UK PREMIERE OF VOICES OF THE AMAZON TO OPEN AT SADLER’S WELLS THIS SUMMER

UK PREMIERE OF

VOICES OF THE AMAZON

A NEW DANCE MUSICAL

TO OPEN AT SADLER’S WELLS ON 4 JULY 2017

FOLLOWING PERFORMANCES IN MOSCOW

Sisters Grimm, the creators of the Grammy® Award-nominated show INALA, are delighted to present the UK premiere of VOICES OF THE AMAZON, a passionate dance musical from the heart of Brazil, directed by Pietra Mello-Pittman, choreographed by Helen Pickett and composed by Ella Spira in collaboration with Brazilian songwriters Danny Nascimento, Dito Martins and Julien Davis and world‐renowned percussionists Olodum. Casting is to be announced.

 

VOICES OF THE AMAZON will open at Sadler’s Wells on 4 July 2017 following an appearance at the Chekhov International Theatre Jubilee Festival in Moscow from 14-16 June. The show will then travel to Singapore to perform at Grand Theatre, Marina Bay Sands from 28-30 July. The show has recently been announced as part of the line-up for Latitude festival 2017. For more information, please visit: http://www.latitudefestival.com/line-up/artist/sadlers-wells-present-sisters-grimm-voices-amazon

 

Set amidst the Brazilian rainforest, VOICES OF THE AMAZON follows the story of Beleza; a water spirit from the Amazon, whose search to cure her dying sister takes her on a life-changing journey deep into the rainforest.

 

VOICES OF THE AMAZON features a sensational musical score, containing sounds recorded from the Amazon Rainforest, with music and songs performed in English and Portuguese. Combined with Helen Pickett’s fusion of ballet, contemporary and capoeira, the show aims to highlight the damaging effects of deforestation, the loss of natural medicines and plants, and promises an exhilarating live experience, embracing the true spirit of Brazil.

 

London-based production company Sisters Grimm was formed in 2009 and is comprised of former Royal Ballet ballerina Pietra Mello-Pittman and Grammy-nominated composer Ella Spira. In 2014, they produced the hugely successful sell-out UK tour INALA, starring Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

 

American-born choreographer, Helen Pickett, has created over 30 ballets in the U.S., and Europe, and is currently Resident Choreographer for Atlanta Ballet. She performed with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt for over a decade and The Wooster Group for 5 years.

 

VOICES OF THE AMAZON has lighting design by Ben Cracknell, stage and costume design by Temple Clark and sound design Adrian Rhodes. WWF, EDEN and Alexander Van Tulleken (CBBC’s Operation Ouch, Channel 4’s How to Lose Weight Well) will provide scientific consultation.

 

Website: voicesoftheamazon.co.uk

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/sistersgrimmltd

Twitter: @amazon_voices

Instagram: @voicesoftheamazon

 

Running time: 100 mins (including interval)

UK LISTINGS INFORMATION

4 – 8 July 2017

 

Sadler’s Wells

Rosebery Ave,

London EC1R 4TN

 

Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2.30pm

 

Tickets: £12 – £38

Box Office:  020 7863 8000

Website: www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2017/sisters-grimm-voices-of-the-amazon

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CAROLE KING VISITS LONDON PRODUCTION OF BEAUTIFUL THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL AS WEST END RUN EXTENDS

CAROLE KING MAKES RETURN VISIT TO WEST END PRODUCTION OF

OLIVIER, TONY AND GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING

B E A U T I F U L  –  T H E   C A R O L E   K I N G   M U S I C A L

AS A FURTHER 130,000 TICKETS ARE RELEASED FOR SALE

NOW BOOKING TO NOVEMBER 2017

 

Last night (6 March 2017) in front of a sell-out performance, Carole King surprised the cast and audience when she made her second visit to see the West End production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.  King was greeted with a standing ovation at the Aldwych Theatre as she took to the stage at the curtain call to congratulate the cast.  Following her surprise appearance, she continued on stage by singing her classic hit You’ve Got A Friend in front of a thrilled crowd.  King said: “I was so excited to surprise the cast, they genuinely had no idea, nobody knew!  CJ (Cassidy Janson who plays King in the musical) literally brought me to tears this evening with her performance of Natural Woman.  She was who I was, she felt what I felt.  She was me!”s

A FURTHER 130,000 TICKETS RELEASED FOR SALE NOW BOOKING TO NOVEMBER 2017

To coincide with the show’s second birthday in London on Wednesday this week (8 March 2017) a further 130,000 tickets will go on sale taking booking at the Aldwych Theatre to 4 November 2017.

