Liza Sings…The Songs of Hollywood ~ Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

*** Touring show – dates, ticket booking information and other details are here: http://www.lizapulman.com/ ***

Glitz and glamour of –Hollywood arrived in Stafford at the Gatehouse Theatre last night, in the form of glorious singer, Liza Pulman. Best known as a member of the trio, Fascinating Aida, Pulman is currently going it alone in her show: Liza Sings The Songs of Hollywood.

When I interviewed Liza she said that there would be a couple of stonking frocks from her, and she wasn’t kidding, either! The Diva looked resplendent in all three frocks, even if they did hinder her progress when she attempted to take a seat on a nearby stool! Not only is Pulman a magnificently talented singer, she is also a marvellously quick-witted comedienne (hence why she is a member of the hilarious Fascinating Aida).

Among the wide selection of songs from the movies that we were treated to were: Evergreen which Pulman’s vocals lent themselves to exceedingly well, Que Sera Sera, a jazzy version of Moon River and my personal favourites, there Disney numbers. Two of the Disney choices included popular hits from the Toy Story franchise; You’ve Got a Friend in Me and When Somebody Loved Me, the latter was a heart breaking number to listen to, largely due to Pulman’s beautiful connection with the lyrics (she has a knack of connecting perfectly with every song she sings). Cruela De Vil followed, and this upbeat tune, originally from 101 Dalmations certainly had my foot tapping again.

Liza’s knowledge of the movies was a superb accompaniment to the musical extravaganza, she really knows her stuff! To top it all, The Stardust Orchestra who played were a delicious treat for the ears, when they had their opportunity to shine during a costume change, playing the theme from The Artist, it was a real highlight.

A sensational musical feast which must not be missed, beg, borrow or steal a ticket and join Ms Pulman her journey to some classic movies.

 

Biggest Hula-Hooping Outdoor Gathering, London

Have you ever fancied having a go at hula-hooping in the company of professionals? If you can make it to Queen’s Walk in London (between Jubilee Gardens and the London Eye) on Wednesday 13 April at 5:30pm, you can do just that!

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Internationally acclaimed circus company Circa will have their stars on hand to help participants to pick up a new skill and have bags of fun into the bargain. No need to purchase your own hula-hoop for the event as these will be provided, so bring yourself and shake it with the cast of Closer, Circa’s latest show which will be performing at the Uddrbelly Festival until 12 June 2016.

The event will last approximately half an hour and you couldn’t be in better hands, why not give it a go!

For more information regarding Circa and their show at Udderbelly Festival, please visit this link: http://www.udderbelly.co.uk/whats-on/closer

Photo courtesy of Richard Davenport

Disney On Ice ~ Genting Arena, Birmingham

*** Birmingham Genting Arena until Sunday 10 April and touring – the tour finishes on 1 May in Glasgow ***

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Goofy all arrived in Birmingham last Wednesday night and they brought their ice skates with them! Disney on Ice was back to rock the Genting Arena in Birmingham and give Disney fans of all ages a glimpse of their cartoon heroes on ice skates.

After a spectacular opening featuring characters from the Disney park ride A Small World, Mickey Mouse and friends were on hand to introduce the show to the great delight of the young patrons in the audience. The Lion King was the first film we were treated to and there were some beautiful interactions between Simba and Nala as well as comedy from Pumba and Timon. The cast of performers are exceptionally talented as they twist and turn to perfection on the ice with spot on characterisation, too.

Before the interval, Peter Pan took us on a journey to Neverland which included a glorious pirate ship steered by the dastardly Captain Hook and an inspired version of the crocodile in hot pursuit. This was the first time I had seen Peter Pan performed as part of Disney on Ice and it worked brilliantly.

The Little Mermaid was a firm favourite, with the crowd singing and clapping along to Under the Sea and some excited reactions to the appearance of Sebastian the crab. Ursula was resplendent as she arrived to stir up trouble and that cannot have been an easy costume to have skated in. The audience choice was most definitely Frozen, despite a couple of mishaps, the trip to Arendelle provoked whoops of joy from most of the little girls in the arena, many of whom were dressed as either Anna or Elsa.

Overall, a smasher of a show from the Disney on Ice team and I can’t wait for the next visit!

Information and tickets can be found by following this link: http://www.disneyonice.com/gb/en-gb/silver-anniversary-celebration

End of the Rainbow ~ Malvern Theatres

At Malvern Theatres until Saturday 9th April, then touring until Saturday 25th June.

