On Your Feet ~ London Coliseum

Star rating: *****

Gloria Estefan is the voice of my childhood and beyond, her sound way back from the Miami Sound Machine days never seems to date and the story of her rise to fame is a fantastic basis for a musical.

Based on the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the show charts the key moments in Gloria’s life. From a soulful, bright child who was always singing; following on through to her remarkable recovery from a coach accident in later adult life. The musical shows us all of the important relationships throughout her life to date too, notably as a granddaughter, daughter, sister, wife and mother. The knockbacks from the powers whom she and Emilio needed on side to catapult her music and talents to a mainstream audience also form a strong linear as the story gives us an insight into her musical successes and struggles.

Gloria’s superb back catalogue of hits are naturally used as the soundtrack, from ‘1-2-3’ to ‘Conga’, ‘Don’t Want To Lose You Now’ and of course, ‘Get On Your Feet’. The tracks are sung in spectacular fashion by Christine Prades as Gloria herself. She’s a wonder, it’s easy to see why she was cast and I could listen to her all night. Her chemistry with George Ioannides as Emilio was on point and together they were a force to be reckoned with. Madalena Alberto who’s long been a favourite of mine is outstanding as Gloria Fajardo, Gloria’s mother – she has a few moments to shine and makes the most of every one. Elia Lo Taura also puts in an impressive performance a Gloria’s father. He suffered from MS and it can have been no mean feat to have portrayed that on stage. Karen Mann stole the show as Consuelo, she really was the lynchpin of the family and her wondrous comic timing made the character marvellously engaging. Holly McDonagh was a delight as young Gloria and Alejandro Puentes Motato was equally entertaining as Nayib/Young Emilio/Jeremy.

The ensemble are also sensational and incredibly strong in vocal ability and in the dance numbers, in fact I’d go so far as to say that a more solid ensemble I’ve not seen in a long time. They wowed with the eye-catching choreography from Sergio Trujillo.

Jerry Mitchell has directed a masterpiece which deserves as wide an audience as possible. The tale is one of love, hope, tragedy and strength as well as an abundance of musical talent. If you love Gloria Estefan you will adore this show and if you’re not familiar with her or not necessarily a fan, go and see this and you son will be. Book your tickets here for the limited run at London Coliseum: https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/on-your-feet-tickets

Photo credits: Johan Persson

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Hobson’s Choice ~ Birmingham Royal Ballet

Star rating: *****

Celebrating David Bintley’s final season as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet couldn’t come in a more glorious form than their latest production of Hobson’s Choice which delighted a packed auditorium at Birmingham Hippodrome.

The story itself is a well-known classic, the original play which the ballet is based upon was written by Harold Brighouse. Love and the class system are running themes as we are introduced to Henry Hobson, proprietor of a boot shop where his input is lessening due to his attachment to the demon drink. His three daughters, Maggie, Alice and Vickey are all vital cogs in his enterprise, their cheap labour in the shop ensures that he can live the drunken, gluttonous lifestyle he has become accustomed to. Alice is courting Albert Prosser (a lawyer) and Vickey is courting Fred Beenstock (son of a corn merchant) – however they are denied Hobson’s blessing in marriage as he fears losing them from the shop. Although he takes Maggie’s presence and hard work for granted and could never have predicted that she had set her sights on Will Mossop, the boot hand whom their wealthiest customer has praised to the skies. The twist in the tale catalyses a chain of events that sees Hobson’s world turned upside down.

Bintley’s choreography adeptly assists the artists to convey the story clearly, concisely, comically and is remarkable in the extreme. Every dancer in the cast puts effortless characterisation into their role as well as flawless performance. Stunning pas de deux offered intricate insight into relationships and the chemistry between the couples was palpable.

Jonathan Payn earned many a giggle from the audience as he danced the role of Henry Hobson with exceptional comic timing. His cronies; Jim Heeler (Kit Holder), Sam Minns (James Barton) and Mr Tudsbury (Tom Rogers) gave a solid, engaging performance and played off one another superbly. Marion Tait was beautifully self-righteous and eloquently portrayed the upper class Mrs Hepworth. Mathias Dingman as Fred Beenstock and Rory Mackay as Albert Prosser entertained as the suitors of the younger Hobson daughters. Laura Purkiss as Vickey and Delia Mathews as Alice were delightful, they perfectly emphasised the age and immaturity of the young girls. Samara Downs offered a performance as Maggie which showed vulnerability, strength and assertiveness all in one beautiful portrayal. The synchronicity with Lachlan Monaghan as Will Mossop was a joy to behold and their facial expressions conveyed every emotion which was mirrored by every step. Monaghan’s movement was so wonderfully fluid and purposeful that he was practically singing as well as dancing.

Accompanied by Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Phillip Ellis and lead by Robert Gibbs, with a set that framed the action so ornately – this particular ballet has a place in my heart. It’s a perfect first ballet for anyone who hasn’t been before, equally a must-see for ballet aficionados. Look out for the cymbal player in the Salvation Army scene too, I’m still chuckling now! Book your tickets to see the production, here: hobsons-choice

Photo Credits: BRB

Calendar Girls The Musical ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Last night I was lucky enough to go and see one of my favourite musicals, courtesy of a 40th birthday present from one of my besties from my baby group days. The Girls, as it was titled when I first saw this uplifting show in the West End (twice) quickly became a firm favourite of mine. With a stellar cast, a beautiful and often funny score and a story that most are familiar with at the heart of the show. This is by no means a review, as I wasn’t on duty last night, however I can’t miss the opportunity of filling you all in on my first experience of my favourite show on its tour.

If you’re not familiar with the story then check out the write-up via this link, as opposed to letting me bore you with it: Calendar Girls Musical Story So Far

At Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre last night I was moved to tears, laughing out loud and sobbing. The touring production has lost none of the magic created in the west end. There are noticeable tweaks, and I listen to the soundtrack in my care on an almost daily basis so I know the show well considering I’d only taken two trips to see it in the west end.

The set is simpler, although I felt that left room for the lighting to take centre stage and that was fascinatingly atmospheric. Some of the scenes are played differently, the Knapely fete is not quite so elaborate, however the lyrics and performances from the cast more than make up for that. Silent Night is one of my best loved songs and that particular number has been played down in comparison to the piece de resistance it was in the west end’s version.

The cast have mostly familiar to me as faces from the telly, Julia Hills plays Ruth and to me she has always been Rona in BBC One’s 2 Point 4 Children. I was gloriously taken aback by her stunning singing voice and she brought Ruth to life beautifully. Rebecca Storm who plays Chris, I remember seeing as the Mistress in Evita a fair few years ago, she was a force to be reckoned with, in fact you might say she stormed it! (pardon the pun!). The audience reacted enthusiastically to her rendition of Sunflower. Sue Devaney is another favourite of mine, most memorable perhaps as the character who ordered the toast in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies. Cora was a fantastic fit for her, she brought her natural comedic talent and a touch of humility to the role, plus what a voice. The there’s Lisa Maxwell as Celia, slightly understated I felt yet she shone in the role and I already knew how wonderfully she can sing so Had A Little Work Done was one of the highlights of the evening. Lesley Joseph, much loved as Dorian in Birds of a Feather, has stood in for Ruth Madoc as Jessie and she’s doing a fine job.

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah Jane Buckley, from her Kathy Barnes in Hollyoaks days through to seeing her both as Mrs Lyons and Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers. Once I knew of her vocal capabilities I immediately visualised her as Annie in Calendar Girls. She more than exceeded more expectations, the part fits her like a glove. I felt that she captured the essence of Julie Walters’ take on the role when she played Annie in the film version, combined with her own brilliant stamp. Every emotion was conveyed intricately which was no mean feat in a large auditorium and her rendition of Kilimanjaro blew me away. Plus the chemistry she has with Storm as Chris is key to the tale and works amazingly well.

I’m looking forward to officially reviewing the show later in the year, but in the meantime, I’m so glad to have had the chance to see Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s masterpiece in my home city. Book to see the show on tour, you won’t regret it: Calendar Girls The Musical

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