Friday, 23 September 2011

My First Night at the Dance Xchange

Last night I was invited to attend Hofesh Shechter’s "Uprising and The Art Of Not Looking Back". Having never attended a legit dance production before I wasn’t too enthralled about the whole idea... My initial ideas could not have been more wrong. From the moment I entered the auditorium with usher’s offering me earplugs I knew that I was in for an evening of something interesting.

Act 1 consisted of a company of male contemporary dancers in an act entitled “Uprising”. I was amazed at their core strength and ability to mould themselves into all directions... Being a dance student (I know, a dance student who doesn't like watch dance shows seems crazy) I can only imagine the years of practise gone into being able to have such control over their movements. It’s also important to note their selling of the performance: the dancers fully committed to the performance and conveyed strong emotions to the audience of dance students, dance enthusiasts and general public. After some amazing flooreography (dancing on the floor... that’s not a technical term) Act 1 ended with a man being suspended by the other dancers waving a red flag (a nice homage to Les Mis in my opinion).

Act 2’s “The Art of Not Looking Back” was presented by a female company. The juxtaposition of men beating each other up in Act 1 to the female dancers performing jaunty ballet positions whilst shaking their stomachs violently at the sky tells us a lot about the artistic choices behind Hofesh’s idea. My highlight of the show was when the men joined the women and the whole company performed a spookily sped up version of the whole show in dimly lit shadows. I believe the lighting plot played a huge part in the success of this show... Without it the dance effects wouldn’t work.

Not being a huge fan of watching dance performances beforehand this show has definitely opened up my mind to a new branch of theatre... I was always under the impression that dance was supposed to tell a story and even though I could not for the life of me decipher a story from the whole piece it was thought provoking and extremely clever. In my reviewing notes I wrote “something from a Saw movie” which I pretty much sum up the whole concept of this piece. I would urge anyone to check out Hofesh’s or the Dance Xchange’s work.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Style Birmingham Live

Style Birmingham Live is back for another year.

Join host George Lamb as he presents the three day event taking place all over the city. Take your seat at the catwalk show where Birmingham's biggest and best retailers will showcase their Autumn 2011 collections with stores from Selfridges to Harvey Nichols offering instore events with the Bullring offering it's own catwalk: The Show. My favourite coffee shop Cafe Blend will also be in on the action as they hunt for the city's chicest shoppers.

Visit Style Birmingham for more information and ticket details.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Evita Returns to the Hippodrome

The Bill Kenwright tour of “Evita” returns to the Birmingham Hippodrome this week to delight audiences with a sweet production.

Abigail Jaye delights as Evita.

Abigail Jaye gives a stunning and sassy performance in the iconic role of Eva Peron. With vocals that melt your ears she overpowers the orchestra and gives a memorable performance of the show tune anthem “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”. Jaye laps up the audience’s applause and it’s easy to see she’s in her element in the title role. Co-stars Mark Powell and Mark Heenehan (as Che and Peron respectively) support their leading lady well and offer good vocals and steady performances throughout. My highlight performance goes to Sasha Ransley in her role as the Mistress as she melts audience’s hearts with her rendition of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall”. Reuben Kaye as Eva’s lover Magaldi provides a strong character and luscious vocals. The show’s ensemble support the leading players and deliver strong harmonies (and lots of costume changes). The quirky ensemble number “Peron’s Latest Flame” offers a good build up to the act one finale of “A New Argentina”.

The ensemble in the showstopper "Buenos Aires"

Conductor David Steadman has a great Andrew Lloyd Webber score to work with and the musical arrangements are a feast for the ears as audiences are delivered some of their most memorable musical theatre songs ever written. With music ranging from tango to rock, the score helps to develop the story along nicely and allows for some great vocals from the ensemble with haunting harmonies. Matthew Wright’s design stole the show, with a set composing of moving staircases, sliding balconies and shadowing Argentinean pillars, the visual aspect for audiences is delightful.

The production is a nice show, it has all the right elements – good leads, good score, good set but I can’t help but think something is lacking. Maybe it’s the overload of slow ballads, or the lack of “wow factor” effects; I don’t know. Whatever I think, it’s clear to see that audiences love the show from its great success: it’s been playing the UK for a good few years and has even had an international leg on its tour.

Finally a big shout out and round of applause for some of my buddies who are appearing in the show in the Birmingham stop of the tour... I was like a proud father watching you.