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Theatre Review: Barnum - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭

Written By Lisa Davidson on Thursday, 30 October 2014 | 06:30

Review by Anne Mackie

“Be proud to join the circus! Step right this way and join the circus!” echoed the finale number of Cameron Mackintosh’s 2014 touring revival of Cy Coleman’s ‘Barnum’.  
As an abundance of excited theatre goers did indeed ‘step right this way’ to take their seats, the auditorium filled with an array of skilled circus performers who juggled, tumbled, clowned and cartwheeled in the aisles, building just the right of pre-show momentum and carnival atmosphere required to kick start this flamboyant circus musical production.
‘Barnum’ focuses it’s narrative on the irrepressible creativity and dreams of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the legendary entertainer and businessman who lit up the world with the colour, warmth and excitement of his imagination. The production charts his life from his marriage to wife Chairy, who helped him achieve his dreams, to the creation of the world’s first traveling circus extravaganza - ‘Barnum and Bailey's Circus – the Greatest Show on Earth’.
Of course, the success of ‘Barnum’ relies heavily on the actor brave enough to take on the leading role of showman PT Barnum himself. Headliner Brian Conley proves the perfect match, carrying the audience in the palm of his hand from start to finish as he takes his audience on Barnum's colourful, jovial and often poignant emotional journey. Although seemingly riddled with the cold, Conley defiantly proves ‘the show must go on’ and puts on a stellar, if a little croaky (at times) performance. Even the few magical mishaps didn’t detract from his portrayal and instead made hischaracterisation all the more endearing. Imagine walking a tightrope whilst sporting a nauseating cold? A showman within a showman. Terrific.

Supporting Conley was the irresistible West End and Broadway star, Linzi Hateley who gave a heartfelt and honest performance as forgiving wife Chairy Barnum - a complete contrast from her energetic leading man but a portrayal that successfully tapped into the emotional core of Barnum’s narrative.
On a lighter more comedic note, special mention must go to Landi Oshinowo who gave a spirited yet charming performance of ‘Thank God I'm Old’ as Joice Heth – the oldest woman in the world! Oshinowo’s vocals were superb, a quality she continued to channel as the Blues Singer in act two’s ‘Black and White’.
Scott Pask’s set is impressively eye catching yet simple with wrought iron staircases and a circus wagon skillfully employed to ensure the narrative progressed smoothly yet effectively, and complemented by Paule Constable’s atmospheric and intelligent lighting design. Similarly, Choreographer Andrew Wright’s movement was slick, dynamic and perfectly gymnastic showcasing the scope of talent amongst the ensemble cast who proved they could juggle, showcase aerial work, perform acrobatics tricks and eat fire while carrying out Wright’s intricate choreography.
Musical Director Ian Townsend must also be commended for his small but perfectly formed on-stage live band, who were spot on acoustically and instrumentally throughout the production, giving each number just the right amount of pizzazz necessary for a high-flying circus extravaganza.
Across the board, ‘Barnum’ is a supreme spectacle - visually, acrobatically, musically and of course, buzzing with theatrical vigor. You’d be walking a very thin tightrope to consider missing this one.
Bigger isn’t better, smaller isn’t braver”… but ‘Barnum’ is bloomin’ marvelous.

Barnum is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 1st November

Gig Review: John Newman - O2 Academy Brixton ✭✭✭✭✭

Written By Christina Benneworth on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 | 09:30

John Newman 

O2 Academy Brixton 

Friday 24th July 2014: John Newman lands in London for his first two sold out shows in London. It's been a great journey for John since his debut album 'Tribute'  went straight to No1 in the UK about a year ago. He has achieved chart success, Brit Award nominations and collaboration with one of the biggest DJ's in the world Calvin Harris.

With so much success in the past year, it was a nice touch to include a video montage of clips of him performing on some of the most well known shows in the world and being interviewed by some of the biggest names on television played out on the big screen. John then burst on to the stage to perform his recent No1 single 'Blame' with Calvin Harris.

This first track paved the way for the rest of the night, a highly energetic performance with faultless vocals.

John sang through hit singles including Love Me Again, Cheating and Losing Sleep and filling the set with other songs from his album 'Tribute', including Easy John, Gold Dust and Out Of My Head. Not only were his vocals completely on point but he matched it with some great stage presence and some pretty good dance moves.

The audience were clearly loving the night and loving the show. John slowed down the pace of the show and performed a stunning emotional performance of Down The Line, showing exactly why people fell in love with him in the first place. An unforgettable performance.

During the gig John took and opportunity to thank his fans for their continued support and his mother, who he dedicated his second hit with Rudimental Not Giving In. And he also took the opportunity to the thank the "girl who broke my heart", as she was the inspiration for writing his records. In his own words "she's regretting that decision now".

At just 24-year-old there is a promising future in store for John and he is completely in a league of his own, with a crazy amount of talent and the ability to capture an audience it will be great to see what he does next. Looking forward to some new material.

Spooktacular Ghost Tours at the Theatre Royal Glasgow

Written By Lisa Davidson on Tuesday, 28 October 2014 | 09:25

Back by popular demand, be prepared to be scared on this haunting tour of theTheatre Royal Glasgow. An empty auditorium, a lifeless stage, out of hours, after dark – is your mind playing tricks or have you caught a glimpse of the resident ghost? Theatre Royal Ghost Tours is an atmospheric experience of stories and suggestion that will bring you out in goose-bumps.


The Theatre Royal has a chequered history. As the building stands it dates from 1895, having replaced earlier theatres built on the site in 1867 and 1888 - both of which were destroyed by fires. In 1969 tragedy struck once more and the building was again engulfed in flames. But who really knows the personal tragedies of the staff, or those performers who simply refuse to accept the curtain, for them, has well and truly fallen?


Let the drama continue after selected performances of Dangerous CornerBlack Coffee and Top Hat by enjoying this rare backstage experience with a spooky twist. These spine-chilling tales will have you shivering in your seat and looking over your shoulder the next time you’re watching a show.

If you dare...the tours take place immediately after the evening’s performance. Patrons are asked to meet in the foyer where an usher will take you to the Ambassador Lounge for a safety briefing before the tour moves backstage. The tour will last approximately 45 minutes and is strictly for ages 18 and over.

28, 29, 30, 31 October, 9.45pm – after Dangerous Corner

2, 4, 5, 6, 7 November, 10.00pm – after Black Coffee

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 December, 10.30pm – after Top Hat

Tickets: £12 (plus bkg fee)

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (bkg fee) (bkg fee)

Theatre Review: Dangerous Corner - Theatre Royal, Glasgow ✭✭✭

  Review by Sharman Prince

As far as playwrights go, J B Priestley certainly must rank amongst the more famous and popular following productions of "An Inspector Calls" in the last few decades and this new touring production of "Dangerous Corner" is a solid presentation of what was his first attempt at writing for the stage. Its plot revolves around a group of well-to-do people at a social gathering whose lives start to unravel when uncomfortable truths begin to emerge following the painful revelations of lies and deceit concerning the theft of money and the resulting suicide of someone close to all those present this particular night.

Upon entering the auditorium songs of the period are heard and the audience are confronted with an elegant set whose angles belie its outward appearance: Something perilous lurks under the outer façade of respectability. Gary McCann is responsible for the design and his costumes are also gloriously realised whilst the effective lighting is by Tim Mitchell.

Direction by Michael Attenborough is suitably moody and heady though static at times and the pace could be improved upon in places whilst the sometimes heightened performance style is a little inconsistent.

The cast are generally strong with each actor confident in his or her role and this includes Rosie Armstrong and Susanna Herbert who, on this occasion, covered the roles of "Olwen Peel" and "Miss Mockridge" respectively. As "Robert Caplan" Colin Buchanan is a little clunky at times although this may be down more to direction than the actor's choices. Finty Williams as "Freda Caplan" is spirited, lively and hugely entertaining whilst Michael Praed as "Charles Stanton" is the most natural with Priestley's text and the most physically at ease and is thus perfectly suited to his character who has some of the most funny lines which Praed delivers effortlessly and dryly.

Altogether this is a sound production which, following a slow start, soon gears up toward a most intriguing climax.

Theatre Review: Sunset Song - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭

Written By Lisa Davidson on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 | 10:00

Review by Danielle Shields

Sell a Door Theatre Company and Beacon Arts Centre have timed their production of Sunset Song, an adaptation by Alastair Cording of the most frequently coined ‘Best Scottish Novel of All Time’, perfectly. In this period of post-referendum limbo where tensions are still high and Scotland’s own identity is being amplified, audiences can clearly see that the same patriotic attributes are apparent of Scotland’s land in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s dreary 1932 text. This production is not only independence topical as it is also marks WW1 commencing a century ago this past July with the tale set in the years preceding the Great War and the course of its duration.

The sharp northeast accent which rings from the lips of the characters living in the fictional village of Kinraddie in The Mearns is one that is so accurate that even Scottish folk will find it a challenge to translate. Rebecca Elise is a wonderful talent portraying our main character, Chris Guthrie, who we follow during the miserable elements of her life until she finds her foot as a woman during the war. A desire for education is throttled by an awful event which leaves Chris in charge of caring for her aggressive father John Guthrie (Alan McHugh), however, it is not long before Chris chooses the magnificent land for herself and the farming rituals it embodies.
The novel, which is coaxed in metaphors of harvests, wombs and transmissions, does have the opportunity to reflect well on the stage. There are some powerful moments where this symbolism are showcased, like when the movement of the male characters crofting is replaced by them trudging through the trenches. However, there is very little done to encapsulate visual methods of storytelling. Frequently Chris reflects on the beauty of the land as it changes from season to season.  Lighting Designer Alexander Ridgers captures this mood through colour, yet a screen at the back of the set is never exploited to illuminate any beautiful images of what Chris is witnessing.
The realism of the drama is complimented through the lack of music performed in the play as when there is a joyful rendition of Auld Lang Syne it feels incredibly out of place. One song that is repeated in a cappella throughout the play by Rob Duncan (Sandy Nelson) is Spanish Ladies which allows us to quickly understand this characters charismatic trait. Any instruments or props that are used to create sound effects like the harsh wind are performed by the actors on stage, which again adds to this rustic atmosphere.
There is no question that Gibbon’s has formed an extremely powerful tale that has a very special place in Scotland’s heart and history. We can very much understand director Julie Ellen’s decision to deliver Cording’s very authentic interpretation of the novel, however, it would be compelling to see a rendition of Sunset Song where the advantages of using the medium of theatre, like movement and visuals, can be manipulated to represent Gibbon’s metaphorical elements. 
Sunset Song is at the King’s Theatre until 25th October.

Theatre Review: Barnum - New Wimbledon Theatre (UK Tour) ✭✭✭

Written By Steve Stubbs on Thursday, 16 October 2014 | 19:34

New Wimbledon Theatre
Review by Philippa Stubbs

Barnum transports us to the nineteenth century circus, complete with talented aerial artists, acrobats and brightly coloured corsetry. The show’s atmosphere was created the moment we walked into the auditorium, complete with circus sound effects, jugglers and a contortionist that caused laughs and shrieks from the audience.

The show’s storyline tells the tale of PT Barnum (Brian Conley) and the dreams he pursues with the support of his wife Chairy (Linzi Hately). A more detailed biography is included in the show’s program and provides a very interesting read!

Born performer Brian Conley plays the role of P. T. Barnum with natural comic timing and charisma. He has a fantastic relationship with the audience and his occasional ad-libs reflect a true comedic actor. It doesn’t even matter that Conley’s singing voice is not as technically secure as his fellow cast, as it personalises the role. A particular hats off goes to Conley for getting his tongue around the quick lyrics of ‘There is a sucker born every minute’.

Linzi Hately brings a host of experience to the role of Chairy and her comic timing is contrasted with beautiful sensitivity during her duets with Conley - she really is a loveable character. In addition, Kimberley Blake takes on the role of opera singer Jenny Lind with just the right amount of ‘diva’.
Chorus numbers include the catchy ‘Come follow the band’ and they are all supported with creative choreography and energy from the multi-talented ensemble. It is just a shame that show’s storyline does not have more to offer.
Barnum continues its UK tour until the 1st August 2015.

3* ✭✭✭

Theatre Review: Jersey Boys (tour) - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭✭

Written By Lisa Davidson on Saturday, 11 October 2014 | 14:00

 Review by Anne Mackie

As the lights dim and the opening chords of the Four Season’s hit ‘Oh! What a Night’ echo throughout the auditorium, it is instantly apparent you’re in for a pretty brilliant one thanks to the current touring production ofBroadway and West End smash hit - Jersey Boys.

Not the typical jukebox musical, Jersey Boys successfully avoids stereotypically churning out a back catalogue of hits and instead focusses its narrative on the democratic nature of the Four Seasons as a bandwith each member retelling their version of events throughout the course of the show. Featuring acaptivating script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice that flawlessly fuses together the Four Seasons’ story with the magnificent close harmony arrangements of their iconic hits, Jersey Boys imminently proves a production with higher aspirations and indisputable stylethan the modern jukebox genre.

Director Des McAnuff effectively creates a dynamic yetbrisk show that effortlessly zips from scene to sceneallowing little opportunity to applaud between numbers. However when the time comes (with songs such as ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Sherry’ and ‘Walk Like A Man’) the auditorium roars (and often sings along) in delight.

