Author Archives: glasgowtheatreblog

REVIEW: Scottish Ballet’s Wee Hansel and Gretel – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Scottish Ballet present “a wee version of a big ballet”, a perfectly distilled version of their family favourite Hansel and Gretel, specifically aimed at children aged three to eight.

A dangerous (well, mildly perilous but age-appropriate) adventure into the deep dark wood with the inquisitive siblings – Wee Hansel and Gretel faithfully follows the traditional tale: there’s the worrisome witch, her mysterious raven companion, the magic forest and the enchanted gingerbread house.

The addition of a narrator (James Siggens) who presents a rhyming introduction to set the scene and explanation of the unfolding action, is a neat touch. He engages the audience from curtain up with a whole heap of audience participation, including magically controlling the lights, much to the amazement of the tiny theatre-goers.

Set to the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra, the production includes students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The tutu-clad trio provide the traditional costumes expected by the mini-ballet buffs, though these three tutus on stage are vastly outnumbered by the gloriously clad audience who are decked in their best ballet finery for the occasion. In the role of Hansel, Constant Vigier is, as always, a safe pair of ballet slippers and his Gretel, Alice Kawalek is a star in waiting.

This 50-minute tiny treasure of a production is small, but absolutely perfectly formed. The run time is ideal, the storytelling judiciously edited to fit in everything it needs to shine. It captures and keeps the attention for the entirety of the performance and provides a satisfying morning’s or afternoon’s entertainment for adults and children alike. More of this please!

The tour continues until October :  Glasgow tomorrow (Sunday 14 July) 

For complete touring dates and venues visit: scottishballet.co.uk/event/wee-hansel-gretel

Images: Rimbaud Patron

 

REVIEW: Little Miss Sunshine: A Road Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The epitome of dysfunctional, the Hoover family travel 800 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico in grandpa’s beaten up VW camper van to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California, so the youngest member of the clan, the unlikely Olive, can compete. So goes William Finn and James Lapine’s adaptation of Michael Arndt’s double Oscar-winning 2006 movie.

The stage version, unlike the movie has had a bumpy ride to get to this point. Workshopped in 2009, it showed for two months in California in 2011, it was then re-worked and lasted another two months off-Broadway in 2013. With this less than encouraging history it then begs the question why anyone would gamble on taking a musical theatre version of what was always a quirky, niche, indie movie, less happy go lucky and more heart-wrenching and soul-searching, to the UK theatre-going public. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the sparse audience, this gamble hasn’t exactly paid off.

The ultra simplistic staging – a sunshine yellow, paint spattered backdrop with the iconic van reduced to six kitchen chairs on an MDF boxed base, serves up little to interest the eye, save in the last scene at the pageant. The costumes, of course necessitated by the everyday ordinariness of the characters, are the same from start to end, but it’s the musical content that’s utterly unforgivable. Every – single – song, is exactly the same as the others, so drab and relentlessly boring are they, that you are reduced to silently begging when the musical director raises her hand to cue in the musicians, that there’s not another song. William Finn is known as a quirky composer, that these songs are so plodding, so utterly unremarkable and forgettable, is astonishing, especially given how unconventional the source material.

The cast are experienced, but no matter how good they are, they are fighting a tedious script and bland music. Mum Sheryl (Lucy O’Byrne) is given unremittingly dull lines and songs that leave no mark and dad Richard (Gabriel Vick) is extremely hard to warm to. Thankfully Paul Keating as suicidal, Proust scholar Uncle Frank makes his mark as does Mark Moraghan as off-the-wall, coke-sniffing grandpa, but it’s ensemble member Imelda Warren-Green in a double turn as a hospital bereavement liaison and the Latina pageant winner, who shines brightest in the gloom.

I am astonished that any producer thought this would be a winner. It lacks bite, the almost insurmountable troubles of the movie are so perfectly written in its script, are less than perfectly translated here. Yes, the iconic quotes are present as is the storyline, but in this version it is a relentless two-hour, clock-watching slog with the final scenes the only pay-off. Do yourself a favour and watch the movie instead.

