Tag Archives: Mike Denman

The Bodyguard – Uk Tour

8 Sep

After a two-year run in the West End the well-known screen to stage adaption The Bodyguard is currently on UK Tour.

I caught the show in Birmingham after watching it several times during its first year in the West End. The Bodyguard has always been about the songs, there’s no denying that. The show sells because the audience wants to hear all those popular Whitney tunes. So with that in mind I can’t fault the creative for reducing the tour production to a concert with some random scenes thrown in. The Bodyguard has never had a deep story but to me it feels like the last bits of proper narrative have been taken out of the tour production only to add even more songs turning the whole show into a two hours tribute concert.

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Zoe Birkett stepped into “Whitney’s shoes” at my performance and she sure knew how to get the audience on her side. Her voice is powerful and her energy on stage is infectious. Acting wise her Rachel Marron lacks depth in my opinion but then there is not much left in the script to allow proper character development. Rachel Marron goes from “bitchy pop singer” to “scared woman” to “sweet lover” to “heartbroken sister” in the blink of an eye.

Stuart Reid plays Frank Farmer – the bodyguard – with an almost stoic calmness. And while he sure has the stage presence he too is given little chance to show the audience more than a glimpse of Frank’s personality. His take on “I will always love you” wins hands down for the most hilariously awkward rendition of that song in history though and is one of the few moments in the show where he actually gets to stand out. Most of the time he is nothing more than a side figure – only there to exchange a line or two with Rachel Marron before the next song.

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Melissa James is likeable as Nicki Marron and “Run to you” with Zoe Birkett is one of the truly glorious moments of the show. But just like anyone else apart from Rachel Marron the character is left standing in a corner with no chance to develop. Sadly this meant I felt little sympathy for Nicki and her tragic end.

The rest of the cast does a fine job with the material they have been given. Mike Denman is suitably evil as The Stalker and one has to give him credit for spending half the show lurking around on stage with no shirt and actually making this look scary. I do not agree with cutting The Stalker’s song in this production as it takes away from yet another supporting role and makes the show even more into a Rachel Marron solo concert. However, Mike provides some of the few truly gripping moments in the show and gets the chance to let out his inner “psycho” which – judging by the audience’s reaction – he is doing with much success.

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All in all the show is doing well giving the general public what they want. After all the audience expects Whitney songs when they book tickets for The Bodyguard and Whitney songs is what they get. And the fact that the story has been lost on the way means little when everyone leaves the theatre with a smile on their face.

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The Bodyguard is continuing to tour the UK. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.thebodyguardmusical.com/.

Saturday Night Fever Cologne remembered

13 Jun

If you have been following my blog you might have guessed by now that I am what one could call a theatre geek. I adore theatre. It’s by far my favourite way of spending my free time and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without the arts.

And in just a little over 2 weeks a very special date is coming up. June 30th 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of the last performance of the show that started it all of: Saturday Night Fever in Cologne. It wasn’t the first musical I’d seen in my life but it was the one that really made me into what I am today: A complete theatre enthusiast.
It’s funny because I can’t even name the exact date of my first visit to Saturday Night Fever (although I’m 100% sure I still have the ticket somewhere in my ticket collection). It must have been sometime in autumn 1999 and I remember the ticket was a gift from my parents – they are probably still blaming themselves for my theatre addiction.

Group shot taken on the last day of the show

So, Saturday Night Fever – yes, the musical adaption of the popular movie. And yes, a German production of the show (meaning German dialogues and English songs). Until then I had never seen the same production more than 3 times and I had never been a regular at any theatre. But this changed once I got hooked on this colourful show with all its catchy tunes and fabulous choreography. During the first year my visits were rare – first of all I still regarded watching a musical a very special occasion and then I was only a student back then which ment money was quite tight. It wasn’t until late summer 2000 that I started making monthly visits to the show. And from 2001 on those visits became weekly until I was basically living inside the theatre. I remember one of the dressers telling me and a friend: “You are not fans! You are  part of the theatre!” I’m sure some of the people who worked at the theatre thought we were crazy and I don’t blame them. But we never felt out-of-place. No, actually it was like being part of a community. There were us few regulars, the front of house people (the theatre wouldn’t have been the same without Hamid – I wish I knew what he was doing today), the “Bistro” people (which was the theatre’s little bar – we could spend all day in there without getting bored thanks to Rainer – the owner – and his staff), the backstage people (Ralfi who was running the theatre canteen, for example, or Hubert from stage door – such a one of a kind person!) and the cast.
Whilst everyone except us was doing a job there it was more than just work for most of those guys and girls. Saturday Night Fever was special and we – the supporters of the show – were in a way part of this very special show.

Michelle Escano (Maria) and Robb Morris (Chester)

Before Saturday Night Fever I had never spoken to a performer and suddenly I was right in the middle of a bunch of lovely and talented people from around the world. Those guys loved their job (with few exceptions – you will always get a few people who are just in it for the money) and they loved being part of the Night Fever family. And the thing that was most extraordinary for me at the time was that they accepted us – the fans – and made us feel welcome and appreciated. Not once during my 2,5 years at that theatre did I feel like the cast didn’t want me there or was getting annoyed by my presence. I will always cherish the friendliness I experienced from those people who were working so hard to put on a great show for the audience day by day and who would always have a nice word for me and my friends despite being busy and often simply beyond tired.

Aykut Hilmi (Doube J) and Gerald Marko (ensemble)

It has been almost 10 years now since Saturday Night Fever left the blue tent (that’s what we called the Musical Dome which is the theatre the show ran in – google it and you will understand why). I have seen other productions of this show over the years and I loved most of them. But none ever came close to the Cologne production. It wasn’t just a show – it was a huge part of my life at the time. I’ve met so many amazing people through this production, a lot of whom I am still in contact with today.
I am proud to call some of the performers I have met through Saturday Night Fever my friends today. Some of them are still performing – a few even in London. I will go and see them in whatever show they are in or we’ll just meet up for a catch up when time allows. And most of them have nothing but the fondest memories of their time in Cologne.

Curtain call, last performance on June 30 2002

Even if you have never seen Saturday Night Fever you might recognise a few of the performers who were part of the show. To name just a few:
Peter Johansson (who went on to play Galileo in We will rock you London)
Mike Denman (Contact, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Never Forget and currently Wizard of Oz – all in London)
Ashley Hale (Guys and Dolls, Dirty Dancing, Jersey Boys and lately Shrek in London to name just a few)
Luke Jackson (yes, the guy from “So you think you can dance”)
Sebastien Torkia (Guys and Dolls and currently playing Ed in the Lion King in London)
Matthew Cole  (understudy for Adam/Felicia in the original London cast of Priscilla)
Michael Rouse (Legolas in Lord of the Rings in London)
Stephane Anelli (Jose in Never Forget to name just one show and currently appearing at Regents Park Open Air Theatre)
Aykut Hilmi (he has just started as a regular in East Enders)

The two performers I am especially grateful to have met can’t go unnamed although most of you won’t have heard of them: Marc Seitz and Matthew Huet. Both are exceptionally talented and all in all fantastic guys and I feel very lucky to know them.

Me and Matthew Huet (Cesar) in 2000

So, what is the point of this post? I simply wanted to share a few memories of a very special time in my theatre life. Without Saturday Night Fever I might never have become the theatre addict I am today – and trust me, I love being a theatre addict!
I’ve seen various shows over the years and met a lot of lovely people (performers, fans etc) but nothing will ever come close to the Night Fever times. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this was my first ever experience of theatre life. But mostly it’s because I don’t think there will ever be a theatre community like this again – the people, the theatre, the production – it was perfect.Like Cheyenne (Double J and Tony Manero in the show) used to say: Keep the fever!
This simple quote is still valid even after 10 years and I’m sure for everyone that was part of this show in any way it will never lose its meaning.

The Wizard of Oz at the Palladium Theatre – February 12 2012

6 Mar

It only took me about a year to go and see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz. I remember watching the movie when I was younger and, of course, I have seen the well known “prequel” Wicked on stage (it still bothers me now and then how the two stories don’t really fit together – but that’s just me being picky).

 

Anyway, I was finally off to see the Wizard. It was the first week of the new cast but since I hadn’t seen the original cast I obviously can’t compare. 

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The whole show is designed to entertain kids if you ask me. And there’s nothing wrong with that – the story is a family classic after all. However I couldn’t really relate to the often rather panto-like style of the whole production. I never have and never will be a fan of panto.

A lot of the songs are well known and especially “Somewhere over the rainbow” received a huge round of applause. I can’t say the whole score really stuck in my mind after the show though. Beside the song I already knew I found it rather average to be honest. I did like the “Red Shoe Blues” a lot though and if asked I would class this one as the stand out song of the show (in my opinion it is a much stronger song than “Somewhere over the rainbow”).

 

The costumes reminded me of Wicked a lot but then quite a few of the characters are the same so that’s not surprising. Glinda’s costumes have to be a favourite – all shiny and glittery.

 

Sophie Evans was a very sweet and innocent Dorothy although I did find the part itself slightly irritating. All Dorothy ever does is either worry or moan about stuff (or run after her dog). I couldn’t see the character developing throughout the show. That, of course, is nothing I blame Sophie for. She did the best with the material she’d been given. 

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Russel Grant was an ok Wizard – and that’s putting it really nicely. I hadn’t heard of him before so unlike many others I was able to watch his performance with an unbiased mind. He wasn’t completely bad but he didn’t amaze me either. His singing was a quite weak in my opinion and his acting was a bit wooden in places.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Edward Baker-Duly’s Tin Man and Paul Keating’s Scarecrow – a complete joy to watch. I wasn’t too keen on Martin Callaghan’s Cowardly Lion but then that has always been my least favourite part out of the three so I might be slightly biased.

 

I had Florence Andrews on for Glinda and I thought she did a good job. I admit I would have loved to see Anna Woodside play the part – hopefully I’ll get the chance sometime this summer.

 

Marianne Benedict as The Wicked Witch of the West was my personal highlight in the show. Great acting and such a fantastic voice – and very evil I should add.  

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The ensemble seems a bit wasted in this show. They have so little to do beside walking around and doing minor dance routines from time to time. Ok, some of them get to climb and jump around as flying monkeys but that’s it really.

Special mention for Mike Denman who gets to do a flik-flak again – he’s still got it! 😉

   

The Wizard of Oz is definitely a family show and it is designed to entertain kids. While that isn’t a bad thing it also means I have no desire to watch this one over and over again. It’s a very traditional musical and it does ok in transferring the well known story on to the stage. I did miss the magic of the story though (maybe I’m just too old to really dive into the story these days).

 

But still, if you like the movie I recommend you give this show a try. Just be prepared to sit through some panto bits and don’t expect anything completely innovative and new.

 

For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/.