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…

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Billy Elliot the Musical is a moving and inspiring production that is about so much more than ballet dancing. Currently engaged in a three-week run at Milton Keynes Theatre, it enthusiastically establishes that “boys can do ballet too” while simultaneously championing offbeat individuality and highlighting the profound importance of family and community.

Based on the 2000 film, the show is set in a northern mining town against the animosity of the 1984-1985 miners’ strike. Billy, the eleven-year-old son of a widowed miner, is not really suited to the boxing ring. Nonetheless, he dutifully attends the lessons that his dad scrapes together the money for. One day, after yet another hapless training session, Billy unwittingly finds himself participating in a ballet class. Encouraged by dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, he secretly swaps his boxing gloves for ballet shoes and a toe-tapping journey of self-discovery begins. As Billy starts to shine, Mrs Wilkinson suggests he seize an opportunity to audition for the prestigious Royal Ballet School. Up against a fiercely macho culture and facing a rather dismal future, is Billy’s passion for dance enough to change his life and motivate those around him to re-evaluate their uncompromising mindsets?

This touring edition of Billy Elliot the Musical follows eleven years of phenomenal success in the West End. Naturally, the show boasts top-notch singing. Moreover, the drama provides both madcap moments that are guaranteed to have you laughing and touching scenes that will likely make you well up. Ultimately, though, the dancing proves the main attraction. Tutus feature heavily throughout but ballet is by no means the only way to boogie and choreographer Peter Darling’s brilliant routines cleverly capture the unbridled joy of dancing. Dazzling displays of ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acro and aerial choreography drive the narrative, convey characters’ deepest emotions and unquestionably convince audience members that the whole cast are truly dancing their hearts out.

 

 

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Captivating choreography and charming characterisation ensures memories of the fabulous felines in Cats stay with audiences long after the applause subsides.

Prowling through the auditorium at Milton Keynes Theatre all this week, the moggies in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical offer us an intriguing insight into the inner world of cats. Known as the Jellicle Cats, the members of this kitty clan cavort around a junkyard playground under the moonlight. They stealthily slink past their human visitors before darting over the darkened landscape of rubbish. Wary and suspicious – but clearly curious too – the Jellicles proudly gather together to open our eyes to their customs.

The cats reveal that tonight is the night of the Jellicle Ball. This one special night of the year is when the tribe reunites to celebrate who they are. Mischievous or mysterious. Domesticated or defiant. Sensual or magical. Cheeky cat burglars; fat cats; ginger cats; tabby cats; tom cats; coquettish kittens – every cat counts. Granted a front row seat at the Jellicle Ball, we are introduced to each of the pussycats in turn.

 

 

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