Saturday, 30 November 2013

JACK & THE BEANSTALK
Nottingham Playhouse

This is Kenneth Alan Taylor's 30th panto in the Nottingham Playhouse's 50th year and I expected a great night of slapstick entertainment, of classic jokes and topical funnies, some favourite modern songs and a few oldies thrown in for good measure. I expected all these things and I got them all. It's like being a child at Christmas whose written his list out for Santa and when he wakes up finds that all of his wish list had been granted and a few extra presents thrown in.

It's very difficult to keep pushing that entertainment bar every year, but every year Kenneth, and his very talented cast, do just that. With Kenneth using a regular core group including John Elkington, Anthony Hoggard, Rebecca Little and Daniel Hoffman Gill, as well as relative new cast family members in Tim Frater, Kelly Edwards and Hannah Whittington, the audiences feel at home and comfortable with the cast, and if there happens to be any slight errors and line fluffs, the cast know each other so well that the adlibs and recoveries are just as funny and smooth as if they had been written in by Kenneth. That is the mark of a consummate professional in whom Kenneth places his faith in unwaveringly.

I'm not going to give anything away about the panto because everyone knows the story of "Jack & The Beanstalk", but I will say that the ending is not the traditional ending and still ends happily, for everyone!

You'll be blown away by the set design by Tim Meacock, I was. There's even more glitter and sparkle than ever before and is on a par with anything that you would see in the West End, The scenery uses every inch of that stage and in the end looks like some wonderful Hollywood set from the 1940's.

Everything you've come to expect with Kenneth's pantos is there, the wonderful sound quality, the live orchestra led by John Morton, now into his 24th panto at the Playhouse, the clever lighting, classy choreography by Adele Parry. What more could you want? Dancing bunnies? Yep they're in there as well. Christmas can now start because Kenneth Alan Taylor has given it permission to.

Jack & The Beanstalk is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 18 January 2014

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

THE REGINA MONOLOGUES Nottingham Lace Market Theatre

THE REGINA MONOLOGUES
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 30 November

Set in the intimate setting of the upstairs section of the Lace Market Theatre you'll find a very different play this week, The Regina Monologues, not to be mistaken for the similar sounding play by Eve Ensler, although there are similarities.

Written by  Rebecca Russell and Jenny Wafer and directed by Dan Maddison this is one thought provoking, funny, sad, emotive play that packs an awful lot in just 75 minutes.

Six wives recount their feelings and what they are going through being married to Henry using the comparison to their Tudor counterpart. Mix in modern situations such as arranged marriages, online dating, adultery, step children, miscarriages, gender reassignment, underage sex, possible suicide among other things, you'd expect this to a bit of a depressing affair but far from it as, even though there are parts that will make you angry and sad inside, there's a great deal of comedy as well. The same successful recipe used in Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues".

There's the poignancy of the unforgivable situation that the teenage schoolgirl character is placed in and there's the great comedy monologues of the gender reassigned online dating woman who's not picky about her partners to the gold digger and the woman who's wronged by her man when he looks for a younger model.

I love theatre that entertains me and I can sit back and not think too deeply and I also like the other end of the theatrical market which really gives you something to think about and occasionally shocks, and this week both ends of the scale have been covered nicely. Needless to say this play is suitable for the over 14s due to some of the ripe language, which is part and parcel of the subject matter related by the six ladies in this all female play.

Only one word of warning though, if your ginger of hair and easily offended by "gingist" comments, think twice because there seems to be a theme with the six woman not being in favour of red heads. I wonder if Henry VIII was a redhead?

www.lacemarkettheatre.co.uk

Monday, 25 November 2013

DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS.

Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 30th November

Cast your mind back to being 16 years old, being in love for the first time, the heartache of rejection, the longing, the lusting, the awkwardness, the music. "Dreamboats" taps into the emotions that we've all experienced at that age so we can all instantly associate with what is happening on stage.

The music is a big part of any teenager's life, whether it be One Direction, Kylie Minogue, Blondie or the wonderful 60s classics that are recreated live on stage and shape the soundtrack to our lives. The thetare now aks more from the actors of late, not only do they have to sing, dance and act but more and more we now see the cast providing the music as well and this show creates a part concert, part theatrical show atmosphere which had the whole theatre clapping and singing along, resulting in a standing ovation at the end, and richly deserved.

In a nutshell it's the story of Bobby (Stephen Rolley) who wants to be a star and is head over heels in lust with Sue (Louise Olley) who fancies the black drainpipes of arrogant teddy boy Norman (Matthew Colthart) who is keeping his options open. Bobby is the idol of Ray (Will Finlason)'s sister, Laura ( Hannah Boyce) who is a talented music student who finally gets to be Bobby's Girl at her 16th Birthday party.

The only known name in the cast is 60's heart throb Mark Wynter who plays older Bobby who proves that he can still deliver a tune and dance without getting out of breath. Mark also sings three of his big hits in the finale, "Venus In Blue Jeans", "It's Almost Tomorrow" and "Go Away Little Girl".

The entire show is so vibrant with a cast of really good vocalists, especially Stephen Rolley who has a really good huskiness to his voice and manages to hit the high notes with his rendition of Roy Orbison's "Only The Lonely". With 45 songs in the musical, and you'll know every one of them, you're in for a wonderful trip down memory lane.

As you'd expect from the era there's some great choreography and some very adept accapella work on "Poetry In Motion" and "Donna" from Will Finlason. It's bright, colourful, it will have you empathising with the unrequited love plights of Sue and Laura and cheering when they both get their "Dream Lovers" in the end.

Roll back the years and enjoy this brilliant show, but get your tickets fast.

Monday, 11 November 2013

ANNE BOLEYN at The Lace Market Theatre, Nottingham
by Howard Brenton
Director: Gordon Parsons.

Oh if only I'd had paid more attention in my history lessons at school! Did they really behave like that?

It's like Carry On Vs Yes Minister with it's very saucy language and "nudge nudge wink wink" raised eyebrowed style of acting, mixed in with a generous dollop of political skullduggery, but oh what an enjoyable slice of history twas laid before a packed theatre tonight!

We start off with King James 1, played by Gordon Cullen, who cornered the market tonight for the "nudge nudge" naughty schoolboy, ever so slightly rude King who enjoyed dressing up in Anne's dresses (this received a wolf whistle from the audience), who also managed to talk to the ghost of Anne which drew us back in time to the story of Anne Boleyn.

Anne was played by Kareena Sims, very saucy and what a tramp! A woman who knew how to play her man and to get what she wanted, when she wanted it, even teasing the audience at the start by.... well you'll have to see how!

Chris Ireson did a wonderful job as King Henry 8th, really bringing the King down to a "common level" if you like, someone we could relate to as a person.

These three main characters, albeit having great comic sides, also were revealed to have a more sensitive side which all three actors managed to produce well. Not that easy to turn an audience's feelings around from laughing at a character to feel sorry for them and their fate.

There's always a baddie in any play and Jason Wrighton gets to exercise his nastiness playing Thomas Cromwell, a real nasty piece of work.

It's a fairly large cast which all fit in well with each other's characters and interact well with the various roles. There's a great camaraderie comes through which makes this serious historic era more human.

The costumes for the period were wonderful and a special mention for Barry Holland who I know has spent almost every waking hour sewing and creating the marvellous costumes on that stage.

There are probably loads more I could say about Anne Boleyn, like the live period music which really set the tone and the atmosphere for the play, the dramatic opening with guillotine-esque sound effect and blackout but to get the full Boleyn experience pop down to the Lace Market Theatre and see what I'm talking about.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

OKLAHOMA Nottingham Theatre Royal

OKLAHOMA
Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 9 November.
Nottingham Operatic Society

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.

The musical has everything including a dark, ominous stalker in Jud Fry who meets his demise at the hands of our hero, Curly McLain on the night of Curly and Laurey's wedding.

There's bags full of comedy provided by many of the main and secondary characters, in complete contrast to the darker stalker undercurrent, and of course a great soundtrack which includes "People Will Say We're In Love", "Surrey With The Fringe On Top", "Oh What A Beautiful Morning", "I Cain't Say No" as well as the rousing title track.

The Nottingham Operatic Society have taken a few risks with this musical by casting the main characters with newbies but you know what, the risks paid off big time.

Our hero of the hour Curly, is played by Junior Harding, a curly haired, good looking lad with a belter of a voice, and his first time with the NOS. It must be daunting to be landed with such a great musical main character, but he smiled all the way through.

Laurey was played by another NOS newbie, Lauren Gill, and what a voice. Close your eyes and it could've been Shirley Jones from the 1955 film soundtrack. You can see why Curly would sell his saddle, gun and horse for her picnic basket!!

I loved the total air of menace that Meng Khan oozed with Jud, and again a top quality voice as well.

Oklahoma has some great comic characters and Ado Annie (Grace Gallagher) and Will Parker (Rob Harrison) really looked like they had fun on that stage.

Quickly becoming one of my favourite Nottingham actors is Simon Theobald who played the travelling salesman from Persia, Ali Hakim. Another wonderful comic character played by a genuinely nice, and knowledgeable man. I've seen Simon play several roles over the year and every time seems to have been a perfect casting.

Another stalwart of Nottingham stages is Alison Hope who was wonderful as Aunt Eller. Alison completely eradicated the memory of Marti Webb's portrayal of Eller from a few years back at the Theatre Royal from my mind.

With a large cast including seasoned Nottingham actors Callum and Liam Hall, Andrew Coe, Nigel Newton and Kate Williams in tow, this is another cracking show from The Nottingham Operatic Society.

Musical Director Steve Williams conducted a beautiful sounding orchestra which worked so well with the cast that every single word of the songs were heard crystal clear, but provided the perfect musical backdrop for the magical musical masterpieces of Rodgers and Hammerstein

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

SLAVA'S SNOW SHOW

SLAVA'S SNOW SHOW
NOTTINGHAM ROYAL CONCERT HALL until Sunday November 10th

Imagine the warm, safe and cosy feeling you feel sitting on a sofa with your loved one on a Sunday afternoon, wrapped in a quilt with a cup of hot chocolate and watching your favourite Christmas movie. Well now you're close to the feeling that you'll get watching Slava's Snow Show.

It's also like looking at a giant aquarium of colourful, graceful tropical fish, gently cutting through the bright water when watching Slava and his cast of amazing performers on stage.

The gracefulness and simplicity of the humour is very infantile, but at any age you sit there open mouthed at the magic they weave on stage and you are completely consumed by the strange, unconnected story they play out.

Most of the humour is visual with very limited speech, but you have no need for any vocal comedy because these very clever clowns are experts in their comedic field. And with anything this simple, you can bet that an incredible amount of talent and hard work went into it.

Slava's show has been touring for many many years, all over the world and in his native Russia, and even though the show hasn't changed since the last time I saw it, it's lost none of it's magic.

The comedy timing and sound synchronicity are spot on. The sound quality is perfect in the Royal Concert Hall which all adds to the enjoyment of the show. A show that is just so different to any other show that you'll want to see it again and again and again.

With it's audience participation with giant spider webs, incredible snow storm and the many giant inflatable coloured balls to bounce around the Royal Concert Hall, this is an ideal aperitif for the impending Christmas celebrations for theatre goers of any age, and I dare you not to come out of the venue without a warm contented feeling in your heart.