Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre 29.10.2016

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Two Words. 1) Disney 2) Aladdin

The show’s website says “Disney’s Aladdin has “landed triumphantly in London’s West End” (Daily Telegraph). Featuring all the songs from the Academy Award-winning classic film, this “shining, shimmering spectacle” (Huffington Post) is everything you could wish for and more.A fabulous cast and orchestra, over 350 magnificent costumes, and breathtaking sets and special effects come together to create the “sheer Genie-us” (Evening Standard) that is Aladdin, an unmissable event in London theatre.”

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My friends and I arrived at the Prince Edward Theatre, and after climbing several flights of stairs found our seats. I must admit, I was a little regretful as we were right up in the Gods, only a few rows from the very back. (Good old “cheap” seats!) I was relieved I had remembered my glasses as the stage seemed extremely far away (I have been spoilt by excellent seats when attending performances at the Waterside Theatre!)

The show opens in the Arabian marketplace, introducing Genie, Aladdin’s friends and Aladdin (Dean John-Wilson). The set was simple, yet effective. From my seat on high I could see the tracks for the moving scenery, and I think this could have been rectified with some imposed shadow patterns (that are used later in Princess Jasmine’s bedroom). The performers were slick, colourful and before long I was lost in the choreography. I did notice the full cast of american accents, and wasn’t sure if it was the native tongue of the actors or if they were stepping in line with the Disney brand.

Jafar (Don Gallagher) and Iago (Peter Howe) plotting to find the “Diamond in the Rough” was brilliant, the smoke and image of Aladdin totally enchanting. Jafar’s voice was beyond amazing, and Iago was hilarious – I loved his physicality…sort of monkey like?!

Things really ramped up when Aladdin went into the Cave of Wonders – I loved how similar it was to the film! It was exciting and highlighted the benefit of having a resident theatre. I can’t imagine how a travelling production would possibly be able to produce such a great quality set. A whole new world (see what I did there) was unleashed with the arrival of the Genie (Trevor Dion Nicholas). I have never wanted someone to be my best friend so much in my life!! What a boombastic, intoxicating figure of a man. Of course, it was beyond over the top, but what else would you expect from a Disney production (especially with so many of us remember Robin Williams as Genie so fondly). “Friend like me” was a fantastic number, and elevated the magical aspect with plenty of flashy illusions. I loved it.

The vocals throughout the performance were superb, particularly Genie, Jafar, Aladdin and Kassim (Stephen Rahman-Hughes). I was reminded of the calibre of the stars making up the cast, the singing just blew me away. As you would expect, all the classic songs were included and more – I looked up some of the songs I didn’t recognise and realised the re-released film version had additions….how old do I feel!!

Jasmine and Aladdin were both gorgeous to look at, and even from afar I was appreciative of Jade Ewen’s exquisite curves. If I’m honest I liked them, physically they were everything I expected, but I didn’t feel the sizzling adoration between them that I would have liked…although I wonder if my proximity to the stage meant I missed the intimate glances and touches.

The second half was great too, but I think the effects and sets were less spectacular. I would have expected the sword fighting to be a little more vigorous, as it did become reminiscent of panto for me. The magic carpet was sensational, clearly a lot of thought went into making it as enchanting and believable as possible (and it does actually fly ladies and gents!) I was a bit surprised as Jasmine and Aladdin sang fairly quietly throughout “A whole new world” – I was waiting for the crescendo (mainly so I could unashamedly bellow along) and it never quite got there.  The other thing I would have changed is Genie doing the “charity appeal” at the end – for me it spoilt the afterglow of the singing and dancing.

Overall a beautifully choreographed, lively, and entertaining afternoon out. I have never seen so much sparkle on one stage (literally, the sequins were everywhere!). The Genie and Jafar (and Iago!) were the true stars and brought the energy needed to carry the Disney name. If I had more money I would love to watch the show again from better seats, and gaze lovingly at the Genie’s glittery bonce!

Whitney – Queen of the night 23.10.2016

Whitney Houston is a woman requiring very little introduction. She was a legend, incredibly talented, and loved by millions. Her distinctive voice made her one of the best loved performers in recent decades.

Whitney – Queen of the night is described as “A stunning celebration of the music and life of one of the greatest singers of our time” and was at The Waterside Theatre for one night only. I was not entirely clear if the show was going to be a tribute act, a musical or something in-between, and hoped Whitney’s songs wouldn’t be given a karaoke style makeover.

The show begins with the band on stage, and they are quickly joined by the backing singers (Seonaid Bowers, Shanice Smith and a third lady not listed on the show’s website). Rebecca Freckleton then makes her entrance, and begins to sing (no pressure to be perfect or anything!). It is undeniable that her voice is breathtaking, and it is obvious she has taken the time to study Whitney’s voice in order to imitate her so closely. Her vocal range is impressive, and she carries the melodies with ease. The band are on point, and Seonaid, Shanice and third lady (she of no name! sorry!) provide spine tingling harmonies. After a few songs Rebecca then addresses the audience, and the intense atmosphere is shattered with some humour. I found it a little strange that she breaks character, and talks to the audience about Whitney’s career. I’m not a huge fan of tribute acts and don’t watch them, so I’m not clear if that’s a normal thing to do! In my opinion it would have been better to remain in character (if she was meant to be being Whitney?), or to make it clear that she is performing the songs as a tribute, and not “acting” as Whitney. I was also dubious as the show opens with a couple of slow numbers; I would have expected some upbeat toe-tappers first to get the blood pumping before hitting us with the ballads! Things get a little more interesting when Rebecca does a duet of “When you believe” with one of her backing singers, which is really spectacular. Their voices together are just incredible, and they both do Whitney and Mariah justice (which is high praise indeed given the calibre of the original artists!). Leading up to the interval there is a costume change and the pace picks up, which in my opinion was a little overdue.

After the interval the show provides more variety, including a guest appearance. The person (trying not to spoil it for anyone going to see it) got tonight’s audience up on their feet, increasing the energy in the room. All the classic Whitney hits get a good airing, and the audience are encouraged to sing along and get lost in the music. The cast are all mega talented, and the performance flows well. There is more dance, and an overall more party atmosphere – closer to what I had envisaged for the evening. I would have liked a bit more of a thread throughout, as Rebecca talks a bit about Whitney as a youngster, and then further on in her pop career, but there isn’t much continuity. Whitney’s first album is mentioned, but there isn’t a discography as such. My preference would be to either break up the songs with more facts/information etc, or to be more explicit about the chronology of Whitney’s career and it’s impact on the running order. Ideally the set up on stage could have changed in the second half, or the guest appearance could have been an opportunity to give a flavour of Whitney’s life through some acting perhaps.

That said, the show was a real musical treat. I was amazed to see most of the audience on their feet dancing and giving standing ovations during the latter stages, and it was obvious the show had exceeded expectations. All the performers were fantastic, and my friend and I particularly enjoyed the lady playing a multitude of different wind instruments! A fun evening out for any Whitney fans wanting to celebrate her greatest hits in style.

The company are touring until next year, so click on the link below to find a performance near you!

Tour Dates

 

19.10.2016 Dreamboys “Where dreams become reality” (Tonight a Dreamboy saved my life <3)

At 5.30pm today I received a text from my good friend Lara asking if I wanted to be her plus one for Dreamboys, who were doing a one night only show at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury. My response? “Ah mate sounds lovely but I have too much uni work to do :-(“…….

**A few persuasive texts later**

……We agreed to meet at 6.15pm as she had somehow wangled a meet and greet before the show. I was feeling pretty miserable, and knew I looked grim after a long day at work – but figured it didn’t really matter for the sake of one selfie with some orange guys I’d never see again.

We arrived at the stage door alongside Georgia Farquharson, celebrity writer for New! Magazine, and her gorgeous sister (both looking insta-ready may I add). The owner of Dreamboys was kind enough to show us around the backstage area, and briefly introduce us to the guys who were in various states of undress. We also spoke with their tour manager, who was busy overseeing last minute preparation. The hospitality was extended way beyond the call of duty when the owner bought us all drinks and made sure we were seated comfortably.

As a Dreamboys virgin I was assured by those in adjacent seats the show would change me for life, and as a pessimistic critic I rolled my eyes in pity at the hysterical women filling the theatre. The lights began to dim and spotlights circled the closed curtain –  the only barrier between me, abs and all the D my tired eyes could take.

For the sake of anyone feasting their eyes on Dreamboy flesh in coming months, I shall keep description of the show itself sparse. What I can honestly say is that within the first minute I broke out in goosebumps – yes, seriously. Strip shows make me cringe at the best of times, and I had mentally braced myself for the arrogant, slimy, excessively tanned Lotharios this kind of night out always provides. How wrong I was. The opening section of the show was populated with clothed, perfectly choreographed men emitting enough charisma for several Chanel adverts. My friends have always branded me as a very fussy long term singleton, yet amazingly I could pick out multiple cast members I would happily invite to keep me warm during these autumn evenings. It seems I wasn’t alone in those thoughts! The audience around me were laughing, singing, taking photos…I can’t remember the last time I felt such energy under one roof. Each act was different and well thought out, and complimented with props galore. The whole cast worked together to set the scene, and the discarded clothing on stage was quickly removed (in stark contrast to the bumbling Hen Do strippers I’ve previously been subjected to). There were hips bumping and grinding galore, in what I can only describe as an addictively hypnotic fashion.

By the interval I had to admit I had warmed towards these so called Dreamboys, enough to sit in on their interview with New! and take a few sneaky photos. What struck me was how down to earth the guys all were backstage, and willing to accommodate total strangers during their brief pause between routines. Their physical beings may have truly cemented their status as men, but (and I don’t say this lightly) I was truly impressed (and a little lovestruck!) by the gentlemanly demeanor displayed at all times.

The second act got the audience revved up once more, and included star attractions such as “the black stallion”, Rogan (Ex on the Beach) and Geordie Shore’s very own Scotty T (think: over excited puppy meets sexy naked man). Again, I don’t wish to ruin the show for anyone, but all I will say is: Michael Jackson and Afros!!! Palpable talent throughout.dreamboysjordantouch-a-dreamboydreamboy-interview

I was genuinely disappointed when the show came to an end, and enjoyed the buzz for a brief while longer while the guys met their fans and signed items (and boobs!). All I can really say is how wrong I have been proven by tonight’s performance and how incredibly glad I am that I was bullied into staring at the most beautiful and talented men I am likely to see in a long while. The show was slick, exciting and offered true entertainment value for anyone appreciating the male form. There was humour, plenty of audience participation and although the boys pushed the limits (at points my mouth was ajar!) they were most professional when dealing with Lambrini fuelled groping attempts. I was amazed to see a few nans in the audience – funnily enough they were the worst behaved, especially during the FULL FRONTAL NUDITY  (yes ladies, you get to see it all)

Thank you to the Dreamboys for a show I will remember for a long time to come, and thank you to the Dreamboys team for your hospitality. Thank you to the Waterside for hosting such a memorable evening. I can say hand on heart I am disappointed the show isn’t back in Aylesbury for a year, but that I will most definitely be in the audience when it does return. My reserve strategy will be tweeting @Thedreamboys so frequently that they end up finding me a job of some description (tour bus wench??) to stop me getting withdrawals from a truly genuine and wonderful group of (rather sexy) human beings.

#Ilovedreamboys #Dreamboysconvert

3.10.2016 Save the last dance for me

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“Save the last dance for me” tells the story of sisters Jennifer and Marie, who find themselves on holiday in Lowestoft without parental supervision  during the swinging sixties. Much to their delight the rainy break takes a turn for the better when they are invited to a dance…and the location happens to be home to 2000 members of the US Air Force. What follows is a tale of love, disappointment and more music than a Saturday night watching X Factor (take that as you will). Lola Saunders (Jennifer) and Elizabeth Carter (Marie) have great chemistry from the start, and are very plausible siblings. I loved how the innocent overtone is broken up with a sprinkling of rather cheeky one liners, perfectly timed. I was quite surprised at quite how risque a few were…which made me love the performance even more! Anthony Costa (Milton) was a very likeable middle man, and I must admit I had anticipated him being the main character! It was great to see him showing such a different side of his talent, the theatre certainly suits him.

Now, I’ve held off as long as I can, but I have to talk about Wayne Robinson (Curtis). As the show went on I found myself becoming more and more fond of him…after all what’s not to love about a guy in uniform who can sing, dance and schmooze?? He really did make me feel like a teenager in love, and as my companion will tell you I was rather overwhelmed by the sight of his arms in act 2!!! Elizabeth Carter cannot be commended enough for her beautiful portrayal of their love… I felt every skipped heartbeat, every crushing heartache and shared every  silly grin. I also have to mention Anna Campkin (Doris) as she was my second favourite thing about the whole show (arms are first..sorry), her dry humour and Leeds accent absolutely made my night. The rest of the cast were also equally talented, in a toe tapping laugh out loud way that left me buzzing as I walked to my car at the end of the evening.

The set was excellent, and the attention to detail really gave the show an extra level of credibility. Most of the action was set in the Air Force Base, and I loved the integration of the band and dance floor. From the posters on the walls to the cones of fish and chips, everything was thought of. The songs were fantastic and the ladies behind me were singing away in delight!! It was wonderful that some songs were acappella and others had a full band in accompaniment, the vocals truly were magnificent. As someone from a very musical family I felt right at home, and wished my Grandpa was still alive to share in such a brilliant evening. There were one or two songs that I felt were slightly drowned out by the instruments (such as the one Carlo and Jennifer sang) but that really is as far as my criticism stretches.

“Save the last dance for me” is a fun filled night for  an audience of any ages, with something that will please everyone. The choreography and vocals were spot on, and the story line was exciting and varied. I particularly liked the fact that the writers weren’t afraid to address the race inequality issues felt so strongly during that time period, without it spoiling the overall light-hearted atmosphere. The performance really suited my mood tonight, and I found myself wishing I was there at the Air Base dancing the night away. My only complaint is I’m slightly heart broken at having to leave Curtis behind in the arms of Marie…