31 October 2019

Nativity The Musical - Review

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the first Nativity movie was released. The hit stage adaptation of that original movie returns for its third year running opening at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre.
Scott Paige (Centre) as Mr Poppy with Scott Garnham (black jumper) and Ashleigh Gray (far right) and the Nativity children. 
Writer, composer and director Debbie Isitt proves once again that she is the Queen of Christmas. Keeping much of what made the stage adaptation work but with a few new tweaks, Debbie's production dazzles throughout. 

We follow three friends, Paul Maddens, Gordon Shakespeare and Jennifer Lore. Paul dreams of becoming a primary school teacher, Gordon wants to be a famous actor but too ends up at a primary school and Jennifer dreams of working in Hollywood. A blossoming romance between Paul and Jennifer is cut short just before Christmas time as she accepts a Hollywood internship. Leaving Paul deflated and with new hate for Christmas.

At St Bernadette's Primary School it's decided that Mr Maddens will direct this year's Nativity, he's joined by classroom assistant Mr Poppy. Chaos ensues when Mr Poppy overhears that Hollywood will be coming over to film the Nativity. It's up to the teachers and students to club together and make their Hollywood Nativity dream come true.

Scott Paige brings Mr Poppy to life in such an exciting new way. His boundless energy and infectious personality lighten up everything. He is a joy from the get-go. This really is a star-making turn from him. Scott Garnham is tremendous as Paul Maddens, he plays the character superbly encompassing every emotion. The two Scott's interact magically together, a genius double act. 

Charles Brunton is brilliant as Gordon Shakespeare, he brings the madcap of the role out to the full. He is wicked and the right amount of evil. Ashleigh Gray's warmth and likeability as Jennifer make it easy to see why Paul is still in love with her. Ashleigh's gorgeous vocal quality is a joy to listen too.
The 2018 Nativity Company. Photo by Richard Davenport
Penelope Woodman's is hugely likeable as Mrs Bevan, the headteacher of St Bernadette's, she has such a great vocal range too. Jamie Chapman returns and shines in the numerous roles he plays, especially as the snooty newspaper critic, Patrick Burns. Dani Dyer givens a nice cameo as Hollywood producer Polly Parker. Pepper who plays Cracker the Dog naturally upstages everyone.

The adult ensemble all do a fine job. Jonathan Bourne's Lord Mayor and Kade Ferraiolo's Mr Rye are great. Helena Pipe bursts to life in "Good News". Dawn Buckland, Billy Roberts, Amy Oxley and Connor Ewing all enhance the production with their presence and ability. 

The children are a joy. They're all excellently talented. I adore the number "Dear Father Christmas" where the children sing about the letters they've written for Santa wishing for happiness for Mr Maddens and the Nativity. The Nativity sequences which the production ends on are 20 minutes of just wonderful happiness. The whole company come together to deliver a sensational finale. I defy you not to sit with a massive smile on your face. 

There's great music numbers written by Debbie and Nicky Ager. The famous numbers which feature in the film are here, "Sparkle and Shine", "One Night, One Moment", "Good News" and "One Look" are all joined by original numbers which work really well. "Hollywood Are Coming" is a stand out in the first act. One of the best sounding live bands really enhances the production, under the musical direction of Dan Glover, the 5 piece band are as good as any you'll hear on any theatre production.

David Woodhead's colourful design sparkles throughout. The use of the giant Christmas presents on either side of the stage really enhances extra stage entrance points. Tim Mitchell's lighting design too really enhances the production, especially in the second act's Nativity sequences. 

Andrew Wright, who is one of the finest choreographer's and directors around once again adds marvellous choreography which is superbly performed by the company. 

There's really not a weak moment in the 2-hour 20-minute production and that comes right from the top and Debbie Isitt's genius vision. Sharing an auditorium with people of all ages who are sat laughing, smiling and have a brilliant time leaves me feeling warm and uplifted. You'll leave the theatre with an extra bit of happiness in your step. Nativity is back at the top of the Christmas tree.

Rating: ★★★★★ - a festive joy for all ages. Nativity proves once again why it's the BEST family production around. Unmissable.

Nativity continues at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre until Saturday 2nd November. The tour then visits Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre, Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre, Cardiff's Wales Millennium Centre, Plymouth's Theatre Royal, Southampton's Mayflower Theatre. It then plays at London's Eventim Apollo from 11th to 29th December. For more details and tickets visit https://www.nativitythemusical.com/

29 October 2019

One Under - Curve Review

Winsome Pinnock's drama arrives at Curve as part of it's new UK tour. The play is radically remodelled from the original 2005 staging. It's pruned down into a 95-minute gripping tale production which is commissioned by Ramps on the Moon and produced by Theatre Royal Plymouth and Graeae and presented in association with Curve.
Reece Pantry (Sonny) and Stanley J Browne (Cyrus). Photo by Patrick Baldwin
Producers, world-renowned theatre company Graeae continue their groundbreaking work of making theatre accessible. This production uses captions and offers audio description at every performance It's wonderful to see such inclusive theatre delivered at such a quality level.

The play follows London Underground train driver, Cyrus, who has to leave his job following the suicide of Sonny who jumps in front of his train. The play shifts the guilt onto Cyrus and his search for answers to what led Sonny to do this.

