Tuesday, 28 February 2017

“Oklahoma” by West Bridgford Operatic Society
Nottingham Arts Theatre
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first collaboration remains in many ways their most innovative, having set the standards and established the rules of musical theatre, which are still being followed today.
Set in a western Indian territory just after the turn of the century, the high-spirited rivalry between the local farmers and the cowboys provides a colourful background against which Curly, the handsome cowboy, and Laurey, a farm girl, play out their love story.
The road of true love though never runs smooth. This journey is as bumpy as a ride in a surrey, with or without the fringe on top, down a pot-hole ridden ride down a country lane.
Matthew Siveter (Curly) has the strongest voice in the cast, but I knew that having seen him perform in "The Mikado". His rich tenor soars majestically and with incredible ease. His charisma makes this show an easy watch.
I said that Matthew has the strongest voice but the rest of the cast aren't lacking in power or commitment by any shot.
Louise Grantham (Laurey) has this feisty role down to a tee. She is another one with a voice that soars; no fear of her not reaching the back walls of the theatre.
Ali Biller (Aunt Eller) is an absolute delight to watch. Her smile lights up the stage, she sings like an angel and she stamps Aunt Eller's authority on the musical.
This is a big cast so here's a few more equally notable mentions.
Alisdair Maughan (Will Parker) plays Ado Annie's beau, who she cain't say no to. Another fun role. He cracked the first lasso task but the second fell short. That's not a criticism as those things are notoriously difficult to master, and I imagine Alisdair has managed that section fine in rehearsals,and will in the upcoming shows.
Stacey Ireson (Ado Annie) also injects loads of fun into the role, especially in her main song "I'm Just A Gal Who Cain't Say No".
Paul McPherson (Ali Hakim) was the travelling Persian salesman who wanted to share his wares with Annie without putting a ring on it, naughty man! This show is full of really lovely comedy, fun performances and Paul makes everyone smile. My only niggle was that in parts, while doing the Oriental accent, some of the script was lost, but these were only on odd occasions and didn't take any fun from the role.
Martin Thomas (Jud Fry), was the sinister villain of the piece, and his facial expressions created that sinister air about him. Lovely characterisation which earned him "boos" from the audience when he took his bows. Another strong voice.
Natalie West (Gertie Cummins) bagged her man on the rebound with Ali Hakim, but it's her laugh that she'll be remembered for.
Ian Pottage (Andrew Carnes) notches up his 4th time in this show, and is always a delight to see in any production.
A good ensemble, but at times I got the feeling that (only some) seemed to be holding back just a tad in the dancing. This is a joyous musical and with all of those country dances going off, you can really throw yourself into them. Sometimes though it felt like more gusto could have been applied. it may have been that the stage with all of those people on didn't give the opportunity to fling yourself around. You have to abide to health and safety after all!
I couldn't easily find an acknowledgement in the programme for the choreographer, but thank you for some wonderfully high spirited choreography by Agnes De Mille.
Pacy direction by Julie Fowler kept this musical bouncing along nicely, and this is her first direction of "grown-ups", having worked with younger theatre performers in the past.
The music clarity was good and at just the right level as to not swamp any of the singers. Musically directed by Timothy Selman.
Loved the costumes, making watching this musical great fun. Let's face it even us big boys like dressing up in cowboy boots and chaps now and again, don't we?
I've already said that this musical is a joyous, fun musical and that's what spills over from the stage. Great songs that you all know, "People Will Say We're In Love", "Surrey With The Fringe On Top", "Oh What A Beautiful Morning", "The Farmer And The Cowman" and "Kansas City" among them.
A talented cast and colourful set, great costumes (Ann Thomas) and not forgetting the props (Grace Lievesley) and a well set out programme (Rob Harrison).
“Oklahoma” is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 4 March 2017

Friday, 24 February 2017

“The Lady Killers”
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
The classic Ealing comedy about a group of bank robbers who hire a room at Mrs Wilberforce’s home to plot the robbery under the guise of a quintet of classical musicians. They cover up their plotting with a recording of Boccherini’s “Minuet” giving Mrs Wilberforce the idea that she has a group of talented musicians in her midst.
This also gives her an idea to utilise their skills to entertain her group of ladies for an afternoon of cultural music. There’s only one thing wrong; these musicians can’t play a note.
Throw into this mix a talking parrot and Mrs Wilberforce’s regular contacts with the local police force and this band of robbers may just have bitten off more than they can chew.
Jane Pyke (Mrs Wilberforce) who is the spitting image in this role of ex Miss Marple actress Joan Hickson, is just marvellous as Mrs W; one of the best roles I've had the pleasure of seeing her perform as.
Glenn Murphy (Copnstable MacDonald) makes for a really convincing village bobby and a nice little minor role which bookends the play.
Matthew Huntbach (Professor Marcus) plays the role on the slightly eccentric side and with great flow of character.
Jason Wrightam (One Round) has got to be one of my favourite versions of this role. I've seen theatre productions before of The Ladykillers, but Jason, for me presented me with my favourite version so far. Wonderfully simple but brilliantly fun.
John Parker (Major Courtney) is another actor I've seen in several different roles and this part of the "war veteran" with a penchant for ladies clothes is another strong character role to add to the CV. I still say that he is a distant relation of the late Leonard Rossiter.
Michael-Craig Darmola (Louis, a Romanian hoodlum) is one actor that doesn't take to the stage too often but should do more. His sometimes deadpan delivery is a lovely contrast to his aversion to old ladies. irony at its' finest, and a cracking accent also. Love the costume for Louis.
Martin Pikett (Harry) the youngest member of quintet. martin plays the wide-boy with another wonderful costume. as the play is set in 1956, Martin gets to don a teddy boy jacket and drainpipes. He has a touch of the OCD's brought on by those colourful little pills he keeps on his person.

Lorna McCullough (Mrs Tromleyton) is Mrs Wilberforce's close friend from the ladies' circle.
The music of “Coronation Scot” creates that special feel of the Ealing comedy era and of radio drama series.
The set, designed by Director Colin Treliving wasn't as lop-sided as it could may have been, or should I say, as some other productions I've seen, but that aside, the set was rather wonderful.A multi-level set with a downstairs area, upstairs room as well as a rooftop section, The set was cleverly designed to create a feeling of space as well as privacy for the robbers.
Loved the special lighting (Simon Carter) and sound effects (Matthew Allcock) complete with the smoke from the train bringing the reality feel to the production.
Wonderful costumes are what is needed for this play and that is just what we got. Expected nothing less from the Lace Market theatre and they never disappoint.
I must also mention something that, for some reason confused the people who sat directly behind me. the section where the robbery took place was all "imagined" through film effects (Emma Pegg), which was a very clever way to tell the story in a concise and interesting way. Something the folk behind me just couldn't get their heads around.
It's one of the finest classic comedies around, which is why it's being performed in 27 different areas in the UK this year alone, and the Lace Market have given me the finest of performances. No wonder it's been a sell out all week, which is brilliant to see for a local theatre. Saying that though they have an ever-growing loyal fanbase who enjoy the quality of theatre that is seen at this theatre on a regular basis.
“The Lady Killers” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 25 February 2017

Thursday, 23 February 2017

“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell
Derby Theatre.
This joint production between Derby Theatre and the Octagon Theatre, Bolton is the story of self-discovery through education. Rita is a young, married hairdresser who has decided that she wants more from life. She wants to take the reins of her life, to better herself and get an education.
Frank is a tutor who also has dreams. He dreams of being a poet, unfulfilled by his teaching undergraduate English students, seeking solace in the bottom of a glass.                                                                             They inspire each other to look to what they both want out of life. They are opposites who attract, forming an unlikely bond through education.
This production is just over two hours of humour, pathos and thought provoking dialogue with the majority of the two hours in the first part. The parting shot of the play was an absolute joy of misconstrued expectation on the part of Frank.
David Birrell (Frank) and Jessica Baglow (Rita) bounce off each other well and as Rita is who the play is named after, she gets the lion’s share of the best lines from Russell. It’s not easy watching the play without recalling Julie Walters who, of course, played the original Rita on stage in 1980 and in the 1983 film with Michael Caine as Frank. Both Birrell and Baglow though succeed in making the parts theirs.
By the end of the play the two characters roles have almost reversed with Frank being the repressed one and Rita being the empowered one.
The set, designed by Ciaran Bagnall, who also designed the lighting,was eye catching with bookcases that were elevated to the top of the set.
There was a part of the play that had a soundscape of rain (Ben Occhipinti), but that wasn't enough for this production, oh no, the rain cascaded down the giant windows.
Directed by Elizabeth Norman, was pacy, but where there were spaces without dialogue, there were there for a purpose to give effect and space to the play.
The play stands up well in today’s arena especially when you look at the cost of education at University nowadays and the option as to whether seeking further education will actually further your chances in life.
A Willy Russell classic which has stood the test of time and serves to be an entertaining evening of fun and lyrical cleverness.
“Educating Rita” is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 11 March 2017.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

“Avenue Q” by Encore
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Puppets, songs, a heart-warming story of a graduate fresh out of university looking to find his purpose in life – and finding a girl along the way. A show that’s fun for all the family.
Wrong! Very wrong!
Avenue Q is enormous fun but with songs like ‘The Internet (is for porn)’ and a puppet sex scene (which is hilarious by the way), this show is strictly for adults and in no way like any puppet show at any kids party I’ve been to.
The show centres on Princeton, an arts graduate and therefore out of a job (What do you do with a BA in English). Trying to find a cheap enough place to rent, he finds on Avenue Q and meets a host of wonderful characters.
These including Kate Monster who dreams of opening her own monster school, the humans Brian and Christmas Eve, and Gary Coleman – the child actor off Different Strokes who is now down on his luck and the superintendent at Avenue Q. ( I don’t think it’s giving anything away by saying that this isn’t THE Gary Coleman). A porn obsessed monster, a couple of male puppet characters who live together, a pair of little bears who keep coming up with "fun" ideas and a buxom lady puppet who relishes in her own independence, if you know what I mean.
The actors behind these puppets, some of whom were new to puppetry, and I can only imagine that acting, singing, dancing and not really being the focus of the audience, and still going through the full realm of visual expressions your puppet is expressing, can't be the easiest of acting jobs.
You focus on the puppet characters and not the actor but can't help appreciate the talent the actor behind the puppet has.
There are some very funny, and non PC songs here and, even though I've seen the show three times previously and know the soundtrack well, this show still makes me laugh loudly as if it were a new show to me. Songs like "Everyone's A little Bit Racist", "The Internet Is For Porn" and "If You Were Gay" sit well alongside love songs like "There's A Fine Fine Line".
There were a couple of new additions to the show which kept it topical and the use of the two TV screens which gave the feel of the American style kids TV programmes like "Sesame Street".
Every single actor on that stage deserved every round of applause they received at the end.
Rob Charles (Princeton), Anna McAuley (Kate Monster), Mark Coffey-Bainbridge and Lucy
Castle (Nicky), Matt Powell (Rod), John Lowe and Becky Lane (Trekkie Monster), Cathy Hyde (Christmas Eve), Simon Collington (Brian), Maya Thompson (Gary Coleman), Sandy C Lane (Mrs T), Si├ón Scattergood (Lucy The Slut) and Katie MacDonald and Lucas Young as The Bad Idea Bears were all excellent. Even director Adam Guest made an appearance on stage with the new puppet kid in town.
The music,as only to be expected from the calibre of the band, Sam Griffiths, who was also MD, Gemma Marshall, Tim Wright, Jeff WiddowsonBen Ward and Jack Helan.
A brilliant set, which hits you as soon as you walk through the theatre doors, an amazing cast, wonderful band. Come on this show is every bit as good as the touring production, as close to the perfect production as you're ever going to get.
Director Adam Guest and producer/MD Sam Griffiths have pushed the bar for local theatre up yet again. I have an idea about the hard work they and their cast put in to every production, but the results speak for themselves.
This was not a night at the theatre reviewing for me tonight. This was a night out watching some very talented friends on stage entertaining to the very best of their abilities. Top that with catching up with some lovely, just as talented people off stage before the show, for me this was a wonderfully relaxing night of un PC entertainment.
Princeton may have been looking for his purpose in life, but Encore Performing Arts found their purpose as being one of the regions best local theatre companies. A group who just get better every production. A group who are constantly attracting more actors into their fold due to their excellent
name. A group who you need to see. A group I'm proud to shout about.
Many questions are asked, and matters raised as a serious undercurrent to the laughter. One question I couldn't find an answer for though was, why was I the only one to give a standing ovation to a group who pulled everything out of the bag tonight. the show was flawless and deserved nothing less.
If you can get a ticket, get one and buy one for your friend as well, while there are still seats left.
The company are also collecting for local charity Framework so the homeless will benefit from this amazing show.
"Avenue Q" will be right up your street and you can see if I'm not right by going to see it yourself until Saturday 25 February 2017 at the Nottingham Arts Theatre on George Street, Nottingham.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

"Touched" by Stephen Lowe.
Nottingham Playhouse.
"Touched" originally opened at the Nottingham Playhouse on 9 June 1977, directed by Richard Eyre. This time around, Matt Aston was the director and matt introduced modern age technology to the play to update the mechanics of the play.
The play is set in 1945 during the hundred days between VE Day in May 1945 and VJ Day in August 1945, a period which also included the election of the first ever Labour government and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The play focuses on a group of working-class women in Nottingham, especially Sandra and her sisters, Joan and Betty. Sandra has lost a son, killed by a car in the blackout. With peace coming, she is full of hope for a different kind of future.
The play was influenced by Lowe's mother, and the play is focused on the women who were left behind when the men went to war. Their struggles and sacrifices and the bond the women had with each other and the moralities of the women.
It's a working class play written for working class people and it's nice to hear the accent performed in true Nottingham. many times you hear the accent either diluted or taken way over the top but here, it were spot on. Compliments to the voice coach, Kat Hicks. Plus you can relive some of those magical Nottingham sayings you heard from your mother when you were just a kid.
The cast, Vicky McClure (Sandra), Aisling Loftus (Joan), Chloe Harris (Betty), Elizabeth Rider (Mam), Esther Coles (Mary), Luke Gell (Keith), Sarah Beck Mather (Bridie), Ian Kirkby (Harry), George Boden (Johnny), Isobel Gilbert (Pauline), Eve Mclaughlin and Kaiya Withey didn't outshine each other, which was a good thing because they were all supposed to be equals and that really stuck out.
I'm one for taking in the whole theatre experience and noting light (Nick Richings) and sound (Julian Butler) and these two really complemented the story and production, creating atmosphere.
The sets looked a lot more comfortable than I would have imagined them to be for this period of working-class Nottingham. the clever use of cinematography on the scenery set the time line and added exterior scenery, taking you from Sandra's comfy home to the woods in Colwick in a flick of the fader, or switch or whatever these technical wizards throw to transport us to another place visually.
The ending is quite magical, but also with an overtone of shock, so keep an eye on the blossom tree before and after. The magic of theatre still excites me with touches like this.
An enjoyable trip back to 1940's Nottingham with some serious topics highlghted. I have it on good authority though some of the scenes have been changed, like the tin bath scene, slightly. Good authority? Yes, I'm married to the original "Pauline" who first appeared in 1977, when she was nine years old, at the Playhouse along with Brian Glover and Marjorie Yates.
"Touched" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 4 March 2017.

Monday, 20 February 2017

“Woman In Black”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Written by Susan Hill and adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt, this play has been in the West End for 27 years. It’s the story of a lawyer, Mr Kipps, obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over him and his family by the ghost of a mysterious woman in black. He hires a young actor to help him tell his story in play form, within the play. It begins innocently enough but gradually they get caught up in Kipps’ eerie past.
Having seen the play previously, it can be difficult for a newcomer to this theatre play to conceive that a piece of theatre can have the same scare factor as the film. What we must remember though is that this was first a book and to get the most from a book, you have to use your imagination, and that’s part of the secret of this play.
Many of the scenes played out in the film are described aurally as well as having sound effects to allow the viewer to conjure up images in their own mind, in some ways quite the opposite of what theatre is meant to do as most theatrical productions are very visual, but that’s where the scare factor comes from. While your mind is conjuring up the images from the sound effects and story, this allows the visual side of the play to take over and create that “sudden” image which makes you jump.
Not only that but there’s the expectation of being frightened and when that fright comes at you in the surroundings of a place like a theatre, not at the times you expect it, that’s where the true frightening experience comes from.
The choice of set is simple yet effective. For instance a smoky stage and a lighting stencil of a vast mansion are all that there is to depict the marshland beyond the deceased Alice Drablow’s manor, leaving the audience’s mind to question what might be lurking in the mist.
The show has several ‘jumpy’ moments; the use of lighting is especially effective when revealing the ghostly figure of Jennet Humfrye in several unexpected places plus the sounds from Alice can also take you by surprise.
David Acton (Kipps) and Matthew Spencer (The Actor) are really good at building, maintaining and breaking the suspense, It's the direction by Robin Hereford, the lighting by Kevin Sleep and the sound design by Gareth Owen that make this story come to life and create the shocks.
It's not all frights though as the play, before the play within the play, has several jocular moments which is a big contrast to what is to come later in the play.
Some may say the play takes a bit of time to get going but it's very clever as it builds the tension up all throughout Act One, paving the way for a tense Act Two.
The set is sparse, which is good for not being a distraction, but the props that are there, like the rocking chair are vital and you home in on this and the music box with the knowledge that they are there for a reason, helping the anticipation and the tension because you just know that there's a reason for them being there. The raked stage also makes it very easy to see everything from front to back.
You will jump, I did and I've seen it before, and the appearance of the Woman In Black at the end will unnerve you.
"The Woman In Black" will be materialising every night until Saturday 25 February 2017 at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. It's frighteningly good!

Friday, 17 February 2017

"The Giant Jam Sandwich" by New Perspectives.
I've never even set foot in The Guildhall theatre at Derby, often wondered where it was and had heard many wonderful things about the shows that have been performed there, and shows to be performed there.
So when I was asked to pop down and review New Perspectives new musical, "The Giant Jam Sandwich", I jumped at the chance to, not only see this show for children, but to break my duck by visiting the theatre for the first time.
Possible not the easiest of theatres to locate if you didn't know where to look but, having found it, along with the very helpful and friendly staff, i ascended the gorgeous staircase to a bijou little theatre with raked seating for 182 downstairs and a small balcony area seating a further 60.
The intimacy of this theatre is perfect for shows like "The Giant Jam Sandwich". In a fictitious village called Itching Down, there's a sudden onslaught of wasps, millions of the blighters.The mayor has gathered together the village folk to see what they are to do about ridding their village of them, they even call in a wasp expert, but it;s the baker, Mr Bap, who comes up with the idea of baking a massive loaf of bread and making the biggest jam sandwich ever to trap the wasps.
The characters, and there are several of them, are all played by three very entertaining actors, Christopher Finn, Sarah Ratheram and Paul Critoph. they take on the baker, a farmer, the mayor, the wasp expert and even a pair of wasps and the odd bee among their several guises.
It's great fun, and not just for the kids either as I noticed several of the parents joining in with the audience participation bits.
The songs are very well written, simple but catchy, but from a music point of view quite technical. Some of the melodies wouldn't sound out of place in a serious musical. James Atherton has done a good job on the music front, and I'm sure that all the kids will now know the instructions to how you make bread, thanks to his catchy tune.
The props were all well used (loved the helicopter and the flying tractor) and the costumes were bright and fun along with the choreography.
The set was colourful and looked simple but I know that simple sets aren't always as they seem. Amy Jane Cook designed the set, so I'm sure she knows what I mean.
Being aware that Jack McNamara was the director, I knew that this would be good as I've seen several of his pieces previously in Nottingham at the Playhouse and Lakeside. This was snappy and pacy, making sure that the kids were entertained and their focus kept throughout the production which lasts just over an hour.
The author and illustrator of the book, which I hadn't realised dated back to 1972, also has local connections as John Vernon Lord was born and bred in Derbyshire. The wonderful verses in the play are by Janet Burroway.
Now, I love a good read of the programme while waiting for the show to start and this programme is full of fascinating facts like the above as well as wasp facts and how to make bread (for the young ones), as well as the usual details about the actors and creatives. Thanks Ruth Disney for a really nicely informative programme.
"The Giant Jam Sandwich" is at The Guidhall Theatre in Derby until Saturday18 February and then goes on a mini tour to the following venues.
 Sunday 5 March at Highbank Community Centre, Clifton
Saturday 11 March at Kegworth Village Hall (on the border of Notts and Derbys) and Sunday 12 March at Create Theatre, Mansfield.
It's always nice, as a reviewer and theatre fan to step back occasionally and see something a bit different, and that is what this is, so take your kids, Grandkids, your granny, uncles and aunts because they will all love this production.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

"Patience" by St. Peter's G&S Society.
Ravenshead Village Hall.
"Patience" or "Bunthorne's Bride is an operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan and, in the same way that William Shakespeare often puts theatre goers off by your experience at school, Gilbert & Sullivan can often have the same effect with just that phrase operetta.
Gilbert & Sullivan are masters at writing great comedy songs for wonderful comic pieces of theatre and this is one of their best, and also one of their little performed pieces, which is just another reason for me wanting to see it.
One other reason was that I knew that it was in the very capable directorial hands of Stephen Godward because if anyone is going to know how to present G&S on stage, Stephen was the man.
It;s the story of Reginald Bunthorne, a poet, who would be the equivalent of your Justin Bieber or Harry Styles of today. He is followed by all of the women in the town who want him to be their one and only. Bunthorne though is in love with the milkmaid, Patience, who isn't in love with him.
Along comes another poet Archibald Grosvenor and becomes the flavour of the month and all the maidens follow him around which irks Bunthorne, knocking his massive ego.
A simple story of shallowness and fickleness where poets, painters and artistic designers were the pin up pop idols of the day.
Being a G&S Society, you just know that the vocals in these shows are going to be among the best, and they are, so i don't need to tell you how good these actors are with the vocals. it goes without saying that you're going to get some powerful and beautiful voices.
Rachel Wass (Patience) was delightful and funny with her little "screams".
Alex Conway (Bunthorne) debuts with the society and I love the foppish fun he brings to the stage. Being exposed to G&S from his University days he delivers a crisp and clipped performance.
Jordan Martinez (Grosvenor) is not quite so foppish but just as much fun, and looks a little less like a Kenny Everett character without the wig but also has quite an ear for accents towards the end of the performance. This is the third year for the Blidworth lad.
There are twenty maidens who are all fabulously comical but I must mention Katia Burton (Lady Angela) who absolutely oozed fun in this role.
Likewise with the six Officers, all wonderfully watchable with a great sense of fun.
Instilling the fun element in the production is director Stephen Godward and not feeling the urge to set this G&S masterpiece in a hippyfied 1960's setting or in any other era, as some have done, he keeps it to the original 1880's. After all it's the words and music that create the comedy and they are all intact.
Wonderful costumes thanks mainly to Lichfield Costume Hire and a simple but effective set designed by Stephen Godward and Norman Skelley.
Musical accompaniment was provided by pianist Piotr Wisniewski and musically directed by Lynda Harvey.
A wonderfully camp romp with some great vocal performances, a story that you can follow and plenty of laughs along the way. A real treat for any theatre and G&S fan.
"Patience" is being performed at Ravenshead Village Hall until Saturday 18 February 2017, with a matinee on Saturday. Tickets are £10.00 and children £5.00.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

"Fame The Musical" by Musicality
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
It never fails to surprise me that these students can put on a show of this calibre in between all of the studies they have to do. Every year they do and it's all down to two little words that are echoed throughout this musical about graduating through the High School of Performing Arts. Those two words are "hard" and "work".
"Fame The Musical" provides an open look at the New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, where sweat and hard work are the key factors to a successful life as a performer. The plot follows a group of students across the acting, dancing and music faculties from 1980-1984 as they learn to master their craft and grow up alongside each other, rising to the various challenges that face them in school and in their personal lives.
Claire Wimbush plays Carmen Diaz, the fame hungry student with a drug addiction who falls for Schlomo, but her love for fame and the white stuff is stronger. Claire can dance, act and sing, a triple boon to any production. her singing voice highlighted well in numbers like "There She Goes", the emotion packed "In L.A." and the title track which brought the house down in the finale.
Jacob Lloyd, who I've seen several times in his roles on and off stage, plays Schlomo, the son of a renowned violinist, which he's trying to break away from, Schlomo, not Jacob. Instantly likeable character-driven role. Sclomo and Carmen perform a lovely duet in "Bring On Tomorrow" which is also sung at the end, creating a completely different twist to the words and the song, giving Jacob a chance to show the emotion in his voice.
Jake Gelernter is Nick Piazza, the serious drama student who appeared in a TV commercial once and wants to perform serious drama. Jake, like Nick is driven, I can say that with confidence as I've seen Jake act on several occasions, and in various roles which shows his versatility. He also has a fine singing voice as heard in two of my favourite songs from the show "Let's Play A Love Scene" and "I Want To Make Magic"
Emily Jayne-Dervey plays Nick's sparring partner, Serena Katz, who starts by having a bit of a crush on the character but soon gets to play Juliet to Nick's Romeo. A nice voice that compliments Jake's in their duet.
Bringing much of the humour to the musical is the "jock" Joe Jose Vegas, played by James Thacker. It takes a very confident actor to pull off this role and James has confidence oozing out of hi. He looked like he really enjoyed performing "Can't Keep It Down". He's also a bit of a mover as well.
Katie Monk plays the dancer with a love of food, Mabel Washington. Great enthusiasm shown throughout her song "Mabel's Prayer",
Sally Johnston shows plenty of attitude as the dancer Tyra Jackson. In some productions Tyra is Tyrone. Sally has great attitude, and you need that when you're rapping in "Tyra's Rap" and the wonderfully energetic "Dancing On The Sidewalk".
Maria Bennett is Tyra's ally, Iris Kelly. they say that opposites attract and this is the case here. Maria has lovely poise as the talented ballet dancer.
Nikki Fish is Grace Lamb, the female drummer of the band set up by Schlomo and Rhodri Denton plays the trumpeter in the band, Goodman King, both have some comic lines to bring to the play.
And then we have the teachers.....
Jess Lacey is wonderful as the English teacher Miss Sherman. Pushy but for all the right reasons to challenge her children to get the best education possible. Jess has a great voice for the theatre and she gets a couple of chances to prove this. The first in the duet with the dance teacher, Greta Bell, in the aptly titles piece "Teacher's Argument" and my favourite song from this musical "These Are My Children". This song in particular shows Jess's full range of her vocal talents.
Amy Foden, as Greta, shows great passion in her role, because Greta is a passionate person and a passionate teacher and Jess brings this out marvellously,Another talented singer to boot.
Thomas Outhwaite is the drama teacher, Mr Myers, bringing the ever so slightly campness to the stage without going over the top. Thomas gets the level spot on with this character.
Jack Linley plays the German music teacher, Mr Scheinkopf, who also has some wonderful snide little lines which you need to listen out for. Love the accent as well.
A very capable ensemble with some very talented dancers, which leads me on to the technical team.....
"Fame", despite the other subjects in school is primarily a dance driven show and doing a cracking job of the choreography is Alleisha Furlonge-Royal.With such a large cast of varying degrees of dance experience, Alleisha has done a brilliant job and instilled such energy into the show and the dancers.
The orchestra sounded wonderful and under the musical direction of Charlotte Mann.
Directed by Kate Shields and Matt Lewinton and produced by Hannah Kitching and Naomi Batley. These four have poured many hours into this production over the last six months or so but all that hard work has certainly paid off. You can see that by seeing the show,
A realistic and well utilised, multi levelled set, designed by Joanne Blunt and well thought out lighting design by Sam Osbourne and Hannah Burne and the Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Once again you have to applaud the time and effort given by everyone involved in "Fame" because these people are all full time students, and to stage a musical like this, and of this quality in the time given, is just brilliant. So much talent which I hope will be continued in future productions, even after graduation.
"Fame The Musical" is on at The Nottingham Arts Theatre until Saturday 18 February 2017. Tickets are from £9.00 - £12.50.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

"La Cage Aux Folles"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
Georges and drag artiste Albin, star of la Cage Aux Folles, live an idyllic existence in the heart of St Tropez. But behind the curtains of this sparkling all-singing, all-dancing cabaret they provide at "La Cage", all is about to change.
Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a bigoted politician, determined to close down the local colourful night-life. Drama is only just around the corner when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle to get the blessing of the marriage from Jean-Michel's fiancee's father. Will Albin be able to play the role of his life to ensure that Jean-Michel can marry his love?
I've seen John Partridge before on stage so I knew that this role, as Albin, would be right up his street. John though surpassed everything that I had expected. He played Albin with a Northern accent, reminiscent of Billy Pearce, and pumped so much comedy and emotion into the role, there were many with tears in their eyes by the final bows. His voice has such amazing range and power, carrying off all of the tunes with the greatest of ease.
His talent for ad-libbing with his interaction with the audience made the "La Cage" show real; as if we had been transported to St Tropez itself for the cabaret. He makes you feel the emotions that Albin was going through, making you forget that you were watching John Partridge, and instead that you were watching Albin.
Basically he made you feel the love story between Georges and Albin, and that fight to be accepted for who he was. A fight that for many people today still rolls on. He shows Albin's strong, confident side as well as Albin's insecurities. One hell of an emotional piece of theatre, an emotion shown on John's face during the standing ovation at the end.
Georges was played by Adrian Zmed. Lovely to see the role not taken over the top but just the right amount of "camp". Adrian's singing voice was a nice compliment to John's, with some nice light and shade moments. His vocals and acting made this a very easy watch.
Playing Jacqueline, the restaurant owner, was the wonderful Marti Webb; a bit of a legend when it comes to musicals.
Dougie Carter, as Jean-Michele, is also the owner of a fine voice and has several moments to show this off to, especially the upbeat "With Anne On My Arm" and the sublime reprise of "Look Over There".
Jean-Michele's fiancee, Anne, was played by Alexandra Robinson, and her parents played by Paul F Monaghan and Su Douglas, two actors with a great sense of fun and also cracking voices.
I must also mention Albin's maid/butler Jacob, played wonderfully by Samson Ajewole. What a wonderfully fun supporting role.
The ensemble were simply the best, and you know when sometimes you may see one who sticks out from the cast, well not here. Every single one of those dancers and supporting cast were seamlessly excellent.
The set was fantastic, like something out of a Hollywood movie. Gary McCann, the set designer was also responsible for the incredible costumes that have to be seen to be appreciated. Glitz and glamour by the bucketload.
Bill Deamer did an amazing job with the choreography, again reminiscent of one of the old Hollywood flicks.
A cracking sound and orchestra, under the musical direction of Mark Crossland, and while we're on the subject of the music, there are some wonderful songs in this soundtrack.
Not only the one we all know "La Cage" for, "I Am What I Am" but the singalong finale of "The Best Of Times" as well as the aforementioned songs "Look Over There" and "With You On My Arm" and the comic "Masculinity".
This musical is for anyone who loves a great night of entertainment from a cast who really know how to work their socks off. It has Hollywood stamped all over it, everything you could wish for from a big, bright, glamorous, glittery show with equal amounts of comedy and pathos. If you don't cry from laughter, you'll just cry.
I really can't praise this show enough and I am so happy that this production was my first experience of "La Cage", having not seen the film, only having the soundtrack to gauge the feel of the piece.
"La Cage Aux Folles", starring John Partriodge, Adrian Zmed and Marti Webb, is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 18 February 2017.This is one musical not to be missed for so many reasons.

Monday, 13 February 2017

"Strangers: A Magic Play"
The Lofthouse, Lace Market, Nottingham.
I think that I can honestly say that I've not seen magic and theatre linked in this way in the past. Magic itself is a type of theatre and these four individual scenarios all have two themes running through them; magic and strangers.
I'm not going to go through the four scenarios, because I don't want to spoil the plays for anyone who wants to see "Strangers". Two of the scenarios involve the environment of a public gathering, and these are where the typical image of the magic performance is shown, including a certain amount of audience participation.
There are card tricks shown on a table and on the stage, both of which are pretty impressive, especially to someone like me who loves the whole mystery of magic. My only advice on the card trick shown on stage is to have the area better lit. Not sure if this was an option in the Lofthouse space but you'd be able to see the cards that were being held. I had to really peer to see the outcome of the trick and I think a little more light on the cards would have had a more instant impact. Great trick though!
The other two, and again I'm going to try not to give any spoilers here, use magic in a more story based theatre way, The first on the desert island may turn a stomach or two but is effective in what it was trying to achieve.
The last story contained more of a standard magic routine wrapped in a story-line. It also had a feel of the supernatural, which I loved, well that was the way I saw it. I'd love to tell you what the story line was but, like a good magician, I do not want to reveal what happens.
As I said, for me this is a new concept combining the two are forms and they work really well together. Joe Strickland, a finalist in the Magic Circle Young Magician of the Year, has pulled a cracker of a show, like a proverbial rabbit, out of the hat and given both theatre and magic a nice twist. 
We were advised at the end that this show was part two of a work in progress production, and that's a brave thing for any production to say, but a wonderful thing to have experienced and to see the growth of the piece.
It's part two because Joe and the rest of the cast, Louis Nabil Djalili, George Waring, Kate O'Gorman, Natalia Gonzalez and Lois Baglin have already taken "Strangers" to the Edinburgh Fringe and received a really good review, so if you don't want to miss a piece of theatre with a difference, and you don't want to travel to Edinburgh to see it, pop down to The Lofthouse on Warser Gate in The Lace Market.
"Strangers: A Magic Play" is on until Wednesday 15 February 2017at 7.30pm. Tickets are only £5.00. Go get them before they vanish as well!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

"Annie" by Act One
Hind Leys Theatre, Shepshed.
My first visit to Hind Leys Theatre, and my first taste of Act One. I knew from what I'd heard and to people that I'd spoken to that Act One were good, so I expected a good show.
I didn't get a good show.... I got a brilliant show. I was really taken aback as to how good and how professional and the quality to this production. Hind Leys have a wonderful working theatre and a great cast of very talented actors.
I think we all know the "Annie" story, where little orphan Annie is left as a child on the steps of a New York orphanage ran by the nasty Miss Hannigan. Annie is taken in by the billionaire Oliver Warbucks who then chooses to adopt her. Annie is waiting though for her real parents to come back and collect her, so Warbucks runs a nationwide campaign to track down Annie's parents, which is where the greedy Hannigans try and pull a fast one.
A big cast who work so well together and apart from the main characters there are some wonderful characters in minor roles.
Adrian Dobson has changed up a few things from the standard production and I think that this production is the only one that started off showing how Annie was left at the orphanage. From that point on, I knew that it would be something just a little bit special.
Bella Ramsey (Annie) is a fizzing ball of attitude and confidence and I loved her voice. Gone is the typical Annie wig and a shorter cut which looked more fashionable. loved the fact as well that she was completely unfazed when Sandy the dog, played by Lola, decided that she didn't want to go to Annie when called and wandered off stage. Bella kept in character and waited for Lola to return to the script.
Danni Starkey (Miss Hannigan) was wonderful as the alcoholic bully; a lovely character performance from Danni who made me believe everything that she said, and another actor who oozed confidence.
Jack Cooling (Oliver Warbucks) really impressed me on many levels. Jack can act a lot older than his age and make that character believable. He is also blessed with a very mature voice and a coolness that belies his age. I noticed at the finale he held himself with the air of a performer. His chin slightly lifted, which any singer will tell you is how you're supposed to sing out in order to project with ease. He's going to go far.
Oliver Halford (Rooster) and Jemma Taylor (Lily) worked well as a pair and brought some of the comedy to the show.
Kate Muller (Grace Farrell) exuded an air of cool as Warbucks right hand woman.
I also loved the comedy and typical Britishness of Drake, the butler, played with brilliant comedy by Ben Dawson.
Some wonderful choreography carried out by Warbuck's staff, including an en pointe tap routine. Choreographer for the production was by Wendy Spencer.
The scene in the radio station on Bert Healey's show was also a nice comedy section, led by Bert himself played by Jacob Beasley.
Another lovely comedy section was the boardroom scene with President Roosevelt, played by Tom Malpass.
A massive cast, and I wish I could name check all of you because i could tell that every single actor on that stage showed their passion for what they were doing, no matter how small the role.
With such a large cast, and a wonderful set, designed by Adrian Dobson, the stage management had to be tight, and it was Kevin Spencer who made sure that there were no embarrassing gaps and kept it fluent.
The orchestra sounded wonderful under the musical direction of Hazel Needham and complemented the on stage actors voices perfectly.
There could be so many people not onstage that I also could mention but again, no space, but all of these cogs in the well-oiled Act One theatre machine worked exactly as they should and made this show a massive success.
I for one will look forward to seeing the next Act One performance because they won me over for the sheer talent, quality and professionalism of everyone on and off stage. It was well worth the three bus journey to see a show of this calibre.