Saturday, 29 April 2017

“Honk! Jr” by Spotlight Theatre School
Nottingham Arts Theatre
“Honk! Jr.” is a heart-warming celebration of being different. It’s a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Ugly Duckling. The musical is set in the countryside and features Ugly – a cygnet who is mistaken as an ugly duckling upon falling into his mother's nest and is rejected by everyone but Ida (his mother),
Ugly looks quite a bit different from his duckling brothers and sisters. The other animals on the farm are quick to notice and point this out, despite his mother's protective flapping. Feeling rather foul about himself, the little “duckling” finds himself on an adventure of self-discovery, all the while unknowingly outwitting a very hungry cat. Along the way, Ugly meets a whole flock of unique characters and finds out being different is not a bad thing to be. A great message to send out to anyone of any age.
I must admit, I went to the theatre straight from work and, not to put a finer point on it, I hadn't had the best of days. "Honk Jr" was just what I needed. It lifted me out of my mood and I ended up with an idiotic grin plastered all over my face. Anyone would have thought I was the proud father of one of the kids on stage.
Talking of which......
Spotlight Theatre School have gathered together a wonderful cast of young people with an abundance of talent. How do they remember all those lines, choreography, songs, where to go, what to do?
Maddie Keown is rather wonderful as "Ugly" and I loved the change from the duckling to a swan, a part that had the audience applauding. Great fun to watch.
Ida, the mother, played by Esther Mole. As soon as she opened her mouth to sing, you could tell that she has a future on stage. Her enunciation of the words and phrasing belied her young years. When there was the part where she went off to find "Ugly", she looked really emotional. Esther is a name to look for in the years to come.
As is Joseph Stafford who played the father, Drake. He has a lovely comedy about him which he delivers with a straight face.
The Cat was played by Molly Benner, who I've seen before but what a lovey self assured performance she put in. Totally believable as the nasty old cat who was hoping for a bit of duck l'orange for her tea. A nice powerful set of lungs on her also.
Maureen, Ida's sister was played by Erin Hanby. That family bond was apparent as she showed concern for her missing nephew.
The other ducklings were played by Jacques Sarazin, Jude Beaven, Sophie Benner and Lois Stevenson. Again there's some talent in that quartet and some lovely subtle acting skills being developed in them.
There were loads of other characters who were played by some brilliant young kids and the chicks
were just the cutest kids ever, all wide eyed in what may have been their first taste of the stage and audience appreciation. Let's hope they get a taste of it and continue.
The production team were the best from the Arts Theatre and would take too long , and take up loads of space, but they know who they are. Like little theatre wizards creating magic for us to be in awe of. I just must say though that the stage mangers, Amy Rogers-Gee and Joseph Jk Smith did a brilliant job with the kids and the sets and props. never an easy job and often a job that goes unnoticed and with little recognition.
I listened to the soundtrack but it's only when you see the songs performed do you get the full worth of the songs. The lyrics have a lot messages that we can all, however old we are, take away something.
This is the first time that I had seen "Honk Jr", having missed out last year from being able to see it performed by another theatre group, and I love this show. It gives a serious message out but delivered in such a way that it doesn't preach.
The book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe have some of the corniest, cheesy jokes I've head in a while, well at least since panto, but they worked magic. The music was by George Stiles, infuriatingly catchy.
I may have left work tonight feeling a bit down but thanks to Spotlight Theatre School and those amazing young actors, they sent me home in the bestest of moods.
Thank you Amanda Hall and everyone involved in Spotlight Theatre School, and I can't wait to see these kids grow into fully fledged local actors, in the same way that those chicks hatched and spread their grown up wings.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

"Sardined Shakespeare" by Bear Left Theatre Company.
Lee Rosy's Tearoom, Hockley.
This is the first time that I have visited this venue for anything more than a cup of coffee and a piece of cheesecake, but down in the depths of Lee Rosy's is a performance space which, albeit small, provided a space for four actors to get up close and quite personal with their audience.
"Sardined Shakespeare" is very similar to one of those 1970's compilation albums that, none of the cast will be old enough to remember, from record labels like K-Rel, Ronco and Arcade. 20 or so tracks, not in full, made up a greatest hits of the hits from that period, and that's a bit like this performance; a greatest hits of Bill the Bard.
Christopher Collins, Carly Smith, Stephi Durand and Sally Nix.performed segments from 15 of Shakespeare's comedy, romance and tragedy classics with only a few changes of costumes and the odd props.
The thing about Shakespeare is that you have to be able to act well to pull off a convincing interpretation of the words, get the rhythm right and be able to understand and get your audience to understand the story. With this being many plays rapidly segueing into each other, the flow and the magic of Shakespeare's words could well have been stilted, but if you didn't know that these were many separate plays, you would not have known.

There were a couple of times that the speeches didn't flow as smoothly as maybe the actor would have liked but these words, as any actor who has performed Shakespeare will confirm, don't, sometimes, flow naturally. Remembering the words and the character you're playing from each individual play I can only imagine isn't easy but these four provided a very entertaining two hour montage.
It was good to hear a few practised and additional to the Shakespeare "ad libs" which added more comedy as well as kept the flow from one play to another.
Our four Shakespearios were extremely confident, let's face it you'd need to be with the closeness of the audience. there was great passion in the dramatic scenes and the comedy was also very evident, which in some Shakespeare plays, as part of the whole play, may be often not quite so apparent.
Some people may shy away from Shakespeare for fear of not understanding. The pieces chosen, and the way that they are performed, present no difficulty to the newbie Shakespeare fan,
as well as those, like myself.who enjoy Shakespeare but would no way class himself as an expert on the subject of.
You can catch this enjoyable and unusual performance on Friday at Lee Rosy's Tearooms on Broad Street, in the Lace Market and then at College Street Studio Theatre on Saturday.
If you've not got Much Ado About Nothing to do this weekend, I can Macbet(h) you enjoy this. It's Shakespeare, As You Like It!
Tickets are only £5.00!!!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

“Teechers” by Festival players
Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough University.
“Teechers”, by John Godber, is a play within a play in which three students put on a performance to their teachers. Everything in the play is reduced to the bare essentials, with very little set and the three actors playing twenty other parts. However, Godber has said that it could also be performed with twenty different actors.
Godber also specified the use of contemporary chart music to keep the play current. The Festival Players moved the play on by a decade from when it was written in 1987 and focused on the year 1997 for this production
Gail Saunders is the flirty one of the class and is played by Victoria Price. Like the other two actors, I was very impressed by the accents and characterisation of the various teachers and kids. Especially loved the caretaker sections when she sounded so much like Julie Walters in "Acorn Antiques"
Lillian “Hobby” Hobson is played by Claire Malpas. Again, loved all the characters, and she has a wonderful talent for facial expressions to distinguish the characters from one another.
“Salty”, who doesn’t know what he’ll do when he leaves school, is played by James Daw. I know James'work from "One Man Two Guvnors" so I was already aware of his comic talents, and he made the most of these talents in this play, especially in the "ninja" section of the play within a play within a play.
All three actors gave some wonderful portrayals with a beautiful sense of comic awareness, and even when the words may not have come out in the right order, they capitalised on it and worked the comedy into the performance professionally.
Directed by Rachel Ingham who also was responsible for the sound design of the play.A great soundtrack of school disco classics including tracks from Robbie Williams, Take that, Oasis, REM and Madness among them.
The graphics were designed by Jez Malpas and really gave the impression of the various settings and scenes, especially in the brilliant Christmas disco section.
Godber's plays are all about the words and the comedy and the Festival players have taken these elements to heart and produced a brilliant evening of laugh out loud comedy which will also take you back to your school days.
Gold stars all round and well worth being kept back in school to watch these teechers. And please take time to read the writings on the wall. You'll know what I mean if you go and see this play!
“Teechers” is at the Sir Robert Martin Theatre inside Loughborough University until Saturday 29 April 2017.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

“Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
The classic Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical returns to the Nottingham Theatre Royal, this time with “X Factor” winner Joe McElderry donning the loincloth in this biblical belter.
It’s one of those musicals that is adored by all ages and is often performed by schools as well as local theatre companies alike and of course with the massive backing of the legendary Bill Kenright behind the show, you’d expect a big, colourful, West End affair.
Joe McElderry revisits the role that he took up in early 2016 but he has many brilliant Josephs’ footsteps to follow in, so how did he do? Did he match up to the Donny Osmonds, the Phillip Schofields (who I’m sure will pop in on Thursday as he is only next door at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall), Lee Meads, Keith Jacks, Craig Chalmers etc etc?
I don't think Joe has anything to worry about because he managed to match up to his past Josephs, bringing a boyishness to the role, He proved that he can sing with power as well as emotion. A lot of the emotion from the character was also displayed through Joe's face. He was confident and very watchable.
Lucy Kay plays the narrator and another export from the TV reality spectrum of “Britain’s Got Talent”. Hailing from Leicester, we can claim her as a local. Her operatic training worked well here and she also showed off a reasonable rocky tint to her voice as well.
Benjamin James-Ellis who plays Pharoah was also a TV Semi-Finalist in “Any Dream Will Do”, the TV talent show that looked for a “Joseph” to go on tour a few years ago. A solid performance from Ben with a great sense of fun as the faux Elvis.
A strong ensemble in every sense of the word, they created a lovely harmonic, almost choir-like sound in parts. This also went for the large childrens ensemble from the AGF Performing Arts. Combined they produced a very pleasant wall of sound.
I would have loved to have seen the live orchestra but they were well hidden. Not even the musical director appeared at the end when Joe told us it was the Richard Morris Orchestra, who also has a local connection as being a graduate of the University of Nottingham.
Colourful set and some nice choreography (Henry Metcalfe), the cast threw themselves fully into the dancing and singing the brilliant songs of Lloyd-Webber/Rice.
"Close Every Door", "Any Dream Will Do", "One More Angel In Heaven", Pharoah's Dream", "Go Go Joseph" and the wonderful "Those Canaan Days" all revisited in the megamix at the end.
A fun and pacy musical with a nice fluffy happy ending and with Joe's smile evident all the way through, you can see that he, and the cast, looked as if they were loving every minute on stage.
This production brings nothing new to the musical but it certainly doesn't detract anything from past productions I've seen, so it keeps the "Joseph" flag flying high.
“Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 29 April 2017.

Monday, 24 April 2017

“Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
The title of the play gives nothing away, and I wondered what it all meant. It comes from two real estate properties mentioned in the play: Glengarry Highlands, which is currently the prime real estate everyone is attempting to sell, and Glen Ross Farms, which is mentioned by several characters as having been very lucrative for those selling it several years ago.
It’s Mamet’s most celebrated play and there have been comparisons levelled at Arthur Miller’s “Death Of A Salesman”, but this play is more savage than Miller’s. It’s a competition between the four salesmen, set by their boss, to win a posh car; the runner up prize is a set of steak knives and the losing pair are to be fired. The steak knives, virtually, could be located in the backs of any one of the four men, such is the fierceness of the competition.
There’s a minor theme running through the play of food, which starts in the first scene in a Chinese restaurant and all the way through which is apt as this business is a dog eat dog world, so food and eating are up there, as well as a train of thought for how these salesmen turn into animals, protecting their patch and fighting for survival.
I am so pleased that the director trusted the actors with actual food, showing that they could eat and talk, just like real people do. It;s the little touches like having food and drink in the context of the play that adds a lot of realism for me.
Mamet’s writing, and I must admit, this is my first experience of Mamet’s work and this play, is all about the words and the way they are brought to shocking life by this all male cast.The words are very fruity but relevant to the characters profession and hunger.
David Dunford (Shelley Levene), Wayne Parkin (John Williamson), Fraser Wanless (Dave Moss), Tony Lane (George Aaronow), Graeme Jennings (Richard Roma) all work in the real estate agents. Tony Breeze (James Lingk) is one of the customers who's not too happy that he can't get his money back and Chris Griffiths (Baylen) is the detective.Jim Brooks (Blake) provides the voice over at the start of the play.
At times the American accents wander a bit but on the whole they're pretty solid somewhere between Chicago and Brooklyn. I found all the actors got more into the American twang more in Act 2.
All the characters are very different and all actors presented their characters very well. I've known for a while that Fraser is one of the best character actors at the Lace Market (among many excellent character actors), but I've nor seen Fraser act with
such passion and fire as tonight.
That too can be said about Graeme. There's a scene where he confronted Williamson and if that had been me in real life I would have either walked away, soiled myself or punched Roma, or maybe all three. Such an angry speech, delivered with fire.
David Dunford's initial scene with Wayne Parkin set the scene for the hunger and desperation, compounded by the next scene with Fraser and Tony, all the while building up this picture of competition.
One thing that I did think was a little disjointed, and this is due to Mamet's writing, was that in Act One we see "A" and "B" plotting and in Act 2 it is "C" that admits to what had happened. "C" had more of a motive but what happened to plans set by "A" and "B"? An odd twist, but at least Mamet got us talking about his work after the play was over, always a good thing in theatre.
Directed by Gordon Parsons the play was fast moving and spicy with tons of angry passion and fire.
Set Design by Chris Griffiths. A realistic two setting set which consisted of the Chinese restaurant in Act 1 and the office environment in Act 2.

Lighting Design by Philip Hogarth and Lighting Assistant Allan Green
Sound design by Darren Coxon. Not sure if Darren had a hand in the interval and opening soundtracks but it all linked in to the theme of the play. I love a good linking soundtrack.
An interesting story of desperation and greed and the lengths some people may go to for job security. At just 80 odd minutes long as well, the intermission came faster than expected, as did the play end.
“Glengarry Glen Ross” is on at the Nottingham Lace Market theatre until Saturday 29 April 2017

Saturday, 22 April 2017

“Spine” by Clara Brennan
Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside.
Lakeside Youth Theatre complete their second day of a two day run of theatre about the friendship between an elderly widow, Glenda, and a wise-cracking and mouthy teenager, Amy.
“Spine” is the story of Amy, who suspects she might have been relegated to life’s rubbish heap, and Glenda, the old woman with whom she strikes up an unlikely friendship after looking for a place to stay after her wild teenage ways land her in trouble. The house is no standard large house but is stacked with books nicked from the dismantled local library.
This play was initially only 15 minutes long, written for Theatre Uncut, which is a movement reacting to current political events. Since that initial stage in 2012, it’s grown into a full one hour piece of political theatre.
It’s not a play that I’d heard of before but being an avid reader of books, this immediately struck a chord with me, and immediately sympathised with Glenda's plight.
Amy is definitely not vocally challenged and soon becomes a bit of a hero for venting her opinions, gaining the respect of Glenda, as well I imagine from the members of the audience.
The play is often presented as a monologue but here it's an ensemble piece with seven actors playing Amy with eleven other actors playing various roles as the ensemble.
Amy's social situation isn't an uncommon one sadly but by her gaining a friend in Glenda, she manages to extract herself from the circle of so called friends that were
bringing her down and we see the start of the turnaround at the end.
The relationship between the wayward and the widow is completely believable, after all they do say that opposites attract, and in this case that was so true.
A talented group of actors keep the vibrancy of the piece going. There's some very blue language used but not gratuitously. there's also a lot of comedy as well. The story of how Glenda's husband passed away is comedy gold, bordering on farce.
A busy set which had many places for your eyes to focus on was designed by Rachael Jacks..
It's a fast moving story and Director Loreto Murray and assistant Director, Ellie Woodhead, kept the impetus going throughout the 65 minute piece of theatre.
Also keeping it rolling on at a nice pace was the lighting, designed by Richard Statham, and a brilliant indie style soundtrack featuring among the tracks, classics from The Killers and The La's.
With talent of this calibre from the Youth Group, I'll be interested to see what they produce when they progress onward, away from Youth Theatre.
An exciting and interesting piece of theatre.

Friday, 21 April 2017

“The Full Monty” by Heanor Musical Theatre Company
Mansfield Palace Theatre
In this musical stage version adapted from the 1997 British film of the same name, six unemployed Buffalo steelworkers, low on both cash and prospects, decide to present a strip act at a local club after seeing their wives' enthusiasm for a touring company of Chippendales.
One of them, Jerry, declares that their show will be better than the Chippendales dancers because they'll go "the full monty"—strip all the way. As they prepare for the show, working through their fears, self-consciousness, and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.
For anyone who has lived under a stone since the film’s release, this may appear as being a play directed mainly at women with plenty of “eye candy” on show, but it runs so much deeper than this.
OK the show wouldn’t be “The Full Monty” without a certain amount of flesh flashing, and you must take your hat off to the male members for exposing their talents, but the script also takes on depression, suicide, pride, homosexuality and parental responsibilities as well as conquering demons and fears. The women in this musical also play an important and vital role, because if it wasn’t for the
women, the men wouldn’t have taken such a bold move.
You will leave the Mansfield Palace Theatre on an absolute high because this is such a great feel good piece of theatre, made all the better by an absolutely brilliant cast. And a big cast it is as well!
Paul Mills (Jerry), Matt Fry (Dave), Ben ヅ Jones (Malcolm), Ben Sherwin (Harold), Alex Mclaren (Horse) and Tom Lucking (Ethan) all present their very different characters in such a way that the audience fall in love with the characters and get behind them every step of the way.
Jerry will do anything to keep contact with his son Nathan, played with great natural ability by Bailey West and to get the money needed to pay Jerry's wife, Pam (Katie Ward).
Dave you immediately empathise with but has a great sense of humour, masking the problems he is having at home with his wife Georgie (Katy Gaskin).
Malcolm wins the sympathy vote as he is saved by Dave and Jerry at the start and then gives a lot of the comedy to the group with his special dancing technique!
Harold whips the choreography for the group into shape, but he too has kept a big secret from his wife, Vicki (Adela Green).
Horse also has a funky way of dancing but why do they call him "horse"? Mmmm I wonder!
Ethan brings a certain glimmer to the dance act in a BIG way!
Brilliant characters all and the actors all looked like they were having the time of their lives, and why shouldn't they because this is such a brilliant musical.
Starting differently to the stage version of the film, we start off in a club where the girls are being entertained by professional male dancer "Buddy" played by Simon Ward, and the audience get to see a taster of what's to come in the flesh stakes.
You'll notice other differences in this musical version of the film from the stage version of the film. There's no "Hot Stuff", or "You Can Leave Your Hat On" but you won't miss them because the soundtrack is wonderful. You'll go home with "Let It Go" resounding around your head. Plus there's the beautiful duet of "You Walk With Me" by Ben and Tom.
Wonderful choreography by Laura-Jane Jacobs and brilliantly directed by Kim Harris, keeping all the
comedy elements as well as some really emotive parts to counter the fun.
The music was very clear and powerful, directed by Lisa Mills which was also mixed well with the vocals.the nine piece band were sounding on top form.
Very good use of projection which didn't over power the set design (Kim Harris and Paul Young) and enhanced the visual side of the show.
there was a slight danger of the audience turning it into a panto session but hey, they were enjoying what they were seeing and obviously wanted to make themselves heard. At one stage I'm sure I saw Matt ever so slightly lose it with a snigger when he asked "who wanted to see this dancing on stage?" and a couple of the ladies yelled "We do".
All in the name of fun.
What more can I say, I love this musical and it's got a self affirming quality about it. it deals with serious issues but as an under current, always giving the audience what they want. A great night of entertainment with a bit of sauciness thrown in. And I imagine that many of the ladies last night were praying for the lights to blow a fuse at the integral part of the show. Sorry but that may be more than the lighting director's life may be worth!
“The Full Monty” is at the Mansfield Palace Theatre until Saturday 22 April 2017

Thursday, 20 April 2017

“Tommy – The Musical”
Nottingham Playhouse.
After witnessing the accidental murder of his mother's lover by his father, Tommy is traumatized, and as the boy grows, he suffers abuse at the hands of his sadistic relatives and neighbours. As an adolescent, he’s discovered to have an uncanny knack for playing pinball, and when his mother finally breaks through his catatonia, he becomes an international pinball superstar.
The classic '60s rock opera by The Who was translated to the stage by theatrical wizard Des McAnuff into a high-energy, one-of-a-kind theatrical event. The score is timeless in its appeal, giving the show a cross-generational appeal that has made it a smash-hit in high schools and colleges around the world as well as in the theatrical environment. A small rock band orchestration and spectacular original Broadway production slides allow you to capture the excitement on a modest budget.
The Rock Opera Tommy, which was first performed by The Who in 1969, was originally conceived by Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert with contributions by John Entwhistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey.
There’s the classics from the album such as “Pinball Wizard”, “Tommy Can you Hear Me”, “See Me Feel Me” and “I’m Free” as well as some new stuff written especially for the new touring production by Pete Townshend.
This is probably one of the best things I've seen this year with an amazing cast of 22 performers and musicians, many of various disabilities, which show that there really are no boundaries in theatre.
William Grint (Tommy) is magnetic to watch as the deaf, dumb and blind kid. Looking at William's CV though is more than proof that being deaf is no barrier in theatre land.
Providing the voices of Tommy were a pair of very good vocalists, Julian Capolei and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan.
Tommy's dad, Captain Walker, is played by Olly Murs lookalike, Max Runham. Max has a great voice for musical theatre. He's also a solo artist in his own right as well as playing in a band.
Donna Mullings (Tommy's mother, Nora) brings so much emotion through her acting and face. Her voice is provided by a beautiful vocalist called Shekinah McFarlane.
Alim Jayda (Frank, Tommy's stepdad) also shows off some very impressive vocal talents and some nifty footwork as well.
The baddies in this musical, Cousin Kevin, played by the very boyish Lukus Alexander, and Uncle Ernie, played by Garry Robson, are both quite sinister behind their smiley faces. Both received playful booing at their curtain call.
My personal highlight of this production was The Acid Queen. Played in the film by Tina Turner, this role needed an amazing vocalist and character. I can safely say that I forgot Ms Turner when the legend that is Peter Straker appeared on stage. At 73 years of age, this man's falsetto made the hairs on my neck stand on end. His vocals are incredible and his presence on stage was vibrant. How he manages to walk in those heels is an amazing task as well.
The whole cast were just incredible. It shows that today to make incredible theatre, as an actor, you need to do so much more than just be able to act, sing and dance. This theatre company pushes the theatre bar and taunts the others to reach their level.
Directed by Kerry Michael. What can I say? It's an amazing production!
Musical Director is Robert Hyman. The music is played live on stage. Nice and loud, giving a "gig" style atmosphere. This band created such an exciting atmosphere, and with this being a rock opera, the music was practically non-stop.
Choreography by Mark Smith. He gave such a stylish, quite balletic and contemporary feel to the rock backing. A veritable feast for the eyes.
Sound Design by Andrew Johnson (for Creative Technology). Crystal clear. There was no straining my ears here. Some may have grumbles about it being too loud, but not for me. I loved the power of the live band and the big vocals. And there were no issues hearing the other vocals as well. the mix was spot on, for me.
It came as no surprise that the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich Production in co operation with Ramps On The Moon received a total standing ovation from the
appreciative audience. I was proud to be one of the first to get to my feet to show what I thought of this amazing musical and the incredible cast.
"Tommy" is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 29 April.
If you only see one musical this month, go and see this one. I guarantee you'll not regret it!

Friday, 7 April 2017

"42nd Street” LEOS
May Hall, Trent College, Long Eaton.
Peggy Sawyer is fresh off the bus from small-town America and just another face in the chorus line on Broadway’s newest show, “Pretty Lady”. When the leading lady, Dorothy Brock, gets injured, Peggy might just have the shot at stardom she's always dreamed of….
The Long Eaton Operatic Society (LEOS), at first glance may have taken on a big song and dance musical risk, but with a mix of young talent and seasoned performers in the cast, there was no risk to be had.
Helen Perry (Peggy Sawyer) swaps her previous “Bad Girls” image for an innocent, maybe naïve might be a better adjective, new girl on the Broadway block.Great vocals and what a tapper. At times Helen reminded me a bit of a young Judy Garland
Dave Dave O'Neal plays Julian Marsh, the producer of “Pretty Lady”, the musical within this musical. He stamped his character's authority in this musical as the Producer who knew what he wanted and accepted nothing less than better than the best.
Claire Collishaw takes the role of the ageing leading lady Dorothy Brock. I can only imagine that Claire has loved playing this role because of the diva qualities of Ms Brock
Jack Draper plays the leading romantic male role, Billy Lawlor, who gets his girl by the end of the
musical. Playing the good-looking romantic lead doesn't take much acting for Jack, and we know that he has a good singing voice. What i was so impressed by was Jack's tapping/dancing qualities. I saw him tap in "White Christmas" but he has really built on that experience. His extension lines in his arms and hands are some of the best I've seen in local theatre, showing that attention to detail.
The gorgeous Carrie-Anne Corner plays Maggie Jones and gets to show off those flying tap shoes again as well as subtle humour in the role of Maggie.
Jack Woolley (Bert Barry) has one of the best projections because I heard every word he said. In a theatre which has a bit of a reputation for sound issues near the back, I had no problems hearing Jack.
A great sense of comedy with Jack as well.
Rob Chilton (Andy Lee) is apparently new to tap. If that's the case he is either a fast learner or a natural because he put 110% into his dance. He has such enthusiasm for his role. If only you could bottle enthusiasm like that, it was so infectious.
Directed and Produced by Liz Woolley. This is an absolute smash for Liz. Who needs to travel to London to see a glitzy, classy musical when you have just that in Long Eaton.
Musical Director for this show was Tom Bond. And what an amazing sound this orchestra made. I've seen Tom in charge of music before and I was impressed then and, with a bigger band, he gives us probably one of the best sounds for an orchestra at May Hall.
Lighting by Tom Olding was excellent. From moody to full on Hollywood, and sound by Andrew James. At times I had a bit of an issue hearing some of the lines. This may just be a case of projection though.
What can I say about the choreography? When you have a talent like Laurie Trott in charge of the choreography, you know that you're going to get a classy show. The ensemble pieces were like looking down one of those kaleidoscopes where everything moved as one, well that was what it looked like on stage. Great extensions, as I've already mentioned and some nice pointed feet in the kicks.Laurie has made sure that all the dancers toed the line because you can see this in the quality of the amazing routines.
Talking of the ensemble. they were just brilliant. When they danced they looked as one and when they sang it was like a heavenly choir from a Buzby Berkeley musical.
The many costumes were lush and there were also several very quick total costume changes. Claire Perry was the wardrobe mistress and I think deserves a mention.
While the West End may have Sheena Easton in the latest “42nd Street” London production, this LEOS show isn’t short of star attraction either
So often in some musicals, you don’t realise the amount of memorable tunes that come from the shows. “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” “Dames,” “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, “Young & Healthy” and of course the title track nestle among lesser known tunes. All delivered with great gusto and class.
I, and many others, left the theatre with these tunes going around in their head and a warm feeling inside, yet again proving what a very talented group the Long Eaton Operatic Society are.
“42nd Street” is lighting up the Long Eaton night with multitudes of glitz and glamour until Saturday 8 April 2017.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

