Monthly Archives: February 2014

Review – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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Where does one start when reviewing such an outstanding show?

Growing up watching the 80’s classic film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Steve Martin and Sir Michael Caine, I had high expectations for the musical. If you haven’t seen the film, then put it on your ‘to do’ list.

As always, before going to the theatre to review a show, I like to ask myself a question. And this time it was, “Would the musical be able to outdo the film?” as screen to stage adaptations are a tough challenge!

In 2005 the production ran in Broadway for 3 years, yet this was the first time it was to hit the UK and I was lucky enough to spend an evening watching the scoundrels at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre before it heads off to the bright lights of the West End.

Playing Lawrence Jamieson (Sir Michael Caine) is three-time Olivier and Tony Award winner Robert Lindsay, who returns to the stage after 16 years, famous for Me And My Girl, Oliver and of course the BBC TV comedy My Family. I’m going to sneak in here that I got to meet him before the show, and rather than asking him “Why did you return to the stage after 16 years?” or “Can you give me three words to describe the show?” all I actually came out with was “I always wanted you to be my dad!” Clearly, I was completely star struck!

Alongside him playing Freddy Benson and in my opinion with massive Steve Martin shoes to fill was comedy genius Rufus Hound, star of One Man, and Two Guvnors.

The plot is that of the film, set in the French Riviera where Lawrence Jamieson (Robert Lindsay) and Freddy Benson (Rufus Hound) are two con men who charm, cheat and con their way through rich women; attempting to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress Christine Colgate (Katherine Kingsley) out of $50.000 first.

Obviously, I was relying on Robert Lindsey to give a incredible performance and steal the show and my heart, which he does. From the first scene where he says “mmmmm,” in only the way he can, it brought back memories of him in My family, as he whisks us off into the world of theatre, but he wasn’t alone. Rufas Hound might have been a little rough around the edges, but he was meant to be, being naturally comical, with perfect facial expressions in all the right places. I would like to know if he had an influence in writing some of the one liners?

Oliver award nominee Katherine Kingsley and Samantha Bond also brought the stage to life, giving fabulous performances with a perfect balance of comedy and emotion. I especially warmed to Samantha Bond known from Downton Abbey. As she and John Marquez took you on a love affair. I mean who doesn’t like a little romance, even if it’s a little rude and naughty at times? There were some fantastic moments where I hid my face in my hands as I kept laughing to the point where my cheeks hurt.

The show is hilariously entertaining, engaging you from beginning to end, with its catchy music and lyrics written by David Yazbek (although I don’t think I will be humming them all week), the endless dance numbers, comedy and romantic themes. Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography gives the show a modern freshness to theatre, as well as a scoundrel’s style, grace and elegance. The costumes were dazzling, the 1930’s set was up to date, the lighting was effective and the orchestra was superb, giving a perfect balance.

So, “Does the musical out do the film?” I don’t know, they are both equally brilliant. All I know is, if you want a theatre experience that ticks all the boxes, then grab or con your way to some tickets to watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels when it arrives at the Savoy Theatre in London from March. For those of you lucky enough to have already got your tickets for the sold out performances in Aylesbury, then enjoy your night as you’re transported back to the French Riviera with the scoundrels.

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Review – Some Girl I Used to Know

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Denise Van Outen brings her new one-woman play ‘Some Girl I Used to Know’, co-written with Terry Ronald to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre.

Stephanie Canworth (Van Outen) plays a beautiful thirty-something successful lingerie business woman that has it all, including her supporting husband Paul. Life was great. Until one night, Stephanie (Van Outen) goes to her hotel room to escape the journalists from her launch of her latest underwear range. That evening with the mixture of phone calls from her husband Paul and a Facebook poke from old flame Sean bringing back old memories, she wasn’t going to get the peaceful evening she was after. But of course with old memories comes old temptations.

I’m sure we can relate to Stephanie thinking back to an old flame, wondering if our lives would have turned out differently, had we made difference life choices. With the Facebook poke, being a key point to the play, I was scared the show was going to be tacky? I’m all for social networking, but I wasn’t keen on bringing it to the stage.

With the show having a drama, comedy and musical elements to it, I was interested to see how Van Outen held the stage for the full 2 hours; and if in fact the mix actually worked?

Denise Van Outen was outstanding, taking you though different emotions throughout. At first l questioned the set; the dressing table on the right hand side was annoying, as it blocked the view of Stephanie (Van Outen) at times. I would advise purchasing seats to the left hand side of the theatre. I also questioned what appeared to be a child’s mobile hanging from the ceiling, obviously representing her youth; but watching the set change through the lighting from a night club, to a beach and hospital within each scene worked perfectly.

At times I felt I was watching an episode of Glee, as it flicked from Stephanie (Van Outen) from Essex that I fell in love with, with her comical one liners to songs that read like a 80’s/90’s mix tape including Culture Club and Donna Summer fitting effortlessly in to the play showing off Van Outen’s voice. The way she addresses the audience made you feel like a friend, growing with her character, laughing at her blunt and sometimes vulgar jokes.

A show should take you on an emotional journey, engaging with the character and wanting to make choices for her. The show hit the nail on the head delivering a touching and hilarious play, quite rightly deserving the standing ovation it received at the end.

The question I went into the theatre asking was “Is Denise Van Outen good enough to pull off this one-woman show?” ..And in answer to that, “Yes she is”

http://somegirliusedtoknow.com/

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Review – September in the Rain

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“September in the Rain” is a romantic comedy, about an elderly couple Jack and Liz reminiscing about their annual trips to Blackpool. They start off on the stage as an elderly couple; Jack is a typically grumpy Yorkshire man, whilst Liz his wife is obviously the boss of the relationship.

With a clothing change, we are then whisked back to their younger days as a young married couple. The transformation is brilliant, they become instantly more youthful making it that much more believable. They talk about simple things like Liz liking the bus instead of the car and this being their first car journey to Blackpool.

Even before Jack and Liz get into their car at the start of the journey, the bickering between them took me back to my own childhood; I mean who couldn’t relate to their parents bicker when rushing out the door, rubbing each other up the wrong way. Maybe this is how the play draws you in, tugging at your own childhood memories.

We hear about Mavis’ boarding house where they stay each year. There is a scene at the beach where they fall out, I found myself wanting to shout out at the stage, but of course they make up because they’re so in love and can’t stay angry at each other.

Liz (Claire Sweeney) and Jack (John Thomson) are so perfectly in tune with each other, just the two of them taking the whole audience on a journey.

There is nothing extraordinary or mind blowing about the show, the set it simple but it works as it keep you focused on the actors. The dialogue and show captures your attention like a grandfather telling a story at Christmas bringing characters to life, it’s a light hearted piece of theatre which gives you a warm comfortable feeling, sometimes within theatre that’s enough, especially on a rainy evening in September.