Tag Archives: Theatre Critic

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 – Evita

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Evita is certainly going to win over Aylesbury.

Being the huge Evita fan that I am, of both the stage and the Oscar winning film version starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. I was slightly concerned that I would naturally compare productions.

Evita, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, first came to the stage in 1976 telling the story of Eva Person, wife of former dictator Juan Peron.

Maria Eva Duarte is a girl form a small Argentinian village who travels to the bright lights of Buenos Aires, where she becomes an actress (slut) and basically sleeps her way into high society before capturing the hearts and minds of the nation as the country’s first lady; before dying of cancer at the young age of 33.

Unfortunately, I didn’t warm to Madalena Alberton as Eva right away. I felt she wasn’t young enough and her voice was a little to trying, possibly too whiny to pull off being a 15 year old girl. As the show went on she perfectly balanced the softness yet strength of her voice winning me over. Her stage presence shone as she gave everything she has to the powerful role. Some say “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” is the song of the show, for me “You Must Love Me” and “Eva’s Final Broadcast” were the ones that choked me emotionally.

Marti Pellow (Wet, Wet, Wet) plays Che who reflects the voice of the Argentine people. He’s naturally breathtakingly handsome and looks the part. I’m not sure if his microphone was too loud, which could just be an opening night glitch, but there was a certain something missing in capturing such a strong character. Maybe its simply because he isn’t Antonio Banderas! Although he also grew into his role as the show went on.

The mistress, Sarah McNicholas makes the most of her moment with a stunning performance of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. She had an innocent aura and looked the age that I felt Eva should have look at the beginning of the show.

The stage and lighting with marble staircases, pillars and moving platforms works perfectly.

This tour is a musically suburb piece of theatre taking Evita to new highs. Although falling in love with the film has actually spoilt it a little for me and knowing it word for word I question if I would follow the story line so well if I has not known it.

All in all it’s a great evenings entertainment. With tears streaming down my face and the standing ovation from the audience the only things wet, wet, wet were my eyes… Kleenex please.

Grab your tickets while you can because Evita will always be high flying, adored.

 

Review – Immortal Chi: A Warrior’s Quest for Harmony Review

Wow! Where do I begin to review a show that has left me speechless?

Immortal Chi is a brand new martial arts spectacular direct from China that is currently touring the UK. We were lucky enough to have two performances at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre so I went down to see what it was all about. All I knew that it was from the producers of the renowned production Shaolin Warriors, so I was expecting to be amazed, although part of me thought it would be men rolling around on stage leaving me a little bored and confused.

Immortal Chi is about the journey of a Tai Chi Master who loses and gains his chi. The show captures his ultimate struggles, and your attention from beginning to end. The Chinese Martial Arts is absolutely breathtaking, using not only the traditional Chinese Wushu techniques, they’ve combined this with acrobatics, multi-media images and simply beautiful music and costumes.

The music and Chinese girl drummers are simply world class, you can feel their passion in the music, making it more of a dance than just simply playing an instrument. Their costumes are perfect giving them a certain class and the lighting throughout is tastefully done capturing each moment.

The show takes you through a journey of different emotions as you watch the dramatic scenes with metal bars, the perfectly choreographed dances, theatrical scenes, explosive music, electric lighting and the multi media images just amazed me; it also has comedy element to it but I don’t want to give too much away.

This show will not only appeal to martial arts enthusiasts as it also had a modern element to it keeping it up to date and appealing to a larger audience.

Immortal Chi is a kung fusion of arts not to be missed.

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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