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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Flashdance (UK Tour), Liverpool Empire Theatre | Review



Flashdance (UK Tour)
Liverpool Empire Theatre 
Reviewed on Friday 20th October 2017 by Becca Cromwell
★★★★

Legwarmers primed (not really!) I headed to Liverpool for a night at the theatre. This time, it was to see Flashdance, the stage adaptation of the 1980s hit musical originally starring Jennifer Beale.

This production stars Joanne Clifton (best known for Strictly Come Dancing, Thoroughly Modern Millie and soon to star in Top Hat) as the energetic and ambitious Alex Owens and Ben Adams (A1) as the charming Nick Hurley.

With direction from Hannah Chissick and choreography by Matthew Cole, I had high hopes. From the moment the show started, I was gripped. I must admit, I had never seen Flashdance and all I knew of it was the water scene and a couple of 80s hits, and I was thoroughly impressed.

Joanne Clifton wowed as Alex, a welder with dreams of being a professional dancer. From the opening note, Clifton impressed with her vocals and astonished with her impeccable dance skills. She really is one to watch.


Ben Adams was spectacular as Nick Hurley, the latest of the Hurley family to own the factory Alex works in. His acting was believable, and his singing was, of course, perfect. Upon hearing that he was in a boyband, I was sceptical but he blew the sceptics away within minutes of stepping on the stage. The audience members around me had come not knowing who he was, and left impressed. As did I.

The show included many of everyone's 80s favourites, including 'What a Feeling', 'Maniac', 'I love Rock and Roll' and 'Gloria'. These were executed well, and pleased the crowd massively. The rest of the numbers worked nicely, with the number 'Here and Now' standing out amongst the rest.

This scene between Alex (Clifton) and Nick (Adams) is your classic musical theatre romantic duet between two characters realising they are in love and who are wanting to savour the moment forever. The vocals from both are almost flawless, and the crowd loved it. 'Here and Now' has just been released on iTunes, sung by Clifton and Adams, and I urge you all to buy it.


Alex's friends Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe), Kiki (Sia Dauda) and Tess (Demmileigh Foster). Their vocals were outstanding and the dancing incredible. The entire cast are extremely talented performers. Colin Kiyani played Jimmy and his performance was thoroughly enjoyable - I enjoyed the cheesy jokes! Carol Ball was fantastic as Hannah and Sasha Latoya played Louise, whose vocals shone in the finale.

There were unfortunately a few technical issues, with one of the two screens not working properly and appearing to be loading every minute or so and some lines being missed by microphones. However, these did not distract from the outstanding performances given by the cast, nor did they let that stop them. The atmosphere and energy were incredible from the start until the very end. The audience were up dancing along to the megamix during the curtain call, and left thoroughly entertained.

Flashdance continues its UK tour into 2018.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

In Conversation With... Ben Adams | Flashdance, Eugenius | Interview



Ben Adams found fame as the lead singer in the pop group A1 but since then has been writing and producing for various artists, as well as working on his own music, starring in the UK tour of Flashdance and writing the new musical, Eugenius. Ben and I had a chat about all of those  things and more...

You’ve had such a varied career, what have some of your highlights been?
Gosh I've had so many highlights, it's quite hard to choose just a few of them. I think I'm living through my ultimate highlight right now! I've always wanted to write a musical and for it to be going on in the West End right now is ridiculous, I mean, who gets to do that?! And the fact that it's going down so well is like a dream so I'm actually living through it right now.

Aside from that I've travelled the world, I've won Brit awards and MTV awards and Smash Hits awards and had number one singles- just so many things that I can't even pinpoint one thing... or even a few things that  would be highlights. There's just so many and I've had a great life.

That is a pretty good life!

I know! I feel like I've smashed 10 lifetimes into 1. I'm 36 which is kinda old to some people but it's been amazing!


What attracted you to this production of Flashdance?
Well, I'd been in the studio writing for other artists for the first six months of last year and as much as I love doing that and it is a lot of fun, I did kind of feel that I was getting itchy feet and wanted to do more performing for a while. Every time musical theatre things had come my way I'd always turned them down cause I thought they looked like a lot of hard work and I had a lot of other things going on at the time so I didn't really have time to do it. Then this came at a period where Eugenius wasn't on till January and I had a good six month slot where I could try it and see if I enjoy doing musical theatre. 

