Club Tropicana The Musical ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Star rating: *****

Club Tropicana drinks are free, fun and sunshine there’s enough for everyone… and Club Tropicana The Musical certainly encompasses fun, sunshine and epitomises the feel-good theatre production.

With all the horrors of hell we read about in the news on an almost hourly basis, the opportunity to sit in an auditorium packed with people who were out for a good time in their 80’s throwback outfits was too good to miss. Club Tropicana is a musical packed to the rafters with popular 80’s hits from ‘Fantastic Day’ to ‘Addicted To Love’ to ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. I reminisced on my childhood and couldn’t wait to get on my feet with the enthusiastic crowd during the energy-infused finale.

The storyline is flimsy and ultimately cheesy, bride dumps groom on wedding day, groom and two mates go on honeymoon, bride and her two mates have the same idea. The hotel they holiday at is Club Tropicana and this particular venue for sun seekers is entered into a competition. There’s a will they/won’t they situation going on with the two managers, with over-riding concerns that the judge of the hotel competition is sneaking about. Meanwhile a flamboyant host by the name of Garry is trying his best to put a smile on everybody’s face and put-upon colleague, Consuela is causing chaos and hilarity with her ideas and signs!

Joe McElderry lights up the stage with his exceptional stage presence as Garry, his flamingo jacket looks spectacular! Of course, McElderry’s vocal ability is incredible so lent itself brilliantly to the musical numbers. Neil McDermott was superbly cast as Hotel Manager, Robert and had wonderful chemistry opposite Amelle Berrabah as Serena, she’s been in love with Robert for years and it’s a sweet story to watch as it unfolds. Amelle’s singing voice is as beautiful and powerful as I remember in her Sugarbabes days. Karina Hind gave an engaging performance as the bride with cold feet, Lorraine. Well matched with Cellen Chugg Jones as jilted groom, Olly and their duet ‘Take On Me’ was pitch perfect, a real highlight of the show. Emily Tierney was on form as Christine, the feared Hotel Inspector who is not who everybody thinks she is. An overt character, she played her as a combination of Tanya from Mama Mia mixed with Cruella de Vil! A hilarious caricature of a person whom Tierney embraced. Stealing the show was the genius that is the amazing Kate Robbins, I’ve long admired her ability to mimic famous voices and her comic timing made for an audience who were in fits of laughter every time she appeared. As Consuela, Robbins was almost given free reign to be as outlandish and comical as she can be and to be able to cleverly interweave just a handful of the celebrities she can impersonate was the cherry on the cake. What a fabulous showcase of a wonderful artist.

Kudos to the Directors; Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston, the set and costume design by Diego Pitarch was simply glorious and choreography also by Nick Winston was sensational.

If you’re looking for a rollicking good night out with an easy-viewing plot, plenty to sing along to and a cast who are all at the top of their game, this is the one for you. Club Tropicana stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 4 May, book your tickets now and I bet you’ll feel like you Just Can’t Get Enough! Club Tropicana Tickets

Dumbo ~ Malvern Cinemas

Star rating: *****

Dumbo is a classic Disney movie and as a self-confessed Disney-a-holic I’d put the original animated version somewhere in my top ten films of all time. A live action incarnation with a Tim Burton spin sounded appealing and alarming all at once, however it was a joy from beginning to end. Probably not entirely suited to our five year old as he found some of the darker edged scenes to be somewhat disconcerting, however this did not spoil his overall enjoyment and when Dumbo flew, our boy was beside himself.

Dumbo himself and indeed all of the animals were fascinating to watch, such attention to detail added to the exceptional realism and Dumbo’s mother in particular was quite something to behold.

The story stays fairly faithful to the original, there isn’t much of a place for Timothy Mouse in this version although he’s definitely featured, just not as Dumbo’s friend. His friends come in the form of the Farrier family, bereaved following the death of their mother and newly reunited with their father, Holt (Colin Farrell) who has returned from war with an arm missing – Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) are the pals the young elephant with over-sized ears comes to rely upon. The poor young chap has gone from being a laughing stock when he was new born to the sad departure of his mother following her rampage to protect her son. Max Medici (Danny DeVito), owner of the Circus Dumbo belongs to is capitalising on the discovery that Dumbo’s ears can be used as wings. However, with the fame of his top billing act comes a villain set to take the act for himself under false pretences. Enter V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) with his arm-candy, trapeze star Colette Marchant (Eva Green).

With the Farrier children intent upon using money earned from Dumbo’s act in the Coney Island circus to buy back his mother, the truth about Candevere’s intentions catalyses a chain of events which may or may not lead to a happy ending for the much loved elephant and his keepers.

The story from the animation has been expanded upon and has a sinister air on occasion, however that is to be expected with a Tim Burton production – it’s not going to be happy ever after without a number of twists, turns and evil plots along the way. DeVito, Keaton, Farrell and Green shine in the lead roles and the children are superb.

Go and see the elephant fly for yourselves, it’s a heart-warming tale of love, ultimately and I bet you’ll not be able to help yourselves falling in love with delightful little Dumbo! Book your tickets to see the film at Malvern Cinemas, here: www.malvern-theatres.co.uk

Gwyn Williams Bursary Concert ~ Royal Birmingham Conservatoire ~ 5th May 2019

This event is not to be missed and I can’t wait to review the concert on behalf of Entertainment Views, it’s fantastic that the Gwyn Williams Bursary exists to support young violists at Birmingham Conservatoire. The details sourced from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire website, are below – try to get hold of a ticket if you can! Tickets are free of charge with a suggested donation of £30.

Introduced by Nick Bailey

Yvonne Howard mezzo-soprano
Maria Jagusz mezzo-soprano
Peter O’Connor flute
Rebecca Stubbs viola
Chris Yates viola
John Wilson piano

The Behn Quartet
Kate Oswin and Alicia Berendse violin
Ana Teresa de Braga e Alves viola
Ghislaine McMullin cello

Programme to include:
Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, D.821
Brahms Two Songs for Voice, Viola and Piano
Smetana String Quartet No.1 in E minor (“From My Life”)
Bellini Casta Diva
Schubert Ave Maria
Briccialdi Carnevale di Venezia, Op.78

A special benefit concert to raise funds for the Gwyn Williams Bursary Fund, which supports talented young violists at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The evening will be introduced by the first voice of Classic FM, Nick Bailey and feature performances by current students of the Conservatoire and professional musicians who knew and worked with Gwyn.

Spaces for this event are extremely limited so early booking is advised. Please contact Robin Leonard on 0121 331 5534 or at robin.leonard@bcu.ac.uk for all ticket enquiries.

Half-Term at the Hippodrome ~ Review

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the school holidays! Yet another half term has presented itself and in our case, we have a 5 year old to entertain for just over 2 weeks. Easter holidays not only bring a fortnight’s worth of fun with your offspring, they also occasionally tag on a cheeky day or two for teacher training. Everything these days costs a pound or two, even a ‘free’ trip to the local park is likely to include requests for ice cream, and of course there’s always an ice cream van to hand, jingling away! One of our saviours came in the form Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

My boy, Connor, joining in the street dance workshop

It’s not difficult to entice my boy into a theatre, he’s been brought up going to shows that are age appropriate for most of his short life so far – of course he has! He’s my child after all! What helped to engage him with Birmingham Hippodrome’s week of fantastic activities was the Street Dance workshop offered for 5-7 year olds by the superb Dance Xchange. This hour long session offered on Good Friday showcased and demonstrated the quality of teaching from one of their talented teachers. The small group were taught a short dance which involved some moves which my little boy was familiar with as he already has street dance classes (as well as ballet and tap!).

The children were encouraged to warm up before they were put through their paces. The end result was several proud 5-7 year olds who could perform a street dance routine – and rather brilliantly too!

After that excitement the young ones were able to play with giant Lego bricks in the coffee bar area, that was a big hit. Also ideal for kids of all ages were the crafts that were on offer. From colouring an easter egg to making one to hang up at home or you could make a protest flag to wave. It was all good creative stuff designed to inspire the holidaying youngsters and my little boy hasn’t stopped talking about it.

The giant Lego was a hit!

The most amazing part of the activities offered is that they’re all free of charge. So unless you want to buy drinks or snacks in the coffee bar, your pennies can stay in your purse.

Birmingham Hippodrome offer these opportunities in the holidays regularly, so why not keep an eye on their website to find out what they have coming up soon: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/

Free Theatrical Workshops ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham Hippodrome half-term workshops. Credit: Simon Hadley

Birmingham Hippodrome is staging an exciting programme of free theatrical workshops this Easter half-term. Designed with the family in mind, children of all ages will be entertained with a range of free workshops from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April.

For the first time at the Hippodrome, the theatre will host an accessible Sensory Circus (17 Apr) for children with additional needs including Autism, Asperger’s and other complex disabilities.  As well as the Sensory Circus, there will be specially created chill out spaces close-by featuring circus play tents filled with sensory toys and apparatus.

In partnership with DanceXchange, Family Yoga (15 Apr) will offer parents and their little ones the chance to spend some happy, healthy time together. In the Street Dance workshop (19 Apr) expect a Hip-Hop inspired event where kids can work up a sweat with seasoned Street Dance teachers in the lead up to B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival, coming to Birmingham this May.

In-keeping with Easter traditions, Easter Activities (15-19 Apr) will invite families to create their own colourful eggs, plus the chance to take part in an egg-citing Easter egg trail. There’s also the chance to discover industry secrets with Stage Make-Up for Families (16 Apr), with the opportunity to create dramatic characters and artistic make-up for the stage.

Arts and crafts take centre stage in the Build your own Brum workshop (18 Apr), working with illustrator Tsz, you’ll get to redesign your very own Birmingham. You can also join a Protest Flag Making workshop (16 & 19 Apr) inspired by Les Misérables. Drop in and create a flag with a message of peace or protest.

In the Make Your Own Theatre Poster workshop (15 & 18 Apr), families can come together to create eye-catching theatrical posters inspired by some of the headlining productions that have graced the Hippodrome stage.

Birmingham Hippodrome’s free Easter activities will take place from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April. For more information visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com/easter

BBC One’s ‘Baptiste’ Released on DVD

The Missing’s Julien Baptiste returns in the titular role of a new six-part drama for BBC One

French detective Julien Baptiste, who first appeared in The Missing series one and two, returns in the titular role of a new six-part drama for BBC One. Starring Tchéky Karyo, Tom Hollander and Jessica Raine.

“Never-quite-retired detective and erstwhile beekeeper Julien Baptiste is a character very dear to our hearts. After seeing him brought to life by the incomparable Tcheky Karyo in The Missing, we always knew we weren’t quite ready to let him go if the right story presented itself. We’re glad it finally did, and hope people enjoy seeing Baptiste take centre stage in his show as much as we have.”

Julien Baptiste is staying in Amsterdam where his daughter has recently had a child. Forever under their feet and restless, he is invited to meet up with old flame Martha Horchner, the chief of police in Amsterdam. But this isn’t a lunch to catch up on old times – she wants his help to find a missing girl, Natalie, the niece of Englishman Edward Stratton. She believes the case is connected to a Romanian sex trafficking gang. It’s vital that they find her.

Julien meets up with Edward and they begin their search, but it’s not long before Julien realises that all is not as it seems. Why does nobody want to talk about the missing girl? Who is the man following Celia, Julien’s wife? What is the connection between the case and the transsexual brothel, whose owner has sent someone to follow them? Who is the mysterious woman, Kim Vogel, who helps the sex industry girls and tells them that Natalie has run away to Germany?

As Julien starts to uncover some of the truths behind the lies, he realises there is more to this case that meets the eye. By the time Baptiste becomes aware of the danger that he has been drawn into, Julien’s own family are in mortal danger and Julien is caught in a trap.

Baptiste is a nail-biting ride full of twists and turns, where nothing and nobody are as they first seem. Amsterdam is both the backdrop and a veneer, and Julien Baptiste must search its narrow alleyways and its basements and canals, to uncover the dark side of the city.

Did you watch this fantastic drama? As a Jessica Raine fan I was hugely eager to see her in a new role and this one absolutely suited her – what a superb character for a great actress to get her teeth into. Here’s an interview with Jessica Raine which has been provided for re-publication by the BBC Media Centre.

Tell us about Genevieve’s character – what is her background story?
Genevieve is an officer at Europol, heading up a team trying to get enough evidence together to nail a gang called the Brigada Serbilu, which concerns itself with human trafficking. She’s quite blunt and tactless and rubs people up the wrong way when she’s first introduced in the series, but she’s incredibly focused and determined to get the guy she needs to get. It’s a scary focus, as she doesn’t care how she treats everyone else.

What is Genevieve’s relationship with Julien?
When Genevieve meets Julien you feel like she’s really marking her territory. She’s a little bit patronising and you feel like she’s definitely overriding him with the decision-making. She wants him out of the way even though she respects what he’s done in the past. Genevieve doesn’t have much time for Baptiste at the beginning, however, as the series progresses I think she really becomes much more respectful of him and his methods and they become quite close by the end, which is a great journey to play.

What is Genevieve’s relationship with Edward?
With Edward, Genevieve is constantly trying to persuade him to do what she wants and doesn’t really think about what the consequences are for him. To her, he is someone who’s in way over his head – but she also sees him as an opportunity. It’s an opening for her that she hasn’t had before with this case, so she has to get him onside. But she is also quite irritated by him, so it is quite a fractious relationship – which has been really fun to play with Tom.

What’s it been like filming in Amsterdam and Belgium?
I’ve loved it. I’ve had a week in Amsterdam but didn’t get to see much of it because we were working all the time. Antwerp I’ve become really familiar with and I love it, the people, the shops and the art as well as the food! I just absolutely adore it to be honest. I want to come back. I can understand why people come out here and live here. It’s just amazing.

What’s it like working with Tom and Tchéky?
Great. They’re so different. Tchéky is so unbelievably French, and I mean that in a really lovely way. He’s very philosophical about things. He’s great to act with. He’s always very present. Tom is loads of fun to work with. He’s done his research, he knows what he’s doing and then just sort of let’s rip on a scene, which has been really positive.

Get your hands on a copy of Baptiste on DVD here:

Olivier Awards 2019

Theatre has been my passion since I can remember and although in the past couple of years I’ve not been blogging as actively about my best loved genre of entertainment, it’s never left my radar.

Last night’s Olivier Awards reignited the theatrical spark for me and there are shows I will make it my mission to see – especially given the superb performances of excerpts from many of the nominated productions. From the magnificent Disney’s The Lion King to the stonking new musical Come From Away to Six – a pop concert style musical like no other I’ve seen before – the West End is packed with shows to suit every taste. The Tina Turner musical also looks incredible and if you heard Adrienne Warren who plays the real life legend, I’m sure you can’t fail to agree that she does Ms Turner proud and then some! Rosalie Craig made me feel alive with her rendition of Being Alive from Company and a finale featuring such wonderment as the stunning cast of Olivier winner Sir Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was a dream come true. Jason Manford was a superb host, witty and offering up relevant comedy, I found the comment about the over-charging in theatre bars particularly poignantly funny. He showed off his musical theatre side with the fantastic Janie Dee and Ruthie Henshall in tow, which was an unexpected treat indeed.

