Conley wows them at Milton Keynes.

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre starring Brian Conley, Gok Wan and Lauren Hall

Cinderella opened with a magical moment when Fairy Gok Mother welcomed the audience to a captivating scene of spectacle whilst sitting on a half moon with glittery smoke beneath making it dreamy and fantastical. With that it set the mood that this was going to be really magical.
Then a short trick using a stack of luggage that formed a door which was used to introduce the star of the show Brian Conley. The moment he set foot on that stage raucous laughter could be heard from all sides of the theatre. He had indeed arrived and his story telling truly captivated the audience.
Unfortunately I was in danger of forgetting that I was watching a panto as Brian’s Buttons totally dominated the story of Cinderella. This engaging artist truly awakened the audience and his delivery of jokes really brought the house down.
The production also rightly boasts beautiful sets and wonderful costumes.

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre starring Brian Conley, Gok Wan and Lauren Hall

IThe only thing that did not impress me were the ugly sisters. They were rarely very funny at all and they even seemed to fade as the story went on. This was more than made up for by Brian and Gok Wan who had such chemistry which really was the highlight of this production.

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre starring Brian Conley, Gok Wan and Lauren Hall

There was another highlight when the carriage brought huge delight to the audience as it started to move towards the audience reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Jhez Bermudez

Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre starring Brian Conley, Gok Wan and Lauren Hall

Cinderella is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 14th January.

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

Sunset Boulevard sets MK Alight!

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER’S “SUNSET BOULEVARD” at Milton Keynes Theatre, 28th November –  2 December.

STARRING RIA JONES AS ‘NORMA DESMOND’ AND DANNY MAC AS ‘JOE GILLIS’

 

Last year, Ria Jones played the role of ‘Norma Desmond’ at the London Coliseum when Glenn Close was indisposed, receiving rave reviews and standing ovations for her performance. Ria has recently starred as ‘Dorothy Brock’ in 42nd Street at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Her West End credits include ‘Fantine’ in Les Misérables, ‘Grizabella’ in CATS and ‘Florence’ in Chess. Her touring credits include ‘Alex’ in The Witches of Eastwick, ‘Mrs Overall’ in Acorn Antiques – The Musical, ‘Reno Sweeney’ in Anything Goes and ‘The Narrator’ in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Danny Mac who plays Joe Gillis captured the nation’s hearts and received overwhelming support during his incredible time on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing making it all the way to the final. He most recently starred as ‘Gabey’ in On The Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. His other musical theatre credits include Wicked and Legally Blonde.

Adam Pearce (playing Max Von Mayerling’), has many West End credits to his name including Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre, as well as the original casts of Love Never Dies at the Adelphi and The Light Princess at the National Theatre. Adam has also appeared in Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Sweeney Todd, all at the Adelphi.

Molly Lynch (Betty Schaefer)most recently appeared in English National Opera’s Carousel at the Coliseum, where she has also appeared in Sweeney Todd. Her other credits include Fiddler on the Roof at Grange Park Opera.

One of the all-time great musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award®-winning (Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical) masterpiece SUNSET BOULEVARD is a compelling story of romance and obsession, based on Billy Wilder’s legendary film, with Don Black and Christopher Hampton’s wonderful book and lyrics. This much-loved score includes the title number Sunset Boulevard, With One Look, As If We Never Said Goodbye, The Greatest Star Of All and The Perfect Yearand is performed by a full 16 piece orchestra.

In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screen writer, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

“SUNSET BOULEVARD” is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 28 Nov – 2 Dec.

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

Review.

I have managed to see three different productions of Sunset Boulevard, the original London run when Petula Clarke had taken over the lead, the revival last year with Glenn Close which was semi-staged and this touring version with Ria Jones. There’s no way that Ms Jones can be considered Glenn Close’s stand in now – she IS Norma Desmond!

I spoke to Ria before the Milton Keynes run of the show and we were discussing how Norma Desmond in the show is a character that audiences need to love, hate and sympathise with in equal measures. Not an easy task for an actress, but Ria has got the balance exactly right.

Ria Jones is ably supported by a very strong cast led by Danny Mac who narrates, sings, dances, acts and manages to be a bit of “eye candy” for the ladies whilst he’s doing it!

This touring production is a BIG show! It has a big and very fine 16 piece orchestra that manages to somehow sound like a 40 piece one, it has a big set (although the sliding panels became a little tiresome, a big cast and take it from me, the show is very big on talent!

