Archive for December, 2015


Adapted by playwright David Ives, from a little known French play called Le Legataire Universel by JeanFrancois Regnard, The Heir Apparent is a delightfully bawdy romp packed with clever rhyme – the whole play is in rhyme – visual gags, and double entendres.

Young Eraste (played by Nate Burger) is desperate to marry his beloved Isabelle (Emily Peterson), but Isabelle’s mother Madame Argante (Linda Kimbrough) will only agree to the marriage if Eraste is the sole heir to his miserly uncle Gerona’s (Paxton Whitehead) fortune. Eraste’s valet Crispin (Cliff Saunders) is eager for the marriage to take place, because he is in love with Gerona’s maid Lisette (Jessie Fisher), but their plans unravel when Geronte decides that he is going to leave his fortune to two little known relatives – and worse, he has decided that he would like to marry Isabelle himself! With a pint-sized lawyer named Scruple (Patrick Kerr) on route to Geronte’s house to make Geronte’s Will, the four young lovers need to take matters into their own hands…

This was my first visit to the Shakespeare Theater of Chicago, and this play was a wonderful slice of entertainment with which to enjoy the surroundings. The theatre itself reminded me a lot of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, with it’s thrust stage. We had excellent seats, right in the middle of the front row of the lower gallery.

The play itself was wonderful. From the first moment, when Lisette is seen emptying a chamber pot over the balcony, and covering some poor unseen person with the contents, you know instantly that you are in for an evening of bawdy humour, and lots of laughs.

With such a small cast – seven in total – any weak link would have been instantly noticeable; however, everyone put in a note perfect performance, and I struggled to decide who was the best overall. That said, I did think that the roles of Geronte, Crispin and Lisette probably had the best opportunities for physical humour – Paxton Whitehead was wonderfully and hilariously curmudgeonly as the uncle whose money everyone wants to get their hands on. As Crispin, Cliff Saunders interacted with the audience more than most of the other characters, even stopping at one point to make sure that everyone was caught up with the plot.

Patrick Kerr didn’t come on stage until the second half, but he certainly made the most of his role, and it can’t have been entirely comfortable as he spent the entire time on his knees!

The rhyming script was very inventively written, and I also loved the stage set and the costumes – all of the action takes place in Geronte’s living room, and effectively happens in real time. Nate Burger and Emily Peterson both looked gorgeous as Eraste and Isabelle, and played off each other very well indeed.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening in a lovely theatre. The play runs until January 17th 2016, and if you have chance to see it, then I would highly recommend that you go.

(For more information about this production or the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, please click here.)

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After reading two of Mark Kermode’s books (and thoroughly enjoying both of them), I was really looking forward to reading this one – where Kermode discusses (or rants) about the state of cinema today, or at least the state of Hollywood blockbusters today. I wasn’t disappointed – when it comes to film criticism or film discussion, Mark Kermode is pretty much my go-to author. He’s funny, honest, self-deprecating, and makes a lot of valid points.

In various chapters, Kermode talks about how blockbusters basically cannot fail to make a profit, no matter how bad they are, and crucially, no matter how bad their reviews are. He uses the much maligned film Pearl Harbor as an example – as much as it was trashed by critics and the public alike, it still turned a profit. Basically if a film has a big name star, and appears in cinemas even if only for a short time, it will make money – if not on the big screen, then certainly on DVD. So, if blockbusters can’t really fail no matter how bad they are, then why not make a really good one?

In other chapters, Kermode discusses 3D, which has been trialled and trashed several times before, but which keeps rearing it’s ugly head (thanks for that James Cameron), and even questions what use film critics actually are to the industry. The most entertaining chapter for me was where he discussed the recent trend for Hollywood to remake foreign language films – often drastically changing characters, setting and indeed storylines – and why the often vastly inferior remakes still do better in cinemas than the original ‘source’ movies.

