Archive for June, 2018


I love youth theatre. I’ve seen a fair bit in the past couple of years and however much I enjoy professional and amateur productions, youth theatre is where it begins.

I’d not heard of Back to the 80s before but being (Ahem!) a certain age, the tunes were familiar to me. I’d also not had any experience so far of Birmingham Youth Theatre but on the night, was not disappointed.

Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Back to the 80s is a coming of age, feelgood romp set in the senior year of William Ocean High School (nice pun) and told retrospectively through the narrative of Corey Palmer Senior (Callum Byrne). Characters are split into the familiar which you would relate to from any school experience. We had the regular kids, the cool guys (Were they ever really cool in our school days?), the popular girls, the outcasts and the teachers. With a decent script from Neil Gooding, the show is brought to life immediately with Kids in America. Okay, I was sold, and suddenly seventeen again.

And the numbers kept coming: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Total Eclipse of the Heart, Material Girl, Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car) and The Final Countdown. These were just a selection which made Back to the 80s such a blast. Ending the night, we had I’ve Had the Time of My Life, a song which has never been a favourite of mine, but one perfect to finish on. Also, strangely, another song which I openly dislike, ended being my top tune in We Are the World.

Founded in 1987, Birmingham Youth Theatre stage two shows a year, featuring talent up to 19 years of age. And talent was very much on view. What impressed me most was that nobody was left out. Everyone appeared to have dialogue and more importantly, solo lines during the songs. All delivered in great style.

Playing the lead role of Callum Junior was Dylan Mulholland who turned in a fine performance. Equally so were Sam Cox (Mr Cocker), Georgia Taylor (Miss Brannigan), Cameron Simpson (Billy), Zak Hayes (Michael), Anna Simpson (Cyndi), Harry Chamberlain (Fergal) and Maddison Clarke (Tiffany). However, those were the principles. I never normally stretch as far as naming an entire cast, but the whole of BYT deserve it, so I will. This includes: Sydney Pope (Mel), Wiktoria Matysiak (Kim), Molly Ewins (Laura), Abbie Hudson (Debbie), Kishan Sambhi (Alf), Daniel Bromley (Kirk) and Holly-Mae Nelson (Eileen). In the chorus, we had Saran Sambhi, Abigail Guest, Abi Shiriane and Karina Galloway. Lastly, a special mention to the lad who appeared to be the youngest member; Dylan-Jak O’Dwyer who portrayed several comic mini characters including Yoda, Mr Miagi and Mario.

In charge of production we had Adam Swift (Director), Chris Corcoran (Musical Director) and Sam Depper (Choreography).

After the curtains closed I was, as often, the solitary sole applauding the band’s play-out music (Everyone always forgets the band). And I could hear from the stage the cries of “We are BYT! We are BYT!” Something to be proud of, indeed.


Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

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A month ago I saw Legally Blonde at The Crescent Theatre, performed by the brilliant Bournville Musical Theatre Company. As I enjoyed that so much, I thought I’d take the opportunity of seeing the touring production at the New Alexander Theatre.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Unlike last month, the opening was low-key, and the show took time to build the energy, perhaps needing some of that Red Bull Elle drinks in the show. I guess some of the atmosphere came from the fact this was a matinee with the auditorium barely a third full, which was a pity as it was a great show.

Legally Blonde is fast climbing the list of my top shows and this performance did nothing to harm that. In the role of Elle we had Rebecca Stenhouse, standing in due to the illness of Lucie Jones. Well, I never watch X-Factor or Eurovision, so had no knowledge of Lucie, and could therefore appreciate the characterisation with an open mind. And what a good portrayal she gave. Suited the role perfectly, giving a faultless showing with strong voice and acting.

Playing Paulette, the top billing went to former EastEnders actress. Rita Simons, who captured the role well, making Ireland one of the best numbers. I did think Paulette’s outfits weren’t oddball enough, but this did not detract from Rita’s performance. Also from the world of soaps we had Bill Ward, last seen plunging from a bridge in Emmerdale. He made the perfect Callaghan.

I have said the atmosphere grew throughout and the culmination of this was an energetic finale, complete with pink ticker-tape, much of which I found on me hours later. Best number of the day for me was Legally Blonde itself. However, Gay or European did not live up to my previous experiences. A slight downside also was that dialogue seemed a little rushed on occasions. Still, a show full of memorable numbers: Bend and Snap, What You Want, Positive, So Much Better and Take it Like a Man were all highlights of an enjoyable afternoon.

Also appearing were David Barrett (Emmett), Liam Doyle (Warner), Laura Harrison (Vivienne), Helen Petrova (Whitney/Brooke Wyndham), Ben Harlow (Kyle), Mark Peachey (Winthrop/Dewey), Alexandra Wright (Margot), Rachel Grundy (Serena), Delycia Belgrave (Pilar), Nancy Hill (Enid Hoops), Rosie Needham (Kate/Chutney), Michael Hamway (Aaron Shultz), Felipe Bejarano (Sundeep/Nikos), Lucyelle Cliffe (Judge/Pforzheiner/Store Manager), Sally Frith (Gaelen), Brett Shields (Grand Master Chad), Craig Tyler (Carlos) and Laura Mullowney (Swing).

Legally Blonde was directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams with co-choreography from Dean Street. The musical director was James McCullagh.

The second production of Legally Blonde I have experienced within a few weeks, and I would see a third if the chance came. A great show that I’d highly recommend if it comes your way.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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