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It’s showtime again and Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) are taking us back to the 1920s with their production of Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock. Now approaching 50 years as a society, AMCS are known for quality shows and this is one of the best.

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Thoroughly Modern Millie is an energetic musical which will have you singing (and tapping) in your seats. The year is 1922 and Millie Dillmount arrives in New York, a place filled with frisky flappers, dashing men and a dragon lady of a villainess the audience is sure to love to hate. Loosely based on the 1967 film of the same name, Thoroughly Modern Millie first opened on Broadway in 2002. Featuring songs such as Gimme Gimme, Forget About the Boy and Not For the Life of Me, the show won six Tony Awards at the time, including Best Musical.

Determined to experience the rip-roaring twenties, Millie sets out to test the modern ideas she’s read about back home in Kansas. The goal is to pursue her dreams of becoming thoroughly modern by marrying for money instead of love. She first meets, and is immediately attracted to, the poor, but fun loving, Jimmy. Despite this, she goes to work for pompous, Trevor Graydon with every intention of marrying him instead. When not typing up a storm at the Sincere Trust Insurance Company, Millie also parties with her fellow residents of the Hotel Priscilla, a house for aspiring actresses which also hides a sinister secret.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is the perfect musical for the whole family, appealing to all ages. It stars Chloe Hancox as Millie, Danny Teigte as Jimmy, Hattie Sketchley-Bates as Miss Dorothy, Mark Nicholls as Trevor Graydon, Kerry Flint as Mrs Meers and Linda Bloxham as Muzzy Van Hossmere. Producing is Andy Poulton with musical direction from Mark Baylis and choreography by Sarah Hemming.

Do come along and share in this magnificent experience. A show filled with charm, comedy and romance, plus a little intrigue. Great acting, fantastic voices, excellent dance and a fifteen piece orchestra. What more could you wish for?

So beat the drums ’cause here comes Thoroughly Modern Millie … Now!

Staged Thursday 19, Friday 20 and Saturday 21 May 2016 (1930 start). Tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01543 578762 or direct from AMCS (01543 480626 and 07932 688485).

£13/Adult, £10/Concessions and £7/Under 16s.

Cheers.

Nick

I didn’t know what to expect about Mary Poppins. With the reputation built of being spectacular and so many friends lauding praise, I wondered if the show would live up to the hype.

One of my reservations came from listening to the 2005 Original London Cast Recording CD release which although full of many of the well known Sherman tunes from the 1964 film, still fell flat in my opinion. However, a live performance is a different matter so I was interested to see if a little theatre magic would explode from the stage. It stood a chance having being devised by Cameron Mackintosh, a producer whose shows have never let me down.

Mary Poppins – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 April 2016

I needn’t have worried. From the opening number I witness to over two hours of dynamic energy from a wonderful cast. Also, possibly the best set I have ever seen including a house on Cherry Tree Lane which unfolded before your eyes.

There seemed to be so much going on, you dared not switch attention for a second. During Jolly Holiday, the lighting altered on the backdrops so many times in a myriad of colours, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d changed the entire set mid song.

Yes, the old favourites were there: A Spoonful of Sugar, Feed the Birds, Let’s Go Fly a Kite and Chim Chim Cher-re. In addition to these, you also had the bigger song and dance numbers, particularly Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the immense Step in Time. Rather Bert than me climbing the side of the stage before walking upside down from a great height as he went over the rooftops. Also, the newer live numbers came across better than the recording I’d heard, In particular, Practically Perfect and Anything Can Happen.

I was informed on arrival that the part of Mary Poppins would that night be played by an understudy. However, there was no disappointment. Jennifer Davison delivered with such power you’d be hard pressed to think she hadn’t been doing it for the entire run. Also supporting was Matt Lee as Bert, Milo Twomey as George Banks and Rebecca Lock as his wife, Winifred. Jane and Michael were played with enthusiasm in this performance by Madeline Banbury and Regan Garcia.

My only two criticisms would be that one, I thought some of Julian Fellows’ scripted dialogue was a little laborious at times. However, that wasn’t a fault of the production and with everything happening in front of you, it was forgotten most of the time. The other was that the vocal amplification appeared weak to start with. Whether this was rectified or I just got used to it is unknown. It wasn’t an issue later on.

All in all, a wonderful experience right until the end where the magical nanny flies above the audience, disappearing into the sky (or rather an exit in the theatre ceiling).

So did I enjoy after my original uncertainty? Absolutely. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Mary Poppins – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 April 2016

Cheers.

Nick

The Witches of Eastwick – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 18 March 2016 Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

I have to admit, when buying tickets for this, I’d never heard of Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) before and at £10 a seat, I wondered what level of performance I should expect. Despite the excellent value in price, though, I still guessed it would be good, but never expected how good.

Over the past few months I have seen The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe at the newer Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Jesus Christ Superstar (starring Glenn Carter) at the Hippodrome. I can honestly say, this production of The Witches of Eastwick knocked both those offerings out the building in terms of enjoyment.

The Witches of Eastwick – My new favourite show, and all thanks to the wonderful production team, orchestra and more important, the talented Year 13 musical theatre students of BOA.

An academy in performing arts for ages 14 to 19, BOA have the cream of the region and it was obvious from the outset, you’ve got to be damn good to get into this school.

My interest in The Witches of Eastwick had been piqued while taking part myself in a concert featuring two of the numbers, and I wanted to see what the entire show had to offer.

The Witches of Eastwick – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 18 March 2016 Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by John Updike, but having more in common with the 1987 film, The Witches of Eastwick tells of three women searching for the man of their dreams. Pooling energy together, their dreams do come true, but they also get more than they bargained for.

The enigmatic Daryll Van Horne arrives and soon seduces all three, causing destruction, and eventual death along the way. The women realise what it is they have created and decide they have to put things right and send Daryll back from where he came.

Looking at the programme, the pen pictures tell me there were two casts. I learned that these were basically the A and B teams. I don’t know if there was any significance in these categories, or that it was simply a way of dividing to give the students an equal opportunity over the course of the run. As it was, I saw the B cast and if the A lot were meant to be the primary, then they must have been something extra special because the B team I witnessed were out of this world.

Once you got over the fact that, yes, the majority of parts are meant to be played by older people, you soon became lost in the show. In fact, I’d forgotten how old they really were halfway through the opening. Sitting in Row B, I think I spent the entire show leaning forward with chin in hand, mesmerised by what I saw on stage. Not an easy task to keep me from fidgeting throughout a performance.

I imagine it must be hard to pull off characterising much older parts, especially the males, but Jack Sanders did a fantastic job with his portrayal of Daryll. And then you had the witches, themselves. Wow! To get one good voice is great, but all three? Talulla Wheatley (Alex), Heather Foster (Jane) and Lydia Gardiner (Sukie) were all amazing. Incredible voices and fantastic harmonies with great acting to top it off. Then you also had the supporting principles and an ensemble which brought their numbers onto another scale, Dirty Laundry, in particular. And what an opening we had!

I have to say I already had a liking for I Wish I May but at the climax to Act One when Alex, Jane and Sukie send their spirits soaring skyward and fly, I wanted to get to my feet and give a standing ovation there and then. But I thought, behave, there’s still the second act to come yet.

As well as those already mentioned, I loved every number in the show, in particular, the three seduction numbers, each different in their own way. Now I’m not into narcotics, and the strongest thing I’ve ever smoked is a piece of salmon, but even I craved a cigarette after Waiting for the Music.

Since watching, I’ve had the Original London Cast CD on repeat in the car. This is all testament to the BOA cast and production team. A mention, of course, has to go to Director – Rian Holloway, Musical Director – Michelle King, Choreographer – Lee Crowley and Company Manager – Amy Rutter. I hope those credits are right, I got them from the back of the programme. Also, hats off to the rest of the band and crew who made this occasion for me – magic.

Cheers.

Nick

2016 has not been good for rock fans. In the first few months we’ve seen the passing of David Bowie, Lemmy and Keith Emerson. When the news of Bowie broke, I recall commenting that people my age are going to be seeing a lot of this in the near future. Add to that, I’m unlikely to witness AC/DC in any familiar incarnation soon. Things are certainly changing. More personal to me, though, I’ve also had to concede I may never again see a Stranglers gig featuring Jet Black on drums.

I guess it’s inevitable when you’ve followed music through five decades, that your heroes will one day be no more, but you still hope the magic will last a little longer.

March 12, Birmingham O2 Academy, I gazed upon the stage with eyes confirming what I already knew, even though the reality hurt.

One drum kit.

For the past four years, despite health issues, the drummer in black has beaten the odds and appeared in a cameo role during tours. Sadly, not this year. If it’s the end, we wish Jet well and thanks for everything.

But it begs the question. How much longer will it be before I have seen my last Stranglers gig? Something I ask every year but until the inevitable happens, I’ll keep turning up to lose myself in the ecstasy of the moment.

Now a regular for a few years, Birmingham lad, Jim MacAulay plays in the band alongside Jean-Jacques Burnel, Dave Greenfield and Baz Warne. Slight change in lineup, though nothing different about the performance.

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My 16th Stranglers show dating back to 1983 and as all previous, it didn’t disappoint.

Billed, The Black and White Tour, the band played the album of the same name in full for the first part of a near two hour set. Exploding straight into Tank, followed by Nice and Sleazy until the final conclusion with Enough Time, a song I finally heard live for the first time. As always, the band were in fine form although it was noticeable the atmosphere lifted another notch higher once Black and White had concluded and a wider variety set commenced with (Get a) Grip (On Yourself). Now I don’t mean that as any criticism of Black and White, I simply think playing the album from start to finish maybe lessened the anticipation with the audience already knowing what was coming next.

Not so the the second half which was as excellent as the first but with a few surprises thrown in. By far the biggest was the first time absence in my memory of Golden Brown. Call me controversial, but it’s about time. Must be frustrating for a band to be expected to play certain tracks every concert so I applaud the decision to exclude this sacred cow. That doesn’t apply to No More Heroes, though. Never remove that one from the set, guys, just so you know.

Other favourites were there in a set which spanned the decades: Five Minutes, Something Better Change, Always the Sun, plus more recent classics including Relentless and Norfolk Coast. A nice surprise was A Soldiers Story. Not sure about being the first time live, but it certainly was for me.

The guys come round my way every March/April and 2016 was as good as ever. Loads of energy with no sign of the band ending soon. Ironically, one of the biggest cheers of the night was the usual Baz ad-libbing during Peaches.

 “I could think of a lot worse places to be.
Like down in the street,
or down in the sewer,
or Villa Park at the end of the season.”

Hey, the show was in Birmingham and if you’re not into football, all I can say is, it’s a local joke.

2016 – a year not yet three months old where so many rock legends have left us. Not so the Stranglers. Yes, it’ll happen sometime, but until I see it in Black and White, I’ll savour every minute, every year.

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Cheers.

Nick

Yearning for a trip to the theatre? Can’t wait to see Mary Poppins on stage? Well Step in Time as memories of Broadway and the West End hit the region this month.

Musical Memories - Aldridge Musical Comedy Society

A spectacular concert of song and dance, Musical Memories is the latest offering from the awesome Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS). For almost 50 years, AMCS have been delivering quality productions, and this is no exception.

Numbers draw from a variety of shows with something for everyone. If it’s classics you’re after, you will not be disappointed with segments from Cats, Les Miserables, West Side Story, Miss Saigon and Evita. Then there are more contemporary with songs from Spamalot, Avenue Q, Sister Act, All Shook Up and The Little Mermaid. Plus, huge pieces hailing from Wicked, Jekyll and Hyde, Chess, Little Shop of Horrors and many more including a teaser for AMCS’ Spring 2016 production, Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Performed Wednesday 25 to Saturday 28 November 2015 at the Rugeley Rose Theatre, Rugely, tickets can be obtained from the AMCS box office on 01543 480626 with full details on websites – www.aldridgemcs.co.uk or www.musicalmemoriesshow.com.

Don’t miss out on this magnificent experience.

£12/adult, £10/Concessions and £6/Under 16s.

You can follow AMCS on Facebook for news of current and future productions.

facebook.com/aldridgemcs

Cheers.

Nick

I am now officially announcing the release of my debut novel, Dead Girl Stalking which is available to buy in both print and electronic form from Amazon.

Filled with horror, suspense, sex and conflict, Dead Girl Stalking is a paranormal thriller which tells a story of desire, consequence and retribution for those both alive and dead.

The first date ended with her death; the second was more terrifying. He wants to end their relationship; the dead have other ideas.

When teenager Melvin Stone is not being bullied at school, he suffers from voices inside his head which have tormented him much of his life. Melvin’s life is thrown further into turmoil when the girl of his dreams is killed in a tragic accident. For any young adult, witnessing this would be traumatic enough but over the next four years he is plagued by the recurring presence of the dead girl. Whether spirit or in his own troubled mind, this malevolent tormentor now haunts Melvin’s every move.

You can buy Dead Girl Stalking in either digital or print from Amazon by following the link below.

Buy Dead Girl Stalking

It is also currently being stocked by Southcart Books – Walsall. A great indie bookshop who continue to support local writers.

Alternatively still, as the Ice Cream Man says, ‘Stop me and buy one.’ If you’re in town, that is.

Cheers.

Nick

 

This Halloween – Saturday 31 October, I shall be appearing at Southcart Books, Lower Hall Lane, Walsall for the 2nd annual Southcart Scarefest.

Free admission, free food and a multitude of horror writers to entertain you. And hundreds of books to browse and buy. What more could you want from Walsall’s only independent bookshop who continue to support local talent.

Hopefully, last minute proofing and delivery permitting, I shall have copies of my debut novel, Dead Girl Stalking on sale.

So if you’ve nothing else on, pop on down and see me and the rest. In fact, if you have got something on, cancel it. We’re a better bet. I’m on at 1230, just before the food, so perfect timing.

Southcart Scarefest 2015

Cheers.

Nick

How long?

It’s been a year since I did a Roast. I know when reviving this column I said I would only do it occasionally, but a whole year …! Does this mean I don’t get out much any more?

Well, I do, I just have so many other things to occupy my time, namely trying to polish up my novel, Dead Girl Stalking so I can release on Amazon. But this doesn’t mean I no longer observe the bizarre around me. Take the incident after my writing breakfast in town the other day.

A bit of bother over a hover

Sunday Roast - Hoverboard 1

Have you seen these things? I hadn’t but they are apparently the latest craze to hit the streets. They’re nicknamed hover-boards, and when I say a craze, I don’t simply mean fad. Craze could be applied to the state of mind of the user, because you must be crazy to ride around on one.

Take the couple I came across after leaving my breakfast venue.

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Young man in baseball cap with cute young girl on his arm. Or was it the other way round? You see the man was on one of these hover-boards, being motorised around town. However, every time he wanted to turn, his girlfriend had to guide him in the right direction.

Mate, you looked ridiculous. It was as if she were taking her pet for a walk. His body never moved an inch, all the time thinking he was the man, and so cool. But if the girlfriend had let go of his hand, I suspect street cred would have dropped quicker than he did as he tumbled to the ground.

However, he didn’t as girlfriend guided her puppy around corners and finally helped him across the road, all the time doing the work while he didn’t flex a muscle.

But then we had the ultimate joke. Do you know where Hoverman went after I took the photograph? He turned right and entered a bloody gym!

Arrrggghhh! Perhaps if he’d walked for once in his life and didn’t use a hover-board, he wouldn’t need to go to a gym!

And then there’s the name – hover-boards. But they don’t even bleeding well hover!!! They have wheels and are quite clearly rolling along the ground.

Hover-boards, for Christ’s sake. Watch people move effortless. Or in the case of my home town, wait five seconds until you hit an uneven pavement and go arse over tit.

People who play with odd shaped balls

Sunday Roast - World Cup Rugby

So it’s the Rugby World Cup (sense the underwhelmed tone) and I have to say, I’m not interested.

It’s not the game I hate, I simply don’t understand it. What I also despise is the culture surrounding the sport. All this male bonding, arm in arm on pub tables singing, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, coming for to carry them home because they’re too pissed to drive. You’ve also got to admire the irony of middle class white folk singing a black spiritual about gaining freedom from slavery.

Anyway, I kind of grasp the principle of getting the ball (Ball!! A ball is a spheroid) from one end of the field to the other. What I can’t fathom are details such as penalties given for no other reason than the referee thought it was time he awarded one. And the referees, themselves are an enigma. They watch all this carnage on the field and do nothing, then some person taps an opponent on the shoulder to say, ‘Pardon me, Claude,’ and he gives a bloody foul. Baffling. It’s stop/start all the way through the game with possession passing at random. And scrums … don’t get me started on scrums. What the bleeding frig are they all about? It’s like a bizarre game of twister.

Twister - Sunday Roast

But who do we have to blame for this stupid game? Yes, Mr William bloody Webb Ellis (Now you know why I’m good at quizzes … Huh!). You see, in 1823, during a game of football while at Rugby Posh School, Ellis allegedly picked up the ball and ran.

William Webb Ellis

Well, isn’t that just typical. When you were at school, wasn’t there always one tosspot who due to the fact they were shit at soccer, would start either bouncing the ball around like a basketball, or run with it in order to disguise their own inadequacies at the sport.

And so we have Rugby, a game created by somebody who thought themselves the bees knees at being class comic, but was, in fact, a total twat.

*** Appendices***

(i) Rugby ~ A game for people who aren’t skilful enough to play football.

(ii) Football ~ A game for those unable to understand the rules of cricket.

Nothing is free in this life

Do any older folk remember the free gifts you used to get in your cereal packets? Little plastic figures of Sooty and Sweep, or Doctor Who collectable cards such as these.

Dec 1 - Doctor Who Wheatbix

They made breakfasts worthwhile and got the kids eating because what they really wanted was for Mum and Dad to buy a new packet as soon as possible in order to get another gift.

Now, however, the term free with your cereal is used very creatively. Take Kellogs, for example.

I purchased a packet of cornflakes the other day and saw the words, Get you Free Bowl on the back of the box.

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Great … Free gift. Just like old times. But hang on a minute. On closer inspection, I noticed the facts.

Step 1: Buy three promotional packs of cornflakes to collect the tokens.

Okay, so how is that free?

Step 2: Go online and enter the codes from inside the boxes.

Right …. that’s assuming you have internet, otherwise you’ll have to go to an internet café, pay a charge and buy a medium latte while you register for your free cereal bowl.

Step 3: Pay £2 postage.

Arrggghhhh! That’s not fucking free!!!

Then after choosing your bowl (Step 4) in this exceptionally quick and simple way of getting something for nothing, you come across the final hurdle.

Step 5: Wait for your bowl to be delivered, noting that the packet states this will take up to 90 days.

What!!! For heavens sake. You can buy bowls from a supermarket for a quid. Heck, I could even join a pottery class, learn how to mould clay and make a bloody cereal bowl in less than 90 days if I wanted.

Jeez!

Well, that warps up this roast

I shall bid you farewell and at this rate, see you this time next year.

Cheers.

Nick

 

Diagnosis

Nights like these,
they are the worst.
I know where I should be.
Free.
But I’m not.
I’m here.

Two weeks,
four days,
eighteen hours
and seventeen minutes,
give or take.
Who’s counting?

I wait for the release,
even though I know it’s not coming.
When will it end,
this illness?
Another day,
still no sign.

Understand the diagnosis
and accept there’s no cure.
Raise a glass
to heal the pain,
but it’s too strong.
So I sit alone
and listen to the walls talk.

Nightmare

© Antony N Britt 2010

Warning!

Being a writer has its drawbacks, and one of these are the questions which come from non-writers. Made in innocence, but annoying all the same in a way only writers will understand. Therefore, I shall explain a few so you’ll know in future why my face is turning purple.

1. Never under any circumstance try to tell a writer what would be a good idea for a plot.

I have this great idea for a story. I think you should write it.’

No, if it’s that good, maybe you should write it. After all, it’s your idea and who better to see it to fulfillment. That’s the polite way of replying. The other is to scream through clenched teeth that of course I’ll write your story, because after years of doing it well, I have no more bloody ideas of my own.

2. ‘Don’t despair, JK Rowling had numerous rejections before she was published.’

Fuck off! Never use the JK word. We all know how many rejections she had, so don’t mention it. There are writers with far more skill than the wizard’s creator but much about being successful is due to luck. Unless you’re a celebrity who can write a novel in wax crayon on the back of a napkin and still get it published, I’m afraid you’re in the slush pile, ever hoping an agent will allocate thirty seconds to read the first page of your book.

3. In response to telling somebody you’ve had a story published.

That’s good. Did you get paid?’

Okay, this is a common one. I’m always being asked it. As if making money from my writing makes it more valid. But really …. do I go around asking people what they earn for a living? No. Whatever you make from producing porn is your business. Hey, it’s a free country.

However, I will clear this up and the answer is, yes. Sometimes. Often it’s zero, but I have earned anything from £1.68 total royalties for a failed anthology to £250 with a short story. It depends who you are submitting to.

4. And another one I hate …

It’s said, everybody has a novel in them.’

No they bloody well don’t, otherwise everybody would write a novel. It’s probably the case that we all have an idea, but only when you’ve a final draft of 75,000 plus words, do you have that novel. Grrrrr.

5. The final main one is often directly after somebody you know has read your work for the first time. Now I like to receive praise, but not accompanied by a look of astonishment.

Hey, this is actually really good.’

Jesus, don’t sound so surprised. I’ve been doing this years and actually – yes, I am bloody good at it.

Those are the main ones, but of course there are others.

Q – Why don’t you write something more cheerful?

A – I mostly write dark fiction and had this comment on my novel. Hell, yes! Let’s make bullying, sexual assault, decapitation and psychotic episodes into a comedy.

Q – ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’

A – Erm … my mind.

Q – ‘Have you had anything published?’

A – Because apparently, you’re not a proper writer until this has happened. Yes, I have, about thirty short stories and poems, plus numerous articles. But even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t mean I’m not a writer.

Q – ‘Are your characters based on real people?’

A – Of course, because I have no imagination of my own. Okay … cue the arrival of the sarcasm police. NO! Theyre all my ideas. It’s what I do.

Comment – ‘I thought about writing a novel once.’

My reply – ‘Really, so did I.’

Comment – ‘To be honest, I don’t read.’

My reply – ‘You do know you can get lessons for that.’

And finally, the classic …

Comment – ‘I wish I had the time to write stories.’

My reply – … Well, there isn’t one. I’ve normally walked off by now, returning to my tedious day of doing nothing as I have all the time in the world to do it.

Okay, so I jest a little, but do think before you release these utterances. Writing is bloody hard, and to be good at it takes years. Unless, of course, you are Katie Price or some other Z-List celebrity, then you can simply pay some poor unheard of writer to do it for you.

April 15 - Writer

Cheers.

Nick

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