Friday, 10 September 2010

Rock Around The Clock Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall Review

Rock Around The Clock
Tunbridge Wells
Assembly Hall Theatre
10-12 September 2010
(Show seen 10th Sept)

Roxanne Pallett
Jon Hawkins, Kurt Kansley, Michael Quinn, Lucy Smethurst, Natalie Spriggs and Simon Schofield
plus dancers and band members making a cast of over 20

Trying to find the wonderful artists in this production brought the words needle and haystack to mind.

Perhaps, as Roxanne herself said, it may be because this is only a 12 week tour but there is no merchandising and hence no programme for this show (even though in the interval theatre goers were asking if there was any). Scour the web and finding the background on this show is just as hard. Reviews are plenty but cast details are practically non existent with apparently no official website either.

Thank you so much to the Harrow Observer review from which, I freely admit, I have cribbed the names above.

Searching, however, has made me do something I don't usually do and that is read loads of previous reviews.

99% of the verdicts are like ours - that this is a tremendous production and a fab night out that leaves you on a real high when it ends. However ,the reviewer from The Bucks Free Press seems to stand out at being at odds with everyone else with a gripe at literally everything. Perhaps, unlike her mother, she was not such a great fan of the 50's hits and probably having comp tickets seeing this show was a bit of a chore?

Anyway that's at odds with everything we thought about this show.

The lovely Roxanne Pallett starring in Rock Around The Clock 2010Roxanne Pallett may be the "TV star attraction" on the posters but there is no 'star' in the show as such. It is just an excellent all round performance from everyone involved - singer/dancers, dancers and band members.

Roxanne will always be remembered for her 3 years in Emmerdale as Jo Stiles and for the batterings she used to endure at the hands of Andy Sugden.

But there is far more to the friendly, pretty and petite Roxanne than a good actress. She has a BA Honours degree in Media and Cultural Studies. She won celebrity "Stars in their eyes" as Gloria Estefan in 2005, came fourth in "Soapstar Superstar" in 2006, has done a lot of work to raise awareness of the battered womens charity, Refuge. Dancing on ice demonstrated there is no end to this young lady's talents and the filming of Lake Placid 3  marks her movie debut.

Incredibly Rock Around The Clock is Roxanne's stage touring debut and once this tour ends she is back on the road again with Nikki Sanderson and Sue Jenkins in The Vagina Monologues. She is a very busy young lady who looks younger than her true age. Having met her in the flesh we can only say that although she didn't win Sexiest Soap Star in the years she was nominated, she was robbed! Many artists don't look quite as glamorous off screen as they do on - Roxanne looked even better!

In this show Roxanne shares the limelight with the other 6 lead singers. All the leads get their chance of solo glory and Roxanne is no exception with Etta James' At Last being beautifully and confidently delivered.

Each singer has their own 'speciality' which fits their voice perfectly. It doesn't matter whether it's a Fats Domino medley , a selection of Elvis numbers or a Buddy Holly presentation each singer is right for every song.

The band were tremendous and I do like this growing trend of bands being behind the performers. It certainly lets the vocals be appreciated more and all lyrics heard.

And a great moment when the guy on 'brass' watched in horror as his sheet music dropped to the floor, shuffling many sheets. He played on regardless, waiting for an opportune moment to pick them up. When he did so it only resulted in them falling to the floor again in a worse shuffled state than they were before. In true 'the show must go on style' he proved he probably doesn't need the sheets anyway and played 'blind'.

The dancers, male and female, provided some of the best choreography, endless energy and enthusiasm I have seen in any show of this type.

Behind the performers is a screen which, as the show progresses, displays footage from the 50's and of the artists being covered.

I barely gave it a glance. There is far too much good stuff happening on stage to watch a black and white movie but it is a nice touch.

The only bad thing about Rock Around The Clock is when it ends. It is slightly shorter than many shows at 90 minutes (2x45minutes). But this production fits far more in the way of impressive, dynamic, non stop, ,quality 1950's music and dance into this time than in many compilation shows we've seen lasting 2 hours or more.

I did feel a little sorry for this terrific cast that they weren't appreciated by a larger crowd at this first night in Tunbridge Wells. Whilst several hundred (400+?) people did give the performers a very loud, enthusiastic reception Rock Around The Clock really deserves a capacity crowd.

The attendance levels this week probably weren't helped by the theatre's website being "revamped". As a result it has been offline several days including all days of this production. I am sure many last minute ticket sales have been lost as a result.

That is why I am getting this review typed up as quickly as possible as last minute deciders see my verdict on the first night performance.

If you love the 50's music and dance together with the hairstyles and colourful outfits that went along with the era Rock Around The Clock will entertain you for every single minute.

Michael Quinn, Simon Schofield and Kurt Kansley, Rock Around The Clock 2010, Tunbridge Wells
Despite the lack of information I believe I've got this right (inform me if incorrect)
Left to right Michael Quinn, Simon Schofield and Kurt Kansley
just a few of the outstanding singers in Rock Around The Clock
Rock Around The Clock 5/5
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