Thriller Live Review

The King’s Theatre Glasgow – until 26 May

Reviewed by Linda McLaughlan

5*****

The King of Pop lives on through the amazing stage performances of an exceptionally talented cast of Thriller Live.

Following the life and music Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five the audience is taken on a musical tour of the hits and songs that generations of fans have grown up with since 1967. The show took us through hits such as “I want you back” “ABC” “Blame it on the Boogie”

My personal favourite was sang by the amazing vocals of Rory Taylor who gave the song incredible justice with his haunting version of a Jackson Classic. The other vocalist who performed Michael’s hits included Britt Quentin, Shaquille Maurice Hemmans and Adriana Louise surrounding by talented dancers who brought many of the famous Jackson dance moves to an excited audience.

Dance moves such as the moon walk brought cheers and applause from the audience who were on their feet throughout the night singing and dancing to many of the familiar tunes.

Looking around the theatre it was evident that there is no age limit that hasn’t been introduced to Motown, Pop , Rock and R & B through the talents of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.

Taken from us at the age of 50 Michael will forever live on and his Classics such as “Billie Jean, Thriller and the Earth Song” will forever be remembered by the talents of tonight performers on stage at The King’s Theatre.

This is a show that everyone should take the opportunity to see and enjoy as it will bring joy and music to everyone

The Play That Goes Wrong Review

Hull New Theatre until 26th May 2018

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams

5*****

My throat feels hoarse, my sides are aching, my face muscles are feeling tight and my eyes are sore but I’m not complaining, as the cause is the wonderful night out that I have just had at Hull New Theatre watching Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong, and like the rest of the packed theatre laughing like a drain! I really cannot remember hooting with laughter like I have tonight, I literally had tears of laughter running down my face and was very grateful that I had not put any mascara on.

The play centres around the performance of “Murder at Haversham Manor” by “Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society”, a performance that the Director of the Society is hoping will be their best yet as their track record is slightly lacking. The cast valiantly do their best to carry on regardless of the difficulties they face as things go awry. Imagine the worst thing that could go wrong and it is probably happens, from moving corpses to mispronounced words to malfunctioning scenery, all with hilarious consequences.

The cast are quite frankly stunning playing their parts to perfection, and making it appear as though these mishaps are genuine accidents, just pure genius. Their timing was superb as mishap after mishap occurred and turned into near disaster, quite how there were no real accidents is beyond me! There were points when the entire audience gasped with horror at the scenery problems or the accidents to the actors but in a few seconds were howling with laughter again. The set design by Nigel Hook, was incredible in the way all the bits fitted together or rather fell apart!

The cast had the foibles of amateur actors down to a T and were all appropriately over the top. Bobby Hirston as Max (playing Cecil Haversham) clearly a first time performer just loving the attention and reacting to the audience; Benjamin McMahon as Dennis playing Perkins the butler having all the attributes of the old retainer and Elena Valentine as Sandra making a superbly flirty Florence Colleymore.

If you want to come away from the theatre with a huge grin on your face then The Play that Goes Wrong is for you. Laughter they say is the best medicine and this play will make you feel so much better than when you arrived at the theatre.

The Play That Goes Wrong is simply perfect in its imperfections – a right good night out.

Iris Theatre to bring Arabian Nights to Hoxton Hall this Autumn

Arabian Nights
Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton Street, London N1 6SH
Wednesday 12th September – Saturday 13th October 2018

This autumn, Iris Theatre will transform Hoxton Hall into a magical world where stories of Ali Baba, Ala’ad-Din and Sinbad the Sailor unfold in their new adaptation of Arabian Nights. Adapted by Nessah Muthy (Heroine, The Host) and directed by Daniel Winder (Iris Theatre), this celebration of the cultural history of Islam and the wider ancient world promises to be a spectacular evening of storytelling

At the grandest wedding of the year, amongst the music, magic and dance, King Shahryar’s tyranny looms. Every single night he marries a new girl and every single morning he has her killed

This cycle of violence has continued for years but with the executioner’s sword hanging over her neck, Sharazad starts to tell King Shahryar stories. With every beautiful tale she tells, she stretches out the thread of her life a little further

Iris Theatre will take the audience on a journey through the ancient world of the Middle East and into Sharazad’s life. With music inspired by Arabic history, and a set design utilising the aesthetic of souks from the time by Amber Scarlett, a cast of seven actors and a multitude of fantastic puppets created by Jonny Dixon will bring to life Sharazad’s comic, tragic and earthy stories

Director Daniel Winder comments, It’s so exciting to be bringing a show as big as our annual summer productions over to Hoxton Hall in our first major departure from St Paul’s in nearly five years. Arabian Nights is adapted by the incredible Nessah Muthy in a brand new script we’ve commissioned, and we’re so excited to have her on board. We can’t wait to head to Hoxton with the team that has helped make productions like Hansel & Gretel and Macbeth, and to transform the Hall into Shahryar’s palace, welcoming audiences to a bloody wedding feast

An engagement project, Encountering 1001 Nights, will run alongside the show and will focus on engaging with the local communities in Hoxton

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Review

Greenwich Theatre  – until 26 May

Reviewed by Claire Roderick

4****

Lazarus Theatre end their season at Greenwich with a frenetic and freewheeling adaptation of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedy. Ricky Dukes’ adaptation crams the cream of the plot into 2 hours, never allowing the ever-increasing energy to ebb.

The Oberon/Titania and Theseus/Hippolyta (Lanre Danmola and the imperious Ingvid Lakou) interactions are dealt with swiftly, and the production rightly gives most focus to the four young lovers Lysander (Max Kinder) and Hermia (Elham Mayhoub – brilliantly embodying “and though she be but little she is fierce”) and Demetrius (Jonathon George) and Helena (Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen, giving Helena some real backbone), and the mechanicals rehearsing their play. The mechanicals are the highlight of the show, with John Slade’s Quince a wonderful caricature of a frustrated director, Zoe Campbell and Tessa Carmody making the hapless Snout and Snug very loveable, Eli Caldwell crossdressing with glee as Flute, and David Clayton’s Bottom is a joy.

The Athens scenes take place around a long conference table, creating a stark contrast between the stiff world of court and the wildness of the woods. Once we leave Athens, the fairy world and the real world are demarcated by simple tape lines on the floor, which sounds naff, but is extremely effective, with Puck (Tessa Carmody) creating more and more mayhem with mistaken enchantments and huge amounts of confetti. With saucily voiced fairies becoming lights on the end of sticks and no sign of the usual boy puppet, the fairy scenes are fun and don’t slow down the pace of the play as it builds to a climax with the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. This is performed as a song set to an irresistible beat with the four lovers acting as the chorus, leaping around frantically and ending in Thisbe’s death, which for once outshines Pyramus’ with campness and audacity. Just bliss.

What a way to end a season – a night of anarchic fun and frivolity that makes Shakespeare’s work feel fresh and exciting.

Miss Saigon Review

Bristol Hippodrome – until 23rd June 2018

Reviewed by Lucy Hitchcock

5*****

In a split second, a calm auditorium is transformed into the war torn area of Saigon. There, we meet Kim, who is forced to work in a bar by the infamous Engineer. This bar is frequented by the American soldiers, one of which is named Chris and he falls in love with Kim. After a night of passion, they wed but are ripped apart by the war. For 3 years, Kim is desperate to find Chris again and her journey begins. Her fight for survival is gripping and she just wants to see Chris again; not just for her sake, but to introduce him to the son he fathered just before he left.

Right from the start, the audience is captivated by the show. ‘The Heat is On’ makes for a highly erotic scene, introducing us to the Engineer. Red Concepción excelled as this role. He relished every moment on stage and drew the audience in effortlessly. He provided some much needed comic relief during the darker scenes of the show and provided us with an absolute showstopper of ‘The American dream’. It is during this first scene that we also come across Chris, who was sensitively played by Ashley Gilmour. He was outstanding. The emotion and passion that was exerted through his role was breathtaking and we could really sympathise with his struggle at leaving his love in Saigon. His voice effortlessly soared through the auditorium and the audience truly fell in love with Chris.

With such a vast array of cast members, it is a real treat to be able to experience the hustle and bustle of Saigon. Of the 30+ people that blessed the stage, there was one stand out performance.

Sooha Kim, as Kim, was incredible. Her serene beauty contrasted with the defiance and bravery shown towards the oppressors in a way that is phenomenal. Sooha encapsulated the formidable character of Kim and really brought her to light. Her voice was angelic and she performed with great ease and ardour. She conveyed such vulnerability with a deep undertone of strength that was counteracted by the desperation she felt when Chris deserted her and showed her outstanding acting abilities perfectly. Frankly, Sooha was incredible and stole the show. Her chemistry with Gilmour as Chris was electric and the pair of them were a totally believable and impressive couple-a pleasure to watch.

Other characters of note are Ryan O’Gorman as John and Elana Martin as Ellen. Both supporting roles but aided the progression of the show and provided gripping scenes. Ryan O’Gorman’s stand out scene was ‘Bui Doi’. His strong voice was a perfect match to the forceful message he was conveying about the war. At times, it was difficult to hear his speech over the dramatic music coming from the band. Elana Martin as Chris’s new wife Ellen showed her prowess during ‘Maybe’. Her vocals were exceptionally strong and she showed the complex and deep thoughts of Ellen with ease.

This show will bombard you with lights, music, screams, sex and pain. However, the most impressive part that set this show apart from the rest is the entrance of the Helicopter. A life size helicopter glides from the upper gantry, complete with working propellers. In accordance with the flashing lights, smoke and sound effects, this was extraordinary. This was spectacular and was the most jaw dropping and technically superb part of the show.

The choreography also deserves a huge well done. It was very fast paced during ‘The Morning of the Dragon’ with leaps and jumps, flags and life size Dragon complete with smoke bellowing from the nostrils. ‘The American Dream’ was more of a showgirl from Las Vegas number and the two different styles of dance showed Richard Jones’ (the Choreographer) skill, precision and attention to detail.

This tragic love story is definitely one to watch and you will not be disappointed. Your senses will be overwhelmed by the heartwarming power of Miss Saigon.

Parental Guidance Advised.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN CROWNED AS THE WINNERS AT THE FOURTH ANNUAL WEST END BAKE OFF IN AID OF ACTING FOR OTHERS

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN CROWNED AS THE WINNERS AT THE FOURTH ANNUAL WEST END BAKE OFF IN AID OF ACTING FOR OTHERS

 

Young Frankenstein announced as the winners of the fourth annual right royal West End Bake Off in aid of Acting for Others. As his Royal Highness Prince Harry prepares to marry Meghan Markle the winners, chosen by returning judge Christopher Biggins alongside Wendi Peters and Ruthie Henshall, were revealed at the event held today at St Pauls Actors Church in Covent Garden.

Young Frankenstein was crowned the winner of this year’s West End Bake Off after competing against 16 other West End shows, including The Play That Goes Wrong, The Mousetrap, Les Misérables, Phantom Of The Opera, Book of Mormon, Th Comedy About a Bank Robbery, Mamma Mia!, Thriller live!, The Great Gatsby, Iris Theatre, and industry paper The Stage. They follow in the footsteps of 42nd Street which won the third West End Bake Off in 2017 and which raised over £5000 for the charity.

Commenting on the winner, West End Bake Off judge Christopher Biggins said: “It’s so fantastic to be here again judging for the fourth year of this amazing competition which helps so many people in the West End. Every year gets more and more exciting and the cakes get more and more phenomenal, it really is such an exciting day!”

 

West End Bake Off is supported by Official London Theatre.

 

www.westendbakeoff.com        Twitter: @westendbakeoff        Facebook: Westendbakeoff   

www.actingforothers.co.uk        Twitter: @ActingForOthers

Preview of Dusty – The Dusty Springfield Musical

Voted one of the last century’s most influential people in music, Dusty Springfield was and still is an icon of individuality, creativity and inclusivity. Her hits spanned the world and remain as popular today as they did on first release, but behind the public façade is a life less well known, that is until now as a brand new show is about to tour which will peel back the layers and allow us to peek into the real life of the US & UK Halls of Fame inductee.

First, let’s be clear – this is not a jukebox musical like so many shows currently touring, some of which are, to coin a phrase, ‘just bobbins’ – this is a fully rounded play with a fiercely funny & emotionally charged script by BAFTA and Olivier nominated writer Jonathan Harvey. Directed by Olivier Award-winner Maria Friedman and supported throughout by Dusty’s close friend, manager and authorised biographer Vicki Wickham this promises to be a super-charged trip through her life. “Audiences will come out surprised at what a life she had, the challenges she faced and how she overcame them” said Wickham, the lady who first met Dusty in 1963 on the TV show Ready Steady Go!.

Dusty has always had a huge following who love her style and music – to many she has become an empowering icon for them to follow but what is probably less known about her is that it was Dusty who introduced many of the black artists of the 60’s into UK mainstream TV – The Temptations, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder were all invited to perform on a special edition and was just one example of how Dusty wasn’t just against racism, she abhorred it (to the extent that she was barred from South Africa for refusing to play to a segregated audience). A lady of principals far ahead of her time, her story still rings true today, in fact it is probably more relevant now than ever before.

With 16 UK Chart hits and 20 in the states, the challenge for writer Harvey was how to ensure the songs were woven into the thread of the story, not just shoe horned in “You don’t want it to feel like you do a scene, stop for a song, do the next scene…it has to feel organic” and it will be this approach that will undoubtedly set this show apart from all the other tribute/jukebox musicals. Agreed by all the cast, Harvey has written a really visceral, raw script that is also very funny. Dusty herself was a very funny lady and so there’s a lot of banter between her and her entourage of best friends, but he hasn’t shied away from showing the darker, less happy times too – times which may shock and surprise the casual fan and leave them more in awe at the challenges she had to overcome to be such the legend she is.

Of course, any show is only as good as it’s cast and for this Producers Eleanor Lloyd Productions in association with Tris Penna and Vicki Wickham have brought together Katherine Kingsley (Piaf, Singing in the Rain) as Dusty, Roberta Taylor (The Bill, Eastenders) as Dusty’s mom Kay and Rufus Hound (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as her manager Billings. All three were visibly excited to be a part of this new production, with Rufus Hound explaining “in these current times it is brilliant to be a part of a show that celebrates powerful, successful women who achieved it in a time where male dominance was not only accepted, it was expected. Dusty took charge in her own way and fought has hard as anyone to ensure she got what she needed to be the success she was and still is”

The recent press launch was hosted in the Arcane cocktail lounge in Manchester – a very intimate setting, and introduced the stars, writer and director and gave Katherine an opportunity to show a glimpse of why she has been chosen to play Dusty. As she admits, Dusty’s songs are instantly recognisable and so too is not only her voice, but her style of singing – “This is not me trying to do a Dusty impression”, she explains “but trying to capture the essence and presence of an icon in such a way that it tells her story without fans being distracted by trying to compare like for like”. “What was most surprising when researching Dusty, was how incredibly shy she was away from the public persona she created….I have immersed myself in her world…to show people what was really going on in her life” Treating all to a rendition of The Look of Love it was instantly clear why Katherine has been chosen – she exudes a sensuality which is hypnotic, mesmerising and yet strangely familiar and is certain to have audiences holding their breath. Taking the tempo up a notch or ten and backed by Joelle Dyson and Micha Richardson she then gave us possibly Dusty’s most famous “Son of a Preacher Man” in all its raw, gospel-driven power.

It goes without saying that fans of Dusty Springfield will be in raptures over this new production but its reach, its impact and, not to forget, its brilliant script and cast will mean this show will delight anyone who enjoys great music and wonderful acting.

Dusty – The New Dusty Springfield Musical opens on Saturday 23rd June at Theatre Royal Bath before going to Sheffield Lyceum (from July 10th), Newcastle Theatre Royal (from July 17th) and finally at The Lowry, Salford (from July 24th). Website www.dustyspringfieldmusical.com or venue box offices for tickets and full list of showtimes.

Awful Auntie Review

Hull New Theatre – until 20th May 2018

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams

4****

Last night, the foyer at the Hull New Theatre was teeming with excited and very noisy children waiting to see Birmingham Stage Company’s production of David Walliams Awful Auntie and what a fabulous play they enjoyed. A measure of children’s engagement is the level of wriggle and noise, once the play started the children were hooked, not moving and watching intently, it was a total pleasure to witness their enjoyment.

Awful Auntie has been skillfully adapted from David Walliams’ book by Neal Foster and tells the story of young Stella Saxby who wakes to discover she is now an orphan being looked after by her Aunt Alberta. Aunt Alberta’s intentions however are not so good and Stella soon finds herself fighting against her own Aunt. Essentially this is a wonderful tale of goodness against evil, full of humour and wonderfully scary parts with added into the mix a ghost, an owl and a suitably eccentric butler. A lot of the humour is very visual and “toilet” related, which the children of course loved, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it too, often anticipating what would happen and laughing ahead of the joke!

