Archive for August, 2019


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

%d bloggers like this: