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: 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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REVIEW: The Addams Family ★★★★★ – UK Tour

“…spook-tacular, spine-chilling, darkly riveting”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, The Addams Family.” *click click* Originating in the cartoon creations of Charles Addams for The New Yorker magazine, the Addams Family concept has developed into a successful international franchise with acclaimed TV, film and stage adaptations following on from the original cartoon works.

The musical was written by Andrew Lippa with music by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice which premiered in Chicago in 2009 before opening on Broadway the following year. It revolves around an average American family motivated by safety and security being hurtled into the world of the eccentric and peculiar Addams family through the romance between their son, Lucas, and Wednesday Addams.

The Addams household is thrown into chaos by the visit of their daughter’s boyfriend (and secret fiancé) with his folks and Wednesday’s demands that they have ‘One Normal Night’. In an elaborate charade, the Addams try to create the illusion of normality but fail in hysterical fashion, with zombie butlers, ancient torture instruments, Fester’s romantic notions for the Moon and the after-dinner entertainment coming in the form of “the game” involving ‘Full Disclosure’ of all secrets ultimately giving them away.

Whilst the Addams are quintessentially strange, the musical contains many relatable plot lines, including parental apprehension about their daughter’s love life and a husband trapped between his equally dominant wife and daughter putting him in an impossible situation where he can’t win.

The musical score is superb, with standout numbers including, ‘When You’re an Addams’, ‘Pulled’ and ‘Crazier Than You’. Alistair David’s choreography is ingenious with rigor mortis and phantasmal dance moves shown off particularly in ‘Full Disclosure’.

Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Miserables, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, War of the Worlds) gave a standout performance and is magnificent in the role of Wednesday Addams.   Cameron Blakely (Into The Woods, Oliver!, Fiddler On The Roof) played Gomez Addams and gave a hilarious performance with ‘Trapped’. Samantha Womack (Kingsman: the Secret Service (TV), Home Again (TV), Guys and Dolls) and Les Dennis (New Faces (TV), Coronation Street (TV), Chicago) starred as Morticia Addams and Uncle Fester, both giving excellent performances.

The Addams Family is a spook-tacular, spine-chilling, darkly riveting musical which provides enjoyable entertainment for all the family.

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

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REVIEW: The Wedding Singer ★★★★ – UK Tour

“…a crazily fun embodiment of the ’80s.”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

In 1984, two college roommates,  Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy, came together and formed a fruitful partnership in comedy writing, beginning with stand-up comedy before progressing to Saturday Night Live and screenwriting, and conceived the hilarious concept of a wedding singer who gets stood up at his own wedding.

The Wedding Singer began its life on the big screen in the 1998 film starring Sandler himself and Drew Barrymore.  The musical adaptation debuted on Broadway in 2006, with an original score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, and book by Beguelin and Herlihy.

Tina Turner, Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Prince, Footloose, Back to the Future – it’s back in time to the ’80s with Robbie Hart!  Robbie is a wedding singer, who’s been jilted by his betrothed, Linda, at the altar.  He then meets Julia Sullivan, a waitress, who becomes engaged to wealthy, stereotypically arrogant banker, Glen Gulia.  Being rejected sends Robbie into a downwards spiral, hitting rock bottom at his first wedding gig after the break-up when he insults the wedding party by singing ‘Casualty of Love’ and ends up being thrown into a dumpster.

In a comic series of romantic mix-ups and mismatches, through unrequited love, reignited passions, and singing love songs on the street to bedroom windows, The Wedding Singer is a crazily fun embodiment of the ’80s.  It is a classic “will he get the girl?” story which is simple and highly entertaining.

Leading the cast was Jon Robyns (Memphis, Dessa Rose, Spamalot) as Robbie Hart and Cassie Compton (27 the Musical, See What I Wanna See, The Last Five Years) as Julia Sullivan, both of whom were fantastic, performing a lovely duet with ‘If I Told You’.  Ray Quinn (Grease, Brookside (TV), X Factor runner-up (TV)) starred as the sleazy, greed-driven Glen Gulia.  Quinn was magnetic and excelled with ‘It’s All About the Green’.  Ashley Emerson (Mamma Mia, Dick McWhittington, Sleeping Beauty) and Samuel Holmes (Cinderella, Eugenius!, Mrs Henderson Presents) played Robbie’s band mates, the clownish Sammy and flamboyant George.