Anyone who has listened to Mark Kermode will be able to hear his voice in their head while reading this book – he is an intelligent and passionate narrator, and makes his points eloquently, and with a lot of humour. He is clearly in love with his subject, despite all his complaints about the current state of cinema, and this makes for an engaging, entertaining rant, all in the style of a conversation which you could imagine having in a pub while downing a few pints.

In essence – if you like Mark Kermode’s radio show, or have enjoyed his previous books, or indeed just enjoy reading about cinema or Hollywood in general, then I would definitely recommend this book.

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South Staffs Musical Theatre Company have an excellent reputation for putting on terrific shows year upon year, and they certainly do not disappoint with this perfectly timed production of White Christmas.

The story revolves around ex-soldiers Bob Wallace and Phil Davies, who are now successful Broadway stars and producers. When they go and visit their former Commanding Officer General Waverly at his holiday lodge, they realise that he has fallen upon hard times, and they decide to help him out by staging a musical spectacular. They persuade song and dance act Judy and Betty Haynes to join them, and Phil and Judy soon strike up a romance. However, the flames of desire burn a little slower for Bob and Betty, and are not helped along by a misunderstanding of Bob’s motives towards his former CO, which causes Betty to run away in a fit of anger.

Naturally however, everything comes out in the wash, and the show is of course a huge success with everybody ending up with their rightful partner.

I really enjoyed this production – don’t let anyone tell you that ‘amateur’ means no good,  because there is a wealth of talent on display amongst this cast. Simon McGee was ideally cast as Bob Wallace – he had a lovely voice and great stage presence. He was also handsome and charismatic – very necessary when taking on a role originally performed by the legendary Bing Crosby. Luke Renwick was also delightful as the more upbeat Phil Davies, and his dances with Judy, played by the very talented Rebecca Haydon were a joy to watch.

McGee also had great chemistry with Lexie Bennett who took on the role of Betty Haynes, and who had an AMAZING voice. If this young lady doesn’t end up treading the boards in the West End, I will be amazed.

By the end of the show, the entire audience was singing along with Bob Wallace to the famous title song, which was lovely to be a part of. However, for my money, the best part of the show was the wonderful end of Act 1 – the whole cast, led by McGee as Wallace, performing Blue Skies (one of my favourite songs), in an amazing song and tap dance performance, with canes as props. This was worthy of anything you would see in a professional production, and was so brilliantly done that it actually moved me to tears.

Special mention also to Maria Shee as Martha Watson – receptionist and general busybody at General Waverley’s inn – she had a couple of terrific song and dance numbers of her own, and not to forget – she choreographed all the dances in the show.

A simply wonderful show, and the perfect way to get into a festive mood!


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This movie is a an affectionate homage and occasional parody of those Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies from the 1960s – the most famous being Pillow Talk, which this film reminded me of.

Renee Zellweger is Barbara Novak, an author who has just released her book ‘Down With Love’ which is all about how women don’t really need men, and how they can be just as cavalier in their relationships as men are. This turns her into an overnight celebrity and she seizes the opportunity to publicly criticise Catcher Block (!) (Ewan McGregor), famous journalist and notorious ladies man.

Catcher is determined to exact revenge and sets out to make Barbara fall in love with him – she has never actually seen him so he assumes a fake identity and starts to romance her. Inevitably the deceit starts to unravel and revelation piles upon revelation…

I personally thought this was an absolute gem of a film, although it received only a lukewarm reception when it first came out. Zellweger and McGregor are perfectly cast in their parts and have terrific chemistry. The film is very colourful and playful throughout, perfectly recapturing the mood of those movies which it is playfully paying tribute to.

There are some terrific one-line zingers, and some unexpected twists, and at times I was genuinely laughing out loud. And Tony Randall – who co-starred in those Day/Hudson collaborations pops up here too! David Hyde Pierce plays the role that Randall tended to play in the original films, which is that of best friend/neurotic co-worker, and he is perfect for that part.

This is definitely one I will want to watch again and again.


Year of release: 2003

Director: Peyton Reed

Writers: Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake

Main cast: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Sarah Paulson, David Hyde Pierce






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