THERE were, apparently, 85 episodes – or about forty two and a half hours’ worth - of this comedy shown on TV during the 1980s, but you’ll be relieved to hear that this stage version is condensed considerably and runs for just slightly over two hours, including an interval.
THE Regent Centre in Christchurch was built in 1931 so is currently celebrating its 80th Anniversary, and this concert was just one of the events in the ‘anniversary calendar’. The groups taking part were Christchurch Gilbert and Sullivan Society, Highcliffe Charity Players, Poole and Parkstone and Theatre 2000, not forgetting the host of ever-present volunteers who make the Regent Centre one of the cornerstones of the community.
I have always rather fancied, but never experienced, one of those ‘pamper days’ where one is given all sorts of treatments to relax the mind and the body. Tonight I experienced what must be the next best thing, as after just a few minutes of this concert I could feel the stresses of the day draining away, and I had a feeling of being enfolded in something warm, comforting and relaxing.
‘An Inspector Calls’ is an excellent play and this is – for the most part – an excellent production. The work is quoted as Priestley’s clearest expression of his Socialist beliefs, but its interesting subsidiary themes of the generation gap and family dynamics are often neglected and to modern ears its message is more humanitarian than Socialist, which says something about how society has changed in the seventy years since the play was written.
I have long been a fan of satellite screenings because it seems to me that it’s a way of having the best seats in the house without the hassle and expense of getting there. For the first time I’m in a position to qualify those words, as last weekend we were in Maastricht watching the actual concert that was recorded for tonight’s transmission. So how did the two compare?
IT isn’t far short of forty years since I first saw this show, which is based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. I loved it then and I most certainly loved HCP’s production tonight which, to quote from a different musical entirely, is practically perfect in every way.
SOME productions need updating and the 1946 version of Annie Get Your Gun, with its politically incorrect references to “Red Indians” and outdated approach to women, is without doubt one of them. Fortunately, Peter Stone’s 1999 Broadway revival revised the script and Theatre 2000 used this for their Regent Centre Show. Based loosely on a hit and miss romance between real life sharpshooters Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, Annie Get Your Gun has a host of familiar and much-loved songs from Irving Berlin - a gift for Musical Director Lee Marchant.
I’VE long been a fan of Tom Lehrer’s wonderfully satirical songs but only came upon Bob Newhart’s comedic monologues a couple of years ago, when a friend played me one of his LPs. Since both Americans are now in their 80s I doubt that many in this country have ever seen them performing live, learning to love them instead from their recordings, from shows like Tomfoolery or perhaps from a tribute-type evening such as this.
ALTHOUGH I am not particularly an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan I absolutely adore this show, to the extent that when it first opened in London in 1989 I must have seen it about a dozen times before then going over to New York specifically to see it again.
I’M sitting here at my computer silently singing some of the incredibly catchy songs from this show and pondering how to explain that some of the cast are humans, some puppets without it sounding – well, odd. Because it isn’t odd at all, and in fact after a few minutes it seems perfectly normal.
With a combination of graphics, backing tracks, a complicated set to negotiate and the manipulation of those puppets, this is not an easy show for amateurs to perform but Theatre 2000’s cast do an absolutely stunning job that deserves full houses for every performance. I saw the show in the West End a number of years ago and in all truth I loved what I saw tonight just as much.
I really think that the person who first came up with the idea of having the ‘live from’ broadcasts that are beamed into venues direct from theatres in London, New York or wherever should be knighted, because to attend one of these is to have all the pleasure of the production with none of the hassle and expense.
MENTION Lionel Bart’s name and most people will immediately think of Oliver!, which was still running when this musical about World War II opened in London in 1962. For some reason the public never really took it to their hearts, perhaps because it was a little too close to home for many of those who had lived through the dark days of war. However, it really is a charming show that celebrates the tenacity of Londoners making the best of things in the face of adversity, and Milton’s delightful production, directed with style by John Teather, really does highlight that fact, giving us a well-crafted snapshot of the time.
Blue Remembered Hills is set in World War II, following the lives of the war-time children who must find ways to entertain themselves. This play sets out to build childhood memories and events and, in the director’s own words, show “an analysis of human interactions.”
CABARET is always a dark musical, showing human relationships being played out in an increasingly fraught manner as the spectre of Nazism begins to rear its ugly head in pre World War II Berlin - although it does, nonetheless, have its brighter moments.
SHORT of hopping on a plane and travelling halfway round the world, the only chance most of us will have had to see this stunning production, performed on a floating stage in Sydney harbour, will have been through this Encore Satellite Broadcast. And I have a feeling that it was us, sitting in the comfort of the Regent Centre, who may have had the better deal.
THEATRE 2000 continue their excellent re-visiting of Rodgers & Hammerstein classics with Carousel, in a production directed by Albert Brown. The moment Lee Marchant's fantastic orchestra struck the opening notes, I knew we were in for a treat and the evening did not disappoint on any level.
THE dictionary definition of ‘spectacular’ is striking, amazing or lavish, and this show, the first of what the Regent hopes will become an annual event, most certainly lives up to its name.
A beautifully decorated foyer gives every indication of what is to come, and I don’t think I have ever seen such an incredible set or such wonderful lighting effects on the Regent’s stage – nor in many other places, come to think of it.
Since The Glad Rag Production Company is part of Sue Simmerling’s Carry On Costumes, which has been providing costumes for P&O Cruise ships and land-based theatres for many years, it goes without saying that the performers are dressed to dazzle, with a myriad of changes and each set of costumes simply – well, spectacular.
Returning for a fourth year to the Regent Centre, Christmas Spectacular brings magic and sparkle to the festive season. It’ so much more than a Christmas variety show, with a storyline linking the songs and moving the performance forward. When Santa and his helpers in the North Pole get a visit from Gregory Thriftpenny and his assistant, Pumpkin, it looks like Christmas fun is over. Fear not though, Santa’s workers don’t let this get in the way of their Christmas joy.
THE dictionary definition of the word ‘spectacular’ is ‘striking, amazing, and lavish’, and I can say without a doubt that this show is every one of those things. It is also unique – how many Christmas shows have you seen that include songs such as Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Guten Tag Hop Clop or Back In The USSR? Exactly. I rest my case.