The cast played this with just the right amount of verve and “over the top-ness” to ensure that the children grasped what was happening. Georgina Leonidas was a very convincing Stella with just the right level of fear and bravery. Timothy Speyer was suitably awful as Aunt Alberta and the audience happily laughed, groaned at him and willed him not to win. Richard James played the eccentric butler Gibbon to perfection, with wonderful timing, usually appearing when things had got a little too scary. Wagner the owl puppet (worked by Roberta Bellekom) was a very good addition to the play and I would have quite happily taken him home with me!

The play is set in the grounds and interior of Saxby Hall, a huge mansion, and the lighting and scenery is superb, the way the rooms could be moved around as the cast moved around the rooms was inspired. The background music and lighting build up the tension and atmosphere beautifully and make sure you watch out for the ice.

Awful Auntie would be a wonderful introduction for any child to the theatre and a great night out for the family. One to make you laugh, gasp, groan, boo and cheer – all in all a fun filled night!

War Horse Review

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 8 June
Reviewed by Jo Gordon
5*****
Now into it’s tenth anniversary, the National Theatres stage adaption of Michael Morpurgos War Horse is currently trotting its way around the country delighting audiences far and wide.

Set in World war one, in a sleepy Devonshire village, Albert (Tomas Dennis) develops a close relationship with a horse his drunken father Billy (Jasper William Cartwright), won in an auction, paid with the money meant for the mortgage. Promising his mother that he will train the horse to be sold on, Albert names the horse Joey and a beautiful friendship begins, Joey can do all from running at great speeds to pulling a plough. War breaks out and Billy sells Joey to the Calvary.  Joey first serves in the Calvary under the charge of Lt.Nicholls (Ben Ingles) alongside another horse who goes by the name of Topthorn. With the first waves of the Calvary being unprepared for the Germans use of machine guns, Lt.Nicholls sadly dies and his sketchbook and a letter are sent back home to Albert. On hearing the news, heartbroken Albert signs up to the Army aged just 16 in hope of finding his beloved horse and returning him home to the safety of Devon. We then follow how their lives run parallel in war torn France, Joey once fighting alongside the British ends up working for the Germans and Albert suffering the horrors of the trenches. Can they find each other again in the face of such harrowing conditions?

With a simple “torn paper” backdrop that has simple sketches,maps dates and times projected upon it, your full focus is on the many characters and situations drawing you right into the epicentre of the action with scene changes accompanied by the song man (Bob Fox) who musically narrates you through the story in a traditional folk style.

The Handspring Puppet Company are the real ingenuity behind this production. I have never seen puppetry that fully absorbs the audience like this before, to the point you no longer really see the group of puppeteers controlling them. The puppets themselves are truly breathtaking and combine this with the skill of Handspring breathing life into the magnificent beasts, something magical happens. To be able to convey the utter devastation war brings in such a stunning way is no mean feat yet they have achieved it to an incredibly high degree.

A beautifully emotive piece of theatre that is possibly the best stage production I have ever seen.

Darlington Hippodrome – Barbara Nice: Raffle

STOCKPORT’S FAVOURITE HOUSEWIFE BARBARA NICE IS ON HER WAY TO DARLINGTON

Critically acclaimed comedy actress Janice Connoly brings her colourful creation, Barbara Nice, to Darlington on Wednesday 30 May.

Janice Connoly was spotted by Peter Kay playing her character of Barbara at The North West New Act final – a competition he had won the previous year. Other notable winners include Caroline Aherne, John Thompson and Dave Spikey.

Peter asked her to be in his new TV series ‘That Peter Kay Thing’ and Janice then went on to star in both series of ‘Phoenix Nights’ as god fearing Holy Mary. Oher TV credits include playing Peter Kay`s mother in Coronation Street, ‘Max and Paddy’ as Holy Mary again, Dave Spikey`s ‘Dead Man Weds’ as Carole and in the BBC 2 skating rink comedy ‘Thin Ice’.

The character of Mrs. Barbara Nice is a much loved headline act throughout Britain. Mother of five from Stockport she believes in bargains and getting the most out of life. Ergonomically correct she doesn`t drive and travels the country by National Express coach. Her husband knows nothing of her burgeoning comedy career, he thinks she`s either at Bingo or dog sitting.

Entrance price includes a complimentary raffle ticket. A playful life-affirming show including the chance to win a prize off Barbara’s table. Barbara will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step with this new show about chance and luck.

Barbara Nice: Raffle is at The Hullabaloo on Wednesday 30 May at 8pm. Age guidance 14+

For more information or to book call 01325 405405 or visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk