Wednesday, 16 September 2015

In The Spotlight | CERI DUPREE (Wolverhampton Grand Theatre) October 2015

Ceri Dupree has been delighting audiences worldwide for almost 30 years. His unique talents have led him through musical theatre, pantomime, summer seasons, television and cabaret. There isn't an audience (age or type!!!) that he hasn't played to. Following a successful pantomime season in 2013 and one man (twenty two women) show in 2014, Ceri returns to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in October. 

Wolverhampton is excited to have you back after a fabulous pantomime season in 2013 with Sleeping Beauty. Are you looking forward to coming back?
It’s hard to believe that was 18 months ago! The time just goes… Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is what I call a proper theatre. We go to lots of different venues all over the country and some I call theatres, others I call civic venues… council run things in leisure centres, they’re purpose built theatres but for me, you’ll never beat the old theatres like the Grand.

It’s a brand new show you’re bringing to Wolverhampton, EYEcons, tell us more!
Yes, a brand new show that’s a play on words, EYEcons obviously meaning icons… female icons. The last time I came and did my show, just after the last panto season we had a great time but this will be something different. There are a few favourites that people love that I always put in, like Tina Turner but last time I did Camilla Parker Bowles, Shirley Bassey, Björk and Marlene Dietrich – they’re all staying at home this time and the first half of this show will be all old Hollywood. I mean old – we start off with Mae West and then Bette Davis and Shirley Temple, then we bring it a little more up to date like Dolly Parton and Joan Rivers.

Without giving too much away, in the second half there’s a skit on The Sound Of Music – I saw Lady Gaga do it at the Oscars, I thought “hmmm, hang on! How can I get Lady Gaga, Dame Edna and Julie Andrews into the Sound Of Music?” … but I think I’ve done it! I hope I’ve done it anyway…

It’s not just your voice and physical impersonations that impress; it’s your costumes too! You must spend a fortune…
I do. I’ve just done a 4 week run of a show in London with my sister Ria Jones and some of the costumes in that particular show got people’s attention. When they ask how much they cost I know they don’t believe me. If I say a coat costs £1500, a full outfit covered in feathers is ridiculous amounts more!

I’ve always said though, I’m dressing up as some of the most of the most expensive women in the world. I don’t have Shirley Bassey’s wage, I wish I did, but I’m dressing up as her, so to do my best I have to spend a lot. I just like to give my audiences good value for money, whether that’s through the songs, the impersonations, the stand up or the costumes.

Ceri as Queen Passionella in Wolverhampton's 2013/14 pantomime. 

Would you wear any of it out at the weekend?
No, they’re too heavy! People always say to me, especially during pantomime, where the costumes are really outrageous – “how do you walk in those shoes? How do you balance that hat on your head?” but the thing is I only have them on for a few minutes. I totter across the stage, do my thing, hopefully get a laugh and take them off as soon as I get into the wings. I pity these girls who wear these heels all night in clubs. I do fifteen costumes changes in my upcoming show!

How do you decide which women you’re going to impersonate?
I try to keep it fresh all the time, so I’m always on the lookout. The sad thing is, I had scheduled to do a bit on Cilla Black this time around. Of course, now she’s died it would be in really bad taste so I’ll leave it a few years and come back to her.

She would have probably loved it though?
She would have! You just can’t do it so soon though. Joan Rivers is back in the show now, I took her out of the show after her death too, even though she was always the first to mock and laugh at herself. I also did the same with Amy Winehouse when she left us, even though she was back for my 2014 show I toned it down a bit – I want to make people laugh, not upset or offend them. I like to think that I send them all up in a celebratory way.

What’s great about your show is that by coming to see it, you can enjoy acts that you can no longer see, or simply couldn’t afford to see…
That’s exactly it. It’s not only nostalgia, because the young audiences come and enjoy the show and they’d never remember someone like Mae West or Marlene Dietrich but they still laugh and that’s great – you don’t necessarily have to know who these people are. If I do Zsa Zsa Gábor people say “did she really have 9 husbands?” and yes she did. She still holds the record in Hollywood to this day for the most marriages, one more than Liz Taylor, so they laugh, and that’s the most important thing. You’ll get your money’s worth!

Ceri Dupree’s EYEcons is at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on Tuesday 13 October. Tickets are available here

Monday, 31 August 2015

In The Spotlight | OUR HOUSE (Union Theatre) August - September 2015

The Union Theatre, established in 1998, is a small fringe theatre,  just a short walk from Southwark station on Union Street, London. Despite seventeen successful years and perhaps the most dominant presence in off-West End theatre, this week was to be our first visit to the small but perfectly formed '50 seater' under the railway bridge... 

