Tag Archives: acting

Review: Chicago the Musical

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In the three years I have been writing reviews, I have never been more excited than to review Chicago. I fell in love with the film starring Rene Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2002 and then again as the West End production I saw in 2008.

For most of you I am sure that Chicago needs little or no introduction, but for those of you that don’t know, I will take you back to 1924 when Chicago was run by gangsters, was it fully of criminality as well as jazz and glamour. Cook County jail had women on ‘murderers row’, all with their own story to tell. Just like the kiss-and-tell tactics used today to become celebs, these women used their tales to become stars.

Just as I expected the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre was packed on press night. The opening number All That Jazz sets a strong alluring tone, leaving you wanting more. There aren’t many musicals where the orchestra are on stage, leaving the set very simple, but certainly doesn’t take away from the energy on stage. However I had to repress the urge to push them back a metre or so to enable extra space for the dancers.

Murderesses Sophie Carmen-Jones (Velma Kelly) owned her roll from the start rocking her little black dress and Roxie Hart (Hayley Tamaddon) from Emmerdale, also instantly won us over, well after I got over the fact that she wasn’t blonde! Soon they found themselves on death row together, fighting for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920s Chicago.

Chicago wouldn’t be Chicago without the puppet master John Partridge as Billy Flynn, you would recognise him from Eastenders and Big Brother. He plays a smooth talking lawyer, who knew how to play the media to get the verdict he was after. After his performance of All I Care About I wasn’t sure what I thought, then after his exuberance performance of We Both Reached for the Gun with Roxie, I was sold! Not to mention the classic number Razzle Dazzle. Only knowing him from TV it’s clear to see the stage is where he belongs.

Chicago is a fast paced musical, with a strong flawless cast. The singing, acting and choreography were on point. My favourite number is still the Cell Block Tango with Velma and the girls.

Another favourite was Gina Murray as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, even though I felt she should have been a bigger build, I’m probably comparing her to the film here, she most certainly didn’t need a bigger voice as she wowed us performing When You’re Good to Mama. This was her first night after two weeks of rehearsals and if this was her performance on opening night then all I can say is Mama is certainly going to be good for the show!

It’s probably best I don’t forget to mention Amos Hart played by Neil Ditt, aka Mr Cellophane. He nailed his role and is far from invisable. Actually I don’t want to leave anyone out, as there is usually a few weak links in a show; but with such a strong talented cast together they put on an unforgettable dazzling show, it really would be a crime to miss it and all that jazz!

The show will be touring until Saturday 16th July. Tickets are available from http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/chicago/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/

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Review: The Sound of Music

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Following a successful tour in 2015, the Sound of Music is back again and starting it’s tour at Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre.

As we all know, The Sound of Music is based on a true story of the world-famous singing family, taking us on a journey in search for their dream of happiness, as they escaped to freedom when Austria became part of the Third Reich at the start of WWII. The Trapp Family Singers and Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography was inspired by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse to create a Broadway musical in 1959. And then  the 1965 film that most of us grew up with. I know in my household we watched it more than just at Christmas time.

Being the huge fan that I am, I set the bar high before entering the theatre. I try not to compare shows to films, but sometimes when you love a film so much it’s hard not to do so.

I was really pleased to see that the show attracted a variety of ages, confirming the fact that this really is a timeless classic. I was lucky enough to be able to take my 11 year old with me, as she has grown up with the film.

From the first scene, I knew this was going to be world class and on point. Lucy O’Brian, a runner up from The Voice, had hugh shoes to fill as I felt she would never be able to be Julie Andrews who to me was perfection personified. Yet with songs including My Favourite Things and Do-Re-Mi performed quite early on, Lucy instantly won over the audience, and myself and we were soon all singing along lustily with her.