Told through flashbacks, the play is gripping and whilst the narrative does rely heavily on coincidence it's a deep and thought-provoking piece. Director Amit Sharma has done a splendid job to make the play concise and fast-moving. It's a great reason for more conversation too about men's mental health.
Shenagh Govan (Nella)  & Evlyne Oyedokun (Zoe).
Photo by Patrick Baldwin
The five actors are superb. Stanley J. Browne who bears a real resemblance to Idris Elba is strong throughout as Cyrus. The characters journey through the play as he searches for clues and answers is powerfully performed by Stanley. Reece Pantry Sonny is touching, as an audience member, you find yourself too trying to piece together what leads this young man to end his life.

Shenagh Govan is touching as Nella, Sonny's foster mother. Her relationship with Cryus was particularly intriguing to watch bubble. Clare Louise English is likeable as Christine, a laundrette worker who Sonny spends his final night with, wishing to grant her three wishes. Evlyne Oyedokun's Zoe is strong and moving, especially towards to plays final scenes, she's a fantastic young actress.

The five actors play the plays fast natured narrative superbly, aided by Amelia Jane Hankin's simple but effective design.

As someone who has suffered from mental health issues and been to quite dark places personally, I found the whole thing gripping and deeply thought-provoking. A play I'm really glad I've seen and I wholeheartedly recommend this to everyone. Tense, gripping and hugely enjoyable.

Rating: ★★★★ - fast-paced thrilling, thought-provoking and superbly performed.

One Under plays at Curve on Wednesday 30th October for tickets visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/.  The tour continues till December including a run at London's Arcola Theatre, visit https://graeae.org/our-work/one-under/ for further details.
Reece Pantry (Sonny) & Clare-Louise English (Christine) Photo by Patrick Baldwin.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Curve Review

The smash-hit musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert parks itself at Curve as part of it's current UK tour.
Miles Western (Bernadette), Joe McFadden (Tick/Mitzi) and Nick Hayes (Felicia/Adam).
Photo by Darren Bell
The delightful musical full of classic tunes, a hilarious script and tremendous performances. Right from the opening of "It's Raining Men" this show dazzles from the get-go.

Loosely based on the 1994 movie, we follow three drag queens as they unite for a trip across the Australian outback in a battered old bus they christen Priscilla.

Tick (alter ego Mitzi) is the main reason for the journey to Alice Springs. He aims to put on the show of a lifetime and meet his 6-year-old son for the first time. Joining Tick is recently widowed, Bernadette, the trip a welcome distraction and the flamboyant Adam (alter ego Felicia).

Along the way, there's more than a few bumps on the road but with the joyous soundtrack, it's a toe-tapping often hilarious journey. Numbers are enhanced by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick-Smith's stunning design and costumes. Ben Cracknell's lighting effectively adds to the visual of the production.

The Company of Priscilla. Photo by Darren Bell.
Tom Jackson Greaves has created stunning choreography, it's techincal and excellently performed by a highly talented company.

Joe McFadden is magnificent as Tick/Mitzi, he full of boundless energy and pleasant vocals. Miles Western is perfectly cast as Bernadette, he nails every beat of the character. Nick Hayes completes the trio and he too is fabulous. He dances and sings up a storm.

In the talented company, there's stunning vocals from the 3 divas played by Aiesha Pease, Claudia Kariuki and Rosie Glossop. Daniel Fletcher's mechanic Bob is lovely as friendship blossoms with Bernadette. Jacqui Sanchez has a memorable turn as Cynthia and Jordan Cunningham did a fine job understudying the roles of Miss Understanding/Jimmy.

The seven-piece live band under the musical direction of Sean Green are a joy. In a show containing numbers including "Boogie Wonderland", "Finally", "I Will Survive" and "Go West" the musicians sound fantastic throughout.

The show is a dazzling delight, a bundle of fun with a touch of sentiment. The audiences exploded in thunderous applause as the company perform a rousing finale. This is a bus ride you don't want to miss.

Rating: ★★★★★ - joyous and brilliant escapism. An explosion of glitter, sequins and happiness.

Priscilla plays at Curve until Saturday 2nd November, for tickets visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/. The tour then continues with dates currently booking until May 2020 visit https://priscillauktour.com/tour-dates/ for venues and dates.
Rosie Glossop, Claudia Kariuki and Aiesha Pease as the Divas. Photo by Darren Bell.

28 October 2019

Powerful Play One Under Comes To Curve

Theatre critic Matt Trueman talks to award-winning writer Winsome Pinnock and director Amit
Sharma about their reworking of the 2005 play One Under. A production exploring human
relationships and mental health, One Under comes to Curve Tue 29 – Wed 30 Oct and is a
Graeae and Theatre Royal Plymouth Production, commissioned by Ramps on the Moon and
presented in association with Curve.

Stanley J Browne & Reece Pantry in One Under. Photo by Patrick Baldwin
Some plays have prescience, some are ahead of their time. Fourteen years after Winsome Pinnock’s
puzzle of a play One Under had its world premiere, with Graeae’s new version of the work about to
embark on a national tour, this tale of Londoners that fall through the cracks has arguably never felt
more of the moment. “The play had always left questions for me,” the playwright insists, “I’d always
wanted to return to it.”

