Saturday, 13 December 2014

"FLAT STANLEY"
Lakeside, Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham

Based on the children's story by Jeff Brown and adapted for the stage by Mike Kenny, this story is not just a great fantasy story for kids but a story about the relationship between two brothers, Arthur and Stanley.

We see Stanley, who was flattened by a noticeboard, retrieve his mother's ring from a drain, visit his friend courtesy of the US Mail, catch a art thief and become a kite before he returns to his normal size, thanks to his brother.

I was wondering how they would achieve the "flat" image but it is very clever how this is brought to life on stage, as well as being very effective, There are also clever computer animated images to replicate parts of the story, which also works well on stage.

The set is bright, colourful, big and bold and ideal for a young audience's eyes and there is always something going on for the full hour duration of the musical, which will make sure that the audience that it is primarily aimed at, keep focused.

It is a musical and the songs, composed by Julian Butler, who is also the musical director for the show, has aimed for that fun 60's "Hairspray/Little Shop Of Horrors" feel in the songs.

Four actors play all the main and secondary parts, Mrs Lambchop (Helen Woolf), Mr Lambchop (Christopher Barlow), Arthur (Adam Ryan) and Stanley (Sam Hallion).

"Flat Stanley" is a nice Christmas alternative to pantomime or to occupy any youngster to Grandparents for an hour in the run up to Christmas itself.

You can see this magical show at Lakeside's Djanogly theatre until Christmas Eve, Wednesday 24 December 2014. Tickets are still available for all shows.

Friday, 12 December 2014

WHITE CHRISTMAS
Lace Market Theatre
If you need any excuse to get you into a Christmassy mood then the Lace Market Theatre's production of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" will do just that.
The original 1954 film starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen,and was loosely based on the 1942 film Holiday Inn, about two soldiers, Bob Wallace and Phil Davies, who after leaving the army go on to have a career in showbusiness. They meet The Haynes Sisters en route to The Columbia Inn for their Winter Show and decide to tag along. When they get there they discover that the owner of the Inn is no other than their old army General, who is a better General than he is an Inn keeper, so decide to help raise some badly needed funds for the Inn,
To start with I thought the lack of scenery may detract from the show but you soon forget that and get carried along like a snowdrift with the magic of the show and the cast.
Paul Johnson plays the Bing Crosby role of Bob Wallace, decidedly Grinch like to start with but the ice melts when he meets, and gets to know Betty Haynes (Jackie Dunn). Paul's vocals start tentatively but soon warmed up and while there is no other Bing, Paul's voice is very pleasant to listen to. Jackie owns a gorgeous set of vocal chords with a style so reminiscent of the period the film is set in, just listen to her sing "Love You Didn't Do Right By Me".
Chris Moseley is an ideal casting as the Danny Kaye character, Phil Davies, the one with the roving eye for any lovely lady who crosses his path, and for me had the stronger voice of the Davis and Wallace partnership.
Keeping Davies in check is the other Haynes sister, Judy, played by Lucy Bailey, matching Jackie's voice beautifully in songs like "Sisters".
Some lovely supporting roles from Gareth Morris as Ralph Sheldrake, who almost managed to wreck a lovely relationship between Betty Haynes and Bob Wallace, but came good in the end. Daniel Bryant was great at keeping up the old army etiquettes as General Henry Waverley who also occasionally showed his softer side.Elizabeth Rieley as the spotlight hungry Granddaughter of the General brought a smile to our faces with her attempts to shine as a performer, and Elizabeth has a lovely voice too.
My "star" of this show though, and it is a tight battle for that title has to be Alison Hope as the General's right hand woman who practically ran The Columbia Inn, Martha Watson. What a beacon of talent, so natural for this part and what a great voice she has also, Fiesty, not afraid to stand up to the general and such a wonderful character that everyone warmed to her.
You will be surprised how many songs you know from this musical. "Blue Skies", "Sisters". "Let Yourself Go", "Let Me Sing A Happy Song","How Deep Is The Ocean" and of course the title track.
Lisa Lee, the choreographer, did a brilliant job with the dance routines and especially the tap numbers. The costumes for everyone were the epitome of class, style and sophistication from the 1950's, all adding to the classiness of the production.
A large cast, twenty two on stage, which featured several well known faces from the various Nottingham stages, provided such a heart warming production that not even the cold weather outside could cool. The Lace Market Theatre are not known for musicals, in fact I think this is the first one that I had seen there, but I don't know why because, based on the musical talent on show, I'm hoping that this will start the musical ball rolling and we will see more in 2015.
"White Christmas" is on at The Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 20 December 2014 but tickets are selling like hot mince pies.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

"RENT" at Bilborough College

I have been going to see the annual Bilborough College production for the last three years and every year gets better and more professional, and this year is no different, in fact it is the best production Bilborough College have staged.Apart from the niggly sound problems in places where it was a little difficult to hear the singers over the live music, this has to be the most polished  show I have seen here.

It will always be an issue when the live band is at the back of the theatre and the stage is at the front, because depending on where you sit, the sound to singer ratio will vary and the only way that can be resolved is to have the band where the singers are. The recorded backing track music though worked well with the vocalists because there was that option to reduce the backing track volume if needed.

That tiny criticism aside I can truly say that I really enjoyed "Rent". It has always been one of my most liked musicals with a  great storyline which, although is bleak in parts is proper true grit. Dealing with death, homelessness, Aids, poverty, promiscuity, transvestism and drugs it's no Oscar Hammerstein feel good production but it's good to have that dark alternative.

The cast really got to grips with the sometimes intricate melodies and key changes and there were some really strong vocals from the likes of Dan Scott as Roger Davis, who also plays guitar in the musical and does so left handed. He shows real passion when he sings to his on stage girlfriend, Mimi Marquez,played by Catherine Davies.

Marina Papadopoulis as Maureen Johnson really shows off her vocal abilities with the quasi comical "Over The Moon" and Joel Walker as Mark Cohen, the young film maker and the narrator throughout managed to keep that Noo Yoik accent throughout so well.

There is a lot of comedy in "Rent" mostly provided by Angel, the transvestite lover of  Tom Collins, but there is a very emotional section where Angel dies in Collins' arms. Both parts played superbly by George Dawes (Angel) and Harkiran Sahota (Collins).

Joanne Jefferson, the lesbian lover of Maureen, is very charismatically played by Ruth Paige and also shows off her vocals to the best of her ability when duetting with Joel on "Tango Maureen", just one of the many musical highlights in this musical.

Gareth Ellis completes the main characters playing Benny, the landlord of the property they are not paying rent for.

You can really feel the emotion in songs like "Seasons Of Love", probably the best known song from the musical and this received the loudest applause, apart from the final bows. Although the songs may not be so well known there really are some wonderful modern gems in there. Songs like "One Song Glory", the double entendre laced "Light My Candle", "Santa Fe", "I'll Cover You" and "Take Me Or Leave Me".

The sets are sparse, which ties in well with the struggling lifestyle of the young Bohemian artists of "Rent", but this also means that when there are scene changes, these are done with the minimum of fuss and also means that there are no distractions from the story and actors and keeps the action moving smoothly.Ably directed by Harris Allan

This modern musical is well worth going to see at Bilborough College and you can still just about get tickets for Thursday 11th and Friday 12th December 2014.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
Nottingham Theatre Royal

There is glamour, glitter and gloss galore in the Theatre Royal panto The same as any other year but for some reason this year seems to be a notch up from the last few years and I can't put my finger on why this is. It is great entertainment with a wonderful cast of Lesley Joseph as the Wicked Queen and Sam Attwater as Prince William of Wollaton, the good looking hero of the story. Emilie Du Leslay plays Snow White. Fast becoming regular Theatre Royal performers are Andrew Ryan as Nurse Nelly who got so many costume changes, I lost count but each one more outrageous than the last, and of course Ben Nickless, this year as "Muddles".

Ben and Andrew make a wonderful pairing for comedy, Ben's style being reminiscent of many of the comedy greats from years gone by like Freddie Starr in Ben's Elvis send up section, and Joe Pasquale with many other comedic titbits. Mssrs   Nickless and Ryan not only manage to keep the kids basic humour flowing but also manage to go just above the kids heads and entertain us older kids as well. No mean feat but with their years of entertainment behind them, they make it appear so easy to do.

Lesley is deliciously evil, goading the audience by criticising local areas such as Radford, Mansfield and Clifton but always remembering to not take herself to seriously in her evil role. Sam can carry a song and manages the simple choreography deftly enough, but doesn't push any boundaries for him. Oh there is also appearances by fellow "Bird Of A Feather" Linda Robson as the voice in the mirror, highlighting Lesley's comic timing in these scenes.

For some reason the role of Snow White didn't really stick out for me and I found Lesley's Wicked Queen the most watchable character of all of them, but hey you can't have Snow White the panto without Snow White can you?

Slightly disappointing was the fact that none of the dwarfs were dwarfs. They were seven actors on their knees. Maybe they are in short supply?

The special effects were brilliant though and it really was quite scary when the Evil Witch rose from the ground and appeared to drift out over the audience, as too did the dragon!

Great choreography, lighting and effects, but the sound from the live orchestra, directed by Allan Rogers was at times a little on the loud side and sometimes drowned out Sam's singing, so that may have needed a tweak or two and pulled back, but all in all a really enjoyable panto. My personal main highlight was Lesley, Sam, Ben and Andrew performing, what is now a regular feature in the Theatre Royal pantos, the "12 Days Of Christmas" with that little extra from the props department.As the song goes, you will leave the theatre feeling "Happy".

"Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 11 January 2015.
ROBIN HOOD AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD by People's Theatre Company.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

What a lovely sight to see, a theatre almost packed and what great entertainment was provided by The People's Theatre Company, Written and directed by Amanda Hall, this script is not only very funny, topical and regional but also very camp, which, let's face it, is what panto is all about, and it was great to see everyone in the cast embracing the "campness".

The evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Mike Newbold) has decided to kill the babes to get his hands on the money that he would inherit from their death but it's Robin Hood, played by PTC newcomer Sean Goodwin, who saves the day and gets to marry the lovely Maid Marian (Ellie Monterossa) into the bargain and they all live happily ever after.

Sean manages to bring out the arrogant in Hood but, due to Sean's good looks, the ladies fall under Hood's spell and he makes for a wonderful hero who does not take himself too seriously, especially when singing "Men In Tights" with his merry men.Sean also sorted out the fight choreography as well!

Adam Monk plays Will Scarlet, one of the merry men who, again is not afraid to ramp up the camp, and Peter Newman, like Adam, always looks like he is having a ball on stage which helps everyone watching enjoy the performance, like some kind of osmosis, Peter plays Little John who also gets his girl in Lady Catherine (Catherine Cunningham).

I know that I was not the only one who appreciated the evilness of The Sheriff, as played with true evil delight by Mike and he really got the audience boo-ing, along with his slightly less evil henchmen "Muck" and "Rake" played by Christine Boothe and Danielle Hall respectively, both getting the crowd to boo as well as laugh at their escapades.

Mike Pearson dons a frock or two this year as Nurse Goodbody and as always a big crowd pleaser with whatever role he undertakes. I am surprised that this is his first time in high heels and dresses as he makes a really good dame. Watch out Gavin Alston.

Oh and then there is the lovely Laura Thurman as "Silly Billy", who while being one of the main characters, seems to have been omitted from the programme. I know that Laura is so passionate about panto and theatre, and this really shows with her boundless enthusiasm within every role I have seen her perform.

Keeping the story going throughout and spreading her fairy dust is Sophie Petruccio as our fairy narrator, always a welcome addition to any production.

There are no "sore thumbs" here and it would take me forever to praise all the cast but I feel I must mention one more, and that is little Ruben Lawlor-Leckie who played one of the babes, River. Such confidence for one so young, a joy to watch.

Sound wise you could hear absolutely everyone and everything, great lighting and visual effects, pyrotechnics, smoke, the whole lot thrown in here, matching the professionalism of any panto in Nottingham this year.

There is a great mix of tunes from the Morecambe and Wise signature tune, "Bring Me Sunshine" to musical hits like "For Good" from "Wicked" and the song of the panto 2014/2015 period, Pharrell Williams' "Happy". This being in all three pantos this year. And I must not forget the amazing work Jessica Royce has done with the choreography. With that amount of cast on stage, I imagine that this was no easy job.

All pantos have upped their gain this year and the overall feel of the People's Theatre  Company panto is that it is even more slicker, smoother and pacier than last year.

Another massive hit for Amanda and all of her crew and actors, and if you want to see what really goes into producing a panto of this impeccable quality, watch BBC4 on Monday 22 December 2014 at 9,25pm and watch "Pantomime" which goes behind the scenes of the People's Theatre Company panto of 2012.

"Robin Hood and The Babes In The Wood" is on at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 21 December 2014

Saturday, 29 November 2014

"SLEEPING BEAUTY"
Nottingham Playhouse

You can always tell when Christmas is just around the corner with the heralding of the Nottingham Playhouse pantomime,and I won't cut any corners here, but in my humble opinion, I think Kenneth Alan-Taylor has written the best pantomime that there has ever been for the Playhouse. Every little thing about "Sleeping Beauty" is perfect, and I have seen a good many pantos at the Playhouse.

All the regular panto family are here with the welcome addition of Jonny Fines as Prince Alexander whose kiss has the gift of life for Princess Rosalind (Kelly Edwards).

One of the hardest jobs in the theatre is to go on first and warm up the audience and Jerry The Jester (Tim Frater) got the audience going with the typical panto fare, and also introduced King Hubert, played by the wonderful facially expressive Anthony Hoggard. In turn he introduced us to his wife Queen Gertrude (Rebecca Little), Rebecca and Anthony are a wonderfully believable pairing and bounce off each other beautifully, and that is the joy of working with each other on many occasions because everything seems so very natural between them, as well as the other cast members.

John Elkington provides the "common touch" as Nurse Tilly Trott and trots out many of the old favourite jokes that he has delivered over the years, but as he said, that is what is expected and what we love at the Playhouse, and they still get the laughs, so why not! As dame of the panto he also gets several amazing costume changes.

The lovely Francesca Ellis plays good fairy as Fairy Wisheart and displays her gorgeous vocal talents at the end, with her version of "Let It Go" from "Frozen". lovely to look at and lovely to listen to as well.

And where there is a good fairy, there is always an evil counterpart and Hannah Whittington plays Maleficent, magnificently evil, deserving of all the "boos" and "hisses" she received.

So to the lovestruck couple, the Prince and Princess for whom the story revolve around and it's nice to see a male actor play the Prince, where sometimes there is a female actor take on the role, so thank you Sir Kenneth (well let's face it, it should be for services to the theatre!), for keeping it realistic.

Jonny Fines, in his first panto appearance at The Playhouse, won the audience over with his good looks, athletic moves and singing voice. Kelly's good looks also made her an archetypal Princess, but with that modern swag about her.

There is the usual mix of songs, old and new, a few borrowed from other musicals, a nod to Morecambe and Wise as well as some shameless promotion for next year's panto and the wonderful "Forever Young" which you can see from 29 January 2015 (and I recommend that one as well).

Music was provided live by "uncle" Johnny Morton and the band, crystal clarity of sound by Adam P Macready, wonderful lighting effects from lighting designer Jason Taylor all add to the experience you will have at the Playhouse. The costumes were, as usual, over the top and colourful, exactly how they should be and some very tightly choreographed sections by Adele Parry.

There are many new jokes, topical as always, and the whole show just seemed to be so fresh and alive. The other pantos in Nottingham this year have a high benchmark to reach with "Sleeping Beauty" as this is everything you want from a family pantomime.

"Sleeping Beauty" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 17 January 2015

Thursday, 27 November 2014

MURDER FOR THE ASKING by The Beeston Players
Roundhill School, Beeston

Written by Derek Benfield, this is one of the best murder mysteries I've seen since the Thriller Season by Tabs Productions at the Nottingham Theatre Royal, and the cast of The Beeston Players ramp up the tension on this stylish thriller.

The scene is set in the front room of Henry and Dora Scrubb, a young married couple who are going through a bit of a financial drought, and with only Dora working, the pressure is on Henry to get a job and resume being an equal partner in the marriage. When he is offered three thousand pound for just one night's work he, at first turns it down flat, especially when he finds out from James Franklyn what exactly is expected of him, but is this offer just too tempting for Henry to turn down?

Set in 1966, the set and the props are spot on, a job well done by props person, Jane Braithwaite and set designers Sam Williams and Steve Rowlinson. A nice touch as well with the music played at the start and interval, also being of the same period.

Mitchell Robbins plays the man with the life changing decision to make, Henry Scrubb, I've tossed it over in my mind whether Mitchell is a brilliant actor, coming over as nervous, uncomfortable, edgy and cagey as Scrubb, or whether he was nervous, uncomfortable and on edge, I'd like to think it was the former.Whatever, it worked.

Laura Webster is Dora Scrubb, the faithful "stand by your man" wife, but how far can Dora's faith stretch? I loved the naturalness of Laura's acting, but I just wasn't convinced of Henry and Dora attachment as a married couple, could be first night nerves.

Ian Greatorex was the actor I felt most comfortable with as James Franklyn and although this character was only in the play for a short while, it's quality and not quantity of the character that shone through here.

There were other stand out performances from Noreen Boyle as the "ever present" neighbour who had some lovely amusing lines to deliver. And then Alison Williams who played Detective Sergeant Thatcher, the "copper" who doggedly interrogated Henry and also provided, as in all the best murder mystery thrillers, the final twist in the tale!

There were a couple of support characters to flesh out the story in Mrs Rita Franklyn
(Abbie Maddison) and Fred Pender (Kai Robbins), who although, as with Mr Franklyn, only appear for a short while, they are so relevant to the plot, as we learn with the big reveal.

The tension and nervous energy are well contained, which shows just a small part of Barbara Barton's expertise as director of the play. A play I'm sure that she relished getting her directorial teeth into.

But it's not just the actors who made the night so enjoyable because our master of ceremonies for the evening provided some light heartedness at the start and in the interval, and the Front of House staff were helpful and friendly, showing what a great all round team The Beeston Players have.

"Murder For The Asking" is on at Roundhill School until Saturday 29 November 2014

Thursday, 20 November 2014

"MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING" by Riverside Drama Company
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton

One of Shakespeare's finest comedies was done justice by The Riverside Drama Company, although I felt there were a few lines omitted, whether that's by editing or maybe first night  nerves I don't know, but nevertheless non detracting to the play and the enjoyment of it.

It is basically a love story with comedy lines scattered liberally throughout and although you may not understand all of the script, romanticism and poetry of Shakespeare, the acting ensures that you can follow the story from start to finish. This is not meant to take away from this play the twists and turns of the rich story line and the clever script.

Basically Benedick (Paul Norris), secretly likes Beatrice (Lizzie O Hara) but is too macho, or maybe proud, to reveal his affections, especially in front of his friends and townfolk of Messina. Through their friends, who drip feed them both with tips of the other's feelings to each other, they realise that, maybe they are made for each other.

