REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2019

 

There is barely time to draw breath when watching Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre. This year’s pantomime leaves you gasping for air between the laughs and gasping in awe at the spectacular flying carpet.

Spare a thought, then, for motormouth comedian Joe Pasquale, whose role as Wishee Washee must leave him puffed out and parched by the interval. Talking a mile a minute, he bounds about the stage with a twinkle in his eye while getting up to mischief with props, his cast mates and audience members. His energetic sense of fun is truly infectious, and he has the entire auditorium creased up.

As a co-director and contributing writer, Joe seems to have had carte blanche to do his own thing in Aladdin and he does it extremely well. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be Aladdin without the earnest, impoverished lad who falls for an exotic princess; is conned by the evil Abanazar; wanders into the Cave of Wonders and releases the Genie from a magic lamp.

Lee Mead (best known for winning the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do and playing Ben “Lofty” Chiltern in the BBC’s Casualty and Holby City) is a class act as Aladdin. He has natural charm and a powerful voice. He pulls off the puns and enthusiastically throws himself into slapstick scenes with Joe. He really is everything you could wish for from a panto hero.

 

Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2019. Joe Pasquale as Wishee Washee and Lee Mead as Aladdin.

 

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REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Le Corsaire’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, November 2019

 

English National Ballet’s Le Corsaire is a treasure trove of colourful characters and virtuoso dancing. It’s the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Based very loosely on an 1814 poem by Lord Byron, the narrative of this three-act ballet follows the escapades of a dashing pirate called Conrad and his enchantingly beautiful girlfriend Medora. When Medora is abducted by a slave trader, Conrad and his pirate crew set off on a valiant voyage to rescue her.

It’s an action-packed adventure with incredibly explosive dancing from the men. There are countless bravura leaps, spinning jumps and perpetual pirouettes. The entertainment factor is top-notch. Indeed, thanks to the pirate-themed plot and ballet tricks galore, high jinks on the high seas are guaranteed!

 

English National Ballet. Le Corsaire. Guest artist Brooklyn Mack.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Motown the Musical’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, July 2019

 

Dancing in your seat is unavoidable when watching Motown the Musical so prepare to be up on your feet bopping along by the end!

The performers in this exuberant jukebox musical are currently showcasing fancy footwork and versatile vocals in a two-week run at Milton Keynes Theatre. Their efforts result in an entertaining show that delivers a heartfelt tribute to Motown and everything that the revolutionary record label represented.

Detroit songwriter Berry Gordy Jr founded the Motown Records label – named after the car manufacturing city’s ‘Motor Town’ moniker – with just $800 in 1959. The former car factory worker was keen to be the best version of himself that he could be, while helping others to do the same. Accordingly, he resolved to invest in atypical musical arrangements sung by black artists and promote them to mainstream (white) audiences.

This ground-breaking gamble launched the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and countless other legendary performers.

As the defining sound of the 1960s and 1970s, Motown moved the world with hit after glorious hit. Considering this impressive inventory of timeless tunes, Motown the Musical could have easily been a sweet soul sleepover. However, the two-act show powers through a hit parade of songs with purpose and pizzazz so there is no need for audience or cast members to pull an all-nighter.

 

Motown the Musical. Motown the Musical. Three women in pink dresses, performing as Diana Ross and The Supremes in the theatre production, Motown the Musical. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Fame the Musical’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, June 2019

 

Fame the Musical is lighting up the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre this week, delivering a high-energy burst of nostalgia for fans of the film and inspiring a brand new generation.

This revamped 30th anniversary production, directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, brings a fresh vibrancy to the original teen musical.

Long before Glee (2009 – 2015) and High School Musical (2006), Fame mixed an intoxicating cocktail of drama, music, singing and dancing to chronicle the lives of performing arts students mastering their craft in anticipation of a big break. The film was released in 1980 and swiftly became a sensation, generating a popular television show and a smash-hit stage musical.

Currently touring the UK, the latest rendering of Fame the Musical is entertaining audiences with dynamic dance and electrifying vocals. And THAT song; that triumphant theme tune you just can’t help but remember? Well, it doesn’t have its moment centre stage until the finale so I’m still humming it now!

 

Fame the Musical. 2018/2019 UK tour.

 

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REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’ in-the-round – Royal Albert Hall, June 2019

 

English National Ballet’s Cinderella in-the-round reimagines the rags-to-riches story as a stunning fairy tale for our times.

Inspired by the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon develops a quirky narrative centred around humanity and nature. In short, Cinderella’s compassion, creativity and courage – combined with a little mystical assistance from her dearly departed mother – help her make her own magic.

Wheeldon devised his imaginative interpretation in 2012, as a co-production between Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. He has revisited it for English National Ballet, restaging it as Cinderella in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall.

 

Cinderella in-the-round campaign photography of Emma Hawes and Francesco Gabriele Frola by Jason Bell.

 

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