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/
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…
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
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
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The rivalry between tennis greats Björn Borg and John McEnroe was one for the ages and it was no doubt made for theatre. Here were two of the sport’s finest — both immensely talented and massively driven by the pursuit of greatness. But one, McEnroe, was fierce and volcanic; the other, Borg, was suave yet stoic. They were fire and ice, perfect dance partners for the sport of tennis.
That rivalry is the one Borg vs. McEnroe revisits over three decades later. Directed by Danish filmmaker Janus Metz Pedersen, Borg vs. McEnroe is a biographical sports drama that chronicles what is arguably one of the sporting world’s fiercest — and most evenly matched — rivalries. The biopic revisits a compelling clash of titans, and it does so with aplomb (though it is not without its flaws).
Borg vs. McEnroe illuminates the essence of Borg (played by Sverrir Gudnason), whose ice-like demeanour concealed an inner cauldron fuelled by a burning desire to win and a manic obsession for detail. The Guardian notes that Gudnason is remarkable in this biopic, and that is a accurate observation. The Swedish actor recreates in compelling detail everything that made his compatriot a tennis legend, and in doing so nearly steals all the thunder from Shia LaBeouf, his equally talented co-star.
LaBeouf doesn’t disappoint either as McEnroe. The biopic redefines McEnroe’s character, making a case that the American’s gifts were also his curse. McEnroe has been widely reviled for his hot-headed, tantrum-throwing ways, but Borg vs. McEnroe contextualises this volcanic temper. It wasn’t so much that McEnroe was forever full of vitriol; rather, his outbursts were manifestations of his own burning desire to win and his own manic obsession for detail. To this end, Pederson juxtaposes the two icons in a different light far apart from the fire vs. ice comparisons. The film’s message, it seems, is this: Despite their outward differences both players have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Those commonalities, in turn, are what made this Borg vs. McEnroe the rivalry that it was.
If anything, though, LaBeouf, despite his riveting performance, is left underused, and not by his own doing. The Independent’s review of the biopic rues this very same aspect, noting how Ronnie Sandahl’s screenplay hands the lion’s share of screen time to Gudnason. It is not a bad call per se, especially given Gudnason’s own spotlight-stealing greatness; but LaBeouf himself boasts acting pedigree, and he sure could have used more screen time.
Now, for the match point: Borg vs. McEnroe is an ace of a film, with a climax that artfully recreates the epic 1980 Wimbledon finals between the two icons. This biopic is an enthralling look-back at a tête-à-tête that remains the standard bearer for a sport that has had plenty of rivalries. The most recent of these rivalries, in the estimation of tennis great Pete Sampras, is the one between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, whom Sampras says “carried the torch for a couple of years” — in much the same fashion that Borg and McEnroe did from 1978 to 1981. Ranked 1 and 3 in Coral’s list of highest earning tennis players, Federer and Nadal have faced off 38 times (16 times more than Borg-McEnroe), with 24 of those showdowns for a championship.
One of the best television comedy series is BACK, which means that BBC Two is the place to be at 10pm on a Monday night! Two Doors Down is unmissable comedy and a fabulous way to kick-start January.
The series kicked off in hilarious style with Beth (Arabella Weir) and Eric (Alex Norton) supposedly off out for a romantic meal to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary – however unbeknownst to them their son Ian (Jamie Quinn) has arranged a surprise party in their home. Co-hosted and catered by Ian’s over-eager partner Gordon (Kieran Hodgson), all the gang are there to celebrate the occasion. The gang being neighbours; sloshed Cathy (Doon Mackichan) who’s taking every opportunity to steal kisses from an unwitting Gordon, Cathy’s husband Colin (Jonathan Watson) is on hand with his usual selective blindness to his wife’s shenanigans, newer neighbours Alan (Graeme Stavely aka Grado) and Michelle (Joy McAvoy) are also present – the former in his own bubble of inappropriateness while the latter is both bewildered and ever-more assertive. Christine’s also there of course, plus her trifle which is her idea of a suitable anniversary gift as she had the tins of fruit cocktail doing nothing!
There’s a brilliant game of Mr and Mrs – cue the theme tune – which has been created by Gordon and is ever so slightly sabotaged by Beth’s unwillingness to answer all of the questions he has prepared as well as Michelle’s interruption with her own question. With the wedding theme at the heart of the topic, Cathy is pushing everybody’s buttons in her usual way, sniping at Michelle unnecessarily and causing awkwardness between Ian and Gordon when she asks Gordon if he would say yes to a proposal of marriage from Ian. Awkwardness aside, it was a pleasure to see the lovely, easy chemistry between Beth and Eric, perhaps demonstrating why they’ve been married for thirty years.
The episode is peppered with dirty dancing from Cathy and Colin, frequent demands from Christine for the trifle to be eaten and uneasiness from Michelle while Alan has no fear of making his opinion known, happy to declare that isn’t interested in Beth and Eric’s wedding album.
Two Doors Down so far seems to be living up to its reputation for brilliant observational comedy, cringe-worthy moments and fantastic characterisation. Long may it reign!
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, 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.
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!
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.
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.
It’s CHRISTMAS! Yet another Christmas season is upon us closely to be followed by the back of 2018. How has it been for you? Upon reflection this year’s been one of change in many ways:
I changed the name of the blog to Entertainment Views which was a bold move but one that’s enabled me to branch out and take opportunities which were offered due to the wider range of genres of entertainment I could cover.
I returned to a day job! Having been freelance for just over a year it seemed to be the right time to return to stability.
Connor (my little boy) started school – which limited my availability for taking opportunities outside the midlands on the regular basis I’d become used to. It pulled me up sharp but now I have a firm direction in mind for my little ’empire’.
As a family we’ve been invited to review so many fantastic family fun entertainment activities and we’re having a ball. I love being able to have the boys on board with me. It makes such a difference!
I’d like to say a huge thanks to everybody who got involved in the Entertainment Views Awards this year. What a terrific response! It was great fun putting together the videos used to announce the results and I am so lucky that so many guest presenters came on board to help. Especially given the time of year I was asking them for their blood, sweat and tears! Check out the results here: https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/entertainment-views-awards-2018/
If you watched the short video I made to announce the winner of Best Stage Play (well done Alice in Wonderland (Kew Gardens)), you’ll know that this was our last annual awards – at least for the time being. Life moves on and I have plans to make a few changes in the new year. As you know, aside from my brilliant aides; Hayley Makepeace and Jen Franklin, I run the awards as a one-woman-band so I need to have the time to devote to making it the best it can be. Never say never and watch this space, though… I’ve also been so fortunate to have sponsors every year which means the winners have trophies – it makes it so much more than a mere online vote and I know that little touch is appreciated.
One thing I can guarantee is that my blog will continue to be knocking around the blogsphere, the diary is filling up for next year with plenty of comic cons, gigs, family events and opera on the radar already. I’m also expanding the movie and television review section so stay tuned!
All that’s left in this Queen’s speech (I have a crown you know… it might be a plastic one from Claire’s Accessories but it’s a crown, nonetheless!) is to say a huge great big stonking THANK YOU to everybody who stuck with the blog as it took the transition this year. Your support is invaluable, please carry on chatting to me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – it stops me taking to myself… occasionally… Have the best Christmas and a very happy 2019!