Tag Archive: Andrew Lloyd Webber


I have a confession to make. I had never seen Phantom of the Opera until this experience. Sure, I’m familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber music, having played the soundtrack for years and have also seen the 2004 film version. However, I always thought the first time I saw Phantom it should be at its traditional home of Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End. That was until I discovered it being performed local to me by Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA).

Now, I’m no stranger to BOA, having seen and reviewed two of their Year 13 productions in The Witches of Eastwick (2016) and Sister Act (2018). Both were of the highest quality, talent surpassing the years of those on stage. Therefore, when I searched out this years’ offering, I had no hesitation in breaking my promise of waiting for London. I knew I’d be in for a treat with BOA and boy, I was not disappointed.

As before, the academy provides four performances with the cast split into A and B (Two each). The fact they can produce this with two entirely different casts of the same calibre makes it more amazing. I won’t go over the plot as really, if you’re reading this, you should know it. What I want to do is laud as much praise as I can on the remarkable BOA students.

In the role of The Phantom on the night we had Llewellyn Graham who captured the role with mystery, character and great voice. Then, speaking of voice, we had our Christine Daaé. OMG! Colleen Curran was amazing. I have witnessed leading ladies in professional shows who were not as good. An outstanding performance. I was on the edge of my seat during Think of Me with goosebumps on my arms, it was so magical. See you in the West End one day, Colleen. Equally, Rhiannon Street as Carlotta owned the stage with her presence. A fabulous voice and acting which totally exploited the character the way it needed. Then, playing Raoul was Sam Astbury who complimented his love interest in great fashion. Much good chemistry between the two.

An interesting take on the original tale saw André and Firmin played by in Kitty Hosty and Libby Clifford respectively. I know these are generally male roles, but these two worked so well, providing much comedy in a wonderful double act. Rounding off the principals were Niamh Slater (Madame Giry), Katherine Lester (Meg) and Leo Carl Abad (Piangi). Each once more than attained the high standards of others on stage. And that went for the rest of the cast too, which was massive. Wonderful ballet routines added to great sound from the chorus during musical numbers with lots of interaction and characterisation.

Then we had the effects. Yes, the chandelier came down (and made everybody jump, even though I suspect half the audience knew it was coming). Also, there was good use of the set for the signature number where The Phantom takes Miss Daeé into the catacombs. A successful use of doubles also made this appear like the long journey down into the depths it’s meant to be. Mood and magic were consistent throughout until that final scene where The Phantom disappears into his chair, leaving Meg Giry alone on stage with the mask. Both chilling and beautiful.

Of the musical numbers, there are many highlights: Phantom of the Opera, Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, The Point of No Return … Hell, I could list the lot.

In charge of production was Dan Branch with musical direction of a good band by Daniel Summers. Choreography was from Lee Crowley, assisted by Lucy Jennings and Georgie Meller.

I began by saying this was my first experience of the show. My partner, who accompanied me, has seen it both in the West End and on tour. Her verdict was that this surpassed both. These student productions are not just for parents to watch and credits towards an education, they are welcome inclusions in any theatre schedule. I thoroughly recommend them to be checked out. I know I’ll certainly continue to do so.

Phantom of the Opera – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 22 March 2019

* Post to this review being published, I’m informed all production and tech were completed by students too, making the entire process more amazing. Full details kindly supplied by Heather in the comments section below. Thank you.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Many thanks to BOA for providing cast names for this article.

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It’s been a year since I first heard the soundtrack to this and my annual West End weekend was never going to involve any other show.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

School of Rock the Musical is a stage version of the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name. The plot follows closely to the original so fans of the film will not be disappointed. However, what makes the musical special is a fantastic soundtrack and performances by a cast playing their own instruments.

There is a decent opening with the No Vacancy number, I’m Too Hot for You. However, the show kicks into top gear when Dewey Finn takes centre stage with When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock. Playing the hapless Finn on this occasion was Stephen Leask. Billed as Alternate Dewey, Leask takes some shows each week and I was glad I caught one of these because his performance was out of this world.

There is so much to love about School of Rock. The struggles of life as a child while growing up, excellently portrayed during, If Only You Would Listen. It’s a great story and throw in a kick ass soundtrack and you have the hit this show has become.

Top numbers for me in addition to those already mentioned include: You’re in the Band, Time to Play, Teacher’s Pet and Where Did the Rock Go? However, my favourite is always going to be Stick it to the Man.

The cast were amazing. Leask as Dewey Finn, I’ve mentioned already, but then we had Florence Andrews (Miss Mullins), Oliver Jackson (Ned Schneebly) and Michelle Francis (Patti). And there were the kids. Oh my God! They were fantastic. Such talent, not only in song and dance, but those who played the band instruments blew the audience away. I really hope I’ve got the names right in this review but if I haven’t, feel free to correct me.

In the role of the bossy Summer was Stella Hayden whose lead in Time to Play kicked off Act Two perfectly. As for the band, Santiago Cerchione played guitarist, Zack with Milano Preston (Lawrence on Keys), Jacob Swan (Freddy on Drums) and Eliza Cowdrey (Katie on the Bass). And Katie … loved the hard face to the audience. Finally, giving great vocals, we had Nerys Obeng as Tomika.

Music for School of Rock was by the legend that it Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics from Glenn Slater and the book provided by Julian Fellows. Directing was Laurence Conner with choreography from Joann M Hunter and musical direction, Matt Smith. Special mention for the grown-up band who helped make the entire experience … rock.

It would have been nice to put cast names to characters and Dewey did introduce them in an energetic finale, but do you think I’m going to waste time writing them down when there was so much energy on stage.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

Yes, I said at the start, I’d waited a while to see this, and was not disappointed. The only downside now is that School of Rock is reportedly remaining in London until early 2019 at the very least. Damn … I was hoping for a tour. Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to the capital then.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

What’s the buzz? Let me tell you what’s happening. Classic rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar is in the region for three nights only. The groundbreaking musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber which has delighted audiences for decades is on at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock from the 20th to 22nd November 2014.

Originally produced as a concept album, the musical arrangements on Jesus Christ Superstar mix rock with the classical in multi-layered dynamics which are as fresh today as 40 years ago. The score features well known numbers including: Heaven on Their Minds, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, the semi-comical, Herod’s Song, and of course, Superstar.

Performed by a magnificent cast with excellent musical direction and choreography, Jesus Christ Superstar tells the story of the final days of Christ and his ultimate betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Beginning with uplifting exuberance, events quickly turn with the arrest and trial of Christ, leading to its poignant conclusion. The production contains a passionate portrayal of characters, triumph, struggle and subsequent tragedy.

This current show is the latest offering from the excellent Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS). For almost 50 years, AMCS have been delivering quality productions and Jesus Christ Superstar is no exception.

Staged from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 November 2014, tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01543 578762 or by going to www.aldridgemcs.co.uk with options to book direct from AMCS or online.

Don’t miss out on a rare chance to share in this magnificent experience.

£12/adult, £10/Concessions and £6/Child.

jcs_flyer

Cheers.

Nick

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