Tag Archives: Stephen Arden

REVIEW: A New Life – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

It all starts off chirpy enough in Andy McGregor’s musical, A New Life. Career-driven Jess and Robbie’s only worries are where their next exotic destination is going to be or whether they should get a new SMEG fridge. She’s on track to be the headteacher of her primary school, his latest computer game is about to be picked up by Nintendo. As we all know, the most predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, and a great big baby-shaped spanner is thrown in the works with a very unplanned pregnancy.

McGregor tackles some tough subject matter here: post-partum depression; the grim reality of what motherhood can make you; suicide. He dares to say the unsayable, but is it best delivered through the medium of musical theatre? McGregor can really write a tune and there are some real crackers here. However, the tunes (and their sublime delivery by Kim Shepherd) are not enough to carry this new work – not yet anyway.

The relationship between Jess and Robbie (Kim Shepherd and Simon Donaldson) is presented as a given, but there’s no time to establish their real bond, or for you to get on-side and root for them. The work is only around 80 minutes long and you’d be forgiven for rushing to the heart of the matter, but the descent into darkness is steep and prolonged, taking up much of the running time. The only (and much needed) light relief comes in the form of six-foot, nappy wearing, tap dancing, back-talking baby Barry (Stephen Arden) who steals the show with his outrageous antics.

Hats off to McGregor for even trying to tackle the subject matter and he delivers a dose of harsh reality in a largely palatable way. However, the balance between the light relief and the hard-hitting realities is a little off kilter. Never one to ask for a work’s running time to be extended, A New Life has huge potential and with a bit of work could strike the right balance and take its place at the vanguard of new musical theatre writing.

Reviewed on 29 October 2022 at the Tron Theatre and continues to tour Scotland with Crocodile Rock | Image: Tim Morozzo

 

REVIEW: Crocodile Rock – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Andy McGregor appears to be spearheading a resurgence in homegrown musicals. Crocodile Rock, originally performed as part of Òran Mór’s 2019 A Play, a Pie and a Pint season, is now embarking on a well-deserved national tour.

Steven McPhail is 17 and stuck on a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, not knowing quite who he is, or what the hell to do with his life. His prospects boil down to working in his dad’s hard-as-nails pub, or his mum’s B&B. There’s that, and the daily humiliation of going to school to face the object of your affection who has made your life hell since you tried to kiss him.

Steven’s horizons expand way beyond the beaches of the Isle of Cumbrae to the bright lights of the big city, when he tentatively takes his first steps in stilettos and makeup after he meets the glorious Vincente the “queen from Barcelona”.

This one-man-and-a-band musical is absolutely what the Scottish theatre-going public needs right now; with places we know, references we whole-heartedly get, with characters we can really care about and a conciseness of storytelling (coming in at an economic under-90 minutes).

The fact that we care is not only down to McGregor’s emotional rollercoaster of a show, but the central performance on which its success firmly rests. Stephen Arden is utterly magnetic as Steven, completely compelling and thoroughly sublime from the get-go. He flits through a myriad of characters with stunning ease, making each distinct – no mean feat and one to be lauded. That coupled with an impressive vocal range of which he has complete control, it’s a sure-fire recipe for success.

This fabulous musical about finding your tribe is a must-see. It will leave you with a skip in your step and a song in your heart.

Runs until 1 October 2022 then touring | Image: Tim Morozzo

 

REVIEW: Snow White and the Seven Wee Muppets – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

It may be Snow White whose name is on the poster, but it’s the boys (dressed as women) who totally steal the show in Eastwood Park’s 2017 fun-filled panto.

With nods to the Snow White story, it’s a new take on the familiar tale. The baddie this time is wicked step mother Spella Binding (Stephen Arden), a former 80s pop diva who’s competing with ingénue Snow White in Pantoland’s version of the X-Factor. Spella’s side kick is Siri, a real live version of Apple’s famous app, (a fine-voiced Lisa McKecknie) and while there’s an apple involved it isn’t the poisoned kind but an i-Pad with a virus that infects our Snow. True love as always is the key to saving her, but refreshingly it’s all girl power here, and there’s no need for a prince to save you when you’ve got the love of your friends and family.

Snow White played by Charis Murray, Molly Muppet played by Lee Reynolds, Siri played by Lisa McKecknie, Lady Marmite played by Greig Adam and Evil Stepmother and 80s pop diva Spella, played by Stephen Arden

The goodies and the baddies are well-defined: Greig Adam’s Lady Marmite is a heroine you really want to root for and evil Spella is the perfect panto villain. Both Adam and Arden shine, the pair’s stage presence is so strong that while the others are a pleasant distraction, and undoubtedly talented, you are willing either, or both of them back on to the stage – they are where the action is. It’s heartening that there’s so much local talent in the cast and the local jokes and banter hit their mark.

This truly is entertainment for all the family, there’s no smut, just a lot of sass, songs we can all sing and dance to and a perfect running time of under two hours including the interval.

Snow White and the Seven Wee Muppets runs until Saturday 30th December at Eastwood Park Theatre and is truly family friendly.

Info, including how to book can be found at: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/8908/Snow-White

Title image: Siri played by Lisa McKecknie, Evil Stepmother and 80s pop diva Spella, played by Stephen Arden, Snow White played by Charis Murray, Molly Muppet played by Lee Reynolds and Lady Marmite played by Greig Adam

Image credit: Mark Gibson

REVIEW: Avenue Q – Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow

There can be few who call themselves musical theatre lovers who have yet to see Avenue Q, Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty’s naughty but (ultimately) nice satire on the lives of the twenty-something human and not-so human, residents of a downbeat New York street. It is testament to the popularity of the piece that after four years of almost continual touring since leaving the West End, the show is still packing in audiences around the country.

Neither those returning to the piece nor first timers, will be disappointed by Sell a Door Theatre Company’s latest production. The gang’s all here: Princeton, Rod, Nicky, Kate, Brian, Christmas Eve, The Bad Idea Bears and of course, Trekkie Monster, as are the now infamous songs “The Internet is for Porn”, ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”

In comparison to shows such as Book of Mormon, with whom it shares a composer (Robert Lopez), Avenue Qis beginning to look more like the naughty little sibling rather than the controversial, ground-breaking, triple Tony award-winning daddy of modern musicals that it once was (the Gary Coleman reference in particular dates the piece badly). But, that said, it is still a winner. So well does it articulate the foibles of modern life and relationships that it never fails to raise a smile.

Stand-out amongst the engaging cast is Stephen Arden who skilfully juggles the multiple roles of Nicky, a Bad Idea Bear and the show-stealing Trekkie Monster with an ease that belies the difficult character changes. His physicality and vibrant energy are impressive as is Emily-Jane Morris as Christmas Eve whose knock out vocals bring the house down in “The More You Ruv Someone”.

Less than successful is Lucie-Mae Sumner who, whilst utterly captivating in her characterisation of Kate Monster is less convincing in the role of Lucy The Slut and her thin vocals fail to do justice to one of the show’s most iconic songs “There’s a Fine, Fine, Line”.

Avenue Q still retains its ability to thoroughly entertain and remains as irreverent, infectious and utterly irresistible as it ever has.

4****