News, Reviews & Interviews

Beautiful ~ Regent Theatre, Stoke-On-Trent

Star rating: *****

The West End musical hit which regales the life story of the extraordinary singer song-writer, Carole King is on UK tour and it’s as well received in the regional theatres as it was in the capital city.

The show begins at the end, Carnegie Hall, where Carole King (played by Bronte Barbe) has surprised herself with the ultimate success of her career up to that point. Then we turn back time as we’re transported back to the moment King’s song-writing talent was taken seriously. “It Might As Well Rain Until September” was the first song that Carole sold. She was only 16 years old and had skipped two grades in her education. Meanwhile, a fellow student by the name of Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry) catches her eye and it’s not long until she has writing partner and lover all in one package. Pregnancy and marriage follow suit and all very quickly with the young maestro still under the age of 20. We’re also introduced to her mother, Genie (Carol Royle) who has been attempting to steer her daughter away from a career in music and into a teaching role instead. We follow Carole’s path with her, from the fun she has with friends; fellow writers Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves), to heartbreak in her personal life while her professional life remains as successful as ever.

The journey to Carnegie Hall is peppered with hit songs, all of which I knew and tried hard not to sing along with! There were popular numbers from The Drifters and The Shirelles amongst others and members of the ensemble played these roles and mimicked the singers perfectly. From “You Got a Friend” to “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” to “Natural Woman” – all the classics were performed against a versatile and stunningly bright set. I was drawn to the guitars adorning the backdrop and the enticing range of various lighting arrangements as we were taken back to bands of the 60’s and 70’s.

Bronte Barbe is a marvel as Carole King, she does her proud and her vocal tone is astronomical. I particularly engaged with the emotion she effortlessly fuelled each song with. Kane Oliver Parry is well cast as ‘bad boy’ with numerous unresolved mental health issues, Gerry Goffin. The chemistry with Barbe was palpable, and that was ‘felt’ from my seat in the rear stalls of a large auditorium. Carole Royle played Carole’s mother, Genie superbly – her comic timing was exceptional and there was great significance in her role. Amy Ellen Richardson captivated me as Cynthia Weil, from her stunning vocals to her infectious smile, another well cast ‘character’. Equally Matthew Gonsalves was impressive as hypochondriac, Barry Mann – bringing comedy, vulnerability and heart to the part.

Miss this show at your peril, the reason it was such a success in the West End couldn’t be clearer and I for one feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have caught this show at one of my local theatres.

The remaining UK tour dates can be found here, book your tickets: Beautiful UK Tour

Photo Credits: Craig Sugden

 

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Breathless ~ Review

Star rating: ****

The 1983 film, Breathless starring Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky has been released on Bluray and it still stands the test of time 35 years on from its original release.

It’s a classic guy backed into a corner on the wrong side of the law scenario from the outset. The character played by Gere goes by the name of Jesse Lujack, he’s very self-assured and governed by the rule of three where his interests are concerned. That’s Marvel comic books, Jerry Lee Lewis and Monica Poiccard (Valerie Kaprisky) whom he had a brief weekend long affair with. Lujack is on his way to L.A. in a stolen Porsche and there’s a gun in the glove compartment. He finds the gun while he’s driving which causes a copper to pull him over – one thing leads to another and it’s not long before Lujack’s back in the car fleeing to L.A. having shot the copper.

Tracking down his lost ‘love’, Monica, Lujack wastes no time in moving in with her, despite her initial hesitation. He’s going by a false name, Jack Burns. It seems Monica’s besotted with ‘Jack’ and willing to risk her own future as a star architect student. However, with Lujack’s photo circulating in all the national newspapers following the shooting, how long will it be before the truth comes out?

It’s a psychological, action-packed movie which challenges your way of thinking and it’s completely unpredictable. As an actor, I find Gere slightly ‘samey’ in his roles, this one is no different – however he does have a certain charisma which draws me and therefore makes it a watchable film. Kaprisky is a great match for him and together their chemistry is believable and dances on a knife edge.

If you’d like a step back into the eighties to watch a classic movie with a fascinating storyline, this is worth a purchase!

Click on the image below to purchase a copy of Breathless on Bluray:

Fast & Furious Live ~ Arena Birmingham

Fast & Furious Live is on tour, to find a tour venue near you and book tickets, click here: Fast & Furious Live Tickets

Star rating: *****

Fast & Furious live is a high-speed spectacular with stunts, tricks and danger all played out before your eyes. With the famous Fast & Furious movie scenes playing out on a big screen we saw a range of vehicles, some from the films, racing around the arena as their daredevil drivers introduced us to street racing, neon effects and handbrake turns to rival the best of them.

Presented by Elysia Wren as Sophia Diaz and Mark Ebulue as DSS Agent Dawson – we are led into an underworld of crime, villainy and high-speed car chases. It’s loud, it’s a skilful display of exceptional stunts and it’s played out to scene-setting music too.

The neon effects were my favourite (as seen in the image above) as they enhanced vehicles which appeared to be pure white on the surface. Although if you’ve seen the Fast & Furious movies, you’ll know that pure is not a word associated with the family! If you’ve never seen the movies before, you don’t need to have watched them to be amazed by the performances of the team. If you’ve ever wanted to see a man jump a car driving at speed, you’ll see Chase Armitage do just that, and if you’re anything like me your heart will be in your mouth throughout the entirety. Do you believe that cars can fly? You will once you’ve witnessed the heady heights that some of these vehicles can reach!

The cars are indeed the stars of the show and the stunts you’ll see are recreated from the movies. There’s also a chance to get involved, plenty of audience participation without moving from your seat or putting yourself at risk. It’s an extraordinary show unlike any I’ve had the privilege of watching before and I can attest that it’s family friendly, too – our 4 year old was astounded and completely captivated by it.

Would I watch it again? Without a moment’s hesitation – and I will be catching up on the Fast & Furious movies I’ve missed too!

 

Fancy owning Fast & Furious on bluray or dvd? Check out these links to see what Amazon has to offer:

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Fast & Furious Live Website

Blood Brothers ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Blood Brothers is on UK tour, check out the remaining dates and book tickets here: Blood Brothers

Star rating: *****

Blood Brothers is my all-time favourite musical and it was a delight to see the show at one of my local theatres and with a brand new Narrator on board.

The story of the Johnstone twins is at the heart of the tale, separated at birth because their mother, Mrs Johnstone (Lyn Paul) doesn’t know how she will feed two extra, hungry mouths. She’s also at risk of some of her kids being taken into care, which she regales to her employer, the sympathetic yet calculating Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley). She and Mr Lyons (Tim Churchill) have been unable to conceive and it’s obviously a heartbreaking secret that Mrs Lyons is  not living with very successfully, hence her lightbulb moment – give one of the twins to her. Once the deal is done, both women are hounded by the Narrator (Matthew Craig) who is all encompassing and an intimidating presence representing their respective consciences and the devil, in my opinion. As we follow the lives of the Johnstone twins from birth to age seven (nearly eight) and through their teenage years, with Sean Jones as Mickey and Mark Hutchinson as Eddie playing the boys brilliantly well through all stages of life, it becomes clear that the ever-present shadow of the narrator is forecasting a gloomy finale.

With popular musical numbers such as ‘Marilyn Monroe’, ‘My Child’, ‘Easy Terms’ and ‘Tell Me Its Not True’ punctuating the action-packed rollercoaster, it’s an emotional, believable tale packed with as many laughter-inducing moment as tear-jerking ones.

Lyn Paul is one of the ultimate Mrs Johnstones, she brings heart, grit and intricacy to the role. Sean Jones is my favourite Mickey, I feel he has the highest mountain to descend as he spirals downwards from a carefree child to the depths of what life has to throw at him once he hits adulthood, prematurely. Mark Hutchinson is a fantastic contrast as Eddie, from his posh tone of voice to the kooky ways he tries to mimic Mickey, he’s a complex character, too. Sarah-Jane Buckley never fails to astound me as Mrs Lyons, she finds fresh nuances in the character every time I see her in the role and her vocal ability is exceptionally stunning. Tim Churchill does an amazing job of playing multiple roles, each of them notable in their own right – from Mr Lyons, to the Milkman or is it the Gynaecologist? He even plays one of the young kids playing out on the street. Similarly Graham Martin plays his multiple roles superbly, from Mr Johnstone, to the Policeman to the randy old Judge – his capabilities are boundless. Danielle Corlass draws me in as Linda, she’s quirky and girlie as the seven year old and grows magnificently into the beautiful woman who causes the twins to be at loggerheads. Matthew Craig is an imposing presence as the Narrator, he’s really made the role his own. A special mention must also go to Amy-Jane Ollies who stepped in to play ALL the other female characters as well as Donna-Marie, her usual role. A truly talented performer who shone in every part she played.

The production has most certainly stood the test of time and I can always find something different and ‘new’ in each performance. The production boasts an inviting set which provides a convincing backdrop, Liverpool was definitely ‘in’ Wolverhampton last night! From the back to back houses to the sparkling street lights, it’s what I believe to be a truthful insight into life in the city. Class difference is also highlighted throughout, subtly until it builds to the tragic crescendo we’re faced with at the beginning of the musical.

Go and see Blood Brothers for yourself, it’ll challenge your way of thinking, make you want to sing along, have you crying with laughter and sobbing with heartbreak. An extraordinarily timeless piece of theatre.

 

Justin’s Band ~ Town Hall, Birmingham

Star rating: *****

Justin Fletcher who is also better known as Mr Tumble to tots all over the country, has a new show on tour and it’s a glorious party for pre-schoolers and early years children.

The popular children’s entertainer who is the face of Cbeebies was on fine form as he held the Town Hall in Birmingham to rapt attention with an educational show about musical instruments. Indeed, the first half was very much centred around teaching the young audience about the different instruments that they too can learn to play. Peppered with well loved songs to help the education along.

As Justin built his band and introduced each musician to his fans, the show steered steadily towards party time and which saw the excited youngsters jumping, clapping and singing. The venue was packed to the rafters with joy and I can’t commend Fletcher highly enough on a show which is just the right format for the target audience. His backing dancers and singers were also equally engaging entertainers, excellent all-round performers.

The Hello song and the Goodbye song both featured as well as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Hands Up. There was no need to encourage participation because the interaction was instantaneous thanks to the man of the moment.

My little boy hasn’t stopped talking about the show and he wants to play every instrument he was introduced to. His imagination has been well and truly captured.

Catch the show on tour, you won’t regret it – check out this Facebook page link to find out where Justin will be stopping off next: Justin’s Band

Entertainment Views Interviews… Sharon Willems, Director of The Big Things

The Big Things by Mike Heath is due to enjoy a run at Barons Court Theatre from Monday 16th April 2018. I was fascinated by the subject matter and was therefore delighted to interview the production’s director, Sharon Willems

Tell me about the production and the inspiration for it.

The Big Things by Mike Heath was selected for world premiere following an open submissions window in February 2018. In the span of five days, we received almost 200 scripts from across the world. We selected the play for production because we were won over by the beautifully complex central female character, Grace. Through her experiences, we gain insight into the intricacies of living with autism as an adult and a new parent. This is a story rarely seen on the stage, and we are proud to be producing the world premiere of Grace’s story.

How does the venue lend itself to the piece?

It’s great to be in a space like The Barons Court Theatre. There’s an intimacy that really lends itself to stories like ours, and it creates a wonderful atmosphere. At times the actors speak directly to the audience and in a venue like The Barons Court everyone will feel like part of the story.

What are the strengths of the production?

 Increasingly in the media, we’re learning that women who are autistic are largely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions. I love how the play invites you to rethink what this condition looks like and gives an insight to the challenges that couples face during and after diagnosis. I’ve never worked on a production where we explore the gender roles in such a realistic way, either. Grace and Malcolm are real people, flawed and loving, and the challenges and joys they experience as new parents are very relatable. They remind me of a lot of couples I know.

Have you found that your perception changes as you move to the rehearsal room?

I wouldn’t say that my perception has changed so much as I’ve just really enjoyed the process of investigating the play with our brilliant company of actors. The play covers a lot of big events in the characters’ lives and asks a lot of the actors, and it’s been great to see them rise to the challenge. There’s some lovely humour and romance in the play and it’s been a real pleasure to rehearse. We’ve had a lot of fun.

What can the audience expect from the piece?

An evening of laughs and heartfelt moments with a couple they can really see themselves in and root for. Hopefully, audiences will come away with a new sense of how autism is unique to each person on the spectrum and maybe doesn’t look like how they might expect. It’s a beautiful, complex story that asks us to rethink how we define normal.

Finally, why should everyone come and see it?

Our goal, beyond providing an entertaining night of theatre, is to widen the dialogue around people with ASD and to raise awareness about the condition, especially where it impacts the mental health of so many women. When you come see the show you’ll have a lovely night out (great pub upstairs!) seeing an exciting new play that asks big questions with a lot of heart. We can’t wait to share this play with you. See you at the show!

Thanks to Sharon for an insightful interview – you can book tickets to see the piece, hereThe Big Things – Book Tickets

The Big Things ~ Press Release

Press Release

The Big Things brings us into the world of Grace, a woman living to a different rhythm. She meets Malcolm and falls in love, but even that she can’t do without people staring. When she and Malcolm decide to have a baby, the ensuing challenges leave her questioning everything she knows about life. How can your family love you when they can’t understand you? How can you be a good mother when you’re not like everyone else?

Like so many women in the UK and around the world, Grace is living on the spectrum, high-functioning and undiagnosed. She’s brilliant and funny and struggling to keep it together.

Shortlisted for the BBC Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2016, The Big Things is a tragi-comic play about love, parenthood, and defining and defying what it means to be normal.

About Kibo Productions

We believe theatre is a powerful tool for transformation and our work is made with the hope that we can activate change in the world, however small, by producing plays that reveal and challenge our perception of the world. Our work is intentionally diverse with content that is socially relevant, artistically engaging and inclusive at its core. We are passionate about working with new writers to nurture and develop their work and are keen to produce first productions and UK and London premieres of new plays.

The Big Things by Mike Heath was selected following an open submissions window in February 2018. In the span of five days, we received almost 200 scripts from across the world. We selected The Big Things by Mike Heath because we were won over by the beautifully complex central female character. Through her experiences, we gain insight into the intricacies of living with ASD as an adult and a parent. This is a story rarely seen on the stage, and we are proud to be producing the world premiere of Grace’s story.

Read Entertainment Views’ exclusive interview with Director, Sharon Willems, here: Interview with Sharon Willems

Book Tickets, here: The Big Things ~ Book Tickets

Bags of Bags for Movie Fans

When I visit the various Comic Cons that Entertainment Views are privileged to be asked to review, the merchandise is one of the first directions I head in! With limited space for all the Funko Pops in the world that I would love to home and the same being said for the action figures which I’ve not outgrown – tshirts and bags win the shopping list ‘game’ and I often return to Entertainment Views HQ with at least one new bag. As a TV and Movie fan, I’m always on the look out for a rare item and if I can grab a bargain I’m an even happier fan girl! These are the types of bags I check out while I’m out and about at enjoying a convention:

Messenger & Cross Body Bags

When I’m out for work purposes and have a notepad, tablet, mobile phone and a pencil case of some description to satisfy my stationery ‘fetish’ – I need something that will carry all those things safely. Also, because this is me we’re talking about, some geekery needs to creep in. Minions is a winner, I love the Despicable Me films and think that Minions are one of the most inspired ‘cartoon’ characters. I’m also a self-confessed Disney fan and can’t bypass an opportunity to own a new Disney bag when the moment calls for it. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are definite must-have characters on my best-loved style of bags.

Toiletry Bags

If I can add a little Disney magic to my toiletry department’ then I’m all for a toiletry bag which features a character from one of my favourite films. I’m also not opposed to Peter Rabbit as he reminds me of my childhood and I love the latest film release. Toiletry bags are a vital part of my luggage and with entertainment review requests coming far and wide from across the UK – I’m on the road often.

Lunch Bags

With a four year old to please on days out, and who is also due to start school full-time in September this year, I am always on the search for new lunch bags. He’s a Super Heroes fan so a Marvel Comics option always goes down well (see picture for one of his favourites).

Comic Con Shopping

I love to come away with merchandise from a Comic Con, it’s one of my musts and as a TV and Film memorabilia shopaholic I’d be disappointed to leave empty handed.

However, what I have discovered is that I can also find all of my and my son’s favourite characters featured on bags on a variety of websites via www.latestdeals.co.uk

So although I love a good hunt around a TV and Movie event, I’m also excited to have discovered an online hideaway which is showing more offers on bags than my husband can ‘handle’ me owning (pardon the pun!).

 

Photos: C/o Amazon

Disney On Ice: Worlds of Enchantment ~ Genting Arena, Birmingham

Disney on Ice: Worlds of Enchantment is touring the UK, get your tickets here: Disney On Ice

Star rating: ******

Disney on Ice is a splendour not easily forgotten, even at my age I still find not much rivals the feeling of seeing Mickey Mouse in person! So, Mickey Mouse on ice skates is something different altogether, in the most glorious way possible. Add his friends; Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy to the mix and the arena was definitely packed full of happy patrons.

The Worlds of Enchantment show takes the audience on a journey through four different and popular Disney films and all with the added magic that our favourite characters are on ice skates and pulling off some pretty marvellous tricks to boot. Toy Story was up first, and the third film in the franchise was used as the basis, with Ken and Barbie’s love story at the heart of it. I was amazed by the costumes worn by the performers who skated as Ham the Pig and Slinky Dog, no mean feat to manage that on skates. It was a real treat to be transported back to the fun and poignancy of the film.

The Little Mermaid followed and we were immersed in the underwater world which Ariel and her friends inhabit. Scary villain Ursula was also on hand to cause mayhem and that can’t have been an easy costume to wear on the ice, either. We enjoyed singing along to the well known songs and watching the classic tale being recreated by talented skaters at the top of their game.

Cars was an incredible film to watch on the ice, Mater was there to take us through the story and Lightning McQueen’s appearance delighted my young plus one. It was an entirely different experience to see the cars on ice as opposed to the performers and it worked superbly.

Frozen is the best way to round off an evening jam-packed with Disney magic, the scenery accompanying this spectacle is phenomenal and the performers skating as Anna, Elsa and Kristoff paid a great resemblance to the characters. Let It Go has lost none of its appeal and there was no better song to punctuate the stunning scenery changes in the excerpt. A wonderful finale which captivated all of us in our little party and those around us too.

You don’t have to be a big Disney fan to go along and see this exceptional production, watching the films portrayed this way is like no experience you’ll find anywhere else. Enjoy!

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