Thursday, 26 September 2019

“Shakers – Restirred” by Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
“Shakers” was first presented by Hull Truck Theatre Company at the Spring Street Theatre, Hull, on 29 January 1984; the revised version given here, “Shakers Restirred”, was first presented by the Hull Truck Theatre Company in 1991.
Written by Jon Godber and Jane Thornton as an all female version of “Bouncers” and relies on the four actors’ talents for quick change characterization as they take on both female and male roles.
In “Shakers Re-Stirred” we see the girls of Shakers cocktail bar, the newest, shiniest cocktail bar in town where, in spite of the glitz and glamour of the d├ęcor, the patrons, and the people who serve them, are none too happy at all.
This play should be on the National Health as I entered the theatre a bit jaded and left dancing.
While this may not be Shakespeare, there are similarities between the poetry of Shakespeare's and the poetry in this script, but anyone who knows the back catalogue of the works of Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company will know that they can produce a diverse and vastly entertaining collection of plays. Not only that but "Shake" is part of the play and the group, so there is still a connection.
I love "Bouncers", and this is just as funny, which goes to show what brilliant writers Jon Godber and Jane Thornton are, taking a similar theme and making it equally as chucklesome
Whereas "Bouncers" has a limited set, this production looks like you are in a cocktail bar with its' fluorescent pink strip lighting and bar complete with optics, bar stools, tables and chairs.
Directed by Neil Scott he kept this production flowing with waves of comedy, followed by a gentler ripple of pathos; the poetic script ebbing and flowing with the rhythm of the delivery.
Alex Wrampling (Mel), Heidi Hargreaves (Adele), Emily Horobin (Nikki) and Clare Snape (Carol) are the Fab Four who take on the forms of the male and female clientele of the ultra trendy cocktail bar. I loved the way they morphed into the male characters and accentuated all the worst habits that men of certain age and social standing exhibit on a night out with the lads.
All four have moments in the play to shine as we learn more about the characters, their hopes, dreams and past. And you have just got to love the way that the no nonsense Mel addresses some of the customers who are trying to get in to the bar when closed.
These four actors have great chemistry and that shows with the characters they play and the relationships between the four bar workers. And it's non stop all the way through, making this a high energy hit.
Creating the right atmosphere in the bar is also key and the soundtrack is totally 1980's with music from the Human League, Fine Young Cannibals, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Wham! among the many retro smashes.
With a play like this, the lighting is vital as it splices the scenes and makes it the snappy show it is. Steve Greatorix's Design and Tim Booth's operation helped create the pace of the piece.
So if you are in need of a good old chuckle fest, or are in need of cheering up, then this is the perfect remedy.
“Shakers Restirred” is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 28 September 2019.
Thanks to Emma Duder for the photos.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

“Every Brilliant Thing” by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Here is another play that I had not seen before, and new little about, but boy what a cracker it is.
I would love to tell you so much about this play but would really urge you to get a ticket to experience this production for yourself to get the full effect of the story and presentation.
This is quite an unusual play, and that in itself makes this play one to watch. Christopher Collins plays the part of Chris, and is the narrator of the story. It’s one of those stories that highlights something we still find difficult to talk about, depression, and how it affects people around you, but it’s also very funny, optimistic and uplifting. It takes us back to when Chris – the character – was seven years old and his mum was in the hospital.
All Chris knows is what he has been told by his dad, that his mum has “done something stupid” and that she finds it hard to be happy. Chris decides to make a list of things that he feels is brilliant about the world. Everything worth living for. His list, as a seven year old, consists of things like ice cream, water fights, roller-coasters, people falling over and staying up after his bedtime to watch TV. The list continues throughout his life as he adds to it endlessly
It’s a production that will hit home to anyone who has had to deal with any level of depression and how people combat depression, but also does it in such a way that we find ourselves laughing at the issues it brings up. It’s possibly one of the most humorous plays about depression that I’ve seen.
The play is an immersive piece of theatre which would not work without the acknowledgement of the audience.
Chris Collins is one of those actors who now and again really surprises me with his layers of talent, and he knows what I mean by that statement, and this play shows his supreme confidence in what he does.
