26 September 2019

My Beautiful Laundrette - Curve Review

Hanif Kureishi's adaptation of his own Oscar-nominated movie, My Beautiful Laundrette arrives for its world premiere as a play at Curve.
Jonny Fines (Johnny) and Omar Malik (Omar). Photo by Ellie Kurttz
The play, set in London during the Thatcher era, tells the story of young Pakistani, Omar, who turns his uncle's run-down laundrette into a thriving business. When Omar is confronted by a fascist gang, he reckons one as school friend Johnny, Omar used their previous history to defuse the situation. As they renovate the laundrette together, love blossoms.

Hanif Kureishi's writing is superb, the piece tackles themes such as racism and gender equality. It's an uncompromising view of our world and the multi-cultural society that we live in. Director Nikolai Foster has done a great job staging this piece. He's a director with a superb vision and this production shows of his strengths to the full.

The design is tremendous. Grace Smart's costumes are very much of the time. She describes in the programme "it's designed to feel like you've woken up on a set from your favourite 1980s music video". Ben Cracknell has done a superb job with really atmospheric lighting.
Cathy Tyson (Rachel), Nicole Jebeli (Tania) and Omar Malik (Omar). Photo by Ellie Kurttz
The music is provided by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (The Pet Shop Boys) who have written new music, especially for the production. It's very effective throughout. The play ends with the brilliant number "No Boundaries", which is a lyrically superb song "you're not the same as me, but we both agree, love has no boundaries".

The company of 9 actors all show their superb talents and with Nikolai's vision, they've created a stunning production. Omar Malik (Omar) and Jonny Fines (Johnny) are fantastic actors and terrific leads. They're excellent individually and in scenes together, watching their romance blossom is beautiful.

Hareet Doel is effective as Salim. He's got a strong presence every time he's on the stage. Kammy Darweish portrays Nasser well, slowly broken to the effects of the choices he's made in his life. Gordon Warnecke (Omar in the movie) plays rickets suffering Papa with great aplomb.

Nicole Jebeli gives a powerhouse of a performance as Tania. She's particular moving in the second act. Her character's arc is emotional as she fights for her place in the world, especially as a woman. Cathy Tyson is a hugely talented actress as shines as Rachel and Cherry.
Jonny Fines (Johnny) and Omar Malik (Omar). Photo by Ellie Kurttz
Paddy Daly is powerful as white supremacist Genghis. Balvinder Sopal supports well as Moose, who alongside Genghis and Johnny fight for "British jobs for British workers". Balvinder also plays Bilquis, who married to Nasser, she's left behind as he enters an affair with Rachel.

You leave the theatre with a beautiful image of love, the love of these two young men. It's uplifting, powerful and optimistic ending to a gritty play. A story that is nearly 35 years old is relevant now as it was the day it was written. Magnificent theatre. You do not want to miss this. Another smash-hit Made at Curve production.

Rating: ★★★★★

My Beautiful Laundrette plays at Curve until Saturday 5th October. It then tours and visits Leeds Playhouse, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham and Birmingham Rep. For more details visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/my-beautiful-laundrette/

22 September 2019

Pantomime Picks for 2019

It's nearly that time of the year, oh yes it is, pantomime season is fast approaching. With pantomime's up and down the country we've picked out just a few recommendations for you.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at Birmingham Hippodrome
One of the biggest and best pantomimes of the year happens at Birmingham's Hippodrome Theatre. This year looks set to be another fantastic season. Following the success of Qdos Entertainment's run of Snow White at the London Palladium last year they're transferring it to the heart of the midlands with a stellar cast.
Left to Right: Andrew Ryan, Matt Slack, Faye Brookes, Lesley Joseph,
Joe McElderry, Jac Yarrow and Doreen Tipton.
Birmingham panto favourite Matt Slack playing Muddles is joined by Lesley Joseph as The Wicked Queen, Joe McElderry as the Spirit of the Mirror, Faye Brookes as Snow White with Jac Yarrow (fresh of his recent run as Joseph at the London Palladium) playing The Prince. Dance group Flawless as the Wicked Queen's Men, the black countries own Doreen Tipton as the Lady in Waiting and Andrew Ryan returns as the Dame to play Nurse Nelly.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves runs from Saturday 21st December 2019 through till Sunday 2nd February 2020. https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/snow-white-the-seven-dwarfs/

Aladdin at Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Pantomime legend Christopher Biggins returns to the role of Widow Twankey in Aladdin playing this year in Bromley. Staring alongside Biggins will be comedian Rikki Jay as Wishee and ventriloquist Max Fulham as Washee. With a full cast to be announced this is Kent's premier pantomime and a festive trip to Peking is not to be missed - just don't touch the prawn balls!

Aladdin runs from Saturday 7th December 2019 through till Sunday 5th January 2020. https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/bromley-pantomime-panto-kent

Peter Pan at The Mayflower, Southampton
Take flight to Neverland and join Southampton's swashbuckling production of Peter Pan. There's a fine crew assembled and ready to take you on an adventure.

Marti Pellow plays Captain Hook alongside Darren Day as Mr Smee. Jaymi Hensley plays Peter Pan with Cassie Compton as Wendy Darling. Comedy legends The Grumbleweeds play the Pirates. Completing the cast are Kellie Gnauck, Micha Richardson and direct from the Cirque Berserk are The Timbuktu Tumblers.

Peter Pan runs from Saturday 14th December 2019 through till Sunday 5th January 2020. https://www.mayflower.org.uk/whats-on/pantomime-2019/

Peter Pan at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Blackpool's Grand Theatre ends their 125th year with Peter Pan. The beautiful theatre will transport audiences to Neverland for a festive adventure.
West End leading actor (recently seen in 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane) Tom Lister plays Captain Hook. BBC Radio Lancashire's Steve Royle plays Smee with Jack Heasman as Peter Pan. Christina Meehan plays Mrs Darling, Rachel Grundy as Tinkerbell, Natalie Hollingsworth as Tiger Lilly, Ruth Betteridge as Wendy and comedy acrobats The Nitwits as the Pirate Crew.

Peter Pan runs from Friday 6th December 2019 through till Sunday 5th January 2020. https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/peter-pan-pantomime/

Dick Whittington and his Cat at the Hackney Empire
One of the gems of Panto season happens every year at the Hackney Empire in London. With Suzie McKenna returning to write and direct again it's certain that this year's production will be another hit.
Clive Rowe, Tarinn Callender and Annette McLaughlin
Returning for his 13th pantomime season as the Dame is Clive Rowe as Sarah the Cook. He's joined by Tarinn Callender as Dick Whittington and Annette McLaughlin as Queen Rat. Hackney favourite Kat B will play Uncle Vincent the Cat, Tony Whittle plays Alderman Fitzwarren, Christina Tedders as Alice Fitzwarren and Sue Kelvin as Fairy Bowbells.

Dick Whittington and his Cat runs from Saturday 23rd November 2019 through till Sunday 5th January 2020. https://hackneyempire.co.uk/whats-on/dick-whittington/

Goldilocks and the Three Bears at The London Palladium
Undoubtedly one of the biggest pantomimes in the land is at the London Palladium. After 3 successful seasons pantomime will once again grace one of the world's most famous theatres with this year's production being Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Paul O'Grady will play the Evil Ringmaster alongside Julian Clary as The Ringmaster, Paul Zerdin as Silly Billy, Nigel Havers as Daddy Bear and Gary Wilmot as Dame Betty Barnum. TV presenter (The One Show and Countryfile) Matt Baker will make his pantomime debut as Joey the Clown. Further casting is too be announced.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears runs from Saturday 7th December 2019 through till Sunday 12th January 2020. https://www.palladiumpantomime.com/calendar/

This is just our pick from hundreds of productions up and down the country. We recommend you check your local theatre and support their production. Pantomime season is one of the most important to theatres and a great way for the younger ones to discover theatre for the first time. Check out the fabulous http://www.its-behind-you.com/diary.html for a full diary of the pantomimes happening this forthcoming season.

19 September 2019

War Horse - Curve Review.

The National Theatre's stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse gallops into Curve as part of it's UK and international tour.

Left: Charlie Tighe and the Tophorn Team. Right: Danny Hendrix and the Joey Team.
Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
Nick Stafford's adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's premiered back in 2007 and has continued to play worldwide since. It's not hard to see why this powerful piece of theatre has been a hit from day one.

The moving tale of young Albert Narracott and horse Joey, which was brought by Albert's father in a moment of drunken bravado. In 1914 Joey is sold to the army as a war horse and sent over to the battlefields northern France. Disillusioned at home Albert runs away to the army determined to be reunited with his horse.

You may wonder how you stage such a story but the work that directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris have done is tremendous. The puppets designed and made by Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of the Handspring Puppet Company are astonishing.

The life-sized horses are controlled by three puppeteers, their work is that good that they're completely believable. The movement and sounds created are exquisite, I found watching the horses particularly Joe and Topthorn really moving. There's a harrowing scene towards the latter end of act two (which I won't spoil) but it ripped my emotions to shreds and I just saw in awe and openly weeping.

Scott Miller (Albert Narracott).
Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
Further puppets include sinister crows who feast on the battlefields dead bodies, swallows that symbolise the peaceful home life and there's the goose, operated by Jonathan Cobb. The goose is tremendous. Adding a light sprinkling of comedy to the piece.

Adding real power to the production is the design work by Rae Smith. The use of huge torn out piece of a scrapbook which is translated a huge screen above the set for beautiful projections throughout sets the scenes. There's drawings of the landscapes of the Devon farm life through to the battlefields. The drawings really bring out the brutality of war.

Paule Constable's lighting teamed up Christopher Shutt's sound design further enhances the atmosphere of the production. The 'over the top' sequence really moved me, as the soldiers moved in slow motion towards the enemy.

Albert is played superbly by Scott Miller, from farm boy to battlefield soldier Scott carries the emotion of the story brilliantly. His interactions with Joey are heart rendering.

Tom Stacy, Domonic Ramsden and Alex Keay. Photo by Brinkhoff and Mogenburg
The brilliant large company is full of great performances. Billy Hendrix's terrified soldier Billy, Ben Cutler as Lieutenant Nicholls and Natalie Kimmerling as Emilie all worthy of mentions. Christopher Naylor's Friedrich Muller gives an excellent performance of life on the German side as his character tries to desert the front and save the horses from the battlefield.

Ben Murray's leads the gorgeous music of Adrian Sutton and John Tams wonderfully. He's a lovely folk voice. The ensemble music numbers are really powerful as the ensemble come from the back of the stage to great visual effect.

This is a masterpiece of a play and of live theatre. It's powerful, harrowing and deeply moving. An important story that everyone of any age should see. The often forgotten about part of World War One, the impact the horses had to the war effort and of the lives of those around them must be remembered and there's no better way to remember that this incredible play.

Rating: ★★★★★

War Horse continues at Curve until Saturday 12th October. For more information and to book visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/war-horse/

18 September 2019

Six The Musical

Last night we took a return visit to the smash hit Six The Musical at London's Arts Theatre. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss's piece telling the story of Henry VIII Six Wives from their perspective, giving us the her-story.

The show which started as a college production and has now got World domination in its sight (productions are due to open in St Paul, Boston, Australia, a new UK tour and Broadway, with a production already running in Chicago) and it's not hard to see why it's so popular. Great music, staging and a tremendous company. The script is also superb and the Six queens thrive on their solos and the interactions with each other.

Jarneia Richard-Noel is magnificent as Catherine of Aragon. Her rich vocal quality shines across the show. "No Way" is sung with great gusto. Millie O'Connell's Anne Boleyn, like a naughty teenager on her social media, is a delight. I love Millie's performance of  "Don't Lose Ur Head", a young performer with bundles of energy and talent.

Natalie Paris dazzles as Jane Seymour, she gets the most powerful number in "Heart of Stone" which left me with goosebumps. She sings it to perfection. Vicki Manser playing the role of Anne of Cleeves is just born to be on the stage. She just completely at ease and you can see she's enjoying every second. She's one of those performers you can't take an eye off, she emotes excellently.

The Six Queens during the Megasix Finale. See the bottom of this review for a video.
Collette Guitart covering only her second performance Katherine Howard was strong with a fine vocal. As the company dance captain too, you can see her superb movement throughout. Maiya Quansah-Breed is stunningly vocally and shines throughout with great interaction with the cast and audience. She's got that star quality.

The group numbers, "Six Wives", "House of Holbein" and "Six" are magnificent, the blending of 6 amazingly talented young performers together with their energy and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's choreography is first class.

A fantastic 4 piece band led by musical director, Katy Richardson, are a joy also. Supremely talented ladies.

A 75-minute joyous production it's easy to see why Six is selling out a month in advance in London. Brilliant from start to finish this is an unmissable piece of theatre. Get on your carriages and ride the her-story wave.

Six continues at the Arts Theatre in London with a UK tour starting in October. https://www.sixthemusical.com/.

17 September 2019

Curve announces plans for funds raised by Ian McKellen’s shows.

Curve has revealed plans to enable even more people to access the theatre, thanks to over £30,000 raised by legendary actor Ian McKellen at special performances earlier this year.
In celebration of his 80th birthday, Ian McKellen has visited theatres across the UK with a new solo show, raising money towards projects at each venue. As part of the tour McKellen performed in Curve’s Studio space 1 & 2 Jun.
Proceeds will allow Curve to partner with local charities Vista, Charity Link and Age UK to offer complimentary tickets for people who might not otherwise be able to attend a performance.
Leicestershire and Rutland’s leading charity for people with sight loss, Vista, will receive up to 200 tickets for One Under, a Graeae and Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production presented in association with Curve. The specially adapted drama features creative captioning and audio description at every performance.
Shilpa Gokani, Marketing and Communications Manager of Vista, said: 
“Talking to the people we support, we know that some of them have felt left out in the past, not able to visit places and enjoy the same things as their friends due to a lack of accessibility. Curve has, however, always been a place where they’ve felt welcomed and accommodated, with their touch tours and audio description. 
“This gift of 200 tickets for the accessible performances is absolutely wonderful. Not everyone who wants to attend accessible theatre has always been able to afford them previously or felt confident to attend, and our members are already excited about the shows. I hope that it will give them the confidence to see theatre more frequently and visit the Curve whenever they can.

In 2018 Curve partnered with Charity Link, an organisation set up to support vulnerable people and families across Leicester Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire, by providing free of charge tickets to Made at Curve productions ofThe Cat in the Hat or White Christmas. In continuation of this partnership, Curve will be donating an entire performance of its Christmas production for children and families, Giraffes Can’t Dance. A CurveRose Theatre Kingstonand Simon Friend production Giraffes Can’t Dance will run in Curve’s Studio from Mon 9 Dec – Tue 31 Dec.
Susan McEniff, Director of Charity Linksays: 
“After partnering with Curve last December to offer a magical Christmas experience to hundreds of local people, I had the pleasure of hearing first-hand what a huge difference a festive theatre trip can make to local families at what can be a really tough time of the year.”
“We are delighted to be working with Curve again to help brighten Christmas for even more vulnerable families, many of whom may never have experienced live theatre before.  Whilst Charity Link works to ensure that everyone has the basics in life, such as enough food to eat and a warm safe place to sleep, the benefits of being able to escape the hardship of daily life for a while, to dream and be inspired should not to be underestimated, particularly for children.”
Curve was the second theatre in the UK to presentand regularly programme Dementia Friendly performances. In partnership with Age UKLeicester and other local dementia projects and organisations, Curve will provide up to 300 complimentary tickets for the Dementia Friendly production of West Side Story on Wed 8 Jan 2020. This performance will see those living with dementia and their families and friends enjoying the festive season in a supportive and specially adapted environment. The Made at Curve production of West Side Story is directed by Nikolai Foster and runs 23 Nov 2019 – 11 Jan 2020.

Tony Donovan, Executive Director from Age UK, said:
“We are very grateful to Curve for giving many of our service users and their family members the opportunity to attend a relaxed, dementia-friendly performance of West Side Story free of charge. To be able to go to the theatre and not worry if a family member becomes restless, relieves any anxieties that may have previously deterred people from being able to enjoy a live performance.”

Chris Stafford, Chief Executive and Nikolai Foster Artistic Director at Curve said today: 

“It was a great honour to welcome Ian McKellen to Curve; Ian was incredibly generous during his visit and took the time to learn about what we do here and how the money raised from his performances will benefit our communities. It was deeply humbling and moving to see this extraordinary actor perform on our stage and astonish us with his breath-taking brilliance.”

To find out more about Curve, visit www.curveonline.co.uk

16 September 2019

Sunday at the Musicals - Haymarket Theatre

After a successful staging last November, Sunday at the Musicals returned to Leicester's Haymarket Theatre for another charity concert. Paul Burton's concert series brought the flavour of the best of the West End and Broadway to the heart of Leicester.

The charity concert was in aid of the local charity Loros. Loros is a hospice which supports terminally ill patients and their families. It's a fantastic cause and this theatrical celebration has hopefully raised a good sum for them.

The host for the evening was the always superb showbiz legend, Christopher Biggins. He is just at complete ease on stage, interacting well with the performers and the audience. Delivering a couple of wonderful anecdotes and showing a great passion for the performers and the shows that some of them are currently appearing it. 

Sinead Long opened the proceedings with a tremendous rendition of Love You I Do from Dreamgirls. Maria Kesselman, who played Christine opposite Michael Crawford, then performed a medley from The Phantom of the Opera. Darren Day suprised me with a great vocal performing both This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde and the title track from Sunset Boulevard

One of the night's major highlights was Tsemaye Bob-Egbe who gave two stunning performances, first (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman from Beautiful - The Carole King Story and followed River Deep Mountain High from Tina - The Tina Turner Musical. Tsemaye is the alternate Tina in the London production and what a powerhouse of a voice she has.

Charlotte Anne Steen performing. Photo by Beth Walsh.
Sarah-Louise Young's rendition of the title song from "La Cage Aux Folles" including a great bit of improvisation with a gentleman on the front row in his Marks and Spencer cardigan. Sarah also performed Could I Leave You from Follies. Charlotte Anne Steen followed with her beautiful vocal quality, performing Heaven Can Wait from Bat Out Of Hell and Maybe This Time from Cabaret. Louise Olley's followed with a great rendition of Backwards Barbie from 9 to 5 The Musical.

