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By midlandsmovies, Sep 23 2019 12:11PM



LICHFIELD GARRICK OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES EVENT CINEMA WITH NEW DIGITAL PROJECTION AND DOLBY SOUND PLUS BRAND NEW SEATING


Lichfield’s famous Garrick Theatre is already well known for staging exceptional live theatre bringing star names, well known plays and musicals, events, comedy, one-night gigs and traditional pantomime to its stage.


This autumn the award-winning theatre will be adding to the entertainment offering by officially launching EVENT CINEMA in the theatre’s refurbished Studio Theatre.


Using state of the art digital projection and Dolby sound, EVENT CINEMA will offer an exciting programme of screenings this autumn/winter including the hit comedy ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ starring James Corden, in celebration of 10 years of National Theatre live on screen; The Royal Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’ a special Christmas treat for all the family, and Royal Opera House favourite Bryn Terfell in a new production of ‘Don Pasquale’. The cinema will also screen blockbuster movies including ‘RAMBO: Last Blood’ starring Sylvester Stallone.



Lichfield Garrick Theatre’s Chief Executive, Karen Foster said: “For some time now residents of Lichfield and beyond have had to commute out of the city to attend a cinema. Here at the theatre we have listened to our local community, and as a registered charity, took the decision to invest money back into the building and create a cinema which will appeal to both theatre and cinemagoers alike.”


Further highlights include a Dementia Friendly screening of the musical film Calamity Jane, starring Doris Day; 42nd Street the Musical filmed live at London’s Drury Lane and PLAYMOBIL: THE MOVIE taking younger audiences on an epic comedy adventure.


EVENT CINEMA is situated in the existing Studio Theatre which has recently benefitted from the addition of brand-new seating. The 150-seater studio can be configured to host a variety of events including live theatre, conferences, seminars and outreach work.


EVENT CINEMA will officially launch on Thursday 3 October with a screening of WISE CHILDREN (live Recording) a celebration of show business, family, forgiveness and hope, with a generous dash of Shakespeare, scandal and mischief, taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotion.


In 2020 audiences can look forward to further live screenings as well as new film releases.


Tickets for EVENT CINEMA are available online at https://www.lichfieldgarrick.com/whats-on/cinema/and in person at the box office (open Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm and until 9.30pm on performance days) or by phone on 01543 412121.




By midlandsmovies, Jan 30 2019 08:22PM



Ghost the Musical at Curve Leicester


Based upon the 1990 American romantic fantasy thriller film Ghost, this new musical version of the massive box office success heads to Curve Leicester as it starts a UK-wide run.


Taking its cue from the movie’s plot, this stage adaptation again centres on a young woman, Molly, who ends up in peril after her partner, Sam, is killed in a supposed mugging gone wrong.


As Sam’s ghost gets stuck between worlds he contacts a psychic who reluctantly agrees to help him to discover the dark secrets surrounding his death and to protect Molly from the dangers she’s facing.


Molly is played by Rebekah Lowlings and Sam by Niall Sheehy, and whilst they are no Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, their voices more than make up for a little lack of chemistry at times. Note perfect renditions of big stage tunes, group harmonies and sad solos were certainly delivered impeccably.


The film is stolen by Whoopi Goldberg’s Oscar-winning turn as Oda Mae Brown and the same happens here as Jacqui Dubois channels a similar performance but gives it her own twist as the oddball psychic. However, although Goldberg didn’t provide any singing Dubois’ fantastic Aretha Franklin style soul vocals added amazing flavour to the proceedings.


In fact, the show suffers slightly from showtune fatigue where the earnest but slightly bland moody melodies between the lonely protagonists, whilst pitch-perfect, were shown up by the edgier songs interspersed throughout.


In order to help Molly, Sam meets a ghost on a subway train and Lovonne Richards tribal drum rapping was a welcome addition as was Oda Mae’s gospel infused “Are You A Believer?” with excellent support from Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy and Sadie-Jean Shirley.