*** Please note that the final tour venue was set to be Cheltenham and this is no longer going ahead **

The story of Judy Garland is well documented and the tragedy of her glory days spiralling downwards at the mercy of pills and alcohol is no secret. This production (by Peter Quilter) covers the period of time leading to Judy’s death at the age of 47 years old and shows her at her worst.

About to embark upon a six week residency at Talk of the Town, London, the diva has a new beau in tow, fiancé Mickey Deans who is also her manager. Deans, played by Sam Attwater, is keen for the come-back to succeed as Garland has mounting debts, so horrendous are these debts that they are constantly dodging payment of their hotel bill this hotel is their home for the duration of their stay in London to re-launch her career.  Her loyal accompanist, Anthony Chapman, played by the incomparable Gary Wilmot, is on hand to accompany her. It seems that he would prefer to support her off-stage rather than engage in the bullish behaviour demonstrated  by Deans when it becomes clear that Garland is in no fit state to be continuing with life in the spotlight.

Although this is essentially a three hander, which works well, Lisa Maxwell who plays the fallen star could easily play this as a one woman show. Her likeness to Garland is incredible, in mannerisms, speaking voice and vocals. The various numbers that we were treated to throughout the show were enough to prove that Maxwell’s capabilities are limitless and when she sang my personal favourite, The Man Who Got Away, I was moved to tears. Every nuance of Garland’s character is portrayed to amazing effect by Maxwell, she brings out the aggression, frustration and confusion, yet still injects the natural quick-witted, comedic qualities possessed by the much loved star.

The set was inspiring, it lent itself to the piece and transitions were smooth. It transported me back to the time period and there were times when it truly felt as though I had a window into a snapshot of Garland’s life.

End of the Rainbow will stay at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 9th April and the tour will continue until Saturday 25th June. For more information and to book tickets please visit: http://www.endoftherainbowtour.co.uk/

 

Photo courtesy of Pamela Reith.

 

 

40th Olivier Awards ~ What They Did For Love

In all my years of theatre going, reviewing and promoting, I have never felt quite the reaction to the Olivier Awards ceremony as I did last night. The 40th awards ceremony was a heady mixture of wonderful performances from some shows I have had the pleasure of seeing and others that are contenders on my wish list.

I had firm favourites who I craved to see succeed, too and they did! Gypsy dominated the evening with the incomparable Imelda Staunton storming the stage at the beginning of the evening as Madame Rose. Earning a standing ovation so early in the evening, and at an awards ceremony – that has to be some kind of a record! Gypsy claimed four trophies in total, with Staunton taking the coveted Best Actress in a Musical prize, deservedly so. Lara Pulver who played Gypsy Rose Lee also took Best Supporting Actress in a Musical and I feel it would have been a great pity if she hadn’t have been standing up there with her ‘mother’.

Kinky Boots is setting the West End ablaze at the moment and Matt Henry taking the Best Actor in a Musical award came as no surprise, neither did the show itself taking the trophy for Best New Musical. Another predictable but popular winner was Dame Judi Dench, her performance in A Winter’s Tale has been on the tips of theatre goers tongues for a long time.

Performances on the night were exceptional, aside from Staunton’s magnificent opener from Gypsy, there was high energy and high jinks from the casts of Kinky Boots and In The Heights. Plus a show stopping rendition of Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat from Guys and Dolls and a great scene from Bugsy Malone.

Phantom of the Opera (who personally had my vote) won the Magic Radio Audience Award and after so many years of owning the West End, it was long overdue. A gorgeous except from the phenomenon was shown live on stage at the Piazza in Covent Garden, the stunning performance proving why it has stood the test of time.

Michael Ball was a superb presenter as always, his tongue in cheek humour never goes amiss with me and I won’t forget his appearance in those boots for a while, either!

The glory of the night for me came in the form of 15 past Best Actress in a Musical winners filing onto the stage at the Royal Opera House to sing What I Did for Love from A Chorus Line. A wonderful mix of stars who each brought something to the emotional number. Among them were super-talented ladies and favourites; Joanna Riding, Katie Brayben, Maria Frieman, Ruthie Henshall, Janie Dee, Sharon D Clarke and Sam Spiro. I was particularly over-joyed to see Sara Crowe and Nichola McAuliffe in the line-up, because you don’t necessarily link them with musical theatre, yet both are real triple threats.

This theatre blog is what I do for my love of all things theatre and I thought from my own personal point of view that finishing the evening with a group of exceptional performers singing such a perfect number topped off the perfect evening.

 

Feature image courtesy of Olivier Awards Website

 

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