Tag Archives: Alex Bourne

Mamma Mia!

There are a lot of them about at the moment. What one might define as “catalogue musicals”, based on the work of one or other particular song-writing group or band. The story might be the biography of that ensemble, or it might be harnassed to a completely new senario.

That’s the case with Mamma Mia!, a musical which uses the lyrics and music of ABBA and has now been with us for the better part of two decades. Most people probably know it from the film version of 2008; this touring production by the orginal director Phyllida Lloyd has a simple, pared-down set by Mark Thompson cleverly lit by Howard Harrison.

We ae faced by two stories, one mirroring the other in many respects. Lucy May Barker’s Sophie is about to be married to Phillip Ryan’s Sky. She’s the daughter of a single mother Donna (Helen Hobson) and, as she confides to her friends Ali (Fia Houston-Hamilton) and Lisa (Blaise Colangelo), wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is that he could be one of three different men.

There’s British banker Harry (Jamie Hogarth), US architect Sam (Alex Bourne” and Australian explorer and writer Bill (Chrisopher Hollis). Unknown to her mother and to her fiancé, she has invited all three to the wedding, hoping thereby to solve the mystery. The differences between their personalities is well brought out right from their initial, slightly bewildered, exchanges.

Donna has invited two close women friends; all three were the Donna and the Dynamos group. Tanya (Emma Clifford” is a wealthy divorcée, svelte and sharp-tongued. Rosie (Gillian Hardie) is plumply happy-go-lucky, man-free but not necessarily happy with it. Richard Weedon’s’s musical direction is enthusiastic, as is Anthony Van Laast’s choreography – this gives athletic as well as humorous opportunities to the boys of the ensemble.

You can’t have a modern musical without microphones, and the trick is to keep the balance between clarity of words and their underlining accompaniments. On the official opening night of this latest tour, that took some time to establish itself, so that Barker’s “I have a dream” lost some of its impact first time round. “Money! Money! Money” and “Under attack” worked much better.

Four star rating.

Mamma Mia! continues at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 25 March with matinées on 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 16, 18, 21, 23 and 25 March.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Music Music theatre & Opera, Reviews 2017

Robinson Crusoe & the Pirates of the Caribbean

(reviewed at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend on 13 December)

If you’re a paid-up members of the Brian Conley fan-club, you’ll probably revel in this extended cabartet act. If you’re not, then you might have probelms with this not altogether family-friendly pantomime. Yes, there is a story (when Conley allows it to intrude) and several performers who manage to hold their own.

I defy anyone to come between Davbid Robbins’ Mrs Crusoe and his/her audience. Alex Bourne’s swashbuckling villain of pirate captain Blqckheart and a woefully underused Suzy Bastone (Polly), who has a very good voice, an engaging personality and really doesn’t deserve to be Conley’s fall-guy.

The actual production values are first-rate; good special effects, lavish costumes for the ensemble and forceful choreography by Elliot Nixon. There is a proper script (Michael Harrison) and what could have been integrated direction from Kathryn Rooney. The Twins FX arte responsible for a superb Kraken which looms out over the audience towards the end of the first act. Musical direction is by David Lane and the effective set designs are by Ian Westbrook.

And of course there’s Gok Wan as the Spirit of the Ocean, all sea-shell glitter and sparkle. Wan employs a clever mixture of borderline camp with the ability to hold his own on-stage whoever is trying to “throw him”; his scenes with Conley are an object lesson in how to fight your own (stage right) corner. All in all, this is a curate’s egg of a Christmas show, one which could be thoroughly enjoyable given a title character prepared to give as well as take.

Robinson Crusoe & the Pirates of the Caribbean runs at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend until 8 January. Check the theatre’s websites (thecliffspavilion.co.uk/southendtheatres.org.uk) for performance times.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Pantomimes & other seasonal shows, Reviews 2016

Annie

(reviewed at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend on 3 August)

Little orphan Annie is not a newcomer to UK stages, though this production by Nikolai Foster for Michael Harrison and David Ian is something of a radical re-think. Yes, it’s still a razzamatazz of a musical, set in Depression-era New York with a cameo roll-on part for President Roosevelt, but Foster has injected just a touch of grit into the syrup.

Our heroine, at the performance which I saw, is Madeleine Haynes, all ginger pigtails and attitude. Balancing the sound system at the first date in a new theatre is always slightly problematic, and her words didn’t come into proper focus until the second half. The eight-piece band under George Dyer make the most of the score and there is real dymamisim in Nick Winston’s choreography, with its cheeky salute to Jerome Robbins and Gene Kelly.

Annie’s would be nemesis is the trio of Miss Hannigan (Craig Revel Horwood), her brother Rooster (Jonny Fines) and his moll Lily (Daljenga Scott). Horwood’s drag-act is as accomplished as ever, though never quite show-stopping. “Easy street” shows them at their best, that is to say worst. “Daddy” Warbucks, the billionaire who discovers that he has a heart as well as a fortune, and his secretary Grace Farrell come over as thoroughly believable people in Alex Borne’s and Holly Dale Spencer’s characterisations.

Callum McArdle is the wheel-chaired president who tries to find Annie’s parents and somehow in the process thaws Warbucks’ stalwartly Republican convictions. Colin Richmond has designed an effective all-purpose set, based on jigsaw puzzle pieces with just the odd piece of necessary furniture – a desk, orphanage beds, a table, sofa or art déco doorway – signalling a change of location.Ben Cracknell’s lighting is equally clever.

Annie runs at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend until 8 August and at the Theatre Royal, Norwich between 17 and 22 August.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Musicals, Reviews 2015