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Posts Tagged ‘1950s’

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As the subtitle suggests, this musical tells the story of Buddy Holly – or at least the story of his rise to fame, for the show starts while Buddy is looking for a record deal. Naturally it contains all his most famous songs, and given just how well known and loved those songs are, it must be a daunting task to take on the role.

Full disclosure here – I probably would not have gone to see this show if I hadn’t been taking my mother, who really likes Buddy Holly’s music, given that she spent much of her youth listening to it. But along I went, looking forward to an enjoyable afternoon, and I have to say this show delivered enjoyment by the bucketload. Alex Fobbester played Buddy (he alternates performances with Glen Joseph), and he was absolutely fantastic. Like the rest of the cast, Fobbester played his instruments live during the performance  and they did full and complete justice to the songs.

The story charts his career, taking in his marriage to Maria Elena, and his fallout with backing band The Crickets.

The second half of the show is given over to a performance of touring show that Holly was doing with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens when all three were killed in a plane crash in 1959. This gives Thomas Mitchells and Jordan Cunningham playing Big Bopper and Valens respectively the chance to shine, as they perform those singers’ most famous songs – Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper) and La Bamba (Valens) – and they both thrilled the crowd.

The entire audience were up on their feet clapping along by the end of the show, with many of us dancing in the aisles. The standing ovation that the cast received at the end was very well deserved. And me? I am most definitely a Buddy Holly convert, and am in fact sitting typing this with Buddy Holly’s music playing in the background. For a career that last less than two years, this man gave the world of music a precious gift and a lasting influence. Whether you are a Buddy fan or not, I strongly recommend this show.

For anyone who is interested, here is a list of songs that feature in this production:

Rose of Texas

Rip It Up

Changing all those Changes

That’s Be the Day

You’ve Got Love

Brown Eyed Handsome Man

Everyday

Shout

Not Fade Away

Peggy Sue

Words of Love

Oh Boy

Listen to Me

Think it Over

Well Alright

True Love Ways

It’s So Easy

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Chantilly Lace

Maybe Baby

Peggy Sue Got Married

Heartbeat

La Bamba

Raining In My Heart

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Rave On

Johnny B. Goode

 

 

 

 

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The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is the third play from the masterminds that are the Mischief Theatre Company, following the successes of (the Olivier award winning) The Play That Goes Wrong, and (the Olivier award nominated) Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

This latest play is something of a departure from the format, as unlike the other two productions, this is not a play-within-a-play; it is however as jaw-achingly funny as the previous two plays, proving once again that this theatre company are an incredibly talented group of writers and actors.

So here goes with the story:- It is set in 1958 in Minneapolis, and Robin Freeboys (played by scriptwriter and actor Henry Lewis) is manager of a quiet bank which just happens to house a huge diamond owned by a Hungarian prince. Robin’s daughter Caprice (Charlie Russell) collects boyfriends – usually for whatever money she can fleece out of them – and sets her sights on Sam (Dave Hearn), a young con artist, who is also the son of Ruth (Nancy Wallinger)…who just happens to work for Robin Freeboys at the bank! Matters get even more complicated when Caprice’s boyfriend Mitch (scriptwriter and actor Henry Shields) escapes from prison with a plan to steal the diamond from the bank…

What ensues is a comedy caper full of slapstick, double entendres and plays on words (what would you expect with a character called Robin Freeboys?!) and mistaken identities. One of my favourite scenes was when Sam meets Mitch and has to pretend to be Caprice’s father – I was literally crying with laughter at the incredible performances of Dave Hearn and Charlie Russell.

The whole cast were absolutely spot on and seemed to be having a whale of a time with their roles – kudos to Gareth Tempest, understudy to Jonathan Sayer, and who played the role of eternal intern Warren Slax. It was no small part but Tempest handled it beautifully. Henry Shields and Greg Tannahill were also terrific as Mitch and his hapless associate Cooper. And then there’s Chris Leask, listed in the programme as playing ‘Everybody Else’. No exaggeration here either – he takes on multiple roles with apparent ease, and has a great scene to himself at the beginning of the second half where he shows off a great talent for physical comedy.

This play is absolutely not a musical, but there are some great doo-wop numbers involved during set changes (Nancy Wallinger, take a bow – what an amazing singing voice you have!), which serve to illustrate the time period. And talking of set changes, there is one part of the action which is incredibly clever and daring in its perspective and the way the scene is staged. I don’t want  to give away any spoilers, but it is intended to show Freeboys and Salx from above, and the way it is done is simply ingenious.

Quite honestly, there is nothing at all about this show that I could fault. I loved every minute of it, and the audience around me all seemed to be of the same opinion. I hope this production runs and runs, and I urge everyone to go and see it!

(For more information about the Mischief Theatre Company, or this production, please click here.)

 

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This non-fiction work has been made famous by the BBC series of the same name which was based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs. Being a big fan of the series, I was eager to read the book, and I was not disappointed.

If you have seen the series, many of the stories and characters contained within this book will be familiar to you; if you haven’t seen it (first of all, why not?!) and second of all, it doesn’t matter a jot. The book preceded the show and therefore you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy this book.

Rather than a chronological account, the author tells many different stories from her time at Nonnatus House in the East End of London as a midwife. Many of the stories are heartwarming and amusing, but there are also some tragic tales – the story of Mary, a young girl who ran away from Ireland to escape abuse only to find a worse fate waiting for her in London, is heartbreaking.

I felt that the characters of the Nuns of Nonnatus House were well described, although I didn’t feel that I learned much about Jennifer (Jenny) herself. It is clear from her writing that she was well-educated and intelligent, but other than that, she is largely reticent about her private life. However, the real heart of this book lies in the East End characters and indeed the East End itself – I feel that she brought the time period to life very well, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Highly recommended.

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Just in case the post heading doesn’t make it clear – this post WILL contain spoilers! Probably none that you haven’t already seen in the media coverage and excitement over the release of this book, but spoilers nonetheless. The reason is that I don’t think I am really able to review Go Set A Watchman without revealing spoilers. So you have been warned…!

This book was written prior to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), but the publishers apparently urged her to go back and write a story from Scout Finch’s point of view, which resulted in TKAM. It hardly needs pointing out that that book became a modern classic, a set text, beloved by almost everyone who read it. It also created in Atticus Finch, a true literary hero – a man who stood up for his principles and for what was right, despite huge and sometimes violent opposition.

Go Set a Watchman also concentrates mainly on Scout’s point of view, but Scout is now 26, living in New York and known by her proper name, Jean Louise. When she comes back to Maycomb to visit her family, she is shocked to realise that Atticus is not the hero she had previously considered him to be, and that in fact he supports segregation between black and white people. Her horror as she sees her much loved and respected father at a council meeting about how to keep black people out of white people’s business is shared by the reader. How can he do this to us? This shining example of all that is good and right is actually a racist???

The hurt is compounded when she discovers that the only reason he agrees to defend a black man accused of manslaughter is to stop the NAACP defending him and demanding black people on juries and wanting other rights to which Atticus and most citizens of Maycomb do not believe they should be entitled.

So for many reasons, this book was not entirely comfortable reading. The writing itself is not as polished and does not flow as easily as TKAM, but it IS very readable, and for the most part, despite the subject, I did enjoy it. However, the last part of the book (and once again there are going to be major spoilers here) when Jean Louise confronts her father and he explains his reasons for behaving the way he does – basically, he says that he is still a good guy but for the sake of all that is good and holy, those black people cannot be allowed the same rights as white people – is uneasy to stomach, especially when Jean Louise ends up coming around and sees his beliefs from his point of view.

All in, I would say that I am glad I read this, and would recommend it to fans of TKAM.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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In October 2013, I saw this play at Birmingham Rep, with Martin Shaw heading up the cast. After transferring to the West End, the show is now touring with Tom Conti in the lead role, although for a four week run, tv star Jason Merrells takes over from Conti, and it was Jason Merrells who I saw as Juror number 8, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this play was written by Reginald Rose, and adapted into a superb and much-loved 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda. The whole play takes place in one setting and in real time – twelve jury members have to decide whether a young man is guilty of murdering his father. The case seems cut and dried, and eleven of the jurors initially have no doubt whatsoever that the defendant is indeed guilty. But juror number 8 – we never learn the actual names of any of the jurors – is not so sure. With the death penalty an absolute certainty in the event that the man is found guilty, he wants to make sure that they take time to make sure they are sending the best verdict they can.

The jurors, to me anyway, represent the best and worst in all of us – there are those who want to be reasonable, and firmly believe that there is valid evidence to suggest the defendant is guilty.  There is juror number 7, the baseball fan who only really cares about getting out of court in time to go to the game that evening, and of course, there is the angry juror number 3, whose anger at his failed relationship with his own son taints his view of the young man sitting in the dock.

The atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic – twelve relative strangers are stuck together in one room, on a hot day, with no working fan. Tempers flare, prejudices are revealed, and each character reveals more about himself than perhaps he would like.

I loved Jason Merrells as juror number 8 – he gave a commanding yet understated performance. Although the character is something of a hero, the beauty of the role is that in fact he is just a normal man who wants to do the right thing. Andrew Lancel was excellent as juror number 3 – angry, hurt and feeling like a failure, he resents his fellow juror who as far as he is concerned, is trying to put a murderer back on the streets.

However, it’s hard to just pick out particular members of the cast, because in truth, there was not a weak link to be seen. The dialogue was believable, and the tension seemed all too real. With all of the cast members being on stage throughout the whole show, and with just one setting, I really felt as though I was right there with them, and the revolving table around which the cast sat (which revolved so slowly that you simply could not see the movement, but which ensured that every cast member was clearly visible to the audience no matter where they were) was a brilliant idea. The audience at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre looked mesmerised and at times, you could have heard a pin drop.

Simply wonderful – if you get a chance, you should definitely see this wonderful production.

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Click here for my review of this production (2013)

Click here for my review of the 1957 film adaptation

Click here for my review of the 1997 film adaptation

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I first saw this play at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, in July 2013 (please see below for my link to the review), and when I heard that it was touring, I knew I had to see it again.  Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is set up very differently to the Swan Theatre, so logistically some of the entrances and exits of the actors had to be changed, as well as there being some changes to the scenery set-up.  A lot (though by no means all) of the main cast had also changed but happily, the show was just as enjoyable and funny second time around.

In essence, the story consists of young Dick Follywit, a likeable cad, who is determined to con his uncle, Sir Bounteous Seersucker (yes, really!) out of his fortune, and employs various methods to do so.  Meanwhile in a separate storyline, Mrs Littledick wants to pursue an extra-marital affair with Sir Penitent Brothel, but her husband Mr Littledick is determined to keep a close eye on her, so she uses her friend, prostitute Truly Kidman to act as go-between between her and Penitent.

The play is bawdy, and very VERY saucy.  If you are not one for dirty jokes, then this probably isn’t the show for you.  However, if you don’t mind rude humour, then you are guaranteed a lot of laughs.  Joe Bannister was excellent as Dick Follywit, and I really liked Ben Deery and Dennis Herdman as Mr Littledick and Penitent Brothel respectively.  The roles of Mrs Littledick, Truly Kidman, Mrs Kidman and Sir Bounteous Seersucker are still being played by the same actors as previously (Ellie Beaven) Sarah Ridgeway, Ishia Bennison and Ian Redford), and it is clear that they have not lost their enthusiasm for this play.

Linda John-Pierre also returns as the soul singer with the incredible voice; her and Ellie Beaven’s duet of Cry Me a River was sensational.  Ian Redford was hilarious as Bounteous Peersucker, and I also really enjoyed David Rubin as Bounteous’ deaf, shuffling old butler, Spunky.

If you haven’t seen this play before, do yourself a favour and get tickets.  If you have seen it before…do yourself a favour and get more tickets!  I thought it was just as joyful and delightful second time around, and if it tours again in future, I shall certainly be seeing it for a third time.

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Click here for my review of the play at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2013.

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In 1950, Lucia Sartori is the most beautiful girl in Greenwich Village, New York.  She is a talented dressmaker at an exclusive store, but is expected to give up her job to get married and become a housewife.  However, Lucia has other ideas, and is determined to be as independent as possible.  That is until handsome and charismatic John Talbot comes into the store and sweeps her off her feet.  Lucia falls hard and falls fast, but she and John have several obstacles to overcome, not least her very traditional family.

I always enjoy Adriana Trigiani’s books, and this one was no exception.  The story is bookended by two short chapters set in the modern day, when an older Lucia tells her story to her young neighbour.  Personally I thought the book would have been better without this framing device, as the ending (of the whole book, rather than the ending of the story of events in the 1950s) seemed a bit contrived, but I really enjoyed the main body of the story.

The character of Lucia was developed well, as were those of her family and friends, especially her boss Delmarr, who I particularly liked.  It was interesting to read about Lucia’s life in a large Italian immigrant family, and to understand her conflict between what was expected of her, and what she wanted to do with her life.  There were a number of twists and turns which I did not expect, and Lucia’s story did not end the way that I expected it to, but was better because of it.  However, without wanting to reveal any spoilers, Lucia did make a decision towards the end of the book, which seemed to undermine decisions and plans which she had made earlier, which was something of a shame, although it was probably understandable under the circumstances.

It is a cosy and undemanding tale, and perfect for curling up with on the sofa.  If you are a fan of Adriana Trigiani or such books, you won’t be disappointed.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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