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Wednesday, 7 September 2022

REVIEW: The Cher Show at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The Cher Show tells the life story of the music legend and icon, Cher. Premiering on Broadway in 2018 the production closed in August 2019 but did pick up a few Tony Awards for Best Leading Actress (Stephanie J Block) and Best Costume Design (Bob Mackie). A new production was announced to tour the UK with direction from Arlene Phillips and Choreography by Oti Mabuse starring West End stars Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell. Playing at the New Victoria theatre in Woking this week, the show is pretty much midway through its run. 

Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell are an absolute sensation. The iconic woman that is Cher is a character most of us are familiar with, whether that is from her lengthy career or just through impressions through Drag Race. Her mannerisms are iconic and completely individual and each one of these ladies brings everything and more, the challenge with playing a character like this is that it can get very mimicry and flat but theses actors manage to make her a real life, living, breathing, 3D person. Which of course she is, but to take the story and breath believable life into it is not be an easy job! 

Thursday, 4 August 2022

REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The award-winning Linzi Hateley and rising star Jac Yarrow lead this impressive and hardworking cast in the latest revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical, Joseph. The story follows gifted Joseph and his brother’s struggle to remain in his shade accompanied by a number of sing-a-long classic songs.

The set design is vibrant, flexible and moves slickly from one scene to the next allowing the story to move along at a good pace and no song or scene outstaying their welcome. Morgan Large’s design is a feast for the eyes, especially once the story moves into Egypt and we meet the charismatic Pharoah played by Bobby Windebank. Windebank sparkles as the Elvis-esque Pharoah full of hip thrusts and high-energy moves. 

Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: Dreamboats & Petticoats – Bringing on back the Good Times! at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

For audiences nervous returning to the Theatre post covid or choosing between which shows to see, here is a show that delivers exactly what it promises on the poster. It’s a feel-good musical Jukebox of Sixties hits sung by a youthful energetic cast that is full of nostalgia. You can’t help tapping your foot, singing along with the choruses, and smiling at the dated references. For those over Sixty, it is a delightful trip back to a simpler time and an entertaining two hours.

The production is not a surprise with its pedigree stamped all over it. Bill Kenwright as producer and director knows how to put together a cost-effective show. Marks and Gran have written better scripts but link the songs with a very simple story of romance amongst aspiring singers. Laurie Mansfield and Decca Records know their way around the catalogue of pop music of the period. The title has extensively toured in two previous editions and been to the West End and this latest version is subtitled after the 1969 hit by the Love Affair, “Bringing on back the Good Times!” but it is the same formulaic set-up.

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

REVIEW: Footloose at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The adaption of the films of the twentieth century for the stage and creation of jukebox musicals around artists’ catalogues has become a regular feature of West End and Regional Theatres. They benefit from a familiarity with the title and the music but have to live up to our memories of the original versions and often fall short of the expectations. It was, therefore, a delight to find at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking that the adaption of the 1984 film Footloose on its UK tour is much more than a celebration of eighties American culture and is a story with heart and emotional engagement with a strong feelgood vibe, some cracking good songs, and some lovely comic touches.

It is a simple story of three relationships and the impact on their lives of the death of four young people in Bomont five years earlier. Reverend Moore and his wife Vi are grieving over the death of their son Bobby and have banned dancing in the town. Their rebellious daughter, Ariel, is grieving too the loss of her brother and falls for the newcomer to the town Ren who carries the burden of being abandoned by his own father. Willard is one of the few local men to befriend him but struggles in his relationships too despite his affection for one of the local girls, Rusty. As the story plays out, we find ourselves caring about these individuals and their relationships.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

REVIEW: Singin' in the Rain at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It is a real pleasure to go to the theatre when you can hum the tunes on the way in as well as on the way home, although it does set the expectations levels higher as you hope for a highly entertaining and amusing night. For once this regional tour of Singin' in the Rain delivers and exceeded those expectations to the delight of the full house at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre.

