I just wanted to say...

I just wanted to say...

Crazy for You!

TheatrePosted by Pete Mar 08, 2012 16:04

The one where a man wants to quit banking to be a dancer?

Bobby Child played by Sean Palmer is the young man with a dream to ditch working in banking and be the star of the stage dancing. Work however, the preferred occupation of his mother, played by the wonderful Harriet Thorpe, send him to Nevada to take possession of The Gaiety Theatre as payments by Polly Baker played by Clare Foster had not been kept.

Fortunately for Polly, Bobby’s passion for the theatre and his wannabe dream of being a dancer take’s over as well as his desire for her affections. Through various twists and turns he poses as theatre producer Bela Zangler to put on the show, and win over Polly’s heart but all comes to close to unravelling as the real Bela Zangler played by David Burt comes to town, followed closely by his mother.

Crazy for you is very much a play of will they won’t they… of course they will. Written by George and Ira Gershwin with book by Ken Ludwig the piece is very in keeping with the style of the era. Lavish productions with lots of show girls, but many of the references of the producers of theatre along with the life of an actor are still as true today as they have ever been. I wouldn’t be surprised if down the line Bela Zangler becomes Cameron Mackintosh.

Practically all the songs in this production are well known. Thanks to the charm and stand alone quality of these numbers by Gershwin, the audience are practically singing along to numbers such as I got Rhythm, Slap that Bass, Embraceable You and a superb rendition of Someone to Watch over me, by Clare Foster.

As with any production of the era though, it is the choreography that hands down steal this show. Stephen Mear had his work cut out with a show that has number after number of the most infectious tap routines, I am happy to say with a cast of over 20 filling the stage, and great to report of all shapes and sizes rather than the skinny boy stereotypes across the West End, Mear’s has created dance that you cannot help but be in awe of. The rousing company numbers along with the more subtle duets of Foster and Palmer really do give a variety to the piece and showcase the talent on stage. Theatre such as this, and the recent revival of Singin In the Rain are what the term Triple Threat is all about, as these talented casts sing, act and tap the hell out of the West End.

My only complaint is that, as expected in a Gershwin musical, the piece is just that bit too long, with the second half starting to lose its way a little, but generally the energy of the performance keeps you gripped, with many an audience member showing how little rhythm they hold clapping out of time at the end.

A delicious treat on the unknown arrival of Harriet Thorpe on stage made this evening of camp entertainment complete and a nice trip down to a time gone by. With the Shrek’s and Legally Blondes of the world performing you’d be forgiven for proclaiming… “they don’t make them like that anymore”

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Next time you pass!

About in LondonPosted by Pete Mar 07, 2012 17:38

Riding home in the dark is stupid and dangerous, so I decided, taking a deep breath that I would just have to stump up the money and get new batteries for all my bike lights... that had all seemingly stopped at the same time.

I asked around at work if anyone knew of anywhere cheap in Central London I could pop out to get the four 3 volt batteries I need.

I was told to visit the watch man at Piccadilly Station. Without thinking about it I set off just down the road from work. Sure enough in a tiny cupboard... literally a door a man was working away with an eye piece on what looked like a very expensive watch. The queue was three deep and I dutifully joined.

Waiting patiently it had become clear that the others in the queue were repeat bookings and everyone had visited this man in a doorway before.

My turn and I told the guy what I needed.

Me: I just need four 3V Batteries for my bike lights

Man: Ooooooh do you now, Lets see if we can sort you out then

He popped my battery on the reader

Man: Dead, you see? Right how many do you need?

Me: Four Please

Man: Four? bladdy 'ell you might aswell buy the shop! Right 26... 26...

Me: Thats £26 pound?

Man: 'ang on 'ang on, right just call it £10

Me: Ah, I only have £8 do you take card?

Man: Of course I dont fecking take card!! Take them (batteries) and pay next time yer passin

Me: Well I have the £8

Man: Take 'em and pay next time you pay buy

Me: Are you sure?

Man: I don't want your fecking money, take them away.

I laughed and couldn't quite believe that in London especially someone could be so trusting. Naturally I went to the first cashpoint withdrew ten and ran back down to the kiosk.

Man: I told you to pay next time you passed

Me: Well I'm passing now, thanks very much!!

We both laughed and then I left.

Seriously, people like that make this world so much better, and I can guarantee now that my lights will always be powered by the man at Piccadilly.

What is even more amazing, if you type in "watch man at Piccadilly" there are many more accounts of this type by many other bloggers!


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The LadyKillers

TheatrePosted by Pete Mar 07, 2012 16:22

The one where a little old lady harbours five bank robbers?

This age old play by author Graham Linehan, has had another revival but this time on such an epic scale that sees an All Star cast and a fantastic set take home in the Gielgud Theatre in the West End.

The play of unfortunate mishaps stars with a lovely old lady Mrs Wilberforce played by the fantastic Marcia Warren informing a weary village Policeman of a UFO incident that occurred to her last week. The policeman smoothing things over sighs and leaves and the daily dithering of the loveable Mrs Wilberforce continues. Enter Peter Capaldi as the ingenious “man with a plan” who comes to take a spare room from Wilberforce as the deceptive creature, Professor Marcus. Posing as a musician the man whom speaks from the corner of his mouth for the entire production brings his peculiar habits, and record player into the house with a team of four other gentleman, with no real intention of performing any form of classical concerto.

Major Courtney played by a cross dressing James Fleet, a vicious Ben Miller as Louis Harvey, Harry Robinson played by Stephen Wight and a stellar performance by understudy Lace Akpojaro as One Round, all join Marcus using Wilberforce’s house and good nature as a guise for their devious plot to steal money, and using Wilberforce herself to bring the money back after the robbery as no one would suspect her.

As you can imagine in a comedy filled with slapstick and amazing comic routines from a cast of outstanding talent, this plan after the perfect execution of the robbery, slowly starts to fall apart at the mercy of a little old lady. The quintet find themselves having to play a concerto to a giggling W.I. after the money they have recently acquired falls everywhere from the case of a double bass. Once Wilberforce is aware the plan starts to unwind, as does the nerves of each assailant. By the conclusion of the piece the cast is much lighter, thanks to impressive special effects by Scott Penrose and fight sequences by Alison De Burgh.

The cast really do work incredibly well and the understudy was no exception within a role where every character is crucial to the quick fire wit and action that is performed on stage. Director Sean Foley really has plotted out every single moment with the upmost precision in timing that allows some of the best gags in the play to be performed.

But with such a cast on stage performing this text, Designer Michael Taylor really had his work cut out in designing the set. Thankfully he delivers. More than delivers as from the very first rotation of a rustic exterior of the cottage you are presented with a feast for the eyes as the chintzy house of Wilberforce swings into place. Set across many floors the set presents the whole house for you to see. This is perfect for letting the audience learn more than the characters, particularly when Marcus and his gang are plotting in their bedroom whilst unbeknown to them a jittery Wilberforce is making her way up the stairs. The set also next to the main line railway to Newcastle, also has the fantastic charms of rattling as each train passes whilst also concealing many a trap door and effect for the violent ends of many.

This is a perfect example of how to put on a farce correctly. All elements of the production come together harmoniously and although it’s by no means Shakespeare, is a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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Floyd Collins The Musical

TheatrePosted by Pete Mar 07, 2012 12:12

The one about a man stuck in a cave?

This musical with book by Tina Landau and Muris and lyrics by Adam Guettel is based on the real life events of 1925, when a man in his twenties, Floyd Collins, got his leg caught whilst caving in a labyrinth of caves in Louisville. A junior newspaper report 'Skeets' played with perfect wit and charm by Ryan Sampson was the only man who could fit and reach Collins. Sampson’s embarks on the biggest journey in this production as we see a skittish young man a little nervous, becoming a confident young man who wants to help a “friend” rather than write a story. The reports by Skeets from the cave brought the first ever media sensation resulting in a media frenzy of journalists and reporters descending on the town. Reaching across the whole of America the story of Floyd Collins made the news in every single state, making the reportings of Skeet’s a household name.

This production is produced to the very high standard by Peter Huntley and echoes that of a West End show, than that of a fringe production. The band led by Tim Jackson is outstanding, he leads this large orchestra of find talent and a special mention must go to Noa Bodner who recreated the southern American sound with her beautiful playing of the harmonica.

The setting for this production, a story about a man trapped in a cave is perfect as the Southwark Vaults allow the cavernous depths under London Bridge to create a dark, damp atmosphere. The actors also make great depth of this space, allowing them to mimic echoes down the vaults. With a ladder influenced design by James Perkins the cast scramble and clamber around the set to get a real feeling of how far Collins was from escaping his ordeal.

The vocals of the cast are strong with great harmonies and great solo performances, particularly the operatic delights of Robyn North who plays the sister of Floyd Nellie Collins with warmth and youthful naivety and Jane Webster as Miss Jane who steals many a moment as the step mother as her voice rings around the performance space.

Despite this high standard of the production, there is a limit to what can happen in a show about a man trapped in a cave. Obviously this musical is based on true events, although I'm assuming there were less group numbers, but the truth of it is, is that there isn't enough to keep the events exciting.

With no love interest or real need for Collins to be freed, his family get wrapped up loosely in a number that establishes their interest in the media storm. I just wasn't gripped, and upon the realisation from the programme that he didn't make it out alive, there really wasn't anything to hold out for. Perhaps I missed the point, but I just found it difficult to understand how the subject matter was ever brought to the stage. I clearly appear to be in the minority upon reading glowing reports from certain established critics, and I feel it is important to emphasise that I appreciate the effort, talent and standard of the production, unfortunately for me, the script and story just didn't conjure up enough interest to stay gripped as I sat on my uncomfortable chair in the dank depths of the Southwark playhouse.

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It's Personal

CyclingPosted by Pete Feb 29, 2012 15:53

So every day or so I'll complain about weight or looks blah blah blah! So as ever one for a challenge, I decided that in January I would hit the health hard and spend a little money from the pot of 2011 none existant holiday and delve head first into a personal trainer.

From the free induction it was clearly obvious that I don't use about 85% of my muscles as by the end of the forty minute session I woke up in agony the next day, crippled like an old grandma making her way to Aldi at the crack of dawn.

But still, I have found the whole thing quite remarkable and with 5 sessions of intense circuit training, education, and a new outlook on healthy eating I am starting to feel the burn... literally my "Glutes" are killing me as I sit at my desk.

The biggest challenge for me is my job. Taking up a large percentage of the day with many a "yah yah" occasion on an evening, the battle is and always will be drink and socialising...

... you see all these gym buff bodies, but then really do you ever see them out at all! I presented this to "Enrico" and his reply was simple... don't go out.

Its a fine balance and actually if that the case, I should probably settle for being a bit bumpy as to be honest enjoying life and its moments now are probably more important to me than slogging it alone in a gym.

And if I didnt have the weight I'd have nothing to talk about :)


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Theatre 2012

TheatrePosted by Pete Feb 27, 2012 18:05

Presenting a quick round up... catchup!

2012... the year we've all been waiting for and I have been noticeably absent from any updates or writing.

January turned into a bit of a hibernation from the site and to be perfectly honest the idea of taking the time to write up and talk about anything didn't really offer me any enjoyment! However as we nearly enter March... how on earth did that happen?! I have refreshed the page with new titles and I am ready to keep working on something that I enjoy... and besides I've actually really missed it.

Despite the lack of online presence as I avoided all form of contact during a bout of "January Blues", I have of course seen a fair amount of theatre, that I will summarise quickly in order to feel a bit better about my neglect.

Ghost the Musical: Catching one of the last performances of Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy in the lead roles before they headed off to the bright lights of Broadway, this production is visually stunning with a set design and visual effects that I thoroughly enjoyed. Upon a second listen the Soundtrack has been a staple on my ipod over the past few weeks.

Arts Ed have produced two wonderful productions of The Producers and Singin' in the Rain, and continuing for my passion for their training over in Chiswick, the standard of dance and performance in these shows were as high as ever.

West End previews of Absent Friends and Hay Fever left me with a feeling of "They were ok" both comedy plays were well executed but didn't really astound me, but then perhaps thats to be expected with a Noel Coward play.

Concealing Rattigan at the Jerymn Street theatre was an interesting piece of biographic theatre, but there was an element of Wikipedia writing as actors were talk for long passages of fact to give the audience the information but resulting in unnatural performances.

and finally, bringing me up to speed, I was fortunate to see Lucky Stiff, a musical farce I was surprised most of my peers had seen despite me knowning nothing about it. The set of some 8 doors above the pub at The Landor present a fun romp through the most farcical storyline I have probably ever witnessed.

So 2012, has been a bit sluggish for me so far, but I feel rejuvinated and ready to get back onto this. Perhaps it's because I'm unsure about my new moleskine diary... but nevertheless I'll get used to it, and as it fills up with more and more shows and things to do in theatre, I'm ready to start bloggin' again!


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Christmas with the Rat Pack

TheatrePosted by Pete Jan 06, 2012 14:31

The one where the they stuck Christmas in the title for Christmas?

What could be more festive than a show opening at The Wyndhams Theatre entitled Christmas with the Rat Pack? To the many in the audience this would be the perfect start to celebrating the season, and so the theatre was packed with an eclectic mix of people… including Timmy Mallet.

Productions have being touring The Rat Pack shows across the country for many years, but it has also made several trips to the West End. Clearly, the producers got a little inventive and added the word ‘Christmas’ and some snow to the poster, et viola, a new show is born! Or is it all a cheap way of cashing in?

Well, sadly I think it’s the latter, and the show was perhaps not as polished as it could/should have been. The show is very much the same as the usual tour, but has a few odd Christmas tunes thrown at it from time to time… The first appearing a good 20 minutes into the show. The band wear Santa hats and the cast make a reference to Christmas at every given opportunity, none more so than Dean Martin referring to the wobbly Christmas tree squished onto the side of the stage, peaking out from the wings.

It would be wrong to deny the skill the three vocalists have in bringing to life some of the most influential voices in music. Despite at times the show having a “tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…” feel, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr all appear on stage to the whooping delight of the audience. In fact there was more than whooping as these performers could revel in the knowledge that at the beginning of every song, and upon hitting every note, this audience, in need of recapturing days gone by, would burst out into ripples of applause and cheers.

All three acts give stellar performances and Giles Terera as Sammy Davis Jr gives a fantastic performance that really captures the entertainer who had it all, the voice, the comic timing, the dance moves. The only time the act really falters with all three is during awkwardly staged one liners and jokes in which many fall a little flat…. Quick make a reference to the Christmas tree!

Credit to the full big band line up who take pride of place on stage, who dutifully play out the hits and had me feeling nostalgic for my days in a big band, they really filled the theatre with the sound of the era and fully supported the acts on stage. Had this whole thing been on CD, and the programme reliably informs me it is, it would be a delight to listen to.

Sadly the sound on this production was a little shabby with constant missed first words and at times an uneven balance of singer vs musicians which shouldn’t really be an issue on a West End production. Similarly the lighting had many cues that were blatantly missed and the follower spots continually cut across faces, at one point the lights all flashed in a frenzy before almost blacking out, halfway through a number… Am I being too critical? Perhaps, but with a show that has run for many a year, with an evident loyal fan base it is possible to suggest that this has become a bit too complacent, knowing that singing a few well loved hits will win over a nostalgic audience looking to relive yesteryear.

With that in mind, Christmas with the Rat pack does EXACTLY what it says, Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr on stage singing their best known, sadly for me, and coming from a jazz background… It could have been so much more but provides just enough to an audience they know will return again and again and again.

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A Round Heeled Woman

TheatrePosted by Pete Dec 08, 2011 13:47

The one where an old lady sets off in quest for sex?

Before I turn 67 – next March – I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.

This is the personals ad placed by Jane Juska in the New York Times. Nearing the age of 68 and having being celibate for the majority of her adult life, this educated former English teacher takes her life into her own hands with humorous consequences.Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey fame plays the part of Jane and takes the audience through an hour forty of the encounters she has. Inundated with replies to her ad, seeking for a companion isn’t as easy as one might expect.

The play has some real howlers of one liners, straight from the off Gless is seen on the bed having phone sex, “of course im alone, you think I’d do this in front of an audience?” the lights change and suddenly Jane is staying at us all in our seats! Director Jane Prowse has created many moments of hilarity, the girls waiting for the exact stroke of 7pm before drinking a glass of wine is presented in a way that had all in the audience relating to a little and laughing heartily.

The supporting cast work incredibly hard in this production taking on the many characters needed to present Janes “adventures” I team assisting the cast deserve full credit as the quick changes are often incredibly quick and for Beth Cordingley in particular, her hair is constantly on the move as she changes from character to character and including the fictitious Miss Mackenzie, a character of Jane’s passion for work by Edward Trollope.

The piece is well humoured but I struggled to find the longevity in the piece. After the interval the second half rambles around until everything seems to come to a conclusion pretty quickly. I struggled to place the audience for this show, and it’s not as though I didn’t appreciate it, I just personally think it’s a very peculiar show for the West End.

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Bat Boy The Musical

TheatrePosted by Pete Dec 07, 2011 12:59

The where a whole town blame a bat boy for their problems raising cows?

Firstly I have to apologise, I saw this sometime ago and somehow slipped through the net.

Although a drama school production, I have said for sometime now that Chris Hocking and the team over at Arts Ed have some of the safest hands in the industry and I have yet to be disappointed by the level of professionalism from the costume and set, to the glorious performances given by the students.

Batboy thankfully is no exception.

This being a production dear to my heart (one did play the title role at Bretton Hall many moons ago) I was apprehensive about anyone else playing the role. Truth is Matthew Rowland with closely shaved hair, a far cry from the locks in his headshot, is wonderful.

The story which farcically drops in on a town in the deep south, sees Mrs Taylors doped up kids, discover a boy half boy, half bat, BAT BOY. Taking him to the local vet Dr Parker, a whole mess of what results in a vetinarian experience gone wrong, results in one bloody end. Topped with a few angry townsfolk who blame BatBoy for killing their depleating cow herd. Oh and Incest, theres a whole theme of incest... and BBC language tapes.

Truth is, this musical with book by Keythe Darley and Brian Flemming, with Music and Lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe is incredibly random, but with a fantastic rock score.

The band led by David Beer tackled the challenging score with ease, and worked perfectly with the south american drawl from this talented cast.

Jenny O'Leary as Mrs Taylor had all the wit and comic timing the role requires as each of her children end up dead on stage... one with a rather grotesque burning.
Alison Pope as Meredith is paired wonderfully with the psychotic Dr Parker, played by Matthew Dale.

As ever Arts Ed present some of the best, if not thee best dance training in London, and a show that wouldnt normally feature large ensemble dances is treated to rousing numbers with the whole cast presenting difficult routines by Alistair David.

My only criticism is that the piece which is notoriously farcical, was played with so much truth that the audience kept quiet for a long time, many not realising the jokes littered throughout the text.

All in all a great production, and a reminder that someone should bring this show back.

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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

TheatrePosted by Pete Nov 28, 2011 16:34

The one where Kneehigh team up with Little Angel?

The Little Angel Theatre are celebrating their 50th year, and teaming up with Mike Shepherd and Kneehigh Theatre company for their production of A very old man with Enormous Wings, they have everything to celebrate for, and deserve to shout and pop a few champagne corks throughout this wonderful production.

As I mention puppets, many of you will instantly sneer, or even hover over the X in the top right hand corner. DON’T! Stick with me, I want to change your preconceptions, for this is no way a take on a shabby Punch and Judy, and I would easily place a wager that in seeing this production you would definitely reconsider your thoughts, maybe even book to see it again.

How can I be so confident? Because to put it simply, Little Angel and Kneehigh have create a piece of theatre that is visually stunning and all together rather beautiful. It’s enchanting and I found myself completely focussed on the little stage as they evoked every sense of my imagination. Doesn’t sound like your average puppet show huh?

We arrive in a little seaside village that has been overrun by lots of crabs. The first scene sees the villagers battle to remove them from every nook and cranny. A local boy has also been extremely feverish for some weeks and there is concern that he may not pull through.

Until, during a storm, an old man with “enormous wings” comes crashing down on the shore, his fluttering fills the theatre as he battles to continue his flight. As the storm passes the villagers quickly venture out to see what this angel?, chicken?, mythical creature is. What’s more is that they realise that their crustaceans problem has been eradicated and the little boy is suddenly fit and healthy. How did this happen?

A couple quickly capture the man and cash in on his healing powers, but by act two we realise that the whole village has managed to spin this good fortune, as the tour buses arrive in their droves and American tourists are ready to splash the cash for a quick photo. The lovable nosy neighbour who guides us through this tale even opens up a tea room.

The team of highly skilled puppeteers, Sarah Wright, Roger Lack, Ruth Calkin and Rachel Leonard work their way through some 100 puppets in this production, singing and characterising a whole community of puppets, and they do so with ease. For those who think puppetry is easy, you’d be wrong as it is very skilled art to get the audience to focus on the puppet rather than the manipulator, and to believe that the puppet in hand is actually thinking, breathing and believeable. As you would expect with 50 years experience, this really isn’t an issue for this talented team.

The piece, set on an inventive design by Little Angel founder Lyndie Wright, really submerges the audience in this tiny world, and I couldn’t help but think half way through how truly special this experience was. After seeing shows night after night, it takes a performance such as this to really wake you up and witness some true creativity, I left the theatre with an experience not just 90 minutes of entertainment, and that is something really special.

Happy Birthday Little Angel Theatre, and here’s to the next!

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Palace Voices

About in LondonPosted by Pete Nov 25, 2011 16:40

After an interesting journey to Hampton Court palace... cancelled trains, taxi journeys with kind ladies who paid for it on her work expenses, and a walk across a bridge in a mustard coloured coat... we arrived to a dark and historically haunting sight of Hampton Court. Closed off to the public and the majority of the windows in darkness we are taken through a small door at the side of this epic building.

The building was eerily quite and very dark as only a few corridors were dimly lit, but the reason we were here? Upstairs in a room just off from the famous Great Hall we were transported back in time to the days when King Henry the Eight stood to be painted in the portrait that dominates the staircase we climbed to reach the room.

The Palace Voices is a staff choir of the Historical Royal Palaces charity and members from all of their sites including my housemate had been rehearsing for a selection of numbers to celebrate the 400th year of the completion of The King James 1st Bible.

The concert was lovely and to be surrounded by such history listening to music of the time was really quite special and I am very glad I got to experience it in which many will never get to do.

Leaving the building was a bit of a mission in the dark, as we ventured out alone and ending up crossing the silence courtyard in the moonlight, it did all become a little unnerving, but eventually from pressing door after door we found the small side door we were able to vacate from.

I wish I had a staff choir... except it would be a quartet.

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Matilda the Musical

TheatrePosted by Pete Nov 25, 2011 12:16

The one based on the book by Roald Dahl?

For the cynics out there musicals are often overpriced, dumbed down, light entertainment with loosely knitted together songs on a cringe worthy, lacklustre plot with “larger than life” characters, and for most of what has appeared in recent months in the West End I would have to agree, particularly as we seem to endure juke box musical after juke box musical. But a most unlikely producer in the form of the Royal Shakespeare Company have given us something we can all shout about, enjoy and sing constantly over and over in our heads as we inevitably sit in the slow moving traffic of London.

Matilda the Musical, based on the wonderful writing of Roald Dahl has taken residency in Seven Dials at the Cambridge Theatre. Formerly home of the never ending Chicago, there is a real sense of excitement, even in the foyer which has rejuvenated to provoke your memories of your childhood years.

In short Matilda the Musical is fantastic. This is genuinely my highlight of the year and has been a long time coming. Australian comedian Tim Minchin has written the music and lyrics it is a creative masterpiece, much like his famed masses of red hair. The lyrics are witty and clever with lines to cater for every young person in the audience whilst granting adult members of the audience lines to have them howling way above the youngsters minds. The score has the complete package, catchy, memorable songs with rousing full company numbers such as “When I grow up”, Poignant tear jerking moments like Matilda’s “Quiet” and hysterical howlers such as “Bruce” and the ingenious “School Song” that frightens the new class at school whilst working seemingly through the Alphabet. The show is already on to a winner with such a great and inventive score, team this with the book by Dennis Kelly who has complimented the works of Dahl wonderfully, encapsulating the more sinister humour Dahl is known for and I genuinely believe this show could run for years.

And for many of these years I can only hope everyone will be able to experience the star that is Bertie Carvel in the role of the deliciously horrendous Miss Trunchbull. Carvel who is so far removed from his role in Parade at the Donmar, is sheer brilliance. The 6 foot 2 beast of a man, sorry woman, towers over the “maggots” and plays the part with a wonderfully sinister energy. It’s like the Trunchbull from the book stepped out of the page and on to the stage.

Of course the key to this piece working is the ensemble of children and Matilda herself. I can honestly say these children do not disappoint. Often child casts, naturally appear wooden, and less than convincing but here the talent is incredibly engaging and they are really put through their paces. The songs are not the easiest to sing, with trick rhythms and counter melodies but Peter Darling’s choreography is just as inventive and these kids absolutely perfect it down to the very last jump.

The Matilda of four, Eleanor Worthington Cox was enchanting as the little girl who tells us that you are in control of your own story and that just because you think that life’s unfair, you don’t have to grin and bear it! The young leading lady takes us through the epic story, beautiful songs and finishes by sprouting verses in Russian thoroughly deserves the accolade she receives, and the truth is they ALL do.

I can only hope this production lasts for all to experience and truly absorb some great musical theatre.

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Battersea Firework Night

About in LondonPosted by Pete Nov 14, 2011 14:24

November 5th Bonfire night see London, and the entire country set fire to thousands of pounds worth of Fireworks up into the sky!

London which celebrates with several huge displays was busier than usual as the 5th landed on a Saturday and Londoners fled to displays in force.

Usually I would find myself at the free display on Clapham Common but as news spread that they had been cancelled this year... we're in a recession don't you know, the task of finding a display near to us became quite difficult.

Difficult because Battersea is the closest but with a whacking £10 entry price. We did however end up paying and joined thousands of people in the dark!

A little bitter at the ticket price, and a little bit disgusted at the £8 fish and chips price, we huddled together to watch the huge Bonfire catch fire... impressive.

We then were treated to a light and pyrotechnic show, before the main display took the stage. All set to a soundtrack of fire inspired tunes the display had us all ooooing and ahhhhing and in my case dancing away in the dark.

The bitter feeling of paying such an amount faded as we all enjoyed the display and realised that councils do have better causes to put their money into and that we should pay to see a display however for a family of four shelling out £40 to look into the sky is a lot of money for the times!

Generally I could recommend this display... but take your own food and drink!

In the same night Sloane Square switched on their Christmas Lights and despite my feelings of it all being a little premature, I stand by my thoughts that Kings Road has the best Christmas Lights in London, classy, and genuinely give you that Christmassy feeling.

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Big Easy Twenty

About in LondonPosted by Pete Nov 14, 2011 13:52

It's hard to believe that The Big Easy on Kings Road has only been around for twenty years, but thats probably because I don't like to believe things are younger than me!

But in truth the BBQ house has been serving up enormous portions to the people who flock to Chelsea to experience their fayre for twenty years!

To celebrate they rolled back the clock to 1991 when it all began and charged customers on this busy tuesday night prices of the year. 1991 couldn't be much cheaper then now right?

Well apparently so, Margheritas were poured at the table at just 95p a glass... needless to say these were consumed excitedly. Also a HUGE rack of ribs, beans and Coleslaw that had my housemate wide eyed and forced both to don crabshack bibs to protect our clothes came in at just £5.95 rather than the £16 advertised price.

Needless to say we ate and drank far too much and all for no more than £15.

It's a shame more places don't revert to this kind of celebration, but it scares me at what the cost of ribs will be in the next twenty years!

Happy Birthday Big Easy... here's to the next stomach filling years!!

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My Big Gay Italian Wedding

TheatrePosted by Pete Nov 04, 2011 15:45

The one with pizza served before you get to your seat?

From the moment you enter through the doors of the theatre you quickly realise that this isn’t necessarily going to be a normal theatre visit. A man with a curious “Something about Mary” hairstyle greets you dancing wildly in your face, whilst girls hand you pizza and nachos… needless to say my companion took full advantage of this offer and at one point had two girls by his side loading slice after slice on to his plate. There is also a huge karaoke screen in the centre of the stage and girls shrieking to various “wedding-esque” floor fillers. This is all before I reached my seat, and to be honest I quickly realised that this show is all about having a bit of fun, and going with whatever is presented in this 90 minute piece.

Written by Anthony J. Wilkinson and running for two years at The St Luke’s theatre, Off-Broadway, this piece offers a light hearted romp about two men wanting to get married. The pair are given their blessing by Anthony’s mother on the condition that the family Pastor marries them and that both Mothers attend the wedding. Naturally as you can imagine neither of these become possible, and an elaborate web of lies is constructed in order for the wedding to go ahead, only to be unravelled by a witch of an ex-boyfriend, but quickly reconciled by a bit of karaoke! – Ok so it’s not Pinter but if you try hard to let all your assumptions go about what makes good theatre then this is an enjoyable act.

Ben Vivian Jones as Anthony, and Robert Hannouch are well paired as the cutesy couple ready to get married. Jones plays the role of the “boy in love” very well, his believable portrayal of the character is well paced and compliments the more grounded nature of Hannouch’s performance as his boyfriend. Had the pair been miscast it would have made the whole story very difficult to stick with, and the story develops nicely around them both, particularly in a warm scene between them.

The ensemble worked hard over a mix of suspect Italian American accents but allow the frenzied and manic nature of the performance to be sustained. Lillie Collier as Connie in particular stood out as a great character actress and had many in stitches from her facial expressions alone.

Ceris Hine as Anthony’s sister Maria, sings a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria at the wedding which breaks from the flamboyant farce for a few minutes to showcase her talent, this quickly reverts back to mayhem as she sings a “pop style” version so that the audience can make no assumption that the piece is shying away from being brash.

Andrew Beckett as Maurizio, the wedding planner, is clearly a comic actor, however his presence on stage is so dominating it felt that rather than working with the ensemble he was out for himself. Some moments of his “Jack Mcfarland” characterisation went a little too far at times, leaving the audience quiet and slowing the momentum of the story.

Again I am aware this piece isn’t Ayckbourn and in no way does it try to be, but at times the story is completely upstaged by action by other characters. This is a real shame as for example Rebecca Hickey sliding slowly into a drunken splits before slamming face first into the floor had the audience howling with laughter, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the plot at that moment as two characters continued to talk on the opposite side of the stage unnoticed.

My Big Gay Italian Wedding is brash, loud and very much in your face, by committing to that and not shying away from it the audience are in for a fun time. With strong all round performances, with a little tightening up and awareness of taking focus this show could return again and again.

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TheatrePosted by Pete Oct 25, 2011 16:48

The one with the funny girl from Smack the Pony in it?

The Royal Court have recently welcomed their production of Jerusalem back to the West End after continual successes wherever it is homed, but what is nice to see is that standing proud at the head of Sloane Square The Royal Court have another winner on their hand.

Written by April De Angelis, this humorous play of two acts follows the life of a fifty something lady called Hilary (Tamsin Greig) as she reaches breaking point with an unruly sixteen year old daughter and a marriage which is a little stale. Her work situation is more than unstable as recent cuts suggest her job is on the line, and her habit of the odd glass of wine seems the perfect solution to a stressful day and a stressful home.

The key to this play is that it is real, it is a wonderfully observed slice of real life, which in turn makes some of the simplest remarks very amusing. Tamsin Greig as the mother struggling to keep the family unit going, enters the stage having had a day which resulted in her having a panic attack on the train and quickly establishing that a mid-life crisis is imminent. Greig plays the role with a genuine empathy as the mother role and along with her fantastic comic wit and perfect delivery, you warm very quickly to this character who has next to no time off stage. Paired with Ewan Stewart as husband Mark, the pair present a glimpse of what is happening in households across the country.

The guilty pleasure to the piece, and also an opportunity to spice up the storyline a little, comes from the delight that is Doon Mackichan, taking on the role of Hilary’s best friend, she deals with life at fifty in a very different way than that of her friend. Single and without children, with a commitment to keep herself in shape, she very much continues to surprise… including trying out a hilarious Burlesque routine for everyone for a full five minutes of stage time that only Mackichan could commit to without corpsing on stage. Having not realised Mackichan was in the production the moment she marched on to the stage and joined Greig you can quickly appreciate that the pair will have you in stitches.

With this fine established cast of fifty something’s on stage they are supported by a wonderful group of young talent. Bel Powley plays a vile caricature of a parents worse nightmare in a performance that undoubtedly goes along the biggest journey in the piece. Michael Marcus as the young student and James Musgrave as the strikingly handsome boyfriend all add to the reality of a piece we can all relate to in some way, as a parent, or the frustrations we all had as a teen.

Jumpy, a title which is explained in the last few moments is a wonderful piece of real theatre. Literally taking you on a journey through a household’s period in time you cannot help but laugh out loud as you relate to the people who play out before you. Set against a spectacular design by Lizzie Clachan, which unearths more than the first perception, Jumpy is a wonderful piece that throughout the journey provides you with two and a half hours of entertainment.

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The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

TheatrePosted by Pete Oct 21, 2011 15:38

The one with a fair amount of nakedness...

The Union theatre is now very much home to a Whore house. Never shy of housing resurrections of long forgotten shows and ever committed to bringing large cast numbers into the small intimate space under the arches.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a peculiar musical, a big hit movie in the 1980’s starring Dolly Parton as the Whorehouse mother figure, Miss Mona. The show hangs round a theme of women helping men out in numerous ways. As a piece the plot sets up several directions yet goes no further in allowing the audience to actually make any connection to the characters. Angel and Shy are both set up at the opening of making the grave decision to join Miss Mona and the girls, there is even a song, but then we quite literally gain nothing more from this storyline till a few short lines of reflection at the very end of the performance. Loosely the plot delves into a community who are aware of the establishment, but keep it on the quiet until "do-gooder" Melvin P Thorpe and his lively television supporters preach upon everyone to expose the house to all and get it shut down. This creates a difficult situation for the Sheriff as, having once had a fling with Miss Mona tries everything to keep it open until words from above nail the last nail in the coffin.

This production at the Union, which has some 24 performers in has an energetic young cast who perform ambitious choreography by Richard Jones in this tight space. Credit has to be given to the ensemble of boys who really raise the bar in their routine pushing themselves and showcasing the face paced tap of Dayle Hodge in a rousing number just before the interval.

Leon Craig takes on the role of Melvin P Thorpe, hell bent on ousting the Whorehouse from the community. Clad in a silver and purple frilled cowboy uniform Craig fully commits to this alternative interpretation of the role. Quite literally shrieking his words and greeting audience members you cannot deny that he has a boundless energy but I feel for the role it is all a little too far and just not needed.

The star, and leading lady of the show is Sarah Lark, taking the role played by Dolly Parton she steps out on to the stage to round up her "chickens" and you cannot help but be drawn to her. With a fantastic array of costumes Lark entices the audience with a wonderfully clear vocal talent that is a treat to listen to with the trains rattling above the theatre. She also oozes maternal instinct and was one of the few to master the Texan accent yet allowing every word to be clear and understood. Lark is playing a role much older than her years, but she proves that it can be interpreted at a younger age, so much so I would suggest the wig is not required to make her look older.

Whorehouse is a bizarre show which doesn’t permit any time to developing relationships with any characters but does present some rousing numbers with an attractive cast… quite literally something for everyone.

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Soho Cinders

TheatrePosted by Pete Oct 10, 2011 12:56

The one where Cinderella is set in Soho?

It’s 7:30pm on a Sunday evening and the Queen’s Theatre, which is usually resident to Les Miserables is sold out, absolutely packed for one special reason. The composing team that seem to be everywhere at the moment, and most recently brought us Betty Blue Eyes to the Novello Theatre are for one night, and one night only, performing a semi-staged concert of their latest work Soho Cinders.

The usual suspects are in attendance, and there is an air of excitement which raptures into applause as Anthony Stiles walks onto the stage. After a brief introduction to the piece the cast enter the stage to join a wonderful 16 piece band.

And what a cast they are! A huge ensemble built up of some of the fine young talent from recent graduations from London Schools, but headed by a whole host of guilty musical theatre pleasures all on one stage. David Bedella, Clive Carter, Beverley Rudd, the beautiful Hannah Waddingham, Michael Xavier and more flooded the stage for which for some in the audience was already too much to hold the excitement any longer.

Soho Cinders, the modern take on Cinderella and after a rousing chorus opening number entitled “Old Compton Street” you are quickly aware that this rendition of the tale is something very different. In fact it couldn’t be further away in terms of setting and Cinders renamed as Robbie, a hard working Law Student who has an unconventional way of paying for his fees… working a life as a gay escort.

The audience are guided through the story by none other than Sandi Toksvig as the narrator and she doesn’t disappoint in having some of the most incredibly one liners that have the theatre in hysterics. Robbie played by Jos Slovick is the boy who wants to do good, and contest his mother’s will, which saw him left with nothing and he highly suspects that his stepfather, and father to his outrageous “ugly” sisters had changed the will to leave him with nothing.

Slovick has great vocals and in particular showcases himself and the new writing well during a wonderfully poignant piece in the second act called Glass Slippers. James Prince, a candidate running for London Mayor is played by the dashingly handsome Michael Xavier, who is teamed with Hannah Waddingham as his fiancée are deemed the perfect status couple but all is not as it seems. Prince is very much involved with Robbie in a relationship that seems set to ruin his campaign, his image and everything in between.

The sisters, like in any rendition of this tale are played by the crass delights of Suzie Chard and Beverley Rudd, dressed to “impress” the duo are hilarious. Their scenes literally had the audience howling and at times each other. With a number “I’m so over men” becoming their anthem both actresses really committed to their characters, no matter how revolting leaving them with the audience at their mercy as they delivered lines such as “You’re just like a bowling ball you, picked up, fingered and thrown back down the alley”.

This new piece by Stiles and Drew with additional support by Elliot Davies, is very well observed for the subjects they are depicting. I am not sure what sort of life this piece would have outside of a London audience and to those without a prior knowledge of the Soho area, but for this it doesn’t matter. The pieces are all beautifully presented, and it was so rewarding to sit back and hear real string players in an age like in Les Miserables the orchestra is replaced by keys. “Let him go” moves away from the comedy and allowed the wonderful vocals of Waddingham and Amy Lennox as Velcro to captivate the audience in a piece Styles and Drew really have created a Musical Theatre classic.

The piece is not without work, in particular the book needs readdressing in Act two, but for an evening in which the profits went to the Teenage Cancer Trust it truly was a remarkable evening. A true testament to exciting British Talent and I really can’t wait to see how this develops.

If you missed the opportunity to see this one off performance, do not fear because the whole evening was recorded for CD which will be available in Dress Circle in the very near future.

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You're a Good man Charlie Brown

TheatrePosted by Pete Oct 10, 2011 12:01

The one based on comic strips?

The obscure musical based on the “Peanuts” comic strips of Charles M Schulz with Book, Music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, has set up camp at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick this autumn.

Following a sort of day in the life of Charlie Brown he is joined by all the famous comic strip characters, Shroeder, Lucy, Linus, Sally and of course everyone’s famous straight laced dog Snoopy.
The set by Simon Wells is as bright and vibrant as one would expect from a cartoon which only assists the wonderfully accurate costumes in enabling the comic strips to become a reality.

Having a close affinity to this piece from taking the title role at university, this piece is a perfect showcase of Musical Theatre and an evening of light hearted fun for anyone looking for a night of easy listening. The very talented cast, whose credits are very impressive for this tiny pub theatre space, clearly have a lot of fun with their performance where they play out characters of five year olds dealing with themes of love, rejection and psychiatric help.

The ensemble work very well together and sing through some tough vocal performance purely because as an example the close to Act One, “The Book Report” is incredibly complicated with each of the six performers having a different melody line and completely different verse. Performing together and pulling this particular number off left the audience open mouthed and amazed at the vocals they had just witnessed. If you haven’t got that this is a fun piece by now you should really see a doctor for a dose of humour.

Snoopy played by Mark Anderson performed the character just right, his comic timing is wonderfully dry and this dog like characteristics allow him to create the famous dog perfectly. A difficult part to play, he quickly becomes the one character that sympathises directly with the audience that what is being played out onstage is actually a little bit bizarre.

The lisping Linus by Adam Ellis is a delightful performance and upon adjusting to hearing his faux lisp in this role the intellectual four year old has some great one liners and Ellis excels in a wonderfully energetic rendition of My Blanket and Me which included a host of acrobatics in such a small stage.

But naturally and with any production of “Charlie Brown” whether it be a village hall production or the Off Broadway cast of 1999 with Kristen Chenoweth, cast the part of Sally Brown correctly and she will inevitably steal the show. Hayley Gallivan is no exception to this rule and as well as looking perfect in her costume and hair, really commits the role of Charlie Browns younger sister who spends most of her days wanting to excel from a C and in search of a philosophy that suits her. Gallivan’s vocals in the act two opener are superb and you can’t help but be completely engaged by her performance.

I would urge anyone looking for something different in Musical Theatre to go and see You’re a Good man Charlie Brown, particularly as this production has a whole host of talent under the direction of Anthony Drewe, and is a very pleasing evening.

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Joseph and his amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

TheatrePosted by Pete Oct 10, 2011 12:00

The one with a lot of Stereotypes in?

It’s the musical that shamelessly promotes bad rhymes such as “His astounding clothing took the biscuit, Quite the smoothest person in the district” and stereotypically has a bash at Americans, French, Egyptians as well as the English, but nineteen whole years since I sat as a child waiting for Aled Jones to leap on stage in a loin cloth, I was back awaiting for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

This time it was not Aled Jones, nor Philip Schofield, Lee Mead or even Jason Donovan who was to wear the coat that annoyed 11 brothers but the talents of Keith Jack, the runner up of the BBC’s Any Dream will do programme. The flyer billed as “Finally Keith Jack gets to wear the coat” and an announcement at the beginning of the show informs us that Keith Jack is performing tonight… it all seemed as if they had to big up his “celebrity status” in case you had forgotten the boy who used to work in a supermarket pushing trollies but found fame before the Lord himself… and a couple of million tv viewers.

Nineteen years on from making my theatre trip debut, it is really quite amazing how this show sticks with you, alarming I knew the show almost word perfectly and I also found that many others of the audience did too. I think it is safe to say that this show is the perfect introduction to musical theatre for any child and young family. The scenes move at a great pace, and there is many opportunities for the cast to demonstrate several characters on route to Egypt and back.

Jack plays the roll of Joseph well although I felt the audience didn’t fully engage with him. He sang through the score safely and with diction that was a little too “perfect” for a predominantly pop arrangement, the classical tone and clipped phrasing made the show stealers such as “Close every door” seem to rehearsed. With that in mind, the whole show feels a bit well-rehearsed and at times felt as though it was going through the motions, which despite a recent cast change is inevitable when the show must have been performed at least a million times.

Arguably as well as being a beginners platform for Musical Theatre watching, it is also a great opportunity for new graduates, the eleven brothers mainly been made up of recent graduates of the last academic year, who show a great deal of enthusiasm.

For a night of easy listening and gentle entertainment Joseph is perfect, if you don’t have the time for it though, I can suggest arriving just fifteen minutes before the end where you can see the whole show played out again in a “megamix” which allows the show to expand to just under a two hour playing time.

Joseph and his amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat continues its National Tour.

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