Thoroughly Modern Mille – Churchill Theatre, Bromley

Thoroughly Modern Millie hit The Churchill Theatre stage this week with a talented cast including Strictly Come Dancing star, Joanne Clifton playing the star of the show, Millie Dilmount. With an energetic buzz throughout and a heartwarming storyline, it delighted audience members but at times lacked the oomph this show needed.

Throughly Modern Millie tells the story of Mille, a country girl that makes her way to New York in pursuit of a husband. Whilst there much happens to her and as she finds herself getting to grips in the city that never sleeps, she unfortunately finds herself becoming entwined with an interesting and oddly humorous white slavery storyline.

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I was intrigued to hear Joanne Clifton was playing the lead as Millie, as it can often be a disappointment when TV stars don’t live up to your expectations of musical theatre professionals. However Joanne was perfect for this role with a superb voice that showcased her vast vocal range and her stage presence, which was felt right throughout the theatre. The casting of this show is great, with Luca Rush playing a side splitting performance as Mrs Meers, and others performances played by Sam Barrett as Jimmy and Graham MacDuff delivering a lively and lifelike drunk as Trevor Graydon. It appeared he had obviously ad-libbed a little further than he should on the press night as it resulted in Joanne trying to refrain from laughing as he got more and more drunk. However it failed and she burst into laughter and a huge applause and cheer from the audience was felt!

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This production had the glitz and glamour this storyline needed, with a case made up of talented musical theatre actors/actresses and plenty of foot tapping action throughout. During some scenes it did feel slightly stagnant and I personally felt it needed more pace to keep the momentum of the show going. I enjoyed the setting of this production and whilst it was rather basic, it didn’t overshadow the performances as shows often rely on the grandness of a set rather than the natural abilities of those involved. However for scenes where the dialogue was translated by a small projection, it became hard to read and understand what was being said in the subtitles, which also meant the audience focus wasn’t on the performance and it took something away from this.

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It did appear a tap click track was used for some of the dance scenes which did let down the freshness of the performance, especially during some tap numbers. You cant beat the real thing – especially when you have a dancer as the lead!

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I enjoyed this show, it had everything it needed to delight the audience and we all left with a feel good atmosphere at the end of the performance. The performances from all involved were a pleasure to watch and review!

The show continues its performances at The Churchill until Saturday 10th June 2017 and continues its tour – further details and tickets can be found here.

3-stars

The Wild Party – The Other Palace, London

With an astoundingly talented cast made up some of the West End’s finest artists, The Wild Party is lavish homage to the jazz age of the 1920’s. From the sparkle in the costumes to a finely choreographed show, it is a spectacular production that tells the story of vaudeville showgirl Queen (Frances Ruffle) and her violent husband Burrs (John Owen-Jones). They decide to bury their marital issues by throwing a lavish wild party – and it is this very party that fills this show.

The majority of the first act is where the audience are introduced to each character, who take turns to sing, relating their story, detailing their current situation and profiling their partners. “My Eddie is a hero, just like Lindberg. Except Lindberg was white and flew planes, and Eddie’s black and beats people up.” This production explores many areas including gay relationships, infidelity, cross-dressing, racism and domestic violence.

We are introduced to Queenie who is desperately trying to re-live her time as a socialite, but with Vaudeville clown Burrs attempting to control her. With guests starting to arrive, including Phil and Oscar D’Armano (Gloria Obiango & Genesis Lynea), with every move in sync, lesbian couple Madelaine True (Tiffany Graves) and Sally (Melanie Bright), boxer Eddie (Ako Mitchell) and his wife Mae (Lizzy Connolly), her little sister Nadine (Bronte Barbe), producers Gold and Goldberg (Sebastien Torkia), vaudeville veteran Dolores (Donna McKechnie) and then finally Kate (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) and her gigolo, Black (Simon Thomas). You may think this is a lot to pack into a performance that lasts over 2 hours, however this production makes you want to see more as the story progresses and as the party gets wilder!

The end of Act 1 saw my jaw hit the floor – it can often take a lot for this to be my reaction however this was a perfect ending for this act as it left me wanted to see what happened next!

The Other Palace which was recently renamed from St James Theatre is a fantastic venue for this intimate and in your face performance. With a clear and undisturbed view of the entire set, even from the back row, the audience are very much part of the performance. The set design is outstanding and allows us to see not only the cast appearing on the stage, but all around the set and gallery mixing closely with the musicians. With a stair case set on three levels, this also gives another dimension to the production, however on a few occasions it did make it slightly harder to see who was singing. Key pieces of furniture are brought on stage including a large bed, a chaise lounge and an old record player. These are all used well within Drew McOnies direction and choreography.

The music for The Wild Party is punchy and there is barely a moment where the band aren’t playing. With this being a sung-through show, there is a lot for us to hear but with catchy rhythms and often madness ensuing on stage – it was easy to be wrapped up in everything about this show. From my seat in the third row and with direct eye contact with the cast throughout – it is a show that encourages the audience to absorb everything it has to offer.

