Fredrico Fellini’s La Strada at MK Theare

FELLINI’S OSCAR-WINNING MASTERPIECE LA STRADA COMES TO MILTON KEYNES THEATRE

Kenny Wax Ltd with Cambridge Arts Theatre & Bristol Old Vic present The Belgrade Theatre Coventry’s Production Federico Fellini’s LA STRADA

One of the true masterpieces of modern cinema, Federico Fellini’s 1957 Oscar-winning film, LA STRADA (The Road), will be brought to life on stage in a brand new adaptation directed by Olivier Award nominee Sally Cookson with music composed by Benji Bower.

A soul-searching story filled with beauty, sadness, humour and acute observation, La Strada tells the tragic and tender tale of wide-eyed Gelsomina who is sold by her impoverished mother to the brutish strongman Zampano, a travelling sideshow performer. Their journey through the Italian countryside leads them to a ragtag touring circus where they meet Il Matto the free-spirited tightrope walker, who tries to rekindle Gelsomina’s broken spirit.

Director Sally Cookson says:

Felini’s iconic film has always fascinated me and the thought of using it as a starting point to make a piece of theatre was one I couldn’t resist. A folk-tale like odyssey – this story sees three lost souls travelling ‘the road’ and searching in different ways to find meaning in their lives. Using physical story telling, music and movement, we will be attempting to find a theatricality to re imagine this story of human suffering, longing and redemption.”

Featuring live music and original songs, La Strada brings together a multi-skilled cast of performers and musicians. Audrey Brisson (Cirque de Soleil’s Quidam The Wild Bride and National Theatre’s The Elephantom) plays Gelsomina, Stuart Goodwin (Sally Cookson’s Sleeping Beauty; Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult) plays Zampano and Bart Soroczynski (Cirque de Loin’s The Fool & The Princess; ENO’s Benvenuto Cellini; RSC’s The Merry Wives of Windsor) plays Il Matto.

La Strada is directed by Sally Cookson who is an associate artist of Bristol Old Vic. Together with long-time creative collaborator, composer and musical director Benji Bower.

La Strada is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25th February (matinees on Wed & Sat)

 Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

I saw the show on Monday evening and these were my thoughts…..

After quite a run of high profile musicals it is truly refreshing to see this new theatrical version of Fellini’s masterpiece La Strada. Directors Sally Cookson and Benji Bower are to be congratulated for dreaming up this very novel way of storytelling. For their bravery too because the entire show started with the story but no actual script until the actors first met at rehearsals! The whole wonderful experience has been honed at rehearsals and probably during the run by the cast and directors. The result is a compelling story that as they say during the action was told a thousand years ago and also told today. I promise you this is very different, clever, witty and you’d be foolish to miss it!

Ernie Almond

La Strada is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25th February (matinees on Wed & Sat)

 Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Matthew Bourne’s latest production at Milton Keynes

New Adventures are delighted to announce full casting for the World Premiere of Matthew Bourne’s production of THE RED SHOES, at the Milton Keynes Theatre from 14 – 18 February.

The Red Shoes

 “Victoria Page”, the girl who dreams of being a great dancer, immortalised on screen by Moira Shearer, will be created by New Adventures star, Ashley Shawmost recently seen across the UK and internationally as “Aurora” in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. Rising star and fellow “Aurora”, Cordelia Braithwaite, will also play the role, along with Sleeping Beauty favourite Katrina Lyndon in her principal role debut (at certain performances).

Sam Archer who created the title role of Edward Scissorhands in 2005 and who has starred in Cinderella, The Car Man and Play Without Words returns to the Company to play the iconic role of Svengali-like Impresario “Boris Lermentov”. Chris Trenfield will also play Lermentov, as well as musical genius, “Julian Kraster”; the man with whom Victoria Page falls in love. Sharing the role of Julian will be one of New Adventures most popular dancers, Dominic North, who was this year nominated for his second National Dance Award, along with rising star Andrew Monaghan who has already debuted leading roles in Swan Lake, The Car Man and Sleeping Beauty.

Completing the principal cast are the leading dancers of the Lermentov Company. Prima Ballerina, “Irina Boronskya” will be played by Michela Meazza, returning to New Adventures where she has danced and created many leading roles (including “Lady H” in Dorian Gray, “Joyce” in Edward Scissorhands and “The Stepmother” in Cinderella). She is joined by Company favourites Anjali Mehra, most recently seen as both “The Queen” and “The Girlfriend” in Swan Lake and Nicole Kabera, currently playing “Queen Eleanor” in Sleeping Beauty.

“Ivan Boleslawsky” the role made famous by Robert Helpmann will be created by one of New Adventures finest young dancers, Liam Mower (the original West End Billy Elliot but now taking on his seventh principal role with New Adventures). Also playing Ivan is popular company dancer, Danny Reubens, who scored a great personal success recently as “Jack” in Lord Of The Flies.

Company choreographer and ‘character dancer’ “Grischa Ljubov”, is created by veteran company dancer, Glenn Graham, who as well as playing “The Swan” in Swan Lake has recently been seen as “King Benedict” in Sleeping Beauty. Also playing the role of Grischa will be Leon Moran recently seen in Sleeping Beauty, The Car Man and as “Jim” in Edward Scissorhands.

A beloved fairy-tale and Academy Award-winning movie, THE RED SHOES has seduced audiences and inspired generations of dancers with its tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Victoria Page lives to dance but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion.

Matthew Bourne’s magical new adaptation of the legendary Powell and Pressburger film reunites him with his regular collaborators and New Adventures Associate Artists and the team that brought you the world wide hit, Sleeping Beauty; Lez Brotherston (set and costumes), Paule Constable (lighting) and Paul Groothuis (sound).

This World Premiere is set to a new score arranged by Terry Davies using the mesmerizing music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann (most famous for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese), whose work ranges from the witty and playfully robust to the achingly romantic and bittersweet.

An intoxicating drama where life imitates art with fateful consequences; THE RED SHOES will dazzle your senses and break your heart.

Matthew Bourne’s THE RED SHOES is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 14th – 18th February.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

I went along on Tuesday evening, these were my thoughts:

I have so far seen four of Matthew Bourne’s stunning creations and I would describe at least three of those productions  as masterpieces created by a genius. The Red Shoes is most certainly in that catagory!

Even actors have difficulty portraying a play within a play without overdoing the difference between the two, but to convey that in dance so perfectly is why they needed Matthew Bourne at the helm. There ‘s plenty of comedy both subtle and – in the case of Wilson & Kepple with no Betty(?) – not so. Some parts needed to be chilling and you could feel that chill-factor sweep across the audience.

As ever with this company it was such a team effort, Sam Archer, Ashley Shaw and Dominic North the three non members of the “Ballet Lermontov” took us through the story brilliantly. (I think Dominic must have his own dresing room by now at Milton Keynes Theatre!) Liam Mower‘s career just goes from strength to strength, I particularly loved the double act with Joe Walkling, fine dancing and great comedy!

All in all, if you’re a true ballet enthusiast or, like me, none too knowlegable about the genre, I can assure you of a fabulous night in the theatre with The Red Shoes. NOT TO BE MISSED!

Ernie Almond

Matthew Bourne’s THE RED SHOES is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 14th – 18th February.

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Tall comic needed for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

THESPIANS HELP! Lawrence in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has now backed out as he’s got work issues and we are left with the show in six weeks, rehearsing Tuesdays and Thursdays in Harpenden. We need a comic, tall (as Leading lady is tall), good with Germanic accent and a very quick learn!!😱. Lovely talented cast who need a funny, tall, elegant male lead. Please message me if you are interested and share anyway! Show dates 28/3 to 1/4. Thanks. Linda Dyne on Facebook.

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A Passionate Woman at the Royal & Derngate

Liza Goddard comes to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate in Key Mellor’s romantic comedy A Passionate Woman  from 7th-11th March

Stage and screen actress Liza Goddard, well-known for many TV roles including Bergerac, Yes Honestly and The Brothers, plays Betty, a passionate, doting Mum who finds it hard to accept that her son is leaving home to get married.

On the morning of her son’s wedding, Betty retreats to her attic where she relives her long-lost youth and the love affair she had in the 1960s. Surrounded by her memories and ghosts from her past, Betty finds herself torn between a husband she never loved, a son about to leave and the man with whom she shared a passionate affair.

Penned by Kay Mellor, whose credits include In the Club, Band of Gold and The Syndicate, the play is directed by Paul Milton, Creative Director of the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham, where the production opened embarking on a national tour.

Paul Milton says: “A Passionate Woman is a real feel-good play. It has a Shirley Valentine flavour to it: lots of romance, comedy and charm. It’s set in the present day, but has flashbacks to the 1960s. It’s the perfect play for a good night out!”

A Passionate Woman takes to Northampton’s Royal stage from Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 March, with evening performances at 7.45pm (matinees at 2.30pm Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday)

Box Office: 01604 624811 or online: www.royalandderngate.com.

Rapunzel & the Tower of Doom at The Place in Bedford

I think The Theatre of Widdershins are probably the best puppet company in Great Britain – and they’re based locally!

They are bringing their show Repunzel and the Tower of Doom to The Place in Bedford on Tuesday 14th February at 2.30. The show is aimed at children of 4+yrs and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Tangles? Split Ends? Frizzy? Flyaway? Its hard enough having a bad hair day but pity poor Rapunzel spending her life in a tower with a wicked old witch using her captives locks as a step ladder! What sort of damage is that going to do to your hair?

Theatre of Widdershins have taken this Grimm tale right back to its dark roots, teased out the tangles and styled it into a beautifully coiffured hair piece! This enchanting show promises plenty of body, volume and loads of highlights. Make an appointment to see the show today because youre worth it!!!

Rapunzel and the Tower of Doom is at The Place in Bedford on Tuesday 14th February at 2.30.

Book online from The Place website: www.theplacebedford.org.uk

Peter James’ Not Dead Enough at MK Theatre

Not Dead Enough at Milton Keynes Theatre until 4th February

Following the huge sell-out success of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple, the thrilling work of multi-million selling author Peter James returns to the stage with the world premiere production of Not Dead Enough.

Starring Award-winning actor Shane Richie as DS Roy Grace and Laura Whitmore, one of the stars of 2016’s Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing…

Olivier Award winner Ian Talbot directs Not Dead Enough – the third novel in Peter James‘ award winning Roy Grace series and the third play in his box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise. Peter has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters’ (Daily Mail) and his brilliant novels have sold over 17 million copies worldwide. He is the 2016 recipient of crime writing’s highest honour, the Diamond Dagger.

Not Dead Enough at Milton Keynes Theatre until 4th February

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

I went along halfway through the week and these were my thoughts:

After thoroughly enjoying The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple, both adapted for stage from the Peter James’ books, I announced on social media that I was looking forward to seeing Not Dead Enough at Milton Keynes Theatre this week. Someone messaged me back saying that this had been his favourite book and that it is a brilliant story.

Unfortunately, this adaptation from the book didn’t work quite so well onstage for me. It started well, but quickly became too easy to predict what was about to happen. Just too many obvious pointers that you could hear members of the audience whispering before the deed was done!

Having said that, Shane Richie’s performance as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace was exactly right and powerful enough to lift what was for me a fairly average performance. The set was good, split three ways between Grace’s office, the iterrogation room and the Morgue where some of the bodies had more life than one or two of the cast!

Perhaps I was in a mood that made me too hard to please, there is lots of tension, murders, bondage and intrigue so go along yourself and make your own mind up. The evening finished with the cast receiving a really enthusiastic and prolonged applause, well I can’t be right all the time!

Ernie Almond

Not Dead Enough at Milton Keynes Theatre until 4th February

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES is coming to Milton Keynes!

Bill Kenwright presents the highly anticipated first ever UK tour of the Tony and Olivier award winning LA CAGE AUX FOLLES coming to the Milton Keynes Theatre from 8 – 12th August.

JOHN PARTRIDGE will play the iconic role of ‘Albin’, who moonlights as star drag act Zaza at the infamous La Cage aux Folles nightclub. Partridge’s extensive theatre credits include the West End productions of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium, Cats, Starlight Express and Chicago. He is also well known for playing the loveable Christian Clarke in BBC’s EastEnders and as a judge on TV’s Over The Rainbow.

ADRIAN ZMED will play ‘Georges’, partner of Albin and owner of the nightclub. Zmed co-starred with William Shatner as ‘Officer Vince Romano’ in the 80’s hit TV show T.J. Hooker, which ran for 90 episodes over 5 years, and for playing ‘Johnny Nogerelli’ in the cult classic film Grease 2. Adrian then went on to star alongside big screen legend Tom Hanks in comedy Bachelor Party.  He is no stranger to Broadway musicals having previously led the casts of Grease, no fewer than 3 times, Falsettos and Blood Brothers.

One of the West End’s most revered leading ladies’, MARTI WEBB will play ‘Jacqueline’, friend to ‘Albin’ and ‘Georges’, and owner of the restaurant ‘Chez Jacqueline’. Marti has played leading roles in numerous West End and touring musicals including Evita, Godspell, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Blood Brothers, Oliver, Oklahoma, 42nd Street, and Half-a-Sixpence. She received huge critical acclaim for her unforgettable performance in Tell Me on a Sunday, which was written specifically for her by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. 

Written by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman, and based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, La Cage Aux Folles follows the story of Georges, the manager of a Saint Tropez nightclub, and his partner, Albin, a drag artiste and the club’s star attraction. They live an idyllic existence in the south of France but behind the curtains of this sparkling extravaganza, all may be about to change when Georges’ son Jean-Michel announces his engagement to the daughter of a notorious right-wing politician determined to close down the local colourful night-life. Drama and hilarity ensue when a meeting of the parents forces them to cover up their vibrant lifestyle. Will Albin be able to play the role of his life to ensure that Jean-Michel can marry his love?

 The original Broadway production of LA CAGE AUX FOLLESbecame an instant smash hit when it opened in 1983. It received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The success of the musical spawned a London Palladium production and several international runs. 

Setting out on its first ever UK tour, this brand new production is produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor, choreographed by Olivier Award Winning Bill Deamer, designed by Gary McCann, with Wigs and Make-up Design by Richard Mawbey, Lighting by Ben Cracknell and Sound by Dan Samson (the team responsible for the sumptuous current hit, The Sound of Music), and musical direction by Mark Crossland. This lavishly funny tale of unconditional love and family values, will leave you feeling the need to celebrate that life’s not worth a damn ‘till you can say I am what I am.’

 La Cage Aux Folles is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 8-12th August

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Sheridan Smith reprises starring role at Milton Keynes Theatre

Sheridan Smith is the greatest star by far.’ Daily Telegraph

Photograph by Johan Persson

Sheridan Smith and Chris Peluso lead the cast of Funny Girl which comes to Milton Keynes Theatre from Tue 28 Feb to Sat 4 March having enjoyed critically acclaimed and record-breaking sold-out runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Savoy Theatre.

They are joined by Nigel Barber (Florenz Ziegfeld), Zoë Ann Bown (Mrs. Meeker), Martin Callaghan (Mr. Keeney), Jennifer Harding (Emma), Rachel Izen (Mrs Brice), Joshua Lay (Eddie) and Myra Sands (Mrs. Strakosh)

Funny Girl brought global fame to Barbra Streisand 50 years ago and boasts some of the most iconic songs in film and theatre history, including People and Don’t Rain On My Parade. This ‘iconic, legendary, laugh-out-loud’ (The Times) musical tells the story of Fanny Brice, whose vocal talents and comedic ability see her rise from Brooklyn music hall singer to Broadway star.

Sheridan Smith reprises her smash hit performance as Fanny Brice. Her other theatre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hedda Gabler, Flare Path (Theatre Royal Haymarket – Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress, Evening Standard Theatre Award and Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress), Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre – Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical). For television, her credits include The Moorside Project, Cilla, Mrs Biggs (BAFTA Award for Best Actress) and very many more.

Chris Peluso plays Nick Arnstein. His theatre work in the UK includes Show Boat (New London Theatre) and Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre); and in the US, Mamma Mia! (Winter Garden Theater),

Director Michael Mayer’s West End credits include  Thoroughly Modern Millie (Shaftesbury Theatre). For Broadway his work includes Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Tony Award nomination for Best Director), On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, American Idiot (Drama Desk Award for Best Director of a Musical), Spring Awakening (Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Drama Desk Award for Best Direction of a Musical) and You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (Drama Desk Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical). 

Music for Funny Girl was composed by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Bob Merrill Book by Isobel Lennart from an original story by Miss Lennart Revised Book by Harvey Fierstein

Funny Girl is at the Milton Keynes Theatre from Tue 28th February until Saturday 4th March. (Evenings 7.30pm, matinees on Wed, Thu & Sat at 2.30pm)

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Thoroughly Modern Millie at Milton Keynes Theatre

Thoroughly Modern Millie at Milton Keynes Theatre 24-28th January

2016 Strictly Come Dancing finalist, World Ballroom Showdance Champion and Professional Dancer Joanne Clifton will take on the title role of Millie Dillmount, a Kansas girl determined to make it big in New York City!

Joanne’s credits include Face the Music, Burn the Floor, Strictly Live Tour and Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jeane Musical.

Michelle Collins will join the cast of Thoroughly Modern Millie as Mrs Meers.

She has worked extensively in television and theatre for the last 30 years and is perhaps best known for her roles as Cindy Beale in EastEnders and Stella Price in Coronation Street. Her theatre credits include Calendar Girls (West End), The Play What I Wrote (West End), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour) and most recently Kindertransport (Chickenshed, London).

Winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie is based on the 1967 Academy Award-winning film. Taking you back to the height of the Jazz Age in 1920s New York City, when ‘moderns’ including a flapper named Millie Dillmount were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and rewriting the rules of love.

From explosive tap numbers to a ‘Fred and Ginger’ dance routine on a window ledge, and featuring hit songs including Gimme Gimme, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Not for the Life of Me Thoroughly Modern Millie is a brilliantly funny and entertaining show for all the family.

I went along on Thursday and these were my thoughts:

Not being a particular follower of Strictly Come Dancing I wasn’t really aware of Joanne Clifton, but that certainly changed after her great performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie at Milton Keynes Theatre. As you would expect, her dancing was faultless and her singing and acting were a revalation to me! She opens the show and is onstage for almost every second of the show during which time her energy never flagged for a second! She’s done lots – Norme Jeane – The Musical, Face the Music, Burn the Floor as well as Strictly and its live tour – but I got the feeling that “A Star Was Born” in this show.

I’ve seen Michelle Collins in three shows in the last few months, always good value but I felt for her playing the part of Mrs Meers, the Sweeney Todd of the B&B trade! Swapping between an obviously false Chinese accent and an authentic American one wearing an outfit borrowed from Widow Twankey?

All in all the show has excellent choreography ( I particularly like the office full of typists at desks on wheels dancing from the knee down) some really funny moments – especially from Graham McDuff playing Millie’s boss and lots of very fine singing. I loved “Only In New York” from Jenny Fitzpatrck as Muzzy Van Hossmere and Sam Barrett as Jimmy has a great voice – his performance was very much appreciated by the packed house..

Thoroughly Modern Millie is set in the 1920’s, but dont think for one minute that it is “dated”.  Certainly worth seeing if you can get a ticket!

Ernie Almond

Thoroughly Modern Millie is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 24-28th January

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes

Dick Whittington at Milton Keynes a Sparkling Show!

The 2nd of First Family’s pantomimes in this area that I managed to get to see was Dick Whittington at Milton Keynes Theatre. The first thing you notice are the spectacular sets fast becoming a trede mark of First Family Entertainment’s shows. I was also very pleased to see that this production used a live band, such a bonus these days!

Milton Keynes Theatre presents Dick Whittington with Samantha Womack, Stacey Solomon and Kev Orkian

Samantha Womack headed the cast as a very sexy and equally evil Queen Rat – with quite some singing voice!

Stacy Solomon has recently been attacked by the press for using a clipboard onstage – all I can say is that by press night (very early in the run) she not only knew every word, but sang like an angel and the audience as ever loved her!

Milton Keynes Theatre presents Dick Whittington with Samantha Womack, Stacey Solomon and Kev Orkian

Kev Orkian was a perfect Idle Jack. Kev is becomming a regular favourite at MK and is always welcomed by the audiences for his amazing comedy. The best compliment I can play Idle Jack is that he was quite as good as Kev Orkian! One of my favourite panto performers ever.

Milton Keynes Theatre presents Dick Whittington with Samantha Womack, Stacey Solomon and Kev Orkian

Kevin Brewis as Sarah the Cook wore some outragiously OTT costumes (I loved the one featuring two huge melons as did most of the children)

The whole cast is very strong and special mention I think should go to young dancer Sophie Hart who played Tommy the Cat. A part that can be played clumsily or overacted, but I hasten to say that Sophie got it exactly right and I’m sure most of the young audience firmly believed that Tommy was a real moggy!

My only criticism is that the sound is very good, but very, very loud – my ears were ringing for a while afterwards!

All in all a great panto with great special effects including an underwater scene with Dick & the cat and a really good 3d filmed sequence. Get to MK to see this if you can get a ticket!

Dick Whittington is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 15th January 2017

Box Office: 0844 870 0887 or online: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes