Archive for July, 2022


And another one bites the dust.

Well, at least another musical off the tick list. I’m a massive fan of Queen, and a musical theatre fan, but I’d never seen We Will Rock You until this showing. Okay, I was supposed to see it two years ago, then Covid came calling. Finally, though, I got to experience what it’s all about.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

I have never witnessed a show like We Will Rock You before. Or rather, never been faced with two extremes. On one hand, the cast and band with their musical performances were outstanding. As good as anything I have ever seen or heard. Then on the other, you have the book by Ben Elton. I can honestly say, it is awful. I’d compare it to a low-grade GCSE project, but that would be unfair to the students. Little or no plot, terrible script, and contrived that many lines are only there as an excuse to wring out another Queen number. Many of the songs are irrelevant to the plot as well: Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Flash, The Show Must Go On and Fat Bottomed Girls. All fillers which do not move the (tenuous at best) story along. Not only that, many are not even great Queen songs. No One But You (Only the Good Die Young), These are the Days of Our Lives and Radio Ga Ga are average at best. Even the title number, We Will Rock You, is vastly inferior to the fast live version from Queen gigs of old. At least we got a cameo of that in the bows.

And then there were the characters as written. Little to them and only made good by the excellence of those in the roles. We are introduced to Meat and Brit, whose characters are built up to be major influences on developments, then both are discarded, having served their purpose.

The dialogue was filled with song puns, like “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really, want,” then “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and the comment that the truth is “Blowin’ in the wind.” One or two maybe, but when you’re on the 30th pun, you want to scream. And that was just Act One. Similarly, did we really need four Covid references? Less is good; no chance of overkill. But you didn’t need to kill Ben Elton’s script as it was dead already in an act of suicide by the writer.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

But I still enjoyed the show. Well, mostly. This was because, as I have mentioned, the cast were phenomenal. I can’t give them enough praise. In the role of Galileo was Ian McIntosh who was out of this world. I Want to Break Free, in particular. Similarly, Elena Skye gave one of the best vocal performances I have ever seen. Let’s face it, unless you can deliver with power, sass, and stage presence, don’t even try to sing Somebody to Love. Skye was brilliant. Best number of the night.

Michael McKell played Cliff and he gave a good rendition of These Are the Days of Our Lives. Likewise, Martina Ciabatti Mennel (Meat) and Edward Leigh (Brit) were on top of their game, the former, excellent in No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) and together with I Want it All.

The villains of the piece were Jennifer O’Leary (Killer Queen) and Adam Strong (Khashoggi). Both were superb. O’Leary with Don’t Stop Me Now and Strong giving us Seven Seas of Rhye, plus together on A Kind of Magic.

And I must mention the band: Zachary Fils, Matt Herbert, James Barber, Simon Croft, Neil Murray, and  Dave Cottrell. All delivered a sound of pure rock genius and it was wonderful to see them invited into the bows and take front stage at the end.

So, a standing ovation for the performances, they were excellent. Shame about the script, though. It says it all when there are only seven named principals in a show and half of them only used when needed. Ben Elton — Could have done a whole lot better. Perhaps he was Under Pressure when he wrote this book.

What! Bad pun? Jeez, it must be catching.

Cheers.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

Antony N Britt 

“Rama lama lama, ka dinga da dinga dong.” 

At least that’s what I think the lyrics are. I performed We Go Together in panto and I don’t think I ever got the words right. 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

At short notice, I went to see Grease (School Edition) by Script Youth Musical Theatre Company, and I was so glad I did. Always a supporter of local companies and youth theatre and from the moment the show began, I knew I was going to enjoy the evening.

I’m not going to go over the plot of Grease (Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey) and this was the first time I have seen a junior edition of any show. Shorter and more suitable for younger cast members, this edition keeps the fun and spirit of the original version. To be honest, I’ve only seen Grease once before and apart from the removal of the pregnancy plot and alternative version of Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, I didn’t notice many more differences. I’m sure there were but the fact I was so immersed in the show is a credit to a wonderful performance by all on stage.

In the role of Sandy was Erin Mooney who was superb in her headline number (and my favourite Grease song), Hopelessly Devoted to You. Likewise, Ollie Roberts as Danny channelled his best Travolta with Sandy, and both captured their roles perfectly.

Unless living on a deserted island for the last 50 years, everyone has heard of You’re the One That I Want, Summer Nights and Greased Lightening, but there are many more feelgood songs in this show. One not just for principals, but a large ensemble as well of which there was plenty of talent. Shakin’ at the High School Hop, Born to Hand Jive, Mooning and Freddy My Love are all good numbers and certainly had the audience full of applause after each.

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

In addition to the main two, Grease is full of excellent supporting characters and to be successful you need the right people in the roles. Now when I watch a youth production, one person often registers with me more than others and on this occasion, it was Evie Rice as Rizzo. Yes, it’s an iconic role but you need excellence to fulfil its potential. Evie was in character right from the go, full of sass and attitude, facial expressions, and reactions consistent throughout. Evie tells in her programme biography that Rizzo is a “Strong character, so unlike herself,” which made the performance even more remarkable. And superb in There are Worse Things I Could Do. Well done.

Another great moment was Beauty School Dropout with Finlay Laidlaw doubling as Teen Angel alongside his T-Bird, Doody. It is one of my guilty pleasures, partaking in OTT performances and Finlay was on top of his game in this number; the audience showing its love and appreciation as deserved.

Grease is a great show by the fact there are plenty of principal roles in which to shine. Harry Robbins (Kenickie), Aimie Whillis (Frenchy), Josef Hammond (Sonny), Reanne Witheridge (Marty), Zachariah Scrivens (Roger) and Bethany Sall (Jan) all gave so much.

And there were a further 23 on stage in terms of excellent dancers and ensemble. Amature Theatre is for everyone with each as important as the lead. This is a nice company which showed enthusiasm throughout, the reaction to the deserved applause appreciated. Script Youth is also managed well. I felt welcomed on arrival and throughout the experience.

In charge of Production and Choreography was Louise Farmer who can be immensely proud of her cast and crew. Assisting, though, on Choreography was youth member, Molly Chamberlain, who also figured in a principal role as Patty the Cheerleader. Musical Direction was in safe hands with stalwart of Midlands Theatre, Chris Corcoran overseeing an excellent band.

A Lovely, enjoyable evening out and I look forward to more from Script Youth Musical Theatre Company. They prove youth and theatre do go together.

With a “Shoo-bop sha wadda wadda, yippity boom de boom.” 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Almost three years since I bought tickets for the Hella Mega Tour, I finally got to see Green Day. Two postponements due to Covid lockdowns later, was it worth the wait?

It wasn’t just Green Day on the bill, though, but also Weezer and Fall Out Boy, neither whom I had seen before, despite having several albums. There was also Amyl and the Sniffers with a short set, which I was unfortunately unable to see due to the staff at The John Smith Stadium being unable to cope with a large crowd on the pitch.

Yes, this is a gig review, but I must also mention the venue, this being the worst stadium experience I have ever had. Where on earth did John Smith’s organisers do their research … Hillsborough? Inadequate toilets, about a dozen burger vans and beer tent with hour-long queues to cater for thousands, then the entire pitch’s spectators directed in and out of the same narrow entry/exit. This was a disaster in the making, which thankfully did not happen.

On with the music.

I love Weezer, have always wanted to see them so although I bought tickets primarily for Green Day, Weezer were a delightful bonus. And I was not disappointed. From the moment Rivers Cosmo launched into Hash Pipe, then the brilliant Beverley Hills, the audience were entranced. Pork and Beans and Undone (The Sweater Song) soon followed among many more until ending with Say it Ain’t So and the classic Buddy Holly.

Green Day/Fall Out Boy/Weezer (Hella Mega Tour)—John Smith Stadium Huddersfield —25 June 2022 ©Antony N Britt 2022

There were also two strange choices of covers. Question. Should anyone cover Metalica’s Enter Sandman? Some songs are sacred. Then we had the horror of a cover of Toto’s Africa, a tune second only to Broken Wings by Mr. Mister for its ability to induce projectile vomiting.

But Weezer are a fun band. And a good band. What they do is entertain, and I certainly felt that at The John Smith Stadium.

Then came Fall Out Boy. I can’t say I’m a massive fan. I’ve listened to them but there is always a niggle over what they want to be. A pop band pretending to be rock? The music seems too manufactured for rock audiences at times. And it doesn’t help when your lead singer lacks the stage presence that bassist and chief songwriter, Pete Wentz has.

Green Day/Fall Out Boy/Weezer (Hella Mega Tour)—John Smith Stadium Huddersfield —25 June 2022

But it was a harmless set, with numbers including Sugar We’re Going Down, A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More “Touch Me,” This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race and Thnks Fr Th Mmrs. One thing of curiosity; halfway through we had a needless interruption for Fall Out Boy to change their already OTT set for a smaller one with a second drum set on a wobbly wooden house surrounded by cheap picket fencing which looked like a full-size version of a Year 7 Show and Tell Project. FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER! Then they changed it back after a couple of songs. Bizarre.

