An Interview with Michael Howell

0ff1a1f.jpgHello Michael, so where you at, & where ya from, geographically speaking?
I’m currently heading up the Musical Theatre programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where I’ve been for almost ten years now.  At this very moment I’m in our final few days of rehearsal for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe production Into the Woods with our current MA in Musical Theatre Performance and Musical Directing students. I was born in London and grew up in Kirkcaldy, I trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London on the PG Musical theatre Programme under Mary Hammond. I worked as an actor in a whole range of different productions for ten years before returning to Scotland. I was actually part of the Scottish premiere of Into the Woods at the New Byre Theatre with Ken Alexander way back in 2001 and now I’m back in Glasgow directing it which has brought back a lot of fond memories.

What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
The wonderful thing about musical theatre as an art form is that it has very few artistic constraints – the gloves are off, as it were. It’s a hugely flexible medium allowing us to incorporate and integrate dance, movement, music, song, text and instrumentation as we attempt to tell stories in the most creative and entertaining of ways.  In my opinion, that’s when theatre is at its most exciting. We only need to look at the output of our producing houses in Scotland over the last few years to see its influence, with more and more productions experimenting with the integration of these art forms.

What does Michael Howell like to do when he’s not immersed in the arts?
The job itself is pretty much 24/7 at the Conservatoire. We have two musical theatre programmes, the three-year Undergraduate programme and a 12-month Postgraduate which runs from September to September, so I’m usually always working! When I’m not involved in the arts, I spend time with my family, although it’s worth noting that our movement director, EJ Boyle, is also my wife … so work tends to be all consuming.

What are the keystones to a good musical, & then an amazing musical? 
What makes an amazing musical is what makes any amazing piece of art – a fabulous, intriguing, entertaining story and a committed group of performers who have a desire to tell that story.

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This year you are bringing the widely popular ‘Into the Woods’ to the Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
Into the Woods has always been popular among those interested in musicals and has become even more mainstream since the movie was released. Staging any production of a piece that is, in many respects, viewed as a classic piece of musical theatre,  as well as a Sondheim classic, comes with challenges because, of course, people know the story and there are expectations about how it should be told. Any reimagining of the world needs to be treated carefully but the great thing about telling that story with actors in training, and also at the Fringe, are the creative possibilities that it offers – we can, and should always, try to craft it in a way that provides a positive training opportunity for the students while making the production relevant, different and accessible for all. It’s not just about putting on the best production that we can create for the Fringe but also, as a Director and Educator, providing a fertile ground for the students to continue to develop.  What’s the point of telling these stories now? The interest for me with Into the Woods is that fairytales exist on two levels, they act as simple stories, right versus wrong and good versus bad, but actually on a much deeper, subtextual level, when children are reading them they act as a guide for traversing life, giving children hints and moral codes which they may or may not live life by. The narrator was our starting point for the development of the piece, who is he, why is he there and why is he telling that story? The physical language, created by EJ Boyle and the wonderful design by Rich Evans, has really helped bring to life the metaphorical woods and our narrator’s imaginative retelling of these stories. Trying to find an existence for a narrator that went beyond the traditional storyteller/Jackanory-style version seemed crucial.  We’ve attempted to create a story that exists for the narrator which sits alongside the main storytelling adventure – where do theses adventures spring from and why does he recount them now?  The original tales were particularly gruesome, not the sanitised versions we’ve become used to in animated film, balancing the two dimensional world of the first half and the horror of the second, has been key  in the development of our narrator’s journey and indeed the world of the piece.

Can you describe the experience of performing in Edinburgh in August? 
I haven’t performed at the Fringe, however, it’s a tremendous opportunity for our students to take a musical on an extended run. In training situations, invariably, the students work on a production for maybe a six-week rehearsal period with a one-week run. That’s a fabulous experience and it’s one that all arts education is designed to facilitate. The wonderful thing about the Fringe is that it allows our students to take that piece of work on a four-week run where they’ve got to think about stamina and sustainability, focus, maintenance of energy and technique. They need to discover and find new things and become better as the run progresses. That is really key for them as performing arts students. They get the opportunity to be in two productions, both Into the Woods and one of our new works in collaboration with the American Musical Theatre Project and Northwestern University (Atlantic: A Scottish Story or Atlantic: America and the Great War). Students will be performing in two shows a day, doing two different characters and have been engaged in two entirely different processes throughout rehearsals. On top of that, performing at the Fringe is a chance to utterly immerse themselves in the largest theatre festival in the world. They are also exposed to an eclectic range of work that they otherwise might not see if they weren’t at the festival themselves.

Each year, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA Musical Theatre students strut their stuff at the Fringe while the BA students stage productions throughout the year. Of these, who has gone on to the higher spheres of musical theatre?
The Royal Conservatoire’s Musical Theatre programme has produced successes including;

Rebecca Faulkenberry
Rock of Ages, Spiderman and High School Musical (Broadway)

Scott Garnham
Les Misérables and I Can’t Sing (West End)

Aaron Lee Lambert
Sister Act, Shrek and Urinetown (West End)

Keisha Fraser
Colour Purple and Book of Mormon (West End)

John McLarnon
We Will Rock You and The Commitments (West End)

Robbie Towns
Legally Blonde and Transatlantic (West End)

Musical Directors

Alan Bukowiecki
Book of Mormon, Chicago and Hair (US national tour)

Amy Shackcloth
Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK national tour)

Sarah De Tute
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK national tour)

Claire McKenzie
Award-winning composer and founder of Noisemaker music theatre company

Andrea Grody
Venice and Love Labour Lost (New York)

Lindsey Miller
Fame (UK National Tour)

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Michael Howell?
Well, after the Fringe I go to Gothenburg in Sweden to direct a four-week devised piece with a cast of musical theatre performers and a small group of composers, writers, musicians and DJs.  After that, it’s straight back to the first day or term at the Conservatoire.


Into the Woods will be playing at this year’s Fringe

@ Assembly Hall

 Aug 3-13, 15-20, 22-27 (11.30)

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An Interview with Anthony Keigher

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Hello Anthony, so where you from, & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Hi! I am from a small town in the west of Ireland called Roscommon. I grew up on a farm. Which of course lends itself perfectly to becoming the Eurovision-superstar phenomena that I am now (or will be someday…). Right now I am based in East London, surrounded by the whackiest and exciting drag and performance art. It’s a very exciting place to be!

Can you talk us through the earliest stages in your development as a performer?
Ice-cream. I was studying Fine Art Paint, and I suddenly remember feeling like this might not be the right path for me. So I started to develop what you’d call ‘Performance Art’ and in this case it involved a lot of ice-cream and singing ballads from one of my fave musicals,’ Evita. It has of course developed since then, but I do like that the need to perform came so organically and has developed so.

What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
I enjoy musical theatre that plays with form and with the very idea of what musical theatre can be. For me, this means it can push into something innovative and possibly merge all those other exciting forms of performance-making, such as live art or drag.

What makes a good musical, & which are your favorites?
I think empathy is crucial for me. Currently my favourite musical is Wicked. But that can change depending on my love life or career at the time! It has been Evita…Dreamgirls…each of these are inspiring in their own way.

What does Anthony Keigher like to do when he’s not immersed in the stage?
Anthony Keigher likes to lie on his bed, sipping coffee while he orders flowers for himself. Yes. That’s the kind of diva I am…

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This year you are bringing Douze to the Fringe. Can you tell us about it?
It follows my alter-ego pop star XNTHONY and his backing singers, The Penny Slots, as we campaign around the world for a place in Eurovision. We started in 2015…and it’s been ongoing. Something gets in the way. But we’ll never give up! The show presents 9 possible Eurovision songs…and each song has a relationship with either politics, pop culture or it’s just darn funny!

Of you & the cast, who has done the Fringe before?
None of us have done Ed Fringe before, but we have all been as audience members. Having toured around elsewhere, I am remaining calm about the sudden push of high energy that is required from myself and the team. I think the key is to keep the feet firmly on the ground and get to work (which includes lots of glitter in my case).

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Douze is a brand new musical. Can you tell us about its journey from being born to being played at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe?
This is a real funny one. I had just finished a show in Ireland, and someone quite well do-to in the theatre scene asked me…’What’s XNTHONY doing next?’. And I replied…completely off the cuff…’Eurovision’. He said it was a good idea…and I got to thinking…We then brought it to Dublin Fringe Festival..followed by a European Tour and BANG! Here we are!

Can you sum up Douze in a single sentence?
DOUZE is THE lovable, pop, comedy musical about Eurovision and stardom that will leave you in stitches!