One Under starts with a suicide – its title being the term tube drivers use when somebody jumps in
front of their trains – before tracing the impact of that incident on several Londoners whose lives criss-cross like tube lines: the train driver, convinced it meant more than mere coincidence; the deceased’s foster mother, coming to terms with her grief; a local dry cleaner who met the man immediately before he passed away. In the process, One Under nudges up against a number of prevailing issues: mental health, urban environs, precarious existences and marginalised identities.

Most prominently, Pinnock’s play captures something specific about city life: the way millions of us
brush shoulders every day, co-existing across a vast shared space. “I’m a Londoner and that’s how
we live, isn’t it?” Pinnock explains. “You’re constantly colliding with strangers and there’s a possibility for great intimacy in that, as well as explosions.”

Those encounters, born out of physical proximity, tend to transcend the looser boundaries of identity.
As such, Pinnock’s play presents a cross-section of the capital. “It’s completely intersectional,” insists
director Amit Sharma – and that’s something that Graeae, the UK’s leading D/deaf and disabled
theatre company is perfectly placed to explore. The new version will feature a cast of disabled and
non-disabled actors.

Reece Pantry & Clare-Louise English in One Under. Photo by Patrick Baldwin.
What its characters share, however, is an economic situation. “It feels to me a play about class,”
Sharma continues. “It doesn’t talk about the failures of structures in society. It talks about the
consequences of them.”

Pinnock picks up the thought: “When people talk about poverty, I don’t think they talk about what it
can do to people – physically, mentally; the sort of things people have to deal with as a result of living in poverty.”

“That hasn’t changed,” she stresses. “It was the same when I was a child, when I was a teenager when I went off to university. What happens is that it gets worse for people because governments
make it harder. This government made it harder – and then blamed the people they’d made it harder

Sharma sees the erosion of the welfare state as having exacerbated the precariousness of life in
poverty, sharpening the problems of an unequal society in the process. “I’m not saying that, in 2005
everyone else was doing cartwheels, but there was a level of support and, over the last 14 or 15
years, that’s gone.”

Partly as a result, Pinnock is having a purple patch, some might even say a renaissance. Having
emerged in the late Eighties as a vital new voice, the first black British woman to be staged at the
National Theatre, she had watched her work recede from mainstream stages in recent years.
Fashions changed. Commissions fells away.

However, a pivotal intervention changed that. When Madani Younis revived her masterful full-length
debut Leave Taking at the Bush Theatre in London, starting its Passing the Baton initiative to re-
establish a black British canon of modern classics, it introduced a new generation of artists and
audiences to her work. Pinnock has since won the prestigious Alfred Fagon award for her latest play,
Rockets and Blue Lights.

That her writing has been neglected is, Sharma says, “a tragedy” – part of a wider erasure of
marginalised voices in British theatre. “Winsome’s a hot new thing right now,” he jokes, fondly, “but
Winsome herself has been here. It’s people’s perspectives and lenses that haven’t.”
Evlyne Oyedokun & Stanley J Browne in One Under. Photo by Patrick Baldwin.
Pinnock herself is more sanguine, suggesting that Leave Taking’s revival “really started a
rollercoaster.” She believes Passing the Baton “has changed quite a lot” in itself but thinks her
playwrighting style might chime with the times. Her plays are about people more than they are plot. “I know it’s a bit contentious to say, ordinary people,” she expands, “but they are exploring ordinary
people and everyday lives, and showing them to be complex, intelligent and very interesting.” Her
characters come with authenticity too. Born in Islington to working-class Jamaican immigrants, she’s
always written the world around her. “I’ve lived with these sorts of characters, grown up with them,”
she says. “They’re fascinating to me.”

With Graeae reviving One Under, it adds another layer of intersectionality. “Whatever marginalised
group you’re in, disabled people are probably the very first group to be shat on,” Sharma explains.
“It’s hard being a disabled person. In fact, it costs £500 more a month in this country.” That fact only
exacerbates the poverty portrayed in the play.

“The reason this feels like a Graeae play is because the company’s most successful plays have been
rooted in people,” Sharma adds – the point being that D/deafness and disability sits alongside and as
part of the human experience. It affects everything: sex, communication, mobility – and mental health.

“Mental health is absolutely part of the disabled experience,” he stresses. “Where the perception of
Graeae revolves around physical and sensory impairment, it felt quite apt to put mental health front
and centre.”

One Under runs at Curve Tue 29 - Wed 30 Oct. To find out more and book tickets, visit

23 October 2019

Jennifer Tierney Interview

Jennifer Tierney is part of the original UK company of the 4 times Olivier Award-Winning musical Come From Away which plays at London's Phoenix Theatre. Her previous stage credits include Shrek (UK Tour), Wicked (Apollo Victoria, London), Mamma Mia (RCL, Little Star and International Tour) and Jerry Springer The Opera (UK Tour). Jennifer kindly agreed to answer a few questions for us.
Jennifer Tierney
Q: How would you describe Come From Away to someone who didn't know it?
A:  Come From Away is a story of humanity, kindness and selflessness. It’s a wonderful story of relationships and friendships and gives us a reminder that at a time of tragedy people can pull together and change lives.

Q: With the show getting such a huge reaction (those standing ovations at the end) every night. Is it special being in a show with such a powerful and positive message?
A: I’ve been very lucky to be a part of shows in the past that have a big reaction but there is something very unique and special about how the audience respond here and I think it’s because we know it has affected them and that we are telling the story of real-life experiences and relationships. It’s incredibly moving to be a part of something so special.

Q: I believe you as a cast were all "screeched in"and made Newfoundlanders. Did you get to taste screech and kiss the cod?
A: Oh yes we did!!! We had to repeat some Newfoundland sayings, drink the screech and kiss the cod!!! We weren’t getting out of there if we didn’t and it was a brilliant night to experience with the Newfoundlanders!

Q: How was it being able to meet some of the people who inspired the story? Did it change the way you play the characters?
A:  It’s been such a unique experience in so many ways and meeting the people who inspired the story has made it very special for us all. Hearing their personal accounts and their memories of those days have been so inspiring. But they are so committed to our show too! They seem so proud of their story being told and it’s our privilege to do so.

Q: As a standby, you get to cover for a few roles in the show. How is the challenge of being a standby?
A:  I’ve been a cover for many years but never for so many roles all at once and our show is logistically very hard to learn. From the chairs to the accents and many other facets that make the show so great it’s been the biggest challenge of my career to date but also hugely satisfying when it all comes together.

Q: With the show being a real ensemble show. Does that make you stronger as a company?
A: I think it does yes because we all have to rely on each other for many things like passing props and chair movements etc. And it’s such a fast-paced show if we aren’t engaged all the time things can fall apart quite quickly. So yes working on the show as one unit is important for the success of the show!

Q: Do you have a favourite number in the show?
A: I love the Prayer. It’s the first song I heard from the album that made me emotional as I always loved that hymn growing up but the story and meaning behind all the different faiths coming together is a wonderful message.

Q: You have a solo gig coming up in December. How excited are you for that?
A: I’m so excited!!! I’ve finished my setlist and have a brilliant band and gorgeous arrangements that my friend Craig Adams and I have worked on together. I’m so excited to sing music by artists that have inspired me and songs that have meaning to me.

Q: Can you give any hints to what you'll be singing?
A: Nope! ;). But I’m so excited to share the night with everyone who’s making it!

Come From Away continues at London's Phoenix Theatre where it's currently booking till May 2020 for tickets visit https://comefromawaylondon.co.uk/. For Tickets for Jennifer's Taking Chances Gig at Zedel on Sunday 1st December 2019 visit https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/jennifer-tierney-taking-chances-dec-2019

22 October 2019

A Taste of Honey - Curve Review.

Shelagh Delaney's career-defining ground-breaking play arrives at Curve as part of it's UK tour.
Gemma Dobson (Jo) and Jodie Prenger (Helen). Photo by. Marc Brenner
The play, set in post-war Salford, is a gripping depiction of working-class life and the relationship of a mother and daughter. Fiesty teenager Jo and her mother, Helen, live together in a small basic flat. When Helen runs off with a car salesman, Jo takes up with a Navy sailor Jimmy, who promises to marry her before he heads for the seas and gets her pregnant. Art student Geoffrey moves in and takes on the role of a surrogate parent until he mistakenly sends for Helen and their unconventional world unravels.

Bijan Sheibani's production is tremendous and moves at a great pace. The second act does feel the stronger of the two acts, much of that is down to Geoffrey's introduction. It's a tremendous decision to have an on-stage band. The three musicians, David O'Brien (musical director and keys), George Bird (drums) and Alex Davis (double bass) add a great atmosphere. Intersecting scenes with musical numbers is a clever move that really works.

Hildegard Bechtler's design fills the vast Curve stage well. Mostly set inside the same flat, it's quite bleak and very timely for the production. A lot of the dialogue scenes take place on a sofa which is at centre stage, unfortunately due to the Curve's new auditorium layout, I couldn't always see what was happening.

Gemma Dobson (Jo) and Stuart Thompson (Geoffrey). Photo by Marc Brenner.
Jodie Prenger is on top form as Helen. She really is extraordinary to watch. She fizzes with confidence. An actress right at the top of her game. Jodie is matched by Gemma Dobson who too is brilliant at Jo. She's more emotionally affecting especially as she grows with frustration at her mother's neglect. Together they offer the play's best moments and are perfectly cast.

There are strong supporting performances. Stuart Thompson makes his professional theatre debut in the role of Geoffrey. Adding much-needed calm he is instantly likeable. Tom Varey is commanding as Peter, he is darkly controlling of those around him, especially Helen. Durone Stokes is charming as Jimmie, the relationship with Jo is really believable and tugs at the audience's heartstrings.

Shelagh Delaney wrote this play when she was only 19 during the 1950s. It's a punchy and witty script. As relevant now as it ever has been. A resounding magnifying glass of vulnerability and strengths of the female spirit in a deprived world. This is certainly a delicious and enjoyable taste of honey.

Rating - ★★★★ - superbly written and acted performance. An excellent modern take on a classic play.