 Image: Manuel Harlan

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Lady Vanishes – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Relatively obscure British crime writer Ethel Lina White’s greatest legacy is her 1936 novel, The Wheel Spins, two years after publication Alfred Hitchcock directed the film The Lady Vanishes, widely regarded as one of British cinema’s greatest works, based on her book. Through the decades popular adaptations have appeared both on TV and film. This time it’s the turn of the Classic Thriller Theatre Company who bring the timeless tale to the stage.

It’s Austria, 1938 and Nazism is on the rise. Socialite Iris Henderson (Lorna Fitzgerald) is travelling back to London to marry, more for her fiancé’s title than for love. Before climbing aboard the crowded and already delayed train home, she receives an accidental blow to the head. She’s helped aboard by kindly, former governess Miss Froy (Juliet Mills) and the pair strike up a conversation on board, but Iris soon falls asleep. On wakening, Iris finds Miss Froy has disappeared and all her fellow travellers deny ever having seen her. She enlists the help of engineer and part-time musicologist Max (tonight played by understudy James Boswell) to get to the bottom of the mystery of the vanishing lady.

With a cast of curious characters including two cricket-loving Brits (stage veterans Robert Duncan & Ben Nealon), a suspicious Austrian doctor (Maxwell Caulfield), an Italian magician (Mark Carlisle), a stuck-up London lawyer and his mistress (Philip Lowrie & Elizabeth Payne), a Nazi officer (Joe Reisig) and a nun (Natalie Law), The Lady Vanishes mines every trope of the golden age of crime and proves that classic mysteries never go out of fashion. Also evidenced by the fact the theatre is packed on a sunny Monday evening in summer.

From the opening scenes on the station platform in Austria, through the train journey, back home to Blighty, Morgan Large’s set (coupled with Charlie Morgan Jones’ lighting) manages to conjure up the feel of Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece. The 13-strong cast are solid, with understudy Boswell managing to shine brightest.

This is a well-constructed production, that, though undemanding, provides a thoroughly entertaining, escapist evening of entertainment.

Image: Paul Coltas

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Made in Dagenham – The New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

A fictionalised version of the true story of the sewing machinist’s strike at Ford’s Dagenham plant in 1968, where the female workers walked out in protest against unequal pay for equally skilled work, Made in Dagenham is based on (but not wholly a copy of) Nigel Cole’s 2010 film of the same name. It drops many of the movie characters, introduces some new ones and expands parts of the storyline only touched on in the film version.

The stage version had a short, and somewhat problematic life in the West End in 2014, this time it’s tackled by the students of the Dance School of Scotland. What is always guaranteed from this unique school is quality, total professionalism and commitment to any work they tackle, however, the issues that plagued the musical’s short run in the West End remain. The book takes what feels like an eternity to get anywhere and the score, while lively in part, lacks the standout tunes that make a successful production ( Stand Up) the show closer, is the only one that gets near. It’s laudable that any show gives voice to women and to a life-changing moment in British history, but it’s unsubtly done, too caricatured and over-long.

That said, there’s terrific work from Charlotte Power (meant to play the role later in the week, but stepping in due to illness) as Rita O’Grady – the heart and soul of the dispute and the force behind the law change in 1970. The supporting cast of women (played by these high school aged pupils) also manage to breathe believable life into their parts, steering them clear of exaggeration and keeping them wholly realistic. The boys, while portraying men from an utterly different era, one of out-right sexism and derision towards woman, play it a lit bit too broad, too stereotypical, a little too out-there comedic. One wonders if these were directorial choices, or dictated by the script.

There were also issues to overcome with a band that totally overwhelmed the singers at points, (the venue can’t be blamed as it was purpose built for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with world-class acoustics) and poor and rushed diction (nerves may be to blame on this opening night) that rendered a lot of the script inaudible.

