Review: Thoroughly Modern Millie at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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We kicked off the first press night of the spring season with the smash hit comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie, set in New York in 1922, which is based on the award-winning film which starred Julie Andrews in 1967, before it hit Broadway as a musical in 2002.

It tells the story of Millie Dillmount, played by professional dancer Joanne Clifton who is best known as last year’s winner of Strictly Come Dancing. Millie is a small town girl from Kansas, who ventures off to the bright lights of New York City following her dream to marry for money, instead of love – not too sure how modern that is for 1922.

Within minutes of Millie arriving in New York she has her purse stolen, and meets Jimmy Smith (Sam Barrett) who quickly feels sorry for her. To help, he writes a local hotel address on her arm, a place for aspiring actresses and orphans run by Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush).

Unknown to Millie, Mrs Meers is running a slavery business from the hotel, with residents randomly disappearing without question. I warmed to her instantly as she brought a comedy element to the show, although now and again her accent was hard to understand , but not enough to lose you. Her two workers, Ching Ho (Damian Bunhagiar) and Bun Foo (Andy Yau), went along with her underground business in hope that they would be reunited with their mother as promised. As a lot of the speech was in Chinese, a small screen was mounted at the top of the stage displaying English subtitles. Unfortunately the screen was so small I had to ask my friend if she was able to read it. 

For a musical that I was really looking forward to, I was disappointed as it lacked a certain something at the start. The first few numbers didn’t grab my attention but twenty minutes later, once we had got to know more characters and the story unfolded, I was soon eager to see what would happen next.

As the show went on it was clear to see this was a very talented cast. The powerful voices, and energetic choreographed toe tapping dance routines were fantastic, not to mention the dazzling 1920’s costumes. The costumes took me back to when I was young and wanted to dress up like that – who I am kidding, I still want to dress up like that!

Millie put all her efforts into trying to win over her boss, Mr Trevor Graydon (Graham MacDuff), a rich businessman who she planned was going to give her the life she thought she was after. He was one of my favourite characters and when he hit the bottle after having his heart broken by the gorgeous Miss Dorothy Brown (Lotty Somers) I don’t think I have ever found a drunken scene so funny, it certainly can’t be an easy part to play and in fact it felt so real that even the characters on stage began to laugh which made it all the more hilarious. 

I have to give a huge shout out to Mussy Van Hossmere (Jenny Fitzpatrick) for her incredible performance and powerful voice! She felt like the mother of the show, someone with wisdom and guidance and a whole lot of va va voom!

What about Millie? I couldn’t fault her at all. She’s the star of the show for a reason. Her energy, facial expressions and charisma nailed it for me. Who knew she could sing as well as dance? What I like is the way she pulled off the funny, emotional and love scenes; and I can imagine that many women leaving will be wanting to cut their hair into a shiny sleek bob.

Parts of the show reminded me the musical Chicago, not only because of the 1920’s theme, but also because of the scenes behind bars. I’m sure anyone who loves Chicago as much as I do can relate to that. The office tap scene was another that stood out as being on point, and even though I haven’t left humming a song, I ended up tapping my way back to the car. 

This classic, although not so modern production, will touch your heart, leave a smile on your face and a question in your heart “What would you marry for?”

Thoroughly Modern Millie runs until Saturday 1st 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.

Review: The Twits at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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Even though I’m a mother, I’m not a massive fan of Children’s Theatre, except of course for Panto which I love. In my experience it is usually mostly geared to really young children and as the result teenagers miss out. Plus the last thing I want to do is to sit and watch something aimed at five-year-olds. I’m also ashamed to admit that  I never read The Twits as a child. So I therefore did my homework by quizzing my 12-year-old with what it was all about before reviewing it at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

The story line sounded hilarious, so I was more than happy to go along. It was lovely to see the theatre full of children with smiling faces, and to see the members of the cast chatting among the audience as they awaited for the show to start – such a lovely touch.

The Twits are about Mr & Mrs Twit (Robert Pickavance and Jo Mousley) who live in a disgusting caravan… they are a revolting couple, who spend their days playing dirty tricks on each other and mistreating Muggle-Wump monkeys as well as their sticky trick to catch Roly-Poly birds for their bird pies. But for how long will their plan last? Someone needed to teach them a lesson!

I have felt in the past that  Children’s Theatre had always been a little bit dated, cheesy and kind of cringe worthy. However it was refreshing to see this show was more updated, sharper and the set pleasing to the eye – and not only for the children but also for the adults. Much of the show, although simple,  was effective and modern.

When you read The Twits, all you really learn about is Mr & Mrs Twit but I have to say the storytellers were a huge part of the show, with their mannerisms as animals, whether monkeys or birds so believable, and their talents were endless with singling,  dancing, acrobats and more.

I was lucky enough to take both a seven and twelve-year-old with me and am delighted to report that they both thoroughly enjoyed it which shows that not only did it  hit different target audiences but also as I thoroughly enjoyed it the whole way through there is definitely something for everyone.

For a fabulously disgusting night grab yourself some tickets if you dare. Just a word of warning – don’t have spaghetti for dinner before you go!

The Twits runs until Saturday 28th January 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: Gaslight at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

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Last night the thriller Gaslight opened at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. It’s a play written in 1938 by Patrick Hamilton one of the 20th Century’s most renowned British writers.

I didn’t actually know what Gaslighting was, but Google informed me that it’s to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. So, sounding like an interesting play I was prepared for a chilling evening – and I was right!

It took a little while for the play to set the scene and completely grab my attention, but once it did I was hanging onto every word. Jack Manningham (Rupert Young) and his wife Bella (Kara Tointon) live in a house together with a housekeeper Elizabeth (Helen Anderson) and maid Nancy (Charlotte Blackledge). Jack is a tall and somewhat charming man who spends most of his evenings out, whilst Bella his Victorian wife is home alone, wondering if she really is as mental as her husband believes – or does he?

We see Jack teasing and manipulating Bella when he dangles theatre tickets in front of her and then quickly twists the situation. Possessions disappear and objects move. He demands that she confesses to hiding the objects, or he will have to have her committed. As the result Bella becomes weak, fearful and exhausted and we watch her doubt herself even more as she hears footsteps above her in the house and sees the ever so scary ghostly flickering of the gaslight.

One day her life changes when Rough (Keith Allen) a retired detective turns up at her door, completely changing her world as we learn more about her husband Jack and his dark side.

I don’t want to give too much away and ruin it for you, but did I enjoy it? Yes I did. It’s a wonderful piece of British theatre, and certainly one not to be missed.

A word of warning however – if you know the name Kara Tointon and vaguely remember her from Eastenders, then Google her before you go. If you don’t you will spend the whole evening staring at her as I did, wondering who she had played again. She is definitely a name to remember!

Gaslight runs until Saturday 21st January 2017 at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available fromhttp://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.

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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.