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:

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bill Bailey is a genius. 19 June 2016. Milton Keynes Theatre.

So my husband always says don’t get front row at the theatre.  But I love the stalls and so for his birthday I bought front row tickets to see Bill Bailey.  (Actually it was for his birthday in 2015.  We have waited over a year to see Bill.)  ‘It’s okay’ I say.  ‘Bill Bailey doesn’t interact with the audience – he plays instruments and says funny things.’  Well he does that too but tonight we found out he does ask the audience.  And Milton Keynes was not that forthcoming in their answers.  

So fast forward to Sunday 19th June at Milton Keynes Theatre.  We are laughing at what Bill is saying and he starts to talk about ‘Ha ha’ ing to a theme song from a film.  He gives us an example then goes for the jugular and asks Simon ‘Well, what’s your favourite film?’  Simon gives his answer which is very honest.  ‘Star Wars’ (NB: good answer and easy to hum in a ha ha style).  I secretly think that Simon is going to kill me when we get home.  Don’t get front row.  Don’t get front row.  Always circle. I just know what he will say.

Anyway, I am sitting next to Simon so think he will won’t pick me ‘cause I’m right there next to him, he is bound to move along the row a bit.  Oh no!  He asks me.  I sit and contemplate my answer.  I would struggle to name my top 10 as I love so many films but of course I need a film they will all know and that is a theme tune people can sing…but the pressure is on and it looks like I haven’t answered.  You can almost see the tumbleweed.  Finally, I say ‘Lord of the Rings’.  In my head I have thought about Absolute Beginners (who would know this besides me anyway?) and Blues Brothers (is a musical too obvious?).  But Lord of the Rings comes is what finally comes out of my mouth.  I have no idea how the theme tune goes and I’m not sure that Bill does either.  Bill moves on swiftly.

Well at least he won’t pick on us again I think.  We have had our turn.

During the second half he decides to do a musical bit with the help from the audience.  He gets a great big microphone with a stick and looks straight at Simon. Here we go again, I think, as he asks Simon’s name and asks him to say ‘Dooo’ into the mike.  There is an orb that goes green when it records well. (Bill tells us if its red means it hasn’t worked and blue for when orcs are near!)  It takes several attempts at which point Bill, me and the rest of the audience are crying with laughter.  Bill can barely do his set as he is crying too.  Simon eventually did it and everyone cheered.  Then he wanted a female voice but I think he knew better than to ask me.  The woman who looks like a deer in the headlights!

Bill Bailey is categorically the funniest man I have ever seen.  He was very current -talking about the EU was hilarious especially describing Jeremy Corbyn as looking like a carpentry teacher.  He was brave – He made jokes about Milton Keynes in an affectionate way and he was very warm and friendly.  Most of all he was extremely funny.  I loved him talking about Facebook when he says, ‘Ohh look – find out what happens when you put bread into this…toaster’.  You know I am guilty of clicking links very similar to that and all my family look at me as they know it too.

When Bill plays death metal on the guitar, he tells us everything sounds better in this style so I shout out Mamma Mia and he plays it death metal style.  He is a truly talented musician and talks about the minor key telling us how he loves to play ‘Happy Birthday’ in a minor key as it sounds rather sinister.  He talked about how Denmark is the happiest place on earth but the British are not like that.  If someone asks how we are; we say ‘not too bad’.  We may even add ‘all things considered’, as if we have considered ALL things. Brilliant!

At the end of the show he jumped down into the audience and hugged Simon. – now that is why I bought front row of the stalls!  He posed for a photo but I can’t share it as my phone was upside down and I couldn’t find the button to press for the photo.  It was honestly one of the funniest evenings of my life and will live in our memories forever.  I have never seen my sons and husband laugh so much in all my life.  These are the moments worth living for.  Buy Bill Bailey tickets ‘cause he is not too bad, all things considered.  

Friday, 17 June 2016

Guys and Dolls. Milton Keynes Theatre. 14.06.16

Guys and Dolls came to Milton Keynes Theatre this week. You can read my review on the About Milton Keynes website and it was lovely to catch up with Louise Dearman after the show.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Who is the best band to come out of Sheffield? Ever!

It has been decided.  The best band of all time to come out of Sheffield has been settled.  It was not agreed in a dark room by a committee.  Oh no…this was an open vote to anyone who wanted to give their choice.  You didn’t need to come from Sheffield to vote – it’s a real public vote.

So who won?  I am delighted to announce that Heaven 17 took the crown.  It is a well-deserved title.  At the end of the day it is about how you treat your fans.  Do you go that extra step to interact with your fans?  Do you meet them after the gigs to sign posters and CD's and pose for photos?  Martyn and Glenn not only do all of that but always find time for their fans.  They appreciate their fans and their fans have now shown how much they love Heaven 17.

It is a diverse range of talent that has come out of Sheffield, with heavy rock group Def Leppard coming in second place and rival electronic band The Human League coming in third place.  This is very interesting as Martyn Ware from Heaven 17 is a founder member of The Human League and share a lot of the same fans.

The Results
1st Heaven 17 2,250
2nd Def Leppard 1,750
3rd Human League 950
4th ABC 480
5th Pulp 370
6th Arctic Monkeys 251
7th Moloko  85
8th Reverend and the Makers  77
9th  Bring me the Horizon  69
10th  Babybird 47

This year celebrates 35 years since Penthouse and Pavement (their first album) was released.  They are doing a tour of this album in its entirety in October and if that wasn’t enough they are also offering us a tasting of BEF (British Electric Foundation) with special guests. What a wonderful way to celebrate. 

I will see you there!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Annie. Milton Keynes Theatre. 30 May 2016.

I have seen the film and was never a fan, but the show blew me away. Find out why here: