Theatre and dance memories? Yessir! September 2006 to January 2007

  1. Waiting for Godot – Oxford Playhouse, 22nd September 2006

Peter Hall’s production of Beckett’s great play toured the country under the auspices of the Theatre Royal Bath, and I decided it was high time that Mrs Chrisparkle saw a performance of it – especially with the excellent cast that included James Laurenson, Alan Dobie and Terence Rigby. Oh dear. We didn’t like it at all. Incredibly dull, sadly.

  1. Romeo and Juliet – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 30th September 2006

This was the classic Kenneth MacMillan choreography to Prokofiev’s fantastic score, danced by the BRB to great, stately effect. Juliet was danced by Carol-Anne Miller, and Romeo by Dominic Antonucci. Every bit as beautiful as you would expect.

  1. Restoration – Headlong Theatre Company at the Oxford Playhouse, 6th October 2006

Headlong’s production of Edward Bond’s Restoration brought out all its comedy, directed by Rupert Goold. An excellent show, that transformed a play that otherwise looks rather dull on the page.

 

 

 

  1. The Three Musketeers – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Milton Keynes Theatre, 25th October 2006

Northern Ballet’s Three Musketeers was full of swish and swash, a great spectacular entertainment, choreographed by David Nixon. Danced to the music of Sir Malcolm Arnold, it was enormous fun.

  1. The Nutcracker – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 25th November 2006

We took our very young niece (aged 5) to see The Nutcracker – start ‘em young, we thought. We told her that she had to be quiet during the show and if she had any questions to save them up for the interval. Bless her, when the lights went down for the show to start, and the two ladies behind her didn’t stop talking, she turned around to them and gave them a very loud SSSSHHH!!! much to everyone’s amusement. It was a charming and thoroughly entertaining show, with Georgian dancer Maia Makhateli as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Viktoria Walton as Clara.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 28th November 2006

For Mrs C’s big birthday I surprised her by not telling her that her brother and sister-in-law were flying over for it from Sydney. The evening they arrived, we all had tickets to see Richard Alston, but such was the excitement of the visit that we got there late and couldn’t get a programme. Still, I can tell from the flyer that the dances of the evening were Red Run, Volumina and The Devil in the Detail. No idea of who the dancers were though!

  1. Me and My Girl – Milton Keynes Theatre, 29th November 2006

We took my brother and sister-in-law to see this show and we were to meet my inlaws there as well, so they got a big surprise when they saw their oldest son at the theatre! I kept so many surprises that year! It was a good revival of Me and My Girl, a touring production from the Theatre Royal Plymouth, starring Richard Frame as Bill and Faye Tozer of Steps as Sally. Trevor Bannister was Sir John, Fascinating Aida’s Dillie Keane was the Duchess and Sylvester McCoy was The Family Solicitor, Parchester.

  1. Rock ‘n’ Roll – Duke of York’s Theatre, London, 9th December 2006

For a London treat for our overseas guests, we took them to see the latest Tom Stoppard play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, as my brother-in-law had very much enjoyed the Stoppard plays he had seen in the past. It starred Dominic West and David Calder, and was a retrospective look at what part Rock n Roll might have played in the drive towards freedom and democracy in the old Czechoslovakia. Pretty good, if I remember right.

  1. Cinderella – Festival Theatre Malvern, 27th December 2006

A family trip for ten of us, of all ages and generations, to see a family panto; and quite an odd beast it was too. Whilst it had all the usual fun you would expect, Liza Goddard’s Fairy Godmother was a little too posh for us and Tony Scannell bizarrely played Baron Hardup as an impersonation of Leslie Phillips all the way through – for absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Saving grace – and he was really excellent – was Dave Benson Phillips as Buttons, whose signature tune “Buttons, Buttons, B-U-T-T-O-N-S” we still sing whenever anyone mentions, er, buttons.

  1. Avenue Q – Noel Coward Theatre, London, 2nd January 2007

A last trip to London before our overseas visitors flew home, we all went to see Avenue Q and were blown away by its hilarity. One of the best shows of the modern era, its use of puppetry and saucy lyrics and characters has become a benchmark for all other shows. Our excellent cast included Julie Atherton as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut, Jon Robyns (yes Hamilton’s King George and Les Mis’s Valjean) as Princeton/Rod, and a  young Giles Terera (Hamilton’s Aaron Burr) as Gary. And which of us has never been wrong-footed by a Bad Idea Bear?