I remember Flashdance from when I was growing up and you know it's very 80s inspired and I love the 80s music and so I thought I'd give it a go. I was only contracted until December but I loved it so much and they wanted me to continue with it so I signed up to carry on until October [2018].



Are you anything like Nick Hurley?
The character of Nick is the rich kid who doesn't really have too many responsibilities. There are probably elements of the character which I can relate to. I mean I've never owned a steel works so that's not something I can affiliate with but he's not too dissimilar from myself really. It's not an amazingly tricky part for me to play where I have to change my entire personality.




Other than yourself, who would you like to see play Nick Hurley?
Oh gosh, who would I like to see play Nick... that's a tricky question. What about... I have absolutely no idea! Okay, what about Warwick Davis cause he'd probably do it  completely different to me. It would be really fun to see what his take on it would be!


Who in the show would you say is most like their character?
I guess Carol Ball as Hannah cause she's got a lot of experience with dance and acting and a lot of knowledge that she passes on in real life like her character does to Alex in the show. Jo [Clifton] and I probably act out a lot of stuff that is pretty similar to our characters as well- it's pretty well cast!


Your new show Eugenius is a huge hit, why do you think audiences are loving it so much?
I think because it taps into a really feel-good side of everybody. You don't have to love comic books, you don't have to love 80s music, you don't have to know anything about that era to love it. It's for those people of course cause there's a lot of references to it but it not specifically for those people. It's just full of joy. 

Of course there are different reasons for going to the theatre, but you know if you want to go to something really thought-provoking and dark then don't go see Eugenius  but if you want something to leave you joyful and elated about life in this miserable world that we live in and two hours of escapism then come. 

I don't think I've seen anyone walk out of Eugenius without a massive grin on their face and that's what it was about for me and Chris writing it. We had such a brilliant time and to see that energy being seconded by the cast and then the audiences it's just amazing.


The show has a goodie and a baddie (or two); if you were in a comic book would you rather be the hero or the villain?
Well in everything I'm cast in I always seem to play the goodie. I always play the hero, you know the Robin Hood... or Nick Hurley, but I always look at the baddies and see how much fun they seem to be having. Ian Hughes and Cameron Blakely who play the villains in Eugenius have so much fun with their parts, not that the others don't, but there's something fun about playing a baddie.



Sadly Eugenius is closing on the 3rd, what’s your biggest dream for the future of it?
It's so  crazy to think that in a weeks time it closes when there's so much love for the show. My biggest dream, in a similar way to The Rocky Horror Picture Show is that it has a huge life and it lives on, not just in the UK but all over the world. People have been coming over from all different countries who are wanting to put it on all over so that's exciting.

We just have to be careful and make sure that we do everything properly and take our time to make sure that every single production of it in the future is as good as it is now. We don't want to cut corners and we want the casting to be amazing. 

One of my favourite things about it is doing things that are purposefully shit! Like when you have the babies at the start, I love that there's the crappy UFO flying across and Kevin the Robot looks like he's made of cardboard- those things are great. It's that same way that I felt when I saw Rocky Horror because those things are knowingly done shit... if that makes any sense?!

It's very self-aware, it's not trying to be a big budget thing. It's just there as a whole bunch of fun and I love that and wouldn't want to lose that.


What’s a fun fact people may not know about you?
I will always have an olbas oil bottle in my pocket or beside the stage. I'm absolutely addicted to it to a point where if I don't have it I'll probably have a panic attack!


If you could go back to any era, when would you go to and why?
Probably the 80s! It was such a fun time that was so flamboyant and wasn't about being cool or trendy. You could just do anything you wanted and the movies were great, the music was great and it was such a brilliant era so I'd probably go back there.


What’s your best piece of advice for someone aspiring to be in the theatre industry?
Create your own luck. Be in the right place at the right time and learn your craft and when you go up for auditions make sure you know it like the back of your hand- that's what they're looking for. I've been on both sides of the table, auditioning for stuff and auditioning people and it makes such a difference when someone comes in and just commands the lines and songs they've been given. It gives the people casting them the confidence that they're going to do an amazing job.


A huge thank you to Ben for taking the time to do this interview. Flashdance is touring until October 20th and Eugenius is at The Other Palace until March 3rd.

Interview by Olivia Mitchell, Editor

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Flashdance, Grand Opera House, Belfast (UK Tour) | Review


Flashdance (UK Tour)
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed on Wednesday 22nd August 2018 by Damien Murray
★★★★

Book-ended by its ever popular signature song, this was a fantastic feel-good show for people who remember the popular film with its memorable big hit songs or for those who just want an entertaining night of light-hearted escapism (which, judging by public reaction, was 99% of the audience). 

Although there were some dramatic moments, this rather shallow and cliché-ridden story was never going to be a platform for displaying acting skills but simply a dance-based showcase for fancy footwork and ridiculously high-energy routines that made me exhausted just watching them. 

When you know not to have high dramatic expectations, then you will not be disappointed, but you will be guaranteed to be blown away by this show’s series of storming dance routines for, as a dance-based piece, it proved to be every bit as energetic as one would have expected. 

Going back in time to the era of baggy blue jeans, shell suits, work-out outfits, neon leg-warmers and equally bright head-bands, it all began with the mundane and relatively colourless world of welders contrasting in so many ways with the, sometimes sleazy, but always dazzling one of the dancers with Matt Cole’s spectacular and varied routines being so well realised by the extremely fit cast and even including choreographed cyclists at one point. 


For those who don’t know the story, it is basically about a tom-boyish welder, Alex (Joanne Clifton), with dreams of training to be a professional dancer at an elite dance academy and her relationship with her well-meaning and influential boyfriend, Nick (Ben Adams), who is also her boss. 

The sub-plot centres on another relationship – that of her down-on-her-luck dancing friend, Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe) and her wannabe, but unsuccessful, comedian boyfriend, Jimmy (Colin Kiyani). 

Surrounded by the symbolic brick and metal stage frame, the dual level set may have looked cumbersome at times, but it was very cleverly designed to be both mobile, functional and versatile, using its many steps, projection screens and positioning points to become everything from a ballet studio to a run-down bar and from a work canteen to a nightclub. 

I particularly liked the unusual angular performance space that it created at times and the performance space height variations that it allowed and, common to a lot of shows nowadays, I thought the use of the cast moving the props and set worked well for slick and distraction-free scene changes. 

Andrew Ellis’ lighting plot was varied (often pulsating to the music) but was also subtle during the more dramatic scenes and very effective at key moments, while the blue and red neon lighting helped to establish the era of the piece. 

With such a poor script, director, Hannah Chissick, must have had a difficult job inspiring her cast in the non-dancing parts of the show, but she did capture the frustrating reality of the audition process. 


Strictly Come Dancing champion, Joanne Clifton, was a natural on stage as she took the demanding challenges of the dance routines in her stride; totally nailing the films two iconic moments (the chair-drenching Act 1 finale and the Academy audition routine), and, surprisingly for some, coping well with her acting and singing roles. 

In many ways, this piece gave former A1 star, Ben Adams, very little to do, as – not being involved in the dance scenes - he had to rely on a few acting moments to show his skills. 

I felt he was very much under-used, but, thankfully, as a more romantic character, he did get to use his impressive vocals to good effect, especially in his duets with Clifton. 

Both Hollie-Ann Lowe and Colin Kiyani impressed here as the less successful couple, with Lowe capturing her character’s frustration about her general bad luck and life with her failed comedian boyfriend; a role that Kiyani made his own as he realised their relationship was more important than his dreamed about comic career. 

Also worthy of mention were Demmileigh Foster as dancer, Tess, who was excellent throughout with great stage presence and top dancing skills, and Carol Ball’s Hannah; a Grand Dame of dance who lives in the past reminiscing about the successes of her glory days with unrealistic hopes for more. 


Musical Director, George Carter’s 5-piece band offered solid backing throughout with musical highlights including: the song of dreams and hopes, It’s All In Reach; the female ensemble showing the first signs of what was to come in terms of manic movement during Maniac; the comic routine, Put It Down; the male choral work of Justice; the energetic and almost acrobatic version of I Love Rock And Roll; the duets, Here And Now and Hang On; the Act 1 finale reprise of Maniac; and Where We Belong, which sounded like it was written and performed by Dean Friedman . 

Some additional songs for the stage version worked better than others, but it was always going to be difficult to match the quality of the show’s big well-known hit songs. 

Finally, What A Feeling at the end of the show was well worth the long wait to see the iconic audition piece recreated, before a long curtain call and an all-dancing finale which gave everyone a chance to throw some serious moves centre stage (even Ben Adams). 

It must be said that these dancers worked harder in the finale than most performers do in an entire show … never mind What A Feeling … What A Dance Show … you would be a Maniac to miss it!

Flashdance runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast until 25th August

Friday, 5 November 2021

Bonnie and Clyde in Concert Full Cast and Company Announced



Fourth Wall Live is delighted to announce the full cast joining Broadway star Jeremy Jordan in the sell-out BONNIE AND CLYDE IN CONCERT at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 January 2022. www.bonnieandclydeconcert.com
 
Joining the previously announced Jeremy Jordan as ‘Clyde’ will be Olivier-nominated performer Frances Mayli McCann as ‘Bonnie’. The previously announced Laura Osnes is no longer performing in Bonnie and Clyde in Concert.
 
The principal cast is completed by West End stars including Olivier Award winner George Maguire as ‘Buck’, Natalie McQueen as ‘Blanche’, Trevor Dion Nicholas as ‘Preacher’ and Liam Tamne as ‘Ted’.
 
The cast is completed by Casey Al-Shaqsy (The Prince of Egypt, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) as ‘Stella’, Simon Anthony (The Wedding Singer, Ragtime) as ‘Cop/Bud/Archie/Deputy Johnson’ Gillian Bevan (Holby City, Into The Woods) as ‘Cummie Barrow/Eleanor’, Eloise Davies (Be More Chill, Grease) as ‘Trish’, Adrian Grove (Follies, Wonder.land) as ‘Henry Barrow’Olivier Award nominee Debbie Kurup (Girl From The North Country, The Bodyguard) as ‘Governor Miriam Ferguson’, Matthew Malthouse (Matilda, Mrs Henderson Presents) as ‘Bob Alcorn’, Jeremy Secomb (Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera) as ‘Judge/Sheriff Schmid’, Russell Wilcox (Billy Elliot, Annie) as ‘Captain Frank Hamer’ and Julie Yammanee (Lazarus, Spamilton) as ‘Emma Parker’.
 
George Maguire is the winner for the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his performance as ‘Dave Davies’ in Sunny Afternoon. His other theatre credits include 35mm: A Musical Exhibition at The Other Palace Studio, Oliver! at the London Palladium and the European tour of Rent.
 
Frances Mayli McCann is an Olivier Award nominated actress, who originated the role of Kylah in Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. Her other West End credits include ‘Heather McNamara’ in Heathers at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, ‘The Mistress’ in Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Eponine’ in the UK and International Tour of Les Misérables.
 
Natalie McQueen’s West End credits include playing ‘Doralee Rhodes’ in 9 to 5 The Musical at the Savoy Theatre, Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre. Her other theatre credits include the UK tour of Wonderland, Murder Ballad at the Arts Theatre and Starlight Express at The Other Palace.
 
Trevor Dion Nicholas’s West End credits include ‘George Washington’ in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre and ‘Genie’ in Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre. He also presents on Magic at the Musicals and appears as a panellist on ITV’s All Star Musicals.
 
Liam Tamne’s West End credits include playing ‘Ramses’ in The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre, The Light in the Piazza at the Royal Festival Hall, The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre and Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
 
BONNIE AND CLYDE IN CONCERT has a book by Ivan Menchell (Blended [movie], The Cemetery Club, Death Note The Musical), a Tony Award nominated score by Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll and Hyde, The Scarlett Pimpernel), lyrics by Don Black (Tell Me On a Sunday, Sunset Boulevard, Mrs Henderson Presents) and is directed by Nick Winston (Director of the feature film Tomorrow Morning, MAME, The Royal Variety Performance) with musical direction by Katy Richardson (SIX, Rent, Jersey Boys). The Assistant Director is Alexzandra Sarmiento (Hamilton, Message in a Bottle), Lighting Designer is Zoe Spurr (The Unreturning, Tiny Dynamite), Set and Costume Designer is Philip Whitcomb (Atlantis, Stones In His Pockets, Mame), Sound Designer is Tom Marshall (The Drifters Girl, Nativity! The Musical), Production Manager is Phil McCandlish (Rock of Ages, Elf), Company Stage Manager is Graham Harrison (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Deputy Stage Manager is Anne Baxter (Singin’ in the Rain, Spamalot), Assistant Stage Manager is Tom Fisher (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Dialect Coach is Charmian Hoare (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, War Horse) and children’s casting is by Keston and Keston (Nativity! The Musical, A Christmas Carol).  BONNIE AND CLYDE IN CONCERT is produced by Fourth Wall Live and co-produced by DLAP Group, Jason Haigh-Ellery and David Treatman Creative.

The band is made up of Assistant Musical Director Chris Poon (Keys 2), Kate Ingram (Reed 1), Hannah Lawrance (Reed 2), Kobi Pham (Guitar 1), Jack Pennifold (Guitar 2), Zach Okonkwo (Drums), Elliot Lyte (Fiddle)and Annie Blake (Bass).

At the height of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow went from two small-town nobodies in West Texas to America's most renowned folk heroes and the Texas law enforcement's worst nightmares. Fearless, shameless, and alluring, Bonnie & Clyde is the electrifying story of love, adventure and crime that captured the attention of an entire country. The show features the songs “Raise A Little Hell”, “This World Will Remember Me” and “Made In America”.
When Bonnie and Clyde meet, their mutual cravings for excitement and fame, combined with a desperate need to lift themselves out of the endless banality and poverty of West Dallas, set them on a mission to chase their dreams. Their bold and reckless behaviour turns the young lovers' thrilling adventure into a downward spiral, putting themselves and their loved ones in trouble with the law. Forced to stay on the run, the lovers resort to robbery and murder to survive. As the infamous duo's fame grows bigger, their inevitable end draws nearer.

Fourth Wall Live is a live entertainment company that produces concerts internationally. It regularly brings Broadway artists to the UK, previous concerts include Broadway and TV regulars Laura Benanti, Sierra Boggess, Kelli O'Hara, Chita Rivera, Laura Michelle Kelly, Megan Hilty, Tituss Burgess, Jeremy Jordan, Matthew Morrison, Erich Bergen, Eden Espinosa, Julia Murney and Cynthia Erivo. Other concerts include West End Stars solo concerts including Michael Ball, Matt Cardle, Kerry Ellis, Oliver Tompsett, Hannah Waddingham, Sharon D Clarke and Bonnie Langford. Upcoming productions at Cadogan Hall include Jenna Russell, Shoshana Bean, Keala Settle and Jessica Vosk.

Tori Amos’s musical The Light Princess was presented to critical acclaim, as a special one-off concert in the summer of 2018. Next year Bonnie & Clyde the musical concert will run for two nights to a sold-out audience at Theatre Royal Drury Lane starring Jeremy Jordan. 

Fourth Wall Live also regularly partners with the Hippodrome Casino, in November-December 2020 they produced 25 nights of socially distanced entertainment, proudly being the first live event post lockdown. The current season of Hippodrome concerts runs from September 2021 to December 2021 and features 20 nights of musical entertainment featuring Alice Fearn, Kerry Ellis, Hayley Tamaddon and David O’Reilly.Fourth Wall Live is committed to following all relevant UK Government Covid-19 guidelines, creating a safe working environment for our cast, musicians, creatives, crew and their families.