Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

30/06/2018

Super Hero



Review by: Paul Towers, 30 June 2018
Super Hero by Adam Johnson, music & lyrics by Henry Roadnight
A National Youth Music Theatre production
Curve 30 June 2018

“professional quality performances.”

National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) was created in 1976 to enable young talented musical theatre performers to learn their craft in live productions. In the last few years Curve has been a regular stop on their annual tour and this year’s production was well up to their usual high standard. Since 2016 NYMT have been associate artists of Curve and have brought Sweet Charity, Spring Awakening and Billy The Kid to us.
This year’s offering, Super Hero, was commissioned by NYMT and written by alumni Adam Johnson and Henry Roadnight as part of NYMT’s commitment to nurturing new young musical theatre writers.
Super Hero is a timely story about how being different is often a good thing and something to be celebrated.
Sammy is special. Whenever he feels excited he starts to dance and everyone around him has no choice but to join in. In order for him to realise his potential his parents send him off to Hero School where he will fit in with all the other kids who have special powers.
This is a fun filled musical. Think X Men with music, comedy and dancing!
While the entire cast are exceptional there are  stand out performerances from 12 year old William Barter as Sammy and Florence Russell (20) as Principle Tilly Pathetic (channelling Maggie Smith’s Jean Brody to perfection).
As the villain of the piece and worthy of any pantomime, Anna Hale (21) as Miss Menace is ably assisted by her sidekick Mr Plop (Julian Plunkett 18) in their dastardly deeds. All of the cast give professional quality performances despite only being aged between 12 and 21.
Equally the orchestra is made up of talented musicians aged only 15 to 23.
This would make a great Christmas show for kids along the lines of Roald Dahl or Dr Seuss.
The next stop on their tour of this show is Rose Theatre, Kingston on 14th July
Full details of the work that National Youth Music Theatre does and its touring schedule can be found at www.nymt.org.uk/

http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

28/06/2018

Into the woods


Review by: Paul Towers, 27 June 2018
Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim
KW Productions, Kieran Whelan, Karen Gordon, Keir Watson
Little Theatre 26 – 30th June 2018

“KW Productions has shown their mastery of Stephen Sodheim’s works.”

Once again Kieran Whelan’s KW Productions has shown their mastery of Stephen Sodheim’s works.
Into The Woods is a mash up (to use the young people’s parlance) of several fairy tales but with a more realistic non-happy-ending. Oddly enough for a show that was first produced in 1986 it contains many themes that resonate with modern audiences.
Taking the stories of Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel as a starting point Sondheim twists the stories together to make a much darker tale of adultery, despair, retribution and greed.
The first half takes us along the familiar paths of the various characters and all seems resolved. Cinderella gets her Prince, Jack gets his fortune, Red Riding Hood survives the wolf and Rapunzel escapes from her tower.
Then, after the interval, their whole world comes crashing down, literally, and we are warned to be careful what we wish for.
Once again Keiran Whelan has gathered around him a cast of excellent singers and actors along with musical director Leigh White.
While several cast member deserve mention, Lee Samuels as the Baker, Tim Stokes as Jack and Danielle Smith as the Baker’s Wife, special mention has to be made of KW Productions regular Karen Gordon who has huge fun vamping it up as the Witch. Much high comedy is provided by Whelan and Kier Watson as Ugly Sisters, the Princes and the cow (I know, it has to be seen to be believed).
The set is very simple but not ineffective with lots of props scattered around. The costumes are not elaborate but serve the story well.
This production is part of the fund raising drive that The Little Theatre is running to finance a huge expansion of their premises. Tickets are still available for the rest of the run

https://www.thelittletheatre.net/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

22/06/2018

Richard Pulsford


Review by: Paul Towers, 22 June 2018
Uns-Pun by Richard Pulsford
Upstairs @ The Western, Friday, 22 June 2018

“pithy puns and topical one liners.”

If, like me, you have the attention span of a goldfish and are a fan of playground humour then Richard Pulsford is a name to watch out for.
Richard has been gigging since 2004 and is often compared with Tm Vine, Milton Jones, Gary Delaney or Stewart Francis. He has been an invited performer at Leicester Comedy Festival’s annual Pun Competition and competed favourably for the last 4 years.
In preparation for this year’s Edinburgh Festival in August he is part of Upstairs at The Western’s series of Preview gigs.
Tonight his material ranged from pithy puns to topical one liners. Being a preview show the material was a little patchy, but that is what it is for, to sort the wheat from the chaff. The intimate audience appreciated the show and groaned and laughed in all the right places. Full details of up and coming shows can be found at www.richardpulsford.com

Upstairs at The Western http://upstairsatthewestern.com/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

15/06/2018

Njambi McGrath & Sara Mason


Review by: Paul Towers, 15 June 2018
Njambi McGrath & Sara Mason
Edinburgh Festival Preview
Upstairs @ The Western, Friday, 15 June 2018

“an eclectic mix of acts.”

I just love Edinburgh Preview season at Upstairs at The Western. There is such an eclectic mix of acts and tonight was one of the most ‘interesting’
First up was Njambi McGrath, a Kenyan national now resident in the UK. Njambi came here a few years ago after visiting the US, which makes up a big chunk of her material in this show. Contrasting the American Dream as seen from East Africa with the racist reality makes for hard hitting comedy with a message. She has an endearing habit of rounding off rambling tales with killer one liners. She is also adept at throw away asides which catch the audience unawares. All great fun.

Now I am having trouble making this next act family friendly. But I will try.
Sara Mason is an accomplished actor, presenter and stand up comic. For the last 2 years she has been honing her latest show, Mistress Venetia, A Beginner’s Guide To Bondage and it is now set fair for Edinburgh. As the title suggests this is BDSM for Dummies, think Cynthia Payne with more whips as demonstrated by a middle aged dominatrix in garish pink boots and chains. There is very little I can safely say in a respectable family magazine except to point out that this is only for the very broadminded person who is up for both education in the dark arts and a fair amount of audience participation.