There are a number of moments in the show where this show stands out. The manic and thrilling scene at the end of the first act and then again during the last 10 minutes of the show, which deals with the morning after. It had me on the edge of my seat and a great way to end this production.

The Wild Party has set the bar high for the many shows that The Other Palace will see in the coming years. The show finishes its run on Saturday 1st April – if you can get yourself a ticket, please do – further details can be found on The Other Palace website.

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Dreamgirls – Savoy Theatre, London

As a wedding present from friends, we were treated to a delightful evening to see the evening performance of Dreamgirls on Saturday 25th March 2017. The musical originated on Broadway back in 1981 and following it being made into a film, winning numerous awards, it finally arrived in the West End in late 2016. It has already been rumoured to be making a revival on Broadway soon and with a soundtrack being released in April 2017 – there is no better time and reason to go and see this mighty show!

Dreamgirls tells the story of three girls, The Dreamettes with lead singer, Effie White, Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson with Effie’s brother C.C writing their songs. They get their first break when Curtis persuades James ‘Thunder’ Early to let the Dreamettes sing their backing vocals. Effie soon beings to date Curtis and Lorrell starts an affair with Jimmy. However upon Deena being moved to lead vocals replacing Effie, the story starts to sour. Effie is forced out of the group and the girls then continue on the road to stardom and success.

One aspect of the show that becomes apparent is the use of a simple yet effective set design. The production mainly focusses around various lighting rigs which were continually moved to provide the transitions for each scene. However it isn’t until Act two that the audience see more glamour and sparkle from the set. The costumes speak for themselves – they are glitzy, colourful and many of the stunning gowns on display show how hard and talented those behind the scenes are at work in making this production stand out from the opening numbers. This production also showcases a fantastic array of wigs – for most costume changes there are new wigs for the majority of the female roles. This show isn’t just about the performance, but for those who work tirelessly backstage making this show happen.

Having seen the Dreamgirls film in 2006, I was familiar with the story and how strong the performances needed to be to make the story come to life. Amber Riley who plays Effie has a voice unlike anybody else. Despite my own experience of seeing the film and hearing the original Dreamgirls soundtrack, Amber’s voice is simply jaw dropping. Her vocal range, depth and emotion had my hair on end throughout the entire performance. I knew Amber had a great voice but I didn’t expect to be blown away by every one of her songs. The audience were on their feet at the end of ‘And I Am Telling You’ and seeing her give everything to this performance was an emotional experience. I may have even let out a cheer and WOW as she hit every single note!

The two other female leads, Liisi Lafontaine (Deena) and Asmeret Ghebremichael (Lorrell) had phenomenal vocals and with Asmeret recently joining the cast following Ibionabo Jacks withdrawal from the cast due to health reasons – I absolutely loved her performance from start to finish – a great new addition to the Dreamgirls London cast.

Liisi’s ‘Listen’ duet with Amber was another highlight of the evening and I cannot wait for the soundtrack next month to listen to this particular song – it had the audience cheering throughout the song, which was thoroughly well deserved.

I have rated Dreamgirls with four stars as I did enjoy the show with many astounding performances, however at times I felt the show could have given more in places. Whilst the set was simple, it often felt underwhelming with the same set piece being used for the majority of the show. With a show as grand as this – I personally felt the set could have been more impressive. The ‘Dreamgirls’ song sounded extremely thin – I’m not sure if a click-track was missing but I expected this number to be far more impressive than it came across – especially as this is their first major song.

I must also comment about the impressive Front of House team at The Savoy Theatre. I have seen a lot of live theatre and I was extremely impressed with how quick they identified anyone using their mobile phones and were instantly dealing with this, as well as remaining in the theatre throughout the performance. Well Done All!

Dreamgirls is the perfect night out and a great way to see the talent that plays in the West End. This is a show I can see being around for a long while as it continues to delight audiences who keep going back for more. With standing ovations at both the interval and finale it is clear that this show is one to see. It is currently booking up to October 2017, due to it’s recent opening there aren’t many cheaper tickets on offer at the moment. However you may wish to download the TodayTix app and enter the lottery (on the day) for your chance to win front row tickets for £15! Further details about the show can be found on The Dreamgirls website.

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52 Week Blog Challenge: Week 2 – My Favourite Things

You will have seen from my recent blog posts that I’m taking part in the 52 Week Blog Challenge. If you want to take part follow the instructions in my original post – post the blog picture below and be sure to link Britt and Jenny in your blog.

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This week is Week 2: My Favourite Things! I shall be sharing some of my favourite things and will attempt to keep them as current as possible – please do comment and get involved if you’d like to join in too!

Favourite Film

This is always a hard question to answer as over the years I have seen a lot of great films, so it’s a question I always struggle with! However that being said, I’m an absolute lover of Christmas and love everything about it so I would have to say that my a film that I really do enjoy year after year is Home Alone (1 & 2!). How can you not love a film that is about Christmas and has a happy ending!?

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Favourite Music

I have always had an eclectic music taste so I find that many styles of music appeal to me. For many years I have loved one particular artist, Adele. I have followed her journey from her early days and still continue to love everything she does. Her music has helped me through some tough times as well as being there for some of my happiest. Adele as we all know is known all over the world for her honest outlook on life and the song lyrics that we can all relate to in some way. For this reason this will always being my favourite music that I can listen to over and over again.

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Favourite Book

Jo Malone – My Story. Jo Malone, the incredibly inspirational businesswoman who is responsible for creating her global business Jo Malone London and most recently, Jo Loves. This is her first autobiography that I had the pleasure of attending the book launch and meeting Jo! Her book tells her story about her growing up struggling with dyslexia, leaving school with no qualifications and how the businesses that we know and love started. I couldn’t put this book down and found great inspiration from every chapter. Jo is someone who looks at every situation with a positive and I recall her saying “Everything comes full circle” and I agree that from everything we learn and grow. An inspiration to many.

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Favourite Childhood Memory

For many years my mum, dad and sister went to Guernsey in The Channel Islands, which is situated between the United Kingdom and France. I recall visiting here many times in the summer holidays and every holiday holds special memories for me. One distinct memory is one evening after dinner we watched the sun set as a family from the beach at Petit Bot Bay. Afterwards we had a photo of us as a family – all wearing the same knitted jumper that had been made by my nan. It still remains such a happy memory and Guernsey will be a place that I will continue to return to for many years to come.

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Favourite Birthday

Every birthday is special but my 30th was truly an unforgettable year. A few weeks previous to my birthday I had got married so will still on a high but my lovely husband had gifted be 30 presents that were given to me over the course of the year leading up to my 30th birthday. My gifts varied in size and type but each were amazing presents with much thought being taken. I have been thoroughly spoilt and whilst I have had lots of fantastic birthday – celebrating my 30th year like this was an unforgettable experience.

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Favourite Netflix Binge Watch

I’m currently watching Project Runway and have managed nearly the entire season 7 in just a few days. Whilst I am not a massive fan of reality TV shows, I do like the fashion aspect with this and seeing how everybody progress each week – and of course some of the epic fails that are made along the way too!

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There we go – a handful of my favourite things. Come back next week for Week 3: Meet My Family!

If you’re joining in with the 52 Week Blog Challenge, I would love to hear from you!

Wonderland – The Churchill Theatre, Bromley

I recall seeing the flyer for Wonderland early last year so it felt a long time coming in seeing this production at The Churchill Theatre this week, where I was invited to review the show.

Wonderland is a modern adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. It tells the story of Alice, played by West End legend Kerry Ellis, a mum who is at her wits end with her failing life and who doesn’t know how to change. She lives with her daughter Ellie (Naomi Morris). Following a brief meeting with her neighbour Jack (Stephen Webb), they find themselves in an out of use lift and stepping into the magical world of Wonderland. Not your everyday story…

On their travels they meet a White Rabbit (Dave Willetts), a caterpillar (Kayi Ushe), a cheshire cat (Dominic Owen) and the Mad Hatter (Michelle Pentecost) to name but a few! Whilst there, Alice, Ellie and Jack have to decide whether they wish to go through the looking glass which uncovers the hidden side of themselves. Wonderland is ruled by the Queen of Hearts, played the delightful Wendi Peters, known for Coronation Street. Alice and her friends need to try and save the day and to get them home safely.

There are a  mixture of songs in Wonderland, some memorable and some not so. ‘I am My Own Invention’ was a rather poignant song, as well as ‘This Is Who I Am’. Some of the musical numbers whilst may have generated some fun and laughter into the show, felt  out of place with the other songs.

Whilst the story was fairly obvious at times, I struggled to understand where the show was placed. At times it embraced a strong ‘rock’ theme but at others it then poked fun at the story and it is for this reason that I didn’t fully invest in this story as it seemed a little blurred about what truly Wonderland was.

Kerry Ellis stood out as I knew she would and her amazing vocal abilities are heard in the opening number ‘Worst Day’, although it isn’t until Act 2 that the audience hears even more of her vast vocal range. It had the hairs on my neck on end! Wendi Peters plays the Queen of Hearts with sheer perfection and has been cast in this part extremely well and her presence is felt as well as her fantastic vocals too. She does make munching on a jam tart extremely good fun too!

Wonderland is a good musical that is worth seeing for the casting and you will enjoy a good night out at the theatre. It continues playing at The Churchill Theatre until Saturday 18th March and then continues its UK tour. Tickets can be purchased here.

3-stars