Friday, 28 October 2016

"Fun,Fright & A Bit Of Delight" by Burton Joyce Players.
Burton Joyce Village Hall.
Adam Miller & Tom Shepherd make their directorial debut with this variety show which has been a long time coming. Raising money for two charities, Cancer Research UK and the Henry Chowdhury Fund, makes this just another reason to support this event.
Variety shows are few and far between but are an excellent way of showcasing talents that may not have been evident before to the general public. And there's a lot of variety on show at Burton Joyce.
You could say that it's an A to Z of variety because we start off with an Abba medley from the whole cast and ends up with Zombies with the cast dancing and singing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"; timely as Halloween is upon us.
There are comedy sketches, a few I'd not seen before, singing dancing, magic, tap routines, burlesque and even a brass band thrown in. Who can keep their feet still to the rousing "Floral Dance"? Songs from the musicals as well as from modern artistes like Keane and Jimmy Eat World, covering all age groups and musical tastes.
This isn't Shakespeare or The Royal Variety Show and the little errors just made the comedy seem more, human if you like. One thing that Burton Joyce Players do really well is entertain, whether it be in a comedy play, panto or something as diverse as this. And let's be straight here, a show like this is more difficult to produce and direct than a play. There's the running order and making sure that the acts are spaced out and the act flows, as well as keeping the diversity. At least with a play the director will know the order of events.
There are eighteen of the company performing as well as additions from Mark Sansom, who plays guitar in the Kinks tribute band The Kinx and The Carlton Brass Training Band.
i especially liked the Birley Shassey section where two Shirley Bassey tribute acts are booked for the same night and they both perform some big Bassey numbers.
The ensemble numbers were choreographed by Kathy Matthews and Elaine De Villiers. A good clear sound and some excellent lighting both by Steve Armstrong and Jenny Cowan and some wonderful costumes thanks to Jenny Harwood.
There's just one more chance to see this variety show, which is on until Saturday 29 October 2016 at Burton Joyce Village Hall, but I guarantee that you'll get exactly what it says on the tin. A lot of fun, a great deal of delight and a fright-fully good Halloween thriller of a medley to round the night off with.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

"The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man In The Moon Marigolds".
Lace Market Theatre, Nottingham.
It's plays and productions like this that fuel my love for local theatre. Not as well known in the UK as it is in America where it's on the school curriculum. It's written by Paul Zindel, a playwright and science teacher who received the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The play revolves around a dysfunctional family consisting of single mother Beatrice and her two daughters, Ruth and Tillie, who try to cope with their abysmal status in life.
Tillie is doing a science project, which is where the title of the play comes from, and goes on to win the top prize at the school. The success is short lived though when she, and sister Ruth return home to their mother and they find out what she has done.
Ruth, the big sister swings from being an ally in the bullying stakes with mother Beatrice, to being proud of her little sister for the attention she has been getting at school.
Beatrice, the mother is the real focus of the play. She is a nasty piece of work who you get to see a glimmer of motherly love, which then swiftly disappears after Ruth taunts her about the nickname she had at school,"Betty the Loon". Beatrice is the epitome of narcissism. She is domineering and cruel, verbally and physically to the two daughters and Nanny, who she took in to look after, for the sum of $100.00. She's also a borderline alcoholic. As you can tell, Beatrice is an interesting character to say the least.
Chloe Senior gives her best performance to date as Beatrice. the part is wordy and emotive and when she catches your eye in character, you feel like she is talking directly to you, and you can feel the venom. Playing such a damaged character such as Beatrice I imagine is draining but so rewarding for an actor.
Emily Ross (Tillie) is also excellent as the shy and put upon teenager, who looks about 12 but, so I learned isn't a teenager in real life, She is so young looking! A wonderfully restrained performance which also shows the battle she has with her stand for independence through her love of science against her mother's wish for total control over the family.
Eve Gordon, who I'm sure has had stints in Coronation Street, played the elder daughter, Ruth. Once more a really powerful performer whose siding with Tillie and then her mother swings like a pendulum. the character may look to be in control but Eve also shows the damaged side of the character, especially in the second act.
Playing the unspoken character of Nanny was Ba Fisher. It was horrible to see the way that Nanny was spoken to and treated by Beatrice, which, although set in 1983, could also reflect the issues that the elderly who are cared for by third parties, in any decade right up to date. Taken out of context of the play, this is also a valid piece of social commentary.
The only other character was Janice Vickery, played by Adei Bundy, one of the other girls who took part in the science fair who cleared up rumours throughout the first part of the play that she boiled a cat to get the skin off it. It becomes apparent in Janice's speech what she did and why. All for scientific reasons by the way.
There's not too many plays that have an all female cast, which is refreshing, and seeing the way that all female cast members react and act with each other is interesting. There's a complete naturalness with all five actors.
Directed by Michael-Craig Darmola, he has chosen to take the characters and make them not so "heavy" as the ones in the film and, while the subject matter of the play is mostly seen as depressing, he also brings out the natural comedy of the unnatural situation, especially with some of the telephone conversations that Beatrice has with the school and Tillie's teacher in particular. I knew that the play was not a happy one where everything ends happily ever after but I didn't envisage the subtle comedy, which came as rather a nice and refreshing relief. Saying that, the balance was just right and it's nice not to see a happy ever after end.
Apart from the brilliant acting, the sound design was of interest. there's a certain magic in the theatre and the way the sound works, especially in such an intimate staging as the studio upstairs. The radio which was on a stool in the play emitted music from it. Nothing strange there I hear you cry, but when it works on it's own and then in the second act the music from the speakers in the studio seem to just drop to the radio, to be turned off by the actors. It's these little touches that make plays like these just that little bit more magical on a technical level. The sound design was by Matthew Allcock, assisted by Tom Inglis and lighting by Rose Dudley.
Also loved the attention to the period of the 80's with the props. A muppet puppet, Jedi book, the cigarette packet and the telephone all took you back to that era. Little details that some of the audience may have missed but all add to the realism of the play.
Yet again the Lace Market Theatre have provided a service by introducing theatre goers to a production of a play that isn't played to death. Some may have been well aware of the 1964 play and others, like myself weren't aware of the play or indeed the 1972 film, and have now experienced the joy of this wonderful piece of theatre, presented by an extremely talented cast and production team.
"The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man In The Moon Marigolds".is on at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 29 October 2016.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

"The Wedding Singer" by Beeston Musical Theatre Group (BMTG)
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
As President of this hard working group of theatre people, you may expect me to biased in my review. Well, to tell the truth that would be the case if there was anything to critique but yet again BMTG have produced another awesome show.
Let me tell you the story.....
Robbie Hartis a Wedding singer, who lives with his Grandma Rosie in Ridgefield, New Jersey. He and his band, Simply Wed, play a great wedding gig. During his usual "warm-up-the-crowd routine," Robbie proudly announces that he will be married to his beloved fiancée Linda the next day. At the wedding gig, Robbie meets a waitress named Julia Sullivan, who can't wait to get married to her boyfriend Glen Guglia. Glen is a bad boy who is cheating on Julia left, right and centre and when Robbie sees this he follows his heart and follows Julia and Glen to Vegas and..... well you'll have to see the musical to find out what happens!
Taking his first leading role for BMTG as Robbie Hart is Chris Bryan.Chris completely changed his appearance fro this role by having his hair, 12 inches of it, lopped off, plus his beard and moustache went as well. Chris is a brilliant singer and he showed off his vocal talents here with wonderful ease with the various genres of music style. Great charisma and stage presence oozing with confidence. What a way to break his duck as a leading man!
Claire Rybicki (Julia) made us love her character and boy did we, if only in our minds, punch the air when Julia's fiance, Glen got his comeuppance. Lovely singing voice and again a brilliant character role for Claire. A character you wanted to root for.
Robbie's band members were another pair of character driven roles. Rob Holsman (Sammy) and David Hurt (George). Sammy is one of the lads with an eye for the ladies and also like to rock out on bass. George is a lovely camp character and a brilliant comedy role. David debuts in this show for BMTG and this role is also his first principal role in three years of musical theatre. You wouldn't have known this by watching him work the stage, especially the impressive dance routine in the second act. Rob and David were a convincing double act who provided their fair share of the comedy in this musical.
Rob Charles gets the chance to play a slightly different role here as the nasty boyfriend who is treating Julia oh so badly, Glen Guglia. I know that playing nasty comes as a push for Rob (he's always such a nice guy) so I imagine this role stretched Rob as an actor. Seriously though he does make a believable bad boy. His singing and dancing are spot on and this is another awesome role to add to Rob's ever growing CV of musical theatre roles. he's always fun to watch on stage.
Another character who was great fun on stage was Mina Machin as Rosie. Rosie is the kind of Grandma we'd all like. She's dope and down with the kids and swears, has an open mind when it comes to sex and isn't afraid to ask those sort of questions that a Granny ain't supposed to ask of her Grandson. She's also a great mover and can rap better that Honey G (X Factor for those who don't know). Mina throws some wicked shapes and spits them bars like a grime rapper on base ( translation: she can dance and rap as good as any of the modern rappers). A lovely energetic performance which will put a smile on your face.
Zoe Brinklow (Holly) pulls another lovely performance out of the bag and gets to air that wonderful singing voice she has. Great confidence and a brilliant character-driven performance as the girl who knows what she wants and ain't afraid to go out and get it.
Abby Riddell (Linda) also has a wonderful role as the woman who breaks Robbie's heart when she dumps him at the altar and then crawls back into his life, and bedroom. Again a brilliant singing voice with a great rocky feel. Just to prove that as well, she has to have an electric fan on hand to give her that windswept video affect whenever she sings. Great comic touch for a wonderful character.
A wonderfully talented ensemble supported the rest of the cast. Once more there were some wonderful comic touches by several of the ensemble players. Several such as David ArtissRonja Breitkopf,Jenny Chatten, Claire Farrand-Preston, Laura Hanson, Simon Owen and choreographer, Craig Butterworth playing several roles.
Talking of choreography, this show is packed with it. Great high energy dance routines which also reflect the dance moves of the 1980's. No wonder this cast looked tired after performing every show because they all give everything they had with the brilliant dance moves designed by Craig.
And where you have dance, you must have music and under the musical direction of Mr Nathan Truesdale, this show was absolutely buzzing with excitement. A lovely 80's vibe again took you back to the era of big hair and electric, florescent lycra. A crisp sound and a wonderful soundtrack to the musical.
Lisa Smith directed the show and kept the pace up throughout. Assistant director was Beth Yearsley. Brilliant costumes which really brought the era alive for me were provide by The Dressing Up Box UK.
Let's talk about set baby....
What a wonderful set designed by Craig Butterworth and Garry and Lisa Smith. It was like two sets in one which fitted in and out of the main set, making it easy to move into place and return without taking up too much space or time. Wonderfully designed to make that ease of set change work really well.
Lighting was also awesome (sorry it's the word of the day) and once more a success for Dave Martin. The set and scenes were splashed with colour making this show an absolute feast of colour for the eye.
The stage crew also deserve a mention because they made the whole set change manoeuvre look easy. Believe me they only make it look that way because they work so hard to give that impression. Smooth is how I'd describe what they do. the stage crew are as important as anyone who gets the applause on stage. Rob Corner, Mark Gittens,Alex Grosse,David Henderson, Jacqui Mee and Simon Owen are the unsung heroes.
"The Wedding Singer" will transport you back to the 80's and will give you plenty to smile about with catchy tunes and the brilliant acting and story, Plus you even get a chance to see Tina Turner, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, President Raegan, Imelda Marcos and Madonna on stage in Long Eaton. What you don't believe me? Well go and see for yourself because it's on until Saturday 29 October 2016 at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

"The Producers" by Nottingham Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
I could do this in two ways. the short review or the long review, but anyone who knows me knows that why, when I c an use one or two words when a thousand will do.
OK. the short review. BLOODY AMAZING SHOW. SEE IT NOW!
That over with, here's the review i want to give. It's always good when you look forward to seeing a show and the show lives up to your expectations. Several times this year the productions I've looked forward to seeing have excelled my expectations and this show is most definitely one of those.
It's incredible that the Nottingham Operatic Society is a local theatre society when the whole staging of the show is on a par with the touring productions. Take the sets. They were brilliant, provided by Scenic Projects, a lot of money has been spent on this production and it really shows. the standard of professionalism is through the roof, as it always is with NOS.
The costumes were equally amazing, and anyone who has seen this show in the past will know that there are many many costumes in the show. Supplied by Triple C Costumes.
The lighting of the play was the responsibility of Nottingham's lighting magician, Mr Tom Mowat. You can tell that NOS only use the best of the best for their shows.
The set shifters and stage crew also did an amazing job. Too many people to mention by name but they know who they are and I'm sure they know they did an incredible job. The smooth transition of the sets were done rapidly and with the minimum of fuss. Stage manager, Michelle Smith, Assistant Stage manager, Gareth Morris, Deuty Stage Manager, Nigel Newton and Stage Director Ian McCarthy also needs credit for the job they did. More often than not these people who work behind the scenes get no or little mention and they are what keeps the show as slick as it is.
The whole cast were excellent and perfect in their roles.
Simon Theobald (Max Bialystock) was a tour de force in his role along with his partner in crime, Mark Coffey-Bainbridge (Leo Bloom). Together they were just magical, the singing and dancing double act were an absolute joy to watch.Who says opposites don't attract with the uber confident Bialystock and Leo,the child-like naivety of the accountant who dreamt of being a big Broadway producer
Amanda Bruce (Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson.) was gorgeous as the Swedish temptress who ends up married to the hapless Bloom. I love the song "If You Got It, Flaunt It" and Amanda delivered it dripping with sexiness.
Bialystock and Bloom are on the lookout for the biggest flop to make and when they find the script, "Springtime For Hitler", they track down the writer, Franz Liebkind, played by Ian Pottage. Another wonderfully crafted comic role, only slightly upstaged by the pigeons he keeps!
They get his permission after some more choreographed fun and set out to hire the worst director in Roger De Bris, Donning high heels and a frock once more is Dan Armstrong and along with his common law assistant, Carmen Ghia (OK Carmen!), played by Jarrod Makin. they lead us in a merry dance with some if De Bris' other housemates with one of the many musical highlights of the show in "Keep It Gay". I was just wondering what happened to the kitchen sink?!!!
The 40 strong ensemble, which included a mass of zimmer framed grey-haired Bialystock show backers in a wonderful piece of choreography, Germans, and show girls and guys. Many of them well known faces on Nottingham stages, including Rob Harrison as Bryan, Joanne Lale as "Hold Me Touch Me".
Wouldn't you know it but the musical, "Springtime For Hitler" is a big Broadway hit and Bialystock ends up in jail while Leo runs off to Rio with the two million dollars and Ulla. they return to get Max out of jail and they have another big hit musical.
This show is fun fun fun all the way. Brilliant vocals from every single one of them, ensemble and mains alike. Great sets, lighting, sound (Michael Donoghue), a wonderful orchestra under the musical direction of Stephen Williams. Brilliantly entertaining choreography, including a wonderful swastika-shaped dance routine complete with a massive overhead mirror so that you could see the full effect, and some fantastic tap routines, all choreographed by Lisa Lee, who also directed the show.
There were a few new additions to the staging which only added to the enjoyment of the comedy of the show, and while I knew there were a few "glitches", these were well covered up and I doubt that many would've even noticed.
The show was practically the perfect performance, and I knew by the first half that i would be on my feet by the final bows. I hoped that the rest of the audience would join me, which they did, but to tell the truth I wouldn't have been bothered if I was standing alone (wouldn't be the first time) because I just love this show and NOS showed that they are still tops for producing massive hit shows of this quality.
"The Producers" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 29 October 2016 but if you don't want to miss this excellent show, get your tickets right away and don't be afraid to keep it gay!

Monday, 24 October 2016

"The Shawshank Redemption"
Derby Theatre.
When a film has been as successful as this one has been, it's always in the back of one's mind how well the story transcends to the stage. Well worry not, dear reader, because within a short space in time, I'd forgotten the film. But now the play has had me wanting to watch the film again.
Andy Dufresne (Paul Nicholls) is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the murders of his wife and her lover and is sentenced to a tough prison, Shawshank. However, only Andy knows he didn't commit the crimes. While there, he forms a friendship with Red (Ben Onwukwe), experiences brutality of prison life, adapts to the system, helps Warden Stammas (Jack Ellis), and discovers who really did murder his wife and her lover, all in 19 years.
There's a certain magic between all three lead actors which automatically creates that believability in the characters. Dufresne is intelligent and a banker and that;s the way he gets "in" with the dangerous Stammas with a little give and take on both sides when Dufresne gets the prison library updated and Stammas gets his books cooked.
Nicholls is well cast as the young, good looking professional who is bound to be the target of the prison deviants, called "The Sisters". While the brutal gang rape of Dufresne is part of the script, you'll be pleased to know that this isn't visual, but never the less, still created an air of unease.
Ellis is one of those actors who always seems to get the evil roles, but Jack plays that kind of character so well. I've had the pleasure of chatting to Mr Ellis and he is nothing like the characters he plays and has a dry sense of humour. Anyway, the role of Stammas is as corrupt as some of the inmates who will do anything within his power, and occasionally outside it, to get what he wants, not stopping at silencing the inmate who goes against what he says by wanting to help Dufresne.
Onwukwe's character Red, played by Morgan Freeman in the film, is one of those lovely, warm characters who will do anything he can to help anyone he can, bending the Shawshank laws to do so. His character's reaction to the parole news was a picture and made you want to punch the air because he is such a nice guy.
I also loved the role of Brooksie, the aged librarian who found it difficult to come to terms with life outside of prison and atoning for his crime. There's a part which will have you with a heavy heart near the end. Sensitively played with an equal amount of hardened exterior by Andrew Boyer who was making his UK debut in this production after spending many years on Broadway.
Another character you really root for is Tommy Williams (Nicholas Banks) who wants to pass his exams and, with Andy's help, succeeds. Stammas lies to Andy about this before getting rid of him and again lying to Andy by telling him that Tommy was on suicide watch due to him failing his exams again.
I love characters that make you react to them, in whatever way that may be and Jeff Alexander who plays one of "The Sisters", Bogs Diamond, is one actor who also makes you want to punch the character, he's that nasty.
The remaining ensemble of actors making up the convicts, who at times were really quite intimidating, and the prison staff were all excellent and completely looked the part.
You root for Andy and hate Stammas and in the end they both get what they deserve, so while the story is about loss, wrongful imprisonment, acclimatisation, bullying, scams etc, there's a wonderful hopeful end to the play. Plus watch out for the magic!
A wonderful set design(Gary McCann), very subtle but effective lighting design (Chris Davey) and crystal clarity sound design (Dan Samson), not to mentions a cracking soundtrack which included the music of The Beatles, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Roger Miller among many snippets, all adding to the era the play was set in.
Adapted for the stage by Owen O'Neill and Dave Johns and directed by David Esbjornson, this Bill Kenright produced play has all you'd want from a prison drama including quite a few laughs as well as some more poignant moments.
"The Shawshank Redemption" is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 29 October 2016 and really is worth seeing not just for a brilliant story by Stephen King but for some wonderful acting from all the cast.
There is swearing and some subtle nudity as well as adult themes, so maybe not for all the family with this one.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

"George's Marvellous Medicine" by Roald Dahl
Birmingham Stage Company.
There'll always be a child hidden deep within every adult and it's plays such as those written by Roald Dahl that joyfully bring the naughty child to the fore.
Possibly one of the darkest of Dahl's scripts where George Kranky and his family get a last minute visit, well a visit without an end date, to their farm. Granny is not the apple pie baking rosy-cheeked elderly lady who smells of Murray Mints and lavender. Oh no, she is a bossy, spiteful, nasty piece of work who bosses George around for being lazy, on his school holidays of all things. She also dislikes George's father, Mr Kranky.
Grandma takes over George's room and likes George to be at her beck and call. This includes the dispensation of her medicine. George decides that her medicine needs upgrading and decides to make his own very special concoction, with some spectacular results. "Growing is a nasty childish habit," she chides George for, but she is soon to have a growing spurt of her own!
Ed Thorpe, a local lad from Southwell, plays George. I can remember seeing Ed at Lakeside a couple of years ago in a children's play called "Tiger Bones and other Stories", so I knew that playing a child like character would be no issue. There's a sinister side to George as he is making up the medicine but also a quite naive outlook as he excitably looks forward to the potion's results.
If only Grandma knew what George had got for you!
George's Mum and Dad are played by Tessa Vale and Richard Mullins and the wonderful Grandma is played by Tessa's twin sister, Deborah Vale. Inside the over-sized chicken costume is Tom Eykelof.
The set is very cleverly designed by Jacqueline Trousdale and adapts to the effects that emerge throughout the play, which I'm not going to tell you if you've not read the book or seen the play before.
David Wood's adaptation shows George as a put upon child who takes his revenge on his nasty, witch-like Granny and slowly reels in the children in the audience into an almost panto-like participation in aiding and abetting George in his criminal act.
The aftershow announcement though does advise not to create your own marvellous medicine at home. I'll be watching the news and looking in the Nottingham Post for an upsurge of Grandma poisonings!
Jason Taylor, who designed the lighting, created a creepy feel with the lighting and atmosphere, especially with the mixing of the cruel cocktails. Mixed with the chanted spell which brought back images of the Witches in Mac**** (The Scottish Play) for creepiness.

The timing and design of the sound effects from Tom Lishman were crazy and rather fun.

With the popularity of shows like "Horrible Histories", this kind of play is going to be a smash with adults. Kids will like it too.
The music is catchy, thanks to Matthew Scott, who has had dealings with some big musical names in the past, having produced Martha Wainwright and Anthony & The Johnstons.
A lovely playful direction by Phil Clark hit just the right balance between sadistic joy and childlike playfulness.
With the setting being on a farm, there are several appearances from animals including a giant chicken that runs riot, a bull which attempts an escape and a giant cow. All adding to the delicious anarchy.
An entertaining and pacy piece of theatre which isn't just aimed towards the kids because any age will love this show. And if you don'r believe me, pop down to the Nottingham Theatre Royal and see for yourself any evening until Saturday 22 October 2016.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

"Oliver" by Long Eaton Operatic Society
May Hall, Long Eaton.
I thought that this show would be good, but after the first song "Food Glorious Food" had been performed by the workhouse boys, I knew that I was wrong. The show was not good. The show was fantastic. It started that way and just got better and better.
You all know the story of "Oliver" so i won't give you the details of the story, I'll just get on with how fantastic this show was.
The set looked solid and was on multi levels, which gave the actors several entry and exit points, not limiting them to just left and right wings.
The lighting was colourful and really added to the colourful story as well as setting an air of mischief and danger when needed, creating just the perfect atmosphere. All thanks to Tom Olding for a wonderful lighting design and operation.
In the past there have been a few sound issues at May Hall with some of their shows. Tonight, I don't know what was done different but the sound was crystal clear. Thank you Andrew James for doing whatever you did. The sound mix between actor and orchestra was also perfect. You could hear every single word spoken and sang tonight.
The orchestra created a warm and rounded sound under the musical direction of Sam Griffiths. I son't normally pick out members of the orchestra, mainly because they are all so good, but I just adored the violin playing of Joy Gravestock, which was completely sublime.
Wonderful costumes for all,especially Fagin, thanks to Nottingham Community Wardrobe and LEOS themselves. Very colourful and true to the characters.
The choreography was magical, not least in the opening number and the rousing "Oom Pah Pah" which opened Act Two. A lot of hard work put in by choreographer Karen Woodhead.
Produced and directed by the award winning Siobhan Parker. Here's another big success under her belt.
I'd forgotten just what a big cast this show has, 50 to be precise but even when they were all on stage they didn't crowd each other out. A wonderful ensemble of boys; some taking to the stage for the first time and others seasoned board treaders. You know what, without reading the programme, you wouldn't know which were which as they were all so full of confidence and professionalism.
So to the main roles.....
This musical is full of double acts who work so well together and bounce off each other so well. Take Bumble and Widow Corney, played by Jack Draper and Claire Collishaw. Beneath the hard, bullying outer surface of Bumble lies an ebbing wave of bravado, especially when on the receiving end of the Widow. Great characterisation from both talented actors.
The same can be said of the funeral proprietors Mr & Mrs Sowerberry (Rob Byatt & Liz Woolley) a lovely little comedy act going on there.
The bullying Noah and Charlotte also made a good team, played by Jack Woolley and Tayla Evans.
Dominic Wood (Oliver) captured all of the vulnerability and innocence of the original Mark Lester and has a lovely emotive voice which got the hairs up on the back of my neck when he sang "Where Is Love".
Bailey West, who I last saw as Gavroche in "Les Miserables" at Derby Theatre brought back the cheek as The Artful Dodger in this one. He has a list of musical theatre roles already on his CV which stands him in good stead for becoming a brilliant young actor in the future.
Abigail Pidgeon was an absolute delight as Nancy, showing just a glimpse of the more wayward side of the character but mainly showing that unwavering love for her Bill, which ultimately led to Nancy's downfall. Abigail's version of "As Long As He Needs Me" was just stunning and heartfelt.
Katie Mac Donald played Nancy's friend, Bet. Another really fun and playful role.
John Paxton (Bill Sikes) was a real nasty piece of work, and I imagine was an absolute joy for John to play. He got as many "boos" as he did rounds of applause at the end. Obviously a testament to his acting skills there.
A few nice cameo roles in Mrs Bedwin and Dr Grimwig, played by Angela Walters and Martin Mould and Oliver's recently discovered Grandfather, Mr Brownlow, played by Lindsay Mould.
I'm not saying that I've saved the best for last as that would be unfair on the other actors but Lewis Haycock, you were amazing as Fagin. As a young actor, you made me believe that you were Fagin. You encompassed everything that Fagin should be. the "father figure" to the boys, the protector, the wide-boy as well as the vulnerable side of the man, worried of what would become of him in his old age. A class performance and a wonderful vocal performance as well. Everything about this character was bob on. Russ Abbot, Rowan Atkinson watch out there's another brilliant Fagin on your tails by the name of Lewis Haycock. This , I think has to be the best that I've seen Lewis perform, and I've seen him in several shows in the past few years.
"Oliver" is the show to see this week and is at May Hall, Long Eaton until Saturday 22 October 2016. Consider Yourself lucky to see this group because if you miss it, That's Your Funeral as it may not Be Back Soon.

Monday, 17 October 2016

"The Great Gatsby" by Nottingham New Theatre.
Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside.
Nottingham New Theatre first performed this one hour piece back in December 2015 when, sadly I missed out on it. The play was then taken to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where I gather it was a big success. For one night only, it's back on campus at Lakeside.
Having seen several productions from the very talented group at the Nottingham New Theatre, they've proved themselves to be a very versatile group of theatre producers. Whether it be classic theatre such as Agatha Christie to more off the wall pieces like "MacBett" and "Rhinoceros", the NNT manage to produce some very exciting works.
With just one screen, four stools and five actors, they show that you don't always need fancy projections or sets to create watchable theatre. "The Great Gatsby" by F Scott Fitzgerald is the story of lost love and found love by the playboy Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. Told in the most minimalist way it gives your imagination great scope to picture the extravagance of the decadent 1922 Long Island jet set. One thing you don't have to imagine are the wonderful costumes and the fun dance routines.
Nick Gill plays World Wat 1 veteran Nick Carraway and in part plays the secondary role as narrator. It's nice to see the optimism that the character starts with ebbing away through the play.
Debutante Daisy is played by Sophie Walton and she plays the torn between two lovers flapper with a lovely feeling of mixed emotions once she has been found out by husband Tom, played by Harry Bradley.
Harry is perfect for the role of the muscular millionaire. Wonderfully imposing and arrogant and ready to step outside to fight for the love of his wife, Daisy against Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby is played by the suave and sophisticated Harry Pavlou. Gatsby's a cool character but with shady business connections, obsessed with Daisy whom he had met when he was a young military officer stationed at the Army's Camp Taylor in Louisville during World War I.
Rounding off the cast is the lovely Gigi George who plays golfer and girlfriend of Carraway's, Jordan Baker. Gigi also produced the play.
Directed and adapted by Laura Jayne Bateman, this is one play that, if it were on longer than the one night would be one most certain to get bums on seats because of the style and absolute joie de vivre, even with the darker ending compared to the rest of the play.
I must mention the lighting of the play as well because this came into play on several occasions with the screen to show in shadow profile events that were happening elsewhere and created an alternative and interesting image, Reminiscent of the old black and white films of the era. A really simple but effective touch designed by James Fox.
The NNT season is due to open soon and I for one am looking forward to seeing as much as I can of the season which will be performed at the New Theatre on the University campus. As a taster, this aperitif leaves me hungry for the main course..

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

"Million Dollar Quartet"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
"Million Dollar Quartet" is a jukebox musical which dramatises the recording session of December 4, 1956, among Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis.
As jukebox musicals go, this has to be one of the best because the story is that well written. In most jukebox musicals it's all about the music with a loose storyline woven in with the featured songs. With "Million Dollar Quartet" the story is just as important as the wonderful music that was played on that historical date.
We find out that arrogant and cocky new boy on the block, Jerry Lee Lewis loved to wind up the more established Carl Perkins, but as Lewis' talent for pumping those piano keys became evident, Perkins warmed to him, as did the others. Lewis is the only one of the four still alive today.
Set in the recording studio of Sam Phillips' Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, the date was set for an informal meeting of the three main stars and the new boy, the set itself was a fascinating image of the recording studio of the day with the large spools used to record the music which was all recorded in the one room, designed by Olivier Award winning set designer David Farley.
Phillips was played by Jason Donovan who got to show off his Memphis based Southern accent. Phillips was the man responsible for discovering the talents of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash among others and Donovan brought out the passion of Phillips for creating the rock n roll and rockabilly music of the mid to late fifties.
Ross William Wild (Presley), Robbie Durham (Cash), Matt Wycliffe (Perkins) and Martin Kaye (Lewis) are not only fine actors but all four showed their musical talents for playing their instruments. Kaye especially shone with his breakneck piano playing, his fingers a blur. The four recreated the sound of Sun Records to great affect. Anyone who has listened to any of Presley's or Cash's Sun recordings will know just how close the sound was to those original Sun classics.
Completing the cast was Katie Ray as Presley's girlfriend, Dyanne at the time, who also was a singer. In fact Dyanne was a character made up for the musical because the woman who turned up on Elvis' arm was a mystery. Katie though has a hell of a voice and shows it off on a couple of numbers in the musical, "Fever" and "I Hear You Knocking".
There are some cracking songs featured in the musical, "Blue Suede Shoes", the song that ruffled Perkins feathers because Elvis had the hit and left Perkins to be seen as the singer who covered Elvis, instead of the other way round. "Folsom Prison Blues", "Matchbox", "That's Alright Mama", "Peace In The Valley", "Down By The Riverside", "Hound Dog", "Great Balls Of Fire", "Long Tall Sally", "I Walk The Line", "Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On" and "See You later Alligator" are featured among many others, making this one of the best soundtracks for a musical.
Produced by Mark Goucher and Simon Friend and directed by Ian Talbot, it's like eavesdropping on a private meeting and that casualness is created beautifully. The lighting designed by David Howe was unobtrusive but succeeded in highlighting what was needed to be focused on at any particular part of the piece.
Co-written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, the script is as free flowing as if it were improvised. The story itself is a piece of musical history brought to life for all to experience decades down the line.
The musical is not a long one but it packs in so many songs and a wonderful story that by the end of Act One, you're not aware of the time that has elapsed. The end of Act Two explodes into full on party mood with everyone up on their feet clapping and singing along to a finale of rock n roll classics.
"Million Dollar Quartet" is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 15 October 2016 and in my humble opinion, a rock n roll riot for anyone who enjoys a good story and a great tune or twenty three.

Monday, 10 October 2016

"Playboy Of The Western World" by J M Synge
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
First staged in 1907 as a three act play,set in County Mayo, Ireland. It's the story of Christy Mahon, a young man running away from his farm, claiming he killed his father.He finds himself in Michael James Flaherty's public house where he meets Flaherty's daughter, Margaret, known as Pegeen Mike (daughter of Mike).
He tells his story of how he killed his wicked father and gets the sympathy of all the girls and the admiration of the male punters, all bar one, Margaret's fiance Shawn Keogh, who is of low intelligence, the opposite of Pegeen Mike. Pegeen falls for the good looking Christy and calls of the engagement to Shawn announcing she wants to marry Christy.
Christy becomes the town's sporting hero, but then an unexpected visitor turns up to show their hero in a different light.
Adam Goodchild (Christy) is well cast as the handsome young Irishman with the blarney charm and is convincing in the role. His accent is one of the few constantly accurate ones in the cast.
Ali Patrick-Smith (Pegeen Mike) is the first one you see in the play and is also the last and from start to finish her accent is spot on. There's that lovely sing song rise and fall in her voice, even when she plays angry, and more so when she is flirty. It sounds natural. She is fiesty and flirty and knows how to show people the door when she feels like it. Consistent is the word with Ali.
Richard Fife plays Old Mahon who apparently returns to life after the spade blow to his head, and again another convincing accent, as well as a pretty convincing head wound. Full marks for the make up in this production.
David Hope (Michael Faherty) plays quite a convincing "tipsy" person. i wonder how much method acting went into this performance! This is David's play for the Lace Market Theatre, so I look forward to what he does next.
Anna McCarroll (Widow Quinn) looked like she enjoyed playing the cradle snatching widow, trying to lure Christy back to hers. A very relaxed and fun performance.
James Whitby makes his Lace Market debut as the slightly dim fiance Shawn Keogh and completing the cast list are Roger Watson (Yorkie Cullen),Glenn Murphy (Jimmy Farrell), Rosina Reading (Sara Tansley),Jemma-Dawn Froggitt (Susan Brady) - two more Christy fans, and Malcolm Edwards (Bell Man).
Loved the set, designed by David Hope and some nice lighting work byAllan Green and Rose Dudley. plenty of appropriate props for an Irish pub and the sound design by Jack Harris created another world outside the pub front door.
There's plenty of laughs, well maybe chuckles, to be had once you tune into the language and the play rattles along at a nice pace, something I know that director Bex Mason is so good at maintaining.
It's not a long play and you won't find yourself, or shouldn't find yourself glancing at your watch. This is partly due to the storyline and partly due to Bex keeping the story tight and the action and script unlaboured.
"The Playboy Of The Western World" is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 15 October 2016.

Friday, 7 October 2016

"Sister Act" by Erewash Musical Society
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.
Here is one musical which, if you don't leave the theatre with a smile on your face, you've already met your maker and no one told you about it. And from where I stood, I saw no walking corpses.
What a heavenly show and what a wonderful cast graced the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton, and has done all this week.
"Sister Act", which is based on the film of the same name and starred Whoopi Goldberg is all about Deloris, a club singer in the 1970's trying to make it big in her boyfriend Curtis's club. She sees Curtis kill one of his henchmen and reports it to the police, who just happens to be her old college mate "Sweaty" Eddie. Eddie has the idea of hiding her among a convent of nuns until the court date.
This is a whole culture shock for Deloris, so to keep her out of trouble, Mother Superior puts her in charge of the choir, who's singing aptitude is described by Mother Superior as "having no words" to describe them. With Deloris' help they are transformed into a choir Gareth Malone would be proud of and by doing so saves the nunnery from being closed down.Curtis and his friends in the meantime though are determined to find Deloris and intend to make sure that she doesn't tell anyone else about what she had seen...ever!
There are quite a few new faces and names in the Erewash Musical Society's production and they fit in like a musical jigsaw puzzle.
Taking on the role of Deloris and filling those funky FM boots is the funky and fabulous Dionne Reid. Dripping with soul and 70's sexiness she belted out those heaven sent retro disco belters, despite just recently being struck down with laryngitis. Worthy of that Donna Summer white fox fur if you ask me! Dionne had some fabulous costumes to wear but saved the best till the curtain call. Great glamour and style all wrapped around a voice that reminded me of soul singer Oleta Adams. Take Me To Heaven... yes she did. Fabulous Baby...yes she was.
Curtis, the nasty man boyfriend and mobster was played with true devilish delight by Adam Richmond. Loved the way he relished telling us all about what he would do to Deloris when he found her in his song "When I Find My Baby". Oozing evilness with that nasty grin (Curtis that is not Adam), I even heard someone booing at the curtain call. A tribute to the acting skills of the very nice in real life, Adam.
I've always loved the comedy provided by Curtis' henchmen Pablo (Lewis Haycock), Joey (Kheenan Jones) and his roped in nephew T.J (Jack Readyhoof). Their song, "Lady In The Long Black Dress" is a comical classic in musical theatre and they milked the comedy value to the max, getting the ladies in the audience screaming with delight. I half expected a pair of knickers to be tossed on stage. Loved the cheesy choreography for their routine, which by the looks of it, they also rather enjoyed.
Eddie was played by Phil Brookes. I'm not sure if Phil is one of the new members as I don't think I can remember seeing him in the past, but if he is, what a find! Lovely characterisation of the policeman who has dreams of being "that guy", and what a lovely tone to his singing voice. i apologise if Phil has been in past productions and I didn't remember, but after this performance, I won't forget Mr Brookes.
Tracey Renshaw (Mother Superior) was just sublime to watch, as were all the nuns. Loved Chrissie Oakden as Sister Mary Lazarus, the leader of the choir and Ellie Simmonds as Sister Mary Robert, whos did a gorgeous version of "The Life I Never Led".
A very entertaining cast of nuns which were made up of Fiona Wright, Joan Clarke, Maria LawrenceAlysha GomesClare ToskaAlex Tavener,Christine Hewitt, Emily Oakden, Erin Keogh,Karen Robbins, Heather Howe, Gill Cooke. Laurie Trott, Leah Thompson, Kay Cocks,Sophie Robbins and Sue Hagan. Keith Butcher played a very funky Monsignor O'Hara.
Other cast members were Martin LewisGary LeverMartin MouldJames Raynerand Nick Buckthorpe.
The music is always really good at the Duchess and tonight really captured that 1970,s feel with the orchestra directed by musical theatre's equivalent of the incredible shrinking man, Dave Dallard. I felt like busting out an afro and flares listening to the evocative musical tracks. You could almost imagine John Shaft aka Richard Roundtree walking through the doors. Wonderful.
The sets came alive before your very eyes. It was if you were on a film set with the wonderful projections designed by Paul Young from Scenery Projections. You could often forget that you weren't in a nunnery or on that San Franciscan sidewalk outside the Dive Bar.
Twin that with the disco style, lighting from Dave Martin and Matthew Cook and the sound production of Ben Tennett and this production didn't just come alive, it exploded in a visual and aural extravaganza which had the audience clapping along.
Must not forget the magical retro choreography from Carol Lawson who made the party swing as well as the wonderful costumes, not just for Deloris but for the whole cast from Triple C Costumiers.
If you've nothing to do on Saturday, and that is if you're lucky enough to get a ticket because this week has been a sell out, go and see "Sister Act" because, brother, you're in for the most heavenly of musicals. Did i love it? It was Fabulous Baby!!