Throw into the mix a sub plot where Antonio (Adam Richmond) is to marry Hero (Donna Chin),but through rumours ditches her at the altar, and then  advised that she had died due to his actions, only to discover that this wasn't really true and ended up marrying her after all.

Ah yes It's like a good old fashioned soap story, maybe William Shakespeare was one of our original soap writers! Let's face it, the storylines are all there.

There are some wonderfully comical performances from Paul Norris, Lizzie O Hara,Pete Renton ( Dogberry), Gary Peake (Borachio) and Adam Richmond with some clever use of the stage props, especially the table and floral decorations.

Martin Holtom, the director, must have had some fun with this production, as with all of the cast, Adam at times unable to stifle a chuckle and a smile. With the play set in 1935 there are some very stylish costumes for all of the cast to adorn themselves.

For anyone who has a notion that Shakespeare is just a little on the dull side, well pop along to the Duchess Theatre and take in a rather good, comical piece of literature which will make you smile and change your outlook on the Bard, I guarantee it you will enjoy it.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is being performed at The Duchess Theatre until Saturday 22 November 2014

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

HAPPY JACK
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre

"Happy Jack" is a play about Jack and Liz Munroe which starts at the end of their lives and, through a variety of scenes, work back to when they first arranged their first date taking in their wedding, honeymoon and birth of their son among other highlights of their lives.

Jack was a miner and Liz was in "service" and set in the mining village of Upton in West Yorkshire, you can expect a down to earth play depicting "real" people, living a real, some would say normal life, or in other words "working class". They may look to the outside world as not being a couple in love, but for all the shouting, arguing and sniping you can still see a glimmer of the love they hold for each other, and that is a lovely thing to behold.

John Godber is rapidly becoming one of my favourite playwrights, having experienced "Bouncers", "Teechers", "Men Of The World" and now "Happy Jack" in the last couple of years thanks to the various drama and theatre companies in the area.

Godber has this lovely way of transcribing real life people and their foibles, eccentricities, language and normalness into amazingly enjoyable plays like those mentioned. One of our great observationalists.

With this in mind you will find Liz and Jack's characters easy to warm to because you will recognise them both in your own family members or people you know. There are some lovely emotional sections and a whole lot of comedy scenes and Nic Adams and Carole Parkinson encapsulate the characters beautifully. You won't have to spend time getting to know the characters because you already know them in your own circle of friends.

The direction, by Beverley Anthony, was inspiring, using more than just the given area of the stage, Beverley placed our couple within the audience and outside of the upstairs performance area.

Nice use of lighting to evoke emotion, especially at the close of the first part and to make you feel that you were in the cinema with them in the second half.

Nic and Carole drew all the joy and sorrow from Godber's script as well as the Yorkshire accent, which got stronger, especially in the case of Jack, the younger he became and further through the play we got. An excellent piece of casting.

This is one lovely and warm play which will make you laugh out loud and at times make you well up emotionally, another great trait of Godber's to be able to get the emotion of working class people to affect his audience.

It was practically a sell out tonight so get your tickets fast as "Happy Jack" is only on until Saturday 22 November 2014 at the Lace Market Theatre

Saturday, 15 November 2014

INTO THE SHADOWS
Nottingham Arts Theatre

For anyone who loves the sound of the Shadows twang, the Hank Marvin Stratocaster and Fender, the drumming of Meehan or Bennett, then you would have loved the show put on by Into The Shadows, Unfortunately only 35 people turned out to witness an evening of classic instrumentals and Cliff Richard classics.

John Haden on rhythm guitar also provided the vocals for the Cliff numbers, Colin Evans drummed up a storm, especially on classics such as "Apache", John Clayton provided some chunky bass lines, showing his prowess on the jazzy "Nivram" and finally creating that Hank twang was Rob Fellows on lead guitar, with too many highlights to choose from.

Into The Shadows played so many of Cliff and The Shadows songs and mixed it up nicely with the well known hits as well as some album tracks, B sides and rarities, proving they knew their stuff with some educational historic facts along the way. I enjoyed the backdrop showing some of the old Cliff and the Shadows single labels, album covers, old clips from films and stills, giving you something to watch while your ears enjoyed the brilliantly recreated music of the 60's and the occasional stray into the 70's.

Music quality wise it was crystal clear thanks to "sound guy" Paul Spicer. A really professional approach to the show had the four musicians dressed in suits and even a slight sound hitch during "Guitar Tango" with Rob's guitar did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the small audience. The only downer was the temperature in the theatre which all four of the guys took comical swipes at, but many a true word said in jest,and it really was cold in there tonight.

If Into The Shadows venture from the West Midlands to the East Midlands again, and you are a fan of quality music of the Shadows variety, please make sure that you support them and get a ticket, because you will definitely get your money's worth with this show.

Friday, 14 November 2014

"OH WHAT A NIGHT THE FRANKIE VALLI AND THE FOUR SEASONS STORY"
by The New Jersey Boys
Nottingham Arts Theatre

Well, the title said it all "Oh What A Night", and what a night was had by all who saw The New Jersey Boys tonight on their first visit to Nottingham. You will not see a tribute band with these lads, but a tribute to the brilliant music of Frankie Valli, the Four Seasons as well as some of the big hits of the 1960's and 70's, plus a brilliant version of "Nessun Dorma" from one quarter of the New Jersey Boys, Einar Vestmann who also performed the falsetto parts of the show.

From the very opening of the show, which set the scene of the 60's by tripping down memory lane to the final arm waving, hand clapping, hip swaying singalong of "Sweet Caroline", this show is pure entertainment with some great comedy bits from Gary Gould who also provides a history lesson of Frankie and co, entertaining and educational as well.

There are several solo performances from Einar, ex West End "Oliver", Ricky Lee White and Gary, as well as some excellent harmonies from all four. All the big hits are here and more, covering their early period through to the Northern Soul "The Night" and Frankie's solo hits such as "Fallen Angel", "My Eyes Adored You" and "Grease" and their 70's disco period of "Who Loves You", "We Can Work It Out" and of course "December '63".

Great showmanship, brilliant entertainment with their audience involvement and a really nice touch at the end of the night when all four made their way to the foyer to thank everyone for coming down. I am sure that this is the first time that I have seen this happen, giving their audience the chance to say "hello" and chat and have their pictures taken. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble for the four of them.

If you get the chance to see The New Jersey Boys, then take it because you will have a great night of entertainment

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

TOP HAT
Nottingham Theatre Royal

The musical is based on the 1935 film of the same name with music by Irving Berlin and it is so good to see that the producers have decided to stay true to the original.

Set in the same year as the film was made, 1935 and is the story of Jerry Travers, an American dancer, played in the film by Fred Astaire and in this touring production by Alan Burkitt. Travers travels to London to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick (Clive Hayward), Travers meets and attempts to impress Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch) to win her affection.Dale mistakes Jerry for her friend's husband, Horace, but after some comical interaction with Madge Hardwick, Jerry and dress designer Alberto Beddini, who she agreed to marry, it all comes good in the end and she weds Jerry and they all live happily ever after.

Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch recreate the glamorous choreography of Astaire and Rogers, with Charlotte performing some pretty impressive high kicks which highlighted those wonderful long legs of hers.

Burkitt, albeit fairly unknown, shone through every scene, and a worthy replacement for Tom Chambers who performed from 2011 to early 2014.

Some great comedy lines woven throughout the show and a brilliant comedy performance from John Conroy, who played Bates, Hardwick's man servant, who took on several different guises throughout the musical.

Another comedy character is Beddini, the dress designer who fell for Dale and proposed marriage to her at her lowest ebb. Beddini was played by Sebastien Torkia.

Glamour was everywhere and there were some amazing costumes on show for the ladies and dinner jackets for the men. And boy did those costumes look great on Rebecca Thornhill (Madge Hardwick) and Charlotte. The costumes were designed by Jon Morrell.

Not only were the costumes amazing, but so were the sets, reflecting the decadence of the 1930's jet set and designed by Hildegard Bechtler. It was just like watching one of those extravagant Hollywood films where no expense was ever spared. Glamour, glitz, suave sophistication, and oh, the dance routines. If you remember having a kaleidoscope as a kid and looking into it and seeing a perfect replica of the one image, all performing the same moves at the same time, well this was just like the dancing for "Top Hat". So tight and perfectly performed by the large ensemble. a tribute to the brilliant choreography of Bill Deamer.

Smooth scene changes which also gave way to scenes of the aeroplane flight, as well as the plane landing, and the imagery of split screen where you can see not only Travers dancing at front of stage but the image of him being in the apartment above at the same time which caused the lovely Dale to first meet Travers due to his dancing keeping her awake. All very clever!

What I also loved was the way the orchestra and the arrangements seemed to creep up on you, complementing the singing, making the music mix sound spot on, a great job done by the man with the magic baton, Chris Walker, who also arranged all of the beautiful music.

So many brilliant Irving Berlin songs are featured in this show, "Puttin On The Ritz", "Putting All My Eggs In One Basket", :Isn't This A Lovely Day"."Top Hat White Tie and Tails", "Cheek To Cheek" and "Let's Face The Music And Dance" being just a few.

So, for an evening of top class entertainment, top dancing, top tunes and top fun, go and see "Top Hat" at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 15 November 2014

Monday, 3 November 2014

THE PILLOWMAN
Lace Market Theatre

The Pillowman by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh tells the tale of Katurian, a fiction writer living in a police state who is interrogated by two, possibly unhinged, policemen about the gruesome content of his short stories, and their similarities to a number of bizarre child murders occurring in his town. When he hears that his "slow" brother Michal has confessed to the murders and implicated Katurian, he resigns himself to his execution but attempts to save his stories from destruction, but then comes the twist!

The set is oppressive and slightly "1984" style with a futuristic tinge and resembles an asylum with it's completely brilliant white set, simply and effectively created by Kareena Sims, who seems to wear many hats in the production of this particular play.

I loved the lighting effects, again simple but oh so effective to create just that right amount of menacing atmosphere.We have Hugh Philip and his assistants to thank for this.

The four main actors are all excellent in creating a "nervous" and "anxious" atmosphere, Matthew Hunt as Katurian is thrown about the set, kicked and slapped into eventual submission in quite a brutal manner by his two police captors, Tupolski, played with a menacing cool by Richard Holmes and Ariel, the self appointed "good cop" in this good cop/bad cop situation, played by Adam Worton. But it is the violent Ariel who delivers the majority of the violence towards Katurian.

Michal, the "slow to learn" brother of Katurian is played sublimely by Ajay Stevenson. This role could so easily have been played really over the top but Ajay reigned this in suitably, which really created a very believable Michal.

There are two other characters who appear for a very short while played by Oana Ionescu and Valentin Ruscan who are just credited as "Girl" and "Man".

While the subject matter of this play may not be the subject of the next big musical, it is very entertaining with a lot of comic lines, and while the violence and language is not for the easily shocked, you will enjoy this play if you like the black comedy art form.

As usual for the Lace Market Theatre, they have taken one of those not so well known plays and have brought it to the attention of the theatre loving audience of Nottingham, and I for one salute that choice.

"The Pillowman" is performed at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 8 November 2014

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

ANNIE by Nottingham Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal

If you want to get those Christmassy juices flowing then this musical will do it for you, for several reasons. Not only the finale with the big Christmas Tree, snow, lights and presents but for that lovely warm feeling inside that this wonderful musical will leave you with, as you vacate the theatre.

"Annie" is the story of the little orphan who was dumped on the steps of an orphanage in 1922. Fast forward to 1933 and Annie has had enough of orphan life and decides to run away from the horrendous Miss Hannigan, who is in charge of the place. This escape fails and she is brought back by the police, but that is when her fortunes change and she is invited to stay with the billionaire Oliver Warbucks. Warbucks wants to adopt Annie but Annie wants to find her real parents. With the help of Oliver Warbucks, the truth is revealed about her past, and where her future lies.

There are two "Annies" taking turns to be orphaned this week and I saw Tilly Greentree on the opening evening performance, but knowing of the other Annie, Rosie Bentham, I know that whichever young actress you see, you will be in for a treat. Tilly has a beautiful clear voice and has great stage presence with just the right amount of cheek and attitude, appropriate to the role.

I have seen a few different performances of "Annie" and therefore a few different Miss Hannigans. I have seen Su Pollard playing Miss Hannigan and I have also seen Ruth Madoc playing Miss Hannigan. Tonight I saw Miss Hannigan played by Kate Williams.

Now for the eagle eyed readers you may have noticed a slightly different wording there, and this is deliberate because, while I have seen well known names being Miss Hannigan, tonight I saw Miss Hannigan as she should be portrayed. Not as the lush or the comedy characterization of someone who disliked the orphan kids, but the Miss Hannigan who leans more towards Cruella DeVille who likes a drink. A subtle difference between the Nottingham Operatic Society (NOS) version and any other version, and for me, Kate Williams played the role just right. the best Miss Hannigan I have ever seen. Not forgetting that Kate has a cracking voice as well as providing some marvellous facial expressions for the role!

Oliver Warbucks was played with just a slightly softer edge than some portrayals I have seen, and the perfect person to play this role was NOS regular, Simon Theobald, who actually decided to have his head shaved for his art as opposed to wearing a skull cap. Another actor with a wonderful voice and the light and shade of his singing tones are lovely to listen to.

Another character who I can't remember sticking out for me in any other production I have seen was Grace Farrell. She is the secretary to Warbucks, who sought out  the orphan to spend Christmas with him. Emma Shute played Grace and  think I will remember Emma for a while. Gorgeous to look at and what a beautiful voice.

Some sterling performances from Drew Dennis as Rooster, one of the baddies of the play and Alice Hands, as Lily, Rooster's partner in crime.

And then there are the kids. What gusto! What enthusiasm! What confidence! What voices! Such a strong team of young actors who in a few years will see some, if not all of them taking lead roles in musicals, I can see it now!

Not forgetting Sandy the dog, played by Whiz. The tail said it all. He/she seemed so happy to be taking part in "Annie" and the audience adoration (or should that be appaws) echoed around the walls of the theatre. This must have been a trip down memory lane for Whiz as he/she was unwanted by a previous owner and was adopted but that story also had a happy ending.

The songs you will know, "Tomorrow", "It's A Hard Knock Life" and "Maybe" as well as a song that I couldn't recall from past productions, "New Deal For Christmas"

Great sets, on point choreography from Lisa Lee, a wonderful orchestra under the direction of Stephen Williams, some smooth scenery and prop changes from the backstage crew all went to make this one of the best musicals I have seen at the Nottingham Theatre Royal for a while. Total professionalism from every one involved, whatever their age. It felt like I was watching a cinematic version of a big Hollywood blockbuster musical it was all so smooth and glossy, and you really could appreciate the hard work the Nottingham Operatic Society, as always in my experience, put into their shows.

"Annie" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 November 2014

Monday, 27 October 2014

ANYTHING GOES by Beeston Musical Theatre Group
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

I am a sucker for a happy ending and with this musical you get three weddings and no funeral. You know you can't go wrong with the wonderful word craftsman that is Cole Porter. There's a whole bunch of classics like "It's DeLovely". "Friendship". "Easy To Love" "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "You're The Top". "The Gypsy In Me" and of course the title track for you to choose from to hum as you leave the theatre, which makes a change as many musicals only have one song that sticks in the mind to spill out into the streets to.

Making his directorial debut for BMTG was Nathan Truesdale who can say that he started at  the top as this production is, as the song says "The Tops", swift moving, funny, great tap and dance routines choreographed by Rachael Rees and a wonderfully swinging live band led by musical director Chris Toon, all adding to an excellent cast of singers and hoofers.

I will highlight some of the actors but everyone in this large cast were just amazingly good. I adored Andrea Chapman as Reno, lovelorn for Billy but she got her man in the end, but not the one that she had thought at the start. Some great costumes for Reno, and in fact for all the girls, what class and the sexiest Evangelist I have ever seen!

Billy Crocker was played by Rob Charles, looking ever younger in the wig for the part.His voice has grown stronger from his last BMTG production of "Jukebox" and may I say, these songs really suited his voice, some nice falsetto work there mate and a classy romantic leading  man role. For those who do not know the musical, Billy is in love with Hope, who is on board to marry her typically English suitor Lord Oakleigh,True love never runs smoothly but Billy gets his gal in the end.

Hope, is played by the gorgeous Zoe Brinklow, who also gets some amazing costumes to wear, and Lord Oakleigh almost steals the whole show with his wonderfully eccentric behaviour and typically British persona; all the work of the very talented Kevin Chatten, who had the ladies in the seats next to me chuckling away so much that I had to check whether they had left any wet patches on their seats when they left!

Chris Bryan debuted as a principal in the role of "Moonface", the gangster who befriended Billy and along with his "moll" Erma, played by Steph Gray-Blest made a great comedy pairing.Chris is another strong voice, who you may also catch doing open mic around the area as well.

As I said, these are just a few of the stand out performers that BMTG are lucky to have in their society, but the whole cast work as one, which can be seen especially well with the big tap number.

Just one thing to mention, the spot light seemed to have a bit of trouble finding the actor at times but this didn't detract from the excellent production that The Beeston Musical Theatre Group have to offer all this week until Saturday 1 November 2014.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

SWEENEY TODD by Nottingham Medics
Nottingham Arts Theatre

If you take on a Sondheim musical you need to fully commit and throw every thing you've got into it, and that is what we have in this production, and this was echoed by the full auditorium with the largest and loudest roar I have heard from an audience for a very long time.

They said that they realised it was a challenge but boy did they rise to the challenge, grabbed it by the throat and ran with it.

"Sweeney Todd" as we all know is the story of the barber who went away and then returned to reap his revenge on Judge Turpin who had sentenced him, took in his daughter and sent his wife crazy, Todd slicing the throats of innocent victims along the way.

A large cast which worked so well together that when in their groups did not seem as large as they were due to the blending and working so close with their neighbour, a seamless group of professionalism.

The music, well it is Sondheim, is not the easiest to get your vocal chords around with their intricate key changes and lyrics, clever as they are, but this talented group of medical students just seemed to master it with ease, I know that this won't have been the case but the end product created that image.

And what a brilliant group of musicians under the musical direction of Oliver McCallion. They created a very professional sound, well complemented by the main vocalists. OK maybe not everyone had the best voices and there were just a few bum notes but you know what, that didn't matter because of the massive entertainment value.

Whoever opted for the job in charge of casting wants a medal because the casting was absolutely spot on. "Todd" was brilliantly played with just the right level of menace and malice by Chris Hatchcroft, and what a great musical theatre voice he has, Surprisingly this is his first ever musical, well I hope that it won't be his last.

Mrs Lovett, the pie maker extraordinaire, was played by Fiona Wells, both Chris and Fiona headlining a wonderful and talented cast. Another smooth voice belonged to John Wardlaw as Anthony, the sailor who fell in love with Todd's daughter, Johanna, and rescued her from the asylum. What a beautiful rendition of "Johanna" which had the audience applauding before the music had ended.

Not one bad performer on show here and if the medical side of their intended professions go awry, I feel that they all could branch out into theatre.

In conclusion, this is up there with the other "Sweeney Todd"s that I have seen and you will not be disappointed with this group. If the tickets sell as well as they have done for opening night, well you better get them fast because the rest of the shows could well be a sell out.

"Sweeney Todd" is being performed at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 25 October 2014.

http://www.nottingham-theatre.co.uk/natmain2/index.php/component/natoscar/95?view=show

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

RAMBERT
Nottingham Theatre Royal

Not only do you get one dance performance with this show, you get four, The Castaways, Dutiful Ducks, Sounddance and Rooster.

The show, for me personally, was a bit hit and miss. I enjoyed the first section, "The Castaways" as a group of diverse people  who are spied upon and controlled, so it seems, from a large industrial metal rectangular shaft, a bit like an air vent in a warehouse which delivered parcels every now and again. A touch of the Big Brother there. The dance looks, and I'm not sure if it was meant to, not as synchronised as it maybe should have been, but this didn't last for long as the synchronicity soon kicked in and the pairs soon began to dance as one.

The second dance, after the first break, was short and used a clever multi tracked voice to produce a piece for Adam Blyde to perform some almost tradition ballet moves to, called "Dutiful Ducks". This section was choreographed by Richard Alston, a big name in dance and ballet for anyone who didn't know. A bare stage meant that you concentrated totally on Adam.

Part three was the part which I really could not get my head round. There was no music, only sound effects on what seemed to be a loop which sounded like crickets. I may be wrong but that's what it sounded like. To my untrained eye it just looked like a warm up session at the dance gym and just a touch too contemporary for me.

But come section four which I absolutely loved. Contemporary dance to the music of The Rolling Stones. Absolutely mesmerising and your eyes were glued to the dancers and the stage. their moves told the story of the song and were brilliantly hypnotic. Just a shame that some of the people in the audience didn't decide to stay for this excellent section of the show after the third part.

I imagine that it is entirely up to the individual as to how they decipher the story through dance for all of these sections, and what I understood to be the story may not have been what the person next door gleaned from it. And that is the magic of contemporary dance. What I also imagine may have been in the mind of the choreographer when he dreamt up the individual parts of this entertaining show was to allow the audience member to make of the pieces what they will instead of trying to enforce a certain storyline.

Whatever you think of the dance or the music you cannot take away from the dancers the incredibly structured discipline they go through for their art. Some great costumes and some fine comic moments in "The Castaways"as well as some emotional moves in that "Rooster" section.

Rambert can be seen at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Thursday 23  October

Thursday, 16 October 2014

AN EVENING WITH CARL FROCH
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

The event was staged by Nottingham City Council to present one of Nottingham's top athletes and sporting legend, Carl "The Cobra" Froch with The Honoroury Freeman of The City of Nottingham, which allows Carl to parade his sheep over Trent Bridge, among other things.

The evening started with a visual history lesson of some of Carl's best fights and the unveiling of the Carl Froch tram. The video footage left out his time on "Tumble" and his TV dancing career as well as his guitar playing and no sign of his love of karaoke, so let's stick to the sport, the subject that we know and love "The Cobra" for.

Presented by Radio 5 Live presenter Darren Fletcher, the evening started off a bit shaky with the Lord Mayor of Nottingham repeating the script Darren had just read out as an introduction and then losing his way with the script, we finally got to the presentation and the signing of the official documents, and then what we were all waiting for, the chat with Carl in the middle of the mock up boxing ring on the stage of the Royal Concert Hall.

A fascinating look behind the scenes of some of the big fights, Carl's inner feelings about Hagler, Groves, Kessler, his love of snooker, the legendary Brian Clough, his pre fight rituals and what the future may hold for him, The pride he feels for Nottingham and the fans that have supported him throughout, all pieced together with videos of some of his highlights of his 35 professional fights and his 33 wins.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

WITCHES OF EASTWICK
by Erewash Musical Society

What a devilishly good musical being performed at The Duchess Theatre at Long Eaton by The Erewash Musical Society and what a stroke of genius casting Adam Richmond as Darryl Von Horne, aka the devil himself.

And what a horny little devil he is as well! Arrogant and over confident and self appointed God's gift to the female form, that is Darryl Von Horne, not Adam Richmond. Played with pure (pure?) conviction he cast a spell over the audience as well as the three Eastwick witches, Alexandra ( Alexandra Taverner), Jane (Stephanie Smart) and Sukie ( Rachael Brown).

And there's another spell binding piece of casting, three sexy Witches and a good looking devil! And oh boy does he have a devil of a time with these three once he has them under his spell!

Von Horne who stakes his place as the newcomer of Eastwick and sets out to ruffle the feathers of the Eastwick know all and busy body, Felicia Gabriel ( Gill Cooke) and succeeds with grisly results. Our three Witches feel that things are going too far and decide to give him the collective heave ho, which is when Von Horne decides to seduce Jennifer Gabriel (Gemma Blake), the daughter of the now deceased Mr and Mrs Gabriel, and also the ex girlfriend of Michael Spofford ( Zak Charlesworth). But things do not turn out the way that Von Horne planned on his wedding day.....

An excellent cast and some really catchy songs. I heard a few leaving the theatre singing and humming "Dance With The Devil", some good sets and wow, what costumes for the Witches! (Do you get the impression that I was taken by our three ladies?). Great choreography by Kris Cunningham and a very tight band led by Dave Dallard.

Some witty one liners and clever word play in the script but for me the show was let down just a bit , not by anyone on stage , but by the technical crew. There were sound problems, mainly in the first half but these reared up again in the second half with microphone issues. the lighting was also a bit skewiff with spots sometimes having the actors in shadow or at times no light at all, which having seen the professional production a few years back with Marti Pellow as Von Horne, I know that this wasn't the way the lighting should have been for this musical. Day three and this should not have been an issue!

One other thing that also took the enjoyment off of the evening was the temperature in the theatre. It was so cold in there and they had the fans on. You really should not need to sit in your coat in the theatre to be at a comfortable temperature.

Gripes aside though, this is one hell of a good musical and if I can add just one more thing. I always look at the ensemble and while all of them gave their all, there was one who gave their all plus a bit more and he really stood out for me and I think deserves a mention. I hope that I've got the right actor but Hayden Fletcher, brilliant enthusiasm and oomph every time you were on stage. I think you will go a long way with the attitude you presented.

"Witches Of Eastwick" is at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 11 October.

CALAMITY JANE
Nottingham Theatre Royal

Yeehaaw! y'all. Calamity Jane, that tomboy cowgirl rolls into town and spreads fun and song, and just a little mischief in this "sky highest, smile widest, wild 'n' woosiest western musical of 'em all".

Set mainly in the bar room of The Golden Garter in Deadwood, the regulars want a performance from Adelaide Adams, the beauty depicted on the collectable cigarette cards of the time, and the object of everybody’s affections. Jane is going to ‘Chicargi’ to see her and bring her back with her, after the last act to play The Golden Garter, "Frances Fryer" actually turns out to be Francis Fryer, a male act who is definitely no replacement for the lovely Frances they had been expecting!

Jane is too late to catch Adelaide who has left to tour Europe, and due to a case of mistaken identity she asks Adelaide’s maid Katie, to return to Deadwood with her to perform at The Golden Garter. When Katie's cover is blown due to an onset of nerves, Katie wins over the crowd and stays in Deadwood, and in the process wins the heart of Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin away from Jane. Jealousy kicks in with Jane but there is a happy ever after in the end, for more than Jane.

West End regular Jodie Prenger, plays tomboy Jane and boy does she look like she is having a rooting tooting time of it all, she even gets to snog Wild Bill Hickok, played by Tom Lister. Tom, since being killed off in "Emmerdale" has managed to carve a nice career on stage, having recently been seen in Leicester at The Curve Theatre in "The Water Babies - The Musical" among other things.

Some may have worried about placing an ex soapie like Tom in a musical, but many may not know that Tom is also a might fine singer with his own band called "Edna's Hat", and while the band's repertoire may not be of the musical ilk, he can really hold a note, play guitar and percussion as well while on stage.He makes a pretty convincing line dancer as well!

Most of the cast also provide the music for the show, playing their instruments during the show while acting and dancing. And oh the dancing! Some great choreography here by Nick Winston and a brilliant set design by Matthew Wright.

Some great songs in there like "The Deadwood Stage", "The Black Hills Of Dakota"
"I Can Do Without You", "The Windy City", "Higher Than A Hawk" and of course "Secret Love", sang with great emotion by the wonderful Ms Prenger.

You will leave the theatre with at least one of these songs in your head I promise.

"Calamity Jane" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 11 October 2014

Monday, 6 October 2014

FOR SERVICES RENDERED
Nottingham Lace Market theatre

For Services Rendered is a play by Somerset Maughan. First performed in London in 1932, The play is (apparantly) about the effects of World War I on an English family.The anti-war message was not popular with audiences back then, and the play only ran for 78 performances, which shows that audiences in 1932 probably found the play as entertaining as I did.

I always say that a play has to leave you feeling some kind of emotion by the end, but I'm sorry to say that this play left me feeling nothing but confused. Is confusion an emotion?

The effects from World War 1 was just a minor thread, and I would not have said that this theme was in any way major, more so was the mental state of the middle class Ardsley family. I couldn't really warm to any of Maughan's characters apart from Sydney, the blind son whose wartime service was cut short due to his being blinded in action. Sydney, played by Chris Sims, had some wonderfully cutting lines to deliver. The Downton Dame Maggie of this play and this certainly lifted the slightly depressing feel.

Depressing? Yes There is suicide, unfaithfulness, deceit, greed. Oh my God Thanks to Sydney for the light humour! I'm sorry I just could not get excited about this even though the set was wonderful (I want a living room like theirs complete with the French doors) and the actors really did do their best with what I thought was a pretty drab script. There was one section though where one of the actors broke the fourth wall several times, which was out of character with all of the other characters in the play and raised the play to panto level. Something that should have been picked up maybe in rehearsal by the director.

I also didn't understand the rapid turn of emotions of Eva as one minute she was distraught beyond emotion over the death of one of the characters, and was carted off to her room inconsolable, and the next minute she had got changed and was doing her best impression of a looney with visions of dead people coming back to announce wedding plans. Where was the gradual build up?

I hate to be negative in my reviews but for me, honesty is the key, and these are my own personal views. I just thought that the play was not a strong one and one that should not have been picked at all.The actors performed well, gave their all and looked like they were well into the eccentricities of their characters, but it just was not for me I'm afraid. Go make your own mind up though!

"For Services Rendered" is on at the Nottingham Lace Market theatre until Saturday 11 October 2014

Sunday, 5 October 2014

JOSH KEMP'S AUTUMN SHOWCASE
Springfield Hall, Sandiacre.

Take a group of ridiculously talented singers and a ridiculously talented music tutor and you are guaranteed an evening of musical aural gorgeousness.

Josh Kemp and his band of merry students put on an absolute brilliant evening of song which felt like a virtual hug from a long lost friend. There was music from lesser known musicals like Jason Robert Brown's "Parade" and "13", "Wicked", Sondheim's "Into the Woods", "Miss Saigon", Disney's "Hercules" and the best song from "Ghost The Musical", "With You", sang beautifully by Emma.

Josh also showcased his own little showcase of some of the music that he has been working on including a couple of tracks from his forthcoming Chatterbox E.P. due out at the end of this month called "Stupid Cupid" and "Four Letters". there was also a first airing for a new song from a musical that Josh is working on about the Brothers Grimm, called "Grimm", and if this teaser called "Let Me Go" is anything to go by, I can't wait to hear the full production. All this plus something very special in the form of a six piece harmony choral piece to commemorate the start of the First World War, which was so evocative.

Throw into the mix a beautiful version of Lakme's "The Flower Duet" by Rachel and Emma, a rousing version of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and a slightly nervous version of "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Josh's newest recruits Martin and Meg,Singing in front of a crowd is bound to make any one nervous, and I for one am in awe of anyone who has the guts to do what these lot did tonight, so be proud of what you have done, because I would not have had the guts to!.

So to Jess, Chloe Hopcroft, Graham, Erin, Rachel, Emma, Martin, Meg, Adam Guest, Tom Hopcroft, Becky Morley and Josh Kemp, I salute you and thank you for an amazingly entertaining night of music and the conversations afterwards.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

THE (IN)COMPLETE WORKS OF SONDHEIM
Osker Productions at Antenna Media Centre

I know tonight I must have said how much I love Sondheim soooo many times but I'm afraid it is true, and tonight's one off performance is to raise funds for Musicworks. Musicworks promotes all forms of music events and musicians who wish to perform in any setting. And talking of settings the Antenna Media Centre on Beck Street in Nottingham is a lovely laid back setting for such a wonderful musical tribute.

Stephen Sondheim, for me, is one of the best songwriters and composers of the modern musical era; his music spanning over 50 years. Many may say that they are unaware of Sondheim's catalogue but I bet you're not. He wrote some of the music for "West Side Story", "Gypsy", "Anyone Can Whistle","Follies","A Little Night Music", "Sweeney Todd" and "Into The Woods" among may others. His songs have been recorded by the greats of music like Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins, Sinatra, oh the list is endless.

Sondheim writes with such intricacies, and then again he can pen simple tunes, spanning several genres, something that has kept him at the top of the songwriting ladder.

Tonight's selection spanned the many decades and was delivered so smoothly by Andrew Booth, Shaun Hanrahan, Morven Harrison, Andy McPhee, Cat Orton and Kate Williams with piano accompaniment by Jon Orton, who also provided snippets of information on each song, showing what a fan of the composer he is. By the way the film of "Into the Woods" featuring James Corden, Frances De La Tour, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, is out in the US on Christmas Day  2014 and the British version closely following in the New Year! Thanks Jon!

There were three medleys, put together by Stephen Williams, which stretched the singers with the complexities of Sondheim's works but they all rose to the challenge and came together seamlessly, beautifully and flawlessly.

The evening started off with Andy laying down the etiquette for theatre goers everywhere with "Invocation and Instructions For The Audience" from the musical "The Frogs" ,which I must admit I didn't know was a Sondheim composition, but after listening to it again, has the Sondheim clever word play stamped all over it. Through "Losing My Mind" which was a crossover hit recorded by Liza Minnelli back two decades ago, "Maria" from "West Side Story", "Giants In The Sky" just one of the performed pieces from "Into The Woods", the wonderfully lush "Sooner Or Later" from the film "Dick Tracy" which Madonna sung on the soundtrack, the gorgeous "Broadway Baby" and ending with a luscious medley "In Praise Of Women" paying tribute to the fairer sex.

So much talent in one room and unfortunately not attended by as many people as I would have loved to have experienced it. Maybe the clashing of dates with Goose Fair may have had a small effect on numbers but I know that those who were there loved every single minute of the wonderful music sung by some equally wonderful singers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

THE GREAT GATSBY by Northern Ballet
Nottingham Theatre Royal

Set in  the decadent 1920's, Northern Ballet bring the book written by F Scott Fitzgerald to the Nottingham Theatre Royal stage.

Now I know that just the mention of the word "ballet" will be enough to spin images of men in tights, codpieces and fluffy pink tutus, the women by the way not the men in tutus! But ballet today is a completely different art form and Northern Ballet blend jazz, contemporary, blues,classical and even The Charleston into the musical mix.

The costumes do not have a male pair of tights in sight and dancers wear the classic 20's style costumes, at times bordering on Hollywood glamour,and you can tell that so many of the big Hollywood dance numbers borrowed heavily from ballet, or is that the other way round, the lines here are definitely blurred. There are some wonderful period dances, snappy and full of staccato in the Charleston, and complemented by the wonderful sets, the staging recreates the style of the era.

The music and the dance is sexy, stylish, romantic, comic, entertaining and most of all acts as the narrator of the entire piece, and through the power of dance tell the story from start to its' tragic finish, and who needs words when you can translate story through dance so vividly.

For fans of "Strictly" you can really see what the judges mean when they talk about "extended lines", "upper body positioning and strength","pointing" etc because these dancers show all of this and so much more. They are athletes of dance and own immense core body strength. You can only admire their stamina and control, the delicate way they move into and out of hold, and the trust the female dancers place in their male counterparts as they are spun and tossed in the air like a delicate silk hanky.

Ballet can transport you to a completely different world, can calm and soothe you but can also evoke other emotions as the story unfolds to show violence and physical cruelty. There is something just a little special about going to the ballet because it is now no longer seen as something that the upper classes go to see in their finery and glasses on a stick. Ballet is for everyone and by the looks of the audience, this is confirmed.

The first half of the ballet was, in my opinion, better than the second but that is because the first half held more variety and mood. The second half was more traditional ballet based but was good to show both the fun side and the traditional.

A beautiful sound from the live orchestra seductive and sumptuous sets and some imaginative lighting complete an exciting night of dance with a classic story to boot, or should that be ballet pump?

"The Great Gatsby" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 4 October 2014

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A TASTE OF HONEY
Nottingham Arts Theatre

This classic 1950's book turned play turned 1961 film shows a slice of Manchester kitchen sink drama and was way ahead of it's soap cousins in depicting real no punches pulled real life drama. It's also quite amazing that this was written by a teenager herself in Shelagh Delaney when she was just 18 years old.

The story is of an unmarried mother, Helen, and her teenage daughter, Jo, as they move into a rundown bedsit in Salford in an attempt on Helen's part to escape from her drink obsessed, younger but rich boyfriend, Peter. Peter manages to track Helen down, unaware of Jo's existence, and proceeds to entice Helen back with flattery and a new house and his money and a ring on her finger.

Jo falls pregnant to a black sailor, Jimmy, who she has befriended when Helen and Peter are away over Christmas on their honeymoon, but is left high and dry by the boyfriend, only to be taken under the wing of gay art student friend, Geoffrey. Helen returns and that is when the boat is rocked all over again!

Northern plays are full of grit and volatility and you will find both in bucketfuls in this People's Theatre Production which only runs until this Friday.

Helen is played brilliantly by Deborah Craddock and captures the heart, language and feel of the era as well as being very true to the Dora Bryan film role. Much of the time it shows Helen as a hard faced selfish, alcoholic mother but there are small chinks in the armour which allows a mother/daughter relationship the hope of blossoming, but it is just a hope and nothing really comes of it.

Amy Tutin has played Jo's character in a slightly softer and less hard nosed way than that depicted by Rita Tushingham in the film, which makes her more vulnerable side emerge, which makes you really warm towards her character.

Chris Mercer is the drunken, rich and younger boyfriend to Helen and does a rather good job of revealing Peter's true colours in the second act. A bullying, homophobic alcoholic who likes to get his own way.

And completing the cast is Christopher Collins as Jo's saviour in her time of need, Geoffrey. Only slightly camp but that is good as there could have been, and has in some productions, had a tendency to take the character over the top in the limp wrist stakes, but Chris manages to pull it all back and presented a very believable Geoffrey with a heart of gold.

The play has been adapted and you may notice that there is no Jimmy visible on stage and therefore the Jo/Jimmy relationship is carried out away from the stage.This may, or may not have caused a problem for the director Jessica McLean but it certainly did not detract from the story, or the smooth flow of the play.

The play was written to address social issues that Shelagh felt were not being presented at that time, teenage pregnancy, racism, homophobia, single motherhood, alcoholism, all things that are still around today, so even though this play was written fifty six years ago, the elements are still rife today and that is why this story is a classic piece of theatre.

Please support this play by turning up just a bit earlier so that you can hear the wonderful vocals of Helen Whittle who croons at the start and in the interval, setting the  mood of the period.

"A Taste Of Honey" can be seen at the Nottingham Arts Theatre by The People's Theatre Group until Friday 3 October 2014.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

DAMAGES
Nottingham Lace Market

Staged in the bijou and intimate upstairs space, "Damages" written by Steve Thompson is another one of those little gems of a play that the Lace Market Theatre are so good at finding and staging.And what a little sparkler this one is! It has been a while since I have had the pleasure of watching a play that gives you that "eureka" moment when you get the gist of what the previous sections were actually building up to.It will draw you in and have you eager for the outcome, like unwrapping a parcel in pass the parcel, stripping away the layers to get the eventual goodie at the finale.

Played out in real time,"Damages" is about a newspaper steaming towards its' deadline and the night editor and the journalists deciding which story to run, and especially the front page "splash". They then receive a picture of a topless children's TV star which is guaranteed to be a media smash. But all is not as it first seems and the private, and not so private revelations, after this supposed exclusive are as lascivious as the proposed news story. Good job that they have Abigail, the "legal eagle" on hand to advise, now isn't it?

What an amazingly good cast!

Howard, played by Ian Bennett, is the more than dedicated editor in charge, proof reader, and the calmest of the newspaper staff, staying way past his timeline to make sure the job gets done. Old fashioned and reliable and a complete opposite to the other characters working for the paper.Ian has some great facial expressions, some that show that an expression can replace any number of words in the script. He's likeable even though at first he comes across as Mr Grumpy, this exterior softens with the appearance of Abigail, and he becomes the equivalent of your favourite elder uncle.

Abigail, the legal saviour of the play is played oh so stylishly and knowledgeably by Emma Nash.Bringing sexy back to the legal side of the newspaper, in more ways than one as we discover that that legal advice was not the only thing that Abigail dished out. The recipient of her additional expertise being presented, in the not too distant past, to the "newbie" night editor, Baz, played by Chris Moseley.

Chris plays Baz as the, possibly over eager and hungry to reach the top, Baz. the good looking office person who is always a hit with the ladies, including Abigail, which via this airing of their dirty laundry, exposes something that he may have wished had not been forced into the open, but needing to be revealed for the sake of the story that Lister is adamant on running.

And finally there is Lister, trying to keep the baying of Baz's hunger at bay. There is a really explosive scene which involves Lister really losing it with Baz which is an absolutely brilliantly emotive and explosive part of the play, and is also an excuse for some more revelations from Lister's past. Jason Wrightam plays Lister with fire and in these close surroundings you can feel that fire directed at Baz and you're able to see the veins standing to attention in Jason/Lister's facial expressions.

Each of the four characters will evoke an emotion from you and all are the kind you will find in any high flying and deadline driven environment. Utterly believable and all quite likeable in their own way.

A fascinating play with plenty of laughs, due to the excellent one liners, but is also a play which challenges morality and also provides the viewer with an inside to the newspaper business and its' cut throat behind the scenes actions,and also the legal side of the media, so educational as well as very very entertaining.

"Damages" is on at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 20 September 2014.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

TIME AND THE CONWAYS
by J B Priestley

Priestley has created a host of believable and interesting characters in "Time & The Conways" which if you look closely enough you may recognise some of the characteristics in your own family and friends, which makes this play even more engaging.

The curtain rises on an English country home in 1919 in the midst of a game of charades played by the young Conway family at a birthday party with their friends. Flash forward to 1937 in the same house and the grown children have gathered to discuss family accounts where the atmosphere is not so jolly as in days past. For the Conways, time is dreamlike: their moments together are fleeting, and their destinies are mapped out.

Fans of period dramas such as "Downton Abbey" will love this magical play with its' dream like glances into the future and the past, creating a magical imagery on stage. The costumes are really well placed historically and the sound and lighting expand the stage area to make you believe that in the other room just off stage there is a party in progress.

It's very interesting the way that Priestley shows us how people and their mindset can change with some of the characters performing a complete U turn on their characteristics we see at the start of the play. We quickly realise through this that it is the influences that we allow on ourselves that force the change in the person, and that is not always good!

Louise Jameson, best known for her roles in "Eastenders", "Dr Who" and of course "Tenko" plays Mrs Conway, a woman who is not afraid to say what she thinks and feels and makes for a slightly eccentric head of the family, since the loss of her husband.

There are solid performances from all the actors but I think you will be sold on Scott Turnbull who plays Ernest Beevers, for me the most interesting of the characters and the one who is the farthest removed from the initial character we come to see by the close of the play.I shall not elaborate on why and how but urge you to go and see for yourself.

Not the longest of plays but one which will keep your mind on the stage and thanks to the dream sequences will keep your mind active throughout. It's not a play that you can let flow over you, for fear of missing some of the clever script. While it is not the most serious of plays it is a fascinating view on family life and what makes "the family" tick!

"Time  and The Conways" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 27 September 2014

Saturday, 13 September 2014

MONIQUE HENRY at the Neville Studios
Nottingham Playhouse
After Monique's amazing performance as Deloris in "Sister Act" at the Nottingham Theatre Royal earlier this year, this stripped back guitar and vocals evening was a nice alternative showcase.She had her sass on tonight most definitely!
If you can imagine warm milk chocolate being poured into your mouth, that's the equivalent of Monique's voice being poured into your ears. Smooth, satisfying and so tasty. Monique was accompanied on the guitar by Keiran (apologies to Keiran if that's not the correct spelling of his name), jazzy and a perfect backing for Monique's soulful voice.
Coming from Bulwell myself, I can't remember anyone rising up through the ranks but I'm pinning my hopes on Monique as a fellow Bulwellite to be the next big thing to come from Nottingham and the first breakthrough star from Bulwell. Let's face it if Jake Bugg from Clifton can make it......
Monique started off with a sexy and sassy version of the standard "Why Don't You Do Right" and worked her way through a mix of classy covers from the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Fats Domino, Beyonce, The Korgis and even The Beatles to name several, all rearranged to suit Monique's vocal style. Blend these with some wonderful original compositions, it made for a very entertaining. classy night out.
Although Monique' said that she had a bit of a throat, this did not come across because the sound was just so smooth and clear. Sounding in some places a little like Janet Kay and then in some places like Syreeta, it was very hard to place because Monique Henry has a certain tone to her voice which may borrow from some of the brilliant female soul singers of the past but also has a distinct originality.
The intimate surroundings of The Neville Studios suited Monique down to the ground and she looked so at home as she introduced every song and joked with the audience.
Now all we need is for Monique to put some of those wonderful vocals on to a disc so that we can enjoy her silky voice whenever we feel like chilling out at home...hint hint!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

SHREK
Nottingham Theatre Royal

Shrek is a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. It is based on the 2001 film Shrek and William Steig's 1990 book Shrek!.

Imagine the best bits of all of the best pantos you've been to and that will come close to seeing Shrek. It is bright, colourful, fun and very camp...and I loved it.

The story begins with Shrek telling the audience of his childhood, and how, on his seventh birthday, his parents send him out of their house and into the world to make his living. They warn him that because of his looks, everyone will hate him, and he will not have a happy ending.After saving Princess Fiona from the dragon who had kept her locked in her tower, he delivers her to Lord Farquaad so that he can marry the Princess and become King of Duloc, just so that Shrek can get his marshy home back.On his way he meets many fairytale creatures and of course Donkey who becomes his best mate.

Shrek is an amazingly entertaining musical for just about everyone from 5 to 105, and as in all of the best family shows there is comedy that works on all levels, Most of the "over the heads of kids" lines were delivered by Lord Farquaad, played by Gerard Carey who surely must have one of the hardest jobs combining singing, dancing and acting but on his knees for the majority of the time. but boy is the effect well executed.

Our green hero, Shrek, is played by Dean Chisnall and I shudder to think how long Dean is in make up before the show, and under those lights I imagine there is a lot of sweat shed and pounds lost.

Faye Brooks is Princess Fiona and what a great stage persona she has, instantly likeable, the kind of Princess who doesn't mind having a laugh and a joke with the lads. Proving that she can be a token lad as well in the scene where she and Shrek vie to who has had the hardest time of it of late!!

And then there is Donkey. In the film voiced by Eddie Murphy, and here is camped and ramped up to 10 by Idriss Kargbo.

One of my favourite highlights of the show, and there are many, is the scene with the dragon. Brought to life at the hands of four puppeteers and done so well that you forget that they were there controlling it's every move, and you really believed that this dragon on stage, and it did fill the Theatre Royal stage, was alive.

Technically this could be the best thing I have seen with characters appearing and disappearing seemingly into thin air. Some amazing lighting effects and a very tight twelve piece orchestra, so good that I actually thought the music from the speakers was pre recorded but no way. All credit to the musical direction of Mr Dave Rose.

