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One of the most famous shows of the last thirty years with the role of Mrs Johnstone considered iconic. However, I had never seen Blood Bothers so needed to tick another off the list.

This is a tale of a mother who after having twins, gives one (Eddie) away to make ends meet. To stop her ever seeing Eddie, the adopting mother uses Mrs Johnstone’s superstitious nature to spin a tale, saying if ever the boys learn of each other’s identity, both will die. Of course, they do meet, become friends, fall out, and then reach an inevitable tragic conclusion.

I had little empathy with Mrs Johnstone, as it happens. Well, she gave away her son far too easy. Still, the lead was played well by 1970s singer, Lyn Paul, considered by many to be the definitive in the role. Very powerful and poignant vocals. I am so glad I saw her on this occasion.

Also billed at the top was Robbie Scotcher as the Narrator. He too gave an excellent performance, although I did find the inclusion of a narrator obtrusive at times. Then we had the twins; the rough-edged Mickey and more sheltered and studious Eddie, portrayed by Alexander Patmore and Joel Benedict respectively.

Now, the thing about Blood Brothers is that it is set when the twins are aged 7, 14, then through to 18 and beyond, with all their Act One scenes as juveniles. And as well as Patmore and Benedict tackled being 7-year-olds, I still found it cringing and embarrassing to watch at times. Women can get away with this far batter, as was shown by the excellent Danielle Corlass as Linda, but grown men pretending to be little kids … Noooooo! Then, supporting well on the night we also had Chloe Taylor (Mrs Lyons), Daniel Taylor (Sammy) and Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) in addition to a good chorus.

My biggest praise for the show, as a writer, must go to the book by Willy Russell. Well-written, being funny and dark at the same time. It takes talent to turn a mood so quickly. However, if Russell’s script is top-drawer, the music is less so. I found the songs generic and dull, with the same tunes reprised too much. The most enjoyable for me was Kids’ Game with the more popular Tell Me it’s Not True, overrated (in my opinion). Other decent numbers included Easy Terms, My Child and Bright New Day, while on the other hand, Marilyn Monroe must be the most awful song I’ve heard in musical theatre (and it’s reprised to death).

Positives from Blood Brothers in addition to the script were the performances from the cast and band, whereas a major negative was the lack of dance (There is very little). Plus, the show has a dated feel to it, although that seems par for the course with Bill Kenwright directions, I’m afraid.

This review might suggest I hated Blood Brothers, and that’s not so. I did enjoy the show, but was not bowled over as one might expect. Still, I’ll give 7 out of 10 for a production which survives more on reputation than delivery.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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Insurgent
NOUN
1. a person fighting against a government or invading force; a rebel or revolutionary. “an attack by armed insurgents”
synonyms:
rebel · revolutionary · revolutionist · mutineer · agitator · subversive ·
ADJECTIVE
1. rising in active revolt. “alleged links with insurgent groups”

The venue is The Flapper, formerly known as The Longboat once upon a time and a regular haunt of mine in the 1980s. But there is nothing 80s about Insurgent who are fresh and an exciting addition to the home of heavy metal in Birmingham.

With a new band you’d maybe expect rawness, but what you have with Insurgent is polished professionalism which gives the feel they’ve been at this for years. Maybe they have, but not collectively as Insurgent were founded by guitarist, Joe Rowley less than twelve months ago in the winter of 2018.

Some bands give a general feel of everything melding into one. This one, however, are nothing like that. There is a controlled blend of sound which you can listen to and isolate each instrument’s contribution, if you wish to do so. Jake Brettle (Bass) and Mike Tabone (Drums) compliment Rowley on guitar in excellent fashion. But then when you add the essential instrument of Katie Teitge on vocals, Insurgent turn into something special. And what a voice Teitge has with power and emotion at the same time. This was shown no better than during Colours Bleed.

It’s hard to comment on music you have no prior knowledge of but after an hour, I thought I knew Insurgent a good deal. Launching with My Sentence Awaits and Illusionary, the crowd were immediately into the band. In addition to the openers, we had the more thoughtful Dogma before eventually covering Slipknot’s, Duality. A brave move when you cover a well-known song, but Insurgent pulled it off with ease.

Finally, we were treated to the band’s debut single, Counterpart, which also went down a storm and is as good as anything else up there in the halls of rock.

The music and lyrics are written by Joe Rowley, but each member adds their own special elements to songs which have a wide outlook of general thoughts. Thoughts which appeal to more than just the heavy metal scene. I know it did with me.

Currently working on a follow-up single, Insurgent’s Facebook page describes themselves as creating new and exciting heavy metal music that aims to change the Birmingham music scene. Whether the current scene is good or bad, change is good and the world needs insurgents, and in this band, we have them. So, if you’re in the area, check them out and share the music. You won’t be disappointed.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s an amazing injustice that despite the fact I purchased this band’s debut album, Showbiz, when it was first released, added to the fact I have seen most rock bands I like many, many times, I had never seen Muse until Tuesday September 17 2019. No reason, other than their shows were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, I am glad this has now been rectified.

Watching Muse isn’t just attending a rock concert, it’s witnessing a theatrical spectacle and although I am usually more in favour of letting the music do the talking, this approach works for Muse. And it’s that mix of special effects combined with kick-ass rock which sticks in the memory most. From laser spectaculars, and an army of choreographed robot dancers, to the appearance at the end of a giant … erm, thing (Some sort of robot, monster, I think). The whole experience was immense.

Straight from the off, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard showcased their recent album, Simulation Theory, throughout the show. Pressure is my favourite of the newer stuff, and I reckon I’d class it up there with the best in what is now 20 years of recording success.

But we also had the classics in Uprising, Plug in Baby, Supermassive Black Hole and Time is Running Out. I was also pleased to hear my favourite Muse track, Hysteria get an airing, and Starlight, too.

Towards the end, we had a mash up of Stockholm Syndrome, New Born, Assassin, Reapers and The Handler, all combined with that giant colossus on stage. Accompanying this, the release of hundreds of giant silver and black balloons, and yes, they were as massive as the music and effects.

I was lucky enough to have chosen a spot in the centre of the arena to stand. Fortunate, I say, as this had me within 20 yards of Bellamy and Co when they performed at the end of a catwalk, which they did on numerous occasions, including Dig Down.

To top off a brilliant night we had the mega Knights of Cydonia and everyone went home happy, including myself as I departed, having collared a huge black balloon as a memento, although it was a bugger to get in the car.

So, a late inclusion for Muse into my live arena, but hopefully, not the last from this wonderful band.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Before going to see 9 to 5, I only knew three things about the show: Two songs and the fact it’s famous for Country and Western songwriter, Dolly Parton. And as the show kicks off, we get to see two of those with a video intro from Dolly before launching the title song, 9 to 5. A nice touch, but not needed as the cast straight from the start have the audience’s full attention with excellent song and dance, full of energy and perfected skill.

I had a special interest in this show, however, as Here for You was one of the first numbers I ever sang solo in my own stage exploits during a concert. Sitting centre of the stalls on row B, I got almost as good a view of Doralee (Ahem!) as when I was on stage.

Now, twenty minutes into the show and with both songs I was familiar with having already gone, I wondered if it had peaked for me. Not a chance. It does always help if I know songs, but such was the calibre of delivery, it didn’t matter. Around Here, Backwoods Barbie, Heart to Hart, Change It and Shine Like the Sun were all amazing. Great vocals with equally matching choreography.

Set in the 1980s, 9 to 5 is the tale of three women fighting their boss for equality, and leading the pack, former Eternal star, Louise Redknapp was outstanding as Violet. Then we had Amber Davies playing Judy and I have to say, what a shining performance, especially during Get Out and Stay Out. But how can anyone fit into the heels of Dolly Parton? Well, Georgina Castle did, and Dolly would be proud. The trio really worked well together and looked a close-knit team

Supporting well, though were Lucinda Lawrence as the devoted assistant, Roz, to the sexist Franklin Hart Jnr (Sean Needham). And we also had Christopher Jordan Marshall (Joe), Jemima Loddy (Missy), and finally, Laura Tyrer as the gloriously alcoholic Margaret.

9 to 5 is simply a fantastic feelgood show, full of laughs included in a good script from Patricia Resnik. But credit to the production on this tour who made the whole experience unforgettable. Jeff Calhoun (Director), Lisa Stevens (Choreographer) and Mark Crossland (Musical Director) led a great team.

A good indicator of how much I enjoy a show is if I immediately purchase an original cast recording. And I have (Well, streamed it, at least). This is a show not just for fans of Dolly Parton, but everyone. One of the best I’ve seen and appreciated by the entire audience on my visit.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Let me take you back to the dark days of the 1980s. We had Thatcher (Ugh!), Orgreave, and just about every other abomination resulting from a decade of Tory control. However, it’s Friday after a night out in Brum and a few of us retreat to my mate, Ian’s, house. Here, with punk on the wane and before pretty-boy, bland, Depeche Mode became a cult institution, Ian treated me to music that … well, things you didn’t hear on Radio One (Unless you listened to Peel). One of these was a punk rock poet and I’d always say. “Put that guy on. You know … Nigel Wants to go to C&A and Russians in the D.H.S.S. Ian would oblige. I loved it. Then I got married and for the next fifteen years culture revolved around a surreal nightmare containing the Pet Shop Boys. Finally, my divorce and freedom with YouTube, Myspace and Facebook. Here, I began writing again and to my delight, I rediscovered Attila the Stockbroker.

I’ve seen Attila a few times now and the Kitchen Garden Café in King’s Heath is a great venue with character and intimacy. I sat on the front row. Then, showing the results of a bad flu virus and wearing a t-shirt of a man swinging his bollocks, Attila took centre stage.

You must hear him to understand, but I’ll try and explain. There is something familiar and at home about Attila the Stockbroker. Like the friend who always speaks sense. And I find myself agreeing a lot, I have to say.

Such heart-warming poignancy at times, but with an edge that cuts: The Leppings Lane End, Never Forget and Aunty Rose. But then you have the downright outrageous (and glorious) in A Hellish Encounter. What I enjoyed this time was material I had not heard before, but also renditions of oldies which have evolved over time. Libyan Students from Hell are now Corbyn Supporters from Hell, and I am proud to include myself in the latter. Plus, the classics too. I don’t think I’ll ever use someone else’s sleeping bag after hearing about Joseph Porter’s. And then there was the obligatory singalong to Prince Harry’s Knob.

If ever Attila is in town, go and see him. I can guarantee entertainment of the highest quality. And I picked up a recent CD and two books this time.

I haven’t seen my mate Ian for many years, but I’ll always be grateful to him for introducing me to Attila the Stockbroker. Punk rock isn’t dead, and neither is poetry.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Just who the hell is Alan Menken? Let Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) enlighten you.

The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors and Pocahontas are just some of the shows by this wonderful songwriter and composer. Tunes from these and many more, including AMCS’s 2020 production of Sister Act will be featured in a showcase concert at The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock at the end of November.

AMCS have been producing quality shows for over 50 years and Magic of Menken will be no exception. With a talented cast, AMCS also benefit from having Mark Bayliss as Musical Director (Directing/Producing this time around too) and Sarah Beckett in charge of choreography. These are two people most companies can only dream of having so expect great vocals and harmony combined with excellent dance: Be Our Guest, Zero to Hero, I See the Light and Topsy Turvy, to name but a few.

One thing is sure, an AMCS audience always goes home happy and with mainstream theatre so expensive, this is a great alternative.

Magic of Menken is on 28 to 30 November 2019 (1930 start) at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock. Prices are £14/Adult with Concessions and Under 16s/£12.

Tickets are available by calling 07588 141841 or the Box Office on 01543 578762. Alternatively, you purchase online.

BUY TICKETS ONLINE HERE

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

It’s amazing to think that Soho Cinders is only the third outing for Third from the Right Productions. And it’s been a privilege to experience all the shows from this talented lot. And how they’ve grown. From a cast of six in Shout, to eight in Disenchanted, and now a full company with a massive 24.

Loosely based on the fairytale of Cinderella, Soho Cinders sees us in modern day London with our own Cinders (Robbie) trying to juggle his love life between the possessive Lord Bellingham and London Mayoral candidate, James Prince. Other elements from Cinderella include the ugly sisters in Clodagh and Dana (Two 1970s Eurovision names, perhaps?) and Robbie’s best friend, Velcro, who is unrequitedly in love with him. Of course. Velcro/Buttons. Took me a minute to get that one. Simple but clever.

In Styles and Drew, Soho Cinders have songwriters of the highest calibre, having been previously given the job by Cameron Mackintosh to add new songs to enhance the classic Mary Poppins for the stage, plus, the recent revival of Half a Sixpence.

Playing Robbie was Joshua Hawkins who gave a good performance, excelling in the number, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers. Opposite, him, Prince Charming was Adam Siviter who combined well with Hawkins on Gypsies of the Ether.

The last time I saw Kerry Davies and Sarah Coussens with Third From the Right, they played a clinically insane Belle and an out-of-rehab mermaid in Disenchanted, Now with more serious roles, they worked brilliantly together as Velcro and Marilyn in one of the numbers of the night – Let Him Go. Another performance of note was Carl Cook as the shady William, especially with The Tail That Wags the Dog. And I can’t mention character performances without heaping loads of praise on Gillian Homer and Natalie Baggott as Dana and Clodagh, especially during their rendition of Fifteen Minutes.

Supporting well on the night, we had Tony Newbold (Lord Bellingham), Amy Pearson (Sidesaddle), Kaz Luckins (Sasha) and Jake Winwood (Customer and Goldfish Man). Finally, adding narrative to proceedings was Matt Dudley.

As I have said already, Soho Cinders was a step-up with the introduction of chorus, and these new members worked well with energy and enthusiasm. It must be difficult for a relatively new company to build up camaraderie and a family atmosphere, but Third from the Right pulled it off.

Other top numbers of the night for me included: Old Compton Street, You Shall Go to the Ball and Who’s That Boy?

At the helm in production and having done a great job was Gaynor Whitehouse with direction and choreography, assisted by Jez Luckins and Dave Gardner. And in charge of an effective five-piece band, with high standards as ever, was Chris Corcoran.

The only criticism I would have of the show has nothing to do with production or cast, it is that the script felt a bit sluggish as times with not enough laughs. This I’d put down to the writers combining their obvious songwriting talents with delivering the book. You really do have to be top drawer in all departments to achieve this. Also, some of the lines could have made Robbie and James more likable. As it was, I had little empathy for them and more so those they left behind.

Still, we had a good show complete with a vibrant ending. A new dawn for a wonderful company. Long may they continue.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

What came first, the stage or the movie? That’s a question sometimes asked when attending a performance which has been showcased in both mediums. And it might surprise a few that Grease was on Broadway six years before the 1978 Newton-John/Travolta film, such is the iconic status of that version. As with Annie recently, I had seen neither. Okay, I probably have seen most of Grease, one way or another in bits during the million and one times it’s been on TV, but this was a first for me, viewing from start to finish.

So how did it start? Quite well actually. In a predominantly female audience, we had a good opening with Grease is the Word by the company before the legendary Summer Nights. However, for me, this summer night didn’t get going until the energetic and brilliantly choreographed Greased Lightening. A great showcase by all involved; it was amazing.

But then we had a series of lulls. The show did drop several times with a risk of the audience losing interest. As a writer, I immediately saw that some of this was the script, but also the energy on stage fell too. These lapses were only temporary, though, and it wasn’t long before things picked up again. The script is nearly fifty years old now, so maybe it’s time for an update to give a more contemporary feel in terms of language and structure.

The same can be said for Act Two which did not become exciting until Hand Jive. In fact, the several preceding minutes were mostly irrelevant. Which is a crime. You really must make every word count.

It really lifted, though, with my number of the night, Hopelessly Devoted to You. This was sung with passion and quality by Martha Kirby (Sandy) who gave a five-star performance throughout the evening.

In the opposite lead role was Dan Partridge who delivered a softer Danny than might have previously been seen. He did well, though, and it’s nice to vary things with a different interpretation.

Playing Kenickie, we had the excellent Louis Grant, more in tone of what I would expect of a Danny. Also giving a good showing was Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky as the formidable Rizzo.

The above were well supported by numerous T-Birds and Pink Ladies. But I did have one criticism here. All the male and female characters in the respective groups seemed … generic, with little distinction between them, which was a shame.

Then came Teen Angel. On the night we had TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing winner, Ore Oduba. This is a cameo role, but I have to say, I do love Beauty School Dropout.

Other numbers of the night to note included: There Are Worse Things I Could Do, You’re the One That I Want, Sandy and the rousing We Go Together.

The director for Grease was Nikolai Foster with musical direction from Neil MacDonald. I cannot praise enough, though, the choreography from Arlene Phillips. No more than expected from one of her experience, but what the show needed anyway.

