Monday, 28 April 2014

PREVIEW: Wicked the Musical UK & Ireland Tour

A Preview of Wicked the Musical UK & Ireland Tour
Interview Excerpts with Nikki Davis-Jones (Elphaba) and Liam Doyle (Fiyero)
24th April 2014
After hearing that Wicked was to tour the UK and Ireland I was very sceptical of how this fantastic show would go on the road without losing any of it's 'Wicked' magic. Ahead of it's two month stay at the Birmingham Hippodrome, members of the press team were invited to Wales Millennium Centre to see the show before it flies into the Midlands on July 9th. Prior to seeing the matinee performance in Cardiff's stunning venue we were treated to interviews with cast members Nikki Davis-Jones (Elphaba - the green witch) and Coventry's own Liam Doyle (Fiyero).

This was my 14th visit to Wicked and the show is still as vibrant, and as spectacular as ever. I was extremely impressed with the whole feel of the touring production that it was easy to forget you weren't sitting in the Apollo Victoria in the West End. The Wales Millenium Centre is a stunning venue surrounded by the beautiful Cardiff Bay, and it is so fantastic that this production of wicked has toured across the isles and is still true to the original Broadway and West End productions.

No expense had been spared on this touring production and no corner had been cut in bringing this show on the road. There are a few subtle changes from the London production but these do not detract from the show in any shape or form. 
I would highly recommend this show as a highlight of the Hippodrome's programme for this year!
SPOILER: For the wicked 'Superfans' there are minuscule changes in the way in which Elphaba melts and her entrance for 'No Good Deed' due to tour venues not having trap doors. There are only 2 Flatheads in the Wizomania show in the Emerald City and there are no staircases either side of the proscenium as in the Apollo Victoria. The Defying Gravity sequence is pretty much the same and of course any production of Wicked would not be complete without the 'infamous' Bubble. The Time Dragon has also flew out to join the tour!
Interview excerpts(Full Interviews to be published in the near future):

Nikki Davis Jones - Elphaba
Would you say that your portrayal of Elphaba has changed since your Standby days in the West End? (Nikki was understudy for Elphaba in the London production for 2 ½ years)
Yeah, definitely! The basics are still there – in terms of the script, but I understand her a lot more now I’m playing her 8 times a week and I’ve kind of gone back to basics with it. I’ve really found new things about her, and we’re changing it up every day (well as much as we’re allowed!)
So what is your favourite Elphaba song to sing in the show?
‘No Good Deed.’
Liam Doyle - Fiyero
Are you looking forward to returning to your roots in the Midlands?
Yes!  I’ll be staying at my mom’s house and I can’t wait – it’s gonna be so much fun! All of my friends from school who’ve finally stopped asking me “What are you gonna do when acting finishes?” are gonna come and watch, they’ve never seen me in anything before!
Have you performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome before?
I did Hairspray at the Hippodrome, but I also did summer projects at the Birmingham Alex – ‘Stage Experience’ – and I did two of those. One of which was Tony in Copacabana where I wore an awful sparkly gold suit and I played Roddy in Boogie Nights. It’s nice to be returning to Birmingham which holds a place in my heart; it’s kind of like being at home, well as close as I can to Coventry anyway.
So now you’ve played Fiyero on the tour do you think you’d go back and do it on the West End if the offer was there?
I would never say never! Absolutely! Hopefully it’s not the end of Wicked for me but it’s an amazing role and I’d absolutely go back into the role in London! (Whispers: “Please”) 
Catch Wicked at the Birmingham Hippodrome this Summer! Book your tickets HERE

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tap Factory Press Launch - Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

This morning I was fortunate to be invited to the Press Launch of "Tap Factory," which is touring the UK for the first time, direct from sell out tours in Europe and South America. This dynamic production visits the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Mon 14-Tues 15th April 2014 and is a brand new show in the style of STOMP, TAP DOGS & BLUE MAN GROUP. Tap Factory Website

World on Stage and UAU International proudly present some of the world's best tap dancers and international musicians in this highly exciting production, blending together dance, percussion, comedy and acrobatics. See the Trailer Here

This morning students from Coppice Performing Arts School and members of the local Press were invited to the launch hosted by Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. We were treated to a Tap Dance Masterclass with members of the professional cast and we learnt some repertoire from the production (in slow motion speed of course!) It was great to try out some new exciting rhythms and choreography as it was fairly different to the British "Light and Springy" Tap I am more familiar with.

We were then treated to an exclusive performance by dancers Jérémie Champagne (So you Think you can Dance, France) and Dorel Surbeck (Eight Times World Champion of Tap Dance. Please see the above link for a sneak peak!

The Tap Boys were happy to pose for photos with the students from Coppice School and I even managed to bag myself a cheeky picture with the boys!

This highly energetic and technical show is not one to be missed. Runs from Mon 14th-15th April. Tickets available here:

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Singin' in the Rain - UK Tour

Singin' in the Rain UK Tour
Wednesday 19th March 7:30pm

Birmingham audiences were 'wowed' last night as the UK Tour of 'Singin' in the Rain' splashed into Birmingham Hippodrome ahead of a three week toe tapping run at the city's biggest theatre. It was hard not to sing-a-long to this fantastic production, featuring all of the well-known classics from the 1952 iconic film starring Gene Kelly. Featuring the popular "Good Morning", "You are my lucky star", "Make 'em laugh" and of course the title tune "Singin' (and dancing) in the rain" - my feet were tapping along throughout!  

 The timeless musical tells the story of silver screen actors Don Lockwood and his uniquely voiced co-star Lina Lamont, as they make the transition between the silent movie and their first Hollywood musical film. Chorus girl Kathy Seldon captures the heart of Don on her quest for stardom and finds herself the voice of the first 'talkie' movie much to the dismay of Ms Lamont!

Before embarking on a UK tour, this particular production of 'Singin' in the rain' started life at the Chichester Festival Theatre in Summer 2011 and transferred to London's Palace Theatre in 2012 opening to much critical acclaim. It received four Olivier award nominations and played to 750,000 audience members, whom of which may have got a little more theatre than they bargained for if they were situated in 'The Splash Zone!' 

As a lover of all things musical and stagey I was completely in my element watching this production. As a budding choreographer, I was totally in awe of Andrew Wright's stunning dance production numbers - his vision and attention to 1920's detail was sublime and the ensemble in particular executed the extremely intricate routines seamlessly. The Broadway Ballet for me amongst the other production numbers was just exquisite with the addition of the colourful costumes enhancing the choreography. I must also commend Jonathan Church's superb direction and Simon Higlett's Stage Design as the transitions between the live theatricals and video projections ran slickly to ensure there were no holdups in technicalities. 

 Of course any production of "Singin' in the Rain" would not be complete without a torrential rainstorm and the cleverly constructed set provided this by the bucket load! This production requires half a mile of flexible pipe work, a 10 tonne water tank and a water system that creates a downpour from above and flooding from below the stage. It rains (and recycles) over 12,000 litres of downpour per performance! Now that's a lot of rain! 

Adam Cooper (West End production)
Leading the cast in the role of Don Lockwood was James Leece, who effortlessly breezed through the Kelly-esque song and dance sequences, earning rapturous applause for his rendition of 'Singin' in the Rain.' Tap dancing, especially in litres of water is no easy task and Leece mastered the role of Mr Lockwood and was well suited to the role. Comedy, however will always prevail and Leece was well matched with Stephane Anelli who was perfect in the role of the comic Cosmo Brown. His performance of the classic 'Make 'em laugh' was executed with such ease and his vaudeville and circus tricks brought the house down in this deservedly stand out number. Anelli's portrayal and facial expressions were almost a replica of Donald O'Connor's original Cosmo and alongside Leece they both provided some excellent performances in 'Fit as a Fiddle' and 'Moses Supposes' (alongside Luke Dowling as the Dialect Coach).

James Leece, Amy Ellen Richardson, Stephane Anelli
Leading lady Amy Ellen Richardson gave a lovely portrayal of Kathy Seldon and her superb singing and elegant dance moves ensured she was most charming in the Debbie Reynolds role. A highlight of the production - the iconic 'Good Morning' tap trio performed by Richardson, Leece and Anelli, a personal favourite of mine especially as it included the infamous 'Sofa sequence.'

Faye Tozer (better known from Pop group Steps) was wonderfully squeaky as Lina Lamont. She was extremely well suited to the character and her comic timing and portrayal of the Hollywood starlet was spot on. Her second half solo rendition of 'What's wrong with me' was hilariously funny and showed her versatility from her Arena Tour 'Steps' days to a more intimate Musical Theatre performance.

Great supporting performances also came from Maxwell Caulfield (R.F Simpson), Jacqueline Clarke (Dora Bailey/Miss Dinsmore), Paul Grunert (Roscoe Dexter) and Jenny Legg (Broadway Ballet Girl).

I left the theatre smiling from ear to ear and could have only wished it was raining to have danced my way home. A truly tremendous production at the Birmingham Hippodrome.  

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN runs at Birmingham Hippodrome Tuesday 18 March – Saturday 5 April 2014. Performance times: Weds mats 2pm; Sat mat 2.30pm; Eves 7.30pm. Extra performance added – Fri 21 March, 2pm.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Birmingham Hippodrome

Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
Birmingham Hippodrome Review
Saturday 21st December (evening performance)

If you see one professional pantomime this season let it be Birmingham Hippodrome's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This production really has it all...a star studded headline cast, jaw dropping special effects, stunning sets and costumes and enough laughs to last you a lifetime! Qdos Entertainment have provided a very traditional pantomime plot which really has something for everyone - in terms of all round entertainment I'd go as far to say this is the best professional panto I've ever seen! 

Making his pantomime debut - TV favourite Gok Wan shines as 'The Man in the Mirror.' As you would expect Gok is a real crowd pleaser and firm favourite with the ladies of the audience. He provides plenty of his comical 'Gokisms', and dressed in a figure hugging catsuit he really shows us 'How to Look Good in Panto.' Gok performs a fantastic rendition of the Sister Act classic 'Fabulous Baby' and teams up with the brilliant panto dancers to give a really 'confident' performance. Channel 4 have followed Gok through his panto journey and you can catch 'Gok does Panto' on Channel 4 on Monday 30th December at 7:05pm. Read more...

Gok's evil Alias is The Wicked Queen, convincingly played by Dallas actress Stephanie Beacham. She is perfectly cast as the oh so glamorous Panto Villainess and oozes evilness. Beacham has the audience in the palm of her well manicured hands and used this to her full advantage to lure both the cast and the audience under her wicked spell!

Eastenders favourite John Partridge makes a very handsome Prince, and gave a show stopping performance in his rendition of the all singing and dancing 'Runaway Baby.' He is teamed perfectly with 'Over the Rainbow' winner Danielle Hope as leading lady Snow White, and the pair gave a lovely duet of 'The Voice Within' amidst the magic of Act 1. 

Appearing for his first time as pantomime Dame, theatre favourite Gary Wilmot provides many of the laughs as Mrs Nora Crumble, with his quick wit and outrageous outfits. Wilmot is very much a traditional Dame and I particularly enjoyed his 'Birmingham Balti.'

The real stars of this production are comedian Matt Slack and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin as Oddjob and Muddles respectively. They provide many of the show's laughs and both were side-splittingly funny. Zerdin in particular with his puppet sidekick Sam is a real national treasure. I am a firm fan of ventriloquist acts and although I had seen some of his material before in pantomime, I was nevertheless thoroughly entertained by the action and loved Zerdins new puppet pals spontaneously selected from the audience! A particular highlight of the production for me was 'If I did not work for the Queen' which was hilariously performed by Gok Wan, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack. This comedy number was well polished and perfectly timed with props - slapstick at its best!

Snow White's Seven Dwarfs although appearing sparingly in this production were costumed and modelled very carefully to create the illusion of the 'mini men.' Without spoiling the effect for future audiences, it very much reminds me of 'Lord Farquaad' in "Shrek the Musical" and of the 'Oompa Lumpas' in Sam Mendes' new production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with the way in which the Dwarfs were operated. This was unique and pioneering way to represent the Dwarfs and really enhanced the Panto magic spirit. 

With flying dragons, slapstick comedy and plenty of Birmingham and the Black Country topical references, this Pantomime is the perfect family outing and I would highly recommend the UK's biggest pantomime as truly unmissable. Runs til Sunday February 2nd.

Producers and Directed by Michael Harrison, Choreography by Karen Bruce and Musical Directed by Robert Willis.

Monday, 23 September 2013

'Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs' Pantomime Launch - Birmingham Hippodrome

It's not your average Monday Morning when you are invited to the launch of Britain's Biggest Pantomime! In truly spectacular style Birmingham Hippodrome and QDOS Entertainment invited the local press to their star studded event to welcome the celebrity cast of their Christmas Pantomime Production of  'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Birmingham Hippodrome certainly pulls out the stops with their biggest panto to date featuring famous faces from London's West End as well as A-List TV personalities!

This for me was a most magical morning seeing so many stars of stage and screen in one room - a really overwhelming experience. It is rare on a day to day basis you meet one famous face let alone seven!

As we waited for the arrival of the Principal cast we were invited into Snow White's colorful cottage - a really lovely stage set - complete with seven little beds, seven porridge bowls and spoons everything you would expect for a fairytale adventure. It has been many years since Snow White has been performed in Birmingham, yet this cottage seemed quite at home in the Hippodrome ready for its Christmas stay!

Danielle Hope as Snow White
It was announced at this morning's launch that 'BBC's Over the Rainbow' winner Danielle Hope would join the cast in the title role of 'Snow White' and this West End leading lady really looked the part of the Principal Girl. Having recently played the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Eponine in Les Miserables, Danielle swaps her Ruby Slippers for a Handsome Prince to join the star studded line up for her first Pantomime performance.

John Partridge and Danielle Hope
Joining Danielle for this year's production is former 'Over the Rainbow' judge John Partridge. Better known as Eastenders' Christian Clarke, Partridge is no stranger to Theatreland having amongst numerous West End roles just completed a run as Zach in 'A Chorus Line' at the London Palladium. At the launch John said '... it is an honour to be playing opposite Danielle Hope as her Handsome Prince...' and believes that A Birmingham Hippodrome Pantomime is the equivalent to a London Palladium Production!

Adding a touch of glamour to this year's pantomime is none other than stage, TV and film actress Stephanie Beecham as 'The Wicked Queen.' Most well known for her role of Sable in Dallas as well as other appearances in Tenko, Bad Girls and The Colbys, Beecham looked spectacularly sinister in a stunning red and black costume.

Joining the cast for his pantomime debut is Fashion Guru - Gok Wan, who I must say looked stunning in a silver sequinned number! This year Gok is playing 'The Man in the Mirror' and if today's interviews are anything to go by Birmingham audiences are in for a treat as he is absolutely hilarious! If this panto is as successful as his string of credits including the ever popular 'How to look Good Naked' it is sure to be a HIT!

One of Birmingham' audiences favourite stars Gary Wilmot dons the Bloomers for his debut production as Pantomime Dame and I must say he looked fabulous in a frock! No stranger to the stage, Wilmot has performed at the Hippodrome on various occasions playing roles including Buttons in Cinderella and Caractacus Potts in the phenomenon Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Also joining the cast are ventriloquist Paul Zerdin, and comedian Matt Slack who are playing the roles of 'Muddles' and 'Oddjob' respectively. Having seen Paul Zerdin and his ventriloquist buddy Sam in pantomime at the Wolverhampton Grand - he really is 'sidesplittingly' funny and I very much look forward to seeing him again onstage with his puppet pals. Matt Slack's previous credits include Boogie Nights and Blood Brothers and I am sure he will be a superb asset to this fantastic line up.

As you can imagine I am now feeling really festive and in the panto mood (Oh yes I am) and am so excited to see my first pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome. There really is no better family theatre experience than Pantomime and with tickets ranging from £12-£39 with discounts for concessions this is A-list affordable family fun! 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome from Thursday 19 December-Sunday 2nd February 2014. Book your tickets here!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Vote for your favourite UK Theatre!

This year the "My Theatre Matters" campaign, in association with Classic FM, is searching for the UK's favourite Theatre. Over 225 arts venues are asking the public to vote for them in the inaugural My Theatre Matters! Most Welcoming Theatre Award in association with Classic FM, which will be announced at the annual UK Theatre Awards ceremony in London’s historic Guildhall on Sunday 20 October 2013. 

Ask yourself...
 Is your local Theatre welcoming? 
Does it offer an efficient and friendly box office and Front of House Department?
Are your seats comfortable?
Do they bring you the hottest productions in town?
Competitive ticket pricing?
Excellent Accessibility?
Does your Theatre matter to you?

Then GET will only take a minute! (I promise)
I won't give away who received my vote for my favourite West Midlands Theatre but make sure you cast your vote for your Top Theatre HERE! Every Vote counts - cast yours now!!

Monday, 2 September 2013

4Squares Weekender - Birmingham Hippodrome

This weekend don't miss 4 Squares Weekender - a free outdoor arts event on Friday 6th - 7th September. Located in and around Victoria Square, Centenary Square, Chamberlain Square and Brindley Place, 4 Squares weekender features stunning UK and International artists in a FREE, large scale spectacular show. Presented by Birmingham Arts Partnership 4 Squares weekender welcomes the opening of the new Library of Birmingham and the newly refurbished REP.

This exciting Weekend brings a host of free live performances, artistic workshops, music, dance, circus, reggae, bhangra, exhibitions and much more to the city centre. One of the attractions highlights is 'As the World Tipped' by Wired Aerial Theatre in Victoria Square. The event really has to be seen to be believed as artisits defy gravity on a vast 12m screen which raises vertically into the night sky! Combining dramatic film, visuals, aerial performance and choreography this is an event not to be missed and the best thing is, it’s FREE!
4 Squares Weekender is produced by Birmingham Hippodrome on behalf of Birmingham Arts Partnership with support from Arts Council England, Birmingham City Council and European Regional Development Fund.