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So how do I go about reviewing a show that’s run for thirty years? Well, most I write up are local to me, therefore, I thought I’d concentrate on the difference between these and the West End.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016 © Antony N Britt

How did they compare? Well, shows I’ve seen at Birmingham’s Hippodrome and Alexander Theatre, etc, have all been excellent. However, whether or not it was the occasion, or the fact I saw Les Miserables in its actual home, there seemed to be a little extra magic. Yes, I can say I lived the dream.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016 © Antony N Britt

The first thing to notice is the intenseness of the Queen’s Theatre auditorium. This helps somewhat to draw you into proceedings, making you feel every emotion as if you are part of the show. I’ve heard the soundtrack too many times to count so from the moment Look Down began, I was hooked.

A set changing like a 3D jigsaw included an impressive barricade, complimented by a revolving stage which heightened the motion before you.

As for the show itself, there were polished performances both on stage and from the orchestra. And I guess there may have been greater impact for my viewing than I’d have seen on a tour. Then again, they’ve had a few years to perfect this at The Queen’s.

By far the best number for me was Stars in which Jeremy Secomb as Javert was excellent. Also delivering a fine performance was Peter Lockyer as Valjean. However, my favourite has always been Eponine as I’m captured by the tragedy and hopelessness her character represents. On this occasion, Eva Noblezada did the part total justice. One My Own was powerful, although I was slightly disappointed with A Little Fall of Rain as I felt the musical arrangement lacked the feeling the song should have had. Other stand out numbers included One More Day, Lovely Ladies and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the latter of which had the poignant appearance of the dead behind Marius, this performance, played by Felix Mosse.

David Langham and Katy Secombe added comic relief at times as Thenardier and Madame T. Other cast included Sophie Reeves (Fantine), Zoe Doano (Cosette) and Chris Cowley (Enjolras).

The only down I’d put on the show are certain lines of dialogue. And it’s not really a criticism, more a niggle. There are far too many mentions of God’s will and generally being grateful to God for everything. Quite frankly, I don’t reckon the world’s number one imaginary friend cares much for his subjects portrayed on stage. But as I say, that’s just a personal observation from the atheist in the audience.

On the day, time flew and the cast received a well earned standing ovation at the end. And I have to say, I’m delighted to have been witness to a little magic.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016




Have you ever wondered what would happen if happy endings were reversed and heroes suffered while the wicked reigned supreme? Well, Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) have the answer with a hilarious return to the world of panto in Once Upon a Time. Here we see the fairytale good guys pitting their wits in order to defeat familiar arch nemesis’ yet again.

Next year, AMCS will celebrate 50 years as a society and have been performing quality productions throughout that time. Once Upon a Time will be no exception.

With an original script by Mark Nicholls (whose 2010 production of Dick Whittington won a NODA award for best pantomime), the show features song after song which will have you singing all the way to Neverland. Great voices, exceptional acting and brilliant dance. Numbers include: Toxic, Let it Go, Somebody to Love, You Can’t Stop the Beat, Uptown Funk and a marvellous rendition of Cell Block Spell Block Tango.

In addition to the direction of Mark Nicholls, Once Upon a Time features music arranged by Mark Baylis, choreography from Sarah Hemming and costumes, Sarah Carter.

Once Upon a Time is on at the Great Wyrley High School Theatre: Thursday 10, Friday 11 and Saturday 12 November (1930 start) with additional matinee on Saturday 12 November (1430 start).

Great value and entertainment for all the family. Tickets are £13/Adults, £11/Concessions, £7/Children with a Family Ticket (2+2)/£35. Tickets available by calling 01543 480626 or 07794 539271.

So come along and meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, Aladdin, Mad Hatter, Sleeping Beauty, Belle and many more defeat the combined might of Jaffar, Evil Queen, Maleficent, Ursula, Gaston and the Queen of Hearts. Plus, a little comic collaboration along the way from Captain Hook, Smee and the Ugly Sisters.

Has anyone ever read you a fairytale
and taken you to places, magical.
Where homes are made of gingerbread
and skies are always blue.
Where pumpkins turn to coaches
and wishes all come true.

