Theatre Reviews 2021

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Amanda Hall in association with Nottingham Arts Theatre

December 16th 2021

It was such a joy to leave the grey streets of Nottingham behind and step into the fairytale world of medieval Muchfahtern, to meet Snow White and the wonderful cast of this year’s pantomime at the Nottingham Arts Theatre.

This a really impressive production and although circumstances meant that the audience was small when I attended, appreciation of the clever, witty script, the huge talent of the performers and the sheer glittering spectacle was clear. We cheered the heroes and booed the villain and even managed in our own muddled way, to warn Muddles, the court jester, when his magic apple was being threatened. Catchy popular songs, very funny word play, wonderful dance routines, knockabout humour, romance and some magic, what more could you ask for? Well, possibly some mulled wine and a mince pie – and they were available in the interval. Perfect.

This show looks so good: evocative scenery, well made props, a clever magic mirror, fabulous costumes - the Dame is a sight to behold – and the finale is a magnificent, colour co-ordinated panoply.

Above all, this is a fairy story retold in a thoroughly engaging way, through humour, song and dance. The performers of the main characters are at the top of their game and they are ably supported by the talented young ensemble, who are delightful. Everyone of them is 100% committed and they do not put a foot wrong. It’s often the case that the director has to keep reminding the ensemble at rehearsals to smile, but I can’t imagine that was necessary here: each of these performers looked delighted to be on the stage.

The dwarves, (played by Team Magic Mirror at the performance I saw) ably led by head dwarf Laura Ellis, provide lovely little cameos, which must have been fun to develop. The only one not smiling - most appropriately - was ‘Mardy’ the dwarf, who remained in character throughout.

I particularly appreciated the vocal talents of the two main female characters, Lizzie Fenner as Snow White and Danielle Hall as The Wicked Queen. Both have beautiful voices and are a joy to listen to. If that wasn’t enough, both are skilled actors and their characterisation and spoken delivery is spot on. It’s not easy to be relentlessly sweet without being boring, but Lizzie keeps Snow White lively and engaging. It’s possibly easier to be a villain, but it’s not easy to cackle maniacally and make the most of mock audience hostility and Danielle does both wonderfully well.

Muddles is the warm up man and almost MC of the production, grabbing the audience right from the start and keeping them participating - an essential role – which Michael Pearson fulfils brilliantly. Different types of jokes come thick and fast in this script and Muddles has all the cracker-type one liners. They may elicit groans, but always with a smile.

Another pivotal role is the Dame, and Matt Wesson gives his usual accomplished, hilarious performance as the grotesque but warmly familiar, Granny Smith. We’re treated to a slapstick cooking routine, dry humour (this is a wonderfully subtle script at times) and some amusing interaction with the audience. Matt must have to think very quickly during this, which he does with consummate ease.

I enjoyed the reassuringly local tones of the Magic Mirror, as Cliff Hart brought him alive, giving his wry and witty observations in clever rhyming couplets. A lot of text to learn and delivered beautifully.

Always a pleasure to see Mike Newbold on stage, giving King Crumble such warmth and just the right amount of bumbling confusion. Very satisfying twist that it is his parental love that saves Snow White at the end of the show, rather than that of the dashing prince.

The dashing Prince and his loyal servant Braeburn, who have come all the way from – if I heard it correctly, Aldercar-logne – are played with conviction by Patrick McCrystal and Joseph Smith. Two great performers, who make the most of the comic potential in the roles. I also enjoyed Patrick’s vocal performances with Snow White and Joseph’s interaction with Kimberley Wells, as Blossom - in this performance – who also gets to show off her comic talents in some scenes.

Congratulations to Amanda Hall, assisted by Matt Wesson, for writing and producing this great show, to Sophie Petruccio-Hall for the splendid choreography and to all the others involved in its creation.

We are so fortunate in Nottingham to have an amateur company of this standard, performing a show of this quality, at affordable prices, for more than two weeks during the festive season.


Sleeping Beauty

Derby Arena

December 11th 2021

Tonight, I was treated to an excellent production of the pantomime, Sleeping Beauty at Derby Arena. It was produced by Little Wolf Entertainment and Derby Live.

I was transported to Derbion Castle, where Nurse Nancy is making plans for the christening of the baby, Princess Rose. When the wickedly glamorous Carabosse - a thorn in the royal family's side - discovers she’s not invited, she sets out to put a spindle in the works! It’s then down to the dashing Prince Vince to hack his way through the thorny thicket, wake his true love and help her save the kingdom.

We were promised daring duels, doting dragons, lavish sets and costumes, plus bucket loads of laughs and we certainly got these and a lot more.

This glittering production is excellent in so many ways: colourful, great sets and costumes, hilarious set pieces, magical special effects and a talented cast of actors, singers and dancers. The show moves quickly and the script is very witty with some clever one liners and local references, which delighted the audience. It can be enjoyed by both adults and children, sometimes on very different levels!

The cast features Derby favourite and superb panto Dame, Morgan Brind -who also wrote the excellent script - playing Dame Nancy Nightley. He works the audience knowingly with huge warmth and has a great rapport with everyone; such fun to watch. With him is Rita Simons- well known for her character Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders - who plays the evil witch, Carabosse. She cleverly combines pantomime nastiness with a softer side and some skilfully delivered humour. She also has a powerful singing voice.

Also in the cast is Richard Brindley, returning to Derby Arena for his third pantomime season as the hilarious Mervin the Magician. We all loved his appearances on the stage and joined in enthusiastically with the chances to participate in the fun. Abigail Finley is the often rather confused Fairy Lights: a very good comedy actress with a great singing voice. Sophia Lewis is the charming Princess Rose, Matthew Mori plays the sometimes rather soppy but handsome Prince Vince, Howard Chadwick is the bumbling King Darren and Roddy Peters is Carabosse’s servant, the very funny Norman Ton.

There is a small but very good ensemble and three teams of young local performers. I saw the Blue team tonight and it is outstanding. I was particularly impressed in the second act, when they appear with the rest of the cast in a big production number, fully holding their own with the adults.

This is a traditional pantomime with all the essential elements and the audience loved it. It is good to see the decorating scene with some added scenic special effects, which enhance the enjoyment of the slapstick routine. The production, I am pleased to say, safely includes inviting some children on stage to help with the usual community sing song.

The sound and lighting is great and the balance between the performers and the fantastic band is perfect. The sound here at the Arena in the past has not always been good, but tonight it was great. I could hear every word.

This production is in my opinion one of the best pantomimes I have seen in many a year. A great cast, dynamic staging, well performed choreography, well-chosen music and an engaging script.

I will not say why, but the opening of Act 2 was fabulous and made me and others gasp at times.

I left the Arena surrounded by so many very happy people of all ages, lovely to see in these dark times and surely what pantomime is all about.


Robin Hood

Theatre Royal Nottingham

December 12th 2021

Robin Hood has finished here at the Theatre Royal and the cast were treated to a well deserved ovation from the audience. I love a great finale and bows and, as it was the usual Panto wedding, they all looked wonderful in their costumes and sung with gusto.

The show had many of the usual features of traditional Panto including an excellent version of the 12 days of Christmas, mixed with fast paced and dynamic routines from the ensemble and the Merry Men. They are played by the dance and entertainment group Flawless, who were sensational finalists of Britains Got Talent.

The cast, led by Matthew Kelly as the Dame were excellent and featured Tristan Gemmill, ex of Cornation Street, Matt Terry, winner of X factor in 2016, Jodie Prenger, who since winning the part of Nancy in Oliver has become an established stage and TV actor, Phil Walker, comedian, who has appeared in 18 pantomimes, Kieran Powell, a superb ventriloquist and entertainer and Lucy May Barker who has played in Mama Mia in London for the past 5 years, plus other stage and tv appearances.

The set was bright and colourful, as were the costumes and the lighting and special effects were excellent. There is a particularly impressive scene at the end of Act 1 which I particularly liked, but you need to come and see the show to find out what it is.

If you like traditional Panto but with a modern twist, you will enjoy this one, which will appeal to adults and children alike. There were lots of local references which always pleases the audience.


The Wizard of OzI

lkeston Theatre Company

December 2nd 2021

This version of The Wizard of Oz, sees Dorothy and her little dog Toto joined in The Land of Oz, by her Aunt Em. The classic story by Frank L Baum, given the traditional panto treatment.

Unfortunately, Aunt Em’s house lands right on top of Zelda, the wicked witch of the East, crushing her flat. Her sister Olga, the wicked Witch of the West arrives and threatens Dorothy and Aunt Em with dire consequences, if they don’t hand over her deceased sister’s magic ruby slippers which are now on Dorothy’s feet. Dorothy and her friends only hope of beating Olga lies in the mysterious Emerald City. And they are joined on their journey by The Scarecrow, The Tinman and The Cowardly Lion.

Act one sped by as the familiar characters followed the Yellow Brick Road. There have been good performances from the hard working and enthusiastic cast.

It visually looked good with colourful costumes and suitable scenery. Act 1 began and ended with whole cast numbers which the cast perform well.

The script is well written and clever and there are the traditional Panto running jokes which the audience is enjoying. There is, of course, quite a lot of audience participation too being led in the main by Ben Mills who is playing Aunt Em (The Dame in Panto terms). Always good to watch Ben at work. A very natural Dame.

Playing Dorothy tonight (two actors are sharing this role) is Jess Badder who showed what a lovely voice she has by singing the opening song “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

The trio of Paula Richmond (Scarecrow), Rachael Flewitt (Lion) and Angie Jacks (Tin Man) are excellent - good characterisations and very funny. They were joined by Steve Walton as Elvis who is certainly entertaining the audience well particularly when he wiggles his hips in true Elvis style.

Playing the witches good and bad are Sarah Grainger (Glenda), Justine Haywood (Leticia) and Jaqueline Dixon (Olga) Glenda and Leticia performed “I Can do anything better than you very well with no accompaniment.”

I am very impressed by the incidental music and sound effects that are far exactly right and have contributed to my enjoyment of this production.

Lighting is effective too. The cast are not wearing individual mics but, overall, can be heard well with more natural sound than you often get with mics.

In the second Act we met The Wizard played well by Zion Sears, plus some very funny monkeys who opened the act with a lively dance.

The rest of the cast were Mandy Preston (Doctor), Marilyn Lucia Keates (Gatekeeper), Jenni Walker (The Mayor) and Jennifer Sparks (Scared Villager). The hard-working ensemble was Maggie White, Georgie Ridgway, Hayley Riley, Joe Wheatley, Mags Revill and Naz.

I enjoyed the show and congratulate the cast and production team for producing this version of the popular story, which included some local references - much appreciated by the audience. It ended with a community singsong which is, of course, an essential part of any good Panto!

Well done to the production team including Producers Sue Golds and Mandy Bull, Lighting design Louis Beardsley, Sound Steve Flávio and Zion Sears and scenery flies by Steve Haywood and Adam.

(This is a compilation of posts published by Theatre online on the night of the show).


Treasure Island

Derby Theatre

November 30th, 2021

This production of the well-known pirate adventure, Treasure Island, was first due to be performed around Easter 2020, but was cancelled due to the pandemic. I know that the theatre was keen to produce it as soon as possible, hence it is this year’s Christmas production. It was adapted for the stage by Theresa Heskins and directed by the Theatre’s Chief Executive and Creative Director, Sarah Brigham.

As with their 2019 production of The Jungle Book all performances are fully BSL signed and captioned to enable all to enjoy the show. For me this was a new experience, as I have only seen signed performances using a single signer at the side of the stage. This was quite different, as the cast were signing either for themselves or other characters. At first this seemed rather strange, but by the interval I was getting used to it. This was helped by the fact that the production was fast paced and involved a lot of action – dancing, physical drama etc – which meant that the signing was naturally integrated into the action.

The cast was brilliant and contained both hearing and deaf actors. The part of Long John Silver was played by disabled actor Gary Robson whose powerful performance in a wheelchair was brilliant and suited the character very well. This is very much an ensemble production, in which the talents of the rest of the cast shone throughout. They were Becky Barry, Charlei Ellen-Ayers, Kai Bools, Erin Siobhan Hutching, Nadeem Islam, Raffie Julien, Oraine Johnson, Kim Kitson, Rachael Merry, Alex Nowak, April Nerissa Hudson, Garry Robson, Dominic Rye and Robert Took.

As has become the norm at Derby Theatre a number of the performers were actor musicians and, as always, were outstandingly good. There are a few songs in the show, I would have liked some more to be honest – which were sung with great gusto and very much enjoyed by the audience. One of my favourites and I think the rest of the audience, was “A-sailorin We’ll Go.” Several of the cast began the second act with a rousing rock song “Oh Fortune” which certainly got the audience rocking too! The final song of the show was more plaintive but summed things up well – “The Treasure of Home.”

As I have said there was considerable choreographed movement in the show including some sword fighting which was well performed.

The staging and production of the show was excellent, and the scene changes were very slick indeed. The scenes were visually great to look at and the lighting and sound were perfect. The costumes were fantastic too. Sarah Brigham and the creative team have produced another show of great quality.

Although there was lots of action to keep the children’s attention throughout the text was sometimes quite dense with a few rather long scenes. It seems to contains a lot of the original language, which even I found difficult. Also, there is some aggression in the production which may make it unsuitable for younger children.

As always, the show was well directed and performed and again shows how fortunate we are to have such a great theatre in Derby.


Groan Ups

Mischief Theatre

Theatre Royal


November 30th, 2021

Tonight, at the Theatre Royal we were treated to something a little different from Mischief - Groan Ups. It is a comedy about growing up and follows an unruly class of six-year-olds as they journey through anarchic teenage life, then into adulthood.

Groan Ups premiered in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre in September 2019 and featured on the Royal Variety Performance, in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The highly skilled cast of Daniel Abbott as Archie, Jamie Birkett as Chemise and Miss Murray, Matt Cavendish as Simon, Killian Macardle as Paul and Mr White, Yolanda Ovide as Moon, Paul Brown as Spencer, Holly Sumpton as Katie were brilliant and really brought life to the characters at different stages in their lives - that’s hard and they did it so well. They have thought about the physicality of both children and teenagers, their mannerisms, how they speak and somehow manage to convey how they feel, too. Their performances are powerful and engaging and kept me engrossed and fascinated throughout.

Although this is basically a comedy with a great script by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields it is also, at times, emotional and moving, particularly at the end: tear in the eye stuff. In the second act there is what Mischief theatre are known for – physical comedy, visual gags and exciting staging.

The set by Fly Davis is imaginative and adds considerably to the experience. If you are wondering how this play can cover the lives of characters at different ages, the answer lies not just in the wonderfully sympathetic acting, but in the set - so clever. The show’s director, Kirsty Patrick Ward, is to be congratulated for the speed, polish and flair of this production and for getting the best out of this great cast, which at the performance I saw, included talented understudies. Costume designer Roberto Surace, sound designer Alexandra Faye Braithwaite and lighting designer Christopher Nairn have all contributed to a fine production.

Groan ups will not make you groan but, like me, it may make you laugh, think, and maybe shed the odd tear.


The Hound of the Baskervilles

Theatre Royal Nottingham

November 24th, 2021

This production of the classic thriller by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a comedic remake adapted for the stage by Steve Canny and John Nicholson, telling the story of the hound said to have haunted the Baskerville family for generations.

World-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr. Watson are asked to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville. With rumours of a cursed giant hound loose on the moors, they must act fast to save the Baskerville family’s last remaining heir.

This production is quite different to the traditional staging of the play and features only 3 actors, who play all the parts. From the start it is clear that Jake Ferretti, Serena Manteghi and Niall Ransome are super talented actors. They break the fourth wall – a device that isn’t liked by everyone, but in this case it suits the production well and ramps up the fun. We feel like we are enjoying the play with them and are invited to laugh, not just at the copious visual and verbal gags that have been skilfully inserted into the story, but at the actors’ own reactions to what is happening. If you like farce, enjoy a bit of slapstick and appreciate the ridiculous, yet at the same time want to hear a story well told, then this is for you.

The action is fast and furious from the start and there are many quick changes of costume, a few bits of scenery and some useful props. These help to create the characters, but it is the skill of the actors, using accent, tone, delivery and mannerisms which truly create many different people in a most impressive way. There are some pitch perfect verbal gags in the play and some wonderful physical acting that is thoroughly engaging. Any aspiring actors should go and see these three at work; they will be inspired.

The production relies on absolute coordination between the actors and the stage set, props, lighting and sound and this was perfectly executed throughout the play. The detailed sound effects, moody lighting and an impressive 3D background scene of a spooky old hall on a bleak moor create the perfect atmosphere.

There is little doubt that the audience loved the play, giving a sustained ovation at the end, with some cheering. I really enjoyed it and appreciated the comic way it has been devised; I feel that even Conan Doyle purists might enjoy this retelling, as nothing in the original story has been changed.

The play is directed by Tim Jackson, based on original direction by Lotte Wakeham, Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton. The Designer is David Woodhead, Lighting Designer is Derek Anderson, Sound Designer is Andy Graham, Costume Supervisor is Chrissy Maddison and the Production Manager is Tammy Rose.


The Clink

Riverside Drama

Duchess Theatre

November 17th

This ‘dark comedy’ is set in 1603 and explores the political unrest as Queen Elizabeth I's lengthy reign is ending. The Clink is outside London where brothels, comedy clubs and the outcasts are to be found. There we find a central character of the play, a fool Lucius Bodkin, whose only ambition is to entertain the visitors. There are however dark deeds afoot, conspiracy, manipulation and ghastly punishments.

I have huge admiration for Riverside Drama, taking on this wordy, fast paced play which has 19 scenes. It certainly gives them a chance to show their talents, as every performance is accomplished and polished. I can only imagine the amount of work that must have gone in to achieving this level: mastering the text, some of it in verse, some of it as complicated as a tongue twister, and then developing convincing characterisations.

Congratulations to all the cast: from the imperious Queen Elizabeth (Lizzie Norris) and the jaunty, long suffering fool Lucius Bodkin (Jenni Wright), to the feisty Beatrice (Donna Osmond) and her cleverly devious servant, Vanda (Liv Paige). All were performed superbly, as were the numerous other parts, played variously by James Billington, Celia Bilau, Samantha Badman, Jack Workman, Diana Edwards, Matthew Payne, Jonathan Greaves, Dave Wilson, Jimmy Macduff, Moya Magee and Amy Cannon. I particularly appreciated the diction and projection of all these actors, I could hear every word and really enjoyed the range of expressive delivery that brought the text alive.

The play was written in the Eighties as a political satire, and I must admit that some of the parallels with that society eluded me. No matter, I appreciated that Margaret Thatcher and Queen Elizabeth 1 had a lot in common and that a ruthless ruler will oppress and sacrifice the majority, if it is deemed ‘necessary’. This point is driven home in a chilling monologue about hanging, drawing and quartering. Not for the faint hearted and delivered with gentle but powerful clout by Jenni Wright.

There are shades of Monty Python and Blackadder here, the writing doesn’t reach that comedic level, but the humour in scenes such as a visit by a dead father with a singing bird on his shoulder and a duel of eye wateringly complicated insults, is welcome.

This production looks absolutely stunning: the costumes and props are beautifully detailed, including very convincing and sumptuous Elizabethan attire, a lovely set of Alchemist’s bottles and an impressive set of skulls. Well done to Mina Holton, Janet Whyatt, Liz Turner and Gail Roy. Not much scene setting, but judicious use of blocks, organised by Bob Baron, which are easily changed and well complemented by the lighting and sound by Dave Martin.

All of this, of course is brought together by the skilful direction of Liz Turner, who must have worked her socks off with the cast, taking this play apart and putting it back together so tightly.


School of Rock

Royal Concert Hall Nottingham

November 16th, 2021

As I have never seen this musical or the film it was based on, I was not sure what I was going to see or if I would enjoy it. However, as the voice of Andrew Lloyd Webber was heard across the packed Concert Hall telling us that the children in the show really do play the instruments, I somehow knew this performance was going to be something special and I was not wrong.

The musical follows Dewey Finn, an out-of-work rock singer and guitarist, who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth graders, to win an upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

The stage show is based on the film of the same name and Webber wrote 14 extra songs as there are apparently few in the film. I have never heard the score but soon the quality writing of ALW was in evidence. What really surprised me was that although I expected some rock tunes and there were some great ones, there are also more typical musical theatre songs, ballads, dance tunes and some operatic sounding pieces too.

The cast was incredibly strong led by Jake Sharp who was simply amazing. I am told that in the film Jack Black made a huge impact, but tonight so did Jake. He sings, dances, is often very funny but also shows the more tender and vulnerable side of the character. The part demands a good physical actor, and he is also that. He frequently throws himself across the stage. To call him a powerhouse of an actor is probably an understatement.

I loved the performance of Rebecca Lock as the High School Principal. She has an incredibly versatile voice and a wide vocal range. She can sing typical Webber ballads well but at times also reaches the height of the operatic register too. She is a great actress and is a joy to watch. They were supported by an excellent set of principals and ensemble members.

However, what makes this such a sensational show is the youngsters who play the school kids. They are simply phenomenal, and I will remember their performances for a very long time. They can all sing and dance with a perfection usually reserved for adult performers and some played instruments to a high standard as well. I cannot praise them highly enough and at times I was just amazed at their talent. I challenge anyone who saw the show not to marvel at the power and energy they all shared while on the stage. Their enthusiasm is intoxicating. The story demands children of 10/ 11 and most of these are around that age which brings a reality to the performances. They are simply the best.

The dynamic set is a real pleasure to watch as it is so cleverly designed that it keeps the action moving at a very fast pace. There are a lot of props plus school tables and chairs that are moved around by the cast in obviously a choreographed way which was very impressive. Smooth and accurate every time.

The lighting and sound were first rate and despite this show’s focus on rock was, in my opinion the sound was set at just the right level. Dynamic rock sound but at a comfortable level.

The show ends with a well-designed finale which the audience loved and rewarded with a whole theatre standing ovation.

This is now one of my favourite shows and I congratulate all involved for giving me, and I am sure the rest of the audience, such a wonderful night at the Concert Hall. This is a show not to miss so get down to Nottingham’s Concert Hall before the show ends on Saturday Night. I can promise you that you will come out at the end feeling uplifted as this show has it all, including some poignant moments and a joyful ending.


The Addams Family Musical

National Tour

Theatre Royal Nottingham

November 9th 2021

There was a bit of a chill wind and a dark cloud above the Theatre Royal tonight: the Addams Family in all their macabre and ghostly glory are in town. This show is a musical comedy based upon characters created by Charles Addam, featuring a ghoulish American family with an affinity for all things supernatural. Numerous film and television adaptations of the Addams Family exist, but the musical is based on the cartoons rather than the television and film characters.

From the start it was obvious we were in for an enjoyable and entertaining evening: the rousing opening number ‘When you’re an Addams’, introduces us to a panoply of colourful, spooky characters and the atmosphere of a darkly Gothic set. Watch out for the disembodied hand!

The principal performers are excellent: Joanne Clifton is an icily aloof Morticia, a forbidding presence, until passion overcomes her and we get to see some of her wonderful dancing. What a brilliant all round performer she is, great characterisation, perfect comic timing and a lovely voice.

Cameron Blakely as the hapless Gomez is thoroughly entertaining, playing this demanding role with panache and consummate skill. At once sophisticated and full of family pride, yet hopelessly bemused by the wiles of his wife and daughter, with a touching desire to do the right thing.

Their strong willed, bow and arrow toting daughter, Wednesday, is played with sass by Kingsley Morton. A powerhouse of a singer, she makes this part her own with a determined swagger and defiant lip curl. The youngest Addams member, the errant boy Pugsley, is played by Grant McIntyre, who captures the speech and movement of a child perfectly. He is gruesomely engaging as the not so sweet boy, who likes nothing better than being tortured by his sister.

All this horror could be a little off putting and some of the lines are only just on the right side of good taste, but it’s cartoon horror and it’s never less than enormous fun.

Scott Paige as the moon smitten Uncle Fester, Dickon Gough as Lurch, the monster-like mute butler and Valda Aviks as Grandma complete the splendid Addams entourage and all have some lovely comic and vocal moments.

Ahmed Hamad is the charming and earnest Lucas Beineke, Wednesday’s love interest, who, with Sean Kingsley and Kara Lane as his fabulously funny parents, makes their ‘normal’ family a splendid contrast to the Addams. Very amusing to see both parents undergo a transformation under the influence of the Addams, leading to some brilliantly played scenes and Mrs Beineke’s stunning vocal number ‘Waiting’.

The colourful and characterful ensemble are hugely entertaining as the dead ancestors, beautifully costumed and each one a little cameo. I really liked the dance and movement in two of the fabulous set piece numbers “Full Disclosure” and “The Moon and Me.” Well done to the choreographer, Alistair David and the Musical Director, Bob Broad. The Orchestra, although loud, sounded great and was balanced with the vocals.

The Gothic style set is impressive, both in its size and the way in which the cast change it so slickly that scene changes are hardly noticeable. The excellent lighting design by Ben Cracknell and sound design by Richard Brooker really enhance the production. The director Matthew White and team have produced a quality show which was much appreciated by the audience, many of whom gave it a standing ovation at the end.

This has become one of my favourite shows and I can thoroughly recommend it. So put on your best black clothes and make your way to the Theatre Royal before the family Addams transmogrify to Cardiff.


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Derby Theatre

October 30th 2021

Today's production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum showed once again what a first class musical theatre group the Present Company is. There were excellent performances from principals and ensemble members that I much appreciated.

It was great to see a fifteen piece orchestra playing at the front once again. They accompanied some wonderful vocal performances very well - and Sondheim's music is not always easy. Well done to the MD, Morris Fisher.

I really enjoyed the opening and closing song which was the well known “Comedy Tonight.” This was sung and danced so well. There were too many excellent performances to mention individually, but I must say I thought David Partridge, who was the anchor of the show in the role of Prologus, was outstanding. I was also impressed by the 3 Proteans who are described in the programme as playing “All other parts as required.” They were actually on and off the stage often, playing a number of parts which often involved quick changes.

The set was great along with good lighting and sound. Well done to Jean Gemmell for her direction and choreography, plus of course her production team.

Really enjoyed being at Derby Theatre and am very pleased to have made a last minute decision to buy tickets.


9 to 5 – The Musical
Theatre Royal Nottingham
October 26th, 2021
Think 9 to 5 and you think Dolly Parton – the two go hand in hand, so it is great to hear the country music icon introducing the musical at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal. This touring version is a dynamic version of the popular musical - which began as a film starring Dolly Parton - was much enjoyed by the enthusiastic audience tonight.
Pushed to boiling point, three female co-workers concoct a plan to get even with the ‘sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot’ they call their boss. In a hilarious turn of events, Violet, Judy and Doralee live out their wildest fantasy – giving their boss the boot! While Hart remains "otherwise engaged," the women give their workplace a dream makeover, taking control of the company that has always kept them down.
There are some excellent and hugely entertaining performances from the principals, supported by a lively ensemble, many of whom had lovely cameo roles.
Louse Rednapp is Violet and powers out her vocals, really standing out on stage. She gave an excellent all-round performance, encapsulating the warm motherliness of the character, coupled with her astuteness and strength. She excelled in the dance number “One of the Boys and in “Around Here.”
Vivian Panka makes her professional stage debut plays Judy, the office newbie, with just the right amount of troubled vulnerability; a really impressive characterisation, which is superbly acted. She has a lovely voice and gives a fantastic performance of the cathartic “Get Out and Stay Out”, which brought the house down.
Stephanie Chandos, who leads the office in the role of Doralee, gave a vibrant performance in the role made famous by Dolly Parton. I particularly enjoyed her performance of Backwoods Barbie.
I enjoyed Julia J Nagle’s very amusing portrayal of the lovesick Roz and her racy dance number “Heart to Hart “, is quite something - fantastic! Sean Needham is great in this number too. As the lazy, lying boss, Franklin Hart he manages to express all of the character’s negative traits in an entertaining way. Brash and sleazy, but ultimately showing his weakness. He is very funny throughout the show and has perfect comic timing.
There is a nicely observed performance from Sarah-Marie Maxwellas the tottering office lush, Margaret.
The musicianship from the band and cast is high and the dancing and movement is well planned and beautifully executed, showcasing skill and excellent timing. Staging is very tight and coupled with some excellent back projections this is a joy to watch. Scene changes are slick and executed very well by the cast as part of the fast and dynamic action.
The Production team of Jeff Calhoune (Director), Lisa Stevens (Choreographer), Tom Rogers (Designer), Howard Hudson (lighting design), Ben Harrison (Sound design) and Dean McDermott (MD) have done a great job, setting a fast pace and pulling every bit of humour out of the characters and story. Enthusiasm and joy of performing was very evident on stage tonight.
This popular show is fabulous and it is good to see a big, bright and colourful musical at the Royal again. There is no doubting the talent and commitment of the whole cast and the audience response to it, which led to a standing ovation at the end from a pretty full theatre.


RSC The Comedy of Errors

Theatre Royal Nottingham

October 22nd.

This is a real romp of a production, a colourful, joyous farce with laugh out loud moments. It’s full of visual gags and has a wonderful cast who bring the text fully alive for a modern audience. It’s not to be missed, it’s the RSC at its glorious best.

The story is about the confusion that arises during one day in Ephesus, when Antipholus, a well respected but rather louche business man finds himself locked out of his house, along with his slave, Dromio. Unbeknown to him their places have been taken by two doppelgangers, who also have the same names. They are from Syracuse and have arrived during a 7 year quest to find Antipholus’ twin brother, who was lost at sea when they were all babies…

This Ephesus is in the 1980s and the brittle opulence of a thriving commercial centre, the gaudy colours, shoulder pads and big hair set the frenetic action in recognisably modern times. There’s even a nod to current times, travel to Ephesus is restricted and the comical use of hand sanitiser suggests why that might be. Antipholus of Syracuse thinks he has arrived in a bewitched place full of madness, as he is wined, dined, propositioned and given gifts, yet also pursued, upbraided and eventually driven to seek sanctuary, with no idea why.

There are pitch perfect performances from Guy Lewis and Dyfrig Morris as Antipholus from Syracuse and Antipholus from Ephesus, brilliantly conveying the bewilderment and growing annoyance of two men who are plunged into a world of mistaken identity that they no longer recognise. They are matched by the delightful and much abused Dromios, played with cheerful exasperation by Jonathan Broadbent and Greg Haiste. They bear the brunt of everyone’s anger as they continually appear to be getting things wrong, simply by following their masters’ instructions. Both have many lovely comic moments, not least when Dromio of Syracuse breaks into a stand up routine, describing in bawdy terms the greasy, ‘spherical’ kitchen maid who seems to think she is betrothed to him. As the actor says in an aside, these jokes are over 400 years old!

