Calendar Girls The Musical ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sunflowers were out in full force as Calendar Girls The Musical landed at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night and brought the full house to tears and to their feet with Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s stunning piece of musical theatre.

The show tells the true story of a Women’s Institute in Yorkshire who made waves with a nude calendar instead of their usual conventional offering. The idea is the brainchild of ‘Chris’ (played by Rebecca Storm) when she dares her fellow members to bare all behind a current bun to raise money for a new sofa for the relatives room at their local hospital. Chris’s Friend ‘Annie’ (Sarah Jane Buckley) loses her husband John (Phil Corbitt) to blood cancer and it’s her experience of the hard wooden chairs in the room she spends much of her time in that makes Chris so determined to be helpful. Albeit helpful in a way that shocks her fellow W.I. members and enrages the snooty Chairwoman, Mari (Judy Holt). It’s a rollercoaster journey for all the characters which ultimately sees an ordinary group of ladies face their fears and triumph. A more heartwarming and heartbreaking story you won’t find – I’ve never before experienced a musical that makes me cry so hard and laugh so uncontrollably in equal measure and in quick succession.

Rebecca Storm is a marvel in the role of Chris, the rule-breaking florist who’s trying so desperately to keep a handle on her teenage son whilst being a rock to her best friend and pushing her unconventional idea forward. Storm’s rendition of the musical number ‘Sunflower’ is show-stopping. Lisa Maxwell shines as Celia, the grounded air hostess who is struggling to fit in at her husband’s golf club. Her solo number ‘So I’ve Had A Little Work Done’ is one of the highlights of the show. Sue Devaney is perfect casting for Cora and her performance of ‘Silent Night’ is joyful, she’s such an engaging performer and a game girl too! Julia Hills is a revelation (in more ways than one!) as Ruth, she gives a very physical performance which enhances all of Ruth’s character traits. The scene in which she sings ‘My Russian Friend and I’ is both hilarious and sorrowful and her singing voice is powerful too. Pauline Daniels is playing the role of retired Headmistress, Jessie (Ruth Madoc is still out of action at the moment) and much as I am aware of Madoc’s talents, I admit I have fallen in love with Daniels’ portrayal of Jessie. She teases out every quality in the pinnacle role and her performance of ‘What Age Expects’ brought the house down. What an amazing vocalist she is.

Sarah Jane Buckley is playing the part I have no doubt she was born to play. She gives a measured, intelligent performance as Annie with a good dose of mischievous fun into the bargain and astonishing vocal ability to boot which lends itself to all of her musical numbers. ‘Scarborough’ gives the audience an insight into Annie and John’s lives and a snapshot of what life would be like without John. ‘Kilimanjaro’ raises the roof, Buckley puts all the pent up emotion into this beautifully crafted song. That moment will resonate with me for some time.

There are also superb performances from younger members of the cast, including; Isabel Caswell as Jenny, Tyler Dobbs as Tommo and Danny Howker as Danny. The entire ensemble are a strong, solid unit though and there is not one weak link nor a performer amongst them who didn’t attract my attention for all the right reasons.

From the opening scene to the magical moments when the calendar is being made – I was unwaveringly emotionally invested in the story and the people. It’s a production not to be missed!

Go and see my favourite musical for yourselves: Calendar Girls tickets

Come From Away ~ Phoenix Theatre

I’m an islander! How could I not be after such a fabulous show? Come From Away is a stunning piece of musical theatre, simply done with maximum effect and another visit is definitely in order.

The story centres around the grounded plane which landed in Canada following the 9/11 terror attacks. The very small community in Newfoundland welcomed some 7000 passengers into their lives.

The musical maps the incredible transition undertaken by every individual as lives intertwines and hope and love are the overriding themes. The musical numbers punctuating the tale are beautifully constructed with care and detail by Irene Sankoff and David Hein. ‘Welcome to the farthest place you’ll get from Disneyland’ is such a poignant and scene-setting lyric in the upbeat number ‘Welcome to the rock’.

The cast is compiled of a strong, talented ensemble of triple threat performers who each bring the various real-life characters to the fore in a caring, almost affectionate manner. It’s clear that the cast are affected by the story and keen to tell it and portray it to the best of their ability. Notable performers in an altogether flawless company include; Jenna Boyd, Helen Hobson, Robert Hands and Rachel Tucker.

It’s no wonder the show boasts four Olivier Awards, go and see it if for no other reason than it’s a wonderfully heartening experience at a time when everything else in the world feels so uncertain.

Book now: Come From Away tickets

On Your Feet ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Guest Reviewer: Claire & Anthony Sidebottom

Star rating: ****

As a married couple, we arrived at the Hippodrome with one of us having loved Gloria Estefan when younger, and one who said he didn’t know her or her music, so it was going to be interesting to see how the two different ends of the spectrum felt about the new musical ‘On Your Feet’ which is the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s life.

The music started straight away, and everyone’s toes started tapping! It was amazing to see that the band would be on the stage instead of in the normal orchestral pit, it highlighted from the get go that music was at the heart of their story. 

There was a good flow back and forth to give some depth to the story; however my husband felt it was disjointed in areas, with no idea they were now married, or suddenly had a 10 year old son. 

After just a couple of songs it was soon apparent that my husband knew more Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine songs than he realised, and the music taking you into the interval left you on a real high. 

During the interval it was plain that we both felt the dancing was absolute perfection. None of the dancers were even a second out. It was fast, synchronised, graceful, sexy, all at the same time, nothing else could be said but just absolute amazing dancers. You could tell the cast hadn’t just been picked as ensembles who may have danced before, this ensemble were exceptional dancers first who also happened to have great singing voices.

With the first half leaving you with Gloria at the peak of her career, the second half went on to the difficult time of a terrible coach crash that her and her family were involved in and the aftermath of such a dreadful accident. I recognised how the story reflected that the public very often see the star but don’t realise that fame is not everything, and the effects fame can have on family life. For example the strain it put on her relationship with her mother was a very sad side line.

Gloria’s Mother , Gloria Fajardo was played by Madalena Alberto and was a strong depiction of traditional approaches and how past disappointments can impact so many lives going forward. Although for some reason both of us felt that the mother’s image and attitude somehow reminded us of the Mother Gothel character fromDisney’s Rapunzel!

Of course the main outstanding performance was that of Philippa Stefani portraying the superstar Gloria herself. Her voice was absolutely perfect; you can see why Gloria Estefan herself picked Philippa to represent her in telling the world her story. Emilio Estefan, Gloria’s husband and musical soul mate through the story was played by George Ioannides and even though his acting and singing were faultless, with Emilio’s character bringing some humour to scenes with his language difficulties and a pair of very short shorts, somehow the chemistry between the Gloria and Emilio characters, somehow didn’t quite work for both my husband and I. The love story didn’t feel as sincere as I undoubtedly think it is in real life, especially as not many relationships face the test of time in the music industry! It was only at the end when the encore began that I felt a spark between the two characters. 

The strongest love that came shining through with the characters was that between Gloria and her Grandmother Consuelo played by Karen Mann. She was absolutely a stand out character and this was even more obvious when she received the loudest applause of the evening, aside from ‘Gloria‘. This could be contributed to Karen’s vast theatrical experience, because the pure love for Gloria that ran through her performance seemed effortless, and she brought such comedy timing to the show every time she stepped on the stage.

The set design seemed to change effortlessly, through large screens, changing of lights, and the sliding partitions, taking you from a bedroom to a rehearsal or stage scene. The sliding portions of window shutters really worked well to take you from different centuries, along with the costumes which were beautifully synced with the different eras portrayed throughout the show.

The final vote upon leaving the theatre was that the show is a hit and we doubt anyone could watch that show without starting to move to the beat, the rhythm really is going to get you! We were humming the songs all the way home, and I am playing the greatest hits while writing this review, which means its taking me longer than expected because I’m dancing around instead of concentrating! That naughty Dr Beat!

So as it resulted in us both enjoining the show and highly rating both the music and especially the dancing that featured, it turns out you do not need to have been an EsteFAN in the 80s and 90s to go and see the show, because the music and storyline is pure entertainment which is made even stronger by the fact it is a true story about a real superstar.