Unfortunate Andrew Lancel, as Captain von Trapp, didn’t win me over as quickly and I am sincerely hoping it was just press night jitters. I understand that at the start it’s his role to act a little cold and wooden, as that was the Captain’s nature and way of coping after losing his wife. But after falling in love again with Maria it would have been nice to feel that he was a little warmer and less vacant; although his performance in Edelweiss was indeed heart-warming.

The children were superb, energetic and engaging throughout. Annie Holland as Liesl was a beautiful and innocent as Charmain Carr was in the film and her duet Sixteen Going on Seventeen with Rolf played by Kane Verrall was elegantly performed. One thing however I would have changed was for them to do the dance routine from the film in the So Long, Farewell scenes. It’s a part that I feel would really stand out and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one waiting for it.

What can I say about Jan Hartley as Mother Abbess? She simply stole the show at the end of Act I with Climb Ev’ry Mountain – what a voice! If I was able to hit rewind and watch her again, I would have done so. She was simply outstanding.

For me there were a few surprises and a few new songs that I was not expecting, but that’s because I was anticipating the film on stage. The set was magnificent, effortlessly moving from one scene to the next, taking you with them on their journey.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of The Sound of Music or not, this has to be one of the best musicals I have seen. It’s an emotional night not to be missed and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried more than once!

Grab yourself a ticket and follow your dream with the von Trapp Family Singers, for a unforgettable night out.

The Sound of Music runs until Saturday 21st May 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: Goodnight Mister Tom

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For someone who is never lost for words; I’m completely lost for words! Wow! What a play!

I must admit that I wasn’t overly excited about seeing this play. I’m one of those people that if you mention history to me, I just turn off, assuming it’s going to bore me to tears. I’d actually find it more appealing watching paint dry. 

Well this one time I will stress that you should never judge a book by its cover. David Wood’s stage adaptation of the 1981 children’s classic by Michelle Magorian is definitely one not to be missed.

Goodnight Mister Tom is about a shy and quiet WWII evacuee William Beech (Alex Taylor-McDowall) who is housed in the Dorset countryside by a disgruntled old man Tom Oakley (David Troughton), but they soon develop a close friendship. Tom soon realises that William needs a lot of love and care as he takes him under his wing. 

Even though I haven’t read the book or seen the film, I was advised that it’s stayed true to the novel. Sometimes it good to review play as a blank canvas with no expectations. My daughter is currently studing the book so I will be interesed in her thoughts later on in the week once she’s seen it.  

For a children’s book, it really does touch some dark subjects including mental health, abuse and death, taking you though an emotional journey that will touch your heart in one way or another. In one scene you could feel the silence of the audence as they hung on to every word as they watched in great anticipation of what happened next… I even felt myself at one point uttering the word “No” at the stage!

As dark as the play is, it’s also full of love and humour. The acting is first class so much so that you felt emotionally attached to the cast. William Beech (Alex Taylor-McDowall) was a broken boy scared of everything in the world, unable to read or write until he found Mister Tom and his new found friends. It was touching to watch as he unfolded from a broken boy to a boy that was loved and in turn learned to love and trust in return. His new friend Zack (Oliver Loades) in his bright rainbow coloured jumped lit up the play with his over the top love for life, the play definitely wouldn’t have been the same without him, he oozed personality and charm. 

It wasn’t only William we watched change throughout, it was also Mister Tom. He too needed be be loved again after shutting down from grieving the loss of his wife and child. Let’s not forget his loveable dog Sammy, acted by puppeteer Elisa de Grey. Just as in the play War Horse, Sammy made you feel he was a real dog as he bounced around, barking. It was so hard to believe he was only a puppet. 

All the puppeterring brought the show to life scene by scene. The set changes were effortless, as we went from Dorset, to the believable train station and then back to London where we saw the shocking abuse William recieved on a day to day basic by his mother, the person that was supposed to protect him from the world.

With the perfect balance of love, laughter and tears this is a must see show. 

Goodnight Mister Tom runs until Saturday 16th April at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Tickets are available from www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre or call the Box Office on 0844 871 7607.