 

The Olivier, Tony and Grammy award-winning show opened in the West End in February 2015 when Carole King attended the Gala opening.  Last month on 9 February 2017 celebrations took place at the Aldwych Theatre to mark both Carole King’s birthday and the production’s second birthday in the West End.  In addition to the West End production, an extensive UK tour of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical will begin in September.  In January 2014 Beautiful – The Carole King Musical received its Broadway premiere at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.  A US tour began in September 2015 and an Australian production will open in Sydney in September this year.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is the untold story of her journey from school girl to superstar; from her relationship with husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin, their close friendship and playful rivalry with fellow song-writing duo Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, to her remarkable rise to stardom.  Along the way, she became one of the most successful solo acts in music history, and wrote the soundtrack to a generation.

 

The West End cast comprises Cassidy Janson in the title role, Matthew Seadon-Young as King’s husband and song-writing partner Gerry Goffin, Lorna Want as song-writer Cynthia Weil, a role for which she won the 2015 Olivier for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical, Ian McIntosh as song-writer Barry Mann, Joseph Prouse as music publisher and producer Donnie Kirshner and Barbara Drennan as King’s mother Genie Klein.

 

They are joined by Gavin Alex, Georgie Ashford, Koko Basigara, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Ashford Campbell, Treyc Cohen, Natasha Cottriall, Michael Duke, Matthew Gonsalves, Jammy Kasongo, Leigh Lothian and Earl R. Perkins who play iconic musical performers and band members of the era and swings Derek Aidoo, Rosie Heath, Dominic Hodson, Emma Louise Jones, Jessica Joslin, Vicki Manser, David O’Mahony and Jaime Tait.

 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is based on the early life and career of legendary singer/ songwriter Carole King.  Book is by Douglas McGrath with words and music by Gerry Goffin,Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.  The production is directed by Marc Bruni with choreography is by Josh Prince, set designs by Derek McLane, costume designs by Alejo Vietti, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski and sound by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations and Music Arrangements are by Steve Sidwell.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical features the Carole King classics including So Far Away, It Might as Well Rain Until September, Take Good Care of my Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Up on the Roof, Locomotion, One Fine Day, You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and I Feel the Earth Move, along with hits from songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil like You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, On Broadway and Uptown.

Producers are Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard A. Smith, Mike Bosner, Harriet N. Leve/Elaine Krauss, Terry Schnuck, Orin Wolf, Patty Baker/Good Productions, Roger Faxon, Larry Magid, Kit Seidel, Lawrence S. Toppall, Fakston Productions/Mary Solomon, William Court Cohen, BarLor Productions, Matthew C. Blank, Tim Hogue, Joel Hyatt, Marianne Mills, Michael J. Moritz, Jr., StylesFour Productions, Brunish & Trinchero and Jeremiah J. Harris.

LISTINGS INFORMATION

Theatre:                           Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, London WC2B 4DF

Dates:                              now booking to 4 November 2017

Performances:                   Monday 7.30pm, Tuesday 2.30pm, Wednesday 7.30pm, Thursday 2.30pm & 7.30pm, Friday 7.30pm, Saturday 2.30pm & 7.30pm

Box Office:                         0845 200 7981

Website:                           www.beautifulinlondon.co.uk

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The Three Phantoms Review

Parisian Theatre, Macau.  28 February to 26 March 2017.  Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes

The Three Phantoms as a concept and show has been around for a good few years now, and still regularly pulls in the crowds to their concerts. The Three Phantoms is the brainchild of musical theatre star Earl Carpenter.  For this performance they have stripped back their theatrical set and are joined by Mark Aspinall leading the Concert Philharmonic Orchestra to create a sensational night out.

Emerging onto the stage in immaculately tailored suits the trio comprises Earl Carpenter, David Shannon and Kieran Brown. Starting with Cry Me A River and then introducing themselves with some jokes – speaking in English with subtitles on the side screens.  The Phantoms are joined by 3 leading ladies  Olivia Brereton, Marisa McIntyre and Lisa-Anne Wood, three dancers Rachel Chapman, Joanna Walters and Paige Starbuck and the wonderfully talented Alistair Barron also assists (and in one or two numbers, stands out) — though the phantoms are humorously keen to take pains to deny his presence

There is music from The Phantom Of The Opera but it does not predominate. Highlights include a medley from Les Miserables commencing with Aspinall leaving his stand to conduct the 10 voices in a sublime a-capella version of I Dreamed A Dream. The vocal beauty of this particular arrangement is breathtaking and the show should be seen if for no other reason than to experience quite what the human voice is capable of in this one song.

And the four males certainly provide the finest rendition of Miss Saigon’s ‘Bui Doi’ you’re ever likely to hear.

Singing a string of West End favourites, the performers reckon that to see all of the shows they’ve taken songs from you’d have to fork out over £90,000 for tickets alone, the cast cover a nice section of music from the past 30 years

There is less chat in this production than in previous shows but with an audience whose first language isn’t English, the music does the speaking for them

The singers have the ability to hold the audience in the palm of their hands, and there is little to fault about The Three Phantoms, performed with consummate professionalism and gusto by its appealing cast. Above all the show presents 8 international stars of musical theatre whose talents are incomparable. As a whole, the music of this particular night is easy to recommend to any fan of the great stage musicals.

If you happen to be in Macau before the end of March or Singapore in May, then go and see this show and you too can experience the sweet intoxication of the power of the music of the night

 

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Casting update from Chichester Festival Theatre

CASTING UPDATE FROM CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE         

 

Further casting has been announced for the opening productions of Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2017 season, FORTY YEARS ON and CAROLINE, OR CHANGE.

Daniel Evans, Chichester’s new Artistic Director, opens Festival 2017 directing Alan Bennett’sFORTY YEARS ON, running at the Festival Theatre from 21 April – 20 May with a press night on 26 April.

Richard Wilson leads the cast as the Headmaster, with Thomas Bird, Lucy Briers (Miss Nisbitt),Alan Cox (Franklin), Jenny Galloway (Matron), Michael Hamway, Joe Idris-Roberts,  Danny Lee Wynter (Tempest), Michael Lin, Oliver Marshall, James McConville, Martin Sarreal and Silas Wyatt-Barke. Over 50 local young people will also be part of the company.

Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical CAROLINE, OR CHANGE  runs at the Minerva Theatre from 6 May – 3 June, directed by Michael Longhurst, with a press night on 11 May.

Sharon D. Clarke plays Caroline Thibodeaux; joining her in the cast are Keisha Amponsa Banson(The Radio), Me’sha Bryan (The Washing Machine), Angela Caesar (The Moon), Alex Gaumond(Stuart Gellman), Nicola Hughes (Dotty Moffett), Teddy Kempner (Mr Stopnick), Beverley Klein(Grandma Gellman), Ako Mitchell (The Dryer/The Bus), Abiona Omonua (Emmie Thibodeaux),Gloria Onitiri (The Radio), Vincent Pirillo (Grandpa Gellman), Jennifer Saayeng (The Radio) andLauren Ward (Rose Stopnick Gellman).

BOOKING INFORMATION

Online public booking is now open; phone and in person booking opens on Tuesday 7 March. cft.org.uk   Box Office 01243 781312

 

Prologue: £5 tickets for 16 – 25s

10,000 £5 tickets are available for 16 to 25 year-olds for all productions throughout Festival 2017; sign up for free at cft.org.uk/prologue.  Members also have access to a range of exclusive events.

 

 

Twitter @ChichesterFT 

Facebook ChichesterFestivalTheatre

Instagram ChichesterFT

YouTube ChichesterTheatre

#Festival2017

#Forty Years On

#CarolineOrChange

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A RECORD 31 OLIVIER AWARD NOMINATIONS FOR SONIA FRIEDMAN PRODUCTIONS

A RECORD 31 OLIVIER AWARD NOMINATIONS FOR SONIA FRIEDMAN PRODUCTIONS

Sonia Friedman Productions is today celebrating as the full Olivier Awards Nominations list includes a record-breaking 31 potential winners for productions that the company is behind.

Sonia Friedman said:

“I am bowled-over that our work has been recognised with 31 Olivier Award nominations and would like to congratulate everyone SFP has worked with across the year including all of the wonderfully talented writers, actresses, actors, directors, composers, musicians, designers, co-producers and investors as well as my extraordinary and dedicated team at SFP ALL of whom have been integral in making this 2016/2017 season another year of remarkable and record-breaking theatre.”

Full list of SFP nominees:

Virgin Atlantic Best New Play
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Mastercard Best New Musical
Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre

Magic Radio Best Musical Revival
Funny Girl at Savoy Theatre

Best Revival
The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre
Travesties at Apollo Theatre

Best New Comedy
Nice Fish at Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Actor
Tom Hollander for Travesties at Apollo Theatre
Jamie Parker for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Actress
Cherry Jones for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Musical
Amber Riley for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre
Sheridan Smith for Funny Girl at Savoy Theatre

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Anthony Boyle for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre
Freddie Fox for Travesties at Apollo Theatre
Brian J. Smith for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Noma Dumezweni for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre
Clare Foster for Travesties at Apollo Theatre
Kate O’Flynn for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre

Best Director
John Tiffany for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre
John Tiffany for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Theatre Choreographer
Steven Hoggett for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Dreamgirls – Music by Henry Krieger at Savoy Theatre
Harry Potter And The Cursed Child – Composer and Arranger: Imogen Heap at Palace Theatre

White Light Award for Best Lighting Design
Neil Austin for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre
Natasha Katz for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Sound Design
Adam Cork for Travesties at Apollo Theatre
Gareth Fry for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Best Costume Design
Gregg Barnes for Dreamgirls at Savoy Theatre
Katrina Lindsay for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

Blue-i Theatre Technology Award for Best Set Design
Bob Crowley for The Glass Menagerie at Duke of York’s Theatre
Christine Jones for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at Palace Theatre

As Sonia Friedman Productions prepares to transfer Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour to the West End, they would also like to congratulate all those involved in the production at National Theatre – Dorfman, including originating producers the National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre, on their nominations for Best New Comedy and Best Supporting Actress.

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Handbagged Review

Jack Studio Theatre 28 February – 11 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

First Knight Theatre’s production of Moira Buffini’s Handbagged is delightful. It’s like a barmy history lesson from two dotty old pre-National Curriculum teachers – educating you on THEIR favourite events, and brushing everything else under the carpet.

Queen Elizabeth’s weekly meetings with Mrs Thatcher between 1979 and 1990 are impishly reimagined by Buffini, with the Queen and Mrs T being watched and interrupted by older versions of themselves looking back at their strained relationship.

It is knowingly theatrical, with jokes about everything staying within these three walls, and the male actors explaining who they are playing, arguing over who gets to play the less obnoxious characters, explaining events “for the younger members of the audience” and berating Mrs T and the Queen for omitting important events. The Queen’s desire for an interval is a running joke throughout the first act, as is the confusion of the elder Mrs T about the actor playing Denis.

The laughs come thick and fast, but there are some sobering moments. The play gallops through defining moments in Thatcher’s premiership, the troubles, the Falklands, the miners’ strike, the poll tax riots, her stance on Rhodesia and South African apartheid, and reminds the audience of her ability to polarise opinion and society. The Queen, on the other hand, prefers to remember royal weddings, the royal yacht and trips around the Commonwealth. Their views on their roles in key diplomatic incidents are poles apart, and the disdain they feel for each other beneath their brittle courtesy is beautifully portrayed. Buffini doesn’t force her own opinions on the audience, each woman is convinced that she is correct, and the male actors are admonished for stating their “own” political views about events.

Sue Higginson as the elder Mrs T is both imperious and fragile, giving hints of her dementia; while Sarah Tortell is near perfection as a wonderful caricature of her younger self, switching from smooth lecturing and patronising tones into a hectoring harridan brilliantly. Fiona McGahren does well as the Queen, but is unlucky enough to have the fantastic Pauline Armour standing next to her as the older version – stealing the show with every gesture and well-timed line in an outstanding performance. Howie Ripley and Mark Steere take on the male roles with aplomb, their “Kinnock-off” is a standout moment, and the sight of Ripley, dressed as Nancy Reagan, reluctantly performing a speech by Enoch Powell is not to be missed.

Handbagged is a wonderful play, beautifully performed and full of laugh out loud moments. A fantastic night out.

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Swifties Review

Theatre N16 28 February – 11 March.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Tom Stenton’s millennial take on Jean Genet’s The Maids has a lot going for it, especially the committed performances by the cast, but the play left me feeling as if I had just listened to one of Taylor Swift’s songs – too much repetition and a wish that it had been better edited.

Yasmin and Nina have won a competition to meet their idol, Taylor Swift, and the action takes place in their hotel room as they wait for the call from her people to go up and meet her. The girls’ lives in Luton, working in an Amazon fulfilment centre, and sharing a grubby bedsit, are worlds apart from the celebrity lifestyle they crave, so they have developed “the game”. Fuelled by their obsession and social media, the girls have whole situations scripted, taking turns to be Taylor, and her most vital squad member, Nina. The sado-masochism and sexual tension from Genet’s play are diluted here; some of the rituals don’t really add anything to the play, and could have been cut. The blurring of the game with reality, and the girls’ conviction that they have the perfect plan to become Taylor’s only friends is fascinating, and their plotting to sell fake allegations against Calvin Harris is frighteningly believable.

Yasmin’s love-hate obsession with Swift becomes more clear cut as the play progresses, and Isabella Niloufar is outstanding portraying the frustration and inner turmoil, but, even with a ridiculous beanie on her head, always seems slightly too glamorous for her character to be completely believable. Tanya Cubric as Nina gets to camp it up as Taylor in a ratty blonde wig, and makes you giggle as she spouts words of wisdom from Taylor Swift’s interviews and social media accounts, parroted back passionately by Yasmin.

Swifties has a lot to say about the discontent of ordinary people who think they deserve an easy path to celebrity and wealth, and believe that they actual know their idols after being immersed in the constant images on social media. Unfortunately, it all gets a little muddled, with the reveal of the context of the (very long) initial scenes of role play coming a little too late to care. But, with some more work on the script, Swifties can develop into a more rounded, coherent play that will fully engage Swifties and non-Swifties alike.

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Birmingham Royal Ballet Cinderella Review

 

Lyric Theatre, The Lowry, Manchester – Wednesday March 1st 2017.  Reviewed by Julie Noller

I took my 14 year old daughter to see this production, her experience of Cinderella was either Disney Films or Panto. I was curious for her fresh take on the performance. Act I began and she like I was mesmerised. How did Jenna Roberts as Cinderella manage to dance without shoes? Was the topic of our conversation during the first interval, amazing you can see every detail, how her feet rise, how strong must she be to hold those stances up high on her toes!

I never expected Ballet to be so full of humour, energy and glitzy costumes yes, but the humour and facial expressions as well as exaggerated movements to me make this a clear winner over panto. If you have a young princess or indeed prince who will laugh at the sillyness of panto but not understand the adult themed jokes then this performance is for them. It was down to earth with characters who not only show skills beyond my comprehension but convey emotion. From the very beginning we see raw emotion , Cinderella silhouetted at her Mothers graveside, weeping to her Father and eventually alone apart from her Stepmother and step sisters. The music of Sergei Prokofiev is an excellent accompaniment throughout.

Prior to each act we noticed that the clock face on the curtain changed, with the clock eventually breaking and shattering, as time and reality fragment. The set was fast moving with the stage becoming smaller depending upon dance or characters on stage and easily doubling in size if needed, especially for the larger group dances which reminded me of early musical numbers in films where large dance routines required a sweeping staircase. To me something clicked with my love of musicals and a new found love of Ballet. It was well put together and the theatrics of the fireplace firstly a real fire bringing warmth to a gloomy cellar and then dry ice filling the same cellar with wonder and magic announcing the Fairy Godmothers arrival, this kept things moving at a fast pace.

