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Love is in the air, everywhere I look around.

That may be so, but wonderful dance is also on the stage in this musical version of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom. Based on the 1992 film of the same name, itself adapted from Luhrmann’s original play, Strictly Ballroom tells of the love affair both on and off the dancefloor between talented amateur, Scott Hastings and beginner, Fran. When Scott loses his dance partner due to him wanting to pursue his own style, Fran persuades him to take her on and compete in the Pan-Atlantic Grand Prix Dancing Championships.

Strictly Ballroom — Birmingham Hippodrome — 31 October 2022

With the popularity of the another Strictly (Strictly Come Dancing), this musical can be equally well-received. But for that you need a strong script, good music, and most important in a dance themed show, brilliance on the dancefloor. Thankfully, we had all of that. The book by Luhrmann himself and Craig Pearce is sound in character development and funny. But it was dance along with excellent vocals which had the audience wowed right until the end. Choreographed and directed by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel-Horwood with co-choreography from Jason Gilkinson, even dancing ignoramuses like me were impressed. Then, under the musical supervision of Stuart Morley, we had excellent vocals from all involved.

In the lead roles of Scott and Fran we had Kevin Clifton and Maisie Smith respectively. Both excelled in song and dance, as you would expect and were equally supported by Nikki Belsher (Shirley Hastings), Mark Sangster (Doug Hastings), Gary Davis (Barry Fife), Quinn Patrick (Les Kendall), Oliver Brookes (JJ Silvers), Jose Agudo (Rico) and Karen Mann (Abuela) among over 20 cast members.

Best number of the night for me was the Paso Doble at the end of Act One, full of energy and breath-taking excellence, however, Beautiful Surprise ran a close second with amazing vocals from Clifton and Smith. I also had fondness for the Barry Fife comic number, Dance to Win, performed by Davis. In among the original score with offerings from Sia and Eddie Perfect, were retro classics in the form of Tequila, Time After Time and during the finale, a rousing and feelgood, Love is in the Air.

Strictly Ballroom — Birmingham Hippodrome — 31 October 2022

The whole show was not only a spectacle of dance though. Mark Walters colourful costumes were equally sparkling as was the impressive (and rather surreal) wooden curved panelled set. Add some great lighting from Richard G. Jones and you had the icing on the cake. At the end, most in the auditorium were on their feet and it was great to see the band on stage too for a bow.

This production; I loved it. The only criticism is a minor plot device with the cliché of Fran only considered attractive once she’d changed from unfashionable clothes and removed her glasses.

Strictly Ballroom is touring the UK the rest of the year and into next summer. Even if you are not a fan of dance, do not let this put you off. This is a fabulous show, darling.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

But on my tombstone when I go, just put “Death by Rock and Roll.” 

I have followed this band since the start over a decade ago but until now had never seen The Pretty Reckless live. Thankfully rectified at the O2 Academy, Birmingham.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The Pretty Reckless perform Hard Rock/Post Grunge with a decent amount of Country thrown into some numbers for good measure. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Gossip Girl actor, Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless also feature Ben Phillips (Lead Guitar), Mark Damon (Bass) and Jamie Perkins (Drums). And boy, do they rock.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022
Death by Rock and Roll

Launching straight into the title track of the most recent album, Death by Rock and Roll, The Pretty Reckless had the audience in their hands from the go. Since You’re Gone came next followed by Only Love Can Save Me Now, then, And So it Went. If it wasn’t already, the Academy erupted even further with the arrival of the band’s debut hit, Make Me Wanna Die with everyone joining in the chorus. The energetic Miss Nothing followed before Halloween had its celebration with my personal favourite, Sweet Things and Witches Burn with Broomsticks outro. The awesomeness continued with My Medicine, My Bones, Going to Hell and Heaven Knows. The latter featured a guitar solo, something I am never keen on, but I admit, Phillips was amazing. The main set ended with the sole offering from 2016’s Who You Selling For in Take Me Out. It could be that this album has a softer, country mood, and the show I experienced was, rock, rock, rock. Momsen herself interacted well with the audience showing a genuine pleasure at playing in Birmingham.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The band returned for one more number — Fucked Up World at a massive nine minutes long with another solo, this time drums from Perkins. I don’t like drum solos either, but I’ll excuse it. I would have loved a couple of more songs instead but seeing as the evening was so awesome, I certainly had value for money. At just over £30 a ticket, it was a bargain considering The Damned are charging double that a week later.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The Pretty Reckless get nowhere near the recognition they deserve and are outstanding, owning every hall played. Perhaps Momsen’s Gossip Girl past puts some people off and the fact that aged-7, she was Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. People … Momsen is not Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron, playing to Disney fans. Here we have a rock goddess. Treat her like one. If you follow the band, I need say no more. If you don’t know much about them, check out the albums and go see them live. You will not be disappointed.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

There’s a message floatin’ in the air. Crazy horses ridin’ everywhere.

This had to be one of the most surreal experiences in all my years of Musical Theatre audiences, witnessing Osmond Mania at The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham.

The Osmonds, A New Musical — New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham — 25 October 2022 

The Osmonds Musical is the brainchild of Middle Osmond, Jay, and tells the story of 60 years in 2 hours 20. An impossible task, of course, but Jay Osmond has done a decent job of getting across what it was all about.

Now I’m not that knowledgeable about the band as although at school in the 1970s, I was male, and that made a difference. Sure, I saw the crowds on TV, plus the reactions on Top of the Pops, and read Look-In each week. What I do understand, though, it was like the mania surrounding the Beatles a decade earlier. And I saw a fair bit of mania in the theatre.

I’m won’t go over the plot, check Wikipedia for the history of the band. What I can say is even for the uneducated, the show delivered a good feel for events of the relative times. We had aspiring dreams, euphoria, success, and rebuilding when it all went wrong. What the show said, though, was that The Osmonds were a tight unit, and family was more important than anything.

And then there were the songs. 30 … Yes 30 massive numbers. Okay, some had edited treatment, but the big tunes were there. One Bad Apple, Love Me for a Reason, Down by the Lazy River, Yo-Yo, Crazy Horses, Double Lovin’, Goin’ Home, The Proud One, Hold Her Tight and One Way Ticket to Anywhere. All of these were top drawer as were the solo Osmonds with Puppy Love, Paper Roses and Long Haired Lover from Liverpool.

The Osmonds, A New Musical — New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham — 25 October 2022 

The band were Alex Lodge (Jay), Ryan Anderson (Merrill), Jamie Chatterton (Alan), Tristan Whincup (Donny), Danny Nattrass (Wayne) with Georgia Lennon as Marie. All were amazing in vocals, reproduction so good, you could not tell the difference between them and the real thing. Charlie Allen and Nicola Bryan also gave strong performances as parents, George and Olive Osmond.

Also featured heavily were the Osmonds as Children: Miles Redwood (Jay), Jayden Harris (Alan), Dexter Seaton (Merrill), Austin Redwood (Wayne), Herbie Byers (Donny) and Austin Riley (Jimmy) were all excellent where involved.

The Osmonds, A New Musical — New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham — 25 October 2022 

The book was by Julian Bigg and Shaun Kerrison (also directing) with added material from Bosse Anderson and Anders Albien. The only criticism was I found the Jay narratives broke the flow at times and didn’t add much, if I’m honest. Choreography was by Bill Deamer with musical direction from Will Joy.

I mentioned at the start about the mania and even though this was a Jukebox retelling, we had people passing out. In all my years I have only had a production halted once while I was on stage and never when in the audience. October 25, it happened twice, once in each Act, and with people on the same row but not connected to one another. Now I have a scientific theory which could be rubbish but it’s all I can come up with. The audience were mostly 60+ and back in the Osmonds heyday, these would have been the screaming teens of Osmond Mania. Maybe some kind of retro hysteria took them back in time and let’s face it, older bodies cannot cope as they might have in 1972. It’s just a thought and I hope the two unfortunates were okay. It was strange though.

Apart from that, a great night out and even if you weren’t much of a fan, this was a good show. The production is touring the UK the rest of 2022 with further dates to be added next year. Well worth a night out.

The Osmonds, A New Musical — New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham — 25 October 2022 

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

I only discovered As December Falls after the Happier Tour had finished last year so when they announced a return to the Institute2 in Birmingham, I was straight in the queue for tickets.

As December Falls — O2 Institute2 Birmingham — October 14 2022

An independent band, they really do everything themselves: Recording, merchandise, publicity and being on the road. So, sell out tours are a much-deserved result of this and it’s only a matter of time before being rewarded with the right deal to take the band further.

From Nottingham and founded in 2014, As December Falls have in the past cited Kanye West as one of their major influences. I must admit, this shocked me. How can a band liking something so dire be this bloody good? There is a freshness about them but most of all, hard rock with excellent, catchy tunes. In addition to early offerings, the band released a self-titled album in 2019 followed by the excellent Happier last year. Reading up, they have been likened to Paramore (Obvious comparison) and Fall Out Boy (Better than Fall Out Boy, in my opinion).

As December Falls — O2 Institute2 Birmingham — October 14 2022

Fronting is Bethany Curtis who engages well with the crowd while delivering powerful and distinctive vocals. On lead guitar, Ande Hunter displayed stunning chord progressions that Slash would be envious of while Timmy Francis (Bass) and Lukas James (Drums) contributed equally to make As December Falls the complete outfit. Some bands have weak areas; this one doesn’t.

The set at The Institute2 opened with 2022 release, Go Away followed by Afterglow from the most recent album. We also had the title track from the same in Happier, plus the outstanding Tears (My favourite). Other highlights of the first album included More to You and Ride. Both top drawer and there was even a cover of My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay which brought the house down early on. Other numbers at the Institute2 were: I Feel Like Feeling Great, Break Your Heart, Nothing on You, Everything You Say, Mayday, You Say When and No Money, which featured audience interaction in which I was more than eager to take part. There was not a bad track during the entire set which could explain why this band have grown such an audience.

As December Falls — O2 Institute2 Birmingham — October 14 2022

At present there is a family feel to the fandom; this deserves to expand further. Therefore, when As December Falls are next in your area, get in without delay. Witness a giant in the making.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

There is nothin’ like a dame. Nothing in this world.

Well, there is … actually. Nothing like having women regarded as more than aesthetic creatures, which is a fault of the original script. But I can’t be too hard on Rodgers and Hammerstein and the sexism in South Pacific as it was ground-breaking on opening more than 70 years ago for another reason of equality. 

South Pacific tells the story of the US Navy stationed on a Pacific Island during World War II. The main plot focuses on the romance between an American nurse and a French plantation owner with the subplot of a US Marine’s flirtations with a Tonkinese girl. The topic of racial prejudice is included in both, way ahead of its time and thankfully, addressed.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022

The term iconic is not one I use often but the fact that most of the numbers are instantly recognisable says how big this musical is. A Cockeyed Optimist, Some Enchanted Evening, There is Nothin’ Like a Dame, Bali Ha’i, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy, Younger Than Springtime and not forgetting Happy Talk. That’s eight straight off that I knew before I saw it for the first time a few years ago. Admitted, the 70-year-old script and score is dated but this production induced a new freshness with a stark but simple backdrop of corrugated panelling. Here shadows were projected with basic scenery wheeled on and off when necessary. It worked. Good use was also made of a rotating stage, especially in numbers, giving two different perspectives.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022

Julian Ovenden gave a superb performance as a somewhat younger Emile than I have seen in the past and was well matched with Gina Beck (Nellie Forbush), equally excellent, particularly in vocal numbers.

It was nice in this production to see the character of Bloody Mary less of a stereotype in grass skirts, but quirky instead with individuality. Superb by Joanna Ampil. Also strong was Rob Houchen in the role of Lt Cable with an equally stong voice as were all the principals. Then there was Luther Billis, played wonderfully by Douggie McMeekin, giving a huge helping of comic relief to the show.

Supporting well was Sera Maehara (Liat) who excelled in individual and company dance, plus David Birrell (Capt. Brackett) and Stephen John Davis (Cmdr. Harbison) who made an amusing double act at times.

In this production, choreography was by Ann Yee with musical direction from Jon Laird. The director was Daniel Evans.

One thing to note, particularly for amateur societies thinking of doing this show when available, the audience seemed mostly 70+. Even so, the auditorium was still full, showing there is life in South Pacific yet.

The show is still touring in the next few weeks at Edinburgh, Canterbury and Leeds. Well worth an evening out.

South Pacific — New Alexander Theatre — September 30 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

Sun is shinin’ in the sky. 
There ain’t a cloud in sight. 
It’s stopped rainin’,  everybody’s in the play 
and don’t you know 
it’s a beautiful new day,  hey! hey! 

Words familiar All Over the World, but the faces here are a little different. That’s because this band is a tribute; a tribute to the wonderful sound of Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra

ELO Encounter—The Crescent Theatre Birmingham—16 September 2022

I have previously said that I only do tributes when the real thing is not around anymore, but although you can get Jeff Lynne’s ELO (at exorbitant prices) when he tours, the chance for a little Blue Sky at short notice was too good to pass up. 

Formed several years ago by the Lownes Brothers, The ELO Encounter give you just that. Not simply a performance of numbers, but encountering the original band with a loving feel as if this were them on stage. Straight into the opening of Standin’ in the Rain, I was transported back to 1978 and listening to side three of Out of the Blue on vinyl. Then came hit after hit: Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Turn to Stone, Shine a Little Love, Hold on Tight, Horace Wimp, Telephone Line, and many, many more. I was hooked, as were the rest of the audience in this wonderful experience of time-travel. We even had an appearance of one the earliest ELO hits in 10538 Overture … brilliant.

ELO Encounter—The Crescent Theatre Birmingham—16 September 2022

The band is led by Jack Rownes on keyboards and vocals, taking the Jeff Lynne role with a delivery so like the man himself, close your eyes and it’s real. Then you have younger brother, Harry Rownes on Bass, but also supporting vocals, as do the entire band. However, Harry has the added task of replicating the awesome (and too soon departed) voice of Kelly Groucutt, particularly on Rockaria! Lead guitars are provided by Martin Donald with Dacre Peck on drums. On Violin we had Jasmine Ali who also delivered lead vocals on Xanadu, one the best numbers of the night. Rounding off the band was newest member on acoustic guitars, Karl Younger.

The show was split into two sets ending with an encore of ELO’s biggest hit, Mr Blue Sky. By now, everyone was long on their feet and ELO Encounter departed to a massive flow of applause. It was nice to see some of the band in the foyer afterwards to thank the audience. A nice touch and familiarity which goes down well.

ELO Encounter are touring the UK throughout the remainder of 2022 and all next year. There are alternative tributes to ELO, but these have my recommendation. Look no further if you’re thinking of seeing one. 

ELO Encounter—The Crescent Theatre Birmingham—16 September 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

The biggest surprise on seeing Beautiful is just how many Carole King songs you know. Sure, I’d heard of Tapestry, and It’s Too Late, You’ve Got a Friend and Beautiful itself, and I also knew she was one half of the iconic writing duo of Goffin and King. But what I didn’t count on was hearing classics from The Shirelle’s, The Drifter’s, Bobby Vee and Little Eva, then realising who wrote the songs in the first place. To be honest, as well as being an excellent show, it was an education.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

From humble beginnings, King (with Goffin lyrics) wrote for the best. The show is based predominantly in the recording studios within an almost claustrophobic set which works well. There is also no intent on hiding rear and side stages with performers often seen moving with props and scenery. This too is effective as along with the enclosed studios, it gives the feel of a busy environment outside. Then, with all the music played onstage by the performers themselves, you really do feel you are in the studio as history was made.

Beautiful is a Jukebox Musical and that description is perfect because it is like hit after hit on the jukebox, with a story added for good measure. It Might as Well Rain Until September, Some Kind of Wonderful, Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, One Fine Day, and Chains (Made more famous by the Beatles). All of these were showcased in Beautiful.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

Music aside, what Beautiful also offered was a well-written script from Douglas McGrath which moved at a good pace. Obviously, words and music to most songs came from King and Goffin, but there were also numbers from contemporary composers, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who featured heavily as a side plot. And the education was there as well as I did not know much about them, but they also delivered fine songs, notably You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place and On Broadway.

All the performers were outstanding, including Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil), Jos Slovick (Barry Mann), Claire Greenway (Genie), Sorrel Jordan (Betty) and Garry Robson (Donnie Kirsner).

The director for Beautiful was Nikolai Foster with Choreography by Leah Hill and Musical Direction from Sarah Travis.

After the breakup of King’s marriage to Gerry Goffin, she embarked on a new career as a performer in her own right and (as depicted in the show) the rest is history. Such an impact this show made on me, I immediately went out and ordered Tapestry (as I did not have it in my music library.

Beautiful is still currently touring the UK until the end of November. I recommend it highly.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

If I became you, and you became me, and we became one another.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022

It’s unusual to give my overall impression in the first paragraph of a review, but the fact I went to see Identical twice in two days will let you know how much I enjoyed this brand new, feelgood musical. 

George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are probably the best song-writing team currently in Musical Theatre and with a book by Stuart Paterson and direction in the hands of Trevor Nunn, Identical was always going to exceed expectations.

Identical is based on Erich Kastner’s 1949 novel, Lisa and Lottie which was more famously adapted into a treasured movie of mine and many other childhoods in Disney’s The Parent Trap. However, set in Munich and Vienna, Identical follows Kastner’s original plot closely.

Of course, unlike the Disney films with Hayley Mills (1961) and Lindsey Lohan (1998), to have actors in a dual role on stage is near impossible. That is why production auditioned over 100 sets of identical twins (now three years ago, before Covid occurred) resulting in the successful trio in this premiere run at Nottingham and Salford.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022
Kyla and Nicole Fox – Friday August 12 2022.

Lisa and Lottie meet at summer camp (“She’s got your face!”) and realise they are twin sisters during the beautiful, tear-jerking You’re My Sister. Working out they were separated at birth, their parents taking one each, the girls swap places in an excellent number of punch the air proportions in If I Became You.

Once the girls return from camp, the changes are noticeable. Lottie has forgotten how to cook, gets in a fight at school, and becomes a terrible student, while Lisa will no longer eat her favourite food, becomes a model student and can now miraculously play the piano. However, no one suspects the girls are not who they claim to be, and the situation complicates when Father announces he is to marry a famous ballet dancer.

The first thing to notice is the wonderful set with video projections creating a magical stage, complete with rustling leaves, flying birds and later, moving cars in the city. So much credit, therefore, must go to Douglas O’Connell (Video Designer), Robert Jones (Set Design) and Johanna Town (Lighting). However, it is an all-round combination that makes Identical so good. Script, songs, musical direction (Caroline Humphries), choreography (Matt Cole) and especially the performances. And none more so than the leading twins.

I have already mentioned that me and my partner liked it so much, we returned for a second helping at the Saturday Matinee. Therefore, we saw two out of the three Lisas and Lotties: Friday was Kyla and Nicole Fox while Saturday saw the roles played by Eden and Emme Patrick. Not only could I not separate the twins on stage, but it was also likewise with their respective performances as both sets were excellent. Out of this world in every number. Obviously, I didn’t get to see the third (Savannah and Sienna Robinson) but having viewed a West End Live Performance on YouTube, I know they would have been of an equally high standard. 

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022 
Eden and Emme Patrick – Saturday 13 August 2022

But there were also top performances from the adults. Emily Tierney was magnificent as Lisalotte, especially during the title track, Identical while James Darch was equally so with Tierney during Fear Only Makes the Wolf Bigger and Safely Back Home with You.

Supporting well though were Louise Gold (Roza/Miss Muthesius) and Michael Smith-Stewart (Dr Strobl) who duetted in a lovely number, It’s Not for Me to Say. And there was David Bardsley (Franz) and Ellie Nunn (Miss Ulrike), the latter opening the show with In the Summer. A massive shout out, though, must go to Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson as Miss Gerlach. Her duet/argument with Lottie in What He Doesn’t Need was for me, the best number. And I kind of felt sorry for Miss Gerlach as unlike the films, her character isn’t as scheming, and she really doesn’t do an awful lot wrong. Still, a happy conclusion it will be and for that to happen, both parents must reunite, along with the sisters.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022
Savannah and Sienna Robinson – The twins I didn’t get to see.

Identical is a wonderful show of magical proportions which not only appeals to audiences of today, but also captures the spirit of musicals of old. Next to me on one performance was a man twenty or so years my senior (and that does not happen often these days). He laughed and enjoyed as much as the kids who filled a good percentage of the auditorium. And it is those kids who are so important.

Theatre in the 21st Century needs shows like Identical, as well as similar in School of Rock and Matilda. Children will go along with families and enjoy them so much, they will come back. And there you have your musical theatre audience for the next generation.

As I have said, this was an all-round smash for me, as you can tell by the fact this review is double the length of my usual. Therefore, credit to all adult ensemble members: Rico Bakker, Hannah Cauchi, Paige Fenlon, Rosie Glossop, Dominic Adam Griffin, Jordan Isaac and Rutendo Mushonga. And the young cast: Parrine Long, Kirsten Muzvuru, Poppy Pawson and Helena Middleton who were on show for me with Winter Jarrett Glasspool, Daisy Jeffcoat, Saffia Layla and Isabelle Larrey at other performances. And well done to the Nottingham Ensemble of children, plus Louby as Pepi the Dog.

I really hope Identical becomes the hit it deserves as in my opinion, it’s up there with Mary Poppins and Annie in terms of magical family entertainment.

The show has now finished at Nottingham but moves to The Lowry in Salford. Friday 19 August to Saturday 3 September 2022. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Identical — Nottingham Playhouse — 12 & 13 August 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

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

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