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Our House UK Tour Review

4 stars

After a few weeks on holiday away from the theatre (excluding a trip to Puy du Fou – if you want to know more feel free to ask me on social media), I couldn’t resist going to see the brand new UK tour of Our House the Madness musical, which has been playing it’s first full week at Sheffield Lyceum after a short run in Crewe. You would not know at all that it’s very early in it’s tour – it’s so slick, fast paced and exciting!

James Tobias’ direction alongside Fabian Aloise’s exceptional choreography breathe new life into the iconic music of Madness and Tim Firth’s book. This truly is a fresh new production of an ever popular musical.

The show’s success was also down to the great lighting designed by Tim Deiling, effective set and costumes designed by David Shields and the wonderful cast assembled by Debbie O’Brien.

Headlining the 2017 tour are Deena Payne (Emmerdale) as Kath Casey and George Sampson (Britain’s Got Talent, Waterloo Road) as Reecey. Deena was very well suited to her role and although not a huge role had a great relationship with her on stage son. George Sampson gave a very impressive in the show demonstrating his well known dance skills, some good singing throughout and brilliant acting skills, portraying the unlikeable character very strongly.

Callum McArdle (Sweeney Todd, Annie) delivered some stunning vocals as Dad and had a great presence throughout. Billy Roberts (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The 12 Tenors) and Will Haswell (Shrek the Musical, Jersey Boys) made a brilliant duo as Emmo and Lewis, Joe Casey’s best friends and they were equally matched Jessica Niles (Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens) and Etisyai Philip (Avenue Q, Hairspray) as Angie and Billie. Both duos gave lots of energy and humour to the show.

Bobby Windebank (Thoroughly Modern Millie, West Side Story) was perfectly horrid as Mr Pressman whilst Matthew McDonald (The Braille Legacy, Death Takes a Holiday) did a great job in the small but key role of Callum.

The true stars of the show however were Sophie Matthew who was making her professional theatre debut in the role of Sarah and Jason Kajdi (Mary Poppins, West Side Story) as Joe Casey. They had a beautiful chemistry on stage and both had a brilliant voices and gave very believable portrayals of their characters. It was so refreshing to see young, fairly unknown performers given a chance to shine in the lead roles. Simply from their performances in the show, I can tell they will take the theatrical world by storm!

I would highly reccommend this show to all – it’s great fun and will leave you singing the songs with a big smile on your face! At the end of the day, who doesn’t want that?!

Our House tours the UK visiting Llandudno, Weston-Super-Mare, Skegness, Malvern, Hastings, Glasgow, Blackpool, Bridlington, Bromley, Portsmouth, Coventry and Weymouth before closing the tour in High Wycombe on 25th November. The tour may be back in the new year as well, so watch this space!

The Wedding Singer UK Tour Review

4 stars

This afternoon I went to Sheffield Lyceum to see the current UK tour of The Wedding Singer. This show was quite funny, cast perfectly and was filled with brilliantly fun songs!

The show’s set, as designed by Francis O’Connor (Loserville, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), was simple but effective and was filled with plenty of laughs thanks to a great book by Chad Beguelin (Aladdin, Elf) and Tim Herlihy (The Wedding Singer film). The script was great and things kept moving at a fair pace even though the plot was very predictable and not especially original.

Nick Winston (Grease, Legally Blonde, Calamity Jane) did a wonderful job directing this show and he gave the show some amazing choreography. Ben Cracknell (La Cage aux Folles, Breakfast at Tiffany’s) designed some great lighting for this show and credit goes to Jim Arnold CDG (Wind in the Willows, Funny Girl) for assembling one of the most talented casts touring the UK at the moment.

The show is filled with very strong ensemble performers who all get their moment to shine. Particular standouts are Tara Verloop (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Linda and Susie Fenwick (The Sound of Music, The Woman in White) as Angie, who both show off some brilliant vocals, and Mark Pearce (Ghost, Blues Brothers) was very funny as David Fonda as well as other characters.

Ashley Emerson (Mamma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar) made a great Sammy and Samuel Holmes (Spamalot, Mrs Henderson Presents) delivered some beautiful vocals as George. Both were very funny and worked wonderfully together. Ruth Madoc (Annie, Hi-De-Hi) played Grandma Rosie very well and her musical numbers were very entertaining.

Ray Quinn (Grease, Legally Blonde, The X Factor) was brilliantly cruel as Glen Gulia and he demonstrated impeccable diction in his very wordy song All About the Green. Cassie Compton (27, The Last Five Years, Les Miserables, The X Factor) was brilliant as Julia Sullivan, showing off some stunning vocals throughout the show.

Lucie Jones (Ghost, We Will Rock You, The X Factor, Eurovision) impressed in her relatively small role of Holly. Her vocals were sensational, particularly in Saturday Night in the City at the end of the first half.

The star of the show was definitely Jon Robyns (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sister Act, Les Miserables) who played Robbie Hart. The audience was instantly on his side, his incredible vocals were mindblowing and you really felt for him when he was going through tough times.

This show is great fun thanks to it’s sensational cast and amazing music. If you want a fun night or afternoon out, definitely catch this show on tour.

The Wedding Singer closes at Sheffield Lyceum on 22nd July, before touring to Llandudno, Bromley, Plymouth, Southend-on-Sea, Leeds, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Shrewsbury, Swansea, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton, where it finishes it’s UK tour on 7th October 2017.

Lucie Jones will only appear as Holly in Llandudno after the Sheffield run. Stephanie Clift (Audrey from 2016’s UK tour of Little Shop of Horrors) will return to the role in Bromley on 1st August 2017.

Sheffield People’s Theatre’s What We Wished For Review

5-stars

This week is the return of Sheffield People’s Theatre to the Crucible Theatre and this year they performed What We Wished For. What We Wished For put a selection of well known retired fairytale characters in an old people’s home in Sheffield in the present day. With a cast of around 70 local people, this show was thoroughly enjoyable yet thought provoking.

Emily Hutchinson directed again and her staging was great and she really did manage to put these well known, larger than life characters in a modern day setting seamlessly. Chris Bush wrote for the fourth time for SPT and this musical really did have some very clever dialogue and extremely good song lyrics.

Inigo Chrisp and Sarah Moat worked brilliantly together as Punch and Judy, getting a laugh simply when we learnt their names. Their performances were brilliantly intense and intimidating. Jennifer Derbyshire as May gave a heartwarming performance, as did Ian France and Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe as Hansel and Gretel. Jonathan Syer as Joseph and Mckenzie Kelly as Woody were very funny together, as were Michele Gardner and Rav Sanghera as Marion and Robin, who made a very convincing romantic couple. Nigel Hughes gave a very strong performance as George alongside Andrew Raferty as Arthur who was equally as strong. Janice Sampson was brilliant as Goldie, with Declan Bryson, Jake Andrews and Ryan Morris making a very funny three stooges of bears. Helen Oxley gave a brilliant performance as Cindy, Guy Perkins was great as Peter, a character that was slightly underused given the plot, and Shirley Simpson made for a wonderful Belle with Jenni Lydiat doing a very good job as Rose.

There were a brilliant cast of younger people in the show too with many getting their chances to shine. Particular standouts were Beth Atkin in her multitude of roles including van driver Terri, Emily Davidson as student Kim and George Morrell as Teddy. Callum Norrie as Josh delived some one-liners to perfection getting plenty laughs and Tommi Bryson was very strong as student Jo, with some very strong singing vocals demonstrated throughout.

The two stars of the show however were Bronwen Ebdon as Roma and Isa Wood as Red. Bronwen’s performance had such great intensity and strength and her presence was incredibly strong. She delivered some stunning vocals in certain songs and really got the essence of this strong, powerful character. Isa Wood was equally as strong as Red. She too delivered some lovely vocals and she captured the heart of this inspirational and determined teenager. Her acting was phenomenal, creating lots of tension in her final scene. She could easily walk straight into a West End show and you wouldn’t know she wasn’t a professional actress.

The show had an awesome set designed by Kevin Jenkins with various pop-up features and had many brilliant songs composed by Claire McKenzie. Credit also goes to Darragh O’Leary for creating some brilliant movement, particularly for the wolves (who all gave very intense and intimidating performances) and to Matthew Malone for making all the music sound great from a singing point of view (I’ve rarely heard such volume and power from a cast) and from a musical point of view, heading up a brilliant band.

