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What’s On Theatre Guide: January 2013

It’s a new year, and a new start for the latest shows set to open in the West End this month, and we also say goodbye to a few of our favourite productions…

The Judas Kiss

Where: Duke of York’s Theatre, St. Martins Lane, London.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square.

Starring: Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde, and Freddie Fox as Lord Alfred Douglas.

What’s it all about?: It’s 1895 and Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, is playing in the West End after a triumphant premiere, but already the wheels are in motion which will lead to Wilde’s imprisonment, downfall and vilification. Forced to make a choice between his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, and his freedom, the ever romantic Wilde embarks on a course towards self-destruction.

Previews from 9 January 2013, for 13 weeks only. Tickets from £20.

Quartermaine’s Terms

Where: Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square.

Starring: Rowan Atkinson.

What’s it all about?: Set in the 1960s in an English language school for foreigners, this tragicomic play is a humourous but ultimately moving account of several years in the lives of seven teachers. At the heart of the group is St. John Quartermaine (Rowan Atkinson) – kind, pleasant and agreeable, but utterly hopeless as a teacher. An almost permanent feature in the staff room, he’s always available to listen to the problems of his self-obsessed colleagues. But when a new Principal is appointed, Quartermaine’s future looks precarious…

Previews from 23 January 2013, for 12 weeks only. Tickets from £25.

My Big Gay Italian Wedding

Where: Greenwich Theatre, Crooms Hill, London.

Nearest Tube: Greenwich or Cutty Sark.

What’s it all about?: Following its critically acclaimed UK tour, join the congregation as this comic tour-de-force and off-Broadway cult hit arrives in Greenwich for a strictly limited engagement. Andrew and Anthony are getting married – and everyone wants to ‘help’! My Big Gay Italian Wedding spins into a hysterical fiasco as everyone tries to have their way. This music and dance filled extravaganza has been playing to sold-out houses in New York for years and is showing no signs of finishing the reception early. It even features members of The London Gay Men’s Chorus.

Playing from Wednesday 30 January to Sunday 3 February 2013 only. Tickets £15, and £12.50 concessions.

Midnight Tango

Where: Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London.

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Cout Road.

Starring: Strictly Come Dancing professionals Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace. Also starring Russell Grant.

What’s it all about?: Set in a late-night bar in downtown Buenos Aires, Midnight Tango brings to life all the drama, sensuality and elegance of the tango. A journey into the heart of this intoxicating city, as danger and excitement, joy and jealousy, pain and passion combine into a spectacular and explosive evening.

Previews from 30 January 2013, running until 2 March 2013. Tickets from £20.

Transfers and closures

Loserville closes on 5 January 2013 at The Garrick Theatre, London, and makes way for Rock Of Ages, reopening on the 18 January, after its transfer from The Shaftesbury Theatre.

Will Young and Michelle Ryan perform for the last time on 19 January 2013, after the curtain comes down on the sassy and sexy musical Cabaret at The Savoy.

1960s jukebox musical Dreamboats and Petticoats also closes on 19 January 2013, making way for  Quartermaine’s Terms at the Wyndhams’s Theatre.

The musical adaptation of children’s book Room On The Broom at The Lyric Theatre closes on 13 January 2013. Whilst Dr. Seuss musical, and So So Gay favourite Seussical, plays for the last time on 6 January 2013 at The Arts Theatre.

Finally, the end of Christmas also signals the end of Scrooge The Musical at the London Palladium on 12 January 2013. Watch out for an exciting new production of A Chorus Line opening there in February, starring John Partridge and Scarlett Strallen.

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Preview: A Chorus Line

For the first time since its initial London season, which opened in 1976 and won the Olivier Award for Best Musical, a full London revival of the Broadway Production of A Chorus Line will be staged at the London Palladium from 5 February 2013.

The role of imperious director Zach will be played by West End leading man and TV star John Partridge, best known for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders. No stranger to the stage, Partridge has appeared in numerous musical theatre productions including Cats, Starlight Express, Tommy, Grease, The Drowsy Chaperone, Rent and Miss Saigon. He was also selected by the BBC to join Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charlotte Church and Sheila Hancock as a judge to find a new leading lady to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, on BBC1’s Over The Rainbow, in 2010.

Starring as Cassie alongside Partridge is Scarlett Strallen, who is currently starring as Kathy in the West End production of Singin’ in the Rain, for which she received an Olivier Award nomination. Her previous theatre work includes Clara in Passion at the Donmar Warehouse, the title role in Mary Poppins in the West End and on Broadway, and Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt will play Diana, and Leigh Zimmerman will take the role of Sheila.

Michael Bennett’s production of A Chorus Line won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it opened on Broadway in 1975 and went on to become the longest running musical on Broadway for a while, achieving an astonishing 6137 performances. It features some of musical theatre’s best loved songs, including ‘One (Singular Sensation)’, ‘What I Did For Love’, and ‘Hope I Get It’.

John Partridge will star as

John Partridge will star as Zach in the revival.

The production will be directed by Broadway and West End veteran director and choreographer, Bob Avian. Avian was Michael Bennett’s long term collaborator and his co-choreographer on the original production. Avian was also responsible for directing the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, ‘I am delighted to welcome A Chorus Line into The London Palladium. This classic Broadway production has not been seen in the West End for almost 35 years. Marvin Hamlisch was a great friend and supporter in my early career and I can think of no more fitting tribute to him than this major revival.’

This long anticipated revival will become a tribute to the show’s composer Marvin Hamlisch who tragically died in early August last year.

The first preview of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium, is on 5 February 2013 at 7.45pm, and the show is booking until January 2014. Tickets start at £19.50.

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Preview: A Chorus Line

For the first time since its initial London season, which opened in 1976 and won the Olivier Award for Best Musical, a full London revival of the Broadway Production of A Chorus Line will be staged at the London Palladium from 5 February 2013.

The role of imperious director Zach will be played by West End leading man and TV star John Partridge, best known for his role as Christian Clarke in EastEnders. No stranger to the stage, Partridge has appeared in numerous musical theatre productions including Cats, Starlight Express, Tommy, Grease, The Drowsy Chaperone, Rent and Miss Saigon. He was also selected by the BBC to join Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charlotte Church and Sheila Hancock as a judge to find a new leading lady to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, on BBC1’s Over The Rainbow, in 2010.

Starring as Cassie alongside Partridge is Scarlett Strallen, who is currently starring as Kathy in the West End production of Singin’ in the Rain, for which she received an Olivier Award nomination. Her previous theatre work includes Clara in Passion at the Donmar Warehouse, the title role in Mary Poppins in the West End and on Broadway, and Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt will play Diana, and Leigh Zimmerman will take the role of Sheila.

Michael Bennett’s production of A Chorus Line won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it opened on Broadway in 1975 and went on to become the longest running musical on Broadway for a while, achieving an astonishing 6137 performances. It features some of musical theatre’s best loved songs, including ‘One (Singular Sensation)’, ‘What I Did For Love’, and ‘Hope I Get It’.

John Partridge will star as

John Partridge will star as Zach in the revival.

The production will be directed by Broadway and West End veteran director and choreographer, Bob Avian. Avian was Michael Bennett’s long term collaborator and his co-choreographer on the original production. Avian was also responsible for directing the 2006 Broadway revival of A Chorus Line.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, ‘I am delighted to welcome A Chorus Line into The London Palladium. This classic Broadway production has not been seen in the West End for almost 35 years. Marvin Hamlisch was a great friend and supporter in my early career and I can think of no more fitting tribute to him than this major revival.’

This long anticipated revival will become a tribute to the show’s composer Marvin Hamlisch who tragically died in early August last year.

The first preview of A Chorus Line at the London Palladium, is on 5 February 2013 at 7.45pm, and the show is booking until January 2014. Tickets start at £19.50.

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West End news round-up: 14 January 2013

For all you West End Wendies out there, there’s never a week that goes by without some sort of hot backstage gossip making its way to our ears. So, in case you missed it, here’s the latest and greatest from the world of theatre…

Magicians Barry and Stuart: Show and Tell national tour

Prepare to be amazed and astounded as stars of BBC One’s The Magicians, Barry and Stuart, are back with their sell-out 2011 Edinburgh festival show Show and Tell’ on a dazzling national tour. Described by Derren Brown as ‘The most consistently original, creative and exciting force in British magic,’ Scottish BAFTA-nominated Barry and Stuart bring you their highly acclaimed ‘Show and Tell’. Split into two parts, the first is the ‘Show’, crammed full of slick, distinctive, astonishing, gruesome and brilliant illusions laced with black humour. The second part, the ‘Tell’, has Barry and Stuart exclusively revealing and teaching the audience all the secrets and techniques behind the magic and tricks. To find out if the tour if coming near you and to book tickets, visit the show’s official website.

Cast change for Taboo – the Boy George musical

Taboo, the musical based on Boy George’s life, celebrates its on-going run by adding a brand new song, an enhanced script and an exciting new cast. This site-specific performance, currently playing at The Brixton Clubhouse, features the new song ‘No Need To Work So Hard’, written by Boy George and Kevan Frost. Paul Treacy takes the iconic role of Boy George and appears alongside Jordan-Luke Gage as Marilyn, Boy George’s rival-turned-closest ally. These bright young things are ones to watch – both make their professional debut in Taboo, and are real-life best friends and third-year students at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, due to graduate in this summer. Taking on the role of feisty-yet-vulnerable punk runaway Kim is Devon-Elise Johnson. Kim forms an enduring on-stage relationship with young photographer Billy’s mother, Josie (Alex Jordan-Mills and Julia Worsley, respectively). Josie’s drunk and homophobic husband, Derek, is played by Paul Kevin-Taylor, who brings a double dose of the dark side to the show, as he also performs the role of Petal, the scene’s violent and terrifying cross-dressing drug pusher. The show has also just received three nominations at the respected, publicly-voted Whatsonstage.com Awards, including a nod for Sam Buttery as Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. The musical is now booking through to March 2013.

Live cinema screenings of Great Expectations at the Vaudeville

To celebrate the launch of The Dickens Legacy at the Gala Evening at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, Great Expectations will be screened live via satellite to more than 150 cinemas across the UK and Ireland. Although it is Dickens’s most popular novel and has previously had many incarnations in cinema, television and even a stage musical, this will be the first time there has ever been a production of Great Expectations as a full-scale stage play in either the West End or on Broadway. The cast includes Jack Ellis as Jaggers, Chris Ellison as Magwitch and Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham. The live screening will commence on Thursday 7 February at 18:45, at a number of participating cinemas.

Cast announced for The Secret Garden: In Concert

The cast has been announced for the forthcoming concert revival of Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s three time Tony Award winning musical The Secret Garden at The Kings Head Theatre. Following in his father’s footsteps and making his professional stage debut in the shared role of Colin is Zac Donovon, son of pop/TV/musical theatre star Jason Donovan. He will be sharing the role with Tyler Fagan, an original Gustave in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. The role of Mary Lenox will be shared between Ana Martin, who also makes her professional debut, and Olivia Hallett, who was a recent soloist in the West End Voices concert at The Actor’s Church in Covent Garden. Zoe Curlett will play the role of Lily; her previous credits include Cosette in Les Misérables and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. Alexander Evans will play Archibald, and Rachael McCormick will take on the role of Martha. The concert runs from 10 February to 17 March 2013, and tickets start at £10.

New cast set to take over hit musical Top Hat

From 5 February 2013, joining Gavin Lee, who will play Jerry Travers in the West End hit musical Top Hat, are Broadway actress Kristen Beth Williams as Dale Tremont, Olivier Award nominee Alex Gaumond as Alberto Beddini, and Clive Hayward as Horace Hardwick. Vivien Parry continues as Madge Hardwick, and Stephen Boswell as Horace’s valet Bates. In addition, on 28 January 2013, over 275,0000 tickets will be released for sale, taking bookings for Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre up to 27 April 2014.

Seventy-seven years after its movie release, which saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers playing the roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, Matthew White’s production arrived in the West End in April 2012, having completed a 20 week sell-out UK tour. Performed by a cast of 31 and accompanied by a live band of 15, this musical comedy includes Irving Berlin classics from the original movie.  A further ten numbers have been interpolated from Berlin’s 1200 strong back catalogue.  In November last year, Top Hat won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for London’s Best Night Out, and the production has also been nominated for 5 Whatsonstage.com Awards.

Featured image source: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe

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Review: Seussical (Arts Theatre)

December can be a stressful time. There’s Christmas shopping to be done, diets go out the window and the prospect of spending money on relatives we only see once a year can become all a bit too much. Step forward Seussical, a shining beacon of musical light amongst the dark wintry nights.

The musical, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is based on the books of Dr. Seuss and made its début on Broadway in 2000. The story is an amalgamation of many of Seuss’s most famous books including, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who! 

We begin by being introduced to The Cat in The Hat (Joe Morrow), who is telling young explorer Jojo (Clark Devlin) how he can think almost anything- the more imagination he uses, the more exciting life can become. Suddenly a whole plethora of colourful characters enter Jojo’s world, including the showgirl diva Mayzie La Bird (Jessica Parker), the shy and awkward Gertrude McFuzz (Kirsty Marie Ayers), and our adorable hero Horton The Elephant (David Hunter).

Horton hears a strange noise coming from a speck of dust, and makes it his mission to save the people of Whoville trapped on top. Although the other animals, lead by the Sour Kangaroo (Natalie Green), mock Horton, he’s spurred on by his special bond with Jojo, who has now transferred into the story – and onto the speck – as the son of the Mayor of Whoville (Philip Scutt). Sprinkle in some additional tales, including babysitting an over-zealous egg, feather jealousy and a delightfully charming love story, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect afternoon of escapism.

From the start the entire cast has sackfuls of energy. Joe Morrow looks like he’s having the time of his life clowning around as the Cat in The Hat. His constant switching between accents and characters had the audience enthralled, and often in stitches, and it’s easy to see how this fun feline will become the new best friend of every child in the audience. Kirsty Marie Ayers is simply delightful as the bird with a one feathered tail. Her sweet, but gorgeous singing voice lends itself perfectly to all of her captivating numbers, and her continuing quest for Horton to notice her will have even the hardest of hearts melting by the end of the show.

Clark Devlin is scarily realistic as a child, and has the mannerisms, spirit and cutesy voice of Jojo down to a fine art, whilst Jessica Parker goes to town with all of her showgirl numbers, oozing pazazz and sparkle. A special mention must also go to the three Bird Girls (Tanya Shields, Jennifer Low and Amy Punter) who produced some classy, tight harmonies throughout.

However, the real star of the show is David Hunter, who brings such an endearing quality to Horton that it’s hard not to push Gertrude out of the way to gain his affections first. His natural connection to the audience takes everybody along for the ride with him, and you can’t help but be on his side. Hunter’s singing voice is as strong as ever, and his seamless ability to act throughout every song makes us question why he didn’t reach the final of ITV1′s Superstar. Although Lord Webber’s loss is Seussical’s huge gain.

Phillip Rowntree’s direction makes the most of the high octane score and captures the silliness beautifully, whilst the choreography by Cressida Carré is sharp and clean, suiting the several different musical styles with ease, as well as adding another exciting dimension to the rainbow-coloured set and costumes. Although this is supposedly a children’s show, you’ll be begging your daughter/nephew/local Primary School to get a ticket just so you can accompany them without feeling guilty. However, there’s no shame to be found here. Amongst all the fun and occasional back-flipping, there’s a strong moral at the heart of the story, and Horton’s continuing mantra – ‘a person’s a person, no matter how small’ – left us feeling renewed and slightly empowered, although that may have been helped by the pre-show mulled wine.

This is feel-good family fun at its very best, and we defy anyone to find anything else in the West End this Christmas so wholesome, without the faintest whiff of anything patronising. Leave your bags of stress and shopping at the door, and enjoy 80 minutes of unadulterated fantasy.

Seussical presented by the Sell A Door Theatre Company runs at the Arts Theatre, Leicester Square until 6 January 2013. Tickets are available online, or by calling 020 7836 8463. All images by Darren Bell Photography.

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Review: Peta Pam (Karamel Club)

It wouldn’t be the festive period if you didn’t have a good old-fashioned pantomime in the diary. Except, of course, there isn’t anything old-fashioned about a lesbian rewriting of the childhood classic Peter Pan.

Peta Pam is a production by Outhouse London and their lesbian Theatre Troupe, The Darlings. It presents the adventures of Peta Pam, Tink, the Lost Lesbians and the Darling children as they explore Well I Never Land in search of fun and excitement. Polished, the production is not. However, the writing is witty and the cast have bundles of energy which more than make up for the occasional forgotten line. In fact, in a production which continues to poke fun at lesbian culture, and therefore at itself, the odd slip up here and there adds to the relaxed atmosphere.

The production is showing  in the Karamel Club in Wood Green, a bar come restaurant come venue space for live music and theatre productions. A warm and cosy atmosphere awaits, with affordable, decent food (I recommend the fish and chips – basic but satisfying) and friendly staff. The performance takes place in the restaurant area, so you are immediately greeted by the set when you arrive. It would certainly not be described as understated, has about as much festive sparkle as the space can handle and offers an indication of the performance to come; unsubtle, loud and full of fun.

After a brief intro from our narrators, we meet the Darling family as the kids get ready for bed, and Mrs Darling decides to head out for an all-female evening of red wine and vegetarian terrine – one of many references to lesbian stereotypes in the production which they manage to get away with. In Mrs Darling’s absence, Peta Pam makes her grand entrance along with the sparkly Tink. The scenes do blur together somewhat and at times it feels like there more people on stage than in the audience, but the general plot of the original Peter Pan is stuck to and the Darling children end up in Well I Never Land, followed by their panic stricken mother upon returning from the party.

What follows is a slight mish-mash of structure and plot, which may have been overlooked in favour of set, costume, and witty one-liners, but the cast are excellent at engaging with the audience. There are a couple of interesting hybrid accents and perhaps some projection issues, but somehow it all works. Pantomimes are certainly not supposed to be faultless pieces of ground-breaking theatre;  but funny, colourful, even silly performances which leave you with that feel-good factor. Peta Pam most certainly delivers on that front.

It’s not every day you get to see a production by an all-lesbian cast, and even less often that such a production is a pantomime. Grab a couple of friends (all welcome and all will enjoy, not just lesbians), buy a ticket before they sell out, and settle in for a fun evening of decent food and wine, a few giggles and bags of festive spirit.

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Preview: Aladdin: A Wish Come True

Panto season is in full swing but it seems that this year it has just got bigger!

Described as a ‘truly unique event’, the story of Aladdin is to be told in one of the world’s most famous arenas, London’s O2. The pantomime will take place in a specifically built, 1,900 seat theatre under the canopy of the world class arena and stars a true UK legend, Lily Savage. Paul O’Grady’s alter ego will take on the famous role of Widow Twanky and Aladdin: A Wish Come True also sees Jersey Boy’s favourite, Jon Lee, appear in the show’s title role.

Running from Friday 7 December 2012 until Saturday 5 January 2013, the pantomime also stars Issy Van Randwyck as the Slave of the Ring, Darren Bennett as Abanazar, Marissa Dunlop as Princess Jasmin and Nigel Garton as the Emperor. The production has been lovingly produced by Michael Rose and Chris Moreno, and is directed and choreographed by David Morgan, a panto alumnus who had previously worked on Cinderella on the stage of the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.

Paul O’Grady has been a household name for many years now, as has Lily Savage, and he shows no signs of slowing down this Christmas. With promoting his book Still Standing: The Savage Years and other TV and Radio commitments, O’Grady cannot wait to be on stage this festive season, taking on arguably the most famous pantomime dame! Paul is not also not phased by the surroundings, saying “The Arena’s no place for panto, it’s too big, so they’re building us a theatre… I expect we’ll all be in porta cabins round the back, hovering over a fan heater, but no doubt but it will look lovely out front.”

The O2 does seem the perfect setting for this festive treat, along with the theatre, the array of bars, restaurants and entertainment spots, audience’s can really make a day of it, which is what the theatre is all about!

Lily Savage as Widow twankey and Jon Lee as Aladdin. Credit Alastair Muir.

Paul O’Grady is no stranger to the campness of the panto, “I love the insanity of it all! You’re in this family for four weeks and if you have the three ‘Gs’ – a great company, great audiences and a great production – then you’re laughing. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend Christmas”. And pantomimes aren’t just for the children! O’Grady states that it is the story that will keep Aladdin’s audiences hooked, ““You’ve got to keep the story going. Don’t just wander out and tell a few gags. It’s really important to tell the story. Ours opens with a funeral – the kids’ love that, with all the thunder lightening and the dry ice – and they’re burying Widow Twanky’s husband. It’s a prologue so you find out how Widow Twanky ended up in Peking running a laundrette; you get the back story. And when you have a really good script like ours it enables you to stray off for a bit. I chat to the audience and tell them me woes, but, you don’t want to be going overboard; you’ve got a crew there who want their lunch and people who want to get the bus!”

With Christmas very fast approaching, we can only imagine that for the performers there isn’t much time to be at home celebrating. But at O’Grady towers he will says he will be celebrating in style! “I have all the friends round and I cook a big Christmas dinner. Honestly, if you walked into my house you’d think ooh! Someone in this house absolutely adores Christmas; a lovely tree, holly, ivy and mistletoe around the banisters – you’d think Kirsty Allsop had been in working overtime!” O’Grady also reveals that his own back garden looks a lot like the famous nativity scene too… “I’ve got nine pigs, ten sheep, four barn owls – it’ll be like Hogwarts here soon – two goats, four dogs and loads of chickens and ducks. It’s ridiculous!” Blimey.

Famously, the story of Aladdin includes a magical Genie, who grants the young lad three wishes. So what would Paul O’Grady wish for? “A good blast of sunshine, just for a week, to give us all a treat before Christmas… I’d ask for a big pot of money to give away to mates and charities that really deserve it.”  Well, two aren’t bad… And we all know the famous scene where the Cave of Wonders appears and nearly traps the hero. Would O’Grady banish anyone there though? ““It would be a very busy cave,” he cackles. “And not only would I shut ‘em in but I’d fill it full of ice cold water, just waist level, and then I’d break the sewer pipe. Then and I’d go in and cheer myself up watching them all being miserable!” (Remind us not to get on the wrong side of him!)

We have to say, the prospect of seeing Paul O’Grady in a pantomime is one that fills us both excitement and joy, and we simply cannot wait! Be sure to catch our review of the spectacle later this week.

Aladdin: A Wish Comes True runs at The Theatre at The O2 from Friday 7 December 2012 until Saturday 5 January 2013. Tickets:  £19.50 – £49.50. To find more information on the show click here.

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Spotlight On: David Bates (Actor)

It’s always good to have the opportunity talk to young up-and-coming stars about bold and exciting new projects that are set to hit the stage scene. We were thrilled to sit down with the amazing David Bates and talk about his new show Anyway, which is set to make its mark for a three evening run at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London. In a refreshingly candid interview, we got to grips with David and the wonderful character of Jamie, who he is bringing to life in a show he lovingly wrote and brought to the stage.

If you met someone who didn’t know about your show, how would you describe it to them?

The play’s called Anyway and it’s a one act, one man show written by myself. It concerns one night in the life of an 18-year old gay man called Jamie from Manchester. He is currently on a date, which he does a lot, and he is at that point a lot of young gay men reach where they begin to tire of the faded glamour of the gay scene. In this play, he is beginning to realise that he might be ready for something more than a quick fumble, or a one night stand, but he isn’t sure. It is this quandary that he reflects on throughout the show. Jamie’s date is in the bathroom calling his mother, and while he is gone Jamie observes the restaurant and the guests with the odd wry comment, (and a little bitchiness), and all the kind of gay humour you would expect. However, he begins to ask himself if these other people are really happy and, by extension, is he? There is a lot of comedy and thoughtful observation, but as the wine begins to go down we begin to see Jamie’s guard slip and see the real vulnerable lonely person he is underneath.

You have hinted about Jamie, the character you are bringing to life. Can you tell us more about him?

Basically, when I started to write the play I drew some of Jamie’s character from myself when I was his age, and the situations he finds himself in during the play are loosely based on my own experience, but heightened a bit to translate better on stage. Jamie is an only child and likes to think of himself as cultured. He is also quite attractive, and he knows, it so he can be very sure of himself; and he is also quite selfish and self-centred. He has a tendency to get his ‘trophy’ for the evening, as it were, so when he goes out on a date, he is looking to get something from it; he is looking for sexual gratification. However, underneath all of that he is actually a very genuine and warm person.

Do you think Jamie is a character we can all recognise and relate to?

I’d like to think so because I think there are a lot of single men who are out on the gay scene who can feel quite lonely, and are just looking for someone to go home to at the end of the day, which in some respects could be what Jamie is looking for. But there is still this other side to him which, much like the gay scene itself, is incredibly bitchy, and incredibly ageist and shallow. So, I think Jamie will be relatable because you see people who are like him all the time. He is a young, attractive and sweet man, but also a little bit desperate for attention. He goes out to get attention from men, which is obviously very sexual in nature, but actually what he really craves is something more simplistic and sweet. I do think there are a lot of people who will see this character and relate to who he is, definitely.

What drew you to acting in the first place and, subsequently, to writing your own show?

I’m from a little town called Swinton in Manchester and from a young age I found that I had a talent for all things artistic. I then went on to do a two year acting course in college in Manchester and won a place on the acting course at the Italia Conti Academy. As long as I can remember, this has always been something I loved and wanted to do. In regards to writing, this is actually the first play I have ever written, but I have always enjoyed creative writing and been fascinated by words, and the power they have to transport people to new and exciting places.

If you had your pick of any role past or present, what would be your ‘dream role’?

That’s a really good question. I would quite love to be a part of a production of Martin Sherman’s Bent. I actually played the part of Rudy as part of my showcase and I think it’s an amazing part. I don’t want to market myself as a purely gay actor but it so happens that I just love this part. A lot of the parts I get cast in are for quite vulnerable characters, and Rudy is very much like that. I would also love to play Iago in Othello, just to be an absolute bastard! Really, there are thousands of roles I would love to play and it really is hard to pin down just a few, but really right now I am glad of the work, and happy to have these opportunities. In any character you play, I think you need to find something that excites you about them.

Do you have dating dramas now?

No, not anymore. I am very happy, and a lot more mature about those sort of things now. I look back and I think maybe I was slightly on self-destruct. Rather than just going out and being myself, I would just put on a front, a bit like Jamie does in my show. When I was younger, I used to be quite camp, but not as much these days.

Do you have any plans for the future?

To be honest with you, my big thing right now is this play and, depending on the success of it, I might decide to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year or maybe elsewhere, maybe Manchester. Meanwhile, I am continuing to audition for things through my agent. With an acting career, you have no idea what might come up. This show is something I had planned to do for a long while, so that is all that’s on the agenda right now.  There are lots of different things which are open to me in the new year so I am just hoping that I can start 2013 on a positive note and see what happens.

Anyway is coming to the Tristan Bates Theatre in London for a three day engagement from 17 to 19 January 2013. Tickets are £9.50 and can be purchased from the theatre website here.

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stage tv

Review: Aladdin: A Wish Come True (O2 Arena)

When you take a trip to London’s famous O2 Arena, it is not every day you would see a mechanical baby Elephant, a flamboyant Christmas dame and a rather impressive flying carpet. But that has all changed this festive season with it being the home to the pantomime Aladdin: A Wish Come True in a pop-up 1900 seat theatre.

We wish we could say that the experience at the O2 is a pleasant one, but the seating is extremely cramped and the heating is certainly lacking, but with all that being said the show does allow you to forget about all that, just about.

The show opens with a funeral, how very unfestive I hear you say. But the newly Widowed Lily Twanky and son Aladdin are banished to Old Peking, where she sets up a delightful appearing laundrette. The set is something to be admired, as is the large orchestra in the far right corner. The same can’t really be said for the poor plot and the musical numbers. Although there are some classic showstoppers, Chicago’s ‘When Your Good To Mama’ and P!nk’s ‘Get The Party Started’ are both enthused with energy and Christmas cheer. Yet, original numbers are far too cringeworthy and lacklustre, even for a pantomime. The standard audience participation is present for the children and families, even if Twanky mentions “slapping it out” of the chilly audience. The show isn’t just for families either. The jokes do have innuendos that only the dirty minded would appreciate, particularly one towards the end involving ‘acute angina’! However the closing number, Take That’s ‘Shine’, really disappoints as a finale with it simply not working and failing to create any energy or excitement.

Lily Savage as Widow Twankey and Jon Lee as Aladdin. Credit – Alastair Muir.

The cast as a whole is quite strong. The choreography is on the majority extremely remarkable and the ensemble vocals fill the pop up theatre. Issy Van Randwyck is a comical Slave Of The Ring with a powerful voice, and Jon Lee, of S Club 7 fame, surprises with an extremely impressive, if quite musical theatre vocal performance, although with the script his acting fails to light up. Matthew Rixon and, in particular, Andy Spiegel as PC Ping and Pong make a delightful comical pairing, bringing energy and hilarity to every scene, look out for the ‘laundry delivery’ scene – hilarious! Sadly, Marissa Dunlop is a disappointing Princess Jasmine, with a dull and un-magical performance.

But the real scene stealer is, of course, the headline act, Miss Lily Savage. Everything about Widow Lily Twanky is perfection from the big, flamboyant numbers to the sharp, confident and comic attitude. There are many times in which she also interacts with the audience, to which a poor audience member named Pauline received the most abuse, in particular her “cheap looking neck tattoo”. The laughs come thick and fast when Savage is on stage, to which even the other cast members can’t quite contain themselves with her quick wit.

The show has enough there to make it watchable and enjoyable, besides the lacking script, bad songs and occasional limiting character depth. The festive spirit is certainly raised at Aladdin, and the whole experience is one that should be carried out. It may not be the best panto around but to see Miss Lily Savage in action should be just about enough incentive to take the trip to the O2.

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stage tv

Review: Viva Forever! (Piccadilly Theatre)

I’ve adored The Spice Girls ever since they first popped onto the scene. I can remember being thrilled when one of my friends had a Spicey 8th birthday party, and I was naturally the only boy on the guestlist. I even travelled all the way to Paris with my Mum and Nan to see them in concert- although I missed the first 15 minutes because I had my head over the toilet bowl, vomiting due to being so excited. So it was with a mixture of trepidation and a bubbly tummy that I headed to see the jukebox musical based on their biggest hits. This time I had my head firmly away from any lavatories, although I could still detect a faint whiff of nausea in the auditorium.

Now, I love musicals, I will watch ANYTHING, but I’m struggling to express exactly how disappointed I was. With more shoehorning of songs than a Barratt’s sale on summer wedges, the show felt incomplete, rushed and completely confused about who’s story this was meant to be. Our leading lady, Viva (Hannah John-Kamen) was distinctly unlikeable, and her three friends who were meant to be representing the rest of the Spice brand were basically irrelevant to the entire show. In fact, when they made a ‘triumphant’ return at the end I couldn’t even remember who they were.

Set in the world of reality television, the story follows Viva and her three mates on their quest for stardom. However, there was nothing to root for – the love subplot for Viva herself was frankly embarrassing – and there was no dramatic tension or real heart. It was more superficial than Helen Flanagan’s fake tan.

We all know The Spice Girls for their energetic music and their endless energy. We loved them because each of their uptempo hits were a real party starter, but in Viva Forever! there’s only a measly two big dance production numbers. It’s like they spent all the money on the set and suddenly remembered to hire a choreographer two weeks before it hit the stage. And don’t even get me started on those numbers- ‘Spice Up Your Life’ might as well be renamed to Nando’s Mango and Lime because it certainly failed to ignite a fire in the genuinely baffled audience.

The potential here was fantastic, but the show is too dialogue heavy. It’s like Jennifer Saunders has written it predominantly for the television. It’s clunky and not actually that funny, something which I expected having such a national institution at the helm. The saving grace came from the cast, who did give it everything they had. Sally Ann Triplett as Viva’s adoptive mother Lauren, made the most of what she was given, and she deserves a medal for driving ’2 Become 1′ away from the cringe worthy number I feared it could be. Sally Dexter as Viva’s talent show mentor Simone, is a mix between Sharon Osbourne and Stephanie Beacham, but is nevertheless very entertaining. The real stand out in my opinion comes in the form of the hilariously funny cameo from Simone’s assistant Minty played by Hatty Preston. This hashtagging, Made In Chelsea wannabe is played with perfect comic timing by Preston, and generates the majority of the laughter.

It’s with a heavy heart that I write so many bad things about one show, and I feel sorry for the cast and crew who can’t fail to be upset with all the negative reviews I’ve seen pouring in, but sadly it’s the truth.

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want; Those two and a half hours of my life back.

No wonder Posh turned up late to the premiere performance, somebody must have warned her.

Viva Forever! is running at the Piccadilly Theatre, Denman Street, London. Tickets can be purchased through their official website or by calling 08448 713055.