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The Kite Runner Review

3 and a half

This week I had the chance to see the UK tour of The Kite Runner. This was interesting to see as it is one of my English Lit texts and the novel doesn’t scream out as being one that should be on a stage. The novel translated fairly well on the stage but it wasn’t perfect. It definitely helped to have read the book before.

I found Act One to drag quite a bit because nothing much happens and then Act Two was rushed and a lot of events in the novel were skipped over. Despite this, the intense emotion of the novel definitely came across on the stage.

David Ahmad portrayed the central character of Amir very very well. The emotion really came through him and his narrations. Although the instant switches between being narrator and child didn’t particularly work for me. Jo Ben Ayed really captured the innocence of both the characters of Hassan and Sohrab and Bhavin Bhatt was perfectly horrid as Assef. Emilio Doorgasingh captured the character of Baba perfectly whilst Karl Seth did brilliantly in the roles of Rahim Khan, Dr Schneider and Omar Faisil, creating three very contrasting characters. Amiera Darwish gave a very strong performance in the role of Soraya and her on stage chemistry with David Ahmad was very believable, despite not being seen for very long due to the very fast paced nature of the second half of the play.

There was some very effective usage of lighting, as designed by Charles Balfour, and Barney George’s simplistic set design worked wonderfully. William Simpson’s projections were well crafted and effective at points and Jonathan Girling’s music, as performed by Hanif Khan and the ensemble cast, was very effective in creating the tone of the piece and moments of tension despite being quite repetitive. Philip D’Orleans’ fights were very powerful and believable and quite difficult to watch.

If you liked the book, it is definitely worth seeing this adaptation if you can, although don’t expect an exact page to stage translation. Generally, though, it was fairly accurate.

The Kite Runner is directed by Giles Croft and plays at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 21st October, before touring to Cheltenham, Bath, Brighton, Exeter, Oxford, Eastbourne, Crawley, Norwich, Mold, Hull, Guildford, Southampton, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Blackpool and Buxton.

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Full Casting Announced for Crucible Theatre’s The Wizard of Oz

Sheffield Theatres have announced that their Christmas musical is extending by one week until 20th January 2018. The extra week will go on sale at 10am on Saturday 14th October 2017.

Full casting was announced for the musical today.

As previously announced, star of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Gabrielle Brookes will take on the iconic role of Dorothy Gale. Jonathan Broadbent, who was recently in Norman Conquests at Chichester Festival Theatre, will appear the Lion/Zeke, Andrew Langtree (Ghost the Musical) will take on the role of Scarecrow/Hunk and Max Parker (Matilda the Musical, Guys and Dolls) will play the Tin Man/Hickory.

New casting announced includes Catrin Aaron (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice) who will play Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch, Ryan Ellsworth (Henry V, Island at War) as The Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel, Michael Matus (The Sound of Music, Endeavour) as Oz Gatekeeper/Uncle Henry, Sophia Nomvete (The Wind in the Willows) as Glinda/Aunt Em and Rhiannon Wallace (Casualty) as the Puppeteer.

In the ensemble will be Simon Anthony, Piers Bates, Myles Brown, Collette Coleman, Claire Doyle, Glen Facey, Samantha Hull, Blythe Jandoo, Fergal Mcgoff, Jo Lucy Rackham, Michael James Stewart, Charley Vincert and Charlotte Warren.

Completing the cast is a juvenile ensemble who will play the Munchkins as well as a group of local dogs who will appear as Dorothy’s famous companion, Toto.

The Wizard of Oz was originally written by L. Frank Baum and it has music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg with background music by Herbert Stothart.

Artistic Director Robert Hastie is set to direct the RSC’s adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Joining the creative team as Janet Bird as Designer, Ewan Jones as Choreographer, Toby Higgins as Musical Director, Richard Howell as Lighting Designer, Mike Walker as Sound Designer and Will Burton CDG as Casting Director.

‘Join Dorothy and all her friends for this glorious technicolor production of the timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz. Skip along the yellow brick road and journey through Munchkinland all the way to Oz, carried along by all your favourite tunes, including Over The Rainbow and We’re Off To See The Wizard, in this festive family spectacular.’

Tickets are on sale now from Sheffield Theatres website or via the box office in person or over the phone.

Desire Under the Elms Review

4 stars

Yesterday I went to see Sheffield Theatres’ latest production ‘Desire Under the Elms’ in the Crucible Theatre. From the moment I entered the theatre I was amazed by the brilliant set designed by Chiara Stephenson and the stunning sky designed by Luke Halls. Although the set looked good, due to the nature of it, sometimes I did struggle to work out when the scene was supposed to be inside and outside though. Alex Baranowski had composed some gorgeous music for this play and Sam Yates’ direction was strong for most parts, some parts were very strong. Jon Clark’s lighting design added to the impact of the piece. The show also had some very good choreography from movement director Kim Brandstrup.

That choreography was delivered by a very strong ensemble cast. Emma Darlow gave a particularly strong performance as the Fiddler. Theo Ogundipe and Sule Rimi were a brilliant duo as Peter and Simeon. They created a very contrasting tone at the beginning to what was soon to follow in the rest of the piece and they had a very strong rapport between them.

The show was led by Michael Shea as Eben. He only graduated from LAMDA in the summer of 2016 and this is only his second professional play but you would not have had a clue. His performance was one of the most believable I have seen in a long time. There was a great intensity about his performance too. Aoife Duffin made a brilliant Abbie. She was feisty and fiery yet also managed to perform the heartfelt emotional scenes incredibly. The relationship between Eben and Abbie didn’t develop enough for me – it just seemed to happen. This was a writing issue though, not to do with the direction or performances. The character of Abbie just seemed to go from wicked stepmother to love interest to temptress very quickly. Completing the principal casting was Matthew Kelly as Ephraim. His performance was equally strong and very intense when it needed to be. He was almost frightening in parts. His skill in comedy did come across as well though as he did get several laughs, which I think are needed in such a dark and intense piece of theatre.

This play is well worth seeing and is definitely a showcase of the incredible amount of talent possessed by both the cast and the creative team.

Desire Under The Elms runs at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield until Saturday 14th October, with an audio described and signed performance as well as a talkback on Thursday 5th October and a captioned performance on Saturday 14th October.

Of Kith and Kin Review

5-stars

Last night, after getting to see some of the tech rehearsal last week, I got to see Sheffield Theatres’ latest world premiere production ‘Of Kith and Kin’. The play is very intense and could be described as a real life drama, covering various themes that are very relevant and important to be discussed. The play is about a gay couple, Daniel and Oliver, who are having a child through surrogate Priya and all the issues that come when Daniel’s mother arrives.

Chris Thompson’s wonderfully real script as well as Robert Hastie’s brilliant direction really brings the grit out of this story making a very raw yet passion filled piece. James Perkins designs a brilliant set, which adds the realism of the piece, which is manipulated very effectively creating very smooth transitions between scenes. Credit has to go to Vicky Richardson, casting director, for assembling a cast of very strong actors.

Chetna Pandya plays Priya. From the moment she is first on stage she creates a brilliant rapport with Daniel and Oliver and she really demonstrates her true scope of performance skill in this play, getting to show so many different emotions. The audience are definitely on her side and I really felt for her at the end of the piece.

Donna Berlin does a great job in her small but important role of Arabelle. She really commands the stage in her scene and gives a very strong performance. Joanna Bacon impressed playing the roles of Carrie and Lydia. She makes both clearly very different yet equally realistic. Her Carrie is perfectly horrible and you’re never quite sure how to feel about Lydia, which I think means she definitely portrayed the character correctly.

James Lance as Daniel and Joshua Silver as Oliver had a beautiful chemistry on stage and both gave very impactful performances. They were definitely part of the reason why I left the theatre completely and utterly speechless.

This play is definitely a masterclass in acting and writing so I would highly reccommend you try and get to see this play before it closes, but hopefully the play will continue to run for years to come.

Of Kith and Kin runs at the Studio Theatre in Sheffield until 7th October before transferring to London’s Bush Theatre where it runs from 18th October to 25th November.

Shrek the Musical Casting Announced

Casting has today been announced for the upcoming UK tour of Shrek the Musical.

Shrek the Musical is based on the hit Dreamworks film and tells the story of Shrek as he attempts to get his swamp back in return for rescuing a princess. The show has music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. The UK tour will be directed once again by Nigel Harman who played the role of Lord Farquaad in the original West End cast.

Star of Les Miserables and the previous Shrek UK tour Steffan Harri will take on the iconic role of Shrek himself opposite Call the Midwife star Laura Main who will play Princess Fiona at certain venues (Edinburgh, Manchester, Sunderland, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Northampton, Sheffield, Cardiff, Woking, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Southampton and Leeds). Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’s Marcus Ayton will appear as Shrek’s trusty steed, Donkey and musical theatre legend Samuel Holmes will play Lord Farquaad.

Completing the cast are Joseph Dockree as Pinocchio, Jemma Revell as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Gingy, Lucinda Shaw as the Dragon, as well as Adam Baker, Michael Carolan, William Hawksworth, Sarah-Louise Jones, Reece Kerridge, Sam Stones, Adam Taylor, Jennifer Tierney, Francesca Williams, Laura Wilson and Kevin Yates. They will be joined by swings Ethan Bradshaw, Thomas-Lee Kidd, Amy Oxley and Sophie Wallis.

Further casting is still to be announced.

Tour Dates

12th December 2017 to 7th January 2018 – Edinburgh Playhouse

16th to 28th January – Manchester Palace Theatre

31st January to 11st February – Sunderland Empire

14th to 25th February – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

28th February to 11th March – His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

14th to 25th March – Northampton Royal and Derngate

28th March to 8th April – Sheffield Lyceum

10th to 22nd April – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

2nd to 13th May – Regent Theatre, Stoke

15th to 27th May – Blackpool Winter Gardens

30th May to 10th June – New Victoria Theatre, Woking

12th to 24th June – Liverpool Empire

27th June to 8th July – Theatre Royal Norwich

11th to 22nd July – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

25th July to 5th August – Milton Keynes Theatre

8th to 19th August – Bristol Hippodrome

21st August to 2nd September – Venue Cymru, Llandudno

11th to 23rd September – Theatre Royal, Nottingham

9th to 21st October – Grand Opera House, Belfast

23rd October to 4th November – Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

13th November to 24th November – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

27th November to 8th December – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

18th December to 6th January 2019 – Leeds Grand Theatre

Jonnie Halliwell, Natasha Hamilton and Rachael Wooding Join The Cast of Fat Friends the Musical

Full casting has been announced for the UK tour of the new musical Fat Friends the Musical.

Winner of BBC’s I’d Do Anything Jodie Prenger leads the cast as Kelly Stevenson. Playing her fiancee in Leeds, Southampton, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Blackpool will be cricketer Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff. He will share the role of Kevin with musical theatre star Joel Montague who can currently be seen in the West End production of School of Rock.

Appearing as Kelly’s mother Betty will be The X Factor’s Sam Bailey at theatres in England and Wales. Elaine C Smith will appear in the role in venues in Scotland. Kevin Kennedy (Coronation Street’s Curly Watts) will play Betty’s husband and Kelly’s father Fergus. Kevin will not appear in Leeds. Completing the Stevenson family will be Rachael Wooding (Britain’s Got Talent, Wonderland, We Will Rock You) as Joanne.

Emmerdale’s Natalie Anderson will take on the role of Lauren, whilst Jonnie Halliwell will appear as Paul. Natasha Hamilton will play Julia Fleshman until 31st March 2018. Chloe Hart (Hairspray) will also star in the show as Val and Neil Hurst will play Alan.

Completing the cast are Craig Armstrong, Lizzie Bea, Paul Brangan, Emma Crossley, Ellie Leah, Laura Mansell and Ryan Pidgen.

Tour Dates

7th November to 2nd December – Leeds Grand Theatre

16th to 20th January – Bromley Churchill Theatre

23rd to 27th January – Newcastle Theatre Royal

29th January to 3rd February – Hull New Theatre

5th to 10th February – Southampton Mayflower Theatre

12th to 17th February – Sheffield Lyceum

19th to 24th February – Southend Cliffs Pavilion

5th to 10th March – Milton Keynes Theatre

12th to 17th March – Norwich Theatre Royal

19th to 24th March – Manchester Opera House

26th to 31st March – Nottingham Theatre Royal

3rd to 7th April – Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre

9th to 14th April – Dartford Orchard Theatre

19th to 21st April – Edinburgh Playhouse

24th to 28th April – Wales Millennium Centre

30th April to 5th May – Glasgow King’s Theatre

8th to 12th May – Belfast Grand Opera House

14th to 19th May – Bradford Alhambra Theatre

21st to 26th May – Aberdeen His Majesty’s Theatre

29th May to 2nd June – Blackpool Winter Gardens

Booking details and casting information can be found here: http://www.fatfriendsthemusical.com/

Footloose UK Tour Review

4 stars

This afternoon I got the chance to see the current UK tour of Footloose the Musical and what a great afternoon out it was! This show was so much fun with a brilliant cast and a catchy, feel-good score.

The show looked great visually thanks to Sara Perks (American Idiot, Betty Blue Eyes), the designer. The costumes all looked spot on for the characters and the set really worked very well for the show, despite being fairly simple, and it allowed the show to flow very smoothly. Racky Plews’ (American Idiot) direction and choreography brought out a lot of passion in the show and her decision to make the production actor-musician worked faultlessly.

Headlining the tour are Gareth Gates (Pop Idol, Joseph, Loserville) as Willard and Maureen Nolan (Blood Brothers) as Vi Moore and Principal Clark. Gareth wasn’t performing as Willard in Sheffield so instead it was Dominic Gee Burch (Departures – a Song Cycle, Shrek the Musical) and you wouldn’t have had a clue he didn’t play the role full time. He was hilarious in the role, characterised Willard brilliantly and had some brilliant vocals, particularly in Mama Says. Maureen Nolan did a great job in both of her roles, with some beautiful vocals in her songs as Vi. She had a great onstage chemistry with Reuven Gershon (Let It Be) who played Reverend Shaw Moore. He was very well cast in the role and made his character as unlikeable as he should be but equally wins the audience back over in the finale with his surprising guitar solo.

Emma Fraser (The Vaudevillains, Aladdin) as Wendy-Jo gives plenty of laughs throughout the show and Gracie Lai (Avenue Q, South Pacific) makes for a wonderful and very likeable Urleen. Laura Sillett (Grease, Dreamboats and Petticoats) completes the tight-nick trio as Rusty who does a wonderful job in the role, showing off some great vocals in Let’s Hear It For The Boy. Lindsay Goodhand (Crazy For You) also has some delightful, yet slightly underused, vocals as Ethel McCormack and her on stage relationship with her on stage son is very realistic and heartwarming.

The stars of the show were without a shadow of a doubt Connor Going (The Pirates of Penzance, High School Musical) as Chuck, Joshua Dowen (Dogfight, tick, tick… BOOM!) as Ren McCormack and Hannah Price (Godspell, Don’t Run, Pandora) as Ariel Moore. All three delivered some exceptional vocals throughout the show. Connor did a brilliant job in this villainous role whilst Hannah and Joshua had a beautiful on stage chemistry.

The show itself, despite being nothing complex, is lots of fun from start to end and it never feels like it’s dragging. It’s definitely worth a visit if you can catch it in it’s final few weeks.

Footloose the Musical plays at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 2nd September, before touring to Chester Storyhouse, The Peacock Theatre in London and Liverpool’s Royal Court, where it closes on Friday 3rd November. Gareth Gates is not scheduled to appear at Chester Storyhouse.