Sunday, 28 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Director: Philip Dart
Review by Helen Hunter & Family
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Translators: Beverley Cross & Francis Evans
Director: Matthew Warchus
Reviewer: John Roberts
If take offs are anything to go by then this show isn't the fastest, but once you start flying, and the turbulence hits in, you are guaranteed a riotous evening (if you think that's enough puns already then I can only apologise for what's to come!)
Matthew Warchus directs this touring production of his hit West End revival of Marc Camoletti's french farce about a non marital polygamist Bernard and how through his knowledge of air timetables successfully navigates through three relationships simultaneously with three different air hostess' from three different airlines, and through the help of his chambermaid Bertha things run smoothly enough, until one night Bernard's cousin Robert comes to stay, a freak storm delays take offs at the airport and the fun begins.
Marc Camoletti's script is very funny and sticks close to the typical rules of Farce; the doors, the mistaken identity, the sexual chemistry, but it takes for my liking a bit too long to get into full flight, the first twenty five minutes of exposition drag and lack any real pace, but Warchus manages to keep the audience hanging on the runway long enough before the real speed picks up, and when it does it flies by faster the Concorde.
Rob Howells lavish looking set - with multiple doors is simple and with the added splashes of colour really bring a sixties zing to the occasion, setting the tone and atmosphere with precise landing, even the choice or pre-flight french pop muzak gets you in the mood.
What makes this show a success is the strength of its cast, all pulling in simply perfect performances; Josephine Butler provides us with a terrifyingly strong and brutal Lufthansa hostess Gretchen, Sarah Jayne Dunn brings real sassy sex appeal with her portrayal of American Gloria and Thailia Zucchi ooozes that qualcosa di speciale which makes her Italian character Gabriella the most likable of the three, but of all the women in the cast the strongest performance is given by Susie Blake as Bertha the downtrodden but ever so blunt and dry chambermaid. Martin Marquez makes a devilishly perfect Bernard one can see why so many women would fall for him, but it is John Marquez's performance as Bernards cousin Robert that makes this show first class, with excellent comic timing and wonderfully executed simpleness that really stood out for this reviewer.
This is a fantastic show to end Liverpool Playhouse's Capital of Culture year, and I suggest that if you want to see a first class show at an economy price then pick up the phone and book your ticket now before it takes off to destinations new.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
Director: Brendan Healy
Friday, 12 December 2008
Director: Steve Arnott
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Director: Dawn Reid
Reviewer: John Roberts
It isn't rare that in a festive show to have one or two performances that stand out but this is no ordinary festive offereing, this is a first class cast with star quality turns everywhere you look, from the super sweet and energetic performances of Natalie Best & Darren Hart as Hansel & Gretel, to the terible twosome of Josephine Lloyd-Welcome and Nathan Amzi as The Wicked Wicked Witch & The Wolf, giving just enough Menace to make us hate them but not enough to send the kids home with nightmares. Gemma Salter gave us a flamboyant and likeable toyboy Arabella, and has one of the most silky smooth singing voices I have heard, but for this reviewer two performances really hit the spot the first being that of Yellow Bird played by Peter Howe, his physicaliastions and facial expressions had me in hysterics. Now comes the point where I have to admit at first thinking this production stayed away from having a male playing the Dame and that they cast a fantastic female actress to play the step mother, how shocked was I when in the Interval I found out that the Dame was in fact male and played superbly by Marcus Powell, totally convincing and unbeliveably funny, and a Voice to match his solo song bringing the house down in rapteous applause.
This is a show even with all its good points isn't without it faults, you wont go away from this production remembering or humming any of the original songs apart from 'In the country', you may go away remembering the poor singing voice of Darren Hart and his flat attempts at trying to bring the songs alive, but after all this is Christmas and with so many good points in this show you can let this small point slide.
If you want to see one of the best shows around this christmas then book yourself in to Hansel & Gretel at the Theatre Royal quickly as I have a feeling this will be sold out very quickly.
Director: David Morgan
Choreographer: David Morgan
Reviewer: Jim Nicholson with Sam and Alex, and Megan and Kimberly
Who is the star of this lavish, no expense spared, musical pantomime, none other than Ryan the Rat. Our Australian rodent teams up again with Christopher Biggins (Buttons), having appeared together in the jungle and this time Ryan really gets his big break as he delivers a superb solo number from the cellar under Hardup Hall. The kids loved it and so to did Ryan who previously had only been an ensemble member of the casts of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserable (and any other musical that had a sewer scene) according to the programme notes.
Lavish sets, quality singing from reindeers, crows and that rat, as well as the cutest and impressively choreographed chorus kids(from the Lindsey Read School of Dance), not one could have been older than 7, are just a few of the elements that had the audience on side right from the very start.
Although entitled a musical pantomime do not be fooled, with a 10 piece orchestra and a string of numbers from other musicals such as Wicked and Hairspray the core element of the night was still the traditional panto as we British like it, groan worthy and corny to the core.
Christopher Biggins’ Buttons was at the centre of all that was good and bad within the Hardup household as he was hassled time and again by our ugly, and boy do I mean ugly, sisters (May played by Matthew Kelly and Flower played by Matthew Rixon), but he was also the confidant and shoulder to cry on for the much maligned Cinders (Rachel Stanley).
His boss, Baron Hardup, was the font of all bad jokes and Iain Stuart Robertson had a real Johnny Vaughen look and feel with his delivery.
Stefanie Powers as the Fairy Godmother gets a number of the best songs to deliver, including a fine rendition of Vogue, and I for one was surprised by just how good she sounded. Of course we were quickly groaning again when she has to have a “heart to heart” with Buttons but she soon did the business and the traditional pumpkin and poor old Ryan were on the receiving end of a swish of the wand. This meant that at last our sweet voiced Cinders does get to go to the ball after all and we are treated to a Chitty Chitty Bang Bangesqe take off of her winged horse and golden carriage.
Of course all is not well at the ball and her love for Prince Charming (Craig McLachlan) is cut short as the clock strikes midnight. Ryan keeps her spirits up when she finds herself chained in the cellar by May and Flower so they can grab the hand in marriage of the Prince. Of course they do not get their own way and if you go and see this show you must make sure you hide your kids eyes when these two turn their backs to the audience because let me assure you “thongs aint what they used to be”.
But there is always a happy ending and the cup cakes to chorus kid’s transformation in the finale is one of those theatrical moments that will stay with you for a very long time.
Megan and Kimberly (both aged 8)
The show was awesome much better than Peter Pan last year. The two ugly sisters and their opening the door to the Prince routine was so funny, and we also loved the kiddie cakes at the end of the show.
The Prince had a lovely singing voice and Buttons was hilarious. Oh and we both thought Ryan was the bestest Rat we have ever seen. We had great fun dancing along with all the songs especially the one from High School Musical.
Sam and Alex (both 10)
It was a really good, fun show and Ryan was really friendly with Biggins and they shared some great jokes together. The best part of the entire night was when the Ugly Sisters did the twelve days of Christmas using all sorts of weird items.
Director: Doug Quinn
Monday, 8 December 2008
Writer/Director: Michael Harrison
Reviwer: Ian Cain
Ahoy there, shipmates! Get ready for a spectacular, swashbuckling adventure at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates must surely be the most ambitious and costly pantomime that this theatre has ever produced! Upon entering the auditorium, the atmosphere is firmly set; a treasure map is projected around the walls, skeletons occupy the boxes, ships lanterns are hung on each level and a huge skull and cross-bones illuminates the stage.
For the fourth consecutive year, audiences are welcoming back Clive Webb and Danny Adams, the father and son comedy double-act who seem to have taken up an unofficial residency at the Theatre Royal. Having previously seen them perform in Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin, I have to say that, this year, they are at their very best.Apparently, box office takings for this year’s seasonal extravaganza had exceeded a million pounds before the pantomime season began!
This production is visually stunning. Combining an amazing giant robot (named Titan) with 3-D sequences from ‘Amazing Interactives,’ pyrotechnics, a zip-line and all manner of other technical wizardry it is surprising that there is room or time for a story. Yet writer and director Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Qdos Pantomimes, skilfully weaves in a magical tale of good triumphing over evil, filled with comedy, suspense, slapstick and romance – all done in good old-fashioned panto tradition.
Danny Adams plays the title role, complete with trademark laugh and catchphrase – ‘Accideerrnt!’ - and he has the kids in the palm of his hands throughout. He also scores a hit with the Mums, Aunts and Grannies in the audience when, in one scene, he removes his shirt to reveal a respectably toned torso, complete with six-pack. Clive Webb as Captain Crusoe is straight-man to Adams’ clown and integrates his own special brand of comedy-magic into the proceedings. Newcastle’s own Chris Hayward provides a traditional panto dame and wows the audience with an array of fabulous costumes, each one even better than the previous and all designed and created by Chris himself! Watch out for the finale frock and head-dress, it’s sensational.
Kathryn Rooney returns to the Theatre Royal as The Magical Mermaid and enchants the audience with her performance and her singing voice, far outshining Natalie Winsor’s Girl Friday.
Phil Corbitt, as Blackheart the Pirate, cleverly combines Captain Hook with Jack Sparrow and creates an interesting and successful new villain, much to his credit. The principals are ably supported by an energetic all-singing, all-dancing ensemble and a troupe of babes from the Marron Theatre Arts Stage School.
Indeed, this production is a fresh, bold and exciting re-telling of the Robinson Crusoe tale, filled with sword-fights, sea monsters and ship-wrecks. It exudes style, slickness and sophistication and is the best pantomime that the Theatre Royal has produced since Lesley Joseph wowed audiences with her Wicked Queen Lucretia in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2004/05.
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Adapted by Neil Bartlett
Director: Roger Haines
Music: Richard Taylor
As a dramatisation of a classic Dicken’s novel, I had high hopes to be impressed by the play, despite having never had the pleasure of reading the book and I was not disappointed. The script and acting were very engaging, and the intimacy and closeness of the theatre provided a perfect setting for this play.
The plot follows the story of orphan Pip, was has been brought up his sister and her husband, a blacksmith. A rags to riches tale, Pip has an ordeal with an escaped convict as a child, encounters a rich, eccentric, dowager and her ward Estella to whom he forms an attachment, and meets a Lawyer from London, all of which change the course of his life. We see Pip’s rise to become a gentleman in London and share his trials of unrequited love, debt and the discovery of secrets.
Dickens’ story is quite dreary in parts, but Bartlett has introduced a good amount humour into the dialogue and action, so as to keep spirits high in the audience and appeal to the whole family. There is something for all generations in the show, however, it may be difficult for younger children to enjoy the performance without first knowing the plot. The more frightening parts of the play are made less scary for children without loosing impact, by actors stepping out of the action to narrate the events.
Pip is played beautifully by Leon Williams, the character is completely believable and loveable from his first monologue. Williams executes Pip’s direct addresses to the audience with an honesty and likeability that draws you further into the story. Estella is portrayed well by Claire Redcliffe – we sufficiently disliked but understand her situation. The Company are excellent at seamlessly flowing scene and character changes from one to the next. Character changes are unapologetically made mid-stage, and are very effective.
The design by Michael Pavelka and the direction (Roger Haines) of the play are outstanding. With the limitations of rather a small stage at the Library Theatre, the set has been cleverly designed to adapt and change as the narrative requires. It is based around a series of movable doors and a limited number of props that imply a setting rather than spell it out, which provokes the audience to imagine all that may be missing. Using my imagination in this way was an enjoyable experience, one that can be all too easily missed out of twenty-first century life.
Despite a brief technical fault at the beginning, the audiovisual elements of the production were fantastic. Projected film and images are imaginatively used to create atmosphere and portray the personalities and histories of the characters. Coupled with great sound effects and use of live and pre-recorded music, the effect is very natural and uncontrived. It was refreshing to see this blend of new media amid period costumes and set.
A fantastic adaptation of an important piece of English literary history.
The bubblegum setting of Oz is as expected if not a little too obvious. The munchkins, played by children, are a delight for most; perhaps as the audience is predominantly families; however the lip-syncing that they undertake is not something I enjoyed. The three boys of the Lollipop Guild were fantastic however, as were the sarcastic talking trees who I was delighted to note spoke in churlish New York accents and not the southern Kansas drawl that the rest of the cast undertook.
Friday, 5 December 2008
Director: James Bounds
Reviewer: Honour Bayes
Based loosely on The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chauntecleer and Pertelotte is a slickly performed, well written and directed piece, which for all these things still cannot convince of its reason for being produced. The basis of its parts and the sum of none, this show feels more like an actor’s showcase than a piece of theatre and the question has to be asked, why revise this tale?
It is the flighty story of Chauntecleer, a proud and sexual cockerel, who woes his innocent chick Pertelotte until she is his lascivious and fruity mistress. All is well with these horny birds until Chauntecleer is caught enjoying the attentions of the farmer’s wife, at which point Pertelotte takes a vicious revenge. Seemingly hell indeed hath no fury like a hen scorned.
Apart from learning this moral nugget however the audience has nothing more that it can take from this slight piece of work. This is not to say that the writing is not beautifully fruity and tootie and ripe, and with Lamb Lovelies and Bull Bolleckies’ dropping left right and centre, this is a script which is a pleasure to listen to. Furthermore Tim Dewberry and Annie Hemingway do masterfully with their roles, pluming and puffing and pecking and jutting elegantly as the birds, they are equally as focussed and precise in their human characters’ physicality. Vocally also they relish each line with glee and even if some of the accents which they lace these with are sometimes off key, it is clear that they are savouring the humpy pumpy rhythms of Dougie Blaxland’s script.
James Bounds moves his actors around the stage with confidence and élan, and the two performers play off each other with an assurance and stylishness belaying a strong external eye.
An admirable lesson in technique from all creative parties involved and yet teaching very little else, Chauntecleer and Pertelotte is all form and no content. At the end of the piece, this is a failing which is even mentioned by the performers themselves; on vocalising that nothing has been learnt, they seem to conclude that this is not an issue and that enjoyment is all that mattered. But through the very act of mentioning it they belay their worry that although an enjoyable piece of fluff, this production is as light on content as a feather and as such is not the successful piece of theatre that its creative components should have made it.
Director: Ray Spencer
You don’t need to go down to the woods to be sure of a big surprise, just take a trip to The Customs House to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Affectionately termed ‘the little panto with the big heart,’ the venue has once again come up with a top quality festive family show. Packed with madcap mayhem, audience participation, sing-along songs, colourful characters and plenty of ad-libbing, this is pure, unadulterated, honest-to-goodness pantomime at its very best.
Lucy Rafton plays a feisty Goldilocks, dispelling any misconceptions that panto heroines should always be simpering and sickly sweet. She looks great and delivers her musical numbers with aplomb. Indeed, this Goldilocks has girl-power! David Ducasse (Scooch) is Colin the Ringmaster, and he too presents a nice twist to the typical panto hero. His portrayal of Colin is as a bit of a ‘himbo’ – that’s a male bimbo, if you didn’t know – who has difficulty in voicing his true feelings for Goldilocks. However, with a wave of the Fairy Godmother’s wand and a bit of coaxing from the would-be object of his affections, he gets there in the end.