Tag Archives: Tour

REVIEW – PEOPLE by Alan Bennett @ Birmingham Rep (NT Tour) [Updated]

I was fortunate to be asked to go review the National Theatre’s production of Alan Bennett’s play ‘People’ at the newly reopened Birmingham Rep a couple of days back.  I will link to the full review when it goes live but for now, follow the jump for a little preview and for the link to the full review at WhatsOnStage.com

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REVIEW – Up4aMeet? Crescent Theatre Birmingham & Tour

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Up4aMeet? – Crescent Theatre Birmingham, 22nd July 2013

Up4aMeet? Is the finest example of a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is very aware of what it is, but also genuinely funny.  What could have been a production that was funny for the wrong reasons, this is a very humorous piece of theatre packed full of topical references and some very accurate observations.

The play, set in block of flats, follows the lives of 3 very different (stereotypical) gay men, their mutual friend the celebrity booker, her failing client and the new flat mate of the oldest of the 3 men.  Along with the use of ‘Cock Shop’ aka Grindr on their phones and websites to find sex and dates the action becomes farcical with cross communication, mixed identification and the need to succeed.

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The Lion King is almost here!!

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So it’s almost time for Simba and co to come to Birmingham! The Lion King opens at Birmingham Hippodrome next Friday (the 28th June).  It’s the big summer show this year, running until September 28th.  Having seen the show in London I can assure you that it is a fantastic production that brings the classic film to life.  I still need to get my tickets for the tour (hint, hint to any generous readers!) but let me know what you think if you see it.

I  came across this video on YouTube – it’s by an amazingly talented guy called Nick Pitera who has done several videos in which he performs as multiple people – including a lot of Disney.  In this video, made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Broadway production, he got a little bit of help to make a special Lion King video…. Enjoy!

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Being Tommy Cooper (Review)

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Earlier this week I shuffled down to the New Alexandra Theatre to see and review a new play about the life of Tommy Cooper.  Only knowing Cooper through seeing clips on TV and hearing things from my Dad to base my knowledge of him on, the play provided a new insight into the sometimes troubled life of an entertainment giant.

Although not really my cup of tea, the play was really good with some brilliant performances from the small cast.  I think it would have been better in a smaller theatre as the audience only filled a very small percentage of the seats in the auditorium and it may have made certain parts of the production more effective, but would highly recommend the show to Cooper fans everywhere.

My full review can be found on WhatsOnStage.com (follow this link!) and here is a small snippet to wet those whistles:

 Williams’ performance as a drunk Cooper is sublime and the closing image of the play of him slumped in a drunken stupor alone in a hotel room is moving, even if the end of the play just seems to fizzle out.

It’s also lovely when people share the review – I got a smile seeing this tweet from Ben Richards (he from Footballers Wives, The Bill and currently in 9 to 5 the Musical sharing the review!)

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3 stars

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A Wonderful Show for a Wonderful Town

Apologies for my silence.  Things need to change and change they will.

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Anyway last night I was lucky enough to go see Bernstein’s Wonderful Town‘ at Birmingham Hippodrome.  The show, currently touring across the UK starring the ‘nation’s Maria’ Connie Fisher, isn’t one that I was attracted to in any way, and if it wasn’t for an invite on a day I wasn’t busy I probably wouldn’t have gone to see.  However, I quickly realised that my feelings towards this show were wonderfully wrong.

Wonderful Town is a traditional American musical – based in the 1950s we follow two sisters, Ruth (Fisher) and Eileen (Lucy van Gasse) who decide to come to New York from Ohio to seek their fortunes.  It’s a clichéd plot where two people move to a bigger city and their innocence is battled but all comes good in the end – but clichéd or not, it works well in this show.  There aren’t any complicated side plots, and the main plot you see coming a mile away, but it’s all good fun and the cast appear to be having a whale of a time on the stage.

Just thought of another title for this post – Wonderful by name, Wonderful by nature.  The show just gives itself awesome names for positive blogs and reviews!!

The design (by Simon Higlett) of the show is classic 1950s America.  Costumes are of the period, and the buildings depicted are classic skyscrapers from the era.  The colour purple is the main colour for the throngs of people – from purple suits to shiny purple trousers of writers to a purple desk with purple paper and purple side way sky scrapers showing the depth of the stage.  There is an early set piece in which the ensemble in their purple suits and orange gloves mould the first days in the city with tight cheography (by Andrew Wright) and direction which uses the set to its full potential.

The cast are brilliant – they all support each other and there isn’t one member letting the others down.  Connie Fisher is brilliant as Ruth, the sensible sister to Lucy van Gasse’s care free Eileen.  The two together have such a large range from Fisher’s lower tones to Gasse’s higher pitched singing and they work so well together, complimenting each other’s styles perfectly.  The main male character Bob Baker is played by Michael Xavier who’s lowest tones almost cause the theatre to vibrate!! There are such wonderful voices in this show – possibly the best cast in terms of singers I’ve seen in a very long time.  Other stand out performances include Nic Greenshields who plays the giant of a laundry expert Wreck Loomis and the artist landlord Mr Appopolous played by Sevan Stephan.  The ensemble are fantastic – with the opening of Act 2 to go down in comedy legend with their portrayal of the New York police department…. (won’t spoil it for you – but the accents are all brilliant!)  The only downside to the show is that the few slower songs/ballads don’t necessary suit the show and slow the action down, but it’s only a small point and with this cast they make those songs great!

Wonderful Town is a great show – and should be amongst the American classics but is overshadowed by the likes of Bernstein’s other musical hit West Side Story.  It’s definitely worth a trip to the theatre – even if the weather is getting better outside!!

4.5 Big Apples out of 5

Tour stays in Birmingham until Saturday 26th May – Ticket information can be found at the Birmingham Hippodrome website.  Then moves onto Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Woking, Plymouth and Cardiff ending on 7th July 2012.  More tour information at the Wonderful Town website.

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Review: END OF THE RAINBOW @ Birmingham Hippodrome (on tour)

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End of the Rainbow, currently on at the Birmingham Hippodrome, tells the story of the the final tragic months of Judy Garland.  Far from her days as Dorothy, the Garland, played by (Olivier award nominee for best actress for this part) Tracie Bennett, shows us the Garland who couldn’t get through shows without the support of drugs and alchol and who allowed everyone around her to dictate what she should and could do while trying to repay her debts.  The tragic story is performed with immense drama but also contaibs hilarious (yet hearbreaking) comedy as Garland tries to make light of moments – such as when it turns out she’s downed a bottle of pills for a dog.

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Bennett is supported by Norman Bowman playing her fiance Mickey Deans and Hilton McRae as Anthony her trusted pianist.  Bowman shows how difficult Garland was to deal with as Deans deals with managing the global star as both her manager and lover, while McRae shows how Anthony tried to help Garland get out of the stressful situations.  A moving scene towards the end shows Anthony trying to get Garland to leave Deans and move with him to Brighton where they could lead a platonic but loving life by the sea.  When Deans enters and demands to know what’s happening, Garland simply says they were saying goodbye, leaving Anthony heartbroken knowing that she was sealing her fate.  Each actor brings life to these real characters and pull at the appropriate heart strings to make the audience believe they are seeing it actually happening infront of them.

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I would love to go on and on about this show – but on this occassion I can’t.  I can’t fault it and I can’t sing it’s praises highly enough and I don’t want to ruin anything for you by adding spoilers! I know that’s rare of me, but on this occassion I can’t do it.  It is a stunning show.  It was nothing like I expected it to be, and although I had heard great things before I had no real expectations – but I was blown away.  Bennett really steals the show and her Garland is near perfect.  There is a lot of pain but also some genuine laughs.

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So yeah, a short, brief review but this show is awesome and if you can see it before it goes to Broadway (of course with Bennett) then do so.  It’s got a few more dates on it’s tour so if it comes near you then get some tickets.

5 stars

 

 

 

 

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End of the Rainbow is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 22nd October 2011.  

It then travels to Aberdeen, Cheltenham, Bath, Sheffield and then Richmond until 26th November.

Information can be found at http://www.endoftherainbowtour.com/tour/

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Review: LEGALLY BLONDE @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham (on tour)

First things first, this is a review – but you know me – I ramble.  Maybe skip to the end if you want a quick look at a score!

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I feel as though I’ve been on quite a journey with Legally Blonde – having been in New York around the latter days of it’s run on Broadway I avoided seeing it.  I thought it’d be a bit too cheesey and as I hadn’t seen the film at that point only knew the name and how pink it was.

Fast forward a year and it was announced that it would be coming to London with Sheridan Smith in the lead role of Elle.  Sheridan Smith is an amazing actress.  Having seen her in a variety of roles (mainly comedy) on TV I had grown to become, not exactly a fan, but interested in her work.  I liked the facebook page for the show and there was a competition to go along to the press launch at Cafe de Paris.  I entered… and I won!  I found myself in London with a friend of mine on a cold autumnal day queueing up along the outside of KFC next to Cafe de Paris wondering what the hell we were actually going to witness.  As it turned out we had an introduction from producer Sonia Friedman then had the newly assembled cast perform a few songs for us, including Sheridan Smith singing ‘So Much Better’ just a few feet away from us.  As well as mini handburgers and other snacks and drinks and a free goody bag, that was my Legally Blonde experience over for a while.

Skip forward 10months or so and I end up outside the Savoy Theatre ready to finally see the show which I will admit – I loved!! Any doubts I had about it went out of the window and I fell head over heels for Sheridan Smith.  So much so it’s the only show I’ve ever been to where I’ve been to the stage door after to get an autograph and photo (and she told me she loved my jacket – win!)

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SO when I heard the show was touring, I knew I wanted to go see it – but due to ticket prices, ridiculously high booking fees and an impending trip to London it wasn’t looking great.  Luckily (and I seem to be a lucky bugger accoriding to this post – I’m not by the way) I won a pair of tickets to the opening night on Twitter.

So you know that I love the show – and that hasn’t changed.  I’ve seen tour productions of productions I’ve seen the full London show for before and know that there will be changes to the set and possibly the show itself and so I was fully aware that there’d be changes.  Big changes include no Delta Nu house, but just a door way; Elle’s original entrance; Paulette’s smaller shop; and a lack of a caravan.  These changes don’t change the show and if you haven’t seen the original you wouldn’t know.  Talking of the set though (and we did have a few techincal difficulties the night we saw it – but it didn’t affect the show) I had one huge bug bear about it.  The flats which tradtionally would be black were red.  It didn’t look right, and at times stuck out when I guess they should have just blended in with the set.

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(L-R: Claire Sweeney (Paulette), Neil Toon (Warner), Faye Brookes (Elle), Iwan Lewis (Emmett), and Dave Willetts (Professor Callahan))

The cast were fantastic.  My heart willalways be with Sheridan for the role of Elle, but Faye Brookes was brilliant.  She was more Reese Witherspoon than Sheridan’s portrayal and she conveyed Elle’s innocence and belief that she could get where she wanted by citing love as the reason for her to get by.  Neil Toon and Iwan Lewis (Warner Huntington the Third and Emmett Forrest respectively) also did stirling jobs as the two central male roles and love interests with Dave Willetts impressing the audience as Professor Callahan.   Claire Sweeney was awesome as Paulette and provided some brilliant moments of comedy.   The rest of the ensemble were fantastic and noone lost any energy throughout the show.

The show was fantastic – though sadly the experience during the first act wasn’t.  Through no fault of the theatre, a couple were sat a couple of rows infront one of which was a drunk French man.  They spent much of the first half talking loudly and passing a wine bottle in a loud Sainsbury’s bag between each other.  After allerting the staff we then had a fantastic steward standing guard ready to shine her torch at them whenever they got noisy again.  She then offered to move us to another section of the theatre and was hugely apologetic.  Luckily the couple didn’t return for the second half, but I just wanted to make sure I included this into this post.  If this blog get’s hugely successful may even consider something to congratulate the great and mighty theatre staff of the land…

ANYWAYS, I love the show.  I would recommend anyone who can’t make it to London to make sure they see the tour.  If you can make it to London, bypass the tour and go straight to London.

4 stars

 

 

 

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Legally Blonde: On Tour is at The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham until October 15th.

It then travels to Manchester, Torquay, Nottingham and Sunderland until the end of the year, beginning again in 2012 in Southend.  The tour continues through to June 2012.

More information can be found at http://www.legallyblondethemusical.co.uk/tour/

*Snaps!*

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Review: EVITA @ Birmingham Hippodrome

I’ve just come back from the current touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1978’s biopic musical based on the life of Eva Peron, EVITA.

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From the outset the production shows that no expense has been spared (a rarity in touring shows) with a huge cast – half of which are made out of a voiceless local ensemble and a chorus of children, stunning pieces of set and a stunning orchestration.  Abigail Jaye and Mark Powell lead the cast as Eva and Che with aplomp and confidence with Jaye’s faultless vocals throughout the show with (unsurprisingly) Don’t Cry For Me Argentina being a stand out point with the audience providing the applause and cheers that the sound effects guys play over the end!  At times Powell’s Che doesn’t have the power that we would expect from him, but he too is faultless throughout his omnipresent state in the show.

Mark Heenehan plays Peron with authority and Sasha Rans almost steals the show with her portrayal of the Mistress and her absolutly stunning rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall.  The cast and ensemble all play their parts with seemingly no effort though the local ensemble sometimes lack what the others give (though to give them their due it was their first time doing it with an audience tonight – same with the children – and I’m sure as the run continues they’ll improve).

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The plot is complex (if you don’t know the story of Eva Peron before hand), and the direction though mostly clear has a few moments when things seem a bit confused.  Luckily the strength of the cast though kept me engaged and so I failed to drift off.  There are also a number of spectacular dance numbers and millions (maybe an exagaration) of costume changes – some in such unbelievably short amounts of time.  The set is very effective with balconies and archways forming many different locations.  Huge well dones to the lighting designer for the small, yet effective lights in the columns that transform the arches quickly and make them feel like whole new pieces of set!

Overall this is a fantastic show.  The staging is brilliant and the cast is faultless.  Only criticisms would be that following the plot without prior knowledge can cause you to get a bit lost, but such is the story of Eva Peron.  This is the show’s final stop on it’s tour so worth going to see it if you have the chance.

4 stars

Evita is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 24th September 2011.

Tickets can be booked online.

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Nun Yourself with Sister Act

Sister Act the musical is about to embark on a national tour (which currently doesn’t include the Midlands sadly).  As part of the promo there’s a new feature to Nun Yourself, a simple yet possibly quite funny tool.  Shall have to try it out later!

Nun Yourself here

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