Saturday, February 25, 2017


King Edward VI Grammar School

Expectations were high after last year's Les Mis. And this is a much more challenging piece: a less familiar sung-through score, and dark, adult themes.
But this outstanding production is every bit as impressive, musically and dramatically - James French the director, Tim Worrall the MD.
The orchestra, wrapped around by the action, produces a full, symphonic sound, the keyboards rightly taking second place to the real instruments. Good to see Declan Hickey's “solo saxophone” given some well-deserved limelight. And vocally the standard is stunningly high, both from the ensemble and the soloists.
Hiya Dhar makes a superb Kim. Her mature voice never falters, her numbers are emotionally charged but never overdone. She's well matched by Joseph Folley's compelling Engineer – a mesmeric presence, and perfectly delivered numbers. A creepy, slippery survivor, he gets what few laughs there are in this hard-hitting story. His American Dream will be hard to forget, I feel – a great production number choreographed by Gavin Wilkinson.
Strong contributions from many others, including Rafee Ahmed's commissar Thuy, Samuel Harper's GI Chris, and Olivia Moul as his wife Ellen.
The staging is simple, with many of the numbers presented on the walk-way surrounding the pit. The helicopter is sketched with sound and animation, the wire fences paint a stark image of despair.
The ensembles are tellingly used – the military, the dancers, the whores. And the junior chorus makes its mark, too, as urchins, refugees, mini-me Uncle Sams, and as the brilliant Bui-Doi choir, making a powerful opening to Act Two with Benjamin Kinder's strongly sung John.

This is musical theatre work of a very high standard, artistically and technically. A cliché, but no less true for that, to say that we forgot that we were in a school hall, and all these actors would be back in the classroom next week – Dreamland, Ho Chi Minh City and the rice fields no more than an imperishable memory.

production photos: Peter Langman Photography
To buy Peter Langman's rehearsal photos, try this direct link with the first password as Saigon1234, which then needs submitting again after you have put your e-mail address in...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


The Chelmsford Ballet Company's Civic show this year is Alice's Adventures - a fresh look at the story and characters of an age-old favourite, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
The music is by that master of the balletic score, Tchaikovsky, selected and arranged by Carl Davis for a 1995 commission by English National Ballet.

We're promised a world of magic and mystery; the Mad Hatter, grins without cats, white rabbits, eat me drink me potions, cakes and a shrinking Alice.

The choreography is by CBC's Artistic Director Annette Potter, and the production runs from March 22 to March 25.

Tickets for Alice’s Adventures are now on sale; contact the Civic Theatre box office on 01245 606505 or visit or

Saturday, February 11, 2017



Among the most consistently impressive of the local choral societies, Waltham Singers, under Andrew Fardell, increasingly look beyond their parish church, with concerts in Chelmsford Cathedral and overseas touring.

This March they are singing in King Edward VI School: two cornerstones of the choral repertoire, Allegri's Miserere and Fauré's Requiem. Plus the première of a new commission from Essex composer Alan Bullard -  Psalmos Penitentiales, funded by a bequest to the choir from Peter Andrews, much missed critic and patron of the arts, my predecessor at the Chelmsford Weekly News.
They will be joined, amongst others, by Laurence Lyndon Jones from Chelmsford Cathedral, Ensemble OrQuesta and BBC Chorister of the year Angus Benton. 
The concert is on March 18 at 7.30 pm in King Edward VI School.
Tickets from James Dace, the choir's website, or on the door.

Sunday, February 05, 2017



Big names head the Queen's cast for Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, now starting a month's run at Billet Lane.
This bold new production, produced in collaboration with Sellador Productions and Les T Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, stars Charlie Condou and Victoria Yeates as the witch-finder Reverend Hale and Elizabeth Proctor.
The Crucible revolves around the true story of the infamous Salem witch-trials in 1692 – 1693. Douglas Rintoul, the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s resident Artistic Director who thrilled audiences with his smash hit sell-out musical Made in Dagenham, has directed. The Crucible is about more than just a witch-hunt and promises to submerge audiences into a melting pot of lies, hysteria, greed and manipulation. Audiences will be engrossed right from the beginning as they witness the young Abigail Williams [Lucy Keirl] tear through the village like a whirlwind to inflict fear and death. No one is safe.

The production runs in Hornchurch until March 11, then begins a tour which will take them as far as Luxembourg.

For more information about The Crucible at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and the Jump the Q Season Ticket, call the Box Office on 01708 443333 or visit

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Shakespeare's Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

An early look at the penultimate show in this winter's Playhouse Wonder Noir season.

Annie Ryan gives this dark tragedy a duly dark production. The total blackout at the start is barely troubled by single candles as the protagonists gather. The stage, strewn with corpses at the close, seems to be stained black.
Webster's tale of hypocrisy, seduction and revenge is played out in a vaguely dystopian setting, with Jamie Vartan's stylish costumes suggesting the 19th century, as does the mechanism for the conjuror's “spectacles of glass”.  
Ryan fields a strong cast, including Garry Cooper as the Cardinal and Fergal McElherron in a clever double as Camillo and the banished Lodovico. Jamie Ballard is Brachiano, Joseph Timms [lately Sebastian and Lucentio] a laddish Flaminio, Mercy Ojelade Isabella (and Gasparo), Kate Stanley-Brennan Vittoria, and Anna Healey a strong Cornelia.
Tom Lane's music – cello, accordion, fiddle, trumpet, dulcimer – is very effective; an even fuller score would not have come amiss, perhaps.
All a far cry from the RSC's strange disco production of 2014, with its female Flaminio. And much closer to Webster's own vision, I would think, first staged, not too successfully, at the Red Bull on a dismal winter's day in 1612.
The White Devil is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until April 16.