Tag Archives: Musical

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 – Jersey Boys UK

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Oh, what a night!!!

After a night with the boys from the wrong side of they track, I can confirm that Jersey Boys is the Godfather of musicals.

Jersey Boys has been a hit since 2005 when it was introduced to Broadway. It is a true rags to riches story of four guys, with four different stories, who took the world by storm; but life didn’t turn out as they dreamed it would be.

It tells the story of the Four Seasons, a 1960s rock ‘n’ roll band including Franki Valli with an i (Matt Corner), song-writer Bob Gaudio (Sam Ferriday), Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) and Tommy Devito (Henry Davis) and their rise to stardom.

I assumed that this would be another jukebox musical where we would have songs thrown at us and unless you were a fan, you would feel out of place. But I was wrong. You don’t have to be a fan to watch this, in fact you would probably become a fan from watching this and there is quite a few songs that you would suddenly say to yourself ‘I know this one’. The individual stories are told in such a way that it can be easily understood and followed as we follow each actor with their own personal story and struggle. They managed to get a large story across in a direct fast paced way that kept your attention from scene to scene, there was always something to look at and digest as we learnt more about their lives. I found myself listening to the words of each song, which gave you real understanding to why it was written, expressing where they were in their journey.

The set was modern and constantly changing, some scenes would literally be there for a moment before the stage was quickly turned into something else, but it didn’t distract you from the actors and made it all the more real, as they took us from song to song and storyline to storyline. I personally loved the Roy Lichtenstein style cartoon comic strip in the back ground, as well as the silhouette of chimneys and pylons, that made the set photographic.

As the show went on it got better and better with hits like Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Earth Angel, Walk Like A Man, Fallen Angel, Beggin’ and my favourite the duet My Eyes Adored You. This show uplifted the theatre, as you looked around the audience were either singing or tapping their feet, either way they were engaged with the show.

The whole cast are seriously talented actors, with chemistry that works, not to mention having their difficult Jersey accent down to a T. Clearly, Franki Valli (Matt Corner) stole the show, but they were all just as talented and brilliant, whilst looking daper in their costumes.

If you’re looking for a fast and furious show, with 30 something hits as well as a strong storyline, then grab yourself some tickets whilst the Jersey Boys are in town.

The show runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 3rd October 2015. For more information and bookings go to http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/aylesbury-waterside-theatre/

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Review – An Evening of Dirty Dancing by Lara Wadey

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No film has captured the hearts of a generation quite like Dirty Dancing, so it’s hardly surprising that the Hey Baby 5th Anniversary tour is grabbing the UK’s attention by storm. 

You only have to mutter the words Dirty Dancing or hear a song from the soundtrack and before you know it you’ll be humming the tune, realising that you know all the lyrics. 

It’s because of this, that the women and men of Aylesbury were exhuberated with excitement as they filled Aylesbury Waterside Theatre for The Tribute Show celebrating this Greatest Movie Soundtrack of all time!

Personally I wish there had been more of a story line to the show, but then who really needs the story when we all know it and everyone is actually there to be entertained by such an energetic cast whilst dancing in the isles. 

The show is directed by Paul Spicer and includes songs like She’s Like the Wind, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Hey Baby, Wipeout, Do You Love Me, Be My Baby, Hungry Eyes and, of course (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life. Sylvia (Aimie Atkinson) and Mickey (Julian Essex-Spurrier) were on point the whole way through, you could feel that they lived and breathed their roles. The continuous dance routines and costume changes kept the show alive, fresh and full of energy. 

It was also a proud moment to have our local dance school Spotlight Musical Theatre School’s senior ballet and modern pupils performing alongside the professionals in this amazing show. 

Believe me when I say you won’t be the one sitting in the corner, as you will be drawn like a magnet into joining in with the audience participation. 

If you get the chance, take a trip back to the summer of ’63 to relive Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey’s summer romance – it will be worth it! 

http://www.aneveningofdirtydancing.com/

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Review -The Magic of Motown

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In the 1960’s the sound of Motown was huge. Therefore it is no surprise that The Magic of Motown, recreating this golden era for stage, with 36 back to back songs, is always going to be a success amongst fans.

Walking into the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre I knew I was in for a treat. I could feel it in the air. Everyone was buzzing with excitement, ready and waiting to be entertained by this all-star show.

It took only half a dozen songs with the cast lead by the brilliant and enthusiastic Andre Lejaune before Aylesbury were up on their feet dancing and singing away with the music and soul pulsing through their veins. I have never see Aylesbury react in such a positive way to a show so quickly, and as I looked around the full theatre it made me smile to see everyone loving the musical brilliance in front of us.

The all-star cast consisting of seven singers and band members didn’t fail to entertain us with their dazzling costumes, non-stop dance moves and each individual impressing us with their own individual talent and charisma as they took us through different artists including Diana Ross, Lionel Ritchie, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5.

