Grease

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Edinburgh Playhouse

September 11-16

Stagecraft: five-stars Book: five-stars Performance:four-stars.png

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Way back in 1970, Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey started penning a musical which looked back to their own teenage hijinkerie in 1950s America. Starting off in the draughty old former trolley barn that was the Kingston Mines Theatre in Chicago, within a year their baby was embedded on Broadway & by the end of the decade had been transformed into one of the greatest musical films ever made. Grease is an eternal, funthrobbing time-capsule of a classic, & it is great to see director David Gilmore touring Britain with a young cast of talented pseudo-American ‘teenagers.’ Watching Grease for the first time on the stage, I realised that Hollywood had taken liberties with the book, creating a topsy-turvy version that would please the filmgoer more. Thus, watching the pure version for the first time was a great sensation – a few lovely surprises tossed into the ever-familiar progress of a full academic year at Rydell High. As a kid myself, whomever got up first between me & my sister at the weekends got to pick the morning’s video. If it was me, it was Raiders of the Lost Ark, if it was my sister it was either Dirty Dancing or Grease – thus the entire script & score of Grease is embedded in my psyche!

Tom Parker (Danny) and Danielle Hope (Sandy) Photo by Paul Coltas (2).jpg

‘I don’t know why I ever liked you Danny Zuko…!’

‘Sandy….’

There was a genuine & lovely rapport between our leads, The Wanted’s Tom Parker as Danny – fresh into his first foray into Musical Theatre – & Danielle Hope as Sandy. In a recent interview with the Mumble, Tom – who heralds from Bolton – spoke of that chemistry’s core tenet, stating that Danielle was;

From Manchester as well, actually, so we share a common ground, we have quite the same sense of humour, or example, I really like Danielle, shes a total pro & I’ve learned a lot from her to be honest

Danielle, the ‘total pro‘ as Tom calls her, arrives on the Playhouse stage via a more formal route through the halls of Musical Theatre Academe – performing at the Royal Variety along the way – & some of her renditions of Sandy’s songs are simply sublime. The rest of the teenage wolf-pack were excellent too, with Alessia McDermott & her nimble dancing feet making a stand-out Cha-Cha, while Oliver Jacobson was a highly entertaining & bubbly Roger. I even, for once, enjoyed ‘Beauty School Drop-out.’ I always used to fast-forward the bit in the film with that song, but its natural set-piece home is of course on the big stage, & was delivered in Edinburgh with a sexy & caricatured ensemble of poppy pezzazz.

T birds. Photo by Paul ColtasPost La-La Land, musicals are cool again, but Grease simply has to be the coolest of them all. For this particularly silky-slick rendition, above the proceedings the band dished out music like a prostrate Showaddywaddy; sometimes funky, sometimes not quite on the pulse, but never lacking in vibes at any point. The sets were startlingly striking – like showbiz dynamite – cohesive & transportative, & the whole package when combined gives Grease 2017 an edge over many of its competitors. From the moment the T-Birds & Pink Ladies burst onto the stage in an explosion of life, sound & colour – with ‘Grease is the Word’ rebounding about the excellent acoustics of the Playhouse – to the vibrant medley at the end, one really could not take one’s eyes of proceedings, nor stop tapping one’s feet. Fantastic & universal stuff!

Reviewer : Damo

five-stars

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An Interview with Tom Parker

Next week Danny, Sandy & the Class of ’55 come rockin’ into Edinburgh.

The Mumble managed to catch up with leading man, Tom Parker.


Hi Tom, so where ya from where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m from Bolton & I’m currently on the Magaluf Strip. I’m just here for a few days because we’ve got a week off at the moment. Its just been nice to get away for a little bit.

When did you first realise you were musical?
I would say at a pretty young age to be honest with you. I used to go on karaoke quite a lot when I was a kid. Then I went to secondary school & it kinda fell off – I didn’t really do anything until I was 15 when I picked up a guitar again. Yes, it was probably at 15 when I realized I wanted to do music full time.

You rose to fame as part of the boyband, The Wanted – can you tell us about it in a nutshell?
Do you know what, it happened pretty quickly. It was a bit of a whirlwind to be honest. We auditioned for like 9 months & then 9 months after we were in it we had a number one single & then two months after that we had a top 5 album… I was like ‘how did this happen’ – it was really quickly. Then we did 5 years travelling all over the world, we had the best selling song of the year in America in 2013. It was absolute chaos but I absolutely loved it.

What does Tom Parker like to do when he’s not being musical?
I like to go out, have a drink with my mates, just do normal stuff. Have dinner with my fiance. I kinda keep thigs as normal as possible. I like normality.