A great night out for musical fans, people that love the film industry and those of use that love a bloody good story!

Ernie Almond

“Sunset Boulevard” is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 28 Nov – 2 Dec.

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

The Addams Family at Milton Keynes Theatre

The Addams Family at the Milton Keynes Theatre until 28th October

Prepare to click your fingers as everyone’s favourite ghoulish clan, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, come to Milton Keynes Theatre Tuesday 24th Saturday 28th October, as part of their UK & Ireland premiere. With book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice; music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa; and based on the characters created by Charles Addams, heads will roll… with laughter!

Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and has a shocking secret that only Gomez knows; she’s fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family! Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before — keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents. All the usual clan are present – Uncle Fester, Lurch, Pugsley et al.

The full touring cast includes Samantha Womack (Morticia Addams), Les Dennis (Uncle Fester), Carrie Hope Fletcher (Wednesday Addams), Cameron Blakely (Gomez Addams), Valda Aviks (Grandma Addams), Grant McIntrye (Pugsley Addams), Dickon Gough (Lurch), Charlotte Page (Alice Beineke), Dale Rapley (Mal Beineke), and Oliver Ormson (Lucas Beineke).

Completing the cast are, Kathryn Barnes, Jessica Buckby, Perola Congo, Gavin Eden, Jacob Fisher, Christopher D Hunt, Kirsty Ingram, Rhona McGregor, Scott Paige and Jak Skelly.

 

The UK & Ireland Tour will be directed by Matthew White, who recently directed She Loves Me at the Menier Chocolate Factory, where he also directed Candide, Sweet Charity (and West End) and Little Shop of Horrors (and West End). Choreography will be by Alistair David, whose recent theatre credits include Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company), Show Boat (Sheffield Crucible Theatre and New London Theatre) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). The production will be designed by Diego Pitarch, with musical supervision by Richard Beadle, lighting design by Ben Cracknell and musical direction by Andrew Hilton

 

. The Addams Family is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 28th October

Box Office: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes or Call:0844 871 765

Ernie Almond went along to see the show……

Halloween came early to Milton Keynes! The spooky, kookie family The Addams Family are here in full force! This comedy musical is sure to please any existing fans and collect very many more during the week. With wonderful performances by Samantha Womack and Cameron Blakely as Morticia & Gomez and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Wednesday Addams we were all set. Unfortunately Les Dennis was off on the night we went (we wish him better) and so Uncle Fester was in the very capable hands of Scott Paige. Rick Elice & Marshall Brickman’s book is witty, with plenty of adult but not offensive humour. Always nice to have real musicians in the pit and under the direction of Richard Beadle, they did credit to Andrew Lippa’s score. Half term, so the audience was generally younger than usual at MK, but they loved it – as did us old ‘uns!

The Addams Family is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 28th October

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

Cilla storms it at Milton Keynes!

CILLA – THE MUSICAL is the spectacular and heart-warming musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed hit ITV television series by Bafta-Award winner Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Philomena, From The Cradle To The Grave, Mrs Biggs and the acclaimed Little Boy Blue which had ITV audiences glued to their screens). It tells the extraordinary story of the ordinary girl from Liverpool whose teenage dreams of stardom lead her to becoming one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers of all time. Milton Keynes Theatre has done well to get Cilla – The Musical so soon after it’s world premiere at the Liverpool Empire on 7th September this year.

It’s an introduction by a young John Lennon to music mogul Brian Epstein that changes Priscilla White’s life forever. By the age of just 25 she would be known as singer and TV Star Cilla Black, Number One selling artist and at the fore-front of the Brit-Pop music scene. The musical score is the ultimate soundtrack to the 60’s including Cilla’s greatest hits Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me, Twist and Shout by the Beatles, California Dreamin by The Mamas and The Papas’ and many more.

Bill Kenwright’s new musical features: Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla, who beat thousands of hopefuls in nationwide open auditions for the coveted role. Andrew Lancel (Brian Epstein); Carl Au (Bobby);  Bill Caple (Ringo Starr); Joshua Gannon (Paul McCartney);  Michael Hawkins (John Lennon).

The musical reunites Tom Dunlea, Michael Hawkins and Gemma Brodrick-Bower, all of whom starred in Jeff Pope’s original ITV mini-series Cilla, on which the musical is based. It also reunites Andrew Lancel with the role of Epstein, which he played on stage to great critical acclaim in Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles. Andrew is best known to TV audiences as super-villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street and as DI Neil Manson in the long-running ITV television series The Bill.

