Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Review: Kinky Boots the Musical

Kinky Boots the Musical at MK Theatre – 29/10/19

Having seen the film Kinky Boots, I was very excited to go and see the musical that has arrived in Milton Keynes for the next couple of weeks.

Based on the true story of WJ Brookes, the musical follows the trials and tribulations of Charlie Price, a Northampton shoemaker, who has inherited a failing shoe factory from his father. To turn things around and stop the building being sold to property developers, Charlie decides that his company needs a niche market. Enter Lola! If you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know the casting of the character Lola is quite pivotal to the story, and the casting of Kayi Ushe as Lola in this stage version is perfect!

Lola is a drag queen that always has problems with the heel snapping on her (his) boots. Charlie sees this need and decides to do something about it. The audience is taken through the journey of Charlie’s up and downs as he produces ‘ladies footwear for men’.

Sometimes when a film is adapted for the stage it can cut out a lot of the detail and songs can be inserted for the sake of it – not necessarily adding anything. I don’t feel this was the case with Kinky Boots. The songs added to the story and engaged the audience with the mood of the scene, whether that be happy, sad or comical.

Giving the audience the complete immersive experience was the set. A backdrop of a shoe factory but with a central rotating ‘room’ that with a quick spin, transformed the stage to a bar, storeroom, a boxing ring or Lola’s stage. All very clever and allowed the action to flow effortlessly from one scene to the next.

On page 15 of the November Phonebox we spoke to Joel-Harper Jackson who plays Charlie. He said his favourite part is the big finale. Whilst watching it, you can really understand why he would say that as it was such a feel-good moment – and as he mentions, the audience really did go wild.

Kinky Boots is on at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 9th November.
Tickets available from I’d be quick though, as this is going to be a popular one.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Review: Saturday Night Fever

This week, seventies disco in all its hip-popping, strutting, grooving glory is in town at Milton Keynes Theatre. Based on the 1977 movie starring John Travolta. This story follows Tony Manalo, a 19 year old Italian American from Brooklyn who escapes the harsh reality of his bleak family life by dominating the dance floor at the local disco and dreams of making it big at Studio 54, New York. The show is filled with hits including Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, More Than A Woman and Disco Inferno.

It is a fairly simple plot of boy meets girl, girl isn’t interested, boy keeps trying anyway but it is a likable story and has so much good music and dancing. It does cover a lot of serious themes, including religion, women’s rights, abuse, abortion and suicide. Disco dominated the latter half of the seventies and found its place amongst the other strong music genres of the time such as rock, heavy metal and punk. This show is all about the music, having a little dance in your seat and singing along to some banging tunes! The “Bee Gees” are on stage throughout the show, the three brothers are played by Jake Byrom, James Kenneth Haughan and Danny Knott and they were amazing, sounding just like the original music.

Tony is played by Richard Winsor – he’s one of the few actors that completely convinced me with his American accent, in this case Italian-American Brooklyn New York, and is a fabulous dancer. Richard is supported by a talented and energetic cast including Olivia Fines as Stephanie Mangano and Natasha Firth as Annette.

The staging was a good mix of bleak and harsh for the scenes outside and on the bridge and then bright and colourful for the disco scenes complete with disco dancefloor, giant mirror to reflect it back out to the audience and disco balls which really brought the audience to life. Look out for DJ Monty up on the podium dancing, he was strutting his stuff and we couldn’t stop watching him – having so much fun up there!

Saturday Night Fever is well worth a watch and I promise you’ll be singing the music and trying to do the Night Fever dance routine when you get home! Running until 19th October, for tickets, head to

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Review: The Exorcist

Something rather unusual and chilling has arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Possibly the scariest movie of all time, at least when it was first in cinemas in 1973, has been adapted for the stage. The Exorcist play is actually based on the book by William Peter Blatty, published in 1971, which was very important to the show’s playwright John Pielmeier who said in an interview in the show’s programme, ‘I certainly want to stay true to the story that people know, but I also want to explore elements of the book that they may not be familiar with. I want to fulfil their expectations while at the same time surprising them’. It absolutely gave the audience what they wanted, bringing new life to this famous head-spinning horror.

As a bit of a scary movie buff, I’ve seen my fair share of all things spooky, chilling and downright terrifying and must say this show did not disappoint! From start to finish, the goosebumps just kept coming. One of the best show starts that I’ve experienced (across any genre) that plunged the audience straight into the dark and thick of the story. 

The potty-mouthed demon that possesses poor Regan is as spiteful and disgusting as ever and the actress portrayed both her characters brilliantly. On the one hand she is a sweet, innocent little girl that longs for love and attention from her family and on the other she is the possessed Latin-speaking, aggressive, spitting Devil himself.

The staging was simple yet remarkably clever with a few rooms of the house, the attic, the outdoors and the church scenes all playing out across one set with the use of some screens and clever lighting. They also use a very smart and effective screen as the background to Regan’s bedroom where we see spooky happenings alongside flashes and crashes of thunder throughout the theatre. 

The lead characters were skilfully played by the actors which include theatre veteran Paul Nicholas as Father Merrin, Sophie Ward as Chris MacNeil, Ben Caplan as Father Damien Karras and Tristram Wymark as Uncle Burke. To top it off, the Demon is voiced by Ian McKellen – what more do we need?

The show is indeed chilling, but I can highly recommend it to anyone, not just fans of this genre. It was certainly a different audience experience to plays from other categories or musicals of course and was a night I thoroughly enjoyed. As stage designer Anna Fleischle said in the programme, ‘I am hoping that the audience will leave having been shaken to their core. I would like them to feel a sense of relief in the knowledge that they are going back to their safe and protective homes where there are no demons lurking in the dark – or are there?’

The Exorcist is on until 12th October, for tickets, go to

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Having never seen this show but interviewing Jason Donovan twice about it (once back when he was Mitzi and more recently as a producer of the show), it was time to go see what all the fuss was about – boy (or ladies!) were we in for a treat! I had very high expectations for this musical to be up there as one of the best, though a small part of me was worried it was going to be a bit cheesy with a story that loosely wove together some of our favourite classics from the eighties. Well, that worry was a complete waste of time, the story is brilliant, the music is superb and the staging and costumes are dazzlingly classy. These queens are in for the ride of their lives – and so is the audience.
Priscilla is the queen of the dessert, she’s their temperamental tour bus and together Mitzi, Bernadette and Felicia travel across the Australian outback to put on the show of a lifetime. This show is about how they get there with lots of little stories woven in about their backgrounds, some surprises and some quirky or bigoted characters along the way. It’s about love, friendship, fatherhood, identity and acceptance with some fabulous musical numbers and raucously funny moments.
The three lead characters are played by Joe McFadden, Miles Western and Nick Hayes. Each of them stole the show in their own way, Miles plays the transgender character of Bernadette, whilst Nick plays the super flamboyant Adam (Drag name Felicia) and Joe is Tick (Drag name Felicia) finding his own way in this world. The main message of this show is about the acceptance of everyone for who they are without judgement or violence and to celebrate the diversity and kindness of people no matter who they are (or what they choose to wear). Priscilla takes on many stigmas that the LGBTQ+ community deal with on a daily basis, even in today’s modern world, and sticks it's finger up at them.
You also really cannot go wrong with so much colour, glitter, sequins, feathers, outrageous headpieces and smash hits such as It’s Raining Men, What’s Love Got to Do With It, I Will Survive and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, each with perfectly choreographed dance routines. The stage set was really exciting too with lots of different scenes, the tour bus and one of my favourites was how they showed one of their performances from backstage – clever and funny.
Kings and Queens – go see this show!
Running until 5th October at Milton Keynes Theatre. For tickets, head to