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).

 

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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.

 

 

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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 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'.

 

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REVIEW: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2012

 

The Phantom of the Opera is here in the new city this week, filling the auditorium of Milton Keynes Theatre with a chilling presence!

The West-End blockbuster is now into its 26th year and Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical was especially created for the 25th anniversary national tour.

As I had hoped, last night’s performance was spine-tingling. Indeed, from the moment the glittering chandelier was unveiled just above our heads, the audience knew that a spectacular evening of entertainment lay ahead.

 

The Phantom of the Opera.

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REVIEW: ‘Chicago’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, September 2012

 

Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery. Chicago certainly makes a killing when it comes to delivering sins, sex and sass.

Set during the Prohibition-era, the international award-winning musical (boasting 6 Tony, 2 Olivier, 1 Grammy, 2 BAFTA and 6 Academy awards) is on tour until December and the stars are bringing their blend of ‘Razzle Dazzle’ to Milton Keynes Theatre this week.

Lucky enough to be in the audience for opening night, I was quickly transported back to the roaring twenties. And I was hooked from the very first explosive entrance and titillating dance routine.

 

 

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