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Posts Tagged ‘Viv Nicholson’

This Olivier nominated show (7 noms!) was up against Mamma Mia and The Lion King for Best Musical, but it lost to Stiles & Drew’s Honk! It pre-dates Billy Elliott as a British working class musical and if I ever write the history of the great British musicals it will be up there with Billy and The Hired Man. The shows original choreographer, Craig Revel Horward (for it is he) directed a splendid small scale actor/musician revival at the Watermill in Newbury on its 10th anniversary and now we have a new young team ripping it up under the arches in SE1 and its a delight from start to finish.

Could there be a more glamorous and romantic setting than Castleford for this biographical show about pools winner Viv Nicholson (using her infamous press call quote as its title)?! It takes us from her youth, through the big win (which now seems not at all big), the exploitation by friends family and begging letters, the spending spree, the new home in a posh neighbourhood, the rejection by new and old neighbours and friends, the four husbands, her boutique venture and the inevitable bankruptcy – starting and ending in the hairdressing salon where Viv ended up, being visited by the forever inquisitive. The story is brilliantly told by Steve Brown & Justin Greene’s book and deliciously witty lyrics.

There’s a grittiness about it which I love and Katy Dean captures young Viv’s combination of naivety, greed, feistiness and defiance superbly. I loved Julie Armstrong’s older Viv, narrating the story of her rise and fall with resignation rather than regret. The show is packed full of catchy tunes and Christian Durham’s production has great pace and energy, with witty, quirky choreography from Heather Douglas and an excellent four-piece band. In a fine ensemble, Dave Haydn stood out as Viv’s dad, Tom Brandon as hapless first hubby Matt and newcomer James Lyne as second husband Keith.

Great to see it again, and in such a lovely production at the Union. Don’t miss!

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The review below is from this production’s first outing 15 months ago. Now on tour, I caught it in Richmond. It’s lost a little of its fizz – partly because it’s in a much bigger theatre (which on Saturday night was shamefully less than half full) – but it’s still a lot of fun. Half of the original cast (including all three leads) are still with the show and the musical standards are, if anything, higher. Not to be missed.

Watermill Theatre, Newbury – August 2009

I’ve fond memories of the original West End production of this show, though it seems like an age ago, but this production is so good it wipes them out. This is the 6th of the Watermill Theatre Newbury actor-musican chamber musical revivals that I’ve seen – the third at their home base – and its amongst the best.

It’s the story of the notorious pools winner, Viv Nicholson, and it has a great score and a real 60’s working class sensibility. As it’s a musical comedy, they can have fun with the integration of the instruments, such as a xylophone doubling up as a hairdressers tray whilst it’s being played! The choreography is witty, incorporating stubbing out cigarettes (there are a lot of cigarettes!) and V signs (there are a lot of V signs, and I don’t mean Victory!). The design is terrific, full of period detail, enabling speedy switches from hairdressing saloon to bedroom to pub…..

Karen Mann is great as older Viv, narrating her story (and playing trumpet!) and Kirsty Hoiles is terrific as younger Viv, and they have as fine a supporting cast as you could wish for.

If this one doesn’t transfer to the West End, like three before it, there’s no justice. Wondeful stuff.

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