Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs ~ Malvern Theatres

Star rating: *****

Our pantomime season has kicked off late this year, however the first of the festive treats that we’ve been able to attend has surely set the bar high, as a five star extravaganza and perfect family pantomime – Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs at Malvern Theatres is not to be missed.

Starring the wonder that is Hi De Hi! star, Su Pollard, as the Wicked Queen, the show transported me back to the traditional pantomimes I was brought up watching. Thanks to exceptional comedy performances from Pollard, Mark James as Muddles and Philip Meeks as Dolly, there were plenty of laughs to be had and the jokes worked on every level, too. My four year old son all but rolled in the aisles with mirth at the physical comedy from Mark James, while I was entertained by the tongue in cheek, political references and occasional overt smut from Philip Meeks who shone in an amazing array of outfits! He was certainly the mistress of quick changes too. Francesca McKean was a gentile and sweet Snow White, she was the epitome of easy-going, naive Princess. Aidan Banyard possessed the stance, winning smile and qualities of the dashing Prince. The Dwarfs were all glorious, too with Soppy (Charlotte Fawbert) being my favourite. However it was Pollard who stole the show, a wicked laugh like no other, commanding the stage in her unique way and her vocal ability when it came to the musical numbers was quite extraordinary.

There were numerous songs moving the action along, a nod towards The Greatest Showman, Shrek the Musical and the hugely successful and popular artist, George Ezra as well as Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Choreography courtesy of Alastair Bull, was eye-catching and befitting for the genre. The scenery provided an atmospheric backdrop suitable for the story and moved seamlessly.

My personal highlight was the Twelve Days of Christmas, performed by Muddles, Dolly, the Prince and Grouchy the Dwarf (Craig Salisbury), it never fails to be a favourite pantomime tradition of mine. The mayhem and chaos of the scene had the audience in fits of laughter. The five toilet rolls gag proved as popular as ever.

UK Productions really know their stuff when it comes to the simplicity and heart of the genre of pantomime and Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs left my party feeling like Christmas had finally begun. Book your tickets now: Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

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Claire Richards ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

Star rating: *****

Claire Richards has long been my best-loved member of of pop band Steps, her vocal ability is so extraordinary that waiting for her signature ‘belt’ to make an appearance in the back catalogue of Steps hits has become rather customary. When I knew she was planning to go solo it was quite a moment, I was so excited to hear her album and the tour has been on my hit-list since back in the summer. The album ‘My Wildest Dreams‘ has been delayed until 1 February 2019, but she promises it will be worth the wait – and from the sound of the various numbers the singer treated us to during her solo gig, it definitely will be worth the wait!

Looking the epitome of chic elegance, Claire sang us through numerous songs from her album, some I was familiar with and already love listening to and the others that were new to my ears I already know I will want to play over and over. This incredible lady has created a perfect first solo album in my humble opinion. She was nervous, at least that’s what she told the audience, but she’s the master of hiding nerves if she truly felt that way! As one number rolled into another the atmosphere buzzed and every member of the crowd was on her side willing her to be as brilliant as she absolutely was.

With Christmas just around the corner, ‘My Heart Is Heading Home (This Christmas)’ was a welcome choice on the set list, you can download that ready for the festive season too – I highly recommend you do. ‘End Before We Start’ which already has an official video was sensational live, ‘On My Own’ is equally moving and I feel it represents the star’s solo journey. The title track ‘My Wildest Dreams’ is also lyrically heartfelt and yet another song which was performed beautifully live. ‘Deep Waters’ is gloriously upbeat and upped the vibe in the venue. ‘Brave’ is the only self-penned tune and possibly one of my overall favourites, I can identify with the message and it’s a fitting tribute to her children and to motherhood.

Of course there was a nod towards Claire’s ‘day job’ as a member of Steps with stripped back versions of ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’ and ‘One for Sorrow’ which were a welcome addition to the set. However, it was her performance of Ike and Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ which was the biggest revelation of the night and rocked Town Hall, Birmingham.

If you have the chance to see Claire Richards performing her solo gig, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you go. It was an amazing evening of wonderful music and there’s no doubt that this path is right for her, it’s about time!

Check out Claire Richards’ website for all the latest news: Claire Richards Website

Pre-order the album ‘My Wildest Dreams’ here, just click the image:

BBC Good Food Show ~ NEC, Birmingham

The BBC Good Food Show has been on my radar for years so to be able to experience the Winter Good Food Show has been a dream come true. With top Chefs like Mary Berry, James Martin and Michael Roux Jr. displaying their culinary talents in the Big Kitchen and a whole host of action on the smaller stages, combined with the opportunity to attend workshops – it couldn’t have been a better way to begin rounding off my reviewing calendar. Plenty of food and drink too, samples at every turn and bargains galore which is a perfect Christmas shopping option too.

Television Presenter; Chris Bavin was on hand on the Seasonal Kitchen stage to talk us through the various recipes that might be useful during the festive season.

The Winter Kitchen was also a fun place to be, seating capacity was just right for the numbers in attendance and the well placed screens

There was a Pop up restaurant for anyone wishing to wine and dine in style – it was set up beautifully, looked exceptionally inviting and might be on my wish list of things to do next year!

Book signings from a few of the culinary guests were a particular feature occurring frequently throughout the show. Any of those fabulous books would have been an ideal Christmas gift.

Skills School places need to be booked as soon as possible as they sell out but they look well worth attending. Sourdough Masterclass with Denise Tollyfield and Knife Skills were on offer.

The Good Food Show offers a unique shopping experience with sweet and savoury food as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments all available to sample and purchase. A big shout out must go to the gluten free sponge cakes from Sponge – they were like a drop of heaven, so delicious and spectacularly presented in gorgeous boxes. We also enjoyed gingerbread mallows, massive crisps (the chilli flavour were a particular favourite) and fudge.

My team and I can hardly wait for the summer edition of the show, my 4 year old son got as much out of it as we did – he especially loved the Haribo from Chris Bavin!

 

 

 

 

MCM Comic Con ~ Birmingham, NEC

Tis the season! Autumn geek heaven for my family and I…

Which basically means photographs with awesome cosplays, hearing amazing panel talks with stars of the small and big screen, plenty of gaming opportunities and of course that all important C word… Crimes of Griswald? No, CHRISTMAS. If Santa should be directed anywhere to fulfill my Christmas wish list, it’s Comic Con. Mission completed!

This time we mixed it up a bit, spending Saturday being led by our 4 year old, doing what he wanted to do and the Sunday enjoying the convention the way we wanted to – as much as the 4 year old would allow!

MCM know how to do a large-scale Comic Con and the Cosplayers were out in force, we felt under-dressed for not being in costume. So many fandoms represented by attendees, the atmosphere was buzzing and footfall appeared to be on the up.

Here are 4 year old Connor’s highlights of the Saturday:

  • The Grinch ~ The Grinch is on trend again this festive season with the new animated movie having landed on the big screen. I was already a fan of the original film starring the incomparable Jim Carrey, however the smallest member of our family is now taking an active interest in the character. You can imagine his excitement when early in his comic con experience he was confronted with a giant snow globe featuring the miserly green creature! The queues were never too long for this festive treat which meant we were clambering in beside the Grinch and getting covered in snowflake-like paper on both days of the con. Great fun!
  • SPIDERMAN! ~ suspended from the ceiling and hanging upside down. Not the real thing but close enough and a feature which held Connor’s interest and helped him to know where about in the hall he was too.
  • Storm Troopers ~ we always have to make a beeline for UK Garrison if their members are not already marching towards us. Connor’s main request of the weekend was that he saw and high fived the Storm Troopers and located Chewbacca. His wishes were granted and the traditions of MCM Comic Con were upheld!
  • Super Mario ~ Nintendo were a prominent feature in the gaming areas and extremely attractive to our young lad, especially given that he’s newly discovered the Wii.
  • TOYS ~ the temptation to pick up everything in sight and within reach at the numerous stalls was almost too much for a 4 year old convention attendee to cope with! Overwhelmed sums it up and had we not already got Christmas covered, we could have easily done ALL the Christmas shopping in that hall and had a very happy believer on Christmas morning after Santa had done his job.

Here are the highlights from a 39 year old and 46 year old who are old enough to know better but would rather not(!):

  • Talks/Panels ~ so many to choose from and plenty of different stages with something going on over the weekend. We particularly enjoyed listening to and learning from the talented artist, Mark Kistler who taught us how to draw a cartoon fish. On the main stage there was a Star Wars panel and the wonderful Mary McDonnell was also a star feature.
  • Cosplay ~ there seemed to be an increased number of costumed attendees and the sheer attention to detail that goes in to some of the cosplays is nothing short of incredible. There are some super-talented super-fans out there.
  • Props ~ props from our favourite movies and television shows are always a winner and you can always rely on UK Garrison to recreate memories from Star Wars. The Cybermen were also fascinating to look at, that’s the closest I’ll ever be getting to one at any rate!
  • Christmas Shopping ~ my husband pretty much got Christmas wrapped up for me – everything on my wish list was on display at the wide range of stalls and all budgets were catered for too. From commercial to rarer items, if you have a Christmas list from a geek, Comic Con is the place to shop at.

Do you want to see what all the buzz is about? Then why not check out MCM’s website and book tickets for one of their many awesome events next year: MCM Comic Con

 

 

 

Sixties Gold Tour ~ Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Star rating: *****

Sixties Gold landed at Symphony Hall, Birmingham last night and it was an exceptional evening to bear witness to. As a number of amazing singers and instrumentalists who mostly made their names in the swinging sixties took to the stage to play their signature tunes and number one hits to an enthusiastic crowd. The venue was in the most part populated by the fans who heard these popular tracks the first time around, however there was a minority who grew up on the classic hits courtesy of their parents and I think and hope I speak for that cluster when I say that it was as glorious for us as it was for the longer term enthusiasts.

The Searchers

I was brought up on the songs that topped the charts in the fifties, sixties and seventies and one of my all-time favourite bands is The Searchers. I’ve seen them in concert on a previous occasion and they are still phenomenal, even though there’s a slightly altered line-up. Frank Allen and John McNally remain and they’re at the heart of what the band can produce. Their back catalogue of hits rocked Symphony Hall as they generously gave us the most thrilling finale to a wonderful evening of fantastic music. From ‘Sweets for My Sweet’ to ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ and even a side-step towards Buddy Holly tracks, we were spoiled, truly spoiled. They’re retiring next year so be sure to catch their farewell tour, I expect it will be an epic farewell – and hopefully not really their final hoorah…

The Fortunes opened the show in style with the likes of ‘Here It Comes Again’ and ‘Storm in A Teacup’ delighting the audience. The temptation to be on my feet singing along from the very beginning was piqued! There’s no denying that the talent possessed by the plethora of musicians is boundless. Their energy is also quite extraordinary. Vanity Fare followed with one of my all-time favourite songs ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ and they provided the backing for the legendary Steve Ellis, as soon as I heard the opening bars of ‘Bringing On Back The Good Times’ I was transported back to happy family memories. It wouldn’t have been a Steve Ellis set without ‘Everlasting Love’ and he also paid tribute to Small Faces. PJ Proby (also backed by Vanity Fare) who will be embarking  on a farewell tour ably continued the high standard of music, ‘There’s A Place For Us’ was a magical experience to behold. The Merseybeats were the first to really get the venue rocking and by the time they completed the set with ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ we were well and truly ready for the big finale. Their sound and banter was one of the highlights of the evening in my humble opinion.

The Merseybeats

I only wish I’d come along to one of these tours sooner, I will be talking about this for a long time to come and I can’t wait for next year’s – rumour has it that Herman’s Hermits are set to appear. Something tells me I’m into something good!

Check out the tour dates here: Sixties Gold Tour

My Autumn Television Favourites

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, it’s a far more welcome sight when it takes over from a glorious summer and this year, us brits have been spoiled, sunny days making staycations the holiday of choice for many. Television isn’t always at the forefront of our minds, when outside looks so inviting we tend to forget the box indoors.

It might be just me, but I’ve long been of the opinion that the selection of television programmes reflects the fact that most of us won’t be lounging on the sofa at the end of a long day at work. However, with the change of season comes a change of TV shows and I am loving the full Sky Box planner. My top 5 must-watch programmes this autumn are a heady mix of variety and drama, take a look:

Strictly Come Dancing

When that glitter ball trophy’s up for grabs each autumn, I’m ready for BBC One to take over my television on Saturday and Sunday nights. I love everything about Strictly Come Dancing, from the judges (Shirley Ballas is a fantastic replacement for Len Goodman) to the inspired mixture of contestants from across sports, television, etc. I also have a thing for professional dancer, Aljaz Skorjanec! So the sight of him cheers me up no end as the dark nights draw in. I am sorry that he and Kate Silverton have been voted off the show, as not only does that reduce my Aljiaz time, but I also really like and respect Kate – she was coming on leaps and bounds. It’s the ultimate autumn AND winter telly, though and much as I miss Sir Brucie (RIP) you’ve gotta love Claudia with her one liners and dry wit. It’s a TEN from every member of the panel at Entertainment Views HQ.

Doctor Who

Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor has stolen my heart and mind! She is everything I hoped she’d be and more. Sunday evenings are so much better for a dose of Doctor Who and together with her band of companions, the Doctor is rocking some exceptional storylines. Chris Chibnall should be congratulated for injecting verve, vibrancy and very current topics into the scripts. The Tardis has never been in better hands. The guest stars are brilliant too, Lee Mack was certainly a favourite (if not short-lived) addition in one episode and I can’t wait to see Phyllis Logan, I think she’ll be awesome as usual. Whittaker is my new favourite since the wondrous David Tennant took over the Tardis. If I’m not mistaken, their characterisation of the Doctor is similar.

I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here

Dingo dollars, Kiosk Kev (ahhh see ya later Kiosk Keith!) and a brand new set of celebrities for Dec and his newly appointed assistant, Holly Willoughby to play with! With Noel Edmonds has been the first camp mate to cause a stir, all seemed fairly settled in both camps until he became Emperor. Harry Redknapp is already established as one of my favourites, his stories are fantastic and he’s such a down to earth bloke. Anne Hegerty is doing a great job of raising the awareness of Autism and actually not handling jungle life too badly, although she does like to use the phrase ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ she has no qualms about it. Nick Knowles is proving himself to be a kind and useful sort of person and Rita Simons is so to the point, I love her. I haven’t picked a winner yet but there are a few who already deserve the crown. A superb line up this year!

There She Goes

This has just finished on BBC Four and it has been gripping yet hilarious drama. In fact it’s been the type of programme you feel it’s disrespectful to laugh at and yet that’s exactly what the script and performances are inviting the audience to do. There She Goes centres around a girl called Rosie who is learning disabled and although she’s age 9 she’s suffering from severe developmental delay. David Tennant and Jessica Hynes play her parents and they’re a great tag team, an ideal combination to take on a challenging drama peppered with light comedy. Watching their daily struggles, flashbacks to when Rosie was born and they were looking for answers and the brutal reality of the consequences of her impairment are at once cringe-worthy and life-affirming. It’s been a must-see series and if you can get it on catch up, I highly recommend you give it a watch.

The Apprentice

You’re fired! Good old Sir Alan is back with his straight-faced sidekicks, Karen and Claude (bring back Nick and Margaret!). Lord Sugar’s in search of a new business partner and as usual, there are a selection of candidates vying for the prestigious position and kicking each other when they’re down in a bid to be the one to win the prize. As much as there are always a number of candidates whom I find perpetually annoying, I always take a step back and remember that editing takes responsibility for the persona of each individual. Although the business world is dog eat dog and that is reflected in their behaviour. Some of the tasks have had me glued, the art gallery in particular was a fascinating watch and I had the fired candidate pegged from the start. Other weeks it’s not been so easy to guess. This series has renewed my love of the show, though and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Photo Credits: BBC & ITV 

La Cenerentola (WNO) ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Star rating: ****

Rossini’s La Cenerentola makes for a refreshingly vibrant, light and comedic Opera. Welsh National Opera’s latest production is a festive treat indeed just ahead of December too, perfect timing!

It’s essentially a Cinderella story as it revolves around a kitchen maid by the name of Angelina (Tara Erraught) who is bereft of her mother and has a cruel, domineering Step-Father, Don Magnifico (Fabio Capitanucci) to blame for her diminished status. No Cinderella story is complete without the step-sisters, in this case they’re the sneering, simpering and vanity-driven Tisbe (Heather Lowe) and Clorinda (Aoife Miskelly). Hell-bent on getting their mitts on the coveted throne which can only be achieved by wooing and marrying Don Ramiro (aka the Prince played by Matteo Macchioni) and he has his own agenda. He’s coerced his attendant, Dandini (Giorgio Caoduro) into swapping places with him so that he can choose his own match, undercover.  Meanwhile, Angelina’s unwavering kindness includes showing compassion towards a beggar (who is actually Alidoro (Wojtek Gierlach) in disguise – he’s Don Ramiro’s tutor). The same gentleman is shown disdain by Tisbe and Clorinda, therefore they’ve unwittingly forced themselves out of the picture even before we have the ball scene!

Directed by Joan Font and designed by Joan Gullen, the spectacular production lit up the Birmingham Hippodrome stage, it’s an action-packed, farcical-paced piece. The score is uplifting with traditional undertones as befits a timeless tale and the intricate Italian language enhances beautifully. Tara Erraught shines as Angelina – even in her rags she’s a Princess in the making and her vocal ability is effortless. She is well matched with Matteo Macchioni as Don Ramiro, her Prince. Wojtek Gierlach commands the stage and adds a glorious air of mystery to the role of Alidoro, who is in effect, the Fairy Godmother of the show. Giorgio Caoduro brought many laughter-inducing moments to the role of Dandini, his vocals lent themselves exceptionally. There was a slight lack of the dastardly which I’ve come to associate with the character – however this did not detract from the overall performance. Fabio Capitanucci made Don Magnifico the villain of the piece, however and as Angelina’s Step-Father he cut an imposing presence. The highlights of the production however came in the form of the Step-Sisters, as Tisbe and Clorinda – Heather Lowe and Aoife Miskelly are a force to be reckoned with. Their facial expressions match every nuance of the lyrics they sing so magnificently. I particularly enjoyed the subtle differences between the characters too, Clorinda appears to be the plotter whereas Tisbe seems to be less ambitious. Both characters are portrayed to perfection.

Overall La Cenerentola is a production I’d highly recommend to everybody, as a first Opera it would be an ideal experience. The Italian language is translated into English by way of subtitles which are easy to read from anywhere in the auditorium. The story is so familiar to most people that it’s simple enough to follow even with the initial language barrier if you don’t happen to be fluent in Italian. The bright, almost psychedelic colour scheme and assorted rats who scamper about, flocking around Angelina at every turn would also be extremely appealing to younger patrons and indeed a number of them were present in the audience.

Catch La Cenerentola on tour at a venue near you, it’s a delicious fairy-tale delight not to be missed. Book here: La Cenerentola Tickets

Image credits: Jane Hobson 

My Mother is a Christmas Elf by Chantelle Joy Otto ~ Book Review

Star rating: *****

I’m a self-confessed Christmas-holic! I start my Christmas shopping as early as I feel I can get away with and try my best to take as much time off from my day job over the holiday season. The opportunity to review a book written by a fellow Christmas nut was too good to pass up and I’m delighted to have shared a piece of author, Chantelle Joy Otto’s childhood and festive memories through this endearing story.

With an over-excited four year old son who dreams of nothing but Santa at the moment, it’s a great fit for his age group and also for early readers. The pictures are simple, full of life and of course – Christmassy! The story is simple, beautifully effective and tells the tale of the author’s childhood festivities which were humble yet always magical with thanks to her special mother whom the book is written about.

The story works on many levels as it’s a wonderful Christmas story for youngsters and teaches the more savvy children the lesson of less being more. It also doesn’t hurt for us adults to be reminded that not everybody’s Christmas might be as privileged as our childhood Christmases were. However, although it becomes clear that the family rely upon donations in order for Santa to do his job, it’s not a subject that’s dwelt upon with melancholy undertones. It’s simply a stitch in the tapestry of the author’s memories.

I think the idea of mum being a Christmas Elf is a fantastic idea and the book helps us readers remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Read it, enjoy it and share it with your children and their friends, it’ll warm the heart of even the less festive of you! It might also put you in a Christmassy mood!

Do you want to get hold of a copy? Here’s your chance to buy or download the book and kick-start the festivities!

 

Buckt ~ Review

Have you explored your City and its surrounding areas recently? Are you aware of all it has to offer? As I discovered when I signed up to Buckt, when my family and I plan a day or evening out, we’re only just scratching the surface of what Birmingham has to offer.

Why Buckt?

Buckt is an innovative new company who offer a fantastic option to subscribe on a monthly basis to receive vouchers. These vouchers come complete with a code which enable you to participate in lots of different and fun activities in the area you live in. There’s a good selection to choose from, and the best thing is that your booklet of fun comes in a box, hand-delivered to your door each month.

How Much Does It Cost?

£25 for a duo box (just £12.50 each) or £17 for an individual box. When you see the 5 mystery activities available to go out and do locally, you’ll clock just how much you’re saving by subscribing to Buckt.

What Are the Activities on Offer?

Here at Entertainment Views we’ve received three of these little boxes of wonder from Buckt so far this year and the activities we’ve been offered include:

  • Go Karting at Full Throttle Raceway
  • Museum of the Jewellery Quarter – Birmingham Museums Trust
  • The Donkey Sanctuary
  • Laser Tag – Laser Quest Birmingham
  • ‘The Ward’ – Walsall Scare Maze
  • Improv Class with Box of Frogs
  • A choice of three Ice Hockey Matches – Coventry Blaze
  • Board Game Night at Northfield Arts Forum
  • The Jungle Hut – The Jungle Ranger Wild Experience
Are They Worth It?

Absolutely yes! So far we’ve tried the Donkey Sanctuary and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and we can’t wait to try everything else in our Buckt boxes!

Christmas Gift Guide

Are you looking for an alternative Christmas Gift? This year Entertainment Views have compiled a Christmas Gift Guide jam packed full of Entertainment goodness and we highly recommend a subscription to Buckt as a brilliant festive gift idea! Why not give the gift of mystery activities and fun? *

To find out more about Buckt and to subscribe, click the link and take a look: Buckt

 

*For our full published gift guide check back soon!

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