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Sunday, 16 July 2023

REVIEW: Titanic the Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The towering sheets of the steel frame of Titanic covered the backdrop of the New Victoria Theatre and coated the proscenium. The atmospheric lighting (designed by Howard Hudson) highlighting Mr Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s leading architect as he scrawled his designs in silence while the audience took their seats. As the music started, we were instantly transported to April 11th 1912; the day passengers embarked for Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage. Cast flooded the stage and the aisles, bringing bustling energy through the auditorium.

Good luck finding a single person who knows nothing about the Titanic and her demise. The tragedy of 1912 remains prevalent in hearts all around the world thanks to the sensational James Cameron 1999 film but this musical takes an entirely different approach. This is not the story of two lovers from different classes thrust together and torn apart in a few short days, but an epic ensemble piece with a dozen tales all woven together with beautiful delicacy. I would stress over and over again how this musical is whole-heartedly an ensemble piece; a welcomed change from the conventional casting structure we see all too often.

Saturday, 18 February 2023

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

A decade since its glorious premiere, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty became the fastest-selling production in the New Adventures’ history when it was revived at Sadler’s Wells just a few months ago. Now embarking on another UK tour, the delights and dreams of this production find their way to a theatre near you, so you have no excuse to miss this utterly sensational ballet.

This gothic turn of the classic fairy tale beguiles and bewitches. It is a haunting and dark reimagining of the story of Princess Aurora we all know so well. With vampires, fairies and sorcerers at every turn, this production is not your typical fairy tale by any standard. Described as a “Gothic Romance”, there is much conflict and violence to be seen here. With peril seemingly around every corner and much to be feared, Sleeping Beauty keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Sunday, 13 November 2022

REVIEW: The Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

This iconic Christmas delight for all the family has arrived bright and early at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre and my goodness, what a delicious treat it is. The auditorium sparkles before curtain up; titillating us with the delights to come as we meet young Clara and her family celebrating Christmas. The arrival of a mysterious magician entrances the family and their party, amazing them all with incredible feats. He offers Clara the gift of a Nutcracker who at the stroke of midnight, brings to life as a handsome prince who whisks her away to a land of sugar plum fairies, snowflakes and flowers who dance in her honour.

(Fear not, if you are more ballet-curious than a seasoned visitor, the programme includes an in-depth explanation of everything you would wish to know of the story in all its glory.)

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

REVIEW: Waitress at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Having seen ‘Waitress’ five times (with four different Jennas) during its time at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End, to say I had high expectations for this tour is an understatement. 

Based on Adrienne Shelley’s film of the same name, Waitress follows Jenna Hunterson, a hugely talented pie baker who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant by her abusive husband. Jenna dreams of escaping her marriage and starting a new life. With the help of her best friends and an exceptionally charming gynaecologist, she is able to dream again and create bakes like never before and learn all about love in its different forms along the way. The show embodies romance, comedy, tragedy and whips it all together in one big beautiful pie to offer a night a the theatre you will never forget.

With a score crafted to perfection by chart-topper Sara Bareilles, the music is the beating heart of this stunning story and mixed with the book by Jessie Nelson, this really is a special show. There’s hardly an ear out there who hasn’t already heard “She Used To Be Mine”; Jenna’s sensational ballad from the climax of the show, but Waitress has so many more gems throughout. Jenna’s best friends Becky and Dawn (played by Sandra Marvin and Evelyn Hoskins respectively) who work with her at the diner each have brilliant numbers encapsulating their characters with “I Didn’t Plan It” and “When He Sees Me” in turn. 

Monday, 12 July 2021

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Hamilton And Me; An Actor’s Journal’ by Giles Terera

Recently, Olivier Award-winning Giles Terera collected his MBE from St James’s Palace for services to theatre. As if his phenomenal range of acting credits isn’t enough to garner respect, he is also a writer, producer and director. His new release ‘Hamilton and Me’ delves (in journal format) into the creative process of originating the role of Aaron Burr on the West End in ‘Hamilton’; the musical you’ve either seen and adored, or are still desperate to see! If you don’t know anything about the show, you may want to hit Google (and Spotify) hard before continuing on with this review!

This book is made up of refined entries which were written in Terera’s journal throughout his Hamilton journey; from pre-audition through to opening night, he provides the reader with the gut-punching reality of being a performer and the sheer volume of research and work which went into bringing this character to life. 

His memoirs include an array of stories about his creative brainstorming and rehearsal alongside the iconic Hamilton Team (including Lin Manuel-Miranda, Alex Lacamoire, Thomas Kail and Andy Blankenbuehler) as well as naming the stellar West End cast one by one and how they impacted his journey to creating Aaron Burr. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

REVIEW: Once at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Once is nothing short of the most joyous celebration of music on any stage anywhere. Dublin culture roared off the stage of the New Victoria Theatre, Woking and left the audience humming, toe tapping and clapping along. 

“Based on the critically acclaimed and much-loved film, you will meet (and never forget) two lost souls - a Dublin street busker and a Czech musician - who find each other unexpectedly and fall in love. You will fall in love too, with this brilliant and beautiful musical, filled with love music from lush ballads to barnstorming reels. Once the Musical is a spell-binding and uplifting story of hopes and dreams.” 

The stagecraft of this show is magnificent; an ensemble band of fourteen who barely leave the stage, encasing our “guy” and “girl” throughout the piece. Tastefully small and intricate sets allow for the music to lead this piece. “Once the Musical” much like the original independent film which inspired it doesn’t need fanciful costumes, lighting and giant moving parts - the score is so beautifully composed, I suspect even against a white backdrop I’d have loved it all the same. This is not to discredit the wonderful set and costume designs of Libby Watson, but moreso to commend Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova which proves the real heart in this musical.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures 'Red Shoes' at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures are embarking on another UK Tour, this year with The Red Shoes - a dramatic tale of Victoria Page and her desire to be the greatest dancer in the world and the obsessions which encircle her. The Red Shoes is most famous as a film from the 1940’s - in a world where technicolour was just gaining momentum, suddenly amidst the monochromatic world of cinema comes this remarkable film focussed on colour, specifically (of course) red. Bourne explains this production is “the culmination of a twenty-year ambition to bring Powell and Pressburger’s seminal 1948 film to the stage” and “a personal love letter to a life in theatre and in dance.” Previously winning two Olivier Awards, Woking’s New Victoria Theatre is blessed to be hosting The Red Shoes this week.  

Unsurprisingly, Bourne has selected the Creme De La Creme of modern ballet for this company, with many of this cast having worked together for years. The chemistry of the ensemble is (pardon the pun) en pointe. They all work and pair together so effortlessly. It is always a delight to see Liam Mower shine, and that he did as the effervescent Premier Danseur Ivan Boleslawsky. As Victoria Page’s love interest and struggling composer Julian Craster is Harrison Dowzell who leapt and flew across the stage (and atop a piano) at such heights, I’m convinced he had springs in his shoes. A stunning performance.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

REVIEW: Peter Pan Goes Wrong at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Mischief Theatre are slowly, but surely, taking over the world - one theatrical casualty at a time! Starting off as a Fringe concept, and now resident at THREE West End theatres, one current UK Tour, another upcoming UK Tour and a BBC One television show, it’s safe to say this team of mischief makers are growing with each year and becoming all the more popular along the way. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong was also filmed for the BBC in 2016, but there is nothing like live theatre and the insanity of this show must be seen in person to be believed. The technical skill showcased throughout this production is truly remarkable and with a cast as strong as this, you’re guaranteed a stellar night out of fun for all the family to enjoy. 

Peter Pan Goes Wrong was resident in the West End over the Christmas seasons of 2015 and 2016 however, as “director” Chris Bean reminds us many times throughout the show, it is absolutely 100% definitely not under any circumstances a pantomime. (Oh yes it is.) 

Thursday, 12 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s not very often a show can pick you up and transport you back to the happiest days of your childhood; infact it’s less than “not very often”, it’s incredibly rare and quite honestly, I don’t think it has ever happened to me quite like this before. As I left Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, I was beaming and full of nostalgia and joy. Pure childish happiness and Christmas cheer. What more could you want from a Pantomime?

Before this review, I would first like to share a little story. Circa 2001, my parents took me backstage at the New Victoria Theatre and I met Bobby Davro before a performance of Cinderella where Davro was playing ‘Buttons’. Despite only being six or seven years old at the time, I still remember him being exceptionally fast-talking, funny and kind. He filled my pockets with milky ways and smarties before the show as I wouldn’t be able to reach from the Royal Circle when he would later throw them across the stalls during the performance. Almost 20 years later, I was finally able to meet him again after this show and with tears in my eyes, I proclaimed I had been transported right back to that purely happy and innocent time thanks to him. He truly is the soul of this pantomime - a born entertainer and genuinely lovely man. I cannot advocate his performance enough. Bobby, thank you for your kind words and humble ways. I hope we meet again soon. 

