Runs until Saturday 25th November
The Full Monty – ***** “Well worth a watch!”
The ultimate girl’s night out, that will have you laughing from the opening line.
Based on the Fox Searchlight Pictures Motion Picture, this award-winning play by Simon Beaufoy has been directed by Michael Gyngell and choreographed by Ian West who have done a fantastic job in bringing the show to life on stage.
The story has Gaz, played by Danny Hatchard, wanting to get back into work and make some money, to be able to support his son. He therefore comes to the idea of being coming a male stripper, together with his best friend Dave, played by Neil Hurst.
Soon the group grows to 6 men, who are all happy to learn how to dance and take their clothes off in the process. They learn a routine and the grand finale has them doing their show in their local pub on a Friday night!
The colours used are quite faded, to recreate the bleak atmosphere the characters faced, following the closing down of the steelworks. Though it is focused on showing the struggle the characters faced back then, there is plenty of room for comedy, fun and humour throughout. The music choices are great, to ensure the audience gets more involved, clap along and enjoy themselves watching the show. The cast is brilliant, and every member really gets into character throughout.
Well deserved the standing ovation at the end, it was humorous, fun, and worth seeing - 5 stars!
Reviewed by Josefine Pope
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, Judith Watsham
**** 4 stars “Full of energy and fun”
The average age of the recent Waterside audience plummeted as this family show attracted dozens and dozens of pre-school and primary age children last night, all with parents and grandparents tagging along. It was lovely to see this generation, reared on computer generated entertainment become absolutely absorbed by live theatre. One slightly puzzled toddler couldn’t understand why he could not rewind a bit he particularly liked when he had watched film versions.
The scenery, especially in a touring production like this was excellent but once again I must criticise the lighting when it was directed at the audience. Please keep it on the action and not let it roam! It certainly distressed one youngster near me.
Back to the set which slid on and off, turning as required with panels opening to display performers and the trailing tropical island vegetation. The New York skyline worked very well as did the tropical palms in Act II. All changes were slick and well-rehearsed by the cast responsible for the changes.
The programme is colourful and full of information, much of it to appeal to young children with, for example, facts about the lives of the real animals depicted on stage by the actors in beautifully designed costumes.
The very energetic dancing and singing brought the characters to life and, although I have never seen the animated film on which the story is based, I was told it was true to the original concept.
A true family show, Madagascar has everything to appeal to a young audience – colour, lively music, a brilliantly costumed cast and a simple, easy to follow plot. At the end everyone was on their feet, singing and dancing along with the dozen actors on stage.
Running in Aylesbury until Saturday November 18th and then touring.
Reviewed by Judith Watsham
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday
Reviewed by Judith Watsham
*** 3stars “Well cast full of talent and believable”
Start with the tale of five teenage girls obsessed with an (unnamed) boy band in the early 1990s; progress to their reunion twenty-five years later when they, and their audience, catch up with what happened to the four remaining girls after the tragedy that overtook the fifth member of the group. Toss in eighteen songs from the pen of Gary Barlow et al and, as they say, there you have it: The Official Take That Musical.
The set was simple, on two levels with steps moved by the cast into various configurations which worked well. The double cast boy band fans – both the sixteen-year-olds and the forty plus adults -were well cast and believable. The five talented singers and dancers, The Boy Band, moved and sang well, all incredibly energetic especially considering they formed the army of scene shifters. The remaining two members of the cast, the hardworking Every Dave who played a multitude of parts, usually with just a change of accent, cap and jacket, and the long-suffering partner of one of the grown-up quartet, were, like the rest of the cast both tuneful and dramatic as required.
Costuming was clever as the signature colours worn by the teenagers were picked up by the clothes and accoutrements carried by the grown-up quartet.
However, there were two problems for me with this one; firstly, the very strong regional accents, some of which were almost undecipherable for a while until my southern ear managed to attune itself so that I could at least get the gist of the dialogue. The other concerned the lighting. I have no problem with strobe lights hitting the audience but at times they were overpowering, and I could vaguely see that there was action on the stage from the cast, but I do suspect that some nuances of movement were missed.
