Tag Archives: Andrew Wright

REVIEW: Guys and Dolls – Edinburgh Playhouse

So successful is Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2014 production of Guys and Dolls, that not only has it made the transfer to the West End but has also spawned a comprehensive national tour. Sad to say, however, it appears to have lost some of its five-star sparkle in transit.

An amalgamation of three of Damon Runyon’s Broadway fables; The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, Pick the Winner and Blood Pressure: shifty, small-time crook Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield), in need of money to host ‘the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York’, bets charismatic cool-cat and inveterate gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman), that Masterson can’t get frosty missionary Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) from the Save-A-Soul Mission, to go with him to Havana on a date. A merry band of misfits help colour the tall tale, from eternally engaged, fourteen years a fiancée Miss Adelaide (Louise Dearman), to local low-lives Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Harry the Horse.

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The witty words of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows are regarded as among the funniest in the musical theatre canon and they remain intact in Gordon Greenberg’s revival. However, the pace and direction of Greenberg’s production lacks the spark required to bring Runyon’s stories fully to life, playing like a poorly connected series of stand-alone scenes rather than a flowing whole.

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None of the faults of the production can be blamed on the cast, with West End leads Louise Dearman, Anna O’Byrne, and Richard Fleeshman and seasoned actor Maxwell Caulfield at the helm, then quality is assured. Dearman turns in an especially effective turn as a Lucille Ball-like Miss Adelaide, managing to balance the humour and pathos brilliantly and Fleeshman conveys the easy charm and charisma of Masterson with aplomb. The supporting cast too is of the highest quality.

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Peter McKintosh’s set design is essentially simple, an arc of lightbulb-ringed adverts and a series of roll-on-roll-off accents, which only really brings the vivid world of New York alive when fully lit. The choreography of Cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta and West End stalwart Andrew Wright has been placed firmly centre stage, with extended dance sequences throughout. The duo’s work is especially effective in the ballet-inspired crap game in the sewers with its athletic, inventive sequences and a nod to Acosta’s ballet background in the Swan Lake line up.

With such a top-notch cast and first-rate creative team, it’s hard to see how this could go wrong, but Greenberg’s production falls flat in too many places that if fails to do full justice to the stellar cast and this musical theatre classic. Ultimately unsatisfying.

This review was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub

Images: Johan Persson

REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

1976, Brooklyn. Tony Manero, a 19 year old New Yorker with a dead-end job and an extraordinary talent, is desperate to see the world outside of his borough and the only way out is through dance.

This Theatre Royal Bath production of Saturday Night Fever is based of course, on the much-loved 1977 movie and is a complete re-working of the original 1998 London stage production. Now populated by a cast of actor/musicians, it sticks to the same gritty storyline as the film and the same classic disco tunes by The Bee Gees, but has been given a 21st Century refresh.

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Not your average stage musical fodder, the overall tone is brutal: dealing with themes of abortion, religion, class, poverty and aspiration and bravely tackling them all head on. The language is choice too: this is more the X-rated original movie version rather than the heavily edited PG re-release.

Fans of the original will be delighted to know that the familiar songs are here and in some cases  used surprisingly: thundering disco classic “Tragedy” becomes a heart-wrenching ballad, “How Deep is Your Love?” a poignant duet and “You Should Be Dancing” is given a Latin flare, it must be said though, that not all of these these new arrangements are successful, at times you can’t help wishing that they’d left well alone.

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Critical to the success of the piece though, is the casting of the central role of Tony Manero and Danny Bayne is an engaging (anti-) hero. In possession of an extremely fine voice and even finer dancing skills, he is very much carrying the weight of this production on his shoulders and deserves praise for holding the entire affair together, the commitment and energy he invests in his performance throughout is laudable.

Less successful is the decision to stage the piece with actor/musicians, whilst different, unexpected and fiscally shrewd, is more distracting and detracting. The strolling players add nothing to the atmosphere of the show, and their presence is just down-right incongruous in the disco scenes – you’d be hard pressed to find many musicians who just happen to be hanging around the local night club with a saxophone in their back pocket which they whip out at a moments notice: there are many things that might be getting whipped out in a sweaty club, but I’m pretty sure a trumpet isn’t one of them. The musical ensemble is brass-heavy too which doesn’t entirely sit well with disco tunes.

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The choreography by Andrew Wright is energetic and inventive, whilst retaining familiar elements from both the original movie and Arlene Phillips’ West End version: you’ll be glad to know that the iconic arm aloft, finger pointing stance is still here. Bayne’s prodigious talents as a dancer are well exploited too, with many numbers given a Latin flare – Bayne’s particular dance specialism. The energy and commitment levels are high throughout but the actor/musicians can’t compete on a skill level with Bayne and Naomi Slights (Stephanie) and often look a little ragged around the edges in comparison.

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The design by Simon Kenny is based around three, large, revolving cubes with a mix of add-ons and projected backdrops. Technically complex, the show had tiny blips throughout the evening: from uncooperative scenery to radio microphones not working and the first act suffered from serious under amplification, factors that will no doubt be ironed out as the run progresses and it hits its stride.

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Now more play with music than musical, it is more flushed than fevered: it is a brave attempt to re-work a well-known piece for a new audience and it deserves praise for that alone but there’s a feeling that it is just a little too relentlessly heavy in tone. It’s interesting to note that the moment when the audience finally come alive is the encore mega mix when they finally get their chance to get on their feet and join in.

Danny Bayne is the stand-out star of the show and if you only need one reason to go, then go and see him, he’s worth the admission price alone.

Runs until Sat 23 January 2015

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/saturday-night-fever-theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: Happy Days – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Previously published at The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/happy-days-a-new-musical-kings-theatre-glasgow/

Book: Garry Marshall

Music & Lyrics: Paul Williams

Director & Choreographer: Andrew Wright

Designer: Tom Rogers

TV’s favourite 1950′s family, the Cunninghams and the rest of the gang from the beloved show Happy Days: Pinky, Potsie, Ralph Malph, Joanie and Chachi join forces in a battle to save their beloved diner Arnold’s from demolition. It’s a race against time. Can the town rely on their favourite hero ‘The Fonz’ to save the day?

Happy Days: A New Musical is written by Garry Marshall, creator of the original 70’s and 80’s television series, and despite this pedigree the storyline of this new musical is slender at best and incoherent at worst: a picnic with a wrestling match?! in which the Fonz will challenge his old enemies the Malachi brothers. In a word association game, wrestling wouldn’t be the word that sprung to mind when saying picnic (though this reviewer feels it may from now on) there’s a tap dance routine with fruit pies, Luchador costumes and an appearance from James Dean and Elvis – following this? No, me either. That said it’s all done is such a positive and jolly fashion that if you sit back and let the madness wash over you then it’s all perfectly pleasant.

One of the fundamental issues with the show is that it is short on dialogue and heavy on song to carry the story along, unfortunately a lot of the lyrics are lost in mangled diction and poor projection and the songs by Paul Williams, though reminiscent of the 1950’s don’t have that fifties spark, any real immediacy or catchy hooks to get you involved. That said there are a few gems: “Oooooh Bop” delivered by Fonzi and the Dial-Tones, “Run” from the male cast members and “Legend in Leather” from Pinky. To its credit Tom Rogers’ unfolding set design is vibrant and evocative and the set changes slick and well-executed and as expected from Andrew Wright, the choreography original and inventive and faultlessly executed by the ensemble (though, rather reminiscent of Jersey Boys at times). The basketball themed “Run”, the act two opener, in particular, is a real delight.

The young ensemble, many in their first professional engagement are excellent and thoroughly deserving of praise. Enthusiastic, slick and effective, their commitment transmits warmly to the audience culminating in a mass bop along at the finale. Heidi Range equips herself well and delivers an engaging performance as Pinky, veterans Cheryl Baker and James Paterson as Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham are also excellent, Baker even manages a cheeky nod to her Bucks Fizz days with a rip your skirt off moment. Paterson too provides some welcome comic moments in his scenes as the Grand Poobah of the Leopard Lodge. Deserving of mention is Andrew Waldron as Ralph Malph, a young actor with fine comic timing and a bright future ahead.

The main issue with the whole endeavour is the critical casting of Fonzi: Ben Freeman is utterly lacking in charisma, thoroughly unconvincing, he appears emotionally removed from the role he’s meant to be playing. His accent manages to travel through all 50 of the United States through the evening and his nasal singing voice grates. Despite its faults Happy Days is a pleasant enough way to spend a miserable winter’s evening and one can’t help willing the whole thing to succeed: the ensemble invest so much commitment and energy to it that you want to love it, ultimately it’s the material that lets the whole thing down. Still it didn’t stop the Glasgow audience from dancing along and singing the famous theme tune at the top of their lungs at the end.

3 ***

INTERVIEW: Sophie Bould – Bringing some High Society to Scotland

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In the last few years Sophie Bould has been steadily gaining a reputation as one of the most gifted stage actresses in the country. From her West End debut in the original Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Sound of Music, to her recent role as Lily in The Secret Garden, Sophie has been winning lead roles and rave reviews. This week Sophie comes to Scotland in High Society at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre alongside Michael Praed and Daniel Boys. Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to chat to Sophie about this much loved show.

You’ve just embarked on an extensive UK tour; how does it feel to be out on the road for such a prolonged period of time?

I’m pretty excited actually as I’ll be visiting a lot of cities I’ve never been to before. I’ve been on a national tour before with the Michael Frayn play Noises Off which visited Glasgow, but this time because it’s six months I’ll be seeing a lot more of the country. I do miss home though.

Do you take any home comforts with you on tour to make things a bit easier?

I always take a few bits and pieces, I have lots of photographs with me: some wedding ones to pin to my pin board and ones of my little nephews, oh and the odd scented candle, just a few little creature comforts to remind me of home.

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High Society is such a well-loved story, why do you think it still has such appeal after all this time?

I think it can resonate with anyone, anyone of any age or any walk of life. At the heart of it it’s about love and finding the person you truly love, I think will resonate with anyone who comes to see it. In this production in particular we have some wonderful people in the roles. Michael Praed (Dexter Haven) and Daniel Boys (Mike Connor) are wonderful, the boys are beautiful and I love them, so I’m just grateful to be playing opposite such lovely and talented men.

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Michael Praed

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You’re following in the footsteps of Grace Kelly in the movie musical and Katharine Hepburn in the original Philadelphia Story; what have you done to make the character of Tracy Lord your own?

As you say they are quite large shoes to fill in that sense and I am quite wary of that. I haven’t watched the Grace Kelly movie since I was a child and when I found out I had the part I deliberately chose not to watch it in case I inadvertently picked up any of her mannerisms. I wanted to create Tracy Lord for myself in the rehearsal room with the director and the rest of the cast I’m playing opposite. We’ve talked a lot about the Philadelphia Story and I personally have done a lot of research on that and where the character of Tracy Lord actually came from. Philip Barry who wrote the original play, based the character on Philadelphia socialite Helen Hope Montgomery Scott and I researched her. It’s really interesting to base a character on a real life human being and make my own choices how to play her.

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The choreography for the tour has been created by the award-winning Andrew Wright, he’s  known for his innovative and often intricate work, are you a natural dancer or have you had to work hard at it?

Well I trained as a dancer years ago so it was in me somewhere and even though I haven’t done it in a while it was lovely to put the tap shoes back on.  Andrew is such a genius, he is such a talented man and a lovely one too, it really was an honour to work with him especially after just winning his award for Singin’ in the Rain. Yes, the choreography is tricky and its intricate but its not impossible, and as my mum always says practice makes perfect – I just watched repeated and thankfully by the end of rehearsals I’d got it. The ensemble are wonderful, they really carry all the amazing dance routines.

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Do you have any favourite songs or scenes from the show?

There are so many I don’t think I could choose. There’s a wonderful scene at the beginning of act two which starts with Let’s Misbehave and goes into Well Did You Evah and its such a big, feel good, group number. I love the really meaty scenes in this though, the script is wonderful, Arthur Kopit who wrote it worked really closely with us, altering the script as we went along, it is an absolute honour to have him on board. All the scenes with Tracy and Dexter and the scenes with Tracy’s father who is played by Craig Pinder I love.

Finally, do you have any plans for when the tour finishes apart from putting your feet up?

Definitely putting my feet up! But at the moment no plans. I guess auditioning will start again relatively soon. I will probably be going back into auditions in the next couple of months.

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High Society opens Tuesday 5th March and runs until Saturday 9th March at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh and visits Glasgow from Tuesday 30th April until Saturday 4th May.

For more information about the show and booking details: http://www.highsocietymusical.com/

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiebould

All production photographs copyright Pamela Raith 2013 – http://pamelaraith.com/ 

REVIEW: Singin’ in the Rain – Palace Theatre, London

This stage adaptation of Singin’ in the Rain, the classic 1952 movie musical  starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, about a silent movie company struggling  with the rise of talkies, first caused a buzz at the Chichester Festival  Theatre last summer. The musical score, including the famous title song, is  written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Choreography is by Andrew  Wright.

Any stage version could never eclipse the technicolour wonder of the original film, but this new production is crowd-pleasing stuff. Standing ovation inducing stuff in fact!

Renowned ballet dancer Adam Cooper plays the hero of the piece, Don Lockwood. I have always adored Cooper’s dancing and Andrew Wright’s inventive choreography brings out the best in Cooper’s sinuous frame, he is pure poetry in motion.

The title tune, where  Cooper’s sodden steps send rain splashing (deliberately) into the front rows is classic musical theatre at its best – just sheer joy and sheer elegance.

The rest of the cast are superb too, Katherine  Kingsley (above) has an appealing comic touch as the ill-fated silent film actress Lina Lamont, Don’s on-screen  romantic partner, whose career falters when microphones expose her ear-bleeding vocals.

Scarlett Strallen (above with Cooper and below centre) plays Don’s love interest, the aspiring starlet  Kathy Selden with a warmth and charm and

Daniel Crossley (below right) plays best buddy Cosmo Brown with great comic timing and physicality.

Michael Brandon, Sandra Dickinson and Peter Forbes provide able support as R.F. Simpson, Dora Bailey and Roscoe Dexter.

The Broadway Melody  number (below) is another highlight of the night, showing off not only Cooper’s virtuoso dancing skills, but the rest of the cast’s as well.

The staging is a dream and the show provides three hours of the most perfect Prozac pick-me-up escapism you could want. What I loved most was the fact that the whole thing looked absolutely effortless, there wasn’t a bead of sweat on any brow, despite being end to end high octane energy.

And the sheer delight on the faces of the cast as they soak the front rows in the encore is a hoot (below).

This is sheer class – a real triumph and the closest you will come to re-capturing that golden-era of Hollywood musicals today. A real triumph – go see it!