A Taste of Honey plays at Curve until Saturday 26th October - for tickets visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/a-taste-of-honey. The production visits Bath, Wolverhampton and Norwich before running at London's Trafalgar Studios from December 5th. For more information visit https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/a-taste-of-honey-uk-tour

Gemma Dobson (Jo), Tom Varey (Peter) and Jodie Prenger (Helen). Photo by Marc Brenner

Fame - Haymarket Theatre Review

Fresh from a run in London the 30th Anniversary production of Fame arrives at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre.
The company of Fame. Photo by Tristram Kenton.
The stage musical based on the 1980s film we follow the students of New York's High School for Performing Arts as they try to navigate through the highs and lows of young life. It may be some 30 years old but the themes of the show, such as romance, prejudice, literacy and sexuality, will always resonate with audiences.

Unfortunately, it's a slow burner of a piece. A weak script often holds everything back. The first act, in particular, is the weaker of the two, it doesn't really take off until the title number but from there everything improves. After the interval, the show only seems to grow in strength and the second act is far superior and much more enjoyable.

The music numbers are sadly forgettable too. The title song is a high point and it gives for a rousing finale but there are too many numbers that just don't hit the mark. I defy you to leave the theatre being able to hum any number other than the title song. Much like with the script, the second act numbers are superior to the first act.

For what the show lacks in its script and music the work done by the creative team is commendable. Nick Winston is a tremendous director and his work saves the piece. His choreography is spectacular and excellently performed. Morgan Large has done a great job with the design too. It's visually great to look at it. The use of younger photos is effective. The lighting seemed a bit wayward at times but that could be down to it being their first night in a new venue.

The hard-working company are the productions saving grace. Jorgie Porter is an excellent dancer and actress. She moves with such grace and poise in the role of Iris. She's matched by Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone. Jamal is an astonishing mover. He acts well too and is especially affecting the scenes towards the end regarding his characters inability to read.

Jorgie Porter (Iris) and Jamal Kane Crawford (Tyrone). Photo by Tristram Kenton.
Josie Benson gives a powerhouse of a vocal as teacher Miss Sherman during the number "These Are My Children". It was her first night in the role and she fits into the company perfectly. Molly McGuire nails the emotions, in particular, the shyness, of Serena superbly and sings well. Molly plays off Keith Jack as Nick effectively.

Simon Anthony gives a star turn in the role of Schlomo. He's undoubtedly West End quality. He acts, sings, dances and plays the piano to such an accomplished level. Serina Mathew gives a brilliant performance understudying the role of Carmen. Carmen is the most tormented character leading to substance abuse and Serina effectively played the journey of her character.

Albey Brookes is often the comic heartbeat throughout in the role of Joe. His comic timing and energy are delightful to watch. He clearly relishes every moment on the stage and that comes across in his performance.

In a strong ensemble Hayley Johnston (Mabel), Spencer Lee Osborne (Mr Myers) and Courtney George (understudying as Miss Bell) all have their standout moments.

Musical director Tim Whiting and the 4 off-stage musicians give a great sound. Aided by Louise Beade, Alexander Zane, Tom Mussell and the forementioned Simon Anthony who all act and play on stage.

The production sadly is a hit and miss. It's enjoyable and effective and is more than worth catching. The famous title song includes the lyric  "remember my name" and we'll certainly remember the great performances even if the show itself is a bit forgettable.

Rating: ★★★ - tremendous performances and design save this otherwise lacking show.

Fame continues at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 26th October - for tickets visit https://www.haytheatre.com/whats-on/fame-the-musical. The tour continues until the end of November for future venues visit http://fameuktour.co.uk/. Check out the trailer below.

17 October 2019

Ben Pryer Interview

Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Producer and now he's adding acting to his bow. Is there anything Ben Pryer can't do?

Ben is currently part of the 30th Anniversary UK tour of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (which we recently gave a glowing 5-star review - read it here). He plays singer Richie Vallens in the show and he sat down and answered some questions for us.
Ben Pryer.
Q: Congratulations on your part of Richie Vallens in the Buddy Holly Story. How have you found the experience so far?
A: It’s such an honour to be a part of this legendary show. It’s so well known all over the world and that just adds to the excitement I feel each show! Every day has been just as thrilling as the last and I put that down to how brilliant this show really is.

Q: The show is celebrating 30th anniversary with this tour. Why do you think the show has lasted and still packs out theatres?
A: 30 years and still going strong! This musical really stands the test of time and I believe it’s because of the man himself, Buddy Holly. His music has touched so many people the world over and still continues to today. I’ve never seen anything like the audiences that come and see the show, it’s like a hysteria of sorts takes over everyone and they just want to keep dancing all night!

Q: Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens all died fairly young in the aeroplane crash that claimed their lives yet they left quite the legacy and back catalogue. What are your favourite numbers of Buddy/Big Bopper/Richie?
A: I still get upset thinking about how young they all died. I often think about how they would’ve continued to change music through their lifetimes and how it would’ve impacted others. I love to listen to ‘Ooh my head’ by Ritchie, It always makes me want to dance! And of course, raining in my heart by Buddy. Absolutely beautiful.

Q: As Richie Valens in the show, you get to perform his biggest hit La Bamba. Is it a joy to get to perform this number?
A: Performing La Bamba is such an honour. It’s such a recognisable song - everyone knows it! Whether the audience is young or old, they will have heard it (and danced to it!) at some point. It gives me so much to play with both as a musician and an actor which is so fulfilling. It’s great!

Ben (right) as Richie Vallens with Christopher Weeks as Buddy Holly and
Joshua Barton (The Big Bopper) in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
Q: You're obviously quite an accomplished musician but now you're adding acting to your CV. What roles would you like to play in the future?
A: Thank you! Yes, I’ve been a professional musician for a while now but I always wanted to go into acting, and this couldn’t be a better start for me! I’m a huge nerd at heart and love a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, so I’d love to do something like that in the future! But I’ll always be a musician also!

Q: You specialise in similar music styles to that of Buddy/Richie in your own work. Is it your favourite genre to play/listen to?
A: 50s and 60s music has always spoken to me on a different level and I’ve always felt a particular connection to these eras of music. I absolutely adore performing ballads from the 50s and 60s and of course the upbeat numbers too! I’m a fan of a lot of genres and listen to a good mix daily, but rock n roll will always be in my heart!

Q: You've released a couple of albums (Ben Pryer - 2017 and An Audience With Ben Pryer and the Lucky Dogs - 2019) are you hoping to release more in the future?
A: Yes for sure! I love to write and record my own music and that will be something I’d look to when I’m home.

Ben continues in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story visit https://www.buddythemusical.com/ for dates and tickets. To find out more about Ben and his music visit his website https://www.benpryer.com/

16 October 2019

15 Times We Were Wowed by Amelie The Musical Lyrics.

The UK tour of Amelie is currently playing at its last tour venue, Liverpool's Playhouse Theatre, where it runs until Saturday. The production then transfers to London's The Other Palace from late November. 

I first saw the show back in July at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre and I was completely spellbound by it, giving it a huge 5-star review. It's truly musical theatre perfection - one of the best performances we've seen. Fast forward to now and I've seen it 7 times!

The musical contains music and lyrics by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen. The soundtrack to this show is gorgeous. It's richly enhanced by the actor-musician production that the UK production has employed. To celebrate this superb production we've picked out 15 our of favourite lyrics from the piece.

1.  "Everyone is falling as the fly comes into view and everyone's connected though they may not know it's true." - The Flight of the Blue Fly
Danny Mac as Nino. Photo by Pamela Raith.
2.  "What happens when the booth goes bright.
Where do you go when you’re out of view.
What’s the use in trying to hide or tearing yourself in two.
When you leave yourself behind.
Every piece becomes another clue.” - When The Booth Goes Bright

3. "I am Howard Carter stepping into Tutankhamun's tomb" - The Bottle Drops

4. "When your harp and your halo hit the sky. 
Look down, we'll be waving goodbye" - Goodbye Amelie 
"Goodbye Amelie". Photo by Pamela Raith.
5. "I could stay right here. 
And give back the boy his book. 
But if I stay right here. 
He'll think that I'm a nun. 
And I am not a nun. 
He'll think that I am chaste. 
And I am not that chaste" - Sister's Pickle

6. "Take half of half and half of that.
No matter where I row.
Little boat, big ocean.
Little boat big ocean.
There is always halfway to go." - Halfway 
Halfway. Photo by Pamela Raith

7. "It's easy to vanish when no one's around,

Your footsteps fall silent as snow on the ground
I may be hammered but I can hear my heart pound,
And it's reaching out to you
So who are you now?
If all you have is thin air around you? Around You?" - Thin Air

8. "The stewardesses they always wonder
Doesn't matter where I roam
She asks "Are you one of Santa's elves?"
And I say "Ma'am I am a Gnome!"" - There's No Place Like Gnome

9. "They say times are hard for dreamers.
But they won't be hard for me
When all my dreams have gone as planned." - Times Are Hard For Dreamers
Audrey Brisson (centre) as Amelie. Photo by Pamela Raith.
10. "There on the hill
There sits a great cathedral
Where I've left a trail
But it only goes so far
Here I can keep him moving forward
And keep things as they where
Halfway to love
And just close enough
To Sacre-Coeur"
- Blue Arrow Suite

11. "Love is just another diagnosis
Like chickenpox, swine flu, streptococcus,
Walking pneumonia, mumps, herpes, hepatitis,
Syphilis, tetanus, human papillomavirus.

But the mother of all diseases
That brings the mightiest to their knees is
" - A Better Haircut

12. "Stay where you are!
Safe in a frameTry to move closer, you'll only get halfway!
Pin down your heart, put out the flameDon't come any closer
But don't move away!" - Stay

Stay. Photo by Pamela Raith.
13. "There is one way of solving your paradox.
But I have to do more than stay" - Halfway Reprise.

14. "Where do we go from here?
Now that you are standing here with meAfter all there's more to life than holding you" - Where Do We Go From Here
15. "Will there be time to keep on dreaming once this dream is over?
What happens when the booth goes bright?
What happens when you're out of view?
What happens when you can't hold on?
Or when I can't hold on to you?
What happens when tomorrow comes?
And there's nothing that we can do?
Just pull the curtain tight
And adjust the seat
Lean into the light and hold me
What's gonna happen?

I don't know

But whatever happens

Here we go." - Where Do We Go From Here/Finale.

I honestly can't recommend Amelie higher. I hope from you reading some of these lyrics will inspire you to book to see it or in the least listen to the glorious soundtrack. If you have seen it I'd love to hear your favourite lyrics.

For more details about the UK production visit http://ameliethemusical.com/
For Liverpool tickets (runs till Sat 19th October 2019) https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/whats-on/amelie
For London tickets (29th Nov 2019 - 1st Feb 2020) https://lwtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/amelie/#book

Cabaret - Curve Review

Kander and Ebb's iconic multi-award winning musical, Cabaret, arrives at Curve as part of it's UK tour.
The cast of Cabaret. Photo by The Other Richard.
Set in Berlin in 1931, a troubling time with the Nazi's power rising. This troubling time is reflected in the staging. Katrina Lindsay's design is dark and quite simple but it's richly enhanced with tremendous lighting designed by Tim Oliver.

We enter a world of sex and jazz in the Kit Kat Club. John Partridge plays the Emcee and right from the opening he is on fine form. Here is an actor so perfectly cast. He nails the dry humour and the sinister elements superbly. His makes his Emcee so complex and layered and that makes the final sequences are particularly powerful.

Into this world enters American novelist, Cliff Bradshaw, played by effectively by Charles Hagerty. He's a calming influence on the madcap happenings that go on around him. He meets German Ernst Ludwig (played by Nick Tizzard) at the border and they strike a relationship that carries through the piece.

Ernst recommends Cliff a place to stay with Fraulein Schneider. Anita Harris shows all the class of her experienced career in this role. She is just a delight to watch. She's deeply effecting and moving especially the number "What Should I Do". Fraulein Schneider's gentleman friend, Herr Schultz, is classily played by James Paterson. The relationship these two go through is the stark reality of life in Nazi Germany.

Cliff meets the carefree Cabaret performer Sally Bowles and their spark is instant. Kara Lily Hayworth brings confidence to her Sally but under her happy exterior, she expresses the vulnerability extremely well.  Kara's "Maybe This Time" is delivered with such heart that you feel such empathy for the character. Kara is certainly a performer at the top of her game.
John Partridge (Emcee). Photo by The Other Richard.

As the story progresses and the dark clouds of the Nazi rule have more of an influence on the proceedings cracks begin to appear in all of the relationships. The lure and love of the Cabaret are too much in the end for Sally as she stays behind as Cliff heads back to America for safety. I won't spoil the "twist" at the end but if you're expecting a happy ending then this isn't the show for you.

Dazzling choreography is provided by Javier De Frutos. The talented company perform his technically difficult movement well. "Two Ladies" is a particularly brilliant number, a visual treat.

At a run time of 2 and a half hours (including the interval), it does feel a little long in places. Some of the dialogue scenes between musical numbers do drag a little but Rufus Norris has done a splendid job with a dark and difficult story.

The world of Cabaret is dark but the overriding message of living for the moment. It's a message that will always resonate with audiences. Whilst you take away the horrors of what life must have been like in those situations of Nazi Germany it's also a celebration of life. "Life is a Cabaret old chum" and this production is superbly spellbinding.

Rating: ★★★★
Kara Lily Hayworth (Sally Bowles) & Charles Hagerty (Cliff Bradshaw).
Photo by The Other Richard.
Cabaret plays at Curve until Saturday 19th October 2019. To book visit https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/cabaret-musical/
The UK tour continues with dates booking through till late November visit https://www.kenwright.com/portfolio/cabaret/ for the full tour schedule.

14 October 2019

Maggie Lynne Interview

Maggie Lynne is currently appearing in the London production of Wicked where she is part of the ensemble and covers for Nessarose. She answered a few questions about appearing in such an iconic show.

Q: How did you get into acting? Did you always want to act?
A:I always liked to prance about and perform songs and dance routines for my poor parents from about the age of 3 but I never really saw it as a career, I wanted to be a lawyer! So I made sure I had the grades to do that whilst still studying at Knightswood (The Dance School of Scotland) then tried my luck in London and continued to study Musical Theatre at Mountview Academy of theatre arts! It’s been a journey but I’ve loved it!

Q: What was it like to join such an iconic smash hit musical?
A: A dream come true!! It was daunting and at times a little scary but it’s an incredible show with a beautiful story and one I am so proud to be a part of. It was a show that I had always said ‘if I can be in that, I’ve reached my final goal.’ Now I don’t want to stop!

Q: You're currently in you're the second year with the show. What made you want to continue for a second year?
A: I love it. People ask me all the time ‘doesn’t it get boring doing the same thing every night?’ But it doesn’t. Every single person on stage and off has something beautiful to bring to the show as individuals and that keeps it fresh. It’s the same formula but we are always finding new things every night.

Q: What's your favourite number in the show?
A: Loathing. It’s fun and snappy and you can really play around with your character on stage!

Q: You currently understudy Nessarose. What's it like covering the role?
A: It’s great! She’s a brilliant acting role and has so many sides to her which has been wonderful to explore. I love covering because you get the fun and enjoyment of the ensemble but then you get the added bonus of stepping out and playing a set character with a through journey.

Photo by Matt Crockett
Q: How many costume changes do you have as part of your ensemble track?
A: 10! And 3 wigs. Our dressers and wigs department are amazing!

Q: Do you have a favourite costume?
A: I love all of my costumes but although my Ozdust is very cute I love my Emerald City costume! Everyone looks stunning!

