Tag Archives: Wayne Smith

Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre – 20th July 2013

31 Jul

Dirty Dancing is without a doubt one of the most popular movies of the 80s. And I will admit it here and now: I love the movie and have seen it various times.
When I first heard rumours about a stage version of Dirty Dancing several years ago I was properly excited. I saw real potential and the possibility for a gorgeous dance musical with great songs. Years later and after having seen the show in both Germany and the UK I now think differently. Dirty Dancing – at least in its current manifestation – doesn’t really work as a stage show. It’s not that the material is bad. After all there’s romance, great dancing, catchy tunes and handsome people. But when you put a movie on stage one thing is essential: You can’t transfer a movie scene by scene. But that is exactly what has happened with Dirty Dancing. And because of the almost ridiculous amount of tiny scenes stuck together the show doesn’t flow properly. It seems rushed and incomplete which I think is a real shame. After all shows like Saturday Night Fever have proven that a dance movie can be turned into a good stage show.

After being on tour for about a year Dirty Dancing has now moved into its temporary new home in the West End. The show is slightly different from the last West End production which is no surprise considering it is a touring version.  But then Dirty Dancing has never been the show of big sets. It’s all about the dancing in the end and we sure get plenty of that.

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Paul-Michael Jones steps into Patrick Swayze’s shoes as Johnny Castle. Personally I think he lacks the proper looks for the part – I always picture Johnny as tall, dark and handsome and while Paul-Michael Jones is tall and nice to look at he’s definitely not the dark type. However, he makes up for this with his brilliant dancing skills and a kind of boyish charm he brings to the part. I enjoyed his take on Johnny a lot.

Jill Winternitz is Baby Houseman and she is without a doubt the sweetest and most natural Baby I have seen so far. I adored her from the moment she stepped on stage. Baby’s sister Lisa is played by Emilia Williams and I have to say for me she is the one weak link on stage. It may be due to direction but her Lisa is so completely over the top that I couldn’t connect with her at all. Yes, Lisa’s “solo” during the end of the season performance is supposed to be funny – but it shouldn’t be ridiculously silly.

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Charlotte Gooch’s Penny Johnson is quite a sight. She is just gorgeous to look at and a fierce dancer. Her performance is simply wonderful and she manages to give Penny a vulnerability that draws the audience in straight away.

Stefan Menaul has to be the cutest Neil Kellerman in the history of Dirty Dancing. It is very easy to turn Neil into a complete geek but to make him slightly geeky but equally cute and actually quite likable is a real achievement. So thumbs up for Stefan for that!

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A special mention goes to Wayne Smith who plays Johnny’s brother Billy and gets to sing the iconic “Time of my life” amongst other songs. It is wonderful to see Wayne back on stage in the West End. He is such a natural on stage and now he finally gets to show off his lovely singing voice.

The rest of the cast does a great job. This show must be tough for every dancer. The choreography is demanding and the cast rarely get the chance to catch their breath between scenes (another result of the constant scene changes).

So, whilst I stand by my opinion that Dirty Dancing is not a very good stage show I really enjoyed seeing all those talented people on stage. They are what make this show worth watching. And yes, I will be back because there is no way I am missing out on seeing Joseph Prouse (who was away on the day I saw the show) do a bit of dirty dancing. And the only thing I am dreading is the typical Dirty Dancing audience. I realise this show attracts hen nights and the likes and I have nothing against an enthusiastic audience. But there is a difference between enthusiastic and plain awkward and sometimes even rude behaviour. Screaming (not cheering, I’m talking of proper hysteric screams) when Johnny makes his appearance to tell everyone that “no one puts Baby in a corner” is just a complete no go. And yes, we are not watching Shakespeare but talking loudly while the show is going on is rude towards both your fellow audience members and the cast.

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So, if you like the movie and want to see the famous lift and all live on stage you should consider watching Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre. Be prepared for bad audience behaviour though!

Dirty Dancing is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre until 22nd February 2014. For more info and to book tickets go here.

 

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Jersey Boys London, September 18th 2011

22 Sep

Yes, I am a Jersey Boys regular. I’ve been watching the show since July 2008 and have since then seen it more than 100 times (and no, that is no typo!). Jersey Boys is one of those shows that I can see again and again without getting bored. It has a gripping story, fantastic songs and is in my eyes almost flawless.

For all of you that have managed to avoid a trip to Jersey so far: The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (with a certain artistic freedom). The fact that it is not just a made up tale but in general the true history of real people is one of the reasons I’m fascinated by this musical. I remember the first time I went to watch Jersey Boys – I had no idea what to expect, all I had seen until then where clips online that had made me want to see the man with the fabulous voice on stage: Ryan Molloy (funny enough he was off sick on my first visit). It only took this one visit to get me hooked. So ever since that day Jersey Boys is on my “to see” list whenever I travel to London.

Once you’ve watched a show a certain amount of times you enjoy a few of change now and then. At least that’s what applies to me. So I am always up for understudy shows at Jersey Boys and I tend to book especially to see certain understudies on stage now and then.

The latest addition to those understudy shows happened on September 18th 2011. I do love Jon Boydon’s Tommy DeVito and I honestly miss Jon whenever I see the show and he’s not there but Ben Wheeler’s Tommy will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s probably a little due to the fact that he was my first ever Tommy back in 2008. But then he’s also a completely awesome performer. His Tommy is the perfect mix of dangerous and flirty, something that is quite hard to achieve. Plus I can basically see what his Tommy is thinking from every little facial expression and gesture. He doesn’t just act from script, he puts life into his performance. Ben’s Tommy is not just a one dimensional bully which makes it so interesting to see the characters development throughout the show.
What made this specific Sunday matinee even better was Mark Isherwood’s Nick Massi. He plays Nick exactly like he should be played (in my eyes at least). Nick Massi is a very defined and rather quiet character with a lot of style so for me it is important that he isn’t portayed as a joke figure. And unfortunately that can happen quite quickly with Nick wanting to “start his own group” all the time and doing the infamous “towel” speech in act 2. Mark’s Nick oozes charisma, simple as that. He’s elegant and laid back which is exactly why said towel speech comes across as a real outbreak of “the quiet one”. And I’d like to add that Mark’s smile really lights up the stage – such amazing stage presence! He needs to be on more often (who do I have to bribe??).
Matt Wycliffe always amazes me with the pure energy he puts into his performance. His Bob is very calm and collected yet he almost explodes (not literally!) with energy during the group songs and “Oh what a night”. And just how beautiful is that voice?! I will always miss Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio, after all I’ve seen him in the show for 3 years. But I’m so glad they found Matt to replace Stephen and I honestly adore his Bob Gaudio.
Who’s missing? The one and only Mr. Molloy, of course. What can I say? He’s the man! I’ve never seen a performer like him on stage before. The guy is amazingly talented and if you ask me his voice is actually better than Frankie Valli’s. Plus Ryan is a born entertainer and that definitely shows in his performance. I sometimes wish he could just completely go for it and – for example – sing “Beggin” like he often does at promotional appearances (those riffs are awesome!!).
I seriously hope this wasn’t the first and last time I have seen these four guys on stage together. Their stage chemistry was fantastic and it was obvious they were having a great time performing together.

Wayne Smith as Bob Crewe always is a highlight in every Jersey Boys performance I attend. Yes, I loved Simon Adkin’s Bob Crewe and I always will. But Wayne really has made the character his own. His Bob Crewe has dignity and that is the most important thing everyone playing this part has to achieve. Bob Crewe was such a vital and important part in the history of the Four Season. As funny as his behaviour in the show is (all that “the stars are in alignment” stuff and so on) he can’t be portrayed as a walking joke. And Wayne manages this perfectly. I love his Bob Crewe and beside Matt Wycliffe he is my favourite addition to the Jersey Boys family.
Chris Gardner is doing a good job as Hank Majewski but I have to say he still doesn’t really covince me in the part. His Hank just seems a bit bland but then the part itself is not exactly the most exciting in the show. I have seen his Bob Gaudio and I really enjoyed his performance in that part so it’s probably rather the character’s than Chris’ fault that I just can’t warm to his Hank.
Jake Samuels has really grown into his role over the last few months. It’s no secret that I miss Joseph Prouse’s Norman Waxman dearly though. Joseph just had some kind of sparkle that Jake unfortunately lacks. He’s really good as Nick Massi though and I hope I get to see him in that part again.
Paul Iveson was on as Donnie/Knuckles. He did well but for some reason Paul never totally amazes me. He is good in every part I’ve seen him in but he hasn’t managed to work his way up to be my favourite in any of them.
Carl Au has developed so much since he started in the show. When I first saw him as Joey Pesci I thought he was way too insecure and not funny at all. But now he’s definitely settled into the role. Seeing his Frankie Valli is still on my list.
The three girls on stage always tend to stand in the shadow of the boys which is a shame. Rachael Wooding’s Mary Delgado is feisty and full of energy. She’s definitely my favourite since Suzy Bastone. Charlie Bull as Lorraine has grown a lot in the role over the last 1,5 years. Her Lorraine is more vulnerable now which makes me feel for the character. And Lauren Hall is by far the best Francine I have seen in the show. It’s fantastic to see what she makes of such a small role. When Francine phones her dad in act 2 I cannot help but wonder what must have happened to that girl to make her so fearful and insecure, something that has never happened to me with any of the other girls I’ve seen as Francine.

Only downside of this performance were certain people in the audience. Don’t you just hate it when people talk loudly during the show? And if you read this, yes I mean you, the two middle aged guys in the second row. So inconsiderate and just plain rude.
But even that can not prevent me from saying that this was one of the best performances of Jersey Boys I have seen in the last couple of months and I was once again reminded why I’ve seen it so many times. I truly love this show and as long as it is running in the West End I will be back for more.

Jersey Boys is showing at the Prince Edwards Theatre. For more info go to http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com/