All in all, a decent, likeable offering, but probably not one I’d see again.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The Sun’ll come out tomorrow.

Well, I certainly felt it had last week at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Confession time. I’ve never seen the original Annie film or watched a stage version. I did sample the 2014 movie remake, though, which I thoroughly enjoyed but knew it differed in style to the traditionals. Therefore, I approached this show with an open mind of the unknown. I am happy to say then, I enjoyed this stage Annie from start to finish.

Beginning in the orphanage, we immediately see the magnificent stage presence which was to compliment a powerful song and dance performance by leading lady, Mia Lakha as Annie. A lovely vocal opener with Maybe was followed by a kick-ass rendition of Hard Knock Life, sung with attitude by all the orphanage kids. And it’s those kids too I must also heap great praise on. Zara Bench (who was amazing as little Molly), Kacey Agwuegbo (Duffy), Dulcie Allsop (Tessie), Marie Peedle (Pepper), Saskia Salmon (July) and Sophia Smith (Kate) were all outstanding. What young talent, indeed. Great dancing, too.

Then, we had the entrance of the top-billed actress and Jodie Prenger (as Miss Hannigan) gave a five-star performance. A great character throughout, delivering comedy alongside impressive vocals, particularly during the gloriously over-the-top, Little Girls.

In the role of Daddy Warbucks we had Alex Bourne and like Prenger, he led with a commanding and likable character. Also supporting well though was Carolyn Maitland (Grace), Richard Meek (Rooster) and Jenny Gayner (Lily). Then we had the remainder of the cast who are too many to mention but all were of the highest quality.

Song highlights other than those already mentioned were Hooverville, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, You Won’t Be an Orphan for Long, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile and I Don’t Need Anything but You. A special mention must also go to the brilliant Easy Street and I cannot review Annie without singling out the iconic Tomorrow.

Although an old musical now and set in 1933, there was a real contemporary feel to this Annie which is a credit to production who kept it fast-paced all the way through. The cast and crew can be well proud and each of them fully deserved their ovation at the end, especially Little Orphan Annie.

For this production, the director was Nikolai Foster with excellent choreography by Nick Winston and musical direction – Daniel Griffin.

Not knowing what to expect is always the risk when going to the theatre, especially when the previous visit to the same venue was the appalling Joseph and his Awful Technicolour Dreamcoat. However, not only did Annie deliver the entertainment, I rank it as the best and certainly most enjoyable show of the year so far.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My only previous experience of Rainbow Pantomimes was their excellent 2017 Cinderella; therefore, I had no hesitation in seeing what else they had to offer.

Music on My Mind was written by Producer and Musical Director, Danny Teitge, and staged to raise awareness for dementia. Plus, it was an excellent showcase a wealth of local talent.

Blending poignant narrative with well-chosen songs, Music on My Mind took us on a journey of one man’s life. Jimmy, played with sensitivity by Nadine Sandle, has memory problems in his later years and seeks help from a therapist (Jonathan Poutney) to re-live and experience the full impact of his life.

I must admit, the opening sequences were very dark indeed. However, this is a method I totally approve of, bearing in mind the subject matter. The opening chorus number (Let the Sunshine In) had a surreal effect and set the scene well. I did find some of the dialogue a bit stilted and awkward on occasions, with instances of dead stage times, but again, maybe this was needed.

Throughout, we were treated to great tunes delivered in top fashion by an enthusiastic and energetic cast: When I Grow Up, With You, Tell Me it’s Not True, Nicest Kids in Town and What a Wonderful World were just a few examples of this. Top of the night for me, though, was the full cast version of From Now On, led in powerful style by Jack Rubery (Young Jimmy).

Supporting well we had Helen Holis (Dora), Jodie Bragan (Lily), Amy Cooper (Rose) and Laura Stevens (Debbie).

At the end of the show we’ve come full circle with a reprise of the opening number and this time it’s more upbeat, a celebration, and life is like that when looking back. No matter how hard the times, there should always be something to smile about. A good message for all.

Also on the production team was Amy Louise, responsible for the excellent choreography, and she brought the best out of a predominantly young cast.

Rainbow’s next show sees them return to their pantomime roots with Babes in the Wood early next year. I highly recommend a trip to see it.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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