encore have such a well respected reputation that the best people also want to work with Encore. And that is why this cast is so perfect.
A very well deserved standing ovation at the end just proves to me everything that has been writ above, and I was proud to be one of the first to get to my feet to show my appreciation of a incredibly talented group of people and a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre. In such a short period of time this lot have had to stage this show, the results are breathtakingly good.
Always one to give back to the community, Encore always hold a collection after every performance for a well-deserved, and relevant to the show, charity. This time, with the story being about a barber, they
have chosen the Little Princess Trust charity who provides real hair wigs free of charge to children and young adults up to the age of 24, who have sadly lost their own hair due to cancer treatment and other illnesses.
Friday night was practically a sell out so you may just be able to get a ticket for Saturday’s matinee or evening performances. Please try not to miss out on this one.

Monday, 9 July 2018

"Ghost Lights"
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Being a total believer and having had experiences of a supernatural nature several times in my life, this walk through the Nottingham Arts Theatre was right up my theatrical aisle.
Now I am not going to recount any of the stories that out host told because he was such an accomplished story teller that he kept you completely enthralled and under his spell.
I thought I knew a lot about the theatre and superstitions but tonight I learnt so much. This walk through the theatre not only recounted unexplained stories, as well as several stories that could be explained, but loads of stuff about the theatre, the workings of a theatre and theatre folk. Folklore, myths and legends of days gone by that send the hairs on your neck standing to attention.
It is also a wonderful insight to the workings of a modern theatre with visits to the dressing rooms, and I learned the correct way to enter a dressing room. Anyone who, like I, love the theatre will be fascinated by these stories of the auditorium, the Green Room, rehearsal room,the cat on the stairs, the mystery of the dressing room mirrors and other parts of the theatre.
When you first enter into the auditorium, which I have been in many many times before a show, tonight in the dark, illuminated by just one light the "ghost light", the whole feel of the area changed, and I certainly would feel uneasy spending the night in the dark in the theatre.
Tony, our host and narrator, is a wonderful painter of pictures and creates just the right atmosphere, and I for one will be keeping an extra eye out the next time that I come to the Nottingham Arts Theatre.
The Ghost Lights tour takes place every second Monday of the month and is a must for anyone interested in the theatre as well as the unexplained. The tour is limited to 20 people and bookings can be made through the Nottingham Arts Theatre website.

Friday, 6 July 2018

"The Dresser" by The Festival Players.
Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough University.
Ronald Harwood's story about an aging actor's personal assistant, Norman,who struggles to keep his charge's life together. "Sir" is about to go onstage to perform King Lear but it's obvious that something isn't quite as it should be with Sir.
Harwood was himself a dresser: to actor Donald Wolfit, most famous for his Lear.
It has been a long time since I've seen this play and had forgotten just what an enjoyable watch this play is.
Steve Illidge plays Norman, the dresser. He's like the third party in Sir's relationship with"Her Ladyship". he is bullying, persuasive, supportive, protective, always encouraging but also a tad jealous, and Steve brings out all of these traits in Norman. You also see a touch of bromance, more from Norman's side, in their relationship.
Sir, is played by Nick Grainger and the character is leading tours of tatty productions of Shakespeare to the British provinces during the Second World War and the company he’s got to work with are what he dubs the “cripples, old men and Nancy boys” who are not fighting on the front.
Nick brings out the total dependency that Sir has on his dresser, as well as the loneliness, sadness and helplessness in the character. You really feel sorry for the crumpled heap of a character Sir has become, especially as you're in on the fact that Sir is not well.
Liz Berrisford plays a wonderfully business like Madge, who's running the show, who we discover may have had some history with Sir, well it's hinted at!
Playing Her Ladyship is Julie Easter; a completely different character role from the last one I saw Julie in, which shows that character roles are strong in Julie's catalogue.
The three visible Lear tour members we see are Irene, played by Persephone Leafe, Oxenby, played by Chris Marshall and a lovely comic role in Geoffrey Thornton - "The Fool" played by Eddie Orton. There are also two other actors we hear but don't see as Lear players during the Lear production within The Dresser, voiced by Doug Gilbert and Jessica Hannah.
Directed by Rachel Ingham, the pace is gentle, which is one thing that makes this play a joy to watch. While the characters could have been played over the top, this was not the case here, making the characters believable and endearing.
I loved the set which was mainly a 1940's style dressing room, with some lovely props making the era stand out, and the other part was the wings at the side of the stage. there's plenty to look at on this set without being cluttered.
A thoroughly enjoyable play, which to say was written as a
tragi-comedy, has just the right balance of both.
"The Dresser" is at the Sir Robert Martin Theatre at Loughborough University until Saturday 7 July 2018.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

