Category: Reviews


The only TV talent show I watch is The Voice Kids UK. The reason for this is they are all so wonderful. However, in the four seasons so far, three have stood out for me to such an extent I have followed their progress, and one of these is Lucy Thomas.

What’s remarkable about Lucy is despite being 16, she already has two excellent albums in her catalogue. Part of this is down to Chris Broom of Cavendish Records who in Lucy’s own words, has believed in her and worked tirelessly on both albums and the promotion of her as an artist. But to do that you need the artist themselves, and Lucy’s voice and overall talent is incredible.

Much of the magic of Encore is a choice of songs which not only suit Lucy, but ones she develops, making them her own. Opening, we have a rendition of Mariah Carey’s Hero, a tune I’d never given much thought to, but I do now. Next up is a personal favourite of mine in Run, made famous by Snow Patrol. An extremely difficult song to sing and again this version certainly has Lucy’s stamp marked on it. If you check out Lucy’s YouTube, you will still find a version by her as a ten-year-old, so it’s lovely to hear it now it on a CD.

Other tracks include powerhouses such as A Million Dreams (Greatest Showman), Memory (Cats) and My Heart Will Go On (Titanic). The fact Lucy seems so at home with these massive numbers is a testament to her ability.

Lucy’s 2019 album Premier featured four songs from Chris Broom’s upcoming musical, Rosie, and as I write this, I am listening to a fifth, the beautiful Gentle Breeze. Here is a song which highlights both the purest of voices and the strength to make a performance grow.

With such variety in the twelve tracks, it’s hard to pick a favourite but at the moment it’s Say Something, a goosebumps moment, duetting with younger sister, Martha (Future contestant on The Voice Kids, surely?).

But this is not to say there are five weak tracks because that simply isn’t true. All are of top quality with the remainder being Desperado (Eagles), Reflection (Mulan), I’ll Never Love Again (A Star is Born), Beautiful Ghosts (The Film – Cats) and I Have Nothing (The Bodyguard).

In Premier, we had talent burst on the scene and now Encore has Lucy reaching a maturity which clearly states she’s in an industry where she belongs.

You can purchase Encore from all outlets and website: lucythomasmusic.com

And check out Lucy Thomas’ YouTube Channel.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Three years ago, I attended and reviewed Brendan Cole’s All Night Long spectacular at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Now, I always notify parties of my reviews and on that occasion, I was overjoyed to be appreciated by Brendan with his thanks via Twitter. I said, although not particularly a fan of Strictly Come Dancing (It’s more girlfriend, Michelle’s thing), I had thoroughly enjoyed it and would return and review next time. And here I am …

We began with The Greatest Showman and from the same movie – Come Alive. This was to be expected as the event itself was titled, Brendan Cole Show Man. What I didn’t anticipate was the immediate appearance of about thirty or so children singing backing (with moves) to several segments of the show, courtesy of Stagecoach Performing Arts Solihull. It’s no secret, I love the inclusion of kids as they are the future. And what a joy it was to see genuinely elated faces with this possibly being the most magical moment of their lives so far and encouraging them to be stars of the future. Well done, Stagecoach.

But back to Brendan …

After that rousing start, we saw the full spectrum of dance from a waltz with the music of Send in the Clowns to a salsa during Despacito. Other personal favourites of mine were Another Day of Sun (Quickstep) and Purple Rain (Contemporary Rumba). However, my top moment was the beautiful Cinderella which is a lovely story dedicated to Brendan’s daughter, Aurelia, and featuring a member of the Stagecoach choir in Violet. What a moment, indeed, for this young lady. Ending the night with a rousing jive was the always popular, Footloose, and not only were feet moving on stage, just about everyone’s in the audience were too.

Supporting Brendan immensely were his team of dancers including the ever-brilliant Crystal Main along with Kallyanne Brown, Alexandra Busheva, Andrea De Angelis, Antonio Careri, Giancarlo Catenacci and Francesco Sasanelli. Musical Director and pianist was Barry Robinson who deserves much credit for merging these art forms with his excellent band which also included violinist, Brigitta Bognar. Again, like my previous Brendan experience the male vocals were delivered in fine form by Iain Mackenzie and complemented superbly this time by Jenna Lee-James.

And it wasn’t just song and dance. Brendan always engages well with the audience and shows just how much his fans mean to him. Of course, there were also mentions of Strictly, a show where (my opinion) Brendan is much missed now. Plus, the obligatory friendly digs at Anton Du Beke. And Brendan’s mum was in the audience too, which was nice.

I will admit, I still don’t often watch Strictly (I prefer The Greatest Dancer), but I do love a great night’s entertainment and Brendan Cole Show Man was certainly that.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The first thing to note is the formerly named, Coleshill Operatic Society, are now Coleshill on Stage. I like that. We all need to evolve, and musical theatre is no different. Still, names change, but I am happy to say the quality remains with Jack and the Beanstalk exceeding enjoyment of 2019’s Cinderella.

Full of life from an exuberant opening of Pharrell Williams’ Happy to the finale of We Go Together, the cast looked to be having as good a time as the audience. And there was the clincher. Those in the seats loved every minute and showed appreciation likewise.

I’m not going to bore with the plot; it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, for heaven’s sake. However, I did wonder how they were going to represent a giant with an amateur theatre budget. A simple unseen, booming voice of Brian Blessed proportions was the answer, vocals supplied by Adam Richardson. Did the job perfect.

In the lead role of Jack, we had a traditional principal boy in Molly Bennett. This is a part Molly carried of to perfection, excelling particularly in Evermore. Then, combining well with the equally outstanding Hannah Trowman (Princess Charlotte), was a lovely rendition of Rule the World.

However, if it’s tradition you want, there is nothing more pantomime than the dame. Therefore, it was great to see Lloyd Cast offering a more Edna Turnblad female than the rapidly outdating hairy-chested, graveled voice dame. The character of Dotty Dimple worked well, especially during Man, I Feel Like a Woman.

But panto needs a huge helping of comic relief and there was much on offer with the character of Simple Simon, played in great fashion by Kelvin McArdle. It’s a part of musical theatre I love myself, to engage and interact with the audience. And no mean feat to pull it off, either. This was no more evident than during the audience participation of Dotty Dimple Had a Farm. Great for kids and adults. Not that the adults would admit it, though.

In addition to a giant, Jack also contended with two seriously good baddies in Piccalilli (Natalie Bracher) and Rancid (Chris Britt). Both were superb in their acting, making their characters totally believable. And speaking of good character acting, I was equally impressed by Lucia Owen-Small who worked well with her partner Ray Rogers as the incompetent duo, Snatchet and Scarper.

Completing a fine principal cast we had John Kerr (King Crumble), Joyce Eyre (Queen Crumble), Pauline Peach (Fairy Sugardust) and Grace Lambert (Humphrey). Finally, a pantomime cow doing the rounds in the combined form of Claire Willson and Rachel Evans. I wonder which was the butt of the jokes …

Great musical numbers for me were Wake Up Boo, Monster Mash, If I Didn’t Have You and Celebration. My favourite, though, for personal reasons was Walking on Sunshine, a song I chose to end my self-penned show, Sleeping Beauty in 2018. Nostalgic moments indeed.

The director of Jack and the Beanstalk was Tom Willson with excellent musical direction and choreography from Chris Corcoran and Rachel Evans, respectively. All on the production team deserve credit because the whole cast lived their parts. It’s a sign of a job well done when you feel you know these characters, and that was the case for me. It was nice as well to see so many younger members on stage. They are the future of musical theatre and deserve inclusion.

Therefore, another great night out in the hands of Coleshill on Stage. Next production is the iconic Oliver. I shall be there.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’d not seen the stage version of The King and I before, only the classic Yul Brynner movie and the near forgotten, short-lived TV series, Anna and the King. However, the story is the same. British colonial governess takes up a position in the palace of the King of Siam, educating his children amidst a plot of culture clashes, romance, and a heavy dose of song.

So, how was it? Must be honest, from the start there’s a dated feel to not only the songs, but the script itself. It’s a good show, and I did enjoy it, but some of the magic has been lost in the mists of time. And to add to the tiredness, the image I got was a 1950s vision of what 19th century Siam would have been.

The production had a decent set and lots of colour, particularly in the costumes, but I didn’t have empathy for the King. He’s an ignorant tyrant and no matter what excuse you make for cultural differences, I could not get past the image he portrayed. I had also been warned about the Uncle Tom’s Cabin section which goes on for about fifteen minutes; however, I enjoyed it. It’s surreal and abstract in a way, and I quite like that.

Of the songs, there were three which I immediately had in my mind: I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, and Shall We Dance? And at the end of the show, those were still the only tunes I recalled as most others were generic, especially the solos. Okay, I’m not a fan of solos anyway as I think they reduce the effects of musical theater, but these in King and I were very forgettable.

On the day, Anna was played in fine fashion by Annalene Beechey with good voice and character. Also, despite not liking the King as a person, the ruler of Siam was in excellent hands with Kok Hwa Lie. Supporting well were: Eu Jin Hwang (Kralahome), Jessica Gomes-Ng (Tup Tim), Sunny Yeo (Lady Thaing), Ethan Le Phong (Lun Tha), Phillip Bullcock (Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsay), Aaron Teoh (Chulalongkorn), William Mychael Lee (Phra Alack) and Joseph Black (Louis). The orchestra was conducted by Chris Mundy with choreography from Christopher Gattelli. The director was Bartlett Sher

I think the length of time it has taken between seeing the show and writing this review tells a tale of how little an impression was left on me. Thank heavens for my notes. Therefore, the message is this. Beware of sending me to see anything iconic because instead of praise for the Holy Grail, you might get a description of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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

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