Not that you would know from the performances, Five Star Theatre is a youth company. This shouldn’t put anyone off, the quality of the production and the entertainment is indeed 'Five Star'.
Guys and Dolls is one of the classic musicals of the golden era. It is brimming with great songs and dance routines and has not one, but two love stories.
Nathan Detroit (Samuel Hoult) is trying to run a floating dice game, whilst attempting to hide this from his dancer/singer fiancée Adelaide (Danielle Boughey) and the police. In the process of raising the funds, he makes a bet with high roller Sky Masterson (Ciaran Dempsey) that he can’t take Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown (Emily Goodwin) to Havana. From there the story twists and turns proving the course of true love never runs smoothly.
Every performer on the stage is a joy to watch, the hotbox dancers are a delight with their step perfect routines. The Crapshooters dance is spectacular using most, if not all the cast, each one having a part in one of the highlights of the show. The principals all have strong voices and characterisation. Ciaran Dempsey shows Skys softer side in My Time of Day to great effect. Emily Goodwin is sublime as Sister Sarah, her singing powerful, accurate and beautiful. It is Danielle Boughey's Adelaide who steals the show.
Adelaide is a character from her voice to her attitude, each of these is shown with relish by Danielle. It is a character I can find hard to warm to, but not tonight. Another lovely moment is Arvide Abernathys number More I Cannot Wish You sung with heart and poise by Benjamin Mulley.
Commendations must go the production team who haven’t shied away from any part of this show. The dance numbers are performed in full, which isn’t always the case in amateur productions.
Choreography is wonderful with some innovative moves I haven’t seen before. Bringing comedy into what can otherwise be a weaker song (Marry The Man Today) was nothing short of genius. The music is supplied by a backing track, but the quality of this is good - for the young cast to sing accurately to a track is very impressive.
This group is superbly talented and deserve great audiences, they most certainly all have a bright future.
Politics, drama, in-fighting, money troubles, audition stress. These are all part and parcel of the british amateur dramatics scene, albeit a part the audience will never get to see. How wonderful, then, to see each egregious character, “visionary director”, -trumped up local rep for the National Am-Dram Association, as well as each over-bearing, larger than life member of a local musical theatre company brought to the stage in uproariously funny, yet brutally honest fashion.
Rockhopper Productions’ new musical One Show More brings all that is good and bad about local theatre to life in a scintillating comedy which packs as many musical references into one show as physically possible.
The story follows a local company, Cresley Rye Amateur Players, and their attempts to save themselves from financial ruin following the sudden death of their chairman and the revelation that he had put all of their money into a dodgy investment.
Each with a different vision for the society, both Gerry Lafferty (John Highton) and John Barrowmore (Craig Wood) fight for the open Chairman position, a situation complicated even further by the fact that John is dating Gerry’s daughter, Cordelia (Nicola Crooks). The committee meet to discuss ideas for raising funds, including a local fete, and selling off the company’s costumes. The fete is a disaster, and after all of their efforts, they are still in the same position. Eventually John pips Gerry to the post, which causes Gerry to quit, and Cordelia to leave John. Relationships continue to deteriorate and, soon, suspicions begin to grow that someone is hiding something. The tension mounts until the audition day finally arrives, and the cast anxiously wait to hear of they have been cast or not. During the last agonising wait, the culprit behind the dodgy investment is finally revealed at a clandestine meeting, and the company can finally put on one show more.
Whereas some shows try to parody theatre, One Show More differs by not only sending up some of our stupid traditions, but also showing the impact theatre has on all of our lives. A theatre company is a living, breathing thing, and One Show More has a solemn side, when we think that societies are dying up and down the country. Credit goes to the writers for capturing this perfectly.
As an ensemble cast, there were no weaknesses. Each character was thought out and played beautifully and there were an impressive array of vocals on display. In a show packed full with musical references, some of them could have been lost, but each was played up just the right amount as to keep the comedy alive, despite a run time of over 2 hours 20 mins. A personal highlight was Send in the Gowns, sung by Sarah Mould.
Nicola Crooks also showed off some seriously big vocals as well. The send up to Wicked was also particularly funny.
This show is fantastic, whether you are a theatre type, or you just enjoy a good laugh. Grab your tickets while you can.
Sell A Door Theatre Company present the famous cult classic about a bloodthirsty plant: Little Shop of Horrors. Tara Louis Wilkinson’s direction is fresh, inventive and creative in its presentation for the stage and most elements of the production are faultless.
Sam Lupton shone in his emotional portrayal of Seymour, his unwavering performance delivered right up until Seymour’s inevitable descent into madness and subsequent death. Similarly his onstage romance Audrey (Stephanie Cliff) connected well with the role – a melodramatic portrayal on the lead female. With strong vocals, her comic approach was endearing, but at times steered the audience away from the emotional side of her character - notably during Suddenly Seymour. There was occasional accent slips, but as a whole two impressive young actors lead the show with perfection.
The celebrity X Factor name – Rhydian Roberts – brought some comic relief to this dark production with his rendition of the sadist dentist Orin. Rhydian proved last night that celebrity casting can work very well, considering the controversy that has recently been sparked among the placement of star names in musicals.
The infectious ensemble and band enhanced Alan Menken’s brilliant original score, with particular highlights including the Act One finale with shedding guitar riffs and striking vocals from Vanessa Fisher. Set design and band married up nicely as the musicians appeared on stage in the ‘Skid Row Music Shop’ – a lovely touch.
Assured performances came from the three skid row girls – Crystal (Shasha Latoya), Chiffon (Vanessa Fisher) and Ronnette (Cassie Clare), who clearly delivered the narrative of the play – complemented by Matthew Cole’s slick 60s choreography. Paul Kissaun’s made for a commendable Mr Mushnik, descending from comedy to anger seamlessly.
On the whole David Shields design was excellent, but it was clear that it proved difficult to fill the Alexandra Theatre’s vast stage, which did also cause some lighting issues. Notably, a large beam flooding the first few rows of the audience during Suddenly Seymour distracted and there was an excessive amount of haze, which resulted in straining to see performers expressions. Having said this, as a design Charlie Morgan Jones’ lighting was stunning, creating some beautiful images throughout.
The real star of this show is the master behind the puppetry of the stunning Audrey 2 puppet and Resident Director (Josh Wilmot). The movement was life like – Wilmot’s dexterity with the puppet paired with Neil Nicholas’ vocals blended well creating an almost united performance. The effectiveness of the puppet was clear to see, especially in the number Feed Me/Get It, where the relationship between Seymour (Sam Lupton) and the plant really came into play.
Sell A Door Theatre Company stun with this vibrant new production – the best in their season this year –
I would certainly pay good money to see this again!
Get yourself down to Skid Row and do not miss Little Shop of Horrors on tour around the UK until November 2016. Playing at the Alex until Saturday 1 October.
Adapting a well-loved book or film for the stage always presents the writers and directors with a dilemma; how to tackle scenes that are already imprinted in the audiences’ mind through the previous incarnations. As I approached this stage adaption by Owen O’Neill and Dave Johns of Stephen King’s short story Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption I was intrigued.
How would they stage Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank Prison, chipping through his cell wall and crawling down a sewer pipe? And ‘Red’ Redding’s post-parole hunt for the field, wall and oak tree he’s been directed to? The answer proved deceptively simple. Leave Ben Onwukwe alone on stage to tell us the story. Simple, and very effective. Onwukwe’s charming and sympathetic performance was at the heart of what was good in this production. Gary McCann’s prison yard set was bleak and imposing, and well supported by Chris Davey’s lighting design.
Sadly, despite committed individual performances from Jack Ellis as the corrupt prison Warden and especially Andrew Boyer as the institutionalised librarian Brooksie, the production was uneven. The adaptation failed to adequately show the passing of time, and how (with the notable exception of Brooksie) this lengthy incarceration would have a physical and mental impact on the inmates.
Central to this problem was Paul Nicholls’ Dufresne. Believable at the start of the evening, there was an emotional disconnect with his character, and he did not appear to age a day, let alone 27 years. Onstage, opposite Onwukwe and Ellis, we were seeing completely different, and not complimentary, acting styles. In a studio theatre Nicholls could well be a very effective performer, but in the 1200 capacity Grand Theatre much of his dialogue, and therefore character, was simply lost. When Dufresne escaped it was pleasing, but sadly not for the right reason. At least it meant we got to enjoy Onwukwe’s epilogue uninterrupted.
Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful story of The Wind in the Willows is a family favourite, combine that with the glorious wit of Alan Bennett and you have a delightful adaptation of a classic. Trinity Players brought to life this story in all it’s characterful glory, keeping true to the tale, but with a twist.
From the outset it was clear the sheer time and effort put into this production. Every single moment had been meticulously thought through and it was obvious that director, Jennifer Mears, had a clear vision for how she wanted to present this production. The stage team had worked tirelessly to create the wonderful set, which was more than just a backdrop to the action, it was part of the show.
In Mears's programme note she mentions the power of books on the imagination and this was cleverly illustrated through the use of torn book pages covering the entire set, with some simple wooden boxes with toy characters (from the story) dotted around.
Not only that, the audience were taken on a journey into their own imagination with this show. There was no necessity to have a gypsy wagon or a motor car, instead just pile up some boxes and get a character to hold a steering wheel. And there were some clever touches with the moving road signs and spotlit mice.
Onto the acting: Matthew Cotter’s Rat was utterly brilliant, with a quietly endearing Sasha Marsh as Mole, they complemented each other well.
There was also some fantastic character performances from Shirley Gladwin as Badger, the hilarious Matthew Collins as the overworked horse, Albert and Ross Gibley as Norman.
Strong multi-rolling support came from Gemma Parton, with accent swaps to boot, Kath Hollis as Otter, Squirrel and Clerk and Ann Dempsey was fantastically comical as the blundering magistrate.
It was clear that Leigh-Ann James relished in playing the villainous Chief Weasel and leading the show from the front was the superb Dan Holyhead as Toad. He captured the very essence of his character, with great audience interaction and some well executed slapstick comedy.
Trinity Players have delivered a beautifully imaginative production of a classic, congratulations to all involved.
Highbury Players bring Alan Bennett`s comedy Habeas Corpus to the intimate Highbury Theatre.
Filled with light-heartedness and the kind of innuendo typical of saucy seaside postcards, the play delivers razor sharp wit and characters that are larger-than-life.There’s Dr Arthur Wicksteed, a middle class doctor that has an eye for the ladies (Martin Walker), and his frisky wife Muriel, Sharon Clayton; and their hypochondriac son, Dennis (Jack Hobbis). Arthur also has a sister, Constance played by Linzi Doyle, who is desperately driven for a much larger bosom, and she`s been engaged for 10 years to sexually frustrated vicar Canon Throbbing, Dave Douglas.
Extra characters include ex-colonial snob Lady Rumpers, Dee White, she attempts to over-protect her less than innocent daughter Felicity Rumpers, Bhupinder Brown. There`s also Sir Percy Shorter, Rob Phillips, the president of the British Medical Association - also not free of temptation. In amongst the mayhem is Welsh Mr Shanks, Kerry Frater, from a breast enhancement company. Plus there’s Mr Purdue, Rob Gregory, one of Arthur’s depressed patients that’s being driven to desperate measures. Finally there’s working class Mrs Swabb, Sandra Haynes, adding a clarity to the play by being a constant and providing further explanations - all of which she does whilst doing the hoovering!
With mismanaged lust and mistaken identity Alan Bennett has written a classic, laugh-out-loud farce. The performances from all of the Highbury Players were of a high standard - all equally as entertaining, talented and comical. With impressively delivered lines and faultless, sharp performances. One highlight throughout the play included the interaction between the injected, and at that point delirious, Mr Shanks and Sir Percy Shorter. There was slapstick, blunder and wit from beginning to end with an air of parody.
Whilst the stage comprised of just two chairs and large hanging postcards, the seamlessness of the play showed how much effort that has been put in by the creative team behind the scenes.
Habeas Corpus runs at the Highbury Theatre until 24 September
To many theatre and film fans alike the mention of multi award-winning composer Alan Menken invokes images of gallant Princes and beautiful Princesses wrapped in Disney-esque love stories, but a “Mean Green Mother from Outta Space” – are they sure they have that credit right…?
Sure enough Little Shop of Horrors - although a lesser known Menken work, with book by Howard Ashman – is a rock and roll beast of a show based on the 1960 black comedy of the same name, and boy did the cast of the Sell A Door company do it justice on the current UK tour!
The story follows Skid Row botanist Seymour Krelborn as he hopelessly pines over escaping his impoverished life and fleeing Mushnik’s failing flower shop with the love of his life: his completely oblivious co-worker Audrey. Upon discovering a strange and interesting new species of plant – which he calls the Audrey II - his luck begins to change as fame and fortune look set to come his way, but with Audrey II’s very specific and gruesome appetite Seymour begins resorting to desperate measures to try and nourish the plant, retain his celebrity and hopefully win the girl.
Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift as Seymour and Audrey were a match made in casting heaven. Lupton’s hapless and lovelorn lead was faultless, weaving with ease from hilarious to awkwardly charming via somewhat deranged. Similarly Stephanie’s cheerful dizziness gave their relationship real heart, and the audience couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters. Both were vocally superb separately and in harmony, with Clift’s Somewhere That’s Green and Suddenly Seymour being particular highlights.
In addition the supporting leads, Paul Kissaun as Mushnik and Sasha Latoya, Vanessa Fisher and Cassie Clare as the du-wop girls along with the ensemble gave buckets of energy and vibrancy to every scene, with choreography that was on-point throughout and a gorgeous full, rounded sound in the company numbers.
An obvious audience favourite, X-Factor’s Rhydian was a great watch. It’s easy now for producers to cast a reality star “name” at the quality of the show’s expense (see recent ‘Ghost’ tour review for an example) but Rhydian’s Orin Scrivello – sadistic Dentist, and boyfriend of Audrey – is certainly bucking the trend and is enough to restore the faith in those who might have fallen foul of bad casting choices before.
His unique voice and stage presence lent itself brilliantly to Orin’s character, and he had the audience completely engaged right up to his last nitrous-oxide filled breath.
Special mention must also go to Josh Wilmott as puppeteer for Audrey II, whose control over the beastly bud was mesmerizing and added so much value to the quality of the second act.
In short, an incredibly funny and well put together show with incredible performances throughout.
There are no leaves unturned on Director Tara Louis Wilkinson’s production, as it attacks the audience all guns blazing from the outset with relentless, eccentric, wonderful ridiculousness. A must-see!
Upon arrival to the New Alexandra Theatre we were immersed by a magical pre-set gauze effect, which really produced a buzz of excitement as to what lay behind. Unfortunately what did was disappointing.
As the preset curtain rose, Mark Bailey's set seemed unsure of itself, confusing abstract flats with naturalistic back drops and a lack of rehearsed entrances and transitions. Nick Riching's lighting design did not stun either, it simply lacked energy and at times was a little panto-esque in its 'ghost' effects. Sound levels were low, lacked impact and due to some opening night glitches several lines were missed in dialogue and songs with mics not being on.
Sarah Harding's name sold the New Alexandra Theatre well, but unfortunately her performance did not live up to expectations. Some dodgy stage slaps, unsure vocal arrangements and line missing pulled all members of the audience into wondering the intentions behind this casting. Her on stage ghost Sam (played by Andy Moss) was good, but his characterisation seemed overly melodramatic at times.
Having said this, Alistair David's choreography did save the large ensemble numbers with some innovative tight routines, which the company held well. The choreography dazzled from early on, particularly during More, as the workers bustle through New York City.
Both the hospital ghost (James Earl Adair) and subway ghost (Garry Lee Netley) brought some energy to the plot in their songs. Further strong performances came from Jacqui Dubiois who shone as the mysterious and comical Oda Mae, providing some much-needed relief. Her solo in Act Two, I'm Outta Here brought an air of excitement as the show reached its climax, but this was not enough to save the rest of the performance.
Bill Kenwright's scaled down production does not live up to the expectation the previous West End and Touring productions have set. Placing a star name at the forefront of the production, it questions the producers intentions for such a fantastic piece of theatre.
Ghost runs at the New Alexandra Theatre this week before continuing it's UK Tour into 2017.
"In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." You'd be hard pressed to sum up this glorious production of Oscar Wilde's most iconic comedy better than in the words of one of its characters, Gwendolen. This stunning re-imagination does Wilde's masterfully cutting parody of upper class Victorian life proud.
The story follows two bachelors who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives and attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men called Ernest. Cue a farcical tale of deception, disguise and misadventure.
The mirrored staging, modern costuming and musical interludes give this production an ingenious contemporary twist and the comedy is as hilarious now as it was inflammatory back in 1895. Indeed, productions like this one show just how ahead of his time Wilde was. Still, it takes timing and execution to pull the comedy off and this cast gets it right throughout.
Fela Lufadeju brings something rather different to the role of John, the straight man of the piece. It's a John who is rather more confident and emboldened than you would see in many productions. On the whole this matched the originality of the production well, but in places it somewhat reduced the impact of the comedy, especially in the scenes which rely on the contrast between his character and the flamboyant Algernon.
Edward Franklin doesn't put a foot wrong as Algy, you could imagine Wilde chuckling along to his physicality and timing.
Meanwhile the play's fawning young ladies, Gwendolen and Cecily, are played beautifully by Martha Mackintosh and Sharan Phull and the scene where the two meet and discover the deception being practiced on them is wonderfully funny. Mackintosh is delightfully prim as Gwendolen, finding laughs which would pass other actors by. And Phull masters the innocence of Cecily in a way which heightens the comedic impact of her occasionally cutting remarks.
Cathy Tyson makes for a formidable Lady Bracknell. Virtually all of her lines are humdingers and Tyson makes the most out of each and every one in a seasoned performance.
There's sterling support too from Dominic Gately as a hilariously reverent Dr Chasuble and Angela Clerkin as Miss Prism as both try in vain to stifle their feelings for one another. And Darren Bennett doesn't even need lines to gain some of the production's biggest laughs as a delightfully camp Merriman.
You can't help imagining what Wilde would have made of director Nikolai Foster's snazzy reinvention of his most iconic story. Methinks he would approve.
The Importance of Being Earnest plays at The REP until 24 September.
Susan Hill's classic gothic horror story The Woman in Black has taken many forms from its creation in 1980, from radio drama to Hollywood horror, however perhaps the production is at its most chilling in the two man stage play... it is of course this production that has travelled from its London home to spook audiences around the UK. This week the spirit has settled in the Lichfield Garrick.
This play relies so much on the unknown that there will be as little spoilers as possible during this review - seeing the play for the first time with an open mind and the blank canvas really does make The Woman in Black a thrilling night of entertainment.
If Susan Hill's use of Pathetic Fallacy in the novel was anything like the show we were about to watch, then we would be in for a night of classic gothic horror, as the thunder and lightning raged on our approach. The Woman in Black is an interesting concept, give two men, played expertly by David Acton and Matthew Spencer, a handful of chairs, a door, a hamper, a selection of sound effects and two hours to scare the pants off their audience: well this was achieved by the end of the heart stopping production. A testament to the power of imagination, creativity and superb performances in this two man show.
David Acton plays an aged Arthur Kipps in the production, his wonderful warmth and venerability is perfectly characterised however the essence of the trauma and heartbreak within the performance, buried deep, gives a wonderful sense of foreshadowing as the production unfolds. He had the audience in the palm of his hand in the opening scene, and they couldn’t help but warm to his characterisation of the loveable, troubled man.
Matthew Spencer plays The Actor, his ability to flip a line to become harrowing to hilarious in the space of three words shows just how skilful and thought through his performance was. Although his character was written to be more unlikeable at first than Arthur Kipps, you couldn't help but fall for Spencer’s wit and charm.
It’s clear the pair had gained a wonderful connection, which showed on stage, the trust they had in each other allowed for their performances to be more daring and really push the audience to their limits. The suspense that they built during their silences on stage worked well, however there may be a silence too many during the production, especially when there is no tension or danger being built on stage, these silences had a lot of the audience shuffling, waiting for something to happen.
The Woman in Black may not be the most terrifying theatrical stage experience ever made, but The Woman in Black is one of the most inventive, tense and at times uncomfortably scary plays that has been created. The fact two men can envision a dog, and make you believe that a dog is there, really does show the magic of theatre, superbly performed and directed, The Woman in Black is a treat for all the senses, and a show not to be missed.
But just who was that mysterious spectre in the theatre?
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