Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Heathers The Musical (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


Heathers The Musical (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 2nd November 2021 by Olivia Mitchell 
★★★★

Westerberg High School is back open and this time it's touring the UK, currently playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre. The show's popularity is evident from acclaimed Off-West End and West End runs in 2018, followed by another West End engagement this summer and a newly announced run at The Other Palace. The touring production embodies the same energy and will continue to provide Big Fun until the end of the year.

What works so well about this musical is that it doesn't take itself too seriously; the whole thing is melodramatic and larger than life, focussing on high school stereotypes that are highly stylised and humourous. Alongside this, Heathers does focus on some extremely dark issues such as suicide, sexual assault and bullying, and it does so pretty well, although at times it feels somewhat sloppily handled and it would be great if there were some sort of trigger warnings before the show or placed around the theatre to prepare people for some jarring moments.

However, Andy Fickman does a great job at directing this fast-paced black comedy, which alongside Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s book, music and lyrics provides an energetic and enjoyable night out. Ben Cracknell's lighting does an excellent job of packing the stage with colour and cleverly draws your eye to crucial moments as well as literally highlighting the Heathers in their signature colours and often bathing JD in a cool, eerie shade. David Shields' design effectively transfers us to each plot setting, whilst maintaining the school vibes which course throughout; and the split levels utilise the space as well as working to emphasise the hierarchies of the characters.



Phil Cornwell leads the band to bring the rock soundtrack to life vigorously, Dan Samson's sound design really shines and Gary Lloyd's choreography ties it all together, with some excellent work by the mile a minute ensemble.

As our protagonist Veronica Sawyer, Rebecca Wickes is a powerhouse force. Her vocals are sensational and she maintains her energy and intelligence from start to finish. Barely leaving the stage Rebecca is a joy to watch as she brings a wide array of emotion and has a self-awareness that is magnetic. Simon Gordon as the brooding bad boy JD has equal pull as he sweeps Veronica and the audience up with his suave mystique, only to reveal his true self as the show moves on. Simon's voice is perfectly matched to the role and the pair work brilliantly together.

The three Heathers are played boldly by Maddison Firth (Chandler), Merryl Ansah (Duke), and Lizzy Parker (McNamara). Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan as Kurt and Ram give stand out performances and have a fantastically humourous chemistry with one another. As Martha Dunnstock, Mhairi Angus is heartwarming and vocally outstanding, providing a real starring moment and some calm in an otherwise crazy show.

Overall Heathers is a musical which clearly delights audiences and is top-notch for a modern musical. It ticks the boxes of humour, angst, drama and generally being over the top and is well worth visiting as it tours the country.

photo credit: Pamela Raith

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

9 to 5 The Musical (UK Tour), New Wimbledon Theatre | Review


9 to 5 The Musical (UK Tour) 
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 19th October by Olivia Mitchell
★★★★

If a night of carefree fun is what you're after, look no further than the girl-power, 80s musical that is 9 to 5. Telling the tale of a group of women who are fed up of their misogynistic boss, the show is filled with tongue-in-cheek moments, high energy choreography and of course, the Queen of Country herself: Dolly.

Having seen this show in its various iterations, what's quite amazing is how it retains it's intensity and lavishness wherever it's situated. Musically, Dolly Parton's score pared with arrangements by Stephen OremusAlex Lacamoire and Mark Crossland is catchy and toe-tapping, whilst,  Lisa Stevens' buoyant choreography keeps the momentum of the show going and provides there's always action across the stage. Tom Rogers' design which consists mostly of screens which light up various colours and desks which come in and out, is very effective and adds to the upbeat feel of the entire production.

Jeff Calhoun's production features a fantastic cast who perform with vigour and drive. Stephanie Chandos completely shines as Dolly's character, Doralee Rhodes. Funny, feisty and instantly likeable, Stephanie brings warmth to the role and provides a wonderful moment with Backwards Barbie. Vivian Panka is charming as the naive Judy Bernly who becomes an independent woman and finds herself throughout the show. Her rendition of Get Out and Stay Out is a real highlight and her overall performance is top notch. Louise Redhnapp is entertaining and capable as long term office employee, Violet Newstead. Together the trio are a real force as they take drastic measures to show their sexist boss, Franklin Hart Jnr. (played with faultless comic timing by Sean Needham) who's really in charge.

It's almost forty years since Violet, Judy, Doralee and their misogynistic boss made their way to screens in the film 9 to 5. But book writer, Patricia Resnick shows that whilst times have changed, unfortunately many of the issues are still prevalent and this remains a strong and necessary advocator of workplace (and life) equality. With a second act of just 45 minutes, this is a crowd-pleasing-production which flies by and serves up female-led-feel-good-fun on a shining platter. 

photo credit: Pamela Raith

Friday, 17 September 2021

Leicester's Curve Theatre To Stage First New UK Production of Billy Elliot


Leicester’s Curve theatre will stage the first new UK production of iconic musical Billy Elliot.

 

The Made at Curve production will be directed by the theatre’s Artistic Director Nikolai Foster and is set to run exclusively at Curve for six weeks only, 7 July to 14 August 2022. The musical will be choreographed by Lucy Hind (Girl From the North CountyThe Last Ship) with full casting to be announced in due course.

 

Based on Stephen Daldry’s BAFTA-winning 2000 film starring Jamie Bell and Julie WaltersBilly Elliot the Musical features music from Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall. The musical first premiered at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre in 2005 and went on to win a host of international awards, including four Laurence Olivier Awards and ten Tony Awards.

 

Children’s casting will be managed by Jo Hawes CDG, the leading children’s casting director in the UK. Auditions for the title role and young people will begin soon and those interested in finding out more are encouraged to contact Jo Hawes by emailing joanne.hawes2013@gmail.com. All information will also be available on johawes.com.

 

Adult casting is led by Curve Associate Kay Magson CDG.

 

The musical’s set and costumes will be designed by Colin Richmond, with lighting from Curve Associate Ben Cracknell.

 

Speaking about this new Made at Curve production, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said:

“We are beyond excited to share Lee Hall and Elton John’s astonishing musical Billy Elliot with Curve audiences, ensuring summer 2022 in Leicester is truly memorable.

Billy Elliot is a musical filled with incredible characters, epic ideas and at its heart, the story of a young boy who has the passion and courage to dance down a different path from the one prescribed for him. We are indebted to the incredible creatives who made Billy such a hit and hugely grateful they have trusted us to create the first brand new UK production for our audiences in Leicester. Collaborating with a terrific production team and an incredible cast of the most exciting young performers, we are proud to present this mighty musical which recognises the value of culture in our society, the importance of expressing your truest self and gives a voice to the courageous working class communities who are depicted in Lee Hall’s astonishing play. All beautifully framed by Elton John’s electrifying score.”

It’s the mid 80s. Thatcher is at her most powerful. Men mine and boys box. Until, in a small town in County Durham, a young boy falls in love with ballet.

Set amidst the increasingly bitter 1984/85 miners’ strike, Billy Elliot the Musical is a tale of determination, acceptance and daring to be different. In a close-knit community where family and tradition means everything, can Billy forge a new destiny and follow his passion?

Based on Stephen Daldry's acclaimed 2000 film, with music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, this electrifying musical features incredible songs such as Solidarity, The Letter, He Could Be a Star and the show-stopping Electricity.

 

Tickets for Billy Elliot the Musical at Curve will go on sale to Curve Friends from Thursday 30 September, Supporters from Friday 1 October, Members, Groups and Access Register Customers from Monday 4 October and on general sale from Monday 11 October, all at 12 noon. Tickets can be purchased online at www.curveonline.co.uk or by calling Curve’s Box Office on 0116 242 3595.

Tell Me Straight Returns To London



Gartland Productions are pleased to announce the return of Offies Commendation production, Tell Me Straight by Paul Bradshaw.

 

Following a hugely successful run in this year’s Queer Season at the King’s Head Theatre, the revival of Tell Me Straight will open at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester on 26th October 2021 before opening at the Turbine Theatre, London on 2nd November 2021.

 

Paul Bradshaw, writer and co-star of Tell Me Straight said “Tell Me Straight draws on my previous experiences but frames them in a new narrative. This fresh and dynamic production highlights the sexual encounters that made me who I am, both the good and those I’d rather forget… not only to make you laugh but to also remind you, you are not alone” 

 

Paul Bradshaw co-stars in his hilarious and fast-paced one-act production with George Greenland and Stephanie Levi-John.

 

Tell Me Straight tells the honest and heartwarming tale about a young Londoner who is approaching the big 3 0, who is trying to find his way. His life, like everyone else’s, needs to change! For the next thirty days, he will be getting his sh*t together; no booze, no fast food and no shagging…but it’s never that easy, eh?

 

His long-suffering bestie Dani has heard it all before – she’s done with his never-ending line of sexual conquests, all with the one thing in common, they’re straight!

 

Babe, you need to find a gay man, who actually likes gay men.

 

But it seems straight men are like buses … In seventy-five minutes, our young Londoner meets Matt, the city boy, Ryan, an actor currently selling perfume, Lee, a fresh-faced grad, and Alex. Are any of them gonna be the one?

 

Paul Bradshaw, writer and co-star of Tell Me Straight said: “I think there’s something for everyone! This play captures those moments we’ve all felt when swept up in the nervous and fizzy energy when you first start seeing someone. It’s playful and exciting but how long can that spark last? Is it healthy? Is it always a good thing? Tell Me Straight explores that and ultimately poses the question of - do we attract a certain type of person or are we seeking that kind of person?”

 

Tell Me Straight is directed by Imogen Hudson-Clayton with assistant director Hiba Elchikhe.

 

Writer Paul Bradshaw and producer Liam Gartland are thrilled that the returning company of Tell Me Straight are composed of queer and/or working-class artists.

 

Paul Bradshaw writer of Tell Me Straight said: “It’s time to have rooms where the whole company is made up of the people reflected in the work. Representation matters, and we’re excited to get started with this team.”

 

Liam Gartland, Executive producer at Gartland Productions said: 'After a short run at The King's Head Theatre, Tell Me Straight received fantastic five-star reviews and an OFFIES Commendation which gave me no other option than to carry on sharing this story with audiences. As a queer theatre producer raised in Manchester, I knew this was a story that needed to reach further afield. Opening the show at The Hope Mill, a place that has inspired me from the beginning, marks a special moment in my career.'

 

Tickets for Tell Me Straight at both the Hope Mill Theatre and Turbine Theatre are on sale from Monday 20th September 2021.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Bat Out of Hell (Tour), Manchester Opera House | Review



Bat Out of Hell (UK Tour) 
Manchester Opera House
Reviewed on Saturday 11th September by Hope Priddle
★★★★★

Hitting the highway until late 2022, after several staggering runs in Toronto, New York and London, Bat Out Of Hell returned to its proverbial Manchester home this weekend. A stunning realisation of Jim Steinman’s life’s work and Meat Loaf’s iconic trilogy, the rock-opera is set in the dystopian city of Obsidian, a wasteland governed by the despotic Falco in the wake of a chemical war. Falco embarks upon a campaign to rebuild his metropole, which has since been overrun by a gang of feral, mutated youths – The Lost - frozen forever at the age of eighteen. As their leader Strat falls for the tyrant’s daughter Raven, an epic drama unfolds.


Bat Out Of Hell has undergone numerous changes across its various iterations; this new touring production is no exception, having been understandably shortened and scaled back. The book, which was already somewhat nonsensical, has suffered because of this. Amendments to the script, which were clearly made to clarify and accelerate the storyline, are overly literal, with clunky dialogue often betraying the visceral atavism of Steinman’s poetry. However, it’s foolish to think that anyone coming to see Bat Out Of Hell is after a refined and sophisticated narrative. Bat Out Of Hell is bursting with knowing irony and sarcasm – it has its tongue firmly situated in its cheek throughout. It’s a magical fever dream that invites you to suspend your disbelief.