Book your tickets now: On Your Feet tickets

Hobson’s Choice ~ Birmingham Royal Ballet

Star rating: *****

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credits: BRB

Zog ~ Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

When I heard that Julia Donaldson’s fabulous book, Zog was going to be performed as a live stage show with puppets, I thought – what a good idea! A golden star to the team who came up with the idea…

A cast of five performs the tale, they bring it to life with puppetry, playing instruments on stage and acting out each character. It’s a truly incredible feat when the talented five-some seamlessly move between playing a character, operating a puppet or playing a variety of different instruments. This innovative continuum does not break the story and keeps the flow of the tale brilliantly.

Emily Benjamin plays Princess Pearl and also performs in the ensemble. She’s entertaining and energetic to watch as she makes good use of the functional set. Robert Ginty plays Sir Gadabout and other characters in the ensemble and he demonstrates excellent comic timing. Elliot MacKenzie is Zog and he’s just the right stature and has accurate characteristics for the role. Dixie McDevitt kept the audience participating with the rabbit puppets and also entertained overall as a member of the ensemble. Euan Wilson shone as Madame Dragon, he was the epitome of strict school ma’am and gave a very physical performance.

As we go on Zog’s journey in his quest to win a golden star from Madame Dragon at school, it’s a wonderful window into the world of a young dragon. Reception age and year one children in particular should identify with the element of school and wanting to impress and do their best in a new environment with a disciplinarian at the helm.

Having said that, my five year old lost interest on a couple of occasions and I felt that he would have been more engaged is the dragon puppets had made more appearances. I felt there was some confusion on his part as to why the puppets were there and the performers were also there dressed as dragons. Maybe one or the other would have been better? The script varies from the dialogue I know so well from the book too. There was no mention of ‘what a good idea’ really or the zig-zagging through the blue, so it was disappointing from that perspective.

As a piece of theatre it was enjoyable and beautifully thought out, however the synchronicity with the much loved book was lacking. It’s a great way to encourage the younger audience member into the theatre though.

Book your tickets to see Zog on tour: http://zoglive.com

Photo Credits: Helen Maybanks

Birthday Blog-Post

As you know, dear readers – I don’t often take to my blog for particularly personal posts, however my big 40 arrived on Monday and it’s inevitable that I’ve reflected on the past 10 years. Where in my standard day I’ve been able to fit in this reflection is a bafflement when I spends most of my waking hours trying to remember everything my social butterfly son has going on in his little life! I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

Entertainment Views (previously known as Break A Leg) turned 6 years old last month so blogging has dominated my 30s for sure. It’s no wonder my husband and son roll their eyes when they spot me with my laptop – which at times has been almost permanently glued to my knees.

One of my favourite shows of 2019 – Club Tropicana

Theatre has been at the heart of everything I’ve done, and it will certainly continue to be as my passion for it has been awoken ten fold over the past months. Music goes hand in hand with theatre of course so that has taken a prime position in my blogging career and I will also be carrying on with as many movie reviews as I can squeeze in, it’s easier now that the youngest reviewer in the ‘team’ can sit still for at least 5 minutes in the cinema.

When I turned 30 I had very little to think about apart from myself, which was a fairly easy task…. sometimes easy…. occasionally easy…. not all that easy! A month after I turned the big 30 I joined a local amateur musical theatre group to have a go at performing on the stage myself, something I’d often given thought to but not considered myself cut out for. My amateur performing career started with a bit of fun in the chorus of Hello Dolly and finished with the role of one of the daughters in The Pirates of Penzance – I met the man who would become my husband and we have our own little family now. Although my days of cavorting about the stage are over, my husband will never leave performing behind (and so he shouldn’t, he’s ace!) and our son is a born performer. I, on the other hand prefer to write about it!

Another memorable occasion from my 30th year was a double show day in London’s West End with my very best friend, Hayley. We had both hit 30 that year so we celebrated with a matinee of Blood Brothers and an evening performance of Phantom of the Opera. It was the first time we had seen either show! Those of you who follow my blog will know that we have seen ‘Blood Brothers’ many many times since and we could probably play the roles of the boys in a gender swapped production, we know it so well!

Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons in Blood Brothers

As I enjoy the last few days of my 30s I’m hugely grateful to the various people who’ve come into my life over the past decade. They might not be so grateful… but I am. The vast majority of them have stuck around and become friends whom I treasure, some have come and gone quickly and taught me a lesson along the way.

One of the most poignant moments occurred on Wednesday night, I had been kicking my heels up in London (I say heels, for the most part I was sporting Mickey Mouse trainers… what else?!). In the afternoon my friend Jen (whom I met four years ago through my blog) and I had been sitting level with the most humungous chandelier. We were in the cheap seats at the Old Vic, watching open mouthed as the legendary Sally Field and Bill Pullman did their thing on stage in All My Sons. In a traditional two show day to celebrate her birthday and mine, we strolled across the river to watch Mamma Mia! which was light relief after the intensity of the previous production we’d chosen. Joining us in the audience that evening was one of the most recent friends I’m delighted to have in my life, Yvonne Howard. I had seen her play Katisha in The Mikado with ENO when Sky Arts had broadcast it and thought she was the bees knees. As I sat in the beautiful Novello Theatre, Jen on one side of me and Yvonne on the other, with my three favourite Dynamos (Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt) being their usual talented selves on stage together with another new friend of mine, the wonderful Stephen Beckett (nobody wears the finale costume like Mr Beckett does!) – it was akin to a culmination of my past 6 years as a blogger. A Night to remember for sure, one of the happiest places for me is singing Abba tunes in amongst a full standing ovation surrounded by friends on stage and off.

MAMMA MIA! London Cast 2018/2019

There are moments in life we never forget, however large or small – and most of my treasured memories have taken place in the theatre in one way, shape or form! So here’s to my 40s and more years of spreading the word about entertainment goodness.

To complete my rambling I’d like to give you my top 40 theatrical moments from the past decade – indulge me if you will, the list has been a joy to reflect upon!

Iolanthe (ENO was one of the highlights of my year in 2018
  1. Top of the list has to be first being introduced to Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt as the dynamos in Mamma Mia! Not only did their stunning performances reawaken my love of musical theatre, their sheer exuberance, energy and talent has turned me into a life long fan of all three ladies.
  2. Stephen Beckett must come next, not only for his brilliant portrayal of Bill Austin in Mamma Mia! but also for his memorable performance as Prospero in The Tempest at Stafford Castle.
  3. Yvonne Howard’s performance as the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe at the Coliseum last year. She is responsible for my interest in opera going beyond Gilbert & Sullivan, even though this particular production was a G & S.
  4. Sticking with Yvonne Howard, I’ve yet to see her live as Katisha in The Mikado with The ENO – however watching her via the broadcast on Sky Arts was one of the pinnacle moments in my love of theatre.
  5. All My Sons at the Old Vic was firmly on my radar as soon as I knew that Sally Field and Bill Pullman would be leading the cast. It’s not every day that Hollywood legends perform on stage and certainly not a regular occurrence for that to happen in London. I will never forget the buzz of seeing them right there in front of me bringing a level of intensity to a classic play that moved me immeasurably.
  6. Blood Brothers ~ the countless amounts of times I’ve watched the show speaks volumes. Plus I LOVED Sarah Jane Buckley playing the role of Mrs Johnstone, she understudied the part so opportunities to see her were limited, but thank goodness I was able to see her.
  7. The Girls – or Calendar Girls the Musical was so good I saw it twice in the West End and I’m all set to see it on tour too. One of the best moments in the West End version was Claire Machin as Cora singing ‘Silent Night’.
  8. Club Tropicana was one of the cheesiest musicals I’d ever had the pleasure of reviewing, but it was absolutely brilliant and Kate Robbins stole the show.
  9. Cats, I’ve seen it plenty of times before, but I went to review it at New Wimbledon Theatre with my lovely friend Judy Buxton and she had never seen the show. So not only was I blown away as usual by the content, I was also overwhelmed to watch my companion’s reaction as she was overcome by the emotion of the show.
  10. Move Over Mrs Markham at The Mill at Sonning was a fantastic highlight of last year, starring the aforementioned Judy Buxton, her husband, Jeffrey Holland, plus the super talented Finty Williams. A farce de force!
  11. Sunset Boulevard at the old Comedy Theatre, London (now the Harold Pinter Theatre) was a defining moment of my 30th year – I adored Kathryn Evans as Norma Desmond and the show inspired me to have a go at treading the boards myself. In fact it was ‘With One Look’ that I used to audition to join a musical theatre company.
  12. Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre absolutely rocked my world. Imelda Staunton has long been a favourite actress of mine but this performance was on a whole new level. I will never forget Julie Legrand as Electra either!
  13. Wit at the Manchester Exchange Theatre starring Julie Hesmondhalgh has to be one of the most poignant pieces of theatre I have ever seen. She is so much more than Hayley from Coronation Street and the sublime Julie Legrand also starred in the production.
  14. I think that Jeffrey Holland is one of the most talented stage and screen actors around and his one man show And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel is exceptional – I can’t wait to watch it again.
  15. The Rocky Horror Show has to be seen to be believed and is one of my best loved musicals. Audience participation aplenty and great fun to dress up as weirdly and wonderful as we all like. Let’s do the time warp again!
  16. Evita – not only one of the most powerful Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in my humble opinion but one that holds s many special memories. One of the most poignant being my son’s first kicks when I was expecting, it was during ‘Peron’s Latest Flame’.
  17. The Mousetrap, a legendary show that I was delighted to finally see – it’s an intricate tale and what a superb set!
  18. 42nd Street was one of the first musicals my parents took me to see so to be able to review the production in the west end last year was an amazing opportunity. Clare Halse was an incredible Peggy Sawyer.
  19. Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC still resonates now as a production, it was magical and enticing. I loved Rebecca Johnson’s performance as Mrs Darling too.
  20. Present Laughter, the Noel Coward play was on my radar when it toured as it starred Phyllis Logan and I had been keen to see her on stage. It did not disappoint and neither did Ms Logan. Rebecca Johnson also co-starred and gave yet another excellent performance.
  21. My second experience of watching the marvel that is Phyllis Logan on stage was provided by a two-hander play called Switzerland and it was spell-binding.
  22. The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium was glorious, I’d invested my time in watching the search for Dorothy on BBC One so to be able to see the winner in action was quite something. Plus Michael Crawford was outstanding.
  23. Wind in the Willows which was also on at the London Palladium was so much fun, I loved the songs and Jenna Boyd was a real treat in her roles as well as the irrepressible Rufus Hound.
  24. Over The Rainbow starring Lisa Maxwell and Gary Wilmott was a stunning piece of theatre, heartbreaking and packed with biopic content. Maxwell’s performance was second to none.
  25. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was a raucous riot of a show from beginning to end and a fabulous afternoon out with the girls, especially with Hooch on offer!
  26. King Lear at the Globe Theatre was worth all the standing up to see Kevin McNally as the King and a fantastic cast – it was one of the best incarnations of the piece that I have seen.
  27. Avenue Q brings puppetry and inappropriateness galore, it’s one of the most hilarious evenings in the theatre I’ve had. You’ll not be able to get the lyrics out of your head.
  28. The Lady Vanishes is one of my favourite plays from this year so far, I’ve not been so engrossed in a mystery on stage in a long time. Tension in the auditorium created by the drama on stage was palpable.
  29. The Snowman is one of my favourite films and on stage it’s a wonder. Ballet and enchantment, it’s not to be missed and I will definitely watch it again in the future.
  30. I’d never seen Ruddigore before, however last year I was delighted to have the chance to see it at Malvern Theatres. What a performance the whole cast gave, they were a sensation.
  31. Night Must Fall was a gripping thriller I had the pleasure of reviewing in Malvern a few years ago, starring the marvellous Gwen Taylor. It’s a play I’d be interested in reviewing again as I spent so much of the previous experience on the edge of my seat!
  32. Ghost Train was another fine example of a play which left me with many questions. Judy Buxton was memorable in this as an eccentric older lady. She was great fun to watch.
  33. Anita and Me was a fine example of a poignant play set ahead of its time. and with a stellar cast too it’s one of my favourites.
  34. Brassed Off was a wonderful production which started life at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and was yet another chance to see Jeffrey Holland on stage. Beautifully done.
  35. Jersey Boys was an emotional one to watch, one of our best friends whom we lost at the end of 2016 adored the show and had seen it many times. I could see why he loved it so much, it was joyful and also informative.
  36. The Buddy Holly Story is one of my all time favourite shows, it’s got all my best loved hits in it! Of course it’s tinged with over-riding sadness but anyone who knows the story before they watch the show will be expecting the inevitable.
  37. 9 to 5 at Upstairs at the Gatehouse was such a fabulous show and worked in the small scale space. Pippa Winslow was on fire as Violet.
  38. Pippa also starred in The Sound of Music on tour and I loved that production, it was well cast and the closest to the film version that I’ve seen.
  39. Funny Girl, a show I’d managed to miss in the west end however on tour I saw Natasha Barnes, much celebrated for stepping into Sheridan Smith’s shoes and boy could I see why. Nova Skipp did an excellent job of standing in as Fanny Bryce’s mother too.
  40. Finally, nobody shines on stage quite like my husband Garry McWilliams, he’s the consummate professional even when he’s appearing in amateur production. His training at Arts Ed never fails to show and I think he’s a talented performer. I am biased, but it’s also true!
Jeffrey Holland – And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel

That’s all folks! I can’t wait to make more memories and fall in love with many more productions during the next decade. I’ve got lots in the diary so I look forward to sharing my thoughts on my theatrical meanderings during my first year in the 40s club.

Half-Term at the Hippodrome ~ Review

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the school holidays! Yet another half term has presented itself and in our case, we have a 5 year old to entertain for just over 2 weeks. Easter holidays not only bring a fortnight’s worth of fun with your offspring, they also occasionally tag on a cheeky day or two for teacher training. Everything these days costs a pound or two, even a ‘free’ trip to the local park is likely to include requests for ice cream, and of course there’s always an ice cream van to hand, jingling away! One of our saviours came in the form Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

My boy, Connor, joining in the street dance workshop

It’s not difficult to entice my boy into a theatre, he’s been brought up going to shows that are age appropriate for most of his short life so far – of course he has! He’s my child after all! What helped to engage him with Birmingham Hippodrome’s week of fantastic activities was the Street Dance workshop offered for 5-7 year olds by the superb Dance Xchange. This hour long session offered on Good Friday showcased and demonstrated the quality of teaching from one of their talented teachers. The small group were taught a short dance which involved some moves which my little boy was familiar with as he already has street dance classes (as well as ballet and tap!).

The children were encouraged to warm up before they were put through their paces. The end result was several proud 5-7 year olds who could perform a street dance routine – and rather brilliantly too!

After that excitement the young ones were able to play with giant Lego bricks in the coffee bar area, that was a big hit. Also ideal for kids of all ages were the crafts that were on offer. From colouring an easter egg to making one to hang up at home or you could make a protest flag to wave. It was all good creative stuff designed to inspire the holidaying youngsters and my little boy hasn’t stopped talking about it.

The giant Lego was a hit!

The most amazing part of the activities offered is that they’re all free of charge. So unless you want to buy drinks or snacks in the coffee bar, your pennies can stay in your purse.

Birmingham Hippodrome offer these opportunities in the holidays regularly, so why not keep an eye on their website to find out what they have coming up soon: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/

Free Theatrical Workshops ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham Hippodrome half-term workshops. Credit: Simon Hadley

Birmingham Hippodrome is staging an exciting programme of free theatrical workshops this Easter half-term. Designed with the family in mind, children of all ages will be entertained with a range of free workshops from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April.

For the first time at the Hippodrome, the theatre will host an accessible Sensory Circus (17 Apr) for children with additional needs including Autism, Asperger’s and other complex disabilities.  As well as the Sensory Circus, there will be specially created chill out spaces close-by featuring circus play tents filled with sensory toys and apparatus.

In partnership with DanceXchange, Family Yoga (15 Apr) will offer parents and their little ones the chance to spend some happy, healthy time together. In the Street Dance workshop (19 Apr) expect a Hip-Hop inspired event where kids can work up a sweat with seasoned Street Dance teachers in the lead up to B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival, coming to Birmingham this May.