Upstairs at The Western http://upstairsatthewestern.com/
http://ptheatre.blogspot.co.uk/

13/06/2018

Checkout (or Archibald's Pacemaker)


Review by: Paul Towers, 13 June 2018
Checkout by Rob Gee
Upstairs @ The Western, 13th June 2018

“Hilarious, often Orton-esque.”

It is often difficult to critique a work in progress. In the case of Rob Gee’s Checkout he had the script to hand as this was a very early read through. While the main elements of this hilarious series of  interlinking stories are all there I feel there is still a little work to link them smoothly. That said, this is once again a travail through the often bizarre mind of Rob Gee, comic, poet and psychiatric nurse.
Dominic wakes up with a memory blackout and discovers he’s handcuffed to a coffin containing the cold stiff body of John Major. Archie has bequeathed his pacemaker to his friend who falls in love at his funeral. Maddy has kicked a burglar in the groin and now she has a taste for it. Bollock has his issues. Along the way we discover how a secondhand pacemaker can make a great toy for a 6 year old.
Gee’s last show, The King of Egypt (or Icarus Rising) introduced us to his surreal world and Checkout allows us to immerse ourselves in it even further. Hilarious, often Orton-esque, episodes pile one upon another as his characters lurch from crisis to crisis until, finally, they culminate in a sort of resolution. At least for some of them.
Information about Rob Gee’s work can be found at www.robgee.co.uk

Upstairs at The Western http://upstairsatthewestern.com/

10/06/2018

Dave Alnwick- Luxury Magician


Review by: Paul Towers, 9 June 2018
Luxury Magic – Dave Alnwick
Upstairs @ The Western, 9 June 2018

“an extraordinary bundle of ginger magic.”

When this extraordinary bundle of ginger magic bounced onto the stage of Upstairs at The Western last year I was blown away with his tricks and banter. This year he is back, prior to the Edinburgh Fringe, with a completely different show.
This time he has bundled together a load of card tricks which become more and more unbelievable as the show progresses. The patter this time is all about how psychology determines our life choices and, apparently, our card choices. As young Mr Alnwick would have us believe he lectures in psychology, I can well believe his assumptions.
He also demonstrated some amazing feats of memory.
He has a very charming, slightly bumbling, stage persona. Now, whether that is natural or put on to bamboozle the audience I have no idea, but it works like a dream
Dave Alnwick’s Luxury Magic show is on its way to Edinburgh and he has dates all the way up til then.
Full details of his shows can be found on Facebook at ww.facebook.com/davealnwick or his website http://davealnwick.com/

Upstairs at The Western http://upstairsatthewestern.com/


04/06/2018

Crazy for you


Review by: Paul Towers, 04 June 2018
Crazy For You , music & lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin, book by Ken Ludwig
A Watermill Theatre production directed by Paul Hart
Curve – 4 – 9th June 2018

“an evening of musical heaven”

From the moment the lights go down and a lone clarinet breathes out the opening bars of Rhapsody in Blue from behind the gauze you know you are in for an evening of musical heaven.
Crazy For You  is a show packed full of both familiar numbers and some new to the discerning musical theatre ear. The first half is a smorgasbord of Krazy For You, Shall We Dance, Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, Tonight’s The Night and I Got Rhythm. And that’s only the ones I recognised. There were just as many inbetween that were new to me.
The second half continued to spoil us with They Can’t Take That Away From Me, But Not For Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It and a fabulous finale. Again these were interspersed with a whole raft of unfamiliar numbers.
The Gershwins were a veritable song factory, far too many for anyone to know all of, so it is nice to get a sample of their less well know work alongside hummable standards.
This week at Curve is the last in a two year tour of this production and you can see the familiarity the cast have with each other, the little comic bits put in, the gymnastics they are comfortable with stretching almost to breaking point.
The story, such as it is, concerns Bobby Child, sent to the wilds of  Nevada to foreclose on a run down theatre mortgaged to his mother. There he meets a girl, Polly Baker and proceeds to fall in love. Of course, this is a romantic comedy musical so nothing goes right. But along way we get to see a whole load of dancing, singing and hilarity before the couple fall into each other’s arms just as the curtain comes down.
The company is lead by Tom Chambers, understandable winner of season 6 of Strictly, with Claire Sweeney as his pushy fiancĂ©e Irene. Claire of course is a familiar face at Curve having been in Hairspray. Bobby’s love interest, Polly, is played by Charlotte Wakefield, a powerhouse of a performer whether she is singing, dancing or playing instruments. In fact every single member of the cast plays an instrument. Even Tom Chambers carried a creditable tune on the trumpet.
The set, basically the run down theatre, is an ambitious one for a touring show with galleries, staircases and tatty balconies which the cast climb up and down at an alarming rate.. Tom Chambers even does a drunken abseil at one point which must have given Health & Safety nightmares!
As the entire musical accompaniment is live and on stage and often dancing as well, there is no recorded back up, no click track for the tap dancing. The incredible cast provide every single sound and effect in full view.
The Follies Dancers provide an effective chorus line as well as various characters and the redneck band provide the same service for the male characters.
This production, directed by Paul Hart and designed by Diego Pitarch is a credit to Watermill and the choreography by Nathan M Wright perfectly captures the essence of  1930’s backstage musicals.
I defy you to come out into the night not humming at least one number
Oh, and mention has to be made of the sumptuous programme. A huge A3 catalogue of high resolution production photographs with informative programme notes and background material.
Tickets for the rest of the week are available at www.curveonline.co.uk