Tag Archives: Alexis Gerred

Users and Losers

AMERICAN IDIOT

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Wednesday 11th May, 2016

 

What sets this show apart from other jukebox musicals, like Mamma Mia or Save The Last Dance For Me, for example, is the fact that the songwriter (Billie Joe Armstrong) was actually involved in the writing of the show’s book.  This lends the project authenticity – to a point.

The story involves three friends leaving home to make something of themselves in a world immediately after the 9/11 attacks – the sight of George W Bush on a TV screen makes me think he must be the American idiot of the title!  Just as they set off, Will (Steve Rushton) learns his girlfriend is pregnant, so he stays behind to spend his days on the sofa.  Tunny (Alexis Gerred) is inspired to enlist in the army – the next we see him he is in a hospital bed, one leg short (him, not the bed).  Leading man Johnny (Newton Faulkner) is a Sideshow Bob lookalike.  He meets a girl.  He meets a boy who has drugs.  He uses the drugs and loses the girl.  The three lads reunite in their home town.  That’s it, really.  There may have been other things going on, but I couldn’t tell – lyrics get lost in the loud guitar-based music; I could have done with surtitles.  Except when Amelia Lily (Whatsername) is on – her singing is loud, clear and in keeping with the pop-punk genre.

If you’re a Green Day fan – and there’s plenty of them in the audience – you’ll know the songs and what they’re singing about.  Perhaps I should have Spotified the lot before I went in.

Johnny is an unappealing character, who readily admits he ‘forgot’ to shower – Faulkner is at his best with his acoustic guitar but I find it difficult to engage with Johnny or his situation.  Tunny at least has something to gripe about – a dream sequence is particularly striking: Director Racky Plews seems to approach the show as one continuous music video.  There are ‘cool’ moments and the chorus seem good-natured in their aggression.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to hook me and draw me in.  Green Day’s songs are melodious and give the vocalists chances to impress but there is not enough drama or plot to sustain my interest or make me care.  As a piece of musical theatre, it doesn’t satisfy.  As a concert, it’s pretty good.

Cast of American Idiot, The Arts Theatre

What’s her name? Amelia Lily (Photo: Darren Bell)

 

 

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Muddling Through

SLEEPING BEAUTY

New Theatre, Cardiff, Sunday 20th January, 2013

There is a generation of panto stalwarts among the entertainers of this country that is guaranteed to bring in the crowds; big names who attract a lot of business to local theatres and who have been playing the circuit for years and doing it very well, thank you.  Unfortunately, they are no longer eligible for the title roles – too old to be a dashing Prince or a pretty Princess, they take on the supporting character roles: the villain’s henchman, the comic turn…  And so we get some rather curiously skewed versions of the traditional tales in order to make the most of the star billing.  This is reflected in the promotional material.

Thus this production of Sleeping Beauty has posters of its star Joe Pasquale, and Joe Pasquale alone.  You don’t have to read much further to realise he’s not in the title role.

The performance I attended – the penultimate, as it turned out – featured Blue Peter’s Barney Harwood, deputising for Pasquale who  has been spending his Sundays dancing on ice (or trying to).  I selected this particular performance with care, having seen Pasquale before…

Barney Harwood is “Muddles” the court jester – a character who is really Buttons by another name.  He performs exactly the same function as Buttons in Cinderella (some scenes are direct lifts from that show!) – with added emphasis because it’s now the star part.  This turned out to be a good thing; you get a lot of Barney Harwood for your money.  He has a laidback performance style, which means he can throw away lines, but he is also able to crank up the silliness.  Obviously he’s delivering Pasquale lines and mucking around with Pasquale props, but Harwood’s comparative youth and good looks help him to put across the corniest and most puerile of gags.  When he bows his head in pathos, broken-hearted over his unrequited love for the Princess, it’s touching (in a panto kind of way).  Harwood is also possessed of a very pleasant pop-singing voice but rest assured we are never far away from yet another fart joke.

He is supported by the remarkable Ceri Dupree, the most glamorous Dame, as Queen Passionella , whose outfits go for exaggerated Las Vegas showgirl glamour rather than the out-and-out silliness of other dames in other shows.  With more ostrich feathers than a David Attenborough series about the Life of Ostriches, and a largely deadpan delivery, this Queen is an imposing figure, dishing out the double entendres for the grown-ups.  Her entrance (and I use the term carefully) involves a stirring rendition of “It’s Raining Men” – which brings me to another point I’d like to make about the modern pantomime.

Some pantos include original songs.  Regardless of the quality of these, I always think this is a mistake.  For me a key ingredient of pantomime is the barely-relevant but recognisable popular song.  These are as important as the topical jokes and the references to local places.  The audience knows where it is with a well-known song.  This show opens with not one but two original numbers and so it’s a while before we’re on familiar ground and are invited to take part in the performance.  It’s more like watching the opening of a new musical than an icebreaker to kick-start a panto.

That said, Lucy Williamson (evil Carabosse) and Shona White (benevolent Enchantress) are in excellent voice in duets that are more like duels – although I think Evil wins out in the costume stakes.  Williamson clearly relishes her part and handles hecklers mercilessly.

Lucy Evans is a likeable Princess Beauty, upstaged by her very handsome Prince (Alexis Gerred) who sends up the dashing hero, with cape-swishing and thigh-slapping a-plenty.  He and Harwood share some hilarious moments involving powdered custard.  I also enjoyed Michael Peluso as Carabosse’s hunchbacked son and henchman.  He was underused, I thought.

There is not one but two 3D sequences, with insects and spiders launching themselves into the screaming faces of the audience.  Good fun but I was disappointed by the moment the Prince awakens Beauty with a kiss.  Director Jonny Bowles could have made more of that pivotal scene.  In this one, she sits up straight away and that’s that.

The show is ultimately Harwood’s.  His boyish energy and cheeky charm win everyone over.  Considering he had something like four days to learn the part, he muddles through excellently.  I made the right choice.

Cardiff-Sleeping_Beauty_2012-2013

 See what I mean?