Prompting a new feature, #InTheSpotlight and breaking a two month hiatus on the blog, The Union's production of Our House, the Madness musical does much to deserve recognition for pulling off an ambitious vision in such an intimate space. 

Our House at the Union Theatre. Photo by Darren Bell. 

Any production would pose it's own difficulties to stage at the Union, due to limited space, but in particular William Whelton's dynamic choreography shows no limitation and is presented with an abundance of energy from an enthusiastic ensemble.

Our House makes our first recommendation this month because it proves wholeheartedly that in London, great theatre isn't just on Shaftesbury Avenue - here it's just a short hop across the river and at a fraction of the cost...

Tickets can be bought online here. Performances are close to selling out, with best availability mid week, so snap up those final tickets! It's useful to know that all pre-purchased tickets are traded for a numbered ticket on arrival. The audience is called into the auditorium in groups of ten, so get there early for the best seats. Below is everything you need to know:

Our House plays until Saturday 12 September with a running time of 2hrs 15 mins. Tickets are £20, concessions £17. 

Cast List: Steven France, Alisa Davidson, Dominic Brewer, Sally Samad, Joseph Giacone, Joe Ashman, Claire Learie, Chanice Alexander-Burnett, Rhys Owen, Jay Osbourne, Joanna Bird, Alice Baker, Rachel Capp, Lauren Dinse, Reece Kerridge, Paul Flannigan, Zachary Worrall. 

Directed by: Michael Burgen
Choreographed By: William Welton

Monday, 29 June 2015

Preview | MATA HARI THE MUSICAL (Edinburgh Fringe Festival)

They’ve done it again! The champions of the parody musical genre are back!

Punchline Theatre, the company behind Guido!: The Gunpowder Treason Plot and Jack & I: The Jack the Ripper Musical return to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe at the beautiful Merchants Hall. Their latest show Mata Hari: The Musical explores and reimagines the life of the infamous wartime courtesan, femme fatale, and alleged spy Mata Hari in an explosion of colour, sound, and comedy!

“No, you don’t have to have seen our other shows, or even be aware of who Mata Hari was”, writer Daniel Henry Kaes informs me. “We are making are the same points as we have always done, but it’s a genre that naturally leaves itself open to parody. It is perfectly possible in my eyes to have a fantastically funny show, with catchy songs and crazy characters, that at the same time is informative, revealing, and up-lifting. The starting point for these musicals was the idea that history is written by the winners, so trying to reimagine these “anti-heroes” in this offbeat, individualist manner is very liberating.”

The real legend of Mata Hari has triggered much debate amongst historians, and it is her fantastic story of seduction and alleged espionage in that makes her such a perfect choice for a musical. Punchline Theatre are fast growing in their popularity for their cult musicals and they are joined this year by award-winning comedian and director Will Seaward. Their anarchic spirit has been compared to The Comic Strip Presents, Python, Jerry Springer: The Opera, and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and once again Punchline Theatre is sure to provide a breath of fresh air at this year’s Edinburgh Festival.

Mata Hari: the Musical runs for three weeks from 6th - 27th August, 8:45pm (50 mins) at Spotlites @ Merchants Hall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015.

Click here to book tickets. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Review | THE KING DANCES / CARMINA BURANA (Birmingham Royal Ballet) June 2015

Celebrating 20 years of Artistic Director, David Bintley, Birmingham Royal Ballet present his first and most recent ballets for the company at Birmingham Hippodrome this week. 

The King Dances is the 1653 story of the 14-year-old Louis XIV of France who danced the role of Apollo the sun god in Le Ballet de la nuit, and earned himself forever the soubriquet the Sun King. In the ballet, David Bintley re-imagines the very beginnings of ballet, when men were quite literally, the kings of dance.

From it's fiery opening with flickering flames, the Messieurs are perfectly poised but it is ultimately, Le Roi, the Sun King danced by William Bracewell who commands attention over the discordant score. His duet with the moon, Yijing Zhang's Selene, la Lune is simply beautiful and leads nicely into a striking finale of glowing gold. 

It all overseen by the brilliance of seasoned dancer Iain Mackay as La Nuit who's turn as Le Diable, the devil adds a welcome change in dynamic. It is rather succinct at only 35 minutes but is nonetheless pure, undiluted brilliance. 

1995's Carmina Burana opens with the familiar 'O Fortuna' - the last time I was sat at Birmingham Hippodrome listening to that song, I was being covered in snow by clowns, it's a versatile an anthem. Here it provides the perfect introduction to the angular, disjointed choreography, executed with gusto from Céline Gittens,  as a break from the more classical ballet of which we were treated to earlier in the evening. 

If it's something BRB do well, it's providing contrast in it's double and triple bills whilst keeping the theme relatively correlating. Carmina Burana keeps the dark drama of the first piece but despite being 20 years old injects a freshness through the abandoning of structure and the exploration of fate. 

