Hey There, Broadway!

July 2013

Sunderland Empire

From The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA)

This was a concert honouring the best of Broadway musical theatre songs and it certainly lived up to its billing. Compere for the evening was Mark Clegg with his ‘unique’ sense of humour (you had to be there...) who’s jokes and patter ranged from the cringe-worthy to downright surreal but who engaged the audience brilliantly and set the tone for the evening – as he said “We don’t take ourselves too seriously”. Well in my opinion they should, because this was a superb evening’s entertainment showcasing the talent that was within the group.

Opening with a full company version from “Oliver!” the group showed their versatility from the offset. Guesting for the evening, after one of their numbers was taken ill, was the extremely talented Graeme Smith with a note perfect rendition of “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde.

Each age range was covered in the production with their ‘in-house’ youngsters performing a short medley from both “Annie” and “Matilda” whilst the youngsters from the St Mary’s RC Primary School Choir regaled us with medleys from West Side Story, We Will Rock You and others – difficult arrangements for adults let alone primary school children.

There were many stand out moments but a few worth mentioning were the ensemble piece “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” which was energy personified, “Out There” performed expertly by Matthew Hutchinson, “Sweet Nothings” by the talented Raynor Garside, “I Know it’s Today” from Shrek performed by the three Princess Fionas - Libby Jobling, Raynor Garside and Fiona Clegg.  Last but not least was the sheer energy, performance and talent which was Ethan Luke with his falsetto voiced renditions in the “Jersey Boys” medley.

Stage lighting and dressing were simple but effective and costumes very appropriate. An excellent Saturday evening’s entertainment – here’s looking forward to your 20th anniversary production next year.

Disney’s Aladdin Jnr

June 2012

Sunderland Empire

Review from Sunderland Echo

When a life-sized baby elephant dances onto the stage during a musical, you tend to wonder how that can be topped. And yet twenty minutes further on in this production, topped it was when Aladdin (the dashing Stu Martin) and Princess Jasmine (Danni Yeo - lovely) climb aboard a magic carpet and soar twenty feet in the air while singing A Whole New World.

Centre Stage impressed many with their production of Beauty and the Beast last year and they have certainly kept the standard amazingly high for this fun, vibrant and thoroughly entertaining take on another Disney classic. The catchy score is full of showstoppers from the opening number Arabian Nights (beautifully crooned by Chris Richie) to the spectacular Friend Like Me lead by Shaun Crosby’s very funny Genie and featuring a chorus-line of identical Genie dancers. Also in the cast is Paul Mariner as the amusingly bumbling Sultan, a wonderfully energetic Jessica Green as the Magic Carpet and a very cute Abu the monkey played by Ricky Lundy.

Of course no Disney story is complete without a villain and this one has several. Mark Clegg is clearly having a wonderful time as the wicked (and hilarious) Jafar and is ably assisted by the repugnant Razoul played by Matthew Lowry. My favourite however was Nathan Clegg who stole every scene he was in as the sarcastic parrot Iago.  The rest of the large cast are equally talented and all are supported by breath-taking scenery and stunning costumes. The high production values are impressive and it is clear that no expense has been spared in bringing this magical story to life. The entire show has a polish and vitality that is rarely seen.

A perfect antidote to the current dreadful weather, this is a musical that is definitely a must-see for all ages!

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

July 2011

Sunderland Empire

Centre Stage North East presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was voted one of the Top 5 Theatre Productions of 2011 by Sunderland Echo’s Entertainments Editor Katy Wheeler. The production came third after  the professional productions of Blood Brothers at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and Sister Act at the Sunderland Empire.  Click HERE for the full article.

Review from Sunderland Echo

IT MAY be a tale as old as time, but Beauty and the Beast still has the power to enchant.

The Disney classic has been brought to life in Sunderland by Centre Stage North East – and what a show it is. From the sumptuous costumes to the note-perfect singing and colourful characters, this production is a feast for the eyes and ears.

At the helm is Annie Guy as Belle. Her strong vocals, control of voice and spellbinding stage presence brought a flavour of the West End to Wearside. Her love interests, Steven Berry as Beast and Oliver Hawick as Gaston, also impress. The latter is a mass of masculinity and vanity with his bulging muscles, Adonis poses and deep tones. Hawick shows a flair for comic timing as he attempts to woo the beauty of the piece. It is of course the beast who wins her hand and Berry’s voice booms around the theatre as he leaves his subjects quaking in his shadow. His loyal servants-cum-household objects are a delight to watch, particularly squabbling clock and candelabra, Cogsworth (Peter Calvert) and Lumiere (Nathan Elwick). Mrs Potts (Sam Oliver) and Chip (Nathan Clegg) also cannot fail to charm. It is with these characters that the costume department really excels and Be Our Guest is a stand out scene as the enchanted objects entertain Belle – just magical. In comparison, pared down number and title track, Beauty and the Beast, packs a real emotional punch as Belle gives her heart to the beast.

This is a touchingly told tale and being a guest at this show will not leave you disappointed.

From The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA)

Oliver Hawick as ‘Gaston’ with his deep resonant voice, rippling muscles and over active ego asks his hapless lackey Lefou (the versatile Liam Olsen) “Don’t I deserve the Best?” Well, this Disney classic didn’t let him, the rest of the cast, or indeed the audience down. They had it all - superlative costumes in a professional theatre transformed by UK Productions’ set into a magical kingdom for the duration.

The larger than life characters excelled - no more so than Ben Gunn as Belle’s somewhat eccentric father. The Beast’s servants of Lumiere (Nathan Elwick) and Cogsworth (Peter Calvert) conspired wonderfully as a team to guide their master towards true love. Nathan Clegg as ’Chip’ had the ‘Ahh’ factor whilst Sam Oliver (Mrs Potts) enthralled with her rendition of the title song. Seventeen-year-old Annie Guy, as Belle, stole the show with her rich vocals and fine acting as she gradually found her true love in the form of a Beast (Steven Berry) whose gradual transition from aggressive bully to loving prince was played with great sensitivity, and brought a tear to the eye of many in the audience, especially in the number “If I Can’t Love Her”.

Chorus and other principals cajoled Belle to “Be Our Guest” in one of the show stopping numbers, and the whole company played their part to make this a truly memorable production that deserved, and got, a standing ovation from an appreciative audience.