REVIEW – The Lord of the Dance lives up to his billing at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre

PRESS night of Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance 25’ at Birmingham’s packed Alexandra Theatre last night was actually a tick on my bucket list.

Before then, the nearest I had got was in New York a couple of decades ago when I had a note shoved under my hotel room door.

It read ‘Following your performance this evening I am calling you in for a 4am rehearsal. Do not be late – Michael Flatley.’ Obviously he had the wrong room but woe betide the dancer who didn’t get that message.

That episode should endorse everything you hear about the legend being the hardest dance taskmaster in the world – and why not?  After all he created this phenomenon – quite right he should guard it.

Unless you positively hate Irish dancing or the thought of long-legged nimble-footed boys and girls performing routines at near faster than the speed of light – then there is nothing in this show that’s not to like. For me was certainly worth the wait.

The show opens with wall-to-wall video chronicling the 25 years of continuous performance – save of course for those Covid years. Several troupes have wowed audiences in 56 countries from Estonia to Abu Dhabi  and always under his direction.

Fast forward to the end and it finishes with an ABBA style avatar performance where not one, not two but – three Michael Flatleys turn the clock back 25 years and give us a walkdown dance like nothing seen before.

In between comes dueling fiddles, beautiful singing, frame and bodhran drums, bone players, whistles and of course wave after wave of dancing feet.

Add to all this some amazing FX settings and you could be in Las Vegas not Birmingham.

Formulated it may be but it’s also a joy to let the Irish magician cast his spell. He is the Lord of the Dance say I!

The Lord of the Dance 25 runs at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre until Sunday, June 19. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Playboy of the West Indies at the Birmingham Rep is fitting on warm summer evening

CALYPSO music and a story set on an idyllic West Indian island seemed just the show to go to on a barmy summer evening in Birmingham.

A feeling which is compounded by a smile-inducing entrance to the auditorium – where the Rep’s cavernous stage had been transformed to a tropical paradise.

Palm trees surround two huge set pieces, which move together without a care in the world to form  ‘Peggy’s’ a Rum Bar, A place where you could blissfully spend the night.

This is the setting lovingly designed by Michael Taylor and lit in splendid Technicolor by Matt Eagland.

The ‘Playboy of the West Indies’ is a musical based upon the play of the same name  by Mustapha Matura – which in turn Matura wrote as a parody to JM Synge’s ‘Playboy of the Western World’.

Clement Ishmael and Dominque Le Gendre are the music composers and they plus others provide the lyrics for a mixed bag of songs. Some are joyous, a couple uplifting and some with so may words coming at you so fast that  I for one lost concentration on what was being sung about.

The same applies to the delivery of parts of the script where the accents and slang whilst being laughed at uproariously by some, others including me felt excluded from the party at times.

The plot is simple enough, in a village where nothing happens, a stranger comes to town and is hailed as some sort of anti-hero when he says he has killed his father in a fight and is on the run from the police.  Turns out his father survived and comes after him for a rematch. Our playboy is wooed by the women and booed by the men.

Durone Stokes turns in the complete performance as the stranger Ken.  He is charismatic, crystal clear and has a superb singing voice. If all the company had delivered like Stokes then this show could rise from good to triumphant.

Gleanne Purcell-Brown as Peggy and Angla Wynter as Mam Benin also turn out inclusive and carefully constructed performances.

From the programme it appears that the direction is a team effort – always a rocky road to go down – direction by committee oft ends in tears. I’m not saying this happens here because you still come out feeling happy and goodness knows that’s a rare treat in these dark days.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Colourful Singing in the Rain at Birmingham’s Hippodrome will brighten your year

IT IS hard to believe the iconic ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ film on which this show is based, hit the silver screen exactly 70 years ago.

It was directed, choreographed and starred the equally iconic Gene Kelly plus screen legends Don Lockwood, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen.

The movie broke new ground in nearly every area from dance to FX and is regarded by ‘buffs’ as simply ‘the greatest musical film of all time’.

No small challenge then to bring the film to the stage – but one, which director Johnathan Church has done brilliantly. It is almost a carbon copy of the film brought spectacularly to life and that is a compliment not in any way a criticism.

Church transports us back to the 1920s and the world of big stars, big studios  and big egos as the era of silent movies gives way to the birth of the talkies.

The choreography by Andrew Wright mirrors Church’s direction in capturing all the memorable moments from the film and then ‘dips them in chocolate’ as the saying goes.

Costumery by designer Simon Higlett are a glorious technicolor collection of 20s chic and work in perfect harmony with his towering, grayish neutral set to create a fourth dimension in this stunning production.

An excellent on-stage band certainly let the toe-tapping rhythm rip under the baton of MD Grant Walsh. Barry Brewer the drummer deserves a special shout out for his hypnotic tom-tom work.

Sam Lips makes for the perfect Hollywood headliner, Don Lockwood,  Charlotte Gooch is as sassy as she is perfect-pitched as new kid on the block, Kathy Selden, Ross McLaren is alternatively endearing and hilarious as Cosmo Brown and Jenny Gayner gets my vote as the ace in the pack. Her bitchy, bawdy ‘not –so –dumb as she seems’ blonde Lina Lamont is a musical theatre tour-de-force.

A flawless ensemble supports these top-drawer principals.

Moving to ‘that song’ and ‘that dance’ – sorry to use the ‘I’ word again but frankly, nothing else but ‘Iconic’ will do.  Six thousand gallons of water pour down firstly on Sam Lips getting happily soaked to the skin as he is ‘Singing in the Rain’ and then we get a walkdown reprise with the whole company splashing up a triumph

The audience left buzzing and ‘do-be-do-doing!’ at the end of a long but wonderful evening.

I’d happily go back tonight,

Singing in the Rain runs at the Hippodrome until Sunday, June 11.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews.

REVIEW – Clash of cultures between monarch and minister in Birmingham Crescent’s Handbagged is enthralling to watch

THERE  is an improvisation exercise used in drama classes called ‘Mirrors’ where actors, working in pairs, mirror image their partners every gesture and movement. The next stage – once harmony in movement is reached – is to add dialogue in turns, with the objective of two people playing one character.

I was reminded of this last night in the Crescent Theatre company production of Moira Buffini’s ‘Handbagged’  in the Ron Barber studio where the cast comprise two Prime Minister Margaret Thatchers and two Queen Elizabeth II’s. Director Claire Armstrong Mills has drilled her women to ‘mirroring’ perfection.

The ‘Thatchers’ comprise Angela Daniels as  ’T’ – the older Maggie in stiff, strained and stilted vocal and physical harmony with Isabel Swift as Maggie the younger. This is not parody or caricature – it is acting physicalisation at its finest – two people: one person.

Mills’s approach to the ‘Queens’ is different in that she has allowed more individuality and physical divergence between Maura Judges as a senior, reflective, calmer Queen and Annie Swift as the younger, inquisitive Liz. What they both share is an ever present sense of duty tempered with freedom of spirit.

The other characters are a clever device by the playwright to bring in two multi-tasking chaps who announce in an aside to the audience that they are jobbing actors in it for the money.

Niall Higgins and Toby Davis positively revel in playing everything from flunkies of the royal household to politicians of all shapes, sizes and political colours.

The play’s cleverness is in its story telling of the Thatcher years without being judgmental  – meaning whatever side you are on in that period of political history, there is little here to make you change your views or get hot under the collar about.

The focus is on the supposed clash of culture between Monarch and Minister – all supposition of course, as what goes in those weekly meetings is like the golfing adage “what goes on tour stays on tour”

It’s marvellous to wallow in handbag-jousting and diplomacy though and it all makes for another great night of theatre in this high quality studio season from the Crescent.

There is not a weak link here – the company has worked in concord with their director and each other. Whilst individual performances are all top-notch outings, for me Annie Swift is extraordinary – her Liz ranks alongside the big names that have played her in ‘The Crown’.

Handbagged runs at The Crescent until Saturday, June 4. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews.