Sunday, 4 December 2016

New Website!

Please note that I have now moved all my new blogs, reviews and thoughts and opinions to my new website. 

To keep up to date with this...please find me here:

It already has new posts not included here - Including a new post about turning a significant age!!!! 

See you over there!!!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Relatively Speaking.

When was the last time you saw a play?  Was it a while ago?  Or have you never seen one?  Well now is the time to change this with the fantastic Relatively Speaking.  Relatively Speaking is a play by Alan Ayckbourne and originally written and treading the boards in the 1960’s hence this is the timeline for the play.

Greg has been dating Ginny and the first scene opens in her flat with him in her bed.  Before you even hear any words spoken, the actions of Greg set the scene for humour with his bedsheet shenanigans and espressionate face. Ginny is a modern girl about town living in London. Her latest love interest is Greg, who is besotted with her but also concerned about the number of flowers and chocolates she seems to have around her flat.  And even more he finds a pair of men’s slippers under her bed.  Her last lover was an older man and this doesn’t help Greg’s confidence in their relationship.  Not quite trusting her he finds an address which she says belongs to her parents.  It is questionable why you would write your own parents address down so when she tells Greg she is going to see her parents he decides to follow her.

The Willows is a beautiful house in the country and home to Philip and Sheila.  They are having breakfast in their garden.  This is the address written that Greg has found and soon enough both Greg and Ginny turn up (separately) at the house.

This is a play of misunderstandings which are brilliantly executed.  The ‘lightbulb’ moment as the audience realises bit by bit the truth of the situation is momentous.  The laughter is infectious and the atmosphere is electric as you just can’t quite work out what will happen next.

What makes this wonderful witty play work is the delivery of the lines, executed perfectly by the most excellent cast.

Greg is played by Antony Eden who has perfect comic timing.  His reactions say so much and he is very believable in the role.  He opens the first scene and really sets the scene for the rest of the show.  Antony is absolutely fantastic as Greg.
Ginny is played by Lindsey Campbell and gives a polished performance of the flirtatious Ginny who is not great at lying and trying to hide the real reasons why there are so many flowers and chocolates in her flat.  Lindsey is fabulous as Ginny and gives a warm affable performance.  Liza Goddard plays Sheila and is perfect as the dizzy blonde wife who doesn’t always get what is going on.  Liza’s comic timing is wonderful and she is an absolute dream in the role.  Robert Powell plays Philip and is so professional in his role.  He provides humour and can be serious one moment and funny the next – all totally believable. He is a joy to watch and commands the stage easily.

The play is well cast and beautifully executed. And the sets are also impressive. There is no reason not to see this play. And relatively speaking, this is simply one of the best plays you will ever see.

Relatively Speaking is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 19th November.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Cats at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Cats is one of the most magical musicals of all time.  It is composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and has become a classic in its own right although it was originally based on TS Elliot’s book ‘Old Possum’s book of practical cats’.  There is no other musical like it and this week it is touring Milton Keynes Theatre.  It is truly a joy to watch.

It is supported by a full orchestra which gives justice to the beautiful music and along with the lighting gives so much atmosphere before the performers are even on the stage. And the performers or cats come down through the audience (this is the time to buy an aisle seat!) to get an amazing up front and personal experience of this wonderful show.

All the performers have the mannerisms of cats as well as individual personalities such as kind, affectionate, or aggressive tom cats or flamboyant cats.  During the show, we get to meet some of these cats and their personalities.

But let me start at the beginning.  The musical tells the story of the Jellicles and we are lucky enough to see them on Jellicle choice night – a night when one cat is chosen to ascent the heaviside layer and come back to a new life.  After all it is well known that cats have nine lives.

The show starts off by explaining how cats are named.  We then meet several cats in turn. Jennyanydots who is a cat who just ‘sits and sits’ and then Rum Tum Tugger who is rather fickle.  When Grizabella comes along, no one will touch her.  She was once the most beautiful cat but now bears little resemblance to her former self.  She is alone and miserable.

We then meet Bustopher Jones who is a smart cat about town.  He is an elite cat and much respected.  A noise frightens all the cats away and we are then met with two rather naughty cats.  Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are two mischievous cats who are petty burglars.  They are funny and amazing dancers at the same time.  Finally, we meet Old Deuteronomy who is an old cat and will decide who will go to the Heaviside layer.

Every performer in this show is exceptional.  They can sing and dance and move just like cats.  It is a phenomenon.  It has the most wonderful score to the musical and includes that very well-known song Memories.

This is a show not to be missed.  This show has it all.  A great orchestra.  A wonderful soundtrack.  Very talented performers and makes for a fabulous night out.  It is suitable for all ages and even I got a bit excited when the performers came into the audience.

Go see this show and escape for a few hours to another world.  Cats is in Milton Keynes Theatre until 29th October.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Heaven 17 and BEF – 35 Years of Penthouse and Pavement. Birmingham. 21.10.16

Penthouse And Pavement quickly became a cult album during its release 35 years ago.  Its synth tracks with some very thoughtful lyrics made it so popular that Heaven 17, who were originally going to be one of several projects of BEF, was born.  There is no denying they had carved a place for themselves in the early 1980’s where yuppies and mobile phones were in its infancy; where wanting to be rich and successful was an aspiration of the youth coming off the back of the dreary 1970’s with its 3-day week where punk had had its day.  This was the post punk generation.  This was exciting and ambitious.  The ironically sad thing about Penthouse And Pavement is that 35 years later the lyrics of the polarity between rich and poor is still an issue.  The issues of government taking from the poor to make themselves richer has only made the lyrics of this album more poignant.  After the Brexit vote, there has been a lot of hatred pouring out … does this not sounds like: ‘Have you heard it on the News?  About this Fascist Groove Thang. Evil men with racist views spreading all across the land.’  It is a warning.  A warning that Heaven 17 told us about 35 years ago and yet we find ourselves on that same road.

The original album had a penthouse side and a pavement side.  The image on the front is an icon of 80’s Britain.  The title track, Penthouse and Pavement absolutely sums up the yuppie.  ‘My career fits like a glove. Knowing no orders can come from above’.  You are the boss.  Let’s All Make A Bomb is another classic that we lived under the threat of Nuclear war (who remembers Threads?) ‘Let’s celebrate and vaporise’.

A big part of the genius of Heaven 17 is those wordy lyrics.  Songs such as Song With No Name and Geisha Boys and Temple Girls have such a story to tell that the lyrics could be poems worthy of Wordsworth and Keats.  And of course, the last song on the album went on for a very long time.  The almost evangelic words of ‘I don’t care about life or the world around me – I’ve got a place to go. I don’t care what you say words cannot harm me.  You’re going down below’ are brilliantly delivered by our reverend, Glenn Gregory.

To hear this album played live in its entirety is a wonderful experience.  But how can you improve on a masterpiece?  Martyn and Glenn have worked on this and incorporated the original songs into dance versions so the audience can not only sing along but dance along to the iconic songs.  The show opens to a clip from A Clockwork Orange. This is where Heaven 17 got their name so it fits perfectly with electronic music. The energy from the audience is palpable. They sing along to every word. They sing and dance and clap and enjoy every moment. It is one of those moments you wish would never end. Alas Penthouse And Pavement only has nine tracks and they are over far too quickly. However luckily for us we get to see a performance of Martyn’s choice of song. You’ve lost that loving feeling. It is a chance for Martyn to sing with Glenn front of the stage and you can see how this friendship has lasted so long. They get on so well and it’s wonderful to see. They finish the set with a dance version of Temptation. It’s almost a shame to have a 20-minute interval as everyone is on our feet singing at the top of our voices. But then we remember we are not 20 anymore and actually we are grateful for a chance to get our voices back on track and energy to get ready for the second set of the evening – a BEF special.

BEF stands for British Electric Foundation and was originally going to be several projects of producing artists   BEF is a rare and very exciting outing of well-known artists working alongside BEF to produce unusual versions of classic covers.
At this gig, we are treated to some real gems.  First it is Peter Hooton from The Farm.  He starts off with one we all know and easily recognise him from Altogether Now.  But then he throws us a completely curve ball with a cover of Bank Robber by The Clash.  He smashes that curve ball out of the park.

We are then treated to Mari Wilson and her soul voice.  She sings her biggest hit, Just What I Always Wanted, which takes me right back to when my best friend performed this at school and I did all the hair and make-up.  What a gem of a show this is.  And Mari then performs a cover of Rescue Me.  This absolutely defines her as a queen of soul.  I could listen to her all night.

Finally, and an absolute highlight of the night, the original punk pioneer himself, Glen Matlock comes on with Pretty Vacant that he wrote with the Sex Pistols.  It is fantastic.  I may have been part of the post punk generation but I have a punk ethos and really appreciate this.  Glen is amazing and I am watching in awe as he delivers ‘Oh we're so pretty, Oh so pretty. We're vacant’.  Glen then really gives us a moment of surreal sheer brilliance with his next track.  He covers Pharrell Williams’ Happy.  It is a real juxtaposition to punk and totally awesome.

Then our very own Glenn comes on and sings Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman which is the first song they ever recorded as Heaven 17 (even before Fascist Groove Thang).  And Glenn has been doing some Bowie covers for a while now, both with Heaven 17 and Holy Holy but this was a new one on me when he sang Ashes to Ashes.  Glenn is one of very few people in the world who can deliver a Bowie song with perfection.  Glenn doesn’t try to be Bowie but sings with such affection as both Glenn and Martyn were huge Bowie fans.  This seeps through in his delivery and makes it worth every penny for this track alone.

The finale is a tribute to Colin Vearncombe who passed away earlier this year.  He was better known by his stage name Black and due to perform as part of BEF. Heaven 17, Mari, Glen and Peter all perform Wonderful Life together and it is a really touching moment.
This is a moment in time.  Stand up and be counted.  Go to the show.  It’s one of those you will wish you had been at. every moment is engraved in my soul.  It is simply inspirational.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Footloose - The Musical. Milton Keynes Theatre.

Footloose.  Footloose.  Kick of your Sunday shoes.  We all remember the song but how does this translate to a stage musical of the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon?  The story is of Ren McCormack who leaves Chicago with his mum for Bomont, a small town in the mid west.  This town is a culture shock from the big city of Chicago and to top it all off, dancing is banned.  Yes, they actually passed a law to say you are not allowed to dance anywhere within the town boundaries.  Ren cannot believe this and challenges it to which he is labelled a troublemaker.  This is a church-going community who believe everything Reverend Shaw Moore says.  He has the power over the town. And over his family, his wife Vi Moore and his daughter, Ariel.

Maureen Nolan plays Vi and she plays a very straight laced wife of the Reverend.  Maureen is a million miles away from that disco hit I’m In The Mood For Dancing as she takes on the mediator between her husband and daughter.  Rev Shaw is played by David J Higgins and owns the stage with his authority and presence.

Ariel has three female friends and together they are a bit boy mad.  There is a similarity between their friendship and the four Sex And The City girls.
Ariel is Carrie.  The leader of the pack and a woman who knows what she doesn’t want even if she doesn’t know what she does want.  Ariel is played by Hannah Price who is definitely going to be as successful as Sarah Jessica Parker.  Wendy-Jo is boy mad – so much like Samantha.  Natasha Brown plays Wendy-Jo and makes the role her own.  Rusty is a bit crazy and with her red hair is obviously Miranda but with a personality implant of Columbia from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rusty is played by Joanna Sawyer and has an amazing voice.  Urleen is like charlotte with her dark hair and quite manner and is played by Miracle Chance.

Rusty is crazy for Willard.  Willard quickly becomes Ren’s friend but is a bit slow in realising how to talk to girls.  With Ren’s help this is only going in one direction.  Willard is played by Gareth Gates and he absolutely steals the show.  He is funny, great at physically being Willard and when he gets out of those dungarees – OH BOY! He is so fit he could be in The Full Monty!  He gets a lot of the best lines as the humorous sidekick.  Ren is played by Luke Baker and is great as the cool kid.  He can sing and dance too.  A perfect leading man.
The show has some great numbers in it including well known songs such as Holding Out For A Hero and Let’s Hear It For The Boy as well as some lesser known songs for the show such as The Girl Gets Around, Mama Says and I Can’t Stand Still.

If you want a good time and your feet want to dance, forget Bomont – get along to Milton Keynes Theatre where this show is on until 22 October.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

One night of Elvis. – Lee Memphis King. Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury.

 “Before Elvis there was nothing” – John Lennon.

I was 10 years old when the King of rock ‘n’ roll died.  Even at such a young age it had a great impact.  I grew up in a house full of music and knew who he was.  It was the first time I had experienced a whole country in mourning, and although we have seen it again since (Princess Diana and more recently David Bowie), it left an impact.  People love Elvis for different reasons. He could sing, he cared for his family and for many, including John Lennon, he changed the lives of generations to come.

One night of Elvis is actually a night with Lee Memphis King.  This is an event for Elvis fans of all ages.  It really pays respect to the king and everything about it is done in an affectionate way.  There was no hint of bad wigs or a karaoke style show.  This is a class act.

We are first offered a bit of a background to Elvis with photos of him on a big screen.  It tells the story up to the ‘68 special and this is what the first half is all about.  Lee Memphis King comes out in black leather and looks and more importantly sounds just like Elvis.  We are treated to a range of songs from the ‘68 special including Trouble, Blue Christmas and If I Can Dream. The musicians bring their chairs into a small circle and have an impromptu chat with the audience to recreate the authenticity of the 68 special.  They asked for requests and then Lee has to admit he doesn’t know the words to Don’t.  He also told us the story of Blue Christmas.  Apparently, Elvis hated this song so asked the backing singers to do anything they could to ruin it so it was not released as a single.  The stories and interaction made the show feel intimate and that you were a real part of the show rather than just a spectator.

The second half of the show celebrates the Vegas years. This included classics such as CC Rider, Burning Love, Suspicious Minds and also some lesser known songs such as Polk Salad Annie, Its Midnight and of course Elvis’ version of My Way. They covered the American trilogy and of course finished on Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.  Lee jokes that tonight was not a sell-out yet every single show of Elvis during the Vegas years was.

This is so much more than a tribute act.  This is a show with personality and feeling.  With great songs and a real passion for Elvis Presley.  This show is made for anyone who loves Elvis – you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Heaven 17 play the Jazz Café.

I have a confession to make.  I have seen Heaven 17 play live more than any other band. Their debut album, Penthouse and Pavement is in my personal top five of all albums ever.  That album is 35 years old this year and that’s a scary thought.  But Heaven 17 are one of those bands that you can never see enough of.  They are professional and funny, sometimes reminding me of Morcambe and Wise with their banter.  They can guarantee you a good night out.

So with all that in mind I headed off to the Jazz Café.  These tickets were supposed to have been for an event in May but the Jazz Café has undergone a fantastic refurbishment, so the gig was postponed until October.  Rule number one when you are only 5ft tall is to get there early to guarantee yourself the front row.  But I was in good company with all the Heaven 17 die-hards – some of whom go to every gig and follow them around the country.

