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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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In this fourth instalment of the Miss Fisher series, Phryne is driving in her car when her windscreen is shot out. When she gets out of the car, she sees a young man who was also shot and who dies in her arms. Outraged, Phryne determines to find the guilty parties. However, she also takes on another case, that of missing schoolgirl Alicia Waddington-Forsythe, and Miss Fisher’s two adopted daughters Janie and Ruth are able to help out with this matter.

The investigations take our intrepid investigator – along with her friend and maid Dot, and the rough but reliable Bert and Cec, not to mention her butler and chef Mr and Mrs Butler, into the dark world of anarchists and psychics, and as usual there is danger everywhere.

Lots of humour along the way of course, and Phryne naturally finds time to indulge in a little dalliance with a mysterious man named Peter Smith. Anyone who has read any of the series will be familiar with the style and will know what to expect from Phryne. I have to say that while the books are thoroughly enjoyable, I don’t think that they are actually really well written and on this occasion, the adaptation is better than the book. No Jack Robinson in this story, which is a shame, but we do get to meet Hugh Collins, who is a regular in the TV show.

Overall for an undemanding and quick read, this fits the bill.

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This book takes the reader through a number of lifetimes experienced by one dog. When we first meet him, he is a stray struggling to stay alive with his mother, brother and sister. After a too-short life, he finds himself reborn as a Golden Retriever who finds a loving home with a young boy called Ethan. Bailey – as Ethan names him – and the boy are inseparable, and Bailey is amazed when at the end of a long happy life, he finds himself reborn again with a another new owner. The story takes us through the dog’s four lives, each one teaching himself new, and each time wondering what his purpose in life really is.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, not least because I am dog crazy…I would have a houseful of dogs, if we only had the space and time to devote to them. I really enjoyed reading about things from the dog’s point of view, and found myself both laughing and feeling sad at different points in the story.

If I’m honest, I would have to say that it’s a lovely story, but the writing is a bit simplistic – however, that might be a deliberate thing given that the narrator is a dog, with of course, a dog’s view of the world. I liked how, especially in the segment where Bailey and Ethan live together, Bailey would describe things that happened without really understanding them, but it was clear to the reader what the situation was.

I’d recommend this book, especially to dog lovers. It’s an undemanding and enjoyable read.

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In 2009, journalist Susan Mauhart came to the realisation that her three children – and herself – were over-consuming screen media (tv. computer games, and predominantly the internet). In fact they were positively inhaling it. Fed up of conversations with the backs of their heads, and not being able to do anything as a family because all they all wanted to do was get back to their screens, she imposed a six month moratorium on all screen related media. This book is a journal of those six months as well as studies and observations about the effect of media – particularly social networks – on individuals, and the knock-on effect on family.

The effect on the family are perhaps not unexpected. After the initial shock, the family began to spend more time together, enjoyed lingering family meals where they would talk – genuinely talk – about their day, and they took up new interests (or resurrected old ones). But despite being able to guess pretty much how the family dynamic would change, this book did make it’s point very well. And bear in mind this experiment was in 2009!! Facebook was big but only five years old – and MySpace was still hugely popular. Twitter was just three years old, and neither Instagram nor Pinterest had even been invented. So as obsessed as Susan’s three teenage children – Anni, Bill and Sussy – seemed to be, it was probably nothing compared to the kind of thing you see everywhere today – people of ALL ages walking round, head down, glued to the phone. People sitting in restaurants together, but both distracted by their own screens. Even the rate of people getting knocked over in traffic has risen year over year since 2013, because of what is known as the ‘head-down generation’ – people crossing the road while looking at their screens instead of traffic.

So this book does provide food for thought, taking into account the effect of too much screen time on babies and toddlers as well as older children and teenagers. I personally found Maushart’s writing style to be witty and engaging, and this made it an easy read. As she herself observes, when writing about social media, everything is out of date almost as soon as it’s printed, and this is writing about something that happened eight years ago, but the point it makes is still valid.

For anyone interested in the effect of social media, I would recommend this book.

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The world is burning, civilisation is collapsing and the human race is in danger of being wiped out…a mysterious disease known as Dragonscale is sweeping the planet – nobody knows how it started, but everyone thinks it will end with the destruction of mankind. The disease starts out as swirling patterns on the sufferer’s skin, and eventually those with it burst into fire and are literally burnt to death. It doesn’t take long before vigilantes roam the streets killing those affected in an attempt to rid the world of the disease.

Harper Grayson finds out that she has Dragonscale at roughly the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant. Her husband Jakob abandons her, and in fear of her life, Harper flees to try and find a place of safety. She is taken under the collective wing of a group of fellow sufferers who have set up their own community known as Camp Wyndham, where they believe they have found a way to, if not cure Dragonscale, at least control it and even use it to their advantage. One of the group is John Rookwood, known as The Fireman. Enigmatic and single-minded, John protects the group and has special skills of his own for using Dragonscale to defend his community. But danger and hysteria lurk within the camp…

I had previously only read one book by Joe Hill – Heart Shaped Box – which I thought was okay but not brilliant. I would probably not have bothered with any more of his novels except that dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels always intrigue me, so I gave this one a try. And wow! am I glad that I did!!

It’s a big brick of a book, at just shy of 750 pages. Sometimes I can get a bit impatient with such long books, but I seem to have got lucky with a couple this year (earlier in the year I read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ which I also loved), including this one. The writing is engaging and there’s always something to tease you into reading just one more chapter, and oh go on there, just one more…

Some scenes were particularly poignant – crazy as it sounds, one of the scenes that sticks in my head is when Harper gets brief access to the internet after weeks of having none. She goes to Google only to find that it is no longer there.

There’s a lot of characters in the book – some I loved, and some I absolutely detested, as I am sure was the intention of the author. Harper was a feisty heroine – the best sort actually, as she only realised her own strength of character when the chips were down.  found her obsession with the film Mary Poppins a bit odd but I’ll let it go!! The Fireman was exasperating and antagonistic, but fiercely protective of those he cared about, and his bravery knew no bounds.

The story seemed to move quite quickly for me – that is there was always something happening and it didn’t lag at all. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I liked it although I know some reviewers were disappointed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes dystopian novels. It’s well worth your time reading!

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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!

Man Up (2015)

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Nancy (Lake Bell) is 34, single and fed up of trying to find Mr Right. On a train to her parents’ 40 wedding anniversary party she meets with another passenger Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) who leaves the book she is reading – a self-help book called 6 Million People and You – for  Nancy, because she thinks Nancy should read it. However, it turns out that Jessica was going on a blind date, and both she and her date were going to hold a copy of the book so that they could recognise each other. Jessica buys another book but meanwhile her date Jack (Simon Pegg) sees Nancy with the book and assumes that she is the girl he is meant to be meeting.

Rather than put him straight, Nancy goes on the date and the two of them get along brilliantly. But of course, the truth must out and that’s when things take a turn. A run-in with a creepy former schoolfriend of Nancy (Rory Kinnear) and Jack’s ex-wife and new partner (Olivia Williams and Stephen Campbell Moore) complicate matters even further…

I really enjoyed this film. I think it’s fairly obvious from the beginning how it’s going to turn out in the end, and anyone who has seen a rom-com before will know what to expect. But getting there is good fun – and it is great to see a romantic comedy with believable characters and not a couple of 20 somethings that look like they have just sashayed in off the catwalk (not that the two main leads aren’t attractive, because they both definitely are, but they are also relatable).

Lake Bell nails the English accent – if I didn’t know that she was American in real life, I would have thought she actually was English. And Simon Pegg was ideal in the role of a  man who has been through a bitter divorce and is hoping to come out of the other end of a dark tunnel. Sharon Horgan is great as Nancy’s sister, and I really liked Ken Stott and Harriet Walter as her parents.

I did think Olivia Williams was slightly mis-cast as Jack’s ex-wife, although she takes only a small role so it did not detract from my enjoyment. On the flip side, Rory Kinnear was deliciously creepy as the obsessed schoolmate of Nancy, who knows the truth about her identity.

As mentioned before, the ending was always fairy predictable but I liked the way it was done. If you like rom-coms, or British comedy in general, I’d recommend giving this one a go.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Ben Palmer

Writer: Tess Morris

Main cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott, Harriet Walter

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