Tag Archives: George Stiles

REVIEW: Soho Cinders – Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s refreshing to see George Stiles and Anthony Drew’s little seen modern adaptation of Cinderella, Soho Cinders being staged in Glasgow, and highly anticipated when you know it’s Mad Props Theatre Company who are producing it. Known for fearless and original choices in their artistic output, Soho Cinders is another first for the company.

Life isn’t going well for skint student Robbie. His mother has died, and his lap-dancing club owning step-sisters have upped the rent on his beloved late mum’s launderette where he works and threatened to turf him out, coupled with that he’s fallen in love with the bisexual, engaged to a woman, London mayoral candidate, James. Oh, and to complicate matters even further, he’s also involved in a rather unconventional financial arrangement with a ‘fairy godfather’ Lord Bellingham.

The path of true love never runs smooth and needless to say there’s many a twist and turn until our Robbie is reunited with his mobile phone (the contemporary version of a glass slipper) and boy gets boy in the end.

There’s potential for Stiles and Drew’s work to be a bit more biting and make a bigger statement, but it remains a lightweight piece of fluff. The characters have been created with broad brushstrokes and the simplistic storytelling undermines the more serious points the musical is trying to make.

It has the feel both in tone and musically of Legally Blonde and Mamma Mia. There are also musical snippets that are reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar of all things. That said, the entire score is varied in style and pleasant on the ear. There are some knock-out tunes too – in particular, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers, sung by Mad Props stalwart Dominic Spencer (Soho Cinders marks his welcome return to the stage) they need him to elevate this average musical to something special, and he does. His rendition of this haunting ballad will leave you with goose-bumps. Marie-Anne McGrattan and Louise Daly-Creechan as Robbie’s grotesque step-sisters generate the lion’s share of the laughs, they look as if they’re having a ball and their energy transmits to the auditorium.

The supporting cast are universally solid and Jon Cuthbertson delivers a particularly repulsive turn as political aide William (his storyline uneasily resonant in light of the current sexual harassment scandals). Less successful is Stuart Taylor as Robbie’s love James. His voice doesn’t sound fully warmed up and it is often inaudible. On a side note, and a great coup for the company, the voice of Big Brother, Marcus Bentley provides the dead-pan narration.

Well worth watching for musical theatre aficionados who relish the chance to see less frequently staged works, and worth it alone to hear Dominic Spencer back in his finest form.

Runs until Saturday 4 November 2017 at Websters Theatre Glasgow.

Ticket details here

REVIEW: Betty Blue Eyes – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Universally acknowledged as a showcase for Scottish musical theatre stars of the future, The Dance School of Scotland’s 2014 show Betty Blue Eyes doesn’t disappoint.

Based upon Alan Bennett’s screenplay for the 1984 film A Private Function, Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman and composing team Stiles and Drewe’s musical tells the tale of Austerity Britain. It’s 1947 and rationing is still in place two years after the war has ended. Fed up with eating Spam, some less than scrupulous Yorkshire business men decide to secretly raise an unlicensed pig to feast upon at the town’s celebration of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Phillip Mountbatten. But into the mix comes mild-mannered chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers, his ambitious wife Joyce and Ministry of Food inspector Wormold and the best laid plans of the town’s great and good don’t quite go to plan.

The cast are, as usual, a knockout, in particular Mari McGinlay as Joyce, in possession of a stand-out voice, a pitch perfect accent and a finely nuanced acting performance, this is a young woman who, to all intents and purposes, is ready and set for the West End right now. As last year, Ryan Hunter turns in a magnetic performance as Dr. Swaby, he is a young man of immense talent and charisma which belie his years. Both can look forward to sparkling careers ahead. The ensemble are universally deserving of praise – maintaining focus and sharpness throughout as well as producing a full and rich sounding chorus.

The set  is simple but effective and high praise must go to the puppet team who successfully bring Betty the pig to life. As someone who saw the 6 figure animatronic version in the West End it was with great interest I awaited Betty’s appearance – I’m happy to say she doesn’t disappoint.

Where the whole endeavour falls down (and indeed the reason for its short West End run) is not the actors or the set or the direction but with the piece itself. Though there are highlights throughout, it is missing that elusive sparkle that makes a show a hit and it ends on a bit of a damp squib. That said, it doesn’t detract from the first-rate performances of the young cast. I look forward to following their future careers.

INTERVIEW: Amy Lennox

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Scottish actress Amy Lennox has a CV that would be the envy of most. On graduating from Guildford School of Acting Conservatoire In 2007, Amy auditioned in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber to win the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music, making her West End debut alongside Connie Fisher.  She then went on to appear as Margot as part of the original London Cast of Legally Blonde the Musical at the Savoy Theatre. After starring in the world premier concert of the Stiles and Drewe musical Soho Cinders, Amy recreated the character of Velcro in the full stage production of the musical at the Soho Theatre, for her role, Amy gained a Broadway World Awards nomination for Best Actress. Not confining herself to a purely musical career Amy has also starred in a new play directed by Rupert Gould Decade, written to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

Amy is currently touring the UK in Dolly Parton’s new musical, 9 to 5, playing Doralee Rhodes, the role made famous by Parton herself. The production returns to Glasgow for a phenomenal third run in August. Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to chat to Amy before she heads back to Scotland in this knock-out show.

You’re currently starring as Doralee in the highly successful tour of 9 to 5 (so successful in Glasgow in fact, that it had to come back for an extra week to meet demand); is it as fun to be in as it is to watch?

It will be our third time back actually! They added another very recently. I’m really excited to be returning again. Glasgow audiences are hands down the best! Yes it’s a lot of fun, myself, Natalie Casey and Jackie Clune immediately hit it off in rehearsals – it would have made the job a lot harder if we hadn’t ! We seem to share the same daft humour I think – people who have seen the show say we have great chemistry together which is so lovely to hear.

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Amy (centre) with co-stars Jackie Clune and Natalie Casey in 9 to 5

When starring in eight shows a week, how do you keep your performance fresh each night?

It’s tricky repeating yourself 8 times a week for a year – it certainly can play mind games with me – but it’s something I’ve come to accept with the territory. I constantly need to remind of myself to be ‘in the moment’ as cheesy as that sounds, because it’s all too easy to go into auto-pilot!

You have a CV that would be the envy of most actors; what’s been your favourite role to play so far?

I’m very grateful to have had a variety of different jobs ranging from musical theatre to straight plays and the odd filming. My main focus is to always keep my career varied. The last thing I would want would be to be shoehorned into one side of the business. For me the best job is usually the one I’m in – it’s wonderful at the time and then I move on to the next thing excited about something new.

Your West End debut was as Liesl in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Sound of Music alongside Connie Fisher; did you feel the pressure appearing in such a highly anticipated show?

 Not really – that was probably the easiest job so far! It was a gorgeous part to play but wasn’t too demanding – I loved everything about that show – and Connie was just lovely to work with.

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With Connie Fisher in The Sound of Music

You have history with the show Legally Blonde, playing Margot and understudying Elle in the West End, but what we want to know is, how did it feel playing Elle in front of your home crowd at Her Majesty’s in Aberdeen?

I had the most wonderful time! It was so nice to be in my hometown – it was timed perfectly actually because my parents moved to Edinburgh a few weeks after so it was a nice farewell – and playing that role was amazing – I really love that show and I can’t imagine a better female lead role to play!

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Amy as Margot in Legally Blonde

Tell us about working with Stiles and Drewe on Soho Cinders.

I Love George and Anthony very much – they are the kindest and most talented writers and have given me so many opportunities over the years. We originally did a charity concert version of Soho Cinders a year before for one night only and it went down a storm. So when they asked me if I’d like to do it again at the Soho Theatre I happily accepted. George and ant work so well together and they were really hands on in rehearsals working with our director Jonathan Butterell. They are so supportive and trusting of their actors, they’re beautiful people.

1097-2113-Tom Milner (Robbie) and Amy Lennox (Velcro) in Soho Cinders. Photo by Roy Tan

Tom Milner (Robbie) and Amy Lennox (Velcro) in Soho Cinders

You have played some fantastic roles; are there any more that you have got your eye on?

 Who knows – I would die happy if I got to be in a star trek movie!

What advice would you give to any aspiring actor?

Only do it if you can’t imagine doing anything else.

If you hadn’t become an actor what do you think you would be doing now?

Good question – maybe a casting director or something like that?!

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?

Touring with 9 to 5 until end of August then who knows?! …….

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The cast of 9 to 5

Do you have any message for your fans?

Thank you for supporting me – it’s really touching to see people I recognise in watching the shows. I really appreciate it xxxxxxxxxxx

Finally, what 3 words best describe you?

Loud, bubbly and ambitious

 

REVIEW: Betty Blue Eyes starring Sarah Lancashire and Reece Shearsmith at the Novello Theatre London, 14th July 2011

Despite having a bit of an aversion to musicals based on movies – I booked to see this. According to a unanimous number of reviews, this witty adaptation of the 1984 film A Private Function rises above its original source.

It stars Reece Shearsmith and Sarah Lancashire in the Michael Palin and Maggie Smith roles.

There is, of course, also the pig of the title.

Well, with my half price ticket in hand I went along to see what all the fuss was about. Credit goes to Stiles (music) and Drewe (lyrics) as the songs resist the usual movie transfer fault of being flung in to the story without much sensitivity, these actually reflect the mood of each scene perfectly.

Visually it’s a fabulous re-creation of post-war ration Britain and its small town snobbery. Shearsmith is surprisingly touching as Gilbert, playing the role with real sensitivity. Sarah Lancashire is competent as Joyce but there’s no real sympathy for her character – she just seemed a little detached. However, Adrian Scarborough as the Gestapo – like meat inspector plays his role with total relish. The sets and costumes are really evocative, the music perfectly pitched – so go and see it if you can. The only negative note is the rumour that despite the fantastic reviews and public reception the show is struggling to sell tickets. The worrying thing is that it might not be just a rumour as there were more than a few empty seats throughout the house the day I was there.

Post script (Aug ’11) – regrettably this has now posted closing notices after only 6 months despite fantastic critical reviews and public acclaim – a real pity.