14th May2017

When Harry Met Barry (Theatre)

by timbaros

IMG_0073n3It’s not When Harry met Sally but When Harry Met Barry at the Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.

Unfortunately there is no orgasm scene in sight, just a few catchy tunes and a few laughs in a show that is cute and lively and a fun night out.

Harry (Brandon Gale) and Barry (Sam Peggs) had a ‘thing’ seven years ago, but now TV chef Harry is dating fashion designer Spencer (Austin Garrett) while junior lawyer Barry has hooked up with the quirky yet adorable Alice (Maddy Banks). Spencer and Alice are serious about their relationships with Barry and Harry, respectively, even to go so far as to discuss wedding plans! Gads! But when Harry and Barry accidentally bump into each other, their love and desire for each other is rekindled, enough so that it causes a whole heep of heartache and a breakdown in their current relationships. Set to trendy and memorable musical numbers – very modern and hummable with ‘Why Ask for the Moon’ one of the better songs – When Harry met Barry is a true musical romance with a love triangle that will set your heart aflutter. All adequately sung and acted by the very young cast, with Banks doing a particularly good job in her role as the jilted young woman. It’s got cute music, a goodlooking and energetic cast, and one all too brief scene of two of the sexy actors in their underwear. It looks like Above the Stag theatre has another hit on their hands.

To buy tickets, please go here:

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06th May2017

Angels in America (Theatre)

by timbaros

Angels In AmericaIt’s seven and a half hours long, and it’s shown in two parts, but Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is well worth a watch.

Calling it epic does not even describe the show. Now playing at the National Theatre, it is monumental, larger than life, phenomenal, engrossing, but it is in no way too long or too boring – sure it may be a bit complex, but it’s first class theatre. And both parts of the production – Millennium Approaches and Perestroika – really do need to seen together. And the cast in this current production is top notch – actors you might not be able to see in such a production again in your lifetime. But more on the cast later.

Unfortunately Angels in America is totally sold out – it’s been sold out since tickets went on sale, and calling it the hottest ticket in town is an understatement (the upcoming Hamilton may come close, but Angels is in limited run, only up until August 19th). So If I were you, I would do anything to get a ticket. But more on that later.

Angels In America

Angels in America has won almost every theatre award up for grabs. Written in 1993 by Tony Kushner, it’s won the Tony and Pulitzer Prize awards, and both parts were performed in London in the early 90’s. What is it about? Well, first and foremost it’s about AIDS in New York in the 1980’s – that horrible decade when friends were dying right and left, dissappearing only never to return. There was no cure, and when people started to see purple lesions on their skin, they knew that it was all over. But Angels in America is also about so much more. It delves deep into relationships that we have with each other and especially with ourselves, it deals with power, greed, lust, lies, betrayal as well as fantasy, ectasy, religion and last but not least life (notice that I did not mention death). The show is complex only in that it goes off into the deep end at times for the necessity of one of the characters. Angels is also still very timely, as it touches on immigration and discrimination based on heritage – themes we are seeing first hand in the much changed political climate that we now live in.

Andrew Garfield is Prior Walter – and he’s got AIDS. He’s goodlooking yet very thin, and has the tell-tale signs of the disease (Kaposi’s Sarcoma). James McArdle is Louis Ironson, his boyfriend who’s having a hard time dealing with Prior’s illness. Then there’s Joe Pitt (Russell Tovey), who is married to Harper Pitt (Denise Gough). The Pitt’s are Mormons from Seattle and live in Brooklyn. Harper Pitt has problems, she’s agoraphobic and has hallucinations. Joe, a clerk in a law office, is deeply-closeted.

Then there is Roy Cohn (Nathan Lane), a notorious ruthless lawyer who happens to be gay but doesn’t quite believe it himself and definitely doesn’t want anyone to know this. So for over seven hours we go on a ride with these characters as Angels in American puts them, and us, through a rollercoaster of emotion and drama. Louis is unable to care for Prior and walks out on him at the moment that Prior needs him most. Louis strikes up more than a casual friendship with Joe as they both work at the same law firm. Meanwhile, Joe, who becomes more than a bit friendly with Cohn his mentor, eventually falls in love with Louis. Meanwhile, Prior (and eventually Cohn) are taken care of by nurse Belize (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett). But alls not right in Prior’s life – he’s seeing angels, angels that are trying to tell him a message, angels that are a response to his illness, yet there’s not much these angels can do for him except only to be by his side (or to fly over him)……they’re helpless just as much as he is. There’s also a crisis in the Pitt home – Joe’s mother sells her house in Utah and goes to Brooklyn to look for her son who has just announced to her that he is gay. And Cohn can’t accept the fact that he’s got AIDS – he informs his doctor that it’s liver cancer that he’s got. And Belize turns out to be the real angel in the show – taking care of the dying, the ones who don’t accept the fact they’ve got AIDS and the ones who are way too young to die of AIDS.

