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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REVIEW: ‘Legally Blonde’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, May 2018

 

Chick flick romcom Legally Blonde makes for a feel-good musical that is as sparkling as pink champagne.

The 2001 American film, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and starring Reese Witherspoon, sees protagonist Elle Woods prove that one can never be overdressed or overeducated.

Pretty, popular and passionate about pink, fashion marketing student Elle is devastated when her boyfriend Warner Huntington III breaks up with her, declaring that he needs a more serious sweetheart befitting of the future he has planned. Elle is determined to win him back, so she shuns sorority parties, starts swotting and successfully bags herself a place to study alongside Warner at the prestigious Harvard Law School. Accompanied by her cute chihuahua, Bruiser, Elle remains unabashedly herself in her new surroundings. Pink princess and legal eagle, she essentially ends up falling in love with her own untapped potential.

 

Legally Blonde the musical.

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REVIEW: ‘An American In Paris’ – Dominion Theatre, London, December 2017

 

Dazzling dance musical An American in Paris is a breathtakingly beautiful show.

The acclaimed stage adaptation of the classic 1951 Hollywood film, which starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Widely admired on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks to his work with The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet, Wheeldon is a seasoned master who skilfully uses the power of dance to drive the whole musical.

An American In Paris features an impressive array of dance styles and really seems to be the epitome of the maxim “why walk when you can dance?”. Everything moves with a spring in its step – from the radiant lead performers to the stunning sets – and there is a remarkable fluidity as the cast dance their way through the sensuous tale of art, friendship and love.

This lavish production certainly made me fall in love with dance all over again, and I thought I was already as besotted as it is possible to be!

 

An American In Paris at the Dominion Theatre, London. View Post

REVIEW: ‘Grease’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, August 2017

 

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 naive 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…

 

Grease the musical. Danielle Hope as Sandy Dumbrowski and Tom Parker as Danny Zuko.

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