Music wise this show is almost back to back songs with twenty songs in two and a half hours.150 minutes that seemed more like 15.

The choreography was absolutely spot on. You can tell that this has come from the West End stage, I can't pinpoint it but there is just something about the whole Shrek package that oozes uber professionalism. Take your kids along, take your grandparents along or just go along yourself for an evening (or afternoon) of great fun.

Shrek is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 September 2014, Wednesday to Saturday

Saturday, 6 September 2014

ZAK SCOTT AND FRIENDS
The Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton

A one night only chance to see Zak and some of his talented friends perform to raise money for The Phoenix Project which was set up to maintain and improve The Duchess Theatre after it was burnt down in 2003.

This was a massive project for a 16 year old to organise, as there is so much more than meets the eye to organise and arrange when you are putting on something of this scale.

Knowing Zak as I do, he is a total professional and strives for perfection in all that he does and I know that he would want me to be as honest as I can be in my review, so here goes!

This last week there have been a few things that had to be changed at the last minute for this show. One artists having to pull out which meant a last minute shuffle and filling in of content. Matthew Leigh Biddulph, who was to have been the compere was substituted by David Allen and Matt moved behind the drum kit in the live band.

The show was called Zak Scott and Friends and when your name is the title of the show, this will always add pressure to anyone and with all of the above, and his desire to make this evening a success, I think this affected Zak in the first half of the show, as when he was on stage, he looked nervous and his singing was affected by not hitting the notes that he would normally have hit. Notes were shortened when they should have been held further, but when Zak did hold the notes, the song flowed so much better. As an actor he should have disguised the nervousness that you could see in his eyes,and believe me I have seen Zak act and he is a damn fine actor as well as a fine singer.

Zak needed to stop looking down so much when singing, and smile more, which finally in the second part, he did and boy did that make a difference. Zak came to life when he sung "Electricity" from "Billy Elliott" and he looked like he was finally starting to enjoy being on that stage, and I started to relax as well. His duet in the second half with Oliver Wheddon, of "You and Me" from "The Book Of Mormon" really highlighted Zak's and Oliver's fun side, and they delivered a lovely slice of musical comedy which everyone loved. Zak also delivered, again in the second half, two very emotive performances in "Till I Hear You Sing" from "Love Never Dies" and the final song, which gave me goosebumps, "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables"

Speaking to Oliver, who by the way is only 15, last week, he confessed that he was most worried about the choreography in the show and he did seem to have a bit of a problem with this but hey, not all good singers can dance can they? The highlight for me with Oliver was "Empty Chairs" from "Les Miserables", absolutely spot on, mate!

Also among Zak's friends were Holly Pilgrim who delivered a lovely version of "Tomorrow" from "Annie" as well as a mischievously good version of "Naughty" from "Matilda". Emily Horner who delivered another emotionally charged version of "Tell Me It's Not true" from my fave musical, "Blood Brothers", Ellie Simmonds who sang "No One But You" from the musical"We Will Rock You" and "Part Of Your World" from "The Little Mermaid".

Drama was provided by Showcase Drama Group. I enjoyed the comedy of "Lunch On A Train" more than "The Witches" which was I felt a bit too dark for the evening. Dance was covered by Rosie, Kirsty and Cara and also a freestyle section, which I really enjoyed, as did most of the ladies in the house, performed by dancer, Jamie Bucanan.

There were four pieces performed by everyone, my favourite being the final piece called "Revolting Children" which was great fun track from the musical "Matilda".

David Allen, as compere, managed to move the proceedings along smoothly with his easy. likeable personality. Having performed the job of compere in the past in shows in Nottingham, I know that this is not an easy job, and David managed to make it look easy.

The live band sounded crisp and provided a perfect backing for the singers.

Much is made of the youth of today and the media are all too ready to paint teenagers in a bad light, highlighting the wrong that is done by the small minority, but when you see something like this show, you really do see what teenagers can do, and they should receive more praise for stuff like this. A great bunch of incredibly talented teenagers, providing a varied evening of entertainment, and giving something back to the world of entertainment at The Duchess and the community.

And on a final note, a massive pat on the back for Zak for getting it all together. This kind of show, with the amount of different performers would be a mammoth task for any professional company, but Zak, along with the brilliant support acts and family and friends provided a night of memorable music and entertainment which I hope has raised a good deal of cash for The Duchess. You should all be proud of yourself!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

THE KITE RUNNER
Nottingham Playhouse

A very welcome return to the Nottingham Playhouse for the play adapted by Matthew Spangler from the book written by Khaled Hosseini about Amir, a young Afghanistan man, who manages to escape the horrors of Afghanistan in the 70's and the Taliban.

Having not seen the play before, seen the film or read the book, I was completely oblivious of the story apart from the bit of research on the play and the author prior to the show. With no expectations set in my mind I sat back to experience one of the most enjoyable, at times shocking, powerful play I have seen in a long while.

While some may see the play as a story of guilt, this is a play about love, loyalty, friendship, fear, family as well as betrayal of friendship and while the play is set around Afghanistan and it's issues at that time, take that out of the equation and this play transcends any race or religion with the other sub issues.

At times this play will make you take an intake of breath, will leave you shocked, angry and feel hatred and other times you will be laughing and almost admiring the sort of relationship Amir had with his servant/best friend Hassan. The kind that best friends have when they both grow up together from babies, but how this friendship deteriorated is the crux of this amazing story and the repercussions caused by Hassan's betrayal by his best friend.

That is only half of the story, and the second half is what happens to Amir afterwards and his struggle through life and his wrestling with his conscience to do what he feels to be the right thing in recompense for his betrayal.

And then there is the relationship between Amir and his father, Amir's yearning to impress his father, and his wish to just gain the recognition that a son looks for from his father.

The play is amazingly good on so many different levels and is delivered by an equally amazing set of actors, Ben Turner as Amir smoothly moves from being an adult back into the mind set of an 11 year old boy, playfully cavorting around the stage, playing out his, and Hassan's love of western movies, and then back to being a sensible and troubled adult as the role of story teller.

Andrei Costin makes his professional stage debut in "The Kite Runner" as Hassan and doubling as Sohrah, Hassan's son in the second half and delivers a very emotive piece of theatre characterization in his role.

I'm not going to mention all the actors, mainly because they were all so incredibly good, but two others did slightly stand out for me, Emilio Doorgasingh as Baba and Nicholas Karimi as Assef, the nasty piece of work at play here in this play.

The sets were simple but so very effective in transporting you to where the play wanted to take you and some brilliant and evocative music played live on stage by the very talented Hanif Khan. Both adding to the ambience of the era and the settings for the piece.

I always say that unless a piece of theatre doesn't leave you with some sort of emotions to take away from the theatre, then it has not done it's job. I can confirm that this piece of theatre does it's job and so much more, which I am sure is also partly due to the direction of Mr Giles Croft.

"The Kite Runner" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 6 September 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

MURDER WEAPON
Nottingham Theatre Royal

The final of this year's Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season by Tabs Productions at the Nottingham Theatre Royal closes with the best yet, "Murder Weapon" by Brian Clemens.

There are several nods to other classic writers with the role of Charley Mirren being just a little similar to Steinbeck's Lennie in "Of Mice And Men" whose partner in crime in that play was George, who just happens to be Charley's friend's name from his prison days in "Murder Weapon". Charley has mental health issues and has been convicted of murder and has just been released and has been advised by the prison service to attend meetings with Dr Blake "to help" his rehabilitation.

Dr Blake takes on the case of the damaged ex prisoner and takes him into his confidence and decides that their meetings should take place away from the office, in a pub and once at his home, This is when Dr Blake lets Charley into his own problematic life and between them a plot is hatched to help both Dr Blake and Charley, as Charley has now become reliant on Dr Blake for his friendship.....or so he thinks!

I'd not seen this play before and it was intriguing to spot the clues along the way, and there is one big one which is given out at the start which becomes apparent to the revelations later on in the play and when you get this, the unravelling begins. A real light bulb moment!

It was a brilliant performance by Jeremy Lloyd-Thomas as Charley with his headaches, nightmares and conflicting admissions and denials. You begin to feel sorry for the character and later on you discover just what really did happen that put him in prison ten year's previous.Some quite emotional and powerful scenes as Charley which showcased Jeremy's emotive acting.

Karen Henson, as Jessica Bligh, the detective, is also wonderful in her only acting role this season, but well worth waiting for. Jessica Bligh is the sort of detective whose dogged determination of the innocence of Charley, even though he was caught red handed, gun in hand with a dead body at his feet by Jessica herself and the murdered man's wife, Diane Tulliver, played by Jacqueline Gilbride. really paid off...this time anyway.

Alan Magor plays his most meaty and dramatic role in this Thriller Season, and I can't really say much more without giving anything away, I'll just say that this is my favourite of all of Alan's performances this season.

Michael Sherwin is brought to the fore this week as Inspector Fremont, sidekick to Bligh, and Andrew Ryan, who in the last three weeks has been very prominent, takes a smaller, but no less important role as the murdered Paul Tulliver. Mustn't forget Edward Parris either as Constable Walters. A brilliant cast and an amazing end to a wonderful season.

As I mentioned, there are loving nods to the Scottish play, which seems to run through this season's shows, Durbridge's "Fatal Encounter" and one other, which I will not give away as that is a vital clue,

So to sum up, great cast, great play, great fun and worthy of a standing ovation...if only the rest of the audience had joined me in that one!!

Until the next time Tabs Productions, thank you for the best season ever and I can't wait for next year.