Archive | April, 2019

MARKET BOY *****

27 Apr

by David Eldridge

at the Union Theatre.

A brilliant ensemble piece. One sort of expects a musical but music is hardy required. – well there is a bit. “Walking in the Air” a few bars and “Land of Hope and Glory” with everybody singing different words.

Apart from that , there is rap playing constantly at the market. The set is beautifully decorated with the market stalls one full of fruit and veg which is delightfully colourful and other with all kinds of gear, Videos and discs (we are in 1989) jackets and handbags. There are sellers of these goods, the leather boys – gangsters really, who are the only people who take credit cards; the Market Inspector or ‘The Toby’ played by Mat Betteridge like an old fashioned sergeant major who bullies them unmercifully and takes grisbi from each of them.

But the story is centered around The boy Michael Ayiotis and the girl Claudia Archer. Michael’s beautiful and lonely single Mum played by Amy Gallagher. And the sex mad Trader in women’s shoes played by Andy Umerah wo hires the boy and fancies his mother.

But it is the market that is the real star. It is the kind of life that has more or less disappeared with the advent of huge supermarkets, but is hopefully creeping back as ‘Farmers markets’ which sell mostly organic foods .

But what a wonderful time it was. And what wonderful people they were. fightin’ eachother one day and best chums the next. I was constantly reminded of a musical Hall song that I found myself singing

all the way home. ‘He’ll black your eye one minute and he’ll stand a jar the

ext’ Called “e’s all right when yer know ‘im, but you gotta know him fust’

This play was first produced at the National Theatre. How great that the clever Union Theatre have given us another chance to enjoy it.

CLUB TROPICANA

24 Apr

CLUB TROPICANA
The Musical

by Michael Gyngell

at the New Wimbledon Theatre


This show is an undoubted crowd pleaser. Wonderful to see this theatre crammed with so many happy people. It is a jukebox musical with a slight story wrapped around it. But most of the songs come from the eighties and obviously a joy for those who spent their teenage years listening to pop music.
It begins on the wedding day of Lorraine and Olly – song “Fantastic Day.”
Unfortunately Lorraine suddenly decides she doesn’t want to get married after all “Girls just wanna have Fun” and she jilts him. Afraid of what her mother and the rest of her family and friends might say, she decides to go on the honeymoon anyway along with her two chums.
Olly, devastated by her rejection decides he must go on holiday – and as the honeymoon has already been booked – he and his two friends decide to take up the booking.
This is just the excuse for the trip to Club Tropicana a run down resort hotel in Spain which is where the musical really starts. Neil McDermott as Robert and Amelle Berrabah as Serena are the couple of friends who run the hotel. They are alarmed to find that a hotel inspector is due to come and hotel inspect them so they have to do a general clean up. The main problem is lack of guests so they call on the entertainments officer to help them and concoct some thing to create a good impression and attract customers.
This is where we meet the star of the show, Joe McElderry – a winner of x factor back in the day – who plays Garry, the entertainments officer and gives us his camp MC using some old panto jokes – “I’m wearing Tupperware undies – keeps my things nice and fresh” etc. He also gets the audience going, inviting them to join in whenever they can.
He is partnered by the wonderful Kate Robbins who plays Consuela the waitress, but despite her Spanish name, has an enormous repertoire of comedy impressions and costumes and plays a whole crowd of guests who are presumably staying at the hotel.
Nick Winston who has choreographed the nineteen players has contributed enormously to the ensemble work in this production. He is also co director with Samuel Holmes and there is a lot to admire in their comic ingenuity.It is good that the entire company join in the production numbers. Gives the show a party feeling.
Many of the laughs come from Emily Tierney who plays Christine, the very posh and rather horrid person who comes in as the Inspector and creates some of the ensuing havoc.
Your humble reviewer did know some of the numbers in Act two which were mostly TV signature tunes “I could be so good for you” “Making your Mind up” etc
This is, as I said, aimed at a certain audience and it obviously succeeds brilliantly.

TUMULUS

21 Apr

TUMULUS

by Christopher Adams

at theStudio, Soho Theatre

a TUMULUS is a burial mound, There is one on Hampstead Heath and that is where the body was found. Yes, this is a whodunnit played with humour, horror, sex and drugs.
Anthony is a respectable homosexual librarian with a drug habit.  We find him at a chemsex party where people take drugs in glasses of apple juice or Lucozade in order to give them a special sexual experience. Unfortunately, this results in noises in the head which can only be quietened by another dose of the drug.
Anthony is wandering about at the party when he suddenly sees a past lover, just a casual affair he had with a young man called George. The very person whose dead body was found on the Heath with a police verdict of Drug Overdose. Anthony has noted that in the report of the death there were certain things that did not fit Anthony’s knowledge of the young man. One thing that was missing was his necklace with an emblem of The Eye of Horus – his most treasured possession. The spirit of George tells Anthony to find the necklace it will be with the person who murdered him.
It is then that the Librarian becomes a Gumshoe in a raincoat and fedora searching for possible suspects in the chemically induced parties. He visits the house of his ex-lover Jonathan, one who has given up the drugs and written books about his experiences. There he meets Jack the teenage cousin of Jonathan and in him he sees a resemblance to George.
It is a particularly well-written thriller story, particularly well acted by Ciaran Owen who plays Anthony; Ian Hollard who plays all the over forty-year-olds and  Harry Lister Smith who plays all the younger ones. It is a large cast andThe characters change rapidly from policemen to welfare ladies to guests at the chemsex parties, sometimes the changes take place within seconds and without any kind of costume changes. Owen wears normal clothes and the others wear white shirts and little red shorts..
The fun begins as the audience arrive and each given the choice of Apple juice or Lucozade.
Nick Manning has designed the sound, including noises in the heads of the participants. They are terrifying and there are flashing lights to go with them designed by Christopher Nairne.
The actors are all miked up so we can hear the noises and also the dialogue that is in the minds of the characters.
Christopher Adams has written a riveting play directed by Matt Steinberg.
It is played in the Studio at Soho so we can get the claustrophobic feeling of a  private party.
A short play – only an hour long but without a single wasted second in the writing.

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HMS PINAFORE

17 Apr

HMS PINAFORE
By Gilbert and Sullivan
at the Kings Head Theatre
HMS Pinafore as seen by John Savournin is just wonderful, funny, clever and of course as it is Charles Court Opera – has exceptionally good singing. It is surely Gilbert and Sullivan for the twenty first century and it works like a charm. Savournin’s wit is a great match for Gilbert’s satirical comedy and his Danish choreographer Damian Czernecki adds stylish and seriously daft movements to the mixture. Great music and quirky comedy is an unbeatable combination.
The director is adept at transforming an opera requiring a huge chorus into just nine principal characters. Some doubling, most especially the wonderful Jennie Jacobs who does a neat double as Little Buttercup and a Sister of the Rt Hon Sir Joseph Porter KCB – first Lord of the Admiralty and Ruler of he Queens Navee.
Joseph Shovelton plays him and sings probably the most famous comic song of the G and S and I have never seen it done funnier, showing the man’s utter delight in his situation and the rise to his exalted position.
Gilbert’s satirical comedy about class is easy to laugh at these days, but at the time it might have been a little uncomfortable. The aforementioned lord is wanting to marry a ‘lesser person’ – the Captains pretty daughter Josephine (lovely soprano Alys Roberts – a small girl in a pink mini skirt and knee socks whose voice could shatter glass at twenty paces ) but she is secretly and ashamedly in love with one of the three Able Seamen, Ralph Rackstraw played by the equally mellifluous Philip Lee, and he loves her too but she is so far above him. The Captain Matthew Palmer loves Little Buttercup but she is just a bum boat woman and therefore not good enough for him. The other not so able seamen are Matthew Kellett as the bitterly resentful Dick Deadeye and the bossy Bobstay played by a very attractive tall mezzo soprano Hannah Crerar.
The monstrous female chorus of Joseph’s relatives ( his sisters and his cousins and his aunts ) have been cut right down with a ridiculous Catrine KIrkman as his first cousin.
Rachel Szmukler’s set of a yellow submarine is detailed and something worth looking at as Ian Wilson lights it up before the show so that the auidience has a chance to see all the visual information. It helps to set up the feeling of happy anticipation as the Sailors take their places on their bunks. So interesting that the female sailor has a little clothes line with her knickers and socks drying there and an alarm clock so that they are all up in time to start the show.

This is the 6th G and S production by the Charles Court Opera and it is truly fabulous and a huge Easter treat.

the marvellous wonderettes

15 Apr

THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES ****
by Roger Bean
musical arrangements by Brian William Baker
Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Act one of this show, set in front of a giant silver moon, takes place is in 1958  and shows just how silly and irritating girls used to be.
Enter Four very pretty girls in similar fifty style dresses with huge skirts bulked out by net petticoats and distinguished only by the colours. Cindy Lou in pink, Missy in yellow, Betty Jean in green and Suzy in blue.
Most of the songs in Act one are new to me and frankly all sound alike – all about boyfriends and presented by teenage girls called upon to do the cabaret for the Prom night. The girls giggle, scream and squabble through the numbers, but the singing and harmonies are never less than perfect.  Nevertheless, one of my reactions during this act was ‘Thank God for the Beatles’ 
”Sandman” is the opening number with some interesting harmonies, amusing attitudes and bong bongs but it leads into “Lollipop” and “Sugartime” and I long for John Paul George and Ringo. A couple of Dream Songs follow and suddenly there is “Stupid Cupid” and the show lightens up. A moment of joy following by “Lucky Lips” (Leiber and Stoller on a bad day.) Then comes the wonderful “Secret Love” sung by yellow-clad Sophie Camble as Missy in her incredibly lush soprano. For me, this set the standard for the rest of the show. No more longing for  John Paul George and Ringo. These girls are IT.
Act two takes place ten years later and the girls have entered the real world, taking scraps of their teenage years with them – Again similar gear in their favourite colours white boots, and short skirts.  The drama and comedy of their lives turn this jukebox musical into a real musical theatre. The sweet pink sexpot Cindy Lou played by Rosie Needham sings “The Son of a Preacher man”  Louise Young who was the naughty Betty Jean is having a birthday and does “It’s my  Party” giving a powerful dramatic performance and Kara Taylor Alberts as Suzy has problems which cannot be revealed here.
Missy and the girls sing  the very ballsy “You don’t own me” which is the first inkling of a new attitude from the idiot girls in Act one.’
There have already been two Offie nominations for the show. Congratulations to Iona Holland choreographer who delineates neatly the change by the ‘ultra-feminine’ moves of the fifties and the raunchy choreography of the sixties.  Lauren Ronan is musical director, Emily Bestow is set and costume designer and Sarah McColgan, lighting designer. They have a wonderful band backing them up. Led by Lauren Ronan and Fred Feeney on keyboards, Drums Janette Williams, and Reeds Emma Mackinder.
Practically the whole of the creative team involved in this show is women. Where are the blokes?  Well, inevitably they are the subjects of the songs. Yes, the guys still have all the attention even in their absence
It is a  satisfying production and well directed by Joseph Hodges – a young man with a passion for music of the past and the ideal person for this job.

the marvellous wonderettes

15 Apr

THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES ****
by Roger Bean
musical arrangements by Brian William Baker
Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Act one of this show, set in front of a giant silver moon, takes place is in 1958  and shows just how silly and irritating girls used to be.
Enter Four very pretty girls in similar fifty style dresses with huge skirts bulked out by net petticoats and distinguished only by the colours. Cindy Lou in pink, Missy in yellow, Betty Jean in green and Suzy in blue.
Most of the songs in Act one are new to me and frankly all sound alike – all about boyfriends and presented by teenage girls called upon to do the cabaret for the Prom night. The girls giggle, scream and squabble through the numbers, but the singing and harmonies are never less than perfect.  Nevertheless, one of my reactions during this act was ‘Thank God for the Beatles’ 
”Sandman” is the opening number with some interesting harmonies, amusing attitudes and bong bongs but it leads into “Lollipop” and “Sugartime” and I long for John Paul George and Ringo. A couple of Dream Songs follow and suddenly there is “Stupid Cupid” and the show lightens up. A moment of joy following by “Lucky Lips” (Leiber and Stoller on a bad day.) Then comes the wonderful “Secret Love” sung by yellow-clad Sophie Camble as Missy in her incredibly lush soprano. For me, this set the standard for the rest of the show. No more longing for  John Paul George and Ringo. These girls are IT.
Act two takes place ten years later and the girls have entered the real world, taking scraps of their teenage years with them – Again similar gear in their favourite colours white boots, and short skirts.  The drama and comedy of their lives turn this jukebox musical into a real musical theatre. The sweet pink sexpot Cindy Lou played by Rosie Needham sings “The Son of a Preacher man”  Louise Young who was the naughty Betty Jean is having a birthday and does “It’s my  Party” giving a powerful dramatic performance and Kara Taylor Alberts as Suzy has problems which cannot be revealed here.
Missy and the girls sing  the very ballsy “You don’t own me” which is the first inkling of a new attitude from the idiot girls in Act one.’
There have already been two Offie nominations for the show. Congratulations to Iona Holland choreographer who delineates neatly the change by the ‘ultra-feminine’ moves of the fifties and the raunchy choreography of the sixties.  Lauren Ronan is musical director, Emily Bestow is set and costume designer and Sarah McColgan, lighting designer. They have a wonderful band backing them up. Led by Lauren Ronan and Fred Feeney on keyboards, Drums Janette Williams, Guitar Izzy Joan and Reeds Emma Mackinder.
Practically the whole of the creative team involved in this show is women. Where are the blokes?  Well, inevitably they are the subjects of the songs. Yes, the guys still have all the attention even in their absence
It is a  satisfying production and well directed by Joseph Hodges – a young man with a passion for music of the past and the ideal person for this job.