Moving on from The Wanted, you got into DJing right, collaborating with Richard Rawson on a track called “Fireflies” : what was your role in that?
I was the vocalist on it. I knew Fazer quite well, we used to do quite a lot of gigs together, & he just got in contact with me & said listen I’d love you to come & do some vocals on my record – & I listened to the song & said mate, that song’s amazing – yeah, I went in & vocaled it & it was like the first thing I did on my own. I love that record, its such a good song

Why the step into musical theatre?
Well that happened pretty randomly, to be honest. My name got chucked in to the mix to  play one of the other roles in the show- & then they asked me to come back & audition for the lead part to play Danny – again, that literally happened within 2 or 3 weeks – they  called me back & said look, we’d like you to play the lead in the show – I said OK.

Have you had to do some training & if so where ?
Yeah – so I didn’t train when I was younger, but obviously for this role we had quite an intense period, it was 3 or 4 weeks of us getting instructions in choreography & all that, yes, we did have some initially, we had pretty much a crash course, but now I can do it in my sleep

How is it going with Danielle Hope playing Sandy, hows the chemistry?
Well she’s from Manchester as well, actually, so we share a common ground, we have quite the same sense of humour, or example, I really like Danielle, shes a total pro & I’ve learned a lot from her to be honest

You’ve been on tour for six months now & are just about to bring Grease to Edinburgh. Have you ever been to the city before?
I actually played the Playhouse with The Wanted back in 2010. I’m looking forward to coming back. I really love Edinburgh, it’s a beautiful city.


You can catch Tom Parker playing Danny in Grease

11th-16th September @ The Edinburgh Playhouse

ATLANTIC : America & The Great War

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Assembly Hall @ Mound
4th – 26th August 3pm

Stagecraft: three-stars.png Book: four-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

Performing in the heart of Edinburgh, in one of the most iconic buildings to look over Princes Street, was the modern musical masterpiece Atlantic : America and the Great War. Born from a partnership between American Music Theatre Project, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and Noisemaker, this was sure to be a production of high quality. Thus, my prediction came true, & I witnessed a new musical which offered up a concoction of singing, theatre and storytelling from a young cast of 15 actors. Atlantic is both voyage of discovery & a tapestry of truths and confused emotions, all of which leads down an unraveling road of unsuspecting situations. The practical stage-props were visually a piece of architectural genius…. a rope, some chairs, a few tables and boxes t0 carry the imagination through the waves and roads of America and Europe.

The central story-point of this moving musical presents us with a lost lady and her now much-worried sister, who embarks on a treacherous journey Telemachus-like to foreign lands ravaged by the battles of WW1. Along the way Annabelle learns as much about herself as she does about the fate of her sister. Travelling on trains, buses and ships she searches endlessly for one glimpse of hope in finding her beloved Jane.

This musical grabs the audiences attention like a total eclipse of the sun. With an American folkish musical score that is synchronised to create a connective purpose between actors and sound, Atlantic gives us a unique look at collective arts. Each actor has their part to play and without fail they preform with ease and grace. This is historical education as much as a musical in performance; rich in ideas it portrays the lives of those young souls lost at sea. Soft in its approach but decisive in its execution, the cast turned out a memorable performance. Bird-sweet voices sing you along a path of righteousness, unlocking the doors of perception, stirring up the deep emotions within us and leaving a very prominent tear in the eye. Sad, encouraging and magical, the true human spirit is alive in this musical. Tickets for this show are sailing away quicker then they can print them so cast your line and grab your seat for a Fringe special. Incredibly enjoyable!

Reviewed by Raymondo

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Thrill Me

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C – Too
12th – 27th (Not 14th)

Stagecraft: five-stars Book: five-stars Performance: five-stars  

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This theatrical masterpiece takes place in Chicago in 1924 and tells the true story of two young men who embark on committing the perfect, Nietzsche inspired crime through murder!!! Richard and Nathan are best friends but also tentative lovers. Chicago, in fact, is a unique place in which the first organization for homosexual rights in America was established here in 1924. This allowed the free flowing openness of their relationship to blossom. Fast-forward to 2017 & the stage is set out well, props are inviting to thought and transmogrify an eerie atmosphere about a full auditorium. The tension in the air is palpable to all present. Accompanying the actors is a well-written and devised musical score played out with incredible dramatic impact. Period clothes and haircuts set the characters on fire !!!! Then all is quiet…

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Nathan Leopold, Jr. & Richard Loe

Thrill Me is a piece of historical truth,  hardly known in 21st century Europe, but was once the ‘Crime of the Century‘ in America.  Any insight to the darker side of human nature always intrigues the willing minds of a curious fellow human beings. Thrill Me provokes you, twists you, bends you and at times catapults you into a world of unanswerable questions. With a splash of wit and humour tossed in to lighten the mood in pockets, the tension is slightly subdued but never gone. You become transfixed and thrown into a murky world of violence, love , betrayal, child killing and treachery.. Bad faith can wait…

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A musical piece of theatre with the art of storytelling at the center. With a flawless delivery and execution of the songs and lines, Richard and Nathan become more believable with every word. A dark tale of two obsessive men that are fueled by so much destruction, which evidently causes the ultimate fall from grace. If you wish to be tried and tested from a psychological point of view, “Thrill Me” will take you to that place. Explosive & intense  is a mere understatement. A play that leaves you speechless and gets under your skin can only be achieved through great research and acting, & Thrill Me offers this in abundance. Put aside the subject matter and you are left with a spellbinding & beautifully crafted take on a delicate story of death and love.. a must see at this years 70th Edinburgh Fringe.

