Calendar Girls The Musical ~ New Cast : New Enthusiasm

I’ve been reviewing musical theatre productions since 2012. My love of musical theatre dates back to my wee small years when my parents took me to see a number of popular shows at either Birmingham Hippodrome, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham or Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Great memories remain and the buzz I reveled in at the time and on our way home afterwards while I clutched my programme and finished off any sweets we might have had left is a feeling I cherish. Inevitably there comes a point where, as a regular theatre-goer, you’ll have seen the vast majority of productions in a variety of incarnations. I reached a stale-mate with musical theatre recently, where apart from Blood Brothers which remains a steady favourite, I’ve lacked the inspiration and will to get up and go to see musicals.

The inspirational block wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it turned my head in the direction of the Opera and I’ve been lapping up as many opportunities as possible to go to see different Operas. However, there is another musical theatre production that I have a passion for aside from Blood Brothers. I saw this particular musical twice in the West End and had great fun interviewing one of the stars of the show too, Claire Machin, Calendar Girls the Musical from the combined force of Mr Gary Barlow of Take That fame and Tim Firth is the one I’m referring to and the soundtrack from the West End cast has a regular home in our car for sing-alongs, it’s addictive!

Sarah Jane Buckley will be missed when she leaves one of my favourite musicals, Blood Brothers!

One of the many reasons that I return to Blood Brothers time and time again is that Sarah Jane Buckley has been playing the role of Mrs Lyons and understudying Mrs Johnstone. She is incredibly believable as both characters, giving beautifully nuanced performances. She’s also one of a few performers I make a great effort to support, as she has been immensely supportive of my little blogging empire. I had fully intended to see Calendar Girls the Musical on its tour before this year, especially as Fern Britton was cast as Marie, the disapproving W.I. Leader. However, I have now got yet another reason to get out there and see it – there’s a brand new cast (although Rebecca Storm and Ruth Madoc (who was one of my childhood heroes) remain) and Sarah Jane Buckley is playing the role of Annie. It’s a part which I watched Joanna Riding and Jenny Gayner play at the Phoenix Theatre, London and which I had my eye on for Sarah Jane to play, funnily enough, I knew she’d fit it brilliantly.

I loved The Girls when it ran at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End

So, with midlands tour dates on their list and not only Sarah Jane Buckley on the cast list, which is a draw in itself for me obviously, but also Sue Devaney who I loved in ‘Dinnerladies’ and Julia Hills of 2 Point 4 Children fame joining the line up – I need to go and see the show again (and again!). My enthusiasm for the show has been renewed of course, but also my enthusiasm for musical theatre off the back of my palpable excitement. The buzz is back and I’m raring to see more musicals because I’m so enthused about the tour of Calendar Girls. Of course, when you’re a fan-girl, as I am, and your best-loved performer is taking on a new challenge, that in itself is always quite a moment. Sarah Jane will embrace the role of Annie and make it her own, that’s my totally biased view… I can already imagine her singing ‘Scarborough’. I can’t wait!!!

I can’t wait to see Calendar Girls the Musical again – ‘Sunflower’ is one of my best loved songs from the show

When it comes to any production, be it a musical, a play, a television series or even a film – we all have our favourites in the various roles and there’s no denying that the West End cast of ‘The Girls‘, as it was called then, were outstanding. From Sophie Louise Dann to Claire Machin to Michele Dotrice and indeed Joanna Riding – each and every one of the girls and boys in the cast put their heart and soul into the show. However, I hope that all the theatre fans out there who have a passion for the show as I do will give the new cast a chance. I think they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

With the announcement finally out there today that there’s a new line-up in the offing to get behind those buns, I’m just so happy that my musical mojo is back! Bring on a year of musical theatre trips in 2019!

If you want to book tickets for the tour, you’ll see the current cast until the gang head to Southend. I’m sorry to have missed out on the chance of seeing Fern Britton, however from Southend onwards I predict a new magic in the air for this amazing piece of musical theatre.

calendargirlsthemusical.com

Photo Credit: John Swannell

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Blood Brothers ~ Malvern Theatres

Blood Brothers, the musical that has had a special place in my heart for a long time – it will always be a five star production in my eyes and has yet to deviate from that honour. Each time I see it feels like watching again for the first time as it’s easy to find something I may have missed on other occasions.

If you don’t know the story let me enlighten you… the action is set in Liverpool where class difference has never been more prominent and centres around Mrs Johnstone, her family and struggles. She was married but he scarpered as soon as the number of children she was having almost rivaled that of a football team. With twins on the way and the welfare threatening to take her kids away she reluctantly strikes up a bargain with her well to do employer, Mrs Lyons. Splitting up her twin boys, Mickey grows up with the big boisterous family and of course, Mrs Johnstone as his mother, whereas Edward is raised by Mr and Mrs Lyons, with Mr Lyons remaining in the dark about the reason why his apparently barren wife has born him a son. As the lads grow up, having met each other and become friends when they were age 7 (nearly 8) there’s a love triangle developing with a girl called Linda and the class divide is set to catalyse fatal consequences.

You’re bound to have heard a number of the timeless songs; there’s ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’, ‘My Child’, ‘Easy Terms’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ to name a few. Linzi Hateley plays the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, taking over from Lyn Paul, she’s made the role her own. Mark Hutchinson plays Edward (Eddie) and his years of experience in the part are very telling, it’s almost like a second skin for him. Robbie Scotcher is a moody, shadow-dwelling narrator, the power of his vocals wows and he possesses extraordinary stage presence. Daniel Taylor will always be my Sammy, the tantrums are show-stopping and there’s always a splash of real menace which hints at what the future holds for the character. Danielle Corlass gives another flawless performance as Linda. Tim Churchill is as superb as always, excellent as Mr Lyons and hilarious as the milkman cum gynaecologist. The ensemble are also as strong as ever with Graham Martin reducing the audience to tears of laughter with his performances as the Judge and the two vastly different teachers. Amy-Jane Ollies also shines as Donna Marie and Miss Jones. Andy Owens never fails to give a wonderfully funny portrayal of the nerdy pal, Perkins.

Last night belonged, for me personally, to Sean Jones as Mickey and Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons. That’s because it was the last time that I was to see them in the show. They’re both bound for pastures new and with Sean having 15 years under his belt it’s going to be rather strange getting used to a new Mickey. Sarah Jane joined the cast in 2016, but it’s no secret that I was already a huge fan (and still am a huge fan!) as I loved her as Kathy Barnes in Channel Four’s Hollyoaks. As Mrs Lyons she has surpassed my expectations, adding an extra something special to the ‘bridesmaid’ of the female roles. I was also lucky enough to see her play Mrs Johnstone as she has understudied the part, and her performance still resonates now. One of my favourite experiences in the theatre.

Sean Jones IS Mickey, so although I’m certain the new one will be fantastic and find his feet, I’m sure the loss of Sean from the cast will be felt keenly. Wishing both of them all the best for their future roles anyway – which I know they will both be amazing in. Look out for them, and indeed catch them in one of the venues that they will tour to with Blood Brothers before they finish. This is the first of their four remaining weeks with the tour.

All in all, Blood Brothers is one of the best nights at the theatre you could wish for, miss it at your peril! If you want to catch it at the wonderful Malvern Festival Theatre, it plays there until Saturday 2nd February: blood-brothers

Photo credits: Robert Day

The Snowman ~ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Star rating: *****

It’s the stage spectacular that’s certain to make you feel like you’re walking in the air with its feel-good yet beautifully moving story, choreography and music. In its 25th anniversary year, the live version of the stage show based on the Raymond Briggs classic is heart-warming and brings tears to the eyes in equal measure!

The atmosphere of the piece is created from a combination of stunning ballet, beautiful, believable characterisation and the strength of the story alone which is told so brilliantly by the utterly incredible cast. The stage version dovetails with the film in that we follow the friendship between an over-excited boy waiting for Christmas and even more enthralled to see its snowing. His glorious snowman comes to life in wondrous fashion as the pair embark upon a marvellous adventure. Together they make a formidable team as they combat a cat attack, encounter dancing fruit from the fridge who limbo dance and even brave a trip to mum and dad’s bedroom to dress up the frozen wonder. However it’s when the pair take flight into the night sky that the piece reaches its crescendo. The party that ensues with a selection of other snowman, animals and Father Christmas himself can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Punctuated by the sensational music and lyrics from Howard Blake.

Martin Fenton astounds in the title role, he plays the Snowman as if he were wearing a second skin and every move is measured, precise and engaging. Lewis Chan gave a superb performance as the boy, the chemistry with Fenton was stunningly palpable. Ruben De Monte was extraordinarily impressive as Jack Frost, commanding the stage and leaving us under no misapprehension as to who the baddie of the piece was. The penguins were my favourites though, comical, exact movement and a real double act – kudos to Ami Tollin and Kimberly Lawrie.

A family evening out at the theatre doesn’t come in any better packaging than this – it’s the perfect post-Christmas treat. Book your tickets to see The Snowman now: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/

Highlights of 2018

I’m late with last year’s highlights but suffice to say that 2018 was a fantastic year for shows of all genres. A great mix was on offer for Entertainment Views to attend and there have been so many wonderful memories made along the way. Here are just a few of the stand-out opportunities I had…

Iolanthe (ENO)

Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas have been on my radar for years and I’ve watched many of them, however I had never seen Iolanthe nor the wonderful ENO performing one of their famous operettas. So – the chance to see Iolanthe performed by the ENO at London’s Coliseum was too good a chance to miss. With Yvonne Howard giving an outstanding performance as the Fairy Queen and a cast de force, all I can say is bring on its return! Iolanthe Review

Hotel Transylvania 3

What a movie! My movie of the year for sure! If you’ve never seen the other movies in the franchise it doesn’t matter, you can dive into this one and soon get the gist of the hilarious plot and get to know the madcap characters. A great film for grown ups as well as kids.

Falstaff (Garsington Opera)

Opera is one of my new loves and Falstaff was one of my first experiences of a non-operetta style. It starred Yvonne Howard who (as you already know) is one of my all-time favourite performers and Henry Waddington was exceptional in the lead title role. Garsington offers beautiful surroundings and a unique setting – I hope to return this summer.  Falstaff Review

Falstaff by Verdi;
Garsington Opera at Wormsley;
13 June 2018;
Sir John Falstaff – Henry Waddington;
Conductor – Richard Farnes;
Director – Bruno Ravella;
Designer – Giles Cadle;
Lighting Designer – Malcolm Rippeth;
Movement Director – Tim Claydon;
Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;

Coventry Comic Con

One of my favourite Comic Cons returned for its second year and it was a glorious set-up as expected. Plenty of stalls, activities and cosplayers as well as a great spacious layout. Our who family love this one and can’t wait to go again this year. Coventry Comic Con Review

Blood Brothers

I adore Blood Brothers, it’s one of my all-time favourite musicals and for the past couple of years one of the best actresses (in my humble opinion) has been playing Mrs Lyons and understudying the role of Mrs Johnstone – the brilliant Sarah-Jane Buckley. I was lucky enough to see the show a few times in 2018 and look forward to seeing it again this year, although a few cast changes are afoot… Here’s one of my latest reviews: Blood Brothers Review

This Morning Live! 

I am a huge fan of This Morning and for those who know me well, you’ll be aware that I am also a massive fan of Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes. In Birmingham we’re really lucky to have the This Morning Live! show at the NEC and it was a superb experience. From shopping to cooking masterclasses to meeting the presenters themselves (I only managed to meet Alison Hammond this time around but she is amazing and so lovely) – I couldn’t recommend the show more. This Morning Live! Review

Sixties Gold Show

I’ve long been a fan of The Searchers and I’ve supported them on solo tours on many an occasion – however this was the first Sixties Gold tour I’d been to. It was one of the biggest highlights of my reviewing year and I’m really looking forward to the next one. It was such an amazing night, buzzing! Sixties Gold Tour Review

BBC Good Food Show

I’ve been interested in going to the BBC Good Food Show for years, I finally grabbed the opportunity to attend their winter show and it was everything I hoped it would be! I’m looking forward to attending the summer show this year. BBC Good Food Show

Claire Richards solo gig

I adore Steps, I have so many favourites from among their epic back-catalogue, however I am also loving Claire Richards as a solo artist. She’s got such a powerful voice and her versatility knows no bounds. A superb gig at Birmingham Town Hall showcased her talent, the album is out very soon and my review of her gig is here: Claire Richards Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Malvern Theatres)

Malvern Theatres has long been top of my list of midlands-based theatres and their production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a brilliant cornucopia of mad-cap stereotypical panto antics. Su Pollard was a revelation and stole the show. A well deserved five stars! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Review

The Future of Entertainment Views

On a final note, I wanted to update all of my valued readers and subscribers on the direction that 2019 will most likely see my small corner of the internet, taking. You can find a bit about this particular rambling on my https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/about/ but I wanted to use this post to chat a bit more about blogging and me. As an established blogger juggling a young family as well as having a bash at hanging on to a day job too, I’m often asked all of the questions I’m about to answer…

When

In 2013 I branched out as an independent theatre blogger, reviewing shows at the local theatres I’d built up a relationship with on behalf of an established review site which sadly no longer exists. Break A Leg Review was born at around the same time as I discovered I was pregnant so my progress was slow to begin with, although I kept up with it as much as possible. I worked full time in a day job with the NHS and my morning sickness was as backwards as I can be, in that it appeared in the evenings!

Where

I was reviewing in and around the West Midlands as that’s where I’m based and I had managed to secure a place on press lists at most of the theatres that I frequent. In 2015 I was lucky enough to connect with London theatres and due to suggestions from the various people I was interviewing, meeting and liaising with – I added movie and television reviews to the mix as well as music too. My blog took off in ways I could never have imagined during that year.

Why

I made the decision to reach out to London theatres (and many other venues around the UK) as well as add other types of review to my blog because I had become a mum in 2014. That’s the quick answer. Becoming a mum changed my life in thousands of ways. To begin with, I was so consumed by the tiny little boy in my life that I considered giving up my blog. However, having returned to my day job on a part time basis while I searched for a different career that would suit motherhood and the juggling, I was considering blogging and therefore working from home, as a viable option. I ended up in another NHS job working unsociable hours instead, however so draining on my mental health was this new job, that it became even more of a goal to be able to work from home.

How

I took yet another NHS job to keep the bank account happy and which made my mental health happier (for a limited period of time!) and worked hard throughout 2016 to try my hand at other things such as social media management and website creations. I might have been working part time in the NHS but with my other work (blog included) mounting up – it felt like the right time to take the plunge and work solely from home. Timing was good as 2017 was my little boy’s last full year at nursery before he started school in 2018.

And…

Truthfully, it worked for a while and was even enjoyable at times. I branched out into entertainment PR and dabbled in many areas. However, what I learned was that working from home and making a career out of blogging is not my thing. I still love to blog of course, but I don’t want my blog to be the be all and end all. The family dynamics change once your little one goes to school too. I found I could’t just pop off to London and I didn’t want to. I lose 6 hours a days for 5 days a week of my lad’s company during term time and I love being able to drop him off at school and pick him up. The smile on his face when I’m waiting at hos classroom door is more moving than any theatrical performance I’ve reviewed.

What’s Next?

2018 saw me start another job with the NHS (it’s what I know!) and that works at the moment. I like leaving the house to go to work and although it’s been a slightly awkward transition for my boy as he got used to me being at home, we’re all getting on with it.

2019 sees me being less of a critic an more of a cheerleader as I share all my positive experiences with you. I also have a few new ventures on the horizon which will hopefully help my much-desired career changes to take shape – but at the heart of everything are my boys – my husband and my son.

Have you tried to combine blogging with parenthood and career juggling? I’d love to hear about your experiences too! 

Maid Marian and the Merry Men ~ Worcester Swan Theatre

Star rating: *****

One of the best pantomimes I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this season – Maid Marian and the Merry Men at Worcester Swan Theatre. Last year’s version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ which saw my little boy and I visit the theatre for the first time, was a real revelation so I was looking forward to this season’s effort and it absolutely did not disappoint.

Chris Jaeger, who is Chief Executive and Artistic Director at the theatre, has written the script and it’s a traditional one through and through yet cleverly doubles as a modern day take on the art of pantomime. With Maid Marian at the helm instead of Robin Hood, the show has moved with the times whilst keeping the usual quick-fire gags, opportunities to boo the baddie aka boo til you’re blue and audience participation encouraged at all times.

The story is not dissimilar to the well-known tale of Robin Hood and he does feature in the show, however incarnation is based around a feisty, independent Marian. She’s under the protection of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham who’s squeezing taxes out of the local residents and desperate to marry off Marian to Guy of Gisborne so that Marian’s money will stay in the Sheriff’s family. Cunning eh? Meanwhile there’s a half-soaked Friar Tuck eager to re-join Robin Hood’s band of merry men, Dame Ginny is on hand for madcap antics together with Willy the Wally and there’s Robin himself of course, he’s a bit of a dim-wit and head over heels in love with the leading lady. No I don’t mean Dame Ginny, she’s on the search for a husband from amongst unwitting male members of the audience. Watch out! The merry men are a bit on the young side, so they’re helped (or hindered) by the other characters as they endeavour to bring about the downfall of the Sheriff of Nottingham and help Marian to shake off Guy of Gisborne too.

Genevieve Lowe is extraordinary as Maid Marian, she’s a performer de force and her vocal ability is stunning. Tom Riddell gives a humour-filled performance as Robin, he had the audience on side from the outset. Heidi Gowthorne was a fabulously sparkly Fairy, quirky and gentile in equal measure. John-Robert Patridge shone as Dame Ginny, ably filling the shoes of Ben Humphrey who directed this season’s extravaganza but was notably absent from the pinny. Patridge was hilarious in the role, Humphrey was missed but his personal stamp on the overall show was evident. Jamie Kwasnik made the role of Friar Tuck his own and his comic timing was superb. Wilf Williams managed to make Guy of Gisborne a dashing yet clumsy oaf who was completely under the spell of the Sheriff. Charlie Ryan was quite the clown as Willy the Wally and his facial expressions alone were comedic. Liz Grand commanded the stage as the Sheriff of Nottingham, fierce, no-nonsense and extremely happy to receive as many boos and jeers as possible, she is a one of the jewels in Worcester Rep’s crown.

All in all, it’s a fast-paced, humour-packed affair with exceptional scenery, excellent choreography and a lot of fun for all the family. The musical numbers all fit in brilliantly with the plot and there’s a fantastic disco medley to put you in that party mood.

If you want to try and get your hands on a ticket before Maid Marian and the Merry Men closes, you can do so here: Worcester_Live

Emily Brown and the Thing ~ Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre (Patrick Studio)

Star rating: *****

Emily Brown and the Thing, from the pen of popular author Cressida Cowell, has landed at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Patrick Studio and it’s a deliciously glorious theatrical experience for children and grown ups alike.

With a set which is deceptive – appearing to look like a basic backdrop until the action begins and the multi-purposes become evident and awe-inspiring to watch. It’s an innovative integral part of the story and integrates smoothly and seamlessly.

Tall Stories have produced this riveting incarnation of the book and their cast are incredible. Sophie Alice is highly believable and engaging in the title role of Emily Brown and her energy is almost infectious. She is joined on her adventures by Stanley the grey rabbit and when he’s not in miniature puppet form, he’s played by Jordan Turner – notably, Turner is also the puppeteer responsible for Stanley the puppet and his skill is extraordinary. The cast of three is completed by Sam Buitekant who plays the Thing (as puppeteer and actor, depending on the scene) as well as a witch who’s contemplating giving up spells, a lonely polar bear and a troll who’s taken a fancy to the Thing’s cuddly. Buitekant’s range of different voices and accents is one of the many highlights of an exceptional show.

You don’t need to have read the book to be able to immerse yourself in the adventures that Emily Brown and Stanley take as they set off on a number of quests to silence the Thing’s grumblings. After all, they can’t get to sleep unless it’s really quiet, can they?

Catch this insightful masterpiece while you can, it’s a superb introduction to theatre for young audience members and encompasses all the best elements of live theatre in one 55 minute long show with no interval.

Book your tickets here, the show runs in Birmingham until 6 January 2019: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/tall-stories-emily-brown-and-the-thing/

Cinderella ~ Mitchell Arts Centre

Star rating: ****

Mitchell Arts Centre is playing host to a two week run of the popular fairy tale classic, Cinderella, this Christmas and it’s as traditional a pantomime as you can get – with a very current and highly comedic script thrown in for good measure.

Pantomimes around the country appear to be adapting their stories to make the principal females feistier and Tim Churchill and Paul Wood’s version is no exception. There are nods to well known television shows such as Gogglebox and Jeremy Kyle as well as a brand new take on the age-old pantomime comedy song ‘If I was Not a…’.

With a simple yet highly effective set providing an elegant and practical backdrop for the action-packed show, we were treated to a good dose of musical numbers which included the hit of the year from ‘The Greatest Showman‘ – ‘This Is Me’, ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ by Paloma Faith and naturally we had to join in with ‘Baby Shark‘, the gimmick tune of the season. The strong cast interacted brilliantly with the audience, offered opportunities for the crowd to participate and kept a remarkable level of energy going given their numerous two show days and the fact they’ve had one day off to enjoy Christmas before getting back to it!

Cathy O’Reilly made the perfect Fairy Godmother, not only did she look the part, there was a twinkle in her eye and her vocal ability, which we’d not previously heard – simply stunning! She’s a joy to hear. Tim Churchill, who not only co-wrote the show but also directed it, is well known to us as Mr Lyons and other characters in the Blood Brothers tour. As an Ugly Sister he positively shone and was every inch the pantomime dame as he carped, sneered and appeared to enjoy every minute. He was joined by Paul Deakin as his sister and together they were a menace and hilarious in equal measure. Their names were apt too, Theresa and May! Amy-Jane Ollies is another face who’s become familiar to us as part of the Blood Brothers ‘family’ and in the title role of Cinderella, she was every inch the rags to riches girl. Her comic timing was particularly notable and naturally her sensational singing voice lent itself to the role, she had lovely chemistry with Matthew Dye as Buttons and Robert Dearn as Prince Charming. Dye did a great job of getting the audience involved while Dearn had a superb double act going on with Liam Wakeford as Dandini. In this incarnation, Prince Charming and Dandini were reminiscent of Ant and Dec and it worked fantastically. Den Siegerstz from BBC Radio Stoke completed the line up as Baron Hardup, making his panto debt. He may not have been as overtly natural in panto-land as his co-stars but it was clear he was enjoying his first official role and how wonderful that his daughter is part of the Hanley Babes who appeared in the show too.

There is so much to enjoy in this traditional pantomime, relevant political jokes for the grown ups, a cast who come across as being one big happy family themselves and plenty of magic along the way to entertain the young ones. The parting shot which sums up how well the show was received by our four year old? “I want to be in this show when I grow up”. You can’t say fairer than that can you? Oh no you can’t!

Book your tickets here: https://mitchellartscentre.co.uk/

Dick Whittington and His Cat ~ Oxford Playhouse

Star rating: ****

The age old tradition of pantomime is not only alive in Oxford but it’s revitalised, re-energised, refreshing and stands a good chance of attracting new audiences in to the theatre. There aren’t many (if any) pantomimes that offer up a version of the popular Nirvana hit ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ among their musical numbers and there are also inspired incarnations of show tunes from ‘Hamilton‘ and ‘Les Miserables‘ too. Of course there’s a spot of ‘Baby Shark‘ because it’s been the gimmick hit of the year, however on the whole ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat‘ is pushing the boundaries, breaking the norm and with a punchy script courtesy of Steve Marmion – and he’s directed this fast-paced festive treat too.

Dick Whittington Oxford Playhouse CREDIT Geraint Lewis

Like every good pantomime, there’s a Dame, in this case Sarah the Cook played by the effervescent Paul Barnhill. There’s a ‘thigh slapping’ male lead who has a penchant for remote controlled cars, naturally given the pantomime title, he’s called Dick, played by returning leading man, Ricky Oakley – it’s easy to see why he was a hit with last year’s audience, this genre of theatre appears to come very naturally to him. There’s Fairy Bowbells played by Waterloo Road alumni, Rebecca Craven, she’s a power vocalist and her energy is infectious. As Alice Fitzwarren, Adrianna Bertola isn’t your typical leading lady, she’s feisty, full of attitude and knows what she wants – exactly the sort of role model that kids ought to see, in my humble opinion. Max Olesker cuts a menacing figure as King Rat, the audience were quick to boo him and his performance of ‘Bad Rodent’ was one of the many highlights of the panto. Stealing the show with his incredible dance moves, slick style and gift guarding was Alessandro Babalola as the cat. A more groovy cat you couldn’t wish to meet!

It’s a bolshie, ballsy jingle bow bells ball – it made a real change to see a unique take on the traditional script. It might have been slightly too radical for my septuagenarian parents, however my 4 year old was in his element and I had an amazing evening at the theatre.

Book your tickets here: Oxford_Playhouse

Christmas Guide 2018

Christmas is nearly here! 5 sleeps away to be exact, and everyone in Britain is saying ‘how is it Christmas next week?’. If you’re anything like me, you wonder where all the time you had to organise yourself has disappeared to. This coming from a part time day-job worker who has been buying her son’s Christmas presents gradually since the summer… What I was unprepared for, was the introduction of all the extra festive chaos presented when your child becomes a school-goer. Just you wait, if you’ve not experienced that joy yet!

My Christmas gift guide this year is all about movies, television boxsets and the gift of theatre. I’ve picked out a variety of genres to suit as many tastes as possible and focused on buying for adults – who are often the more difficult to buy for after all!

TV Boxsets

Versailles

Complete series 1-3 – not only ideal for fans of the series but also if you’re aware of the show and haven’t been able to catch it (which is why i would be the perfect gift for me!). You can’t beat a binge-watch and with it’s its historical background, stellar cast and stunning locations, it promises to engage even the most skeptical viewer. King Louis XIV is at the heart of the story as his supporters turn to traitors and the court of Versailles is under threat.

Buy your copy on DVD here:

The Windsors

In my humble opinion this is one of the best comedies on television at the moment! The casting alone is so extraordinarily spot on, you can’t fail to be entertained by Harry Enfield’s hilarious Prince Charles impersonation and the recent introduction of Meghan was the cherry on top of the wedding cake. The DVD offers series 1-2 as well as Christmas and wedding specials. It’s a brilliant ‘send-up’ of the royal family and wouldn’t go amiss in my Christmas stocking this year!

Buy your here:

Plebs 

I was introduced to Plebs fairly late into the second series and I am a self-confessed pleb-aholic now! The DVD boxset offers series 1-4 so it’s a must for fans of the series or as a way of introducing a Plebs ‘virgin’ to the show. The premise revolves around three men who want to get laid, hold down a job and climb the social ladder in ancient Rome. It’s a laugh-a-minute comedy and the cast, which changes sightly as each series progresses – is essentially a mash-up of all your noughties sit-com favourites.

Grab a copy for your stocking:

Movies

Hotel Transylvania 3

My movie of the year! It might be pitched as an animated film for kids but there’s more than enough comedy content in there for big kids too. Of the three movies in the franchise so far, this is by far my favourite and it’s a non-stop cornucopia of spooky holiday fun. Watch it, odds on you’ll be dancing in your seat by the end.

Buy a copy here:

The Greatest Showman 

This is the greatest show, by all accounts! Certainly one of the hits of the year and huge credit must go to the extraordinary talents of Hugh Jackman, a better leading man you could not wish for. The songs are all hits in their own right now and it’s surely one of the most watchable movies we’ve been treated to in a long time. Get your hands on a piece of the action and watch it over and over by getting your hands on a copy here:

Santa Claus The Movie 

I had to include a Christmas movie in my Christmas gift guide and they don’t come any more festive or classic than the epic Santa Claus The Movie. It’s still a magical film to watch all these years on and has stood the test of time. The only difference is it’s rare to see someone drinking full fat coca cola in this day and age! The movie is available on blu-ray and it would be a welcome sight underneath our tree this year. I’d also quite like one of those elf carvings courtesy of Patch (Dudley Moore), but I’m not going to push it!

Purchase your copy here:

Theatre Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

The gift of theatre is always a good alternative idea if you’re in doubt and although the cost of tickets has hiked of late – there are plenty of offers to be had, especially at this festive season. The Phantom of the Opera has been resident Her Majestys Theatre in the heart of London’s West End after more than 12000 performances to date. The good news is that you can be in the audience for one of the many future performances and there are special offers available via our ticket shop! The Phantom of the Opera

Wicked

The back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West has been so popular in the West End that over 9 million people have watched it in the capital city. The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a beautiful venue and you can be one of those million theatre-goers flocking to see the award-winning show, check out the available tickets here: Wicked

Company

Not only would Company tickets be a brilliant Christmas gift idea, it’s our show of the month!

A sublime cocktail of an entertainment you’d be mad to miss’ – Daily Telegraph

With an exceptional list of musical numbers performed by an incredible cast, you really would be mad to miss it. Save up to 60% on tickets too! Company

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