Also of note was the jazzy “You Gotta Let Go Now” from James Earl Adair and of course, we can’t not mention the legendary tune Unchained Melody. Aspects of the song are littered throughout – from the background score to an impromptu jaunty acoustic version – but the leads did themselves proud late on in the show when they delivered the full rendition.


And at that point the coughing began. A touch of flu in the crowd perhaps? Definitely not. The lumps in the throat were clearly growing and by the show’s poignant goodbye conclusion, there were certainly some sobs from the crowd.


A great rendition of a classic movie, the film’s main beats are recreated using good choreography and Mark Bailey’s superb stage design along with solid performances across the board. Although a few tracks fell flat, stick around to enjoy the quirkier songs and plenty of funny moments during a show which delivers plenty of spirit.


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Sep 5 2018 07:40AM



Midlands Spotlight - Ocean-Eyes Pictures Announce New International Joint Project The Guiding Light


Lincolnshire based production company Ocean-Eyes Pictures have announced a new joint production with Nottingham based production company Polymath Productions and Argentinian producer Gisele Mauvecin. The new project, titled “The Guiding Light” is set to film in Autumn and will be directed by Tom Brumpton, from a script written by Ocean-Eyes owner Adam Luff.


The news comes off the back of a successful few years for the trio. Ocean-Eyes last project, “Nurture of the Beast”, which starred Brumpton, was picked as an Official Selection by various film festivals around the world.


Mr. Luff also enjoyed success for his screenplay “Lunar Art”, which picked up two awards at the inaugural New Renaissance Film Festival in 2016, while Mr Brumpton secured a place in the BAFTA Crews 2018 Programme as a director and producer. At the same time Mauvecin’s latest film, “Gender”, recently enjoyed a sold-out screening in London and has been picked up as an Official Selection by international film festivals.


The inspiration for “The Guiding Light” comes from a particularly difficult period in Brumpton’s life. He lost his Aunt Pat in April 2016 and later his Aunt Kath in late June 2017. “My aunts were wonderful people. I was very close to them and losing them felt like losing a family home".




As the pair began working on “The Guiding Light”, Brumpton aimed to create something life affirming. “I didn’t want my last memory of these women to be death and misery. I wanted to turn that grief into something positive”.


The film follows Barbara, a world champion dancer who after years of struggling with autoimmune disease is forced to retire. Shortly after, she contracts pneumonia and becomes critically ill. Minutes from death, she’s visited by her younger sister, Angela. The two embark on a journey through Barbara’s happiest memories before she’s forced to face her own mortality. The film, which brings together musical elements with surrealism, is set to be filmed in the East Midlands in late Summer/early Autumn.


Asked on their inspiration for the film, Brumpton stated “Whatever happens, blame Nicolas Winding Refn!” he jokes “I discovered him in 2009 when I saw “Bronson”, and fell in love with his work. His use of music and lighting is a massive inspiration. As for the musical side; Rob Marshall had a big impact. “Nine” is one of my favourite musicals but seeing what Damien Chazelle did with “La La Land” really stuck with me. As Adam and I worked on the film we saw it as a film of various parts. There are nods to European arthouse cinema and musicals, with moments of body horror and the surreal.”



Despite the bleak sounding subject matter, Brumpton thinks of the film as a celebration of love and life. “The film is a reflection on Pat’s life, and her relationship with Kath and my Mum. It’s about looking back on the things you achieved with a sense of pride and completion, and the role the people closest to us play in the value of those memories".


Mr. Luff had this to say on his involvement, "I enjoyed discussing the premise with Tom and I'm proud of the script. The juxtaposition of musical elements and surrealistic visuals is something terribly exciting, and I cannot wait to see where it takes us".


The trio have teased a premiere at a highly respected venue in 2019 and are running a crowdfunder via Indiegogo which can be found here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-guiding-light-short-film#/


By midlandsmovies, Apr 21 2018 08:52AM



An Officer and a Gentleman at Curve Leicester


An Officer and a Gentleman starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger was a huge critical and commercial success when released in 1982 grossing $130 million and winning an Oscar for Louis Gossett Jr. for Best Supporting Actor.


This new Curve production from Nikolai Foster takes the same premise but infuses it with an 80s-flavoured soundtrack of well-known hits from the decade. Telling the story of Zack Mayo and his Navy training in Florida, the protagonist falls in love with local girl Paula whilst conflicting with a tough Sergeant during his classes.


With successes in theatre productions of big movie hits (see our reviews of Sunset Blvd. and Grease), Foster doubles down on the music to carry this production and it mostly works. Mostly.


The film opens with an adaptation of In the Army Now (most famously recorded in the UK by soft-rock icons Status Quo) but here changed to “navy” and we see the cast work well together like combat ready marines themselves.


The soft-rock continues as the story develops as we are introduced to Zack (Jonny Fines) who signs up to the Navy and forms a friendship with Sid (Ian McIntosh). Quickly they get to know girls off the barracks Paula (Emma Williams) and Lynette (Jessica Daley). The ladies’ blue collar toughness shines through as they faithfully deliver renditions of It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World and the perennial retro classic Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Their broad interpretations delivered the songs with gusto but sadly character development and drama was unfortunately side-lined for the high-energy tunes.


More fleshed out was Keisha Atwell’s Casey Seegar who channels her beautiful voice with a rough and ready performance as the sole female in the outfit. Her strong vocals even came through in the group performances as well as her solo stints.


As a member of a rock band myself, one niggle was the “power” of the cover songs themselves. Although this changed for the second act – I think the soundman found the bass, kick drum and guitar volume faders and cranked them up – part one lacked the explosiveness of the songs themselves – making them a bit bland.


The vocals were top notch throughout but the heavy Marshall-stack guitar solos, the uber-reverb and over-produced drums were nowhere to be seen. The excessive 80s were known for their “hugeness” (see the end of Foreigner’s I Want to Know What Love is) but this was sadly missing.


That said, Act 2 began with a bang and the increased production levels (and volume) of the bass on Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer was a welcomed wake-up call after the interval. Versions of Kids in America, St. Elmo’s Fire and Toy Soldiers all hit the mark whilst Madonna’s Material Girl (again, another song of excess that was expressed in its overblown music video) was a bit lacklustre.


My nit-picking of the music covers shouldn’t take away from some huge successes though. The choreography by Kate Prince is fantastic. The best being a seated sequence where the cadets mime out hand moves in front of imaginary computers. Their hard ‘logical’ movements measuring out straight lines with their arms are a mix of intensity and concentration. But soon their chaotic actions harmonize in an amazing physical representation of the de-humanizing effect on the individual in the armed forces. Amazing!


Also, despite the film’s infamous tension between the stars of the film, there is strong on-stage chemistry between Fines and Williams as well as the rest of the cast. One standout performance was Ian McIntosh’s tragic Sid and his slowed version of Hall & Oates’ Family Man was the highlight of the night, coming as it did with great neon-lit stage production of silhouettes and smoke.


In conclusion, Leicester’s Curve delivers another welcome film adaptation that gives a well-known romance a new twist with the inclusion of pop hits. Audiences will witness all hard work all the cast have put in during their rehearsals (maybe they had their own drill instructor) which means ‘Officer’ will lift your spirits up with its mix of famous tracks and a fun, if slightly workman-like, delivery.


Midlands Movies Mike


Grab tickets from the Box Office on 0116 242 3595

By midlandsmovies, Sep 29 2017 11:18AM


Lights! Camera! Action! With The Shawshank Redemption, The Graduate and Grease, Leicester’s Curve Theatre is already a regional hub for brilliantly realised stage versions of some of the world’s most classic films. And tonight was no exception as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s infamous 1993 musical Sunset Boulevard (itself based around Billy Wilder’s 1950 Oscar winning noir classic) debuted in Leicester.


The musical matches the film’s narrative closely where struggling Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing star Danny Mac) escapes his debtors and winds up re-writing the atrocious script of faded silent-movie star Norma Desmond. Desmond is played by Welsh West End stage star Ria Jones and boy does she deserve her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


The show opens with a bang as a full chorus explodes onto the stage with "Let's Have Lunch" which immediately whisks us into the old glamour of a bygone movie era from The Paramount production company archway to sleazy journalists, loud-mouth directors and Hollywood hopefuls.


Mac is superb as the witty writer, doing what he has to do to survive and his American style delivery is boastful yet classic at once. However, much like Norma herself, the show centres around Ria Jones but unlike the deluded and self-absorbed house-bound harridan, this starlet shines bright every time she takes the stage.


The times she is not front and centre, the play still fully delivers with the wry clothes-swapping "The Lady's Paying" being a comedy delight whilst Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer holds her own as the lovelorn film company script-reader. Her note perfect high-pitched duet on “Girl Meets Boy” played softly against the harsher dynamics of Joe and Norma’s tempestuous turns.


The technical playing of the musical’s tunes was the show’s biggest-kept secret accomplishment. Once the curtain fell an eager Leicester crowd gathered near the orchestral pit to give specific congratulations to the fantastic (and unsung) players of the night and fully deserved it was too with the sweeping score moving from bombastic to gentle without fault.


Director Nikolai Foster kept the play moving fast and choreographer Lee Proud mixed show tune flamboyancy with tiny touches (the movement of a wine bottle past almost unnoticed between three separate characters in seconds) and that level of detail is why the 2-hour plus performance flew by joyously.




With the amazing music and Jones’ impeccable delivery, the theatre was alight with talent and the props and their unique usage became key to understanding the show’s Los Angeles locations. The staircase in Desmond’s mansion became the focus of a power-dynamic with her dominating presence looming over Mac’s Joe Gillis. As she descends her ‘stairway to Hollywood heaven’, Desmond comes back to earth with the faintest glimpses of reality peeking in behind her foolish belief of a successful return to the screen.


But finally, with all the components working perfectly with each other, Jones delivered the film’s infamous “I’m ready for my close-up” line and along with her note-holding final song, the theatre erupted into a more than deserved standing ovation. Far from a silent success, this new take on Sunset Boulevard should be sung from the Hollywood hills with its beautiful gift of glamour and glitz.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 31 2017 03:44PM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 3




24x36: A Movie about Movie Posters (2017) Dir. Kevin Burke

This documentary concerns the lost (and now maybe regained) art of the illustrated movie poster. With conversations from key artists over the last 40 years, the film shines a nostalgic light to the changes within the industry from the iconic (and painted) nature of the past to the resistance of the homogenised digital ‘Photoshop-ing’ of the present. It also follows the resurgence of the MONDO brand who, in the absence of Hollywood’s calling, filled the gap for creative, limited edition, screen-printed posters which has grown into an underground (but maybe no more) phenomenon. The doc is structured with the usual voice-overs and interviews yet despite its average structure, if you’re a fan of the subject then it does a great deal to explain the industry’s avoidance of creative risks with the increase use of focus groups. Similar to “Drew: The Man Behind the Poster” (2013) – a doc focused on the most famous poster-creator of them all Drew Struzan – the passion of the collectors just pulls it over the line – as was a surprise appearance from Leicester’s own Thomas Hodge whose 80s-flavoured posters are part of the scene’s rebirth. As a fan of alternative poster art (see our blogs here & here) I enjoyed the documentary, but for the passing fan however, it may be a bit too bland in style to grab you like well-designed placard. 6.5/10




Prevenge (2017) Dir. Alice Lowe

A pregnant woman who commits murder owing to voices she believes come from her unborn foetus is the dark narrative from this new British comedy horror. I had high hopes for this film after a spate of fine reviews yet right off the bat, the film is neither shocking nor comedic enough to warrant such regard. The movie’s positives include a terrific turn by writer/director/actor Alice Lowe who brings some depth to the troubled character but it delivered a poor script that thought it was far cleverer than it was. The overall feel was a few “skits” tied together with an over-arching and confusingly delivered narrative. The themes of female passions are surface level at best and an (almost) hand-held filming style meant I couldn’t get beyond the mix of its low budget technical style combined with the self-important themes and 6th Form-level wit. Apparently it was filmed in 2 weeks and boy can you tell. No laughs and no scares make Prevenge a dull girl. 4/10




Opening Night (2017) Dir. Isaac Rentz

A low budget frolic into the world of the musical stage sees Topher Grace playing a backstage producer of a new show that is as haphazard as it is a giant mess. Mixing the front of house musical numbers with the chaotic backstage antics of divas and dead-headed actors, the film is a light-hearted and enthusiastic tribute to the stresses of putting on a professional performance for the first time. Grace brings his inoffensive but warm persona from That 70s Show and a great comedic support cast delivers a stock love-story that, like the show within the film, wins the audience over despite its amateurism. Even though I’ve toured in a rock band myself, I have but a passing interest in film musicals as bursting into song in the middle of a scene has never really connected with me away from the stage. However, Opening Night is itself a meta-musical with the actors at times singing and dancing ‘outside’ of their own show. In many ways it works much more naturally than the artificial construct of most musicals. Like Moulin Rouge, well known pop songs are mixed with a handful of originals (which helps) and overall the movie avoids blandness as it harmlessly pokes fun at the crazy dramas of the theatrical world. 6.5/10




It Comes at Night (2017) Dir. Trey Edward Shults

Another film coming with a raft of praise-worthy reviews, this minimalist horror-drama also sadly fails to live up to expectations with a story about an unknown contagious disease and two families’ attempts at secluding themselves in the forest away from its ravages. One unit is headed by Joel Edgerton delivering an intense rage-filled role we’ve come to expect from him. He tries to ensure the safety of his family with a firm-hand and strict set of rules until he crosses paths with Will (Christopher Abbott) and his wife and child. The two then come together for both company and the sharing of scarce resources. However, the slow build up creates an unsettling distrust and from ‘sleepwalking’ children to barking dogs, the filmmaker aims to increase both the character’s and audience’s paranoia throughout. With dream and nightmare sequences though, the film is very ambiguous in what it is presenting. This at times works owing to the fear of the unknown but unfortunately this ‘open-to-interpretation’ delivery is stretched to a point of confusion. As the water and supplies dwindled, so did my interest and the director delivered some stock Hollywood horrors (a tree rustle here, a locked red door there – ooh spooky) whilst the investigations and infections come to an unsatisfying conclusion. It’s therefore a big shame the film failed to grab me as there are a few glimpses of a more narratively coherent horror in here. Yet It Comes at Night is ultimately a well-filmed and beautifully lit chamber-piece that some viewers will find tense, ambiguous and atmospheric whilst I predict a majority will come away simply bored to death. 5.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 6 2017 06:50PM



Bantock House Outdoor Cinema: La La Land


Open air cinemas are all the rage right now. Aside from those with the “pick a carpark and pack it out” approach, they provide the opportunity to ditch the multiplexes and experience something unique. La La Land at Wolverhampton’s Bantock House perfectly epitomised such an experience.


July the 29th saw over 200 film fans fill the Rose Garden, making for an intimate setting which even the rain couldn’t, ahem, dampen the spirits of. Those eager to see the musical were first serenaded all the way back to Hollywood’s golden era by the retro harmony stylings of The Miss Fortunes, it goes without saying that already, this was infinitely more immersive than 30 minutes of Audi and Apple adverts.


Black Country Touring and Films in a Flash made sure the logistics and technical aspects ran without a hitch (be sure to check out their page for what they’ve got lined up next). Regardless of the inclement weather and early evening lighting difficulties that the British Summertime offers, the film looked and sounded every bit like an Oscar winner.


The good news is that this is just the beginning for Bantock House’s Outdoor Cinema. Event organisers Jeremy Brown and Andrew Atkinson had this to say about how it went and what the West Midlands can expect next:


Midlands Movies: “So, how did you feel the inaugural event went?”

Andrew Atkinson: “I personally feel it was a great success, if you take out the weather factor. But we held an exit poll as people left, and it proved that everyone enjoyed themselves.”

Jeremy Brown: “We had a very, very good turnout…if you put the right product in front of people, they will come out, despite it being an experiment (the first time) and despite of the weather. I think we had a good mix in the audience: it was nice to some families, some diversity. The other thing was, the venue does work very well for these types of events: it’s got a friendly sort of intimacy and it does feels a bit special, especially for a film like La La Land. To be able to stage it in a landscaped garden space in a country house adds value to the whole event experience.”


MM: “There’s some exclusivity there isn’t there. Like you’re part of a club. Who else was involved in the staging?”

“Black Country Touring were very helpful and identified Films in a Flash as potential providers who were relatively local and felt a good match. They did a great job with the ancillary lighting and the PA system for the band. They seemed keen to add value and work in partnership rather than treat it as a commercial event.”


MM: “Speaking of the band, Miss Fortunes was really a nice warm-up act.”

JB: “We felt if people were going to come out, bring a picnic and make an evening of it, it would be fun to have something extra which would feel sympathetic to the film. A bit of harmony singing and period music felt right and added to the celebratory feel.”


MM: “Where do you think the enthusiasm for open air cinema as an alternative to the multiplexes comes from?”

Andrew Atkinson: “Well, you were there. It started to rain as soon as the titles came up and stopped as soon as the end came up and it hasn’t rained since! (Laughs). But had it been a good evening I think people would have been dancing in the aisles.”

JB: “The multiplex issue is a tricky one and we’re fortunate to have the Lighthouse in Wolverhampton. It’s interesting to see the clientele that regularly attend and they’re the kind of people we’re trying to attract. Multiplexes haven’t done themselves any favours. The prices have increased…the levels of hygiene, cleanliness, noise. Just the cinema going experience can be a bit chequered. To have an alternative to that is a really positive one. Thinking about the kind of films that would work in the future, we’d be exploring that slightly more upmarket experience. There are some very commercial organisations that are doing Top Gun, Dirty Dancing and Grease singalongs. I think a lot of that is about how many people you can cram into a space and how many beers you can sell. We’d rather have a more exclusive feel but still have people come along and enjoy them.”


MM: “With going more upmarket then, what ideas have you got for future screenings?”

AA: “To be quite honest, the dust hasn’t settled from the first one and we’re still in the post-mortem stages. All we can say with confidence is yes, there will be another one, perhaps in the late summer. Perhaps two dates pencilled in for 2018, if not more.”

JB: “In terms of the films and grown up cinema, perhaps more feel good than Dunkirk, perhaps (with La La Land) it would have been appropriate after the awards ceremony if we put Moonlight on by accident (laughs). That would be the right sort of film again. I think a film like Baby Driver could attract a real interest, again, it’s got a fantastic score and a real sense of fun…maybe a film like Pride, which has got a feel good resonance and would work in that context. We’re keeping an eye out for some of those really high quality, thought provoking films…rather than the shoot ‘em up, popcorn material. One of the nice things about working with the community…is that we can run a straw poll: put a list together, pick the ones you’d like to see and get buy in as well”.

AA: “It’s always been my mantra that if we’re going to do anything, then we’re going to do it well. We’re providing a quality product…and we’ll bring the arts to the area and to a wider Wolverhampton audience.”



MM: “You mentioned introducing people to silent cinema too.”

JB: “We’re trying that with Funny Things, a pilot comedy festival in Wolverhampton in October. We’re toying with the idea of a live piano accompaniment to a Harold Lloyd movie which we could stage in the tractor shed which holds 70 people and could be an intimate and fun experience. We certainly enjoyed Buster Keaton’s The General when Flatpack put that on at the Brownhills Community Centre last summer.”


MM: “So finally, how can people get involved and support you?”

JB: “Finchfield and Castlecroft Community Association has its own website (Link - http://www.finchfieldandcastlecroft.com/ ) and we’re lucky to work with the council’s events team at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery so we’re keen to hear from people through those networks. Our funding comes from Creative Black Country; they’re very keen to work with any voluntary sector organisation who may wish to engage in quality art activity.”


MM: “Thanks for your time, both.”


You can keep up with the Bantock House Outdoor Cinema events through the sites above and of course, through Midlands Movies.


Robb Sheppard

https://twitter.com/RedBezzle



By midlandsmovies, Dec 13 2016 10:43AM



Grease at The Curve catches lightning in a bottle


Let’s put this straight out there – Grease is my favourite musical. The combination of catchy 50s-influenced pop hits together with a classic tale of boyfriend and girlfriend from opposite sides of the track is as fantastic now as it was when the film version was released in 1978.


In this version Nikolai Foster directs a new production of Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs' 1971 musical and takes many cues from the original version rather than the film adaptation. Here the T-Birds we know from the motion picture revert to the original Burger Boys gang, but the same saga of Summer Lovin’ returning to high school is still the story’s driving force.


This version also includes songs the movie omitted but film-fans shouldn’t be dismayed as solo performances of Grease’s unforgettable classics including “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, by the amazing Djalenga Scott as a raw Rizzo and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from Jessica Paul as Sandy showed the talent of the cast and why the latter was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.


The story remains mostly the same with popular gang rebel Danny Zuko (played with assured confidence by Dex Lee) meeting goodie two-shoes Sandy during summer only for them to be re-united once school reconvenes. The subsequent clash between their romantic liaison and friends’ peer pressure see the two try to rekindle their whirlwind romance at Rydell High.


Sitting alongside 1950s high school classics like American Graffiti (and even Back to the Future) the film delivered the showtunes by two of the most popular stars at the time; John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. But those big shoes are excellently filled by the two leads here as well as a high quality support cast who get equally as many funny lines and songs as the protagonists.


Faithful stage recreations of the hand-jive dance off, the burger joint and various school locations are brilliantly rendered with steps doubling up as tiered bleachers and household stairs whilst benches, pummel horses and gym equipment resonate from the period. Designer Colin Richmond should be commended on this innovative use of identifiable school symbols as well as descending Teen Angels, flying Grease Lightning cars and 50s neon signs that evoke the period and help showcase the talents of the cast.


Choreographer Nick Winston brings updated moves and sporty boogies to the athletic stage jiving and twists the audience’s knowledge of the film version’s style with brand new takes on Travolta’s hip shaking gyrations and the gang’s ‘wella-wella’ thrusts.


The music was spot-on with not a note misplaced and included some excellent guitar solos. Particular highlights included the extended (and reprised) ‘Born to Hand Jive’ and the frankly amazing acoustic rendition of ‘Those Magic Changes’. This version goes from chord structure to cast choir in a melodic minute of well-performed music and dialogue.


‘Beauty School Drop Out’ could have done with the crooner-style of Frankie Avalon rather than the modern Glee-ish delivery we were treated to but this was more of a personal preference. However, some mature experience was brought by Darren Bennett whose Vince Fontaine was a comedy cameo of such hilarious quality he nearly stole the show with a pantomime performance of high kicks and sweaty dance twirls.


The whole production of Grease uses its perfect technical and creative attributes alongside the already infamous songs to create an incredible stage show, Daddy-O. Either as a newcomer or Grease enthusiast, this new version at Leicester’s Curve encapsulates the joy of the film whilst music and cast go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!


Midlands Movies Mike


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