Monthly Archives: December 2015

Peter Pan ~ Malvern Theatres

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My final pantomime visit of the season was to see Peter Pan at Malvern Theatres. In my opinion, this was the best I’ve seen this year and it was everything a pantomime should be. It held the attention of two under two year olds, for a start! To the point where a fellow audience member commented on how well behaved my little boy and his pal had been.

The set was bright, effective and simple, this worked because there was not one weak link in the incredibly strong cast, led brilliantly by musical theatre star Jessica Punch. I had seen Jessica previously in Singin’ In The Rain and she was memorable, then – as Peter Pan, she brought a marvellously mischievous element to the character. Her ‘flying’ was also impressive, and her singing voice, which I had prior knowledge of, a joy to behold. Mark Moraghan is the best Captain Hook I have seen to date, and I’ve seen many of them over the years! He had the right mixture of villain and hapless fool to bring the right balance to the character and earned himself a heckle from my young companion.

Rosie Needham played a feisty Tinkerbell, another actress with great vocal ability and she delightfully glided across the stage on roller skates. Andrew Agnew (best known from Balamory) was excellent as Smee, his previous children’s entertainment experience made him an instant hit with the young audience members, and the acrobatic scene was just the ticket at a point in the show where the youngsters’ attention was starting to wain. A well timed peak in the pantomime. Hannah-Jane Fox was a beautiful Mrs Darling and a hilarious comedy mermaid, later on. Fox’s vocal abilities are truly stunning and it was no surprise to learn that she has starred in musical theatre.  The crocodile was also pretty impressive in this version, as it hurtled across the stage on wheels!

The choice of music was spot on, a combination of modern and classic hits which carried the momentum of the show along smoothly. Defying Gravity was the highlight for me, a good choice to showcase some of the female talent in the cast.

Peter Pan stays in Malvern until 3rd January 2016, this pantomime is highly recommended by my young toddler and I. It’s good, wholesome family entertainment and you’d have to go a long way to find another that matches the quality of this show.

http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk is the website to visit to book tickets.

 

Alice ~ Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

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An alternative pantomime is currently in-situ at the Mill Arts Centre in Banbury and it’s a creative marvel. Alice is produced by Oxford based Creation Theatre and performed by a cast of four, three of whom take on multiple roles to superb effect.

Rachel-Mae Brady made a perfect Alice, she played the character in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. Indeed the show itself reflected the serious undertones with the ultimately ridiculous, very well. This, in my opinion has always been a story that works on many levels and is suitable for all age groups, because of the various ways in which one could ‘read’ the story.

This production included some puppetry to provide a clever guise for the alternating size of the title character. The dormouse was also played by a bedraggled looking puppet (worked by ensemble member Luke Chadwick-Jones), the puppet fitted in with the theme of the elaborate tea party, to a tee, though! Chadwick-Jones also played an acrobatic White Rabbit and captured the character’s ‘lunacy’ both physically as well as emotionally.

James Burton moved seamlessly between Pigeon, Mad Hatter and other characters, he took each part so well that it was easy to forget it was the same actor in a multitude of roles.

The set was minimal, yet engaging and there was good use of colour to draw one in to a scene. Especially so in the presence of the Queen of Hearts (who was having a full on nervous breakdown about her tarts, this was one of many roles played brilliantly by ensemble member, Emma Fenney).  Fenney was also a very ‘sexy’ caterpillar with a glorious costume which she ‘worked’!

The songs were fun, catchy and helped to maintain my own child’s attention, they were well placed throughout the production and all of the cast displayed excellent vocal ability as well a cornucopia of other talents.

Congratulations to director, Helen Tennison and the creative team on a beautiful piece of theatre.

Miss it at your peril! Click this link to book tickets and to see what else Creation Theatre have to offer: https://www.creationtheatre.co.uk/show-two and the following link is for The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury which is a fantastic venue: https://www.themillartscentre.co.uk/cms/

Peter Pan ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

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“To Me, To You” is undoubtedly a catchphrase associated with children’s entertainers, The Chuckle Brothers and upon hearing that they were headlining in the pantomime at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre, this Christmas, the expectation was high.

My expectations were met and the fact that this spectacular family show also managed to capture and for the most part, keep the attention of a child who is not yet 2 years of age, is testament to the pantomime that QDOS has produced. Magical scenery which seamlessly changed together with a variety of catchy musical numbers, (notably Rather Be), make a winning combination to be proud of. The chorus are the lynchpin, in my opinion and an excellent team have been put together, the choreography was slick and struck the right balance.

Ross Carpenter is a quirky and chirpy Peter Pan, Hannah Nicholas plays opposite him as Wendy and displays beautiful vocal ability. Joining them with equally stunning vocal ability, as a very appealing Tinkerbell (her appearance inspired a fellow adult male audience member to shout “I BELIEVE!”) – is Lucy Evans. With Eastenders star John Altman (Nasty Nick Cotton) playing another villain, Captain Hook, the cast is formidable indeed. Stealing the show with hilarious audience participation and the perfect comedy duo (naturally), The Chuckle Brothers of course. They took the helm of the pantomime and steered it into traditional ‘waters’. After years in ‘the business’, they haven’t lost their ability to entertain a variety of age groups and long may they continue to do so.

The piece de resistance was the pirate ship, a splendid vessel indeed, which captured the imagination of the youngest member of our party! Large-scale pantomimes are QDOS’s speciality and Peter Pan is no exception.

Tickets can be booked via this link: http://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/panto must end on Sunday 24th January 2016.

You’ll be sorry if you miss it…. oh yes you will!

 

Santa’s Rusty Robot ~ Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

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If you’re looking for a short, sharp and interactive children’s show to get the whole family in the festive spirit, this is a sure-fire hit with youngsters and big kids alike.

With Ellie the Elf, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, the man in the big red suit with the white beard, also known as Santa, and the star of the show, the robot! The story is a heart-warming tale of a robot who has been lovingly crafted by Santa for a little boy and who has inadvertently rusted, therefore rendered unable to move and to process information. The latter of the robot’s unfortunate traits was found most hilarious by many sniggering children in the audience!

Rudolph is played by a puppet who is incredibly engaging and delighted my toddler, Santa was jolly and looked like the man himself – maybe he was? Then there was Ellie the Elf who was vibrant, energetic and kept the flow and pace of the show going, throughout.

Popular songs were included for the audience to sing, dance and clap along with and the opportunity to meet the cast and take home a special gift from Santa was an added and unexpected bonus. Congratulations to the cast who were all superb and made my little boy very happy. It’s aimed at ages 2-6 years and a great way to kick off the festivities.

The show stays at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry until Christmas Eve, after which Santa and his team will be busy elsewhere! The link for more information or to book tickets is here: http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/santas-rusty-robot

 

Anne Reid: I Love To Sing! ~ Malvern Theatres

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An evening of cabaret with national treasure and legend, Anne Reid is an opportunity not to be missed. An actress who has graced the stage, the small and big screen and whose reputation precedes her, to see the star of Last Tango in Halifax, Dinnerladies and Coronation Street, up close, personal and singing? Well, it was all I expected it to be and more!

Looking resplendent in a glittery black number, the diva was accompanied by Jason Carr who provided piano accompaniment and some vocals. They were a formidable duo, a visibly relaxed partnership and Carr’s musicality was divine. Hardly surprising as he has worked with a number of singers at the top of their game, such as Maria Friedman to name just one. I had not had the pleasure of listening to Ms Reid sing before, but it was a delight to hear her beautiful voice and the songs complemented her autobiographical banter, wonderfully.

So many of the musical numbers were favourites of mine, but I must pick out Addicted to Black, Memories and Makin Whoopee as some of the highlights. As an actress first and foremost (and one of the finest actresses, in my opinion), she connects with the pieces on a level that surpasses other singers. Once Upon a Time brought a tear to my eye, the lyrics really hit home and the way she can convey the emotions added an extra dimension to this number. Similarly while listening to Makin Whoopee I realised I had never considered the words upon hearing the song on previous occasions, but now I can remember them!

The stories that the star regaled us with were fascinating, I was personally interested to hear of her long friendship with Sarah Lancashire (who plays her daughter in Last Tango In Halifax) and also Lancashire’s parents. It was pleasing to hear that she enjoys playing the role of Celia in Last Tango as much as the public like watching her play the role. There was also a secret shared from the cutting rom floor of the hit film Love Actually, it seems we missed out on Reid and Frances De La Tour playing a pair of lesbian lovers!

I can’t recommend this show highly enough, this lady is one class act and cabaret suits her. The tour continues into 2016, so look out for it at a venue near you.

Wendy and Peter Pan ~ RSC, Stratford

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Atmospheric before the play itself had begun, Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC in Stratford has to be one of the most stunningly effective and pristinely performed pieces I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, this year.

Knowledge of the tale was not necessarily required, as Ella Hickson’s eloquent writing tells a thorough story. Perfectly cast with Mariah Gale and Rhys Rusbatch in the title roles and RSC Associate Artist Darrell D’Silva as Hook.

The scene was set in the beautifully ornate nursery where the interaction between the four Darling children (with Sam Clemmett as Tom, James Corrigan as John and Jordan Metcalfe as Michael completing the line up with their sister) opened the production in spectacular style. Completing the family unit were Rebecca Johnson and Patrick Toomey as their parents. The picture window provided a magical backdrop for Peter Pan’s dramatic entrance, aided and abetted by his many shadows who displayed precise choreographed movement.

The set moved to accommodate the journey that the children ultimately took with Pan, the alternation was so spot on it was hardly noticeable. Neverland was the stuff that dreams are made of, the lost boys were a zany mixed bag of personalities who complemented each other superbly. Then there’s the tremendous performance put in by Charlotte Mills a rather bawdy but thoroughly loveable Tink!

Peter Pan’s den emerged delightfully from beneath the stage, this theatre’s stage lends itself to this degree of technicality and it made such an impact. The visual effects, including flying and fights between pirates and lost boys which exuded sheer energy. Notable about Rusbatch’s performance was the exuberance he maintained throughout, in stark contrast to the dark yet comedic character that D’Silva out across as Hook.

The pirates in Hook’s gang were all excellent as individuals as well as a gaggle, David Langham played Knock Bone Jones and portrayed hilarious stark contrast to star of ITV’s Benidorm’s Adam Gillen who played a disillusioned Martin. Of course the pirate ship was a joy to behold and the crowing glory.

The RSC have a Christmas show to be proud of, heart-warming, heart-breaking and incredibly touching while sustaining an edge of wonder throughout.

It’s on until 31st January, for details and to book tickets, follow this link: https://www.rsc.org.uk/wendy-and-peter-pan/tickets/