Amelie UK premiere is at the intimate Watermill Newbury until the 18thMay before embarking on a long tour of venues in England, Scotland and Ireland including some large houses like Wimbledon New Theatre, Woking Victoria Theatre and the Manchester Opera House through to October. It will be worth catching it on the tour to see how it fares as it expands onto these large traditional proscenium arch stages. However here at the Watermill it is off to a very good start capturing the delightful quirky Frenchness of the original 2001 film with Audrey Tautou and reinventing itself by all accounts from its Broadway musical debut.Its success is built around the petite French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson who has a joyous expressive face, large sparkling eyes and a glorious voice that means you can’t take your eyes off her even with the rest of the ensemble cast towering around her. She is Amelie the awkward young girl, home schooled with a heart condition who lives in a garret above an Art Nouveau Paris metro station and spies on the odd collection of people passing through. Gradually she makes connections between them and almost invisibly brings lonely people together while still shying away from a relationship herself. The story takes us through delightful flights of fantasy and with an amazingly inventive staging that is amusing, engaging and keeps the pace up throughout most of the show.Director Michael Fentiman and Movement Director Tom Jackson Greaves weave their magic in many of the show stopping highlights. When she enters her room, she uses an unusual lift and when watching the news on TV of the death of “Lady Diana” in 1997 she imagines it is her that has died and is serenaded by a hilarious Elton John parody sung by Caolan McCarthy, “Goodbye, Amelie”. When we meet her as a child, she sits alongside a fantastic Kneehigh puppet of herself to sing “World’s Best Dad”. When she gives a man a fig tart, we have a bizarrely amusing routine of three large fig men taunting him and when she teases her father with cards from his missing gnome, we have a large singing gnome in “There’s no place like Gnome”. Each routine is slightly bonkers but emerges almost naturally from the narrative!The central love story emerges slowly between her and Nino (Chris Jared), another oddball obsessed with collecting photographs left in the station photo booth and trying to track down the mystery man who keeps appearing in them while working in a sex shop! Her first attempt to meet him dressed for no obvious reason as a nun ends in “Sister’s Pickle”. There are touching performances from Johnson Willis as the reclusive artiste Dufayel (dressed like Van Gogh) and from Jez Unwin as Bretodeau , both isolated men who she connects with and good support from the fellow waitresses in the café who she also secretly impacts.The music by Daniel Messe and Nathan Tysen is pleasant with a strong authenticFrench feel from the pianos and accordion with occasional musical phrases that seem resonant of other tunes. It is a light frivolous score that sometimes gets your toes tapping but usually just makes you smile with enjoyment. Once again, the Watermill has assembled a talented cast of actors- musicians to perform the songs in what is becoming an overused musical structure at the venue. While it sounds good it does lead to the most overcrowded moments when all the cast are on stage with their instruments and the movement becomes mechanical and dull. The best moments are when most of the musicians are positioned to each side and the leads are given space to perform. This will be surely corrected as the production expands to fill the larger touring venues stages.The set design by Madeline Girling is wonderful transforming the venue into a metro station and brilliantly using the photo booth as a door entrance, confessional and rooftop for smooth scene changes. The French café where Amelie works is also cleverly created with a few simple props that can seamlessly be converted into the commuter trains. Once again it will be very interesting to see how this wonderful use of space is restaged for larger spaces.This is a delightful show, imaginatively staged, beautifully played , and once again showing what the Watermill is capable of delivering and like Wiper Times , Crazy for you and Teddy looks certain to have a good production life beyond the venue over the coming year.Review by Nick Wayne Rating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls row C | Price: £26
April 17, 2019
The Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas were composed between 1871 and 1896 and for much of the 20th Century were a staple of the annual theatre calendar. They created some enduring characters who were scathing parodies of Victorian public figures. Whilst this clever wit has been largely lost now except for in the deepest programme notes , there have been in the last few decades some creative reimagining of the titles to breath fresh life for a 21st Century audience.Charles Court Opera are to be applauded for continuing to keep the genre alive with a tenth production at the Kings Head theatre, this time HMS Pinafore. The set designed by Rachel Szmukler promises a fresh exciting reengineering of the title by setting it on a Yellow Submarine in the sixties (judging by Josephine's mini skirts and cape) but it becomes a constraining factor in the production. The turret ladder is not accessible due to the low King's Head roof and the cast either appear through an oval portal in the rear wall from the rest of the ship or through the audience from I assume a more accessible porthole to the outside world. The narrow strip of stage between the three bunk beds and the periscope constrains the movement to a single line facing the audience. The effect is that the action is rather static and unexciting.Of course the regular Charles Court performers are very good operatic singers and they belt out the familiar tunes with great energy and power accompanied by MD David Eaton on the piano. But the result is too operatic and not comic enough.Little Buttercup (Jennie Cripps) is the most animated of the cast, revelling in her secret and constantly engaging and reacting with wide eyed delight. She also doubles up as Joseph's sister. Indeed in the chorus to Sir Joseph (Joseph Shovelton) "When I was a lad", she is joined by just Cousin Hebe (Catrine Kirkman ) who carries the urn of the cremated Aunt instead of the usual hoarders of Sisters, Cousins and Aunts in the best visual gag of the show.Of course there are good renditions of " I am the Captain of the Pinafore", "I am the monarch of the sea" and " He is an Englishman" which explore the class differences between the rich and lofty and the poor and lowly, a central theme of the show which even 140 years after it was written still seems relevant. There is also a lively version of "Never mind the why and wherefore" with Josephine (Alys Roberts), Joseph and Corcoran where some of the comic potential of the show is demonstrated. This is a show for Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados who will enjoy the music but I think it is unlikely to attract a new audience to these classic British Victorian operas.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★★Seat: Stalls row F | Price: £35
April 17, 2019
A study from online ticket software company has raised the curtain on the most popular musicals and where these productions have travelled to across the globe. When you think of theatre your mind probably jumps straight to and the , but it's not just New York and London that these productions are travelling to. From South America to the Far East, revealed some surprising destinations for musical theatre fans to add to their travel bucket list!Madrid (11 productions)Madrid is well known for its ancient arts and cultural scene, so it might not come as much of a surprise that it’s a great destination for musical theatre lovers to visit. Musicals such as Hello, Dolly!, and the are amongst 11 of the most popular productions that have trodden the boards of the Spanish capital. With traditional Spanish musical comedies (called zarzuelas) and touring productions like the hugely popular Lion King (El Rey León in Spanish), there is plenty on offer for any theatre lover to explore. Best Theatres in Madrid:Teatro Real: Madrid’s Royal Theatre is the main opera house in the city and is located in the centre of the city by the Royal Palace. It underwent a huge renovation in the 1990’s hosting both local and touring theatre productions.Teatro Espanol: This huge theatre is located in the literary neighbourhood of Madrid, Barrio de Las Letras. It hosts a range of theatre shows from zarzuelas to flamenco and is a great place to get a feel for the local Spanish theatre scene.Teatro Lope De Vega: Possibly the hardest to miss theatre in the city, it dominates the Gran Via (Spain's equivalent to Broadway) and has hosted a number of the most popular touring musicals such as Les Miserables, Mamma Mia and The Lion King.Source: Tokyo (8 productions)Theatre is often associated with the West, but in Tokyo, they have been performing classical Japanese dramas for centuries in local theatres. Fast forward to modern Tokyo, many contemporary musicals and theatre production have also toured here, including Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King, delighting Japanese audiences. Best Theatres in Tokyo:Kabuki-za: Found in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Kabuki-za is the main kabuki theater in the city. Kabuki is a form of traditional Japanese theatre that is highly stylized, dramatic and involves elaborate set design, as well as intentionally over the top antics on stage. This type of theatre is still an important part of Japanese culture, with many kabuki actors becoming famous and generating loyal fanbases.Setagaya Public Theatre: Located in Carrot Tower in Setagaya, this is where you will find the contemporary plays and musicals, as when it was designed it was built to adapt to multiple theatre styles. The Shiki Theatre: Located in Natsu, this is one of the more modern theatres in the city, opening in 2010. The theatre has performed a number of Disney musicals since opening including Beauty and The Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Source: Buenos Aires (7 productions)Over the last few years, Buenos Aires has worked on building it’s very own theatre district, leading to a number of prestigious productions booking tours in the South American city. Productions such as , Rock of Ages and A Chorus Line (which has toured in the Argentinian capital as recently as 2019). In Buenos Aires, the theatre district is called Calle Corrientes and many great theatres can be found along Avenida Corrientes.Best Theatres in Buenos Aires:Teatro Colón: A local landmark and popular tourist attraction, this theatre is the grandest in the city. In fact, even rate it as the third best opera house in the world.Teatro Nacional Cervantes: This official national stage of the country is one of the most popular theatres in the city with a renown opera house. It is also known as a comedy hub.Teatro Broadway: Built in 1930, the theatre was forced to adapt to the growing popularity of motion pictures at the time and shows both movies and plays. Both Hollywood and national films were initially screened, but these days it mainly hosts live theatre performances.Copenhagen (6 productions)With historic and well-preserved theatres across the city, Copenhagen has a rich history of theatre. The authentic buildings, date back to the 1700’s, making Copenhagen the perfect setting for a musical theatre city break.Best Theatres in Copenhagen:The Royal Danish Playhouse: The nations theatrical centre for dramatic arts, it was built to host the highest level of theatrical productions. Boasting three stages, the Royal Danish Playhouse has welcomed a number of local and touring productions.Østre Gasværk Theatre: Located in Copenhagen's Østerbro district, this unique and iconic theatre was originally used as a gasometer (a large container used to store fuel), but was later converted into a functioning theatre in 1976 by Danish Actor, Morten Grunwald. It currently puts on a range of shows from extravagant musicals like West Side Story to classic plays like Romeo & Juliet.The Royal Danish Theatre Old Stage: Located in Kongens Nytorv Square and built in 1748 it is one of the oldest theatres in the city, hosting ballet, opera and theatrical productions. All performances at the Royal Danish Theatre are subsidised by the Danish Government, making it one of the most budget-friendly places in Europe to catch a show.Source: Helsinki (4 productions) With iconic historic building and performances in both Finnish and English, Helsinki has a thriving theatre scene and has been described as one of the best places in Europe (outside of London) to catch a show.Productions such as Mamma Mia, and Billy Elliot have all shown in Helsinki, proving that it’s a great destination for musical theatre fans looking for a new experience. Best Theatres in Helsinki:Alexander Theatre: Construction began on this building in 1876 by the Russian Military, but after Finland gained independence in 1917, the National Theatre moved in. It houses dance and theatre shows as well as renting out some of its space for other recreational activities such as yoga and workshops Helsinki City Theatre: One of the biggest theatres in Finland, it hosts a range of performances, from local shows in Finnish, English language comedies and musicals.Finnish National Theatre: founded in 1872, the National Theatre is the oldest Finnish-language theatre in the country and is considered a national monument. This article has been brought to you by @
April 16, 2019
Roger Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes has just opened its UK premiere Upstairs at The Gatehouse. Directed by Joseph Hodges, four students Missy (Sophie Camble), Cindy Lou (Rosie Needham), Betty Jean (Louise Young) and Suzy (Kara Taylor Alberts) are ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ and perform songs from the 50s and 60s.The jukebox musical’s first act is set in 1958 at the Springfield High School’s Senior Prom. The storyline is weak, the songs are strung together with a bizarre mix of popularity, stealing boyfriends and being in love with a teacher. Unfortunately, this made the show overall quite boring as there was nothing to follow, the vocal arrangements and choreography were excellent but this was not enough to keep me wanting more. Act 2 is at the ten-year reunion of the four women in 1968. The story picks up and is much more dramatic (proposals, pregnancies, cheating) but didn’t grip me.Camble’s Missy had great energy and was incredibly expressive throughout the show. She’s an excellent dancer and is a stand out performer. Needham’s flirty teen Cindy Lou was believable and amusing when feuding with Young’s Betty Jean. At times, Young over acted but it added interesting dynamics to the show. Taylor Alberts portrayal of Suzy was mixed, she did not give 100% consistently throughout the performance as she seemed a little nervous, but was really amazing when performing her solos. The band, directed by Lauren Ronan, were brilliant. As they were in view it would have been best if they had worn costumes (rather than white t shirt and black jeans) as it didn’t fit with the theme of the show. Occasionally the singers were drowned out by the musicians making it all too loud and a little painful onthe ears. Emily Bestow’s set and costume design was simple but effective. I loved the colour scheme but the costumes in the second act could have been adjusted as they weren’t the most flattering. The Marvellous Wonderettes is a lot of fun, mostly for older audiences who are reminiscent of 50s and 60s music. There were quite a few giggles when audience members were picked out as their love interests and were integrated in the show. The performers’ voices were the best part of the show, but the content could have been otherwise improved. Review by Hannah StoreyRating: ★★★Seat: Back Row | Price of Ticket: £20
April 15, 2019
Nearly ten years since Ghost Stories first began rehearsals at the Lyric Hammersmith, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s play has been performed seven cities in six different countries. It has since been made into a film and returns to London after five years to the place where it began. Scott Lipkin’s Professor Goodman, an expert in Parapsychology, pays tribute to the vintage horror stories and creepy pictures that spooked the world. He debunks each myth with explanations of why we tricked ourselves into terror, before interviewing three people about their unexplained supernatural experiences. Having seen the show at the Duke of York’s in 2010, I was aware of the additions to the new version of the play. Without giving away any spoilers, I found the new scene particularly insensitive. The show has drastic contrasts between humour then very dark moments which made the themes confusing- is it trying to be a light hearted spooky comedy? Or a sinister, deeper show? Dyson and Nyman try to justify most elements of the stories near the end of the play, but some areas aren’t explained, which was baffling and had me wondering if I had missed out on some key plot points. All the performers were excellent and had great direction from Dyson, Nyman and Sean Holmes. Jon Bausor’s set is incredibly sophisticated and explores a range of locations, taking us on a horrifying journey into each story. I have to congratulate Nick Manning for his sound design- he is responsible for the eerie atmosphere and unsettling build of tension throughout the show. Ghost Stories is not necessarily haunting, but it gets the audience jumping out of their seats (credit to Scott Penrose’s special effects). As many people respond to fear with laughter, the regular chuckles from the auditorium keep the evening fun and the audience wanting more. I would recommend taking a trip to the Lyric Hammersmith for this new cult classic. Review by Hannah StoreyRating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls, E 14 | Price of Ticket: £42
April 13, 2019
The producers of the 2019 UK and Ireland tour and first new production in 25 years of Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey’s iconic musical GREASE are delighted to announce that Dan Partridge, Martha Kirby, Louis Gaunt and Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky will star as Danny, Sandy, Kenickie and Rizzo respectively. They join the previously announced Peter Andre playing Teen Angel at most performances.Dan Partridge most recently played Rum Tum Tugger in Cats (International Tour), Link in Hairspray (UK Tour) and Pepper in Mamma Mia! (Novello Theatre). Martha Kirby will be graduating for the Guildford School of Acting this summer, 2019, and makes her professional debut as Sandy. Louis Gaunt recently played Will Parker in Oklahoma! (Grange Park Opera), for which he won the 2018 The Stage Debut Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and Manfred in Sweet Charity (Nottingham Playhouse). Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky most recently appeared in Bat Out of Hell – The Musical (Dominion Theatre). Prior to that, she appeared in The Book of Mormon (Prince Of Wales Theatre).Also in the cast are Jordan Abey as Doody, Ryan Anderson as Roger, Damian Buhagiar as Sonny, Eloise Davies as Frenchy, Natalie Woods as Jan, Tara Sweeting as Marty, Dale White as Eugene, Jessica Croll as Patty Simcox, Corinna Powlesland as Miss Lynch, Abigail Climer as Cha Cha, Darren Bennett as Vince Fontaine and Will Haswell as Johnny Casino. Completing the cast are Thea Bunting as Cynthia, Emily Beth Harrington as Carly, Jonathan Hermosa Lopez as Bobby, Dom Hutcheson as Mickey, Ruby May Martinwood as Sofia and Lindsay McAllister as Donna Sue.Producer Colin Ingram said, “At last a new production of GREASE with a cast who look and dance like they are in high school! It’s time to come back to one of the most popular musicals of all time with this new production with grit, energy and sass.”Curve’s Artistic Director and director of GREASE, Nikolai Foster, said, “This cast are going to blow audiences’ minds with their edge, life-force and sheer exuberance. Just as the 1950s kids who heralded the birth of the teenage movement, these talented young people will breathe new life into this terrific musical.”Choreographer Arlene Philips said, “I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to choreograph a new production of GREASE. This new production is going to be edgy, vibrant and certainly takes a new look at this very exciting musical. The cast are incredible, many of them fresh out of college and ready to burst onto the stage.” Following a highly acclaimed, sold-out, eight-week run at Curve over Christmas 2016, the tour will open at Leeds Grand Theatre, playing from 19 June to 20 July. GREASE will then play at Cliffs Pavilion, Southend 23 – 27 July, Sunderland Empire 30 July – 3 August, Birmingham Hippodrome 13 – 24 August, King's Theatre, Glasgow 27 – 31 August, Curve, Leicester 3 – 14 September, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin 17 – 28 September, New Theatre, Oxford 1 – 5 October, Churchill Theatre, Bromley 8 – 12 October and Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 15 – 19 October.Peter Andre will appear at most performances in Leeds, Southend, Sunderland, Birmingham, Leicester, Dublin, Oxford and Bromley with additional performances just announced in Southend on 26 July (matinee and evening) and Birmingham on 21 and 22 August (all four performances).GREASE originally opened in Chicago in 1971, followed by a move to Broadway in 1972, where it received seven Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. During the show's eight-year run, at the time, little known actors, including Peter Gallagher, Patrick Swayze and John Travolta, all appeared in the production, with Richard Gere understudying many roles before going on to star as Danny Zuko in the 1973 London premiere.The 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, when adjusted for inflation, is the highest-grossing live action musical of all time and celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. The musical features beloved songs, including Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin’, Hopelessly Devoted To You and You’re The One That I Want.GREASE is directed by Nikolai Foster and choreographed by Arlene Philips, with designs by Colin Richmond, orchestrations and musical supervision by Sarah Travis, lighting design by Guy Hoare and sound design by Tom Marshall.This new production of GREASE is produced by Colin Ingram for InTheatre Productions, Donovan Mannato, William Sinclair, Ricardo Marques, Hunter Arnold and Curve.
April 11, 2019
Ahead of the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, the casts of seven West End shows will wage battle at the Adelphi Theatre on Sunday 28 April in WEST END EUROVISION 2019.Singing original Eurovision Song Contest songs, they will compete to win text votes from the theatre audience and the approval of a panel of celebrity judges and judges from each competing show.Giving their all to lift four coveted WEST END EUROVISION 2019 trophies - The Champions, The Best Ident Movie, The Best Creative and the new award for this year Outstanding Gorgeousness - will be the casts of Aladdin, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Follies, Mamma Mia, Only Fools and Horses, The Phantom of the Opera (last year’s winners) and Wicked.The first guest star performer to be announced is the fantastically glamorous Eurovision winner Dana International, who will perform DIVA, the song that took the crown for her in Birmingham in 1998. And this year’s UK Eurovision Act, Michael Rice, will be performing the UK entry, Bigger Than Us.WEST END EUROVISION 2019, a feel-good, edge-of-your-seat-exciting and interactive charity event will take place in the heart of London’s Theatreland for one show only on one unforgettable night only! It will once again raise much-needed funds for the work of MAD Trust. The Trust works with its partners to support those living with or affected by HIV and AIDS both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
April 09, 2019
The Watermill continues to prove it is a very special venue , intimate and friendly but consistently producing very good quality productions and with a strong active Senior Youth Group of years 7 to 11 supported by The Sackler Trust, Principal Supporter of The Watermill's core Education and Outreach work. The latest show is a very fine adaption by Danielle Pearson of the J Meade Falkner novel Moonfleet which uses a cast of 28 to tell the story of smugglers on the Dorset coast. Written as a story telling by the Mohunes, the inhabitants of the village, who appear to draw lots from a bag to cast the main parts at the start of show. But it is an ensemble piece with lines spread throughout the large cast who are well drilled to sharply deliver them in a rhythmic poetic fashion that keeps the audience engaged and interested. Director, Heidi Bird, packs the production with interesting visual ideas to add atmosphere and bring elements alive involving the whole cast. The Graveyard is eerily created by the young actors wrapping themselves in net, the Mohunes burial crypt has the dead faces pressed into the back cloth, when items are dropped in an eighty foot deep well we see them descend from hand to hand down until they land and when the ship sinks the waves are dramatically created with a simple sheet. There is a careful and effective lighting design with good use of projected images to create church windows , rain , water reflection, and silhouetted story telling by the production manager, Lawrence Doyle. It seems a little unfair to pick out individuals in this hardworking ensemble but inevitably the leading parts get a bigger profile and rise to the challenge of the story telling. John Trenchard, the young hero of the story is played by Luke Parsons with an innocent charm and his Smuggler partner Elzevir by Frank Smith, gradually building trust with John. Opposite them are the dastardly Edgar Maskew (Asher Dunnett) out to put them down and his daughter Grace (Nina Faithfull) who falls for John. There is also a good cameo from Isabelle Klein as Aldobrand, the double crossing jeweller. However the lasting impression is of the team working together in the opening and closing scenes to narrate the story in their short sharp lines delivered with clarity and precision in their distinctive "lost boys" style costumes and together enduring the story is told with pace and energy that is a real pleasure to observe.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls row F | Price of ticket: £12
April 05, 2019