It can highlight vulnerability, especially when you’re the only one in the spotlight, and that way you rely on yourself; you’ve nowhere to hide and no one to depend on should anything go wrong, which it doesn't, and that shows what a confident and brave actor Chris is.
It also shows that Chris can do comedy and has a quick mind, as he controls the show as well as the audience. It also shows his power of memory.
Directed by Jane Herring and Linda Croston, they put their faith in Chris with sections of this play, and it is a faith well invested. It has a lovely steady pace and the comedy is well defined.
Music plays a large part in the play as well. It is used to bring back memories for Chris - the character - and features in the list, so will be vital to the story. Gareth Morris is responsible for the Sound Design for this piece.
The play was debuted at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival by the writers and you can see why this was such a success at an event like the Fringe. After experiencing this gentle comedy, with its' clever and really lovely script, I can see why it's so beloved by people who have seen it.
Tuesday and Wednesday shows were sold out, and it won't surprise me if the shows up to its' close will also sell out, so please go and see this brilliant play.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 28 September 2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

“The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Susie Salmon is just like any other young girl. She wants to be beautiful, adores her charm bracelet and has a crush on Ray, a boy from school. There's one big difference though – Susie is dead.
She can only observe while her family manage their grief in their different ways. Her father Jack is obsessed with identifying the killer. Her mother Abigail is desperate to create a different life for herself. And her sister Lindsey is discovering the opposite sex with experiences that Susie will never know. Susie is desperate to help them, and try to bring her murderer to justice, and there might be a way of reaching them…
This play is one of the best plays that I have seen in a long time. I had not seen the film or read the book, and not having that insight to either, made this piece of theatre electrifying and exciting, as well as quite unnerving.
The technical side of this play is amazing and it took me ages to work out how they created the effects that they did. Effects that made this play the exciting and nerve tingling play it is.I'm not going to say anything more about this side of the play because it has to be experienced to get the maximum effect.
This play has so many things that when put together, create an unforgettable evening. The puppets, although not meant to be scary, create that eerie effect, and Mike Ashcroft, who is the Movement Director brings an almost balletic feel to the piece.
Melly Still, the Director, has managed to create an uneasy air in parts of the play, and I felt myself going cold at several stages of the story.
Charlotte Beaumont (Susie Salmon) gives everything in her performance. She makes you feel anger, unease, frustration and at the end a feeling of relief. I can't remember the last actor to make me feel so many emotions in the space of just a few hours.
Catrin Aaron (Abigail Salmon) plays the mother, and you can understand her frustration with husband, Jack, when he does not want to let go of his search for his daughter's killer.
Jack Sandle (Jack Salmon) really makes you feel for his character, and you want him to get revenge for Susie, as well as the family.
Fanta Barrie (Lindsey Salmon), plays Susie's sister, and I loved how her personality and feelings were slowly revealed throughout the play as a slow burner.
Susie's first love, Ray is played by local boy made good, Samuel Gosrani, and boy has he matured in every way from the last time that I saw him at Bilborough College in their production of "We Will Rock You". Sam also played the part of the family dog Holiday. The section where he is "reunited" with Susie is just magical to watch, which is where part of the movement Director really excelled for me with some beautiful choreography.It was romantic as well as quite sad. It reminded me of a scene from "Ghost" where Sam "reunited" with Molly.
Leigh Lothian (Ruth) was one of those strange characters in stories like this, and a very interesting character she is as well. Dark and quite scary but as we go through the play, we discover so much more about her, including a softer side.
Nicholas Khan (Harvey) is another actor that you may recognise from local productions; I've seen him in "The Kite Runner" and "Wonderland", both at the Nottingham Playhouse. He plays a completely different character here with his calm unease oozing from the stage, which makes Harvey a classic evil serial killer. As we go through the play, we discover just what a sickening character he is, expertly revealed by Khan.
The rest of the cast, Lynda Rooke, Huw Parmenter, Andrew Joshi (who was last seen in Nottingham in "The Madness Of King George), Avita Jay, Leah Haile and Radhika Aggarwal complete this excellent cast.