Alexandra Waite-Roberts delivered a spellbinding rendition of The Wizard and I from Wicked. Someone get her seen for Elphaba, she'd be so good in the role. Alexandra continued with Don't Rain on my Parade from Funny Girl. Again her vocals shined. We were then treated a couple of Les Mis alumni who have bright futures if the two performances are anything to go by, Grace Farrell performed Stars and the Moon from Songs For A New World (a song I'd not heard before but loved) and Hannah-Grace Lawson performed Right Hand Man from Something Rotten. Sinead Long returned to the stage with Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie

Ending the first half was the incredible Hugh Maynard. Hugh is a class act with such a gorgeous voice. A heartbreakingly powerful Not My Father's Son from Kinky Boots was followed by showstopping Bui-Doi from Miss Saigon

Opening the second act were the four-piece girl group, Ida. The four talented ladies sang a medley from Les Miserables. I particularly loved Jasmine's Faulkner's Stars. They're clearly an act on the rise, they are a group you should keep an eye out for. Following them went to Leicester's own Sam Bailey who sung Day of Plenty from Little Women. It was a shame to only get one song from Sam mind you, I'd have loved to hear something else too.

Alexandra Waite-Roberts performing. Photo by Beth Walsh.
Jennifer Tierney who is currently part of the London cast of Come From Away then performed two numbers. A beautiful version of So Big/So Small from Dear Evan Hansen and Me and the Sky from Come From Away. She's such a sensational performer. Identical twins Classical Reflection performed two numbers Pie Jesu and Somewhere Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. Maggie Lynne sang No-One But You from We Will Rock You superbly. Maggie also performed I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady. She has such an amazing vocal.

The tremendous Charlotte O'Rourke performed A Summer in Ohio from The Last Five Years, showing both her great vocals and comedic side. She also performed I Won't Send Roses from Mack and Mabel. Former Sugababe Amelle Berrabah followed with two fabulous performances Never Enough from The Greatest Showman and I Know Where I've Been from Hairspray.

Rounding off this night of amazing talent was Richard and Adam, the brothers are just a class act. Singing Somewhere from West Side Story and The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. They deservedly got a rousing standing ovation from the audience. They have a tour coming up soon and I suspect they may have sold a few extra tickets last night. 

The night wouldn't have been possible without the excellent James Church who accompanied most of the acts at the piano. He was brilliant throughout. The lighting too was great, except for the times in the first act where they shone very bright lights in the audience which made it hard to see the performers (lots of people around me were saying this at the interval and they seemed to change it for the second act).

It was truly a tremendous night. As Biggins noted during the show, we need more shows like this. It was great to see so many performers who I'd not heard of before and leaving the theatre wanting to hear so much more from them. If you get a chance to catch any of the future Sunday at the Musicals which run at London's Phoenix Arts Club in London (https://www.paulburtonproductions.com/sunday-at-the-musicals) I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to next years offering already!

10 September 2019

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story - Derngate, Northampton Review

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story arrives in Northampton as part of the shows 30th-anniversary tour.

The 30th Anniversary Production Artwork
The hit stage show is part musical theatre and part concert. Telling the of the rise and ultimately tragic demise of Buddy Holly. As tragic as the singer's fate is this show is a wonderful tribute and celebration of Buddy's short career and of the songs that still stand the test of time.

It's really not hard to see why this show has lasted and celebrated its 30 year with this new production. An appreciative audience on a Monday night in Northampton sang, clapped and danced their way through the performance. The show soundtrack is full of the classic songs that made Buddy Holly the original king of rock and roll. Numbers like "That'll Be the Day", "Peggy Sue" and "Oh Boy" are lapped up. Making the audience part of the show as the concert audience with plenty of interaction is a masterstroke.
Previous Company of Buddy.
An excellent performance by Christopher Weeks as Buddy Holly (the role is shared by Christopher and AJ Jenks) leads the show. I'm far too young to have been around during Buddy Holly's short heyday but watching Christopher is as close I'll ever get. Hearing the iconic songs sung by Christopher's magnificent voice is a delight too. If Buddy Holly was still with us he'd be very proud of the way Christopher plays him.

The show is very much an ensemble piece with all the company playing the music live too and what a sound they make. Joe Butcher (Joe B. Mauldin), Josh Haberfield (Jerry Allison) and AJ Jenks (Niki Sullivan) are superb as the three bandmates that make up the Crickets.

Joshua Barton (The Big Bopper) and Ben Pryer (Ritchie Valens) are both tremendous in the second act. More fine vocals. Hannah Price (Maria Elena Holly) beautifully brings Buddy Holly's wife to life. Harry Boyd does a great job of playing multiple roles, all easily distinguishable as different, quite a feat.

Miguel Angel, who has played over 1500 performances with the show, delivers a superb performance of "Reet Petite" during the Apollo sequence. Cartier Fraser and Sasah Latoya also both shine in the Apollo sequence.

The show inspired the modern jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You and Jersey Boys, this might be the original and the best of them.

It may be 60 years since Buddy Holly's tragic death, aged just 22, but on this evidence, his legacy is alive and well. A rock and roll smash-hit.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story plays at Northampton's Derngate Theatre until Saturday 14th September 2019. Visit https://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/whats-on/buddy-2/ to book. The 30th Anniversary tour has dates currently booking until June 2020. To see all further dates visit https://www.buddythemusical.com

Jordan Cunningham (Richie Vallens) in
a previous production of Buddy.

7 September 2019

Little Miss Sunshine - Haymarket Theatre, Leicester - Review

The musical adaptation of the 2006 Academy Award-winning movie, Little Miss Sunshine, arrives in Leicester. Written by Tony Award winners James Lapine and William Finn this new production is an enjoyable road trip ride following the dysfunctional Hoover family as they journey across America in a rickety camper van for the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant.
Sev Keoshgerian (Dwayne), Paul Keating (Frank), Lucy O'Byrne (Sheryl),
Gabriel Vick (Richard). Photo by Richard H Smith
It's a hugely likeable production with an uplifting and very funny script. This is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve. The songs by Lapine and Finn are enjoyable but sadly unforgettable, at times they feel like an extended dialogue rather than musical numbers. A great sounding 6 piece band under the musical direction of Arlene McNaught does play superbly throughout the performance.

All the characters, except for young Olive who simply seeks the title of the beauty pageant, are flawed. Dad, Richard, is hoping for his self-help book to be published. Mum, Sheryl, worried about the mountaing debts and lack of affection from her husband. Sheryl's brother, Frank, recovering from a suicide attempt after his partner leaves him. Olive's older brother, Dwayne, now choosing to be mute dreams of being a fighter pilot. Finally, Grandpa who will settle for some for new porn to enjoy.

The acting company are terrific playing at bringing out all those flaws Mark Moraghan has the standout number in the first act, a riotously funny number about his sex obsession, he is hilarious and instantly likeable. Lucy O'Byrne glows as the vulnerable mother, a fine young actress who boasts a lovely vocal range. Another superb vocal performance comes from Gabriel Vick as dad, Richard. Lucy and Gabriel interact brilliantly together.

Mark Moraghan (Grandpa), Gabriel Vick (Richard) and Lucy O'Byrne
(Sheryl). Photo by Richard H Smith
Paul Keating is touching as Frank. You can feel the heartbreak he's been through that led him to his suicide attempt. There's a particularly moving scene with Paul's Frank and Sev Keoshgerian's Dwayne that deals with self-harm. Sophie Hartley-Booth gives a tremendous performance as Olive. She's delightfully sweet and it's an assured performance for someone so young.

There's also terrific supporting performances by Matthew McDonald, Ian Carlyle and a magnificent show-stealing performance by Imelda Warren-Green. Alicia Belgarde, Elena Christie and Scarlet Roche all shine as the three mean girls and as other the beauty pageant contestants

The design with sets and costumes by David Woodhead and lighting by Richard Williamson are mostly visually great. The staging of the van using a revolve is a clever move although the kitchen chairs certainly don't have the wow factor.

This a hugely enjoyable production with a tremendous cast. It's very funny and uplifting. This is one road trip worth getting a ticket to ride along with.

Rating: ★★★★

Little Miss Sunshine continues at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 7th September. To book click here. There's 3 more venues left for the tour too, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Liverpool visit https://www.littlemisssunshinemusical.com for more information.

5 September 2019

Curve's New Work Festival Line Up Announced.

Curve have today announced the full line up and dates for their New Work Festival which takes place 16th-26th October 2019.

The festival will support and showcase the most dynamic and exciting talent from the Midlands, with several performances coming to Curve from runs at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Performances include Olivier Award-nominee Caroline Horton with All of MeLewis Doherty with acclaimed blockbuster parodies WOLF and BOAR and award-winning theatre company Fat Rascal with comedic musical Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch.

Tickets for the festival will go on sale to Curve Friends and Supporters on Fri Sep, to Members and Groups on Mon 9 Sep, and on general sale Wed 11 Sep, all at 12 noon.

The New Work Festival, formerly known as Inside Out, will take over spaces around the theatre’s building and will include productions and activities for all ages.

The festival will support and showcase the most dynamic and exciting talent from the Midlands, with
informal gigs, musical comedy, drama and more set to hit the theatre’s stages.

Several performances come to Curve’s New Work Festival direct from runs at the internationally
acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, including Olivier Award-nominee Caroline Horton, who will open Curve’s festival with multi-award winning (The Scotsman’s Mental Health Fringe Award, The Stage Award For Excellence) All of Me on Wed 16 Oct. One of Voice Mag’s Picks of the Fringe 2019, Lewis Doherty brings two blockbuster parody performances to Curve: WOLF a neon-noir cyber-punk action thriller (Fri 18 Oct) and BOAR, an epic fairytale (Fri 25 Oct).

Also returning to the Midlands from Edinburgh Fringe Festival are multi-award-winning theatre
company Fat Rascal and Curve Breakthrough Artist Jack Britton. Jack brings TED Talk meets
theatre show Mighty (a Curve and Pleasance Theatre Partnership) back to Curve for this year’s
festival on Tue 22 Oct. After a sell-out run at the Fringe, Fat Rascal brings musical parody Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch to Curve 25 – 26 Oct.

As part of Black History Month celebrations in October, Curve Associate Company Serendipity
brings BHM Live Showcase to Curve on Thu 17 Oct, with new performances from artists Isaac
Ouro-Gnao, Joshua Nash, Jordan Douglas, Akeim Toussaint Buck and a new film from Jaha

Filling the theatre with live performances and free activities between 11am-3pm, Curve will be hosting Diwali Family Day on Sat 19 Oct. That evening, Curve Affiliate Company Nupur Arts will celebrate youth with a vibrant selection of classical Indian dance and music from talented international performers in Yuva Nartan Utsav from 7pm.

On Thu 24 Oct In Good Company, the professional, creative and business development programme
for theatre makers and companies in the Midlands, will present PlayShuffle. Showcasing local talent
and aspiring new playwrights, PlayShuffle is a session focused on new writing.

The festival will also include informal gig Flux #LC from State of Flux Theatre (Fri 18 Oct), The
Basement Bunch and Toby Clark’s innovative feminist play The Eden Effect (Mon 21 Oct), Morph Dance Company’s new Indian contemporary dance double-bill Classical Encounters & Metamorphic, Curve Breakthrough Artist Louise White’s immersive, ocean-based production for families Washed Up…with a Turtle Named Reggie (Sat 26 Oct) and brand new works-in-progress presented throughout the festival from Curve Breakthrough Artists Lewys Holt, Si Rawlinson and Enter Edem.

The festival has been curated by Curve’s New Work Associate Beth Shouler, who joined the theatre in April this year. She commented:

“All of us at Curve love to find new and distinctive shows made by extraordinarily talented artists.

We’re thrilled the festival will showcase some of the best work being made by contemporary theatre-makers in the UK. There is something for everyone: new plays, comedy, physical theatre, works-in-progress, spoken-word, family work, dance, musicals, autobiographical and devised performances.

“It is a real celebration of the talent in the Midlands as every performance has creatives or performers from the region involved. There will also be workshops, surgeries and opportunities for artists to network. All of us at Curve hope audiences have as much delight watching these shows as we have. Ultimately, they are fascinating stories told in inventive and beautiful ways that make for a really great night out.”

The full festival line-up can be found on www.curveonline.co.uk

Tickets for Curve’s New Work Festival will go on sale to Curve Friends and Supporters on Fri 6 Septo Members and Groups on Mon 9 Sep, and on general sale Wed 11 Sep, all at 12 noon. Tickets can be purchased online at www.curveonline.co.uk, over the phone on 0116 242 3595 or in person at Curve’s Box Office.

Grease - Curve Review

The Made at Curve production of Grease returns to the city for 2 weeks as part of it's UK tour.
The Grease Company. Photo by Manuel Harlan
The iconic musical, Grease, returns to Curve where this production originated on a sell-out run over the festive period a couple of years ago. One of the world's best-loved musicals tells the tale of teenage lovers, leather-clad Danny and girl-next-door Sandy. After a whirlwind summer romance, the pair are unexpectedly reunited at Rydell High School as they transfer for senior year. Will they survive the trials and tribulations of teenage life and find love again?

Under the direction of Curve's artistic director, Nikolai Foster this production breathes a freshness to the piece. With the iconic 1978 movie version still being ever-popular, it's a brilliant decision that's been made to steer slightly away with this production. Gone are the T-Birds now the Burger Palace Boys. Sandy's iconic blonde hair is gone too, now a brunette. Subtle changes but the narrative structure is unchanged.

There's much more of grit and a darker tone to this production. Forget the comic strip feel you may expect, this feels more of a teenage angst story than a parody comedy. That realism of the characters makes you emphasise with their turmoil and journeys more than I expected too.

A superb live band under the musical direction of Neil MacDonald with arrangements by Sarah Travis bring the iconic numbers to life. Those iconic numbers such as "Summer Nights" and "You're The One That I Want" have the audience singing along in a terrific megamix which ends the night. Some of the new musical numbers do get lost alongside those iconic counterparts but they do fit and work well.
Louis Gaunt as Kenickie (centre) and the male ensemble. Photo Manuel Harlan
Legendary choreographer Arlene Phillips has done a spectacular job with the choreography. The company move superbly throughout. The ensemble dance sequences like "Hand Jive" are undoubtedly as good any production you'd see on the West End.

A fantastic design team has staged the production superbly. Colin Richmond's school hall design and the use of the various elements within that make it visually a great production to watch. There's a great use of various props, including the car Greased Lightin' which also takes the air in one scene. Guy Hoare's lighting and Douglas O'Connell's projection both are superb too.

That highly talented company are led by Dan Partridge's Danny Zuko, he's excellent throughout with a soaring strong vocal. The chemistry between him and Martha Kirby's Sandy is there from the beginning. She's equally as brilliant, she delivers a spellbinding "Hopelessly Devoted To You" in the second act. Watching both Dan and Martha you just know they'll be in the West End leading shows in the near future.
Dan Partridge (Danny) and Martha Kirby (Sandy)
Photo by Manuel Harlan.
In the absence of the poster boy Peter Andre who plays Teen Angel at certain performances, we were treated to Darren Bennet in the role. Whilst the role is essentially just one number ("Beauty School Dropout") Darren also delivers an exuberant performance as DJ Vince Fontaine. He's a bit of a legend in these parts and it's great to see him thriving and relishing the role.

There is fine work by both Louis Gaunt as Kenicke and Damian Buhagair as Sonny Latieri. Eloise Davies's Frenchy is charming and loveable. Jordan Abey's Doody has a great number "Those Magic Changes" in the second act which is delivered superbly. Natalie Woods (Jan) and Ryan Andreson (Roger) are delightful, their spark and blossoming romance is a real joy to watch. Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky's Rizzo is sassy and played perfectly. Rhianne's stunning vocal range is great to hear too. Special mention to Tara Sweeting too who as Marty looks like a talent to keep an eye on.

Running at 2 and a half hours there is time's where the dialogue could have been better worked particularly in the opening scenes but once we're through those scenes the production flows excellently and is hugely enjoyable.

Forget the movie, this new production of the Grease is the want that you want.

Rating: ★★★★

Grease plays at Curve in Leicester until Saturday 14th September. To book visit here.
The UK tour continues until mid-October with stops in Dublin, Oxford, Bromley and Cardiff. For more details visit here.

Below is a Q and A with leads Dan Partridge (Danny Zuko) and Martha Kirby (Sandy Dumbrowski)

What makes this production of Grease so special?

Dan: It’s more interesting! As it’s a slightly different script to the film, it’s something a lot of people haven’t seen before. It’s a reason why so many people are coming to see the show because it’s not just going to give you the songs you want - it’s going to give you even more!
Martha: I think as a cast as well, everybody gets on ridiculously well.
D: It’s a real family.
M: I think that really shows in this production, which adds another level of friendship on and off stage.

So, it’s like the cast really are your school friends?

D: Yes! There are moments on stage where you kind of feel like you’re not struggling to find the character because it’s basically just me and my mates having the best time.

So, everybody feels like they know Danny and Sandy, but what do these characters mean to you?

D: Quite a lot! I played the role twice when I was a kid, so it’s been really nice and means quite a lot because I think it’s a film we all grew up with and we know it so well.
M: I think it was important for me to give Sandy more human qualities. People can be naive but still have a backbone and stand up for themselves and have an opinion and that’s what I wanted. I want her to have an opinion about her life and everything that goes on in it.

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

D: I have a few! I like the beginning of Greased Lightnin’, I also like Summer Nights because it kicks off the show and I like the Sandy transformation moment as well as it goes into You’re the One that I Want because it’s so iconic.
M: I love the bedroom scene with the girls, I think it’s just hilarious. I also love the scene with Rump and Jan – they do such a beautiful job.

Martha Kirby (Sandy) and Dan Partridge (Danny).
Photo by Manuel Harlan
What has it been like to work with Nikolai?

M: I love him!
D: it’s been amazing, he’s really given us free rein to go with our instincts – he really trusts us as actors. He’s amazing.
M: He’s such a lovely man, such a supportive person. You don’t feel uncomfortable to make an idiot of yourself because he just gives you the support to really challenge yourself and push yourself in a direction you wouldn’t normally go down. I have so much respect for him.

Why should people come and see this version of Grease?

D: Because it’s exciting, it’s innovative, it’s new – and it’s sexy!
M: You’ll have a great time!
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