Incoherency is irrelevant when you have a cast as stellar as this one - a cast who perform with such raw passion and hunger, you absolutely cannot take your eyes off them. As the black-hearted leader of The Lost and ultimate manic pixie dream boy, Glenn Adamson is mesmerising as Strat. His powerful performance of the titular song blew the roof of the Manchester Opera House. Adamson shares sizzling chemistry with Martha Kirby, our atypical teenage ingĂ©nue Raven, who perfectly captures the character’s fearless spirit and delivers flawless vocals. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton triumph as Raven’s parents, Falco and Sloane. While the couple are outrageously comic and camp, their failing marriage inspires genuine pathos as they reflect upon What Part of My Body Hurts the Most. Sultry and savvy, Joelle Moses embodies the role of Zahara; James Chisholm is charming as  tough yet huge-hearted Jagwire, and Killian Thomas Lefevre plays a wholly endearing Tink, the youngest member of The Lost. Whilst supporting characters Valkyrie (Kellie Gnauck) and Ledoux (Danny Whelan) demonstrate stunning vocal prowess, the loss of an all-male rendition of Objects In The Rear View Mirror during the second-act, is felt massively.  In previous productions, the number provided an emotional antidote to examples of sexually-charged masculinity and it was always refreshing to see raging machismo tempered by platonic male love.


The ensemble are electric, executing Xena Gusthart’s dynamic choreography with real attitude. They are complimented by a spectacular use of multi-media effects, including live video. Action is televised, Big-Brother style, across the auditorium, with an on-stage camera woman magnifying the drama. Given that the cast have free-reign over Jon Bausor’s multi-levelled post apocalyptic playground, this technique proves highly effective in capturing every little detail. The show is a huge assault on the senses, in the best way possible; expect a cacophony of colour, light, sound (and fire)!


If you’re after an evening like no other, exploding with hedonistic pleasure and unadulterated euphoria, head out on your Harley and get yourself a ticket…before they’re too hot to handle. 


Bat Out of Hell is currently touring the UK and Ireland


photo credit: Chris Davis Studio

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Joanne Clifton to play Morticia in The Addams Family UK & Ireland Tour



Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics are delighted to announce that Joanne Clifton will play the role of Morticia Addams in the UK and Ireland tour of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, A Musical Comedy. The tour will open at Theatre Royal, Nottingham on 5 November 2021.

 

Joanne will be joining the previously announced, Cameron Blakely (Gomez Addams), Scott Paige (Uncle Fester), Kingsley Morton (Wednesday Addams), Grant McIntyre (Pugsley Addams), Valda Aviks (Grandma), Sean Kingsley (Mal Beineke), Kara Lane (Alice Beineke), Ahmed Hamad (Lucas Beineke), Dickon Gough and Ryan Bennett (sharing the role of Lurch), Abigail Brodie, Sophie Hutchinson, Matthew Ives and Sean Lopeman. Also new to the cast and joining the ensemble is Castell Parker. Further casting to be announced.

 

Joanne Clifton has starred as Janet in the UK tour of The Rocky Horror Show, Alex Owens in the UK tour of Flashdance, and Dale Tremont in Top Hat, where she received her second Offie nomination. Her first was for her acting debut as the Streetwalker in Irving Berlin’s Face the Music. Joanne is perhaps best known for her time on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. After winning the World Professional Showdance Championship and the European Professional Ballroom Championship, she joined the show as a professional dancer. During her time on the show, she performed in the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, was an expert presenter on the programme’s backstage show, It Takes Two, won the Christmas Special with McFly’s Harry Judd, and went on to win the glitterball trophy as the 2016 champion with her partner Ore Oduba. 

 

Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and has a shocking secret that only Gomez knows; she’s fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family! Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before — keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia.  Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.  All the usual clan are present - Uncle Fester, Lurch, Pugsley et al.

 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY, A Musical Comedy, will be directed by Matthew White, with choreography by Alistair David, production design by Diego Pitarch, orchestrations by Richard Beadle, lighting design by Ben Cracknell, sound design by Richard Brooker and casting by Jane Deitch. Book is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the characters created by Charles Addams.

 

THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2021 UK Tour is produced by Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics Limited, and is presented through special arrangement with Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

 

For further information, please visit www.theaddamsfamily.co.uk