It only took the first half of the show to win the audience over. They were enthralled by the production as well as the atmosphere of the theatre that was oozing with style and magic.

The second half brought even more treats, with highlights including a heartfelt duet of Lionel Richie’s My Endless Love and an excellent tribute to The Jackson 5 and the late Michael Jackson where Amara Smith absolutely stole the show, not to mention the enormous afro wigs.

The Magic of Motown is a must-see show for anyone that wants something soulful with a lot of heart.

http://www.easytheatres.com/

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Review – Rock of Ages

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If Carlsberg made jukebox musicals…

If I could leave this review here, followed by a link for you to buy tickets I would.

Remember the 80’s? If you’re a lover of the 80’s fashion and musicals packed with, well everything, then Rock of Ages direct from the West End is for you.

Set in 1987 where you would think life was a little quieter than today on the Sunset Strip on Sunset Boulevard. Where life is actually fast and full of colour. Where big crimped hair, mini skirts, thigh high boots and shoulder pads were exploding onto the scene. Where life was hugely about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll…

The stars of the show Drew (Hear ‘Say star Noel Sullivan) will blow you away with the strength of his voice, I don’t think I have ever seen someone hold a note for as long as he did! Sherrie’s (Cordelia Farnworth) performance is also outstanding as we watch them follow their dreams in LA, a place where anything seems possible. It’s a typical love story where boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy wins girl back, but that doesn’t stop you getting emotionally involved as the story unfolds.

Rock god Stacee Jaxx (Ben Richards) absolutely sparkles on stage, along with the saucy dancers, there’s no shortage of eye candy here. This is definitely one for the boys! For me the star of the show is Lonny (Stephen Rakman-Hughes) the narrator with his non stop hilarious humour, expressions and one liners. It could be said that he possibly crosses the line at times but he is guaranteed to have you in stitches from beginning to end; I’m still laughing now as I write this.

I went along thinking this was going to be just another jukebox musical and that I would only know a handful of songs. I’m not a huge rock fan, more of a 90’s pop gal, but with hits like Don’t Stop Believin, Can’t Fight this Feeling, We Built This City and many more, you can’t help but sing and clap along with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.

The band set on stage completes the perfect vibe, leaving you feeling like you’re at a gig with a storyline. Rock of Ages has one of the most ridiculously talented and energetic casts I’ve seen, it certainly won’t disappoint.

For me Rock of Ages stands out from the rest. It’s totally rad and up there with my favourites! – Just leave the kids at home.

Rock Of Ages runs at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 5th July 2014.

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Review – Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

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As Buddy started I glanced a crossed to my friend who came with me and grimaced, thinking, “Here we go again, another jukebox musical.”

I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong in thinking that and I’m still smiling now and dancing inside as I write this review.

Buddy premièred in 1989, running in the West End before going worldwide. It’s now back touring the UK celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. The Buddy Holly Story is a bio-musical about Buddy Holly’s remarkable three year rise to fame before he was tragically taken from us in 1959 at only 22 years old in a plane crash.

Two actors are currently sharing the role of Buddy. Opening night starred Glen Joseph playing a passionate yet cheeky Buddy. We follow him as he struggles to perform the music he wants to play whilst working for a country music producers, when his heart clearly is with Rock ‘n’ Roll music. I would like to go back and see Roger Rowley playing Buddy – this has to be the best excuse ever to go see a show twice!

During the first half the show goes from strength to strength. The stage really came together and lit up as we were wow’d by Miguel Angel and Lydia Fraser’s duet performance of ‘Shout’ from the Apollo Theatre, New York, bringing that over the top American vibe to the stage. I kept catching myself smiling and after looking around the theatre I wasn’t the only one. The atmosphere was that of a party, people were singing along and dancing in their seats. The lady next to me turned around and apologised for dancing, to which I replied “No, carry on. I actually think you should be up on stage because you’re loving it so much!”

The show featured over 20 of his greatest hits including ‘That’ll Be The Day’, ‘Everyday’, ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Rave On’ and many more. The second half was targeted more to Buddy fans taking you into the rock ‘n’ roll zone leading us in the story to Buddy’s final appearance in the Winter Dance Party with Ritchie Valens performing La Bamba, and Big Bopper’s song Chantilly Lace.

This is possibly the first jukebox musical I have seen that maintains a strong story line, and that can be followed with ease by all Buddy and non Buddy fans.

This is a Buddy fantastic tribute to Buddy Holly. The show is full of passion which can be felt through the electrifying cast and roof-raising music. Judging by the standing ovation and the audiences reaction last night, the music of Buddy Holly clearly lives on.

The Buddy Holly Story is at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday 3rd May 2014.

Please visit www.buddythemusical.com for further information and tickets.
KJohnnyW Photography

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