It helps that it is a remounting of the 2011/12 Chichester Production that had a spell at the Palace Theatre in the West End and returned to the Sadlers Wells Theatre in 2021 and for once those billboard promotions of direct from the West End ring true. This is a show that brings the production values of the West End to an extensive 20 venue regional tour until August this year. Brilliantly staged with a large rain trough by Water Sculptures for the iconic Singing in the Rain routine, beautifully lit for the ballets, stunning choreography throughout and all performed with great chemistry and comedic delivery by the principals. It fully deserves that standing ovation it gets on its press night in Woking.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

REVIEW: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

One of the great pleasures of going to see live theatre is to witness the alchemy of the production process in bringing a story to the stage. The blending together of the essential elements of a strong story, magic and illusion, music and dance and the creation of believable characters when it works creates emotional engagement and assists in the suspension of disbelief to transport the audience into a different world. The pedigree of the creative team behind this touring version of the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe promises a great deal so it was with great anticipation that we caught up with its UK tour in Woking.

Director Michael Fentiman was the man behind the extraordinary Watermill production of Amelie and recruits a handful of that cast to this show. Chris Fisher supervises the illusions in the wonderful Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and in the latest West End hit Back to the Future astonishing audiences with the magical effects. Toby Olie is the puppetry director on the current amazing tour of Animal Farm and on the Watermill’s latest incredible production of The Wicker Husband. The creative talents of these three are evident in this show but whether because of budget limitations or the challenges of weekly touring, the production falls short of their earlier successes. It is still an enjoyable and entertaining show, very suitable for young audiences and GCSE students but I hoped for more.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

REVIEW: The Osmonds at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

There is a continually growing trend bringing Jukebox musicals to the stage in Regional Theatres and the West End with the fabulous Jersey Boys still leading the way at the Trafalgar Theatre in London alongside the Drifters Girl, Get up Stand up, and Tina. Out on the regional road are Thriller, Beautiful, We Will Rock You and very soon, The Cher Show, together with a host of tribute band acts. They work because the Artists featured have a catalogue of hits and a loyal following of fans with memories of their music interweaved with the nostalgia of their youth. Occasionally we get insight into the artist's back story but mainly it’s a celebration of their musical legacy.

The Osmonds is riding this wave of recognition and nostalgia and is presented as a new musical with a story by Jay Osmond (the drummer in the group who he says was always stuck in the middle). For a short period from 1972 to 1974 members of the Osmond family had UK number 1 hits and Osmondmania hit the streets and concert halls of the country although the family members had been performing in the US from 1963 and would continue to perform together until the Eighties. The story is told through two simple overused devices of Jay Osmond (Alex Lodge) narrating the back story of the family relationships and development as artists and their “Number 1” UK fan, Wendy, (Katy Hands) reading her letters to him giving the fans perspective. While it fills in the gaps it lacks drama even as it describes the draconian relationship the boys had with their father (Charlie Allen).

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

REVIEW: Cluedo at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Cluedo is a perfect play to get an audience of a certain age, who grew up playing Waddington board games, to return to live theatre for an entertaining fun evening with plenty of laughs. It does not require them to exercise their “little grey cells” to solve the murder mystery as in an Agatha Christie play but simply sit back and let the farcical mayhem wash over them. 

The origins of the play are visible throughout. It is a British play based on a US film based on a British Board game and writer Sandy Rustin and Director Mark Bell remind us constantly of this route to the stage. The six characters and six murder weapons from the Board Game are at the centre of the story and are led on a merry dance around the various nine rooms of the Boddy Mansion including the secret passage. The Butler, Waddington and maid Yvette are retained from the film and Jean-Luke Worrell brings the energy and exaggerated style of Tim Curry to the stage as the Butler and is matched by Laura Kirman’s maid pretending to be French. They generate plenty of laughs as they lead the ensemble cast around the Mansion. Worrell takes his time in his delivery, savouring the silliness and knowingly engaging the audience with side glances and milking each pause. They have together created a highly stylised dramatic language to stage the play with freeze frames, actors moving furniture and Keystone cop movement and chases which provide the physical comedy.

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. 

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Pocket Picks: Our top Pantomimes of 2021!

Pantomime is one of the greatest British festive traditions, bringing so many people to theatres; some for the first time and some as a yearly tradition. We look back at some of the pantomimes we've reviewed here at Pocket so far this year and pick out some of the highlights! But even though we're choosing our favourites, we must send our admiration to all those involved in theatre across the UK, whether in a panto or anything else. With closures happening all over due to the pandemic yet again, it has reminded us how privileged we are to get to experience the joy that is live theatre. So keep supporting your local venues, and go see a panto!

"...this year we’ve got a couple of proper names in the always good value, Bonnie Langford and Lee Mead. Along with Myra Dubois as the wicked fairy, Lloyd Hollett as Muddles, the Court Jester, Claudillea Holloway as the princess and Joelle Moses as the Queen, this combination proves to be the best overall cast I can recall." 


Thursday, 9 December 2021

REVIEW: Snow White and Seven Dwarfs at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Pantomime is back in Woking with a bang in an excellent version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a strong cast, a lively ensemble of eight and some great comic pantomime business in a bright colourful funny production that was a delight to watch. They packed a lot into the two-hour running time and the Principals worked extremely well together.

Gok Wan has developed a confident stage presence as the Man in the Mirror from his first entrance flown in on that mirror. He struts across the forestage engaging the audience with charm and wit and becomes a very good foil for Aaron James as Muddles whose comedy routines were delivered with great timing. Gok feeds Aaron the lines for an excellent music clips routine which is as good as you will see this Christmas and then joins him for the classic ghost’s bench scene and the traditional 12 days of Christmas. James also delivers a fresh take on the shopping trolley full of props to tell a witty story that was a show highlight and delivers a good monologue of A to Z of impressions. 

Thursday, 23 September 2021

REVIEW: Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

From the talented minds of the two busiest composers in cinematic history, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is a staple Disney classic from the seventies. This new stage production still harnesses the brilliance of the film and injects a smouldering cauldron-full of new material, from songs to narrative. 

The story begins at the height of the blitz. Bombs are raining down on London as three children hunker down in their bedroom. The bedroom is a small, warmly lit haven surrounded by a vast void as the show opens. The Luftwaffe (albeit never explicitly named as such) drop another bomb and the bedroom shatters across the stage. The cast storm on, and in a whirlwind of tightly choreographed movement the children are whisked away to the safety of the countryside; And thus begins our adventure filled with magic, anthropomorphism, and a whole lot of heart. 

This stellar, multi-talented cast is led by Dianne Pilkington as Miss Eglantine Price, Charles Brunton as Emelius Browne, and Conor O’Hara as Charlie Rawlins. O’Hara brings a naivety to the 13-year-old character and harnesses the fear and forced adulthood that a child of the time had. A brilliantly embodied performance for his professional debut. 

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

REVIEW: Looking Good Dead at the New Victoria Theatre

Peter James has written 36 crime detective novels many featuring his Brighton based Detective Roy Grace and won many awards for his writing with five adapted for the stage and two, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead adapted for the TV screen. There can be no denying his writing credentials but, in the adaptions, he is reliant on someone else squeezing down his words into a two-hour show. In March 2017 I saw Dead Simple at the Mill at Sonning which has subsequently been adapted into a TV film to much better effect. The problem is portraying multiple locations on a stage and his reliance on technology at the centre of both stories adds to the adaption problems. In Dead Simple, it was a walkie talkie and mobile phones to develop the drama and in Looking Good Dead it is iPads, laptops and noise-cancelling headphones as well as mobiles phones at the centre of the story. These don’t translate easily to the stage.

In his programme notes James writes “one of the essences of drama is that something seemingly utterly normal and every day goes wrong” but in this plot, nothing seems utterly normal at any point. Are we seriously asked to believe that that Tom has found a computer memory stick on a train seat and brings it home to view the contents? James goes on to write he loves to “have you sitting on the edge of your seats, wracked with nervous tension until right up to the very end” but sadly this adaption by Shaun Mckenna had me laid back in my seat in utter disbelief. The situation seemed ludicrous, the characters were all one dimensional and most of the twists and turns were blatantly obvious. Why on earth are we meant to accept that the American Jonas Kent who turns up at Tom’s house ordering 12 Rolex yellow gold Oyster watches for £300,000 is anything but fake? Or that Tom’s business offers “high-end bespoke services” and could deliver this?

Sunday, 12 September 2021

REVIEW: Grease at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

From Chicago in ’71 and Broadway in ’72 and the West End in ‘73, to the biggest box-office Hollywood hit, through two broadway revivals, five West End revivals, four tours and a TV adaptation, it's fair to say that Grease has been around the block a few times. Yet this UK tour version still manages to make the show feel fresh and exciting.

This wonderful cast are led by Dan Partridge as Danny and Georgina Louise as Sandy. Partridge truly commands the company when he takes to the stage; his presence and authority are matched only by his swagger and charm. He really comes to life in Act 2 as he gives us his heartfelt ‘Sandy.’ Louise is perfectly innocent in her part, and has a voice that would shake even the hardiest of the Burger Palace Boys. Again in Act 2, Louise’s voice tears through the auditorium in ‘Sandra Dee’— an absolute show stopper and truly magnificent to witness.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

The Past, Present & Future of Pantomime

Pantomime is often a child's first experience of live theatre and therefore it plays a critical role in establishing a young person’s love of live entertainment. It is also a unique shared experience as the whole family go together and the genre is built on audience interactions and traditional calls and shout outs. Sadly, this year there will not be the usual hundreds of venues staging a pantomime, and thousands of actors and technical staff will be unemployed. Only a few have survived the Pandemic and even then, in an abbreviated form, led by Qdos with Lottery funded shows in large venues to ensure they are Covid safe.

Qdos has established itself as the leading Pantomime production company usually has 35 productions each year including the two leading venues of the London Palladium and Birmingham Hippodrome but there are many other companies who usually produce multiple productions (UK productions, Imagine, PHA, Jordan and Evolution) and lots of “in house” productions. All of them are built on the same traditional elements that have made the genre so established over the last two hundred years.

Friday, 21 February 2020

REVIEW: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s hard to over-state the importance of Carole King on the music industry. Over a thousand artists have covered or released her songs from The Shirelles and The Drifters to Celine Dion and Aretha Franklin. As a solo artist King has had seven Top 10 albums and has recorded some of the most well-known songs in pop history. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical follows King (Daisy Wood-Davis) as she writes, falls in love and soars to great musical heights.

The overture starts and we tumble through some of the most iconic King masterpieces in a brash medley, ending with Wood-Davis sat at a grand piano centre stage about to preform to Carnegie Hall on 18th June 1971. The production then throws us back into the midst of 1950s America to watch Kings rise to stardom.

Wood-Davis is elegant in her portrayal of King; with wonderful vocals and a great portrayal of the southern twang that King is known for. Gerry Goffin is played brilliantly by Adam Gillian. With appropriate swagger he pulls off both the high-school jock and the budding playwright and lyricist with a voice to match that of Wood-Davis. His emotions sometimes seem to come from nowhere with some less nuanced choices than the other principal cast.

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.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

REVIEW: Ghost Stories at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

First a play and more recently a film, Ghost Stories has been frightening audiences for the best part of ten years and his currently out on its first UK tour.

Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, much of the show’s success has centred around audiences (and critics) keeping its contents under wraps and spoiler-free with little known about the show in publicity or on social media.

With a cast of just 4 actors, the show is a taut, tight 80 minutes long and is full of thrills and jumps but plenty of laughs too. It’s easy to see Dyson’s style all over this when you remember he is one of the talents behind dark comedy The League of Gentleman, and fans of that show and Inside No.9 would love this play.

Intertwining 3 different ghost stories presented by lecturer Professor Goodman, the show uses effective and clever effects without ever letting them detract from the story or be in place of good writing or performances. 

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.) 
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