The anticipation grows and soon enough we wait no more as some BEF electronic music plays and they walk on stage.  The first track is Circus of Death.  Not the most obvious opening track but of course for those who don’t know, Martyn Ware (along with previous founder member Ian Craig Marsh) founded The Human League and this a rare outing for this track.  The evening is pitted with THL tracks and we are lucky enough to hear Black Hit of Space, Loving Feeling and of course Being Boiled.  Fans of early Human League were in their element.

Our next track is a brand new track which they have never played live before.  EVER!.  It’s called ‘Captured’ and the single was only released the day before so when I say brand new…I really mean it.  They joke to the audience that they now have half an album of new songs so maybe by 2020 we will see an album release.  And then we are straight back to classic Heaven 17 with Fascist Groove Thang.  Glenn asks who would vote for Martyn as PM – everyone here would.  Fascist Groove Thang, or to use its full title for extra points (We don’t need this) Fascist Groove Thang, has lyrics that are still as relevant today as they were 35 years ago.  Indeed, it might be even more poignant with Brexit, a Tory Government and the USA having a possible President called Trump.  These lyrics are simply genius.

What makes the gigs at the Jazz Café with Heaven 17 extra special is they perform tracks we hardly ever hear them perform.  On this occasion we had Trouble and Contenders. Both these tracks have not had the recognition they deserve and are brilliant tracks.  Come Live With Me has the audience joining in so loudly that although Martyn told us it got to number 5 in the charts, it really should be a number one single with the love for it in this room.

One of my personal favourites is We’re Gonna Live For a Very Long Time.  It’s such an upbeat track and the electronics are so pure.  And when Glenn opens his arms it’s like he is preaching to the congregation. If you love Heaven 17, you will live for a very long time! More P&P tracks included Play to Win and Penthouse and Pavement. I couldn’t be singing more loudly if I wanted to. Glenn says his favourite early Human League track was the cover version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. Martyn comes out from behind his keyboard and they sing together. It’s so lovely how they interact. They obviously enjoy each other’s company and have a good laugh on stage.

During Temptation, Glenn sings with me ’Love to love you baby’ (another advantage of being front row) and mouths to me ‘Happy Birthday’.  Of course this makes my day.  They go off for a well-deserved break and come back on for an encore.  It feels so right and proper that their encore should include two Bowie songs.  It feels like it was arranged just for me as both Glenn and Martyn know I am a huge Bowie fan. Glenn and Berenice cover Life on Mars and once again the audience is so loud joinin in singing, that Glenn asks for the piano to be louder to he can hear it.  I love Glenn singing Bowie.  He does it justice and I know he is a huge Bowie fan too. Martyn and Billie and Rachel all come back on stage for Boys Keep Swinging.  After this I show Glenn my tattoo.  Don’t worry – it’s on my wrist and is a tribute to Bowie.  He looks at it then tells everyone it’s my birthday and wishes me a happy birthday so the whole audience now know it’s my birthday.  I don’t mind. Its lovely to feel I have such a lovely Heaven 17 family around me.  It’s a double celebration as Keith and Chezzie celebrate their 50th H17 gig.  They finish with Being Boiled.  The first song Martyn ever wrote.  It’s a fitting tribute that the last song is the first song.

And with that the gig is over – but the feeling of exhilaration continues long into the night.  Of course Martyn and Glenn come over and say hello and wish me a happy birthday in a more personal setting and sign the set list with ‘Happy b-day.’

So as I mentioned – I have seen Heaven 17 live more than any other band, but this isn’t the end. I do not have to wait long as they have an upcoming tour of 35 years of Penthouse & Pavement plus BEF. This is truly heaven!

Details of the tour can be found on their website:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Full Monty. Milton Keynes Theatre. 03.10.16

So before the film was released I am unsure how well-known this phrase was.  But now we all associate The Full Monty with going all the way.  And in this case it means stripping all the way.

The Full Monty tells the story of Gaz, Dave, Lomper, Horse and Gerald in the background of the closure of the steel industry.

Gaz and Dave are really good mates but broke.  They are trying to ‘Liberate’ some steel with Gaz’ son, Nathan. Of course this doesn’t exactly go as planned.  Further on they meet Lomper, who is so unhappy he is attempting to unsuccessfully kill himself.  Gaz and Dave offer suggestions on how to do it well as after all, that’s what mates do!

They are all broke but seeing how popular  The Chippendales are they consider stripping. Well Gaz does.  He has to work at his friends to talk them into it.  But of course they start to practice and get a bit better with Gerald’s help.  A classic moment is the job centre queue.

The story works well because the characters are well defined and their individual traumas give the play real heart.  You can empathise with their situations.  You can enjoy the dark sense of humour.  The play is almost identical to the script of the film so there are all your favourite moments.  And of course I know you are all wondering about…well the full Monty. They absolutely do it.

Gaz is played by Gary Lucy and he gives this role such a warm affection, despite being a bit of a prat and loser.  He obviously loves his son Nathan and this brings real heart to his role.  His best mate Dave, is played by Kai Owen and he is also a very affable character and Kai plays him perfectly.  He considers himself a fat bastard but the love of a good woman can do wonders and of course he does the full Monty!

Gerald is much posher and hides his financial difficulties from his wife.  It is such an emotional moment when she finds out.  Gerald is played by Andrew Dunn and gave the role that perfect line between a man on the edge and maintaining his pretence to those around him. Horse is another to perform the full Monty.  Horse is played by Louis Emerick and his moment in the play is absolutely his audition.  It had the audience cheering and clapping.
Lomper is played by Anthony Lewis and is a shy introvert, who is deeply unhappy and yet by the end of the play begins to accept he is gay and that is okay.  Anthony gives the role the room for Lomper to grow and it is wonderful to see.  He fancies the final member of the full Monty, Guy.  Guy is out and proud.  Guy is played by Chris Fountain and has the sort of body that should be in the Chippendales.  What did Robbie Williams say? ‘All the best men are gay’.

This is a play with a heart.  It is a play with real characters and makes you laugh and cry. And leaves you with such a feel good factor at the end.  Who doesn’t want that?  Well that and of course some fit naked men on stage!  

4 stars. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Bay City Rollers at Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury. 02.10.16

So before I fell in love with David Bowie, I loved the Bay City Rollers. All these years later and I still own three Bay City Roller albums. So when I was asked if I wanted to review them, of course I jumped at the chance.

There had been some miscommunication about interviews and so they were not expecting me. But Les kindly offered to talk to me while he had a cigarette break. But I was taken aback when he said he had Googled me and knew I was a blogger. Les McKeown had Googled ME! It was just too much. I was a bit lost for words which doesn’t happen often so instead I showed him my three albums which he was happy to sign and pose for a photo. There were a few fans at the stage door, dressed head to toe in tartan, and they all wanted a photo or two so any interview went out of the window.

Instead I talked to the fans who had travelled from around the country to see him. One fan, Anne, told me that her husband had bought her tickets for a show and she was eight rows from the front. She told him it was unacceptable and he had to pay again for better tickets for her. These fans are absolutely die-hards. They adore Les and he adores them. He already uses social media to speak to them all and they tell him openly how much they love him. It is obvious that the tartan army are some of the most dedicated fans in the world.

We took our seats in the theatre and suddenly I was transported back to being a 10 year old.
B.A.Y. C.I.T.Y.
With an R.O. double L. E. R. S.
Bay City Rollers are the best!

The curtain went up and there was Les and his band in full tartan regalia. He welcomed us to his secret gig. It was less than half full but for every single person in that audience, they didn’t care. Les was singing to them personally. He really is funny and charming and absolutely everything I first fell in love with about the Bay City Rollers.
He sang a number of well-known songs, album tracks and also some new songs from his latest album called the lost songs. Summer Love Sensation, Shang-A-Lang, Saturday Night and of course Bye Bye Baby, Give A Little Love and Remember, had me remembering lyrics I hadn’t sung for 40 years. The new numbers were just as popular and in the same style as the well-known hits. A few album tracks were also given a rare airing such as You’re A Woman.
The audience, and when I say this I mean mostly women, were cheering and waving their scarves and singing along. Once or twice I felt he was singing especially to me. This is absolutely his charisma working the audience so that every member feels special. He also has a great camaraderie with his band and talked a lot to Phil Hendricks, the guitarist, who seems to know so many pop facts about the BCR that he could write questions for Pointless! It was an exceptional concert and for each person that was there, it will live in their hearts forever.

I came home not really wanting to grow back up. But I can say it proudly that I genuinely enjoyed this gig. Next time they are in your area…bye bye bye a ticket.

You can find out more about Les’ forthcoming album from his website here:
The current line up is:
Les McKeown – Vocals
Phil lHendricks – Lead Guitar
Scott McGowan – Keyboards/Bass/ Guitar
Dan Guest - Drummer

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Sister Act is just heavenly. Milton Keynes Theatre.

Sister Act the Musical has all the bits from the film you love plus a whole load of new songs that make this musical truly heavenly.  It follows the story of the first film, Sister Act but with the new songs that gives it a whole new feel to the show.

Alexandra Burke plays Dolores and she really stretches her acting talent in this role.  We all know that Alexandra is a fantastic singer and this show gives her a chance to show a range of vocals including gospel and disco.  And there were definitely glimpses of Whoopie Goldberg in her performance but of course this role belonged to Whoopie so that is expected.
The young shy postulate sister Mary Robert is played by Sarah Goggin and she is absolutely outstanding – keeping her shy demeanour for most of the show but wow what a voice that shy nun has.  And everyone’s knows these nuns can’t sing, well until of course Dolores comes along.  Poor Mother Superior, played by Karen Mann.  She has a job on her hands to try to keep things running smoothly but Dolores is someone who isn’t exactly quiet.

This show has some fantastic show tunes.  This includes Take Me To Heaven which is performed at the beginning and end of the show.  When I Find My Baby is a great soul classic which sounds like a love song until you listen to the lyrics and realise Curtis is singing about killing Dolores.  I Could Be That Guy is a great number about how Eddie wants to be the man Dolores might fancy.

Curtis Shank is the bad boyfriend who is trying to kill Dolores after she witnessed a murder. Arron Lee Lambert plays the low life but it’s difficult to really hate him as he is likeable and can sing beautifully.  He has three henchmen who support him in trying to find Dolores. Pablo (Ricky Rojas), Joey (Samuel Morgan-Grahame) and TJ (Sandy Grigelis) who are funny and brilliant in their own song during the second half.

