Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Norman Pace. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Norman Pace. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Hairspray (UK Tour), Bord Gais Energy Theatre | Review

Hairspray (Tour)
Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin
Reviewed on Monday 11th September 2017 by Damien Murray 

Despite highlighting serious issues such as prejudice and intolerance, this show remains a popular, light-hearted and fun night of musical theatre and this latest touring production – courtesy of Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers – certainly kept it in this now famous ‘feel-good’ vibe.

Set in Baltimore in 1962, against a backdrop of racial segregation, the simple scenario of wanting teenagers of all colours to be able to dance together on a local TV dance programme with a campaign for integration on the show reflects the wider problem of racial segregation and to a welcomed social change at that time.

Opening with a look down at teenage Tracy in bed before hitting hard with one of the show’s most popular songs, 'Good Morning Baltimore', this production got off to a bright up-tempo start in a busy street scene with the dancers quickly establishing the two main communities of the piece, and – under Paul Kerryson’s direction – this theme was reinforced throughout (e.g. there was the telling line that “the TV is black and white” and the costumes in the jail scene were all black and white for the protesters as opposed to the colourful costumes that were used in the rest of the show).

Staged with a practical and realistic brick house set at either side, this production used mobile trucks and effective projected scenery throughout to keep its fast-moving pace in place, while Philip Gladwell’s bright and colourful lighting plot brought a lot to the show and I loved, at the start of each Act, how the audience was flooded in moving coloured lights to create a fun atmosphere.

As a dance-orientated show, Drew McOnie’s choreography and movement was always slick, lively, entertaining and of its time and it was a brave decision to do a routine at one stage with several basketballs being thrown about on a crowded stage.

While the costumes were overly bright (probably for staging purposes to increase the fun and escapism elements of the production), they – like the hairstyles – were authentic for the era.

The mostly up-tempo score was varied with 60s Pop, Rhythm & Blues, Doo-Wop and Gospel influences, and Musical Director, Ben Atkinson, and his 7-piece on-stage band did well in keeping things moving at a lively pace and with such a full-on sound, despite this show being written for a much larger instrumentation line-up.

While the comic duet, 'You’re Timeless To Me', proved popular with audiences, songs like 'Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now' and 'I Can Hear The Bells' were well staged; the latter having a particular magical feel to it.

However, the big production numbers that really stood out were: 'Welcome To The 60s', complete with the female vocal trio’s sparkling dresses and the floor gobos and wallpaper displaying a popular pattern of the era; the glorious piece of Gospel, 'I Know Where I’ve Been', which almost lifted the roof; and the all-singing, all-dancing finale, 'You Can’t Stop The Beat', with its totally infectious feel-good factor.

Sometimes there is something about the way a particular show is written, or cast, that is simply annoying and, for me, it is why there is a tradition of playing Tracy’s mother, Edna, as a ‘drag-role (i.e. always played by a man), as the character is not a drag queen, but was first played by one).
I feel it adds nothing to the show and is unnecessary … maybe it is just me and I am missing something obvious, but I just don’t get it.

However, that said, this is certainly no reflection on the talents of Matt Rixon, who played the role of the large, kind and shy Edna superbly in what could best be described as a towering performance, especially against the physically smaller, Norman Pace, as her ever-joking but loving husband, Wilbur (maybe that is the reason for the ‘drag-role’?).

Brenda Edwards’ super soulful vocals made her perfect for the part of the sassy and determined Motormouth Maybelle, while the experienced performance by Gina Murray, as the producer and controlling mother, Velma, was a show-stealer here and this scheming villainess must surely be the most glamorous ‘baddie’ of them all.

If Velma was the baddie, then young Rebecca Mendoza was a real ‘goodie’ here, making an impressive professional debut as the big-hearted and teenage Tracy.

All were well supported by the lively ensemble and others like Jon Tsouras’ self-loving Corney, Layton Williams’ energetic and popular, Seaweed, Edward Chitticks’ heart-throb pop star, Link, Aimee Moore’s not so talented and selfish wannabe, Amber, and Annalise Liard-Bailey – another recent theatre graduate – as the dim but beautiful, Penny.

Hairspray is at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre until September 16th before continuing on its tour.

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Hairspray (UK Tour), Edinburgh Playhouse | Review

Hairspray (UK Tour)
Edinburgh Playhouse
Reviewed on Monday 12th March 2018 by Michèle Duck & Viv Conway

The funny, daring and radical story of Hairspray truly dances to its own beat. After the last curtain fell at the Edinburgh Playhouse, the residue of hope of change was left in the air. Mark Goucher, Matthew Gale and Laurence Myers present the story of Hairspray with an exceptional cast and orchestra, based on the New Line Cinema film by John Waters. 

The musical tells the story of racial segregation in America and the fight for racial equality. From mentions of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, the audience are reminded of a struggle that although portrayed as historic, is still relevant today all over the world. The story of bravery, friendship and ‘doing what is right’, is told in a charming and compelling manner through the lyrics of Scott Whittman and Marc Shaiman. The story is told through the bright, naïve  eyes of Tracy Turnblad and her passion for dancing. As Tracy’s understanding of herself and world widens, her ambition grows into a galvanising desire for change. 

It is hard to know where to start with such a talented and energetic cast. Every cast member brought life and vitality to the performance and executed the complex choreography with vigour, precision and enjoyment in equal measure. 

A particularly captivating and poignant performance from Motormough Maybelle (Brenda Edwards) in I Know Where I’ve Been, caused the audience to tangibly hold a collective breath. Her words wove a story of segregation which although targeted to the 1960s, still rings true in the current global climate. This song tells a heartfelt story of loss and struggle and the promise of a better life. One wonders when we may truly get to the ‘Promised Land’ that Martin Luther King described in his speech the day before he was assassinated. 

Edna and Wilbur Turnblad (Matt Rixton and Norman Pace) were a down to earth, honest and side-splitting double act, which really brought life and humour to the show. Whether forgetting their lines was intentional or not, their realistic and relaxed roles bounced (literally) off each other in a light-hearted and warm rendition of You’re Timeless to Me. 

Annalise Liard-Bailey brilliantly executed her goofy portrayal of the ‘best-friend’, Penny Pingleton with perfect mix of humour, talent and relatableness. Laird-Bailey is one to watch.

However, the stand out performance of the show came from Seaweed (Layton Williams). Williams brought his character to life, and before the audience knew it, Seaweed became the leading man. Between his back flips, his energetic and sensual rendition of Run and Tell That, William’s raw talent and clear love of musical theatre shone though, infecting the audience with his energy. This leading role take-over was very appropriate considering the shows storyline of the journey to equality.  

Overall, the 2018 cast of Hairspray tells a family friendly and warm hearted story. Through its upbeat songs (who doesn’t love a singalong encore), the audience are left with the important underlying message of standing up for what you believe is right, no matter your size. After all, all that really matters is the size of your heart.

Hairspray runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until March 17th before continuing it's tour.

photo credit: Darren Bell

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Murder Ballad, Arts Theatre | Review

Murder Ballad
The Arts Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 5th October 2016 by Olivia Mitchell

Press nights are always exciting but the atmosphere on this particular one was more electric than normal. If you're at all in the loop with the theatre community you must have heard about Murder Ballad! It seems to have been everywhere and since little snippets were released and previews began I'd only heard good things so I was super excited to finally see the show myself. 

I'm one to encourage going into shows blind and this definitely one production to go into without looking up a synopsis. It's absolutely a show that you'll benefit from seeing with no preconceptions of the plot. All you need to know is that it follows three characters in a love triangle and a narrator who all merge into each others lives. Oh, and someone ends up dead! Intriguing right?!

The story is accompanied by a rock score which works well to give the story a sort of grounded realism. It really helps in the moments of anger and tension to build and crash and bring out every emotion on stage. This is a raw and gripping 90 minute fully-sung-through rock musical with love, darkness and death.

The cast of Murder Ballad are stellar and all give the outstanding performances you'd expect from these veterans of the stage. Kerry Ellis is a regular star of the West End and her portrayal of Sara really shows why. Her voice effortlessly glides into all the notes of this rock score. Her unique growl and rasp add a depth to the character and help to emphasise the emotions Sara feels, especially in the opening argument scene. The audience see the development of Sara's personality throughout and Kerry manages to capture all the little changes perfectly with an ease and innovativeness only seen in true stars. Her chemistry with Ramin Karimloo fills the whole room and they create a dark and believable pairing.

photo by Mark Brenner

I have been a huge fan of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt for a long while now so was super excited to see her take on the deep, dark role of the narrator. Victoria's voice is on another level in this production; her sultry, beautiful tone completely fit the mysterious narrator. Not only is Victoria's voice insane but her facial expressions told a whole story of their own. No spoken or sung words were needed for Victoria to convey exactly what she was feeling, her little knowing glances into the audience conveyed 1000 words; its truly a joy to see how this lady owns the stage at all times!

Now onto the men... Ramin Karimloo is a favourite of the West End and Broadway alike with a number of huge roles under his belt. Most of his famous roles such as the Phantom and Valjean are more operatic, typical musical theatre roles so it was refreshing to see him showcase the rocky, raspy side of his voice as the dark and handsome Tom. As with Sara, we get to see a lot of character development with Tom, he goes from a young-lovesick boy to a possessive man in a short space of time and Ramin carries this transformation out with dexterity and all the nuances of the in-depth character are very clear.

Norman Bowman for me has one of the most underrated voices on the West End. He's starred in a number of shows but I personally don't hear enough about him. His voice blew me away whilst he played the role of the agreeable Michael and left me with chills at points. His character is less in depth that Ellis' and Karimloo's but he still achieves a well performed character arc.

Richard Kent's set design is innovative and adds a dimension to the show, making it exciting to watch and making you feel somewhat part of the action. The revolve cleverly highlights key moments and adds a nice flow to the show. The lighting is also very clever; from the single lightbulb on stage to the green and orange tinted lights later on; David Plater's design backs up the transitions of all the characters and heightens the tensions at the crucial points.

photo by Mark Brenner

Sam Yates' direction has created a truly wonderful piece of contemporary theatre. Although I found the show to drag a little at the beginning, it soon picked up pace and I could physically feel my heart beating at points. The fantastic cast give faultless, lifelike performances which are so refreshing to see in these days of more fantastical productions. I truly enjoyed this show and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Its a unique, lively and deadly production which ticks all the boxes for an enjoyable night out! The realistic storyline and killer soundtrack are a deadly combination, leaving you on the edge of your seat, anticipating whats to come until the very last moment in this arresting production. 

Check out Rewrite This Story's interviews with Kerry Ellis here and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt here

Murder Ballad is running at the Arts Theatre until December 3rd