Once Upon a Time (The Panto) – Great Wyrley High School Theatre – 10 to 12 November 2016



* Once Upon a Time Lyrics – Mark Schoenfeld & Barri McPherson

Reading this, you’ll probably think I hated Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But you’d be wrong. I guess the problem I had was high expectations as this is one of my favourite childhood films. Another complication is that this year I have seen a large amount of productions, some of which have been out of this world. Therefore, the benchmark had been set.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 September 2016

My initial impression was that the set was a little dull. Seeing Mary Poppins earlier this year explode into a myriad of colours, I was hoping for something of the same. Not so, unfortunately. Then there was the actual performance of the lead roles. I found delivery of lines to be stilted and have to say, I was disappointed with Lee Mead as Caractacus Potts. Although an excellent singer, his acting, at times, was wooden. Similarly, Phil Jupitus (Baron Bomburst) and Claire Sweeny (Baroness Bomburst) were nothing to shout about, seeming to go through the motions. So much for the big names in the production. Of the billed principals, only Carrie Hope Fletcher gave a five star performance as Truly Scrumptious.

I will say, on the other hand, Henry Kent and Lucy Sherman as Jeremy and Jemima were both excellent, the latter showing a strong professional voice for her age. The kids really put the adults to shame at times with their energy.

I’ve spoken about the set already but also felt the car was a let down. In addition, technical faults had the wings failing to open at the climax of Act One. I know it’s hard to make believe a car can fly, but this one didn’t come close. And speaking of things not being realistic, what the flip was that all about with the tin dog?

Another failure of the show was the poor use of the Child Catcher (Matt Gillett). Very limited in appearances and the song Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies, totally cut. I will say, I’m not sorry about the song as although I’m a fan of creepy, I find Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies to be perversely disturbing. However, the production could still have done more with the character. Also missing in action was the number, Us Two/Chitty Prayer where Jeremy and Jemima sing for help and are rescued. Not a massive song, I admit, but important all the same and a real Daddy, my Daddy tear jerker. What you had instead was Grandpa Potts more or less saying, ‘Hey, I found these two locked in a dungeon.’ Rubbish cop out.

Still, there were good moments of song and dance, notably Me Ol’ Bamboo, Truly Scrumptious, Posh! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, itself. My favourite overall, though, was Teamwork, especially the performance of the children in the sewers. On the down side, I found The Bombie Samba, although well choreographed, nothing more than a filler and wanted to shout out, get on with it!

Also appearing were Andy Hockley (Grandpa Potts), Ewen Cummins (The Toymaker), Sam Harrison (Boris) and Scott Paige (Goran). The two spies added great comic moments, helped by a good script.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was produced by John Stalker, directed by James Brining, choreographed by Stephen Mear with musical direction from Andrew Hilton.

As I mentioned at the start, it wasn’t the case that I hated the show, I did actually enjoy it, but it could have been so much better. I felt I was simply watching a show when what I really wanted was to experience it.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 September 2016




Everybody loves Abba … don’t they?

When it was first suggested I go and see Mamma Mia, I thought, great, another evening where I’m among a 10% male minority of an audience. But hey, off I went and even bought a flower garland to wear in order to feel more at home.

So where do I start? I mean, I admit I’d been listening to the soundtrack CD for over a week so I was really looking forward to the show. I only hoped it would live up to the hype and my own expectations. As it turned out, I was not to be disappointed.

Okay, there was the downside that being in a predominantly female audience on Row C, I still managing to sit behind the biggest guy in the theatre. Even so, it didn’t spoil things – much.

From the onset there was a dynamic energy from the cast and orchestra with music played at a volume making you feel as if you were part of proceedings. A basic set was acceptable as what was in front of it meant you were hardly ever looking at the background.

And you had the music of Abba. Yes, hit after hit after hit, the songs fitting well with the storyline. I also cannot compliment the well written script of Catherine Johnson enough. Fast paced and genuinely funny.

Musical highlights for me were Take a Chance on Me, Thank You for the Music, Mamma Mia and Under Attack. The latter of these was sung with an excellent choreographed dream sequence which began Act Two in perfect fashion.