Thursday, 17 October 2019

REVIEW: 9 to 5 at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Dolly Parton presents 9 to 5, a superbly assembled cheese-fest of a musical based on the film of the same name, starring none other than Dolly herself. Following the story of 3 women, each subjected to sexual discrimination and inequality in the workplace, 9 to 5 is a hugely uplifting fun night at the theatre for newcomers and seasoned visitors alike. 

Via pre-recorded video, Dolly sets the tone for the show with narrations introducing us to our leading ladies and even kicks of the singing of the title song. 1) Violet Newstead, played by Laura Tyrer, is a working mother who’s spent years working for ‘Consolidated Industries’ as reaches her breaking point after she misses out on a promotion to a younger male colleague who she trained. 2) Judy Bernly, played by Amber Davies (of Love Island fame), a 21 year-old embarking on her first ever job after leaving her husband when she discovered he’d had an affair with his 19 year-old secretary, and finally 3) “Backwoods Barbie” Doralee Rhodes played by Georgina Castle, the role made famous by Dolly Parton in the original film. Doralee is happily married but after her loud-mouthed boss starts spreading rumours that he and Doralee are having an affair, the ladies of the office turn their back on her and judge this blonde-bombshell all too quickly. “We don’t like her” says Violet…. 

This feminist fun-fest of a musical sees Violet, Judy and Doralee embark on a fight for equality in the most ridiculous of ways - there are ball-gags, rat poison and spliffs involved… It’s wonderful fun; comedic and empowering all at once. The audience at the New Victoria Theatre was packed to the rafters and hugely responsive to this wonderful show. If you were fast enough to buy a ticket, you’re in luck - (the run has almost completely sold out at time of publishing). 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

REVIEW: Avenue Q at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Avenue Q is back in Woking, and I have never been happier. It’s the most perverse version of Sesame Street you’ll ever see - puppets in all manner of compromising positions, spewing jokes based on racism, pornography and sex. It’s belly-achingly funny. Written by Robert Lopez (the man who co-wrote music and lyrics The Book of Mormon and Disney’s Frozen) and Jeff Marx, Avenue Q is perhaps their finest work which simply gets funnier as time goes on. 

Princeton, a wide-eyed yellow puppet arrives on Avenue Q, fresh out of college asking the age old question “What DO you do with a BA in English?” and ready to take on the world. With the help of his new neighbours, he quickly realises he’s well out of his depth and has a few things to learn before he can truly discover his “purpose”. On the way, he finds a fuzzy kinda love in Kate Monster. With an Asian-American woman named after a December holiday, a closeted homosexual Republican book-worm and two teddy bears who encourage poor behaviour, this show packs a million punches of world-class humour which relishes on dancing right on the line of “are they allowed to say/do that?!” 

Saturday, 21 September 2019

REVIEW: Northen Ballet's Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Cinderella is a fairy-tale we have all grown up with; a charming riches-to-rags-to-riches story of a young woman’s journey to happiness and love… Following the death of her husband, Countess Serbrenska (Cinderella’s Stepmother) enslaves Cinderella to a life of pot scrubbing and floor cleaning as she’s driven mad by grief. She continues to spoil her own daughters, Natasha and Sophie, but leaves Cinderella in the dark. Thankfully, there is magic in the air and Cinders is soon to be saved, and in turn, find true love and an inner strength any young woman should admire. 

Like many, I’ve known this story (or variations of it) since I was three years-old, but never before have I been moved by this tale like I was during this production. The Northern Ballet has created pure magic with this ballet; the spectacle, the costumes, the music arrangements, the dancers, the huge set pieces – it’s truly magical. A little Christmas-y for mid-September but you’ll hear no complaints for me in that regard.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

REVIEW: Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre

“On the northeast tip of North America on an island called Newfoundland there's an airport. It used to be one of the biggest airports in the world and next to it is a town called Gander…”

It’s September 11th, 2001. The people of Gander see their lives turned upside down as 38 planes are diverted to land at their airport following the horrors of the plane bombings into the World Trade Centre buildings in New York City. Almost 7000 “plane people” from all around the world find themselves frightened, exhausted and far away from home. Come From Away tells their story and how the Newfoundlanders rallied together to make them feel as close to home as they could during their stay. 

This week marked the 18th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, so emotions were high at the Phoenix Theatre as the show began. This was my first visit to the show and I was there with very high expectations but was not once disappointed. 

Thursday, 27 June 2019

REVIEW: Little Miss Sunshine at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Little Miss Sunshine is brought to us by the book writer of “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into The Woods” and the composer and lyricist of “Falsettos” – both of which are due to have massive box office success when they return to London in the next 12 months. This Tony Award winning team of James Lapine and William Finn bring us ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ a “new musical comedy” as it embarks on a UK Tour. Sadly, this production doesn’t hold a candle to any of their previous work.

“The Hoover family has more than a few troubles, but young Olive has her heart set on winning the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. When an invitation to compete comes out of the blue, the Hoovers must pile in to their rickety yellow camper van. Can it survive the 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California – and more importantly, can they? This uplifting, modern classic celebrates the quirks of every family, the potholes in every road, and the power of overcoming our differences.”

The 2006 Academy Award winning film “Little Miss Sunshine” is a knock-out. It’s heart-breaking, yet hilarious and life affirming all at once. It’s a masterclass of film-making and one of my absolute favourites. The stage adaptation I saw was none of these things – just layer upon layer of disappointment. Somehow, this production manages to fall flat on all counts. The music is instantly forgettable with no catchy tunes whatsoever (as much as I was hoping for one), the dialogue is clunky and does not for one moment lend itself to any form of authentic family conversation whatsoever – it’s all overly stylised and unnatural. The choreography left me wanting: it was a poor use of the space with no major set changes, just some bright white side-of-stage lighting and coloured spotlights to change things up every 10 minutes or so, accompanied by lots of running round in circles and an excessively used smoke machine.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Dirty Dancing is back on another national tour following its record-breaking success in 2016/2017. True to the classic film of the same name from 1987 starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing has been a fan favourite for over 30 years and this production does it complete justice and more. Featuring 35 hit songs, including Hungry Eyes, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me? and the heart stopping (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, you’re in for a real treat with this production. 

If you’ve been living under a rock and have never seen Dirty Dancing before, here’s a speedy summary. It’s the summer of 1963 and daddy’s girl Frances “Baby” Houseman travels to Kellerman’s summer resort where she meets the tall, dark and handsome Johnny Castle who works as a principal dancer there. These two strangers from different worlds become intertwined in a whirlwind of dance, drama and … watermelons. It’s a classic Romeo and Juliet style love story with a merengue or two thrown in for good measure. 

The choreography for this new production is mind-blowingly good and executed to perfection. Every single cast member shines and elevates this production to a completely new level of brilliance. As the seasoned leading dancer at Kellerman’s, Simone Covele’s Penny Johnson was sensational. Her featured dance spots in Act 1 were some of the highlights of the show. Her movement is categorically perfect; graceful, sexy and effortless. Brava, Diva. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show” is undoubtedly the world’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll musical, having catapulted into the hall of fame since its first appearance at The Royal Court Theatre in June 1973. It has been performed worldwide on every continent (yes, really) and has been translated into more than 20 languages. Needless to say, the show’s big-screen adaptation “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Richard O’Brien, is one of the most iconic movie-musicals of all time.

This production marks the new World Tour for this legendary piece with Dom Joly as The Narrator, Joanne Clifton as Janet Weiss and Ben Adams as Brad Majors. I was most excited to see Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff as he fast approaches his 1500th performance in the role. What a legend. 

In the velvet darkness…. Newly engaged sweethearts Brad and Janet are struck down with an unfortunate blown tyre and find themselves stranded alongside the home of Dr Frank-N-Furter; a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania”. In a sequin filled dystopian paradise of sexuality and expression, the preened pair discover they may not be all they thought. With classic numbers such as “The Time Warp”, “Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” and “Hot Patootie”, this show will leave you dancing in the aisles and reaffirmed with a joy for life.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

REVIEW: Abigail’s Party at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It became very apparent rather quickly at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre I was one of only a handful of millennials there. The audience was dominated by significantly older generations, which is unsurprising given the success of Abigail’s Party in the 1970’s when it was popularised in a TV Mini-Series starring Alison Steadman.

In a cast of five, we see the joys of hosting a party in suburbia for those you don’t really know all that well. Lead by the outrageously pushy Beverley, her husband Laurence and their guests are plied with alcohol and nibbles throughout the evening as they aim to distract neighbour Sue from the shenanigans happening just down the road at her house while her daughter Abigail hosts a party of her own…

The set is simple – one stereotypically dated living room prepared for a party – decorated with a fibre-optic UFO light, vinyls, cube-patterend glassware, cigarette boxes and the holy grail of a 1970’s party: half a raw potato wrapped in tin foil with cocktails sticks of tinned pineapple and unnaturally yellow cheese cubes. That living room would have been the envy of my grandmother who loved to host her Tupperware parties back in the day, but to the modern eye it is truly heinous as I would hope set designer Janet Bird intended!

Friday, 21 December 2018

REVIEW: LMTO’s A Christmas Carol at Lyceum Theatre

“I’m just not feeling very Christmas-y yet...” (Harriet Langdown, 5 minutes before curtain up)

“MY HEART IS SO FULL. I CANNOT WAIT FOR CHRISTMAS NOW!” (Harriet Langdown, 1 minute after curtain down)

LMTO has done it again. 

This production of A Christmas Carol is a staged concert format, so if you’re looking for elaborate set pieces and fancy costumes, you’re in the wrong place - but if you’re searching for beautiful music played by a stunning orchestra, the best of the West End singing a dramatic score and the most enthusiastic and passionate conductor on the face of planet Earth, you’re in for a winner. LMTO reprise their smash-hit production in the same theatre where they made their debut in 2016, and what a treat it is. 

REVIEW: Cinderella at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Cinderella – a charming fairytale and “the Fairy Godmother of all pantomimes” for British audiences everywhere. There is certainly a level of artistic licensing here which tweaks this classic tale for a 2018 audience, but the story fundamentally remains the same: After the death of her mother, Cinderella’s father remarries a woman who turns out to be truly wicked. Favouring her two daughters above her new step-daughter, she mistreats Cinderella as a maid and deprives her of the privileges her own daughters enjoy. Thankfully, all hope is not lost as Cinderella meets a handsome Prince, with the help of her Fairy Godmother, and (eventually) they live happily ever after. Hopefully this is not a spoiler to any of our readers! 

As Baroness Demonica Hardup (the wicked step-mother) is poster-boy Craig Revel-Horwood who relishes in milking every Strictly Come Dancing joke for all they’re worth, with even the producers chiming in and naming ‘her’ daughters Tess and Claudia! He also nods to his credit as Choreographer for ‘Sister Act’ with his own “fab-u-lous” version of “Fabulous Baby”. Revel Horwood is not a casting gimmick – he is a superb talent and earns his space on that stage with not only his dance ability but his terrific voice too. After heavily criticising Katie Price for her stint at Woking two years ago due to her dismal lip-syncing and effortless (not in a good way) acting, I was not only relieved but pleased to welcome Revel Horwood to this production. He was a true asset. I am however disappointed that in the souvenir brochure/programme, Sophie Isaacs is not even pictured on the cover despite being the titular role - it seems Mr Revel Horwood needed more space to showcase his insanely sparkly costume! 

Friday, 19 October 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Boys at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Jersey Boys is a jukebox musical, packed full of smash hits from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. The programme even features a list of “the ones that got away” – thankfully, not every song was played or we would have been there until Christmas! You’ll hear your favourite tunes – ‘December 1963 (Oh What a Night)’, ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and ‘My Eyes Adored You’ to name but a few.

Scaled down from its West End home at the Piccadilly Theatre, this touring production wows with its music but it lacks a certain … oomph.

Jersey Boys is unique as not only is it a jukebox musical, but it’s the real story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. It’s a remarkable story, however this production is somewhat clunky in its composition. A narration heavy production, which plods through history in a formulaic to-and-fro between speech and song. “But a to-and-fro between speech and song? That’s practically every musical ever written” I hear you say… Yes, I agree but this production relies so heavily on its narration to tell the story, the songs don’t actually aid it – they are used more like punctuation which is a total injustice to the music. With the exception of only two or three numbers, the songs are not used to tell the story – only to highlight where we are in The Four Seasons timeline … “and now, this song was released so we’re going to sing it for you”. Yes, the music is fantastic and the performances from the four Jersey Boys in particular were fantastic but the show itself lacks lustre.
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