Annie review – Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

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Set in New York City during The Great Depression, we find Annie having a tough time living at Miss Hannigan’s terribly run, horrendously grim orphanage. Desperately hoping her long lost parents will return and give her the family she longs for, luck brings billionaire Oliver Warbucks into Annie’s life. However it isn’t plain sailing for mismatched pair as the spiteful and self-serving Miss Hannigan sets out to ruin Annie’s newly found home and steal some of that fortune for herself.

It’s easy to forgot just how jam packed Annie is with hit songs. Easy Street, Tomorrow and You Are Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile are among the most famous. The young cast excel when performing together, and a particular highlight is their rendition of the iconic It’s The Hard Knock Life, complete with mops, buckets and a lot of gusto!

Lesley Joseph is fantastic as the terrifying yet hilariously pathetic Miss Hannigan. I could have watched an entire hour of Joseph alone playing the gin-guzzling monster.

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This musical is great fun, with jokes for both adults and children. There are many cleverly comical 1930s references (Babe Ruth, Al Capone) which went over the kids heads but evoked chuckles from the parents. This show has something for everyone to laugh at.

Most of us know the story of the infectiously positive Annie or are at least familiar with the cheeky red-headed girl, yet even if you aren’t, this uplifting, vibrant musical will have your toes tapping all evening.

The live orchestra, superb staging and talented, all singing, all dancing cast come together to make this new production a sure fire hit and a great family night out.

Annie is showing at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne until Saturday 17th August.

Get your tickets here.

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The 39 Steps – Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

The 39 Steps is a spy thriller played out as a quick paced, comedic adventure. Based on the 1915 John Buchan book and subsequent 1935 Hitchcock film, the writers have created a witty script, brought to life by the Eastbourne Theatres team.

Oliver Mellor (Coronation Street) plays the handsome pencil-moustached Richard Hannay who, finding both London and life tiring, has a chance meeting with a beautiful stranger at the theatre. His boredom doesn’t last long when he finds himself embroiled in a murder and becomes a fugitive on the run.

With only four players, the creative staging and simple yet effective costume changes really piece together a performance which feels a lot bigger than the sum of its parts. Mellor is expertly supported by Anna Clarke, Philip Stewart and Jon Monie who play multiple characters and each deliver scene stealing moments. Special mention goes to Monie and those crazy eyes!

What makes so much of this show enjoyable is the comic timing. The jokes come thick and fast and the cast deliver energetic set pieces and one liners. A perilous train journey makes the most of the simple yet clever set design and audio.

This is a snappy, old fashioned parody which pays tribute to 1930s spy genre pieces. Where on occasion the plot is lacking, the versatile acting makes up for this in abundance.

Go and see this great show and let the cast guide you through the mystery of The 39 Steps. As the drama unravels you will be guaranteed to laugh out loud.

Also look out for the Hitchcock references! Spotting these was all part of the fun…

Playing at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne until 17th August, buy your tickets here.

Brad, Janet, Rocky, Dr Scott! A Rocky Horror Show review – Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

Rocky Horror.PNGLet me start this review by letting you know I was one of those people, surely the minority, who hadn’t experienced the cult classic Rocky Horror Show. It’s almost impossible not to be familiar with the Richard O’Brien sci-fi horror musical, but the closest I had previously been to Rocky Horror was dancing the Time Warp at a family wedding.

I knew I was in for a treat the second I saw a number of the audience in audacious fancy dress. The cheering and howls of laughter started the moment the small but perfectly formed cast appeared, and didn’t let up until way after the final act had closed.

The audience really got involved with this one!

The plot, guided by The Narrator Steve Punt (Punt & Dennis), sees naive, newly-engaged couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss break down on a stormy night. When in search of a phone, they stumble across a creepy looking castle run but the one and only sweet transvestite Frank’n’Furter, played terrifyingly perfectly by Stephen Webb. From that moment on Brad and Janet have a night you and they will never forget.

Rocky Horror is a raucous, elaborate homage to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s, which revels in a ludicrous plot, raunchy choreography and outrageously sparkly costumes (or lack of!)

Famous for the fan participation, the audience are practically encouraged to join in, and a lot of the laughs come from the interaction itself.

The non-stop musical numbers performed with phenomenal vocals will have you grinning, tapping your feet and even singing along to the better known hits (The Time Warp and Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me). If you are even a tad curious to see what all the fuss is about, I urge you to try it out.

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Rocky Horror is the off the wall, risqué, liberating and fabulous romp you hope it is going to be, and this cast deliver a performance worthy of the standing ovation they received.

In the words of Frank’n’Furter himself – “give yourself over to absolute pleasure” and go and see this show immediately!

Running at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne from May 27 – June 1st. Buy your tickets here.

 

Rock of Ages review – Congress Theatre Eastbourne

092518TOR693EMGROAProduction2JPEGDAN012Earlier this year I applied to be an Eastbourne Theatre Ambassador, a voluntary position which involves me going to the theatre more and writing reviews. Sounds fantastic? Let’s hope so! With that, I am very excited to share my first ever theatre review with you all.

Set sometime in the mid to late 1980s, Rock of Ages takes you back to the glamourous, lively and often risqué rock scene found on LA’s Sunset Strip.

The plot is paper thin and outright chaotic in places, but this really doesn’t matter as you sing and head bang your way through hit after hit.

Classics like ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ are real crowd pleasers, though every tune has its chance to shine – the show is packed with ‘I forgot about that one’ moments.

Antony Costa (boyband Blue) is great as rock god Stacee Jaxx, while Zoe Birkett (Pop Idol fame) blew everyone away with her vocals.

The central characters Drew and Sherrie were brilliantly performed by Luke Walsh and Jodie Steele respectively. However the biggest plaudits of the night go to the narrator and ‘sound guy’ Lonny, played by Lucas Rush, who stole every scene he was in and really held the show together.

Highlights include an unexpectedly beautiful duet of REO Speedwagon’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ and a hilarious picnic scene, all played out with clever staging and set design.

It’s clear that the cast are having a great time, and that translated to the audience too. By the end of the night the whole theatre was up dancing and singing.

The show is clearly self-aware, and doesn’t pretend to be a musical masterpiece, however without question it delivers an unashamedly fun night out. Just like the 80s themselves, Rock of Ages is over the top, jam packed with excess and one big party.

The show is on until Saturday 13 April so get tickets here:

Rock of Ages ticket – Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four. Review – Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

“A very pretty little mystery”

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Adapted for stage by Nick Lane, Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four, is an intriguing, gripping and adept drama.

This play includes all the things we have come to enjoy with the Sherlock Holmes franchise – adventure, romance and even some comedy.

It opens with Sherlock bored, restless, and testing his friend and assistant Dr John Watson’s patience, when the beautiful Mary Morstan arrives at just the right time, with just the right problem in need of a solution.

All six cast members are incredibly versatile, each playing a number of different characters and several musical instruments! The use of live music is perhaps the most creative part of this production with the background score blending uniquely into the simple yet flexible stage setting. The recognisable music really gets you ready for the mystery to come, and the familiar patter of Holmes himself alongside the gentle repartee he trades with Watson is reassuringly satisfying.

Light relief is provided in the form of self-important Inspector Jones and the anxious Thaddeus Sholto, raising most of the laughs from the audience. A tense boat race leading to a revealing final third (though confusing and convoluted in places) provides a pleasing conclusion. There is a reason why these characters are interpreted time and time again, and Blackeyed Theatre have done a great job with this compelling production.

“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

A good old fashioned mystery.

Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four is playing at the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from April 30 – May 4th. Book your tickets here.

Mary Poppins Returns review

A magical, nostalgic adventure the whole family can enjoy.

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With great trepidation I sat down to watch the return of everyone’s favourite nanny. Despite the pressure that such a beloved character brings, Rob Marshall (Into the Woods, Chicago) has paid tribute to the original 1964 musical while creating a new masterpiece. From the moment the music started through to the final enchanting, soaring scene, this film had me grinning from ear to ear.

The story sees Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins returning to Cherry Tree Lane to find the Banks children (and adults), particularly Michael, in need of a reminder of life’s magic. Blunt captures the essence of Poppins practically perfectly, while Lin-Manuel Miranda is inspired casting as lamplighter Jack.

No Poppins picture is complete without fantasy adventure, colourful animation, and trademark tunes. This film does not disappoint on any level.

The soundtrack is one of its greatest successes. ’Trip a Little Light Fantastic’, and ‘A Cover is Not the Book’ are both visually stunning and lyrically wonderful. Children and adults alike will have these songs in their heads long after the credits have rolled.

Just like the Banks family, you didn’t realise you needed Mary Poppins back in your life until her return.

 

Out on DVD, Blu Ray and streaming services now.

 

“All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen.”

In what often seems like a previous lifetime, I would have described myself as an avid reader, however in the past 5-6 years reading has become a luxury reserved only for holidays. I pick up my phone, I watch TV when I commute, I listen to podcasts and pretty much do everything other than pick up a book. I’m not even sure why. I certainly haven’t fallen out of love with reading, but it’s almost like too many other things have taken the place of a good old fashioned book.

This year I decided to do something about it. I started a book club at work.

I had no real idea how it would be received but amazingly four of my wonderful colleagues signed up straight away. A mix of keen readers and people, who like me, had just lost touch, got started in February with our first book ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid.

It was such a joy to be able to discuss the book detail and extremely helpful – as it turned out I had totally misread the entire book! It’s not often I have ever read something at the same time as someone else so unlike the water cooler trends that run through TV (currently Fleabag and soon to be Game of Thrones) and what’s hot at the cinema, it feels so novel (no pun intended) to really talk about literature.

March’s book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee brought a real classic into our midst and also two new recruits to the club. I am really hopefully that the book group will continue to thrive and I will read not only more books but broaden the genre and type of literature I read. I have also set myself up with a Good Read account and set myself a target of 20 books this year. So far I’m a little behind but with summer on the horizon I’m certain a few beach visits and chill days in the sun will rectify that.

I’ll keep posting what I’m reading on my Reading… site page. Next up is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

Also the quote I have used for my blog post title is from Matilda by Roald Dahl and really is just lovely!