Little Baby Bum

Little Baby Bum

Many parents with babies and toddlers will know of – and probably be exceedingly grateful to! – the nursery rhyme world of Little Baby Bum.

For the uninitiated, Little Baby Bum – or LBB as it’s known – is one of the world’s most popular educational YouTube channels.

LBB features colourful computer-animated versions of traditional nursery rhymes and original songs, and featuring a cast of recurring fun character.

From The Wheels on the Bus (2.1 billion views online and counting!) to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, many a parent (this reviewer included!) can probably credit LBB for helping their little ones learn the words to the classics.

Little Baby Bum Live

And now LBB has followed other major family brands like Teletubbies and Peppa Pig in taking to the stage – with the first tour of Little Baby Bum Live hitting the Lowry this weekend, in the large Lyric theatre no less!

I’ve often thought there was a gap in the market for a live show dedicated to nursery rhymes, so was curious to see if the LBB magic could translate to the stage.

My little reviewer (3 and a half) started bopping his head as soon as he entered the auditorium, thanks to the jolly pre-show music, which was a good sign.

The show introduces audiences to popular LBB characters including Mia, Jacus, Baa Baa Sheep the Baker, Incy Wincy Spider, Stan the Monster, Pig, Baby Panda and my son’s favourite, a high-energy, high-kicking, high-faulting Old Macdonald.

Little Baby Bum Live

Using an effective mix of colourful projections, props and puppets, LBB favourites are performed within the framework of preparing for a parade at the end of the show.

The cast are all excellent, switching roles, costumes and puppets with ease – and are in fine voice, so those all-important nursery rhymes are done justice.

Most of our favourites were included, and we particularly loved the section of non-stop songs towards the end that included faves like Ring a Roses, Grand Old Duke of York and many more.

This finale was so fantastic that on reflection I wonder if there could have been a little less talking about the parade in the first half the show, and a little more singing! But maybe I’m just being greedy!

Little Baby Bum Live

The only real negative aspect to the LBB Live experience was the impact on the show the persistent flash photography had on things – sadly many parents ignoring the explicit request at the start of the show by cast members, while photos and videos were encouraged, flashes should be turned off. Perhaps a no photography at all rule should be considered as all the screens and flashes was very distracting.

But this gripe aside, Little Baby Bum Live Was an extremely enjoyable show for pre-schoolers, especially if they are familiar of the LBB world. It effectively captures the charm and magic of singing these songs – and I’m happy to report singing and dancing along was encouraged throughout!

More information and further tour dates can be found here.

Blackpool – What a Shit Place to Die

Three Minute Theatre, Manchester – Fri 20 July 2018

Starring Mark Newsome

Writer – Phil Pearson

Director – Grace Cordell

Reviewed by Eric Potts

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

At only fifty minutes long with no interval this is a real emotional roller-coaster.  We follow the mental descent of Billy Costello – a young, gay, depressed, autistic actor with a drug problem during what could prove to be his last few days on the planet…in Blackpool.

Oldham based actor Mark Newsome portrays Billy with truth, integrity, clarity and a real passion.  Although a one-man play, Newsome delivers duologues within the text as Billy encounters both random strangers and problematic family.  He does this with aplomb, the audience quickly buying into the theatrical device and enjoying the well-scripted content.

Writer, Phil Pearson has delivered a tight and fast-moving script, which Newsome delivers with apparent ease.  Costello’s downward spiral towards attempted suicide is, as you would expect, emotionally charged but deliciously peppered with acidic one-liners and asides that allow the audience to laugh through the tears and create a real empathy with the main character and his demons within.

The main thrust of Costello’s mental anguish would appear to be both his and his family’s struggle with his sexuality.  His other issues, drug-use and autism are featured secondarily within the play by means of some clever writing which came across as half-rap, half incantation.  It worked well.

A few minor directorial tweaks would solve some positioning issues and allow better use of the cleverly conceived projection sequences within the narrative, which should be expanded in any future production to augment the staging.  That said, director Grace Cordell has done a very good job and presented an almost full house with both a production and a performer that should go much further in the future.

Interview | Jonathan Harvey | DUSTY

JH

BAFTA and Olivier nominated writer Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Coronation Street) has recently taken on a new challenge, bringing the legendary Dusty Springfield to life in a new and hotly anticipated production, DUSTY the musical.

Based on the personal memories of those who knew her best and chock-full of timeless classics including, I Only Want to Be with You, Son of a Preacher Man and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, DUSTY the musical heads to The Lowry’s Lyric theatre for one week only as part of its premiere UK tour starring the magnificent Katherine Kingsley, Rufus Hound and Roberta Taylor.

We caught up with writer Jonathan Harvey ahead of the show opening at the Lowry on Tuesday 24th July to hear a little more about the new musical which critics are describing as ‘outstanding’.

DUSTY 2

ON: What was your starting point when it came to writing DUSTY the musical?

JH: I spoke to the producers who had their own ideas for what they wanted the story to be, I mostly researched through books and DVD documentaries from over the years, I read and watched as much as I could. Dusty was really popular in Australia so I found lots of Australian TV interviews and watched those. When she died the BBC did an amazing documentary about her which is still on YouTube which was a great piece for my research. I also spoke with her Personal Assistant who is also a character in the show that was invaluable really.

Dusty I think was all things to all people, I can really identify with that, you might behave one way with your mates then a completely different way with your partner, so I read some descriptions and thought, that’s nothing like the one I just read so it was really important to get to the true essence of Dusty so we can deliver that in the show.

ON: Is it a challenge to tell the story of someone so private?

JH: Yes, you are conscious of that but everything we’re featuring in the play has already been said before so we’re not exposing anything, everything I’ve included is out there, I’ve just brought it together and made a drama about it. What’s brilliant about someone who is private is what goes on behind closed doors is often some of the most interesting things about them so we get a glimpse into that which I think will really entertain and engage audiences.

DUSTY 1

ON: Have you had any surprises whilst researching?

JH: Absolutely I’ve found out some really interesting information, I didn’t know she’d been kicked out of South Africa for refusing to play to segregated audiences, incredibly she was really slagged off for doing it, the British press went ballistic about it at the time because it was such a political thing to do and pop stars at the time weren’t expected to act like that, many household names at the time were happily playing to separated audiences.

She hosted Ready, Steady, Go and had a Motown special on there featuring black artists she’d met in America, then suddenly after this their careers here took off all thanks to Dusty. Things like that I’ve found just so interesting, she was a real innovator.

Some people I’ve spoken to when I mention Dusty didn’t know she was British, didn’t know she was gay or didn’t know she was white. She did a lot of things ahead of her time. To get into a recording studio and be in charge and tell people exactly what she wanted was a new thing for the men working with her. She seemed to do a lot of firsts, mix this in with all her amazing songs and getting involved for me was a no brainer.

Dusty 6.jpg

ON: Do you feel then the show is a celebration of women?

JH: The story works best when she’s surrounded by her two best friends, her PA and her hairdresser. It’s interesting that when she went off to America in the 70’s and her mates weren’t with her she spiralled into drug and alcohol addiction, lost everything and only really got back on track when she got back to Britain with her mates around her. So I’d say it’s a real celebration of friendship.

ON: What can audiences expect from the show?

JH: They can expect something more than your average jukebox musical. The last workshop we did I invited two of my mates, one of which being the actress Kathy Burke who is always brutally honest with me and I also invited my mate Tina, Tina hates musicals. Two songs in I looked at them both sat on the front row and they were both crying their eyes out and then the next minute they were really laughing. Tina said to me, ‘I hate musicals but I really, really like this’ and Kathy said ‘She’s a f***ing star’ ha ha. It’s very moving but you’ll also have such a laugh, we’re having such a scream with this show. Kathryn is incredible, right from the audition she really made me laugh and her talent really stood out I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect for the role.

DUSTY

DUSTY opens at the Lowry on Tuesday 24th July and runs until Saturday 28th July tickets available here.

Casting News | Gulliver’s Travels

untitled-1The Octagon Theatre has announced the cast for their exciting retelling of Swift’s classic novel Gulliver’s Travels, which can be seen in Bolton’s Queens Park from 16th to the 27th August.

The lead role will be played by a giant puppet of Gulliver which will stand at a whopping 8m tall and is currently being constructed by Handmade Parade in Hebden Bridge. Joining the incredibly impressive puppet will be the familiar faces of Michael Peavoy, Robert Jackson and Alexandar Bean all most recently seen in the Octagon’s critically-acclaimed site-specific production Summer Holiday, as well as Anne O’Riordan who previously appeared in the Octagon’s 2016 festive show Cinderella.

gullivers eye small

Throughout the production the cast will be joined by young performers and community companies culminating in the final scene that brings together local choirs from across Bolton in an exciting community collaboration. Various locations across Queens Park while be used in the production including the sunken garden, the duck pond and the amphitheatre which will be transformed into the magical land of Lilliput with festoon lighting, flags and sailboats adorning the space.

Audiences will meet at the Chorley New Road entrance to Queens Park and are encouraged to bring picnics or buy catering on site in what Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director at the Octagon theatre expects to be ‘a big spectacle – we hope lots of people will want to come along and celebrate the final production of our 50th Anniversary Season after the sell-out success of Summer Holiday and our most impactful season to date.’

Queens Park

The production will be co-directed by Octagon Theatre’s Artistic Director Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti and showing on evenings Thu 16 – Mon 27 Aug at 7.15pm with a matinee performance on Sat 25 Aug at 2.15pm. Ticket prices from £12 – £15 and can be found here.

 

Aspects of Love

Kelly Price (Rose) & Felix Mosse (Alex) in Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre. Credit Anthony Robling

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Stripped back, elegant and intensely intimate Aspects of Love, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic is given its North West professional premiere by award-winning pairing Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Productions and what a sensational premiere it is.

Based on the 1995 novella by David Garnett, Aspects of Love is a multi-layered and deeply fascinating exploration into the complexities of love. The story moves from one lustful entanglement to the next as intertwining relationships based around multiple characters within 3 generations of one family develop and change over a 17 year time scale. Love, lust, loss and obsession all feature in this spellbinding sung-through musical, the third of Hope Mill’s five in-house productions for 2018.

Kelly Price (Rose) & Felix Mosse (Alex) in Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre 2. Credit Anthony Robling

17-year-old Alex is hopelessly smitten with glamorous actress Rose, Rose loves the thrill of attraction, desperately craving sexual freedom and adoration yet is terrified at the thought of loneliness . Despite a passionate affair Rose turns to Alex’s Uncle George for commitment who in turn introduces her to his long-standing lover, free-spirited Italian Sculptor Giulietta. Further complexities arise when years later Alex is reconciled with lover Rose whose 15-year-old daughter Jenny enthusiastically pursues him, much to the horror of protective father George.

Director Jonathan O’Boyle’s stripped back approach to this iconic musical ensures the storytelling and emotion of piece lie firmly at its heart. Conversations flow as witty song exchanges while melodic vocals develop into passionate protests. The intimate staging of this piece takes the intensity of each relationship to another level as the audience is carried along immersed in the fizzing action.

Kelly Price is sensational as Rose Vibert, passionate and demanding yet heart-achingly vulnerable, she gives an utterly compelling and deeply moving performance. Her delivery of Anything But Lonely is raw and heart-felt.

Felix Mosse is perfectly cast as Alex, displaying an incredible vocal rage, he is sensitive and entirely believable, guarded and intense yet simmering with passion and explosive rage. He judges the character perfectly and ensures the audience now have a new actor to associate with perhaps one of the most well-known songs in any musical, Love Changes Everything.

Jerome Pradon (George) & Kimberley Blake (Giulietta) in Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre. Credit Anthony Robling

Jerome Pradon’s character acting as the worldly George authenticates his journey from decadent philanderer to aging father, afraid of what love may do to his precious daughter. His delivery of The First Man You Remember sung to daughter Jenny (the sweet and endearing Eleanor Walsh) captures the tenderness of the piece perfectly.

Kimberley Blake’s vivacious and alluring Giulietta is a joy to watch, her stunning vocals accompanied by slickly delivered choreography during post-funeral Hand Me The Wine and The Dice a real highlight of the show, pacy, passionate and full of sass.

Designer Jason Denvir has transformed the intimate setting with an expanse of shutter doors which are used to great effect as we glide through multiple cities bathed in Aaron J Dootson’s atmospheric shafts of light.

Kelly Price (Rose) in Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre. Credit Anthony Robling

The stripped back orchestration of 2 pianos and percussion ensures Lloyd Webber’s soaring score is delivered beautifully; it’s melodic, dreamy and devastatingly dramatic.

Every aspect of this show has been crafted beautifully, scene changes are delicately choreographed while each ensemble member captivates and leaves an impact. The sheer quality of this production combined with the uniquely intimate setting of Hope Mill Theatre breathes new life into Lloyd Webber’s work. Slick, stylish and oozing with passion, Aspects of Love is another sure-fire hit for the mighty Hope Mill Theatre/Aria Productions pairing. An absolute must-see!

ON at Hope Mill Theatre until

Interview | Katherine Kingsley | DUSTY

DUSTY 2

Based on the personal memories of those who knew her best and packed full of her timeless hits including, I Only Want to Be with You, Son of a Preacher Man and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, DUSTY the musical heads to The Lowry’s Lyric theatre for one week only as part of its premiere UK tour.

BAFTA and Olivier nominated writer Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Coronation Street) brings Dusty Springfield to life with a script celebrating the extraordinary story of one of Britain’s most successful artists.

Olivier Award-winner Maria Friedman (Merrily We Roll Along, Stepping Out) directs Katherine Kingsley (Piaf, Singin’ in the Rain) as the legend that is Dusty Springfield in this incredibly funny and deeply moving new musical. We were privileged to catch up with Katherine to hear a little more about the show and her feelings on portraying such an icon.

DUSTY

ON: Were you a Dusty fan before getting involved in this new musical?

KK: Yes I really was, I grew up listening to Dusty, my Mum used to play Dusty a lot which had a big influence on me, I’ve always loved that style of music, Soul, Motown, I really grew up on those sounds. I never would have imagined I’d end up playing her, when I heard about the show I had some reservations about appearing in what I thought might be another jukebox musical, it’s not really what I do but then I read Jonathan Harvey’s script and that was something else. Plus there is so much that I love about the music that I just thought, yes, I want to do this. It’s a challenge on many levels but such a good one.

ON: With Dusty being a very private person is it difficult to know what to share and how to do this respectfully?

KK: We’ve learnt so much about Dusty the person during the process of preparing the show and yes she was a very private person. I guess she lived in an era which was pre-social media and therefore there was an element of privacy for performers if they wanted it. Dusty never sought attention from the media like some other performers did, she had quite a sad life in some respects, she was fiercely private particularly about her sexuality, she was never really comfortable discussing it publicly. I almost feel quite protective over her, I’m very aware that I’m playing the role of a woman who would not have wanted to be known by her sexuality. This is where Jonathan has done an absolutely brilliant job. He’s written the script so beautifully so it reveals things about her which are surprising, fascinating and interesting but never gratuitous and always respectful. It touches on many things, her self-harming, her sexuality but most of all its about her talent and that’s absolutely where it should be.

DUSTY 3

ON: How difficult is it not to do a flat-out impersonation of Dusty?

KK: I approach it from a very different perspective I think than an impersonator would. Those iconic moments when Dusty is performing I will look at her hand gestures etc. I will honour that and try to match it as best I can so it feels authentic but I’m never for one minute trying to do an impersonation. I am not her but hopefully bringing an essence of Dusty. I really aim to capture her spirit for the audience and if they feel a little like they’re watching Dusty then that for me will be wonderful.

ON: Do you have a personal favourite from the incredible Dusty back catalogue?

KK: Oh gosh I love so many, there are so many amazing songs. I guess my favourites are the more unusual songs, I really love I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten which is absolutely gorgeous, it’s included in the show but with a completely different arrangement. I love Losing You, it’s such an amazing song. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is such a great song and such a big sing for me, it really is massive, it just shows how talented she was. They’re all just so wonderful. Oh I can’t forget about Spooky. A lot of people seem to forget about Spooky but what a song!

