Croft House Theatre Company’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Review

5-stars

Yesterday I went to see Croft House Theatre Company’s production of the classic musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The musical tells the story of Adam and his brothers and the lengths that they’ll go to get wives. The plot is simple and predictable but still good fun and the songs written by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer, as well as Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn are great to listen to.

Claire Harriott directed and choreographed the production expertly and cleverly, with effective use of the theatre’s boxes as well as the stage. She utilised the huge cast very well and her choreography was mindblowing, particularly the numbers involving the brothers. It was quite possibly the best choreography I’ve seen in any production, amateur or professional.

Croft House had assembled a remarkably strong cast for this production. Andrew Stansall (Singin’ In The Rain, The Wiz) as Benjamin, Josh Holliday (Grease, Sister Act) as Caleb and Adam Walker (West Side Story, Rock of Ages) as Frank were all very strong. There was an outstanding rapport between all the brothers. A special mention has to go to Matt Bevan (Fame, Boogie Nights) and Dan Romano (West Side Story) as Daniel and Ephraim, who had an exceptional rapport and fab stage presence.

Grace Hallam (Crazy For You, Me and My Girl) took on the leading role of Milly Bradon. Her acting was very strong, portraying this strong independent woman before her time. Her vocals were beautiful and at times, very powerful. Richard Carlin (Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me Kate) was the leading man, Adam Pontipee. His vocals were phenomenal and his acting performance was strong. You could easily have seen him in a West End theatre.

For me, the strongest performance of the show came from Elliot Goodhill (West Side Story) as Gideon. His acting was impeccable and incredibly believable, his outstanding dance skills were shown off fully and his vocals were unique yet truly stunning. His on stage chemistry with Juliet Ibberson (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as Alice was so believable and very heartwarming.

This musical is a great light hearted piece of entertainment and is definitely suitable for all ages to go and enjoy. If you get the chance to see this classic musical, it is definitely worthwhile.

Croft House Theatre Company’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers closed on Saturday 24th March but they return to the Lyceum stage in March 2019 with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical Cats.

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The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk Review

5-stars

This week I went to see Kneehigh Theatre Company’s production of Daniel Jamieson’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. The story is fairly simple and predictable but Emma Rice’s direction and Ian Ross’ music adds so much fun and theatricality to the piece and it makes for a brilliant night out at the theatre. Sophia Clist’s design is simple but effective and Malcolm Rippeth’s lighting design is brilliant.

The play is short in length at just 1 hour and 30 minutes with no interval and is performed by a small cast of two actors and two on stage musicians, who also serve as ensemble actors at times.

Marc Antolin took on the role of artist Marc Chagall. His voice was very strong and his performance was very likeable for the most part, until he becomes unlikeable due to plot. Playing his wife, Bella Chagall, is Daisy Maywood. Her performance is equally strong with stunning vocals, showing off her full range of vocal skill with some beautiful softer singing and some very powerful vocals at times too. The chemistry between the two performers was very believable and the audience definitely liked them as a duo. Ian Ross and James Gow complete the cast as the two musicians. The music makes the show a lot more enjoyable and adds the emotional aspect of the play. Their acting performances in several minor roles were strong as well.

This show is a true celebration of what theatre should be and is a gem of a production. If you can get tickets to see it somewhere on tour, I would highly recommend you do. It’s a rarity to see a play so well put together these days.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 24th March, before touring to Salisbury, Manchester, Exeter, Oxford, Northampton, Cheltenham and then it closes on 10th June at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina.

Mamma Mia! UK Tour Review

4 stars

Last night I went to see the UK tour of Mamma Mia. Using the music of ABBA, the show tells the story of Sophie Sheridan, who is about to get married, and her attempts to find out who her real dad is. Originally a stage musical and then turned into a film, this musical has been a hit with audiences for decades and now it is just completing it’s first UK tour. The songs don’t feel shoe horned into the show much but it did feel like there were a few too many songs. The second half felt a little dragged out with songs, although that’s not down to the performances, it’s the writing.

Lucy May Barker (Oklahoma, Spring Awakening) leads the show as Sophie Sheridan. Her voice is unique and very powerful in the moments she gets to let rip. She’s very likeable in the role and very believable. Her rapport with Fia Houston-Hamilton (Ghost the Musical, Bare) and Blaise Colangelo (Shrek the Musical, Billy Elliot) as Ali and Lisa is amazing! The energy between the trio is so infectious and the trio get lots of laughs in their rendition of Honey Honey. Phillip Ryan (Trainspotting) plays Sky, Sophie’s finacee, and has a great voice and a fantastic chemistry with Lucy as Sophie.

Helen Hobson (Sunny Afternoon, The Sound of Music) makes for a brilliant Donna¬† Sheridan. Her relationship with Lucy as Sophie is very heartwarming and her voice is truly beautiful. Chris Hollis (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Liasons Dangereuses) as Bill Austin and Jamie Hogarth (Abigail’s Party, Noises Off) as Harry Bright both give very strong performances with some strong vocals and brilliant characterisations.

The show stealers of this show were definitely understudies Gillian Ford (It’s A Wonderful Life, The Sound of Music) and Rebecca Seale (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Les Miserables) as Tanya and Rosie, as well as understudy Morgan Jackson (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) as Pepper and Jon Boydon (Jersey Boys, The Rocky Horror Show) as Sam Carmichael. Rebecca was hilarious and Take A Chance On Me was one of the highlights of the show. Jon’s vocals were seriously impressive – some of the strongest in the show. His rendition of SOS was very very strong. Gillian Ford got plenty of laughs and her vocals in Does Your Mother Know were incredibly strong and Morgan Jackson showed off some impressive, show stopping, dance skills during that song too.

The design of this production by Mark Thompson (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is beautiful, especially the costumes, and the set is very simple but effective and the large ensemble create some seamless set changes. Anthony Van Laast’s (Sister Act, Side Show) choreography really adds to the fun of the show and ramps up the energy.

Mamma Mia is a great night out at the theatre and you will definitely leave singing the songs and with a big smile on your face.

Mamma Mia runs at Sheffield Lyceum until 17th March when it finishes it’s UK tour. An international tour opens in Hull on 31st May before touring to Portsmouth, Aylesbury and Manchester.

Frost/Nixon Review

5-stars

Peter Morgan’s play ‘Frost/Nixon’ tells of how TV presenter David Frost came to interview former president Richard Nixon for the first time since he resigned from his presidency. Kate Hewitt (Tribes) directs a new production of this play at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. The work of designer Ben Stones (Julius Caesar, Kes), lighting designer Charles Balfour (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), sound designer George Dennis (Tribes, Love Your Soldiers) and video designer Andrzej Goulding (Tribes, People Places and Things) all come together to create a very unique and exciting production.

The play centres around the characters of David Frost and Richard Nixon who are played by Daniel Rigby (Twelfth Night, One Man Two Guvnors) and Jonathan Hyde (Julius Caesar, Travels With My Aunt) respectively. Daniel’s characterisation is spot on and is wonderfully likeable. He completely becomes what everyone expects from a TV presenter. Jonathan’s performance is seriously impressive and his wealth of theatrical experience comes across very clearly. He does a fantastic job at showing the slow breakdown of the character throughout the interview. It’s always great to see two such well written characters performed so well on stage.

The show has some impressive supporting performances throughout too. Simon Bubb (War Horse, Noises Off) does a fantastic job as John Birt, David Sturzaker (Nell Gwynn, Richard II) narrates brilliantly, giving an insight into the viewpoint of the general public, as Jim Reston and Steven Elder (1984, Romeo and Juliet) is spot on as Bob Zelnick. The trio have a great rapport between them alongside Daniel Rigby as David Frost.

Ben Dilloway (Pride and Predjudice, Of Mice and Men) also narrates wonderfully, giving a perspection from Nixon’s side of the events, as Jack Brennan. Completing the exceptional supporting cast is Celina Sinden (Twelfth Night, Blood Wedding) as Caroline Cushing. Despite being a very small role, her chemistry with Daniel Rigby is very believable.

The show is supported by an ensemble of a mixture of professional performers and members of Sheffield People’s Theatre. The cast members from SPT fit seemlessly into the show and you couldn’t tell them apart from the professional performers.

This play is brilliantly well written. People who remember the historical events will enjoy it, I’m sure, as a reminder and insight into a significant historical moment but people who don’t know anything about Watergate, like myself, can also enjoy it very much as a stand alone piece. It feels somewhat relevant to a lot of the political activity we see on TV in the present day.

If you can get to see this show, which is just 1 hour and 50 minutes with no interval, I would definitely reccomend it to see a very creative production and some exceptional performances.

Frost/Nixon runs at Sheffield Crucible Theatre until Saturday 17th March.

An Officer and a Gentleman UK Tour Cast Announced

A brand new musical adaptation of An Officer and a Gentleman, the Oscar-winning film that starred Richard Gere, is set to the tour the UK later this year. This new musical includes hit song from the film ‘Up Where We Belong’, as well as other 80s favourites including ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, ‘Material Girl’ and ‘The Final Countdown’.

The show is to be directed by artistic director of Curve Nikolai Foster (Annie, Calamity Jane) and choreographed by Kate Prince (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, ZooNation), with musical supervision by Sarah Travis (Sweeney Todd, Sister Act).

Today full casting for the show has been announced.

West End star Emma Williams, who was recently seen in Half A Sixpence, will play the leading role of Paula Pokrifki, alongside star of the West End production of Annie, Jonny Fines, as Zack Mayo.

They are joined by vocal coach from The Voice, Ray Shell as Emil Foley, Ian McIntosh (Beautiful, The Commitments) as Sid Worley and Jessica Daley (BBC’s Over The Rainbow, The Sound of Music) as Lynette Pomeroy.

Rounding out the supporting cast are Keisha Atwell (Grease) as Casey Seegar, Andy Barke (Nativity the Musical) as Louis Perryman, Darren Bennett (Scrooge) as Byron Mayo, David Burrows (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) as Simpson, James Darch (Wicked) as Troy, George Ioannides (Mamma Mia) as Eduardo Cortez, Nathanael Landskroner (Grease) as Craig, Joe Maxwell (Jersey Boys) as Fin Hooper, Kieran McGinn (Motown) as Jacobson, Corinna Powlesland (Running Wild) as Aunt Bunny and Rachel Stanley (Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Esther Pokrifki.

The cast is completed by ensemble members Maisey Bawden (The Tempest), Vanessa Fisher (Little Shop of Horrors), Aimee Hodnett (Follies) and Rhys Whitfield (Million Dollar Quartet)

The show opens at Leicester Curve on 6th April and tours all over the country before closing in Glasgow on 15th September.

Quartet UK Tour Review

3 and a half

Sir Ronald Harwood’s play Quartet has just begun a short UK tour and this week has been playing Sheffield Lyceum. The play tells of 4 retired and aged opera singers living in an retirement home. The play is incredibly well written with 4 wonderfully complex characters, sometimes a rarity in modern theatre, and some very funny moments. The show does feel a little slow however because not a lot happens in the play. It is a play centred around the ideas of the arts and growing old, as opposed as a heavily dramatic play.

The set for this production is stunning! The detail is incredible. It’s so realistic and not a thing is missing that you would expect to find in the room. The costumes are great, especially the ones used in the final scene of the play.

The small cast for this production is one of the strongest casts I’ve ever seen in a theatre in a long time. Sue Holderness (Out of Order, Only Fools and Horses) plays Jean and she manages to get the right balance of a woman who is still a little taken up by her fame and her vulnerability. Jeff Rawle (Waiting for Godot, Harry Potter) makes a brilliant Reginald and is likeable and very believable in his portrayal. Wilfred is played by Paul Nicholas (The Real Marigold Hotel, Eastenders) and he gets plenty laughs and is believable in his characterisation. Wendi Peters (Coronation Street, Snow White, Wonderland) never fails to impress in any role she plays and Cissy Robson is no different. Her physicality is perfect, her charisma is amazing and she gets plenty of laughs throughout the whole show. Although she doesn’t get to demonstrate her incredible singing ability in this show, she does get to show just how incredible an actress she is.

Quartet is full of warmth and heart and everyone will be able to relate to it in someway, whether it be relating directly to a character or seeing relatives in the characters. The incredible work from the cast alone makes the show worth seeing.

Quartet plays at Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 24th February, before touring to Ipswich, Birmingham, Salisbury, Brighton, Cambridge and Richmond, before closing in Bath on 21st April 2018.

Chicken Soup. Review

3 and a half

Ray Castleton and Kieran Knowles’ new play ‘Chicken Soup.’ has been playing Sheffield’s Crucible Studio to great acclaim for the past few weeks. The show is almost completely sold out for the entire run and it tells the story of three women running a community kitchen. We see the changes that come to the trio and the kitchen through Orgreave miners’ strike, the Queen’s diamond jubilee and Brexit. This is a brilliant production of the play filled with exceptional performances but the play itself doesn’t do all that it initially sets out to do.

The show’s set design by Sophia Simensky is amazingly detailed and realistic. From the signs on the walls to the scuffed up floor, everything you’d expect to find a community kitchen is there. The writing is relatively believable too, although I found the play focussed too heavily on the everyday tasks involved in running the kitchen and not enough on the key historical events that the show is sold on.

Judy Flynn plays Josephine and gives a very strong performance. Her characterisation is very believable and quite likeable. Her rapport with the rest of the leading trio is brilliant. Samantha Power as Christine is one of the best performances in the show. Her moments of anger are incredibly powerful. Simone Saunders is very likeable, even if somewhat stereotypical, as Jennifer. She’s perhaps the most likeable character of the show and shows the most change throughout. Although stereotypical earlier on in the play, Remmie Milner did a fantastic job as Katie, Jennifer’s daughter. Jo Hartley completes the cast as Helen and she probably gives the most impressive performance in the show. She doesn’t have a lot of stage time but the scenes she’s in are so emotionally charged and definitely the highlights of the show.

This show is worth seeing to admire the detail in the set, to watch some brilliant actresses perform live and to taste the delicious soup provided for free in the interval, although the script needs some work to tighten it, focus it on a clear point and to balance the two acts better.

Chicken Soup. runs at Sheffield Crucible Studio until 3rd March with very limited availability.