Reviewer : Raymondo

five-stars

The Marriage of Kim K

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C Venues
Aug 11-15, 17-22, 24-28 (21.50)

Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
A unique and very clever stage production bubbling Andy Warhol Art Pop Panache. A love Story told in three parts that coexist together through the medium of Opera. With a String quartet and a Hip Hop band, blending classical music with funky electronica, this is a feast for senses, that is at once lovely to witness. The cast are all extremely good looking and the genius of the book and stagecraft is nothing less than entertainment at its very, very best. Like a sailor to a siren I had been drawn to the beauty of The Countess singing her part in The Marriage Of Figaro on The Royal Mile after afternoon prayers in Saint Giles. The Countess had a face that was equally as beautiful as her voice. but it was her voice that stole me. So I pleaded with the Mumble editor to arrange for me to review this magic piece work. What I witnessed in this capacity  was not what I was expecting. But this made things delightfully entertaining.

It all begins with the heroes of the show settling in on the cuddle couch. Amelia has just secured a job as a Lawyer and Stephen is a struggling composer, both are at the end of a busy day & Amelia wants to watch Kim Kardashian’s televised 72 day marriage with NBA Basketball Star Kris Humphries , while Stephen wants to watch The Marriage of Figaro. At first compromise with the remote control for the telly is workable. Now this is when the stagecraft bursts alive and the switch between Rhythm and Blues and a chamber orchestra becomes palatable. When the remote control was pressed by Amelia, her choice was represented on the left side of the stage. Kim all figure hugging pants and lace sexiness, with the passion of a new married couple, Kris all butch muscular testosterone with one thing on his mind and it wasnae basketball.

When Stephen takes control of the box we are taken back in time to the Marriage Of Figaro. The Count is being a bit of a canute, wooing Wwmen with his literary skills, The Countess gets wind of this and this is where the problems start. Both the Count and the Countess looked fantastic. All period frills and elegant ball gowns. It was right up Divine’s street, Once a New Romantic always a New Romantic. So on the right hand of the stage a fully blown opera. With the Countess giving a mesmerising performance (Divine was awestruck) this is when the stage lighting was brought into full effect. Two marriages on the brink of collapse and one relationship struggling because of telly choices. All sung in fine voice. Sexy & marvellous & sexy entertainment indeed.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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Douze

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C Royale

Aug 3-13 / 15-28 (20.30)

Stagecraft: four-stars.png Bookthree-stars.png Performance: four-stars.png

Douze is a high energy and highly entertaining look at the world of The Eurovision Song Contest. From an Irish angle, of course, & in an earlier interview with the Mumble, its musical male lead, Anthoney Keigher, described the origins of this madcap adventure.

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!

With Ireland in the running to wipe the board clean at the contest, the trio that is Xnthony, Hannah and Tiffany are on the road looking to gather support for their trip to Europe. With more gold than you could dig out of an African gold mine and enough sparkle to light up the night sky, their choice of costumes was not just dazzling but endearing too. Like two American cheerleaders and a bouncy Andy Bell, these young guns were heading to Lisbon in 28 days and we had to vote for their song that would take them to the top.

From start to finish you will be hooked! This is a full-on, hour-long show of dancing, singing, movement and laughter. As Douze rolls on like a champagne-dizzy dilletante, the madness of Tiffany becomes apparent, a whirlwind of facial and body movements that you didn’t think possible from any human being was unleashed upon us like monsoon rain. That girl needs help. With her compadre, Hannah, trying her best not to stumble and fall every 2 minutes over her own feet, this was a true laugh a minute comedy. But, with Xnthony taking front and centre, it was obvious who wears the trousers in this trio, or should I say tight gold hot pants.

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Douze is a well-crafted, glitz-garnished piece of musical comedy magic. The audience was in stitches at songs like Numbers and Invincible and delivery of all three performers was excellent. Allowing the audience to be part of the show is always a good move. Firing questions at them, clambering over seats and spreading their sweat drips among the bewildered crowd, I soon found Xnthony seating on my lap, like a gold statue of Buddha. Turning themselves into gold glitter like Jelly Fish, the show closes with the appropriately named song ‘Glitter.‘ This show has bundles of joy, fun, hysteria, laughter, madness and love all contained within one larger than life Irish Pop band…  Lets help take “Douze” to the Eurovision Song contest and go see this show.

Reviewer :  Raymondo 

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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)