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

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REVIEW: Grease ★ – UK Tour

“…lacking all…charm, charisma and magnetism”

West End Theatre Guide London

Grease is a musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey with additional music from John Farrar.   It is set in the 1950s in Rydell High School following the story of two gangs (the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies) and the new girl in town, Sandy.  The musical premiered in Chicago in 1971 before making its Broadway debut the year after and on the West End in 1973.  The musical was later adapted for the big screen in the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

The musical captures the youth sub-culture of the ’50s with gangs, peer pressure,  teenage rebellion, non-conformity, adolescent sexual encounters and the pursuit of love.  The score recreates the rock ‘n’ roll sound of the ’50s, with iconic numbers including, ‘Born To Hand Jive’, ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Greased Lightnin’.

The Wanted’s Tom Parker sadly failed to impress as the slick, cool and smooth greaser Danny Zuko, lacking all the charm, charisma and magnetism needed to pull off the role successfully.  Louisa Lytton (Eastenders (TV), The Bill (TV), Swap) gave a weak, mild performance as Rizzo, without attitude or any air of superiority.  Darren Day’s (Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamboat, Carousel, We Will Rock You) role as Vince Fontaine was out of place and out of touch with the vibe of the musical.

Danielle Hope’s (Les Miserables, The Last Five Years, The Sound of Music) strong, mature voice was not ideally suited to the part of Sandy, lacking a certain girlishness and youthful innocence.

Tom Senior (Godspell, Jersey Boys, Fame), Ryan Heenan (Peter Pan, The Burnt Part Boys, The Sound of Music) and Gabriella Williams (Mamma Mia, Carrie) all gave outstanding performances as Kenickie, Doody and Patty, but their extraordinary efforts were not enough to save this production.

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

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REVIEW: Evita ★★★★ – UK Tour

“…heartbreaking, tragic story, powerfully brought to life by an outstanding score and cast.”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

Evita is a musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber which popularised the previously little known story of Eva Duarte de Perón, wife of Argentinian president Juan Perón. The musical began its life as a rock opera concept album in 1976 before debuting on the West End two years later.

Eva Perón began her life as a poor aspiring actress in Buenos Aires and, following career success, broadened her ambitions to politics. After meeting Colonel Juan Perón and identifying him as a potentially very powerful man, the two formed an alliance and she drove him to election as president, rallying support of the common people and promising he will be a faithful advocate of their interests.

With Argentina being a prosperous country at the time, exporting to European countries that had been depleted by World War II and with several countries owing them vast sums, the economy boomed and the Perón regime was glowingly hailed by the masses.

Eva Perón herself did much humanitarian work, aiding the poor, setting up a generous charitable organisation; and being a feminist, she encouraged women to campaign for the right to vote (granted in September 1947) and created the Perónist Women’s Party. However, despite the style, grace and empathy of the Peróns, they went to great lengths to maintain superiority and compliance, quashing opposition by closing newspapers and imprisoning critics.

The musical begins with the epilogue, showing the devastating scene of Eva Perón’s coffin and the people kneeling and crying for the loss of their much-loved First Lady. The story then flips back 15 years to Eva’s rise as an actress, cleverly casting a shadow over the story.

Eva Perón was played by Emma Hatton (Wicked, We Will Rock You, Dreamboats and Petticoats), who was excellent in the role, portraying the youthful, innocent side of Eva yet maintaining the strong, determined and manipulative front. Hatton’s performance of ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ was breathtaking and tender.

Che was played by Gian Marco Schiaretti (Tarzan, Romeo and Juliet) who was outstanding in the role, particularly excelling with ‘And The Money Keeps Rolling In’, and broodingly stalking around the stage with great magnetism. Che is the show’s narrator and is able to look upon the Peróns’ circus with an ice cold eye. The character is thought to be based on real-life Argentine-Cuban political extremist, Che Guevara.

Overall, Evita is a heartbreaking, tragic story, powerfully brought to life by an outstanding score and cast.

Evita is currently on a national tour of the UK (for more information on tickets and dates, click here).

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REVIEW: Rent ★★★★★ – UK Tour

“…beautifully moving, tragic and inspiring and it is perfectly summed up in the musical number ‘La Vie Bohème B’”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

Rent is a musical created by Jonathan Larson, who took Billy Aronson’s idea of developing a modern musical interpretation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème and made it a reality. Larson’s writing of this piece was heavily influenced by his interest in rock music, by his idol, composer Stephen Sondheim, and by a puppet-style performance of La Bohème which he saw as a boy with his parents.

The musical is set in East Village, New York City, and follows the story of a group of aspiring artists in the 1990s, with their battles against HIV/AIDS, poverty, and eviction from their squatted homes due to redevelopment projects, and cruelly and powerfully depicts the conditions faced by the homeless with the backdrop of the New York youth artistic scene.

Rent opened on Off-Broadway on 26th January 1996, the day after Larson tragically died at a very young age. Nevertheless, Rent went on to be a worldwide cultural phenomenon, showing on stages on Broadway, in the West End, and in numerous other countries around the world, and on the big screen in a 2005 motion picture. It has become a fitting tribute to the great Jonathan Larson.

Rent is a story of hopes, dreams, struggle, disease, addiction and, above all, love, in all its beautiful forms: heterosexual love with Roger Lavis, an aspiring musician, and Mimi Marquez, a club dancer, both HIV-stricken; lesbian lovers Maureen Johnson, a redevelopment protestor, and Joanne Jefferson, a lawyer; gay couple, anarchist professor Tom Collins and drag queen Angel Schunard, a beautiful but ultimately tragic match; and Mark Cohen who is dedicated to his career passion for film-making.

Ross Hunter (The Book of Mormon, Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You) (Roger) showed off an incredible rock voice, particularly with ‘One Song Glory’. Philippa Stefani (In The Heights, Grease, Ghost) (Mimi) was sensational throughout and excelled with ‘Out Tonight’. Lucie Jones (Legally Blonde, We Will Rock You, X Factor (TV)) (Maureen) gave a memorable, quirky performance of ‘Over the Moon’. Jones also gives a powerhouse performance along with Shanay Holmes (Jesus Christ Superstar, Close To You, Thriller Live) (Joanne) of ‘Take Me or Leave Me’. Layton Williams’s (Billy Elliot, Thriller Live, Hairspray) (Angel) sassy delivery of ‘Today 4 U’ was also a highlight of the show.

Bruce Guthrie’s 20th anniversary production of Rent gives a new lease of life to Jonathan Larson’s masterpiece. The show is beautifully moving, tragic and inspiring and it is perfectly summed up in the musical number ‘La Vie Bohème B’ with an upbeat, party spirit despite surrounding circumstances and trials, and the current cast are truly phenomenal!

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REVIEW: Rocky Horror Show ★★★★ – UK tour

“…sexy, flirty, decadent, frivolous and fabulous.”

★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

The Rocky Horror Show began its life on 19th June 1973 in the upstairs part of the Royal Court Theatre, seating 63 people.  Since then, it has captivated audiences, gained a devoted fan base, and been a smash hit on stage and on the big screen.  For all of this, we have to thank Richard O’Brien, the father of the Rocky Horror Show, who wrote the script, music and lyrics.

The show is the story of recently engaged Brad Majors and Janet Weiss who get a flat tire while driving on a remote road on a stormy night.  In search of a telephone, they walk back to a castle they’ve seen a few miles back, where they are taken on a strange journey of decadence, transvestism, sex and rock ‘n’ roll.

Brad and Janet were played by Ben Freeman (Happy Days, Wicked, Legally Blonde) and Diana Vickers (Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, The Duck House, Fall of Little Voice).  Freeman gave a great performance as Brad.  Vickers played Janet with a youthful innocence and naivety and, overall, her vocal performance was phenomenal, particularly during ‘Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch Me’.

Frank-N-Furter was played by Liam Tamne (Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Hairspray) who was fantastic in the role.  Tamne pulled off the part as the cross-dressing, flamboyant, eccentric, persuasive doctor with style and confidence.  His performance of ‘Sweet Transvestite’ was brilliant.

