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legallyblonde

This show is based on, and remains faithful to the 2001 film Legally Blonde, which starred Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods. For anyone who is not familiar with the story, sassy Elle Woods is dumped by boyfriend Warner when he goes to study at Harvard, as he feels that Elle is too frivolous for him and he needs a serious girlfriend in order to be taken seriously himself.

Not to be defeated by this setback, Elle decides that she too will enrol at Harvard and win him back. She faces all sorts of challenges when she gets there; classmates consider her to be blonde bimbo and mock her love of fashion (“pink is my signature colour”), and her tutor Professor Callahan doesn’t take her seriously either. She finds a friend in Emmett, an older student who now works for Callahan, and who is the only person who really seems to believe in Elle.

When a murder case comes along and Callahan decides that his best and brightest students will help him defend the accused, Elle must step up to the challenge and prove to those who have misjudged her, just what she is capable of…

I really liked the film and wasn’t sure how it would translate into a musical, but I did expect a lot of fun, and that is exactly what this production was. Lucie Jones was adorable as Elle, and a perfect choice for the part, with a lovely voice. She really had the audience on side from the first scene. I also really liked David Barrett as Emmett. Liam Doyle was very funny as Warner, and I also thought Bill Ward was great as Callahan. For me though, Rita Simons absolutely stole every scene she was in as Elle’s friend and confidante Paulette.

The musical has an original score, so I didn’t know any of the songs, but they were all catchy, and accompanied by some very high energy dancing by the young cast. There was LOTS of pink in this show, with the whole cast wearing pink in the finale. Just like the film, there were some genuinely hilarious moments, beautifully played by the entire cast. For good measure, there were also two dogs in this production – Bruisey the Chihuahua, who is a permanent cast member on this tour, playing Elle’s dog Bruiser. Paulette’s bulldog Rufus is cast from local dogs at every stop on the tour, and in this production, the dog playing the part was simply aDORable!!

Overall, I highly recommend this show – I honestly don’t think anyone could come away from it without a huge smile on their face!

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This musical is based on the 90s hit film of the same name, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Robbie Hart is the wedding singer of the title, whose life is ruined when his fiancee dumps him on their wedding day (I know it doesn’t sound like much of a comedy at this point but bear with me). Meantime, his friend Julia is desperate for her boyfriend Glen to propose to her, although the audience can see right from the start that Glen is an unpleasant character and not good for her – or to her – at all. As Robbie and Julia become closer, they both start to wonder if there might be something more between them…

Let me start by saying that if you are looking for a feel-good show with lots (loads!) of laughs, you won’t go far wrong with this one. It’s also dripping with 80s nostalgia, from the clothes to the hairstyles, so if like me you have a fondness for the 80s, with it’s bad fashion sense and perfect pop, you should definitely check this out.

A word about the music though – the score is all original music written specifically for the show. I felt some trepidation about this; I love 80s music and would have liked to have heard some BUT the songs here are so catchy and enjoyable that if you don’t know them at the beginning, by the time each one ends you will find yourself humming along.

The cast were all great – Jon Robyns was very likeable as Robbie and perfect for this role. Ray Quinn was also excellent as the nasty Glen. Cassie Compton brought the same sweetness and vulnerability to the role of Julia that Drew Barrymore did in the film, and Ashley Emerson was very funny indeed as Robbie’s band mate and friend Sammy. For me though, there were three standout members of the cast – Samuel Holmes as friend and keyboardist in Robbie’s band, George – in complete Boy George regalia; Stephanie Clift as Julia’s cousin and best friend Holly; and Ruth Madoc who played Robbie’s feisty grandma Rosie. (George and Rosie have a number together towards the end of the show, which had the whole audience in hysterics).

This is simply one of those shows that leaves you with a huge smile on your face – full of happiness and fun. I highly recommend it!

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This production of King Lear was broadcast live from The Globe Theatre to cinemas around the world – the first time The Globe has done this, but hopefully  not the last. I went to see it at Showcase Cinema, Dudley, in the West Midlands.

King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s best loved tragedies – it starts with the title character demanding that his three daughters demonstrate how much they love him. While the eldest two, Goneril and Regan go over the top with waxing lyrical about how much their father means to them – all the while with their eyes on his riches – youngest daughter Cordelia refuses to bow to his vanity. She, of course, is the most loyal and loving of all three, but Lear, in his anger at her refusal to kowtow, banishes her from his kingdom and his life.

Meanwhile, Edmund, son of the Duke of Gloucester, is angry at his illegitimate state and plans to get rid of his older, legitimate brother Edgar. He tricks his father into believing that Edgar wants to overthrow him.

The play depicts Lear’s descent into madness, and his journey to actually becoming a better man. Kevin McNally, in the title role, was excellent. He was alternately terrifying and sympathetic, funny and pathetic. He plays Lear as a vain old man, blinded by his daughters’ words and unable to see past the deception of Goneril and Regan, who have cleverly played to such vanity.

The supporting cast were all wonderful too – Emily Bruni and Sirine Saba as Goneril and Regan were standouts, and I also liked Burt Caesar as the Duke of Gloucester. Joshua James and Ralph Davis put in strong performances as Edgar and Edmund respectively. Finally Saskia Reeves put in a terrific turn as Kent, Lear’s faithful friend (a male character in the original play), who is also banished from the realm when she expresses anger at his treatment of Regan.

Played out in modern dress, I found this production relatable and enjoyable. It was also surprisingly funny in parts, which I wasn’t expecting given the nature of the play.

Overall I would have to highly recommend seeing this King Lear if you get chance.

 

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If you haven’t heard of this musical, then all I can say is, where have you been hiding for the last  few years?! Causing fits of laughter, receiving accolades and plaudits aplenty and managing to offend a few people along the way, The Book of Mormon has carved out a huge name for itself, not least because it was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

I was lucky enough to be able to see this show on Broadway in New York, and wow! What an experience! The story is fairly straightforward – after a brief intro explaining what The Book of Mormon actually is – we are plunged into the narrative of two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are given the task of preaching the Mormon religion in Uganda. However, when they arrive in the remote Ugandan village, they discover the inhabitants are more concerned with their own problems, such as famine, AIDS and trying to escape the tyranny of the local warlord.

As Elder Price becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to get through to the locals, as well as his annoyance at being teamed with the misfit Elder Cunningham, it is in fact the said Elder Cunningham who gets through to the villagers in a most unconventional manner, leading to chaos – and much hilarity.

It must be said – as if everyone didn’t already know – that this is most definitely not a show for children or for the easily offended. It relentlessly takes the mickey out of organised religion (there is a song in it called F*** You God), there is a hefty dollop of swear words throughout, and references to all kinds of lewd and illegal acts. So there are plenty of reasons to think that this show wouldn’t have been a huge success…and there are plenty of reasons why it is absolutely a success and is now in its sixth year on Broadway.

In the production we saw, Mancunian actor Don Simpson played Elder Price – he was excellent, and had a wonderful singing voice and perfect comic timing. The more eccentric Elder Cunningham was played by Brian Sears, who was hilarious and had the whole audience rooting for him, bringing a sense of vulnerability to the character.

Nabulungi, beautiful daughter of the Ugandan doctor and the villager who is most enthusiastic to learn more about The Book of Mormon is played by Kim Exum. She too had a gorgeous voice and was exactly as sweet yet feisty as the role demands. The aforementioned Doctor Mafala was played by Billy Eugene Jones, and has the honour of getting to sing the last – and possibly the funniest – song lyric in the whole show (I’m not spoiling it for you here). The evil General was played by Derrick Williams, complete with yellow cowboy boots and utter confusion at Elder Price’s attempts to convert him.

There are some excellent songs in the show, and although I didn’t know any of them prior to attending, they were all very catchy – my favourites being the opening number Hello!, as well as You and Me (But Mostly Me), Sal Play Ka Siti, and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which accompanied an incredibly funny scene set in hell, as the title would suggest (complete with the characters of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Genghis Khan and…Johnny Cochran.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this show, and the rest of the packed auditorium also seemed to love it. I would dearly like to see this show again and am already looking into the possibility of seeing it in London’s West End.

Highly, highly recommended (but not if you are easily offended!!)

(For more about this production, please click here.)

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Shit-Faced Shakespeare has been running in America and the UK since 2010, and has enjoyed great success. The concept is simple – a small group of actors (six in this case, plus the compere) stage an abridged version of a Shakespeare play, with the twist that one of the cast is drunk. Well…shit-faced actually. Before the show, the compere told the audience that the cast member (in this case the actor playing the part of Claudio, although you are not told beforehand which cast member is going to be drunk, and the cast rotate that particular duty from show to show) had had several beers and half a bottle of Tequila prior to the performance.

What followed on this occasion was a truly hilarious hour – yes the show is just an hour long, and there are LOTS of liberties taken with the Bard’s script! – where Claudio was clearly drunk, fluffing lines, paraphrasing, whipping off his sunglasses at will (don’t ask, it made perfect sense at the time), interrupting other actors and basically causing uproar. The other five cast members were forced to work around his unpredictability and improvise, but it was fairly clear that none of them were taking it very seriously in the first place – and this just made it even funnier.

Needless to say that if you are planning or hoping to see a faithful production of the play, this is NOT the show for you. For one thing, the characters of Dogberry and his cronies are completely shaved from the script, and in this version the bad guy is Don Pedro, not his brother Don John (who also is not in the play). A male audience member is dragged onto stage to play the part of Margaret – and to be fair, he certainly got into the spirit of things! On the other hand, if you are looking for a lot of belly laughs, and you are not easily offended, then I would highly recommend this show. It’s probably worth pointing out that there is a lot of swearing and crude behaviour in this show, but if that doesn’t bother you, then definitely try and catch Shit-Faced Shakespeare if you get chance. I will certainly go again if the opportunity arises!

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Funny Girl is based on the life of Fanny Brice, a singer and entertainer who became famous in the early 1900s. It’s definitely a fictionalised account of Fanny’s life, so if you are after a biography this is not the show to see. But if you are after a couple of hours of great entertainment, delivered by a superb cast, then you should definitely see it.

The story tells how Fanny didn’t fit into the leggy beauty look that people wanted to see on stage, and instead had to rely on her humour and fantastic voice. And the audience loved her! She joined the Ziegfeld Follies and became a main attraction and a huge star. Her private life was less successful – she fell deeply in love with Nick Arnstein, a cad and a gambler, but through it all the show went on, as it always must.

Natasha J Barnes was outstanding as Fanny – she had something of a baptism of fire in the role, being understudy for Sheridan Smith and finding herself thrust into the main role when Smith had to leave the tour for a while under fraught personal circumstances. Barnes has a quick wit, a very expressive face and a cheeky nod and wink, all with perfect comic timing. She is utterly endearing – and that voice! Wow!

Darius Campbell was fetching and charismatic as Nick. Far too smooth a character for my personal taste, but he inhabited the part well and his singing voice was just right too.

Full credit too to Rachel Izen who played Fanny’s mother and almost stole every scene she was in; Myra Sands as family friend Mrs Strakosh and Zoe Ann Brown as another family friend Mrs Meeker. Also to Joshua Lay who played Fanny’s friend, fellow performer and ardent admirer Eddie. His dancing was excellent, and I wished Fanny had ended up with him.

Beautiful songs, with the two most well known probably being People, and the uplifting belter, Don’t Rain On My Parade.

Overall, it’s a feel-good show with some poignant and tender moments. Natasha Barnes fully deserved the standing ovation she got at the end…I highly recommend this production!

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For this performance of the much loved Shakespeare play, the action has been moved to Mexico in 1910, shortly after the Mexican revolution. Soldier’s Don Pedro, Benedick and Claudio are returning from the war, with Claudio anxious to see his love Hero, while Benedick and Hero’s cousin Beatrice have a snippy, sarcastic relationship. The audience of course know that they love each other, even if Benedick and Beatrice have yet to realise it themselves. Fortunately, Don Pedro and the rest of their friends scheme to bring the two together, and I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that despite their reluctance, they do of course work things out in the end. Along the way however, Don Pedro’s scheming sister Don Juana (as opposed to Don John) schemes to break up Hero and Claudio which causes their wedding to be wrecked when Claudio falsely believes that Hero has cheated on him. Bumbling and inept detective Dogberry fortunately steps in to save the day, and naturally the situation resolves itself.

I was very intrigued to see how the more modern Mexican setting would change the staging and perhaps alter the focus of the play, as opposed to it’s original setting in Messina. Fortunately although there was a more ‘brutal’ atmosphere to the staging, the comedy and the verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick remained safely intact, and I thought Beatriz Romilly and Matthew Needham were excellent in their respective roles. I also really liked Steve John Shepherd as Don Pedro. Anya Chalotra brought just the right amount of sympathy and vulnerability to the role of Hero, and Claudio was played well by Marcello Cruz (Claudio is not my favourite character in this play; I always thought he was gullible, and disloyal to the lady he was supposed to love – Cruz managed to straddle the line between displaying that and yet somehow getting the audience onside at the end).

The role of Dogberry was played by Ewan Wardrop – for me, Dogberry is one of the funniest characters, but also one of the easiest to overplay…he could easily tip over into being annoying, but Wardrop was note-perfect in this production.

Plenty of Mexican music added to the atmosphere, with two musicians constantly on stage and shown in silhouette. The props were also clever, with Don Pedro and Claudio strolling around in stilts of a sort, and with wire horses (no, I haven’t described that very well, but trust me, it worked).

All in all, this was a very enjoyable and very imaginatively staged production of the play, which shows how Shakespeare can retain all his original beauty yet still be adapted to different times and settings.

If you are a Shakespeare fan (or even if you’re not) I would recommend you try and catch this production while it’s on.

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