it’s all about me…and mostly Reviews

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Cynthia_Lennon_Story

August 21-26

The Cynthia Lennon Story

Hope Street Theatre

http://hopestreettheatre.com/

A version of this review appears on Writebase: https://writebase.co.uk/

2*

This girl was a fascinating, intelligent, beautiful woman, a talented artist who happened to be married to John Lennon – if ever a person could be said to ‘live in interesting times’ as the alleged Chinese curse has it, it was Cynthia Lennon.

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American Idiot

July 9-13American-Idiot-tt-1400x700

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

And just who is the idiot? The amiable, artless Will (Samuel Pope), who gets his girlfriend pregnant and ends up stuck at home? The one who escapes to the big city and becomes trapped by drugs? Or the third one, who’s unlucky enough to join the army and lose a leg (and has a lobotomy;

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Club-Tropicana2-696x393

Club Tropicana

July 1- 6

Liverpool Empire

www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/

Reviewed for Writebase
https://writebase.co.uk/

3*

Not one but two pairs of star-crossed lovers; a case of mistaken identity; unrequited love; hero with a fatal flaw…no, this is not Shakespeare. Nor, for that matter, as I had fondly imagined, a biography of Wham. My companion reckoned it was most like Benidorm in fact. I’d have called it a Summer

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June 4-8

The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Liverpool Empire
www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/

Reviewed for North West End: www.northwestend.co.uk

4*

We wuz robbed – well,of course that’s how I’d like to start the review, but cannot deprive them of that last star, for sheer nerve, in both senses of the

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June 4-8

Cooped

Liverpool Playhouse
www.everymanplayhouse.com

Reviewed for North West End: www.northwestend.co.uk

4*

Two farces on two successive evenings will soon get your head spinning, The busiest form of theatre, and I’ve turned to Google: ‘a comic dramatic

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Ghost: The Musical

March 5-9
Touring until May 4

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

Reviewed for North West End: www.northwestend.co.uk

Ghost-the-Musical-2018-International-Tour-Istanbul-c-Kalipro-1

4*

I can’t deny there have been times when it feels like I’m the only one in the theatre not laughing – it’s a damn sight worse if it looks like it’s just you with the giggles. When Molly first sits down at the potter’s wheel, she’s probably aiming to create a bowl but what emerges is, shall we say, unfeasibly perpendicular… You get the picture, I’m sure… This is not in fact what has been referred to, curiously, as the ‘infamous image'; unfortunately, the one most of us would describe as iconic, hero and heroine entwined over said wheel, is so abruptly cut short, you barely have time to catch your breath. However, the other thing we all remember, that song, is the most heartbreaking duet and must have had most of the audience in tears.

It was interesting to discover that Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard are responsible for the music and lyrics, and a shame that we weren’t given the opportunity to thoroughly appreciate all the songs with some of them drowned out; not a clue what opened the second half, and ok, the ending is a kind of triumphal apotheosis but too much Brian May guitar hammered out, destroying any sense of poignancy. Just as bad, Act 1 draws to a close with the three main characters battling it out at the top of their lungs, resulting in cacophony, although the return match is more muted and thus more effective. All the more ironic since the first time, it’s done as friends, the second, as enemies. It is also oddly curious seeing city suits and secretaries engaged in a jaunty routine, but the best numbers, inevitably, belong to Oda Mae.

The staging is excellent, giving you a first class view of New York, even if some of the scenery was occasionally recalcitrant. It was particularly inventive to see the scene set when Molly and Tom move into their new apartment because of course, the props and furnishings are quite literally being delivered. Likewise, the special effects, for example, the dead transforming into ghosts; the bad, doomed to Hell; the Subway Ghost demonstrating his powers. Both Lovonne Richards and his opposite, James Earl Adair, the Hospital Ghost, played their part to the hilt, angry and fearsome and sweetly sad respectively.

And those three main characters? You can sort of see what’s coming with Sergio Pasquariello as Carl: too good to be true, charming and caring; a very plausible villain. But Rebekah Lowings and Niall Sheehy as Molly and Sam are simply divine as a couple, a match made in Heaven, totally convincing as star-crossed lovers. It’s as moving to watch their love and passion as it is to witness their grief. And their singing voices – wow. Her crystalline tones are equalled by his powerful renditions.

The applause they justly received was nearly on a par with that for Jacqui Dubois. And well deserved as scene stealer, Oda Mae, the medium with the most who discovers to her horror that she really does have the gift when Tom suddenly materialises. Not that she can see him, which is utilised to extract most of the humour.The scene where he uses her to turn the tables on Carl is brilliantly funny from start to finish, as well as the one where she is introduced, flanked by Clara (Sadie-Jean Shirley) and Ortisha (Chanelle Anthony), all Gospel enthusiasm and spiritually evangelical in every way.

Ghost-the-Musical-Jacqui-Dubois-cMatt-Martin

I’m going to resist the temptation to tell you that the audience went absolutely potty for this lively, delightfully entertaining production, but you could say this review was ghost written because it virtually wrote itself.

What’s Love Got To Do With It

February 19

On tour until October 26

Liverpool Empire

www.atgtickets.com/venues/liverpool-empire/

Reviewed for North West End: www.northwestend.co.uk

3*

Presumably, ‘Simply the Best’ has already been taken. Definitely, I should have read the small print, having assumed this was biographical rather than a tribute. But you could tell straight away because the backdrop is a triptych, three massive portraits of the star in iconic poses.

So let’s get the show on the road. One thing which was rather appealing was the way, albeit to provide time for costume changes, members of the band, in particularly the amazing lady saxophonist, and the backing singers, Claire Newman, Shanice Smith and Amara Smith, got their place in the sun and took centre stage. It did beg the question however: the role of the fourth girl at the back, either presiding over the trio or kept in the background? No idea of her name even, although I guessed correctly about Amarra Smith,  whose solo was acclaimed as wildly as Elesha Paul Moses’s performance; the programme hadn’t been printed in time.

Meanwhile, the staging was well set out with plenty of room to manoeuvre, enhanced, sort of, by four miniature lighthouse affairs which lit up prettily in an assortment of colours. After all, next to that voice, the distinctive thing about Tina Turner is something in the way she moves, whether you could describe it as a thoroughbred prancing or the sort of staccato strutting and shuffling you see when somebody is treading on hot coals.

Similarly, the curious thing about the backing group is that although they were all remarkable singers and dancers, no Greek chorus or strict choreography; each of them was harking to a different drum so little was completely in sync. They also appeared like samples of small, medium, and well, no, not large, just marginally bigger. However, their costumes were just as sumptuous as Ms Moses’ – in one case, even fancier: Vegas showgirls, morphed with ostriches, for the set piece, ‘Golden Eye’, offset by their leader in a comparatively plain silver evening gown. The other set piece was, of course, ‘Beyond Thunderdome’ where she was flanked by glorious black and gold Steampunkettes. This is turning into a fashion show critique… but the choices were so dramatic: black and red, silver and gold, the latter in one instance, an unforgiving bodysuit topped by some sort of antimacassar, then tipped over into burlesque because of a tasselled belt with a mind of its own. Then the final change; back to basics, all glossy brown hair and that red fringed barely- there dress, with the girls in white, so they could all shimmy the night away.

You’re here for the songs of course, and there were several new to me, and no clue in the announcements, all of which were largely inaudible. I was also surprised at the number of covers – and continue to be horrified at the way Anne Peebles’ ‘I can’t stand the rain’, so wonderfully poignant, is junked up and made jaunty to a distressing degree. But the performance is redeemed by a rousing finale, a trio of greatest hits which had just about the entire audience dancing in the aisles, if they weren’t busy on their phones filming.

No need really as everybody was clearly enjoying a memorable night. Packed to the rafters with fans, their adoring reception showed they felt the show had indeed been simply the best.

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30_Richard-Colvin-as-the-Lion-Natalie-Woos-as-the-Scarecrow-Consuella-Rolle-as-Dorothy-and-Ben-Oliver

The Wizard of Oz

Until January 6

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

3*

Follow the Yellow Brick Road? Well, plenty of interesting encounters en route, in the company of an exemplary cast, with lively music and dance routines (despite rather jarring gesticulation), and as a whole, the show captures the essence of the book, in the coming of age of its heroine, the

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Alice1400x700_Still-Alice-title-V2Still Alice

November 6-10

On tour until November 17

Liverpool Playhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

3*

Is it just me, or do we tend to think of Alzheimer’s as peculiarly British? In fact, am I allowed to say, there seems plenty of evidence that it seems to be rife in America… One thing’s for sure, it’s something we must all dread, especially as we grow older; every time we forget something , become disorientated or do something daft (how can you possibly mislay a slice of pizza? OK, binned or eaten most likely, but still). Yes, of course, we all do all of those things, and we still all worry.

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They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!

October 30 – November 3

On tour until December 2

Liverpool lLayhouse
https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

4*

What a difference a day makes, or a decade or several of them, since ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ was originally written in 1974, and yes, indeed, plus ça change. So how does it translate? Exceedingly well, thanks to Deborah McAndrew, and what a difference is made by those two pronouns, plus a slight tweak for the title, and for Marx’s statement that history repeats itself, ‘ first as tragedy, then as farce’. What we have here is even more than that: the tragic situation of far too many people today, underlined by the use of surreal farce.

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