Divided into several departures from faith, 'On The Village Green' is sprightly, much like MacMillan's Elite Syncopations, an injection of colour, flirtatious and contests with the equally entertaining 'In The Tavern' which also draws parallels with Jooss' The Green Table - gluttons in masks and gloves dancing around a table on which Daria Stanciulescu is presented as an effortlessly delicate Roast Swan. 

The climax, a reprise of O Fortuna is preceded by a breathtaking sequence for the tearing down of the backcloth and revealing of a concert-like spectacle that's all in the staging. 

Not only The King Dances but the evening as a whole is deliciously dark and by it's climax, glows gloriously. 

At Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday. Click here for tickets. 

View the trailer for Carmina Burana


The Board of Directors at Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the appointment of Jan Teo as its new Chief Executive. Ms. Teo has served as a member of the Birmingham Royal Ballet Board for the past two years and has long experience in corporate management and the arts. She will take up the position in mid-September. Current Chief Executive Christopher Barron is leaving the Company in July, as announced in November.

Announcing Ms. Teo’s appointment, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Chair of the Board, Professor Michael Clarke said: “I am extremely pleased that we can make this appointment. The Board conducted a thorough international search, and while there was no shortage of qualified candidates it was nevertheless hugely gratifying to find the answer round our own Board table. Jan has just the mix of leadership skills and management experience we need, knows the Company well, and has great experience in the arts sector in Birmingham. We look forward to working successfully with her.”

In 2009 Ms. Teo joined Deutsche Bank as a Director, heading up the Change and Infrastructure Group in Birmingham. Having played a leading role in the exponential growth of the business, Jan became Chief Operating Officer for Deutsche Bank’s European Service Centres in early 2011. Jan draws on extensive commercial experience of planning and executing strategy, having been formerly a senior leader at Legal and General, Barclays Bank, RAC Motoring Services, Lex Transfleet and the Fraikin Group, working in Service and Business Transformation Director roles.

A strong and active supporter of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Ms. Teo joined its board in 2013, and the Company’s Finance and General Purposes Committee in 2014. Ms. Teo is also a Director of the Birmingham Museums Trust, where she chairs the Finance and Operations Committee. She has played an important part in the annual Deutsche Bank Creative Awards and the Women in European Business diversity group. At the invitation of Sir Albert Bore, she led a workshop at the 2012 Cultural

Summit, also sits on a steering group of Birmingham’s Creative Partnership Board looking at alternative funding models for arts and creative businesses.

Jan Teo added: “I am delighted to combine my corporate skills with a personal and lifelong passion for the arts and cultural pursuits, and am looking forward to working with the immensely talented and dedicated team at Birmingham Royal Ballet. Having been a member of the Board, I have had the privilege of getting to know the Chair and the Company well, and vice versa. It is a double honour to be following Chris Barron and all his achievements in the role of Chief Executive and to be working toward the future alongside David Bintley.”

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Review | PETER PAN (Welsh National Opera) June 2015

Peter Pan, the story of the boy who never grows up... and it is before they're grown up that you should introduce children to theatre and they're likely to become lifelong theatregoers. Children need a way in, usually pantomime (of which Peter Pan is becoming a popular choice) but for other forms, such as Ballet and Opera it can be more difficult. 

Companies such as Northern Ballet are great at their 'Children's Ballets' with Elves And The Shoemaker currently touring and now Welsh National Opera's attempt to appeal to new audiences comes in the shape of J.M Barrie's classic tale. 

Despite Disney's glossier movie, recent adaptations of the story have focussed on the darker undertone, the RSC's Wendy And Peter Pan for example explores not only death  but closer looks at Wendy's responsibilities. For this version, it appears that the very Victorian nature of the story is the central theme - the dark and Dickens-like London that perhaps ties into WNO's season - A Terrible Innocence. 

The innocence however is what I'd question. I'm not entirely sure that opera fully lends itself to the story of Peter Pan. For one, the operatic style of singing is mature beyond any of the characters' age  and it was apparent in the confusion of nearby children that adults playing the young Darling family was a little too much to comprehend. 

The lyrics are at their best when spoken. Much of the evening is spent looking at the subtitles for clarification despite it being sung in English. It seems odd to say that it is the singing itself that takes away from the piece which is otherwise a visual treat. 

It's beautifully lit and there are some breathtaking movement sequences. The use of trains cleverly  aid change in location and even a train carriage as a pirate ship works well. The locations themselves are made from toys and other objects around the children's nursery - it's very clever, especially the grandfather clock which becomes the crocodile. The only confusion design-wise is that Neverland seems to be located within the nursery itself, perhaps suggesting it's just a make believe bedtime story? 