What of the award winners in the hotly contested categories? Although I’ve yet to see the show as I don’t frequent London as often as I would like, I’m delighted for Company, Jonathan Bailey and Patti Lupone – worthy winners in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical category and Best Musical Revival. Judging by the immense performance given by the cast of Come From Away, their Best New Musical win (amongst other awards) was well deserved, the production stars one of my favourite performers, Jenna Boyd, it’s got to be worth a watch just to see her! Catherine Zuber should also be congratulated, her costume design for The King And I is a triumph and she should rightly be celebrated. Shout out to my favourite Donna and the Dynamos, Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt who presented that particular award in their Mamma Mia! costumes. Porgy and Bess was also on my radar and a winner from the Best Opera nominations which I had high hopes for. I must also add my congratulations to the terrific super-talent Monica Dolan for her win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for All About Eve. I haven’t seen the play yet but Monica Dolan is a chameleon on an actress and wows me in all she does.

Here’s the full list of winners….

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

Come From Away – Book, Music and Lyrics: David Hein and Irene Sankoff; Music Supervisor, Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath; Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen; Musical Director/UK Music Supervisor: Alan Berry; and the band of Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

Blkdog by Botis Seva at Sadler’s Wells

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Akram Khan for his performance in Xenos at Sadler’s Wells

BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY

A Monster Calls at The Old Vic

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Kelly Devine for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL

Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Sharon D. Clarke for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

CUNARD BEST REVIVAL

Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

BEST NEW COMEDY

Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AFFILIATE THEATRE

Flesh And Bone at Soho Theatre

WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Jon Clark for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

ROYAL ALBERT HALL AWARD FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN

Gareth Owen for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Catherine Zuber for The King And I at The London Palladium

BLUE-I THEATRE TECHNOLOGY AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN

Bunny Christie for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Monica Dolan for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION

Katya Kabanova at Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA

The ensemble of Porgy And Bess at London Coliseum

BEST ACTOR

Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS

Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

SIR PETER HALL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

AMERICAN AIRLINES BEST NEW PLAY

The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL

Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

SOCIETY OF LONDON THEATRE SPECIAL AWARD

Sir Matthew Bourne

You can book tickets for the West End Theatre shows here: Break A Leg Ticket Shop

Photo Credit for Come From Away – Matthew Murphy

Other Photo Credits: YouTube

The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice – Resorts World Arena, Birmingham

As a family we are self-confessed Disney-holics – we’ve been fortunate enough to attend a number of Disney On Ice productions as well as having travelled to Disneyland Paris for holidays on a few occasions. The Disney magic never waivers for us and this particular incarnation of the spectacular ice show featuring our favourite Mouse was exceptional – maybe my favourite to date.

All of my best loved Disney films were included as we were taken on a journey of mystery and wonder to seek out hidden treasures with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Who better to go on an adventure with? The added treat is that every character who appears through the majestic red curtains are on ice skates and performing the most stunning moves and tricks across the pure white glittery surface.

The quality of the costumes for this first class display is quite indescribable – the attention to detail for each character brings them to life, it’s glorious viewing for young audience members and the big kids also get just as much entertainment and delight from the show. With popular hits (from the various movies we were treated to) accompanying the splendour and a packed arena singing along, it couldn’t have been a more joyful experience and what a wonderful window into Walt Disney’s imagination.

The films were recreated on ice through beautiful and precise choreography and spellbinding movement as well as nail-biting headbangers and other amazing spins, turns and jumps. We saw The Lion King, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Aladdin (one of my personal favourites, look out for the elephant!), Tangled, Toy Story, Frozen and if you could have seen the Disney Princes and Princesses all in one glorious scene – if you’re a Disney fan you couldn’t fail to be moved and over-awed. There was a lovely surprise in the form of excerpts from the Finding Dory movie too which was transfixing in the extreme.

You’re never too old for Disney and definitely never too old for Disney On Ice, book your tickets now and enjoy a magical experience you’ll never forget:www.disneyonice.com

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