To stop them a policeman called Eddie, who was at school with Dolores, is trying to protect her. Eddie badly wants to be ‘that guy’ who Dolores would go for as he is secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) in love with her.  You cannot help but like Eddie who is played by Jon Robyns.  Jon makes the character not only likeable but you actually find yourself willing him to get his girl.

Many of the cast played instruments in the show rather than have a separate band or orchestra. This is becoming quite a common feature in recent years and for some shows this works perfectly (such as Calamity Jane).  I am not convinced that Sister Act is a show that should adopt this stance as it can detract from the actual acting and singing and moving the story along.  That said, all the performers who did play instruments did so at an excellent standard.

This is a feel good show and had the audience up on its feet.  If you want to feel good…go and see this show.

4 stars.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby

I made an educated guess that the first time I encountered Bridget was 15 years ago.  I Googled (cause nowadays my memory isn’t all that being 40-something and why try to remember when you have Google at your fingertips).  And sure enough it was exactly 15 years ago. (just call me a genius!)

All women everywhere can recognise their inner Bridget.  We have all worn a dreadful Christmas present to not hurt our relatives, we have all worried about our weight and we have all (most definitely) worried if we would ever find love.
The first and second films tell of the two loves of Bridget’s life.  Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy.  At the end of film two we think Bridget has found her happy ending.   But there is no money in a happy ending so here is film three.

I am not giving any spoilers away to say that Daniel Cleaver does not feature in this film.  This is a good thing as we want to move away from the same old story.  Bridget still has two love interests. The original Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) but also Jack (Patrick Dempsey).  Bridget finds herself in a music festival and literally falls for Jack (in the mud) while her friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) flirts with Ed Sheeran (played by Ed Sheeran!).  Bridget finds herself pregnant and is not sure who the father is and this is basically the premise of the story.

Now I am not for a minute suggesting that we have all found ourselves in this position but it is the way she is inept at saying something (stop talking Bridget!) that makes us love her.  Renee Zellweger brings such a warmth to the role – who doesn’t love Bridget?

I am an intelligent woman with a very serious job but those close to me know me as quirky and weird.  This is because secretly I am Bridget Jones.  I do say silly words that come out of my mouth without thinking. (I once said frozy when I was thinking both icy and frozen and I am famous for saying trilology rather than trilogy…hmmm maybe I should write a dictionary?)

I understand Bridget, her heartfelt attempts to live the perfect life when life is far from perfect and especially often blurting out feelings without taking a measured approach.  

Life isn’t perfect.  Life is bloody difficult at times.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s stumble through life and appreciate what we have.  Enjoy your friends, family and good times, lord knows that 2016 has taught us life is short – so celebrate your inner Bridget and go see this film. Its like putting on that comfortable pair of shoes - hello old friends. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Keep Dancing - Milton Keynes Theatre

They couldn’t have timed it better.  As Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens this week, Keep Dancing hits Milton Keynes Theatre and takes us on a journey of dance.  If you like Strictly you will love this.  It has all the sparkle, glamour and grace that you have grown to expect.

The show opens with You Should Be Dancing which is just spectacular!  Yes, we should be dancing but it is rather hard to do in your seat so just sit back and enjoy the professionals.

Robin Windsor is a big name from Strictly and he does not disappoint.  He moves so well and every part of his body works with the music to whatever piece of music he is dancing to. And I mean every piece.  Every hand movement finished to perfection.  Every bicep.  And yes he does wear an almost see-through shirt.  He is extremely sexy and perhaps this show should carry a warning as many men and women could get a bit hot under the collar.

Robin’s partner in crime is Anya Garnis, another Strictly professional who partners Robin for many of the numbers.  They are fantastic together and she is at ease with ballroom as she is with the tango; a very sexy number that cannot fail to impress.
The other famous duo are the winners of Strictly 2015, Jay and Aliona who left audiences amazed at their Pulp Fiction dance last year.  Alas they don’t perform that dance in this show, which is a bit of a disappointment, but it is great to be this close and see them dance live.  There are moments when you forget that Jay is not a professional dancer as he can move very well to some very fast numbers.  As for Aliona, she is just perfect.  Every step, every finish is complete.  Forget a 7; they get a 10 from me!

The ‘ballroom’ section was very emotional.  It was just like watching an MGM film.  With numbers such as There’s No Business Like Show Business and New York New York you really felt transported back to those golden days.  The elegance and grace as they moved around the stage was breath-taking.

There was a jive section where we travelled back in time to the 1940’s.  This had some humour in it as Robin tried to dance with each female dancer in turn and even sneaked a kiss from one or two.  It really told a story through dance.  The Charleston captured the feel of the 1920’s and gave some elegance and drama to the show. With wonderful outfits to match once again you were transported back in time.

The singers often came to sing a song while the dancers were getting changed. Stormy Weather and Why Don’t You Do Right? were outstanding.  It was disappointing that there were no dancers on the stage during this time; just one or two would have been enough to compliment the singing.  After all the show is called Keep Dancing. A mention is well deserved for the musicians who were fantastic offering us Spanish guitar and amazing percussion.

There was a range of dance styles including a contemporary number from Robin with some other male dancers.  It was captivating to watch and you could be forgiven for holding your breath.

The finale included a disco medley which got the audience dancing and on its feet.  Who doesn’t love a bit of disco?  It included Play That Funky Music, Boogie Wonderland, Boogie Nights and Le Freak.  And to finish there was a Gloria Estefan Medley which was very Salsa friendly.  The outfits were very bright and vibrant but did look a bit like a car wash when they spun around.

This is an energetic and lively show with some amazing dance routines.  There is not a story or flow to the show but instead offers a variety of different dancing styles and a fantastic array of costumes.  If you love sparkly, glamour, elegance and everything that is Strictly, then you will love Keep Dancing. Its FAB-U-LOUS darling!!

Keep Dancing is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 10 September 2016. 

4 stars.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunny Afternoon - Kinks Musical

The Kinks. I bet you can name one or two of their hits!  Well Sunny Afternoon is a brand new musical featuring the music of The Kinks and this show has really got me!

Read more of my review on 'About Milton Keynes' website.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Fame - The Musical

Fame is a classic show about a performing arts academy during the early 1980’s and the story is about some of the students at their time there.  But if you put a lot of real theatre hopefuls in a show like this and the results can be explosive. The opening scene is fabulous with all the auditions and the absolute joy on the faces of those who get in.  Some of this looks very genuine to me and who could not be moved by true happiness?  It took me back to my own Lamda days and all the hope and dreams you have at that age for your future.  It argues which is the best art. Drama? Dance? Music?  It really sets the tone for the rest of the show.

Read the full review here:

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Rocky Horror Show. 25.07.16 Milton Keynes Theatre.

If you happen to be in the city centre this week and see an unusually high amount of people wearing Basques, stockings and feather boas – it can only mean one thing. Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is in town!

I went along dressed up as Magenta and my full review is now online at About Milton Keynes.

Thriller Live

Michael Jackson is the undisputed king of pop. He played Milton Keynes Bowl during the 1980’s at the height of his fame and his music now returns to Milton Keynes in Thriller Live for a week at Milton Keynes Theatre.

To design a show using the hits of Michael Jackson is a mammoth task. What songs do you use and what songs should you leave out? Honestly the amount of work that Michael has produced means we could have a full weekend show of his music but alas we need to put it into a small two hours and make it accessible to everyone. But don’t worry as this show does not disappoint.
The show opens to History, with a good use of big screens. The vocalists then say hello and start to talk about Michael’s early days; hits such as I’ll be there, I want you back, ABC and of course Rockin’ Robin. The dance number in Rockin’ Robin was very reminiscent of Pan’s People from Top of the Pops and they even have flares on! We then move on to more disco numbers including Blame it on the Boogie and Don’t stop ‘til you get enough.
Each song is magical in its own right and if you are familiar with Michael Jackson videos you will understand some of the references in the show. For example, Remember the time is a fantastic journey amongst the Egyptians. Some of the ballads were sung so beautifully, such as She’s out of my life andHuman Nature. We move onto disco and studio 54. Each song has some amazing dance sequences and a theme. There are an awful lot of costume changes. Can you feel it? has the background of the video using colours and the screens to full visual effect and it looks and feels amazing.
Grab yourself a drink during the interval because its guaranteed you will still be dancing throughout the second half if you haven’t already been out of your seat. It starts with Wanna Be Startin’ Somethingfollowed by Beat It. Great numbers executed brilliantly.
Smooth Criminal takes your breath away. The use of wardrobe, colour, dance steps and lighting really all comes together to make this an amazing adventure of prohibition during the 1920’s. You can almost feel you are in a Michael Jackson video yourself!
There is discussion on if Thriller or Bad is his best album and we continue with Dirty Diana and Man in the Mirror. If you have forgotten just how much good music Michael Jackson produced this show will definitely remind you. Each number is fabulously danced and delivered to the audience.
Earth song is extremely moving, showing us on the screen photos of people who really cared about the planet such as Martin Luther-King, John Lennon, Mother Teresa and finally an image of Michael Jacksoncomes up. It really does bring a tear to your eye. But we quickly move on and Billie Jean is a dance number that you cannot sit down to. So get up and dance! Then of course we get to Thriller. It stays true to the video and was perfectly performed. And don’t forget Bad which also means another quick change of clothes.
This show is not trying to have someone being Michael Jackson. To do that would be setting itself up to fail. What this show offers is a lovingly reproduction of his work, each carefully thought about and performed to perfection. There are five lead vocalists, all of whom deliver with warmth and charm. Under the leadership of Mike Lindup’s musical direction, Ione TownsendSean Christopher, Shaquille Hemmans, Adam J Bernard and Tyrone Lee give a huge vocal range, delivering each number exquisitely. The dancers not only give some great steps but give us a huge feel of how danceable the MJ songs are. I wager you will able dancing at the end of this show.
Even if you have forgotten how great MJ songs were, this show takes you on a journey of his greatest body of work, giving us a range of emotions and getting us out of our seats. It’s a show and a work out in one! You cannot miss this show.
4.5 stars
This was originally published for About Milton Keynes website. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

When a show gets a standing ovation on a Tuesday night it is worth going to see. When you find out that the show is Joseph – with music and lyrics by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, you know it’s going to be good. Add to the mix an amazingly talented cast and a fantastic orchestra and you have an evening out that you will want to repeat again and again.

Read my full review on the About Milton Keynes website:

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Togfest 2016

There is much to do before this wonderful local music festival takes place.  Organising and planning of the festival is a big job and many of us who volunteer there do so because we love it.  Togfest is a local Milton Keynes festival that runs annually on a Friday evening and all day Saturday.  I normally only do the Saturday due to other commitments but it is most definitely worth volunteering your time.  You get fed and watered, a free t-shirt and get to see some amazing bands and artists.  

This year, like many before it, the quality of artists was exceptional. In between my shifts as a crew member I was lucky enough to see some perform.  Of course as a reviewer I want to let you know what I thought.  As I often review theatre as well as music gigs – I thought it might be fun to suggest which musical they could perform in to give you an idea of their individual style.

Here are a few of the acts I was lucky enough to see.

The Faces of Sarah
First to perform on the main stage, The Faces of Sarah set the level of excellence for the rest of the day.  They consider themselves ‘alternative goth rock’ but for those who do not normally listen to this – trust me this is a band worth finding out more about.  Nick Shultz has one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard and he really did not only get the attention of the audience – but had them mesmerised in their melodic tunes.  There were no screechy voices – just a perfect pitch to deliver the divine lyrics.

Musical Theatre analogy: I can see Nick playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas’ songs demand a more powerful voice than Jesus and Nick has an amazing range to deliver with authority.  If Nick played Judas – I would be rooting for Judas!  

Lost at Home
Lost at Home are a four-piece band from the West Midlands who are a stunning piece with great songs and a style that mixes funk pop/rock together.  My first thoughts on hearing them are ‘wow – why aren’t they famous?’.  Yes, they are that good!  But the music world is not based on how talented someone is – it’s about clever marketing and who you know.  Well I am going to wax lyrical about how great these guys are as they are absolutely fabulous.  If I had a crystal ball I would say big things are in store for this band.  Check them out!

Musical Theatre analogy: On The Town.  I chose this musical as I wanted something that demonstrated how great they work together.  Something about friendship.   On the Town is a musical about three friends who are looking for adventure. I hope Lost at Home find their adventure!

Jimmy Brewer
I started to write about Jimmy and my fingers wrote ‘Jimming’.  I like this as it says a lot about this talented singer/songwriter.  Jimmy has the most amazing soulful voice.  It instantly makes you sit up and listen.  He is original and effortlessly cool.  Jimmy could be Jimming his way into your heart from the moment you hear him.

Musical Theatre analogy: The Blues Brothers.  Mainly because Jimmy is a soul man and his voice is from deep within his soul.

Jaelee Small
Jaelee was introduced by Caz (the compare) as bonkers.  I cannot imagine a higher accolade coming from Caz and Jaelee certainly has something that makes her stand out in the crowd.  Her name might be small but her personality is huge and her charisma on stage means you cannot stop watching her.  She danced in purple wellies with a flower in her hair. She sang like someone who has an old soul.  Her voice is compelling – full of soul with jazzy influences.  She scats, she harmonises, she is just amazing to watch.  Meeting her afterwards she hugged me like an old friend.  She is a totally lovely person with a great talent.  I would also like to put a word out for her band – those three backing singers were amazing giving her perfect harmonies together.  I think this is one lady who will go very far.

Musical Theatre analogy: Rent.  It has some strong women roles that Jaelee could do justice for. Maureen or Joanne would suit Jaelee down to the ground.

April Blue
Just as the sun started to come out again after the shower – April Blue seemed a juxtaposition of their name suggesting raining April days – but their style of music with their laid back funky reggae beats really helped give the festival its sunshine feel. (well after all it is June!).

Musical Theatre analogy: okay so maybe not musical theatre but their music really wanted me to be on a beach in a tropical country.  Ohh perhaps South Pacific then.

I knew as soon as I saw the lead singer’s biceps (I couldn’t help but notice!) that they were going to be rock.  The lead singer told me they have been compared to Bon Jovi and Journey.  So a good standard to set your rock standard to.  Corvus gave a fantastic performance – really belting out some of those songs – but I do have to mention the guitarist who was exceptionally good.  Well I am partial to a bit of good guitar!  Chasing Miracles is their latest track and miracles are happening as they are supporting T’pau next month.

Musical Theatre analogy: Tommy.  Cause it sounds rock but has a heart at its core.

The Bullfrogs
The Bullfrogs are perfect for festivals.  They are very professional in their delivery and give a great range of country style songs where a lot of the lyrics are about drinking.  Well it went down a storm, along with the real ale from the barn!

Musical Theatre analogy: Oklahoma!  Because there is no escaping that country vibe with its twangy guitar and violin.  Totally fabulous!

As I was there on an early shift – I was exhausted and unfortunately couldn’t find the energy to stay for the end of the festival.  I am sorry I didn’t have time to review all the artists as each one brings something different to the festival.  It is such a fabulous event that brings a real diversity of music to the people of Milton Keynes and beyond.

I hope to see you there next year. 

Photos from the event can be found on my Flickr page: