REVIEW: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, July 2014

 

“Singin’ in the rain…”

What a glorious feeling it is to watch Singin’ in the Rain, which boasts one of the most memorable dance scenes in history, tap and splash its way across Milton Keynes Theatre’s freshly-flooded stage.

Singin’ in the Rain showers audiences with plenty of uplifting song and dance numbers but that classic sequence from the beloved 1952 MGM movie has got to be one of my absolute favourites. The film starred the late Gene Kelly – a Hollywood legend whose energetic, athletic dancing style and suave good looks make him a hard act to follow.

Happily, director Jonathan Church and choreographer Andrew Wright ensure a superbly staged production and this routine in particular is met with rapturous applause. Royal Ballet School trained James Leece makes the role of silent movie matinee idol Don Lockwood his own – with a sprinkling of Kelly-esque mannerisms. He buoyantly bounds through the downpour, dashing from puddle to puddle and kicking sweeping sprays of water into the first three rows of the stalls.

 

Singin' in the Rain.

View Post

REVIEW: ‘West Side Story’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, June 2014

 

It really is no wonder that West Side Story is so beloved by audiences. Despite being written almost sixty years ago, this exhilarating contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet is a timeless classic.

With inspiration from the Bard’s greatest romance and the combined talents of composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and choreographer Jerome Robbins, West Side Story merges powerful and relevant themes, infectious music and thrilling dancing.

Direct from a sell-out season at Sadler’s Wells, West Side Story has returned to Milton Keynes Theatre for two weeks and the production is a treat from start to tragic finish.

 

West Side Story. The Tour.

View Post

REVIEW: ‘Wicked’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2014

 

Seemingly evergreen musical spectacular Wicked swept into Milton Keynes Theatre this week and it is set to cast its spell over hordes of fans during a month-long stay.

Wicked is the untold story of the witches from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and this witty re-imagining of the unlikely but profound friendship between two sorcery students now has a cult following.

Based on a 1995 novel titled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, the magical show has broken box office records around the world since its 2003 debut.

 

Wicked UK & Ireland Tour. Emily Tierney as Glinda and Nikki Davis-Jones as Elphaba. (Photo by Matt Crockett).

WICKED: Emily Tierney (Glinda) and Nikki Davis-Jones (Elphaba) photographed by Matt Crockett

 

This distinctive, green-hued saga of witchery really is the perfect prequel – and sensational sequel – to the familiar tale of Oz.

There is so much to wonder about in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Just why did Dorothy find herself in Oz? How did the Lion come to be so very cowardly? What happened to the Tin Man’s heart? Has the Wicked Witch of the West always been wicked? View Post

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

 

CATS IS A SMASH-HIT MUSICAL OF PURE PURRFECTION

 

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.

 

 

View Post

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 curtain rises as “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad (Italia Conti graduate Freya Sutton, making her professional theatre debut) muses 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. 'Good Morning Baltimore'.

 

View Post