“Chess” by ESNA Players
Loughborough Town Hall
The story involves a politically driven, Cold War-era chess tournament between two men—an American grandmaster and a Soviet grandmaster, Anatoly—and their fight over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other.
The music, written by Benny and Bjorn from Abba, and the lyrics by Tim Rice mean that these songs are bound to be more intricate to sing than at first glance, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for this talented cast.
Gareth Wynne is Musical Director for this lush score. There are some gorgeous choral pieces as well some magnificent rock arrangements, making this soundtrack an aural delight. With several different musical styles, this score has something for every musical theatre lover.
Jon Orton (Walter) is normally seen in the depths of the orchestra pit but he’s ventured back on to the stage to play a financial administrator in Freddie’s delegation, and seemingly a CIA agent. I wonder where the inspiration for Jon’s characterization of Walter comes from? What I'd also forgotten was what a good voice Jon has, but reminding us of that talent that stays hidden from time to time.
Darryl Clarke (Anatoly) brings out the steely Russian brilliantly. Anatoly is at the top of his game on the world’s game stage. Driven by his ambition to be the best but unwilling to show the man behind that hardened exterior. That though starts to change when he meets and falls in love with Florence, and what happens out of Russia, stays out of Russia, until his wife and family are used in the political game of Chess. Darryl shows the push and pull of Anatoly’s personalities with great intelligence. His version of "Anthem" was spine tinglingly good.
Playing Fredereick “Freddie” Trumper, the American Chess champion, was Jonny Painting. I don't think that I've heard Jonny sing as good as he did last night. He was on top form. His voice really suits this type of rock opera.
Morven Harrison (Florence) returns to the stage for the first time in a few years. Like Jon, she has been involved in many of the lush scores that you may have heard in various Loughborough Town Hall musicals. Again, a belter of a voice that just gives you tingles when she lets fly with some of her notes. Florence isn’t your usual musical female parts. An intelligent, strong female character who is at the centre of this love triangle. Definitely a role that you can tell Morven is loving.
Laura Brookes plays Svetlana Sergievskaya, Anatoly’s estranged wife.You don't get to see that much of this character but as part of the duet, "I Know Him So Well" with Morven, they set the hairs on the back of your neck rising, their voices blend so well
The Arbiter, the man in charge of the Chess matches is played with authority from ESNA newcomer, Meng Khaw. Knowing of Meng’s back theatrical catalogue of roles, I had an inkling that this role would be just right for Meng. I was not wrong and I was not disappointed. Vocally this cast is one of the best I've witnessed and Meng is a welcome addition.
Gareth Musson (Molotov) plays Anatoly's conniving second who is apparently also a manipulative KGB agent! This musical has a special place in the heart of Gareth, and his love for the music is apparent in his rich, deep vocals.
An excellent ensemble of twenty one other cast members really flesh out the vocals and dance numbers.
The set for “Chess” is very technical because it consists of sixteen flexible LED screens, usually seen in London’s West End productions, giving this production that extra sheen of quality, professionalism and WOW factor. This amazing design is thanks to Jez Malpas of Easyflex LED Screens.
Making this an exciting visual piece of art is the lighting by Judith Moulton.
The sound was of the highest quality from Rob Temperton and the rest of the set design was by Ash Moulton.
Directing this rapid moving show was Emma Healey, making sure there was no rime for you to look at watches, not that you'd want to in this musical.
Loved the choreography as well, thanks to Carl Edwards.Ranging from, what looked to be quite simple steps, to intricate moves. If something looks simple though, you can guarantee that it's not that way and that the talented cast and choreographer has worked hard to give that impression.
Giving that extra touch of class were the costumes, most in stark black and white. A great job done by Victoria Clarke.
“Chess”, although political in its plot, at its’ heart is a love story with some well-known songs, “I Know Him So Well”, “One Night In Bangkok”, "Nobody's Side", "Heaven Help My Heart" and the gorgeous “Anthem”.
At these prices you won’t need to pawn a thing to be able to afford the ticket price, You’ll feel like a King with your Queen, you’ll have a great (K)night out, but the way tickets are going you may need to check, mate, that there are some available.
“Chess” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 8 April 2017 and one musical you don't want to miss for its' pure professionalism..

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

“Di & Viv & Rose” by Amelia Bullmore
Lace Market Theatre.

I first saw this play only a couple of weeks ago at the Nottingham New Theatre and immediately fell in love with the play, the humour, the comradeship and the warmth of the characters and the writing.
Di, Viv and Rose are three students at a northern university who in 1983 decide to share a house. Rose, whose stepfather buys the property, is a free-spirited art history student who sleeps with any boy she likes the look of.
Her companions are Di, a sports-loving lesbian who is taking business studies; and Viv, a sociology student with a fierce work ethic. On the surface, they seem unlikely friends. But that is very much the author’s point: her play, which takes us up to 2010, shows how their solidarity survives physical separation, varied career paths and even mortality.
This is a play written by a woman, about women but for everyone to enjoy, and, as a male of the species, it gives a little insight into the workings of the female mind.
One thing that unites the three is music and this also helps pin down the time line of the play as it travels through the years. One of the highlights of the play is when all three are dancing around to Prince’s hit “Let’s Go Crazy”.
The play is well balanced with plenty of laughter and comical moments alongside many sobering scenes, and there’s a scene in Act Two that, if you didn’t know the play, as I didn’t when I saw it for the first time, which really virtually smacks you round the face and makes your jaw drop.Looking around at this particular time in the play, I could see women dabbing their eyes.
Charlie Osborne (Di) turned in a brilliant performance which at several stages of the play was in danger of letting the character's emotions overspill. Di is one of those characters who wouldn't want to get emotional, but was not afraid to show emotion, when in the right company. Charlie measured these scenes to perfection and by holding in Di's emotions, made us feel more emotional towards her.
Emily Kelsey (Viv), again an excellent performance as the headstrong writer who gets to where she wants to be by bloody-mindedness and hard work. Emily also plays a very convincing drunk, not over the top, but measured, unlike her drink, Viv's that is, not Emily's. Emotion packed and powerful.
Alex Milligan (Rose) gives a wonderfully fun and care-free performance with a naive outlook on her sex life. Basically this girl just wants to have fun, and it's fun to watch Alex in all of her fun naivety.
The three characters in the play grow to be lifetime sisters in arms and you can see that these three amazing actors have a certain connection because they make the relationship on stage look real and totally believable. You feel the love between these three women.
Directed by Carole Phillip, who has given us a wonderful, heart-warming piece of theatre. She has wrung every ounce of emotion from these three actors, which I personally loved.
There was no set as such, and at first, having being spoilt by a wonderful set a couple of weeks ago with the same play at a different theatre, I completely forgot the sparseness as I was beckoned into Di, Viv & Rose's lives and once more swept up into this wonderful story. I didn't need a set and neither did they.
The costumes reflected the eras we were transported through, especially Rose's early Whitney Houston style.
My only niggle was that when drinks were being served into the women's glasses, there was no wine, no cider, no liquid. This invisible drink was then consumed.It would have looked so much better if when pouring drinks, or serving soup, that there was some liquid involved. I know it's only a minor thing but I love realism. Not a detraction, just an observation.
I loved this play after I first saw it, I love this play the more I see it and I love the way this play was presented. Basically I just love this play.
“Di & Viv & Rose” is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 8 April 2017 but to the best of my knowledge looks to be sold out, but it may be worth checking for tickets on the day.