But at least we had Green Day to come, although even with them being one of my top bands of all time, I felt short-changed. I’m used to getting nearly three hours of Green Day. Heck, you normally can’t get them off stage. What we had instead was a streamlined 90 minutes which was over before you knew it. I’d have preferred to have Fall Out Boy kicked into touch and give Green Day the extra hour.

But what they did was epic. You had the traditional Drunk Bunny beforehand and then what better opener than American Idiot? Holiday, Know Your Enemy and Boulevard of Broken Dreams followed before an interrupted Longview when Billie Joe Armstrong saw people struggling in the crowd. This was not an isolated incident as I saw evidence of several panic attacks in a poorly segregated arena. There was a further incident which led to an impromptu version of Ziggy Stardust by Billie Joe. It seemed like that anyway as the Bowie song didn’t make an appearance anywhere else on the UK leg of the tour.

Green Day/Fall Out Boy/Weezer (Hella Mega Tour)—John Smith Stadium Huddersfield —25 June 2022 ©Antony N Britt 2022

Welcome to Paradise, Hitchin a Ride, Brain Stew, Basket Case, When I Come Around, the hits kept coming. And there was still room for titans such as 21 Guns, Minority, Jesus of Suburbia and Wake Me Up When September Ends. We also had the staple live outing for King For a Day into the Isley Brother’s Shout. As is normal, a Green Day gig ends with Billie Joe solo for Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) before tickertape and pyrotechnics herald the return of band members Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool alongside touring musicians Jason White, Jason Freese and Kevin Preston. One thing that did disappoint, though; there was nothing played post 2009. Pity to ignore the last five albums.

A great showing from the stars of the show, even if it did leave me wanting more for valid reasons this time. But still, Green Day at least know how to put on a gig. Here’s to many more.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

*** Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling. *** 

It’s hard to describe Billie Eilish’s musical style: Ethereal, gothic, pop, dark pop. I can’t label it, and I don’t think you should. If anything, the correct term would be unique.

Billie Eilish

I came across Billie in 2019 after hearing a recommendation from Dave Grohl, and who was I to question the judgement of a rock god. So, I purchased the Don’t Smile at Me EP (All but an album itself) and after an eager wait, the first full release; When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? And I secured tickets for her first arena tour. Brilliant. Then Covid came cancelling and a huge wait. Since then, a Bond theme (and an Oscar), plus a further album, Happier Than Ever, has established the still 20-year-old as one of the biggest acts on the planet so when tickets went on sale again for 2022, I was first in the queue.

The set was simple. Huge stage with just brother/song writing partner, Finneas O’Connell, plus drummer, Andrew Marshall present; it gave more focus to the star of the show. There were some backing track vocals, but this was always going to be the case as many of Eilish’s songs are double tracked and more. But the main force was live to profound effect.

Kicking off with an explosive entrance, we had Bury a Friend, followed by I Didn’t Change My Number and immediately, the audience were captive of the magic and energy Billie Eilish releases. Everyone lapped it up, including me. You could call it hypnotism at times. It was how I like to enjoy gigs, immersed and totally lost in the experience.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

There are so many good numbers: You Should See Me in a Crown, My Strange Addiction, When the Party’s Over, NDA, Oxytocin, and not forgetting cameos of older hits like Bellyache and Ocean Eyes. A history of dancing injuries and sporting kinesiology tape, this didn’t stop Eilish giving a massive energetic performance which she seemed to enjoy as much as the audience. Billie Eilish is refreshing. There are no airs and graces, she is not full of herself, and clearly takes no shit, often concerned for people struggling in the crush of an audience.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

My top numbers of the night were Getting Older, Bad Guy, and especially the finale of Happier Than Ever, a song which is my current favourite tune of the moment. And there were others that I found a love for which I hadn’t thought of before. In this case, Lost Cause, which I cannot stop singing now.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

It’s easy to see why Eilish is so popular with both audiences and peers. There is an honesty and stripped-back approach to the music that makes it pure. And there is something in the lyrics which not only resonate with the young, but also oldies like me. It was also wonderful to relive the experience with an identical set broadcast on TV from Glastonbury a week later. I was still buzzing, and it took me back to that wonderful night.

One of the best gigs I have ever been to. Here’s to many more. 

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

*** Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling. *** 

Young Frankenstein is a musical I have waited a long time to see, and if you’ve read my reviews in the past, you know I don’t care if it’s professional or amateur productions. Masqueraders Theatrical Company fall into the latter category, but there was nothing amateur about this offering.  

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Always a good indication of a great show is when your partner knows little about it, has reservations, but ends up buzzing at how good it was afterwards. This was the case and even me, who did have high expectations was not disappointed. 

Young Frankenstein is based on the 1974 Mel Brooks’ film of the same name and adapted for theatre in 2007 by Brooks (Music and Lyrics) with assistance from Thomas Meehan on the book. 

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by Andy Ward) inherits his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania (complete with his ancestor’s deadly experiments). Despite initial reluctance, he soon sees he can succeed where his grandfather failed, to great comic effect. Ward was excellent as the crazed doctor, particularly in The Brain, a number typical of Mel Brooks’ complicated arrangements. It must be so hard for any MD to reproduce. 

Supporting well was Chad Fletcher in the role of Igor who duetted well with Ward for the genius that is Together Again for the First Time. Then we had Naomi O’Borne as the very high-spirited Laboratory Assistant, Inga. Combining well with the aforementioned two, Roll in the Hay was superb. 

And then we meet Frau Blucher (cue the terrified horse noises), played by Kim Liggins who was simply out of this world in the role. He Vas My Boyfriend is such a good song, but you need a character actor to pull it off and Liggins did just that. 

But the principals just go on, and what a sign of a good show it is when you have so many characters of high-quality writing with performances to do them justice. Freja Brabazon shone as the pushy, insufferable, Elizabeth Benning (excellent in Deep Love and Please Don’t Touch Me) while Ashley Blackstock (Inspector Kemp) and Jenny Chappell (Blind Hermit) both supported well with He’s Loose and Please Send Me Somebody, respectively. 

Now, every version of Frankenstein needs a monster but until Mel Brooks, none had ever tapped on stage to Puttin’ on the Ritz. It’s the highlight of the film and the same is the result here. You cannot help but laugh, as did the entire audience. Richard Yates was amazing as the creature; great expressions, especially in the scenes with the hermit. 

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Other numbers of the night from a wonderful ensemble included Transylvania Mania, Hang the Doctor and Hang Him ’til He’s Dead. This looked to be a good company, and everyone seemed to revel in their roles. No airs and graces, either; the cast were even selling programmes and raffle tickets beforehand.  

The director for Young Frankenstein was Mike Chappell (assisted by Abbe Shields) with Musical Direction from David Adams and Choreography by Jenny Chappell

A thoroughly enjoyable night and a brilliant show. Will definitely return to see Masqueraders in the future.  

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt  

***Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling.***

Some films don’t transfer well to stage, and Shrek is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an okay, enjoyable romp, but not one of the best scripts with a mediocre score. And that was such a pity because Quarry Bank Musical Theatre Company are one of the best I have seen on my travels. But you can only work with what material you have and fortunately, QBMTC did pull off a storm of a show, bringing alive characters far beyond what the script expects to deliver. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, Shrek the Musical follows the plot closely, with some added extras, most notably expanding on Lord Farquaad’s plot, excellently portrayed by Tom Robinson. But he wasn’t the only one to shine. Carl Cook in the lead role was as good as Mike Myers and likewise, Sarah Coussens excelled too as Princess Fiona. Completing the trio of heroes, one actor had the unenviable task of being an Eddie Murphey. Fortunately, Luey Pearce made Donkey his own and had me forgetting the Hollywood stars’ performance completely. Other principals were Natalie Baggott (Dragon), Gillian Homer (Gingerbread Man/Sugar Plum Fairy) and Isabella Cook (Pinocchio). 

It is a credit to Quarry Bank and amateur theatre that the performances were that good, it put the West End in the shade. Sometimes with professionals, you get the feel of going through the motions yet here, professionalism came from the heart of those who do it for the love of theatre. And didn’t it show. Wonderful. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Shrek has a few excellent numbers: Morning Person, Build a Wall, Freak Flag and Story of My Life. Additionally, I loved What’s Up Duloc with the wonderful Duloc Performers. But my favourite number of the night was I Know It’s Today, where three Princess Fiona’s at different ages, tell of their wish to be rescued. Credit to Connie Davies and Katie Tranter who joined Sarah Coussens in this wonderful offering. However, there were a few songs which were fillers, not adding to the plot or moving it forward. Again, a fault of the original template. 

And I hate to keep going back to the script, but it amazes me how fast things date. Only 20 years since the original film debuted, I now feel uncomfortable at the ridiculing of a person’s size with Lord Farquaad’s being used as a plot device for cheap laughs.  

The team behind Shrek, making this an enjoyable night for all, was Zoe Russell with dual duties of Directing and Choreography, while Chris Handley was Musical Director. 

Brierley Hill Civic Hall isn’t the best venue for Musical Theatre, echoing like a cavern at times but Quarry Bank raised the roof with exuberance and quality throughout. A wonderful showing from an excellent musical theatre company. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

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