Reviews from Paul's pen

Reviews from Paul's pen

29/11/2018

Four Wheeled Theatre - Now. Here. This.


Show Profile by: Paul Towers, 29 November 2018
Now. Here. This - Book by Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell, and Music and Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Four Wheeled Theatre prodcution
Upstairs @ The Western, 5th December to 22nd December

“Now. Here. This. - a taste of what is to come.”

Upstairs at The Western has taken a huge gamble on staging a single show over the festive period. Now. Here. This. is a musical from 2012 written very much under the influence of Stephen Sondheim for a tight cast of four.
This is not a review of the show (that will follow next week) but rather a taste of what is to come.
The show is wholly new with original music and lyrics, many of them very witty.
The cast comprise Sam Hannah, Simon Butler-Little, Kathryn Lenthall and Charlotte-Emily Bond. The boys have worked with Four Wheel Theatre before but the girls are new to the company.
With a live keyboard accompanied by a backing track this story is based around four friends at a natural history museum in America.
Innovatively the performances are scheduled in the upstairs theatre on the following dates: 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 20th, 21st and 22nd at 7.30pm. Additionally there will be promenade performances in the downstairs bar especially for those with mobility issues who can’t manage the stairs on 5th and 12th at 2pm. There will also be relaxed performances upstairs in the theatre on 15th and 22nd at 2pm. This all chimes very well with the management’s vow to make theatre at Upstairs much more accessible.

http://upstairsatthewestern.com/
First published on Western Gazette

24/11/2018

Kinky Boots


Review by: Paul Towers, 21/11/18
Kinky Boots – Harvey Feirstein & Cyndi Lauper
A Cameron Mackintosh presentation
Adelphi Theatre until 12 January 2019

“funny, musical and energetic.”

The 2005 film introduced us to Lola and how she saved Price’s shoes, the struggling Northampton footwear factory. In my opinion the film was quite bland and fell very short of the story’s potential for fun. The musical rectifies this in spades.
Harvey Fierstein (he of Torch Song Trilogy and Hairspray fame) provides a script that fizzes with fun and pathos, especially when addressing contentious issues and bigotry.
Cyndi Lauper’s soundtrack is punchy pop interwoven with ballads.
Graham Kent as Charlie Price, unwilling inheritor of the ailing shoe factory, is suitably square and rather hog tied by his girlfriend, Nicola (Cordelia Farnworth) who wants to see to a property developer and move to the bright lights of London. Enter the extraordinary Lola (Simon-Anthony Rohden), local drag queen and cabaret artiste in need of stilettoes that last more than one night. It’s a match made in heaven. Eventually.
Helped by Lola’s Angels (drag queens from her show) the factory is saved and the orders come flooding in.
By adding musical numbers and exploring Lola’s cabaret act this show becomes a dazzlingly funny, musical and energetic experience.
Kinky Boots closes at The Adelphi on January 12th but has been touring nationwide since September and continues until at least July 2019

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

20/11/2018

Spamalot


Review by: Paul Towers, 20 November 2018
Spamalot – book and lyrics by Eric Idle, music by John De Prez and Eric Idle
A Knighton Park Amateur Operatic Society presentation
Little Theatre 20 – 24th November 2018

“this is a very funny show"

I guess you have to be into Monty Python to fully appreciate Spamalot. And I am. It was my era.
‘Lovingly ripped off’ from Monty Python and The Holy Grail Spamalot is a musical adventure that includes loads of Python references, lots of theatrical spoofs and a plethora of sight and music gags.
Right from the moment the music starts and before the curtain has even lifted there are giggles and guffaws to be had. Absolutely nothing is taken seriously from thereon in.
The entire production is full of Python silliness. Even the dead parrot gets a couple of appearances. There are many little  sight gags which mean a  whole lot to devotees but slightly less to novice Python aficionados. Nevertheless each and every one raises a laugh.
Many of the costumes are intentional jokes in themselves. There is even a guest appearance of Eric Idle as God (on film, obviously)
The stand out performance of the night was Shelley Henry. I remember seeing her in Sister Act at Curve about 4 years ago when she absolutely stole the show. Here she is wonderfully cast as The Lady In The Lake and is given full reign to showcase her amazing vocal skills.
Another great part was Martin Bell’s Patsy, sidekick to King Arthur. Very much like Igor, downtrodden, subversive and getting loads of great comic lines.
A huge cast of 34 easily fill the stage of the Little Theatre and provide a professional standard show.
My sole gripe is that whereas you expect one or two audience members with weak bladders to interrupt the show you don’t expect it from a member of the production crew. The guy sat in front of me was up and down like a yoyo. If he felt the need to tweek the lights or sound then he should have reserved a back row seat so he didn’t disturb other audience members.
That said, this is a very funny, feel good show getting a well deserved standing ovation on the encore of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, which the audience sang along to.
Spamalot is at The Little Theatre until Saturday 24tth November.

http://www.thelittletheatre.net/
First published on Western Gazette

16/11/2018

Bleach


Review by: Paul Towers, 16 November 2018
Bleach by Dan Ireland-Reeves
Upstairs @ The Western, 16 November 2018

“the hostile world of male sex workers in London.”

Upstairs at The Western continues to schedule works that challenge and engage audiences.
Bleach is the latest work from multi award winning writer/actor Dan Ireland-Reeves.
Written and performed by the author this is an ultimately horrific tale of a young man caught up in the dark and hostile world of male sex workers in London.
Tyler Everett thinks that by escaping from the boring banality of his mother’s flat in the Midlands he can find fulfilment and a lavish lifestyle in London. Drawn into a world of drugs and increasingly dangerous paid sexual encounters, Tyler’s life spirals downward out of control.
The set is a large white plastic sheet littered with the accoutrements of the sex worker which Tyler packs into his backpack every day as he sets out to earn his money. To keep the boredom and tedium of his job at bay he resorts to Viagra and Cocaine increasingly. As his drug use escalates he finds it hard to distinguish between what has really happened and what is fantasy.
Dan Ireland-Reeves is an engaging writer and actor who draws us into the murky underbelly of London’s sordid nightlife in what should be a cautionary tale for anyone thinking that the streets of London are paved with gold.
More details of this and Dan’s other work can be found at www.danirelandreeves.co.uk/

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





15/11/2018

What would Sharron Davies do?


Review by: Paul Towers, 15 November 2018
What would Sharron Davies do? By Lesley Emery
Upstairs @ The Western, 15 November 2018

“a bitter sweet snapshot”

Lesley Emery is a firm favourite with Upstairs at The Western and returns again and again with her one-woman shows, consistently selling out full houses.
This time she introduced us to Janis Barlow (yes, IS because “if Sharron Davies can do two R’s then I can change ICE to IS”). Janis is a northern hairdresser married to Dave. Well, to be honest, merely tolerating him. She has had a disappointing life with failed marriages and a lack of children. But the one thing that has carried her through is her love for Sharron Davies, Olympic swimmer and TV pundit.
We join Janis in her sitting room ironing. She breaks off and chats to us. She is menopausal and is looking for a hobby and a new direction in life now that the IVF hasn’t worked. Her childhood idol, Sharron Davies’ picture hangs on the wall, an inspiration when things get tough. What would Sharron Davies do? Synchronised swimming, that’s what!
Much like a female Alan Bennett, Emery taps into the comedy of everyday words and everyday people. The minutiae of  the working wife as she struggles to cope with a changing life is played out on her settee. With current references slotted in to keep it relevant, Emery entertains us with a bitter sweet snapshot of Janis’ life as she makes a valiant effort to be pool-ready for a career as an older synchronised swimmer.
For further information about Lesley Emery and her work go to www.lesleyemery.com/

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

14/11/2018

Les Miserables International Tour


Review by: Paul Towers, 14 November 2018
Les Miserables based on the Victor Hugo novel. Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lyrics by Herbert  Kretzmer. Additional material by James Fenton and adapted by Trevor Nunn and John Caird
A Cameron Mackintosh production
Curve – 3rd November to 24th November

“spectacularly emotional”

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables was set around the 1830 revolution which saw the poor rise up against King Charles X and his obvious bias towards the rich. Hugo’s first novel, Notre Dame de Paris featuring the hunch back Quasimodo, was a success and in 1845 he started to write Les Miserables.
Set against the background of the uprising it is a story of the struggle between Jean Valjean and Javert and the love story of Cossette and Marius.
As the curtain rises Valjean is seen coming to the end of a 19 year sentence on the chain gang but struggles to make a living given his background. Javert vows to hunt him down as so begins a lifelong feud.
As much of the story revolves around the enmity of Valjean and Javert it is essential that the parts are cast well. In Killian Donnelly and Nic Greenshield the producers have found the perfect pairing. The other superb casting is Katie Hall’s Fantine who broke the hearts of the entire audience when she expired.
Light relief is provided by Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann as the disreputable inn keeper and his wife, the Thenardiers. Their rendition of Master Of The House is a Hogarth painting come to life.
The set, designed by Matt Kinley, is an incredible piece of planning; a jig saw of many pieces that fly in, turn round and drop down to form the various parts of Paris. Two three story towers frame the side of the stage and surprised us all by  sliding in and forming a complete street.
Add to this the incredible back projections which not only provide scenic references but are often animated making an escape through the sewers of the city incredibly realistic. The sound and light designed by Mick Potter and Paule Constable add to the atmosphere and are especially effective in the second act depiction of the barricade massacre.
This is a spectacularly emotional musical which is celebrating its 33rd year with an international tour.
The remaining dates at Curve are sold out and your only chance of a ticket is to call the box office in the hope that someone has fallen ill. Next stop Dublin, if you fancy your chances. But, given that Curve sold out within hours of tickets being released, it is unlikely you will be lucky.
First published on Western Gazette






08/11/2018

Dream On


Review by: Paul Towers, 08 November 2018
Dream On by Kirsty Munro
Upstairs @ The Western, 8 November 2018

“bonkers show.”

Thursday comedy at Upstairs at The Western this week featured Edinburgh Fringe veteran Kirsty Munro
This is the (true) story of a bipolar comedian who doesn’t appear to take her medication and has a meltdown during her Edinburgh run.  This is a cabaret show revealing and revelling in the mishaps of a misshapen mind. Embarrassing disasters, losing touch with reality and what not to do when the love of your life just doesn’t fancy you. How to serenade yourself into bed, confessional stories of pulling all nighters and things that go bonk in the night. In this show dreams will come true. Along the way we get Kirsty’s Dirty Dancing with a sex doll, the frustration of a terminal singleton and a chunk of gratuitous nudity. With lots of audience interaction this bonkers show careers to a (fairly) satisfactory finale at a wedding.
Follow Kirsty’s dreams on Twitter @MunroKirsty

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