The main bulk of humour came from the Step Sisters ‘ugly sisters’ who were not played by men following traditions but by women. Skinny and Dumpy were cleverly dressed obviously it was Dumpy wearing a fat suit and once again I found myself transfixed as to how they managed to dance so well, so badly, it was all so well choreographed by David Bintley. From the bullying of Cinderella in the cellar watched by Cinderellas Stepmother (Marion Tait) who wielded a cane for nothing more than power and I expected her to rap it against the cold hard floor in demands of Cinderella, reminiscent of Fame. The Sisters became man hungry, craving attention and showing off their poor dancing skills at the Princes Ball, fighting against each other, knocking into people and in Dumpys case chasing after the cakes much to our amusement.

The fairy Godmother (Yvette Knight) sometimes mirrored Cinderellas dances highlighting the goodness and magic. We are introduced to the four seasons each with fantastic colour appropriate costumes and individual dance.

In preparing to attend the ball we see the building of the carriage a stunning glass effect and quite possibly the cutest ballet dancers – Frog Coachman, Lizard Coachman and Mice Pages. If this was the film version, then I’d already have these cuddly characters on my wish list to purchase.

During Act II for the ball sequence between the Prince and Cinderella I overheard someone whisper ‘how does she do that’ the answer ‘skill’. Indeed it was wonderful to watch and I found myself not taking in the wonderful sparkly costumes but transfixed on her feet, watching each move with awe and wonder. We saw the other attendees disappear as the Prince (William Bracewell) only has eyes for Cinderella. He easily lifted her up and spun her in moves that put Strictly Come Dancing to shame and had the audience cheering and gasping. Eventually the Fairy Godmother arrives to rescue Cinderella, who doesn’t want to be rescued and is reluctant to leave but eventually flees into the night without a trace.

Act III begins with the Prince determined to find his beauty. Seeking her out amongst all the women in his kingdom is a tiring job there’s a shoe mountain to negotiate and then the poor men are chased by hoards of shoe wielding hopping women. Eventually the Prince and his men find their way to the house with the Stepmother and Sisters who cause such a commotion that Cinderella almost goes unnoticed not before she once again has her very own solo dance barefooted whilst remembering the magic of the ball. I am pleased that the Ballet ended not on, and everyone lived happily ever after moment but with a romantic very intimate (excluding the audience) dance between Cinderella and her Prince which left us feeling warm and fuzzy and my daughter asking when the next Ballet was!

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Nell Gwynn Review

The Quays Theatre, The Lowry, Manchester.  Thursday March 2nd 2017.  Reviewed by Julie Noller

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

We pretty much all know the basics of Nell Gwynn, Prostitute turned actress turned mistress to Charles II. What would I discover after two hours of Jessica Swales drama that would change my perception?

The Quay Theatre inside The Lowry suited it perfectly, smaller than theatres of old with a cosiness almost reminiscent of sitting in front of my television. Walking in to take our seats we took in every detail of the set, which was not hidden behind a curtain but proudly on display. The band including lutes of the historical period were practising up on the balcony leading us to believe we were meant to hear and see them, smoke drifted across the stage eerily bringing to mind London smog; our senses were starting to awaken. We felt close to the stage even closer when actors appeared, sitting amongst us and the prologue began with humorous mistakes. We were drawn in immediately as if we were not the audience but fellow players in a Shakespearean drama. This continued throughout with a mix of bawdy carry on-esque humour and thoroughly modern jokes that the audience again became the third player to.

Nell is played by Laura Pitt-Pulford. The musical numbers allow us to hear her strong powerful voice that could quite easily belt out power ballads to raise the rafters. Nell is spunky, quite possibly the original spice girl. Periodically the lighting dimmed and we saw a vulnerable side to our Nelly but it was soon brushed aside with a little bit of risqué humour. The programme calls her our heroine and we celebrate her achievements from prostitute to orange seller, to become one of the first actresses to grace the London stage. She was the darling of her time trained and encouraged by Charles Hart played by Sam Marks with his dashing looks and l’oreal advert hair. Was he a ladies man or just Nells man? The affection was there for all to see, jealousy at times even pride. He was the leading actor of The Kings Company, managed by Thomas Killigrew (Clive Haywood) who’s love of success at the box office shows throughout. Nells feminine side and ease around men draws out the best in playwright John Drydon (Nicholas Bishop). He appears to be a fortune teller with his ideas for playscripts which the others humorously mock as silly, yet the audience laughed heartedly at. Nell is his muse much to the disgust of Edward Kynaston (Esh Alladi) he was one of the last boy players all females characters were to be played by him. He was camp and forthright a true luvvie of his time, often pouting and sulking, quite easily my favourite character. Stating his own story behind every character to be played that had nothing to do with story he was acting except to add laughs as it became the expected thing to the audience. Is this where method acting originated from? He was jealous of Nell especially as in the face of adversity she rose from an illiterate, to star, to catch the Kings eye. The king who had a roving eye and many mistresses, history tells us this, we meet his downtrodden, sad wife Catherine (Joanne Haworth) . who only speaks Portuguese with the odd witty English word thrown in for those of us without language skills, we meet Lady Castlemaine (philipa Flynn) who insists on showing up the weaknesses in the English Crown and eventually loses favour to Nell. Charles II (Ben Righton) has the only death scene despite many references to heads on spikes. It takes some persuading for Nell to succumb to his charms, however from first meeting it is apparent to the audience they are clearly struck with each other. Canny Nell knows how to handle her men and once again we see her spunky side as she manages a dream deal of £500 a year with apartment, not bad for a girl from the gutters!

Nell has to become an actress on stage and at court, attempting to balance working life against life with the King ‘who would dare to refuse the King of England’ and trying to please her family scared of what the royal court will think of them. She sadly loses her alcoholic Mother and the mask slips once again towards the end of King Charles life, as she is kept from his deathbed with no explanation but we the audience are led to believe it is because she is a woman weaker than the men around her although we the audience know differently. The play ends with a rousing chorus of the song that made Nell the theatres darling, show casing her character at its finest and enduring best. Life is for living.

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Thoroughly Modern Millie Review

Grand Opera House York.  Reviewed by Michelle Richardson

Winner of six Tony Awards Thoroughly Modern Millie is the delightful comedy set in NewYork in 1922, and based on the 1967 award-winning film. Now showing at the Grand Opera House, York, running until Saturday 4th March and touring the UK.

It is 1922 and Millie Dillmount, played by Joanne Clifton best known from Strictly Come Dancing, has just arrived in New York City from Kansas with every intention of marrying a rich man. Having her purse stolen and nowhere to go she bumps into a stranger, who appears to be a bit of a lad, but he does help her to find a place to stay. We see Millie transfer from a country bumpkin into a flapper, with the bobbed hair and trendy clothes, and getting a job as a stenographer and setting her sites on her boss, Mr Trevor Graydon, played by Graham MacDuff.

Her “Chinese” landlady, Mrs Meers, played wonderfully by Lucas Rush, is really a wanted criminal selling any poor orphan girl that has the misfortune of staying at “her” establishment into slavery. Mrs Meers would not be out of place being cast as a pantomime villain, and Rush contributed greatly to the comedy of the whole show. His vocal performance of “They Don’t Know” was one of the highlights of the show.

Needless to say, things don’t go to plan and she ends up falling in love with the supposedly flaky, penniless, ladykiller Jimmy Smith, played by Sam Barrett. His portrayal of Jimmy was more than a match for Clifton with his singing and dancing.

Katherine Glover, who plays Millie’s friend Dorothy, and MacDuff certainly have the best vocals of the whole cast but Clifton does a great job as Millie and shows she can sing and act, as well as dance. They are well supported by the rest of the cast. I must also mention one of the dancers who also played Ching Ho, Damian Buhagiar, his dancing and athleticism was so memorizing.

The costumes are beautiful and the choreography is amazing. The set whipped back into the age of the roaring 20’s, the lift scene with the lights was one to note.

Overall it was a great comedy performance and had all the audience laughing, and at one stage even the cast when MacDuff was playing the extremely drunk Graydon, with Clifton and Barrett. It was infectious to see everyone laughing along and taking it in their stride.

If you are after a light hearted musical comedy and don’t take anything too seriously you will not be disappointed.

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