Ghost Stories 5.2.2020

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It’s been a while since I had a good fright.

Due to the secrecy around the “Ghost Stories” play I am very limited on what I can say, but I can tell you this…

Some fantastic acting – I was particularly enamoured by the enigmatic Richard Sutton.

Cleverly woven storylines with a surprise twist.

Unpredictable, funny, creepy and very jumpy – I would advise against buying tickets if you have a heart condition!!!!

TICKETS – AYLESBURY

3 years on and still livin’ the Dream – Boy was it a night to remember!

Bracing myself against the biting December wind I began to sincerely wonder whether 12hrs in Shoreditch was really worth the hassle. It had been a very late Friday night at my office Christmas party, featuring some questionable drink choices (prosecco, cider, pints , wine and rum, obviously) which had resulted in me legging it back from the hotel, feeding the dog and quickly putting a clean pair of pants on before making the 2hr journey to Dreamboys HQ. My hair wasn’t brushed, my face felt gross and my “outfit” was certainly not going to attract my future husband. Fuck.

For reference, me at my office party looking sort of respectable:

We were promised entry at 1.30pm, and had been waiting patiently outside the anonymous black door for some time, checking out any potential auditionees. In a fit of adulting I had popped next door to the shop, and chugged down some painkillers and a litre of water but I was still fantasising about my pajamas and high calorie snacks infront of some terrible Saturday TV…was it too late to sneak back home?!

My pal Georgia had told me earlier in the week she had been asked to join the Dreamboys judging panel but didn’t think she was going to be able to make it, so it was a lovely surprise to see her beautiful face trotting towards me (followed by the rest of her, obv!)

Being a VIP she left us commoners fighting back watery eyes in the cold, and went into the increasingly impenetrable building, teasing us all with the tantalising phrase “For Your Eyes Only”. Although it wasn’t much fun being stuck outside it was lovely to chat to some of the other ladies as we waited, and I was impressed that a few had travelled several hours and stayed in a hotel overnight in order to make it to the auditions. True fans right there. Finally, we heard the sound of keys turning, and we were allowed in!

As I got to the bottom of the stairs I decided that maybe my fantasy of a cosy afternoon on the sofa might be able to wait after all. Two very handsome gentleman greeted me, and handed over a much needed glass of bubbles (don’t judge me, sometimes the only answer is to drink through the pain!) and ushered me through to the basement. I must say, it looked fantastic. Goodie bags had been set out on every chair, along with a 2020 Dreamboys calender.

I was very pleased to see we were right next to the judges, who I knew were Georgia, Jordan, Michael from Love Island, and Katie Price. I was less pleased to see TV cameras directly behind my head and across the room – knackered and hungover was not how I envisioned being captured for my national debut (although obviously I was fairly sure I would be edited out given the state of me, thank god).

As I sipped my drink, I saw cupcakes being handed out and a lovely Dreamboys light display in the corner. Continuing to peer around through my sensible glasses I spotted a familiar hat and beard across the room – Lotan! He’d said he wasn’t going to be at the auditions or the show, so it was a second unexpected appearance for the day, and definitely a welcome one. We made our way over and had a chat and a hug, then caught up with Georgia and introduced ourselves to Michael. I was so glad that he was chilled and down to earth, happy to take photos and mingle.

Finally it was time for the auditions, and boy were they.. Interesting!! The first lad nearly had my eye out, another seemed to think he was auditioning for an physical theatre spot, and a few had me screaming for more. Its not often you respond to “what did you get up to at the weekend?” with “well, a few bits, you know, food shopping, walked the dog, oh and then I spanked a stripper with a truncheon!” One of the guys was someone I’d seen earlier in the shop and I’d asked if he could see where the painkillers were, he wasn’t very helpful so I don’t think he’s Dreamboy material, soz!

There was a break between the auditions and the evening show, so we entertained ourselves by chatting to anyone silly enough to make eye contact. Since I last saw the Dreamboys in 2016 they’ve had a few changes behind the scenes, including ownership and management, but it sounds like things are going from strength to strength. I eventually found myself in the Dreamboys dressing room, and as much as I’d love to I can’t reveal too much about what goes on behind that door – it was a pleasure to watch the lads getting “show ready” hehe.

The evening show was fab, cheeky, funny and inclusive. Having spoken to most of the Boys during the afternoon I was rooting for them even more – they were friendly, courteous and kind for every single minute of what must have been a very long working day. It is hard to keep a crowd happy for literally 12 hrs, but the smiles and hosting skills never wavered. It was my first time at Dreamboy HQ and brilliant to get so up close and personal – I kept forgetting that the guys I was talking absolute rubbish to were people I follow on Instagram and not actually my friends! Shane Finlayson was so much better looking in the flesh (not that his photos are shabby, mind!) and it was great to meet Andrew England and admire his ink up close and personal. I’ve forgotten his name but I chatted to a stunning Aussie gent who made me laugh and showed me some trade secrets (my lips are sealed!) I was pleased to see Jordan still running the choreography side of things, he is a calm, composed and gorgeous guy whose talent is a real driving force. My new aim in 2020 is to meet all the guys again and take some “normal photos” as sometimes I don’t seem to be in charge of my face..

Exhibit A:

The Dreamboys really are an experience unlike any other. I had very few expectations in terms of being looked after, spoken to etc as it had been ages since I last caught up with them, but it was just as amazing as when I met them before. They are true showmen, and offer something for everyone. Things do get a bit racy, but without ever feeling uncomfortable or sleazy. I have never seen a show like theirs, or met anyone like them, so I guess I’m going to have to just keep coming back for more!

I’m hoping to review their new show when they return to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre during the summer next year, and I promise to be well rested, hydrated and ready to party hard.

The dreamiest show around, thanks for making a girl feel special x

Beauty & the Beast 10.12.2019

The festive season is never complete without a trip to the panto in my humble opinion. Spending time with loved ones, indulging in a vino and a mince pie, and taking a well deserved break from reality is just what we all need in the run up to Christmas.

I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of Beauty and the Beast for some months now, not least because I had been sneaking furtive glances at posters featuring smouldering Eastenders bad boy “Keanu” (Danny Walters) when crossing over the Friars Square bridge! Obviously, in addition to that it’s always a pleasure to see the dynamic duo LaVoix and Andy Collins in action, I honestly don’t think an Aylesbury panto would function without them.

I had very high expectations for this year’s production, and I’m thrilled to say I wasn’t disappointed. The show really was high end, something I would expect to see on a London stage. It’s a far cry from the pantos of my youth, sitting in a village hall watching the locals perform on a shoe string budget (I have my suspicions that there may have been some boozing going on backstage too?!) yet there remains a wonderful element of familiarity and homeliness year after year.

It was lovely to see some familiar faces amongst the ensemble, as usual the choreography was fantastic. The wonderful Emily Scott caught my eye as she does every year, her infectious smile lighting up the stage as she shimmied and twirled – definitely one to watch. The costumes and music were spot on, and the sets were excellent quality – I can’t imagine the amount of work going on behind the scenes to get it all ready!

Michael Quinn took the role of Hugo to a whole new level of smarmy, egotistical, and frankly sex-pesty behaviour, but I thought he was utterly hilarious. It was as though he had embodied all of the worst characteristics from the biggest wallies posting on Instagram and dating apps, and moulded them into a walking, talking cliche of grimness. Excellent comedic timing, facial expressions and hair.

Belle was played by Amelia Adams-Pearce, and was very likeable. Her vocals were excellent, and I loved her sassiness. Danny Walters had his work cut out playing the Beast, given that he must have been roasting under all that fur! I loved his physicality – despite not being able to see his face every emotion was effortlessly expressed – his posture, the body language.. First class acting.

As always, one of the highlights was the Twelve Days of Christmas skit. The interactive element is a chance to hype the audience to the max, although I’m not sure Andy would agree its a good thing given the soaking he gets these days! I managed to catch the loo rolls when they were lobbed into the audience, and ended up spilling wine everywhere in my panic! It wouldn’t be a panto without a little mayhem now would it.

It goes without saying that La Voix and Andy were brilliant, but hey I’ll say it, they were brilliant! I do love a few rude jokes and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Despite them being the panto “regulars” and maintaining the Aylesbury traditions they kept the show fresh and funny throughout.

I think the only things I would critique (and I’m really clutching at straws here) were the lack of sing along songs (I gather there may be some copyright issues??) as for me the big ballads and fun dance numbers get the audience involved and tug at the heart strings. In other years there’s been “that” song that everyone loves from the charts, but there wasn’t a main feature this time. I suppose the only other thing would be the lack of “enchantment”.. Maybe a talking clock or mirror and a bit more glitter and a few more puffs of smoke would have made things feel a little more magical.

All in all, an incredibly professional production that deserves high praise indeed. Although it was a local show there was definitely something slightly more West End in the air, which is certainly a treat given the ticket prices! The cast struck a brilliant balance between dramatic tension and hilarity (insanity?!) and ensured that there was something to keep all audience ages happy. We are very lucky to have such an amazing theatre and so many talented actors on our doorstep. I can’t wait to see which celebrities will be in the line up for next year!

Thank you very much to all involved in this production, I loved it.

Nativity! The Musical 6.11.2019

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I was somewhat surprised to be attending the “Nativity! The Musical” in early November, when the scent of fireworks and bonfire embers had barely had time to clear from my nostrils.  I’ve never seen the film, and am not a fan of large gaggles of stage school kiddies, so settling into my seat on a damp Autumn evening I had limited expectations (yes sorry, I’m becoming a grumpy old lady!).

The storyline comprised of school rivalry, a love story, and one little lie that ends up causing chaos for an entire town…“Every child in every school has one Christmas wish, to star in a Nativity, and at St Bernadette’s School they’re attempting to mount a musical version! Only trouble is teacher Mr Maddens has promised that a Hollywood producer is coming to see the show to turn it into a film. Join him, his teaching assistant the crazy Mr Poppy, hilarious children and a whole lot of sparkle and shine as they struggle to make everyone’s Christmas wish come true”.

From the opening moments, this musical was an absolute joy. Scott Paige (Mr Poppy) burst forth with an infectious energy that had me grinning ear to ear, and a pair of lungs that put Ms Mariah Carey to shame. He reminded me of Jack Black in School of Rock, crossed with a bit of James Corden from the Gavin and Stacey days! Despite myself, I became quickly intoxicated with Christmas Spirit, and my head and heart became fully committed to the plight of the inhabits of Coventry. The jealous Mr Shakespeare (played by Charles Brunton) was utterly hilarious, I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he skulked/pranced/galloped/gyrated across the stage. His King Herod act was certainly quite a sight to behold as well!

The stark contrast between the pupils of the two schools was humorously executed –  hoity Mr Shakespeare’s children were groomed to perfection and yet Mr Madden’s slightly less refined rabble struggling to complete a simple spelling test. The talent of those young people was something their parents should be extremely proud of, I wanted to give them all a huge hug! Scott Garnham (Mr Maddens) blew me away with his powerful vocals, and he and the gorgeous Pepper tugged at my heart strings from the moment that meanie Jennifer (Ashleigh Gray) ruined their Christmas. I certainly wouldn’t have abandoned either of them for Hollywood, so there.

I loved Mrs Bevan (Penelope Woodman) as the headteacher, trying desperately hard to keep her school under control.. she also played an extremely convincing drunk (was there some wine in that bottle?!) and Jamie Chapman in his multiple roles was the best show critic/priest I’ve ever seen. I loved all his accents and crazy mannerisms.

I would be here forever if I continued to note everyone in the show individually, but I must just say that the ensemble were truly amazing – belting out tune after tune and keeping the tempo at full pelt constantly. The slick set changes were incredibly effective, from start to finish I felt totally immersed in the story line and the grand finale with the audience lighting the Cathedral was brilliant and very touching.

I don’t want to give too much away in case there is actually someone else out there who hasn’t yet seen the film, so all I can say is this is a must see festive (or post bonfire night?!) show. I adored every second of it, and as the kids say, it got me right in the feels. I laughed, I nearly cried, and I had a warm fuzzy feeling spreading through me that only very special moments can achieve. Truly one of the best nights I’ve had at the theatre for a VERY long time.

TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED USING THIS LINK

Fast Love – A Tribute to George Michael 22.5.2019

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Sunglasses? Check.

Leather jacket? Check.

Perfectly shaped beard? Check.

I’m not a fan of tribute acts, which probably meant “Fast Love – A Tribute to George Michael” may have been a slightly dubious choice for my evening out. Everywhere I looked there were ladies of “a certain age” swigging white wine and taking selfies…what had I done?!

The lights dimmed, the band started to play… and a soft soulful voice filled the air. Despite not being sold out, the anticipation in the audience was electric, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the man himself was in Aylesbury for one night only.

I would have liked the opening numbers to be a bit more upbeat, as I wasn’t feeling the chilled out croony vibes to start with – but the pace soon picked up! One of the highlights for me was the duet with one extremely talented backing singer. “I knew you were waiting” which was absolutely fantastic, with “Aretha” and “George” belting the lyrics out brilliantly. A surprise guest also made the evening feel extra special.

The Wham songs certainly had everyone dancing in the aisles – who can resist “Club Tropicana”?! My only criticism would be that during a couple of songs I particularly loved, “George” encouraged the audience to sing most of the choruses which was a bit annoying!

All in all a brilliant evening reminiscing with plenty of dodgy dancing – I was surprised at how many songs I knew. Absolutely worth a night out with a couple of pals. The show is truly “A Ray of Sunshine”.

Les Miserables 17th May 2019 – Milton Keynes Theatre

Since watching Les Miserables at Milton Keynes Theatre on Friday night I have been mulling over how best to capture the show’s essence in writing. When a production is good, I believe in being straight to the point, so in the interest of consistency I’m going to tell you the truth.