There is a very nice use of animated projection to portray Tinkerbell and her revival is a heartwarming moment aided with the use of puppetry. 

Ashley Holland is excellent and stands out as Captain Hook. The highlight is Hook's song with his band of pirates. Surprisingly, it is this moment that's most lighthearted and has the most rhythm, it's where the music finally gets going from what was a little discordant before. 

The idea of Peter Pan as an opera is not to be dismissed, but to be thoroughly enjoyed by children it needs to focus on the fantasy and a greater sense of hope, it's dark and very downbeat. The deliberate focus on the danger removes the elements of fun. For the adults, perhaps a deeper exploration into at least one of the relationships that begins to touch at the heart.

An alternative flight to Neverland - a route you won't have taken before but one that's interesting to travel. 

For further operas at Birmingham Hippodrome, click here

Sunday, 7 June 2015


Straight from the streets of Seattle, 14/48 WOLVERHAMPTON is landing at the Arena Theatre in June and is set to showcase 14 plays over a 48-hour period.

The festival is the brainchild of Michael Neff and Jodi-Paul Wooster, who hatched the initial plans whilst working at South Lake Union, Seattle. From humble beginnings, the festival has developed into a gathering of Seattle’s most daring theatre artists and audiences. After 16-plus years, the festival has gone global and visits Wolverhampton from 12 – 13 June 2015.

During the two-day period in the city, 14 plays will be written, directed, scored, designed and performed within 48 hours. A team of 75 artists from the across the Midlands, the UK and Seattle are engaged in the festival, producing 7 premiere plays per evening.

14/48 is a ‘live brief’ networking opportunity, a new writing festival, theatre stripped back to it’s raw roots. It is the most fun, challenging, and invigorating experience for both the artists and audiences that make it possible. It aims to develop satellite festivals across the world, encouraging a flow of artists between festivals, and the benefits that blossom from these connections.
As part of the festival, there will also be a Meet the Brewer event with Sacre Brew, an exciting artisanal microbrewery based in Wolverhampton on the evening of Saturday 13 June.

14/48 performances begin at 8pm and 10:30pm on 12 & 13 June priced at £5 - £7 per show or £8 - £10 for both nights booked together. Tickets are on sale now from or by calling the Box Office 01902 321321.

For more information visit or @1448wolves.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


Following a West End season, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical is now touring the UK, premiering in Birmingham at the New Alexandra Theatre this week. Based on the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, the show began life in California in 2004, moving to Broadway in 2005. Almost a decade on, a brand new production directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell is giving the audience what they want. With everything from great songs, comedy, high energy dance routines and a gorgeous set a ticket to this show sure aint no con! 

On the French Riviera, Lawrence and Freddy, two conmen (one notably better than the other) unite on their biggest job ever whilst trying to woo and con 'millionaire Soap Queen' Christine Colgate with twists, turns and many a disguise along the way.

The pre-show curtain sets the scene, like a giant postcard of seaside village Beaument-sur-Mer. From the moment it lifts you are transported into the perfect theatrical world full of glorious glitz and glamour of the French Riviera. What's great is that this feels like one of the classics - the MGM musicals, but with the added bonus that this particular production is barely 2 years old. Even compared to the excellent West End production, it remains remarkably fresh.

Michael Praed is every inch the charmer as Lawrence Jameson. Irresistibly smooth, he glides his way through the part that you would believe was written for him. His counterpart, the less deceiving Freddy is played by Noel Sullivan. An oafish opposite in terms of sophistication, Sullivan is particularly hilarious as Ruprecht, a strange brother invented to deter Phoebe Coupe's comedic, scene-stealing Jolene and later as a man paralysed from the waist down - earning some of the biggest laughs of the night.

Mark Benton plays Andre, the French inspector. The role has previously been played as a handsome, clean-cut, designer-stubbled superior but here, Benton's somewhat buffoonish take on the character works incredibly well and earns much of the audience sympathy. Benton  brings to light a new-found humour in the role. 

Carley Stenson proves her presence with some powerhouse vocals as Christine. She's mesmerising as the tempting American and ensures all eyes are on her throughout a glowing performance. Geraldine Fitzgerald is utterly charming as Louis Vuitton clutching Muriel - a lonely Englishwoman who ensures the tender moments of this high-octane musical are among some of the most memorable - in particular the evolving relationship with Andre.

