Tag Archives: Sean Needham

REVIEW: 9 to 5 – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

9 to 5, the 2008 musical based on the hit 1980 movie starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, would seem on the surface to be a strange choice for a West End revival and UK tour in 2019. In the era of #MeToo, it appears that too often that even the most questionable content can be given a free pass if it marks itself as a period piece, is given a glossy coating, has some jolly songs and is marketed as supposedly raising issues of gender equality and sexual politics, even if its done in the dodgiest of fashions. Thankfully, for the most part, director Jeff Calhoun has managed to address the most unpalatable Carry On-like antics of previous productions.

In a nutshell it’s the story of three office workers: Doralee (Georgina Castle), Judy (Amber Davies) and Violet (Louise Redknapp) who unite to turn the tables on their monstrous boss (Sean Needham), tying him up in his own bondage gear and running the office where they work under their own rules.

It is a show of two unequal halves, both literally and figuratively, the first running at one hour ten minutes and packed full of action, the second at a short 45 minutes is actually padded out with some unnecessary songs then rushes to a conclusion that neatly wraps up the action. The entire show is stylistically a bit unimaginative, it takes the stereotypical eye-poppingly colourful 80s look but doesn’t do too much with it, there are a few key set-pieces that are wheeled on and off multiple times. It is all perfectly pleasant but no more than that.

Both Davies and Castle are supremely talented, Davies’ rendition of the Defying Gravity-like Get Out and Stay Out is a show-stopper as is Castle’s Backwoods Barbie and to his great credit, Sean Needham manages to keep tyrannical, misogynistic, panto villain boss Franklin Hart Jnr. entirely likeable. Less successful, though is Redknapp, who, while competent in the pivotal role, is a little lacklustre in her energy level and her voice suffers in comparison to her co-stars. It also needs to be said that the shrillness of the dialogue and the uneven American accents mean that a lot of the jokes fail to land as the audience can’t actually hear them clearly.

While on the surface it may aim to be a rallying cry for working women everywhere, it still retains a few too many mores of 70s and 80s sitcoms. While director Calhoun has managed to negotiate a more palatable path through the material, it might be time for either a bit more of a refresh of the book or a female director. It is interesting to note that the most well rounded, nuanced character is the seemingly ditzy blonde. All that said, if you take it entirely at surface level then it is a bit of fluffy, escapist, crowd-pleasing fun, with a talented and committed cast, and the overwhelmingly female audience seem to adore it, needing no encouragement to get on their feet to sing and dance along with the encore.

Runs until 12 October 2019 | Image: Simon Turtle

Originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Return to the Forbidden Planet – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/return-to-the-forbidden-planet-kings-theatre-glasgow/

25 years on and Bob Carlton’s quite frankly bonkers idea to take Shakespeare’s The Tempest, by way of 1956 sci-fi movie classic Forbidden Planet and turn it into a musical jam-packed with the greatest hits of the 50s and 60s, is still wowing audiences up and down the country.

The success of the Olivier Award-winning Return to the Forbidden Planet, and why it is still able to entertain a quarter of a century on, is down to several factors: the sheer good-natured spirit which imbues the whole  production, there is joy and silliness oozing out of every pore; there’s the unbelievable talent of its multi-instrumentalist cast – there isn’t a weak link among them and each pours their heart and soul into their performance; there’s the chance to play clever-Dick and see how many Shakespearean quotes you can spot and the plays they came from, and of course, there’s the outstanding soundtrack of the great and the good from the golden age of rock and roll. What’s not to love?

The show’s greatest strength on this tour is its cast, and as churlish as it may seem to single out any particular performers, there are a few standouts who deserve mention: as Cookie, Mark Newnham’s musicianship is exceptional, in particular during “She’s Not There”, where he manages, with ease, in a guitar solo, to fit in riffs from: “Smoke on the Water”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Purple Haze” to name just a few, couple this with a show-stopping voice and he’s a talent to watch. Sean Needham, returning to the role of Captain Tempest, is as fine-voiced as ever and Christine Holman (Gloria) and Sarah Scowen (Miranda) both possess voices which could blow the roof off.

Return to the Forbidden Planet isn’t without its faults: yes, the hits have been shoe-horned into the plot, yes, the storyline is a slight as silver, yes, it’s as cheesy as Camembert, yes, the set is as (intentionally) ropey as it ever was (wobbling microphones and spray-painted hairdryer guns) but you wouldn’t or couldn’t have it any other way and boy is it easy to forgive it all because it is just so damned entertaining.

If it’s wall-to-wall hits, a top-class cast and an evening of pure escapism on a cold winter’s night you’re after then you need look no further than Return to the Forbidden Planet. Jokey, joyous, irreverent, infectious, its ability to get an audience on its feet remains undiminished after all these years – it’s good to have it back.

5 *****

Runs until Sat 14 February 2015, then touring.

REVIEW: Our House – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh


This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at:

Book: Tim Firth

Music & Lyrics: Madness

Director: Peter Rowe

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Striving to be more Blood Brothers than Jersey Boys, Tim Firth’s musical Our House based around the music of Madness, ultimately fails to fall into either camp. Neither dramatic play with music or full-blown jukebox musical it is an odd hybrid which sits uneasily between the two.

A cautionary story about the power of choice, it tells the story of Joe Casey who on the fateful night of his 16th birthday breaks into an empty luxury apartment to impress his girlfriend Sarah.  From here onwards we enter a parallel universe where we see the consequences of both his choices: in one world Joe escapes and prospers pursuing a life on the slightly less than legal side of the tracks and in the other he does the honest thing, surrenders to the police and ultimately lands up in a young offender’s institution. The story twists and turns (to its credit it resists taking a predictable path) and ultimately our young hero gets what he deserves. Shoe-horned into all of this are the songs of 80’s superstars Madness.

The company of actor musicians play both multiple roles and instruments onstage throughout and equip themselves with energy and commitment but there’s an overwhelming sense of something missing about the whole endeavour. The sound quality suffers from being dampened by the tiny and distractingly busy set perched on the huge Festival Theatre stage and struggles to reach the volume needed to fill this huge auditorium. The dampened sound also reflects the reaction that met the end of each set piece. No number ends emphatically enough to prompt spontaneous applause and on many occasions the actors launch straight into dialogue at the end of a song leaving no time for the audience to show any appreciation they feel it might deserve. It’s all a pity as the company work hard to engage the audience and their enthusiasm can’t be faulted. It’s a case of bad material happening to good people.

Alexis Gerred (Joe) is an amiable enough lead and he manages the quick changes required of the role with aplomb but he’s a bit lacking in the personality department to convincingly pull this off. Worthy of praise though is Daniella Bowen as girlfriend Sarah, convincing as the moral compass of the piece. However, one criticism must be made of the younger members of the ensemble, whose diction is less than crisp, leading to a universal tendency to mangle dialogue and render punchlines flat. However, Sean Needham and Rebecca Bainbridge as Joe’s parents, lend the show a much needed quality and gravitas, both are accomplished actors as well as musicians and their class shines through.

Despite a somewhat muted reaction throughout, the audience did give hearty applause at the end, though one can’t help think that it was for the hard-working cast rather than the material. The show should be applauded though for attempting to rise above the run of the mill jukebox musical fodder but it needs a clearer narrative and a more charismatic lead to pull it off.