DUSTY 4

ON: We get the feeling you’ll be sharing a real message of female empowerment through telling Dusty’s story?

KK: Yes, I’m so excited for our audiences, particularly younger women and girls who maybe aren’t familiar with Dusty. Those who are maybe a generation or three behind who will be able to discover this amazing woman and will have more evidence and knowledge that these amazing kind of women existed in the 1960’s and were out there paving the way for future generations. Dusty undoubtedly paved the way for so many iconic singers, Adele, Amy Winehouse. Dusty was paving the way and doing that sound many years before.

ON: In a nutshell, why should audiences come and see Dusty?

KK: I think it’s a modern story, beautifully told about an amazing, strong woman who goes through some incredible personal struggles. It also has the best musical catalogue, we take you from the 60’s through pop culture right up to Dusty’s song with the Pet Shop Boys in the late 80’s, there’s so much to discover about Dusty. It’s deeply moving, it’s enormously entertaining and you’ll come away we hope feeling incredibly inspired.

DUSTY opens at the Lowry on Tuesday 24th July and runs until Saturday 28th tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love from a Stranger

Stranger 1

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Agatha Christie is one of the most prolific writers of not just her own, but any generation, turning out over 60 books. She was also a successful playwright, having penned the theatrical titan that is The Mousetrap.  However, her flirtation with the stage didn’t stop there, as here we have Love from a Stranger, a Christie short story called Philomel Cottage which was adapted for the stage by writer/actor Frank Vosper in 1936. This isn’t just another ‘run of the mill’ Christie ‘whodunit’, but a multi-layered tale of control, manipulation with a thoroughly believable monster at the centre of it.

Having come into a substantial amount of money, Cecily (Helen Bradbury), seemingly has the perfect life: wealth, a good job, and engaged to her partner Michael (Justin Avoth). However, it is adventure that Cecily seeks, and a chance encounter with a handsome photographer, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum) opens all sorts of possibilities for Cecily. The charismatic young American persuades Cecily to leave her old life behind and start afresh with him.

Stranger 2

The couple move to a remote cottage in the country where at first everything seems perfect, however cracks begin to appear in the relationship, and all is not what it seems with Lovell, as he begins to control and manipulate his now wife much to the distress and concern of Cecily’s family and friends.

Director Lucy Bailey has done a fantastic job crafting a tense, captivating psychological thriller. The production’s main strength is its ability to shock. At first it seems to be run-of-the-mill, easy going fodder, perfect for a lazy Sunday night in front of the telly. There are even a few laughs in there, courtesy of Aunt Louise (Nicola Sanderson) and then later housemaid, Ethel (Molly Logan), however this is all a ruse, designed to sucker you in and leave you fully unprepared for the events that transpire in the nerve shattering finale.

Stranger 3

It’s not just the script that helps ratchet up the tension, Mike Britton’s unique and intricate set design, of sliding panels and see through walls add to the claustrophobia, whilst bringing an element of voyeurism to proceedings. In addition, Oliver Fenwick’s film noir lighting design comes into its own as the story unfolds adding menace and an almost seedy quality to proceedings.

The cast are on fine form: the two leads have a believable chemistry with each other: Bradbury is feisty yet naive as Cecily, whilst Frenchum is charming and menacing as the unhinged Lovell. They are supported by a superb group of actors: with special mention going to a near show stealing turn from Nicola Sanderson as Aunt Louise, who certainly brings a great deal of humour to a character that could be irritating: however, some of her lines and her stage presence had the audience in stitches.

Stranger

One thing which did affect this fabulous production, and which is in no way the fault of the cast or crew was various audience members leaving their mobile phones switched on throughout the performance, one noisy intervention coming at a particular tense moment in the play: it really is frustrating the amount of times this seems to happen. Switch your phones off! Embrace being at the theatre and be in the moment!

Mobile phones aside, this is a riveting, entertaining and engrossing production, that like its lead character, starts off as one thing and in the end is a different beast all together: certainly, worth a watch.

Love from a Stranger is at the Lowry until the 14th July tickets available here.