Category Archives: Review

Review: Hairspray at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre by Lara Wadey

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My daughter and I couldn’t have been more excited to see Hairspray on opening night at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. She turned 13 yesterday so joining mummy to review this was the icing on the cake. I would say that Hairspray to teenage girls today is what Grease was to me when I was growing up.

It was so exciting turning up to what felt like a sold out performance; flicking through the programme, taking Snapchats using the Hairspray filter, not to mention enjoying the little goodie bag from Paul Mitchell with some great goodies from the neon range, which supports anti- bullying – Thank you PM!

As the show started we were immediately transported back to 1962 in Baltimore, where Tracy Turnblad (Rebecca Mendoza) lived – a big girl with big hair and even a bigger dream to dance on national TV and also into the arms of heartthrob Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks). In doing so, the show touches some serious subjects as she finds herself fighting for racial equality in an effort to make every day a Negro Day.

My daughter, a massive fan of the movie, told me during the interval that she was a little disappointed that it didn’t follow the same lines as it had songs in it that she didn’t know – I think she was expecting the film on stage. But once I told her the film was based on the show she’s was like “Ohhhh, I see”.

The cast is without a doubt tremendously talented, with strong vocals and excellent choreography by Drew McOnie. For me Seaweed (Layton Williams) stole the show. At one point he did a round off multiple flick back tuck, to which my daughter and I immediately glanced at each other and smiled; my daughter is a cheerleader/dancer so she really appreciates tricks like that – honestly, it was hard to take my eyes of him.

I enjoyed the second half even more than the first. As well as Seaweed, Motormouth Maybelle (Brenda Edwards) was another unforgettable character and her strong presence lit up the stage, especially during her solo ‘I know where I’ve been’.

If I was to be picky, I could say that there were a few annoying accents that made some of the cast less loveable. At times I even questioned if they had forgotten the set as it was so basic, although I did love the basketball hoops reflecting a sports hall – the stage was always bright and full of colour so maybe the extra set wasn’t needed, who knows? The costumes were fantastic, I would love to be left alone to play dress up in their dressing room for a few hours!

All in all this is a fun production and a great entry into theatre. If you are looking for something that’s going to blow you away, then this probably isn’t the show for you. It’s a fun show, full of colour, music and soul and it’s guaranteed to get you up dancing to ‘You can’t stop the beat’ by end of the show.

Hairspray runs until Sunday 11th November 2017 at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

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Miller & Carter Aylesbury – Steakhouse – by Lara Wadey

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When you hear that a Miller and Carter Steakhouse is opening up in Aylesbury over a Toby Carvery, you’re clearly going to get a little bit excited. I’ve never eaten in a M&C restaurant before so obviously I went on social media to have a quick look at the pictures of what people were eating and to gain an insight into what we would be expecting; everything I saw looked divine with people raving over the food offered.

As the restaurant was having a few dry runs for staff training leading up to the opening night I went along with a friend and our two daughters to try it out.

On arriving at this brand-new building, first impressions were great. The building was a lot bigger than expected, open and spacious, good lighting, great interior, plus a separate bar area where you could enjoy a drink before and after your meal. Note that the bar is for restaurant guests only, it’s not open to the public if you’re not eating.

As we sat down we were given a feedback form, so we were able to review the night ahead.

I’m the first to admit I have a little OCD and like things done properly.  So I was rather concerned to find the cutlery placed on the left-hand side and not the right – not a good start. Then we weren’t given menus and after 15 minutes I had to ask for them – it really didn’t matter but would’ve created a better first impression. Also when we ordered water for the table and advised the waiter we wouldn’t be drinking wine; it would have been nice for the wine glasses to have be taken away, thus gaining table space.

Conner F was our waiter this evening, he was efficient in advising us on what he thought we would like. There is something for everyone, including vegetarians, a three course children’s menu for £10 and also a cocktail menu.

Once we had placed our order we sat back to soak up the atmosphere, checking out everyone’s food as it came out guessing what was on the plate. The girls came back saying how amazing the bathrooms were; with different mirrors leading upstairs to them and a large painting of a bull, it gave a classy feel to the restaurant. However my friend did point out that the lighting wasn’t right for selfies, obviously a very important detail in this day and age.

An hour and 40 minutes into the night we were still waiting for our main course; naturally I was expecting to wait longer than normal being a trial run, but as it was 9:10pm on a school night I had to ask where our meals were. The manager Nathan came over assuring us that he would go and find out what was happening; but unfortunately he didn’t get back to us… another 20 minutes later and nothing. We had clocked in 2 hours now.

Finally, my daughter’s meal came out. Don’t get too excited – that was it. A meal was brought to us but it was a mix up with another table, at that point I would have eaten anyone’s meal. My daughter didn’t want to start eating as she wanted to wait for us. Another 15 minutes later I approached the manger Nathan again, he seemed shocked that only one of our meals had come out. I cheeky advised him that it was nothing two free cocktails couldn’t sort out.

After over two hours of waiting, and two wrong meals brought out to us; my friend wanted to cancel hers. We were offered the two free cocktails to make up for it, to which I immediately accepted but my friend initially refused.

As we were in the process of cancelling our meals, they were actually brought out to us, my friends daughter ordered the children’s meatballs and pasta which was quite a small portion even for a children’s meal.

My friends medium-rare lamb was well done with far too much extra fat on it – she actually had a lamb shank at IKEA only a few weeks ago and came back raving that I had to go and eat there as it was amazing and so tasty! Therefore tonight it was IKEA 1 – Miller and Carter 0.

What can I say about my Moroccan style superfood salad with rump steak?  Let me just ask “How can you go wrong with salad?” I don’t think anyone has gone as far wrong with salad as Miller and Carter did tonight.

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Let’s start with the presentation. As you can see from the photograph there is no presentation, this was exactly how it was put in front of me; my 12-year-old could have presented it better.

Let’s play a game of spot the difference…. How many differences from the two photographs have you spotted? Let me tell you… 1. No roast rooted vegetables 2. No brown rice, 3. No quinoa, 4. No broccoli, 5. No pineapple & ginger dressing – there were baby leaves grapes, and tomatoes and cucumber – that shouldn’t have been there. How can you go so wrong?

Our lovely waiter Conner F, couldn’t have been more apologetic and talked my friend into finally accepting the complimentary cocktail. Only to be told moments later that they had ran out of puree, so were unable to make the cocktail! – I forgot to mention earlier that there was a number of meals on the menu that they had ran out of – for example the lobster. The manager Nathan never came back to me when he went to find out what had happened to my salad and to at least get some dressing. I couldn’t believe how rude he was. We were only told by Connor F, that unfortunately they got our order wrong and had to cook it all over again; if this was the case, surely it’s best to tell the customer and more importantly to feed the children.

Obviously we appreciated that we would experience some teething problems and maybe wait even an hour and a half for a meal, but to experience one thing after another as we did was just too disappointing, especially when everyone else’s meals looked so delicious.

I sincerely hope that what we experienced was just an unfortunate blip and that they will indeed get their act together before the opening on the 19th May as the restaurant certainly has the potential to be a really remarkable establishment – let’s hope it’s remembered for the right reasons in future.

www.millerandcarter.co.uk/restaurants/south-east/millerandcarteraylesbury

Review: GHOST The Musical at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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I am sure there are very few people of a certain age that haven’t seen the classic 1990 movie Ghost, a film that very nearly didn’t happen. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw the film, so I was going to refresh myself by watching it leading up to the show. But with Easter and the school holidays, time ran away and the closest I got to watching it was the movie trailer en route to the theatre; at least I was able to refresh myself with the story line. Needless to say by the time I got to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre I was excited for the night ahead, and it was clear from what felt like a sold out opening night that I wasn’t the only one.

So, for those of you that don’t know. Ghost is about a banker Sam Wheat, played by Andy Moss that you would recognise from Hollyoaks, and an artist Molly Jensen played by Carolyn Maitland. One night as they were walking home they were mugged and during the struggle with a gunman, Sam was shot leaving Molly alone to cope with his loss… or so we think; until he meets Oda Mae (Jacui Dubois) a psychic that helps Sam set things right.

We couldn’t see the stage when we went in. All we could see was a simple blue curtain, reflecting the colour of the advertising material with the quotes ‘Oh my love, my darling…’ and ‘I’ve hungered for your touch’, which of course had you humming the famous Unchained Melody song before the show even started.

You could argue that the show didn’t really get going until Sam died. But I would say that was the same with the film, as anything before Sam dying just set the scene, which of course showed us how in love the couple really were. It’s really hard to pull off such love and emotion on stage, plus with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze setting the bar so high, yet they nailed it. Initially I thought the smiles and mushy stuff, boarded on cheesy, but as the show went on and as you got to know the characters, it worked; they worked.

I did wonder how they would adapt the film to stage and how the songs would bring the story to life. Unchained Melody was of course the famous song we were all longing to hear. I’m actually playing it now as I write this. If I was being really picky of all the 15 songs they performed there is probably only one I questioned was necessary. Actually, come to think of it,  that’s probably the only thing I would change during the whole evening, so that can’t be bad.

During Act One I caught a few people wiping their eyes; I smiled but didn’t think there was anything to get that emotional about. Then as the story unfolded and as we learned about the betrayal of Carl (Sam Ferriday), Sam’s colleague and we saw how Oda Mae got emotionally attached to Sam wanting to help him in protecting Molly, I found my emotions also running away with me.

There is no doubt that this is a very talented cast. Yes, maybe the set could have been a little more flashy at times; although the simplicity of the scene involving the Subway Ghost (Garry Lee Netley) was excellent. Maybe a few more characters were needed to get a bigger impact in the dance scenes, but these are minor details that really didn’t matter. The love and emotion between the two main characters stole the show, together with the strength, passion and emotion in their voices – they completely won me over.

For the first time ever in my life and in the three years I’ve been writing reviews I cried in the theatre; therefore the show must have nailed it to make me believe!

Ghost runs until Saturday 22nd April 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Review: Dreamboats and Petticoats at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

 

I’m not sure why, but I chose not to review Dreamboats and Petticoats last year. It may have been the poster that put me off, or the fact it was 1960’s music. At the time it just didn’t appeal to me but for their 10th year anniversary tour I thought I would give it a try. There I was on a cold Monday night, tired and hungry from a long day at work, wondering why on earth I had agreed to this!

Dreamboats and Petticoats The Musical is inspired by the multi-million selling albums, with hit songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era. That’s all I knew about it as I walked into the auditorium. The red curtain was down, leaving no teasers as to what the show might be like. As I’m not a fan of jukebox musicals, specifically ones without a little story line to go along side it, I was full of dread and trepidation.

Let me take you back to 1961, (before I was born) where music and emotions ran high. Norman (Alastair Hill) and Bobby (Alistair Higgins) compete to win not only a song writing competition, but also the attention of the busty Sue, played by the gorgeous Laura Darton. It’s a typical teenage love story where geeky boy likes hot girl, but hot girl likes cool boy who will eventually break her heart, and geeky girl just goes unnoticed – you know how it goes.

There is a reason why one should never judge a book by its cover, and this show is one of the reasons why. From beginning to end the stage was bursting with colour, with an up to date set showing pictures and images of the 60’s era as well as bright lights, wonderful 1960’s costumes and an electric atmosphere! Praise the Lord, there was even a story line, which, although predictable, was still heart warming and sweet, as one might expect from a love story. I even found myself becoming quite emotional following the story, both with sadness and smiles.

Of course it had all the classic tracks from Roy Orbison, The Shadows, Eddie Cochran, Billy Fury and more… including Let’s Dance, To Know Him Is To Love Him, Shaking All Over, Bobby’s Girl, Little Town Flirt, Only Sixteen, Runaround Sue, Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Let It Be Me, Great Pretender, C’mon Everybody, Let’s Twist Again.

You really don’t have to be a 1960’s fan to fall in love with this musical. Both my 12-year-old daughter and mother would love this show as it really does cater for everyone. It’s not old and dated as the poster might make you believe. It’s a young, funky and fresh show that will keep rock ‘n’ roll up to date for generations to come.

I never dreamed for a moment that I would have loved Dreamboats and Petticoats so much. I was clearly born in the wrong decade, as I would have made a great 60’s chick!

Dreamboats and Petticoats runs until Saturday 25th February 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

This is the second time I have reviewed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. The first time left me wanting to run out to buy the book so I was extremely interested to see how a second time around would make me feel.

Many of you will have read the book, but for those of you who haven’t the play is about a boy called Christopher Boone, played by Scott Reid, who sees the world differently from the rest of us. He sees truths about our world that most people never notice.

As I walked into the auditorium I saw a familiar set – a dead dog lying in the middle of the stage, speared by a garden fork. I know that this doesn’t sound pleasant but it certainly sets the scene for Mark Haddon’s novel, adapted by Simon Stephens.

Christopher Boone is a 15-year-old boy from Swindon with an extraordinary brain and behavioral problems which makes everyday life a struggle. He hates being touched and is very distrusting of people, yet he’s a mathematical genius and able to see patterns in numbers that most of us can’t.

During the first half we soon got to know the characters and the relationship Christopher had with his parents. His father Ed (David Michaels) was the kind of person who didn’t let life get to him, in spite of the fact that he was struggling without his wife Judy (Emma Beattie). His teacher Siobhan (Lucianne McEvoy) understood him and helped him begin his detective work to find out who killed Mrs Shears’ dog, Wellington, recording his findings in a book. I liked the way his teacher read segments from the book out loud, giving the effect of a play-within-a-play.

The second half elaborates on his emotional journey. Fearing for his life, he makes the decision to travel to London with his pet rat, Toby, to find his mother who his father had led him to believe had died.

The first half is very different from the second. I was actually pleased that it had been two years since I had last seen the show as I had forgotten quite a significant part. Each scene seemed fresh and new to my eye.

Scott Reid, just as Joshua Jenkins two years ago, nailed the role perfectly. He must have put so much time and energy into the role of Christopher, his mannerisms, speech, how he held his hands and body were just so believable to that of Christopher’s. The strength of the whole cast actually made your emotions switch within a moment, as they took you on a journey

The set was something I’ve not seen before in any other play. The set floor and walls were made up of huge black LED screens, with an appearance of black and white graph paper. They were used imaginatively throughout, with accompanying sound and lighting effects, allowing the play to effortlessly jump from one scene or location to another. The clean and precise use of graphics on the screens gave the impression we were looking inside Christopher’s mathematical mind. The set was like an unwritten character and deserved some of the rapturous applause itself at the end.

So to conclude, I was completely blown away, yet again! – Bravo, just bravo!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs until Saturday 11th February 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

You may have probably have already seen the Coca-Cola truck and the John Lewis advert this year, but you truly know Christmas is here when it’s press night in Panto land at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

I love this night each year because I’m lucky enough to be able to take my family and even though my daughter is getting older she’s still only too happy to come along with her friends to get into the spirit of Christmas. As I expected the auditorium was full of people of all ages, little ones waving their flashing stars and swords around, and full of excitement as they waited for the show to start.

We all know the story of Aladdin, a street urchin who vies for the love of a beautiful princess by using a genie’s magic power to make himself off as a prince in order to marry her. I was interested,  if not a little worried, to see how they would pull this off as a pantomime, I mean although I love Aladdin, I needed to be really impressed for this show to win me over.

The all-star cast included Michelle Collins (EastEnders, Coronation Street) as the Genie of the Ring and I won’t tell you why as I don’t wait to spoil it for you, but if anyone says ring to me over the next month I will indeed burst into a little chuckle complete with a grin on my face!

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Of course panto season wouldn’t be the same without our very own Andy Collins, as Aladdin’s brother, Wishee-Washee. We are blessed to have Andy each year in the show as it wouldn’t be what it is without his humour, whit, charm and of course The Twelve Days of Christmas – I often wonder if he’s the same comedy genius at home with his children.

