Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Review: Blood Brothers at Milton Keynes Theatre

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. One of the most popular British musicals of all time – this was my first visit to see this critically acclaimed show. Sitting amongst members of the audience that were on visit number 2, 3, 4, even 5…I had high hopes – and was not disappointed! Having been told the musical was ‘old school’ and a ‘weeper’, I was ready for a great & gripping story, some fantastic music and prepared for a few tears.

By Act 2, it was easy to join in and hum along to Marilyn Monroe, which was sang beautifully by Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone. Also a goosebump-inducing rendition of ‘Shoes Upon The Table’ by Dean Chisnall as The Narrator got the audience cheering. The story follows Mrs Johnstone and her children as she struggles to look after the family. She gives away one of her new-born twins, Eddie, to Mrs Lyons who cannot have children and we see the differences as the two boys grow up in completely opposite circumstances. One grows up to a life of crime, struggles and depression whilst the other is privileged, well-educated and wealthy.

Blood brothers forever after they meet by chance, although their mothers tried everything to keep them apart. They never knew they were twins until the day they died.

A heart-warming tale of family, friendship, sticking together, not giving up but also how love and heartbreak can destroy you. With a fantastic cast that acted their parts perfectly, great music and stage settings, this show is definitely one to watch.

For tickets visit: www.atgtickets.com

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Cilla the Musical

Cilla the Musical at MK Theatre

26th September 2017

A most amazing production and performance by all but especially Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla.

The show portrays the early career of Cilla Black through to 1967 and was written by Jeff Pope, directed and produced by Bill Kenwright and produced by Laurie Mansfield.

This excellent production combines the excitement of the music of the times, with excellent playing and singing of all the musical cast, with the drama and intrigue of Brian Epstein”s (Andrew Lancel) life and his skill at guiding his protege’s careers’ within the vibrant music business of the time.

The show also features George Martin (Tom Sowinski) who’s skill at music production was crucial to The Beatles sound and development through their albums once they had stopped touring.

The versatility of the musicians and the accurate interpretation of all the famous songs of the time was great, a special mention should go to Carl Au as Bobby Willis, Cilla’s manager and eventual husband, who’s singing voice blended so well with Kara Liily’s voice in the duets together.

Cilla’s mum and dad (Pauline Fleming and Neil Macdonald) ably carried a few running gags
through the show.

The acoustics of the MK Theatre were as usual very good and carried the thrill of the music, the stage set was extremely flexible and conveyed the scenes and atmosphere being portrayed from the Cavern club at the start of Cilla’s career, to the terrace housing and then the studio at Abbey Road, and the Ed Sullivan show in the States, complete with the Mamas and Papas laying California Dreaming.

It was great to see the excellent costumes portraying the period fashions so well.

A great show for all the family too.

Cilla runs at MK Theatre until Saturday 30th September. Tickets are available from www.atgtickets.com/shows/cilla/milton-keynes-theatre

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I don’t need to go into too much detail about this play other than to tell you to go see it! It really is phenomenal. I’ve seen simple stage sets before where the whole play is carried out across one setting with a few props moved here and there but I don’t think I’ve been so absorbed by a giant, interactive, black chequered box with a few light up cubes, some chalk and a train set!

In a nutshell, the story follows Christopher, a young boy of 15 with “Behavioural Problems’ when he finds his neighbour’s dog has been murdered in the night with a garden fork. He does some investigating to find out whodunit and discovers a few more mysteries along the way. He decides to travel to London alone through the hustle and bustle of crowds, train stations and an overwhelming amount of constant information – something that can be quite daunting for all of us, but for Christopher, it’s truly frightening and we get to see this through his eyes and his reactions.

Superbly acted and performed by all the company and especially from Scott Reid, playing Christopher – we featured an interview with Scott in September’s Phonebox and he told us all about how he learned to act and hold himself differently, to talk differently and how exhausting it can be not being able to leave the stage. Christopher has Asperger’s Syndrome, wonderfully portrayed by Scott and the audience watched in awe and we can all relate to some of his views on the world around him.

Mark Haddon, author of the original book which this play is based on, said, ‘Is Christopher a correct representation of someone with the condition? The assumption being that there is indeed a correct representation of the condition. I think it’s indicative of the way we think about people we label ‘disabled’ that we can even ask this question. We would never ask if a character in a novel was a correct representation of a cellist or a lesbian or an archbishop. There is no such thing. And the same is true for people who are given the label ‘disabled’. They are as various and individual as any other group in society.’

The show is fast paced, funny, sad, bursting with dialogue and facts and is very intense. You’ll be hooked from the start.

Catch The Curious Incident at Milton Keynes theatre until Saturday 16th September – www.atgtickets.com

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Grease, is the word: 28th August 2017

With Tom Parker, Danielle Hope, Louisa Litton and George Olney.
Staging and choreography by Arlene Phillips.

The show developed in early 1970 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, was first staged as an amateur production in 1971, it opened just off Broadway on February 14th 1972, it won 7 Tony awards.
The first UK production was in 1973 at the New Theatre London.
The famous film with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta was released in 1978.

Based loosely on Warren’s experience as a late 1950’s high school teacher and the interaction of the greasers, their girlfriends and the great rock and roll music of the era, and of course on the hot-rod cars of the day.

I have to say that I haven’t seen the film but was very aware of the hit songs and their video clips, I did however know the story.

I found the show and performances very exuberant, possibly a little too in your face, however the songs were all well performed and the dancing very good.
George Olney was particularly good as the Teen Angel, a great voice.

The band too were excellent, and looked good in their setting above the back of the stage.

Despite that fact that there were quite a lot of youngish children in the audience early teens and younger I am not sure that it could be taken as a family show with the handling of some of the sexual/romantic content, periods and pregnancy.

The acoustics of the MK Theatre were as usual very good, the stage set was flexible and conveyed the scenes being portrayed.

The costumes beautifully portray the fashions of the period.

Head over to www.atgtickets.com for tickets - Grease is running until Saturday 2nd September