“Oliver” by Creatio Arts Youth
Derby Theatre
Everyone should know the story of “Oliver”, The musical is based on Dickens’ classic novel of a workhouse boy who is sold as an apprentice to an Undertakers, but after another employee insults Oliver’s dead mother, a fight breaks out and Oliver escapes and is taken under the wing of Fagin, thanks to meeting another young, but streetwise urchin, The Artful Dodger, who with the other boys, teach Oliver how to pick a pocket or two for a living. Oliver also meets Nancy, the live in wife of Bill Sykes, who as we all know is not a nice man. This is where the dark side of the musical starts to rear its’ ugly head!
Taking the lead role as Oliver is Daniel Moore.12 Years old and this is his first production with Creatio and what a way to make his debut on this big stage and taking the lead role. His singing and acting oozes confidence and his relationship between his fellow actors is completely believable. He also has great trust in his fellow actors, which shows in the "rough and tumble" Oliver has to endure.
Oscar Hewitt – Richards plays the Artful Dodger. Only 14 years old but the way that he uses the stage shows a massive maturity in his acting. He looks very natural in this role and the friendship between the Dodger and Oliver is brotherly. Another young actor with a lovely and adaptable voice for musical theatre.
Having met Dan and Oscar a couple of weeks ago I can also confirm that they are also incredibly polite and down to earth young people who are intelligent young people, who also smile a lot. Mind you if I had their talent, I'd also smile a lot. They both have a big future on the stage.
Lucas Young is Fagin and thanks to the wonderful make up artists that Creatio have, he is almost unrecognisable. A brilliant character actor who makes every role his own, and I've been lucky enough to see Lucas in many roles over the last few years. Lucas succeeds in bringing out the comedy in the character and especially in the song "Reviewing The Situation" which was a real crowd pleaser.
Nancy is played by the gorgeous Grace Orgill. I have seen Jodie Prenger play this role and Grace was just as intoxicating as Prenger. Grace has a wonderful voice and her emotional rendition of "As Long As He Needs Me" sent a shiver down my spine. A wonderful stage presence as well.
Bill Sykes is played by Dom Gibbs. We all know that Sykes is the baddie here but when Dom made his first appearance in Act Two, there seemed to be a hush fall over the audience in anticipation of the bully. Another wonderful character role for this young man because when he took his bows, the audience booed, but meeting Dom afterwards, I can confirm he is a puppy!
Making his theatrical debut amid these young actors is Steve Powell. At 55 years young, Steve plays Mr Bumble, and to see and hear him sing, you would not have thought that this was his debut. A lovely comic role who is great fun to watch.
Molly Hewitt-Richards is a perfect character match for Mr Bumble as Widow Corney, and what an incredible voice she has, and I absolutely love the comedy this pair have together.
Playing Bet is the lovely Tammie Morgan. A lovely fun role which really suits Tammie down to the ground. I've had the pleasure of seeing Tammie in several musicals and have enjoyed everything she has done.
Reuben Gotts makes his Creatio debut playing Mr Sowerby, the funeral arranger and along with Freya Primrose as Mrs Sowerby, they make an entertaining pair, if not a little creepy, but that's what you'd expect from a pair who are happy when there is a funeral to arrange.
Molly Haines plays the not very nice Charlotte in the Sowerby's business and playing Charlotte's boyfriend, co funeral worker and bully to Oliver is Bailey West.
Ebony Tinkler is Mrs Bedwin, Tom Judson is Dr Grimwig, who likes a good chuckle and creates more than a ripple in his supporting role. Nadia Potter portrays the elderly Old Sally, who also gets a few giggles from the audience as well.
Mr Brownlow is played by Kheenan Jones, and again another actor who I had to look twice at in the programme as, thanks to wardrobe, he was quite unrecognisable unless you know him.
With a cast of over 50, the ensemble really fill out the Derby Theatre stage and when they all sing together the sound is powerful.
Directed by Lisa Judson and Produced by Rachel Morton-Riley, this is yet another roaring success to add to Creatio's catalogue of past successes. This company can do no wrong, but I know that this because of the hard work that everyone involved puts in. They are perfectionists and that is why their shows are nothing short of professional on every level.
Musical director is Tom Watkins and the beautiful lush arrangements of these classic songs flood the theatre, but never the singers. This is due to a great sound mix thanks to Simon Birchall and Ben Tennett.
Tom Mowat is lighting designer, adding another sheen to this great musical.
Choreographed by Charli Richardson-Astle, and she has done an incredible job, especially when you take into consideration this massive cast. The energy from that stage is so exciting to feel and to watch; just another reason why this production is fresh and so enjoyable.
Brilliant costumes, and I know that a lot of hard work has gone into sourcing these for the show, but boy, do they look amazing on this cast.
Words really do not express how insanely enjoyable this show is and how talented a cast Creatio have got together, many of them new faces, but there's a wonderfully gelled aura over them all, and this really comes across on, and off stage.
“Oliver” is at Derby Theatre until Friday 6 July 2018, so even if you have to pick a pocket or two, make sure you get a ticket for this excellent production. If not, then it's your funeral.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

“Chess” People’s Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre
What could possibly be interesting about a musical about politics and the game of chess? Well this is a musical which is based around a chess board and may be politically motivated, but this is also a musical about falling in love, as I’m sure you’ll find out by coming to check it out, mate.
The story involves a politically driven, Cold War–era chess tournament between two men—an American grand-master and a Soviet grand-master—and their battle over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other.
Written by Benny and Bjorn from Abba with Tim Rice adding lyrics you are guaranteed on an amazingly good soundtrack. But a soundtrack that is intricate in its' composition and not easy to sing, which is why it's not performed that often, especially by local theatre groups.
Several of the songs you will already know as “Nobody’s Side” was a minor chart hit for Elaine Paige, “One Night In Bangkok” was a massive hit for Murray Head and “I Know Him So Well” went to number one for Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige”. But the cherry on the cake with this soundtrack is the gorgeous “Anthem” and the powerful and emotive "Pity The Child"
Directed, and Musically Directed by Meng Khaw, who knows the ins and outs of this musical as last year played The Arbiter at Loughborough. It looks like he created a whole new opening for this show, one that I'd not seen before and really enjoyed.
Meng has also taken the lead from Tim Rice's notes about being able to change the order of the songs and decided not to open the second act with "One Night In Bangkok", instead moving it slightly later in Act Two.
The orchestra were powerful and just when you thought they were about to overpower the singers, they reigned it back in, complementing the rock opera feel of the show. A great sound mix by Rob Kettridge.
Playing that part here is John Gill. Now this I think is the first time that I have actually heard John sing like this and it really suits his voice. A pleasant surprise.
Another big surprise was hearing Christopher Collins sing. He is not known for his singing and he has shied away from featured singing roles, but after tonight, Chris, I think you need to start auditioning for more musicals This man has hid his singing voice under a bushel for far too long, and it's about time it was released as it was tonight. A real eye-opener vocal wise and a very believable Russian accent.
Kate Taylor plays Florence Vassy, the woman who is Trumper's right hand woman, and then falls for his rival, the Russian Sergievsky. What a voice this woman has, and she has the power. Hearing her sing "Nobody's Side" gave me tingles up my spine and would give Ms Paige a run for her money. Plus her duet with Anatoly's wife, Svetlana, "I Know Him So Well" was magical.
Playing Svetlana Sergievskaya is Zosia Kuczynska. Another cracker of a vocalist and an excellent match for Kate, which is why the duet works so well.
Walter de Courcey is the Head of an American TV corporation and a member of the American delegation, and is played by Curtis Taylor-Tipton. I've seen Curtis many times in musicals so know what a lovely range and tone this man has to his voice,He effortlessly performs his songs.
Playing The American chess player, Freddie Trumper is one man who has a wonderful rock voice, and shows it off to splendid affect in the song “Pity the Child”, Sam Barson. Not only has this man clarity in his vocals he has the power as well as the passion. His look is modern and fits the part of the power hungry American.
Trumper’s rival, the Russian counterpart in the tournament and the musical, Anatoly Sergievskaya, is played by Rob Goll. Rob has always said that he is no singer but after his singing in last year’s PTC panto, which surprised me in a good way, it was with anticipation that I awaited Rob’s vocals, especially as he was singing “Anthem” which is not a song to be performed halfheartedly. He threw every ounce of emotion into it and also gave me tingles up my spine.
Rob can sing, but this role I feel is just a bit too full on, vocal wise for him. At times his voice was spot on but there were times when he was stretching himself. What does not help is that Rob is surrounded by some powerful singers. I know that Rob was nervous about this singing role, and I know Rob puts everything into what he does, and I totally applaud him for stepping out of his comfort zone with this part. He's still in my eyes one of Nottingham's best classic actors, and I still think he did a credible job here.
The ensemble is full of well recognised faces from local stages, and a few new faces as well as a few faces who are returning to the local theatre arena.T start with I was not sure that the ensemble needed to be the size it was but when they all came together for "Endgame", the sound they produced was heavenly.
Loved the set design by Cris Brawn, which was simple, which is what this musical calls for as it gives the cast and music the full focus. The screened back drop allowed for the scene settings to be projected, which is something fairly new for PTC and it also worked well.
Over the past few weeks I’ve bumped into and spoken to several of the cast members and they have a real excitement about this musical. An excitement that I, for one have not seen in a cast for a while. Now if they are excited for the show, this tells me that the show was going to be an absolute cracker. Well their excitement was well founded and the show IS a real cracker.
This musical isn't going to be to everyone's liking, and I applaud PC for taking a chance. personally I love the story and the wonderful soundtrack with all of it's wonderful, intricate arrangements. the sort you'd expect from the writers of Abba's hits and some of the best rock operas ever, Tim Rice.
So go on, make a move and take a chance on this musical.
“Chess” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 7 July 2018.