Peter Mackintosh's set design is stunning and scenery changes are slick - there are moments of pure genius. There is an overwhelming sense of luxuriousness that transports a midweek in a Birmingham theatre to a Saturday night in Monte Carlo. This is the show that gives them what they want, nothing cheap or cheesy, just pure glitz, glamour and entertainment from start to finish. Even at this, the tour's premiere, you'd be conned into thinking they'd been at it for years it's so slick. Simply unmissable!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels runs at Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 16 May. Buy (or con people into buying) tickets here

Cast List: Michael Praed, Noel Sullivan, Carley Stenson, Mark Benton, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Emma Caffrey, Andy Conaghan, Phoebe Coupe, Soophia Faroughi, Jonny Godbold, Orla Gormley, Patrick Harper, Justin Lee-Jones, Jordan Livesey, Lisa Mathieson, Andy Rees, Freya Rowley, Regan Shepherd, Kevin Stephen-Jones, Katie Warsop, Jenny Wickham.

Friday, 1 May 2015


Dreamboats & Miniskirts is the sequel to the popular Dreamboats & Petticoats comes to Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tue 23 - Sat 27 June. Alex Beaumont who plays Bobby spoke about the show and the part he plays in it. 

This is your second run with Bill Kenwright’s production – what is it about this musical and your role that made you decide to continue into 2015?
The music, the 60s music, it’s incredible to get to sing it eight times a week, I really love 60s music. The character of Bobby, well, I do identify with him, I have a little soft spot for him, which makes me want to play him. We’re similar because we’re typical boys, we don’t really think about things, like girls feelings – an ignorant boy (laughs).

The cast must know each other so well now – is it like one big family?
Yeah, it really is. It’s also amazing to have the live band on stage with you as well because you feel like you have that support. Everyone gets on great, everywhere we go we all go for meals together or stay in digs together, so yeah, it really is like one big family.

You have a new Norman – how is Alastair settling in?
Brilliant, absolutely amazing, he’s such a pleasure to work with. We got on really well on and off stage, so it’s really nice. He has taken over from Ross (William Wild) and he probably was a bit nervous, but I experience the same thing when we started Miniskirts last year because there was only me and Ross who were new to the franchise, everyone else had been in Petticoats at some point. I did kind of feel it would be hard to slot in, but actually, it was really easy because they’re such a nice bunch of people.

For those that haven’t seen the show, tell us a bit about it and your character.
The show focuses on Bobby and Laura, they’ve just had massive success with Dreamboats and Petticoats, and in Miniskirts, you see how their relationship, professionally and romantically, is going to work and whether it will work. You also have recurring characters Norman and Sue, who are getting on nicely, they’re married. And then there’s Donna and Ray. Ray is now working in a salon in Bond Street and Donna’s working in her boutique and they’re going through every day relationship struggles too. They’re a little bit older, everyone’s matured apart from Bobby!

It’s a show set in the 1960s – do you find the audiences are of that generation or is it appealing to a younger audience?
A bit of both actually. Generally, the audiences we get are people who were the age of the characters in the show in the 60s, and the people we get to meet after the show, most of them will tell us it took them back to their youth and it was really nice to reminisce. But then also, that generation are then taking their children and their children’s children to come and see it as well. We’ve had young children in the audience, who, some of them, know all the words, which is brilliant. So it just goes to show that even if you weren’t around in that era, you can still appreciate it.

Has your music and fashion taste changed because of the show?
I’ve always loved 60s music, although it was more jazz and soul, Ben E. King, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, all those great singers. And then in the show you’ve got Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson and other amazing singers that you don’t really get these days. And their songs have stood the test of time and that’s why I like this kind of music. As for the fashion, I do like the Chelsea boots that I get to wear every night, and to have a nice sharp suit to wear is always really nice to wear.

You said you have grown as the show has gone on – how have you changed from your very first performance last August to now?
I’ve definitely relaxed into the role and what has really helped is finding those similarities between you as a person, and character, it makes it a lot easier to relate to. And it’s taught me not to be so hard on myself. Because it’s such a massive role in the dhow, no one’s superhuman, you learn how to conserve your energy but still make sure you give enough for every show. And those are skills that will hopefully carry on in the rest of my career.

At Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tue 23 - Sat 27 June. CLICK HERE to book tickets. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Andrew Lloyd Webber's timeless tale of a band of brothers in a biblical bonanza of colour and high energy dance routines bursts onto the Belgrade stage this week.

With a score of well known classics, the show never fails to leave you grinning from ear to ear. In a re-energised 2015 production from Bill Kenwright, X Factor finalists provide a pop injection to bring the show bang up to date. With new orchestrations and moderations to direction, Joseph is back and on better form than before.

Heading up the cast is Lloyd Daniels, as hero Joseph - the twelfth son of Jacob, despised by his brothers and sold into slavery. With a winning smile and overwhelming charm Daniels' has the audience in the palm of his hand - his Welsh tones perfectly suit the score through ballad and the more upbeat. He provides a necessary naivety yet remained a confident frontman and ensure everyone leaves on a high.

Amelia Lily is a strong narrator, creating her own, unique version of the role that draws on her chart-topping vocal skills. Whereas usually the narrator boasts an incredibly high vocal range, lowering the octave occasionally ensures that Lily can instead use her trademark belt to wow the audience. A very impressive theatrical debut.

Matt Lapinskas roused the crowd as the Pharoah and his Elvis turn let the audience know well and truly that he is in the building... they were shouting for more - literally!

As an ensemble show, there is great deal of stage time for an energetic group of brothers who provide excellent backing vocals and constant humour and the female handmaidens prove to be excellent dancers. There is full marks for enthusiasm. 

Even after all these years, the inflatable sheep used still haven't learnt to behave and inflate properly but it's all part of the charm. With delightful costumes and the occasional pair of Ugg boots, the show is as ever the complete visual treat.

Unoffensive, family fun with singing camels for good measure, who could ask for anything more? With every possible musical style imaginable there's something for everyone. It's simple storytelling but incredibly hard to resist coming back again and again. At Belgrade Theatre Coventry until Saturday 25 April. Tickets here

Cast List: Lloyd Daniels, Amelia Lily, Henry Metcalfe, Matt Lapinskas, Sam Hallion, Camilla Rowland, Andrew Bateup, Marcus Ayton, Alfred Bache, Joel Burman, Robert Colvin, Matt Brinkler, Jamie Jukes, Craig Golding, Matt Blaker, Samantha Noel, Daisy Steere, Chris Kayson. 

Review | THE PRODUCERS (UK Tour) April 2015

It's the greatest failure in the history of show business.... at least that's what it's supposed to be! 'Springtime For Hitler', the Neo-Nazi musical on the misunderstood Fuhrer is what lame producers Bialystock and Bloom intend to stage in order to rake in the remaining funds of a doomed Broadway musical in the smash hit Broadway musical - The Producers!

It's perhaps as confusing and seemingly irrelevant on paper as it is on stage, but much like the show that features within it, The Producers is a sure fire hit ... at least it is with a string of star names to it. 

Here, the show is cast for entertainment value and it's stars take precedence over anything else. Top of the bill is Stand Up Comedian Jason Manford. Incredibly likeable as accountant-turned-Broadway Producer Leo Bloom, with a cartoony voice like a timid Mickey Mouse, he wins over the audience with what at first is a seemingly subtle performance that explodes in song - a perhaps surprising element to his performance, he wins over any doubters. 

Manford is paired well with Cory English as Max Bialystock who is no stranger to the role. Experience is definitely ripe as he earns some of the biggest cheers of the night. Phil Jupitus is sometimes a little difficult to understand behind all the German but is humorous in his portrayal of pigeon keeper, Playwright, Hitler obsessive Franz Liebkind. 

Stage veteran David Badella brings Broadway charm as only he can. His rich sound and smooth voice is something of his trademark and works particularly well with the role of Roger De Bris, a fabulously flamboyant image of the over theatrical, cross-dressing director. In a later, excellent turn as Hitler, hilarity breaks out in the show's most spectacular dance number - full of glamour, full of glitz and camp as.... well, they rhyme with glitz. 

As if it wasn't already overly theatrical enough, Louie Spence ensures that you don't leave with your cravings for camp unsatisfied. His hilarious Carmen Ghia is something of an upstaging of almost everything but the audience lap up every pirouette, every backbend and bevel. 

Finally, Tiffany Graves is excellent as Ulla, she's got it and she flaunts it. 

The set is pretty minimal with a lot of moving going on behind a waving back cloth, it is distracting and clunky set pieces prove difficult to manoeuvre sometimes. A lot of this is covered up well with vibrant choreography however. Almost like a Bialystock and Bloom production with creased swastika laden curtains, the production doesn't boast the highest production values, but it doesn't matter. The Producers has been done far more lavishly before but here money has been well spent elsewhere with a well chosen, star cast and enthusiastic ensemble make this something of a sure fire hit!

Highly hilarious, farcical, at most times irrelevant, it shouldn't work but it does - much like the show it's about. An easy, fun and (most importantly) entertaining night at the theatre. At Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25 April. Tickets here

Friday, 3 April 2015

Review | RENT (Hutton Theatre) April 2015

Jonathan Larson's RENT has in recent years grown increasingly popular in the amateur and off-West End theatres. With a great number of productions popping up, you wonder perhaps what is the draw to a musical notorious in its focus on impoverished young artists under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. It is the sense of community that is most endearing and set to a powerful rock score its highly appealing on many levels, despite the ultimate focus on struggle. 

Talking of struggle, to set this in the round has its challenges and here director Alastair Norton takes his focus on community and utilises the non-traditional performance space to emphasise that theme. In South Staffs Musical Theatre Company's latest production, you find yourself surrounded and ultimately part of the Bohemian world. For the duration, you're exposed and involved - the seats aren't the most comfortable, but neither is Bohemian life. It's a 360, immersive experience - a unique way to present a musical that is perhaps otherwise considered overdone. To disregard tradition and present an entirely new format is a brave move... but a risk well taken. 

The space does have limitations and depending on where you're sat, sometimes crucial moments are missed. The only way to overcome this is to keep rotating the action which would eventually become tiresome - the emerging talent helps indefinitely to look past any sightline niggles - as a regular theatregoer you'd come to expect this in any round performance. 

The cast is headed up by Matt Nicholas and Chris Eastup as Mark and Roger - one a documentary maker, the other a guitarist. Nicholas gives a particularly focused, endearing Mark while Eastup with his shadowy eyeliner is more toughened and impresses with a solid vocal performance. Eastup's duet with Lexie Bennett as Mimi is particularly beautiful, a heartbreaking and incredibly raw moment. Nicole Roberts also impresses as Maureen - a comic rendition of Over The Moon conjures laughter from the audience, invited to 'moo' with her. She is paired well with Abbie Rai as Joanne and between them manage to riff some notable lines of Take Me Or Leave Me. 

Andrew Newton manages to keep a cold heart as Benny while at the opposite end, James Thomas is suitably flamboyant with a generous disposition as young drag queen Angel Schunard. Thomas works well with Simon McGee as Tom Collins and the pair deliver some tender and  more lighthearted earlier moments. 

Throughout the evening, vocals are controlled well to tackle the demands of the incredibly complex and rather high rock score - there are moments that don't meet vocal perfection but evidently, a lot of time has gone into solid harmony work from a dedicated ensemble. 

This is a subtle RENT, you won't be overpowered by incredibly loud rock music from this band of five. What is usually loud, trashy and in-your-face is actually stripped back and interestingly, creates a more tender, susceptible production - much like the vulnerable personalities that these characters are trying to hide. It reveals and observes an unseen layer. 

Ultimately, South Staff's RENT has been nurtured by director Norton, to be the best it can with venue and cast. And as the cast sing "Christmas bells are ringing..." for the final time tonight, the company then look forward to their next production, White Christmas at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from 1 - 5 December. Tickets here

Photographs | New Era Photography

Rent Cast List: Chris Eastup, Matt Nicholas, Simon McGee, Andrew Newton, Abbie Rai, James Thomas, Lexie Bennett, Nicole Roberts, Ellie Farmer, Niamh-Margaret McGowan, Kate Pingree-Webber, David Michael Ball, Marcus Perry, Dan Flaherty, Natalie Baggott, James Collins. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review | Cirque Eloize CIRKOPOLIS (UK Tour) March 2015

Cirque Éloize bring their circus to town this week, far from clowns throwing buckets of water, the most intricately trained team present a show that combines the worlds of circus, dance and theatre. In  this, Cirkopolis we find ourselves trapped n the heart of a stern and imposing city in appearance, giant gears and dark portals symbolise a mechanism that crushes individuality.

We begin somewhere between imagination and reality. The day to day and the mundane life of city workers makes for a stark and repetitive opening ... it's like work life. The joy is in finding the little things that make a difference and offer something fresh. A little puppet presses a bell and provides momentary humour before the stage is flooded with rushing commuters. 

It is when a female emerges from the crowd in a red dress that colour interrupts the monochromatic madness. A solitary moment she (Léa Toran Jenner) forlornly takes to the Cyr wheel and gives a heartfelt, emotional routine as she manipulates the wheel. It's incredibly lonely and suggests she wants to explore beyond  the confines of her ring but even central hero, Ashley (Ashley Carr), is happy is happy to suppress his individuality in order to fit in. 

It's easy to spectate and draw comparisons with your own life, but importantly, waiting in the wings are more colourful characters who along the way show Ashley and remind you that there is fun to be had. With a fearless ensemble, the evening is full of stunning aerial acts, the danse trapeze, juggling, the German wheel, teeterboard and Chinese pole - the foundations of circus skills are all there but this is far more sophisticated. 

There's an impressive use of projection that depicts the industrialised floating city and through an increased intensity of light and the addition of colour, a vibrant finale ends these people's journey  that thoroughly and most entertainingly progresses from the monochrome to a more elaborate, thrilling, high energy climax. With moments of pure tenderness and others of hilarity, Cirkopolis is  both frantic and fantastically fascinating.

View the trailer

See Cirkopolis at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 28 March. Tickets here

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The cast of OKLAHOMA prepare for Comic Relief at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre!

As the critically-acclaimed national tour of OKLAHOMA! arrived at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, members of the cast took time out from their busy schedule and put their toe-tapping skills to the test to take part in a special warm-up ahead of the first ever Comic Relief Danceathon this Sunday 8th March.

Nic Greenshields who plays Jud Fry in the show said: “We simply couldn't resist getting involved to show our support for this year’s Red Nose Day. The Comic Relief Danceathon looks really fun so we would love everyone in the area to get involved and help raise some all-important cash.”

Kara Lane & Nic Greenshields

Lucy May Barker in the role of Ado Annie said: “It’s always incredibly fun to get involved in Red Nose Day and this year will be no different. Simply pop on your dancing shoes this Sunday, grab your friends and get sponsored to dance along at home!

“By taking part you’ll be making a huge difference to the lives of people right here in the West Midlands, in the UK and across Africa.”

The charity is calling on fundraisers to get together at home, in village halls, gyms or any location and dance non-stop for six hours. Fundraisers can follow a live, star-studded Danceathon at The SSE Arena, Wembley on the BBC Red Button. Over 2,000 fundraisers will dance non-stop at the fun filled Wembley event, hosted by Claudia Winkleman and with a host of famous faces set to join in too.

The money raised by the Comic Relief Danceathon will be spent across the West Midlands, all over the UK, and across Africa, helping vulnerable and disadvantaged people living incredibly tough lives.

For more information about the Comic Relief Danceathon and to book tickets or get involved where you are head to For other ways to get involved this Red Nose Day or to really look the part, fundraisers can pick up the official Red Nose Day t-shirt from TK Maxx, and of course Red Noses from Sainsbury’s. Fundraising kits, giving pages and all the latest Red Nose Day stories are available from

OKLAHOMA! is on at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 7th March, tickets here and on tour around the UK until 8th August. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Preview | WELSH NATIONAL OPERA Spring Season at Birmingham Hippodrome

A season of enchantment and delight is on offer from Welsh National Opera this spring with a trio of spellbinding productions which will come to Birmingham Hippodrome between 4-7 March 2015.

Spellbound is the theme for Spring 2015, which will highlight the natural affinity between music and magic with revivals of Hansel & Gretel and The Magic Flute alongside a new production: Chorus!

Chorus! opens the opera company's Spring 2015 Season. This new version, also under the creative vision and direction of David Pountney, celebrates one of WNO’s greatest assets, the Chorus. Chorus! will feature soprano Lesley Garrett CBE performing alongside the WNO Chorus, and will be an enchanting, witty and spectacular journey through the rich repertoire of choral music and a chance to experience some of opera’s best-loved moments.

The production will include opera classics such as the ‘Humming Chorus’ from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and ‘Va Pensiero’ from Verdi’s Nabucco alongside the Epigraph from Prokofiev’s War and Peace and ‘Alabama Song’ from Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Two pieces from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance will also feature: ‘A Policeman’s Lot’ and ‘With Cat-like Tread’. Chorus! will be conducted by WNO Chorus Master, Alexander Martin.

View the trailer for Chorus!

Classic revivals of The Magic Flute and Hansel & Gretel will transport the audience into a world of magic, make-believe and delight, but are also ultimately about the power of rationalism over magic. WNO Music Director Lothar Koenigs will conduct both Hansel & Gretel and The Magic Flute.

Mozart’s much-loved The Magic Flute returns to WNO in this Magritte-inspired production – originally directed by Dominic Cooke – which features an angry lobster, a newspaper-reading lion and a fish that is transformed into a bicycle. The roles of the three boys will be sung by female students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as part of WNO’s partnership with the college to provide mentoring and support for its Opera Performance students.

View the trailer for The Magic Flute

The revival of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel – originally directed by Richard Jones – is a dark re-telling of the well-known fairytale. Ailish Tynan will sing Gretel and Jurgita Adamonyté will sing Hansel. Adrian Thompson, who returns to WNO following his performances in Boulevard Solitude in Spring 2013, will sing the role of The Witch.

Listen to a sample from Hansel & Gretel

Describing the Spring season, WNO Chief Executive and Artistic Director David Pountney says: “Enchantment is a feeling that awakens the child in all of us, and The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel offer plenty of such moments of naive delight. Both operas too, like all good fairy tales, have a serious point to make, and show a young couple learning how to read and understand the good and the bad that is in the world, emerging stronger and ready for a better future. Our production of Chorus! too is like one of those walks in the woods that are the common fare of fairy tales: where will it lead - is there a happy ending, or indeed an ending at all? It is in fact a kind of mystery tour in the company of 40 of our best and finest singers - so whatever the ending means, you can be sure it will be a rousing one!”


CHORUS | Wed 4 March Book Here
THE MAGIC FLUTE | Thurs 5 & Fri 6 March Book Here
HANSEL & GRETEL | Sat 7 March Book Here

Image from Hansel & Gretel