All posts by jacobreviewsshows

Manor Operatic Society’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Review

5-stars

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a staple in many family households, with a host of iconic characters, fantastic songs by the Sherman Brothers and most famously, a flying car! The film was expanded into a full stage musical enjoying successful West End and Broadway runs as well hugely successful UK tours, with various international productions thrown in. Now, for the first time ever, amateur rights have been released to the show to a limited number of societies across the UK and it was Sheffield’s Manor Operatic Society who got to put on the mainland UK amateur premiere of the show.

Manor’s production stays faithful to the classic film whilst including the expansions that have been brought to the stage production. Their production of the show was very impressive with outstanding sets and costumes, fantastic musical numbers and a spectacular car! Linda Kelly’s choreography is excellent in this show, with particularly highlights including The Bombie Samba and Toot Sweets.

Manor Operatic favourite James Smith leads the cast as Caractacus Potts, demonstrating excellent vocals and a very strong stage presence. Amy Nugent and Joe Davies played Jemima and Jeremy Potts last night and they were terrific. You could easily have seen them in a professional production of the show. Robert Spink’s performance as Grandpa Potts is lovely to watch whilst Richard Coddington does a terrific job in his relatively small yet crucial role of Coggins.

Chris Hanlon and Digory Holmes are both very funny in the roles of Boris and Goran, the Vulgarian spies. Although due to the staging of their scenes, they often felt like they were just being used for set changes, they didn’t fail to entertain the whole audience. Their rendition of Act English was very funny, mocking all things British. Gary Rossiter is lovely as the Toymaker and Christina Rice’s characterisation of Miss Phillips is absolutely spot on. Simon Hance plays the iconic role of the Baron Bomburst as well as Lord Scrumptious and he excels in both roles.

The three best performances of the night for me came from Emma Flanagan-Holmes as Truly Scrumptious, Liam Gordon as the Junkman and the Child Catcher and Emily Mae Hoyland as the Baroness Bomburst. Emma’s Truly is warm and caring yet with a nice amount of strength to her. Her voice is stunning with some nice moments in Lovely, Lonely Man demonstrating the more powerful side to her voice. Liam Gordon is suitably terrifying as both Junkman and the Child Catcher, helped by the great work from the make-up department. Although Kiddy Widdy Winkies isn’t in the show any more, the Child Catcher’s presence was definitely felt throughout Act 2 even when he wasn’t present. Emily Mae Hoyland was tremendous surprise as Baroness Bomburst. She’s been entertaining Manor’s younger audience members wonderfully for a few years as the Princess in various pantomimes and this role is hugely different for her but it works perfectly. She is very funny in the role, her vocals are just impeccable and her characterisation of the role was perfect.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an impressive production all round and I’m sure anyone would enjoy this fantasmagorical musical!

Manor Operatic Society’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs at Sheffield City Hall until Saturday 19th May 2018. They return to the City Hall with Aladdin from 27th December 2018 until 6th January 2019 and then with Our House from 15th to 18th May 2019.

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Southey Musical Theatre Company’s Spamalot Review

5-stars

Last night I had the chance to see the Sheffield premiere of Spamalot. Spamalot is a musical based on the film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ and has enjoyed successful runs on Broadway, the West End and many successful UK tours, with a whole host big names performing in the show, including Joe Pasquale, Jodie Prenger, Bonnie Langford, Warwick Davis and Hannah Waddingham. It’s currently touring the UK as well as being performed by many amateur societies up and down the country and this week was the turn of Sheffield’s Southey Musical Theatre Company.

Eric Idle’s book and lyrics are simply hilarious and Chris Badham’s direction along with a supremely talented cast bring out every ounce of comedy in the show. The show has a fantastic score which was a joy to hear by the fantastic band led by Kelli Edwards and the music just adds to the humour in the show. The set designed by Keith Herring is fantastic for the show and Christine Minott and Katie Rhodes got together some superb costumes. The show is lit fantastically by Tom Dyson and Sophie Marples and Paul Minott’s sound design ensures that almost every word is heard, although it was often difficult to understand what was being sung when the whole cast were singing together.

Mark Holmes leads the cast as King Arthur and is brilliant in the role. His vocals are fantastic and his characterisation of the role is spot on. Eli Ingle makes for a very likeable Patsy, tugging on the audience’s heart strings towards the end of the show. Mark Litherland was brilliant as the slightly camp Sir Robin, giving an outstanding performance of You Won’t Succeed on Broadway. Joe Cowling was perfectly dashing as Sir Galahad and his rendition of The Song That Goes Like This was lovely to listen to and truly hilarious.

Steve Pashley takes on the roles of Sir Bedevere and Prince Herbert and makes both roles suitably different and he performs each of them wonderfully. I didn’t even notice they were being played by the same performer for quite a while. Frank Badger does a great job in the roles of the Historian and Herbert’s Father. The sketch with him as Herbert’s Father and Paul Black and Stuart Whitworth as the guards is very funny.

For me, it was Richard Granger and Gina Townend who stole the show. Richard was hilarious in all of his roles (Sir Lancelot, French Taunter and Head Knight of Ni) and his adlibs were spot on, making cast members laugh at times. Gina’s vocals throughout the show were stunning and her riffs were very strong. She brought a certain air of grace and class to the role which worked brilliantly.

Southey Musical Theatre Company’s production of Spamalot is an absolute treat of a show and is definitely suitable for almost all ages. It gets as close to panto as it can without being panto and it’s definitely enjoyable for both Monty Python fans and people who’ve never seen anything from the Monty Python franchise, myself included.

Spamalot runs at Montgomery Theatre until Saturday 19th May 2018. Tickets are still available for all performances. Later in the year, Southey perform Avenue Q (23rd to 27th October at Theatre Deli) and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (5th to 9th December at The Montgomery Theatre).

Our Country’s Good Review

5-stars

Ramps on the Moon have returned to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for the third time, after inventive productions of The Government Inspector and The Who’s Tommy, with a new production of Our Country’s Good. Thanks to Sheffield Theatres’ Ignite scheme, I got to see this production for free and what better way to revise for a Theatre Studies exam than to watch a great production of one of the plays you have to write about?

Our Country’s Good tells the story of the first convicts sent to Australia in the time of King James and their relationships with the officers. Timberlake Wertenbaker cleverly uses this historical event to make audiences question the importance of theatre as well as matters of crime and punishment.

Fiona Buffini’s direction of the production is fantastic, incorporating sign language throughout the piece incredibly smoothly. Neil Murray’s design is simple but very effective and Mark Jonathan’s lighting design is exceptional.

Milton Lopes gives a very memorable performance in his small yet crucial role of the Aboriginal Australian. Colin Connor plays Major Robbie Ross with an amazing intensity. His portrayal of the character is very dislikeable, as it should be, and is truly terrifying. Jarrad Ellis-Thomas as Captain Jemmy Campbell, Ross’ sidekick, was great although some more comedy could have been drawn out of the character. Dave Fishley as Captain David Collins was brilliant and Garry Robson’s performance in the role of Midshipman Harry Brewer was very strong. The character’s deterioration in mental health was performed very well.

Tom Dawze as John Wisehammer was excellent and he had a fantastic chemistry with Sapphire Joy as Mary Brenham. Sapphire’s performance was beautiful to watch and her journey throughout the play was portrayed perfectly. Fifi Garfield was amazing in the role of Dabby Bryant. Her stage presence was amazing. Caroline Parker voiced the character of Dabby brilliantly too as well as giving a hilarious performance as Meg Long. Keiren Hamilton-Amos was very likeable in the role of Caesar and Will Lewis did a great job as John Arscott. Alex Nowak was very funny as Robert Sideway and Fergus Rattigan’s performance was James ‘Ketch’ Freeman was a joy to watch. Emily Rose Salter as Duckling Smith was fantastic whilst Gbemisola Ikumelo gave one of the best performances in the show as Liz Morden.

Kieron Jecchinis does an outstanding job in the role of Captain Arthur Phillip. He performs the role with great strength and humility and makes the character seem very human. Tim Pritchett leads the cast as Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark and his performance in this role is phenomenal. His portrayal is so believable and although the setting seems so distant, the moments in which he is directing the play seem very familiar.

This is a play that everyone will be relate to in some way and it is exceptionally well written piece of theatre, tackling many very relevant ideas.

Our Country’s Good runs at Sheffield Crucible until 19th May before touring to Birmingham Repertory Theatre, where it closes on 2nd May.

SUTCo’s Spring Awakening Review

4 stars

Spring Awakening tells the story of a group of teenagers in 1890s Germany and their journey into adulthood, discovering their sexuality for the first time much to the distaste of their parents. The show originally opened on Broadway with Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff at the centre of the show before transferring to the UK with a full British cast. The show launched the careers of the likes of Charlotte Wakefield, Lucy May Barker, Evelyn Hoskins, Natasha J Barnes and Hayley Gallivan. Recently it has enjoyed a very well received production at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester and now Sheffield University Theatre Company tackle the challenging themes in a beautiful performance of the musical.

Mike Alexander directs the production and, although moments seem heavily inspired by previous productions, the show conveys the vulnerability and excitement of the characters’ journeys wonderfully. The band under the musical direction of Tom Crathorne sound wonderful but what I loved about this production is that the acting was always the focus of the piece rather than the singing.

Shona Tulloch plays the role of Martha with a wonderful vulnerability and she impresses with her soulful voice in The Dark I Know Well, alongside Lindsay Manion. Lindsay Manion’s vocals on The Song of Purple Summer are truly stunning and there’s a lovely chemistry between her and George Evans as Moritz. Alex Cosgriff and Daniel Rodgers as Hanschen and Ernst also have a beautiful onstage chemistry and their rendition of The Word of Your Body Reprise is a joy to listen to. Caitlin Hawkins and John Ireland portray all the adults in the show and, despite being the same age as the rest of the cast, are very believable in their portrayals of the controlling, unlikeable adults.

George Evans gives an impressive performance as Moritz. There’s a great rapport between him Wilf Walsworth as Melchior. His vocals on the rocky songs are outstanding and his characterisation is just wonderful. Wilf Walsworth delivers some equally impressive vocals as Melchior and his acting performance is exceptional, particularly at the end of the show. Katie Kelson took on the role of Wendla and her performance was beautiful to witness. There’s a wonderful sense of vulnerability and nervousness in her characterisation and her vocals are truly stunning. The onstage chemistry between Katie and Wilf is extremely believable and this leads to an even more heartbreaking ending to the piece.

This production is a fantastic performance of this challenging musical and it is a great way to see some great theatre at a very affordable price.

SUTCo’s Spring Awakening runs at Sheffield University Drama Studio until 5th May 2018, with tickets priced at £6 in advance or £7 on the door.

Ellesmere Musical Theatre Company’s Sweeney Todd Review

5-stars

Last night I had the privilege of seeing the opening performance of Ellesmere Musical Theatre Company’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s well renowned musical Sweeney Todd. After their previous productions of 9 To 5 and Betty Blue Eyes, I was interested to see how well they’d fare in presenting a darker, more intense piece of musical theatre and I was very pleasantly surprised by this show. The show isn’t simply a horror, which I personally liked. The plot really is very strong and complex and the characters are so well written. The show is surprisingly funny and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics are some of the most clever I’ve heard. The show also isn’t particularly gory, which I also appreciated, so don’t let a fear of blood put you off going to see this fantastic musical.

Jeremy Tustin returns to Ellesmere to direct and choreograph the production and he does this expertly. He makes excellent usage of the entire theatre, which is very necessary when staging such a big show in a small space. His usage of the auditorium was not only interesting and exciting viewing but very impactful too, removing the audience’s sense of safety at moments.

The show has a rather large orchestra for an amateur production and they sounded amazing and the vocal arrangements and solos all sounded impeccable due to the expert musical direction from Gavin Usher-Schofield. Unfortunately some lyrics were lost at times due to the nature of the Sondheim’s score, particularly when large groups of people were singing all together.

Tom Dyson and Sophie Marples’ lighting design was stunning; Adam Hedges and Out Of This World Set and Prop Design’s set design for the production was effective; and credit must also go to Carol Wibberley, head of wardrobe, for pulling together some outstanding costumes which were just made even better thanks to the work of the talented make-up, hair and wig teams.

This production had a truly remarkable cast thoroughly showcasing the huge amount of talent that Sheffield has. Jeremy Craven and David Jefferson as Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford were both excellent in the show and both portrayed these with with a suitable amount of villainous quality to make the audience truly despise them yet not becoming unbelievable or over the top. Alex Hayward-Browne as Adolfo Pirelli was an excellent choice. His characterisation of the flamboyant hairdresser was fantastic. Carol Wibberley never fails to impress in any role she plays and Beggar Woman was no different. Her vocals were impressive and her diction even more so

Sam Widdowson and Sara Hibberd made a very believable romantic couple as Anthony Hope and Johanna Barker. Sam’s voice was very strong and his characterisation of the young man who fell head over heels in love was excellent. Sara’s known in Sheffield for wonderful belty vocals so it was lovely to get to see her show off her stunning legit vocals, hitting all the high notes with ease.

Phill Probert, a Sheffield am dram veteran, took on the iconic title role and his exceptional vocals came as no surprise after seeing him in Made in Dagenham. His incredible intensity in his acting in the role was very powerful to watch and his portrayal was so believable. Louisa Doody, a relative newcomer to the Sheffield theatre scene, appeared in the role of Mrs Lovett. Her vocals were impressive and a delight to listen to and her characterisation was strong and full of heart.

For me, it was Joe Hamilton who completely stole the show. He played Tobias Ragg with such intensity and commitment to the role. His vocals were exceptional and his performance is one that will last with me for a very very long time.

This production is one of the strongest that I’ve seen an amateur group in Sheffield do in a long time and I can’t recommend it enough.

Sweeney Todd runs at the Montgomery Theatre until Saturday 28th April 2018. Ellesmere Musical Theatre Company return in 2019 with Hello Dolly.

The York Realist Review

5-stars

The latest revival of Peter Gill’s influential play The York Realist opened to rave reviews at the Donmar Warehouse earlier in the year before transferring to Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre over the Easter period. Robert Hastie makes the play seem so relevant in the 21st century whilst at the same time informing audiences of the situation that the characters find themselves in the 1960s. Peter McIntosh’s design is brilliant and creates a very believable household setting. Paul Pyant’s lighting design is truly stunning, alongside the effective projection and Richard Taylor’s music.

Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey lead the superb cast as George and John. Their on stage romance is very believable and quite heartwarming at times, with other times feeling very tense which makes the play all the more impactful. Both of them give tremendous performances, really impressing with their excellent acting skills.

Lesley Nicol plays the mother of George and Barbara, who gives lots of warmth to the role. She is the heart of the community we see in the play and Lesley portrays this brilliantly. Lucy Black is fantastic as Barbara whilst Katie West gives a beautiful performance as Doreen, characterising her in a very likeable way. Matthew Wilson’s performance as Arthur is strong and Brian Fletcher as Jack is very funny and his performance is very entertaining.

This play is excellently put together, tackling a huge variety of ideas in the 1960s society but also ideas that are very much important to talk about in the present day.

The York Realist closed at the Crucible Theatre on Saturday 7th April 2018.

Shrek the Musical UK Tour Review

3 stars

Last night I saw the new UK tour of Shrek the Musical. The show is great fun with a lot of heart but unfortunately, this wasn’t the best incarnation of the show that has been on a stage.

The show has some fab songs but unfortunately some of them had been changed and not for the better. Most of the songs were excellently performed but sections of some songs including Don’t Let Me Go and Make a Move had been changed and they didn’t particularly work. I still think it’s a shame the UK production doesn’t include Build a Wall too.

The set was very simple, almost too simple, but there were some very impressive and slick scene changes and quick changes in the show. The costumes are truly exceptional in this musical and the make up design is very clever.

The thing that this incarnation of the show does have is one of the strongest casts, despite the emission of using child performers much to my disappointment. Steffan Harri leads the cast as Shrek and he has a brilliant stage presence, his voice is exceptionally strong and he really brings the character to life wonderfully. Marcus Ayton as Donkey is a little different in his interpretation, being slightly less OTT. This took a while to get used to but I really enjoyed his performance. His voice was lush and his characterisation gave Donkey a little more depth and a little more humanity about him. Laura Main took on the iconic role of Princess Fiona and although she hammed the role up a lot and was very OTT in her performance, she was entertaining to watch, she was vocally very strong and I’d argue she was quite possibly the best Fiona the UK has had. Lucinda Shaw also needs a special mention for her phenomenal vocals as the Dragon and the Fairy Godmother. She was definitely a highlight of the show for me.

For me, Samuel Holmes steals the show as Lord Farquaad. His scenes are definitely the most entertaining, he gets lots of laughs throughout the show and his vocals were exceptional. His characterisation of this role was spot on and not too over the top or camp. He was perfectly cast in this role.

This show is good fun with some truly exceptional performances throughout. It is very funny at times and there’s some fantastic musical numbers throughout. It would be great for a show to take small children to, giving them some great entertainment and exposing them to some proper musical theatre.

Shrek the Musical plays at Sheffield Lyceum until 8th April, before touring to Cardiff, Stoke, Blackpool, Woking, Liverpool, Norwich, Canterbury, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Llandudno, Nottingham, Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, Plymouth and  Southampton, before closing in Leeds with a Christmas residency, closing on 6th January 2019.

Laura Main plays Princess Fiona in Sheffield, Cardiff, Woking, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Southampton and Leeds. Amelia Lily will take on the role in Stoke, Blackpool, Norwich, Canterbury, Bristol, Llandudno, Nottingham, Belfast, Dublin and Glasgow.