Tag Archive: Racky Plews


This show is personal to me because less than 12 months ago, I performed in Thoroughly Modern Millie with my own local theatre company. So how did the professionals measure up?

Well, the first thing to note was looking at the programme, I saw one of the Chinese duo was being played by someone from Hong Kong. Now having spent six months learning lines in Mandarin, I reckon that was cheating.

I jest. The show was great. Straight from the off we had vibrant energy and good fun.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – New Alexander Theatre – 13 February 2017

Playing the part of Millie Dillmount was Strictly Come Dancing’s, Joanne Clifton. What can I say? Well performed with good vocals and fantastic dance. Nothing, though, that I wouldn’t expect from one who had just partnered the winner in the recent series.

The other billed star was soap actress, Michelle Collins, who played the villainess, Mrs Meers. Now I do actually like Ms Collins, but I wasn’t particularly wowed on this occasion. There was a lack of character and not enough differentiation between the American accent (which wasn’t convincing to start with) and the fake Chinese. It seems a regular downside for me, seeing the big name stars not living up to the hype. She was still good, but not up there with others in the show, particularly Katherine Glover as Miss Dorothy,

There was excellent direction and choreography on the night, but I’d anticipated this when learning Racky Plews was at the helm. This is the third Plews outing for me in a year and all have been of a high standard. Amazing for me, also, was how good a sound was produced by only having a seven-piece band under the direction of Rob Wicks. Overseeing everything was Executive Producer, David King.

Also on stage for the tour are: Sam Barrett (Jimmy Smith), Jenny Fitzpatrick (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Damian Buhagiar (Ching Ho), Andy Yau (Bun Foo), Catherine Mort (Miss Flannery) and Graham MacDuff (Trevor Graydon III). The latter stole a good part of Act Two and it’s amazing how a drunk scene can do this.

It’s hard to pick a stand out number as I am so familiar with all of them. Therefore, I’ll simply say, Gimme Gimme, Speed Test, Forget About the Boy, and all the rest were top quality, too.

Couple of niggles. No Mamma appearance at the end, and Muqin could have been more OTT.

Still, a great night out, and plenty of goosebumps reliving my own experience of last May. So did the pros do it justice? Certainly, in my opinion.

 

Cheers.

 

Nick

Advertisements

I’ve got to confess, I’ve never seen the movie, Footloose (shock, horror). And I dare not mention (even though I have) that I fell asleep during Dirty Dancing. However, this did not put me off going to see a stage version of the former at the New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham, especially as it was directed by Racky Plews whose American Idiot a couple of months ago rated highly with me.

Footloose – New Alexander Theatre – July 4 2016

Like American Idiot, Plews used a formula in Footloose of having all the musical instruments played by the actors on stage. Don’t know why, but it works. Not only that, nothing appeared incongruous with them blending in perfectly.

The initial shock of the night was that the billed star, 2002 Pop Idol Runner-Up, Gareth Gates, would not be appearing. He’d apparently been told to rest his voice for a week. I found that out later. Now I admit, I wouldn’t know a Gareth Gates song if somebody played one to me. Not so the rest of the audience, it seemed as a stunned silence ensued with the news going down like a lead balloon.

However, in typical British let’s back the underdog spirit, people soon warmed to Luke Thornton, a man with the unenviable task of appeasing the Gareth Gates Appreciation Society. Thornton delivered such an excellent portrayal of Willard, though, he received the biggest cheer at the end of the show.

So how did Footloose shape up? I enjoyed it and unlike a couple of previous trips to the theatre, the sound guys got it spot on this time. I’ve already mentioned Racky Plews and the similarities in approach to his other recent show. Footloose, likewise adopted a very abstract, but functional 3D use of the stage, if that makes sense. Utilising height as well as area space on the flat. I did feel the musical numbers waned towards the end, particularly those featuring the Reverend, but that was a minor niggle.

Musical highlights for me were Holding Out For a Hero, Somebody’s Eyes and of course, Footloose. It was also good to have an audience participation reprise at the end where we were invited to get up, clap and dance along to a medley of the more famous show numbers. Now as a performer myself (yes, deary), I always like to give a standing ovation for the hard working folk on stage, but it was great to see the rest of the audience doing so, likewise.

With no Gareth (sorry for keep mentioning the absentee), the biggest named star was Maureen Nolan (of the Nolan Sisters fame) playing Vi Moore. In the lead role of Ren we had Luke Baker with Hannah Price as Ariel Moore and Nigel Lister as the Reverend Shaw Moore (Shaw Moore? Really …???). Now I’ve already mentioned Luke Thornton who stole the show as Willard but coming close, in my opinion, was Joanna Sawyer who was excellent as Rusty.

Accompanying Racky Plews on the production team was Matthew Cole (Choreography), Sara Perks (Designer) and David Keech (Musical Director). Keech also provided drums on stage throughout the show from his cabin shack up on high.

So yet another show I have absolutely loved. Heck, I might even go and watch the film now.

Footloose – New Alexander Theatre – July 4 2016

Cheers.

Nick

I have to admit to some trepidation when venturing to watch American Idiot. You see, I’m a huge Green Day fan and not only that, the original CD on which this show is based is among my top five favourite albums of all time. And I also enjoy the Broadway Cast version, too, so the event had a lot to live up to

Green Day’s American Idiot – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 13 May 2016

The first disappointment, however, was the audience. I was in the middle circle which was only a third full. Then came the opening. On an impressive set which reflects the theme of the show, American Idiot should have burst into action, blasting me from my seat. It didn’t. The title track was … well, too quiet. I expected the sound to near burst my ears from such a fantastic number, but I was left a little deflated. Now this had nothing to do with the performance, more that I felt the sound people had got it totally wrong. The sound did improve, thankfully, as the show went on, in spite of a further complication when Tunny’s microphone failed to work for the entire of Are We The Waiting.

Now this might sound like a disaster of a show but two things swung it round. The magnificence of the Green Day numbers and the dynamic performance of the cast. After the initial problems, I was soon on the edge of my seat in excited anticipation for each song. Highlights for me were, Letterbomb, Extraordinary Girl, 21 Guns and Homecoming.

Okay, the story on stage is pretty thin and often confusing unless you already know what is going on, but American Idiot is more about bringing the music to life. And the show did just that.

Playing the lead of Johnny was English singer/songwriter, Newton Faulkner who delivered an excellent performance. Former X-Factor finalist, Amelia Lily also shone as Whatsername as did Alexis Gerred and Steve Rushton as Tunny and Will, respectively. The role of Johnny’s alter-ego, St Jimmy was undertaken with power by Lucas Rush. For my visit, two of the cast stepped up in their understudy roles with neither giving anything short of marvellous. Alice Stokoe was perfect in the part of Heather as was Karina Hinds as Extraordinary Girl.

I also have to mention the band of Robert Wicks, Alex Machisone, Tommaso Varvello and Nick Kent who along with Steve Rushton, faithfully reproduced the Green Day magic. American Idiot was directed and choreographed by Racky Plews with musical supervision from Richard Morris.

It’s a testament to a show with regard to how much of an impact it makes on you. I have attended performances where I have left the theatre and not thought a lot about it for a while afterwards. This was not the case regarding American Idiot. For nearly a week, I had the Broadway CD playing in my car, then the original Green Day album, followed by Broadway again.

Yes, American Idiot left it’s mark.

It’s not over till you’re underground.

Green Day’s American Idiot – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 13 May 2016

Nick

%d bloggers like this: