Much-loved Dirty Dancing became an instant box office hit in the 1987 film starring Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze. It`s just as popular now as it was then and Baby, Johnny and those smooth dance moves are back! And this time at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.
Set in the New York Catskills Mountains, 17 year old Frances `Baby` Houseman is unknowingly about to have her life changed. Whilst on a mundane holiday with her family, Baby stumbles upon an all-night raunchy dance party in the staff quarters. It`s like nothing else Baby has ever seen before but she`s drawn to it…those mesmerising dancing moves and those pounding rhythms. It`s where awkward Baby first meets confident and slick dancing instructor Johnny Castle. Johnny is in need of a dance partner and Baby naively offers her help, despite having no idea how to dance. For this to work Baby is going to need a lot of dance practice and Johnny is going to need a lot of patience.
When the strong music beats started the audience enthusiastically cheered as they were whisked back to the summer of 1963. The packed theatre excitedly watched the growing chemistry between Baby and Johnny whilst indulging in much loved hits such as Hey! Baby and Do You Love Me?. Katie Hartland is perfect as Baby and Lewis Griffiths wowed the audience with his dance moves. There was some incredibly strong vocal talent too from Elizabeth played by Daniela Pobega and Michael Kent played by Billy Kostecki.
Hit after hit was well received, as we're the iconic lines such as “I carried a watermelon” and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”. Without doubt though it was the big finale that was the highlight of the show. The Time of my Life exceeded all expectations with its incredibly entertaining choreography and that famous lift! All this, whilst at the same time Daniela Pobega and Billy Kostecki are impressing the audience with their singing. It was like an explosion of talent which the audience couldn`t get enough of. Yet they all made it look so effortless.
The supporting cast all nicely complemented Baby and Johnny, with Penny - played by Megan Louch - exhibiting some particularly impressive dance moves. Well executed stage changes helped move the story along swiftly, whilst also being incredibly fitting, and the use of trees on either side of the stage were particularly effective, nicely framing the centre action. The white blind in the bedroom silhouetting Baby and Johnny also worked artistically well. In regards to the music, the use of a soundtrack had a strong impact but the live musicians gave an extra edge, especially as the solo saxophonist Matthew James Hinchcliffe played In the Still of the Night.
All effort has been taken to make this production as pleasing to the eyes and ears as possible. By the end the whole audience was dancing and the show finished to huge cheers and applause.
Dirty Dancing runs at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until 3 Dec.
Reddich Operatic flew into the Reddich Palace tonight for their rendition of the stunning Witches of Eastwick. A tale that narrates three girls, stuck in the dry suburban Eastwick town, who wish for a man that will fulfill all their dreams... “speak of the devil and up he pops!” Darryl Van Horne brings all their ‘Wildest Dreams’ to life and an equal amount of mayhem to the town too!
Mark Williams brought a new light to the character of the magical Darryl Van Horne giving a cheeky take on this sexual beast of a character. Similarly, the 3 leading ladies Jane Smart (Lisa Lilwall), Alexandra Spofford (Louise Walton) and Sukie Rougemont (Danielle Purkess) lead the show well as the wishful girls who really came to life in their trio songs Make Him Mine, I Wish I May and the finale Look at Me – which was the most stunning number in the show. Undoubtedly, Louse Walton had some of the strongest vocals, which were mightily apparent in her duet with Darryl Van Horne – Dream Your Wildest Dreams – a stunning number. Other standout performances came from Penny Hoy as the town leader (or dictator) Felicia Gabriel and her on stage husband Clyde Gabriel (Tim Eagleton) who stole all the comic moments with his performance.
The young love-struck couple Jennifer (Mollie Hallahan) and Micheal (Paul Mitchell) created a cute, almost cringy, love-filled relationship and most apparent in their duet Something where their respective performances blended nicely together. Despite Mollie’s vocal illness, her characterisation was on point and really strong and I wish her the best recovery for the rest of the run.
Ryan Allen’s choreography was fitting, with some complex routines sprinkled in and there were some nice magic effects provided. Aside from some issues with the sound balance of the band (it was sometimes a little quiet), if you fancy a night of sexual sensations and great songs then get yourself down to the Reddich Palace Theatre this week and ‘Dance with the Devil tonight!’
Review by Andrew Exeter
Welcome to the House of Fun! This week Bilston Operatic Society come crashing into the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for their 2016 production of Our House the Musical! This Madness Juke-Box Musical tells the story of Joe Casey (Ben Evans) as he tries to become rich, win his girlfriend over, break into flats, impress his mum and many other acts in the overcasting shadow of his imprisoned father. This particular production was very strong in presenting such a great narrative and the vocals did the Madness score more than justice!
The young talent - Ben Evans - led the piece outstandingly as Joe Casey with some particularly strong vocals and acting throughout. He was paired well with the stunning Abii Strudwicke as his onstage romantic interest Sarah, who proved her strong vocal ability in NW5. Joe’s Mum, Kath Casey (Sue Towler) really brought an emotional connection to the story in numbers such as The Rise and Fall and was contrasted well by Joe Casey's banter-filled mates Emmo (Matthew Coombes) and Lewis (Tom Withers) who brought some comic enhancement to the production leading musical numbers. Their performances in My Girl were enhanced brilliantly by their strong vocals and they should both be commended for their performances. Additionally Sarah's on stage “bitchy” mates Billy (Jordan Barratt) and Angie (Katie Harrison) again furthered the hilarity of their scenes and provided some very strong characterisation to the musical.
Technically the show also held well - Scenic Project’s set filled the stage nicely with a brickwork staging, blue wing flats and a rather funky front cloth to set the mood of this musical and created a real setting for the production as a whole.
Complementing this, Matt Bird’s Lighting Design sparkled in It Must Be Love. There were some impromptu blackouts, which distressed the narrative and one moment where there was no clear change in set or lighting for the Wings of a Dove sequence, although the choreography, direction and narrative moved to the glitzy Las Vegas.
Some nice additions in the musical came from the projection in Driving in my Car which successfully filled the whole upstage wall creating a real comical 3D effect of the moving car. A big shout out to the crew who have clearly been led well by Robbin Morrison as Production Stage Manager.
The strong talent and ability provided by the band was palpable (led by Ian Room as Musical Director), but there were moments when it was a little too quiet, there is always a tricky balance between the band and the vocals, but there was scope for the band to be a bit louder and showcase Madness's wonderful music further.
Laura Canadine’s Direction and Choreography fitted well with the piece and, despite some hyperbolized moments in the performances, their were some clear moments of creativity, particularly apparent in Baggy Trousers and Tomorrow’s Just Another Day.
In Baggy Trousers a particularly notable performance came from Jacob Kohli, who was full of energy and gave a darker tone to the musical towards the latter end of the show, as the villainous Reecey.
Kohli, the strong ensemble and Mike James as Joe’s Dad really helped to push the darker side to this seemingly light-hearted narrative. The ensemble roles shone in The Sun and the Rain with some hilarious lyric alterations and stunningly comical portrayals.
As Madness puts it: “The Sun shines east, the Sun shines west, but I know where the sun shines best… The Wolverhampton Grand this week!” Easily one of the strongest amateur dramatic productions I've had the pleasure to review - do not miss BOC’s Our House at the Wolverhampton Grand playing until 19 November 2016.
Review by Andrew Exeter.
Solihull's St Augustine's MTC have never been a group to shy away from a challenge, which was very much proved tonight, as they presented the Solihull premiere of 9 to 5 the Musical.
Dolly Parton's feel-good show is packed with warmth, charm and hilarity, and STAGS had this in oodles. Not only did each principal ooze talent, so did the ensemble - and that's what made this production so incredibly enjoyable.
Under the assured direction of Veronica Walsh, her experience was abundantly clear. This show was exceedingly well cast, with talent aplenty emerging from the central characters as well as the supporting performers. Joe was endearingly played by Ed Mears, who excellently captured the young, lovelorn junior accountant. The duet shared with Violet (Let Love Grow) was wholly engrossing.
Another super performance came from Nicola Palfrey as Roz Keith - garnering many a laugh throughout the night she delivered a confident and sassy performance.
Mark Hughes hilariously took on the role of the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot - Franklin Hart - making for a particularly smarmy, vomit-inducing boss as he ogled Doralee in Here for You. His performance was unwavering throughout.
But it was the trio of women who led from the front. They were a formidable team, each showcasing their vocal and acting talents impressively.
One of the most sublime pieces of character acting I have ever witnessed on the amdram scene came from Lauren Clarke as Judy Bernly - she really is a super talent. Her voice soared in Get Out and Stay Out and she was met with rapturous applause as she hit the last note. Joined by Jo Smith, who's wonderful country twang was a delight to the ear in Backwoods Barbie, coupled with the hilariously well acted performance from Loretta Parnell as Violet Newstead, the trio came into their own as they performed the rousing Act 1 finale: Shine Like the Sun.
Harmonies were incredibly tight throughout, under the musical direction of Stephen Powell and the complicated score was very well handled by the talented band. Plus, the choreography from Liane Hughes helped to step the show up another level.
Yes, there were some scene changes that impacted the pace of the performance, but this really is a show that deserves a sold out audience every night. The hard work of everyone involved shines through and it really was a delight from start to finish.
Review by Victoria Ellery-Jones
Inspired by the popular British film, The Full Monty took to the Birmingham Hippodrome stage last night, playing to a packed out audience.
Adapted by Simon Beaufoy (based on his own screenplay), the stage version loses none of the original charm the film possesses.
With a fourteen-strong cast, the play exploded onto stage with hilarity and energy. Although the play is primarily a comedy - which had the audience in fits of laughter throughout the night - the play addresses many sensitive issues, including unemployment, impotence, homosexuality, suicide and father's rights. All of this was handled wonderfully by the entire cast and beautifully portrayed in a slick production.
Robert Jones's set design was superb, the generic warehouse backdrop became a dynamic and essential part of moving the play along quickly and was complemented well by Tim Lutkin's lighting design. The explosion of colour in the ultimate scene really showcased the genius of the set.
Gary Lucy's Gaz led the show impeccably, delivering a well-measured performance that balanced the comedy and the desperation in wanting to see his son. Speaking of which, Lucy's relationship with Nathan was a joy to watch. Felix Yates is a star in the making, with a performance that oozed confidence - he had the audience in the palm of his hand as he handed his piggy bank money over to his Dad.
The pairing of Chris Fountain as Guy and Anthony Lewis as Lomper was perfect. Whilst there were other standout performance from Louis Emerick as Horse, Andrew Dunn as Gerald and the endearing Kai Owen as Dave.
Featuring a host of great songs from the likes of Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones this is a clear audience pleaser and it's definitely worth a watch before the run ends on Saturday.
Jekyll and Hyde is a show where there is nowhere to hide. The comparatively few numbers for the chorus and the fact that it is almost entirely sung through requires a strong set of individual performances to make the show a success and Newcastle Operatic Society’s dark and atmospheric production had these in spades. More than that, each well thought out, superb performance contributed to a very effective portrayal of the gothic Victorian society in which it is set.
For those who don’t know the show, it follows much the same story as most adaptations you may have seen. Controversial scientist Dr Henry Jekyll is trying to separate out what he believes to be the two opposing forces found in each and every one of us, good and evil. After the hospital board decrees he cannot test his experimental formula on live patients, he inevitably tests it on himself and Mr Hyde is born. What follows is a revenge mission against those members of the board who denied him, the total collapse of his personal life as Hyde begins to take over, and the tragic consequences of those who try to get close to Jekyll meet Hyde instead.
Jekyll and Hyde cannot succeed without a strong title character. Mark Hilton’s Jekyll was passionate and frenetic in his work and grew into a man truly terrified that he was about to lose control. His Hyde was a menacing and lurking presence who had complete control of his victims right until they died. His chemistry with the poor prostitute Lucy Harris (Shelley Ann Rivers) sizzled at times. His Confrontation was excellent, given extra colour by his versatile and powerful vocals.
The 2 leading ladies of this show are wildly different roles – Emma Carew (Lottie Morris) is a privileged daughter of the upper classes, all innocence and naivety. Lucy Harris is all bravado as she desperately tries to maintain the demeanour she needs to succeed in a brothel. Both roles were played with panache and incredible attention to detail and Morris and Rivers have voices which would grace any West End stage. When they came together for In His Eyes, it was a spine tingling moment. Special mention also goes to Phil Buckley as Simon Stride and Rob Lawton for his very convincing John Utterson, Jekyll’s best friend.
For the majority, the set was quite minimalist and relied on a few well-chosen pieces of furniture and atmospheric lighting to set the scene. For the lab scenes, however, the whole stage was instantly transformed into a fully functioning laboratory, complete with bubbling potions and working flames. The careful use of fire was exhilarating and yet not at all distracting.
Overall this is a very ambitious yet successful production. The plot moves at a good pace, yet time is taken to explore some of the show’s underlying themes.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is an oddly comical story. All you need to do is read a synopsis and then prepare yourself for an evening of quirky hilarity. There was a palpable enthusiasm from the cast of STAMPS as they took to the stage, and a strong sense of camaraderie that translated through to the audience throughout the night.
Committed performances from all involved resulted in an enjoyable show, with some particular standout moments. Becky Wicketts took on the role of title character Millie, she really grew into the role as the show went on. A young Jimmy was played exceptionally well by Jack Walsh - although sporting a very youthful complexion he tackled the maturity of the character well, with excellent diction.
But it is the featured actors where the hilarity lay. The American-Chinese con artist Mrs Meers (Rosie Asher) was an utter delight. With laughs aplenty from the audience, there was a sense of anticipation as she came on stage. She was joined by James Kelly as an endearing Ching Ho and Michael Smith as Bun Foo - a double act which helped break up the story. Combined as a 'villainous' trio, a particular highlight was Muquin with tight harmonies.
Another beautifully harmonised moment was between the quartet of Millie, Jimmy, Miss Dorothy (Lucy Clarke) and Trevor (Kris Evans), each showcasing their vocal ability. There were some sound balance issues in the first half, with dialogue and song missed over the music. However, as the show progressed these issues were ironed out and the second act was pacy, opening vibrantly with Forget About The Boy.
Special mentions must also go to Kim Bradshaw as Miss Flannery/Ethel Peas and Sophie Kowalewsky who both stood out throughout the show.
The beauty of this show all boils down to one word: team. Everyone on stage was enjoying themselves, working together and more than delivering a show, they were celebrating their love of theatre as a family - and that was lovely.
An all-time family favourite, The Wizard of Oz sweeps into Lichfield this week in the capable hands of Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company (SCMTC).
In an explosion of energy and colour, the group succeeded in transporting their astutely engaged audience into the land of oz. Led by Rene Blissett in the demanding role of Dorothy, we were swept down the yellow brick road in a flurry of wonderful performances.
Scarecrow (Ben Adams), Tin Man (Tony Orbell) and Lion (Mark Hull) were sublimely cast, with Hull's cowardly lion a clear audience favourite, but the endearing performance from Adams as Scarecrow was equally delightful. There was strong support from Wicked Witch Christina Peak and Patrick Jervis was superb as a bumbling Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz. But, stealing many of the scenes throughout the night, was the adorable Toto, played by Tetley.
The beauty of this production lay in the hands of the exceptional work from the creative team and ensemble. The ensemble added passion and verve to an already assured principle cast and there were many individuals that stood out, including Charlotte Middleton, Ashley Leight and Sophie Hammond.
The highlight of the night was, without a doubt, the munchkin scenes, which were utterly fantastic and so cleverly executed. Many productions use a large ensemble of children, but to witness a full stage of adult munchkins was a stroke of pure genius. Kudos then to director Deb Middleton and her esteemed team of choreographer Jen Morris and music director Sheila Pearson. Dancing was impressively slick, the music was joyous and the overall direction meant there were no elongated pauses or overcomplicated scene changes.
Perfect for half term, if you can possibly grab a ticket, it's one to see this week!
Cabaret Theatre Company presents the unconventional, heart-warming boy-meets-girl tale Little Shop of Horrors at the Brewhouse, Burton.
Opening in Mushnik`s Skid Row Florists, there's Mama Mushnik (Lilly Prince) and her two employees, nerdy orphan Seymour (Harry Whetton) and bleached blonde-haired Audrey (Hannah Birkin). Times are hard and the business is struggling. Until, Seymour cultivates a truly remarkable plant, which he calls Audrey II - after his work colleague that he hopelessly adores.
Life is on the up with Audrey II, the plant, becoming a popular attraction and bringing in extra business. Insecure Seymour then hopes to finally win the affections of Audrey by stealing her away from her abusive tough guy boyfriend Orin. There`s a bigger and bigger problem though, as Audrey II grows and grows, feeding only on human flesh. This is one huge wise cracking man-eating plant set on world domination!
The show is fun and entertaining from beginning to end, leaving the audiences on a high and wanting more. Seymour, Harry Whetton, and Audrey, Hannah Birkin, had great chemistry together and gave talented character performances. Lilly Prince was also convincing as Mama Mushnik as was Harry Tierney as Orin. Collectively the main cast all delivered sharp, confident performances and the other cast members complemented them well. All the lively feel-good catchy songs were flawless and the Feed me (Git it) song was particularly well received.
All the costumes suited the characters well and the staging was simple but effective. The growing Audrey II was a particularly great success with amused reactions from the audience. The hard work of all the students and staff at the The Cabaret Theatre Company is noticeable in this professional, energetic and enjoyable production.
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