Q: If you could play any other role in the show who would you pick to play and why?
A: Galinda! It has always been my absolute dream to play that role one day. She goes on the biggest journey in the show in my opinion and really has to grow as a person. Yep, that’s the dream right there!

Q: The show recently celebrated its 13th birthday in London. Why do you think the show has such a lasting appeal?
A: It is so relevant to today’s current political and ethical climate. It’s a story about friendship and manipulation which everyone can relate to. It also massively helps that the songs are incredible, the costumes are unrivalled and the staging and lighting really takes the audience to a different place.

Q: We recently saw you as part of Sunday at the Musicals up in Leicester where you sang a couple of songs (I Could Have Danced All Night and No-One But You). How did you find the experience?
A: Ooooh, thank you very much! I loved it! It was a brilliant experience to be performing alongside some incredible names! I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Wicked the Musical continues at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre. For booking visit https://www.wickedthemusical.co.uk/london.

We thank Maggie for her time and wish her continued success with Wicked and beyond.

10 October 2019

Emma Jane Morton Interview

Emma Jane Morton is currently part of the original UK company of Amelie which is into its final 2 two touring venues. The show transfers to London's The Other Palace in November. Her previous credits include Sweet Charity (Watermill Theatre), Crazy for You (UK Tour) and Keep The Home Fires Burning (UK Tour). Now she's answered a few of our questions.
Q: Being in a musical (Amelie) which is adapted from a film, had you seen the movie before you auditioned for the role?
A: I actually watched it at school as part of French lessons when I was maybe 13/14 but we weren't allowed the subtitles. As my French was limited, I didn't quite understand the film at the time because I was too busy trying (and failing) to work out the translations as well at it is very quirky so I remember being a bit confused as a teenager! I rewatched bits of it during the audition process as I used some of the transcripts for a monologue to show my French accent. I don't think I have watched the full thing since school-maybe I will revisit it in the next break.

Q: I know the musical is in English but can you speak any French? A: Well, I did study French at school up to GCSE level. I was always much better at speaking/writing than the listening/reading side. I can't remember much of it now though-which is quite shameful. I am a great admirer of people who are bilingual! I sing quite a lot of classical music and sometimes sing in French--one of my favourites is Faure's 'Apres Une Reve' and translate it in my head when I sing it so I can act it, it isn't anything you could use in everyday conversation though.

Q: How was the rehearsal process for Amelie and working with director Michael Fentiman? A: Because I joined the tour cast and wasn't part of the original creation, I had quite a quick and different experience to those who began the shows life at the Watermill. From what I hear, the initial process was quite demanding with lots of changes and rewrites right up until opening and beyond to get the show just right!

Q: With the music (by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen) completely re-worked for the UK tour were they involved? A: I don't think they were part of the rehearsal as such but being the writers they always need to be consulted and approve of what creative choices are being made. They have been to watch both the smaller Watermill version and the Tour and have made some suggestions for when we take the show into London. So they are always involved!

The touring company of Amelie. Photo by Pamela Raith.
Q: You've been in a few shows where the production has used actor-musicians. What challenges does this bring?
A: For me personally, I have only ever done one actor-muso show where the rehearsal process has been longer than a non-actor muso show (usually 4 weeks). So there is always the added pressure of doing an additional skill with no additional time so I tend to have to practice before and after rehearsals-you have to be quite disciplined in that sense. It's always learning the music off book that's the hard part. It doesn't matter if the score is easy or hard-I don't play by ear very well-so prefer the dots, as soon as they are taken away I can't even tell you the first note unless I have spent hours memorising. Some musicians are the other way round and prefer by ear, I am always jealous of their skills.

Q: You understudy for a few roles in the production. With the actresses you understudy playing different musical instruments to you, how do you go about as a company adapting the show and the music for these occasions? A: We are really lucky on this job with the musical standard of individuals being so high. It means whenever there is a musical track missing everyone chips in a little bit with any important lines. I can actually play (not very well) some of the other understudy instruments but of course, even if I was able to play the whole of 'Ginas accordion part' well, you would lose my flute line, which is also featured so it's just about balance and covering the important bits with the instruments we have. Rachel who plays the mum/cello is incredibly musical so she is so valuable at playing extra bits needed and Chris who is also an understudy has a confident ear for chords and seems to be able to hop onto anything which is amazing! I pitch in where I can!

Q: With the UK tour in its final weeks, how will you reflect on how the tour has gone? A: I love touring and I've had a great time. A lot of us have been to venues we haven't worked at before so that's been fun and performing for different audiences up and down the country is always interesting. The reactions to the show have been so wonderful and generous and we've loved performing for everyone so I would say that it has been a great success.

Q: Amelie is heading for London's The Other Palace in November (and running till February 2020). How excited are you to transfer the production there? A: I am sooooooo excited. This is the biggest show I've ever done in London so that's cool. I love touring, but I think it will be nice to stay in one place for a while-I'm looking forward to being able to do my washing whenever I want (he hee) and doing lots of classes in London. The venue is perfect for the show, there is a real buzz about it so I think it will do really well!

Amelie plays at Reading's Hexagon Theatre until Saturday (12th October 2019) and then Liverpool's Playhouse Theatre (14th to 19th October 2019). It transfers to London's The Other Palace (29th November 2019 to 1st February 2020). For booking details http://ameliethemusical.com/
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