The beautiful Jasmin Walia (TOWIE) plays princess Jasmine in her panto debut. Who knew she had such a beautiful voice? Speaking of beautiful, the winner of glamour for the night goes to *drum roll* the gorgeous ‘Dame Extraordinaire’ La Voix (Britain’s Got Talent) who plays Aladdin’s mum, Widow Twankey. She was simply fabulous with her larger than life costumes and stage presence, and you really can’t take your eyes off her.

Of course the real star of the show was Danny Colligan as Aladdin, the northerner who was full of energy and completely owned the stage, as well as the flying carpet. It’s a shame Danny isn’t on the promotional material, but he advised me that this was because he got the job after the photoshoot. Because he isn’t on all the posters it’s like he’s the show’s secret weapon that gives you that little extra you weren’t expecting.

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I can’t finish this review without giving a huge shout out to Chris Nelson, who not only played a perfectly cheeky PC Pong, but who directed the show with such precision. There were two scenes that stood out for me, the first being the Who, What and I Don’t Know scene which was hilarious, it must have taken hours to perfect. Also the ballet scene with La Voix and Andy Collins, to which I was crying with laughter. Simply Brilliant!

Aladdin is everything a panto should be! It has something for everyone from the tiny tots to the teenagers; it was lovely watching my daughter smile from ear to ear, when they did the Mannequin Challenge, as well as the Pen Pineapple Apple Pen song. They certainly didn’t forget the grown-ups, the innuendos were on point, there was an occasion or two when my partner looked at me as if to say ‘did they really just say that?’, and I’d look over at my daughter laughing, knowing she had no real understanding of the joke! There was even a hot scene for mummy too… hello boys!

The show got a well-deserved standing ovation from all. If you are looking for some magic this festive season, then get yourself some tickets, rub the magic lamp and enter the cave of wonders this Christmas – you won’t be disappointed!

Aladdin runs until Saturday 31st December 2016 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

Review: The Woman in Black at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre by Lara Wadey

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“It was nine-thirty on Christmas Eve….” Actually it had just gone seven-fifteen on this cold winter’s night as I arrived in great anticipation at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre to review The Woman in Black. After all, who doesn’t like a ghost story to warm you up and get your heart racing to clear the cobwebs?

Now celebrating 27 years this horror story adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by Susan Hill, tells a tale of Arthur Kipps (David Acton) who is so disturbed by his painful memories that he writes them down before seeking a young actor (Matthew Spender) to help him tell his tale.

For me the play had a slow start even though I chuckled on occasions, I found myself distracted by my thoughts. Maybe it was because although I’ve seen the play before, as well as the 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe, I couldn’t fully remember the story. This is probably a good place to point out that the audience this evening was far younger than when I saw it last time, which goes to show in my opinion that Harry Potter has helped keep the magic of the play attracting new younger fans through the film.

Anyway back to the plot. It tells a tale of young Kipps, a solicitor who has been sent to settle the affairs of Alice Drablow. At Drablow’s funeral he sees a woman dressed in black, in spite of the fact that no one else does. At Eel Marsh House the noises and sighting of the woman in black haunts him… then a local man reveals the full story of the house, a story of heartbreak and revenge. I don’t want to give too much more away, so you’ll have to grab yourself a ticket if you want to know more.

For me the play came to life in Act 2. The cast of two are excellent and feel every moment on their role. The set was simple yet effective and yes, we were on the edge of our seats, with screams and streaks from the audience that made us all laugh. I have heard that the show in London has a much more intimate feel, which I think would really work. I also think you could really have more fun scaring people like having a woman in black suddenly sitting next to you, or having something softly brushing past you; sometimes I do wonder how my mind works!

It was heart-warming to see the audience give a standing ovation on a Tuesday night. So, if you like a good thriller and enjoy being scared then grab yourself a ticket. Just a word of warning, don’t go alone!

The Woman in Black runs until Saturday 3rd December at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.