Monday, 20 May 2019

Review: Les Misérables at Milton Keynes Theatre



I’m not sure if this review needs much more than, ‘Wow! Go see this immediately!’…But I will try to be a little more descriptive as to why you should go, at least for those of you like me that do not know the story as well as you should, even if it has been packing out theatres worldwide since 1985!

The musical is based on Victor Hugo’s great 19thCentury novel, Les Misérables and is set during a period of great social and political unrest in France and living conditions of the poor were grim. The musical begins with our hero, Jean Valjean, who was arrested for stealing some bread to feed his sister’s baby and imprisoned for 19 years. He is granted leave, breaks his parole and begins a new life. Fast forward 8 years and he is now the owner of a factory and finds himself indebted to one of his workers, Fantine, and will do whatever he can to take care of her young illegitimate daughter, Cosette, living with the terrible Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. Fast forward another 9 years, the revolution is on the rise, Cosette has grown up and a young rebel student Marius has fallen in love with her. His friend Eponine (the Thénardier’s grown up daughter) is secretly in love with him and a tricky love triangle begins. Act two sees the revolution continue, tragic deaths and a marriage all of which will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the end.

The story is dark, melancholy, helpless at times, funny at others and really transports you to life in early 1800’s France. The show moves so quickly, one enthralling song after another. Many of the songs have simple tunes that you find yourself humming along to by the second verse, especially Master of the House which is good fun! The acting and singing was absolutely superb and although the entire cast were completely perfect, I must give particular mention of course to Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean), Nic Greensheilds (Javert), Katie Hall (Fantine), Martin Ball (Monsieur Thénardier) and Sophie-Louise Dann (Madame Thénardier. Lyrics were enunciated very clearly so you can easily follow what is happening. The live orchestra completes this show with beautiful music to set the scene and leaves you humming the tunes all the way home. 

The staging was magnificent, it changed seamlessly from one scene to the next. One moment you’re in a factory, the next in the backstreets with the ladies and their clients and the next at the Thérnardier’s dodgey pub or the barricades, you hardly even notice the set changing. The show has been refreshed for the 21stcentury and now includes a background screen with some digital moving images (based on paintings by Victor Hugo) that tie in flawlessly with the set without taking away from the forbidding atmosphere of the times. 

For tickets: Best availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.


Thursday, 9 May 2019

Review: Tom Gates Live On Stage



This week, the brilliant world of Tom Gates has been brought to life on stage at Milton Keynes Theatre. Translated into 43 languages and with over 8 million copies sold worldwide, this series is a huge hit. Tom Gates is a series of illustrated stories for older children by graphic designer-turned-author, Liz Pichon. 

This story, written specifically for the stage, is aimed at children although is fantastic fun for the whole family. I am told (by a couple of true Tom Gates experts) that the show is funny, energetic, lively, colourful and just what they expected Tom Gates to be if he was a real-life boy. Following Tom, his friends at school and his family at home (including the scary older sister Celia) we get to see the highs and lows of being a ‘smiley face’ or a ‘sad face’ student - Tom just has to make sure he makes it on the School Trip Of A Lifetime! Just don’t doodle on the wrong wall (face palm.)

The staging was ultra-modern and unlike anything I’ve seen before which included a large digital animated screen that changed to show different scenes or bring Tom’s doodles to life. It really was super clever and you will be fascinated by the screen as well as the fantastic actors that made this show so fun. 

The genre will appeal to most children and adults alike, with lots of silliness, a bit of rebellion and plenty of live music too. We love chips, when do we want them? Now!


Catch Tom and his friends this week at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 11thMay. www.atgtickets.com


Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Review: Greenday’s American Idiot



American Idiot is on its 10th Anniversary Tour and is in town at Milton Keynes Theatre this week until Saturday. We went along to last night’s performance for the opening night of this Tony and Grammy award winning show.

The story follows three boyhood friends on their search for meaning in a post 9/11 world. They live in ‘suburbia’, bored and frustrated with life and so they head out on their own to try and make something of themselves with quite tragic consequences. The show is based around Greenday’s Grammy Award winning album American Idiot and is in the style of a punk-rock opera with minimal dialogue. Songs include American Idiot, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends.

The show is quite niche – perhaps not something your average musical fan would enjoy so I went in with an open mind, as a huge fan of Greenday (I saw the band perform this album live at The MK Bowl back in 2005). This isn’t your typical All-American-Dream, glitz and glam musical, in fact it is the complete opposite with a fair amount of hopelessness, dark and dreary settings, anarchy, sex, drugs and rock and roll. I couldn’t help but feel the show did lack a bit of ‘soul’. To see punk rock bands live (or any live music for that matter), is unlike any other experience, the sheer energy and emotional atmosphere on stage and in the crowd cannot be matched in a theatre production and acting rebellious certainly isn’t the same as actually being rebellious. However, that is where we must remember this is not meant to be a Greenday gig. This musical is its own entity, theatre productions have a whole host of their own excitements and this show has plenty of them, fans of Greenday can still thoroughly enjoy the music, lyrics and epic guitar riffs. Likewise, musical fans can enjoy something completely different and experience a taste of Greenday’s catchy songs. The cast were brilliant and all had a great stage presence for their own characters, there’s no lack of talent in this cast, great singers and performers and they all looked awesome in their costumes.

The stage set was great and it really transported you to the grubby homes and lifestyles of the characters. Having the band situated on the upper level of the set as a permanent feature throughout the show was really effective – especially as a punk-rock opera where musicians are just as important to the show as the cast. The show and music are as relevant today as they were 15 years ago when the album was first released.


The show contains lots of swearing, drug use and sexual references, so certainly not one for kids! But I would highly recommend seeing this one. Tickets available on www.atgtickets.com and the show runs until Saturday 27th April.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat



Having seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at least three times already I feel as though I know the script! Obviously, I think it is a lovely feel good show that has all the perfect elements of an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. I like especially the fact that it is nothing but singing and dancing; there is no `talking` as such. The biblical story of Joseph, loosely interpreted of course, is narrated by the wonderful Trina Hill who holds the whole show together. Unlike some musicals there is actually a story to support the songs albeit a simple one! This is an ideal show to take all the family to.

Having seen previous incumbents playing Joseph, Jaymi Hensley is as good as it gets. He had a very strong voice almost operatic in its quality. The eleven brothers of Joseph were brilliant, bringing so much energy to their roles. They were both entertaining and humorous. There were also so many local children in the Joseph choir that I could hear several parents chatting about them during the interval. The children were an absolute delight and really enhanced the whole show.

The stage set up and lighting were of the usual high standard we expect from a musical at MK Theatre. We mustn't forget the Joseph Orchestra who were excellent. It`s good that live music is still being supported in our theatres. This is a show not to be missed. It`s going to be a sellout. Joseph is on untill Saturday 13th April.



Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Review: Glengarry Glen Ross at MK Theatre


Set in Chicago, America circa 1970s in a dog eat dog world of selling real estate. The story focuses on the salesmen who are driven to desperate measures to survive and be top of the sales leader board. It certainly  took a while to get in tune with the American accents.
The story has parallels with 'Death of a Salesman' but with a more earthly language that I found quite wearing. Does anyone really swear that much! It was also hard to stomach the casual racism of those days and the occasional disturbing line that was offensive.
Although it had comedy actors I wouldn't say this was a comedy although there were a few funny lines. Mark Benton played the main character Shelley and was at his very best. One couldn't fault the competence of the actors.
As a story that needs to be told, I am not sure. The story plays homage to Death of a Salesman but it's a hard call to surpass that classic play.

Glengarry Glen Ross is on at MK Theatre until Saturday 6th April
Tickets from www.atgtickets.com/Miltonkeynes or telephone 0844 871 7652 (booking fee applies)

Friday, 29 March 2019

Review: WNO’s The Magic Flute at MK Theatre


Review: WNO’s The Magic Flute

Milton Keynes Theatre

Thursday 28th March 2019



This week, the Welsh National Opera has arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre and we went along to see last night’s fantastical production of Mozart’s timeless classic, The Magic Flute. This Opera is a Singspiel (a German-language music-drama) however is sung and spoken in English which was a nice change to see an opera performed in English, though the subtitles certainly help you to understand the story! The mysterious Queen of the Night coaxes the Prince Tamino to rescue her beautiful daughter Pamina from the grip of the evil (or is he?) enchanter, Sarastro in exchange for her hand in marriage. With only a magic flute, a set of magic bells and a funny bird-catching sidekick for protection, he sets off on the long, perilous journey and they must overcome a series of challenges to complete their quest and find true love.

The Magic Flute first premiered in 1791 at Schikaneder's theatre Freihaus-Theatre auf der Wieden in Vienna and still enchants audiences around the world to this day. This irresistible production transports you to a dream world, combined with a witty story and Mozart’s sublime music and includes many colourful characters including anthropomorphic creatures and a fish bicycle! The very surreal stage set and costumes are inspired by Magritte (early twentieth century surrealist artist known for challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality) so don’t be too surprised by floating heads and a sense of endless nothingness behind the doors!

The orchestra were brilliant as were all the cast on stage and in particular, The Queen of the Night’s aria, performed by Samantha Hay was incredible. The audience’ applause was wild after that one! Amongst the sophisticated seriousness and playfulness of the opera, this show also includes a touch a good-old-British panto-esque humour, so there really is something for everyone in The Magic Flute. Of course, expect pitiful damsels in distress and frustratingly melodramatic decisions to the slightest mishap, but opera wouldn’t be opera without it.

An unforgettable opera for all ages, you can still catch The Welsh National Opera in tomorrow night’s performance of Robert Devereux and Sunday afternoons performance of The Magic Flute. For tickets visit www.atgtickets.com or call 0844 871 7652

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Review: The Bodyguard, The Musical



This month, The Bodyguard is running at Milton Keynes Theatre starring the wonderful Alexandra Burke in the lead role as Rachel Marron. I went in with an open and unsure mind as (if you can believe it!) I have never seen the super famous movie of the same name which stars Whitney Houston and where some of the most well-known songs in the world shot to fame including ‘I will always love you’, ‘I’m every woman’ and ‘I wanna dance with somebody’.

The show was brilliant. From the dazzling opening number with great lighting and giant flames (mum and I looked at each other and said ‘oo, that was warm!’), the thrills and tensions of Rachel’s stalker getting ever-closer to her to the big finale and perfect rendition of ‘I will always love you’. Alexandra Burke’s vocals and stage presence are completely captivating, she sure can sing and the audience was wild for her. She made the role her own, with a modern and younger take on Whitney’s original Rachel. Supporting her, with another great voice and vocal range is Micha Richardson who plays Nicki Marron, Rachel’s sister. And of course, the Bodyguard himself, Benoit Marechal as Frank Farmer. His attempt at karaoke was really funny and although he’s playing a stern and strict character he is equally loveable.

The story and music fit nicely together and the tension gradually builds throughout the two acts, with lots of power ballads in between. A big well done to all the cast, the ensemble, the choreographers, musicians, lighting technicians and everyone else that make this such a memorable show. I would definitely see it again.



The show runs until 23rd March 2019. Grab tickets while you still can at www.atgtickets.com