Theatre Club – Fiddler on the Roof

Regular readers will know that there is a tradition between myself and Mrs M, known as ‘Theatre Club’. Twice a year, without fail, we go to see a show in London as a birthday treat for each of us. As it was my birthday earlier in the summer, it was my turn to be taken to a surprise show.

And, Mrs M did an amazing job with her choice, as we went to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the Playhouse. There are so many reasons that this was a treat but mainly because I have never been to this theatre and I have never seen ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, but it has always been on the wishlist.

Wow, what a production and what a musical. It was clear before it even started that this is a musical that holds a special place in the hearts of so many muscial theatre fans. I now totally understand why; this is a show that I am not going to forget for a long time.

The songs are wonderful and I especially enjoyed hearing ‘If I was Rich Man’ performed so fabulously by Andy Nyman. The choreography was stunning, you almost wanted to join all the cast on the stage. But, for me, it is the actual tale that struck me the most. I have never seen the film or any previous production, so I wasn’t totally aux fais with the story. However, it is so emotional, the idea that the Jewish people had to fight for their traditions and culture. And, although some progress can be good, the destruction of culture and a way of life is never okay. The musical is so beautifully humourous and heart-warming that, as it reaches its conclusion, you can not help but shed a tear or two.

‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is evidence again that the most surprising subjects make the most powerful and memorable musicals. If you can find an opportunity, I would highly recommend seeing this show. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Six: The Musical

I love the opportunity to go to London and see a musical. As Miss W had mentioned that she fancied seeing ‘Six’, I jumped at the chance to plan a little trip (especially as even students I teach had been telling me ‘to see that musical about Henry VIII’s wives’).

‘Six: The Musical’ is at the Arts Theatre on the edge of Leicester Square. Quite an intimate theatre, which is perfect for this show as it is more a brilliant rock and pop concert than a traditional musical narrative. In fact, it is such a simple idea that it is incredibly effective.

The wives act out their own singing contest to allow the audience to decide who the most hard-done-by wife of Henry VIII was. Historical fact is set to amazing music to allow each wife to tell their tale, in a way that would probably suit their character if it was the modern day. The songs are catchy and the audience really does feel like it is at a rock concert.

However, what struck me the most was not just the amazing all-female production but the excellent ‘political’ statement made about ‘his-story’. All of those women are connected by Henry VIII, the man who fact brought them to hsitory. Yet they are part of ‘her-story’ and are figures in their own right, none more significant than the other but each having made their contribution. We just, unfortunately, often remember what those who write ‘his-story’ want us to remember.

This show deserves all the praise and dedicated following it has gained. And, if it is causing people to become more interested in history well, then it has done a fantastic job.

Grease: The Musical

Despite my love of musicals ‘Grease’ is one that I have never seen. I’m not really sure why; after all, I was in the chorus of a school production many years ago. So, when I was given the chance to see the current touring production at Birmingham Hippodrome I thought: why not?

It really was an ‘electrifyin” production. Grease is one of those shows that has a cult following; really dedicated fans who ensure they see it every time it is on as it is a show that engulfs the audience in the nostalgia of the age of rock ‘n’ roll. As well as involving a love story which is always a popular narrative.

Let’s be honest – when the first tune is ‘Grease is the word’, you are addicted to the show. The whole performance was wonderful, high energy, colourful, and fabulous. There was even a ‘flying’ car during ‘Grease Lightin”. The whole company were great, with Dan Partridge taking on Danny Zuko and Martha Kirby playing Sandy (you would not know it is her professional debut – she WAS Sandy). However, I am not sure I have ever heard an audience get quite as excited as the moment that Peter Andre appeared as ‘Teen Angel’, a short but sweet appearance which made the audience squeal.

I really enjoyed this porduction, and the nostalgia of rock ‘n’ roll and the start of teenagers as their own group. I am not sure that the ‘love’ story is one that works for the modern age, but it is good fun and I am not sure why I have waited quite so long to see it.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

This weekend was the wonderful theatre club – one of the highlights in the day every six months.

It was my turn to book the show. Always a joy, but sometimes I put a little bit too much pressure on myself – worrying about if the seats are okay, and if we will both enjoy the show. However, this time I was pretty sure that my choice was going to be a sure-fire success. I had heard great reviews of the show and, having watched the most recent trailer, thought it looked like a lot of fun.

So, on a surprisingly sunny afternoon in February, we arrived at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to see ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. I was excited , as I had seen Layton Williams had taken on the role of Jamie (and my Mum had muttered something about Shane Ritchie being in the cast).

So, the show is based on the true story of Jamie Campbell who has the ambition of becoming a drag queen and a star. He was also the subject of ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’, a 2011 BBC Three documentary.

The show follows the story of Jamie New wanting to come out as a drag queen. We see Jamie start his journey to create his persona, wanting to attend his school prom in a dress and the struggles if not always being accepted for who you are. This is a show with all the emotions – you laugh and you will cry, and really reflect on the society that we live in. A lady spoke to us at the end (she was with her son) to say that seeing it as a mother had her in tears.

Jamie (Layton Williams) is clearly the star of the show, but it is a real ensemble piece. Every single person on the stage brings every second of the musical to life. The songs are wonderful – dare you not to cry through a couple – the script is full of laughs, and all the choreography and music are marvellous. This is standing ovations stuff and, by the end, it is simply one giant party.

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a musical that everyone should go and see; it really is a five star production!

The Return of Theatre Club

 

September 22nd 2018 was the day that Theatre Club returned. It had a little break while a lot of exciting events took place but now it was back and as awesome as ever.

We shook it up a little this time, deciding one of us would organise food and the other the show. This way there was a surprise for both of us. After all, who does not enjoy a surprise?

So, for me, the surprise was brunch at ‘100 Wardour Street’ – and what a brunch (slightly alcoholic) it was. It was a three course food sensation – with a cocktail. And it was simply delicious. For me (and Mrs M) it was a starter of streaky bacon, duck eggs and tomato foccacia, followed by wild mushroom risotto (Mrs M had the Seabass), and concluded for us with waffles, berries and the most delicious Chantilly cream. It was perfectly accompanied by a ‘Cloud No 9’ cocktail, which was just a dreamy combination of gin, blueberries and lemon juice (there may have been other things but those were the best). We both absolutely loved the chance to sit down and put the world to rights – and it was a perfect place to do so.

After, it was my chance to spring the surprise, which was ‘School of Rock’. This was a show that had been on my radar for a while and was recommended by so many. It was a great choice! As soon as the lights went down, there was an excited vibe in the theatre. (As I would guess many of the audience had seen the film). The joy of this show is that it is full of humour for all, adults and children alike. The songs are catchy from the word go and you are filled with instant happiness. The talent shown by every child on the stage is extraordinary, singing, dancing, playing instruments and making people laugh. I also, as a teacher, loved the little life lesson about what a difference an inspirational adult can make, even if they are not the role model you would expect.

By the end of the show, you are encouraged to quite literally dance in the aisles. After all, you are witnessing a rock concert – so what else should you be doing other than having a great time?

For me, this really was a five-star show and a five-star day out with an awesome friend. I absolutely can not wait to start planning for our next Theatre Club, because making memories is one of the most precious things you can do.

Four the Love of Matilda

This week I was lucky enough to see ‘Matilda: The Musical’ for the fourth time. A beautiful friend of mine and I went out on a school night – a big deal as we are both teachers – to see the touring production at the Birmingham Hippodrome. It was everything I hoped and remembered it would be. Humour, great tunes, wonderful characters – and a serious but heart-warming message for adults and children alike.

However, this post is going to be a little more about the appreciation of the wonderful character that is Matilda Wormwood.

Growing up I was a huge Roald Dahl fan and I still remember the birthday my Uncle gave me ‘The BFG’, The Witches and Matilda. They were 3 novels that struck a chord with me but most particularly ‘Matilda’. Like her I was a total bookworm (although maybe not as advanced) when it was not particularly cool. However, she made me realise that it did not matter – if you like to read then you can read. I am so glad that my parents encouraged me to read (unlike the Wormwoods) because, just like for Matilda, it brought so much more to life. In fact, as I have grown up, reading has become one of the things that has been important in some of my closest friendships. Books and words were even feature of my wedding day.

Matilda is also a wonderful character and role model. She is a strong female lead and – as the wonderful musical always reminds you – it is OK to be a little bit naughty. You really should not let anything stop you from standing up for what is right and, in turn, stand up for yourself.

So, my love of the book by Roald Dahl and Tim Minchin’s musical interpretation is all based om the fact that you should never let anything stand in your way. When I grow up – I want to be just like Matilda Wormwood.

P.S You really should go and see the show while it is at the Birmingham Hippodrome – it is marvellous!

Beautiful is Beautiful

One of my favourite gifts for people is a theatre experience. This Christmas, I got my Mum tickets to the UK touring production of Beautiful at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Beautiful tells the story of singer/songwriter Carole King as she starts to make her way in the world of music, and real life, until the release of, possibly, her most famous work: ‘Tapestry’. An album that most certainly came from the heart. I had a fair idea, (or so I thought) of the work of Carole King mainly thanks to Radio 2. However, I was surprised about how many of my favourite songs she has penned with her then husband, Gerry Goffin. I mean who does not love ‘Up on the Roof’?

The cast of this production were all brilliant. You could sense the enjoyment they each felt for being part of this show. A particular favourite of Mum and I was each appearance by The Drifters; there was so much joy and humour in each song they performed. (Neil Sedaka was a good giggle too). Of course, Bronté Barbé’s performance as Carole King was stunning. It always seems a very brave act to take on such a well-loved star, but she certainly did justice to the role.

The whole production was a joy to watch and there was a real buzz among the audience throughout, some even absent-mindedly singing along – but that added to the overall enjoyment of the show.

You certainly leave this show still singing along to the many wonderful songs and, for my Mum, it was chance for her to tell me about all the gigs she has been to (jealous? me? never). If you enjoy a good night out, this is the show for you!

Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

So, we all know I love the theatre, and musical theatre is always a winner, but when it comes to encouraging Mr BookwormandTheatremouse to enjoy the musicals it can be a challenge. However, as his birthday gift, I got him tickets to see ‘Young Frankenstein’ (there was no thought of me when I picked this gift, promise) because it looked very silly and it starred Ross Noble – I mean, what else do you need?

The show is on at The Garrick in London, which is a theatre that I have not been to before; however, it is just along from the National Portrait Gallery, which is one of my favourite spots in London. The theatre is an absolute delight – although it is fairly small, I suspect that there is not a bad view (we were upper circle), as it is well laid out, so you seem to have a good view from most seats.

Enough about the theatre – let’s talk about the show. I did not know too much about it, other than I was sure it was going to be good fun, as it involves the imagination of Mel Brooks and it was starring Ross Noble (I may have mentioned that already); that was enough to convince me that it was going to be good fun. And, oh my, was it good fun: you sense from the moment that the first note strikes up (which had the lady behind us in the giggles) that it is going to be a show that everyone enjoys, whether they are in it or in the audience.

Everyone on the stage was superb, with true enjoyment of what they were doing and so much natural comic timing you could not help but smile all the way through the production. There is so much cheeky humour, it is like an extended game of innuendo bingo, but it is so cleverly done that you could blink and miss it (other than in the number ‘Roll in the Hay’ – that does not leave much to the imagination), but you will no doubt be rolling in the aisles throughout the jokes.

Mel Brooks certainly has a skill for finding the funny side in the cinema triumphs of the age, so ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a gentle mick-take of the old-fashioned horror films that so many enjoyed in the early days of cinema. You may see some of the gags coming if you have watched any such films, but you still appreciate every moment, and probably laugh even more as you realise how obvious the plots of so many of those films were.

This was another production where there was no star, as every member of the cast (although, I am not going to lie, I did think that Ross Noble’s Igor was very good), orchestra and crew made the show what it was: an absolute triumph. I can understand why so many people have been to see it more than once because I am keen to head back. I am, also, pretty sure that Mr BookwormandTheatremouse would say the same – when he has finished laughing and humming show tunes.

Have you been to see ‘Young Frankenstein’? What did you think?

Nativity! The Musical

Last week was my 2nd wedding anniversary, and what other way is there for a Theatre blogger to celebrate than to see a play? Not just any play, but the Christmas favourite ‘Nativity! The Musical’.

Currently running at the REP in Birmingham, before it tours the country and lands in London, this is one of the most glorious musicals I have have ever seen. This production is an even more musical adaptation of the wonderful British film ‘Nativity!’. The tale is the same and still set in Coventry. Mr Maddens (Daniel Boys) and Mr Poppy (Simon Lipkin) need to help St Bernadette’s Primary School pull off a Nativity production fit for Hollywood (due to a slight misunderstanding). There are of course , twists and turns, and laughter and tears along the way, but it is a really charming tale with all the spirit of Christmas.

From the moment you walk into the theatre, the atmosphere is one of clear excitement. The audience of all ages were clearly huge fans of the film and could not wait for the performance to start. As the stage comes alive and the adventure begins you are swept away. Every member of the company (and especially the children) is clearly having the time of their life bringing the show to the audience. Simon Lipkin (who I was lucky enough to see earlier this year in Wind in the Willows) is the most fabulous Mr Poppy, playing the character with such humour and affection, In fact at one particularly emotional moment, a young member of the audience called out ‘I love you’ to Mr Poppy as he shed a tear.

I was also really pleased to have the chance to see Daniel Boys in a musical, as I was a big fan all those years ago when he was a contestant on ‘Any Dream Will Do’. (That is one off the bucket list as I have now seen my three favourites from that show in musicals – so easily pleased). He did not disappoint; such a lovely singing voice and overall fabulous performance.

However, the real stars were the children who injected so much enthusiasm and humour into their parts the audience was always cheering along with them.

I laughed all the way through the production (apart from the couple of moments where they don’t just tug but yank on the heartstrings and even Mr BookwormandTheatremouse might have had a lump in his throat) and leapt to my feet when the finale was on. In fact, it almost feels like you are celebrating with the cast.

Overall, this is a loyal adaptation of the film (all your favourite parts will be there) and it will leave you feeling very happy and very festive. Bravo to all!

This was the exact expression that I had on my face all the way through this dream of a show!

The Wind in the Willows – Musical

Growing up, The Wind in the Willows was one of my favourite stories. So, when I spotted that a musical adaptation was heading to the London Palladium for the summer holidays, I had to grab a slice of the action.

The Twitterverse had also dropped so many hints about the show that, by the 3rd of August, my excitement was off the scale. Stiles and Drewe were providing the tunes, Julian Fellowes had written the adaptation, and Rufus Hound AND Gary Wilmot were starring – Exciting!!

Our seats were at the front of the upper circle; my favourite seats in the theatre. They give you a perfect view of the stage and it is easy to dodge the safety rail.

From the moment the first note was struck, you were transported from the city of London to the Riverbank. I and everyone around me had a massive grin on their face as we met the inhabitants of the Riverbank and Mole met Ratty.

The story unfolds as you would expect with Mr Toad and his speedy adventures, and the love of his friends, resulting in a very happy ending. Via some incidents with the Wild Wooders, and scrapes with the law, of course.

The performance of each member of the cast was wonderful. Fabulous singing and dancing all round and everyone looked truly happy to be on that stage. However, there has to be some special mentions for the amazing Mr Toad, played to full comic potential. Badger was a true mentor to all the creatures that he encountered. And Chief Weasel was the perfect baddie that you love to hate (well, only a tiny bit); he does also seem to have the catchiest tunes. Overall, though, it was a true team performance that had the audience enthralled.

In fact, it is all so fabulous that the cast recording has been on repeat since seeing the show. I cannot get enough of the songs and memories of this wonderful show.

This really is a musical for all ages, and if you have a chance to catch it, I would really recommend it – it is one of the best shows I have ever seen. Thank you to every single member of the cast, orchestra, creative team and theatre staff who made the whole thing such a wonderful experience.