Tuesday, 30 January 2018

“Son Of A Preacher Man”
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Who is this Preacher man and who is his son? Well, back in the Swinging 60’s, apparently, there was a record shop in London called “The Preacher Man”. It was a place where all the hipsters hung out and discussed the topics of the day, which of course included relationship issues.
Now, as well as dispensing records from his shop, the owner, who also became known as The Preacher Man, also dispensed relationship advice. An agony uncle of the day if you like.
Fast forward to the present day and three people, Paul, Alison and Kat, all at a crossroads in their life, meet up with Simon, the son of The Preacher Man. The three, from three different generations, ask for help and guidance but can the son of The Preacher Man offer help and guidance or will he make things worse with his meddling?
The story line is as flimsy as a cheap paper tissue, and as easy to see through.
The music consists of songs that are associated with Dusty Springfield, and while the songs are stand-alone classics, at times they seem to just be slotted in merely to just have a song at that point of the proceedings.
Classics like “I Only Want To be With You”, “Spooky”, “The Look Of Love”, "In The Middle Of Nowhere", "I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten", "Goin' Back", "A House Is Not A Home" and the title song are well performed, if not at times a little soul-less in some of the songs but, as I said, seems to be a little disjointed to the plot of the musical.
Dusty performed these songs with great soul and feeling. She may not be spinning in her grave at some of these renditions, but she may be turning rather fast.
Directed and Choreographed by Strictly’s Craig Revel-Horwood. I was a tad disappointed as I was expecting much more from the choreography than what I saw. It was fun but I've seen better from local theatre groups around the area.
Starring Debra Stevenson as Alison, the ex teacher who fell for a pupil she was tutoring called Liam (Lewis Kidd). Alison knew that this was wrong but can she fight her feelings?
Alice Barlow, who younger theatre goers may know from “Hollyoaks”, plays Kat. Alice surprised me with the quality of her voice, especially in the gospel finale version of "Son Of A Preacher Man", which is where most of the audience started to stir.
Michael Howe plays Paul, who we discover through the story line is gay, and is now looking for the young man who who had eyes for back in the 60's, but didn't follow up on his feelings. Michael has a lovely voice with feeling which showed in the group version of "How Can I Be Sure" and his duet of "Spooky".
Nigel Richards played Simon, the Son of the Preacher Man, and for some strange reason I was picturing Allan Carr in this role! But Allan Carr will never have Nigel's singing voice.
Playing the preyed upon Scottish, kilt clad plumber Andy, is Liam Vincent-Kilbride. Unashamedly the eye candy for the ladies, and possibly some of the men as well.
While all of the main leads were good in their roles and the singing wasn't bad. The one actor I was completely drawn to was one of the Cappuccino Sisters. Cassiopeia Berkeley-Agyepong was the one who my eyes were drawn to. Not only for her stature but for the great fun she was having on stage and her stage presence.
Michelle Long and Kate Hardisty complete the trio of Cappuccino Sisters, who look fantastic and sound the same.
The set and the costumes were eye catching, the band were good, but I am not a fan of the actors playing their instruments on stage, especially when they are not relevant to the character or the role. It's not needed, irrelevant and slightly distracting.
The basic choreography and the flimsy story apart, this is held together by the cast and the music of Dusty's hits. I'm glad that I've seen the musical, but it's not going to make it into my list of musicals to see again in a hurry.
“Son Of A Preacher Man” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 3 February 2018. I won't be waiting though to see this musical in the shortlist for an Olivier award any time soon, but it's fluffy and fun and we have to wait until Act Two for the action and the fun to start. 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

“Our Country’s Good”by Bluecoat Drama
Bluecoat Academy
Our Country's Good is a 1988 play written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, adapted from the Thomas Keneally novel The Playmaker. The story is about a group of Royal Marines and convicts in a penal colony in New South Wales, in the 1780s, who put on a production of “The Recruiting Officer”.
The play shows the class system in the camp and highlights themes such as sexuality, punishment, the judicial system, and the idea that it is possible for ‘theatre to be a humanising force'.
This was a new play to me so I deliberately did not read anything about the play before going to see it. I wanted the full impact of seeing the play for the first time without any pre conceptions.
I've not known a play go so quickly as it did tonight. Mainly because the story swept me along, and the acting was way above what you'd expect from such a young group of actors. The passion and understanding of the script, the pathos, the comedy and the seriousness of the story was just wonderful.
Some times when there is no set or background, I feel that there is something missing from a play but with this one, the story and acting enveloped me and I saw no need for a set. it made me concentrate more on the script and the acting.
I really enjoyed the partnership of Captain Campbell and Major Ross. Campbell providing the comedy with Ross being the straight, bullying Major. These roles played with great conviction by Lewis Spencer (Campbell) and Peter Rogers (Ross).
The flirtiness of "Filthy" Meg Long, played by Loren Allen. The wonderful hammy overacting of Sideway, played with great aplomb by Toyosi Draycott. All of these adding that bit of spice to this play.
Another well paired duo were Jason Adcock as Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who was in charge of putting on the play"The Recruiting Officer", which was the play within this play, and Midshipman Harry Brewer, played by Nigel Nyanhete. Both of these actors performed with great passion, making me believe the character they were playing.
All of the cast presented their roles exceedingly well. The whipping scenes, while not being visually graphic, made me wince with the sound effects of the lashes and the contorted pain in the faces of the actors. The imagination of the audience well utilised here to great effect.
Brilliantly directed to get the audience to use their minds and to bring the characters alive via these talented students, Joel Mansell and Adam Iqbal, did a smashing job. It's often nice to go out to see a play and make the audience do a bit of work, and I loved the audience quips in the play's script as well.
The evocative lighting created that "doom" atmosphere well, designed by Peter Hodgkinson, who I have to thanks for inviting me down to see this wonderful piece of theatre.
The costumes made sure that you knew who was on whose side and separated the officials from the convicts at a glance.
Nice use of props and especially the hangman's noose which hung ominously throughout the play, a constant reminder as to what fate possible held for the convicts, guilty or not!.
“Our Country’s Good” is being performed at the Aspley Lane Drama Studio, Bluecoat Academy until Saturday 27 January 2018 and tickets are only £5.00.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

“Priscilla Queen Of The Desert” by Christchurch Theatre Club.
Loughborough Town Hall
This musical, for anyone who has not seen it before, is a double edged sword because while there’s dollops of fun and fabulousness in the characters and songs, not to mention the costumes, there’s also a touch of sadness threaded through the story with bigotry and homophobia and there’s some poignant renditions of the ballads.
Mitzi Mitosis, whose real name is Anthony "Tick" Belrose, is performing in a club when his estranged wife, Marion, calls for a favour, which involves performing for her business in Alice Springs. At first Tick is reluctant to do. After Marion explains that part of the reason she's asking is because their now eight-year-old son, Benji, wants to meet his father, he changes his mind and gets an act together to do what Marion asks.
Along with fellow performers, Bernadette and Adam, he sets off in Priscilla, the ”boogie bus”, to perform for Marion, but all does not go to plan and they encounter some interesting characters on their journey. Adam and Bernadette don’t get on, so there are plenty of fireworks in store.
If you can think of the best hen night party soundtrack, then you’re getting close to the soundtrack for this road trip musical. I can guarantee that if your toes are not tapping and you don’t feel like chucking your hand bag down and dancing round it, then you re truly not of the living. You’ll know every single song, “It’s Raining Men”, “Finally”, “I Will Survive”, ”Don’t Leave Me This Way”, “Venus”, “Colour My World”, “Hot Stuff” , “Boogie Wonderland”, “Go West”, “Shake Your Groove Thing” as well as a lovely version of “Always On My Mind/I Say A Little Prayer” and Cyndi lauper's "True Colours"
Watch out for the eye popping version of “Pop Muzik” as well!
Ashley Bright (Tick) showed a wonderfully camp side of his acting, but while there could have been a possibility of taking the camp over the top, this didn't happen and this made Tick believable. As always, his vocals are spot on and a nice shift from camp comedy to serious and emotive acting.
Ashley also got one of the best parts of the musical with lead up to the song "MacArthur Park", which is a classic piece of musical theatre comedy.
Craig Butterworth (Adam) provides the naughty, fun element of the trio. He also gives a brilliant operatic/balletic performance which shows off his dancing skills. Often like a naughty little boy who won't listen to reason and stirring it up with Bernadette
Nick Sutcliffe (Bernadette). What can I say? This is the first time that I have seen Nick in an acting role and I had to look twice as he makes such a convincing woman. Great comedy but has the calming mother hen style with the other two, His facial expressions are a joy and his one liners are cutting but funny. The biggest surprise for me in this show, like finding a hidden gem.
I must also say that all of the accents were really good as well; not over the top but quite natural. I don't know if there was a vocal coach but if not the cast did a great job with the accent.
A brilliant supporting cast which included Lucy Banks,Lucy Maden, Anja Palmer and Hannah Parker as the "Divas" Duncan Gadsby (Bob), Jack Hardy (Miss Understood/Young Bernadette), Anita Benson (Shirley), Louise Smith (Marion), Hannah Osgood (Cynthia) and making his debut for CTC as Benji, Finn Sibson, who looked very at home on stage.
Directed and choreographed by Michael Gamble, he made sure that this show was high energy and great dun to watch.
Vicki Hing was the Musical Director, and what a job she and the band had. there are several music styles to play and there's not many scenes that don't have music in them, so it's practically all the way through for this crisp band.
The costumes were amazing, every one even more over the top than the previous, often with several very quick changes for the three mains.The wigs were also incredible, again each one higher and more outrageous than the last.
My hands were red raw by the time that I'd finished applauding this brilliant camp and funny musical with the wonderful cast. I had a ball tonight and was on my feet at the end, jigging about
What is there not to love about this show? I've seen professional touring productions of this show, but I had the most fun with this production and cast
“Priscilla” is on until Saturday 27 January 2018 but is SOLD OUT so you will be very lucky to even get a sniff of a ticket for this faaabulous pink musical.
It's like on those old 70's quiz shows, tempting you with what you could have had but then taking it away. Here's what you could have seen... had you been quick enough to get tickets, you silly gallahs!!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

“Dick Whittington & His Cat” by the Young Performers
Duchess Theatre.
Just when you think panto season was over (oh no it’s not!), well it’s not quite over yet. And let’s face it panto isn’t just for Christmas after all.
Another way of looking it is that now all the other pantos are out of the way, what better time to put on another show, the competition is drastically reduced, so you could say that this is good planning all round.
Written by Lauren Riley, this really is a funny piece of theatre. the jokes are new and they don't try to be too clever which is what makes the jokes funny.
i loved this panto for several reasons, so let me expand.
Millen Scrivener (Dick) is a confident young actor with a very pleasant voice. Her pairing with her cat, Tommy, played by Emma-Jane Peel was believable and together they worked well.
Millen's other pairing, with Alice (Megan Thomas) was also well thought out and they worked well together, especially in the duet of "Embraceable You" which, while may have been just a bit old fashioned a song for this fresh panto, did show off the pair's voices well.
Molly Parkinson (The Good Fairy) played her part well and looked as delicate a fairy as you could wish for. But the tougher side came out when battling the evil King Rat.
Playing this particular baddie was Jake Truman, and he really got into the part well, extracting hisses and boos from the audience, just like a good panto baddie should.
Loved the make up for King Rat but the programme didn't mention who did the make up but whoever you are mysterious person, well done, it made Jake look the part.
Joe Downing played Mr Fitzwarren, and another confident performer in this cast. Instantly likeable and good at expressing various emotions in this role, which isn't always easy for a young actor to do. A solid performance form an easy to watch actor.
The Sultans are played by Ryan Yates and Finlay Dilks. Panto is all about pairings. This is another lovely pairing and these two add to the comedy of the panto in their physical appearance and their character names, which I'm not going to give away as that is where a good chunk of the comedy arises.
Harvey Tavener plays Jammy, son of Dame Geraldine. Harvey is a very confident performer. He is another likeable performer who can sing and dance well who also is a natural actor. He seems quite at home working with the audience as he does working with the rest of the cast, and this shows a great maturity doe such a young man.
George Parkinson, doe me, has the hardest role playing Dame Geraldine. His confidence in this role is a joy to watch and he could be a natural Dame going forward as he is not afraid of the role. George too works well with the audience and can control them. He also ad libbed well when part of the set from the previous scene was left on stage. He and Harvey dealt with this oversight really professionally.
Making is Directorial debut is Zak Charlesworth, and this is no easy job by any stretch of the imagination, but the boy done good and everything on stage went off extremely smoothly with no sign of the legs paddling like crazy under the water.
Lauren Riley not only wrote this gem but choreographed it as well. The choreography was very tight and, again, another reason for my loving this panto. Every one involved in the ensemble were so enthusiastic which makes watching them an absolute joy.
A very professional set designed and built by Roydon Charlesworth also created to house the band, Musically directed by Leon Wade they were several feet in the air over the back of the set which left the stage uncluttered and allowed for the stage extension to feature the cast and not the band, who produced a sound which was comfortable to hear and didn't drown any of the singers. A nice compliment to the actors and ensemble.
Lighting, as usual was unobtrusive under the control of the lighting master, Dave Martin.
A really enjoyable night out with a very confident and talented young group of people who'll have no trouble getting you involved in the audience participation section of the show.
I predict many future stars of the stages in the locality can be seen all this week on this very stage.
