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Bear with me: Stitches @TheHopeTheatre

What if your teddy bear could talk? My ten-year-old self would think that to be excellent. My more recent self would think it was a high-concept buddy movie with Mark Wahlberg. But in Stictches, Jonathan Blakeley's monologue, which he has written and performed, traces the life of his beloved Chloe, from when she was first given to him by her grandmother, wrapped with a red ribbon. It becomes a story not just about a cute bear (or maybe that should be rough, shaggy-looking bear given the performer’s appearance) observing life but an exploration of life and all of its stages. It's currently playing at the Hope Theatre .  The bear is not warm and fuzzy; he is a bit of a character and tough-talking, but also a bit anxious about being accepted and then discarded as nothing. But he is there to bear witness as she navigates the complicated facets of growing up and having a life. Ultimately, the bear has to deal with being consigned to a box with her other memories until circumstances

Theatre: Crazy For You (and those legs)

After a successful run at Regents Park Open Air Theatre this summer, Crazy For You is now at the Novello Theatre. I saw it at Regents Park and was not so crazy about it then. Now in a theatre and away from evening chills, planes flying overhead and the occasional moth, it is a chance to ignore those distractions and focus on the vibrant singing and dancing, and spectacular costumes. There is so much energy on stage conveyed through a series of spectacular dances. Legs kick, flip and dance their way through nearly three hours of entertainment.  You will be exhausted just watching it.

The show with a book by Ken Ludwig is a "lets put on a show" story set between sophisticated New York and an old Nevada mining town. It is best described as something to hang twenty Gershwin songs off. What makes it work well is how the story and orchestrations make these songs so fresh and as if they were written for the piece. You will forget the near century of jazz and vocal interpretations and think that I Got Rhythm obviously needs a big dance number complete with drink trays and banging the set. Of course the likability of the characters and the charisma of the leads also means that they can get away with almost anything.

It is hard to leave the theatre without being impressed by some very spectacular dance numbers, in particular the closing number of the first act and the dancing with the follies girls. Sean Palmer (who appeared in a few Sex and The City episodes as Stanford Blatch's Broadway calibre dancer) is great in the lead as Bobby with his good looks and dreams of being in a Broadway show rather than going into the family business of banking. In this day and age who could blame him? Besides his singing and dancing are part of the charm of this show.

There is also a particularly strong supporting cast that includes Michael McKell as a rough hotelier and Kim Medcalf as Bobby's old girlfriend. Both provide some naughty laughs and give the show a bit of edge.

But this show is really about having fun and becoming reacquainted with some old Gershwin standards. And it is hard not to want to sit back and take it all in. Legs and all. If there is a quibble it is that it feels as if there is an awful lot of dialogue to get through at times and the timing of it could be picked up to dispense with it as quickly as possible. Particularly when there is all that good singing and dancing to get to. It is booking until July 2012 and look out for the new recording. Discounts should be available at the usual places.

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