So the cast. Playing the role of Donna was Sara Poyzer with Jacqueline Braun and Emma Clifford as Rosie and Tanya (respectively) – Donna’s old performing colleagues. It was these two, in my opinion, who had the most impact on the show, delivering the best songs and bringing the comedy to the front. Sophie was portrayed by Lucy May Barker with Phillip Ryan as Sky. Sophie’s three potential father’s were Sam Carmichael (Richard Standing), Harry Bright (Tim Walton) and Bill Austin (Christopher Hollis). Completing the main cast were Micha Richardson (Ali), Blaise Colangelo (Lisa), Louis Stockil (Pepper) and Sam Robinson (Eddie).

Mamma Mia was directed by Phyllida Lloyd with choreography by Anthony Van Last and musical direction, Richard Weeden.

On completion of the bows, the audience rose to their feet and joined in with the encore which included the classic Waterloo.

So did I enjoy myself? Well, the proof is the fact that I’m still playing the CD in the car.

Mamma Mia – Birmingham Hippodrome



I was privileged the other week to be a witness to Shout – The Mod Musical. Shout was the debut show from Third From The Right Productions, and a successful production it was at that. Well, in terms of audience enjoyment.

Shout – Rowley Learning Campus – July 30 2016

Shout tells the story of the 1960s through lives of five women, all of whom have their ongoing struggles. Throughout the show, the five send letters to Gwendoline Holmes, an advice columnist for Shout Magazine who responds in consistent fashion … with useless advice. For instance, recommending new a hairstyle or manicure as remedies for domestic abuse.

Shout was a novel show which had me tapping the beat all the way to the standing (dancing) ovation at the end. Musical highlights were: To Sir With Love, One Two Three, Those Were the Days, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, These Boots are Made for Walkin’ and one of my favourite Sixties songs, Downtown. Interspersed between these were sometimes poignant, but often, funny vignettes and monologues. These ranged from discovering sexuality, dealing with a wife-beater, learning the side effects of the pill, and one girl’s most embarrassing moment in forgetting a word to a song while performing on stage. “Down – Town! It’s the name of the bloody song!

Third From The Right are a new company who aim to bring quality, but lesser known musical theatre to a wider audience, appealing to all ages.

Performing were: Amy Pearson (Red Girl), Natalie Baggott (Blue Girl), Jo Foley (Orange Girl), Kaz Luckins (Green Girl) and Gaynor Whitehouse (Yellow Girl). Gaynor was also responsible for choreography. Completing the all female cast was Jeni Hatton as Gwendoline Holmes.

Directing Shout was Jez Luckins with musical direction from Chris Corcoran.

So with a statement of wanting to bring the lesser known musicals into a wider domain, did Shout do it for me? Well, I’d certainly go and see it again. Well done, Third From The Right.

Third From The Right Productions





I’ve got to confess, I’ve never seen the movie, Footloose (shock, horror). And I dare not mention (even though I have) that I fell asleep during Dirty Dancing. However, this did not put me off going to see a stage version of the former at the New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham, especially as it was directed by Racky Plews whose American Idiot a couple of months ago rated highly with me.

Footloose – New Alexander Theatre – July 4 2016

Like American Idiot, Plews used a formula in Footloose of having all the musical instruments played by the actors on stage. Don’t know why, but it works. Not only that, nothing appeared incongruous with them blending in perfectly.

The initial shock of the night was that the billed star, 2002 Pop Idol Runner-Up, Gareth Gates, would not be appearing. He’d apparently been told to rest his voice for a week. I found that out later. Now I admit, I wouldn’t know a Gareth Gates song if somebody played one to me. Not so the rest of the audience, it seemed as a stunned silence ensued with the news going down like a lead balloon.

However, in typical British let’s back the underdog spirit, people soon warmed to Luke Thornton, a man with the unenviable task of appeasing the Gareth Gates Appreciation Society. Thornton delivered such an excellent portrayal of Willard, though, he received the biggest cheer at the end of the show.

So how did Footloose shape up? I enjoyed it and unlike a couple of previous trips to the theatre, the sound guys got it spot on this time. I’ve already mentioned Racky Plews and the similarities in approach to his other recent show. Footloose, likewise adopted a very abstract, but functional 3D use of the stage, if that makes sense. Utilising height as well as area space on the flat.

Musical highlights for me were Holding Out For a Hero, Somebody’s Eyes and of course, Footloose. It was also good to have an audience participation reprise at the end where we were invited to get up, clap and dance along to a medley of the more famous show numbers. Now as a performer myself (yes, deary), I always like to give a standing ovation for the hard working folk on stage, but it was great to see the rest of the audience doing so, likewise.

With no Gareth (sorry for keep mentioning the absentee), the biggest named star was Maureen Nolan (of the Nolan Sisters fame) playing Vi Moore. In the lead role of Ren we had Luke Baker with Hannah Price as Ariel Moore and Nigel Lister as the Reverend Shaw Moore (Shaw Moore? Really …???). Now I’ve already mentioned Luke Thornton who stole the show as Willard but coming close, in my opinion, was Joanna Sawyer who was excellent as Rusty.

Accompanying Racky Plews on the production team was Matthew Cole (Choreography), Sara Perks (Designer) and David Keech (Musical Director). Keech also provided drums on stage throughout the show from his cabin shack up on high.

So yet another show I have absolutely loved. Heck, I might even go and watch the film now.

Footloose – New Alexander Theatre – July 4 2016



So far in 2016 I have attended productions ranging from lavish shows at the Birmingham Hippodrome to an academy performance of Year 13 students (which to date remains my favourite of the year). With that display of upcoming talent in mind, I thought I would go one step further and see things at a much earlier state of development.

Artrix Theatre  - A Tale of the Railway - The Star Project

Founded in 2008, The Star Project allows children aged 4 to 18 to express themselves in musical theatre through the medium of singing, dance and acting. The project has three schools based across the Midlands region and A Tale of the Railway saw a coming together of these in a major production. Staged at the impressive Artrix Theatre, each school had the opportunity to shine with roles changing several times throughout the show, offering students the opportunity to give their own interpretation of the parts. And of course, with so many on view due to there being three schools, everybody had a chance.

A Tale of the Railway is the story of a young family who uproot and go to live by a country railway line, telling the adventures they enjoy and about all the people they meet. What was most evident was the absolute confidence from all the young people on stage. Confidence is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in performing arts and it’s a credit to the Star Project management and teachers that everybody looked so comfortable. The singing was powerful, the dance, faultless, and the acting … well, nobody put a foot wrong from where I was sat.

It’s good to see talent nurtured from an early age and encouraging regarding the genesis of stars of tomorrow. If this amount of quality can be seen now, it only bodes well for the future.

The show was directed and choreographed by Star Project Director, Jo Edwards with Project Manager, Sarah Carter as Assistant Director. At the end of the show, after much deserved ovations and presentations, the audience were treated to a reprise of the project’s recent performance in London. A few weeks earlier, many of the students had the opportunity to tread the boards at none other than Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, the very arena where Phantom of the Opera has been staged for 30 years. By the evidence I saw, this would not be the only time pupils from The Star Project will grace that famous stage.

It is an understatement to say I was impressed. I have never applied star ratings when doing reviews, but if I were to rate the Star Project, they would be a Five Star Project.

The Star Project has schools in Barnt Green, Droitwich and Solihull and can be found at this link.

The Star Project



The stage was alive in Birmingham with the Sound of Music in the form of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ world famous show.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016

As one of my favourite musical films, I did wonder how seeing the live version would compare. Yes, it is different, of course, with no place on stage for the Austrian mountains. There is also the matter of songs excluded from the 1965 film and a slightly different order of others. No matter. After all, the stage version came first and unlike the film, each performer in front of me sang their own lines.

Having recently seen a magnificent set at the same venue for Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music was the complete opposite in comparison. The barest of backdrops and a sparse scattering of props was in keeping with a small cast. However, this did not distract from the experience. The performances on stage were exceptional enough that any superficial extras were not needed.

So how did a live version of a popular film match up? Excellent, as it happens. I loved the numbers, How Can Love Survive and No Way to Stop It and cannot understand why they were omitted from the film in the first place. Also, I do prefer the more sympathetic characterisation of Elsa, the Baroness and that Rolf helps the family escape at the climax of the show.