More theatre and dance memories? You’re insatiable! July 2004 – June 2005

  1. Jerry Springer The Opera – Cambridge Theatre, London, 10th July 2004

Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas’ scurrilous, sacrilegious and totally hilarious musical probably gave me the most laughs in a show until I saw The Book of Mormon. A wonderful parody of the Jerry Springer TV show, this upset people near and far – which is always a good indication that it takes its place in history. Fantastic performances from Michael Brandon as Springer and particularly David Bedella as Satan/Warm up Man. We adored it from start to finish.

  1. Jesus Christ Superstar – Birmingham Hippodrome, September 2004

I don’t usually write up shows in this blog if I’ve already seen them before, but I include this production of Jesus Christ Superstar because of the two extraordinary performances by Glenn Carter as Jesus and James Fox as Judas. A show on a grand scale that was absolutely stunning.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th October 2004

Passing over a rather forgettable touring production of Blithe Spirit at the Milton Keynes Theatre, starring Penelope Keith as Madame Arcati, our next show was Rambert’s Autumn tour, featuring four pieces. First up was Frederick Ashton’s Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan, as restaged by Lynn Seymour, and danced by Melanie Teal. Then came Kim Brandstrup’s Songs of a Wayfarer, Ian Spink’s reworking of Ashton’s A Tragedy of Fashion and Michael Clark’s Swamp. Always skilful and inspiring.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 2nd November 2004

Our annual trip to see Richard Alston’s show, this performance featured three dances: Brisk Singing, Shimmer and Gypsy Mixture. Star dancers Martin Lawrance and Jonathan Goddard on top form. Amazing as always.

  1. Jekyll and Hyde The Musical – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 25th November 2004

I remember there being a blaze of excitement and anticipation about this musical written by Leslie Bricusse, starring Paul Nicholas as the dually-tormented hero/anti-hero. It had opened in the US in 1990 but had taken fourteen years to reach the UK. Fully expecting to get a West End run, for some reason it just didn’t click – and it’s still not reached the West End to this day. Very lavish, great production values – good performances, but something was definitely lacking.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th February 2005

Passing over the Watermill’s highly rated production of Sweeney Todd at the Ambassadors, and a tenth anniversary production of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells, our next show was said choreographer’s revival production of his early hit Highland Fling, “a romantic wee ballet” which reenvisages La Sylphide in a disco and council flat in Glasgow. Huge fun, terrifically inventive, and with a great cast of dancers including James Leece and Hannah Vassallo.

 

  1. Losing Louis – Trafalgar Studios, London, 26th February 2005

Simon Mendes da Costa’s black comedy was a bit of a hit and miss affair with the critics but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Great performances from Alison Steadman and Lynda Bellingham.

  1. Carmen – Oper Leipzig at the Opera House, Leipzig, 23rd April 2005

We took a long weekend at the exciting German city of Leipzig, and decided to pay a visit to the Opera House to see a production of Carmen. The theatre was quite municipal, but the production was very enjoyable – in French with German surtitles, which was a linguistic challenge.

 

  1. Grupo Corpo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd May 2005

Dance Consortium brought the Brazilian dance group Grupo Corpo to the UK for a tour, featuring two dances, O Corpo and Lecuona. The pictures look really exciting – what a shame I can hardly remember this at all!

  1. The 2005 Russian Spectacular – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd June 2005

A slight misrepresentation of the truth, as this Russian Spectacular featured the White Russian Central Band from Belarus, and Belarussian military singers, as well as dancers from the Bolshoi and the Belarussian National Folk Dance Academy. An evening of Cossacks and Kalinka – I loved it. It was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe, so it’s safe to say they came in peace. Massive fun.

And another bunch of theatre memories come along… September 2003 to January 2004

Six dance, four theatre

  1. The Immortals – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 27th September 2003

Our first visit to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet in their base at the Birmingham Hippodrome, The Immortals consisted of three separate ballets on that godlike theme. First was Apollo, choreography by Balanchine to music by Stravinsky; then came The Sons of Horus, music by Peter McGowan and choreography by BRB’s very own David Bintley; then finally Krishna, set to music by Hariprasad Chaurasia and choreography by Nahid Siddiqui. The company included Principals Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma, Asta Bazeviciute and Molly Smolen, Chi Cao and Iain Mackay, Tiit Helimets and Dominic Antonucci. A wonderful, lavish production on a grand scale.

  1. The Graduate – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd October 2003

The Cambridge Arts Theatre touring production of Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the famous Dustin Hoffman film starred Glynis Barber as the seductive Mrs Robinson and Andrés Williams as the easily seduced Benjamin Braddock. I remember enjoying it, but also thinking that it could have had more oomph; I confess I can’t remember why.

  1. Giselle – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 4th October 2003

Back at the Birmingham Royal Ballet for another show with the BRB, this time the full length ballet Giselle, based on Petipa’s original choreography and with extra choreography by David Bintley. We took our goddaughter, her brother, her mother and her grandmother – and we all found it delightful. Asta Bazeviciute was Giselle, Tiit Helimets was Albrecht, Marion Tait Berthe and Molly Smolen Queen of the Wilis. Every bit as gorgeous as you would imagine.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th October 2003

Our annual trip to see Richard Alston’s company had three new dances for us – Grey Allegro, to music by Scarlatti and choreographed by Martin Lawrance; Slow Airs Almost All, set to Mozart, and Overdrive, with music by Terry Riley. The amazing Jonathan Goddard had joined the company and danced in all three pieces, favourite dancers Francesca Romo and Luke Baio also performed as did senior dancer Martin Lawrance. Fantastic as always.

  1. George Balanchine Programme – Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 13th October 2003

As was becoming a tradition, any trip to Paris had to include a visit to the Palais Garnier to see the amazing Paris National Ballet. This was a programme of three works choreographed by George Balanchine – Symphonie en ut, with music by Bizet, Le fils prodigue, set to Prokofiev, and Les quatre tempéraments with music by Hindemith. Always the most spectacular privilege to attend such a show.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 31st October 2003

Passing over the very enjoyable Audience with John Sergeant at the Wycombe Swan, where the great TV journo talked about the entertaining scrapes of his career, our next show was to see Rambert for their Autumn Tour. We started with one of Glenn Wilkinson’s Six Pack solo dances – to Ooh Be Do, then came Karole Armitage’s Living Toys. After the first interval came another Six Pack dance – to Zala, then Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient. After a second interval the show finished with Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. The fantastic company included Rafael Bonachela, Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Simon Cooper, Paul Liburd, Clemmie Sveass and Conor O’Brien.

  1. Beauty and the Beast – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 6th December 2003

David Bintley’s vision of Beauty and the Beast, set to music by Glenn Buhr, was a full-scale full-length ballet of epic proportions. Belle was danced by Azta Bazeviciute and the Beast by Robert Parker. As always it was grand, beautiful and delightfully classical.

  1. Anything Goes – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 31st December 2003

We took the Dowager Mrs C with us to see Anything Goes as a Christmas/New Year treat; it was a terrific show, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Stephen Mear. The excellent cast starred John Barrowman and Sally Ann Triplett, with Barrie Ingham, Martin Marquez and Susan Tracy for good measure. Way down the cast list playing “A sailor with wanderlust” was Dancing on Ice’s Jason Gardiner.

  1. A Chorus Line – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 3rd January 2004

I don’t normally include shows I’ve seen before in these memory blog posts, but this production of A Chorus Line was very different from the majority I’ve seen before. Karen Bruce provided brand new choreography for the show, which, for a Chorus Line purist like myself, was sacrilege. With no input from any of the original team (sometimes you would find that Bob Avian or Baayork Lee had lent a hand) it was unrecognisable apart from having the same songs and script. They even included an interval between Hello Twelve… and Dance Ten Looks Three. A cast of amazing talent though, with Josefina Gabrielle as Cassie, Michael Jibson as Bobby, Lara Pulver as Bebe and Hayley Tamaddon as Diana. Casualty’s Jason Durr played Zach. It was well done – but it wasn’t A Chorus Line.

  1. Taboo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 22nd January 2004

Billed as The Boy George Musical, this had been a big success in London, but we missed it so were happy to catch it on tour. The excellent cast included Stephen Ashfield as Boy George and Neighbours’ Mark Little as Leigh Bowery. Dynamic and fun, a very engrossing and entertaining show.

More theatre memories? OK but they’re mainly dance! September 2000 to May 2001

  1. BBC Proms in the Park – Hyde Park, London, 9th September 2000

I wasn’t sure if I should add this or not, but then if I’m including Proms inside the Albert Hall, why not include Proms in the Park outside the Albert Hall! The perfect alternative to getting those hotly contested last night tickets, we enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine with picnic and champers, plus great entertainment from Bjorn Again, The Chieftains, Georgie Fame, Julian Lloyd Webber, Willard White and Angela Gheorghiu. All topped off by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and hosted (of course) by Terry Wogan. Fantastic!

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Milton Keynes Theatre, 12th September 2000

Every show by the Trocks is different, even if they do the same dances as before! This programme started with Les Sylphides; then after an interval, Cross Currents, Go for Barocco and The Dying Swan, finally ending up with Paquita. All as skilful and stunning as they are hilarious. The terminal fowl was executed, as usual in those days, by Ida Nevasayneva. Nothing more to say!

  1. Defending the Caveman – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 15th September 2000

Rob Becker’s beautifully written one-man play was toured the world over by Australian Mark Little, at the time best known for his appearances in the TV soap Neighbours. Defending the Caveman is a really clever show that highlights the differences between men and women, presented from a man’s point of view, but always respectful and entertaining. Great stuff!

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn & Winter Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th October 2000

Back again for another helping of Rambert, with a slightly unusual programme of two longer dance pieces: Mats Ek’s She was Black and Christopher Bruce’s Sergeant Early’s Dream. Dream was performed to live music from the Sergeant Early Band. The fantastic (slightly smaller than usual) group of dancers included favourites Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Vincent Redmon, and Simon Cooper.

  1. Graham Norton – Lively – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 8th October 2000

After seeing Victoria Wood a few years earlier, this was our second foray into the world of stand-up comedy on stage, and Graham Norton’s comedy gig was absolutely excellent. He had the also excellent Jo Caulfield as his support act. At the time he was just gathering success with his So Graham Norton TV show – little did we know how he would grow to dominate the TV and radio for decades!

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th October 2000

Our third trip to see Richard Alston’s annual tour, the programme featured a selection of Alston’s pieces set to classical musical. Waltzes in Disorder, with music by Brahms, was followed by Tremor, with music by Shostakovich, and finally The Signal of a Shake, set to music by Handel. The line up of dancers included Martin Lawrance, David McCormick and Diana Loosmore.

  1. Mark Baldwin Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 14th February 2001

A four month gap till our next show, a Valentine’s night trip to the Wycombe Swan to see the Mark Baldwin Dance Company in a programme of works all choreographed by Baldwin: Danses Concertantes, The Bird Sings with its Fingers, and The State. This show was a collaboration with the full scale orchestra, Sinfonia 21. Among the dancers was Laurent Cavanna, whose work we had admired when he danced with Rambert.

 

 

  1. Jekyll and Hyde – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 30th March 2001

Another trip to see strong modern ballet with the contemporary twist of the Northern Ballet, in a dance version of the famous story choreographed  by Massimo Moricone. Jekyll was danced by Hironao Takahashi and Hyde by the late Jonathan Ollivier. I confess I don’t have too many memories of this.

  1. Moscow City Ballet perform Swan Lake – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 1st May 2001

Classical ballet on a grand scale, the Moscow City Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece had all the little touches you would expect from this company that brings the atmosphere of the true Russian ballet on its regular tours.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 20th May 2001

Another visit to see NDT2 touring, at the time one of favourite dance companies – the youth department of the NDT. The programme started with Dream Play, choreographed by Johan Inger, to music from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; then Said and Done, a new dance from Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon to the music of Bach; and finally crowd pleaser Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, set to fun 1950s tunes. A brilliant and memorable night’s dance.

 

And here’s another bundle of old theatre and dance memories! May to December 1999

  1. Carmen – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th May 1999

The always stunning and elegant Northern Ballet Theatre brought their production of Carmen, choreographed by one of our favourite dancers, Didy Veldman, to the 1999 Swan Dance season. Set in Rio de Janeiro, in 1999, this Carmen was a packer in a cigarette factory, Jose was a police officer and Escamillo a Rock Star. A fantastic re-imagining of the classic work, with superb performances by Charlotte Broom as Carmen and Daniel de Andrade – who today is Northern Ballet’s Artistic Associate – as Jose.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater NDT2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 23rd May 1999

Another wonderful tour from the NDT’s youth company. The programme started with Round Corners, choreographed by Johan Inger, then we saw Déjà vu, choreographed by Hans van Manen, Skew-Whiff, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot, and finally Indigo Rose, choreographed by Jiri Kylian. It’s always a privilege to see this amazing company.

  1. La Sylphide – Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 18th June 1999

Moving past a fairly bland revival of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth at the Wycombe Swan, starring Peter Bowles and Michael Maloney, our next show was a glamorous visit to the Palais Garnier in Paris, during a wonderful ten day holiday in the French capital. La Sylphide, with choreography by Pierre Lacotte, was given a tremendous, pure production, with Fanny Gaida dancing the title role, Manuel Legris as James and Delphine Moussin as Effie. I had never seen a production quite like it. And since then we’ve always tried to see a ballet at the Palais Garnier if we go to Paris.