A huge congratulations to all involved in What We Wished For. It really was a tremendous production and you rarely see a musical that really makes you think and gives you something to take away from it.

What We Wished For runs at Sheffield Crucible until Saturday 22nd July.

Tribes Review

5-stars

This afternoon I went to see Sheffield Theatres’ production of Nina Raine’s play Tribes. Directed by Kate Hewitt, this production of the play was a hugely successful one with a phenomenal cast, brilliant use of technical elements and a simple but effective set.

The show had some brilliant lighting designed by Paul Keogan and awesome projections designed by Andrzej Goulding which both worked to really heighten the impact of the piece, alongside some incredible use of sound designed and composed by George Dennis.

Tribes tells the story of Billy, a boy born deaf into a family who has remained very sheltered all his life, and when he meets Sylvia he begins to learn about himself and the world in a true light.

Polly Jerrold, casting director, assembled a stunning cast for this intimate play who not only looked like they could be a family but truly showed that familial relationship.

Lindy Whiteford made a wonderful Beth, mother of the family, and really did portray the character who held the family together very well. Simon Rouse did a brilliant job as Christopher, the father of the family. He nailed the character making him perfectly unlikeable because of how unaccepting the character is. Louisa Connolly-Burnham was the perfect Ruth, daughter of the family, who portrayed the aspiring singer amazingly and had a heartwarming on stage relationship with Oliver Johnstone who played her brother, Dan.

Ciaran Alexander Stewart played the central character Billy and he was perfectly cast in the role. His performance really challenged theatrical expectations when he demonstrated some of the greatest acting I’d seen but all through sign language rather than dialogue. The mix of dialogue and sign language along with captions, for the most part, worked incredibly well. Emily Howlett impressed in the role of Sylvia, Billy’s first girlfriend. Her chemistry with Ciaran was utterly beautiful – they were so believable as a romantic couple.

Stealing the show with a truly phenomenal performance in the role of Dan was Oliver Johnstone. His performance was heartwrenching yet heartwarming. Moments were difficult to watch simply because of how perfectly he brought them to life. His rapport with on stage brother Billy (Ciaran Alexander Stuart) was so realistic, as were his relationships with the rest of the characters.

This show is so important and informative, as well as heartwrenching and heartwarming at the same time. I would strongly reccommend this show.

Tribes runs at the Crucible Studio until Saturday 21st July.

High Storrs’ West Side Story Review

4 and a half stars

Earlier this week I had the opportunity of seeing High Storrs School’s summer production West Side Story. This was a terrific school production and the cast was overflowing with talent.

The show had one of the strongest ensembles I’d seen in a long time. From the youngest students to the oldest sixth formers, they all executed dance teacher Mr Selby’s choreography to perfection.

Heidi Goodhill impressed as Anita with some very strong vocals and worked very well with Jay Olpin as Bernardo. Jay did a great job in his role and had a great stage presence.¬†Annabelle Kirkpatrick Lorentz played Maria and she demonstrated some truly stunning vocals and her acting throughout the show was incredible, particularly at the end of the show. Her chemistry with Elliot Goodhill as Tony was very believable. Elliot had some very strong vocals and he definitely proved he’s a West End worthy performer. He had a great rapport with James Hadabora who played Riff who really shone in this show with a spot on accent, excellent dance skills and a great singing voice.

Jess Beedle was wonderful as Anybodys and Nat Short impressed as Action, even if he did look like he was about to punch someone in the face all the time. Leo Peace did a terrific job in the role of Schrank whilst Dominic Hartley made a very entertaining Officer Krupke. Harry Foster-Major demonstrated some incredible acting talent as Baby John and his vocals in Office Krupke was outstanding. Thea John as Doc was wonderful to watch and a special mention must also go to Emma Tomlinson who gave a stunning rendition of Somewhere.

The show had a phenomenal set for a school production and was brilliantly staged in the space. Some amazing lighting was used in the show too. It was just a shame there were issues with microphones and sound effects but the cast remained completely professional despite this. I didn’t understand the decision to use the microphones for singing but not for dialogue though.

This truly was a showcase of the incredible talent High Storrs School has both amongst its students and its exceptional performing arts teaching staff.

West Side Story has now closed but I, for one, cannot wait to see whatever show they do next year.

The Who’s Tommy Review

 

3 and a half

Yesterday I made the most of my opportunities with Sheffield Theatres’ new Ignite scheme and went to see Ramps on the Moon’s new production of The Who’s Tommy. The show has some great music and it had a very strong cast, with great integration of sign language. At times, I didn’t even notice the signing it had been integrated into the movement so well. The show’s plot, however, is quite thin and quite dark as well with themes of abuse, affairs and possibly prostitution throughout.

The title role is played by deaf performer William Grint (The Beauty Manifesto). He really played this role very well and really got into the heart of the character. This is one of the few, if not the only, character in the show who gets a full progression and William portrayed that very well. The singing voice of Tommy was Julian Capolei and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan who both had amazing voices that worked well indvidually and together, although I didn’t understand why Tommy needed two performers to sing his part.

Tommy’s mother, Nora, was also played by a deaf performer Donna Mullings (Love’s Labour’s Lost). She, again, really got to the heart of the character and the character is quite possibly one of the only ones we like throughout. Shekinah McFarlane (Hair, Parade, The Lion King) sings the voice of Nora and she stole the show for me. Her voice was phenomenal – very powerful. She blew the roof off multiple times. Alim Jayda (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Annie, Sinbad the Sailor) made a very strong Frank and played this completely unlikeable character very well. He had a good singing voice and his stage presence was very good.

Amy Trigg (The Glass Menagerie) did a wonderful job as Sally Simpson. She, again, was a character we liked throughout the whole show and was very believable in her role although the character didn’t go quite where I thought it would. Max Runham (The Threepenny Opera, A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer) did a great job as Captain Walker who had a lovely voice in his short repeated song although quite why he kept returning I’m not entirely sure. He had a great on stage chemistry with William Grint as Tommy.

Peter Straker must also be mentioned who, in this production, played the Acid Queen. He was in the original production of The Who’s Tommy so it was impressive that the producers managed to get him to come and do it again but this time in a different role. His voice is sensational, he completely blew the roof off with his songs, including a new song written especially for this production. Acid Queen was a very bizarre character but Peter did a wonderful job making some sense of it.

There were many other strong supporting performers too including Lukus Alexander as Cousin Kevin, Stacey Ghent as Mrs Simpson and Natasha Lewis as Hawker (who had a phenomenal voice I must add).

Although I did thoroughly enjoy the performances in this show, I didn’t think it was quite standing ovation worthy as a show. The show itself wasn’t great but actual production side of it was. The set was simple but very effective and the lighting for the show was awesome.

The Who’s Tommy concludes it’s UK tour on 1st July at Sheffield Crucible, where it is currently playing.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Transfers to the West End

After being a huge success at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, Tom Macrae and Dan Gillespie Sells’ musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will take to the stage once more at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End.

The show is based on the documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’ and tells the story of the fictional Jamie New (based on the real Jamie Campbell) and his journey to find out who he really is.

John McCrea will return to the role of Jamie New with most of the original Sheffield cast. Josie Walker plays Margaret New, Tamsin Carroll is teacher Miss Hedge, Luke Baker is Dean, Lucie Shorthouse plays Pritti Pasha and CBBC Sarah Jane Adventures star Mina Anwar will play neighbour and family friend Lee. They will be joined by Daniel Anthony, Courtney Bowman, James Gillian, Harriet Payne, Shiv Rabheru and Kirstie Skivington. Further casting is still to be announced.

The show is directed by Jonathan Buttrell, designed by Anna Fleischle, choreographed by Kate Prince and musical direction is from Theo Jamieson.

To read my review of the original production, you can click here.

The show will start previews on 6th November 2017 and will have it’s press night on 22nd November. It is currently booking until 21st April 2018. Please visit the show’s official website for details on booking.¬†http://www.everybodystalkingaboutjamie.co.uk/