REVIEW: Strictly Ballroom ★★ – Piccadilly Theatre

“….woefully little dance and a weak, meandering plot which leaves a feeling of disappointment”

★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

Strictly Ballroom is a musical adapted from the 1992 movie for the stage by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and it follows the story of Scott Hastings, an ambitious and unruly young dancer who delights in breaking the rules of traditional dance competitions and making up his own steps in his bid to win the Pan-Pacific Championships.

In a musical which promises dance in the title, there is a distinct lack of dance throughout with a very limited amount of focused dance numbers that are often abruptly cut short. The little dance there was in the musical was magnificent, choreographed expertly by Drew McOnie, particularly in the Paso Doble scenes, where the tension built was electric.

The plot itself is lacklustre: a rule-breaking dancer, a love-interest in the form of a clumsy yet brilliant beginner dancer, a disappointed mother who uses her son to try to live out her own career fantasies, and a whipped husband who was once like his son but had all his creativity, enthusiasm and confidence beaten out of him by his shrew of a wife. The musical is caught between not having the qualities of an all-out dance show and falling drastically short of having an adequate plot to carry a musical.

The musical’s score is made up of amazing hit songs from the pop back-catalogue, but, unfortunately, Will Young (winner of Pop Idol (TV), Cabaret), who played Wally Strand, the narrator of the story, isn’t strong enough a vocalist to do much justice to songs from Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Billy Idol, and David Bowie.

The cast of this musical all gave great performances with the material they were given. Zizi Strallen (Follies, Mary Poppins, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man) as Fran, Jonny Labey (Eastenders (TV), In The Heights, White Christmas) as Scott Hastings, and Richard Grieve (Neighbours (TV), Home and Away (TV), High Society) as Les Kendall gave particularly notable performances.

Strictly Ballroom has woefully little dance and a weak, meandering plot which leaves a feeling of disappointment which even the iconic songs in the score and stellar performances by the cast members can’t lift.

Strictly Ballroom is showing at the Piccadilly Theatre and it is currently booking until 20th October 2018 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Piccadilly, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Chicago ★★★★★ – Phoenix Theatre

“…dark and deliciously intoxicating and seductive, and infinitely sexy”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

As the opening line of the musical proudly boasts, Chicago is a story of “murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery”. The musical, which was adapted by Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander from Maurine Dallas Watkins’s play which satirised the women who were made celebrities by their murderous activities, is set in the late ‘20s on the Chicagoan backdrop. Prohibition was at its height in America, but despite governmental policy, bootlegging became America’s most profitable industry and drinking clubs flourished and became an integral part of Chicago culture.

Chicago follows the story of Roxie Hart and her fellow “celebrity murderesses” as they are rocketed into fame due to the public’s obsession with their sensational crimes. Defending these murderesses is Billy Flynn, a lawyer who makes something of a circus of the courtroom, corrupting justice by giving the jury “the old razzle dazzle” with his charms, and he specialises in re-writing the facts of a case to create grounds and context. Looking after the murderesses in jail is Mama Morton, who sets up phone calls, drums up press and tends to the girls while they are on trial.

The darkness of the show stems from the lack of respect for the facts and deliverance of justice, and all anyone cares about is money, fame, entertainment, and self-gain. The musical, indeed, makes a parody of the public’s fleeting attentions, as they constantly search for the next hot, blood-covered court case, leaving the previous sensations as unimportant cast-offs , quite literally old news. Perhaps this is the most disturbing message of Chicago, even more so than committing a crime for personal gain and fame, but the media and public’s fascination with gore.

This production of Chicago is led by Sarah Soetaert (Cats, Carousel, Fame) as Roxie Hart and Josefina Gabrielle (The Box of Delights, A Little Night of Music, Stepping Out) as Velma Kelly, both of whom gave sensation performances which were on point, suitably girlish, and all-smiles for the cameras. Ruthie Henshall (A Chorus Line, Cats, Miss Saigon) gave a classy performance as Mama Morton and excelled with ‘When You’re Good To Mama’. Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire (TV), Tre Styles (TV), The Trip to Bountiful) gave a charming performance as Billy Flynn but struggled to hold his own in musical numbers.

Chicago is dark and deliciously intoxicating and seductive, an infinitely sexy show which sparks dreams of jazz, swanky parties and a world where you can literally get away with murder. Standout musical numbers include, ‘All That Jazz’, ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘Me and My Baby’, and many more, all of which are supported by intricate choreography which draw the audience in and make for a very intimate theatrical experience.

Chicago is currently showing at the Phoenix Theatre and booking until 6th October 2018 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Phoenix, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Eugenius ★★★ – The Other Palace

“…lots of fun, entertaining and truly the geek-power musical”

★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

Eugenius is a musical by Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins. This production at The Other Palace marks its world premiere. The musical follows the story of Eugene, a high school boy with a passionate interest in comics, and his two friends, Janey and Feris, who share his interest. Eugene writes his own comic featuring Tough Man and Super-Hot Lady as the principal characters. A visit to the high school from a Hollywood producer presents the opportunity to take Tough Man to the big screen, and what follows is a series of trials which teach Eugene to be his own hero, follow his dreams and, chiefly, stay true to himself.

It is, in a lot of ways, a stereotypical story of a naïve boy with an idea that gets picked up by an industry expert and the boy, too trusting and too grateful for the opportunity, allows himself to be guided and his work corrupted, despite his friends trying to tell him to stand up for himself and the integrity of his work. However, Eugenius does have an interesting twist when Evil Lord Hector, the villain from Eugene’s comic, shows up on the film set, with disastrous consequences.

As well as references to superheroes and comics, the show also features wonderful parodies of musicals, including Chicago, Les Miserables, and Flashdance (which co-creator Ben Adams is currently starring in the UK tour production of as Nick Hurley).

The cast of this production were all superb, with standout performances from Laura Baldwin (Big Fish, The Little Beasts, Peter Pan) as Janey, Daniel Buckley (Fiver, Dead Simple, Jest End) as Feris, Scott Paige (The Addams Family, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Made In Dagenham) as Theo, and Cameron Blakely (The Addams Family, Into The Woods, Oliver!) as Lex.

Eugenius is a little slow to start but, when it does get off the ground, it is lots of fun, entertaining and truly the geek-power musical. The musical’s biggest strength is the catchy score, which is indeed ingenious, including, ‘Who’s That Guy?’, ‘Hollywood’, ‘The No Pants Dance’, and the title track, ‘Go Eugenius’.

Eugenius is showing at the Other Palace until 3rd March (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Other Palace, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Mamma Mia ★★★★★ – Novello Theatre

“…an all-time, feel-good classic and one of the biggest parties in the West End”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

Mamma Mia is a musical written by Catherine Johnson featuring the music of Abba, composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, former band members. The musical premiered at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 before opening on Broadway in October 2001. Mamma Mia was also adapted to the big screen in the 2008 film starring Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep.

The story is set on a Greek resort owned by Donna Sheridan. Her daughter, Sophie, is days away from getting married and has invited her three potential fathers, sending Donna into a hysterical frenzy as she tries to smooth everything over before the wedding.

The musical presents a variety of views and positions on the subject of marriage and relationships. Donna professes to love the freedom of her single life, but secretly longs for companionship after a difficult life raising a child alone, and she doesn’t understand her daughter’s desire to “settle down” so early in her life. Young, idealistic and naïve Sophie believes in love and doing things “the traditional way” by marrying, settling down and having children, and holds a mild resentment of not knowing who her father is and her mother’s unconventional past.  Donna’s two best friends give us yet more hilarious angles on relationships: serial bride Tanya has married and then divorced three times, profiting from each of them; Rosie is determined to stay free and single but in the end succumbs to the charms of the equally wild and spontaneous Bill.

One of the most important themes in Mamma Mia is its championing of the mother-daughter relationship which is explored in great depths in the Donna and Sophie dynamic. The two go through the motions of quarrelling over what Donna sees as a premature marriage that Sophie hasn’t thought all the way through and Sophie’s unresolved anger over not knowing her father, but, in the end, their bond pulls through as Sophie asks Donna to give her away at her wedding. The essence of the relationship is most poignantly captured in the touching number ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

Fatherhood, in contrast, is taken light-heartedly, with Sophie having three potential fathers and there is seemingly no conclusion on which one it is, to great comic effect. Like fatherhood, appropriateness in relationships is also taken with a generous dollop of tongue in cheek which adds to the wonderful outrageousness of the show.

The current cast of Mamma Mia is chiefly made up of Sara Poyzer (Rutherford and Son, Othello, Billy Elliot) as Donna, Georgina Castle (Dirty Dancing) as Sophie, Kate Graham (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, The Producers) as Tanya, and Jacqueline Braun (Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You) as Rosie, accompanied by a stellar ensemble cast.

Mamma Mia is an all-time, feel-good classic and one of the biggest parties in the West End. It will survive transitions through different casts, venues and cities and still give that infectious feel-good party atmosphere wherever it goes.

Mamma Mia is currently showing at the Novello Theatre (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Novello, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Hamilton ★★★★★ – Victoria Palace Theatre

“…a slick fusion-musical which is rich with history, detail and patriotism”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

Hamilton is a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda which was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography entitled ‘Alexander Hamilton’. The musical debuted on Off-Broadway and, propelled by its rapid ticket sales, it transferred to Broadway in August 2015, and the eagerly anticipated musical has now opened at the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre.

It follows the story of Hamilton both personally, with his wife, Eliza, and their children, and also portrays his life fighting in the American War of Independence to gain the colony its freedom from George III, and his contributions to the foundations of the current system of US government, treasury and financial systems.

One of the most important things about Hamilton is the show’s integrity. The musical remains true to the facts and doesn’t try to make Hamilton out to be a perfect man, as may have been tempting while creating a musical in honour of one of America’s oldest heroes. This is unusual, and refreshing to us, living in an age where people in the public eye are often held to some supposed higher morality requirements in their personal lives and are then criticised and ridiculed for falling short of that. Alexander Hamilton made many mistakes, including neglecting his family for work and having a secret affair, yet his contribution to politics and the founding of America is in no way less because of that.

The statements, themes and points made in the musical, both obviously for effect and subtly as audiences leave and dwell on the piece, can be paralleled with modern times. An example of this is the snappy line of “Immigrants: we get the job done” which gives an interesting spin on the xenophobic political trends of late.

Hamilton is an altogether modern take on this period of history, bringing it to life vibrantly, with modern beats and rhythms, the rap-style speech and musical numbers and the diverse cast. Perhaps the most refreshing part of the musical is the conscious casting of actors from a variety of ethnic groups. Miranda explained this as “…the story of America then, told by America now”. This highlights the progress we’ve made in the quarter of a millennium which has passed since the Founding Fathers and, also, a little of what we’ve yet to learn or mis-learned along the way.

In a phenomenal cast of actors, Giles Terera (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Black Bottom, Hamlet) is sublime as Aaron Burr and gives the standout performance of the show, particularly excelling with ‘The Room Where It Happens’. The relatively unknown RADA graduate, Jamael Westman (The White Devil, Torn) also shines in the title role, particularly with ‘My Shot’. Michael Jibson (Roots, Roadshow, The Comedy of Errors) gave a hysterical performance as the outrageous King George III and gave a wonderful rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’. Jason Pennycooke (Father Comes Home from the War, Guys and Dolls, Memphis) as Lafayette and Jefferson, Obioma Ugoala (Motown, Richard II, Henry V) as George Washington, Rachelle Ann Go (The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Les Miserables) as Eliza Hamilton and Rachel John (The Bodyguard, Memphis, Rent) as Angelica Schuyler also gave superb performances.

Hamilton is a slick fusion-musical which is rich with history, detail and patriotism and it delivers expertly crafted, snappy lines of dialogue via many genres of music. Does Hamilton live up to all the hype? That’s a very tall order considering the extensive media attention and theatregoers’ near-hysteria to obtain tickets and at performances, but yes, it most certainly does – and then some!

Hamilton is showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre and booking until 28th July 2018 (to book tickets, click here).   For more information on your visit to the Victoria Palace, read our guide.

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REVIEW: The Woman In White ★★★★ – Charing Cross Theatre

“…a thrilling, haunting story of a love triangle surrounded by greed, betrayal, deceit and misinformation”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

The Woman in White is a musical written by Charlotte Jones, with music from Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel, based on the novel by Wilkie Collins. The musical debuted in the West End in September 2004 and on Broadway a year later. This production, at the Charing Cross Theatre, marks its first West End revival since closing in early 2006.

The musical begins with Walter Hartright making his way to Limmeridge House where he has been commissioned as drawing teacher to the two young ladies who reside there, half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie. On his way there, his journey is disrupted by “danger on the line” and a signalman’s eerie prediction of death, and he then has a spine-chilling encounter with a woman dressed all in white, who is fleeing from someone and who has a secret she can’t share with anyone. Confused and unnerved, Hartright arrives at Limmeridge and is instantly taken aback by the beautiful and talented Laura, to the dismay of Marian (regarded as the plainer of the ladies) who’s also fallen for him. Unfortunately, Laura is promised to another by her father’s dying wish, and she marries Sir Percival Glyde, but he and his best man for the wedding, Count Fosco, turn out to be anything but the wealthy, upper-class gentlemen they purport to be, and what then ensues is a struggle by the women, Marian, Laura and the wronged “woman in white”, to fight against the tyrannical and dastardly men, with the help of the honest and faithful Walter Hartright.

The overwhelming message of the musical is how women of the time were powerless against the hand of men, being expected to fall into line with whatever their husbands/fathers wished, and it also makes the important point that first impressions are not always what they seem, in both the cases of Glyde and Fosco, but also in the case of the mysterious “woman in white” herself.

The cast of this revival production are outstanding: Carolyn Maitland (You Know How to Love Me, Ghost, Groundhog Day) as Marian, Anna O’Byrne (My Fair Lady, The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies) as Laura, Sophie Reeves (Les Miserables, Candide, Into The Woods) as Anne Catherick, Ashley Stillburn (The Phantom of the Opera, The Braille Legacy, Death Takes A Holiday) as Walter, Greg Castiglioni (Fiddler on the Roof, Titanic, Evita) as Fosco, Chris Peluso (Funny Girl, Death Takes A Holiday, Miss Saigon) as Sir Percival Glyde.

The musical score by Webber and Zippel is superb with standout numbers including, ‘I Believe My Heart’, ‘All for Laura’ and ‘You Can Get Away with Anything’.

The Woman in White is a thrilling, haunting story of a love triangle surrounded by greed, betrayal, deceit and misinformation, culminating in a chilling ending which brings the musical full circle, beginning and ending on the rail-track with the signalman’s prediction and the woman in white.

This production of The Woman in White running at the Charing Cross Theatre from 20th November 2017 to 10th February 2018 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Charing Cross, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Nativity ★★★★ – UK Tour

“…oozing festive cheer and holiday magic with sparkling lights and shining stars”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

Nativity the Musical was developed by the creator of the original Nativity film trilogy, Debbie Isitt. The show’s world premiere began in Birmingham’s Repertory Theatre on 20th October 2017, and it will then do a short UK tour over the festive period. It is based on the first 2009 movie, where a simple Coventry primary school nativity play gets turned upside down and is transformed into an overblown, chaotically wonderful production.

The story’s foundation is a rather un-festive rivalry between Mr Maddens (teacher at an underprivileged school, St Bernadette’s) and Mr Shakespeare (teacher at a snobbish private school, Oakmoor), who are in competition to put on the best nativity play. In an attempt at one-upmanship, Maddens boasts that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the St Bernadette’s nativity to turn it into a movie. His assistant, Mr Poppy, overhears this lie, and, believing it is true, he joyfully spreads the word throughout the school and the city of Coventry before Maddens can undo his error.

Mr Maddens is reserved and conservative, sworn off Christmas because his girlfriend, Jennifer, broke up with him shortly before the holidays to pursue her dream career as a Hollywood producer, and he is unable to see any talent in his class. The loveable Mr Poppy is hired as Maddens’ assistant, bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood wonderfully, and he is adored by the children. Mr Poppy believes every one of his kids is unique and special and he helps Mr Maddens to come to this realisation too and, together, the two put on a whacky but, against all odds, successful and unforgettable nativity play.

The 27-strong cast of kids are unquestionably the stars of the show. Daniel Boys (The Boy in the Band, Miss Atomic Bomb, and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris) is superb in the role of Mr Paul Maddens. Simon Lipkin (The Wind in the Willows, Whisper House, Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey (TV)) is in his element narrating the story as the fun-loving, charismatic Mr Desmond Poppy, singing, juggling and expertly ad-libbing his way through it and giving a knockout performance.

Isitt, along with Nicky Ager, more than doubles the original movie score (including, ‘Sparkle and Shine’, ‘Nazareth’, ‘She’s the Brightest Star’, and ‘One Night, One Moment’), adding super festive songs such as ‘Dear Father Christmas’, ‘Hollywood are Coming’, and ‘Our School Nativity’.

Nativity is a fun family show, far superior to the usual traditional pantomime fare, oozing festive cheer and holiday magic with sparkling lights and shining stars. It is everything that is required from a brilliant seasonal production and a great way to get in the Christmas spirit!

Nativity is currently touring the UK (for more information on tour dates and destinations and to buy tickets, click here).

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REVIEW: The Toxic Avenger ★★★★★ – Arts Theatre

“…an all-round smash hit that will make you laugh until your face hurts”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

The Toxic Avenger is a musical by Joe DiPietro, with music by David Bryan, based on the 1984 movie by the same name, telling the story of a scrawny nerd who’s in love with a blind librarian. He is being bullied by the corrupt mayor as he tries to stop her from polluting the town, and she has him dropped into a vat of toxic waste, from which he emerges as deformed mutant and hero, the Toxic Avenger. The musical originally debuted in New Jersey in 2008 and has since been on off-Broadway, off-West End, and has now transferred to the West End for a limited run only at the Arts Theatre.

The story revolves around stereotypical characters, including: a tyrannical mayor using her position of power to dispose of toxic waste created by her company; a determined, righteous and naïve youth standing up to “the man” to impress his girl; along with delinquent bullies, disappointed mothers, incompetent police officers, gossiping hairdressers – and a toxic mutant thrown into the mix! What should make for a dull and archetypal story of caricatures is actually a superb, well-written, knockout comedy.

The musical pushes the boat out on certain topics – for example, daring to create comedy from vision impairment and punning blindness as a “marketable handicap” to further book sales, and a mayor who uses sexuality as a weapon of manipulation. Is it inappropriate and outrageous? Perhaps. It is comic gold? Yes, absolutely.

There are wonderful satirical references to current-day world leaders and public figures (including Donald and Ivanka Trump and Opera Winfrey), and the show also makes references to some classic and modern musicals including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Hamilton and more. If a story about a toxic mutant hero and his love interest lacks a certain realism, these small details make all the difference and set The Toxic Avenger apart from many other innovative pieces of work by giving it relevance and relatability.

The stellar cast of five is made up of Mark Anderson (Anna of the Five Towns, Three Little Pigs, Book of Mormon) as Melvin/Toxie; Emma Salvo (Holy Crap, Grease, Newsrevue) as Sarah; and with Natalie Hope (Sweet Charity, Legally Blonde, The Commitments), Ché Francis (professional debut), and Oscar Conlon-Morrey (professional debut) all playing a range of roles throughout the musical. All five give outstanding performances working as a perfectly synchronised machine.

The Toxic Avenger is a thrilling comedy and an all-round smash hit that will make you laugh until your face hurts. This production brings together an outstanding cast to perform DiPietro’s witty book and Bryan’s catchy, expertly-crafted score including, ‘The Legend of the Toxic Avenger’, ‘Bitch Slut Liar Whore’ and ‘Hot Toxic Love’.

The Toxic Avenger is showing at the Arts Theatre until 3rd December (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Arts Theatre, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Hair ★★★★★ – The Vaults

“…a beautiful piece of theatre, championing love, peace, and patriotism for the world”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

Hair is a musical created by Jim Rado and Gerome Ragni who met in 1964 when they were both cast in an off-Broadway production of Hang Down Your Head and Die. They began writing Hair later on that year and, in 1967, Hair opened on off-Broadway. The musical was revised for a Broadway transfer and it opened three months later in late April 1968. During Hair’s transition period from off-Broadway to on-Broadway, civil rights figurehead Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, giving Hair’s message of equality and fighting for human rights even more poignancy.

Hair is widely regarded as a game-changer in the world of theatre, being seen as a show which pushed so many boundaries. The anti-war stigma, acts of flag desecration, drug use and nudity on stage were controversial in 1960s USA, and the West End production’s opening was delayed until theatre censorship was abolished in the UK in September 1968.

Hair is a timeless piece in that its references to equal rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, and gay and lesbian communities still resonate in today’s society and are still being fought for. The spectre of the Vietnam War in the show and fears over nuclear weapons and nuclear war are also starkly relevant now.

Whilst this musical is about the youth of the 1960s, the themes echo through all subsequent young generations, who feel they are regarded as lacking in responsibility and want older generations to hear their voice. Indeed, the show directly invites parents to go home and “…make a speech to their teenagers and say: Kids, be free, no guilt, be whoever you are, do whatever you want.”  There were some modern-day references to Trump and Obama added into this production, but as they were only passing comments that didn’t then really go anywhere, it felt unnecessary and didn’t really fit with the 1960s hippie vibe. There is, however, in this production a strong relevance to today’s society for all people, of all ages, as people become increasingly disillusioned with politics and the Establishment, and it’s all too easy to relate to Hair’s story and to see elements of it being re-played in real-life time and again.

This 50th anniversary production brings together a fantastic cast to perform Galt MacDermot’s diverse genre score (with lyrics by Ragni and Rado), including ‘Aquarius’, ‘I Got Life’, ‘Let The Sun Shine In’ and ’Hippie Life’.   There were standout performances from Andy Coxon (Yank!, The Last Five Years, Beautiful) as Berger, Robert Metson (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Bear, I’ll Be Seeing You) as Claude, and Shekinah McFarlane (Tommy, Parade, The Lion King) as Dionne.

Hair is a beautiful piece of theatre, championing love, peace and patriotism for the world, not just for one country. It is a timeless theatre classic which will never lose its relevance, and whilst some of the messages are serious, the cast leave their audience uplifted with a really fun end of show party.

This 50th anniversary production of Hair is showing at The Vaults until 13th January 2018 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to The Vaults, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Flashdance ★★★★ – UK Tour

“…uplifting, high-energy and oozes passion, fun and talent”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

Flashdance is a musical adaptation of the 1983 hit movie starring Jennifer Beals. Tom Hedley turned down many offers to make a big screen sequel to Flashdance but jumped at the chance to create a stage musical. Co-created with Robert Cary and Robbie Roth, Flashdance debuted in Plymouth in July 2008 and hit the West End in September 2010. Now, it is making its 2017/18 UK Tour.

Flashdance follows the story of an aspiring young dancer, Alex Owens, who works as a welder by day and bar dancer by night and dreams of going to dance school. Through her ability to work in and adapt to a traditionally male industry, she shows her toughness and strength, and she refuses to accept any help to get into her dream dance school, Shipley Academy, even when it is offered by her boss, Nick Hurley. There is endearing (and indeed relatable) vulnerability in Alex’s fear of failure in going for her dream, about being told no, taking away what could have been, and she experiences self-doubt over her qualifications and worthiness to go to such an esteemed school. This means the audience are really rooting for her when she makes it to the final Shipley audition.

Flashdance has a certain realistic quality which is sometimes absent in other musicals. It is not a musical where everyone’s dreams come true and there are happy endings for all. Gloria (an aspiring actress) becomes the figurehead of misguided dreamers when she takes a job in a rival club on a false promise, and her boyfriend and wannabe comedian, Jimmy, goes to New York and ultimately fails in his dream. Nick insists Alex is naïve and needs help to succeed in her application to Shipley because of its prestige and wants her to use his connections with the school, reminding us that no matter how talented you are, unfortunately that’s not always enough, and that who you know in the industry really does open doors.

Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing (TV), Face the Music, Norma Jeane – the Musical) stars as Alex Owens. Known for being a Strictly Come Dancing professional, Clifton’s dancing is of course superb and she excels in the iconic dance number ‘What a Feeling’; however, she also impresses as an actor and singer, with a scintillating stage presence and a superb singing voice with ‘It’s All In Reach’ and ‘A Million to One’. Ben Adams (former leading singer of A1, songwriter) features as Nick and gives a great performance of ‘Enough’. Hollie-Ann Lowe (Annie, Scrooge, South Riding (TV)) as Gloria, Sia Dauda (We Will Rock You, Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty) as Kiki and Demmileigh Foster (The Late Late Show, Sleeping Beauty) as Tess all gave stellar performances throughout.

Featuring a score of 1980s music including hit songs such as ‘What a Feeling’, ‘Maniac’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘I Love Rock and Roll’, Flashdance is uplifting, high-energy and oozes passion, fun and talent.

Flashdance is currently touring the UK (for more information on tour dates and to buy tickets, click here).

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