Monthly Archives: March 2014

Review – Fame the Musical

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Fame the Musical is back! But is it gonna live forever?

The musical is based on the 1980 hit musical film Fame that we all know and love starring Irene Cara, with its leg warmers, George Michael Wham style hair and featuring the famous title song ‘Fame’.

This brand new production of Fame celebrates its 25th anniversary with a complete facelift by director Gary Lloyd for its 2014 UK tour. So, let’s wave goodbye to the 1980’s and see if the updated version brings Fame into the 21st century. Not an easy task to take on without taking some risks. 

Set at the world famous High School for Performing Arts New York, Fame follows a group of young talented artists as they undertake the journey of their lives, distracted by romance, drugs and blinded by the intensity of their passion of the arts, which is too much for some at a school that insists that acting, drama and dance is the hardest job in the world.

The show opens with a mind blowing, fabulously choreographed song ‘Hard Work’. Followed by Joseph Giacone, playing a cocky Joe Vegas, giving a brilliant if what cheeky performance in the funniest song in the show ‘Can’t Keep It Down’, I’m glad my daughter or mother weren’t sitting next to me. It’s a little X-rated!

The stage is spectacular at all times, there was always something grabbing your attention. The band are 10 ft up on a separate platform complementing the set, which left you believing that you were there on West 46th Street.

The cast gave it their all, dancing, singing and continually bringing electric energy to the stage. During the first half I felt something was missing, maybe it was because it felt like the story line has been watered down? And to my disappointment when the title song ‘Fame’ was sung it lacked a certain something.

The second half of the show certainly made up for the first. Jodie Steele as Carmen Diaz continued to amaze you with her vocals and passion; she has a hard role to fill because you want to embrace her character, but the attitude that comes with Carmen makes it hard to love her. Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman silences the audience with her out standing solo ‘These are my Children’. Molly Stewart gets you laughing with her performance as Mabel Washington singing ‘Mabel’s Prayer’ and Joseph Giacone playing Joe Vegas was the comedian of the show. It really is full of non stop fresh young talent.

Naturally there are one or two members of the cast that stole my heart and the show. Alex Thomas simply shone through as he played the aspiring choreographer Tyrone Jackson who was struggling to complete his dance training. He was so watchable, I couldn’t take my eyes of him. He would stun the audience with dynamic dance routines. ‘Dancin’ On The Sidewalk’ was electric and then he took your breath away with a simply stunning ballet performance with Sasi Strallen playing Iris Kelly. Don’t even get me started on his physique, WOW!

There are a few niggly bits that need ironing out. The American accents weren’t perfect, lines were forgotten and the flow from each act wasn’t fluid. The show has the potential to be outstanding, which is actually frustrating. I’m hoping it’s just press night nerves.

If you’re expecting a traditional take on the show with the iconic New York taxi, prepare to be disappointed. However, if you’re going expecting a new fresh show, with amazing choreography, outstanding performances, mobile phones, iPads and even a little jukebox cheese at the end that will guarantee to get you up on your feet, then you’ll love it. For me I just wish there was a few more explosive Diversity style dancing routines and a stronger story line.

We live in a world driven by fame, therefore I believe this new upbeat version will reach out attracting a new generation to theatre and the arts. It leaves you with a feel-good sensation, one that you will always remember.

Fame will live forever! Even though my heart is still with the 1980’s version, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love this one too.

Just bring back the yellow New York taxi!

with Joseph Giacone after the show

with Joseph Giacone the comical Joe Vegas after the show

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Review – The Two Worlds of Charlie F.

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As I sit here looking at a blank page, half of me wants to write “Please just book a ticket for this must see show……” I don’t think I have ever been lost for words before!

Let’s get the judgement out of the way first; The Two Worlds of Charlie F. is currently on a national tour and playing at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 15th March. It’s an enthralling, exciting and above all essential piece of theatre and I urge, no I demand, that everyone who reads this review makes an effort to see the production.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F is not your usual piece of theatre. It was developed as part of a series of rehabilitation exercises for severally injured service men and women returning from active duty in Afghanistan. Taking it to the stage as form of communication in the ongoing healing process.

My question is “Would using performing arts for therapeutic process work for a theatre production?”

The play was perfectly balanced with a series of monologues, short scenes and songs which educated the audience not only about the historical and current political situation in Afghanistan but also clearly highlighted the very contradictory nature of being a soldier on the front line. As a solider you would do anything to help protect the life of fellow troops, whilst at the same time being fully prepared to kill and maim your enemy.  The honour that comes from serving your country was powerfully juxtaposed with being parted from loved ones and family.

I actually felt guilty that I didn’t know half of what I had learnt. The show gives a raw insite into the private process of adjusting to life changing injuries, gained in the field of battle. I truly feel that schools and universities should use this play for educational purposes, to open the eyes of the youth of today to show what people go through in the fight for our country.

Whilst being a very powerful piece of theatre which unflinching looks at the horror of war and its devastating consequences, “Charlie F” was also laugh out loud funny and reflected the way in which the troops use humour as a powerful way of dealing with the grim reality of active service. I was lucky enough to meet Marine Cassidy Little (Corporal Charlie Fowler), again it was another moment where I was lost for words, and when I told him this he simply hugged me. I asked “Why he felt the need to take his rehabilitation to the stage”, to which he replied “When life gives you a life line, you take it!”

The audience at last night’s performance reacted naturally with warmth and admiration for the many levels of courage that the main cast had displayed during their service careers and beyond. There clearly wasn’t one person left seated at the standing ovation at the end and believe me Aylesbury is a tough crowd to get standing!

Money raised from this show will go to support similar schemes run by the British Legion which means that by going to see this show you will help to make sure this unique play spawns more extraordinary nights at the theatre.

So, in answer to my question. Yes, the production works, more than I ever thought it would. What I loved most about the show is the strength and honesty it gives straight from real life heroes!

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Review – The Rod Stewart Musical Tonight’s the Night

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Ben Elton’s West End musical comedy Tonight’s The Night directed by Caroline Jay Ranger is at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre this week, giving fans an explosive evening of Rod Stewart’s famous hits.

I’m not going to lie.

I must admit I am not a massive Rod Stewart fan, and walking into the theatre at 35 years old found, I was possibly the youngest person there.

The story is about Stuart (Ben Heathcote) a geeky man from Detroit, who’s unable to declare his love to the girl of his dreams Mary (Jenny Lee-James). Kind of sweet right? Then one night he sells his soul to the devil for Rod’s soul; which seemed like a good idea at the time! He is transformed into a wannabe rock star, with the rock star life style he craves, but even with the fame, sex, and endless partying, he gradually learns the hard way that he not being true to himself, without his soul mate.

The opening was powerful with strong dance numbers, leading me to think that I might actually enjoy this, although the music was possibly even too loud for me, muffling the dialogue at times, but that settled. As the show went on it grew on me, although rough around the edges, then a powerful song sung by Mary (Lee-James) from We Will Rock You or Dee Dee (Jade Ewen) from the popular group Sugarbabes blew me away.

The set reminded me of a cross between West Side Story and Rocky Horror. I loved how the design allowed an on-stage band, giving a rock atmosphere, with the lighting complimenting the stage perfectly for the dancers and their glitzy costumes.

For me Stoner (Michael McKell) stole the show, as a drunken lovable rock n roller. He reminded me of Billy Mack (Billy Nighy) from the film Love Actually, I would actually question if he inspired the roll?

The lead, Ben Heathcote unfortunately did nothing for me. I’m not denying that he’s a good singer, but he didn’t make me fall in love with him.  He was too small for the role and his over sized leather jacket didn’t help me believe in him. I questioned if he was the understudy?

On the positive side the show was sexy, entertaining, fun and even a little silly. If you’re a Rod Stewart fan there is no denying that you will really enjoy the show, and that you’ll be on your feet dancing and waving your hands at the end.

Tonight’s the Night isn’t the most spectacular musical you will ever see. If you’re not a fan then I suggest you give it a miss. Just like other musicals you will enjoy it more if you’re a Rod Stewart fan. Tonight’s the Night has done what it set out to achieve, to get you smiling, dancing and enjoying the atmosphere of an energetic show.

Tonight’s the Night could be your opportunity for you to live your dream of being a rock n roller for the night.

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