As well as the songs already mentioned, other musical highlights for me were Do-Re-Mi, So Long, Farewell and Something Good.

Portraying the part of Maria was The Voice Runner Up, Lucy O’Byrne with Andrew Lancel (more familiar as DI Manson in The Bill) as Captain Von Trapp. Max Detweiler was played by Duncan Smith, Elsa Schraeder by Lucy Van Gasse, Liesl by Annie Holland with Jan Hartley as The Abbess. There were also good performances by all of the children on duty which topped off a fine day, indeed.

The Sound of Music was produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor with musical direction from David Steadman and Tim Whitting. Choreography was by Bill Deamer with Gary McCann on Design.

So was it a case of so long and farewell when I left the theatre as I considered my verdict? Well, unlike recent shows I’ve seen, I haven’t been motivated to play the London Cast CD since. I felt the show was a little let down by the meagre set and maybe the whole thing could have been more dynamic, but the cast pulled it round. And I’d say it was still an enjoyable experience which I would happily see another version of in the future.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016




I have to admit to being highly pleased when opening my July copy of Writing Magazine to find Dead Girl Stalking had been shortlisted for Self-Published Book of the Year. Okay, so I didn’t win or come runner up, but to get in the top eight, having had my work judged and praised by the writing industry is reward itself.

Dead Girl Stalking © Antony N Britt

Many thanks to the panel, and to magazine editor, Jonathan Telfer for the fantastic write up.

Front Cover - Writing Magazine July 2016Writing Magazine July 2016

Writing Magazine July 2016Writing Magazine July 2016

Dead Girl Stalking – Available to Buy on Amazon

Buy Writing Magazine – July 2016



I have to admit to some trepidation when venturing to watch American Idiot. You see, I’m a huge Green Day fan and not only that, the original CD on which this show is based is among my top five favourite albums of all time. And I also enjoy the Broadway Cast version, too, so the event had a lot to live up to

Green Day’s American Idiot – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 13 May 2016

The first disappointment, however, was the audience. I was in the middle circle which was only a third full. Then came the opening. On an impressive set which reflects the theme of the show, American Idiot should have burst into action, blasting me from my seat. It didn’t. The title track was … well, too quiet. I expected the sound to near burst my ears from such a fantastic number, but I was left a little deflated. Now this had nothing to do with the performance, more that I felt the sound people had got it totally wrong. The sound did improve, thankfully, as the show went on, in spite of a further complication when Tunny’s microphone failed to work for the entire of Are We The Waiting.

Now this might sound like a disaster of a show but two things swung it round. The magnificence of the Green Day numbers and the dynamic performance of the cast. After the initial problems, I was soon on the edge of my seat in excited anticipation for each song. Highlights for me were, Letterbomb, Extraordinary Girl, 21 Guns and Homecoming.

Okay, the story on stage is pretty thin and often confusing unless you already know what is going on, but American Idiot is more about bringing the music to life. And the show did just that.

Playing the lead of Johnny was English singer/songwriter, Newton Faulkner who delivered an excellent performance. Former X-Factor finalist, Amelia Lily also shone as Whatsername as did Alexis Gerred and Steve Rushton as Tunny and Will, respectively. The role of Johnny’s alter-ego, St Jimmy was undertaken with power by Lucas Rush. For my visit, two of the cast stepped up in their understudy roles with neither giving anything short of marvellous. Alice Stokoe was perfect in the part of Heather as was Karina Hinds as Extraordinary Girl.

I also have to mention the band of Robert Wicks, Alex Machisone, Tommaso Varvello and Nick Kent who along with Steve Rushton, faithfully reproduced the Green Day magic. American Idiot was directed and choreographed by Racky Plews with musical supervision from Richard Morris.

It’s a testament to a show with regard to how much of an impact it makes on you. I have attended performances where I have left the theatre and not thought a lot about it for a while afterwards. This was not the case regarding American Idiot. For nearly a week, I had the Broadway CD playing in my car, then the original Green Day album, followed by Broadway again.

Yes, American Idiot left it’s mark.

It’s not over till you’re underground.

Green Day’s American Idiot – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 13 May 2016