Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Sunderland Empire

A Fabulous Welcome For Joe

Bill Kenwright by special arrangement with the Really Useful Group presents
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 4th June 2016

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice

Bill Kenwright directs a tight production of the popular biblical musical which had a packed Sunderland Empire on its feet in celebration. Local lad Joe McElderry has opportunity to show he is a class act, whilst Lucy Kay and Emilianos Stamatakis also shine with their vocal ability. Add memorable songs into the mix and you have an audience that leaves feeling very happy.

Joseph was one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first collaborations with lyricist Tim Rice. The story follows the tale in the first book of the bible, Genesis, about Jacob (Henry Metcalfe) who had many sons. His favourite son is Joseph (Joe McElderry) for whom he buys a magnificent coat. His jealous brothers decide that Joseph has to go. Initially they plan to kill him, but in the end they sell him as a slave. The brothers inform their father that poor Joseph is dead when, in fact, he is heading off to Egypt.  The story then follows Joseph as he tries to make the most of the situation.

Unlike some musicals, the story comes from the lyrics rather than spoken parts between the songs. The bulk of this comes from the very capable Lucy Kay as the narrator. The former Britain’s Got Talent finalist has a number one classical album under her belt. Her vocal skill was simply stunning. Her powerful and yet controlled voice for a real highlight of the show.

Joe McElderrry is a big attraction in his own right.  Joseph gives him a vehicle to show both his vocal talent, in songs like Close Every Door and Any Dream Will Do, and his acting skills.  The popular lad didn’t put a foot wrong as he entertained his many fans.

The other stat vocal contribution came from the King himself as Emilianos Stamatakis described his dream to Joseph in the style of Elvis Presley. Here lies the success of the musical and helps explain why it still attracts large audiences after 40 years – the show doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Numerous laughs are scattered throughout the production.

Designer Sean Cavanagh has created a set which has 2 set of stairs and enable the audience to have a good view of over 30 members of the  young Joseph Choir provided by Northern Star Theatre Arts. This well behaved group added an angelic quality to the songs that they performed in.

Underpinning the whole show is a tight live band, under musical director Kelvin Towse, and a supporting cast of brothers and handmaidens.

Is the musical too cheesy or dated for 2016? Was the set drawn out to make the show, at 125 minutes, longer than it needed to be? Perhaps so, but some of us like our dated cheese!

Joseph is an entertaining family show which will make an ideal half term treat. Joe McElderry and Lucy Kay are both strong vocalists with warm personalities that the audiences love. The show concludes with a Joseph Megamix that had the audience up dancing at the end.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR (www.jowheretogo.com). Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook www.facebook.com/Jowheretogo.

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland *calls cost 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

Preview: The Circus of Horrors at Newcastle Tyne Theatre


The Circus of Horrors Returns!

The Circus of Horrors

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Friday 27th & Saturday 28th January 2017

2017 sees the hugely popular Circus of Horrors take over Tyne Theatre & Opera House for two nights with its latest incarnation The Never-ending Nightmare on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th January.

The spectacular features an amazing amalgamation of bizarre, brave & beautiful acts all woven into an Alice in Horrorland type story driven by a mainly original soundscape & performed with a forked tongue firmly in each cheek.

Annually The Circus of Horrors plays over 100 UK theatres and this tour has expanded to take in festivals throughout the world including The Fuji Rock Festival in Japan (twice), the Wacken Festival in Germany plus shows in Chile, Uruguay, Holland, Belgium, Argentina, France, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Hong Kong and Moscow where it became the 1st UK Circus ever to perform in Russia. The show also played an astounding 10 nights at London’s O2.      

This is not the first time that The Circus of Horrors has created history as it became the only circus ever to reach the finals of Britain’s Got Talent and the first circus to perform in London’s West End for over 100 years.

The Circus of Horrors’ appearances on various subsequent TV shows have turned what started as a cult show into a household name – taking the extreme to the mainstream. Its TV credits now also boast The X Factor, The Slammer, Daybreak, Fairground Attractions, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Body Shockers, Fake Reaction, This Morning, Ant & Dec, The One Show & A Royal Command Performance.

The Circus of Horrors started its gruesome beginnings at the 1995 Glastonbury Festival and became an instant hit, touring all over the world from Chile to Chatham, Argentina to Aberdeen, Japan to Jersey including festival appearances with Alice Cooper, Eminem, Motley Crue, Oasis, Iron Maiden, The Manic Street Preachers, Foo Fighters and many more.

If Quentin Tarantino had directed Cirque Du Soleil then you would be only half way there.”

‘Bloody Good Fun - Barnum would be proud’ Time Out

Bloody Marvelous’ Edinburgh Festival

Blood Thirsty & Burlesque’ The Independent

For video footage visit: http://www.circusofhorrors.co.uk

Tickets: £18 - £27 (plus booking fees when booking online and over the phone)
Tickets on sale now at www.tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday)

Early Bird ticket offer: £3 off top price tickets (no concessions, expires 31st October 2016)

Preview: Autumn 2016 at Newcastle Northern Stage

Autumn 2016 at Newcastle's Northern Stage

This autumn, Northern Stage offers an exciting, diverse and wide-ranging season of work featuring home-grown productions alongside new work from some of the country’s most exciting and innovative theatre companies and shows fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe.

Opening the season is The Season Ticket (23 Sept – 8 Oct) - an update on the story that inspired hit British film Purely Belter (FilmFour). Directed by Pilot Theatre’s Associate Director Katie Posner and adapted from Jonathan Tulloch’s novel by Lee Mattinson, it’s a story of friendship, family and football that follows two young working class Geordies as they try to raise enough money to buy a season ticket for their beloved Newcastle United.

Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, Northern Stage explains “We are delighted to be collaborating with the multi-award winning Pilot Theatre on a new version of Jonathan Tulloch’s brilliant story by the hugely talented Newcastle-based writer Lee Mattinson. This tale of two lads from the wrong side of the tracks is a funny, human and moving story about the possibility, strength and imagination of young men too often written off by society.”

Working with Northern Stage for the first time, award-winning writer Lee Mattinson will adapt Jonathan Tulloch’s novel for the stage. Lee’s previous work includes Me and Cilla for BBC Radio 3, Coronation Street for ITV and for stage Snap (Young Vic), Gary Lineker is Gay (Paines Plough), Chalet Lines (Bush Theatre/Live Theatre). Lee said: “Working on The Season Ticket has been as much of a rollercoaster as a football season and the first time I’ve adapted a novel for the stage. With a text so rich in landscape and character, the struggle was deciding what to leave out, whilst making it a piece of theatre in and of itself.

“The novel crackles with such heartfelt dialogue and hopeful determination that Gerry and Sewell’s world was already an incredibly tactile one, an environment that it was a gift to disappear into. I’m a huge fan of its previous incarnation, Purely Belter and, hopefully, the play is not only a re-telling of this Geordie institution but also a fresh take on what it means to belong in 2016.”

Open auditions for two young North East actors for the lead roles are being held in Newcastle in June, and the full cast will be announced in July. The Season Ticket will go on a national tour after opening at Northern Stage including York Theatre Royal, Theatre Royal Winchester and Dundee Rep. 

Fresh from Northern Stage’s Edinburgh Fringe programme at Summerhall, Unfolding Theatre present Putting the Band Together (28-30 Sept) - a personal story about revisiting forgotten dreams and lost passions inspired by deviser and terminal Pancreatic Cancer sufferer Mark Lloyd’s wish to “put his old band back together”. This uplifting new performance features a talented cast led by singer and guitarist of The Future-heads, Ross Millard alongside a house band of local ex-players at every venue on the tour.

Multiple Fringe First award-winning duo RashDash return from the Edinburgh festival with Two Man Show (6-8 Oct), a playful performance on masculinity, gender and language with original music by Manchester-based composer and musician, Becky Wilkie.

Visiting companies include new writing from David Greig in the first ever English production of one of the world’s oldest plays, Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Women (3-5 Nov). Written more than 2,500 years ago, the story of 50 women who leave everything behind when they board a boat in North Africa to seek asylum in Greece bears particular relevance today in this new co-production by Actors Touring Company with Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and will feature a chorus of 50 local female performers and is directed by Ramin Gray.

The Wardrobe Ensemble tells the story of the class of '72 with a handsome funk guitarist and some space-hoppers in 1972: The Future of Sex (18-19 Oct).
Tangled Feet return with Kicking and Screaming (13-15 Oct) - an honest, funny and touching show about becoming a parent for the first time with a live score played on children's instruments.
Northumberland Touring Company in association with The Bijli Project will present How to Make a Killing in Bollywood (3-4 Nov) - a brand new comedy about two best friends who decide to quit their jobs in a fast food restaurant and head to Bollywood in search of fame and fortune.

For families and young people Bare Toed Dance Company and Juice Festival present Downside-Up (24-25 Oct) - an interactive aerial dance show during half term. Oily Cart creates a multi-sensory, tactile feast for the senses in Mirror, Mirror (27-28 Oct). Thrillingly spectacular circus skills blend seamlessly with physical comedy, clowning, juggling, theatrical storytelling and slapstick in The Hogwallops (28-29 Oct) from Lost in Translation Circus.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival (17-22 Oct) returns with a series of unique per-formances by schoolchildren from all over the North East.

Christmas at Northern Stage is going to be bigger than ever with a brand new production of David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach (19 Nov – 31 Dec) from the same team who created The Wonderful Wizard of Oz last year. Artistic Director Lorne Campbell says, “This Christmas we’re making a truly spectacular production of James and The Giant Peach. So giant, in fact, that we will be opening out ‘the Epic Space’ to accommodate it. Putting Stages One and Two together gives us one of the largest stages in the country and we are aiming to fill it with Roald Dahl's epic tale of a young man and his incredible journey with his weird and wonderful friends.

“And for younger children we are going to be collaborating with pioneering North East children’s theatre company Theatre Hullabaloo and Theatre lolo to present Luna (6-31 Dec) for 2-4 year olds in Stage Three. Magical, intimate and beautiful it promises to be a truly remarkable show for our youngest audiences and their families.

For dance fans, the phenomenal Ballet Black (11-12 Oct) comes to Newcastle for the first time with a triple bill of new collaborations from three bold and inventive choreographers. Christopher Hampson’s Storyville is the bittersweet fable of Nola, a farm girl who falls prey to unscrupulous characters and worldly desires in 1920s New Orleans, set to the haunting music of Kurt Weill. The Begin, Begin is a newly devised piece by Christopher Marney (fresh from McQueen) and Cristaux, a duet by Arthur Pita, who previously choreo-graphed a hit ballet version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

There will be stand-up comedy from Andy Hamilton (15 October) with new show Change Management – Andy started his career writing for satirical sketch show Not the Nine O’clock News, co-created cult Channel 4 comedy Drop the Dead Donkey and more recently BBC ONE’s Outnumbered and is a regular guest on TV panel shows such as QI and Have I Got News For You.

Lorne Campbell: “With Noises Off running on our main stage, Julie in rehearsal, preparations underway for our Edinburgh programme and exciting work across all of our stages this Autumn I am very proud to say that Northern Stage is busier than it has ever been. Alongside our reputation for creating truly ambitious work we are trying to open our doors ever wider to ensure that we make work with, for and by all of the creative passionate and diverse people of the North East.”

For full details or to book tickets see www.northernstage.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Preview: Julie at Newcastle Northern Stage

By Zinnie Harris
Newcastle Northern Stage
Friday 3rd – Saturday 18th June 2016.

Northern Stage Resident Director Rebecca Frecknall directs Zinnie Harris’ update of August Strindberg’s mas-terpiece, Miss Julie. A classic tale of passion, compulsion, love and hate, Julie is set against a backdrop of workers’ strikes and social unrest making it as relevant today as ever.

Director Rebecca Frecknall said: “I’ve been drawn to this play for years. I first watched an amateur production of the original Strindberg play when I was in my teens and then my first professional directing job was as assistant director on Patrick Marber's version at the Young Vic. It seems beautifully serendipitous that my first fully professional production at Northern Stage explores the same story!

“Zinnie's take on 'Miss Julie' really sparked my imagination when I first read it. Her incarnations of the char-acters are so contemporary and complex and her reworking and strengthening of the female characters gives the play a whole other level of game-playing not present in the original. It's a very sexy and political piece, but ultimately I'm drawn to the tensions and games between the characters.

“I think that audiences are drawn to plays that have stood the test of time and this production is particularly timely politically. The background to the immediate action of the play is a workers union strike and the presence of this civil unrest is an undercurrent that permeates the entire story. Recently, with the Junior Doctors’ and even school children out on strike, I’ve been feeling how necessary it is that theatres revive stories that deal with the human fall-out of this restlessness and desire for change in society.

Pearl Chanda will play the lead role of Julie. A RADA graduate, Pearl last appeared at Northern Stage as Nina in Headlong’s playful 2013 production of Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull, adapted by award-winning writer John Donnelly and directed by Blanche McIntyre.

Michael Grady Hall will play John. Michael has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company since graduating from RADA, most recently playing Frank in the RSC’s critically acclaimed sell out run of Oppenheimer which transferred to the West End.

Rona Morison will play Christine. As well as The James Plays (National Theatre), Rona has appeared in Bristol Old Vic’s production of The Crucible, directed by War Horse director Tom Morris, the Bush Theatre’s UK tour of Crave/Illusion, Royal Court Theatre’s Anhedonia and Scuttlers (Manchester Royal Exchange).

Julie was written by award-winning British playwright, director and screenwriter Zinnie Harris for the Na-tional Theatre of Scotland in 2006. Director Rebecca Frecknall is joined on the creative team by Set & Cos-tume Designer Madeleine Girling, winner of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design in 2013. Lighting Design is by Joshua Pharo whose recent theatre credits include In the Night Time (Gate Theatre) and The Rolling Stone (Orange Tree Theatre). The original score and sound design is by Nick John Williams whose recent work includes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Northern Stage, directed by Mark Calvert.

Recommended Age: 16+

PLEASE NOTE: This performance contains full female nudity.
Running time: 90 mins
Tickets: £14.50 / £12 concessions

Previews: Fri 3 & Sat 4 Jun: £10.50
Post-show Discussion: Wed 15 June

British Sign Language performance Signed by Faye Alvi - Fri 17 Jun, 7.30pm

For full details or to book tickets online visit http://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/julie or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.