More technically, Klara Zieglerova’s cleverly constructed set with Howell Binkley’s vibrant lighting design (and other technical elements) work seamlessly to benefit the aesthetic vision and progression of the production. Unlike other musicals, none of the superbtechnical work detracts from the reason we are there – the Jersey Boys themselves.

What makes live theatre pop is the individualperformances of the principal cast and the company of Jersey Boys deliver their retrospective roles to perfection. The character of Tommy DeVito is charismatically brought to life by Stephen Webb who gives a raw and unashamedly enjoyable portrait of a man torn between the life he desires and the life he chose. Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi reverberates the deepest notes known to mankind and punctuates scenes with superb comic delivery while Sam Ferriday’s portrayal of Bob Gaudio is both effective and engaging. Tim Dreisen, however, in performing as Frankie Valli – right down to the soaring spectacular falsetto and unique tones of the lead singer – is absolutely breath-taking. The easy route would be to ‘mimic’ Valli and end up representing a mere caricature, but Dreisen (and the production as a whole, for that matter) encapsulatesevery beat of the journey that Valli goes on and should be credited for his honest yet emotive portrayal.

As a Tony, Olivier, and Grammy award winning musical, Jersey Boys is an undeniable must-see worthy of its high-profile merits. Perhaps it is poignant and appropriate, then, that Jersey Boys is all at once a near indescribable joy, difficult to categorise and musically mesmerising. Much like The Four Seasons.

As the saying goes, ‘seasons may change but Jersey Boys is a production that is ‘just too good to be true’. If you can’t buy a ticket, you should be ‘beggin for one before the production ‘walks like a man’ out of Edinburgh and continues on its inaugural UK tour. Your eyes will adore it.

Jersey Boys is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until 25th October. For tickets and information visit the Edinburgh Playhouse website.

David Leonard returns to York Theatre Royal for this years Panto OLD MOTHER GOOSE

Written By Steve Stubbs on Wednesday, 8 October 2014 | 15:00

York Theatre Royal’s panto family are reunited

With just 11 weeks until Christmas, York Theatre Royal are pleased to announce that Berwick Kaler, Martin Barrass and Suzy Cooper will be joined by the man everyone loves to hate, David Leonard. David has spent the last two years playing Miss Trunchbull in the hit west end musical MATILDA, missing the last two pantomimes. 

David Leonard & Berwick Kaler
David Leonard commented:

I have had thousands of letters from one or two people begging me to return to York and bring thought – provoking entertainment back to the masses. I shall bring with me my personal assistant, dresser, physiotherapist, Zumba guru, and a word Dame Kaler has never heard of – professionalism!

The management said:

If he can do all this on minimum wage it’s fine by us

Berwick Kaler went on to say:

I only vaguely remember him!

Also returning for Old Mother Goose are stalwarts AJ Powell (the brummie you’ve taken to your hearts), Tim Lawrence, playing the young Squire Tingly – Bottoms (good luck with that one Tim), Pocklington’s very own Harry Hughes, Hermione Lynch, Danielle Mullan, Lauren Newton, Jake Lindsay, Faye Cooper and Cameron Macdonald.

The creative team from last year’s extravaganza return with stunning set and costume design by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith, mesmerising lighting design by Richard G Jones, compositions and musical direction from Elliot Styche and choreography by Grace Harrington.

As usual, Artistic Director Damian Cruden directs with interference from the old dame.

Old Mother Goose is a pantomime rarely performed these days so is ripe for a York Theatre Royal re-awakening written by the UK’s longest running panto dame Berwick Kaler. It is the tale of good versus evil as two fairies battle for supremacy. It’s another classic panto ‘tale of the unexpected’, to mystify your senses, tax anyone’s credulity, but above all enthral the whole family in a world of laughter that never ceases.

To book tickets for Old Mother Goose call our Box Office on 01904 623568, or book securely online 24hrs a day at

ONCE THE MUSICAL to close in London's West End in March 2015 prior to European Tour - Ronan Keating joins cast

Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning

Ronan Keating and Jill Winternitz as Guy and Girl will lead the cast in Once The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre until 21 March 2015 when the production will complete its West End run prior to a European tour.  Keating joins the internationally award-winning Once on 17 November, with press night on 25 November 2014.

Based on the much-loved Oscar-winning film, Once bursts onto the stage with a musical celebration of love, friendship and Irish music performed by cast of actor/musicians.  A chance encounter between a girl and guy from different worlds but with a shared love of music and songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, unexpected romance.

The West End production of Once opened in April 2013 and went on to win the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. The critically acclaimed Australian production of Once opened at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne earlier this week. The Broadway production, winner of 8 Tony awards including Best Musical, will play at the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre until 4 January 2015 where it will have run for three successful years.  The US tour, now in its second year, continues and later this year will make a visit to Japan.  A Toronto production will open in February next year and the first non-English language production will open in Seoul, South Korea in December 2015.  Also in development are productions in Sweden, Brazil, Holland, Greece, The Czech Republic, Thailand, Ireland, along with a Japanese language production.

Once has book by award-winning Irish playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh.  Based on the 2007 motion picture written and directed by John Carney, music and lyrics are by Academy Award® winning Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová who, for Falling Slowly, won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  Directed for the stage by John Tiffany, Once has scenic and costume designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Natasha Katz, sound by Clive Goodwin, musical supervision and orchestrations by Martin Lowe and movement by Steven Hoggett.  Once won the 2013 Grammy award for Best Musical Theatre album. The Martin Guitar Company is the proud sponsor of Once.  The original cast recording of Once is available via Masterworks Broadway, a label of Sony Masterworks -

The Producers of the West End production are Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo, Brian Carmody, Michael G. Wilson, Orin Wolf and Michael Rose in association with New York Theatre Workshop.


Theatre:                  Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JP
Dates:                    until 21 March 2015
Press night:             Tuesday 25 November 2014 at the Phoenix Theatre
Performances:          Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm           
Ronan Keating will perform the role of Guy from 17 November 2014 except at performances on 20 January and 24 January 2015. 
Prices:                    £72.50 - £19.50, plus concessions, all ticket prices include a restoration levy
Box Office:              0844 871 7629
Facebook:               OnceMusicalLondon
Twitter:                   OnceMusicalLDN

Youtube:                 OnceMusicalLondon

English National Ballet’s NUTCRACKER returns to London Coliseum this Christmas 11 Dec 2014 - 4 Jan 2015

Written By Steve Stubbs on Tuesday, 7 October 2014 | 11:28

English National Ballet’s

Photo credit - Annabel Moeller

English National Ballet’s acclaimed production of Nutcracker returns to the London Coliseum this Christmas from Thursday 11 December 2014 - Sunday 4 January 2015. First performed in 2010 to celebrate English National Ballet’s 60th anniversary, Wayne Eagling’s version has since been seen by over 300,000 people.

This year, Nutcracker sees two of English National Ballet’s rising stars make their debuts as Clara; Katja Khaniukova who performs alongside Ken Saruhashi’s debut as the Prince and Daniele Silingardi’s debut as the Nutcracker; and Ksenia Ovsyanick who performs alongside Max Westwell’s debut as the Prince and Fabian Reimair’s Nutcracker.

Further Principal dancers include Alina Cojocaru as Clara, Alejandro Virelles as Prince, winner of the 2014 Emerging Dancer award Junor Souza as Prince and Nutcracker, Laurretta Summerscales as Clara, identical twins Guilherme Menezes and Vitor Menezes, both making their debuts as Prince and Nutcracker, and Artistic Director Tamara Rojo as Clara.

For the full list of casting which is subject to change, please visit
This is English National Ballet’s 11thproduction of Nutcracker since it performed its first full length Nutcracker in 1950, its founding year. Since then, English National Ballet has established the tradition of performing Nutcracker at Christmas every year.

On an enchanted Christmas Eve, under the heavy boughs of the candlelit tree Clara battles with the Mouse King and falls in love with a handsome stranger. As the air grows colder and snowflakes begin to fall, Clara and her valiant Nutcracker take a hot air balloon ride across the frost-dusted London skyline to the glistening Land of Snow where her adventure really begins.
In a world of Edwardian elegance, Nutcracker brings to life the popular Tchaikovsky score featuring the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Waltz of the Flowers.

Based on concept by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling, Nutcracker has choreography by Wayne Eagling and music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, performed live by the Orchestra of English National Ballet, with design by Peter Farmer and lighting by David Richardson.


Where                    London Coliseum, St. Martin's Lane, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4ES
Dates                     11 December 2014 – 4 January 2015
Ticket Prices          £14 - £79
Performances         Evening performances at 7.30pm
                             Matinee performances at 2.30pm
Full performance schedule and casting, please visit the website for more details:
Box office               020 7845 9300
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