The audience certainly loved the show, as overheard in the interval – ‘Well, my wife is, I think, re-living her misspent youth’, and came to its feet at the end clapping and cheering – not to mention dancing in the aisles.
Running in Aylesbury until Saturday November 11th and then touring until the end of the month.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,
Reviewed by Judith Watsham
**** 4.5 stars “Great pace, and feels good.”
A real ‘feelgood’ show for all those who love musical theatre as these talented singers worked their way through the genre, including show stopping numbers which saw their first performances over the last sixty years. There was something for everyone in this programme – from The Sound of Music, Moulin Rouge and West Side Story to twenty first century shows like Six, Dreamgirls and The Greatest Showman. All performed at a great pace with some excellent musical arrangements which changed some solo numbers into duets or quartets. The programme also included other numbers from the pen of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and current West End hits such as Wicked, Mamma Mia and Les Miserables, to name just of few of more than eighteen shows represented.
The four artistes concerned have all played the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, touring the show all over the UK. Sam Cassidy, Keith Jack, Mike Holoway and Graham Tudor displayed their vocal talents to the full, alternating the music with anecdotes concerning their time with the smash hit show and a question and answer session with the audience.
An inspired addition to their programme was the inclusion of the young members of a local music and drama group who joined them on stage to sing the chorus line in three ‘Joseph’ numbers. This is, apparently, the norm at every venue visited and consequently the large, and very appreciative, audience who packed the Waterside Theatre included the youngsters’ friends and families.
The staging was simple and very effective, just a few different levels which enabled the performers to vary the overall picture they presented, a Dreamcoat Stars backdrop and white drapes which were effectively lit in bright, changing rainbow colours – thus emphasising the ‘technicolour’ element. The lighting plot was extremely effective.
The quartet had two stage outfits, one for each ‘half’. In the first they wore suits, with a matching yellow, red, blue or green tie and pocket square which made at least one audience member comment that they looked like a row of singing solicitors. Their appearance improved in the second half when each carried his colour over into a bright satin jacket worn with a black shirt and trousers.
There seems to be a growing trend for shows to be paper programme free-the audience are invited to download a QR code on to their smart phones – and as phones are supposed to be switched off this makes it a tad difficult to sort out who is singing what! A quick canvass of some audience members in the interval indicated that, while appreciating the carbon neutral approach, it was not totally popular. Not everyone has a smart phone or, especially at a show like this where the average age of the audience is high, is tech savvie. One complaint came from an autistic girl whose programme collecting hobby had been foiled!
This week sees the end of Dreamcoat Stars Autumn 2023 Tour but more dates are to be announced for a new tour of the show in 2024.
The Woman in Black
Aylesbury: Waterside Theatre
Reviewed by Judith Watsham
**** 4 stars “Mesmerising from start to finish” Chilterns Review
The Woman in Black is on the GCSE Syllabus of many examining bodies, so it was no surprise that the auditorium was packed with 14–16-year-olds. Wondering what a generation reared on sound bites and video clips would make of the play and whether their attention might flag, and fidgeting commence I was delighted to find that they were mesmerised from the start such were the talents of the cast and production team led, of course, by director Robin Herford.
A deliberately slow and understated start soon morphed into drama as the tension mounted. On-stage screams were mirrored in the audience only to be succeeded by a few nervous laughs.
The cast, Malcolm James as Mr Kipps and Mark Hawkins as The Actor, were both excellent, especially Malcolm as he morphed seamlessly between characters and accents as the story unfolded. The actress playing the title role cannot be credited as there is no mention of her in the programme – she just hovers menacingly as the tension mounts.
A play such as this, with very minimal flats, tattered ‘tabs’ and just a few props, depends heavily on the skills of the technical team all of whom worked tirelessly to achieve the effects required. From the blanketing mist which engulfed the stage to the dimly seen haunted room with its empty rocking chair moving as if someone invisible was sitting in it, all added greatly to the mounting tension.
One small carp, however. The protagonists’ projection faltered towards the end of the play unfortunately and I was not the only one who struggled to pick up some of the dialogue. This was strange as, apart from the opening scene when Mr Kipps, deliberately, slightly mumbled his words as he lowered his head to read from the character’s written account, diction and projection had been clear throughout – even when the character of Kipps was taking on other roles and accents.
Judging from overheard comments as I left the Theatre the audience really appreciated the performance and were very glad that they had seen this production.
Running in Aylesbury at 7.30 pm until 14th October, with matinees at 2.30 on 11th and 14th before touring.
Peter Pan Goes Wrong,
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre,
Reviewed by Judith Watsham
***** 5 stars
“Impeccable timing from a talented cast”
This touring production hit Aylesbury last night like a tornado. Think of anything and everything that could go wrong on stage – especially to a cash-strapped amateur company – and it does. Failing lighting and sound, collapsing scenery, cast injuries, a malfunctioning revolving stage – it all happens to the very inept ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’, aka The Mischief Company, a very talented small group of actors whose mishaps raised gales of laughter from the audience.
The cast engaged the audience from the start – about twenty minutes before ‘Curtain Up’ - by appearing on stage, and in the auditorium, to rectify ‘faults’ – at one point, for example, a long cable was passed through to audience who had to hold it above their heads in a, successful, attempt to get some lights on the set to function.
The programme is worth a read too as the ‘proper’ programme incorporates Cornley’s own very amateur effort, full of corrected errors and (mis)information, it is a very funny read. The idea of an announcement that a forthcoming production will be Romeo and Juliet 2: Back from the Dead gives a hint of the rest of the spoof content.
It takes a great deal of skill and impeccable timing from the talented cast to stage this production and everyone concerned was always absolutely spot on. I cannot single out any single member of the cast as all were brilliant and worked very well as a team, some of their facial expressions brought to mind the phrase ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ and their interaction with the audience was absolutely priceless at times.
This is a very technical-heavy show, relying as it has to on the cleverly designed collapsing set, spotlights being in the ‘wrong’ place before correction and a complex sound plot. Therefore I can only praise the entire creative and production team for their ingenuity and hard work.
Running in Aylesbury until Sunday 8 October and then touring various venues until 31 March 2024.
At The Lyric Theatre, London from 23 November 2023 to 14 January 2024
David Robinson will be talking about the show on his radio show and the review will appear in the Chilterns Review Magazine
The Carpenters Story
Reviewed on Sunday 17th September.
“A timeless trip that’s Top of the World.”
The Carpenters created a beautiful musical back drop throughout the 1970s thanks to the quality of the arrangements from Richard Carpenter, and of course the sublime smooth and rich singing from his younger sister Karen.
Last night we were treated to a wonderful celebration of all this and more as we took a nostalgic journey together and heard once again the songs that had been a part of our growing up, and we loved it!
We were encouraged to sing along if we knew the words, which to most people there was a laughable suggestion because of course they all knew the words! One lady behind me was singing along lustily to every number and even though she was in a different key much of the time, it didn’t really matter to the rest of who were also joining in! The emotion in her voice said so much which strangely others around her understood, appreciated, and accepted.
The show is a tribute to the Carpenters, but it is also a retelling of their story and own personal journey as the brother and sister team who won The Hollywood Bowl Battle of the Bands competition in 1966 which started them on the road to success, after they were signed by Herb Albert to his record label.
The show unfolds with all the Carpenters hits as you would expect, but punctuated with news stories from the time, charting their career progress right through to Karen’s untimely death in 1983. The story telling made for a very interesting evening as we were taken back to another time where to quote MD Phil Aldridge; ‘Pop music was tuneful,’ or words to that effect, which generated a few titters around the theatre!
The Carpenters Story was devised by Aldridge, and the show was slick and ran seamlessly. Aldridge was leading a seven-piece band, who recreated Richard Carpenters arrangements beautifully and authentically.
Fronted by Claire Furley on lead vocals the evening was a very enjoyable trip down memory lane for the sizable audience at the wonderful Waterside Theatre. Karen’s vocals are nigh on impossible to recreate as she had such a unique sound, but Furley did an admirable job in paying tribute to her which is no easy task.
Catch The Carpenters Story on tour around the UK at a venue near you and be transported to ‘Yesterday Once More’.
Mandy Watsham Dunstall
Strictly Ballroom – 4 stars
The Midlands Arts Magazine Chilterns Page
Waterside Aylesbury runs until this Saturday
Family favourite and feel-good evening out!
If you are after a fun evening out, wanting to watch a show that lightens your mood and makes you laugh then you are in for a treat with this one!
Based on the book by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, this musical has been directed by Craig Revel Horwood and co-choreographed by Jason Gilkison who both have done a fantastic job, bringing the show to life on stage and capturing the audience in the moment.
The story has Scott Hastings (Kevin Clifton) wanting to add a new spin to the traditional dance competitions, however he needs to find, coach, and encourage a new dance partner Fran (Faye Brookes) to join him and compete in the finale.
Kevin Clifton’s presence doesn’t go unnoticed, he owns the stage whether it is with the dancing or the singing itself, and the same goes for Faye Brookes paired with some great acting skills.
You can be prepared to see a lot of varied dance styles, from solo dances, to partner and group dances as well as some amazing vocal performances from the cast, including Kevin Clifton, Faye Brookes, and Gary Davis, who is playing Barry Five.
The staging and production are kept simple, but it works for the type of show this is and it still has a very homely feel to it.
It is like a modern Dirty Dancing; the show is worth seeing.
As you are in for a fun night out with good music, great singing and dancing and the odd uproar of laughter!
Absolute treat for the whole family!
Runs until 17th June in Aylesbury.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Musical
Runs until Saturday 13th May.
Four Stars “The feel-good hits keep raining down.” ****
A solid touring favourite for many a year and an effective trailblazer of the jukebox genre. It may be an early example of the style but there is good reason for its popularity and for why it managed an amazing twelve year run in the West End. Written over two acts by Alan Janes it features the hits and the story of Buddy Holly. In truth the narrative plays second fiddle and is relatively condensed in content, a snapshot on a sadly curtailed short life. It is the energy and charisma of a hugely talented company plus the feel-good hits of Holly that keeps us all smiling and rolling along. The role of Buddy Holly is understandably alternated between a couple of performers, for us at the Waterside, Christopher Weeks grabbed the guitar and oversized glasses and gave an outstanding performance, holding the show with an optimistic and endearing style as well as delivering the Buddy sound and moves with great care, swagger, and technique. That passion and depth together with a flash of humour is not an easy recipe to mix but Weeks does it with an enviable ease whether tackling the more poignant True Love Ways or rocking it out to Oh Boy!”
Holly and his loyal bunch of Crickets ease away from the chains of country and western and via an eye-opening night on the stage of The Apollo Harlem they strike a deal with a larger-than-life rock and roll producer who spots the talent and is keen to help, promote and take a share of that said deal. And after been given a nod Buddy and the boys are allowed to play the way they know and love and are keen to share with the American public. This they do with huge success, and a string of top of the chart hits swiftly follows, as does his unique sound and worldwide fame and all before he was 22. We remain grateful to this day for his writing talent, producing some of the standards of the era that are still thankfully the staple of many a radio station Heartbeat, That’ll be the Day, Raining in my Heart and Peggy Sue.”
The production values have no doubt lapsed a little since its heyday at the Victoria Palace, copious doubling of characters and a set that had the look of simplicity and styled for easy packing. Not only were the company buzzing with energy particularly with the non-stop finale, but they could turn their hands to at least one instrument each.
The second half takes off at a canter, more of a concert and much less dialogue, culminating in brilliant turns at a 1959 Winter Dance Party in 1959, headlined by Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and Buddy himself. Miguel Angel and Christopher Chandler excel and have a big slice of fun as Richie and The Bopper respectively. The three stars were killed in a tragic airplane crash in snowstorm following the concert.
Prior to the tragedy it’s party time and the fun and the indeed the songs are equally infectious.
Join the party and have some fun while you can. It runs until Saturday at the Waterside.
Credit: Hamish Gill