This is one of Shakespeare’s early plays, written about 1595, but already he was showing he could write strong women and give them a clear voice. In this case Adrianna, the vampy blonde wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, played by Naomi Sheldon, and her trendy young sister Luciana, played by Avita Jay, are very annoyed by his behaviour and express it hilariously and energetically, at one point during a session of hot yoga. This is another example of the imaginative direction, where Phillip Breen has added new context and visual humour to the action, with great effect. All the actors have completely mastered the verse, so they are able to deliver it in a thoroughly accessible way and still throw themselves into challenging physical comedy.

The play is full of colourful supporting characters who each add to the confusion and bring lovely vignettes of humour. A backing group of bystanders supply fabulous musical accompaniment, both vocal jazz and some lively Middle Eastern tunes. As usual for the RSC, the whole cast throw themselves into a joyous foot tapping and hand clapping finale of dancing.

The resolution of the story is relevant to modern times, a family reunited after separation. There is the promise of a new relationship for Antipholus of Syracuse, a warning to Antipholus of Ephesus to mend his ways and perhaps a little new found respect for the feelings of the slaves. It’s a satisfying end to a hugely enjoyable production which I strongly urge you to see.


Dracula the untold story

Derby Theatre

October 20th 2021

Dracula - the untold story, has just finished here at Derby Theatre. This has been a theatrical experience that I will remember for a long time. As I said in my interval report, I really haven’t seen anything quite like this. The combination of superb acting and technological wizardry was a joy to watch.

The play is however disturbing and thought provoking but to understand that you need to come and see it. It’s hard to write about it without spoiling the experience.

I can promise though that you will be amazed and intrigued by the way it was written, produced, imagined and performed.

This is a play that anyone interested in the widest aspects of theatre needs to see. The three actors Riana Duce, Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnović are to be congratulated for their versatility in so many forms of acting. They were quite simply superb.

There was no obvious stage crew, although I am certain there were so many people involved in the tech side of the production, and it was all done on stage by the actors. (See credits below)

There is a long list of production credits for this show which does illustrate the complexity of the piece. They are copied below because I think they all need to be and it gives some idea of what was involved in this superb production.

These are my first thoughts and I have to be honest and say that it may take some time processing what I have seen tonight. The story was a little hard to follow at first but things are explained and do come together well by the end. Incidentally I did not see the end coming as it did.

Please do come and see this wonderful production if you can as I don’t think you will be disappointed. I am happy to call it A technical and artistic triumph.


Extra Time

Derby Theatre

October 12th, 2021

Extra Time is a powerful, thought provoking and hugely entertaining play. It is beautifully written by the local poet, lyricist and educator, Jamie Thrasivoulou. He is the official poet of Derby County and he also performs in the show. Being set and produced locally it has enormous appeal for a Derby Theatre audience. Although it is set around Derby County’s victory in the 1946 FA Cup final, it goes back much further and also forward - to events of this very week.

The cast are excellent and totally committed to the piece. It is a fast-moving ensemble piece, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, with singing, dancing and soliloquy performances. Many of the cast play instruments, too. It’s uplifting, funny, informative and thoroughly engaging.

It is also very moving and there were tears in my old eyes at times. This play will appeal not just to fans of Derby County and football fans in general, but to anyone who loves a great story well told. The city and its residents are part of the play: the spirit of the place and the voice of the people are felt and heard with moving clarity.

There were great performances from John Booker, Josephine Cornice, Anna-Kate Golding, Danny Hendrick, Sean McKenzie, Ines Sampan, Ivan Stott and Jamie Thrasivoulou. All play multiple characters and switch between them seamlessly, with complete conviction.

Anyone interested in theatre and performance should come and see this. The writing, acting, singing, dance and movement, storytelling and comedy routines are first class.

There is a very well-designed interactive set, allowing for the use of video and scenic projections. Sound is very important too and this is brilliantly weaved into the play to complement the action and evoke the atmosphere required by the story. Ivan Stott, in addition to performing, designed the sound stage and composed the fabulous music and songs.

The production moves very quickly and the Director, the theatre’s own Sarah Brigham, has done a marvellous job with the staging, pace and sheer evocative beauty of the piece. Her production team is also to be congratulated, as this very much a collaborative effort.

Do come and see it if you can and support what is a truly local piece in its creation and production.



Nottingham Theatre Royal

October 11th 2021

Hairspray is set in Baltimore in 1962, Maryland, where plump teenage Tracy Turnblad has one dream: to dance on The Corny Collins Show. When she gets put in detention with the African-American students in the school, they teach her some of their dance moves, and her new found groove wins her a spot on Corny’s show. Overnight, Tracy transforms from a nobody into a star, and uses her sudden influence to advocate for racial integration on the television show.

Tracy faces scrutiny and bullying from the network producer, Velma, and her popular, but vicious, daughter, Amber. With the help of the teenage heartthrob Link, host Corny Collins, and Motormouth Maybelle (the host of ‘Negro Day’), Tracy overcomes the odds and succeeds in her mission to integrate The Corny Collins Show. The show is full of 1960s-style dance music and "downtown” rhythm and blues.

Tonight, at the Theatre Royal this touring production arrived in Nottingham in spectacular style. The whole theatre standing ovation at the end was exactly what they all deserved and it continued until the end of the playout music.

There are very strong performances from the principal performers and the ensemble cast, who are rarely off the stage.

Playing the lead role of Tracy is Katie Brace and amazingly, this is her debut professional stage role. From the moment she took to the stage in the first number, “Good Morning Baltimore” it was obvious we were in for a treat. She is a great acting talent with a strong singing voice, who inhabits the role completely.

Alex Bourne playing the part of Edna is fantastic. He brings warmth, humour and sass to the role of Tracy’s mother and his comedy timing is first class. He acted, sang and danced perfectly in the role.

He and the excellent Norman Pace, who plays a well characterized Wilbur, brought the house down with their very funny routine “You’re Timeless to Me.” This was brilliantly performed and received enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Ross Clifton as Link Larkin looked every inch the TV star: he is a confident and expressive actor who sang his solo beautifully.

Rebecca Jayne-Davis gives a beautifully nuanced performance as Penny Pingleton, Tracey’s loyal and fun but rather dim friend. A highlight was when she and her mother, Tracey and her mother, along with Velma and Amber performed “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”. A fabulous song and a great routine.

Akeem Ellis-Hyman as Seaweed brought warmth and conviction to the role. He sang and danced well throughout.

Rebecca Thornhill was superb as the strong minded TV producer, Velma, and Jesicca Croll as her very nasty daughter, Amber, both are very accomplished performers. Eleanor gives Velma a cool sophistication and disdain for others, which she makes the most of in “Velma’s Revenge”. Both maintain their brilliant characterisations right to the end of the show, using facial expression and haughty stances, even in the finale. Great stuff.

Richard Meek in his role of Corny Collins is great and really makes the most of the part. He is very confident, sings well and has a real twinkle in his eye.

It was a treat to hear the powerful songs “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “I Know Where I’ve Been” sung so well by Brenda Evans who is a very impressive Motormouth Maybelle.

The dancers and ensemble members really do need to be mentioned, as they play a huge part throughout the show. There are not many times when they not on the stage and they have so many steps and songs to learn. They never faltered and were excellent. The choreographer, Drew McOnie, did a great job.

The lighting by Philip Gladwell is excellent and certainly enhances the set and costumes. The sound by Ben Harrison was clear and crisp and very well balanced with the band.

The costumes, props and hairstyles supplied by Takis were very appropriate for the 60’s and the whole company look absolutely splendid.

There is an excellent band conducted by the Musical Director, Ben Atkinson.

I have seen many very good productions of this show, both professional and amateur; this one was well up with the best and the Director, Paul Kerryson is to be congratulated for a fast moving and dynamic show.


Review by Kev Castle - (used here by permission)

“The Addams Family" (Quarantined Concert Version)

Erewash Musical Society

Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

October 6th 2021

The only reason why this is called a "quarantined" version of the show is because some of the big choreographed numbers have been omitted, not that you'd notice really, which made it easy to rehearse, but it also has several references to the pandemic and being quarantined that bring the story bang up to date.

Not quite sure why "concert" was added in there because this ain't no concert, it's the musical but slightly slimmed down version. This is the perfect show to come back with, appealing to every age group.

For those who have never seen "The Addams Family" musical, the whole story is that Wednesday has now grown up and she has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, who is pretty normal. What will Gomez, Morticia and the rest of the family think?

What I love about this musical is that, not only is it daft, it's great fun at the same time and it also has subtle life nuggets to take away. Stuff like keeping secrets can be good as well as bad, and that if you see something you want; go and get it. Plus losing sight of who, or what you were in the past is not always a positive progression and it's nice just to let loose every now and again.

What I also love is the brilliant soundtrack. Listen carefully to the words to get the full comic element from the lyrics. Some are very cleverly wrapped up in incredibly catchy pieces of music!

Morticia is played by Hayley Wood and this is her second show with Erewash Musical Society, previously Hayley appeared in "Godspell" and her first lead. Smooth, sexy and sultry. It's no secret that this woman knows how to pull off that vampy look, similar to Fenella Fielding in "Carry On Screaming". Simply smoking!

Gomez is played by Graham Buchanan, and I was told tonight that I am Graham's nicest critic. What makes me write so many nice things about Graham? Whatever role and character Graham takes on, he embodies himself in the character and makes you believe that the character is who you see, and not the actor. Not only that but I know the graft that Graham puts into his roles. be it Shakespeare, Basil Fawlty or Gomez Addams, he morphs into the role. Love the accent. love the facial expressions - he really does act with the whole of his body, and I love the physicality he brings to the character. Great fun role and a great fun actor.

Lurch is played by John Fletcher, and John is another actor who has great physicality in his role. There was a scene where Lurch goes to answer the door to the Beinekes and the pace taken to do that extracted so many laughs from the audience, he shows that taking time to get the laugh does pay off. And wait until the end to hear what a lovely voice he has, especially that last low note! John also deserves recognition for managing to walk in those blocked up shoes.

Richard Dawson plays the wonderfully excitable Uncle Fester, and his whole enthusiasm within the character floods the audience, winning them over from the very start. This cast is full of wonderful character actors and Richard is another who can put on a character like a jumper. Great fun to watch and I am sure that Richard is having amazing fun playing Fester, because it looks that way from where I was sitting.

Maria Lawrence plays Grandma, and is almost unrecognisable thanks to the make-up and costumes, as well as the physicality that goes along with this wacky character.

Playing Pugsley Addams, the masochistic brother of Wednesday, is Lewis Taylor. Loved how he really let it go during the "Pulled" scene, plus we also saw a softer side of Pugsley with his solo "What If". Nice to see the broad scope of emotions portrayed by Lewis in these two sides of Pugsley. Lewis' voice also shows great promise for when he gets older.

Francesca Foster plays Wednesday Addams, and while this story is all about Wednesday, we also get to experience Fran's incredible singing voice. Channelling Carrie Hope Fletcher that voice has power and wonderful control. I love "Pulled" and also "Crazier Than You" and Fran really gets to showcase that voice, which gave me goosebumps, to the max. Mix that voice in with her acting ability and this girl is bound for bigger stages and roles.

Lucas Beineke is played by Gabriel Leshko, who I recognise from the Erewash Musical Society Youth Group. He has transitioned well between the two groups and he is another young actor who I have a good feeling about going forward.

Lucas' parents Mal Beineke and Alice Beineke are played Martin Briggs and Kathi Ludlow. The relationships between Gomez and Morticia are well matched with this couple. The scenes where Alice totally discloses what she really felt were classic comedy, so much so I thought some of the women behind me almost wet themselves with laughter. Martin also got chance to let rip as he turned back time, complete with his Grateful Dead T Shirt. Martin also must be noted for his vocals in the four way "Crazier Than You".

I touched on costumes and make-up earlier on, and this area really stood out for me, especially with the ensemble who looked frighteningly good.

Choreographed by Abbi Burns, this is a very stylized piece of theatre and the choreography showed this. Abbi is a seasoned choreographer and obviously knows how to get the best out of her pupils, as this show proves.

Directed by Chris Moss, and this is his Directorial debut for Erewash Musical Society. The Director has possibly the hardest job as he has to make sure that he has the best cast he can round up, and he has ticked that box rightly enough as the casting is perfect. Pace is another biggie and with the zombie movements of Lurch and the excitability of Fester, Chris has made sure that the pace is just right. In short, the Direction is absolutely spot on.

The Musical Director for the show is Martin Lewis. What can I say? With Martin in control, I knew the music side of this would match the quality and expertise of the rest of the production.

Absolutely no issues worthy of a mention with the sound quality or volume, thanks to Dave Dallard. The same can also be said of the Lighting by Richard Chamberlain.

The set, by Mark and Bill Robbins, was wonderfully thought out and designed with two staircases and double doors centre stage to allow other entrance and exit points apart from into the wings.

This whole production was just so easy to watch, I almost forgot I was there to review ( I love my job) and enjoyed every second of EMUS comeback show.

The only thing that needs to be highlighted now is the glossily produced programme (Lewis Allsopp), and the very welcoming and warm Front of House staff, who I always feel should be mentioned as they are all part of the evening's enjoyment and image of the drama company but often fail to get recognition.

"The Addams Family (Quarantined Concert Version)" is at the Duchess Theatre until Saturday 9 October. get those tickets now for this frighteningly good show before they get scare-ce. See what I did there?


Matilda the Musical Junior

The Young Performers and Friends

Duchess Theatre

Long Eaton

September 9th, 2021

Matilda the Musical Jr is based on the 1988 children's novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. It was adapted by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. The musical's story centres on Matilda, a precocious little girl who loves reading. She overcomes obstacles caused by her family and the misery of life in her school in a spectacular way, after discovering that she has a strange gift…

The junior version is much shorter than the original, but still contains 15 songs, including a number of whole ensemble pieces and dance routines.

This production by the Duchess Theatre’s Resident Youth Group, The Young Performers, was an East Midlands premiere of this popular musical. Amazingly, it was developed and rehearsed during a Summer School for just one week in late August. What a lot of work and dedication must have gone into planning, learning, rehearsing and perfecting a production in such a short time; a brilliant achievement by everyone involved.

Oh boy, what a joyous occasion this performance was: a large cast of talented and enthusiastic young performers telling a gruesomely funny story, through words, music and dance. Everyone gave their all, overcoming some initial nerves to really show what they can do. There were some very impressive principal performances, but also some lovely cameo and ensemble work. How exciting that these young people will, hopefully, become leading lights in our thriving local amateur scene.

Avaani Babra is a thoroughly convincing Matilda, giving her an engaging sweetness, but with the edge of steel she needs to challenge authority when she knows ‘it isn’t right’. Avaani seems so at home on the stage and her lovely voice is a joy to listen to: I particularly enjoyed ‘Naughty’

There are several catchy ‘ear worm’ tunes in this musical, I was humming ‘When I grow up’ for a while. It was a tour de force from the ensemble, beautifully done and giving several of the performers a chance to show off their voices. ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ and ‘Revolting Children’ are two more fabulous numbers which are very cleverly choreographed and performed with great timing. No mean feat to sing your heart out while remembering a series of movements and negotiating a recently completed set!

There was huge appreciation for James Pedrick as the truly revolting Agatha Trunchbull and it was well deserved. James plays this part with relish and gives the character the swagger and succinctly expressed nastiness that make her so gloriously horrible.

Thankfully, the evil Miss Trunchbull is balanced by the sweetness of Matilda’s teacher Miss Honey, played with a wonderfully demure composure by Ella Charlesworth. Ella has a lovely voice and charmed the audience with ‘This Little Girl’.

I appreciated the antics of the Wormwood family: the arrogantly potty Dad, played with impressive conviction by Emily Wilkins, Heidi Parsons as the wonderfully brittle and louche Mum (well done on the costume, superb), and Michael, who made me laugh every time he said ‘backwards’, played by Millie Weston. Mum’s dance teacher Rudolpho, played so enthusiastically by Gracie Foster, is a comic cameo that the audience loved.

I enjoyed Matilda’s visits to the library and her flights of fancy as she creates her own rather morbid fiction, to the delight of the librarian, played sympathetically by Eloise Ludlow. Matilda’s characters: the Escapologist, played by Emily Dexter and the Acrobat, played by Polly Snape were beautifully portrayed: Emily could bring a tear to the eye!

I was very taken by the slices of chocolate cake on sale in the foyer and after enjoying Bruce Bogtrotter gamely polishing off a whole cake, I was even more tempted. Bruce’s scenes are fun, but played with lovely poignancy by Isobel Pickering.

There are a few clever visual tricks in this production and Roydon Charlesworth is to be congratulated on building the set that facilitated these, as well as the many scene changes that are required. Some first night blips with the lighting will be easily resolved as will a few adjustments to the sound early on; overall the lighting design by Dave Martin and sound by Harvey Tavener are very good.

The rest of the cast who make up the excellent ensemble are Remy Mae Read, Erin Gell, Myah Reppe-Jackson, Emilia Shapcott, Roisin Park, Livvy Read, Alex Povey, Lucy Coulson-Jones, Keeley Rickerby, Sophie Dexter, Eleanor Cooper, Sophie Longcroft, Myla Read and Carly Gaunt. Cameos such as Matilda’s friends, the cook, mechanic and Sergei from the Russian mafia are well observed.

Congratulations to the obviously very hard working production team who ran the Summer School that resulted in this show. Aided by support staff, they are Zak Charlesworth (Creative Director), Vicky Byrne (Choreographer), and Tricia Freer (Acting Coach) – a formidable team who have realised their creative vision in a most exciting way.

This show is not an easy one at all, having a large number of scenes, plus a score that contains many songs that have difficult accompaniments. The group’s resident Musical Director, George Parkinson will have been a great help with this. The young cast were not daunted in any way and their 100% conviction was rewarded by a sustained ovation from a delighted audience.

I am very much looking forward to future shows by the Young Performers and hope they have even more talented members now, from the Summer School. The shows are Nativity, the Musical in January 2022 and High School Musical in June 2022.


The Cat and the Canary

Derby Theatre

September 7th 2021

Tonight, at Derby Theatre we were treated to a new adaptation by Carl Grose of the murder mystery by John Willard. It inspired three classic movies - one of them in 1939 starring Bob Hope - and many stage productions. This tour began in 2020, was halted by the pandemic and is beginning again here tonight.

John Willard’s (1885 - 1942) The Cat and the Canary is a classic from the ‘dark house mystery’ genre. The traditional theme of these is a combination of a whodunit and comedy, where a group of strangers, friends or distant relatives spends a stormy and dark night in a mansion or castle with secret passageways, often with a madman on the loose. As the plot unravels, skeletons from the key characters come out of the cupboard and the story twists and turns to a thrilling conclusion.

The idea for the story came to John Willard during a mission in the First World War. He completed the manuscript in November 1921 and it opened on Broadway in February 1922, with Willard playing Harry. It has aged incredibly well and can be thoroughly enjoyed by modern audiences today.

This adaptation begins twenty years after the death of wealthy eccentric Mr West. On his instructions, his descendants gather at a remote mansion on Bodmin Moor to learn who will inherit his vast wealth and the hidden family jewels. When the heir is revealed, a chain of macabre events is set in motion: walls crack open, shadows loom and dark secrets are revealed.

The elaborate and darkly evocative set by Takis is one of the stars in this excellent production at Derby Theatre. A heavily panelled library, complete with an impressive ceiling canopy, is full of scene setting details including a skeleton and stuffed animals. It is just the right place for a midnight meeting of the distant relatives who hope to benefit from Cyrus West’s will. The lighting and sound effects, by Chris Davey and Dan Samson respectively, are used cleverly throughout the production to complete the air of menace and foreboding. The audience is filled with slightly uneasy anticipation, right from the start.

The first act doesn’t disappoint on the startle factor front – there were a couple of moments when I jumped and my companion had her eyes firmly shut!

Two scene changes, one during the interval and another during a good old fashioned curtain fall, take us to another spooky set, where some more truly thrilling moments occur. I had some reservations about the décor in this room, which moves away from the dusty realism of the library into what I think are visual metaphors for surveillance. Just a small point, but I found that they slightly detracted from the atmosphere.

There are some well known faces in the cast and it’s always a treat seeing experienced actors showing off their craft. Britt Ekland is a deliciously odd Mrs Pleasant, the all knowing and doom prophesising housekeeper, who is familiar with the evil within the house and keen to share it with everyone. The would be beneficiaries of the will are Tracy Shaw, Marti Webb, Gary Webster, Ben Nealon, Anthony Costa and Priyasasha Kumari. Completing the cast are Eric Carte as the family solicitor, Martin Carroll as Hendricks and Jack Taylor as the policeman.

This is an ensemble piece and all the actors are to be congratulated for their well developed characterisations. They have little to go on, apart from a few biographical details and suggestions of past events and trauma, but they flesh out their characters convincingly. Some of them undergo unexpected changes and these are portrayed beautifully. Tracy Shaw excels as the character most under threat and Eric Carte’s diction and delivery are a joy to hear.

There are a lot of horror tropes in this play: visual shocks, startling sound effects, hidden menace and chilling revelations: they are all delivered with satisfying intensity. At times, it’s laughably unlikely, but the director Roy Marsden and the actors keep it fresh, well paced and always engaging.

I have heeded the original theatre programme request from 1922, which is still honoured nearly 100 years later, ‘If you like this play please tell your friends. But pray don’t tell them how it ends’. I am sure you will like it and perhaps, like me, be more than a little surprised by the ending…



Theatre Royal Nottingham

Tuesday August 31st, 2021

This is a musical version of the 1989 American black comedy teen film. It was not a box office success, but the critics liked it and it has since become popular as a cult film. It is regarded by many as one of the greatest coming-of-age films of all time. This stage version previously enjoyed two record-breaking seasons, launching at London’s The Other Palace and transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2018.

The witty book and catchy music & lyrics are by Laurence O’Keefe & Kevin Murphy.

The story is set at Westerberg High School, where Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody, dreaming of a better day. But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel ‘Heathers’, her dreams of popularity may finally come true. Mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that “it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.” For a musical this production is quite dark, but the music is very catchy and hugely enjoyable. Although the language is quite offensive at times, the overall impact of the show is not as dark as in the film.

Rebecca Wickes plays the central character of Veronica Sawyer, the student who desperately wants to be accepted by her classmates; she decides that to become one of the sinister group of Heathers is the only way to do it. As a consequence, she becomes tainted by their evil and twisted ways. She is a wonderful performer, has a very powerful singing voice and acts with supreme confidence. Her facial expressions and visceral reactions to the events on stage are a joy to behold; she is a talent to watch. Her performance of the powerful song “Prom or Hell” is wonderful.

Simon Gordan, a very competent actor and singer, plays the disturbed yet strangely compelling character of JD. I particularly liked the way he performed the song “Freeze your Brain.” Also, his duet with Rebecca, with whom he has a wonderful on-stage chemistry: “I am Damaged” was superb and full of emotion.

The three Heathers played by Maddison Firth (Heather Chandler), Merryl Ansah (Heather Duke), Lizzy Parker (Heather McNamara) are magnificent and strut around the stage pouring out their vitriol to all and sundry. When they sing you really know it and their voices fill the whole theatre. Maddison dominates the stage whenever she appears and her facial expressions are wonderful. She doesn’t need to speak all the time as her face does it for her with great effect.

Liam Doyle (Kurt Kelly), Rory Phelan (Ram Sweeney), as the two High School Jocks who are “Not Dirty” (you need to see the show to understand that) are very funny working together as a duo. Again, they sing and dance very well and look good with or without their clothes on! Their choreographed fight scenes along with Simon Gordon are very well done.

Georgina Hagan plays the somewhat manic Ms. Fleming, the teacher. She was brilliant in the anti-suicide scene: her rendition of “Shine a Light” was powerful and emotional.

Mhairi Angus (Martha Dunnstock), provided a lovely contrast from the other students and you can’t help feeling sorry for her somewhat naïve view of what is going on around her. He solo song “Kindergarten boyfriend” was delightful.

Other principal parts were well played by Andy Brady (Kurt’s Dad/Veronica’s Dad/Principle Gowan) and Kurt Kansley (Ram’s Dad/Big Bud Dean/Coach Ripper). Their duet “My Dead Gay Son” was very funny and well performed.

Completing the excellent cast in the ensemble is Callum Connolly, Rhiane Drummond, Bayley Hart, Benjamin Karren, Sam Stones, May Tether and Daisy Twells. The dance routines are fabulous, thanks to the dynamic choreography of Gary Lloyd.

The composite set designed by David Shields is enhanced by the lighting by Ben Cracknell. I was very impressed with the sound by Dan Samson, which was crisp and clear throughout and in good balance with the Band. The band sounded great led by the Musical Director, Phil Cornwall.

The shows director, Andy Fickman, has produced a gripping, fast-moving and highly entertaining show that kept me engaged from start to finish.

The songs in the show are great, but some do contain lyrics that on the album contain an advisory about bad language. However, they do fit well with the story and I particularly like the opening number “Beautiful”, ”Candy Store,” “Our God is Love,” “My Dead Gay Son” and of course the wonderful “Seventeen.” I will certainly be listening to the soundtrack many times in the future.

There was a great deal of enthusiastic audience reaction throughout and that led to a whole theatre standing ovation at the end.

I knew little about this show before last night and having seen it, I love it. I have not seen the film, but from what I am told this stage version does diverge from it, especially in Act 2. It is worth seeing for wonderful performances of the leads, the incredible energy of the ensemble and the well written typical High School humour that pervades the whole production. There is an age advisory on this production which I think is needed.


The Play That Goes Wrong

Mischief Theatre

Theatre Royal Nottingham

August 24th, 2021

The Play That Goes Wrong (the play within the play) was full of brilliant special effects and actors who excelled in physical and spoken comedy. It will spoil your enjoyment of the play if I tell you what happens, so to find out you will have to go and see the show.

The play features the (fictional) Cornley Drama Society, who are putting on a 1920s murder mystery, ‘The Murder at Haversham Manor’. Everything that can go wrong does, as the accident-prone thespians battle against all the odds to reach their final curtain call. But do they manage it?

I can say that what you will see is very accomplished physical acting. Some elements of what they did was difficult to work out: there were moments when it looked as though the actors were in real danger. The superbly choreographed movements and incredible staging often led to gasps from the audience.

The set plays an important part and I marvel at how it is used and how it works. Although the "show" went wrong, the staging never did.

There were the two very funny monologues at the start of each act given by the "shows" director, Chris Bean, played superbly by Tom Bulpett. The rest of the cast were also excellent: Tom Babbage (Max), Seán Carey (Jonathan), Leonard Cook (Robert), Edward Howells (Dennis), April Hughes (Sandra), Laura Kirman (Annie), Gabriel Paul (Trevor), Aisha Numah(Lottie), Edi De Melo(Gunther), Katie Hitchcock(Cynthia), Damien James(Mike).

The production was slick, and Director Sean Turner and his creative team are to be congratulated on putting on such a complicated technical show. The fantastic set designs were by Nigel Hook, the costumes by Roberto Surace, the lighting by Ric Mountjoy and sound design by Andrew Johnson.

This show relies on pitch perfect acting, slapstick humour, physical comedy and the technical use of the set and lights. All these elements come together superbly which is why the show has received so much acclaim from audiences and critics alike. The cast received a prolonged ovation from the audience at the end of tonight's performance, which was well deserved.

If you like this kind of comedy, and I do, you will most certainly love this show


Grease the Musical
National Tour
Theatre Royal - August 18th 2021

Tonight at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham Grease was definitely the word, as this new production which was developed at the Curve in Leicester, hit town.
The show features Peter Andre in the roles of Teen Angel and the fast talking DJ Vince Fontaine. He was greeted with applause and cheers every time he came on stage - clearly he is still a very popular performer. He gives 100% to these fun roles and is thoroughly engaging. Worth noting that he does not appear in all performances.
Grease was first produced in 1972 on Broadway and was followed by the film version in 1978, starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. This is a musical about teens in love in the 1950s: it's Mid West 1958 and greaser Danny Zuko and his new girlfriend Sandy Olsson are in love. They spend time at the beach, and when they go back to school, what neither of them knows is that they both now attend Rydell High. Unfortunately, because of this true love does not run smoothly…
Tonight’s performance was dynamic, exciting and fast paced with a very talented cast of singers, actors and dancers.
Playing the role of Danny Zuko is the sparkling Dan Partridge , who certainly has the Triple Threat. He sings beautifully, acts with feeling and has tremendous moves.
Sandy is played perfectly by Georgia Louise, who has a very powerful and pure singing voice. She starts off as a measured and rather serious Sandy, who gradually becomes confident enough to effect the famous transformation from mouse to vamp. I did feel that her triumphant entrance was rather understated and was slightly disappointed by the lack of the iconic black leather outfit, as worn by Olivia Newton-John in the film!
Also giving great performances are fabulous dancer Paul French as a brooding and powerful Kenickie and Tendai Rinomhota as a gritty and street wise Rizzo. They are joined by the talents of Alex Christian as Doody, Josh Barnett as Roger, Inez Budd as Marty, Maeve Byrne as Jan, Marianna Neofitou as Frenchy, Corinna Powlesland as Miss Lynch and Cristian Zaccarini as Sonny. Many of these actors get their chance to shine in solos and make the most of it: I particularly enjoyed Grease Lightnin’ from Kenickie, Those Magic Changes from Doody and There Are Worse Things I Could Do from Rizzo.
These High School students are not quite the same as the kids we know from the film or other versions of this musical: these are harder, more mature characters who know what they want. Kenickie and Rizzo, in particular have a hard hitting roughness that I have not seen before, giving this production a new edge.
Also in the cast are Alishia-Marie Blake, Thea Bunting, Kevin O’Dwyer, Laura-Jane Fenney, Jacob Fisher, Elliot Gooch, Dom Hutcheson, Haroun al Jeddal, Kalisha Johnson, Hannah-Faith Marram, Matt Trevorrow, Jacob Young & Richard Linford. Some brilliant ensemble dancing that takes your breath away.
The enthusiastic audience certainly loved the well known songs and many sang along – perhaps a bit too much - to hits including Grease, Summer Nights, Sandy, Hopelessly Devoted to You and You’re the One That I Want. The show ends with a mega mix and the whole theatre was standing, singing and rocking for that.
The lighting greatly enhances an integrated, wonderfully nostalgic set that was changed very smoothly by the cast, keeping the action moving. The sound was generally good but particularly in Act 1 some of the mics seemed a little low and it was difficult to hear parts of the dialogue; this was not helped by some slurred diction, due to accent.
The show is imaginatively directed by Nikolai Foster with absolutely stunning choreography by Arlene Phillips. The dynamic set is by Colin Richmond, with orchestrations and musical supervision by Sarah Travis, who keeps the level of accompaniment just right. The excellent lighting design is by Ben Cracknell, with the sound by Tom Marshall.
This performance was signed by a very accomplished signer who received a well deserved cheer at the end. She not only signed the words, but joined in with the singing and dancing.
There is no doubt that Grease is the one that you want, despite its considerable age; this production is yet another great show to play at the Royal this season. Fans will flock to the show this week.


The Rocky Horror Show

The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
National Tour – August 10th 2021

What an experience tonight has been for me, watching a show I have wanted to see for many years. Not quite sure what to expect, but I can truly say I enjoyed every minute of it.
The Rocky Horror show is the story of Brad and his fiancée Janet, who are two squeaky clean college kids. Out of the blue they meet Dr Frank’n’Furter when their car breaks down outside his house, while on their way to visit their favourite college professor. It’s an adventure they’ll never forget, with fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity, bursting with timeless songs and outrageous outfits.
Actor, presenter and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Ore Oduba, is very suited to the part as Brad Majors. I knew from Strictly that he could dance, but was not aware that he has such a great singing voice. I liked his rendition of “Once in a While” very much.
Stephen Webb is a powerful Frank who commanded the stage whenever he appeared. He, too, has an outstanding singing voice. Everything he did was perfection – singing, dancing and physical comedy, not to mention quick drag changes. His comedy timing is superb.
In many ways Philip Franks made it for me, gliding around the stage as The Narrator. He is very much in command of the role and his connection with the audience was strong. Those more familiar with the show than me would not have been surprised that his narration included very up to date references to the news and also to Nottingham and the surrounding area. This was a pantomime-like performance of the highest quality.
Haley Flaherty is wonderful as Janet, Brad’s fiancée. She worked well with Ore and was very popular with the audience. A saucy bed scene with Frank was very well performed and very funny. What a sweet but powerful voice she has, too.
Callum Evans as Rocky, the monster, is certainly very well cast, as he can sing and dance well and has a body more like a male model than a monster. He was much appreciated by many in the audience!
The whole cast are great performers. Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff who incidentally has a look of Spike Milligan, Lauren Ingram as Columbia, and Joe Allen in the dual role of Eddie and Dr Scott. The Phantoms who danced and sang well are Reece Budin, Jordan Fox, Rachel Grundy and Danny Knott (male swing).
The explosive choreography by Nathan M Wright, was fantastic to watch as the cast rampaged around the great set by Hugh Durrant, wearing the spectacular costumes by Sue Blane. As you would expect, Darren Ware’s hair and make-up was also pretty special.
The exciting Lighting Design by Nick Richings and the excellent sound by Gareth Owen complement the excellent production by Director Christopher Luscombe.
I was delighted with the well-balanced rock band which is high up above the stage. Unlike some productions of this type, it is just set at the right volume and I could hear every word of songs and all the dialogue.
The show features all of the famous musical numbers which have made The Rocky Horror Show such a huge hit for over forty years including “Sweet Transvestite”, “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, “Dammit Janet” and, of course, the timeless floor-filler, “The Time-Warp.” For that, be prepared to stand up and join in - otherwise you will see nothing and miss a lot!
This was, for me, a great night of musical theatre and having seen it for the first time I hope to see it many times again in the future. Last night I didn’t dress up, but in the future who knows?
As there are some “naughty bits” in the show there is a 12+ advisory on it. (14+ for unaccompanied youngsters).


Theatre Royal Nottingham
July 22nd 2021
Yasmin Joseph’s excellent and ambitious debut play follows three young women at the Notting Hill Carnival. It celebrates the spirit of Claudia Jones, the Trinidadian-born political activist and “Mother of the Carnival”, who brought joy to the Caribbean community, following the racist violence and riots in 1958.
It was quite an experience for me, as it is not the usual sort of production I get to see. It certainly brings Notting Hill Carnival alive, telling the story not just of three dynamic and vivacious women, but many other characters and their struggles, too.
The powerful script combined with superb acting, atmospheric music, tight production, an exciting set, great sound and lighting all made for an outstanding production, which I really enjoyed. Anyone wanting to see wonderful versatility and brilliant characterisation should get along to see this.
Annice Boparai, Gabrielle Brooks and Sapphire Joy are all exciting and engaging, they slip into many different roles seamlessly and with complete conviction. They were scintillating last night, bringing infectious zest and enthusiasm to a captivated audience. Despite only being three of them, they fully created the atmosphere of the Carnival on the stage. There was a considerable amount of interaction with the audience, some of whom were obviously familiar with the Carnival and for whom the story has great resonance. At the end many were on their feet dancing and singing joyfully to the loud reggae music.
The production team did a great job with this play and were:
Directer - Rebekah Murrell; Designer - Sandra Falase in collaboration with Chloe Lamford; Movement - Shelley Maxwell; Lighting Designer - Simisola Majekodunmi; Sound Designer - Beth Duke; Casting - Isabella Odoffin
In my opinion this is a wonderful, thought provoking production that is thoroughly entertaining.


The Final Twist

Tabs Productions & Theatre Royal Nottingham

The Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season 2021

Something a bit different from Tabs Productions this week – a comedy thriller: a cross-genre that has a foot in two camps. A comedy thriller has to be funny but gripping at the same time, balancing a dark tone with strongly comic moments.

Well, this one has all that and a lot more: twists, turns and trickery that keep us guessing – and laughing - right up until the last second. It’s a tightly written, fast paced play made thoroughly entertaining by the direction (Jeremy Lloyd Thomas) and sparkling delivery from all the cast.

Charlie Nicholson (David Martin) a weak willed and down at heel playwright, has writer's block, but when he is offered a commission by a famous actor he sees a way to pay off his debts. Sir Merlin Foster (Andrew Ryan), a splendidly vain and pompous thespian, has specific demands: the script must contain the perfect method and alibi for the murder of his wife, only then can it be convincing. Eden Dundee (Sarah Wynne-Kordas), Merlin's wealthy young wife, is to remain in the dark, so he can surprise her with the play...

Andrew Ryan is superb as the flamboyantly immodest Sir Merlin, his richly fluent delivery and perfect comic timing make him a joy to watch. He has ample chance to show off his versatility and flair for characterisation, to great comic effect. David Martin is an excellent foil as the bumbling and increasingly alarmed Charlie, trying to make sense of Sir Merlin’s outrageous plans. Like the audience, he is being constantly surprised by events and left wondering if the outcome is going to be quite what he expects. The interplay between these two contrasting characters is brilliantly conveyed by the actors, through their total command of the rapid, witty dialogue. Sarah Wynne Kordas is completely engaging as the patient but flirtatious wife, tantalising with ambiguity over what her motives and role in the proceedings might be.

Any young actors who want a masterclass in how to perform this type of play well should get along and watch this great cast at work.

The set - a charming living room in a country cottage - is full of detail and effectively lit to convey time changes, from gentle sunlight to the middle of the night. Although it remains the same set throughout, the fast pace of the story and some swift and amusing entrances and exits keep the fun going and interest high.

The scene is enlivened by a recurring musical motif and some wryly appropriate soundtracks at each curtain fall. Sarah Wynne Kordas was the designer, Michael Donoghue was responsible for lighting and David Gilbrook for sound.

This is the last play in the Colin McIntyre season at the Theatre Royal, which has been tremendously well received. It provides a great night of entertainment and a very satisfying final twist.


“Camp Rock” by Erewash Musical Society Youth Group

Duchess Theatre

Long Eaton. July 8th 2921

Review courtesy of Kev Castle

I’ll admit that I have never seen this musical before so I had no expectations of what to expect, although I have listened to the soundtrack. I deliberately did not watch the film or seek it out on Youtube as I wanted this production to be what I base my first experience of the show on. And I was pleased that I did

Camp Rock is the ultimate camp for aspiring musicians. This summer at camp was supposed to be all about the music and having the time of their lives, but the new, flashy Camp Star across the lake now threatens Camp Rock’s very existence. To keep the doors open, Michie steps up, rallies her fellow Camp Rockers, and gets them into top shape for the ultimate showdown!

Throw into the mix a rekindled love story between Mitchie Torres and the lead singer of hit boyband Connect Three, Shane Gray, plus deep rivalry between Brown Cessario and ex band mate Axel Turner, who has set up Camp Star, plus two singing divas Tess Tyler and Luke Williams, and this show becomes an explosion of music and lights... and a few fireworks (not literally).

I think that I can honestly say that for such a young cast, the singing was spectacular, and I don't know if that is because the show and soundtrack is aimed direct at this particular age group or what. That said, some of these songs were complicated with some of the key changes and ranges and everyone stepped up to the mark vocally. the vocal acrobatics were kept to a minimum which kept the singers in tune.

Francesca Foster (Mitchie Torres) has a really strong voice and these songs suit her down to the ground. In a few years time, she is going to have an amazing singing voice. When she duets with Gabryl Oleshko (Shane Gray) they sound really good together. That said Gabryl has a very strong voice himself, and I can see the same for Gabryl as I foresee for Francesca, especially with the proper vocal training.

Making up the trio of Connect Three are James O Boyle (Nate Gray), who's highlight for me was "Introducing Me", which would not sound out of place on a McFly album, and the other Gray was played by William Robbins (Jason Gray). Together they make a convincing boyband who sound good together.

I adored the fierceness of Rosey Mallins ( Caitlyn Geller), she has sass by the bucketload!

Alice Renshaw (Tess Tyler) makes the perfect diva who reflects her male counterpart diva in Joel Dawson (Luke Williams)

Sky Stacey (Brown Cessario) is wonderful as the Camp Rock leader and Amelia Kram (Axel Turner) makes a worthy rival in the separate camps, both determined to win as the bitterness from the split from the band 15 years earlier reared its' ugly head.

I also loved the cheekiness of Harry O Boyle (Barron James).

The whole cast worked as a whole and looked like a well-oiled machine. The rest of the cast were Amy Dawson ( Margaret Dupree), Emma Foster (Ella Pador), Eleanor Cooper (Rosie Day), Ewan Hoole (Sander Loya), Katie Fitzpatrick (Andy Hosten), Elin Haycock (Lola Scott), Sinead Walsh (Dana Turner) and Niamh Massey (Georgina Farlow). All worthy of a mention.

It was also great to see Gabryl, James and William playing guitars and drums on stage. Kudos to all three.

The live band, also on stage sounded great, Chris Renshaw (MD and guitar), Dave Dallard (Keyboards), Rob Holsman (guitar), Kev Maltby (bass) and Phil Holland (percussion/drums). The mix between the band and vocalists matching most of the time, as there were a couple of moments when the mics for the vocals needed upping just a tad, nothing to detract from the all-round mix though. The sound guys were Dave Dallard and Harvey Tavener.

The soundtrack has several incredibly catchy tunes and you will not leave that theatre without having some of them going around your head. Songs like "It's On", "Can't Back Down", "Tear It Down" and "Introducing Me" will be your new earworms for the next week or so. I defy you to keep your feet still to this music!

The lighting (Dave Martin) was possibly one of the snazziest I have seen for a while, not only on stage but the length of the steps leading up to the stage. It gave the feeling of a concert performance.

The choreography was sensational, and I am so pleased that choreographer Abigail Lagou didn't go down the easy route, because some of these pieces were not as easy as they looked. A job well done and I can bet she was a very proud lady after tonight's show.

And finally we come to the Director. This was the debut as solo Director for Hayden Fletcher and he did a wonderful job. I have been watching Hayden on stage for quite a few years now and love chatting to him, as I did after the show tonight, and knew from when I first saw him perform in "Out There" years ago, that he was going to have a future on, and off stage. It's his passion for what he does, and that passion spills out in this production. I know that he also is a very proud young man tonight, and he deserves that pride because his cast and crew have not only done themselves proud, they have done Hayden proud.

There was only one thing that I could mention, and that was that a couple of times there was a bare stage where the stage managers could tighten up on entrances, but I know how small the wings are at the Duchess and with such a large cast, I'm putting it down to that. We are talking seconds her by the way and possibly went un-noticed by the rest of the adoring crowd.

Many people will draw similarities between "Camp Rock" and "High School Musical". Let me tell you, this is the better of the two as I found HSM slightly twee. This has more substance and better songs.

A brilliant, feel good musical that welcomes EMUS back to the stage, and I loved one of the first lines spoken mentioning that it was good to be back after the last year. How apt was that for an opening gambit? Oh and we also get to see some of the rehearsals via the big screen on stage.

To gauge a reaction on how well this musical was received, you just needed to listen to the roars of the applause during "Camp Rock Megamix" which closed the show.


Tabs Productions & Theatre Royal Nottingham,
The Colin McIntyre Classic Thriller Season
Kiss of Death by Simon Williams
July 7th 2021
I was surprised to read that this play was written by Simon Williams, as I only know him as an actor, notably in ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ in the 70’s and lately on the radio in The Archers. However, Simon is very much a writer too, having written several novels and seven plays, hoping to emulate his father, the actor/playwright Hugh Williams. This play is his second thriller and my goodness, does it thrill! Simon has said that while comedy aims for laughs, thrillers aim for gasps; this play certainly caused me not only to gasp a few times, but to jump in my seat, too.
A special unit of detectives, including the grimly determined but charismatic George Brocklebank (Cameron Johnson) and the charmless, mysterious oddball Bernard Heal (Jeremy Lloyd Thomas), are on the case of a grisly serial killer. They’re prepared to go to any lengths and even break a few procedural rules to trap him. They enlist the help of the feisty Zoe Lang (Anna Mitcham), persuading her to act as bait and become the next potential victim of their suspect John Smith, played with chilling weirdness by Andrew Ryan.
After working hard to assume an alias, Zoe is put in a seemingly very dangerous situation. One that gets creepily personal…
The narrative appears straightforward once the plot is outlined and it promises to be an intriguing cat and mouse tale. However, it is so much more than that, as we become unsure just who is telling the truth and if anybody is who they appear to be.
The writing is spiced up by touches of humour and some haunting repetitions of poetry, but the atmosphere is always dark and menacing, putting us on tenterhooks throughout. Lively characterisations and total commitment from the actors keep the audience engaged and concentrating throughout.
The director, Karen Henson, is to be congratulated on maintaining the tension throughout this production, never allowing the pace to slacken and providing plenty of visual interest and a couple of genuine shocks. The clever set design (Sarah Wynne Kordas) is suitably stark, seedy and uncomfortable, establishing the sense of unease that prevails right from the beginning. Both lighting (Michael Donoghue) and sound (David Gilbrook) are essential to the atmosphere of the play and are expertly managed to add to the immersive experience.
The twist at the end of the play and the resolution were certainly unexpected by me, but any budding sleuths could well spot the clues sometime before. If that’s you, then get yourself a seat for this excellent drama from Tabs Productions. Just don’t expect to remain in it the whole time…


Father Brown – ‘The Murderer In The Mirror’ 

Tabs Productions and Rumpus Theatre Company
Nottingham Theatre Royal - June 29th

G K Chesterton wrote more than 50 Father Brown stories, between 1910 and 1936 and they were hugely popular with the public. Towards the end of that time he was producing them quickly to pay the bills and he had low regard for their worth, describing himself as having ‘written some of the worst mystery stories in the world.’
He was wrong, as these intriguing tales about the gentle, wise cleric who uses his keen observational skills and deep understanding of human nature to solve crimes, have endured and still delight us today.
I was concerned that I would not be able to accept anyone other than Mark Williams as Father Brown, as I so enjoy the television series, but I needn’t have worried. John Lyons is a quietly commanding presence and quickly establishes himself with the audience, at times addressing us directly to set the scene and share his wisdom. This cleverly written adaptation is an ensemble piece, with each character carefully drawn, so that when a murder occurs we, along with Father Brown, can weigh up who might be the perpetrator.
John Goodrum - who also wrote this adaptation- plays the magnificently wordy Mundon Mandeville, theatre impresario and producer; Karen Henson is his wife, the gloriously flamboyant Miriam Mandeville; Christopher Brookes is Norman Knight, a talented and energetic young actor; Lara Lemon plays the canny stage manager/ambitious actor Susie Sands and David Gilbrook is Sam, the lighting operator and stage doorman.
There is lots of necessary exposition in the first part of the play, to set the scene: one of the great pleasures of a murder mystery is listening carefully and observing closely to try and spot the clues that are being laid. I formulated a couple of loose theories, but was completely wrong and the events that form the basis of Father Brown’s conclusions did not alert me at all!
As well as the joy of the whodunnit, this production also gives us the pleasure of excellent acting – the diction is superb and the characterisations are thoroughly engaging. A versatile set takes us on stage at a theatre in 1927, yet manages to convincingly convey underneath the same stage. Sound effects and well placed lighting help to pull this off and create a damp and mysterious atmosphere, which serves the play well. In the same way the splendid costumes set the time period and, at various times, add another layer of interest to the characters.
It was so nice to back in this great theatre, watching a solidly entertaining production of an intriguing play. Congratulations to the team at the Theatre Royal, who ensured that the necessary Covid precautions did not at all dim their welcome or lessen the theatre going experience.



Leos Youth

Duchess Theatre

July 1st

Interval at the Duchess Theatre and Leos “10.” Writing about the first half of the show is easy. It was simply Fab u lous!

I have just watched some wonderful dance routines which were energetically performed and brilliantly choreographed. The young stars , for stars they all are, were all on time and synchronised throughout. There have also been some great solo and group performances.

Songs and dances have come from shows including High School musical, Singin’ in the rain, Suessical, Joseph and Hairspray which I am going to see in London soon. I hope it will be as good there as it was here just now. The great You Can’t Stop the Beat ended the Act fantastically. I loved it.

The Young people are full of so much energy and it is obvious that they are overjoyed to be back on stage. They are all really giving it there all. I have enjoyed every minute of it and looking forward to the start of Act 2.

More great songs coming up including the great Sit down, You’re Rocking the boat, Tomorrow and Memory.

The audience by the way are really enjoying this show and the applause is wonderful to hear.

Act 2 of Leos “10” has finished and did not disappoint. As in Act 1 there were many excellent individual, group and cast performances of great songs from shows performed by the group over 10 years.

It would be wrong to mention any performers individually and if you were here you would know why - they were all just fantastic. The team work was very evidently strong and all contributed to the success of individual numbers.

I must comment on the costumes too which were lovely and many of the cast had quite quick changes but all were done with no delays. In fact the show moved at a fast pace. The cast showed no sign of nerves and were confident in what they were doing. This is great considering the restraints put on the production team and cast by the pandemic. Splitting the cast into two groups worked very well indeed.

Overall though for me the greatest pleasure came from the quality of the dancing which was extremely good from the whole cast. They even performed their first tap routine which was impressive!

This was described as a concert but it was much more than that. It was a musical show which was just right to celebrate the groups 10th birthday. It demonstrated how the young people have been taught the many skills of performance and I am sure they will continue to use those skills in the years to come. Well done Leos you were all brilliant!

I mustn't forget though to mention the excellent production team who must have worked very hard and also the choreographers, some of whom were from the group. The whole show was also enhanced by excellent sound and lighting.


Strictly Sex Factor on Ice / Lockdown at Little Grimley by David Tristram
Riverside Drama Company
Duchess Theatre. Long Eaton.
June 24th 2021
Tonight at the Duchess Theatre, Riverside Drama Company took us to the village of Little Grimley, for two plays about the antics of the hapless Amateur Dramatic Society. Written by David Tristram, both have a simple premise - The Little Grimley theatre group are trying to work out how to get audiences to their obviously awful productions.
The first play “Strictly Sex Factor on ice” was really a curtain raiser, introducing us to the four characters of the Little Grimley Dramatic Society . They are Gordon, played by Phil Whitaker, Margaret played by Samantha Badman, Bernard played by Dan Bates and Joyce , the Society’s bumbling secretary, played by Rebekah Dean. The Chairman of the Society, Gordon, comes up with a madcap idea to finally turn more than the 4 pence profit their last production made. All they need is an audience…
The Second play “Lockdown in Lower Grimley” re-introduces us to the same characters, who are this time fighting against the effects of Covid Lockdown. Gordon calls an emergency meeting, complete with masks and social distancing, to discuss his idea for their next production when restrictions ease - a touching love story set in a hospital…
Both plays are a clever mix of one liners, word play and comic misunderstandings, as well as physical comedy; they border on farce, but are crisply funny. The characters are clearly drawn, so we quickly appreciate the exasperated dry wit of Gordon, the broad no nonsense humour of Bernard, the laughable affectations of Margaret - and her delicious flashes of crudity- and the hilarious dimness of Joyce. That most of the actors are younger than these characters are likely to be doesn’t matter a jot, they have them nailed and we thoroughly believe in them. Tight direction ensures that the delivery is always well paced and naturalistic, no over acting or pauses for laughter.
I appreciated the finely honed skills of all the actors and was pleased that, without mics, every word was easy to hear. All have developed their characters, both through voice and bearing and clearly some thought has gone into their convincing appearances. Jokes abound, and there are elements of slapstick, but the little details we hear about these well-acted characters keep us believing in them. All credit to both the director and the actors that they produce lots of laughs in some larger than life situations, yet still tell an engaging story about people we recognise.