The sheer energy and vitality with which the company attacked the material, elevated it above the source material, and one can’t fault the commitment of each and every performer. With better material to work with this company of performers are sure to go far.

REVIEW: Leah MacRae – My Big Fat Fabulous Diary – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It takes a brave actress indeed to decide to create your own solo show and take it on the road, especially an already successful one. Leah MacRae is well-known and loved as Julie in Gary: Tank Commander, Ellie in the Scottish soap River City and the lead in the spoof 50 Shades of Maggie, so you think she’d rest on her laurels. To lay bare your embarrassing teenage diary musings with the world and open up about your daily struggles with fat-shaming, and rejection in your industry, takes courage, even if it is couched in a musical comedy show.

The first impression of MacRae is that she is a fearless, bold, bigger than life personality, un-moved by the criticism of others, and to a certain extent that’s true (she bounds on stage looking like a bubblegum pink pantomime fairy), she even says: “if I were a size 10, I’d be a complete w****r”. However, as we scratch beneath the surface to get to the real message behind these stories and songs, there’s a world of hurt that’s had to be overcome. MacRae is here to spread the word about us all being a bit kinder to each other, that however positive a face we present to the world, these constant barbs and the constant career rejection because of your size, does hurt. That we should embrace and have confidence in who we are, whatever we look like. To never give up on our dreams. She hysterically cites Victoria Beckham as her unlikely inspiration, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think!

Split into two acts, there are few theatrical conventions the Glaswegian powerhouse doesn’t cover: there’s drama, lots and lots of comedy, funny songs, heart-breaking songs, big ballads, a mix-tape section!, dancing and a ton of banter with her hometown audience. While the first act is a mixture of all these, the second becomes a bit more reflective and the mood does take a bit of a dive, until we end with the ubiquitous This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.

There’s some good material here, but there’s a feeling it’s not all it could be. MacRae, talks about constant comparisons to fellow Glaswegian Michelle McManus. McManus has had her own one-woman show, also autobiographical, also funny and also featuring some knock out hits. While MacRae is a talented comedy actress, McManus is a natural born storyteller with an innate comic timing that can’t be learned, and an ability to gauge exactly what makes a perfectly pitched show. MacRae possibly needs some outside eyes to take this raw material with great potential and make it a knock-out from start to finish. There’s also the issue of nerves. MacRae is home, not only in front of her local fans, but her family and friends, and the pressure shows. She looks nervous and as a result the dialogue comes out so fast that it’s impossible to hear a lot of it from anywhere above the stalls.

It’s easy to warm to MacRae, this is an entertaining evening and it’s great to hear her unleash her big voice at full force, but there’s a lot of potential that’s not being fulfilled. Hopefully, there’s more to come. If this is the first version of her stage show, I can’t wait to see the next.

Leah MacRae continues to tour until June. See her website for details.

REVIEW: The Music Man – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Runway Theatre Company again prove their worthy position at the top of the tree of amateur companies in Glasgow, reviving Meredith Willson’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning, little-seen, musical theatre classic, The Music Man, with aplomb. A timely choice too, with the announcement that in 2020, Hugh Jackman will lead the first Broadway revival in nearly two decades.

It’s 1912 and the people of sleepy River City, Iowa really don’t know what’s in store for them when smooth talking swindler Harold Hill rolls into town. However, Hill’s plans to con the innocent townsfolk are foiled when his heart finally starts to rule his head.

Old-fashioned in the nicest possible way, this is a light-hearted, undemanding tale with a bunch of quirky characters and two of musical theatre’s most enduring tunes: the oom-pah-pah-ing 76 Trombones and the much-loved classic ballad, Till There Was You.

Its old-fashionedness is both its strength and its weakness. The public’s appetite for nostalgia is sated with the homely, feel-good storyline, the period costumes and score. However, the hokey dialogue has aged badly and the heightened characterisations required by the script, render it too caricatured at times. That said, any criticisms of this production are entirely at the hands of the source material not the actors or musicians.

This is a show with a rousing chorus, the ensemble fill the auditorium with the biggest, most glorious sound you will have the pleasure to hear, and the quartet comprising Tom Russell, Ross Nicol, Cameron Leask and Bob McDevitt are just heavenly sounding. Brendan Lynch (Harold Hill), once again proves to be an adept leading man and a true triple threat, and Catherine Mackenzie (Marian Paroo) is a beautifully toned soprano. The costumes are of an excellent quality. The set and lighting are functional and easy on the eye and the transitions, especially in a theatre with no fly tower, are smooth and pacy. The child actors, of which there are many, are drilled to perfection as are the dancers – it’s unusual in an amateur production to have such universal quality.

A warm and comforting and very welcome blast from the past that will leave audience members of all ages thoroughly entertained.

Runs until Saturday 18 May 2019

 

REVIEW: Let It Be – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

2019 marks 50 years since The Beatles walked over that famous crossing on Abbey Road, 50 years since they played on the roof of the Apple Corps. building on Savile Row and 49 years since they released their last album. Seen by over two million people worldwide, Let It Be, continue their celebration of the music of The Beatles with a brand-new show for 2019.

The revamped show is split into two halves: the first a potted history of the Fab Four, starting from the famous Royal Variety Performance in 1963, through Shea Stadium to Sgt. Pepper and beyond. The second, is set a decade after The Beatles went their separate ways. It’s the 9th of October 1980, John Lennon’s 40th birthday, the band reunite for one night only for “the ultimate concert that never was”. Here we get a chance to hear some of the hits from each Beatles’ solo careers.

Let It Be is the Rolls Royce of Beatles celebration acts and the quality of the musicianship is outstanding. Emanuele Angeletti (Paul McCartney), John Brosnan, Ben Cullingworth (Ringo Starr) and Richard Jordan (John Lennon), go beyond simple impersonation. To the ear, this is as close as you are going to get to the real thing. Every specific tone and intonation of each man is captured in impressive detail.

While fans of the original show may wish to see something a bit different from the usual history and greatest hits of The Beatles, it is understandable that after seven years the performers and producers might want to shake things up a bit. This production is very much a show of two halves and while the quality of the vocals and musicianship never dips, the choice of songs in the second half mean that there’s a distinct shift in atmosphere. The joyous celebration of The Beatles early years is replaced by some more sombre moments from their later careers. That said, the whole evening ends on a high and with the audience on their feet, a series of Fab Four classics sending the crowd out into the rainy night with these musical masterpieces ringing in their ears.  Well worth catching if you can.

Review originally written for THE REVIEWS HUB | Image: Anthony Robling

 

REVIEW: Hugh Jackman – The Man. The Music. The Show. – SSE Hydro Arena, Glasgow

Eight years in the making and after months of anticipation since its announcement, Hugh Jackman is finally in town to kick off his world tour.

The man is truly a global superstar, there are few corners of this world where he’s not recognised. He’s Wolverine for goodness sake! the star of a legion of other hit movies, a Tony Award-winning stage superstar and let’s not mention the star of a certain movie and its soundtrack from 2017. As a result, the atmosphere is tangible and the reception he receives as he steps onstage is ear-splitting. When the night is over, the reaction is actually deafening – and deservedly so.

This is a great big, old-fashioned variety show delivered by a truly gifted, multi-talented performer. Accompanied by a 20-strong orchestra, ten backing dancers, a local choir, two didgeridoo players, two indigenous singers, and fellow star of The Greatest Showman, Keala Settle, Jackman manages to encompass his entire life and career and a greatest hits of popular entertainment, in the space of a few hours.

The atmosphere is a joy throughout, a coming together of fans of the man – utterly celebratory. There’s singing, of course: from the inevitable tunes from TGS, through the songs of the golden age of Hollywood movie musicals to some personal stage favourites, including a touching rendition of fellow Ozzie Peter Allen’s Tenterfield Saddler, there’s also a celebration of Australian music with a moving Aboriginal song; there’s a bit of acting – Jean Valjean’s soliloquy from Les Mis; tap dancing à la Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire – Jackman proves to be a stunning dancer; many anecdotes from his life and career, including a very personal moment about his world turning on its head at eight years old (referring his mother leaving him and his brother in Australia with his father, as she took his sisters back to England); we’re treated to the famous Wolverine roar and a drumming section. Is there anything this man can’t do? – err…no.

It’s one of those nights that will truly blow you away. It’s taken a few days to write this down, but the feeling stands, the warm and fuzzies are still here – one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

NEWS: Scottish Ballet and Ballet Black to collaborate on The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival

Scottish Ballet has announced that the company will be joined by Senior Guest Artist Cira Robinson for the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s The Crucible. The first major commission of Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary year, the production will open the dance programme at the Edinburgh International Festival, 3–5 August 2019.

Cira Robinson in The Suit

As part of a longstanding collaboration between the two companies, Ballet Black’s Senior Artist Cira Robinson will join Scottish Ballet to dance the role of Tituba. Bringing a breadth of experience, Cira will play a vital role in developing this rich and complex character in Arthur Miller’s drama of power and persecution. A story as relevant today as when it was first written, Miller’s 1953 masterpiece explores the impact of the 17th-century Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts.

Ballet Black is the UK’s professional ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian descent. Their goal is to see a fundamental change in the number of black and Asian dancers in UK ballet companies. By creating a central black female character, rarely seen in the UK outside of Ballet Black repertoire, the two companies aim to openly address the challenges of diverse representation in UK ballet (on and off stage), and particularly the lack of black British female ballet dancers.

Scottish Ballet CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson is a Board Member of Ballet Black and has choreographed two works for the company. Continuing the creative collaboration, Scottish Ballet’s former dancer and Artist in Residence, choreographer, Sophie Laplane was commissioned by Ballet Black to create her latest work CLICK!, which premiered at the Barbican in March 2019.

Christopher Hampson, CEO / Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, said:

‘We are very excited to present the world premiere of The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival, as part of Scottish Ballet’s 50th anniversary. Furthermore, we’re delighted to be working with our friends at Ballet Black and welcoming one of the UK’s leading dancers, Cira Robinson, into Helen Pickett’s production. We’re also thrilled to be giving the U.S. premiere of The Crucible at the prestigious Kennedy Center in 2020.’

Cassa Pancho MBE, Founder & Artistic Director of Ballet Black, said:
‘I’m delighted that Scottish Ballet have invited Cira to guest with them at the Edinburgh International Festival this summer. Cira is one of the most exciting and versatile artists I have worked with, and I am thrilled that she will have the opportunity to share her talent with audiences at the Festival.’

Cira Robinson, Senior Artist at Ballet Black and Senior Guest Artist with Scottish Ballet said:
‘I am thrilled to be guesting with Scottish Ballet in their performances of The Crucible at Edinburgh International Festival, and honoured to be given the opportunity to explore this role.’

Helen Pickett, Choreographer of The Crucible, said:
‘It has been an incredible collaborative process working with Scottish Ballet to bring my vison of Arthur Miller’s play to the stage. I am working with an exceptional creative team, Peter Salem, James Bonas, Emma Kingsbury and David Finn, and together we have translated this iconic drama into the powerful medium of dance. I am also thrilled about the partnership between Scottish Ballet and Ballet Black, this collaboration highlights the strength of unity and inclusion. We are honoured to present The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival among the very best arts companies in the world.’

Fergus Linehan, Artistic Director of Edinburgh International Festival said:
‘Scottish Ballet has been inspiring audiences at the International Festival with unforgettable performances since the 1970s and we’re thrilled to welcome back the company as it celebrates 50 years. It’s especially exciting to open our 2019 dance programme together with a premiere of this scale and scope and look forward to sharing The Crucible with audiences from all over the world’.

Following the world premiere of The Crucible at Edinburgh International Festival, the production will tour to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness in autumn 2019, before transferring to the USA in spring 2020.

The Crucible will have its U.S. premiere at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in May 2020. The company will also return to perform in New York and other U.S. cities in 2020, with full programme to be announced. This comes after Scottish Ballet’s hugely successful USA tours of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The Crucible will be the first major commission of Scottish Ballet’s Five in Five, an ambitious new commitment to stage five new full-length ballets over five years; one for every decade of their history. In total, the company seeks to raise £5 million over five years to deliver these new works, and associated access and engagement programmes.

As part of the Five in Five fundraising campaign, Scottish Ballet launches the Millinery Appeal to help make this production of The Crucible possible. Designed by Emma Kingsbury, hats play an essential role in adapting Arthur Miller’s play for dance: they help to define the hierarchy and status of each character. In total, 36 different hats, that each take up to eight hours to make, are being handcrafted by an experienced milliner.

For more information, to book tickets to The Crucible, and to donate to the Millinery Appeal, visit: scottishballet.co.uk/event/crucible

NEWS: Cast announced for the revamped The Steamie at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro

A starry cast has been announced for Scotland’s much loved play, The Steamie. The revamped show – with more songs, more music and more laughs – will see The Dolls, Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens, marking their Steamie debut and playing the feisty Magrit and gullible Dolly respectively. Fiona Wood returns to the show for the third time to portrait the young, full of hope Doreen whilst Mary McCusker reprises the poignant role of Mrs Culfeathers. Harry Ward joins the cast as the lovable drunk handyman Andy.

Written and directed by Tony Roper with songs by David Anderson, this Hogmanay the show takes over Glasgow’s SSE Hydro, the largest entertainment venue in Scotland. Due to popular demand, an extra show on 28th December has been added to this special, limited run.

The Steamie is a Scottish theatre classic; an ode to the hard-working women of the 1950’s and to a bygone Glasgow. The young Doreen envisions a new future, while Mrs Culfeathers looks back to the past – the play is a snapshot of a society, of a time and a cross section of strong women, all rolled up in Roper’s hilarious comedy. As The Scotsman said in 2017, it is a “superb, funny and perfectly-observed play.”

This is the fourth time Neil Laidlaw has produced a tour of The Steamie, first in 2009, the 25th anniversary tour in 2012, the 30th anniversary tour in 2017 and now the revamped, steamier than ever special run at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro.

Neil Laidlaw said: “The Steamie is one of Scotland’s best-loved plays and I am extremely proud to be able to bring it back for another generation to enjoy, this time with new songs and a bigger cast and set.”

“We have brought together a fantastic cast: the inimitable Dolls – Louise McCarthy and Gayle Telfer Stevens who I know decided to be actors because of The Steamie – and Harry Ward are our newbies with the wonderful Fiona Wood and Mary McCusker reprising their roles of Doreen and Mrs Culfeathers. I can’t wait to get into the rehearsal room to witness another cast making this legendary play their own.”

Tony Roper said: “In my late forties I sat down with a biro and a jotter and wrote my first ever play. Over three decades later, the play is still getting the laughs and the cries, connecting with another generation of Scots. The Steamie is the nation’s favourite night out and I cannot wait to bring the show – with more music and a spectacular cast – to the country’s biggest entertainment venue, SSE Hydro.”

THE STEAMIE AT THE SSE HYDRO

SATURDAY 28 DECEMBER 2019 – 2.30pm

SUNDAY 29 DECEMBER 2019 – 6.00pm

MONDAY 30 DECEMBER 2019 – 7.30pm

TUESDAY 31 DECEMBER 2019 – 1.00pm & 5.30pm

Tickets on sale on Friday 30 November at 10am

https://www.thessehydro.com/events

Box office: 0844 395 4000

Louise McCarthy – Magrit

Gayle Telfer Stevens – Dolly

Fiona Wood – Doreen

Mary McCusker – Mrs Culfeathers

Harry Ward – Andy

Written and directed by Tony Roper

Songs by David Anderson

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