Angels in American deals with a dark time in gay history – the AIDS plague. Conservative President Ronald Reagan didn’t help matters by doing nothing about the disease, Rock Hudson had just died, and the stigmatisation of the disease pretty much erased all the gains that the homosexual community had achieved in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. But in this retelling, and for those of us old enough to be around where all this actually happened, it takes us back to the time when there was nothing we could do for our friends dying of the disease but to just hold their hands and watch them die. And Angels in America takes us back to those horrible time. It’s a credit to the story and the production that the performers excel in their roles and take it to the next level. Garfield has a field day playing Prior – he’s in agony because he’s dying and because Louis has left him – and Garfield gives it his all and succeeds enormously. Lane was made to play Cohn – caustic yet not a bit remorseful, even after the ghost of Ethel Rosenburg practically stands over him waiting for him to die. Lane is just simply superb. Tovey – in his biggest stage role yet – doesn’t disappoint. His Joe Pitt is vulnerable yet determined to be who he’s supposed to be, and he accidentally falls in love with Louis yet is still in love with his wife, and Tovey is very believable every second he is on stage. Stewart-Jarrett, practically an unknown, holds his own with the acting heavyweights on the stage. His nurse and friend Belize is practically the glue that holds the other characters together – and Stewart-Jarrett does it so sarcastically and beautifully. A star is born. McArdle is adequate – he’s got a lot to do and say and it’s perhaps one of the hardest characters in the show as so much centers around him – and McArdle just about succeeds, but less so Gough as Mrs. Pitt who doesn’t quite wow us as the others do. Other notable performers include Susan Brown as Harper Pitt, Joe’s mother, and especially Amanda Lawrence, who plays the Angel, a nurse, a homeless woman, and a Sister, among others, is there nothing this talented performer can’t do?

Of course, the sets and music are all amazing, and director Marianne Elliott brings it all together in excellent fashion – but it’s all about the acting (and the message) in Angels in America, the message is loud and clear – this show is history in the making and relevant to all of us now, even 25 years after it was written.

The National Theatre is running a ballot for £20 tickets so I urge you to give it a try. There are two ballots left:
Ballot no.’s 4 and 5
Show dates included in the ballot: 11 Jul – 29 Jul and 2 Aug – 19 Aug
Ballot opens at midday on: 26 May and 30 Jun
You’ll need to log-in to your National Theatre account or create an account to register for the ballot, you can do so here:
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/angels/login?destination=node/5066

Also, Angles in America will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK and internationally. Part One will be broadcast on 20 July and Part Two will be broadcast on 27 July. For more information and to buy tickets, please go here:
http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Photos by AiA Perestroika Production Images (c) Helen Maybanks

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02nd May2017

Pam Ann (Theatre)

by timbaros

pam-aystria-2Trolley Dolly Pam Ann returns to London with her 20th Anniversary tour – Touch Trolley Run to Galley – but it’s pretty much the same schtick she’s been doing over and over again.

Australian Pam Ann (real name Caroline Reid) has been making the rounds as the self-described ‘Queen of the skies’ for the past 20 years all round the world, and in this show she let’s us know it. Now playing at the Leicester Square Theatre, the ‘air hostess’ show begins with a video montage of previous shows and the famous people that she’s hung out with. Yes, from the minute the video starts we are reminded the show is all about her. She lets us know that she’s an iconic international celebrity airhostess who has developed cult status over the years with her fans (most of whom are gay and who love her bitchiness and candor), but I’ve got no idea how she’s lasted this long! The show begins by her picking four audience members onto the stage to create a new Spice Girls band (who are also celebrating their 20th anniversary). On the night I saw the show, she conveniently picked four gay men from the audience (after all, gay men are so much more likely to ‘get her’) to ‘become the Spice Girls. Picking on audience members is a time and tested old tradition used by comedians when they don’t have enough material to fill a show (‘what’s your name, where are you from’), and it’s a bit lazy to do so at the beginning! Anyways, Pam Ann was very funny with them; she was quick with one-liners and put downs, and the men took it in jest. It’s funny, but I wanted more jokes about the current state of the airline industry (she did open up with a joke about the United Airlines fiasco but it was a bit too sudden and too quick).

The second half of the show had her bring out a trolley filled with, of course, alcohol, as well as with a bevy of dolls that represented airline stewardesses from all over the world (an Australian transgender doll was quite funny), but we’ve all see this before from her, many many times. Pam Ann tells us why she loves BA, while her alter ego Lilly ‘comes out’ all too briefly, and of course she makes fun of Ryanair (who wouldn’t). But as the show goes, it ‘we’ve seen and heard it all before’, and two hours in she leaves the stage and tells the audience to expect something great – but when she did come back all we were presented with was a change to a more glittering outfit and she then proceeded to take selfies with the audience members whom she chose to be the Spice Girls, and then thud, the show ended, with not a laugh in sight. Pam Ann: Touch Trolley Run to Galley 20th Anniversary tour is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but this consisted of a 20 minute interval and 20 minutes of video footage, including two videos of her interspersed in scenes from the Great British Bake off – it would’ve been a bit funnier if she would’ve done this live, but that would’ve been perhaps too much effort?

For tickets to see Pam Ann, who is at the Leicester Square Theatre until May 27th, please go go:
https://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873556409

For more information about Pam Ann and the rest of her UK tour, please visit:
pamann.com / @pamannairbitch / facebook.com/pamannairhostess

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15th Apr2017

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Theatre)

by timbaros

(left)Lizzii HillsWilton’s Music Hall in the East End has another hit on it’s hands.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is their fun and superb new show now playing at the historic venue. And it’s got the right cast to succeed without really trying to be a hit!

Mark Pickering plays J. Pierrepont Finch – an ex-window washer who cleverly climbs the corporate ladder by taking tips from a book called ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ (obvs). His first step is to get a job, so he starts in the mail room at World Wide Wicket Company, working with Bud Frump (a very good Daniel Graham) – the nephew of CEO JB Biggley (Andrew C. Wadsworth). Company secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Hannah Grover) takes a liking to Finch, but Finch has more climbing the ladder to do, and soon enough he’s a junior executive. In the blink of an eye he’s promoted to run the advertising department. And eventually Finch will be after Biggley’s job, who has employed in the company his mistress Hedy La Rue (an excellent Lizzii Hills). She’s stacked but not too bright, and unfortunately she gets enlisted in Finch’s new advertising campaign where she gives away the clues to a company competition, which could possibly lead to hers, Finch’s, and the company’s downfall. It’s a story told in laughs and colorful songs.

The cast are perfect and the staging particularly brilliant. Especially good are Pilkington (great voice and timing) Hills (great comedic wit), Graham (perfect for the role as the spoiled newphew who doesn’t quite get what he thinks he deserves – with great facial expressions), and Matthew Whitby as the HR Director. Excellent direction by Benji Sperring brings this production, which is based on the 1952 book and the 1961 Broadway musical (and which has not been seen in London since 1963 when it played at the Shaftsbury Theatre). It’s pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was originally produced. And the very last song – Company Way – where Maisey Bawden finally comes into her own and belts her heart out, leaves the audience wanting more.

Tickets to the show, which ends it run on April 22, can be bought here:
https://wiltons.org.uk/whatson/288-how-to-succeed-in-business-without-really-trying

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11th Apr2017

Miss Nightingale (Theatre)

by timbaros

Miss Nightingale - The VaultsThe story of a chanteuse called Miss Nightingale who is caught between three men in 1940’s London during WW2 is now playing at The Vaults under Waterloo Station.

Leaving war-ravaged Berlin behind, Maggie Brown (a very talented Tamar Broadbent) and Polish George Nowodny (an excellent Conor O’Kane) arrive in The Big Smoke with Brown’s musical talent. Almost immediately, Brown is spotted by producer Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Nicholas Coutu-Langmead) and is urged to start singing for her supper. She’s a hit and starts dating Tom the drummer (Niall Kerrigan). But when their relationship goes down the drain (a bit unexpectedly), Brown, now known by her stage name of Miss Nightingale, falls into the arms of Frank. But Frank and the seductive George have struck up a relationship, all of this amidst the constant threat of blackouts, bombs and The Blitz – life in London during World War II was a treacherous and at times tortuous place.

Miss Nightingale is similar to the storyline in Cabaret where the songs are catchy and campy, however, there is the fear of the unknown, and it’s set amidst the drama and terror that is happening in the outside world. Broadbent is absolutely wonderful as the star of the show, petite yet singing with a big voice and big personality – she commands the stage. Coutu-Langdmead is just as good in his meaty role as Brown’s best confidante and Frank’s lover – though he’s got lots of emotional scars from his past that he can’t soon forget. But the actors in this show not only act, they also play the instruments! O’Kane is especially adept when he’s playing several instruments during one of Broadbent’s songs – is there nothing this man can’t do? The action (and drama) takes place in the small stage space that is The Vaults, not much space to move around but the actors do it, and class it up with their excellent performances and singing.

Miss Nightingale is playing at The Vaults until May 20th.

https://www.thevaults.london/miss-nightingale

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09th Apr2017

42nd Street (Theatre)

by timbaros
42nd Street  London

42nd Street
London

It’s got Razzle. It’s got dazzle. It’s the tapiest and most glittering show in town. It’s 42nd Street!

42nd Street is back in London and it played to a star-studded crowd on opening night (even the Duchess of Cambridge was there!). There were more stars in the room then in the skies, and there were more sparkles on stage than on Guy Fawkes night! 42nd Street is one of the most well-known and loved musicals of all time. Originally a 1933 film and based on a novel by Bradford Ropes, 42nd Street made it to broadway as a musical 47 years later (what took it so long?). It found it’s way to our shores in 1984, playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (where it’s playing now!) and launched the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was a chorus member fortunate enough to be bounced to the lead role one night when the main star and the understudy were both sick. The lead role, of wanna be musical star Peggy Sawyer, will definitely make Clare Halse, who is in this new production, a star.

Mark Bramble, who originally wrote the book (along with Michael Stewart) directs this new production, and it’s a non-stop bacchanalia of fun! And with an amazing and flawless cast of over 50, 42nd Street has gotten better with time, even though it tells the same old time-trodden story of a young girl from a small town – Peggy Sawyer – who goes to the big city and dreams of making it big. She gets a job as a backup dancer in a new show called Pretty Lady, and the Pretty Lady in the title is Dorothy Brock (fabulously played by singer Sheena Easton). Brock is in love with Pat (Norman Bowman), who disappears off to Philadelphia. So Brock wants to follow him there, forcing the show to move to there. But Brock breaks her ankle, so after getting fired for causing Brock to break her leg, Sawyer is roped back into the show, this time as it’s lead, and she’s only got 48 hours to learn the part, to learn the dance moves, and is wooed and coddled by director Julian Marsh (Tom Lister). But it’s Billy (Stuart Neal) who really takes a liking to her. Will she be ready and rehearsed in time to open the show? Will the nerves get the best of her? I’m sure we can all figure out how it plays out – and plays out it does, much to our delight!

42nd Street  London

42nd Street
London

But the story line pretty much takes a back seat to the musical numbers. Songs such as ‘I Only Have Eyes for you’ – beautifully sung by Easton, and ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ and ‘We’re in the Money – sung by the entire cast, are just as memorable now as when they were originally written. Act 1 moves us from the stage of the 42nd Street theatre to The Gypsy Tea Kettle Restaurant and then on to Philadelphia, while Act 2 takes us from the dressing rooms to Philadelphia train station – all realistically cleverly designed. And those dance numbers – wow! There is one amazing scene where a dozen or so female dancers are on the floor while a mirror hovers above them for the audience to see – it’s breathtaking! This cast is definitely the hardest working cast in town – from the opening number where they tap themselves to death to the finale where they all come down the amazing lite-up stairs – it’s one singing sensation after another. Halse is superb (with an excellent voice) as the lead, Easton is delicious as Brock – who would’ve guessed Easton had so much acting talent, and it’s her acting stage debut! And Maggie Jones and Christopher Howell excel in their supporting roles. With excellent choreography by Randy Skinner, 42nd Street is simply a must show to see.

42nd Street is playing until October 14, 2017. To buy tickets, please click here:

http://www.42ndstreetmusical.co.uk

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03rd Apr2017

Adam & Eve and Steve (Theatre)

by timbaros

DSC_6077It’s not Adam & Eve but Adam & Eve and Steve (plus the Devil) at The Kings Head Theatre.

A musical version of the biblical story that we all know and love so well is just what we need in this time of Brexit and Trump. But in this story Steve (Dale Adams), and not Eve, is accidentally created by God (the voice and later the body of Michael Christopher) – thanks to Beelzebub – the Devil (played to camp perfection by Stephen McGlynn). But Adam (an innocent looking Joseph Robinson) thinks that Steve is actually Eve, but then God waves his magic wand and creates the real Eve (a sexy Hayley Hampson) and it all becomes very confusing for Adam. Beelzebub tempts them all to take a bite of, as he calls it, the pom (a/k/a apple) against God’s wishes. But Steve wants to be with Adam, and Eve wants to be with Adam, and Adam is confused, and what does Beelzebub (and the mostly gay audience) want? For Adam and Steve to hook up, and, of course, Beelzebub (and us) wants everyone to sin! Set to a sinfully silly musical score (‘I want to shop for furniture’ was one of the most memorable tunes) and tons of references to the existing world (Uber, Ikea, gluten free), with lots of skin on show, Adam & Eve and Steve won’t change your life but it will make you forget all about the outside world for a luckily brief 75 minutes.

For tickets, please go to:

https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873566822/events/128005665

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19th Mar2017

Stepping Out (Theatre)

by timbaros

The cast of Stepping Out. Photo credit Ray Burmiston‘Stepping Out’ steps into the West End again but it’s on the wrong foot and it’s not a very exciting show.

First staged in the West End in 1984 and running for three years and winning an Evening Standard Comedy Award, ‘Stepping Out’ was then made into a 1991 movie starring Liza Minnelli. It now returns to the West End in a new production starring Amanda Holden and Tracey-Ann Oberman among others playing characters from various backgrounds who attend a weekly dance and tap class. They also meddle – no surprise – into each others personal lives. Holden is Vera, a wealthy woman who seems to have nothing better to do because her whole life revolves around her husband who apparently spends lots and lots of time with their teenage daughter. Then there is Oberman who plays the brash Maxine, and who gets all the best lines in the show. Anna-Jane Casey is Mavis, the dance teacher who is a bit frustrated, not only because her students can’t dance but also because she’s got issues in her personal life (Tamzin Outhaite had to pull out of this role temporarily because of a broken foot). So ’Stepping Out’ centres around the seven women (and one man – Dominic Rowan as Geoffrey) plus the piano player (a wonderful Judith Barker) as they dance and talk but then get the opportunity (of a lifetime!!!) to perform at a charity show. Wow, how exciting! Will they be ready for the show in time? Will one of the students not drop her hat like she’s done many times in rehearsals? Will more dark secrets come out and, god forbid, will one of the woman pull down the towel where Geoffrey is changing behind to add a bit of excitement to this show because this show has no excitement at all?

It’s The Full Monty without the monty! Sure, the women do their best to get ready for the big charity show, but it’s hardly worth our time. We really don’t get to completely know, or sympathize, with the characters, and only a couple are likeable (Sandra Marvin brings a bit of sass to her role as the token black woman – Rose), and Oberman is wonderful, but there’s not really a whole lot to love in this production. Rowan is one note – not at all attractive or likeable as the lone man – he’s a widow but it would’ve been nice to put him in some sort of romance with one of the ladies. Written by Richard Harris in 1984, with this version directed by West End producer wonderwoman Maria Friedman, ‘Stepping Out,’ which will be playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until June 17, 2017, probably won’t last that long. Do yourself a favor and just step right past the theatre.

For tickets, please go to:
www.steppingoutplay.com

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14th Mar2017

Southern Baptist Sissies (Theatre)

by timbaros

stag watermark sissies6There’s something in the holy water at a Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas because all of the boys there are gay. And they’re not the only ones who have a story to tell. It all unravels in Southern Baptist Sissies, the new show at Above the Stage Theatre.

Southern Baptist Sissies is actually two shows in one. Four boys live in a religious community where they spend their days praying and the rest of the time all they can think about are other boys! Then in a very hilarious, emotional and witty way, we see these boys grow up to become young men, full of passion, love and in one case, regret. Separately there are scenes set in a gay drag bar where two barflies have a conversation about their lives, their adventures and their regrets while the young men from the church segments portray other characters in the bar. It’s genius!!!

stag watermark sissies4

Southern Baptist Sissies cleverly intertwines both stories while we get to know a bit about each character. Mark (Jason Kirk) does an outstanding job as the narrator who is also in love with the very sexy and muscular TJ (Daniel Klemens), whose other character is a sexy go go boy in the gay drag bar. James Phoon is a revelation as Benny, the most feminine of the boys, yet as alter ego Miss Iona Taylor, he’s the star of the show at the drag bar. The scene where’s he’s disrobing while pouring his heart out is absolutely stunning. And last but not least there is Andrew (Hugh O’Donnell), a sensitive young man who unfortunately has a very disapproving mother (Janet Prince). Don Cotter (as Preston) and Julie Ross (as Odette) are brilliant as the couple who exchange stories at the bar; two older people looking back at the past while contemplating what’s left of their future, with Preston always ogling the young men in the bar. It’s all fantastically put together in a fab script by Del Shores and superb direction by Gene David Kirk.

After a few mediocre shows, Above the Stag has really upped their game with this show. It’s funny, relevant, emotional and at the end literally had the audience in tears. There are still tickets left for a few performances – BOOK THEM NOW – it’s a show you definitely don’t want to miss! If, and when, this show sells out, hopefully Above the Stag will be able to re-stage it when they move to a larger venue just down the road. More people really need to see this show.

For tickets, please go to:

http://www.abovethestag.com/shows/

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12th Mar2017

Frankenstein (Theatre)

by timbaros

Frankenstein. George Fletcher. Photo by Philip Tull - 071A re-imagining of the classic story Frankenstein is told to amazing effect in the new show simply titled ‘Frankenstein.’

In the perfect venue that is Wilton’s Music Hall, George Fletcher is a wonder as he portrays both Frankenstein and The Creature. Fletcher lives and breathes his performance for every one of the seventy minutes he is on stage. Assisted by Rowena Lennon as the chorus and as his wife Elizabeth, Fletcher gives a very physical performance where he morphs from man to grotesque monster, right before our very eyes.

Working with a bare minimum on stage, which includes two bright lamps, a chest, and a full length mirror, Fletcher as the creature learns to talk, say his name, while an audience member engages him to repeat his name, then her name. We are witness to this, Fletcher being both man and monster, and it’s a show and performance that is riveting, raw and amazing.

Wilton’s Music Hall has just undergone a £3 million programme of restoration work to ensure the infrastructure of the building is sound, but it still might look like it did when John Wilton combined the existing properties in the 1860’s to turn it into what it is today. it looks, and feels, when you walk in, liked you’ve stepped back in time. Separate drinking areas encompass the two story venue, with two bars and a kitchen that serves a small a variety of food, including pizza. But it’s the actual Music Hall where the magic happens. And Tristan Bernays adaptation of the story of Frankenstein, with direction by Eleanor Rhode, is the perfect show for this venue. Shadows, high ceilings, and elevated sound all contribute to the eerieness of the performances and subject matter. Go see it now because Fletcher, fresh from graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, is one to watch!

Frankenstein continues it’s run until March 18, 2017. To buy tickets, go to:

https://wiltons.org.uk

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25th Feb2017

The Girls (Theatre)

by timbaros

LtoR Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in THE GIRLS. Credit Matt Crockett, DewyntersThere are several women of a certain age taking their clothes off in the West End.

No, these women are not strippers – they’re in a musical comedy called ‘The Girls’ based on the famous calendar girls of Yorkshire who took their clothes off for a calendar to raise money. And it’s no surprise that the actresses in this show take their clothes off to pose, just like the real women!

It’s a good time for the audiences in a show written by perennial favorite and Take That member Gary Barlow, along with Tim Firth (who co-wrote the movie). It provides lots of music that carry the Take That sound – top 40 middle of the road – enjoyable even at time when the storyline is a bit uneven and a bit too simple.

Almost everyone knows about these girls (well, they are not exactly girls – they are ladies), and if you haven’t seen the 2003 hit movie (which starred Helen Mirren and Julie Walters), then ‘The Girls’ tells their story again. Anna (Joanna Riding) has lost her husband and she wants to raise money for a memorial couch at the hospital where he was treated to replace the broken down couch. Chris (an excellent Claire Moore) comes up with the idea (after seeing a Dutch women’s stripper calendar) that instead of having the usual bake sale, why don’t they pose, not naked, but nude, for a calendar? She rallies her local women’s club – W1 – but of course there’s dissent – especially by leader Marie (Marian McLoughlin) – who vehemently opposes the idea – she’ll have none of that – she doesn’t want to destroy the reputation and image of the club where they are trying to be role models for the younger generation. Of course as you can guess, the women do eventually disrobe for a calendar and the rest is history.

‘The Girls’ is a very lighthearted (and very lightweight) musical which combines hummable tunes with a weak storyline. But it’s credit to all of the actresses who actually disrobe on stage – they do it with such grace and elegance (and lots and lots of humor) that I wished the show would’ve stretched this bit even more (no, not just to linger more at the naked women but to celebrate their openness and non-reserve!). The women are all excellent, but Michelle Dotrice as Jessie really shines as the elder woman takes if off with such candor. Another storyline in the show really seems to go nowhere – Chris’ son Danny (a good Ben Hunter) and his friend Tommo (Josh Benson) try to impress the rebellious Jenny (Chloe May Jackson) but the storyline goes nowhere, and Tommo disappears for most of the second act only to come back with one line. The set is a bit confusing (bookcases litter the stage – piled very high, used as a door as well, and an ugly scary tree pops down every now and then. But with catchy tunes such as ‘Yorkshire’ and ‘Dare’ that will have you humming for days afterward, ‘The Girls’ will put a smile on your face and will remind you that being ‘nude’ is not a big deal!

‘The Girls’ is now playing at the Phoenix Theatre until July, 2017. To buy tickets, please visit:
http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-girls/phoenix-theatre/#showinfotabs=showtimes

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12th Feb2017

The Boys in the Band (Theatre)

by timbaros

The Boys in the Band - Company - cDarren BellA play that was originally produced off Broadway in 1968 has returned to the West End again, it’s the famous gay play ‘The Boys in The Band.’

Written by Martin Crowley, and fresh from last year’s run at the Park Theatre, the durability of this play is a testament to the crisp and hilarious writing, and the performances of the actors, of the trials and tribulations of eight gay men (and one possibly straight man) which makes this play endure.

The story, in case you don’t know, is about a birthday party for Harold (a very good Mark Gatiss), a posh 42-year old gay man who seems to have everything. The party takes place in the very nice apartment of Michael (Ian Hallard, Gatiss’s real-life husband), with posters of film divas (Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and lots of Judy Garland) that cleverly hang on the walls. The first to arrive at the birthday party is Donald (Daniel Boys), good looking and employed as a cleaner. He seems to be the most stable of the bunch. Then there’s Hank (Nathan Nolan) and Larry (Ben Mansfield), a couple who bring down the mood because of the constant tension between them. Do they really love each other? Then there’s Emory (an excellent James Holmes – the true star of the show). He’s witty, camp, funny and hilarious with the best lines. Emory, incidentally, has hired a not too smart male stripper named Cowboy (Jack Derges) who was supposed to arrive at Midnight (Midnight Cowboy – get it?), but arrives before the birthday boy gets there. He’s as hot and sexy as you would expect, and Derges plays him perfectly. Then there is a straight friend of Michael’s who comes to the party because he happens to be nearby. Throw this in along with a phone game and all of this creates more drama and tension in a play with a multitude of characters that you will either love or hate, though more than likely you will hate them.

‘The Boys in the Band’ is a play that is very outdated. It portrays gay men as bitter, angry and more importantly, lonely and outcast, but times have changed. And this show, which has been produced many times, has the same cast who were in the Park Theatre production last October. The actors are all very good (Holmes is really living it up on stage and looks like he’s really enjoying himself), the set is very clever, and the rest of the cast are very good, but it’s time to put this story to bed. ‘The Boys in the Band’ has been done to death. And as one of the characters says in the show ‘show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse’ – this show is no longer relevant.

‘The Boys in the Band’ is playing at London’s Vaudeville Theatre until Saturday, February 18th.

https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/vaudeville-theatre/the_boys_in_the_band

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13th Jan2017

Strangers in Between (Theatre)

by timbaros

AC3A0278Great performances by a cast of three is the highlight of the play ‘Strangers in Between.’

Playing for a second year in a row at the Kings Head Theatre, ’Strangers in Between’ is drama about a young man experiencing the big city for the first time. Shane (Roly Botha) has moved from his small hometown in Australia to the big city of Sydney. He says he’s 19, and he works in a liquor store yet doesn’t even know how to use the register. In walks a customer – gay and trendy Will (Dan Hunter). Shane at first is a bit intimidated by him, but they manage to make small talk until another customer walks in – Peter (Stephen Connery-Brown) – a middle-aged gay man looking for a simple yet inexpensive bottle of wine. Eventually Shane gets Will’s number.

Shane lives in the Kings Cross section of Sydney, an area teaming with prostitutes and crime. But Shane loves it there, especially as it’s far away from his family, and especially brother, he ran away from. Him and Will hook up for a few trysts – it’s purely a sexual relationship – while Shane finds comfort in his friendship with Peter. But Shane has a couple secrets, one being his age, and the other involving his homophobic brother Ben (Hunter). But suddenly Ben finds Shane in Sydney, after Shane’s world is falling apart after he has lost his job and contracted an STD from Will.

The cast is very admirable but it’s Botha who shines. His Shane is young, cute, innocent and with a nervous tick – he dominates the very small stage – Botha is a wonder. Hunter ably does double duty as Will and Ben, while Connery-Brown is very good as Peter. While the ending is a bit of a letdown, the play, written by Tommy Murphy, is a show that all of us can relate to because at one time we were all young and innocent and new to the big city.

For tickets, please visit:

https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/873560596/events/127898509

 

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11th Dec2016

Buried Child (Theatre)

by timbaros

34016_fullIf you want to see Ed Harris sitting on a couch for close to three hours, then ‘Buried Child’ is the show for you.

Harris, film and television star, is excellent as Dodge, the father of two sons (dysfunctional doesn’t even come close to describing them). He lives in an old, ramshackled dilapidated house in Illinois with his wife Halie (Harris’ real life wife Amy Madigan), who pops up in the first and third acts. Yes, this play has three acts, with two very quick ten-minute intervals between the acts. The last show I saw that had three acts – ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures’) was very painful to sit through and felt a bit like Chinese water torture. ‘Buried Child,’ playing at Trafalgar Studios, is not that bad but it still feels like a long show.

Harris does spend the whole time on centre stage, on the sofa, and he’s even on the sofa before the show even starts. Dodge and Halie share their home, unwillingly, with their two grown up sons. They’ve obviously missed the financial gravy train and are unfortunately tethered to their poor lot in life. One son, Bradley (Gary Shelford), never left home, and who continues to bring into the house freshly dug up vegetables from no one knows where because there’s not a garden anywhere near the house. Tilden (Barnaby Kay), who used to live in New Mexico, has returned to the family homestead because of an incident that happened there. It’s up to Halie to be the sane member of the family, this is until their grandson Vince (Jeremy Irvine), son of Tilden, arrives in tow with his girlfriend Shelly (Charlotte Hope). Immediately Shelly is uncomfortable in the house full of Vince’s miserable and depressed and sick grandfather, father and uncle. But there is a family secret that’s slightly mentioned which peaks Charlotte’s curiosity, and she wants to find out more. Meanwhile, Vince goes to the grocery story to buy booze for his grandfather because the bottle he had under the couch is missing, and while Charlotte is speaking to Bradley and wanting to know more about this secret, and starts nagging a bit too much, he puts his hand into her mouth (at this point if I were her I would’ve ran out of that house). But the secret that has doomed this troubled family is literally, and eventually, out of the bag, but not before Vince goes missing for the rest of the night and Halie returns home with the family pastor who’s just as uncomfortable in the house as Charlotte is. But it’s not until the final scene that leaves you with an image that you won’t soon forget.

‘Buried Child’ is a very wordy play. perhaps a bit too wordy, but it being a Sam Shepard play, there’s lots thats overdramatic, over the top, and bordering close to the unbelievable. Surely cutting out one act would’ve made this play more biting, sharper and dramatic instead of long-winded,, but director Scott Elliott is able, just, to keep the drama and tension up, while maintaining, until the very end, the mystery to this family’s tragic existence on earth.

‘Buried Child’ is now playing at Trafalgar Studios until February 18, 2017.

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/buried-child/trafalgar-studios/

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