In-keeping with Easter traditions, Easter Activities (15-19 Apr) will invite families to create their own colourful eggs, plus the chance to take part in an egg-citing Easter egg trail. There’s also the chance to discover industry secrets with Stage Make-Up for Families (16 Apr), with the opportunity to create dramatic characters and artistic make-up for the stage.

Arts and crafts take centre stage in the Build your own Brum workshop (18 Apr), working with illustrator Tsz, you’ll get to redesign your very own Birmingham. You can also join a Protest Flag Making workshop (16 & 19 Apr) inspired by Les Misérables. Drop in and create a flag with a message of peace or protest.

In the Make Your Own Theatre Poster workshop (15 & 18 Apr), families can come together to create eye-catching theatrical posters inspired by some of the headlining productions that have graced the Hippodrome stage.

Birmingham Hippodrome’s free Easter activities will take place from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April. For more information visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com/easter

Olivier Awards 2019

Theatre has been my passion since I can remember and although in the past couple of years I’ve not been blogging as actively about my best loved genre of entertainment, it’s never left my radar.

Last night’s Olivier Awards reignited the theatrical spark for me and there are shows I will make it my mission to see – especially given the superb performances of excerpts from many of the nominated productions. From the magnificent Disney’s The Lion King to the stonking new musical Come From Away to Six – a pop concert style musical like no other I’ve seen before – the West End is packed with shows to suit every taste. The Tina Turner musical also looks incredible and if you heard Adrienne Warren who plays the real life legend, I’m sure you can’t fail to agree that she does Ms Turner proud and then some! Rosalie Craig made me feel alive with her rendition of Being Alive from Company and a finale featuring such wonderment as the stunning cast of Olivier winner Sir Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was a dream come true. Jason Manford was a superb host, witty and offering up relevant comedy, I found the comment about the over-charging in theatre bars particularly poignantly funny. He showed off his musical theatre side with the fantastic Janie Dee and Ruthie Henshall in tow, which was an unexpected treat indeed.

What of the award winners in the hotly contested categories? Although I’ve yet to see the show as I don’t frequent London as often as I would like, I’m delighted for Company, Jonathan Bailey and Patti Lupone – worthy winners in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical category and Best Musical Revival. Judging by the immense performance given by the cast of Come From Away, their Best New Musical win (amongst other awards) was well deserved, the production stars one of my favourite performers, Jenna Boyd, it’s got to be worth a watch just to see her! Catherine Zuber should also be congratulated, her costume design for The King And I is a triumph and she should rightly be celebrated. Shout out to my favourite Donna and the Dynamos, Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt who presented that particular award in their Mamma Mia! costumes. Porgy and Bess was also on my radar and a winner from the Best Opera nominations which I had high hopes for. I must also add my congratulations to the terrific super-talent Monica Dolan for her win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for All About Eve. I haven’t seen the play yet but Monica Dolan is a chameleon on an actress and wows me in all she does.

Here’s the full list of winners….

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

Come From Away – Book, Music and Lyrics: David Hein and Irene Sankoff; Music Supervisor, Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath; Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen; Musical Director/UK Music Supervisor: Alan Berry; and the band of Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

Blkdog by Botis Seva at Sadler’s Wells

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Akram Khan for his performance in Xenos at Sadler’s Wells

BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY

A Monster Calls at The Old Vic

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Kelly Devine for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL

Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Sharon D. Clarke for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

CUNARD BEST REVIVAL

Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

BEST NEW COMEDY

Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AFFILIATE THEATRE

Flesh And Bone at Soho Theatre

WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Jon Clark for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

ROYAL ALBERT HALL AWARD FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN

Gareth Owen for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Catherine Zuber for The King And I at The London Palladium

BLUE-I THEATRE TECHNOLOGY AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN

Bunny Christie for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Monica Dolan for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION

Katya Kabanova at Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA

The ensemble of Porgy And Bess at London Coliseum

BEST ACTOR

Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS

Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

SIR PETER HALL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

AMERICAN AIRLINES BEST NEW PLAY

The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL

Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

SOCIETY OF LONDON THEATRE SPECIAL AWARD

Sir Matthew Bourne

You can book tickets for the West End Theatre shows here: Break A Leg Ticket Shop

Photo Credit for Come From Away – Matthew Murphy

Other Photo Credits: YouTube

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