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The Facebook page said it all. One man performing songs from West End and Broadway Musicals. So, did Richard Beckett (our one man) pull off a success?

One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

Straight into West Side Story’s Somewhere, we were taken on a journey through the breadth and depth of musical magic. A great tenor voice, delivered with power and charisma, had the audience captivated. From the powerful (Anthem) to the poignant (Empty Chairs at Empty Tables) to the downright lively (Footloose), Richard showed his versatility. And an enthusiastic audience was on hand to lap up the atmosphere as hit after hit sounded from the stage. Many of the songs I have heard in shows over the past couple of years were here, and it was enjoyable to relive those moments reproduced so well.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

On the night, Richard got the crowd going and inspired many to sing along to Sandy while getting on their feet to dance to numbers such as Move It. Heck, I’d have done so myself if I’d thought to wear my knee supports.

Personal favourites for me were Stars and Can’t Help Falling in Love, while finishing the show was This is the Moment. Yes, I can honestly say Richard Beckett pulled off the One Man Musical, and truly, this was his moment.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

But that wasn’t all on the night and not quite one man as opening in support was the incredibly talented Katie Teitge. With charisma and humour, Katie also offered a variety of songs from musicals and beyond.

Katie Teitge One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

Beginning with I Don’t Know How to Love Him and the incredible On My Own, we also had Defying Gravity, I Dreamed a Dream and – the entertainment didn’t stop. With You, from Ghost, a song I’d not heard before, was also exceptional. Liekwise (and this is where my fondness for the humorous comes in), I absolutely loved The Alto’s Lament and The Girl from 14G. I’d not heard ‘Alto’s’ for years, and never sung live, while neither in the case of 14G, but I’ve been You-Tubing them ever since. That itself tells you the impact of the performance.

Between sets, Richard and Katie duetted with Last Night of the World from Miss Saigon to top off a fabulous evening. Here’s to many more from both.

Listen to Richard Beckett on Soundcloud

Watch Katie Teitge on YouTube

Cheers.

Nick

This show is personal to me because less than 12 months ago, I performed in Thoroughly Modern Millie with my own local theatre company. So how did the professionals measure up?

Well, the first thing to note was looking at the programme, I saw one of the Chinese duo was being played by someone from Hong Kong. Now having spent six months learning lines in Mandarin, I reckon that was cheating.

I jest. The show was great. Straight from the off we had vibrant energy and good fun.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – New Alexander Theatre – 13 February 2017

Playing the part of Millie Dillmount was Strictly Come Dancing’s, Joanne Clifton. What can I say? Well performed with good vocals and fantastic dance. Nothing, though, that I wouldn’t expect from one who had just partnered the winner in the recent series.

The other billed star was soap actress, Michelle Collins, who played the villainess, Mrs Meers. Now I do actually like Ms Collins, but I wasn’t particularly wowed on this occasion. There was a lack of character and not enough differentiation between the American accent (which wasn’t convincing to start with) and the fake Chinese. It seems a regular downside for me, seeing the big name stars not living up to the hype. She was still good, but not up there with others in the show, particularly Katherine Glover as Miss Dorothy,

There was excellent direction and choreography on the night, but I’d anticipated this when learning Racky Plews was at the helm. This is the third Plews outing for me in a year and all have been of a high standard. Amazing for me, also, was how good a sound was produced by only having a seven-piece band under the direction of Rob Wicks. Overseeing everything was Executive Producer, David King.

Also on stage for the tour are: Sam Barrett (Jimmy Smith), Jenny Fitzpatrick (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Damian Buhagiar (Ching Ho), Andy Yau (Bun Foo), Catherine Mort (Miss Flannery) and Graham MacDuff (Trevor Graydon III). The latter stole a good part of Act Two and it’s amazing how a drunk scene can do this.

It’s hard to pick a stand out number as I am so familiar with all of them. Therefore, I’ll simply say, Gimme Gimme, Speed Test, Forget About the Boy, and all the rest were top quality, too.

Couple of niggles. No Mamma appearance at the end, and Muqin could have been more OTT.

Still, a great night out, and plenty of goosebumps reliving my own experience of last May. So did the pros do it justice? Certainly, in my opinion.

 

Cheers.

 

Nick

Where do I start with Green Day? One of my favourite bands who I have seen three times previous. And from a hundred or so gigs over the years, those rate as the best. So how would this one cope with the challenge to make it four out of four by the same?

Green Day – First Direct Arena, Leeds – 5 February 2017 © Antony N Britt 2017

Well, from the moment the crowd sang along to Bohemian Rhapsody, then Drunk Bunny ambled onto stage to Blitzkrieg Bop, the excitement heightened. Not that you need to be warmed up for the arrival of Green Day because as soon as Billie-Joe Armstrong runs out and shouts, “Everybody stand up,” a 13,000 audience stands. He says, wave your hands, everybody duly obeys. And not just obey, give themselves freely to this Svengali who also convinces males and females of all ages to stage dive, much to the better judgement of some.

Then we were off. Straight into Know Your Enemy, Bang Bang, Revolution Radio and Holiday. Yes, we had the expected the anti-Trump comments, but also with a message that we were to have no negativity, but joy, love and passion.

Playing half of the recent Revolution Radio album alongside a full back catalogue, Green Day showed not only are they at the top of their game, they never went away.

Of recent songs, my personal favourites were Still Breathing and Youngblood. Then we had the old: Basket Case, Hitchin’ a Ride, Letterbomb, Waiting and She. Of course, there was the obligatory live rendition of King for a Day/Shout, of which no Green Day show should be without. Also well represented was American Idiot with several tracks including the title number and Jesus of Suburbia in the encore.

And what can I say about audience participation. The usual conscript lead vocals on Longview, plus a young girl singing on stage to Know Your Enemy. The biggest wow moment came, though when a young boy was invited to play a few chords alongside the band and was told by Mr Armstrong, “You can keep the guitar.”

So, was this performance up with the rest? Yes, I can honestly say that about a crew who I consider to be the best live band ever.

Green Day – First Direct Arena, Leeds – 5 February 2017

Cheers.

Nick

The pantomime is a great tradition and I’m always looking for companies I’ve not seen before. Therefore, when the two factors combine, I end up in places like the Dormiston Mill Theatre, Sedgley, watching Rainbow Pantomimes’ production of Cinderella.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

First off, a niggle at the audience. I watch loads of shows and people always forget to applaud the overture (and even more so, exit music). The band have worked damned hard, so give them appreciation, folks.

But the rest of the show. We all know the story of Cinderella, and Rainbow did the classic tale justice. Exuberant enjoyment from the cast projected to those watching, straight from the start with opening number, Reach for the Stars. Yes, good acting combined with decent dance numbers had the crowd whooping it up. There were comic moments, in particular, the Ugly Sisters’ Face Cream scene, although what had me laughing most was an innocent and incredulous comment from a child sitting in front when we had a delay in changing scenery. “Mom, they’ve left the door …” Oh, the little things that amuse me.

Fabulous musical numbers, notably: She, So Close, I See the Light, Open Doors, Raining Men and Celebrate. By far the best for me, though, was the full company version of Timewarp. Not a song I particularly like, so credit for making it stand out.

Of the cast, Katie Randle (Cinderella), Katie Teitge (Prince Charming) and Amy Cooper (Buttons) were superb. Also, well supporting were Jake Millington (Dandini), Helen Hollis (Beryl), Jonathan Pountney (Cheryl), Gemma Wilson-Brown (Baroness), Sally Parker (Fairy Godmother), Ian Totney (Mouse) and Dan Cubberley (Major Domo/Bear).

Cinderella was directed by Gemma Simner with Choreography by Emma Bate. On the music front, there was excellent use of a four-piece band directed by and including, Danny Teitge. Great sound throughout.

The only criticism I have is at times, the flow of certain scenes slowed. Too many pauses on stage with nothing happening. Although this may have been down to the original script, there was a danger of lost interest.

Still, as I say, I enjoyed, as did the rest of the audience. And my God, there were some hyper kids in the front of the auditorium. Was there a shortage of Ritalin or something?

All in all, well done to Rainbow Pantomimes. Looking forward to the next one.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

Cheers.

 

Nick

Last summer I reported on A Tale of the Railway, a joint project between all three schools of The Star Project. The branches in Droitwich, Solihull and Barnt Green give children a chance to express themselves through musical theatre. This time, however, I was in the audience to witness Barnt Green go it alone.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

There were two reasons for returning to The Star Project. Mainly, I was so impressed with my first experience of A Tale of the Railway, but also, I had myself taken part in Once Upon a Time a mere four weeks previous, and I was dying to see how it looked. I’m glad to say, I was not disappointed.

Written by Mark Nicholls, Once Upon a Time tells the story of what happens when villains turn the tables on the heroes and all the happy endings are reversed.

A more condensed version than my own, I still managed to get the same vibes from watching as opposed to being on stage. The feel-good factor came rushing back and I found myself laughing at all the jokes I’d heard for six months previous. This is a great testament to the young cast and teachers behind the project. A thoroughly enjoyable and professional production and more important, the kids looked like they had fun. There was great energy on stage as the show was brought to life before me once again. An excellent version of Let It Go ended Act One but my personal favourite of the night was All About the Bass.

The acting was what I expected after my previous experience, as was the dance. Once again, the singing of many was fantastic with voices defying their years. Okay, it’s a month later now but still sticking in my mind are performances by Genie, Jaffar, Evil Queen, Ugly Sisters, Charming and The Queen of Hearts. That’s not to devalue anyone else. They were all splendid. A special mention for poor little Ariel who had the unenviable task of contending with the most difficult costume ever (mermaid … having to slide on backside all evening), plus the fact she was unfortunately in line of fire for the fake snowstorm when it fell on stage. Well done for carrying on through adversity.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

Barnt Green was the first Star Project, opening in 2008 with the children guided by the watchful eyes of Jo Edwards, Sarah Carter and the brilliant team of teachers. I often see the case of people who love musical theatre, never live their dream, then regret the lost years later. Here at The Star Project, talent can be nurtured from an early age, hopefully with development leading to more in adult life.

So, cheers for The Star Project Barnt Green. Well done, fabulously performed, and just good all round entertainment.

The Star Project runs weekly with special workshops during school holidays. The next is a two-day event during February half term, titled Musical Madness. Details can be found at the Star Project’s website.

Cheers.

Nick

Over the past couple of years I’ve tasted a variety of musical theatre companies and looked forward to Throroughly Modern Millie at The Core Theatre, Solihull. I’d not seen anything by St Alphege Musical Productions Society (STAMPS) before, so didn’t know what to expect.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – The Core Theatre, Solihull – 5 November 2016

So how were they? Well, the beginning was low key and failed to grab my interest. It needed to be spectacular, but wasn’t. Then came a further disappointment in the characterisation of Ching Ho and Bun Foo. These guys are a comic duo, but hardly raised a laugh, not to mention some of the pronunciation being a bit dodgy. However, the subtitles worked well.

On the plus side, Becky Willetts as Millie gave a good performance and both Miss Dorothy, played by Lucy Clarke and Trevor Graydon (Kris Evans) were excellent. Also, the character of Jimmy Smith played by Jack Walsh was likewise good, but I would expect nothing less from a former student of BOA.

Now I do know the show well and will say, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t wow me. Good, but not dynamic, and I found concentration waning towards the end of Act One, which is criminal as Millie is funny and engaging. This was illustrated by the fact that on the night, I heard little more than general applause much of the time.

Stand out songs for me were Speed Test and Falling in Love. We also had good choreography in some numbers, but little in others, particularly Muquin. There were also lost opportunities for jokes. For instance, failing to capitalise on the George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue gag, and it made me wonder if direction really understood the script.

Also giving good performances on the night were Fran Foster (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Rosie Asher (Mrs Meers) and Kim Bradshaw (Miss Flannery).

Musical direction came from Phil Ypres-Smith with Viv Morrison as director and choreographer.

A decent enough offering, but a lost opportunity after what must have been many months hard work.

Cheers.

 

Nick

The Witches of Eastwick was my first experience of Trinity Musical Theatre Company. In fact, it was everybody’s as the company had recently been reborn from being a Gilbert and Sullivan Operatic Society to reflect more modern trends. So how did they fare?

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Well, I saw Witches of Eastwick in February performed by Year 13 students of Birmingham Ormiston Academy. Now some might class that as a school performance, but such was the excellence of young talent that day, I knew Trinity would have a lot to live up to.

Now the first thing I encountered in the show were glaring lights from the stage in the overture, shining onto the audience and I must admit, I had spots in front of my eyes for five minutes. However, it was a minor negative and from the opening number of Eastwick Knows, superbly introduced by Freya Poulton as Little Girl, I was reminded why Witches is one of my favourite musicals.

Good performances by the three, particularly in Make Him Mine and I Wish I May were all I would expect of a Professional Amateur Theatre Company. Playing Alex was Maggie Page with Phaedra Brickwood as Jane and Beth Berwick Lowe (Sukie). Each produced the power the roles needed, fully exceeding my expectations.

Then we had Mitch Bastable as Darryl Van Horn. A truly great role and Mitch did it justice. Enigmatic, great mannerisms; he was so Darryl Van Horn.

Supporting well were Tina Stephenson playing Felicia Gabriel, Pat Lewis (Clyde), Emily Fisher (Jennifer), David Ball (Michael) and Adam Dolan (Fidel).

It’s interesting seeing different productions. In February, the best chorus number was Dirty Laundry, which although good on this occasion, was outshone by Dance with the Devil. It’s a shame Loose Ends was omitted as was the case with the shorter version of Something, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Again, comparing to my earlier experience of the show, this time I got the full adult version, doing things maybe Year 13 students couldn’t. All in all, a great experience once more which hasn’t lessened my hankering to see the show again.

Witches of Eastwick was produced and directed by Ashely-Miles Wilkes, choreographed by Emilie Walters with musical direction from Karl Babarczi.

After 8o years as a G&S Operatic Society, I’d say Trinity made the transition into musical theatre with success, and long may it continue where I am sure I will be in attendance.

trinity-422x405

Cheers.

 

Nick

I was recently privileged to witness a journey through the years, courtesy of Bournville Musical Theatre Company. And Through the Decades was just that. A showcase of not only several eras in pop, rock and musical theatre, but also an example of how music has evolved during those times.

Through the Decades – The Austin Social Club – 16 October 2016

This was my first experience of the Bournville company and I was not disappointed.

From the opening rock and roll of the 1950s, I found myself captivated, tapping away and singing along (and not always silent, I may add) to the numbers performed on stage.

Good use of a three-piece band: Keyboard, drums and bass, provided all the sound needed. Combine that with great singing, dance and characterisation, you had a fabulous show before you.

Each section was introduced by a video consisting of films representing the relevant decade before launching into their opening number.

Of the songs, themselves, I’d have too long a list if I named all I enjoyed. Therefore, I’ll have to rely on the first which spring to memory.

A mix together of You’re my World and All I See is You were exceptional as was the case with the harmonies of Mr Sandman. For the 70s we had a Grease set of which Hopelessly Devoted to You, shone. Act One ended with a company number of Bohemian Rhapsody, and it shows you’re good if you pull that one off.

Into Act Two and a song from one of my favourite musicals in One Day More (Les Miserables). It was then I found myself further surprised. You see, I consider myself more a rock person. However, I was completely drawn in by fabulous performances of Total Eclipse of the Heart, She’s the One and Torn (one of my favourites of the night). Then we had Bournville’s very own Spice Girls. Now come on, I’ve said I’m into rock, and I’ve never taken any notice of the Spice Girls. But I liked these ones.

Probably, for me, the most powerful number was a combination of the Adele songs, Turning Tables and Rolling in the Deep. And that’s where I come back to what I said at the start. Whereas my eras are more late 70s to early 80s, it’s interesting to see how much music has evolved since the 1950s. Despite not being my type of music, there seems to be greater depth and complexity about more recent offerings. I guess we’re always discovering techniques that it’s inevitable a new generation will improve. And that’s a good thing. I enjoy the past, but don’t want to live it again.

Rounding off the show were two numbers from School of Rock. Great. A bit of rock. I’d not heard these songs before but having done so courtesy of Bournville Musical Theatre Company, I went online and ordered the original cast recording CD the next day. And I’ll probably be making a trip to the West End, too.

So well done to all, especially Rachel Fox (Producer), Chris Corcoran (Musical Direction), and Kris Evans, Helen Gauntlett, Karen Lane, Chloe Turner, Sadie Turner (Choreography).

At the start of Act One, we had a preview of the companies next show, The Pajama Game. On this performance, it will be well worth going to see.

Through the Decades – The Austin Social Club – 16 October 2016

Cheers

Nick

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

Cheers.


Nick

 

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

Cheers.


Nick

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