The legendary Merseybeat sound is authentically performed live on stage by the cast who are completed by: Alan Howell; Jay Osbourne; Alex Harford; Will Kinnon; Jenny Murphy; Tom Sowinski; and Christopher Weeks.

Cilla – The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th September

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

I was fortunate enough to be at the opening night in Milton Keynes – and it was an amazing experience! Previously after seeing very many Bill Kenwright productions I thought he’d hit a high with Joe McElderry as Joseph, but Cilla – The Musical is without doubt Mr Kenwright’s finest so far!

The lavish sets, the music as close to the original as it is possible to be all served to create the perfect atmosphere for our visit back to those days when pop music was changing, in fact young people in general were beginning to realise that new music was theirs and not meant for the middle aged who were still worshipping the crooners of the previous decade!

Kara Lily Hayworth is stunning as a performer and absolutely perfect in the role of Prescilla White who very soon became Cilla Black. Kara most certainly held her own alongside seasoned performers such as Andrew Lancel (a moving performance as Brian Epstein), Pauline Fleming as Big Cilla and Neil Macdonald as Cilla’s father John White (“I know about these things, I was in the Merchant Navy!”) – and the night was hers!

The rest of the cast, actors and musicians all were wonderful and the sounds they re-created took those of us of a certain age straight back – it was real, there’s no doubt!

I’m sure this will sell out this week and it should move into London if all’s fair, but if you can manage to get a ticket you’re in for a theatrical treat!

Cilla – The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 30th September

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

CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME returns to MILTON KEYNES THEATRE

The multi-award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, returns to Milton Keynes Theatre, Monday 4 – Saturday 16 September, for its second major UK tour!

Playing the central role of Christopher Boone is Scott Reid (recently appearing in BBC1’s comedy Still Game), with Lucianne McEvoy as his teacher Siobhan, Emma Beattie as Judy, David Michaels as his father Ed, Debra Michaels as Mrs Alexander and Eliza Collings as Mrs Shears.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is adapted from Mark Haddon’s best-selling book by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliott. The production is designed by Bunny Christie, with lighting by Paule Constable, video design by Finn Ross, movement by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett for Frantic Assembly, music by Adrian Sutton and sound by Ian Dickinson for Autograph.  The Associate Director is Elle While.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time received seven Olivier Awards in 2013, including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design and five Tony Awards on Broadway including Best Play.

The show tells the story of Christopher Boone, who is fifteen years old.  He stands beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog, which has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in a book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington.  He has an extraordinary brain, and is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.  He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and distrusts strangers.  But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at  Milton Keynes Theatre, until 16 September

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

Jess Bermudez went along to the opening night….

 Can you honestly imagine the world where no-one was capable of ever telling a lie? Christopher is a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome and because of it cannot tell a lie and he assumes that everyone he meets is the same – until he discovers that his own parents have lied to him!

This breathtaking National Theatre production is as fine a piece of theatre as you will ever see.

It is a stunning story of a boy with autism, cleverly adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel by Simon Stephens and told by a truly talented cast. Due to the wonderful direction by Marianne Elliot, movement direction by Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett, brilliant set design and special effects, we get to see and feel exactly what Christopher feels inside during (for instance) his first ever trip on his own from his home in sleepy Swindon to the hustle and bustle of London. I swear the entire audience felt his panic!

This production is an absolute “must see” so if you haven’t already got tickets, get on-line right now – and just hope you’re not too late! 

Jess Bermudez

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 16th September

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

Grease Is The Word in MK!

Grease is the word! The hit 70s musical returns to Milton Keynes Theatre from Monday 28th August to Saturday 2nd September.

 The cast includes Tom Parker (The Wanted) who makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny Zuko, Danielle Hope (Over the Rainbow winner) who plays Sandy and Louisa Lytton (Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders) who plays Rizzo.

Since opening on Broadway in 1972 and the smash hit movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Netown-John, Grease’s place has been firmly established in the cultural Hall of Fame, having seduced the hearts of millions with its back-to-back sizzling tunes. It’s the original high-school musical featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the groovy T Birds, the sassy Pink Ladies and the whole gang at Rydell High – and all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’ and many more.

Voted the “No 1 Greatest Musical”*, Grease has proved that a musical love story, bursting with denim, cheerleaders, slick hairstyles, rock’n’roll, 1950’s pop culture and an irresistible mix of teenage angst and young romance is timeless and universal.

This award-winning production originally opened in the West End in 1993 where it enjoyed a hugely successful run of 6 years. The show has since toured throughout the world playing to sell-out audiences and breaking box office records everywhere, having been seen by over 12 million people in the UK alone.

Grease is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 28th August until Saturday 2nd September.

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

A packed house on Monday greeted this show with huge enthusiasm. There were very many young people in the audience and it did cross my mind that they might miss many of the references back to the 1950 Rock ‘N’ Roll culture. But if they did it didn’t show! They cheered until they were hoarse, clappped and sang along to every number! There was even a lady member of the press near me singing along with the solo numbers which I found a bit off putting!

The story line as described above was as close to the film as you could expect and the sets and costumes were sparkling, spectacular and exactly right. I particularly liked the band led by Griff Johnson surveying all from above and helping no end to set a great atmosphere even during the overture (if I dare use that word about a rock ‘n roll show!).

The choreography I wasn’t quite so sure about even though it was staged by our top lady Arlene Phillips. It was a bit stylised  and as I’m old enough to have lived through this era it seemed a little like a collection of the ‘special’ moves of the time as against normal jiving that the teenagers would have done. But this is theatre, so I assume we need spectacle more than realism.

The cast are very strong in fact a couple of them I got the feeling could easily have played the two leads off the stage! Danielle Hope as Sandy gave us as close to Olivia Newton John as we could expect and just was the teenager all the young girls in the audience wanted to be. Somehow she also managed to scrunch her fine head of dark hair into a succession of uncomfortable looking blonde wigs!

Wanted fans will have loved Tom Parker’s debut in Musical Theatre and I expect it will have earned him lots of brownie points even though I felt he could have been stronger. Having to do a Brooklyn (?) accent made several of the cast a bit difficult to understand at times, I wondered at the time if it might be as well to compromise on the accent for a British tour?

All in all, this show truly sparkles and if you can get a ticket I’d take a bet that you’ll be dancing, cheering and clapping along with the rest at the finale! Get a ticket if you can!

Ernie Almond

Grease is at Milton Keynes Theatre from 28th August until  Saturday 2nd September.

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

La Cage Aux Folles arrives in Milton Keynes

La Cage Aux Folles sashays into MK Theatre with JOHN PARTRIDGE and ADRIAN ZMED

Bill Kenwright presents the highly anticipated first ever UK tour of the Tony and Olivier award winning La Cage Aux Folles at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 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.  This will be his first stage appearance in the UK although 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’, TV star and recording artist Marti Webb will play Jacqueline, friend to Albin and Georges, and owner of the restaurant Chez Jacqueline. Webb 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. She has recorded nine solo albums and had many hit singles, including the smash hit Take That Look off Your Face.

Dougie Carter will appear alongside them as Jean-Michele, Samson Ajewole as Jacob, Su Douglas as Marie/Madame Renaud, Alexandra Robinson as Anne, Paul F Monaghan as Dindon /Renaud, and Jon De Ville as Francis. Joining them on stage as Les Cagelles will be Jordan Livesey, Matthew Ives, Louie-George Daniels, Liam Paul Jennings, Micah Holmes and Richard Leavey. Completing the cast are Luke Byrne, Jane Quinn, and Rachel Cumino.

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.

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 ‘til you can say I am what I am.

 

La Cage Aux Folles is at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 August.

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

I’m sure this production will please all John Partridge fans greatly, though I’m not sure that La Cage enthusiasts will feel as excited. Having seen him excel in pantomime, I got the feeling that he was treating this fine love story as just that. Jumping out of character to throw asides to the audience (How on earth did Strictly Come Dancing get a mention?) What with that and Zaza’s north of Watford Gap accent, when time came for this glittering star of a night club on the French Riviera to perform it owed more to The Wheeltappers & Shunters Club than to a parody of the Folies Bergere. However John Partridge‘s voice remains superb and his rendition of I Am What I Am at the end of act one was beautifully moving.

Georges played by Adrian Zmed managed to keep Zaza calm and the action flowing although there were times when I felt sorry for him as he seemed to be having trouble walking let alone dancing!

One of the surprises of the night was Marti Webb playing restaurant owner Jacqueline, Marti has managed to keep that amazing voice in perfect nick – and used it to great effect!

