Posts with the label christmas
Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts

Tuesday 26 November 2019

White Christmas the Musical, Dominion Theatre | Review

White Christmas the Musical
Dominion Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 25th November 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Seen last Christmas at the Leicester Curve Theatre, Nikolai Foster's exceptionally staged and completely charismatic production of White Christmas has taken it's place in the West End for a Christmas of festivities and theatrical joy.

Based on the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, the musical follows the stories of two former World War II American soldiers who became a famous musical duo. The pair use their fame to join forces with Judy and Betty to save a holiday inn from financial ruin and spread cheer all around.

The embodiment of glamour from start to finish, this musical whisks you away and takes you to a wintery wonderland where lullabies and tap dances reign supreme. The audience are enthralled thanks to the intimate feeling which is somehow created in the vast cavern of the Dominion Theatre. 

The story is nothing special and there's really very little of it but there's a level of characterisation which runs deep throughout and makes the audience really care about the action and people on stage and brings a contemporary feel to an otherwise un-relatable musical. For example, Martha, Judy and Betty sing 'Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun' which highlights their desire to not being completely reliant on men. In another vein, the vulnerability of Bob (Danny Mac) is shown thoughtfully and delicately. Whilst at first he appears distant and uncaring, it soon becomes clear that he is struggling to rejoin civilian life. These human characteristics are realistically brought to stage with great effect. 

The cast of all round triple threats provide enough energetic festive cheer to power all the Christmas lights in London. Clare Halse is a theatrical treasure as she draws the eye every moment she's on stage and is the epitome of Hollywood glamour. Her performance is faultless as she glides around and radiates excellence. Halse also gives a dazzling tap performance of 'I Love a Piano' alongside Dan Burton and the ensemble. Burton as Phil is equal measures charm and sleaze as well as giving top top top notch vocals and choreographic quality. Danny Mac once again gives a faultless performance and has a great love/hate chemistry with Danielle Hope as Betty. Their blossoming romance is lovely to watch just another level of sweetness in this candy-cane-sugary musical.

Michael Brandon is commanding but vulnerable as General Henry Waverly, whilst, Brenda Edwards is a compelling force of comedic nature as Martha and provides a real show stopping moment with 'Let Me Sing and I'm Happy'. The ensemble are unanimously joyous and captivating throughout, with Aimée Hodnett and Kayleigh Thadani giving stand out performances as the ditzy, amorous Rhoda and Rita.

This is a visually exquisite musical which is the embodiment of production value. Diego Pitarch's sumptuous costumes not only look beautiful on their own, but float and flow divinely as part of Stephen Mear's choreography which is elegance and style wrapped up with a bow. The post-war era is brought to life glitteringly, as is the music of Irving Berlin which soars and fills the Dominion.

It's not about the story and of course there are faults as with many classic films but this is an utterly lavish production which will fill even the Grinch's heart with Christmas cheer. 

photo credit: Johan Persson

White Christmas the Musical, Dominion Theatre | Review

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Monday 3 December 2018

A Christmas Story: The Musical, Waterloo East | Review

A Christmas Story: The Musical
Waterloo East
Reviewed on Saturday 1st December 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

A stage adaptation of the 1983 film, A Christmas Story: The Musical follows young Ralphie who's sole Christmas wish is to receive a Red Ryder Carbine Actin 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. Besides that there's pretty much no story other than a boatload of coming of age tropes, including bullying, classroom issues and family arguments. It's a simple show, which doesn't contain anything groundbreaking but is well performed by the cast.

The main story is focussed on Ralphie and his family unit who are struggling during the Depression but are still hopeful for a merry Christmas. Ralphie's mother sings stereotypically about a mother's work and his younger brother refuses to eat whilst his father wins a leg lampshade in a crossword competition- random indeed. 

Whilst very different in tone to their other works, and particularly less memorable, the music of this show is by highly successful writing duo, Pasek and Paul (The Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land) who have provided some charming but repetitive pieces, which despite being somewhat uninspired, do evoke a warm, festive feeling.

The cast are really what make this show. The children (at this performance: Harry Irving, Edward Flynn Haddon, Evan Huntley-Robertson, Flynn Timberlake, Chloe Weir and Sofia-Elena Tait) are full of energy and cheer as they rattle around the stage with young glee and excitement for impending Christmas celebrations. Sofia-Elena Tait is a particular standout throughout. Leading the show as Ralphie, Rufus Kampa is very strong as he barely steps off stage and provides some lovely vocal moments. As Farkus the bully of the school, Bradley Riches is wonderful, and even more so as he shows off his humourous side as an elf who is certainly not loving his life. It's just a shame Bradley doesn't have a little more stage time as he really shines among the cast.

The adult cast who make up the rest of the show are great. Lucyelle Cliffe brings a real warmth to her role whilst her partner, Simon Willmont brings humour as well as sincerity in his solo moments where he just longs to be someone special. Garry Freer narrates the show well, whilst, Jenny Gayner astounds as the hilarious Miss Shields, and performs potentially the best number of the show with her act 2 tap dance (choreographed by Rhainne Butts). Katy Stephens is also strong in her various roles and again, it would be nice to see more of her. 

Despite it being a different time and place, there's something jarring about a number of songs focussing on a gun; some transitions are a little clunky and the story is basically non-existent, but thanks to the strength of the performers, I think we can let those things slide and appreciate A Christmas Story: The Musical, for the injection of festivity that it is.

A Christmas Story: The Musical runs at Waterloo East until 22nd December

photo credit: Robert Piwko

A Christmas Story: The Musical, Waterloo East | Review

Monday 3 December 2018

Friday 30 November 2018

The Nutcracker (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

The Nutcracker (UK Tour)
New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed on Thursday 29th November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

As the festive season steps up a gear, it seems only fitting that The Nutcracker should be required viewing, and the Northern Ballet's current production provides festivity and magic in abundance. David Nixon's choreography and a sublimely talented cast make this an enchanting show, which exudes youth and generates a true feel-good factor. 

The Northern Ballet Sinfonia lead the show musically with control and effectiveness. Showing off Tchaikovsky's stunning score, they are led fearlessly and faultlessly by Brett Morris.

Other than the dancing, this is a visually stunning show thanks to Charles Cusick Smith's inventive and luxurious set which not only frames the choreography but adds another level of intricacy and interest. Act III's Garden of Delights is especially mesmerising thanks to the beautiful tones of burgundy, gold, peach and green which are woven into both the set and costumes (David Nixon). The Russian Cossacks, French Ballet Dancers and Arabian Princesses are all incredibly unique in design but work cohesively to create a strong flow throughout. 

Despite these intricacies, the more simplistic moments are also incredibly moving, such as the Pas De Deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) and Cavalier (Kevin Poeung) which despite being surrounded by opulence, is purely focussed on the faultless ballet. 

Ommaira Kanga Perez's beaming smile and innocent attitude is perfect for the young Clara who is overwhelmed by a world of magic and sparkle, just like the audience watching her.  Literally brought to life by glitter, our Prince, Riku Ito is outstanding. Mention also goes to Harris Beattie and Natalia Kerner who caught the eye from the start, Mlindi Kulashi who is suitably mystical and attractive as Drosselmeyer and the Mouse King (Lorenzo Trossello) who gave a fully humourous performance, including flossing which brought the piece right up to date.

The Northern Ballet's production of The Nutcracker is a real treat of a show that has magic and enchantment that will keep both adults and children entertained and enthralled.

The Nutcracker runs at the New Victoria Theatre until December 1st before continuing it's tour.

photo credit: Emma Kauldhar

The Nutcracker (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

Friday 30 November 2018

Thursday 14 December 2017

Jack and the Beanstalk (Pantomime), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Jack and the Beanstalk (Panto)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 12th December 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

Now I must admit, I'm not the biggest panto fan but I thought I'd give it a go this year so popped along to Wimbledon to see Jack and the Beanstalk and I was pleasantly surprised! Festive favourite and seasoned Dame, Clive Rowe takes on the role of Dame Trot whilst comedian Al Murray is a panto newbie as the landlord, Al.

Directed by Thom Southerland, Jack and the Beanstalk focusses on the humourous rapport between Rowe and Murray rather than an actual storyline. Panto isn't Shakespeare and of course the plot isn't meant to be dramatic or emotive, but at times it did feel a little too bare and in-cohesive and was somewhat of a let down. However, the witty one liners and and magical moments saved the show.

Despite some of his jokes falling a bit flat, Murray is hilarious as the Pub Landlord and his audience interaction is fantastic. He really knows how to warm and audience up. I also appreciated how much he was able to not take himself seriously and just brush off when a joke doesn't work. Clive Rowe as Dame Trot is fantastic and again, works the audience wonderfully. The two are really a winning pair; bouncing off one another and pushing each other to corpse at every possible moment. I loved this interaction and they really made the show.

I personally wasn't a fan of the music used. The songs are forgettable and felt put in for the sake of it. The children involved however, seemed to be having the time of their lives which was lovely to watch.  Liam Tamne was great as Jack but I would've liked to see more of him. Despite being the title role, he was barely in the show and his relationship with Princess Apricot came and went at lightning speed. The second half especially felt like a mad dash to rap up the story.

The special effects were magical and definitely make the show for the children and adults alike. The dramatic helicopter scene at the end of Act 1 was unexpected and exciting and the 3D scene in act 2 added another level of interest. 

At the end of the show everyone was buzzing and seemed to have really enjoyed their night at the panto. Don't expect a masterpiece, but for a fun, lighthearted show full of one-liners and audience interaction, take a trip to the New Wimbledon Theatre and experience this show for yourself.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at New Wimbledon Theatre until January 14th.

photo credit: Craig Sugden

Jack and the Beanstalk (Pantomime), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review

Thursday 14 December 2017

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Pantomime), Pavilion Theatre, Worthing | Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Pantomime) 
Pavilion Theatre, Worthing 

Reviewed on Wednesday 6th December 2017 by Jackie Duplock

I took my youngest children along ages 9 years and 17 months to watch Snow White, Worthing's Pavilion Theatre pantomime of the year. 

The show took a while to get going, but after the first 15 minutes the performance was in full flow and both children (and adults) were thoroughly enjoying themselves. 

Snow White offered all that you expect and more from Panto: slapstick humour, innuendos and wonderful musical numbers. One of which was of course Chesney Hawkes’ performance of his Number 1 hit, 'One and Only' which had the entire audience up on their feet and (for those old enough to remember it the first time round), singing along. 

The stand out performances of the night came from Cbeebies favourite Richard David-Caine playing Herman the Henchman who really stole the show. Particularly with his fast thinking and witty responses- especially when faced with the children on stage not quite understanding the rules given for the song game they took part in- leading to hilarious results. 

The other performance I felt was particularly outstanding was that from X factor finalist Niki Evans playing the Wicked Queen, she really belted out some fabulous tunes with her powerful voice, as well as acting the role well -a natural performer. Alongside Simon Howe playing Dame Dolly, the chemistry between these two performers really shines through and produces some quality comedy moments. 

This is one of the best Pantomime performances I have seen in a very long time delivering everything you could want and more from a night out at a Panto! 

Snow White at the Pavilion Theatre is definitely the "One and only" Panto to see this festive season, highly recommended!

Snow White runs at the Pavilion Theatre until January 1st 2018.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Pantomime), Pavilion Theatre, Worthing | Review

Friday 8 December 2017

The Barricade Boys: Christmas Cabaret, The Other Palace Studio | Review

The Barricade Boys: Christmas Cabaret (Concert) 
The Other Palace Studio
Reviewed on Thursday 7th December 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

The Barricade Boys bring together some of the finest Lew Miserables alumni (Scott Garnham, Craig Mather, Kieran Brown, Simon Schofield) and finest male voices to create truly beautiful sounds and performances. The boys have toured extensively and appeared on a number of television programmes but this time they're back for a three week-residency of Christmas delights at The Other Palace. 

I've really been getting into the Christmas spirit recently with a number of festive shows and this was certainly one of the best. Entering the studio of The Other Palace we are greeted with a beautifully adorned Christmas tree and a cosy log fire projected onto the wall which sets the mood for the relaxed, warm evening to come. The boys normally perform with a seven-piece band but this time opt for a "stripped back" performance with just them and the piano (played fantastically by musical director, Noam Galperin) which further adds to the intimate feeling of the night.

The set of 23 songs was varied and extremely well put together with a mixture of festive favourites, Les Mis hits and some more unexpected songs. Standout moments included I'll Be Home For Christmas/Bring Him Home and Man In The Mirror which both featured tight harmonies and wonderful interaction between the boys. Their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody must get a special mention as it was done so well; with suitable emotion and humour to keep it entertaining and amusing, whilst maintaining the integrity and showing off everyone's unique voices.

When speaking about the goals of the group, Scott explained that they take the work very seriously but not themselves and this is exactly right. The music was faultless but made all the better by the brilliant on stage interactions where the boys bounced off one another and seemed to genuinely be having fun.

Each night a special West End star will join the boys on stage, this particular night we had the pleasure of seeing the supremely talented Michael Xavier. He performed a haunting, melancholy version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas before the boys joined him for a side splitting, Les Mis version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Michael was a lovely addition to the programme and the number of amazing guests set to appear, certainly makes me want to go back to another concert in the run.

This pitch perfect ensemble with stand out solo moments and smooth, natural, humourous on stage rapport is all you could ask for at Christmas time. For a festive, lighthearted evening of  top notch entertainment, you can't go wrong with The Barricade Boys and I would high recommend paying them a visit during their run!

The Barricade Boys are at The Other Palace until December 23rd

The Barricade Boys: Christmas Cabaret, The Other Palace Studio | Review

Friday 8 December 2017

Peter Pan (Pantomime), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review

Peter Pan (Pantomime) 
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed on Tuesday 5th December 2017 by Damien Murray 

With over 70,000 tickets having been sold even before press night, Peter Pan is already set to become one of Belfast’s most successful pantomimes yet.

Staged amid visually attractive cut-out sets that transported the audience to a world of wonder in such locations as The Darlings’ nursery, Neverland, Crocodile Creek, on board a pirate ship and beneath the sea, this production had a lot to offer with a talking bra, some super soakers, a giant gorilla and jokes about a mermaid’s shell phone all proving popular with the young audience.

Boasting production values as high as its flying sequences, this impressive show was spectacular with its pyrotechnics and special effects such as a colossal crocodile that moved right out over the front seats of the stalls in the Act 1 finale and a scary 3D underwater journey on film (but, be warned, it is, perhaps, a tad too scary for smaller children as I learned from this, my grandchildren’s first pantomime visit).

With super sets, costumes, dance routines and lighting, this production had cross-generational appeal with the double entendres, political jibes and topical references keeping the adults happy, while the silly one-liners and slapstick comedy made the children laugh loudly throughout.

Celebrating 28 consecutive years as the pantomime dame at Belfast’s Grand Opera House, May McFettridge (aka John Linehan) again proved that he truly is the ‘Grande Dame’ of the local pantomime stage.

This year, playing May Smee, this seasoned dame appeared to go into auto-pilot mode each time he took to the stage as his quick-fire one-liners and audience put-downs now come as natural to him as wearing female clothing each December… they are both part and parcel of his annual residency at the prestigious theatre.

Aided by a strong support cast, his partner in crime was again local actor and regular pantomime performer, Paddy Jenkins (as Smee), who, despite his laid-back approach, always delivered with perfect timing in the comedy routines, while television soap star, Claire King, kept telly fans happy as Mimi the Magical Mermaid.

One of the stars of this production was Britain’s Got Talent impressionist, Paul Burling (as the ship’s entertainer, Starkey), who made a good impression on everyone (in more ways than one) with a wide range of voice impersonations of such famous and celebrated characters as Michael McIntyre, Harry Hill, Alan Carr, Popeye, Top Cat and The Simpsons.

However, the brightest star of this show was the multi award-winning, David Bedella, who’s demanding stage presence, precise diction and perfection of performance was such that he could play such a believable ‘baddie’ as Captain Hook, yet remain such an extremely lovable rogue to those who can appreciate his theatrical talents and skills.

All were joined by Mikey Jay-Heath as a flying Peter Pan, Hollie O’Donoghue as the rude, roller-skating Tinkerbell, Natalie Windsor as a commanding Tiger Lily and Kweeva Garvey as a likeable and popular Wendy, while talented young performers from the McMaster Stage School comprised the children’s ensemble with an amazingly good break dance from one tiny little boy.

From reworded and reworked pop songs like Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You to show tunes like Cell Block Tango from Chicago and popular favourites like Blondie’s One Way Or Another, The Village Peoples’ In The Navy and Frank Sinatra’s My Way, the music was well-varied to suit all and, under Mark Dougherty’s musical direction, had a surprisingly big sound for such a small band.

It may be the festive season, but Christmas songs were, wisely, restricted here to a comic rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas (I say ‘wisely’ as I always think it must sound odd for audiences in the latter stages of a pantomime run to be singing about Christmas in a show that continues well into January).

On their first ever visit to a Grand Opera House pantomime, my grandchildren really enjoyed the experience… and there is no better test to prove that this big production is another big hit from the Grand Opera House!

Photo credit: Aaron McCracken

Peter Pan (Pantomime), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review

Monday 4 December 2017

Marisha Wallace: Soul Holiday, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Marisha Wallace: Soul Holiday (Concert) 
Charing Cross Theatre 
Reviewed on Sunday 3rd December 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

There's no denying that Marisha Wallace is a powerhouse; in the short time she's been in London she's really made herself a feature of the West End and a must see star. Continuing her conquest of the West End theatre scene, Marisha recently released a Christmas album, Soul Holiday, full of festive treats to get us all in the Christmas spirit and yesterday performed these musical gems for us at the Charing Cross Theatre.

The concert included her jazzy Christmas re-imaginations, gospel songs and some musical theatre classics as well as her hilarious/motivational/all round brilliant interludes between songs. Her warm personality, outstanding vocals and ability to work a crowd had the audience in the palm of her hand within a matter of moments.

Personal highlights included 'O Come All Ye Faithful', the brilliantly upbeat 'Joyful, Joyful', and her heartfelt performance of 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' which she explained was particularly meaningful as she's been away from her family and friends for so long. 'He Chose Me' was vocally faultless and especially moving. Her stunning rendition of 'I'm Here' from The Colour Purple (she played Celie in the production at Cadogan Hall) was incredible and a testament to her vocal and acting skills.

Two fantastic guests joined the festive bliss with Tyrone Huntley showing off his smooth, glorious voice in 'Last Christmas' and 'What's Going On' and Rachel Tucker in the Christmas favourite, 'Winter Wonderland' and the hilarious, belt-tastic 'Take Me or Leave Me' from Rent. Both were great, their friendship with Marisha really shone through and contributed to the warm and cosy, festive feeling.

Marisha spoke candidly about a number of topics including her grandmother who inspired her to continue singing, food (a festive staple) and Jesus. Whilst she spoke a lot about her religion, it was not in a forceful way and she explained that "it doesn't matter who or what you believe in, just believe in you and that you can do anything". It was refreshing to hear such honesty and motivation.

Whilst the 5pm audience were not the most enthusiastic, everyone still seemed to enjoy the concert as they basked in the glory of Marisha's voice and talent.  The intimate setting with the four fantastic band members, three backup singers, two gorgeous gowns and one Marisha was all there needed to be to create an evening of festive magic. 

Marisha is charmismatic, charming, vocally outstanding and just a born performer. I have no doubt that Marisha's career will keep going up and up as she reaches wider audiences and shows people what a first-rate performer she is and I can't wait to see what's to come. To feel the festive vibes, be sure to grab your copy of Soul Holiday and get along to see Marisha whenever you can! 

Marisha Wallace: Soul Holiday, Charing Cross Theatre | Review

Monday 4 December 2017

Thursday 30 November 2017

Miracle on 34th Street, Bridge House Theatre | Review

Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play
Bridge House Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 29th November 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

I must admit that I had never heard of Penge until I received my invite to review the new production of Miracle on 34th Street at the Bridge House Theatre. Somehow it had slipped off my radar but I can now say that I'll definitely be visiting again and will be recommending people to take a trip to this gem of a theatre, above the Bridge House pub.

I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more heart-warming show to welcome me to the Bridge House Theatre; Miracle on 34th Street tells the story of a young girl, Susan who doesn't believe in Father Christmas until she meets a mystical Santa Claus hired by her mother at Macy's. Her perspective and that of those around her begins to change as we follow this magical story which lights the imaginations and warms the hearts of everyone watching.

Adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast, this production, directed by Guy Retallack, is staged as a live radio broadcast which is extremely interesting to watch. As the announcer and musical director, Jamie Ross leads Jon Lorenz's fetching score of original songs and new arrangements of Christmas classics with precision and draws the audience in from the moment he gives us the all clear to cheer and laugh to our hearts content.

Guy Retallack's direction makes the piece feel immersive but not conceited. We see the actors 'behind the scenes' when they introduce themselves and joke around with one another when they're sat down, but the performances are top notch and it feels like a well rounded theatrical piece. The various ad's about Penge and use of sounds effects are hilarious and very cleverly done.

The heart and soul of this show are of course the seven member cast. Jamie Ross is versatile and brilliant as he splits himself between being the Foley artist, accompanist, singer and actor! Amy Reitsma is extremely amusing in her various characters, from little children, to a receptionist; each role is unique, witty and she seamlessly transitions from accent to accent. Equally as versatile in his roles is Lewis Rae who gets laugh after laugh as he portrays a number of characters, including the hilariously uptight psychiatrist.

As Fred Gailey, Ellis Dackombe is charming and likeable with some stunning vocal moments. His chemistry with Lowenna Melrose as Doris is touching and they bounce off one another very well. Lowenna's transition from the straight-laced divorcee to the festive woman who loves and believes in Santa Claus is lovely to see unfold and she gives the role plenty of heart as does Emily Carewe as her daughter, Susan. Emily is suitably childlike whilst humourously grown up at the same time. As her belief grows, we see the joys Christmas really can bring to children around the world.

As our main man, Kris Kringle, Richard Albrecht is fantastically mystical and magical... I began to believe he really is Santa! The tight-knit cast work brilliantly together and its joyous to watch them perform. 

I can't find a reason why you shouldn't see this show. It's festive, warm and provides the well needed break we all crave during these somewhat trying times! If you want to have your heart warmed and your imagination opened then get along to South East London and enjoy this sparkling, festive show!

Miracle on 34th Street runs at the Bridge House Theatre until December 23rd.

Miracle on 34th Street, Bridge House Theatre | Review

Thursday 30 November 2017