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Anthony Keigher?
I plan on entering the Eurovision. Again.


You can catch Anthony in Douze at the Fringe

Aug 2-28 : C Royale (20.30)

An Interview with Claire Mckenzie & Scott Gilmour

Hello Claire, so where you & Scott from & where ya both at, geographically speaking?unnamed
Claire : 
At the moment we are both based in Glasgow, although since we’ve started getting more work internationally, we’re travelling around quite a lot! I’m originally from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne but moved up to Scotland to study composition, and have never wanted to leave because of the exciting new work that is constantly being created here. Seeing has I’ve now lived here for 12 years, am a McKenzie and have ginger hair, I think that makes me officially Scottish! Scott is originally from East Kilbride and similarly moved into Glasgow to study, and so far, hasn’t left!

Hello Scott, can you give us a brief outline of the origins of your partnership with Claire?
Scott : Claire and I were both students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and met in my first year of training. I was an actor and Claire was Musical Director. We spoke about stories and ideas we had in common and decided we’d like to try making something together. In my final year there was an opportunity to have a new piece made with The Arches in Glasgow, so I submitted Claire and I (without actually asking Claire…) and I our idea was selected. This became our first musical together; FREAKSHOW. Based on the true stories of Victorian freak performers, it was a site-specific song cycle which then went on a small tour to London, playing at The Roundhouse and Covent Garden Actors Church, before ending up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where is won the Daily Mail Drama Award 2012. It was at this point we decided to form our partnership company Noisemaker. Five years on we’re still having fun telling stories together, and our work is growing and becoming more and more international, through projects like ATLANTIC.

What makes a good musical, & which are your favorites?
Scott : I think a good musical is one where the story matches the style. I think musical theatre suffers from a stigma that’s a direct result of style coming before content or story. However, shows like WEST SIDE STORY or CABARET pair the style with stories big and important enough that it not only matches the size and scale of the style, but they allow the story to be told more clearly, and with more impact, as a result of it being a musical. That’s when musical theatre becomes interesting for me; when the a story can live on in the music audiences are left humming on their way home from the theatre. Some of my favourites are, as I mentioned, WEST SIDE STORY and CABARET. I also loved LONDON ROAD, COLOUR PURPLE and have a definite soft spot for OLIVER.

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What is it about Musical Theatre that makes you tick?
Claire : I’m a musician who loves to collaborate, and I think Musical Theatre is the ultimate collaboration between art forms; all working together to tell a story. I’m a believer that you can’t write a musical alone by yourself in a room; you need to work with other creatives and actors throughout the writing process in order to bring the different elements together and make a musical really work. I’m obviously passionate about the use of music in storytelling, as I think it has such an immediate ability to evoke emotion in the audience, while being a universal language that’s accessible to everyone.

How are you finding the public’s taste for musical theatre in 2017
Scott : Like everything, our taste is changing. The main thing I feel that’s shifting is how audiences watch stories. Stuff like Netflix allows anyone easy access to incredible, complex, beautiful stories and drama. Film is relying more and more on visual storytelling partnering with a rich soundtrack, over lots of text and dialogue. Our relationship to language is changing. We still like to be taken on a journey, but I think we’re a lot better at coping with having moments where we aren’t sure of what’s going on, where we are left confused and unsatisfied but are happy to hang for a resolution. I think that new musical theatre has been a little slower at making this shift in narrative. It’s still such a young form, I don’t think we’ve begun to understand all the ways song and movement can be used to tell new stories that speak about who and what we are. That said, I think people love a blockbuster. It could be the newest Star Wars or Marvel Superhero movie, but when as a big story with a big score comes along, something like HAMILTON, I think people will always want to escape into that.

Can you tell us about the creative processes between yourself & Scott?
Claire : At the start of each process we will spend quite a bit of time together working on the idea and mapping out the structure of the piece. We try and delve into the world of the piece together, by collecting pictures and making playlists to listen to, so we are both on the same page regarding the tone and language of the piece. We’ll then start writing; and generally, Scott will go first and come up with some lyrics and text, then I’ll follow with the music. I always like working with a lyric first as it allows me to be specific in matching the music to each word. We’ll then go back and forwards with the material a few times, being brutally honest with each other, about what we think is working and what isn’t. Ideally as soon as we finish a first draft, we’d want to workshop the material with actors and a dramaturg to start feeding in their responses and continue tweaking until the show is ready for production.

What is the raison d’etre behind your company, Noisemaker?
Claire : As Scott mentioned, we began writing together in 2012 and soon after our first project we formed Noisemaker. We wanted to create and develop new musical theatre together and challenge the form in fresh and innovative ways. A huge part of this is how we use music throughout the storytelling. We don’t always use traditional song structures and instead tell our stories more filmically, trying to create a feeling at times that is not always text or lyric driven. We also tend to pick challenging narrative structures – for example, our last trip to Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 was with The Girl Who, an interactive ‘choose-you-own-adventure’ musical, with 128 possible versions. Each show was unique as it was dependant on a series of choices made by the audience throughout the story – which wasn’t straight forward to write, or rehearse!

Can you tell us about your time at the prestigious Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed, Connecticut, & what have you learnt from the experience?
Scott : The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed was one of the most important experiences Claire and I have had as a writing partnership. It allowed us to have absolute freedom and space to start a new idea, in the insanely beautiful surroundings of East Haddam, Connecticut, whilst also being able to share our ideas and new material with other writers and hear what they were creating too. Often you can feel a little isolated as a writer; that you need to work alone before anyone else is allowed to come and play. But the community offered at Goodspeed allows you time with similar artists working on a similar process which was just really inspiring for us to work around. As a result of our time there, we’ll be returning to New York in early 2018 to begin developing the piece we started at the Colony into a full new musical, with support from Goodspeed, the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep.

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This year you are bringing Atlantic : A Scottish Story to the Fringe. Can you tell us about the transatlantic ideas behind its creation?
Scott : We began the process for ATLANTIC back in October 2016. Claire and I had lots of calls and Skypes with the American writers (all at weird times of the day) about what story we felt we all wanted to tell in this setting, and also what was appropriate and right for the students we were working with too. Eventually the idea of home and heritage started to emerge as a fundamental point of difference for both teams. Claire and I’s families both have lived in Scotland for generations, whereas the Americans were either third or fourth generation immigrants.

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They began to explain the idea that where many Americans “come from” is rarely America itself and that, for many, there are family and roots to be found all over the world. We took this as our starting point. A SCOTTISH STORY for us then became about looking at the story of an girl who is unable to escape the roots and hold of family and place, to explore the world and see what else might be out there. If it is prescribed where you belong and who you are, can you still be happy there? Is it a curse to never leave? That is idea we explore through ATLANTIC: A SCOTTISH STORY.

Are you in touch with the team in the States producing the American version of Atlantic?
Claire : Absolutely. I think we’ve been in touch with the American team via every platform available in the past few months! But nothing beats working with them in person, and we were very lucky to be able to spend time with them during the Chicago workshop of ATLANTIC in May. It’s been wonderful collaborating with another writing team – something you very rarely get to do – and we’ve learnt such a lot during this process that will undoubtedly shape Scott and I’s writing in the future.


Claire & Scott’s creation will be sailing in to the Edinburgh Fringe

Aug 3-27 : Assembly Hall (15.00)

 

PUNoccio

A Panto, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor
Glasgow

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Stagecraft: 5  Book: 5  Performance: 5

Happy July everybody. It’s panto-time in Glasgow and PUNoccio, written by Gary McNair, is a cracker full of topical gags, word play and bouncy songs. Hingmy Cricket (Kirstin McLean) sets the scene and tone with a cheeky wee poem, rhyming Oran Mor’s pie alternative quiche, with keech. In a workshop surrounded by her puppets, mistress-carver, Jan Petal (Dave Anderson) longs for a son to end her loneliness. Her wish for a wean is heard by a scary, Fairy Odd Mother (Darren Brownlie glittering like a disco mirror ball). A high-kick later and PUNoccio (a bubbly Francis Thorburn) is no longer a tethered marionette but a walking, talking puppet free to PUNish everyone with an irritating string of double meanings. Well with a name like PUNoccio he wood, woodn’t he?

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As in the Disney tale, which for copyright reasons we are frequently assured this isn’t, a naive PUNoccio encounters (hiss-boo) villains. These political sounding scoundrels, Trumpoli, Bear-is Johnson and the sleekit cat, Faragio are all thwarted as PUNoccio becomes a real boy… and farts. As tradition demands, all ends happily with an audience split in two, contesting which side sang the closing song best. This lively, clever comedy, as bright as PUNoccio’s primary coloured costume, continues at Oran Mor throughout July. Oh yes it does!

Reviewer : David G Moffat

five-stars

An Interview with Rebecca Humphries

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Hello Rebecca, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?

I’m from Norwich, live in Shepherds Bush but am currently in Stratford Upon Avon, where I is doing a play.

Can you talk us through the earliest stages in your development as a performer?

Hmm, well I suppose it all starts when your parents recognise you as a terrible show off and send you to drama clubs and that sort of thing. I don’t know how much I really ‘developed’ during the years before drama school, other than gaining in confidence!

Since then, you’ve acted on stage & screen, but you also have a writer’s vein. Your debut, Dizney Rascal, was quite a smash & the book & lyrics were yours. What made you do it?

I suppose what I’m saying is that will always be the point I consider my true development to have started! When I realised in 2014 that the kind of work I was doing post drama school didn’t really reflect my taste or ambition, and that was the moment where I sort of threw the rule book out of the window and said ‘fuck it, no point in being halfway up a ladder I didn’t even want to climb. I’m doing my own thing’. Funnily enough, it was when I started having that attitude the acting work I really wanted followed.

Can you tell us about the creative processes between yourself & composer Jo Cichonska?

Jo and I absolutely love working together, and we don’t actually do it all that often because real life and other jobs get in the way. Generally speaking I’ll come to her with a concept for a song, a ‘personality’ of it if you like, often with the lyrics. And together we’ll make it catchy and fun and make sure that we love performing it. If we don’t it’s dead. But we usually do!

What makes a good comedy musical?

Quality. Every song needs to be on point, the acting has to be brilliant, it needs to have great gags and bags of class. I don’t mean that in a snooty middle class way. You can be silly and irreverent and filthy and still have style.

What does Rebecca Humphries like to do when she’s not immersed in the arts?

Ha, well she doesn’t have time for much else at the moment! (I love talking about myself in third person, I’m so glad you asked). An honest way to answer this is to tell you what I’ve done with my time off in Stratford-go to the pub*, go to the fun fair*, browse in Waitrose and play with my cat who is literally the most beautiful cat in the world. He really is.

*not on my own
**on my own

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This year you are bringing Dizney Rascal’s follow-up to the Fringe, the delightfully named Prom Kween, can you give us the spiel?

Sure! Prom Kween follows the story of the first ever non-binary kid to be crowned Prom Queen at their high school in 2016. It’s based on a true story, and is all kinds of fabulous. We have the most amazing, AMAZING cast and team with a ludicrously impressive combined experience and I’m so excited for it. Our producer Aine was behind the cult hit Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho and last year’s smash How to Win Against History, and ours sits somewhere between those and my own Disney show. That’s a pretty good summation.

You’ve already performed Prom Kween at the Vault Festival. How did it go down & will there be any tweaks for Edinburgh?

It was performed as an R&D (research & development) piece, so in a very early stage. We couldn’t believe the response. We sold out, got standing ovations every night and won a comedy award for it. I mean…..yeah I was chuffed with that. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come but you never bloody know with Edinburgh, sometimes it’s enough of a challenge to get anyone to turn up!

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Rebecca Humphries?

Well first I have to finish my show here at the RSC, then Edinburgh, then holiday. I’m going to go on a totally lovely holiday after all this.
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REBECCA WILL BE PERFORMING IN HER OWN
‘PROM KWEEN’
Aug 3-27 (20.35) : Underbelly Cowgate

Spuds

A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor
Glasgow
19-24 June

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Stagecraft: 5  Book: 5  Performance: 5

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Your wife chokes on a fish bone and dies suddenly leaving you no time to have her properly insured; can there be a worse nightmare for a man living in the west end of Glasgow? What lies ahead without her income to pay the mortgage on the big house, surely not a move to… Dennistoun??? No wonder a distraught, drunken David finds himself in Toni’s fish ‘n’ chip shop in urgent need of some comforting Irn Bru and deep fried potatoes. A fortuitous accident leads to the discovery of an addictive product worthy of Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Soon, encouraged by his daughter Daisy, the merchandise is being pushed to Herald readers and then things start to spiral out of control.

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Spuds-1RS.jpgAndy McGregor has written and directed a terrific piece of musical theatre, full of wit and invention with lots of playful G12 references for the Oran Mor audience to enjoy. The principle vocalists (there is also a singing, dancing chorus of nine) are all Class A with Richard Conlon (David) dramatically commanding, Darren Brownlie (Toni) hilariously flexible and Joanne McGuinness (Daisy) showing her versatility  by doing a bit of rapping as would-be gangsta Lucille. Music is provided throughout by Gavin Whitworth on the piano (except when Lucille slaps him off it to lay down some beats). This is a show bursting with funny moments delivered by a dynamic, talented cast. Spuds you’ll like.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

five-stars

Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing takes us to 1963, to a holiday camp in the Catskill mountains; an American version of Butlins. Places where Jewish families, still facing discrimination in the U.S., could spend their summers, and many a young romance was forged. But the one developing between the lead couple in this story, well known from the classic 1987 movie of the same name, like in all good love stories, is fraught with problems. Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Katie Eccles) is a wilful and warm hearted teenage girl, determined to change the world. Visiting with her family, she falls for the in-house dance teacher, ‘bad boy’ Johnny Castle (Lewis Griffiths), to the chagrin of her beloved father Dr. Houseman (sympathetically played by Julian Harries). Directed by Federico Bellone, but with Eleanor Bergstein as both the writer of the screenplay and the stageplay, it retains the choppiness of a film, adds some new scenes but keeps the characters we know and love.

Roberto Comotti (set) and Valerio Tiberi (lighting) bring typical Italian flair to the production, creating the colourful brashness of the resort with rotating towers like the ultimate high-tech dollshouse. Daytime brings cheerful smiles, plaid summer two pieces and family fun, nighttime hidden struggles, power dynamics and troubled liasons amongst the staff. The classic, beloved scenes from the film were given their full due; self-knowing tricks that brought laughter from the audience, and augmented by rich greens and atmospheric multi-hued lighting suggesting the rich, fresh feeling of the mountains and lakes that form the perfect backdrop to Johnny and Baby’s inevitable attraction.

Most of the focus of the show goes on the storyline and the choreography (Gillian Bruce), with the usual big musical numbers giving way to a medley of familiar tunes from both the movie and of the time, augmented by the quality ‘resort’ band. Special mention must go to the two big voices of the night; Michael Kent as Billy Kostecki and Sophia MacKay as Elizabeth, both exuding surprising gravitas in their relatively minor roles. Carlie Milner is a perfect Penny, a visual ballet Barbie injecting star quality into her raunchy moves; real in her suffering, and hyper-focused in her mentoring of nervous new dancer Baby. The choreography was varied, from sensual to sensational, with the expected flashy group dance routines eventually delivered at the end of a lumbering second act. ‘Hungry Eyes’, in particular, kept us fixated on Baby, sandwiched between Johnny and Penny, unable to do anything but relinquish herself to their mesmerising dance expertise.

Baby and Johnny are such iconic characters, they must be hard boots for any actor to fill. Physically, they are satisfying to watch, down to Baby’s adolescent awkwardness and earnest walk, to Johnny’s chiseled chest drawing whoops and wolf whistles from the ladies in the audience at every possible opportunity. Griffiths does a great job, though his character is particularly rough and offhand with her in the beginning. Of course, Baby gives as good as she gets, and troubled Johnny’s tenderness and vulnerability begin to shine as he unburdens himself with her strong encouragement. Eccles has a vast range of emotions to express, and although at times holds herself back from throwing herself fully into the rawness of those emotions, does a competent job at holding such a massive role together.Their chemistry is just strong enough to be believable, and their dance scenes were fantastic, and although there’s playfulness and intensity between them, there was just a little touch of romance missing. Maybe it was the over reliance of taking their shirts off and on again; this simple flash of flesh just not being particularly sexy or imaginative.

The performances were a delight across the board, and although the entire production at times felt like it had a little too much flesh hanging on the bones, Dirty Dancing was a fun, fluffy affair, but with a classic story that has stood the test of time. The play is able to enhance the film and give us a wonderful treat with its full range of drama, comedy and romance. Through its careful and realistic character development, we stayed emotionally connected to the story right until the satisfaction of the long-anticipated ‘lift’.

Reviewer: Lisa Michel Williams 

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