Tour Reviews

Royal & Derngate, Northampton

radiotimes1
Sue Dixon  Rating:  * * * * *
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Radio Times is an utterly delightful and entertaining musical – a toe tapping frolic through a live broadcast variety show from the past. Anyone in the audience of the atmospheric Royal Theatre, Northampton must have felt like a time traveller, transported to a BBC theatre during the blitz whilst the Variety Bandwagon tried to stage a first performance to an American audience.
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Radio Times is homage to those who took to the airwaves during the dark days of the Blitz with the aim of keeping morale high. It might not be deep, dark and dramatic but it more than makes up with wit, corny but very funny innuendo, and a hugely talented cast. Songs by the talented Noel Gay, forgotten by some and introduced to younger members of the audience, provided a nostalgic glow and can’t help but bring smiles to anyone’s face. The fabulous and innovative arrangement of Run Rabbit Run is one that springs readily to mind but It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow, I’ll be Seeing You and what must have become a new favourite for many –Who’s been Polishing the Sun.
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With half the cast missing and no script, Sammy Shaw, the star of the show, arrives just in time and the hopes to deliver a show to win the hearts of the American people are back on track. We are witness to the trials and tribulations surrounding this show through the uptight, rule- thumping producer, Heathcliffe Bultitude, played brilliantly by John Conroy and the love triangle played out between Sammy Shaw, Olive James and Gary Strong – played by Gary Wilmot, Sara Crowe and Michael Hobbs respectively. Gary Wilmot heads a cast that oozes talent – his own “cheeky chappy” one liners and quick fire gags keeping the audience in the palm of his hand. But all the cast deserve a mention of praise. Their timing was tight, performances suave, extremely funny and charming – with hints of pathos and wistfulness in some musical numbers.
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The simple yet authentic set designed by Tom Rogers works really well. It certainly makes you feel you are in the audience of a live broadcast one minute, then moving from dressing room, upstairs theatre areas and into the to live performance again with the simplicity of a stool being turned or a curtain coming down.
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The tremendous musicianship of the live band along with the best known Noel Gay songs enhances what is also a decent story line – not always the case with musicals – and slick and polished performance from every member of the cast. Indeed, the combination of music, dance, acting and fast moving choreography makes for a mesmerizing evening.
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This is a hidden gem in the work of musicals and deserves much accolade. A guaranteed great night out to give audiences a feel good factor – I would defy anyone not to come out of the theatre singing and grinning from ear to ear.

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