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: ‘Les Misérables’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, May 2019

 

The soul-stirring lyrics in musical phenomenon Les Misérables ask “do you hear the people sing?”. Without a doubt, appreciative audiences at Milton Keynes Theatre will be responding with an exhilarated ‘yes’ and a standing ovation for the entire four-week run of the tremendous touring production.

Theatregoers storm the barricades for tickets to this show. I dreamed a dream that I would be invited to join the revolution and found myself in my own castle on a cloud at Milton Keynes Theatre’s gala press night. The theatre is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year and boasts a team of staff who are justifiably thrilled to have secured such a lengthy visit from Les Misérables – everyone in the building seems to be in awe of this stage sensation.

As one of the lucky revolutionaries invited for bubbles before the show, I was fizzing in anticipation well before the drinks were poured. Les Misérables is the longest-running musical in the West End and is consistently named as a global favourite alongside Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Although I’m familiar with Victor Hugo’s epic nineteenth-century novel, the blockbuster films, the classic soundtrack and amateur theatre interpretations, I have never seen the London production (it opened back in 1985, long before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye!).

Having now seen the show performed on tour in all its glory, I can fully appreciate the scale of its success. But what can I possibly say that has not already been said over the last thirty-four years? At the end of the day, Les Misérables is musical theatre perfection.

 

Les Misérables

 

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REVIEW: ‘The Band’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2019

 

Plot and pop are entertainingly in tune in The Band, a bubbly jukebox musical that celebrates fandom, friendship and fulfilment.

The Band is written by Tim Firth, features the music of Take That (Britain’s most successful boyband to date) and stars the winners of the BBC’s 2017 reality show Let It Shine. Thousands of talented wannabes applied to take part in the programme and a handful competed through four rounds of competition on prime-time Saturday night telly. At the end of the series, five young men were chosen to become ‘the band’ for a new touring musical.

Significantly, The Band is not a tribute to the Take That boys. Nor, somewhat surprisingly, is it all about the winners of the television contest. Instead, it is a heartfelt ‘ta very much’ to music enthusiasts and an affectionate ode to friendship.

 

The Band. LtoR AJ Bentley, Curtis T Johns, Sario Solomon, Yazdan Qafouri and Nick Carsberg in The Band. Photo by Matt Crockett.

 

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REVIEW: ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, July 2018

 

For a romantic musical that will sweep you off your feet without forcing you to wallow in too much mushy sentiment theatregoers need look no further than An Officer and a Gentleman.

The classic 1982 film has been rebooted as a pacey jukebox musical that is simultaneously corny and gritty. Lifting audience members up with exuberant performances of more than twenty chart hits from the Eighties, the simple story follows the exploits of bad boy US naval officer trainee Zack Mayo and his “will they, won’t they” relationship with local factory girl Paula Pokrifki.

While the narrative is a little slow to really take off, this lightweight chick flick exploration of how ordinary people endeavour to escape deep-rooted inner demons and daily drudgery undoubtedly benefits from being paired with punchy period pop music. A score consisting of such a wide selection of half-decent tunes is surely guaranteed to have spectators of all ages tapping their feet in recognition and readily engaging with the characters’ experiences. It certainly worked for me and I am not familiar with the Oscar-winning movie at all!

 

 

An Officer and a Gentleman

 

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