Posts Tagged ‘Carole Todd’

I didn’t see Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper’s first show at the same venue last year, but this second musical comedy proves to be huge, infectious fun. It’s the story of a gay football team entering an international gay soccer tournament. As the title and subtitle, a musical with balls, suggest, it’s a gay romp.

New boy Joe, moving to London from the North West and leaving his boyfriend Charlie behind, joins the team of his Brazilian work colleague Will; their company are the team’s sponsors – one of their CSR initiatives. The other members are gentle giant Pete, their coach and former semi-professional player, Dom, Frazer, Liam and the outrageously camp Tayzr who learns of the tournament in Bilbao and persuades the others to enter.

In Bilbao they don’t take things too seriously, until they start winning. Joe reconnects with Charlie, who has a new rather possessive and clingy partner Marcus, Liam attempts to turn straight Norwegian Mathias, Pete meets a former semi-pro colleague Jase and goalie Tayzr continues his hedonistic lifestyle.

Bradfield has written some nice tunes, with witty lyrics, which MD Simon David plays gamely on solo piano. The small space is used to great effect in Robert McWhir’s sprightly staging (great to see him back after the demise of the Landor) with chirpy choreography by Carole Todd. It’s an excellent young cast who clearly love performing it, something which brings it to life and fills the auditorium with smiles.

Great fun.


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This 1937 Rogers & Hart musical came three-quarters of the way through their prolific 22 year partnership, straight after On Your Toes, famous for it’s jazz ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. They were clearly still into ‘ballets’ as they inserted one into each act of this show. This is the original version, not the sanitised 1959 version which removed political references and two black characters subjected to racism.

Young Val is abandoned by his parents, off on a Vaudeville tour. As he is under 21, the local sheriff decides he must go to a work farm, but gives him a two-week stay of execution to attempt to put on a charity show with his friends and new girlfriend, who turned up one night when her car broke down! They squabble too much to succeed, so they all end up on the work farm. In a surreal plot twist, a French transatlantic pilot crash lands in Val’s family field which leads to the expectation of a prosperous future. It’s one of the daftest, most contrived plots in musical theatre, but it has a handful of standards including My Fully Valentine and The Lady is a Tramp, which is no doubt what attracts revivals.

Whatever you think of the show, you have to admire the chutzpah of this production. It’s chief strength is the outstanding dancing (choreographer Carole Todd), though the musical standards are as good as we’ve got used to here, but there’s sometimes a bit of a competition between the band, a (very necessary!) giant fan and some of the solo vocals. It’s an excellent energetic young cast, with Jack McCann and Ruth Betteridge very good romantic leads, Ruth making a fine job of both My Funny Valentine and The Lady is a Tramp. Beth Brantley delivers Johnny One Note with gusto. Gus Fielding, Jamie Tait and Alex Okoampa are particularly impressive in the dancing department.

Fine work up in Walthamstow again.

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It has become traditional to use the plethora of ticket offers in Jan / Feb to revisit a favourite long-runner or to catch ‘one that got away’. I’d pigeonholed this one as ‘coach parties & tourists’ and hence to be avoided – even if the Telegraph’s Charles Spencer (a man of a certain age and notorious enemy of jukebox musicals) loved it.

It’s set in 1961, a few years before my personal musical awakening, featuring songs of that period. There’s a teenage love story to link them together, written by TV’s Marks & Gran no less, which is surprisingly charming and funny. It’s a real nostalgiafest – tizer, waggon wheels, Juke Box Jury, love bites & brylcreem – but never takes itself seriously. Fifty years on, 1961 seems rather cool.

Given how long its been running, the big surprise is the freshness and enthusiasm with which it’s performed. The onstage band (with two girl saxophonists!) is excellent and all of the young cast sing and dance for their lives. The production values are good (design Sean Cavanagh, lighting Mark Howett, sound Ben Harrison) , Bob Thomson’s staging very effectively and there’s some great choreography from Carole Todd.

The audience is of course of a certain age (it was refreshing to bring the average age down for once) and you can hear them singing along in the second half and see them dancing in the aisles at the end. I have to say that even though life would go on without it, seeing it was a rather pleasant surprise – and no animals were harmed in staging it.

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