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This show opens with a voiceover warning people of a nervous disposition that platforms and white lycra are worn during this production. This somewhat sets the tone for the whole show – humour, colour, energy and of course some terrifically ABBA-esque costumes.

The storyline is simple enough – Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna live in Greece. Sophie is getting married and wants to meet her father…the only problem is that she doesn’t know who her father is out of three potential candidates, so she invites all three without her mother’s knowledge. Naturally, chaos ensues as past memories are raked up. And when you throw together Donna’s best and oldest friends Rosie and Tanya, three men who have no idea why they have been invited to the wedding, and a host of young men and women, there is bound to be action, raunch and a little romance…

Accompanied by some of ABBA’s best known and loved songs – including Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me, Lay All Your Love On Me, Money Money Money, Does Your Mother Know? and of course the title track – this is such a fantastically feel-good show that it did not surprise me one bit when there was a standing ovation at the end, with audience members dancing in the aisles.

Helen Hobson was great as Donna, and Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford were wonderful as Rosie and Tanya respectively. In the performance I saw, Sophie was played by first understudy Blaise Colangelo, who was ideal for the part – so loveable and sweet. The three possible fathers were Sam played by Jon Boyden, Bill played by Christopher Hollis, and Harry played by Jamie Hogarth. Their three distinct characters were portrayed excellently.

I don’t see how anyone could fail to enjoy this show, and the beaming faces on the audience as they left the theatre were testament to what a wonderful time everyone had. If you get chance to see this production, do yourselves a favour and buy some tickets!

 

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Beth is a high flying New Yorker, whose job leaves no time for love. When she goes to Rome for her sister’s wedding, she impulsively takes some coins out of a fountain of love (people throw coins in and make a wish to find love). This causes the men who threw those coins into the fountain to fall in love with her and pursue her with abandon! Meanwhile, there is Nick, the best man and best friend of her sister’s husband, who definitely has chemistry with Beth…

The reviews for this film have been pretty unforgiving, and I almost decided not to watch  it. But actually I found it very entertaining – yes it’s daft and entirely unbelievable, but Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are charming leads and difficult not to like. It’s undemanding rom-com and if that is what you are in the mood for, this fits the bill perfectly.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Writer: David Diamond, David Weissman

Main cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepherd, Alexis Dziena

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sweetest-christmas

Pastry chef Kylie makes it into the final stages of the American Gingerbread Competition but the oven she is planning to use breaks down so she has to turn to her ex-boyfriend Nick, who runs an upmarket pizzeria. Nick allows her to use his oven and the two reconnect…

This film is utterly predictable and riddled with cliches – and despite that it is charming, sweet and hugely enjoyable. I knew how things would turn out even before pressing play, but the two leads (Lacey Chabert as Kylie and Lea Coco as Nick) are charismatic and likeable and have good chemistry. If you are looking for a film that will surprise you then don’t bother with this one, but if you are looking for a feel good, warm and fuzzy Christmas movie, then give it a shot!

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Year of release: 2017

Writer: Erinne Dobson

Main cast: Lacey Chabert, Lea Coco, Jonathan Adams, Laura Gilchrist, Lane Edwards

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The Hartes and The Golds have lived next door to each other for years. The two couples are best friends, and their children – Christopher and Emily – grew up together, and eventually fell in love. Life is seemingly idyllic for the families, until the night where Emily is killed from a gunshot to the head, and Chris tells his parents that it was a suicide pact gone wrong. Neither family wants to believe this could have happened and both want to know the truth. But as the police investigation begins, both sets of parents have to question how well they really knew their children at all.

As is almost always the case with Jodi Picoult, this book is compelling reading, and held my interest throughout. There are two timelines – the one in the past which builds up the history of Chris and Emily’s relationship, and the one in the present day, which focuses on the police investigation and the discovery of what really happened that fateful night.

As it transpired, I actually found myself disliking both sets of parents and feeling more sympathy towards the Chris and Emily – Emily in particular, not only because she dies at the very start of the story, but also because she actually seemed the most likeable character of all. I did enjoy the character of Jordan McAfee, Chris’s attorney and his assistant Selena. I was not particularly able to warm to Chris but I had to remind myself that he was a privileged (read, spoiled) teenager, going through an incredibly tough process. There were a few things that jarred with me – Emily’s mother Melanie mistakenly believes at one point that her new neighbours are a gay couple and wonders what kind of neighbourhood she and her family have moved to. I’m not sure if this was meant to be a reflection upon the character of Melanie herself however, I also felt that Emily and Chris were almost pushed together because it was what their parents’ wanted, not necessarily what they themselves might have wanted.

Nonetheless, if you want a story that moves along at a good pace, despite alternate chapters set in different timelines, and one that that will keep you guessing as well as presenting the reader with a moral dilemma, then I would probably recommend this book. It’s not Picoult’s best (my own lowly opinion would rate that as the excellent Nineteen Minutes) but it’s still an absorbing story.

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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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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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