Lets Twist Again – Dreamboats and Petticoats – Review

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I was retro before retro was something to be. As a teenager, the music I rocked out to was Elvis, Buddy, Del Shannon, Chubby Checker, Chuck Berry et al. So going to see Dreamboats and Petticoats last night, was not just visiting my dad’s era (who came with me) but also going back to the songs I sang throughout my teenage years, much to the annoyance and bewilderment of my contemporaries (although I secretly think they liked my Elvis impersonations ) This is a picture of me when I was around 14  -note the  quiff in it’s early stages the funky jacket – as I got older the quiff got bigger and I got a pair of crepe soled shoes! Alas the jacket and shoes have gone. After seeing Dreamboats and Petticoats I may have to buy some replacements.

Dreamboats and Petticoats (currently on at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End) is a musical based on 3 hit albums that are compilations of late 50’s early 60’s hits. So if you go to this musical expecting, a deep twisting storyline, and complex lyrics, you need to realise you’re going to the wrong place! This is a feel good show and it ticks all the right boxes, if you’re out for a fun night out at the theatre, which my family and I were.

Reading the programme before the start, it left little to the imagination what songs would be included with character names such as Bobby, Sue, and Donna, as the story developed it almost became a game of which song will follow next or in a few moments time, when Laura says it’s her sixteenth birthday party the next day, I was pleased that “surprisingly” they sang the Neil Sedaka song “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”.  There are corny jokes and cheesy moments a plenty, but it’s all done with tongues firmly in cheeks.

So did the cast do justice to these classic songs??

YES!!!!

I was not just pleased but pleasantly suprised as the cast gave 110% to all their performances.

Of special note is Daisy Wood-Davis who played Laura, she is one of the best singers and performers I’ve seen in any musical (I’ve seen over 50), thankfully she had several solo turns and for me was the highlight of the show. It’s worth going to just to see her sing, she’s breathtaking.

I was disconcerted that a X Factor contestant was the male lead. Scott Bruton who played Bobby however, delivered the goods, he pulled of the falsetto of several of the songs superbly (most notably Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams”) and it was a wise piece of casting I’m pleased to say.

Ben Freeman as the older “Fonz” type of character of Norman was great and he brought the theatre alive with his numbers and you could see he genuinely loved performing his role (so would I!)

AJ Dean was a great supporting character as Ray the older brother of Laura, his couple of songs he pulled off with gusto.

Francesca Jackson and Emma Hatton gave witty and rambunctious performances as Sue and Donna and certainly fulfilled the role of “something for the dads”, Francesca Jackson’s version of “You Don’t Know” was smashing.

The whole show is really an ensemble piece. The other actors, are not only actors in the play but also the musicians. I love seeing the musicians on stage and these were superlative. Sophie Bryan the tenor sax player, and Micheal Kantola the lead guitarist played with such energy and skill. It was also gratifying to see that 3 (Wendy Paver, Sam Palladio and Patrick Burbridge) were all recent graduates of Rose Bruford College’s actor-musician course. With more and more shows requiring the band to be actors too, I can see this course getting more and more popular. (wish it had been around when I left school)

Mike Lloyd and Roger Martin provided the older characters with suitable humour and kept up with the frantic pace the young cast set, which they should be congratulated on.

Other highlights include a cappella version of “Poetry in Motion”, which with its mutli layerd harmonies. was maginificent. The cool dodgems they drive onto stage, I desperately wanted to have  a go on. It’s worth getting a part in the show just to drive those every night!

For the last 10 minutes of the show, we were all up on our feet singing and twisting away, with the cast joining in too, seeing Michael Kantola playing the lead guitar behind his head was fab, the party vibe was a splendiferous way to end the show.

If you want a good night out and enjoy this kind of music, I highly recommend this musical. If you don’t then stay home and be miserable!

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A Week of Plays Not Football

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This week I’ve been cracking on with some background reading for my next modules. (good student that I am 🙂 )

I’ve read a few plays that I’ve not read before;

  • Stoning Mary by Debbie Tucker Green
  • Serious Money by Caryl Churchill
  • The Entertainer by John Osbourne

Stoning Mary was extremely disappointing, the premise of having white actors portray a situation that Africans have had to endure sounded like a clever idea. I just found it lacking in any depth or real dramatic action / tension. It felt disjointed and I couldn’t identify with the characters, they seemed totally two-dimensional. Why was Mary stoned? Should I care? I imagine the idea of the play was that I would, I just could not connect with the characters or the situations.

Another thing that annoyed me, was she has lots of places in the script where the “script” says;

“Character Name :

Next Characters Name:

Character Name:”

Now what is that pretentious “scripting” about??? I don’t think its clever or funny to have that as “dialogue”.  It happens throughout the play. If she wants characters to look/act in certain ways but not say something, she can add that as stage directions/comments if she wants, rather than waste space with nothing. To me it came across as the writer trying to be “clever”, or perhaps she couldn’t think of anything to write?

I did like the way in some of the scenes she has another actor play the characters ego and speak their internal dialogue, it is those scenes that grabbed me. If this had been developed I’m sure I’d have got more from and into the play. I felt there was potential as I read it but it just never seemed to achieve it.

I’m not sure if I’ll have to read anymore of Debbie Tucker Green’s work for the unit, hopefully her other work isn’t like this. I’ll re-read this play as and when I need to for my module, perhaps a second reading will change my opinion – if it does I’ll let you know.

Next on to Caryl Churchill. She’s a legend but I’ve only ever read Top Girls which I enjoyed. Serious Money is a superb play,  I can;t believe this hasn’t been revived in the last year or so (perhaps it has??)  It’s so pertinent to the economic crisis we’re going through and is some of the best writing I’ve read. The whole of Act 2’s dialogue rhymes, which is a great achievement in itself, even more so because this is intelligent, hard-hitting and witty dialogue. This is a play I look forward to re-reading and perhaps one day being in. Her portrayal of the City Traders in the 80’s is spot on, and scarily prophetic.

Olivier as Archie

John Osbourne is another luminary, again I’ve only ever read one of his plays previously, the ground breaking Look Back in Anger that changed everything back in 1956. That’s a play I’ve studied and referred back to many times over my course, so it was marvelous to get the opportunity to read some more of his work. I have to say I enjoyed The Entertainer more than I did Look Back in Anger. Partly due to my own interest in Music Hall, but again, his writing is just spot on, the pacing was great, I found it a real page turner. His character of Archie, is easily as memorable as Jimmy Porter from Look Back in Anger, I’d have loved to see Olivier performing the role of Archie when this was originally put on. As Archie deals with his self delusion, demons and self destruction I was genuinely moved. There is a film version with Olivier in, I’ll have to make do with that. I’ll also keep my eyes out for any productions of this on locally.

So they were this weeks reading. 2 out of three isn’t bad! I’m not expecting to enjoy everything I read or study on the course (hell I had to study an opera in one module – urghh!), as said on previous occasions, it’s great to be stretched and pushed outside my comfort zone and to experience new writers and plays.

There are several others to read over the next few days, I’m especially looking forward to reading Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth as I’ve not had the opportunity to see that when it was in London. My thoughts will be on here soon.

A Few Good Pictures and a Few Good Musings

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As promised, here are some pictures (all pictures by Peter Whittle) from A Few Good Men, it’s the last night tonight 😦

Yes that’s me being beaten up and gagged up there!

It’s been a great run and  they’ve been a great bunch of guys (and 1 girl) to work with. I’m looking forward to working with them again in future productions. There are a few plays we’re interested in doing next season, so watch this space.

When I’ve not been treading the boards this last week, I’ve finished Micheal Billington’s State of the Nation, British Theatre Since 1945. This is a brilliant book, that I heartily recommend. He makes no bones about his political left leanings, but a bit of Thatcher bashing is always good! He gives a comprehensive overview of this period and brought to my attention a good few plays and playwrights I’d not heard of but will be reading soon. It’s well written and I think it’s essential reading for anyone interested in modern British Theatre.

The other book I’ve been reading this week and not quite yet finished is David Mamet’s new book Theatre. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! I’m going to do a complete review once I finish it, but Mamet’s observations and bluntness,cutting through a lot of the theatrical crap is a much need corrective. There are literally dozens of quotes I could post here but here are two of my favourite;

“No adult Londoner would go to see the Crown Jewels, and no adult New Yorker went to see Mama Mia! for to do so would have been culturally repugnant, branding him as a tourist or a dufus.”

“Stanislavski’s theoretical books are a lot of trash. They are unimplementable and thus, useless for the actor. His great gift was his recognition of Chekhov. And it is Chekhov’s plays that transformed acting.”

I’ll offer more comment on this work in a future post, while I don’t agree with everything he writes (the above two quotes, I certainly do though!), he certainly got me thinking. There were many occasions though where I nodded my head in approval while reading.

Well last night party to get ready for 🙂 TTFN

Options for the year ahead

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Several weeks ago I finished my module at college on The Director, earlier in March I had to select my option choices for the next academic year. They are;

  • Post War British and Irish playwriting
  • Theatre of the Absurd

Now I know what those of you’ve who’ve seen me performing are thinking – “Theatre of the Absurd should be easy for Dominick 😉 ” Why have I chosen these modules?  Well it’s partly practical and partly as they’re the ones that are most interesting to me.

The two periods overlap so it means, I’m studying two modules that compliment each other which in turns means less books to buy! Some of the books I am buying are also used in both the modules so that’s a bonus! Theatre of the Absurd is written and tutored by Dr Harry Derbyshire, who was my tutor for my first ever module and he’s great (and absurdism is his speciality) so I’m really looking forward to having his input again. It’s also an area I’m not that familiar with so it’ll be nice to be outside my comfort zone a bit.

Post War British and Irish playwriting, I’ve chosen because personally I think it’s really important to study this period as it brings us right up to the present day 21st Century playwrights and I know it’ll mean revisiting some great playwrights work (Osbourne, Bond, Churchill, Pinter, Beckett, Kane, Ravenhill). I also know it’ll bring to my attention other playwrights and their work that I’ve not come across yet, which is always exciting. It’s got a huge bibliography and I’m already making a start on my background reading,

I’m currently reading Michael Billington’s State of the Nation, British Theatre Since 1945, which is superb and is giving me a comprehensive overview of the period I’m about to study in more depth and has certainly wetted my appetite.

One of the other modules I could have done is The Actor and the Realist Tradition – which as it spent a lot of time on Stanislavski I chose to not do ; this clip shows what I think method acting is;

🙂

So as they progress I’ll let you know what I’m learning, liking and disagree with !

ps. The run of A Few Good Men has started well, I’ve ordered my disc of pictures and will share a few choice ones, as and when I get the disc.