"Dick Whittington & His Cat” is at the Duchess Theatre in Long Eaton until Saturday 20 January 2018 with a Saturday 2.30pm matinee.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

“Caught In The Net” by Rumpus Theatre Company
Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield.
Ray Cooney’s classic farce and sequel to his “Run For Your Wife” is all about juggling! John Smith has been juggling his two lives, his two wives and his two families for a while. He’s managed to keep all his balls in the air for some time, until the internet threatens to bring those balls crashing down around his ears!
I love a good farce and having seen this Cooney classic before, I knew what fun an audience can have watching the confusion and panic that befalls John Smith in this play.And this cast, who I've seen on several occasions now absolutely enhance the comedy of Cooney's fabulously funny script.
Farce is all about timing, and doors, and there are seven doors to slam in this set. The timing is nailed by all, both physically and verbally, at times leaving you catching your breath at the rapidity of the delivery.
John Goodrum plays Smith and races around like a mad thing all the way through and his verbal dexterity is to be admired.
Susan Earnshaw (Mary Smith) and Susie Hawthorne (Barbara Smith) remain perfectly confused and oblivious of the other but when they all come face to face, there's a surprise for John!
Charlotte Chinn (Vicki Smith) and Chris Sheridan (Gavin Smith) play the kids, and you know what, it's not that often you get adult actors who can actually pass for their stage character age but both Chris and Charlotte actually look like teenagers. Not only that, their persona as teenagers is spot on. Lovely characterisations.
While John Smith is the main character in the play, for me George Telfer (Stanley Gardner) was the man. Gardner is John Smith's best friend and lodger and the character who steers this ship through the comedy seas. Not only has he got to deal with the two wives and John, plus keeping the siblings separate, he also has to deal with his confused father who has a problem differentiating between Felixstowe and Wimbledon.
“A Touch Of Frost”s john Lyons features as Gardner's Dad and, as usual, a joy to watch with that cheeky twinkle he has when not busy being confused. I'd like to think he's playing the family along with that sense of humour Daddy Gardner has.
Directed by Karen Henson and John Goodrum, the pace is break neck and the comedy comes thick and fast. The chemistry between all the actors on stage is evident, which is built up by the many years this lot have performed together.
An uncluttered set, thanks to John, Clive Goodlad and Pete Siddon, provides the many doors needed to create the comedy, even if it is behind locked doors. Providing the home setting for both Smith families, it could have caused confusion but it didn't.
The sound in the Pomegranate is crystal clear, both music wise and from the stage. You could hear every word uttered, thanks to David Gilbrook who was in charge of the sound.
This Cooney classic is as funny now as it was when it was first written and is at home in the modern setting as in any decade.
A wonderfully talented cast means that you will not be disappointed with this play. With the twist at the end, which even though I'd seen before, had forgotten the twist, this play will have you belly laughing, not just chuckling.
“Caught In The Net” is on until Saturday evening with a Saturday matinee at 3pm at The Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield.

Monday, 15 January 2018

“Charles Dickens-The Haunting”
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
Wasn’t it one of the characters in Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers” who said ‘I wants to make your flesh creep’? Well there are many of Dickens’ books that have featured supernatural visitations, so this play by Hugh Janes, which has been adapted from several of Dickens’ original ghost stories is a salacious supernatural selection of spookiness.
A young book dealer, David Filde, is employed by a former associate of his uncle to catalogue an impressive library at his crumbling old mansion. But a series of strange and unexplained events occur and Filde begins to fear for his safety. He tries to convince his employer that the ghostly happenings are real and the two men stumble across a dark and terrifying secret that will change their lives forever……….
To tell the truth, this play left me cold.....due to the shivers that watching this play sent up and down my back. People will obviously make comparisons between this play and "The Woman In Black", but I tell you what, this play is the better of the two. There are several "chill" moments and just as many jumpy moments which should satisfy any fan of this sort of genre, as well as anyone who loves absorbing theatre.
Damian Frendo plays Filde, and you can feel the nervous fear in his delivery of the script. I found myself watching Filde and not Frendo, which may, to some seem a weird thing to say, but any actor will know that their main aim is to make the audience believe in the character that they are playing, and Damian certainly did that.
Lady Gray is played by Emma Carlton, and possibly my favourite of Emma's roles. She pronounced and enunciated every word, making Lady Gray a character to keep your eyes and ears on. Most of the humour came from Lady Gray's lines in a Penelope Keith style.
Elise Matter plays Mary, and Director Adam Goodchild had told me that this character was scary, and he was not wrong. The air of unearthly detachment was presented so well and the make up for Elise was spot on, especially when she is seen in the light of a lightning flash.
Twitching is played by Christopher Collins, Not a big part for Chris but sets the mood for what was to come right at the start of the play.
Appearing in voice only, as old Lord Gray is the unmistakable tones of Richard Fife, even with the sound effect on his voice.
Making his directorial debut for the Lace Market Theatre is Adam Goodchild and what a way to do it. Technically this is one play that is great fun for a Director to play with, but he didn't go over the top and the slow burn of the spirit making her presence felt was perfect.
This play shows that saying nothing at all can say more than a page full of script. At the start of Act two there is a silence on stage for a few minutes, and in that silence the atmosphere and tension built on the ending of Act one.A possible worry for any Director and actor, but not in this play
The set, which is designed by Hannah Eccleston and Adam Goodchild, gives you that "WOW" factor. The detail in every part of this set ensures that you always have somewhere to look, a good idea to get in there early for a proper look at it. I was sat in the perfect seat because the "magic" of theatre within the set could not have been better. I will not expand on that for fear of giving away anything that may spoil your theatrical experience.
When a play of this kind is produced, the sound effects and the lighting effects really add to the whole atmosphere, and Matthew Allcock and Allan Green, respectively just nailed it.The whole atmosphere was enhanced by their magic and was part of the reason that I left just a little uneasier than when i went in.
There’s lots of good old fashioned theatrical magic and trickery used to create what you see in this play and you can really become enveloped in this creepy story. I knew some of what to expect but when you don't know where that magic is going to materialise it still takes you by surprise.
“The Haunting” is at the Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 20 January 2018 but hurry as the Saturday matinee is already sold out, so get those ticket while you still have a ghost of a chance of seeing this spirited production as it’s ex-spectred to sell out pretty quickly!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

“Thriller Live”
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Now in its tenth year, this show takes you back in time and remembers the many periods of Jackson’s career. Right from his early Jackson Five days all the way up to the end of his career, this show has toured all over the world giving fans who never had the chance to see Jackson live a taster of what they may have missed.
Now, no one can dance like Jackson, but these dancers do a damn good job to emulate the moves and the aura that Jackson had. But no one can match Jackson's natural dance skills, especially in those "pop and lock" to the beat. Even the great Fred Astaire listed him as one of the best dancers in the world
Let’s face it, he was one of the most exciting entertainers in the world of music and dance, so you have to be very good to even try and get close to the energy and excitement seen in one of Jackson’s live shows
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Six different vocalists cover Jackson’s career led by Britt Quintin, whose natural stage presence will grab you as soon as he appears on stage.He looks like Jackson and sounds like Jackson in a natural way
Who can keep their feet still when classics like “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “Can You Feel It”, “Off The Wall”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Smooth Criminal”, “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Dirty Diana”, “Bad”, “Rock With You”, “They Don’t Care About Us”, “Dangerous” and of course “Thriller” are churned out. Not I!
Performed in a concert like atmosphere, it’s like being at a gig with the lighting and the throbbing sound system, at times leaving you breathless. Something these dancers never showed signs of.
At first it was all quite Cruise ship entertainment, and that's not a criticism as I know how hard Cruise ship entertainers work, it just had that feel.
But come Act Two, this was the explosive to Act One's touch paper!
They had the crowd on their feet with even more classics and also held two of my highlights from this show.. Rory Taylor's version of "She's out Of My Life" dripped heart felt emotion in Act One, but in the second half came another, "I Just Can'r Stop Loving You" and the incredible version of "Earth Song". We also had to wait for "Thriller" almost to the end.
Jackson is famed for his innovative choreography, and I can remember seeing him do the moonwalk for the first time at the Motown 25th Celebrations on TV, and that blew my mind. How did he do that? I practised for weeks, unable to pull off that move.
Director and choreographer Gary Lloyd re created the iconic dance moves of the man, including a gravity defying lean forward move in "Dirty Diana".
I had my doubts as to whether every thing we saw was "live", the "Dangerous" and "Billie Jean" sections sounded pre recorded, but who cares, the music is iconic.
That aside, I'm not going to take anything away from these singers and dancers because they have enough energy on that stage to keep the stage lights shining all night. Not to mention that incredibly hi tech set designed by Jonathan Park.
There was though one moment at the start with singer Shaquille which caused a little concern, not from the ladies in the audience when his trouser zip seemed not to be in the up position. Thank goodness he was wearing pants underneath! Like the pro he is, he carried on regardless.
This is the second time that I have seen this show and I can’t see me getting tired of hearing these songs or watching these dancers for many years to come.Okay, it;s not Jackson himself but it's as close as you're gonna get.
“Thriller Live” is at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall until Saturday 13 January 2018.