Alan Ayckbourn is one of Britain's best known playwrights. If I Were You is one of his most recent works, published in 2006, following the story of a married couple who one morning wake up to discover they have swapped bodies. Believe it or not, this is actually Ayckbourn’s 70th play.

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York Stage Musicals present their latest production, 9 to 5: The Musical, at York’s Grand Opera House. It is a musical comedy based on the 1980 film of the same name. The book is written by Patricia Resnick and the music and lyrics by Dolly Parton. The story goes back to the 1970s when Violet (Julie Anne Smith), Doralee (Alicia Roberts) and Judy (Jo Theaker), three office workers, have had enough of Hart (Darren Roberts), their sexist boss, and are determined to do something about it. This is all set to Parton’s award nominated hits and musically directed by Sam Johnson.

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Wonderful Performance of a Timeless Classic

I was greeted by the butler, Lane (George Trier) at the entrance to The Black-E and shown to a table which was set out, as they all were, with cucumber sandwiches and cream & jam scones. I knew then that the promised twist from Director Rowan Dyer wasn't going to be restricted to a slice of lemon or lime in the gin on offer at the bar. The use of a low level stage served to bring the full-house audience into the piece and the black & white art deco set, complete with chaise longue and arches, was set off perfectly throughout with the use of black and white period costumes which added a touch of real class to this production.

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The Garrick's season kicks off to a comedic start with the classic farce, Charley's Aunt. Written by Brandon Thomas, a contemporary of Oscar Wilde, Thomas was an actor and playwright of some distinction, and wrote many 'comedies of manners' which proved exceedingly popular at the time. Sadly, none have survived save their titles, excepting Charley's Aunt; which tells the story of three young men studying at university, all desperately in love and somehow manage to convince one of the men to dress up as another's millionairess widowed aunt from Brazil (where the nuts come from!) in order that they might use her as a chaperone in order to get closer to the girls and tell them how they feel. And of course, as everyone knows, in farce, nothing ever goes according to plan but of course, again, according to the rules of farce, everything works out fine in the end!

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Delightful, Poignant, Funny and Magical

 

As we descend into the subterranean theatre at The Black-E, the audience are greeted by a dark, smoky, atmosphere including mystical aromas reminiscent of Arabia, the illusion completed by the accompaniment of Middle Eastern music as we await the Dominic Cooke adaptation of these ancient tales. We quickly learn from the Royal Vizier (Joey Jennings) as he discusses with his daughters, Shaharazad (Charlotte Atherton) and Dinarzad (Anna Di Ventura), that all is not well at the court of King Shahrayar (Kristian Dudley) who has been betrayed by his wife.

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“What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening?” For over forty-five years, Jesus Christ Superstar has wowed audiences and being somewhat of a phenomenon with hit Broadway and West End performances as well as playing in forty-two countries around the world. Having opened on Broadway in 1971, JCS has appeared in the West End in 1972, 1996 and had various UK tours with the most recent tour hailing from a TV search to find a new “unknown” Jesus (Ben Forster), and has recently had another revival at Regents Park Open Air Theatre, closing on the 27th August 2016.

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An Engaging, Powerful and Moving Production

 

In the aesthetically delightful lobby of St George's Hall, audience members glanced at their watches and began to finish their pre-show drinks when suddenly the air was pierced with the wailings of Henrietta Iscariot (Jenni Cartwright) as she bemoaned the demise of her son, all alone, whilst recalling her own loving memories of him to provide an alternate context to that most of us would consider when we think of Judas. As she parted we were shown to our seats in the refurbished 19th century criminal courtroom, the perfect venue for this story by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis of a re-imagined trial in a corner of Purgatory called Hope and which Director Sam Donovan has kept faithful to in its resemblance to a mean New York neighbourhood.

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RENT is an award winning rock musical written wholly by Jonathan Larson who sadly did not live to see the opening on off-Broadway in 1996. It has won numerous awards and adapted into a musical film in 2005. Twenty years later The York Orchard Theatre Company is performing RENT as an amateur production.

 

RENT, in similar vein to Puccini’s La Bohème and which the story is based on, explores a group of ambitious artists in poverty who are struggling to survive in New York City’s Bohemian East Village. It primarily focuses on the daily hardships of two roommates, Mark and Roger.

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Royal T Drama Academy is a youth theatre group which focuses on teaching and developing the skills of budding young actors. Every August, the academy perform their annual production at St Helen’s Theatre Royal and past productions have included Bugsy Malone, Guys and Dolls and Oliver. This year Grease was the word as the cast took us back to Rydell High School and 1959.

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Great Afternoon of Fun and Laughter in Iconic Venue

 

On a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon, The Palm House at Sefton Park was transformed into the pastoral England of yesteryear as Woolton Drama Group played out this glorious tale. Opening in its first guise as the 'for sale' Toad Hall, with the Chief Weasel (Zoran Blackie) as the estate agent, we are taken back in time to see the good natured Mole (Colin Rice) losing patience with his spring cleaning and going to explore the riverbank, where he has never been, and where he chances upon Ratty (James Stephenson) who deigns to take him to meet the infamous Toad (Michael Sanders) at Toad Hall.

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In 1948, Jerome Robbins had an idea to stage an updated version of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet.' It took 9 years before that idea came to fruition and 'West Side Story' opened on Broadway in September 1957. The heavy work schedules of Robbins and his collaborators Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents was partly to blame for the delay in getting the show off the ground, alongside a degree of suspicion each of the men felt towards each other following their first meeting.

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