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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.

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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 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.

Review of The World Famous Dreamboys 2016 UK Tour by Lara Wadey

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Where do you even start when you’re writing about the most successful male strippers in UK history, The Dreamboys?

A lot of people probably wouldn’t have even clicked onto this link to read this review; they would have an initial impression that The Dreamboys show is sleazy, full of cheese and covered in baby oil. But they’d be wrong; this isn’t your usual striptease. I mean yes these guys are strippers, which basically means removing items of clothing to music… but being strippers and putting on a show are two very different things.

I couldn’t have been more excited when The Dreamboys owner David contacted me asking if I could review the show as his personal guest. Well who was I to say no? I felt like a child at Christmas, as I rushed through the back stage door to meet the boys before the show along with Georgia Farquharson from New! magazine. Let me tell you that watching a group of hot hunks getting ready, running around half naked with fake tan is not as it is not an easy task ladies… but I think we coped rather well – jealous much?

Even before the boys walked onto the stage, the audience were beyond excited. There we clearly those who had come to see the boys’ tour year after year and then then there were the virgins of the audience just like me.

The opening music and lighting was enough to confirm that Magic Mike has competition! Of course there were certain things about the show that I possibly would change, I questioned some music choices, I questioned if it needed so much audience participation. As you would expect there is an element of cheese such as the sailor and fireman routine, but the show wouldn’t be what it is without it. Sometimes as a critic you just need to sit back and ask simply yourself – did you enjoy the show? To which my reply would most certainly be a big fat YES!

The Dreamboys is about putting on a show; it’s where the world of fantasy merges into reality. The impressive choreographed dance routines, fire trick and the strengths of each individual artist are warmly received by women and men of all ages; I found myself on certain moments tightly holding my friends arm, slightly cringing, yet totally excited because I didn’t know what was coming next or whether or not they were going to cross the line, whatever your line might be. These guys were more than just bodies, they clearly had talent behind those abs. I train myself so I can appreciate the discipline that these guys go through to keep their chisels flawless bodies in perfect shape.

Geordie Shore’s Scotty T made a brief appearance. The reality TV star was instantly welcomed by his fans screaming louder as he danced around the theatre; it was hilarious watching everyone’s heads turn like owls to watch him.

We live in the world driven by fame, so as much as I believe The Dreamboys don’t need a celebrity in the show as they are talented enough, I do understand Scotty T has his place, helping the show reach out and attract new generations to theatre and the arts.

Not to disappoint any of you, I know you’re all thinking it, desperate to ask if the boys are ever fully nude. Yes, they are ladies and gents… enjoy!

No matter the occasion, a hen night, birthday or just a girlie night out, this action packed 2 hour show will literally have you begging for more, it really is 69 shades of Dreamboys!

I cannot thank The Dreamboys owner David, their manager Simon and the boys themselves enough for their hospitality before, during and after the show. You really have made their new No.1 fans dream come true, have a great tour and I’ll see you in 2017 for more naughtiness.

For more information and to book your tickets for their Theatre and Arena UK tour go to www.dreamboystour.co.uk and for their Resident Saturday night shows in 12 major Cities across the UK

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Review: Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage 2016/2017 tour by Lara Wadey

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Does Dirty Dancing really need an introduction? I guess not, but for the very few who don’t know what it is, you should hang your heads in shame right now.

Dirty Dancing captured the hearts of the nation in the 80’s and to this day it still remains one of my favourite movie classics. I remember sneaking off to my girlfriend’s house to watch it as mother said I was too young, shhh don’t tell her.

It’s set in America and tells the story of the Houseman’s family holiday in 1963, where 17 year old daddy’s girl Francis ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Hartland) is disappointed when she finds out her summer is going to be spent at The Hotel Resort of the Catskill Mountains, with her parents, yawn! However, her luck turns around as she meets and falls in love with dance instructor Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths), much against her father will, as he clearly wasn’t the kind of of man he wanted for his daughter, or so he thought.

It follows the movie very closely; at times you could argue that it was too close, as I felt I wanted to remain in some of the scenes a little longer in order to be able to absorb it. There were a few add ons, some of which I would question as to whether they were necessary, and others like Johnny’s bare bottoms was definitely welcomed by the audience.

Of course this show wouldn’t work without the chemistry between Baby (Katie Hartland) and Johnny (Lewis Griffiths). It was funny watching Baby’s attempts at dancing at the beginning, as I’m sure on a personal level that is how most of us would see ourselves; but on a professional level it can’t be easy to pretend to dance badly.

The show captured me from beginning to end and now and again I caught myself uttering the next line, or swinging my hip from my chair only to smile to myself when I realised what I was doing. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

The set moved from scene to scene effortlessly, which made the stage appear larger than it actually is; special effects were used with lighting and holograms, which meant they even tried to pull off the lake scene, which although was funny, boardered tacky.

I found it a little raunchy at times. Towards the end of the first act one could have heard a pin drop as everyone held onto the sexiness of the bedroom scene (you’ll know which scene I’m talking about if you’ve seen it). One of the ladies even commented to me that I was lucky to have my man to go home to which made me laugh.

The whole cast were on point. I don’t want to name drop as I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. The only criticism I have is that sometimes I wish lines were spoken and felt in the same way the music was felt through dance.

If you get the chance, take a trip back to the summer of ’63 – you’ll have the time of your life! – Oh, and yes, they do the lift!

Dirty Dancing runs until Saturday 24th September 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.

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Review: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is based on an old black and white low-budget B-movie that was released in 1960. I personally grew up with the 1986 version of the film starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin. Having never seen the stage show when I found out the tour was coming to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre I was thrilled at the thought of reviewing it.

Walking into the auditorium not only did the bright set instantly draw my eyes to the stage, but the hustle and bustle of a very excited audience on opening night added to the excitement. I was also fascinated by the few ‘Feed Me’ t-shirts I saw dotted about.

You may wonder how a play about a talking plant could be of any interest to anyone, or evenly remotely pass as a love story. But I assure you that it does. It’s a sweet love story brought to you from the partnership of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken; whom you would also know from their work on Disney’s animated classics “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991).

The story follows a geeky flower shop assistant Seymour (Sam Lupton) who was stuck living within the poverty of Skid Row, New York. Sweet Seymour is secretly in love with co-worker Audrey (Stephanie Clift). After discovering an unusual plant during a total eclipse (which he names Audrey II), he finds a way of saving his boss Mr Mushnik’s flower shop; whilst also winning Audrey’s heart away from her not very nice boyfriend Orin (Josh Wilmott). The chemistry between Seymour and Audrey couldn’t have been better and whoever casted those two needs a massive bravo! Seymour owned the stage throughout, never lacking energy. I wouldn’t be a true critic if I didn’t pick at something and if the only thing I can suggest is that Audrey needed a little more cleavage! Then they are clearly doing something right.

Unfortunately Rhydian Roberts was unable to play the role of the dentist Orin this evening, so his understudy Josh Wilmott filled his shoes, and that he did. Initially I didn’t think he looked mean or tough enough, but his vocals and energy soon put any of my doubts to rest.

Sasha Latoya (Crystal), Vanessa Fisher (Chiffon) and Cassie Clare (Ronnette) were on point! Their vocals, harmonies and presence kept the show alive and gave the show a little Motown vibe.

The show was full of energy throughout, with some well know songs including Downtown, Suddenly, Seymour and Be a Dentist, you could have actually heard a pin drop during the rendition of Somewhere That’s Green, an emotionally touching performance from Audrey (Stephanie Clift). Let’s not forget the song Get It, where a large singing plant is so realistic and believable it’s practically alive.

All in all it’s a fantastic show, where the hard work from everyone on and off set pays off.

Grab your tickets to this monster show and head down to Skid Row whilst its in town, but one word of advice, don’t feed the plant!

Little Shop of Horrors runs until Saturday 18th September 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: 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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