Category: Reviews


The only tribute act I have ever seen are the wonderful, Kick up the 80s, many years ago. And I have never attended a gig dedicated to a single band. However, when the originals are no longer around or touring, then maybe this is the best you’re going to get.

I love ABBA. Heck, who doesn’t? And I had no hesitation in going along to this one. I mean, they sort of look like ABBA, and they really do sound like them, so you’d be hard pressed to know better.

But this tribute is all about the fans who many came dressed for the occasion and totally lapped it up.

Bjorn Again are a tongue-in-cheek parody of the real thing with the band having stage character names of Agnetha Falstart, Frida Longstockin, Benny Anderwear and Bjorn Volvo-us. I am not going to credit their real names because the whole nature and appeal of the act is that they are ABBA.

Taking the stage to Arrival, the crowd then went wild at the opening bars of Waterloo. And then hit after hit in which we were treated to: Gimme Gimme Gimme, Super Trouper, Honey Honey, Fernando, Ring Ring, Mamma Mia, Thank You for the Music and the inevitable Dancing Queen among so many more. We even had a rendition of Van Halen’s Jump. It was all good fun, as it was supposed to be, but also fabulous entertainment. Okay, some of the staged band interaction was a little cringing at times, but I reckon it was meant to be.

Since you can’t see ABBA anymore, I fully recommend Bjorn Again, and I’ve been listening to an ABBA playlist ever since, such was the positive experience. I can honestly say that for any fan of the originals, this is a great night out.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Ever since I was in a concert which featured a musical number from this show, I have wanted to see The Producers. More than that; I want to play Max Bialystock, a role only equaled by Daryl Van Horne as far as my theatre dreams go.

I’d not seen anything from St Augustine’s MTC before, but I had heard good of their reputation. Therefore, I had high hopes for my first viewing of this Mel Brooks masterpiece. And I was not disappointed.

The Producers tells of Max Bialystock, Broadway’s worst producer, and his attempt, aided by accountant, Leo Bloom, to contrive a massive flop and the worst show in history, thus pocketing the invested money once it folds after opening night. Of course, things do not go as planned.

The Producers is fast, funny and full of excellent numbers. Add to that fine performances and good production, then you have a hit. Ironic that a show about how to make a flop is such a smash, notably reflected in a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards after opening on Broadway in 2001.

As I have said, such a good show, but a script can only do so much. You need a team capable of fulfilling the potential, and in St Augustine’s they had that and more. I see a lot of theatre, both amateur and professional, and I would not only rate The Producers as being one of the best of the unpaid kind, but in my top five of all time, including those on tour and West End.

Leading the line was John Morrison as Max. Quite one of the best character actors I have seen and having witnessed previous performances in other shows, the main draw for me going in the first place. From the King of Broadway to the brilliant Betrayed, the audience saw a performance up there with the best.

But then there was also Richard Perks as Leo Bloom, equally as good and both he and Morrison were magnificent in their collaborations on We Can Do It and Where Did We Go Right? And it does not end there. There is such a wealth of good character opportunities in this show and we had no weak links on this occasion: Nicki Willets (Ulla), Nick Salter (Franz Liebkind), Mike Bentley (Roger DeBris) and Lochlann Hannon (Carmen Ghia) were outstanding.

Other top tunes for me included: I Wanna Be a Producer, Der Gutten Tag Hop-Clop, Keep it Gay, When You’ve Got it, Flaunt It, It’s Bad Luck to Say Good Luck on Op’ning Night and Prisoners of Love. Best of all for me was Along Came Bialy. However, my favourite moment in the entire show is when Ulla paints the entire office white. Loved it.

“She’s even painted the numbers on the combination!”

I can’t praise highly enough, also, the production team: Veronica Walsh (Producer/Director), Stephen Powell (Musical Director), Sharyn Hastings (Choreography) and Tony Walsh (Stage Manager) can be so proud of their efforts.

A marvelous company, full of good acting, song and fabulous dance. What a show!

Picture blatantly stolen from St Augustine’s Facebook page.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s less than three months since I watched (and reviewed) Annie at the Birmingham Hippodrome. However, my love of amateur theatre is much, and I wanted to see if the good show I’d seen back then could be equally so on the amateur circuit.

I say, amateur, but in all I attend, there is never anything amateur about them, and Trinity Musical Theatre Company’s production was no exception.

Still, the Annie I saw in September was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen; therefore, Trinity had a lot to compete with. But what can I say, other than brilliant.

Freya Poulton was exceptional in the lead. A beautiful voice and magnificent characterisation to match. Tomorrow was out of this world. And then we had Lizzie Buckingham as the fearsome Miss Hannigan. Some weeks ago, I saw Jodie Prenger who was so enamored with my glowing review of her, she liked my Tweet on the matter. Here, Lizzie did just as well in matching the performance of one paid to do so. Outstanding.

Also giving fine showings were Chris Dowen (Daddy Warbucks) and Emily Rabone (Grace Farrell), as were John Sheard (Rooster) and Katie Rabone (Lily St Regis). All were commanding in presence and delivery of both song, dance and lines. I have to say, Easy Street is a great number.

Supporting well, though were Pat Lewis (Bert Healy), Matt Webb (President Roosevelt) and Wayne Butler (Drake).

But Annie is nothing without the kids. And such a good move by Am-dram companies to utilize shows like this. These kids are the future and most will continue being on the stage into adulthood, having got the bug at such a young age. Not only good for theatre in general, but also the company as eventual adult members.

Superb performances by Connie Davies (Molly), Kersten Davies (Kate), Molly Bastable (Tessie), Beau Bradburn (Pepper), Maisie Addinell (July) and Georgia Haycock (Duffy). Although unseen, I’ll also credit Elisia Brian who played Molly on alternate performances.

Annie was produced and directed for Trinity by Andy Poulton with choreography by Zoe Russell. Adding to this, overseeing a great sound from the orchestra was Sam Deakin. All on the production team can be well proud of those on stage. Well done to all.

The cast of Annie. Picture blatantly stolen from Trinity’s Facebook page.

So, second time in a short while and no less enjoyable. It’s certainly a show I’d love to do, even direct, and that is much due to the excellent showing I witnessed on this occasion.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

For many years I had promised myself I would see The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the West End. However, for me, the venue wasn’t the St Martin’s Theatre, London, but The New Alexandra in Birmingham with the play on tour.

Now, being a writer, I am also a prolific reader and have sampled nearly half of Agatha Christie’s catalogue to date. Therefore, I had an advantage in suspecting the murderer as soon as they made their entrance. I was proved right, as it turned out, but like a good detective, didn’t show my hand until it mattered. Assume nothing.

The plot involves a young couple, Molly and Giles Ralston, preparing for the opening of their guest house venture at Monkswell Manor. Numerous guests arrive, surrounded by the news of a murder in London. At the end of the first act, one of their number is also murdered and Sergeant Trotter, who appears before the manor is cut-off by heavy snowfall, investigates. And we get the usual Christie drama of multiple clues, false leads and sub-plots.

I am not going to reveal more as you are asked at the end, not to, and who am I to spoil the fun.

Using one set, The Mousetrap is a bit slow at the start and very little of relevance occurs until near the end of Act One, just before the murder. However, the characters and plot are set up well and you form a real attachment to the Manor’s owners and guests. What I liked was a good use of humour, essential in something as dark as a murder mystery, in my opinion, so as not to make the experience totally gloomy.

Topping the bill was a national treasure of British film and theatre in Susan Penhaligon as the ultra-critical Mrs Boyle. I have to say, it was a joy to witness someone I have watched in films and TV over the years and for me, the most memorable being in Doctor Who’s, The Time Monster, way back in 1972.

Supporting well, though, were David Alcock (Mr Paravicini), Geoff Arnold (Sgt Trotter), Nick Biadon (Giles Ralston), John Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Harriett Hare (Mollie Ralston) and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen (Miss Casewell). Finally, we had Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren who gave a superb performance. Wren is a flamboyant character with many opportunities to shine, but Chandler took and exceeded all of them. The production was directed by Gareth Armstrong.

Christie’s writing desk at Greenway. Who knows, perhaps The Mousetrap was written here.

All in all, a good show. Yes, I guessed whodunnit! And yes, there are plot holes, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A lovely night out.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Alice Cooper is one artist I never tire of seeing, and at the age of 71, you wonder how many more opportunities you’ll get. Sorry, Alice, but death comes to all of us. However, I’m sure he won’t mind as here we have one performer who has made death a trademark by including large parts of it in his act.

Yes, I had no hesitation buying tickets to see the man and the occasion was made even more enjoyable by The Stranglers being the support. One of my favourite bands and the 20th time I had seen them. Great they were, too (as always), but this gig was not about them. It was a night for The Greatest Showman.

With the latest incarnation of touring band, including Chuck Garrick (Bass), Ryan Roxie (Guitar), Nita Strauss (Lead and Rhythm), Tommy Henricksen (Rhythm and Lead) and Glen Sobel (Drums), we were immediately treated to a massive opener of Feed My Frankenstein (Complete with giant monster). Then came No More Mister Nice Guy and if any neutrals in the audience were unsure what they were in for, they now knew. Assisted in theatrics by Mrs. Alice Cooper (Sheryl Goddard) as the nurse, this wasn’t just a rock show, it was musical theatre, hard-core.

Notable numbers for me were Eighteen, Poison and He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), the latter complete with machete wielding maniac who slays groupies onstage. Then we had the grand medley of Steven/Dead Babies/We Are the Dead. As I say, theatrics in the extreme but nobody was complaining as two macabre giant babies in work clothes led Mr. Cooper to the guillotine. But enough of the effects, even if you couldn’t see, this was one of the best audio experiences going, and such atmosphere.

Then, into the encore and Under My Wheels before the grand finale of Schools Out with a little bit of Another Brick in the Wall for good measure. This finale lasted nearly ten minutes with huge dead baby balloons flying around the audience, plus ticker tape and streamers. We didn’t care. This was great and such was the performance, it simply flew by.

Alice Cooper certainly knows how to put on a show, and it was great to see many young people in the arena, including an under-10 next to me who jumped and sang with the rest of them.

I still wonder how many more times we can expect to see Alice Cooper, as with so many of that era, but if you never have seen them, I recommend it. At least once.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I always say our defining years of music appreciation occur when we are aged 15-18, and although you like music from times beforehand, and afterwards, those four years are your era. And in the winter of 1980 to 81, two bands were at the top of my hit list: Ultravox and Visage. Both including Midge Ure.

Now, nearly 40 years later, Midge took to the road again with The 1980 Tour. So, how could I resist? Yes, I’ve seen Ultravox six times over the years but the chance to hear the Vienna album in full and selected Visage tracks was a temptation too good to miss. Plus, there was a surprise when I arrived. At first I groaned when hearing someone say the support was just a DJ, but then onto the stage Rusty Egan walked and took us on a marvelous trip back in time and … well, I’m sure he’d bluetoothed my phone as he seemed to be selecting everything on my teenage era playlist. A marvelous opener, with Rusty then joining Midge for the first segment of the headline slot playing drums on the Visage numbers after an opener of Yellow Pearl.

And what Visage numbers we had: Visage, The Dancer and of course, Fade to Grey, just to name a few. Then Rusty departed and we had the Vienna album, all nine tracks in order. Always a classic album with not a single weak spot: New Europeans, Passing Strangers, Private Lives … hell, I could just list it in its entirety. At the end of All Stood Still, Midge and co departed, but we knew they were coming back, and we had classics such as Hymn and If I Was.

So, maybe 40 years later, Midge can’t reach every high note he used to, but he got most of them. And each number was delivered powerfully with a great sound from Midge and the band. Therefore, an excellent show, not only for the long-term fan, but anybody else there. Good rock, electro music. I have to say, though, I didn’t think the voice synth on Mr. X worked but can appreciate the desire to make it different to the original Warren Cann vocals.

Sometimes you reach a certain age and nostalgia is all you have left. Not the case personally but it’s always fun to reminisce. Therefore, all in all, a great night. So, thanks Midge, and thanks Rusty, for both of you taking me back 40 years and making me 17 again.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I always love concerts by local theatre companies for two reasons. One, they highlight songs already known to me and two, I have, in the past, been introduced to some wonderful shows based on what I have seen at such productions.

I have experienced Bournville Musical Theatre Company many times, including their last three showcase concerts, so I looked forward to this one. The Magic of the Musicals was a simple but effective idea. Take eight top musicals, many which you cannot perform on the amateur circuit and give them 15-minute slots each. To achieve this for The Magic of the Musicals the company were split into two, taking four shows each. Easier for production and suitable for a small venue, but I’m not sure it worked on all the songs as the chorus was diluted on occasions. Really, you can’t have Step in Time with just three men.

The musicals on display were Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Hamilton, Hairspray, Dear, Evan Hansen, West Side Story and The Greatest Showman. There were only two I hadn’t seen in full and wasn’t enamoured by the songs from Hamilton, but was by Evan Hansen, therefore a trip to see it when it finally appears near me, beckons.

With so may excellent shows, you may think it was hard to choose a favourite, but I did, and it’s one which surprised even myself. You see, 18 months after appearing in it and never wanting to hear the name West Side Story again, this was the section I enjoyed the most. Somewhere, sung by Sarah Frances McCarthy was exquisite while America led by Karen Lane and Jill Hughes brought back memories of watching from the sound booth each night. And finally, I was so impressed with Tonight which included strong performances from Yvonne Snowe, Liam McEvoy and Ellie Morrow.

It’s too much to mention everybody as this was certainly a team effort, and we all have our favourites. For me, standout numbers included Claire Brough and Sarah Debono with One Short Day while All I Ask of You, sung by Lucy Herd and Greg Boughton was probably the top tune of the night. Then, I cannot possibly choose between the two Mary Poppins’ in Sibs Ganley and Lily Moore for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Spoonful of Sugar, respectively. As ever, Chloe Turner pulled off a magnificent solo with Burn while hats off to Phil Snowe and Lewis Doley for Timeless to Me. I can always admire those unfazed by having to send themselves up

I also enjoyed Waving Through a Window, a number which suited Peter Holmes well and You Will be Found (featuring David Page, Hannah Young and Lily Moore) was also excellent.

To wrap things up with Greatest Showman, I was impressed with Never Enough performed by Claire Brough (despite the curse of Am-Dram in mic problems), and This is Me with Rachel Fox and chorus.

Magic of the Musicals was produced by Lisa Colvin-Grieve and David Page with musical direction from Chris Corcoran. The choreography was then well-shared with Karen Lane, Abbie Jones, Sophie Wood, Kris Evans, Claire Brough, David Page, Stuart McDiarmid, Helen Gauntlett and Verity Wadesmith all chipping in.

Bournville’s next show is in April 2020 with The Wedding Singer and I am sure, as always, it will be exceptional.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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

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.

%d bloggers like this: