Reviewed by Aaron Holdaway
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
There’s much to celebrate in this year’s ‘Christmas Show’ at the New Theatre Royal. Penned and directed by Scott Ramsay, the theatre’s own CEO, here the Christmas Show blends elements of classic panto, musical theatre and classy storytelling (with Fairies and Father Christmas thrown in) to portray the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
Whilst initially the pantomime elements seem to jar with the classy costuming (Naomi Gibbs) and set design of the piece, and at times it crosses borers confusingly between sincere storytelling and panto, by the time the second act rolls around the audience truly have the measure of it. This is never more evident than in Act Two’s ‘panto break’, where four key actors perform, partially out of character, the classic ‘If I were not upon the stage’ routine, gaining raucous applause.
The story begins rich in references to Portsmouth, as some of the principal roles form an acting troupe delivering a historical story of Portsmouth in the Old Theatre Royal. For some, the local self-referencing will grow to feel over-indulgent, particularly in the lengthy scene staged at the Old Theatre Royal. On the other hand however, it’s arguably pleasing to have something so locally referenced and sourced being celebrated in our city.
Whilst most work exceptionally well, there are also some laboured songs within the piece. Most notably, ‘A Musical’, from the musical ‘Something Rotten’, feels particularly shoe-horned into the show to create a show-stopping number and to get the gags of this Broadway favourite across. But others work brilliantly, particularly in the second act, where everything feels especially plot-relevant.
Ultimately the portions of the show which work best here are the actual plot-moving storytelling of the titular tale on offer. It’s well-told when it is allowed to without distraction, with some fantastic performances throughout.
Local boy Jamie Papanicolaou presents a very warm representation of Will, Beauty’s brother, working the audience nicely to be a successful “audience friend” character. Kirsty Anne-Shaw, as Beauty, has a fantastic sincerity to her performance, as does Isabelle Hetherington as Titania, whose singing voice is powerfully notable and who works wonderfully with the endearing young performers she appears with.
As Ulrika, Harriet Miller creates a convincing pantoesque villain and Craig Golding, as the Beast/Prince Robert, gives a truly convincing performance - particularly in the classic transformation scene. Liz Garland is especially noteworthy as Madame Crummies, with a rich characterisation and great attention to detail on the inflection of her lines to make the most of them and draw the laughs.
One of the most pleasing elements in the production comes from the brilliantly slick choreography from Hayley Jane-Simmons, blending well-staged energetic performances from the professional dancers (whom often form part of the character ensemble with lines and jokes to tell) alongside the heart-warming young dancers from the local Giselle School of Dance.
But it’s all trumped by the physically gifted and exceptionally characterised performance of Timothy Lucas as villain Frederick. It’s brilliantly conceived, well executed and wonderfully funny. His performance really is truly blessed with theatrical magic.
Beauty and the Beast is on at the New Theatre Royal until 31st December 2017. Tickets available at the Box Office or online.
Sarah Miatt heads along to see the latest offering from Titchfield Festival Theatre, A Little Plant From Outer Space.
The Studio, Titchfield Festival Theatre
Reviewed by Sarah Miatt
Titchfield Youth Theatre was set up in 2008 as part of Titchfield Festival Theatre. The group have performed a wide variety of plays and performances ever since both with the Festival Theatre and in their own right. It is safe to say that this group are very committed to giving young people of all ages a wonderful grounding in all aspects of performing arts.
A Little Plant from Outer Space was written especially for them by their director John O’Hanlon and played to their strengths beautifully. In the impressive setting of the new purpose built studio theatre within the main theatre, this Sci Fi spoof, loosely based on A Little Shop of Horrors came to life. Impressively, the lighting and sound was operated by two of the youth theatre members, Oliver Thompson and Oliver Whitehouse. They did this with great timing and skill.
Highlights in the cast included Jessica Mills as hapless flower shop assistant Marvin. Her comic timing and nervous gestures were perfect for the role and she easily commanded the stage when taking on the unenviable task of performing completely alone onstage with just the plant (some expert puppeteering by Marcus O’Hanlon). Madeline Bennett as Marvin's love interest, Ellie, was sweet natured and endearing and had wonderful onstage chemistry with Marvin. Supporting characters of Paloma Hoyos as Mrs Finks and Dan Winkworth as the NASA boss were also particular highlights.
The whole cast were very in-character and clearly enjoyed every second of the performance: they looked fantastic and very in keeping with the time of the play. It was very enjoyable and the audience left feeling uplifted and with a very positive message.
Multi-award winning company South Downe Musical Society are bringing the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Carousel to the stage in April and have unveiled their casting alongside a festive offer to get discounted tickets.
The multi-talented company are back in rehearsals for the production, being performed at Fareham's Ferneham Hall.
Yesterday their production team released details of the auditions and the cast list was made public. We're delighted to announce the casting here:
Billy Bigelow - Nick Williams
Julie Jordan - Becky Musgrave
Carrie Pipperidge - Kelly Fuller
Enoch Snow - Ben Horner
Jigger Craigin - Alan Jenkins
Nettie Fowler - Jane Pegler
Louise - Charlotte Coqueral
Heavenly Friend - Bill Price
Starkeeper - Tom Hudson
Mrs Mullin - Peta Reading
Enoch Snow Jnr - Finlay Hughes
Timothy, The Policeman - Jonathan Shirlaw
Carnival Boy - Matt Gibbins
Mr Bascombe - Brian Sweatman
Miss Snow - Cerys Davies
Arminy - Emma Hall
To celebrate this Rogers and Hammerstein classic, the company are doing a special Secret Santa Christmas offer for anyone looking to book tickets for the opening night. If buying a pair of tickets then you can save £3 simply by quoting SANTA.
South Downe Musical Society said of the offer, "Are you struggling for a Christmas gift? Want to treat someone to a wonderful evening of entertainment? Or maybe you want to gift yourself with a very special night out at the theatre?
Well we have the perfect solution for you. If buying a pair of tickets for our opening night on Wednesday 18th April, then you can save £3. All you have to do is quote SANTA at the Ferneham Hall box office.
This offer is valid right up until midnight on the 31st December so don't miss out! Book now for a chance to see this beautiful piece told by the award winning SDMS."
Classic musicals are always big sellers, especially when presented by South Downe Musical Society who have a brilliant reputation for staging high quality productions. So, don't forget to book your tickets - they are likely to sell quickly.
Contact the Ferneham Hall Box Office on 01329 231942. Alternatively, book online using the link below. Please note the discount code is for ticket orders at the box office only.
Titchfield Festival Youth Theatre are preparing to put on their production A Little Plant From Outer Space: the first science fiction spoof the company have ever performed.
A Little Plant From Outer Space has been especially written and directed by John O'Hanlon for Titchfield Youth Theatre. The play is very loosely based on a short story by Roger Corman and Charles Griffiths, which was adapted into a rarely seen B movie and a hugely popular stage and film musical.
"Our version is very different in many ways," the company tell us. "We have added new characters and altered the storyline and the ending; also, the plant does not grow into an eight foot monster, much to everyone's relief!"
Titchfield Youth Theatre have been rehearsing since September, developing the characters, American accents and working on the comic timing crucial to this piece. The alien plant itself has been designed and made by a local art teacher and all the young people in the company come from schools in the Fareham area.
We'd highly recommend getting along to see this at Titchfield Festival Theatre. Tickets available online or via the Box Office. Link below.
Going to see this? Let us know your thoughts! @portstheatre on Twitter or Facebook comment below.
This evening the Wedgewood Rooms hosted the first of a two night run of a theatrical double-bill: Mirrors by Roger Goldsmith and Damages by Stephen Thompson.
The first piece, Mirrors by local playwright Roger Goldsmith stars Katie Watson and Aaron Holdaway as Lisa and Mark respectively. Mark sees Lisa in a park eating her lunch. 'You remind me of someone I knew. You look like her. You act like her. You could be her...' The Wedgewood Rooms production will be the first staging of this dark and disturbing little piece.
It's followed by Damages, a sharp, slick, cynical and humorous piece about tabloid morality. It has the talents of Stuart Frank, Leigh Cunningham, Henry Oastler and Geoffrey Pye in the cast. 'Do we or don't we print this nude picture of a television celebrity? Who will profit? Who will suffer? Does it matter? ' Steve Thompson's award-winning play was first staged at the Bush theatre in 2004 and it is fantastic to see it getting a run in our city.
The run closes on the 23rd November, but there are still tickets available on the door to see these pieces on its final night.
Mirrors is directed by Steve Pitt and Damages is directed by Rebecca James. Tickets priced at £10.
South Downe Musical Society return to Ferneham Hall in April 2018, and are on the lookout for two teams of children to be part of the cast. Below is the information, kindly provided by the company, which details all that they will need to know about getting involved in SDMS’s latest show.
‘For this exciting new production of 'Carousel', we are looking for two teams of nine children who will alternate performances (this includes Enoch Snow Jnr) to take on the roles of Carrie and Enoch Snow's immaculately turned out, rather proud family which will involve participation in an extended movement/dance/acting sequence as part of the Act Two ballet as well as the final graduation scene in which they will be required to sing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' with the rest of the cast. In addition, the children will double as characters in the fairground in the opening 'Carousel Waltz' movement/acting sequence.
Rehearsal commitment will involve selected Mondays and Wednesdays dotted from December through to February and early March, intensifying to more frequent rehearsals on those same nights when full runs of the show in the rehearsal room begin from mid-March. There may be one key Sunday rehearsal to be confirmed.
To clarify, we are looking for a range of ages from 6 to 16 and a mix of boys and girls. Please note that you will be notified of the results of this audition by Wednesday, 6th December at the latest and that you will be asked to attend one pre-Christmas rehearsal on the evening of Wednesday, 13th December.
In addition, we are open to applications from strong 15 year old female actor/dancers for the key principal role of Louise, the daughter of the leading couple in the show, who, in addition to leading the iconic Act Two ballet sequence, has three key scenes which involve a dynamic range of emotions and an ability to deliver dialogue effectively and with an American accent. You are allowed to audition as a child in the show generally initially as well as specifically for Louise - the latter audition will involve learning and auditioning with an additional short dance sequence on that same evening as well as giving a dialogue audition on Monday, 27th November.’
The audition process on Monday 27th will progress as follows:
7.30 - 8.30: Workshop audition for Snow Children/Fairground Children in which applicants will be asked to take part in an improvised acted scene based around a fairground as well as learning/singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (please research and be fully familiar with this song when you arrive at the audition) and learning/dancing a short sequence from Act Two in character as the Snow children.
8.30 - 9.00: John-Paul McCrohon (Director) will address the cast of 'Carousel' to discuss the concept/vision of the production and characters as well as the practicalities of the schedule.
9.00 - 9.30: Further rehearsal time for Louise/Carnival Boy auditionees as well as other principal auditionees who can rehearse with their allocated group members for the forthcoming principal audition session.
9.30 - 10.00: Dance auditions for Louise/Carnival Boy applicants.
Potential applicants are advised to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they want to get involved, though they can turn up on the night if they prefer."
Here at PortsmouthTheatre.com we kindly ask you share this article with anyone who may have some interest and help the fantastic South Downe Musical Society cast another one of their top class shows, whilst giving a wonderful opportunity to the young performers of our city.
Any further questions should be directed to the company directly using the email address provided.
Carousel runs at Ferneham Hall from Wednesday 18th until Saturday 21st April 2018. Tickets are available now via the Ferneham Hall Box Office.
On Friday and Saturday this week the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth is to stage a professional production of Shakespeare's classic As You Like It.
This is the official trailer for the touring production by Shared Experience and Theatre By The Lake.
"Set in the modern world of alternative facts and fiercely jealous leaders, the young Rosalind and her friend Celia find themselves pawns in a power struggle. Together they decide to flee the city and its politics for the forest where they discover a countryside wonderland of peace and harmony. Disguised as a boy, Rosalind meets Orlando and, amidst the intoxicating atmosphere of the forest, counsels him in the art of love.
One of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies, with the most witty and wise-cracking heroine of them all, is transformed in a bold new production by Kate Saxon.
The award-winning Shared Experience return with an evocative new production of As You Like It, giving a new lease of life to their unique and inventive storytelling."
Tickets are available for the production through the New Theatre Royal box office. Performances are at 7:30pm nightly with a matinée on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Musgrave is a lighting designer who has made a brilliant name for himself in the city, with a strong reputation for creativity and excellent attention to detail with his work. This interesting insight into him and his job role is not only a fascinating read, it also truly highlights the importance of those who work behind the scenes in creative roles. Here, in our second In The Spotlight feature, we find out all about Alex.
Hi Alex, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I am a freelance Lighting Designer and a Chargehand Electrician in London’s West End. I have a degree in Theatre Production from Bath Spa University. I’ve just recently moved to Waterlooville and I have a passion for music and photography, both of which I don’t get to do enough of!
How did you get into Lighting design?
I first got into lighting at secondary school when they needed someone to help with productions. There were very few people willing to do it, so It all sparked from that point. I was fascinated with how moving just one light around a space could sculpt anything that was put in it’s path. Lighting has the ability to, within seconds of an audience setting eyes on it, set the mood, time, location, style, pace and direction. This ability, as well as having the chance to create a world that will have such an effect on the production, is what excites me about lighting.
What's been your favourite show to work on and why?
That’s a difficult question as there are quite a few. One of my favourites recently has to be The Last Five Years. I was intrigued by the jumping narrative along with the relationship between the two characters. The emotional distance they both have to travel is incredibly intriguing and exciting for me. It made me explore how the lighting could be utilised to reflect their journey and portray where a character was emotionally at any specific time.
Another one of my favourites was Made in Dagenham - a musical with such a relevant topic for today’s social climate. I had good fun trying to get the Dagenham factory to look as realistic as possible, whilst managing to indulge in some of the more looser numbers! It was good fun.
Do you have someone in the industry you look up to or who inspires you?
Yes I have a few people that I look up to in the industry. Paule Constable (Angels in America, War Horse, Curious Incident of he Dog in the Night-Time), Bruno Poet (Miss Saigon, Frankenstein); Japhy Weideman (Nice Fish, Dear Evan Hansen) and Natasha Katz (The Glass Menagerie, Disney’s Aladdin and Sister Act) to name just a few.
Their work makes me think more deeply about the story as a whole, rather than just seeing it at face value. I think in essence this is what makes a good lighting design/designer - if they can make you think more deeply about the implications of the subject matter, enhance the performance without disturbing or distorting it in anyway - that makes great lighting. It needs to aid the story not just be a means to an end or a way of just seeing actors.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to split my time between playing musical instrument (guitar or drums which ever takes my fancy that day!) and photography. I find that both of these help me switch off from a busy week and allow me to mentally recharge my batteries.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
I guess a big wish for me is to get to a point in my career where I am lighting a big productions in London, Broadway or any where around the world for that matter! Getting to travel with my work would be the ultimate dream.
If you had to pick one thing, what would be your pet hate?
I’m going to be naughty and pick two! In general, littering. We only have one planet, we need to look after it! A more theatre specific one would be sweet packet rustling! It makes my blood boil! If I had my way theatres would sell sweets in plastic tubs.
What's your proudest achievement?
I would say my proudest achievement so far is getting to work in some of the most iconic theatres in the U.K. so early on into my career as a theatre practitioner. I’ve worked at the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Aldwych Theatre; Savoy Theatre, Apollo Victoria, Minack Theatre to name just a few. Working in these theatres will undoubtedly help shape the rest my career.
What would you say to a young person interested in pursuing lighting design?
My advice would be to try and not get bogged down by paperwork, physical lights or other equipment you’re going to use. Spend more time learning to observe, dissecting and understanding light, how it plays and interacts with objects in an every day setting and what that emotionally means to you. For example, I will, if there is a full moon get up in the middle of the night, walk around my house and observe how moonlight interacts different objects.
Research, research and even more research. Make sure you know the source material back to front - be it the script, score or opera libretto. Then you can make informed decisions about the piece.
Gain an appreciation of the masters of art - they were the first lighting designers.
Read and listen - don’t be afraid to ask questions and respect your Followspot operators, they can make or break your design.
And finally, tell us about a project you have been working on, are working on, or have coming up.
I am about to go into the production period for this year’s pantomime Snow White at the Kings Theatre. I’m very excited about the project! I have also been working on a new website which I have just launched. Shameless plug here but check it out! It’s www.alex-musgrave.com.
Thanks for having me!
The Academy of Musical Theatre are launching a new initiative to get more boys involved in Musical Theatre training.
Sunday 3 December, 10.30am - 1pm
Admiral Lord Nelson School, Portsmouth
For boys aged between 8 and 16 years
It's completely free!
The ‘not just for girls’ campaign will see a boys only theatre workshop launched on Sunday 3rd December as a taster of what dance and singing lessons are like.
The session is completely free to all boys aged 8 to 16 years will take place from 10.30am – 1pm. The session will be led by the school’s co-director, Andrew Wright with visiting musical director, Adam Hoskins, who will serve as role models to demonstrate to any young males interested in musical theatre that it really isn’t just for girls. The workshop will include learning repertoire from some of the most iconic musicals of the last 60 years, including West Side Story, Newsies and Starlight Express.
The students will be coached in acting, dance and singing and will work toward a small performance at the end of the session. You don't have to be an existing student of the school to attend. It's free to any boys interested in musical theatre.
You can register for the classes online at: http://www.academymusicaltheatre.com/boys-theatre-workshop. Please share this article amongst anyone who may have an interest, it would be fantastic to get this class populated and show that Musical Theatre really is #notjustforgirls.
This is the brilliant moment when the talented cast of Petersfield Theatre Group's All Shook Up took to the streets in a flash mob promoting their production.
The sublime promotional piece took place in Rams Walk earlier this month and was captured in this video by Tony Neal. It features the cast of the piece performing an ad-hoc performance attracting the attention of many passers by.
All Shook Up is an American jukebox musical based around the magnificent hits of Elvis Presley which is being staged by the company next week at Petersfield Festival Hall. It runs from Wednesday 22nd November until Saturday 25th November nightly at 7:30pm, with a 2:30pm matinée on Saturday.
This Elvis-inspired musical features over twenty of the King's greatest hits. "In a small town in 1950s America, a guitar-playing, hip-swivelling stranger rides his motorbike into town. Is he 'The Devil in Disguise' or a 'Hound Dog' in 'Blue Suede Shoes'? The townsfolk are about to be 'All Shook Up' and could be headed for 'Heartbreak Hotel'! But for Natalie, the love-struck, tomboy mechanic, it really is 'Now or Never'..."
Tickets are currently on sale for the production and advanced booking is advised. Telephone 01730 268829, visit the Petersfield Tourism Office to purchase directly or book online. Link below.