Grease is the word on everyone’s lips at Milton Keynes Theatre this week and the fabulously fun show is the perfect pick-me-up production to see out the summer holidays in style.
This toe-tapping tale introduces us to members of the 1959 senior class at Rydell High School in California as they return after summer vacation. The teens each do their best to fit into their respective cliques but it becomes apparent that naïve new girl Sandy Dumbrowski and too-cool-for-school bad boy Danny Zuko shared a secret summer romance. What is not so clear is how far their fling progressed. As peer pressure from the ‘T-Birds’ (a gang of cool dudes with greased hair and black leather jackets) and the ‘Pink Ladies’ (the poodle-skirt wearing popular girls, led by sharp-tongued Rizzo) mounts, will Sandy and Danny ever admit they have found the one that they want?
With Grease, audiences really do have a rather good idea of what to expect and fans are hopelessly devoted to the phenomenon it has become. After all, the 1978 film starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta is a cult classic and the unforgettable songs and characters have achieved iconic status. The current touring production opens with the orchestra rocking out above the stage, giving seasoned fans and newcomers alike the chance to show their appreciation for the tunes to come. Each instrumentalist has a solo spot and the anticipation builds…
The youngsters in this year’s Stage Experience production at Milton Keynes Theatre are having a blast with the speakeasy sass, splurge guns and silliness of Bugsy Malone.
As expected, summer youth musical theatre project Stage Experience is tackling the tongue-in-cheek musical comedy with its usual verve. This is the sixth production the Creative Learning team has delivered since the scheme began in 2011 and, happily, the spectacular annual event looks set to continue. It’s a huge undertaking for Milton Keynes Theatre but it provides a wonderful opportunity for young people to perform in a professional setting. Indeed, it is not only an experience for the participants themselves, it is also a novelty for the parents, siblings, extended family members and friends who support the cast from their seats in the vast auditorium.
Hundreds of local wannabe performers aged 10 to 21 were whittled down to a company of one hundred over two days of auditions during the Easter holidays. Rehearsals then started in earnest at the end of July, with cast members and creatives working tirelessly to create a full-scale production in just twelve days.
Madcap musical Wonderland is currently whisking visitors to Milton Keynes Theatre off on a magical adventure. Now, call me mad, but this contemporary creation – which reflects aspects of modern day life while cleverly capturing the peculiar charm of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – managed to speak to both the girl I used to be and the woman I hope to become.
We all have days when thoughts of escaping the practicalities of living in the real world for a while consume us. We imagine how wonderful it would be to flee our humdrum existence, abandon our responsibilities and free ourselves from the shackles of expectation… Still, we don’t all cope with days like this by following a random rabbit and ending up in a kooky kingdom. Of course, as we all know, Alice does follow that rabbit. She follows him when he slips down a rabbit hole and finds herself visiting a realm which is home to the strangely talkative White Rabbit and a host of curious characters including the Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, March Hare and the pompous Queen of Hearts.
An entertaining experience from the start, Wonderland irrefutably illustrates that every adventure requires a first step and insists we are all capable of taking that step – no matter who we are or how grown up we may consider ourselves to be. Starring West End sensation Kerry Ellis, it’s essentially a loud and proud exploration of who we are and who we want to be.
Dance is what inspires me in everything I do. Blissful serendipity meant I was given the opportunity to start ballet classes as a tiny tot and I will forever be grateful to the universe for that. Ultimately, I have become the person I am today because of my desire to always have dance in my life. Participating in dance classes, watching dance, writing about dance and teaching dance – dancing gives me purpose and makes me feel alive!
In fact, you might say that there is “ballet in my soul”. This nifty sentiment comes from an amazing woman named Eva Maze, who has titled her memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. An engrossing and educational read, I devoured the book in one afternoon and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance, theatre, history, travel or the pioneering achievements of extraordinary individuals.
Eva Maze (nee Feldstein) was born in Bucharest, Romania, on a summer day in 1922. Both her parents spoke Russian (her father was from Kiev and her mother was from Bessarabia) so Eva was bilingual in Russian and Romanian at an early age. Jewish by birth, she attended a Catholic school where the nuns taught the students in German and French and she was also tutored privately in English. She believes this early immersion in languages made her interested in the world outside Romania and later learned two additional languages – Spanish and Portuguese – which aided her in her career as an impresario (a theatrical tour manager or promoter). Without a doubt, Eva’s vibrant and fulfilling life will be envied by anyone with even a sprinkling of wanderlust as her personal and professional passions and endeavours have taken her all over the globe.
Northern Ballet’s dancers are in fine form this year. Following the success of the world première tour of Casanova, they are currently on the road with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – a new full-length narrative ballet based on John Boyne’s 2006 Holocaust novel.
The Irish writer’s international bestseller tells the heart-wrenching tale of a friendship between two nine-year-old boys living a strange parallel existence during the Second World War. Bruno is a German boy; the son of a Nazi officer promoted to the position of Commandant at a fictionalised Auschwitz concentration camp. Cossetted by his family, Bruno is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been relocated from his familiar home in Berlin to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Here, there is nothing to do and no one to play with. At least, there isn’t until Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, through the barbed wire fence of the camp. As Bruno and Shmuel’s unlikely friendship flourishes, the full implications of Bruno’s father’s job as Commandant are exposed. Familial discord inevitably ensues before the harrowing conclusion reveals how, through misadventure, Bruno ends up dying with Shmuel in the gas chamber.
Although the premise of Boyne’s story is emotive and engaging, both the book and the subsequent 2008 film by Mark Herman received mixed reviews. This is due to the implausibility that any concentration camp prisoner could ever have engaged in a friendship with an outsider. Furthermore, the reality is that children below working age were typically murdered immediately upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Nonetheless, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an affecting account of wartime turmoil as seen through a child’s eyes. Significantly, Northern Ballet’s production, devised and choreographed by Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade, stays true to the book, confidently using dance to capture the drama of forbidden friendship and family conflict.