I loved the music, couldn’t fault the singing at all and the sets and costumes were stunning and perfect for a 2nd rate club during that era. But the wigs! Oh those wigs! From the awful brown thing with a fringe in the first scene to the entire chorus having to come on wearing what looked like a bunch of those luminous green bubble wigs that you can buy for a £1 on the market! I’m sure they cost a great deal more than that, but that’s the impression they left me with.

All in all a show that will give you a good night out. If you’ve never seen it before you’ll probably love it, but if you have, prepare for not the worst, but most certainly not the best!

Ernie Almond.

La Cage Aux Folles is at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 August

Box Office: 0844 871 7652 or Online: www.atgtickets.com

Stunning Adaptation of Jane Eyre at MK Theatre

The most imaginative adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre at Milton Keynes Theatre.

An energetic and imaginative new adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, Jane Eyre, is at Milton Keynes Theatre, until Saturday 15 July.

JANE EYRE UK Tour 2017
Royal National Theatre.                                       Photo: BrinkhoffM+Agenburg

2017 marks the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Jane Eyre – a significant time to be touring Charlotte Brontë’s classic and much loved story. The highly acclaimed co-production between the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic heads to Milton Keynes this summer with Nadia Clifford taking the central role of Jane Eyre and Tim Delap as Rochester.

Charlotte Brontë’s story of the trailblazing Jane is as inspiring as ever. This bold and dynamic production tells the story of one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment. From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, Jane Eyre’s spirited heroine faces life’s obstacles head-on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.

Director Sally Cookson, said about her production of Jane Eyre: ‘Adapting a novel for the stage is a challenging prospect – especially when that novel is cited as many people’s favourite of all time. It is always daunting when you’re working on a story which everyone knows so well, because you want to surprise and maybe challenge people’s expectations, without losing any of the things which make them like the story in the first place.’

JANE EYRE UK Tour 2017
Royal National Theatre                                                   Photo: BrinkhoffM+Agenburg

Manchester born and bred Nadia Clifford has previously appeared at the National Theatre in Alistair McDowell’s sell-out production of Pomona and Tim Delap will make his National Theatre debut as Rochester. They are joined by Hannah Bristow (Helen Burns/Adele/St John/Grace Poole/Abbot), Matthew Churcher (Musician), Alex Heane (Musician), Melanie Marshall (Bertha Mason), Belfast born and bred Paul Mundell (Mr Brocklehurst/Pilot/Mason), Cardiff born David Ridley (musician), Evelyn Rivers (Bessie/Blanche Ingram/Diana) and Lynda Rook (Mrs Reed/Mrs Fairfax). The cast is completed by Ben Cutler, Jenny Johns, Dami Olukoya, Francesca Tomlinson and Phoebe Vigor.

Jane Eyre is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 15th July

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

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for this company’s opening night at Milton Keynes Theatre and these were my thoughts:

It takes companies as skillful as the National Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic to collaborate and between them dissect, strip down, rethink and then reassemble one of the world’s classic stories – and come up with another world class classic performance!

This wonderful performance is not what you might expect. It has fine music, but it’s not a musical. It has interesting choreography, but there’s precious little dance. The costumes are just right, but this is not your standard period piece.The sound effects and lighting are perfectly blended, managing to echo exactly the emotions of the various characters. The set is reminiscent of the decking at home that I’ve been meaning to rip up for ages and the half built house from 7 Brides – but it is completely believable in all its forms during the story.

You might expect the leading roles in any National Theatre production to be played to perfection – which they most certainly were by Nadia Clifford and Tim Delap – but I could see no weak link in any of this chain of players. I think special congratulations for the wonderful performance of Lynda Rooke playing two very different women Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax and, like the entire cast, various other roles. Likewise Paul Mundell’s characters were all wonderful, including Pilot the dog that was utterly believable without resorting to the use of any hideous furry costume!

This was most certainly an evening not to be missed. even though I think it slightly indulgent of the director to keep the show at 3hrs 15 minutes. There were certainly scenes, beautifully played, but we did get the gist after ten minutes but they took 30 minutes over the telling.

I don’t ever profess to be an expert, I am a keen theatregoer and the above is purely my own opinion. But I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with most of it if you can get a ticket! If you know anyone that’s managed to get one – offer them a small fortune for it, you’ll thank me afterwards!

Billy Elliot the Musical finally arrives in Milton Keynes

Billy Elliot the Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 17th June

 

 Billy Elliot the Musical is set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/’85 miners’ strike, Billy’s journey takes him out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

Acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, Billy Elliot the Musical has now been seen by nearly 11 million people across five continents and is the recipient of over 80 awards internationally, including ten Tony Awards and five Olivier Awards. In 2006, Liam Mower, James Lomas and George Maguire, the first three boys to play the title role, became the youngest performers ever to have won the Olivier Award for Best Actor with the show also picking up the Best Musical prize.

Billy Elliot the Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 17th June

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

Ernie Almond writes:

I saw the opening night and I’m sure that even though it’s at MK for three weeks, when that 1st night audience gets a chance to spread the word, you won’t get a ticket for love nor money! The word I fully expect them to spread is Stunning, Stunning, Stunning!

From the opening seconds until the fantastic finale this talented cast had a packed theatre spellbound! The set, swapping from church hall to Billy’s home (plus a few surprise extras) was efficient, interesting and at times spectacular.

I was particularly taken with the Peter Darling’s choreography perfectly coping with such difficult scenes as when the tough miners, the slightly comic policemen and the little ballerinas are all on stage doing the same routine and not one of them looked out of place!

For those of us that remember the difficult times of the miners’ strikes the story is not only gripping but absolutely plausible – the audience experiencing emotions that range from fun and laughter to anguish and even fear. People of all gendres were shedding tears, and I don’t mean tears of laughter.

A superb job done by the entire cast, but special mention has to go to the Billy on duty on our night Haydn May (I’m sure the other three Billy’s are equaly as talented) what a strenuous performance to get through each time! Haydn looked as though he thoroughly enjoyed every second, as we his adoring audience did! Dad brilliantly played by Martin Walsh, has a difficult time as a member of the very manly mining community coming to grips with the fact that his son wants to be a dancer. Anna-Jane Casey had the full sympathy of the audience – especially when she decides to stand up to Dad and elder son Tony (Scott Garnham) who cannot see further than mining being a tradition and no other way could possibly work.

Dont expect an easy night watching an inconsequential musical, this is hard hitting and gritty, but you will probably spend the final ten minutes standing, cheering the cast as we did!

DO NOT MISS THIS PRODUCTION – IF THERE’S A SINGLE TICKET LEFT!

Billy Elliot the Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 17th June

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

MAMMA MIA! COMES TO MILTON KEYNES

Does Your Mother Know the first ever MAMMA MIA! UK Tour will come to Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 20th May. Prepare to be ABBA-solutely amazed!

Photo by Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg.

MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise. To date, it has been seen by more than 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages. MAMMA MIA! The Movie is the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film of all time.

The touring cast includes Helen Hobson (Donna Sheridan), Gillian Hardie (Rosie), Emma Clifford (Tanya), Alex Bourne (Sam Carmichael), Jamie Hogarth (Harry Bright), Christopher Hollis (Bill Austin), Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan), Phillip Ryan (Sky), Fia Houston-Hamilton (Ali), Blaise Colangelo (Lisa), Louis Stockil (Pepper) and Brad Veitch (Eddie) will star in the production from Monday 13 February 2017.

MAMMA MIA!
International Tour 2017

Photo by Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg.JPG

From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of MAMMA MIA! has now been seen by more than 10% of the entire UK population. It is one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End, and in 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.

With music & lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast.

The MAMMA MIA! UK Tour is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal and NGM.

Mamma Mia! is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20th May

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

Ernie Almond writes….

I went along on the opening night at Milton Keynes and I have to say that the packed house of (I assume) Abba fans were absolutely thrilled to hear every known Abba song and one or two that we didn’t remember.

The show may be corny and contrived, but I think that is what we all loved about Abba themselves wasn’t it? Excellent performances from the likes of Lucy May Barker and the three supposedly more adult members, until they don their stage costumes – but I dont want to spoil anything, Helen Hobson, Emma Clifford and some wonderful comedy moments from Gillian Hardie.

You might get the impression that the writers kept remembering an Abba song and then found a way to fit it in – much to the delight of the packed Milton Keynes Theatre.

If I have any criticism, it would be that being a fan of the island of the Greek island where the story is set, I was hoping for a backcloth with views of something similar. Instead of which we were treated to a front and a back cloth of blue waves – making me feel that the entire show was being performed under water! But what do I know?

Ernie Almond

Mamma Mia! is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20th May

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