NEWS: Musical stars are “purrfect” personalities for RSPCA appeal – Milton Keynes, July 2013

 

TALENTED JELLICLE CATS LEND A PAW TO RSPCA APPEAL

 

Feline fans are being urged to dig deep after performances of Cats at Milton Keynes Theatre in a bid to help abandoned moggies. A bucket collection is being held throughout the show’s two-week run to raise funds for the Milton Keynes & North Bucks RSPCA rescue centre.

Milton Keynes Citizen Leisure Editor Sammy Jones and I joined cast members posing onstage with some adorable rescue kittens in order to highlight the centre as part of the Citizen’s Citikat appeal.

Stars Rum Tum Tugger (played by Oliver Savile), Jennyanydots (Alice Redmond) and Victoria the White Cat (Alicia Beck) were more than happy to bond with the 6-week-old kittens as they scampered around the junkyard set of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit musical.

 

Cast of Cats join kittens and reporters onstage at Milton Keynes Theatre for RSPCA fundraising appeal.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Cats’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, June 2013

 

Miaow! The claws were out when it was announced that record-breaking musical Cats would be stopping off at Milton Keynes Theatre on tour, with fans clamouring to book for the show. Fortunately, I got my paws on a ticket and – once seated in the auditorium – felt like the proverbial cat that got the cream.

This show combines words, music, dance, costumes and design for an evening of pure purrfection. Composed by musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats is based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a collection of light verse by T.S. Eliot (published in 1939). The show first opened in the West End in 1981 and enjoyed a phenomenal twenty-one-year run (with a similarly impressive eighteen years on Broadway), smashing records and winning awards.

This remarkable musical tells the story of a tribe of felines, known as the “Jellicles”. We join them on the night of “the Jellicle choice” – deciding which cat will rise to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn. The set throughout is a junkyard; a playground for the tribe. Instantly recognisable items spill over the side of the stage, including tin cans (Heinz Macaroni, Princes Peaches, Princes Prunes, Go Cat) and egg boxes.

 

The Jellicle Cats. Dancers dressed in tight bodysuits and cat makeup fill the stage. A moon is lit up in the background and all the dancers are reaching one arm up to the sky, looking up at their extended hand.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘Ugly Duckling’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

A lonely duckling who just doesn’t fit in, a menagerie of colourful animal characters, and plenty of creative choreography feature in Ugly Duckling, Northern Ballet’s first ballet especially for children.

Ugly Duckling is a captivating adaptation of the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

Northern Ballet is renowned for powerful storytelling and inventive interpretations of well-loved classical ballets and innovative new productions – all inspired by popular culture, literature and opera. Now, the company is on a mission to capture the imaginations of tots, introducing them to the magic of live ballet, music and theatre with a specially created short ballet, based on a familiar tale.

 

Northern Ballet dancers in Ugly Duckling (photo by Martin Bell). A male dancer and two female dancers are standing in a line across the stage and they are all dressed in yellow as ducklings. At the end of the line, a female dancer dressed in a fluffy grey costume stands out as being different. She is the ugly duckling.

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

Northern Ballet’s take on The Great Gatsby is a stylish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.

Everyone is going gaga for Gatsby right now; it’s the era of the moment. The resurgence is influencing fashion, making its mark in Hollywood and inspiring new London fringe theatre shows. So, my invitation to see Northern Ballet’s latest blockbuster production seemed perfectly timed!

The story focuses on American life straight after the First World War, when the United States and much of the world experienced huge economic expansion. This surging economy meant easy money, hard drinking (flying in the face of Prohibition) and lavish parties.

Peripheral narrator Nick Carraway moves east to New York’s Long Island in the spring of 1922. Here, he rents a house in a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the ‘new rich’ (those who have recently acquired their money, lack established social connections and are prone to garish displays of wealth). Soon, he is drawn to mysterious neighbour Jay Gatsby – a millionaire with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women.

Nick spends time with his second cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan and meets Tom’s mistress Myrtle (married to mechanic George Wilson). Our protagonist then has a tentative romance with pro-golfer Jordan Baker and gets to know Gatsby – reflecting upon just how empty life among the wealthy can be. Ultimately, behind the optimism and frivolity of the decadent jazz age, hypocrisy and shallow recklessness pervade.

Artistic Director David Nixon had the surely daunting task of translating the much-lauded book to ballet. He is passionate about creating innovative full-length ballets and attracting new audiences. Consequently the company is known for its stunning story-telling (past successes have included adaptations of Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast and Wuthering Heights).

 

Northern Ballet dancers dressed for a lavish party in The Great Gatsby (photo by Bill Cooper).

 

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REVIEW: ‘Hairspray’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2013

 

BIG HAIR, BIG HEART: Swinging ’60s show Hairspray has it all.

 

“If you can spray it and lock it, you can take off in a rocket” trills an enigmatic TV host in the latest musical to take to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre. Hairspray certainly delivers a powerful performance.

Amidst a stage bathed in a pink glow, we are welcomed to the ’60s (June 1962 to be precise) in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, we follow the bold journey taken by a larger-than-life high school student whose sheer passion for dance sees her going all out to fulfil her dream to star on local teenage dance television programme, The Corny Collins Show (based on the real-life TV hit, The Buddy Deane Show).

The show begins with “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad (Italia Conti graduate Freya Sutton, making her professional theatre debut) musing about her fondness for her hometown, her love of dancing and her desire to be famous. Tracy is all about big – big hair, big personality and big heart – and she is radically open to new ideas and new styles.

At school, Tracey receives a warning about her inappropriate hair height and her openness to others sees her embrace everyone (from “the rats on the street” to “the flasher who lives next door” and “the bum on his bar room stool”).

She is the perfect heroine, then, for this musical as Hairspray is a social commentary of the injustices experienced by sections of American society in the 1960s. Through the toe-tapping song and dance numbers, the serious issues of racism, “size-ism” and difference are addressed.

 

Hairspray the musical. Freya Sutton stands centre stage as Tracy Turnblad in the uplifting 'Good Morning Baltimore' number.

 

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