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Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

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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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I first saw this show last year at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, and as soon as I came out of the theatre, I knew I wanted to see it again.

The story probably doesn’t need any recapping, especially for women of my generation, but in essence, it is set in 1963 and revolves around Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, who goes on holiday with her parents and sister, to Kellermans Holiday Resort. Baby is the apple of her father’s eye, and at the tender age of sixteen, has her sights set on changing the world, one good cause at a time.

When she meets dance instructor Johnny Castle however, her eyes are opened to a world completely new to her, and much to the disapproval of her father, who instantly dislikes Johnny and blames him for getting dance partner Penny ‘in trouble’, Baby falls in love.

The show is packed with amazing dancing and terrific songs, and is colourful and fun from start to finish. Lewis Kirk and Jessie Hart played Johnny and Baby, and both were great. Unfortunately, I was completely mesmerised by Gareth Bailey in the role of Johnny Castle last year, and I doubt that anybody could have matched up to him. Bailey was also taller and more muscular than Kirk, and physically probably fitted the part a little better. However, that is not to take anything away from Lewis Kirk, who was certainly appreciated by the mainly female audience.

Fans of the film need not worry – all the classic scenes and lines are there, and most of them got cheers of recognition from the audience.

I definitely recommend this show – this is the second time I have seen it, and if I get the chance, I will be going to see it again.

(Click here for more information about this production.)

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Click here for my review of this production from October 2014.

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The story is well known – in 1963, young Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, goes on holiday to the Kellerman resorts in the Catskills, with her parents and sister.  There, she falls for dance instructor Johnny Castle, a man who seems totally mis-matched for her in every way.  It’s a classic film, with Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze taking the lead roles. (Swayze subsequently became a heartthrob for a whole generation of women.)

In my completely unknowledgeable mind, I imagine that this must be quite a challenge to transfer to stage – but my goodness, they certainly managed it.  This show stays extremely faithful to the film (I imagine there would be hell to pay from the audience if it didn’t), and includes all the classic lines and songs.

Roseanna Frascona was adorable as Baby (and looked for all the world like the twin of Jennifer Grey as she appeared in the film), and Gareth Bailey was a wonderful Johnny Castle – the mainly female audience certainly seemed to appreciate him!  His dancing was mesmerising; I could have watched him dance for hours.  Claire Rogers was terrific as Penny, Johnny’s dance partner – with legs that seemingly go on and on!  The rest of the main cast, and the ensemble dancers were also terrific.

This show is sexy, energetic, funny and sweet – and I even had a tear in my eye at the finale.  At the performance I attended, the whole audience gave an extended standing ovation, and it was well deserved.  I’m already looking to see if I can get tickets for further performances while this show is on tour.  Very highly recommended.

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

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Click here for my review of this production from May 2015.

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The classic 1954 MGM musical is brought to the stage in this fabulous production starring Sam Attwater and Helena Blackman as Adam Pontipee and his his new wife Milly.  When Milly marries Adam after just one brief meeting, she is dismayed to discover that he has six unruly brothers who she is expected to look after.  She sets about improving their appearance and manners, and help them to find wives of their own.

This show is a wonderful adaptation of the film – it captures all of the films high energy, laughter and colour.  The cast, led by a charismatic Attwater and the adorable Blackman, were all wonderful, and there were loads of laughs to be had throughout.  The dances – particularly the barn dance, with the whole cast involved – were the highlight of the show.  Incorporating acrobatics and ballet, the routines made me feel breathless just watching them.

I also loved the scenery, which slid on and off the stage as the scenes dictated, and which perfectly set the stage for the action to unfold, and there were a few lovely new songs added to the show, alongside old favourites like Wonderful Wonderful Day, Sobbin’ Women, and my personal favourite Bless Your Beautiful Hide.  Attwater may be more of an actor than a singer,  but he handled his songs well.  Blackman has a truly lovely singing voice, and both she and Attwater were well suited to their roles.  A special mention also to Jack Greaves, who played the sweet youngest Pontipee brother Gideon, and Georgina Parkinson as Alice, the girl with whom Gideon falls in love.

Wonderful fun, wonderful songs and incredible dancing made this a truly wonderful show, and I defy anyone who sees it to leave the theatre without a huge smile on their face, and a big spring in their step.

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

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Click here for my review of the 1954 film.

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Yet another classic musical from MGM (who I believe made all the best musicals during the 40s and 50s).  Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra team up again for a third time (and just like in Anchors Aweigh, they play sailors on shore leave), and they are  joined by Jules Munshin, as the third member of their trio.  They are a day off in New York, and are determined to see all the sites, and meet some pretty girls.  Pretty soon all of them have fallen for a different girl (played respectively by Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller).  Super dance numbers and some great comedic moments ensue.

I loved this film – like other musicals of its day, it is happy and funny, and leaves you with a huge smile on your face.  Naturally, there are some fantastic dance sequences, mainly courtesy of Kelly, Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller (whose tap dance in the museum is simply wonderful).  You kind of always know where the story is going, but the journey there is a great deal of fun.  There’s some snappy dialogue, and Kelly, Sinatra and Munshin all delight (Munshin was far funnier than I expected him to be, and I loved the scene on the top of the Empire State Building.)

Definitely a film to watch if you need a quick injection of happiness!

Year of release: 1949

Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Producers: Arthur Freed, Roger Edens

Writers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Jerome Robbins

Main cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett

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This colourful and joyous adaptation of As You Like It was a delight from start to finish.  In essence, the story revolves around Rosalind, daughter of the Duke Ferdinand, who has been usurped by his brother Duke Frederick.  Ferdinand has been banished from his court, and now lives in the Forest of Arden with some loyal followers.  Rosalind, once permitted to remain at the court because of her close friendship with Frederick’s daughter Cecilia, has now also been banished, but not before a brief meeting with Orlando, a youth who has been forced to live in poverty by his cruel older brother Oliver.  Cecilia decides to leave court with Rosalind; Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede, while Cecilia pretends to be his sister Aliena.  Accompanied by the court fool Touchstone, they head into the Forest to find Rosalind’s father.  When lovelorn Orlando comes looking for Rosalind, he finds a young man named Ganymede, eager to school Orlando in the rules of courtship…

Having recently watched the televised performance of this play as performed at The Globe Theatre in 2009, I thought that another performance was going to have to go some way to equal it.  This one does just that though, mainly due to some truly excellent leading performances, and some beautiful music – as well as lots and lots of laughs (I actually had face ache from laughing so much when I left the theatre.)  Pippa Nixon and Alex Waldmann play Rosalind and Orlando, and not only are they both perfect for the roles, but there is some real chemistry between them too.  Nixon makes a terrific Rosalind/Ganymede – in some productions, Ganymede can look too obviously like a girl for the audience to believe that Orlando does not recognise her/him – but here, Nixon is convincing, and androgynously gorgeous when in male character.  (Nixon and Waldmann were both excellent in Hamlet earlier on in this RSC season, so they are two names I will be looking out for in future productions also.) However, I MUST also mention Joanna Horton as Cecilia, Natalie Klamar as Phoebe, and Nicolas Tennant as Touchstone, as also being stand-out performances.  I have a real fondness for the character of Cecilia, because played by the right person, she has the potential to be incredibly funny, and Horton captured that perfectly.  Klamar played the precocious Phoebe wonderfully, and Nicolas Tennant was great at Touchstone, complete with panstick make-up and a clowns red nose.  Actually I generally find clowns to be pretty creepy, so I was slightly taken aback when Touchstone first appeared, but he was so funny that I was completely disarmed!

The scenes in Duke Frederick’s court seemed deliberately cold, and literally dark with dimmed lighting and everyone wearing dark clothes and sombre expressions.  Once the action moved to the Forest however, bright clothes, music and laughter were the order of the day, with even Touchstone changing from his skinny black leggings to bright orange ones. And the ending – well frankly, I don’t know how anyone could not feel uplifted and happy at such a wonderful wedding scene with dancing and laughter.

Overall – a thoroughly great performance, which I only wish I could watch again!

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Click here for my review of the televised live performance of As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (2009)

Click here for my review of the 2006 film adaptation.

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I saw this show at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, on 2nd March 2013.  For anyone who doesn’t know the story, it revolves around the imminent marriage of socialite Tracy Lord.  Events are complicated by the arrival of her first husband, C.K. Dexter Haven, and a journalist named Mike Connor, who has been sent to do a magazine article on the wedding.  Tracy realises that she has unresolved feelings for Dexter, and there is further trouble when she finds herself attracted to Mike!  It was adapted into a film starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart, in 1940, and it was again adapted, this time into a musical starring Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.  This play is an adaptation of the musical.

It was a wonderful performance.  Michael Praed was fantastic and just right for the role of Dexter (resembling Cary Grant’s portrayal more than Bing Crosby’s), and Sophie Bould was perfect as the cool and critical Tracy, who becomes warmer as the story with it’s unexpected romantic entanglements proceeds.  Daniel Boys struck just the right note as Mike, and Alex Young was great as Liz Imbrie, the photographer who accompanies Mike, and whose love for him is clear to everyone except Mike himself.  There was not a single weak link in the whole cast, which also included Teddy Kempner as Tracy’s alcohol sizzled Uncle Willie, Marilyn Cutts as Tracy’s mother Margaret, and Craig Pinder as her disgraced father Seth.  Katie Lee played Dinah, Tracy’s spunky and intelligent younger sister, and reminded me of the character as portrayed in The Philadelphia Story; she was terrific.  In the performance that I saw, George Kittredge, Tracy’s dull-as-dishwater fiancé, was played by the understudy Steven Butler.  He was extremely good in the role.

Finally, I must mention the rest of the cast who played the staff of the Lord household, and who put on some amazing dance displays, and performed some wonderful songs.  In fact, all of the cast had lovely voices, and brought the songs to life.

I thought the scene changes were highly effective, with the use of the revolving stage – the sets were imaginative and very evocative of the era.

This was a very high-energy, feel-good show, and I was laughing and smiling all the way through.  I saw a matinee performance, and I could easily have gone to see the show again that same evening, and would have thoroughly enjoyed it.  A wonderful show from beginning to end.

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

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Click here for my review of the 1940 film The Philadelphia Story.

Click here for my review of the 1956 film High Society.

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Taken from the same source material as the (far better known) film Chicago, this film feature Ginger Rogers as Roxie Hart – a woman who admits to killing her boyfriend, even though she didn’t, because of the publicity it will bring her. She is convinced that with top lawyer Billy Flynn on her side, she won’t be found guilty, and instead relishes the attention that is lavished on her. The story is told in flashback by a reporter (George Montgomery) who was a rookie when the Roxie case was big news, and is now reflecting on the story of his career….

I really enjoyed this film. At about an hour and 15 minutes, it rattles along nicely, and Ginger Rogers once again gets to prove that her talent was solely in her dancing; she was a great actress too. The subject matter is relevant – perhaps more so – in today’s world, where celebrity culture is such that people will do almost anything to get into the public eye. Here, a woman accused of murder is turned into an instant celebrity!

Ginger does get chance to show off her dancing skills on a couple of occasions, but it should be noted that this film is NOT a musical. It is though, an amusing comedy with a satisfying ending, and I enjoyed it a lot. Fans of Chicago should definitely check this film out.

Year of release: 1942

Director: William A. Wellman

Producer: Nunnally Johnson

Writers: Maurine Dallas Watkins (play ‘Chicago’), Nunnally Johnson, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Ginger Rogers, George Montgomery, Phil Silvers, Adolphe Menjou

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Top Hat, made in 1935, was the fourth of ten films which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, and one of the most popular.  Astaire plays Jerry Travers, an American in London, who falls for Dale Tremont (Rogers).  However, due to a case of mistaken identity, Dale believes that Jerry is married – to Dale’s friend Madge, no less – and ends their relationship, while at the same time trying to warn Madge (Helen Broderick), that her husband is a philanderer.

The plot was never the focal point of any Astaire/Rogers movie (or indeed a lot of other musicals); it’s basically there to tie the musical numbers together – and that’s absolutely fine, because the plot here is wafer thin, with holes all over it.  However, the film itself is a total joy to watch, from start to finish.  There are a lot of comedic moments, due to the fantastical identity mix-ups, and also courtesy of the characters of Madge, Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Morton), who is in fact Madge’s actual husband, and Horace’s trusty valet Bates (Eric Blore).  Erik Rhodes, as Alberto Beddini, fashion designer and potential rival for Dale’s affections also provides many very funny moments, playing a similar character to the one he played in the early Astaire/Rogers pairing, A Gay Divorcee.

The dancing is, of course, sublime.  I am actually more of a Gene Kelly fan, but there is no doubt that to watch Astaire dance is a wonderful experience.  My favourite number was the one which caused him to first meet Dale, when his tap dancing in a hotel, in the room above hers, caused her to complain about the noise.  The Cheek To Cheek dance was also beautiful and elegant (and the feathered dress that Rogers wore, caused some problems when it shed its feathers during the dance).

I’m steadily working my way through the Astaire/Rogers film, and have now watched five.  This and the screwball comedy/musical Carefree are my two favourites.

Forget the plot holes, enjoy the laughs, and admire the beautiful, creative and elegant dancing – this is a gorgeous film, which remains as entertaining as ever, 77 years after it was initially released – a real treat!

Year of release: 1935

Director: Mark Sandrich

Writers: Dwight Taylor, Allan Scott, Sandor Farago, Aladar Laszlo, Ben Holmes, Karoly Noti, Ralph Spence

Main cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick

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Click here for my review of Top Hat on stage in 2014.

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Well it’s nearly Christmas, so it must be time for some festive films. Holiday Inn is a Yuletide classic, and no wonder – it’s got everything you want…romance, comedy, great singing and breathtaking dancing. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play Jim and Ted, a pair of entertainers. Jim wants to get out of the business and go away with his future wife, to run a farm. However when his fiancee Lila, who also dances with the men in their stage cat, runs away with Ted, Jim ends up buying a hotel that only opens on public holidays. When an aspiring singer and dancer named Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) gets a job at the inn, Jim starts to fall for her. But then Ted visits and sees Linda, and thinks she would be perfect as his new dance partner…

This film is the one where Bing Crosby first sang White Christmas (in 1954, he made the film ‘White Christmas’ with Danny Kaye – Astaire was unavailable – and reprised the song). Bing gets to show off his wonderful voice with some great songs, and not to be outdone, Fred does some incredible dancing. The clip I have posted, where he dances with firecrackers, was my personal favourite. Marjorie Reynolds is great as Linda Mason, bringing humour and sweetness to her role, and the two main stars bounce off each other perfectly.

There was one scene which took me by surprise and made me wince – to entertain his guests at the Inn on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Jim and Linda dress up in what they call ‘blackface’ make-up, to sing about Lincoln ending slavery. This film is almost 70 years old and such scenes would be widely accepted when it was made, but it is jarring to see it on film nowadays (even in an old movie).

That scene aside however, this film is a classic for obvious reasons. It’s a feel-good film, one to make you feel festive and make you smile. The dancing is dazzling, and the soundtrack, courtesy of Irving Berlin, is great (Berlin always wrote fantastic music). Perfect holiday viewing!

Year of release: 1942

Director: Mark Sandrich

Writers: Irving Berlin, Elmer Rice, Claude Binyon, Ben Holmes, Bert Lawrence, Zion Myers, Francis Swann

Main cast: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Louise Beavers

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