Reviews from shows, plays, comedies and music events.

Maggie May – Review

♪♫♪ And she’ll never walk down Lime Street any more…♫♪♫

But she did. Right down Lime Street, around the corner, past what used to be the Penny Farthing and into the stage door of Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre.

Although that iconic song does not actually feature in the play, Maggie May the Musical is very much about that very same forlorn Irish lass who found herself lost and destitute in Liverpool halfway through the twentieth century.

Her story has been brought to life through the script of visionary writer and director Bob Eaton, and is told via a whole raft of wonderful original songs composed by his partner Sayan Kent.

In what has become a tradition at this lovely art deco theatre, the orchestra forsakes the seclusion and comfort of ‘the pit’, taking to the stage itself, with every single member of the eleven-strong cast harmonising and playing their instruments as they act out the play through the medium of song.

All credit to musical director Howard Gray and to the talented actors who performed seemingly effortlessly without the safety net of having a music score in front of them, whilst at the same time dancing and remembering their lines, positions and stage direction. They made an immensely difficult task look simple.

When the Royal Court was rebuilt in the 30s, it was given a revolving stage which eventually broke and was neglected for many years. Happily, this has now been restored and Maggie May is the first production to see this feature fully functional. The ability to segue from one scene to another without any apparent break in the action or the dialogue meant the play could proceed without any interruption to the boundless energy that emanated from that stage from curtain up to curtain call.

This brand new musical is as good as anything you might find in the ‘West End”, and the fact it is a story about Liverpool, performed in Liverpool, makes it that much more special. It has everything a musical should have and everything about it is wonderful. A bittersweet tale told with just the right amount of comedy. If it had been a challenge to musically interpret the highs and the lows, the joy and poignancy; then the writers, directors and the cast met the challenge and conquered it.

Maggie May the Musical gets a full five stars from me. It runs until November 10th. Don’t miss it.

By |October 19th, 2018|0 Comments

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Bouncing into the Present Day

When John Godber wrote Bouncers back in the eighties he created a script about real-life city night-club antics that would spend the next thirty years being adapted and tailored to the locale in which it was being performed.

It was a tried and tested recipe and each time it has been served up at The Royal Court, just the right amount of scouse sauce and seasoning has been added to satisfy the taste of this lovely theatre’s discerning audience.

This year’s production however, has been rewritten by Maurice Bessman and brought bang up to date by the brand new Boisterous Theatre Company.

Gone are the black suits and dickie-bows, replaced instead by the contemporary black shirts and hi-viz security ID badge holder armbands, instantly recognisable as the uniform of the modern day club/pub doorman.

The play revolves around four burly blokes on the door at a city centre night club, played by Mutty Burman, Joe Spear, Michael Horsley and Zain Salim, all newcomers to the Royal Court’s main stage.

In addition to playing the hard-nosed security crew, they switch variously, hilariously and believably, to portraying rowdy drunks, likely lads on the pull, posh oiks slumming it with the peasants, giggling scouse girls on a hen night, and a whole host of diverse characters they come across during the course of a night.

The way they switch in an instant from hard-knocks to archetype female hairdressers is so believable, you totally forget the fact they are still wearing the bouncers garb. They went effortlessly from camp to butch and back again, from scouser to cockney from chav to punk, and from sober to drunk …to comatose.

These four talented actors proved they also knew how to bust a move, with long episodes of high energy dancing throughout the show.

Bouncers runs at Liverpool’s Royal Court until September 15th. This is five star entertainment. You really don’t want to miss it!

By |September 6th, 2018|0 Comments

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Mam I’m ‘Ere. Yes… over ‘ere, at the Royal Court

Whilst everyone else was flocking to watch the recently released movie “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”, the more discerning amongst us were making our way to Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre to take in the fabulous stage play that is “Mam! I’m ‘Ere!”.

It may sound the same as the movie title but it has more colour, more fun, more laughs, more music and even more punctuation!!

The show has more than it’s Cher of talented actors, actresses, dancers and singers, so you are guaranteed to ABBA great time.

And with the summer we’ve been having, who needs the Greek island of Skopelos anyway, especially as the play is set on a caravan site in the Costa del North Wales.

Best Comedy Traditions
The sound-alike title is where the similarities end however, because “Mam! I’m ‘Ere!” is a stage musical in the best of Royal Court comedy traditions.

Written and directed by Stephen Fletcher, it tells the tale of Sally (played by Hayley Sheen) who, as a newborn, had been found abandoned on her father’s doorstep. She hatches a plan to discover the identity of her mother, by luring the three most likely, unsuspecting, candidates to her dad’s caravan park on the pretence of having won a free holiday.

It is the eve of her wedding to Si (played by Michael Fletcher) and she is certain that the truth will out when the three come face to face with her father Dave.

Dave is played by the comedy genius Andrew Schofield at his best – and teamed up as he was, with the brilliant Jake Abraham and Stephen Fletcher, was enough to guarantee comedy of the highest order.

One of my favourite scenes was when the three, dressed in the best of BeeGee tradition, demonstrated just how those high falsetto notes where achieved!

In fact, we were treated to some superb singing by the entire cast, and in particular from Hayley Sheen and Lindzi Germain, with music provided by the four-piece on-stage band. Then we had the brilliant comedy acting skills of Eithne Browne and Lynn Francis all conspiring to make this play the success it is.

The set was brilliant, much of it painted by cast member Michael Fletcher.

A special mention must go to the two Disco Divas, Mia Molloy and Rachael Wood, who sang and gyrated throughout. I swear they never stood still for a second.

“Mam! I’m ‘Ere!” is a fun, uplifting show that will have your feet tapping, and leave you with a dozen wonderful earworms to remind you of those disco days and boogie nights.

✪✪✪✪✪ FIVE STARS from the HairyPhotographer

It runs until the 11th of August. Don’t miss it!

By |July 21st, 2018|0 Comments

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Miracle of Great Homer Street

We’ve all done it, haven’t we: Quietly uttering the words “Please God let me win the lottery/pools/bookie-buster”.

In this instance, the imaginary friend targeted in Father Aherne’s prayers was not God, but the little-known ancient Italian apostle, Saint Cajetan, whose Italian accent was decidedly scouse.

And it was just as well really, because actor Jake Abraham does scouse far better than he does Italian!

This brand new play by Gerry Linford is deeper and a little less slapstick than the usual Royal Court comedies. Not being a musical also meant it relies more on the quality of the script and its execution by the cast. On both counts it succeeded magnificently, fully justifying its position as a finalist in last year’s Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize competition.

Set in 1978, it turns out that Father Aherne (played by Les Dennis) had been praying for a turn-around in his fortunes, and the all-seeing saint obliged by foretelling the World Cup football scores. This sent the wayward priest scurrying off to the bookies, with the laudable intent, of course, of using the ill-gotten gains for purely philanthropic purposes. Ahem …of course.

He teamed up with the down-on-his-luck Terry (Andrew Schofield) and his wife Marion, played by Catherine Rice. And following the standard farce format of secrets kept and misunderstandings exposed, the story unfolds with some fine comedy, led by the king of comedic timing and master of facial expression, Andrew Schofield.

Schofield’s real life son Bobby was playing alongside his dad for the first time, in the role of Jamie, boyfriend of Terry’s daughter, Bella. It is plain to see from where this young actor inherited his acting skills. He and Katie King perfectly portrayed the typical teenage pairing of that era.

The Miracle of Great Homer Street is a very funny play that also has it’s moments of sentiment and solemnity. It runs until the last day of June, and is a must-see for Royal Court fans.

By |June 10th, 2018|0 Comments

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The Liver Birds Flying Home

If, like me, you were a fan of the 70s sitcom “The Liver Birds”, you would most likely watch the Royal Court’s new musical comedy “Liver Birds Flying Home” and be expecting much of the same. You know what I mean: Same old sit (uation), same old com (edy), only with more mature actors playing Beryl and Sandra.

Far from it. This play is all that and so much more.

The writers have taken Carla Lane’s original characters, and the circumstances in which they were embroiled when the last episode aired in 1979, and speculated upon the paths their lives might have taken over the ensuing forty seven years.

Knowing there were two actresses playing the 1970s Liver Birds (Lucinda Lawrence and Nichola Munns) and with Lesley Molony and Joanna Monro playing their present day characters, I naively imagined act 1 would be set in the past and act 2 in the present.

Instead, as the story of their lives unfolded, the two eras were cleverly presented on stage pretty much simultaneously, thanks to some extremely skilful directing and very clever scene changes. Not to mention the inclusion of some fine songs reflecting both eras.

It was a tale of friendships, misunderstanding and betrayal. The older birds eloquently  portrayed how people embellish the truth about their lives and how the past has a way of coming back to bite you, whilst the younger birds effortlessly painted a picture of life in an era before they were born, in a manner that Nerys Hughes, and Polly James would no doubt approve.

Whilst the ladies were all doing their thing, actor Mark Rice-Oxley worked a hectic schedule in and out of wardrobe and make-up to play the male characters from both eras.

To sum up, this is a fab musical with a super story line, great gags and lots of nostalgia.

The Liver Birds Flying Home runs at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre until 12th May.

 

By |April 25th, 2018|0 Comments

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