Archive for February, 2019


I’m always excited to encounter new talent and in Cinderella, Coleshill Operatic Society certainly delivered the goods.

Cinderella – Coleshill Town Hall – February 1 2019

This pantomime had all the ingredients one would expect and more. From the obligatory “It’s behind you,” to doses of “Oh no it isn’t,” we also saw tricycle riding dames and even a pantomime horse (Something I’ve not seen for a few years). I did laugh, though, during the bows when one child shouted out “Where’s the horse?” Come on, give the cast their moment.

The show had a bright opening with a number from Hairspray, renamed Good Morning Balti-More. This set the tone for an evening of high entertainment which didn’t disappoint. The only downside I found was the script, and I know it’s the script because I’ve experienced this version before and made similar comments in my review back then. Some scenes were over wordy with not enough jokes. This meant the cast carrying the show through talent and character which I am glad to say they did in abundance.

Two stand-out roles for me were our romantic leads in Lucia Owen-Small (Cinderella) and Molly Bennett (Prince Charming). Both portrayed their parts in superb fashion and excelled in the duet, Love at First Sight. Supporting well, though, was Jack Deakin playing a wonderfully camp Dandini and Joyce Eyre as our Fairy Godmother. Then, holding everything together, we had the reliable and lovestruck Buttons (Tom Willson). Now, I always feel sorry for Buttons as everyone really wants him to win Cinderella’s hand, but we know he never will. This is something that needs addressing (laughs wickedly) one day by a brave writer. You see, I always find it weird that Charming states Cinders is the most beautiful girl in the world, yet he can’t recall what she looks like without trying on a shoe.

Comic relief came from two sides. First, we had our Ugly Sisters in Chardonnay (Kelvin McArdle) and Shiraz (Lloyd Cast). Now, personally, I am not a fan of the traditional masculine dame, feeling the role has had its day, however, these two did what it said on the tin and thoroughly entertained the audience throughout. And we had a second helping of pantomime stooges in Mr Snitch (Pete Slater) and Mr Snatch (Jeff Martin), both going about their characters’ incompetence in a very Chuckle Brothers’ style. Rounding off our principals was a dastardly evil Lady Devilla (Natalie Broacher), the weak-willed Baron Hard-Up (John Kerr) and Major Domo (Robert Dutton). Oh, and I can’t forget the two halves of Bright Eyes in Clare Willson and Rachel Evans.

So many more good tunes during the show, among them: I’m a Believer, You’ve Got a Friend in Me and How Can I Live Without Your Love. One delight for me, though (and a complete shock), was the inclusion of What Do I Do Now? from A Slice of Saturday Night. Reason for this, it was the most obscure number used in my own Sleeping Beauty pantomime last year and I’m amazed anybody else had heard of it (Nobody in my company had). Brought tears to my eyes hearing it. And preceding the bows, a little audience participation with the jolly (but terribly irritating) I Like the Flowers, a song guaranteed to stay in your head for days. Well … it’s for the kids, isn’t it.

Direction for Cinderella came courtesy of Tim Willson with choreography by Rachel Evans. Then, leading a good three-piece band on top of musical direction was Tim Harding.

Coleshill seems a friendly society and everyone on stage looked to have enjoyed performing the show as much as those in the audience did watching it. My first opportunity to witness this society but not my last.

Cinderella – Coleshill Town Hall – February 1 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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This was my fourth time seeing Frank Turner and first in an arena venue. And as with previous experiences, one thing you can guarantee from Frank is entertainment. So much energy, the guy and the band keep going at a breath-taking pace, much like Frank’s work schedule.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Birmingham Arena – 22 January 2019 © Antony N Britt 2019

We are informed this is show 2299. Now, even if you divide that by his adult years, it still averages out at well over one hundred shows a year. Then you consider the seven studio albums since 2007 and you appreciate the tag of The Busiest Guy in Rock. However, there is a downside. With a huge catalogue of songs, it does mean many of my favourites are left out of a two-hour set. Dammit, I’ve still never heard Father’s Day live!

Still, with each new studio album comes a host of material and 2018s Be More Kind is no exception in quality: 1933, Blackout and Little Changes are but to mention three of these. Mix with the back catalogue and you have a show that delights the fan and hopefully pleases recent converts.

Always great to hear Photosynthesis, Recovery, The Road, Don’t Try This at Home and I Still Believe. Also, my atheist anthem, Glory Hallelujah. Heck, my evening was complete. Well, complete bar Father’s Day, Frank. It was also pleasing to hear Love, Ire and Song, not played for a few years, apparently.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Birmingham Arena – 22 January 2019 © Antony N Britt 2019

We had music, crowd surfing, plus a little dance with audience members for the final number, Four Simple Words. I was exhausted merely watching. Good humour and banter along with crowd participation. And an apology for missing Birmingham out last time around. In fact, this was my first reunion with the man in five years as previous local shows have coincided with productions of my own. I hope the next isn’t too far away, probably at this rate, with a new album. And let’s not forget the Sleeping Souls: Ben Lloyd, Tarrant Anderson, Matt Nasir and Nigel Powell, always a magnificent contribution to the show.

The only thing I would note as a minor negative is nothing to do with Frank Turner, it’s just the crowd were not as lively as my previous encounters. This could be to do with a larger arena venue and maybe the energy is less likely to be infectious due to the greater number of people to share it with. I didn’t care. It was a great show by a great showman.


Frank Turner - Be More Kind Signed

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My only other experience of a Birmingham Rep festive production was three years ago with a very lacklustre (and far too arty) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. So, how did The Wizard of Oz compare?

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

In his programme notes, director Liam Steel states he didn’t want the production to be a carbon copy of the 1939 MGM musical (No problem there) while saying something about the world today. Now, I am a big advocate of updating films, TV, or stage shows into modern versions, but this wasn’t achieved here. With no clear vision, what we had was a mismatch of old and new which couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.

Yes, the cast were talented, and visual effects, despite being ambitious, paid off, especially the phantoms in the forest. But that’s where greatness ended. This was the end of the run and you would expect the cast to want to bow out with a bang. What you got, though, was a feeling of those on stage going through the motions.

One of the main problems is the original template which the team had to work with. The script is dull, my God, and I don’t mean mildly, either. Clunky dialogue was delivered too fast at times and I was thankful for the subtitles. And perhaps the memory cheats but I can’t remember the film being this boring. There are no sub-plots with scenes overly drawn out, making this a very long trip to the Emerald City. Into Act Two, with surreal moments meeting the Jitterbugs and Winkies (Yes … I know), this wasn’t enough to stop one of my party falling asleep.

Performances were okay but I had little or no empathy with the characters. When watching a stage performance I like to be drawn into that world, something which should come easy with The Wizard of Oz. But I had none of that.

I expected the show to be colourful and fast-paced. Instead it was drab and tedious. Costumes appeared to have come from a charity shop and whether this was an intentional concept, all it succeeded was to give the impression of cheap. And why was the Lion dressed to look like an Oompa Loompa?

One other point, we had a lovely little dog playing Toto in Kansas, however, when transported to Oz, the live dog was replaced by a puppet. Nice idea but the puppet did nothing bar hang around in the background looking neither funny or clever.

Something of interest to also note: We are told at the end Miss Gulch has broken her arm (or leg. By now I didn’t care). Well, if that’s the case, she still has the court order and is free to come and kill Toto when she recovers.

Musical direction was by George Dyer. However, I felt the orchestra was subdued at times and lost underneath the vocals. Also, there seemed little choreography. Very disappointing.

Playing Dorothy (whose Kansas accent disappeared after twenty minutes) was Chrisara Ago. Other cast members included Kelly Agbowu (Lion), Ed Wade (Scarecrow), Dillion Scott-Lewis (Tin Man), Lorna Laidlaw (Wizard), Jos Vantyler (Wicked Witch of the West), Thomas Vernal (Oz Guard) and Shanay Holmes (Aunty Em).

So, a second chance at the Rep for a festive show and a second dud. Don’t think I’ll try again.

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

Always a good show from Bournville Musical Theatre Company (BMTC) and The Best of British was no exception.

The Best of British– Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 27 October 2018

Split into several sections in either act, we had a powerful opening with two James Bond numbers (Live and Let Die and The Writing’s on the Wall) led by Rob Wheeler and Claire Brough, respectively.

An early joy for me were two tunes from Me and My Girl, a show I am due to perform in May. Here, a jolly Leaning on a Lamp from Kris Evans (and dancers) followed by the lovely Once You Lose Your Heart (Michelle Orton). A magic moment, indeed. Then, a great offering of Sweeny Todd’s, Worst Pies in London from Natalie Buzzard who is surely one of the best character actresses on the amateur dramatics circuit.

Now, I didn’t know what to expect from A Poultry Tale as the version from Honk I am familiar with is a bit lame (if you forgive the duck pun). However, Bournville’s full company outing was full of life and humour.

BMTC is a wealth of talent and it was pleasing to see many previously not in the spotlight, given the chance to shine. Magic moments came from Lily Moore (All That Matters), Greg Boughton (If Ever I Would Leave You), Rachael Fox (Don’t Cry for Me Argentina), Chloe Turner (As Long as He Needs Me) and Teresa Fittro (The Mist). And then we had a wonderful nostalgic trip (literally) with Those Were the Days, sung with great feeling by Sarah Debono.

It wasn’t only solos though. Chloe Turner led the ladies well with Somebody to Love while Jimmy Van Hear did likewise with the lads in The Stars Look Down. Now I’m not a fan of the Lion King’s Circle of Life but fronted by Lisa Colvin-Grieve, this company number really stood out. Fun was had with a surreal Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Chris Britt, John Clay and Company) and The Song That Goes Like This (Phil Snowe and Siobhan Ganley). Finally, the show was rounded off with a full company presentation of Raise You Up.

In May, BMTC perform Oliver and we had three tunes to promote this in Who Will Buy, Oom Pah Pah, and the previously mentioned As Long as He Needs Me. I can guarantee from this evidence the audience will be in for a treat and you can get your tickets here.

The production and some choreography from The Best of British was in the hands of Kris Evans and Adam Slack with musical direction from Chris Corcoran. Additional choreography was split between Helen Gauntlett, Karen Lane, David Page and Chloe Turner.

The only downside on the night was the curse of Am Dram in the form of sound problems, but that was vastly overshadowed by the Best of British talent.

The Best of British– Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 27 October 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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