Hootenanny 2017 – Beth Ditto and Jessie Ware

Jools Holland’s Hootenanny has become the traditional way to end the year, a guarantee of some good music to make any knees up go with a end of year bang. And even if your party consists of you and the wife/hubby due to being a parent, and if your New Year’s outfit is actually your pyjamas, when George McCrae is ringing in the new year singing ‘Rock your baby’ all is right with the world.

Hootenanny is also known for being a stylish affair, with fashionista’s such as Jessie J, Paloma Faith and Imelda May being guests in previous years, helping to make the show a visual feast as well as a treat for the ears. This year it was Beth Ditto and Jessie Ware adding the glamour quota.

Beth Ditto

I love how Beth Ditto adds the glamour to any occasion, and the fact that she was also performing one of my all time favourite 70s tracks, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’by Candi Staton, just made my night.

She looked totally amazing in a red shimmering gown that was the perfect choice for New Year, or just about any party occasion. Beth shows that plus size fashion can be brilliant, glamorous and so much fun, and once again, I applaud her sass and shine. She killed it.

Jessie Ware

The sensational Jessie Ware had an old school Hollywood glamour for her appearance on Hootenanny, with an utterly beautiful feathered dress that harked back to the golden days of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The dress was a perfect fit for the jazz tinged ‘Do Nothing Til’ You Hear From Me’. If you can’t wear a showstopper of a dress on New Year’s Eve, then when can you wear one?

Did you watch this year’s Hootenanny? What did you think of the show?

 

Grease at Wolverhampton Grand – Good Fun

A new touring production of the classic musical Grease opened at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night, and although it was a real crowd pleaser with the appreciative audience simply loving it, you may not recognise all the songs and scenes if you are a fan of the musical film version.

There can’t be anyone (my husband aside) who hasn’t seen the film version of this much loved musical at least once. The story of a holiday romance between Danny and Sandy, that is hampered by Danny’s ego and friends, and Sandy’s squeaky clean persona when she just happens to start at his school, Rydall High, after the summer, is one that is known and loved. Add in a score of memorable supporting performances from the likes of Rizzo, Kenickie and Frenchie and a score of sublime, singalong songs, and you have the failsafe recipe for success. Or maybe not.

The problem with this version of Grease is that some of the leads are not quite up to the roles. Danielle Hope is the standout as Sandy, her beautiful voice soars on ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, and she has Sandy’s saccharine sweetness off to a tee. She was born to play this role and does so with ease. Her Danny Zuco is not quite as successful. Tom Parker handles the acting scenes quite well, showing plenty of personality. He is also a talented dancer, showing off his skills during the sublime Hand Jive scene. Where he struggles is the vocals, he is just not up to the demands of the songs, Sandy in particular is painful to watch and listen to.

Louisa Lytton has her moments as Rizzo, her poise is so good in the opening scene, and her performance of ‘There are worse things I can do’ is plaintive and touching. But ‘Sandra Dee’ has none of the bite and sarcasm that Stockard Channing showed in the same role, and suffers as a result.

The supporting cast are great though, Tom Senior is a fine Kenickie and ‘Greased Lightnin’  is brilliantly performed. Rhiannon Chesterman is perfect as Frenchie, and her ‘Beauty School dropout’ scene is another standout, with George Olney super as the teen angel, playing it with his tongue firmly in cheek. Eugene (Callum Edwards), Jan (Rosanna Harris) and Doody (Ryan Heenan) are all funny and scene stealing, whilst Sonny and Marty (Michael Cortez and Lauren Atkins) both make the most of their roles.

The staging of the musical numbers is great, and having a live band on the stage is a real plus point, but ultimately the story feels very disjointed – Sandy seems to only have one date with Danny throughout the musical, and on all other occasions when she meets him he acts like a complete jerk, making it difficult to understand why she would make such a transformation for this guy, she should stick to her twee frock and make a move for Kenickie instead.

Grease has great songs, great supporting performances and a lovely lead in Danielle Hope, but it could have been so much more.

 

Tue 28 Nov – Sat 2 Dec

GREASE

Wolverhampton Grand

Click here for ticket information

 

Cilla the Musical: A Star is Born

Cilla the Musical opened at Birmingham’s New Alex Theatre last night and proved to be the best new musical of the year. The story of the rise to fame of the legendary Cilla Black, and her love story with Bobby Willis is an astounding piece of theatre that combines the best music of the 1960s with a poignant story, and, with incredible performances from the whole cast, this musical is set to be a new classic.

It’s 1962 and Priscilla White is a Liverpool typist who longs to be a singer. Plucking up the courage to get up on stage with a local band, she is spotted by local boy Bobby Wlllis, who is immediately smitten by her talent and personality. He offers to be her manager, although his first attempt at negotiating a contract fails miserably and sees him out of pocket every time she sings. Her friends are another Liverpool band, The Beatles, and they arrange for her to sing with them as a sort of audition for their manager, the debonair Brian Epstein. But Cilla chooses the wrong song and the audition is a disaster. With help from Bobby, she gets back on her feet and back on stage, and when Epstein chances upon Cilla singing gutsy rock and roll, he sees her potential and signs her to a contract. After one false start, Cilla is number one. But what does fame mean to her relationship with Bobby? And is the music she is singing really what is right for her. Cilla gets her fame, but also everything unwanted that comes with it.

Cast of Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

In the role of Cilla we have a star making performance by the incredible Kara Lily Hayworth. She is Cilla, from the voice, the mannerisms, the sparkling personality, basically everything we loved about our favourite Scouser. When she delivers ‘Anyone who had a heart’ it is literally spine tingling, the hairs on your arms just stand up, and ‘You’re my World’ is equally as good. The relationship with Bobby is fabulous, the chemistry, banter and, at times, the pain, is all there.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Bobby is played by Carl Au and it is another performance that blows you away. His Bobby is cheeky, likeable and self sacrificing, he has a beautiful voice, best demonstrated on ‘A Taste of Honey’ where he gives a stunning delivery, but abandons his chance of fame to be Cilla’s rock, even though, at times, she treats him appallingly.

Completing the three central performances we have the always reliable Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein in a performance that is filled with pathos. His deterioration, from the suave, assured manager and businessman of the early scenes, to the desperate man ravaged by his demons in his final scenes, is devastating, a heartbreaking performance that gives Cilla a dark edge.

The scene setting of the 1960s, with note perfect musical performances from The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas (absolutely uncanny) and Gerry and the Pacemakers, all go to make this the consummate 1960s musical. Add in the sets that eerily recreate The Cavern and The Ed Sullivan show and you have a classy retelling of a fascinating story.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Cilla the Musical is simply brilliant. Beg, steal of borrow a ticket. Five Stars all the way.

CILLA – THE MUSICAL

WRITTEN BY JEFF POPE

DIRECTED BY BILL KENWRIGHT & BOB TOMSON

New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham                                                    atgtickets.com/Birmingham

10 – 14 October