A few others who need to be mentioned are Helen Skiera (Sound Design), Matt Haskins (Lighting Design) - both creating several jump scare moments throughout the play, and Ana Ines Jabares-Pita (Designer) for creating this work of theatrical art.
The play also has a wonderful soundtrack with songs from Bowie, Talking Heads, The Carpenters and The Stylistics among some of music featured, plus a lovely rendition of "Both Sides Now" by Leigh Lothian as Ruth.
As I said, I'd not read the book or seen the film, but now I want to do both and that is all thanks to this unmissable production.
“The Lovely Bones” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 September 2019.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

“An Enemy Of The People” by Henrik Ibsen
Nottingham Playhouse.
The play concerns the actions of Doctor Teresa Stockmann, a medical officer charged with inspecting the public baths on which the prosperity of her native town depends. She finds the water to be contaminated and when she refuses to be silenced, she is declared an enemy of the people, and finds that her once allies soon start to turn against her.
The play has been updated, after all it was written in 1882, first performed in 1883, by playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz and has been Directed by Adam Penford. This update creates a fresher and more modern look at the Ibsen original.
Alex Kingston plays Dr Teresa Stockmann, and, for a theatre fan, this was a great opportunity to see Alex on stage, and experience the passion that she brings to this character and the message she is trying to deliver to her home town, as well as the lengths Dr Stockman will go to, to protect the place she loves.
Malcolm Sinclair plays Mayor Peter Mattsson, Stockmann's brother, and there is definitely no love lost between these family members. The Mayor is so opposed to Dr Stockmann's findings that he will do anything to tarnish the name and reputation of his sister. The reaction he received at his curtain call showed that he had achieved his character's aim.
Deka Walmsley plays Christopher Stockmann. Faithful to his wife's opinions and findings, even though he had a bit of a dither, but came good for his wife in the end.
Donna Banya plays Petra, a loyal supporter to her Mother's cause, even though she was one of the victim's of her Mother's cause from the township.
Richard Evans plays Morten Kiil, and what a brilliant character driven role, but even Morten took advantage of the situation that arose over the contaminated waters.
The whole cast, which also included several local actors, who were fun to spot among the town's folk were all excellent,and certainly held my attention for the entire play.
Set Designer Morgan Large, who was responsible for the incredible set for "Wonderland", previously at the Nottingham Playhouse, designed a fairly sparse set, but sometimes less is more. There was just enough set to flesh out the stage without detracting from the message and the presentation.
Creating atmosphere is the Lighting Design from Tina MacHugh, and the Sound Design, also creating that wet and thundery atmosphere was by Drew Baumohl
This is one play that has not dated at all, thanks to the script update, and can be set wherever and whenever as the story is one that could happen in any town, as long as they have a spa of course, and at any time, so it's timeless.
At just under two hours long - and it didn't seem that long by any stretch of the imagination - the story and the wonderful acting will keep you occupied for the whole time.
The ending is open ended and will leave you to make up your mind as to what Dr Stockmann and her family did next, giving scope to discussions after you leave the theatre.
“An Enemy Of The People” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 28 September.

Monday, 16 September 2019

“On Your Feet”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
This musical is the true love story of Emilio and Gloria and charts their rags to riches journey from its origins in Cuba, onto the streets of Miami and finally to international fame.
It features some of the catchiest pop songs of the era, including ‘Rhythm Is Gonna Get You’, ‘Conga’, ‘Get On Your Feet’, ‘Don’t Want To Lose You Now’ and ‘1-2-3’. 26 songs in total.
The musical covers the period from her childhood to the bus crash in 1990 that left her with a broken back, and closes with her comeback performance at the American Music Awards in 1990, so there’s a lot to get through in the time given in this show.
I love a production that can turn me around and this is one that did. I am a big Gloria Estefan fan so was rearing to go with this one. The throbbing beats started and my foot started tapping, and then the music subsided, and so did my foot tapping, and then the beats started again, and then subsided. The musicians on stage were miming playing their instruments and that put me off.
There were sections, as we made our way through the musical that i felt could have been left out and some of the music was unknown, even to me.
But as we go through the story,and there was a bit of this story that I didn't know, so i immediately began to really take heed. By the start of Act Two, my opinion had changed and I really started to get into it.
This is not, as some people may think, just another "jukebox musical", as the story is a true one and is about someone who is still performing today, so the music is relevant to the time line of the story and the musical.These songs have not just been slotted in to fill a place.
The music and the choreography is incredible. It is packed with energy and the music is exciting, and when played live, sounds amazing and full of life.
Gloria Estefan is played by Philippa Stefani. She even sounds like Gloria if you close your eyes, but who would want to keep their eyes closed when Philippa looks as gorgeous as she does. She oozes energy
Emilio Estefan is played by George Ionnides, and we see him grow from a local musician to a man who delivered one of the biggest selling Latino artistes to the world. It's always interesting to hear a song that you recognise as a hit for a woman, sang by a man, and hearing him sing "Don't Wanna Lose You Now" took on a different perspective as he thought that he would be losing her after the bus crash.
Gloria's mum, also called Gloria, is played by Madalena Alberto, and you can see where Gloria got her talent from. Madalena also oozes that sex appeal, has a great voice and can dance up a storm.
Gloria's Gran, Consuela, was played by the understudy, Hollie Cassar tonight, and she was amazing. One thing I didn't realise is that Gloria's mother was against her becoming famous, but it was Gloria's Gran who helped push her Grand-Daughter's talents and helped her get that foot on the ladder. If you can imagine an all singing, all dancing Maureen Lipman, then that is close to this character and Hollie's performance. Everyone should have a Gran like Consuela.
Directed by double Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo.
I loved the projections used, (Darrel Maloney) and the scene where they celebrated under a sky of fireworks was so romantic.
I was expecting, by the stack of speakers visible, that this would be loud. It was loud but comfortably loud, but the volume only added to the excitement of the music and the dance.
The lighting design was all that I had expected it to be.Vivacious floods of colour which was a visual feast.
When you think of Latino music, the dance and the dancers, you then picture the costumes, and Emilio Sosa, the costume designer, did not disappoint.
The live band on stage created an aural delight, and once again, hearing this style of music played live on stage, takes on a special sound and feeling. They deservedly received a massive round of applause at the end of the show.
This massive ensemble really create a party atmosphere on stage. An atmosphere that spilled into the auditorium and made us want to dance to the infectious rhythms, which will definitely get you on your feet and conga-ing out into the streets.
“On Your Feet” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 21 September.

Friday, 13 September 2019

“Foxfinder”by Dawn King
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
The play was written in 2011 by Dawn King, a writer that I have not heard of before, and a play that I have not heard or seen before.
Set in the upstairs performing space of the Lace Market Theatre, the story takes on an even more intimate feel. With the majority of the scenes also set in the farmhouse kitchen, the wooden beams of the theatre made this even more realistic.
Set on a remote farm, the action takes place within the farm house kitchen belonging to Sam and Judith Covey, who are reeling from a personal loss, failing to meet the production targets on the farm, they receive a visitor by the name of William Bloor.
Bloor is a “foxfinder” whose job is to hunt out infestations of foxes, who are blamed for just about everything, including the poor performance of the farm and its’ produce. Rumour is spread that these “foxes” may have supernatural powers.
Bloor starts to investigate the Coveys, their farm and neighbours, prying into every crevice of their personal and professional lives. We soon discover though that Bloor also isn’t quite as perfect as first thought, and he has weaknesses of his own.
Malcolm Todd (Samuel) plays a really interesting character as, depending on how you look at the way Samuel is played, he could be playing along with the foxfinder to hunt out the foxes, or he could be more intelligent that what he is first given credit for. has he spotted a crack in Bloor's armour with him being so young, and is trying to lead him up the garden path by siding with the foxfinder. A clever character with whom the audience could be divided by his actions.A brilliant character role for Malcolm to get his teeth into.
Kareena Sims (Judith) pulled out her emotional side of her acting ability in Judith. Kareena portrays so much emotion in her face; you feel her frustration, her tiredness, her anger, her fear, but also her Grace. She has been pushed to the edge and is on the brink of doing something that Judith would seriously regret, when something stops her. I can only imagine that this is one role that would drain an actor due to the passion needed to play this character with the respect that is deserved.
Emily Kelsey (Sarah) is another actor who brings the emotions of the characters to life. The look of complete fear when she is being interrogated by Bloor was enough to chill your bones.
AJ Stevenson (William Bloor) gets to play one very interesting character in Bloor. His delivery of the script is perfectly detached and, at first I thought emotionless, but after a while the emotion oozed out and you realise that here is a man who has been brain washed into believing what has been drilled into him. And this makes the character dangerous. Bloor is 19 years old and we discover through his conversations with Judith that his life has been flawed since childhood. AJ's delivery is exact and deliberate and when Bloor visits Sarah, his whole approach is quite evil and calculated.
It's a very tense play and you could feel that tension. It's also a very emotive play as we discover the history of the characters, but it also has some lovely comic moments to relieve the intensity.
Director Chris Sims has amassed the best cast for this style of play and to be able to make an audience absorb that tense, and uneasy feeling, takes something special. It made me wish for the interval to come to break that unease, but then I couldn't wait for Act two to see what happened next. The ending was one that I didn't quite expect either.
The set is designed by Mark James, and the set changes were done smoothly, veiled by some very interesting and appropriate folk music, adding to the location feel.
Lighting Design by David Billen and Sound Design by Gareth Morris. This in particular painted mind pictures of the rural landscape beyond the theatre walls.
If you like intelligent, tension filled theatre, then this is the one to book your ticket for, if there are any left for Saturday. A powerful start to this new season's programme.
"Foxfinder” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 14 September

Thursday, 12 September 2019

“One Man Two Guvnors” by Richard Bean
Derby Theatre
After being fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall is skint and hungry. He manages to secure a new job as a minder for small time gangster Roscoe Crabbe. What Francis doesn’t know, is his new guvnor is really Roscoe’s sister Rachel in disguise, as her own dead brother, who has been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.
To further complicate things, Francis nabs a second job working for that very Stanley Stubbers who is hiding from the police.
All Francis has to do is ensure his two guvnors don’t meet. What could go wrong?
It's one of those productions where the whole cast were on a par with each other, no one stood out more than the other
David O’ Reilly (Francis) had some real tongue twisting speeches, also toyed with the audience until he had them eating out of his hand, David Cardy (Charlie) who you may recognise as playing Chris, Pauline Quirke’s character’s husband in “Birds Of A Feather”,Samantha Hull (Pauline), George Kemp (Stanley), Alice Frankham (Rachel), TJ Holmes (Alfie - the 86 year old waiter with some nifty gymnastic skills), Ivan Stott (Harry), Duane Hannibal (Lloyd), Jack Brett (Alan - the actor who was always on stage, who probably performs when he opens the fridge door), Craig Armstrong (Gareth) and Rosie Strobel (Dolly).
The cast reminded me just what a brilliant piece of comedy theatre this is. The slapstick was well timed and the characters just the right side of over the top. Sarah obviously has great faith in David O' Reilly with the ad-libbing and audience play, and in bringing the script back to order after the unrehearsed banter..
Directed by Sarah Brigham, the pace was well maintained, just as it should be with a farce such as this. Even though I've seen the play several times before, I still had to look twice at the time for the interval to check that I'd just watched nearly ninety minutes of wonderful comedy.
The songs performed in the show are written by Grant Olding and performed by a band called The Rozzers, who also entertain us before the show and during the interval as well during the show itself. A brilliant way to mask the scene changes. The quartet consist of Oraine Johnson, Dominic Gee Burch, Jay Osborne and Tom Wolstenholme. Musical Director is Kelvin Towse.
The musical pieces took us from skiffle to the Beatle-esque and were received just as warmly by the crowd as the acting was.
Adam McCready is responsible for the Sound Design and, as usual at Derby Theatre, the acoustics were spot on. Not a word was missed and the music mix was clear as a bell.
The brilliant fold away set is designed by Neil Irish, as are the wonderful costumes.
I was quite surprised that the theatre was not better attended for such a wonderful piece of comedy, but those that were in attendance absolutely lapped up such a rich helping of commedia dell'arte. The laughs weren't giggles, titters or chuckles, they were full blown belly laughs.
It's old fashioned comedy that never goes out of style because the comedy is clever. The slapstick and physical comedy is the one reason why Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton and Abbott and Costello are as beloved today as they were back in their day, and this play keeps that comedy style alive today.
“One Man Two Guvnors” is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 28 September, so if you're feeling just a little in need of a good laugh, this is the show to see. They say laughter is the best medicine, so Dr Kev prescribes a healthy dose of Francis and co.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

“Cabaret” – Touring Production
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
It’s 1931, Berlin is a haven of divine decadence and debauchery and the legendary Sally Bowles is about to take stage at the infamous Kit Kat Klub, which is where all the action is in Berlin.
Author Cliff Bradshaw arrives from Pennsylvania to write, and meets Sally falling head over heels for her. He's also met Ernst Ludwig who arranges where he can stay, at Fraulein Schneider's boarding house, and also a little job on the side to keep the money rolling in.
But this Germany 1931 and danger and unrest is just around the corner......
With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, this soundtrack is one of the best loved with the soundtrack including songs like the title track, “Cabaret”, “Wilkommen”, “Money Makes The World Go Around”, “Maybe This Time” and “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” among them.
John Partridge plays the part of the enigmatic Emcee. This is a darker Emcee than I remember and, for me, bore a bit of a comparison to Malcolm McDowall's character in "The Clockwork Orange". He is in total control and having seen John in several roles, including panto in the past, I just knew that he would be the perfect Emcee. He did not disappoint. Not only can you not take your eyes off him whenever he is on stage but his voice encapsulates you as well, especially in his ballad, "I Don't Care Much".
Kara Lily Hayworth, who was incredible in “Cilla”, is Sally Bowles, and she is incredible here as well.You could hear every single word she sang, whether it was sung quietly or belted out.
Charles Hagerty plays the new boy in die stadt,and unlike some other productions of this musical I've seen, we are left without any doubt where his passions lie!! His accent never falters in this role as well.
Anita Harris plays the role Fraulein Schneider, proving that talent never dies. Anita is living proof of this. Her voice is full of emotion still and when she sings "What Would You Do?", the hairs stood to attention.
This musical blends young talent as well as parts for more mature actors, and Herr Schultz is played by James Paterson, who has a wonderful voice for musical theatre. When he and Anita duets on "Married", it highlights the immense talent that actors of their age can bring to today's musical theatre.
I also must mention Basienka Blake as Fraulein Krost, who has a passion for young sailors. A lovely fun character role and when she sang "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" in Act Two, she also showed what a wonderful voice she has.
This is a real ensemble work, with everyone showing great energy in this sexy and sassy production. There are plenty of acrobatic moves from this ensemble as they move the sets and props around, and the choreography, by Javier De Frutos, will leave you quite breathless at times.
The set, designed by Katrina Lindsay is stunning, helped immensely by the lighting design by Tim Oliver.
A wonderful live band on stage which complemented the singers beautifully. The clarity was crystal clear; a joy to the ears.
A dark musical which will leave you quite speechless with the final scene, so much so that you could hear a pin drop on the Theatre Royal carpet.
There is full and partial nudity so may not be for everyone, but how do you show debauchery without flashing a bit of flesh? Nothing wrong with a bit of non gratuitous muckiness in my eyes! After all, it was done in the best possible taste.
“Cabaret” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 14 September.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

“Carrie The Musical” by Regis Theatre Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
Adapted from Stephen King's novel Carrie, it focuses on an awkward teenage girl with telekinetic powers whose lonely life is dominated by an oppressive religious fanatic mother. When she is humiliated by her classmates at the high school prom, she unleashes chaos on everyone and everything in her path.
It's a brave choice for a local theatre group to perform as, in the musical’s past, it’s not had the best history, first premiering in 1988 with the Royal Shakespeare Company where it then transferred to Broadway where it failed miserably and closed after just five shows, so it was with great interest that I took my place at the Duchess to witness what I expected to be an interesting evening.
Anna McAuley (Carrie White) I have seen several times in various productions, but tonight, being the main character, I really got to appreciate what a beautiful, pure and controlled voice she has. She had the hairs on my neck standing up form the start.
Kathryn McAuley (Margaret White) complemented her daughter's vocals wonderfully in the several scenes this pair had together as mother and daughter in the play, and the chemistry was there as well, especially in the final scenes.
Lucy Castle ( Chris Hargensen) plays the ring leader of the bullies and wonderfully bratty, bordering on pure evil she was, especially when she got Kheenan Jones (Billy) in on the final nasty deed at the prom
Ruth Kniveton (Sue Snell) also acts as the narrator as well as one of Carrie’s school friends, and it's the narrative throughout the play that gets the creepiness going, because we all know what is in store but this builds the tension. Ruth is another with a lovely voice, highlighted well in this musical.
Andrew Bould (Tommy) really scrubs up well in his prom tux and shows a tender, gentlemanly side to Tommy's character as he agrees to escort Carrie and in looking after her. And the boy can carry a tune as well.
Emma Collins (Ms Gardner) also gets to show some lovely vocals off; another singer who blends well with Anna's voice.
Adam Guest (Mr Stephens) looks the part of a teacher down to the ground and adds gravitas to the musical's teaching staff.
A large cast who worked well as a team and were totally believable as an American class - the accents were well observed as well, which I noticed. With the large ensemble, this meant that the group vocals sounded strong and blended well.
Evie Burke (Norma), Sky Marsden (Frieda), Emily Rebecca Owen (Helen), all three I bet quite enjoyed their nasty, bullying roles, Jack Readyhoof (George) plays to his strengths in this comedic character role, Matt McAuley (Stokes) whose vocal talents obviously have been passed on from his Mum and sister, Robert McAuley (Freddy), Rob Charles (Chase), Joe Loverock (Alex) great surname and only his second show,and Joe Morley (Bud). All managed to show the various characters within the group, and as I said, all created a tight vocal ensemble.
Charlotte Daniel is the Musical Director for the show, and the one responsible for coaxing these brilliant vocals from the cast.The soundtrack is full of beautifully written songs like "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance", "Unsuspecting Hearts" and "Dreamer In Disguise". Unfortunately though completely forgettable once you leave the theatre.
The soundtrack is wonderful. If you listen closely it's almost very typical American classic musical soundtrack, and written by the writers responsible for the film soundtrack for "Fame". There are reflections of Sondheim as well as Jason Robert Brown in the construction of the music, and being a fan of both, I was bound to love the music side of the show. I'd had the soundtrack for a while but seeing the words come to life on stage is something quite special.
Ollie Turner is the Artistic Director and Producer. A man who knows what he is doing around musical theatre, and the man brave enough to take on this musical, knowing that it's not an often performed piece, and that its' history of success was, well let's just say it's not Les Miserables. A brave choice and one that I feel paid off for him.
Of course though when you surround yourself with local theatre geniii, or is that geniuses? You can't go far wrong. Matt Powell was drafted in for the Movement Director, and you can see what a difference someone like Matt can make in the prom scene when everything is performed in slo-mo. Very effective.
I loved the music, I loved the story and I loved the production and lighting effects (Maureen Tierney) and the creepy sound production (Sean Renshaw).
There were a few things that I feel could have made more of an impact, especially in the gore department. In the shower scene where Carrie discovers her first period, Carrie draws attention to the blood on her hands, but her hands were clean.
I would have loved to have seen more blood in the prom scene but there was only a small amount. I'd have loved to have seen about half a bucket of the red stuff poured over Carrie (sorry Anna) to make an impact. And I'm sure that I missed the knife that Margaret used in the scene when Carrie came back from the prom. (sorry again Anna), or did I blink at the wrong time. I do like my gore!
There was also one comedy moment that was not planned, which, anyone after tonight probably won't get to see, but when Tommy called on Carrie to ask her to the prom, there was a delay on the door bell, and on the second time, I'm sure that I saw Andrew let slip a crafty smile. Aaah the joys of live theatre!
It probably won't ever make the Top 20 Musical Theatre favourites but it's worth viewing this production, because who knows when you may get the chance to see it ever again.
“Carrie The Musical” is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 7 September 2019