It isn’t good.

It’s exquisite.

From the eery prisoner opening scene through to Valjean’s passing, I was utterly blown away. Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean) tugged hard on my heart strings as he commanded the stage, and the tears finally fell when he sang “Bring Him Home” (seriously, take your tissues.) I believe my comment to my friend was “I’m so confused, I can’t tell if I want him to be my boyfriend or my Dad!”

I was particularly touched by the moments between Jean Valjean and The Bishop of Digne (Brian James Leys), which captured perfectly the juxtaposition between one man’s desperation and the unwavering eternal kindness of the other – certainly one of the most emotionally impacting scenes the show has to offer, despite its simplicity.

By stark contrast there were plenty of upbeat moments to enjoy, “Lovely Ladies” and “Master of the House” had me dancing in my seat and laughing out loud – rotten debauchery at its finest! Madame Thenardier’s voice (Sophie-Louise Dann) and mannerisms were hilarious, I could have watched the awful woman and her disease riddled husband all night.

I did, of course, have very high hopes for the vocals and music but I honestly don’t think I was prepared for the quality of Les Miserables on tour. Throughout the show I was continually caught off guard by the overwhelming range of talent. The lighting and sound was amazing – for me it was the attention to detail that made it so special (for example little touches like the shafts of light breaking through the barred windows) and transported me effortlessly to 19th century France (hi Sam by the way!)

If I were to sift through every moment of the show I would find very little to critique, which is almost unheard of for picky old me! The flawless cast were all stars in their own right – from the whores, to the students, to lovers Marius and Cosette. If you offered me a ticket to watch Les Miserables again tonight my answer would be a resounding “Oui Madame, Merci!”

Best Availability Monday to Thursday performances. Call the theatre’s dedicated Les Misérables booking line on 01908 547669 (open Monday to Saturday, 12 – 6pm) or visit: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/les-miserables/milton-keynes-theatre/. Check daily for returns and last minute ticket releases.

Thriller Live 22.4.2019

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“Now in its record breaking 10th year, THRILLER LIVE is a spectacular concert created to celebrate the career of the world’s greatest entertainer!”

There is no denying that Michael Jackson was one of the most incredible song writers, singers and performers of all time. To take his life’s work on tour is an ambitious move – and one that die hard fans would be quick to criticize if it fell short of the King of Pop’s high standards. I’m always a little dubious about anyone covering hits as part of a show or tribute, so it was with some trepidation that I parked my bum to watch Thriller Live.

Well.

They won me over instantly with one of my favourite Motown classics, before leaping full pelt into a disco medley! It was so refreshing to see such a vibrant, enthusiastic cast bouncing around the stage – a far cry from the tired routines I had envisaged (you know the kind, 4 mikes at the front of the stage, dodgy outfits, lots of waffle about irrelevant facts, etc)

I found that I couldn’t help but smile – especially when the whole audience was encouraged to fling their hands in the air and shake their bodies down to the ground! Although I couldn’t possibly choose favourites, there were a few individuals who really shone out…I’m going to have to google names and see if I can recognise some faces!

The lead singers were all fantastic, but Trace Kennedy’s silky smooth vocals and mega watt smile had me melting from start to finish. Kieran Alleyne was, I think the main MJ dancer during the show, and kudos where it’s due, he was utterly spectacular. I wasn’t quite sure what was mimed and what was live, but he was breathtakingly sharp and fresh…nailing the classic hip thrusts and moon walk. Ina Seidou was just in a class of her own – totally owning every single track. She had a commanding, sassy and endearing stage presence that ran a spectrum from cute through to totally fierce. Britt Quentin’s humour was infectious, and his soft but powerful vocals gave that truly authentic Michael element – I’ve also just read he is also the resident director! What a legend!

My google spying tells me that one of my absolute fave dancers was in fact dance captain Daniel Bradford – this guy can MOVE. There’s little I enjoy more than a man who makes dancing look utterly effortless – he would fit right in with the Magic Mike troupe!! I THINK my other fave might have been Danyul Fullard but I’m not sure…crazy break dancing guy with a ‘fro?! Loved him and couldn’t tear my eyes away, even when he was flossing!

Anyway..

The final songs were uplifting and heartfelt – hearing The Earth Song performed flawlessly gave me chills down my spine. Thank you so much to Aylesbury Waterside Theatre for letting me review this little gem (well, more like enormous sparking diamond!) it was the perfect end to a sunny Easter Bank Holiday – I will 100% make sure I’m in the audience when Thriller Live comes back to town next time.