Tuesday, April 25, 2017



WAOS at the Public Hall, Witham


Shakespeare's forgotten rock and roll masterpiece takes to the Witham stage in a production packed with energy and attack.
On an impressively high-tech set – flashing lights and giant plasma screen - the company throw themselves whole-heartedly into this irreverent mash-up of the Complete Works and high-camp hits of the 50s and 60s.
Claire Carr's production is assured in every department. Technically, the lighting is superb, with striking Close Encounters silhouettes; the monster and the air-lock [smoke and fan] are both highly effective. Video and animation are beautifully done. Musically the familiar songs are given barnstorming performances, with spectacular choreography: Who's Sorry Now – with the Swinging Space Cats – and Mr Spaceman – with silver lamé cowboy hats – among the many memorable production numbers. The pit band, conducted from the keyboard by James Tovey, provide very authentic instrumental support; special mention for the powerhouse drumming of Paul Codling. And the acting matches the camp, OTT style of the music.
Captain Tempest – the heart-throb hero – is David Everest-Ring, striking poses and selling the songs. His Navigation Officer, on this equal opportunities spaceship, is an excellent Rhianna Howard. Diana Easton makes a wonderful Gloria, with commanding stage presence and a great way with her numbers – Go Now, especially. Cookie – the simple, homespun lovesick lad - is the seriously talented Harry Tunningley: dancing, singing and verse-speaking all very accomplished. His duets with the Bosun [Emma Loring] are tremendous fun. He does however have a body double from the band to accompany his air guitar, since this is a company of dancers rather than actor-musicians. The inhabitants of the isle of D'Illyria are Stewart Adkins' mad scientist Prospero, making the most of Lear's storm, Claire Rowe's delightful Miranda, and, as the rolling Coke can Ariel, Tim Clarke, resplendent in his costume and skilled on his roller skates. A nice cameo in the Patrick Moore video role of Newsreader from Richard Cowen, who's also a member of the polished ensemble.
Hugely enjoyable from the opening Wipeout to the Great Balls of Fire finale, this is a laudably virtuosic production of a demanding musical theatre classic.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Things to come
Ballet Central 2017 comes to the Civic Theatre

Always eagerly awaited, Central School of Ballet's renowned graduate performing company Ballet Central will call at Chelmsford's Civic Theatre on Tuesday 16th May as part of its 2017 national tour. 

Ballet Central gives audiences across the country the chance to see the company’s young and dynamic dancers who are on the cusp of their professional careers, showcasing newly-commissioned works and celebrated masterpieces by the dance industry’s top choreographers.  

The repertoire for this year’s tour features Act 2 of Highland Fling by Matthew Bourne, Indigo Children by Royal Ballet artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett, and a new version of the ballroom scene from Romeo & Juliet by former English National Ballet’s Jenna Lee. It also includes specially created works by Christopher Bruce and Malgorzata Dzierzon, as well as excerpts from Petipa’s La Bayadere.  The tour will also feature a scene from Dracula, choreographed by Michael Pink from the original production directed by Christopher Gable in 1996.

Christopher Marney, the new Artistic Director of Ballet Central said "This year’s performance showcases the best dance theatre from current industry professionals and gives you the chance to see newly-commissioned work and refreshed classics from the world’s top choreographers. This is an opportunity to see the future stars of dance as they launch their professional careers”.

Ballet Central’s dancers not only perform but also help with technical aspects including lighting, sound, staging and wardrobe.  Another highlight of Ballet Central is the music, much of which has been created by Central’s Composer-in-Residence Philip Feeney, who also performs live on the tour.

Civic Theatre, Chelmsford on Tuesday 16th May at 7.45 pm  

Thursday, April 13, 2017


BOSSY at Brentwood Theatre

A happy, homespun Hairspray from BOSSY, in fine Sixties style, musically and wardrobe-wise.
Gaynor Wilson's production keeps the setting simple – a nice vertical bed for Tracy's awakening – while Andy Prideaux's quartet sets the musical pace, with a prominent role for that essential sax. Some impressive ensemble numbers: the mother and daughter sextet, the Council members in the title number, the joyous Can't Stop the Beat finale.
And plenty of punchy performances from an energetic cast – I saw the Thursday company. An immensely likeable Tracy from Tia Stack, pint-sized rabble rouser and would-be teenage Jezebel. She has the character to perfection, and brings energy and elan to all her numbers. Michael Percival is her mother, feisty and voluminously dressed, with Adam Ellis as her dad, the extrovert joke store manager, and Dan Pugh as her love interest, the heart-throb Link Larkin. The bigoted baddies include Ellie Lovelace's Velma – a magnetic stage presence – and her daughter Amber [Grace Frost]. A lovely, gawky Penny Pingleton from Cloe Lee, and a great glib Corny from Joe Folley.
Jeremy Lawal-Champion impresses as Seaweed, son of Motormouth Maybelle, nicely done by Tomi Bello, especially in her act two anthem, and her “big, blonde and beautiful” act one finale.
Lots of fine character work in the cast, including doubles from Will Loader as Mr Pinky and Brad, and Owen Jackson as the penitentiary official and Mr Spritzer, President of Ultra Clutch, proud sponsor of the Corny Collins TV show.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


Marlborough Dramatic Club at the Memorial Hall, Brentwood School


Michael Frayn's neat English version – Gambon its first Vanya, I believe – fits four acts into an audience-friendly couple of hours; even slicker in William Wells' production, with all the action set in the garden of Serebryakov's dacha.
The sombre mood is set before lights down – the samovar, Jean Morgan's nanna Marina knitting, Astrov reading. And at the end, the final moments of tearful optimism, as those left behind prepare to live out their wretched lives.
A compelling Vanya from Darren Hannant, his untidy idler contrasting with his smartly suited friend Dr Astrov [Gavin Leary]. Sara Thompson is the plain, unloved Sonya, her clumsy attempt at seduction one of several moving moments. The elegant Yelena, the professor's young second wife, is stylishly done by Juliette Bird. Good support from an equally stylish Margaret Corry as Vanya's mother, and Harry Morrison as the pathetic, desiccated Telegin.
This polished production has many telling moments: an impressive entrance through the audience for the “great scholar” [Keith Morgan] and his party, the carefully plotted trio that begins Act Three, the dramatic impetus sustained right through to Yelena's soliloquy, Vanya's rant, and his desperate disillusionment in a speech which he starts slumped with his back to the audience.


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court


Harvey first “appeared” on Broadway a lifetime ago, but this pooka pal has remained popular ever since, due in part to the Jimmy Stewart movie.
Now he's haunting the Old Court stage, in a gently amusing production by Jade Flack.
Elwood P Dowd, “the biggest screwball in town” and the rabbit's constant companion, is given a warmly absorbing performance by Dave Hawkes, perfectly capturing the sunny innocence of this harmless eccentric. Strong in support are Lynne Foster as his desperate sister, with some great moments of physical comedy, and Alec Clements as Sanderson, the callow, charismatic junior doctor at the sanatorium run by Dr Chumley [Jesse Powis in a memorable bow tie].
Not all the performances are quite as assured as Hawkes', but there are nice cameos from Stephanie Yorke-Edwards as Mrs Chumley, Fabienne Hanley as Aunt Ethel, and Ian Russell as the all-important cab driver.
Not many laughs on a thin Friday night, despite the sterling efforts of some experienced performers, but some excellent work in key scenes; Sanderson getting advice from Dowd, or left alone on stage with Ruth [Jade Flack].
And the scene changes from The Dowd Library to Chumley's Rest are very efficiently managed.