Kristian Lavercombe (Jesus Christ Superstar, Urinetown, Oliver!) and Kay Murphy (Matilda, The Tailor-Made Man, Top Hat) played Riff Raff and Magenta.  Both of them gave amazing performances. Murphy also played the Usherette who opens and closes the show with ‘Science Fiction, Double Feature’.  She has a wonderful voice and Lavercombe played the demented sidekick Riff Raff fabulously well.

Sophie Linder-Lee (Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Silence! – the Musical) gave an amazing performance as Columbia.  Her tap dance solo during the ‘Time Warp’ was excellent and she has the perfect voice to hit the high notes the part requires.  Eddie and Dr. Scott were played by Richard Meek (Hot Mikado, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Godspell), who gave an fantastic performance of ‘Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul’ and ‘Eddie’.  Dominic Anderson (Cats) played the muscular piece of eye candy Rocky perfectly.

The highlight of the show is the iconic ‘Time Warp’ which is high energy, fabulous and gets the audience up and dancing along only twenty minutes into the show.  Another standout number is ‘Rose Tint My World’.

Overall, the Rocky Horror Show was sexy, flirty, decadent, frivolous and fabulous.

The Rocky Horror Show, following a sold out two-week run at the Playhouse Theatre in London, is currently touring the UK.  For full details of the tour dates and locations and to buy tickets, visit their website: http://rockyhorror.co.uk/

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REVIEW: Chicago ★★★★★ – UK Tour

“…an intoxicating show with a sexy and seductive quality.”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide London

As the opening line of the musical proudly boosts, Chicago is about “…murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery”.  Before Chicago was made into a musical, it was a play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins in 1926, who used her crime reporting experience to satirise ’20s women becoming celebrities for being accused of murder.  It was then produced as a silent film in 1927, with another adaptation entitled Roxie Hart in 1942. Chicago was developed as a musical by Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb and John Kander and it debuted on Broadway in 1975.

The musical tells the story of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who were real life murderesses. The show is set in Chicago in the ’20s when the city was run by gangsters, jazz was the sound and prohibition was in full swing. At the time, there was a string of females who were made famous by committing murder – they were celebrity criminals. These women received press attention, making front page headlines and receiving desirable job offers because of the publicity.

The show begin with Roxie Hart shooting and killing her lover, Fred Casely, for walking out on her.   The story that follows her trial with the help of her lawyer Billy Flynn, who was hired by her ignorant and easily influenced and manipulated husband, Amos, and her basking in the glory of her crime.

The story runs on a repeating loop of the press moving from case to case of sensational murder stories, with the previous “celebrity criminals” being cast off as unimportant and no longer big news.  The show has a very disturbing yet inviting underlying message of crime and greed is good and murder is the way to fame and glory.

All of the murderesses become famous from crime and the public become obsessed and enchanted by them.  The trial is laughably conducted like a circus, with Billy Flynn specialising in corrupting justice by giving the jury and the press “the old razzle dazzle” to fool and creating “context” and “grounds” to charm them.  The musical is very relevant in today’s celebrity-crazed and sensationalised news story society.

Roxie Hart was played by Hayley Tamaddon (Emmerdale (TV), Mamma Mia, Fame), who portrayed Roxie with a giggling, girlish innocence which is perfectly suited to the role.  Velma Kelly was played by Sophie Carmen-Jones (Jersey Boys, Wicked, We Will Rock You) who she gave an all-round fantastic performance, stealing the show.  John Partridge (Cats, Miss Saigon, A Chorus Line) played Billy Flynn with charm and swagger.  Mama Morton was played by Sam Bailey (X Factor winner (TV), Dick Whittington), who performs ‘When You’re Good To Mama’.  The ensemble were all fabulous, dancing perfectly in sync and with incredible style and swagger.

Ebb and Kander’s musical score is superb with standout numbers including: ‘All That Jazz’, the ‘Cell Block Tango’, ‘Me and My Baby’, and ‘Razzle Dazzle’.

Overall, it is an intoxicating show with a sexy and seductive quality.  The cast were superb, with intricate choreography and a wonderful band performing the jazzy score.

Chicago is touring the UK into October 2016, showing in over 20 cities.  For more information and full tour listings visit the musical’s website: http://chicagothemusical.com/uktour.php

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