Posted 13th May 2016.

Music by David Shire: Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.

Directed By Allison Kingsbury & Philip Dutton.

Performed 11th to 14th June 2015

at the Château de Bettembourg, Luxembourg.

A Pirate Productions production.

The excitement of young love and the confusion of growing up (or is it the other way around?) are explored in this intimate revue from one of the most respected teams in the contemporary musical theatre, Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire (Baby, Big).

Using songs from their various early musicals (produced or otherwise), this bold, extroverted journey takes a winsome cast of three (Pirates version has a cast of nine) through the maze of modern relationships with its heart firmly on its sleeve. As with all of Maltby and Shire’s work, each song is an impeccably crafted story, original, engaging, bursting with character, and showcasing the versatility and charisma of its performer.

From tender ballads to hysterical husband-hunting laments, from wry comments on trendy marriages to ecstatic shouting-from-the-rooftop celebration, Starting Here, Starting Now has an appealing freshness that has made it a perennial favourite throughout the world.

Words from Erik Abbott

The cast takes us along on their musical journey, with solos and duos and trios and full-cast numbers. All are delivered with confidence, though some stand out more than others, generally because of the songs themselves. My favourite was the poignant Autumn, beautifully sung by Sarah Carty. With her stunning voice Carty delivers a haunting performance, making the song a real high point. Jelena Negatina also does a fine job with What About Today, a paean to the desire for love that bothencompasses the wistfulness of longing and embraces the strength that can be found in it. Negatina has an excellent voice and an engaging presence and her performance here is another stand-out moment. The group numbers are solid. I especially enjoyed Just Across the River and A New Life Coming. The finale, One Step, recalls One from A Chorus Line in its staging and choreography. The two shows opened about the same time in New York, with the latter becoming a watershed in musical theatre history. 

Starting Here, Starting Now is a warm and comfortable visit to a time when musicals were gentler and relationships were at least thought to be less complicated. In the hands of the Pirates, the visit is a welcoming one. 

Words from Geoff Thompson

This production was a significant change / evolution for Pirates in that it did not involve (m)any costume changes or stage/set/scenery changes, with costumes based on elegant black trousers and white tops, sometimes inlcuding jackets. The backdrop visual projections were significantly effective and helped create the sense of location and atmosphere.

But it most certainly did have the charm of intricate music and witty lyrics, all significantly telling their own stories. The songs were all based on themes relating to love and exploring a variety of romantic relationships which ensured smooth continuity throughout the two acts. Although the songs were mostly taken from stage musicals, the feeling and sensation of the musical revue was more of a concert than a stage production.


Posted 29th April 2016.

By Two Shades of Blue.

Performed 23rd to 25th January 2015

at the Château de Bettembourg.

A Two Shades of Blue production.

Will Cinderella ever be free from her horrible Ugly Sisters? Will the Prince find the girl of his dreams? Will Baron Hardup ever stop making terrible jokes? With enchanted pumpkins, sparkling glass slippers and just a sprinkling of magic, anything can happen in panto-land!

Featuring a full band, singing, dance, slapstick, and wonderful humour, this is just the thing to entertain you and your family this January. Due to the smaller stage for this venue, we can’t promise you full set, lighting, or special effects, but we can promise you music, song, bad jokes (and two or three good ones), slapstick, and the magical story of Cinderella, all brought to you with a talented cast.

Cinderella transformation clip © 2015 Cat Harris


Posted 13th May 2016.

Written by Hugo de Chasiron, Femke Beumer, Henri Colens, Lara Gill & Cath Howdle.

Directed By Henri Colens.

Performed 9th to 11th January 2015

at the Auderghem Cultural Centre, Brussels.

An English Comedy Club production.

The noise in the theatre is tremendous as Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters threaten to rip up her ball ticket. Two hundred children yell “no!” and “you can’t do that!” at the Ugly Sisters. The actors onstage eventuallyhave to resort to actions instead of words to convey what on earth is meant to be happening.

Welcome to the world of pantomime – one of the last remaining truly British art forms. This topsy-turvy world is based on a fairy or folk story, with a girl playing the lead boy, a man in a frock playing “his” mum, and two poor schmucks from chorus playing a tap-dancing neon horse. And it is all regarded as perfectly normal by the British public.

Panto is the annual Christmas trip to the theatre for many children in the UK. From the moment that the good fairy welcomes us, to the enthusiastic clap-along to a cheesy pop song during the final walkdown, it gives us a joyous couple of hours of silliness and colour, with with boo-able baddies, terrible puns and thigh slaps aplenty.

Panto has been with us in recognisable form for over two centuries, arising from a mash-up of Commedia dell’Arte and Music Hall. To see a panto is to peer through a window into theatrical history.

We still laugh at routines invented by comic geniuses like Dan Leno – born 1860, the most famous dame of all time – such as the kitchen scene, where what should be a relatively simple bit of cooking goes horribly and hilariously wrong.

It’s traditional for panto to be written by the company performing it. One of the nicest things about writing panto is choosing which silly bits of comedy business to revive – there are so many to choose from!

Although it’s practically illegal to exclude some routines – like

Cochrane & Mankin’s famous “oh no it isn’t!”/”oh yes it is!” dialogue.

The best thing about panto? It’s that the audience drives the action forward.

It’s the boys and girls who tell Aladdin that the cave opens when you shout “Open Sesame!”, who tell Jack’s mum to plant the beans and who tell Sarah the Cook that there’s a ghost behind her. Panto doesn’t just encourage audience participation – the audience becomes the most important part of the show.

So long live panto – it’s easy to see why it has stuck around for so long!

Cath (aka Wishee Washee)

Monster Mash image © 2015 Annette Aragones