Tag Archive: Antony N Britt


Two years ago, Third From The Right Productions introduced me to a brilliant show I’d not heard of: Shout! And now they’ve gone and done it again with the excellent Disenchanted. This Off-Broadway musical is the brainchild of Dennis T. Giacino who wrote the book, music and lyrics.

Disenchanted tells about several fairy tale princesses whose stories have been corrupted by that most evil of beings – Disney. These are characters gone wrong, and in spectacular fashion. Very off-the-wall and tongue-in-cheek.

Bemoaning the fact they often seem to be vulnerable and in need of rescuing by a handsome prince, our princesses put the record straight. Life is not all happy endings with reality very different. It’s a sentiment I totally approve of, as will be seen by anybody attending my own self-penned pantomime in November; ironically, Sleeping Beauty, from AMCS.

Leading the disenchanted we had a fearsome Snow White (Natalie Baggot), a dreamy Sleeping Beauty (Gaynor Whitehouse) and a fluffy-headed Cinderella (Jo Foley). Foley’s performance reminded me, in looks as well as character, of Emma Chambers’ Alice in The Vicar of Dibley. Combining well for Once More Happily Ever After and A Happy Tune, the three were present throughout much of the performance, supporting, complimenting and downright bickering.

Also present were Gillian Homer (Pocahontas), Amy Pearson (Mulan – who may or may not be a lesbian) and Kaz Luckins (Rapunzel & The Princess Who Kissed A Frog). Then we had the out of rehab, Little Mermaid (Sarah Coussens) and Princess Badroulbadour (Kerry Davies). The latter also played my favourite character in the show, the clinically insane Belle, singing (of course) Insane.

Each of the cast contributed to great all-round entertainment. A breath of fresh air which the only shame is afterwards, I can’t find evidence of a CD Soundtrack anywhere. Damn! I want to relive the moment.

Other top numbers for me were: Honestly, Big Tits and All I Wanna Do is Eat. Then there was Not Von Red Cent, involving audience participation in the form of a sing-off between the front row right and … the rest of the audience. Guess where I was sitting? I don’t think we did too bad, though.

Disenchanted was directed by Jez Luckins with choreography and supporting direction from Gaynor Whitehouse. The musical director was Chris Corcoran.

Second time for me experiencing Third From The Right Productions and the first for Disenchanted. I’d recommend both whenever you get the chance. Word of warning, though. Sit on the front row at your peril.

Disenchanted – The Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham – 31 August 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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My only other encounter with Lollipop Theatre Arts was earlier this year when I attended their presentation of Me and My Girl.  But what could I expect this time? The Addams Family was a single performance resulting from a summer school. I learned afterwards, the kids had begun from reading initial scripts, auditions, then rehearsals to a full show in just nine days. I mean, come on, they were brilliant last time, but can you really pull off a show in nine days?

The Addams Family - Great Wyrley High School Theatre - August 17 2018. (Photo used with kind permission from Lollipop Theatre Arts)

The opener, When You’re an Addams, was outstanding. One of the best-delivered first numbers I’ve ever seen. And it was then I knew I was in for a treat.

Stand outs for me were Wednesday’s Growing Up, Just Around the Corner, Crazier Than You, What If? Live Before We Die and the exceptional The Moon and Me. Top track on the night, though, was Pulled, sung by the excellent Abbey Laycock (Wednesday Addams).

Of course, that’s not to say there weren’t other top performances. In fact, I couldn’t see a weak-link. Youth can be misinterpreted as inexperienced at times, but there was nothing of the kind here. Any of these artistes would be welcome in mine or any other company treading the boards.

Of the other principles, Thomas Gould played Gomez with a stage presence to be proud of. Supporting as his other half, Morticia, was Katie Hayes, who I can also not praise enough. And then we had Tom Horton as Fester. This kid will go far if he wants to. A natural entertainer. Other excellent showings came from Sasha Donoghue (Pugsley), Millie Cooper (Grandma), Emily Smith (Mal), Amy Horton (Alice) and Alex Jeffreys (Lucas). A special mention must also go to Florie Miles (Lurch) who apart from creating a great character, had the difficult task of keeping a straight face throughout.

Supporting well were a troop of dancers and ensemble who looked as if they were having a great time (Loved the corpse bride outfit).

The Addams Family was directed by Lucy-Ellen Parker with choreography from Helen Stone and musical direction of a good orchestra by Matthew Davis.

Asking about the summer school (I still couldn’t quite get into my head – nine days), I was told the cast are there every day, then return home to cram-up. And it showed. This did not have the look of a holiday project, more a polished production which had been months in the making. Perhaps there is something to be said for this type of method. With the intenseness of the shorter period, there is less chance of forgetting what you have learnt than with a weekly schedule spanning months. You’d have expected rawness, and mistakes, but none were obvious to me. And for the rest of the audience, it was pure faultless entertainment.

So twice now I’ve seen Lollipop who really deserve a bigger audience. And I’m sad I was on my own this time as I want to share them with my friends. Spread the message, folks. This is a great company.

The Addams Family – Great Wyrley High School Theatre – August 17 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I love youth theatre. I’ve seen a fair bit in the past couple of years and however much I enjoy professional and amateur productions, youth theatre is where it begins.

I’d not heard of Back to the 80s before but being (Ahem!) a certain age, the tunes were familiar to me. I’d also not had any experience so far of Birmingham Youth Theatre but on the night, was not disappointed.

Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Back to the 80s is a coming of age, feelgood romp set in the senior year of William Ocean High School (nice pun) and told retrospectively through the narrative of Corey Palmer Senior (Callum Byrne). Characters are split into the familiar which you would relate to from any school experience. We had the regular kids, the cool guys (Were they ever really cool in our school days?), the popular girls, the outcasts and the teachers. With a decent script from Neil Gooding, the show is brought to life immediately with Kids in America. Okay, I was sold, and suddenly seventeen again.

And the numbers kept coming: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Total Eclipse of the Heart, Material Girl, Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car) and The Final Countdown. These were just a selection which made Back to the 80s such a blast. Ending the night, we had I’ve Had the Time of My Life, a song which has never been a favourite of mine, but one perfect to finish on. Also, strangely, another song which I openly dislike, ended being my top tune in We Are the World.

Founded in 1987, Birmingham Youth Theatre stage two shows a year, featuring talent up to 19 years of age. And talent was very much on view. What impressed me most was that nobody was left out. Everyone appeared to have dialogue and more importantly, solo lines during the songs. All delivered in great style.

Playing the lead role of Callum Junior was Dylan Mulholland who turned in a fine performance. Equally so were Sam Cox (Mr Cocker), Georgia Taylor (Miss Brannigan), Cameron Simpson (Billy), Zak Hayes (Michael), Anna Simpson (Cyndi), Harry Chamberlain (Fergal) and Maddison Clarke (Tiffany). However, those were the principles. I never normally stretch as far as naming an entire cast, but the whole of BYT deserve it, so I will. This includes: Sydney Pope (Mel), Wiktoria Matysiak (Kim), Molly Ewins (Laura), Abbie Hudson (Debbie), Kishan Sambhi (Alf), Daniel Bromley (Kirk) and Holly-Mae Nelson (Eileen). In the chorus, we had Saran Sambhi, Abigail Guest, Abi Shiriane and Karina Galloway. Lastly, a special mention to the lad who appeared to be the youngest member; Dylan-Jak O’Dwyer who portrayed several comic mini characters including Yoda, Mr Miagi and Mario.

In charge of production we had Adam Swift (Director), Chris Corcoran (Musical Director) and Sam Depper (Choreography).

After the curtains closed I was, as often, the solitary sole applauding the band’s play-out music (Everyone always forgets the band). And I could hear from the stage the cries of “We are BYT! We are BYT!” Something to be proud of, indeed.


Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

A month ago I saw Legally Blonde at The Crescent Theatre, performed by the brilliant Bournville Musical Theatre Company. As I enjoyed that so much, I thought I’d take the opportunity of seeing the touring production at the New Alexander Theatre.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Unlike last month, the opening was low-key, and the show took time to build the energy, perhaps needing some of that Red Bull Elle drinks in the show. I guess some of the atmosphere came from the fact this was a matinee with the auditorium barely a third full, which was a pity as it was a great show.

Legally Blonde is fast climbing the list of my top shows and this performance did nothing to harm that. In the role of Elle we had Rebecca Stenhouse, standing in due to the illness of Lucie Jones. Well, I never watch X-Factor or Eurovision, so had no knowledge of Lucie, and could therefore appreciate the characterisation with an open mind. And what a good portrayal she gave. Suited the role perfectly, giving a faultless showing with strong voice and acting.

Playing Paulette, the top billing went to former EastEnders actress. Rita Simons, who captured the role well, making Ireland one of the best numbers. I did think Paulette’s outfits weren’t oddball enough, but this did not detract from Rita’s performance. Also from the world of soaps we had Bill Ward, last seen plunging from a bridge in Emmerdale. He made the perfect Callaghan.

I have said the atmosphere grew throughout and the culmination of this was an energetic finale, complete with pink ticker-tape, much of which I found on me hours later. Best number of the day for me was Legally Blonde itself. However, Gay or European did not live up to my previous experiences. A slight downside also was that dialogue seemed a little rushed on occasions. Still, a show full of memorable numbers: Bend and Snap, What You Want, Positive, So Much Better and Take it Like a Man were all highlights of an enjoyable afternoon.

Also appearing were David Barrett (Emmett), Liam Doyle (Warner), Laura Harrison (Vivienne), Helen Petrova (Whitney/Brooke Wyndham), Ben Harlow (Kyle), Mark Peachey (Winthrop/Dewey), Alexandra Wright (Margot), Rachel Grundy (Serena), Delycia Belgrave (Pilar), Nancy Hill (Enid Hoops), Rosie Needham (Kate/Chutney), Michael Hamway (Aaron Shultz), Felipe Bejarano (Sundeep/Nikos), Lucyelle Cliffe (Judge/Pforzheiner/Store Manager), Sally Frith (Gaelen), Brett Shields (Grand Master Chad), Craig Tyler (Carlos) and Laura Mullowney (Swing).

Legally Blonde was directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams with co-choreography from Dean Street. The musical director was James McCullagh.

The second production of Legally Blonde I have experienced within a few weeks, and I would see a third if the chance came. A great show that I’d highly recommend if it comes your way.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The Jets are gonna have their day – tonight. The Sharks are gonna have their way – tonight.

But which gang will triumph? Well, you can find out when the wonderful Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) return to The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock with the legendary musical, West Side Story.

West Side Story – Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock – 16 to 19 May 2018 Aldridge Musical Comedy Society AMCS

Set in the Upper West Side of New York in the 1950s, the two warring gangs are thrown into turmoil when former Jet leader, Tony, falls in love with Maria, sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Arthur Laurents book brings an urban touch to the story. With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, it’s no wonder West Side is as popular today as in 1957 when first on Broadway.

Instantly recognisable are the songs: Somewhere, Tonight, I Feel Pretty, America and Maria. Add to that spectacular dance routines and you have a show the audience will be talking about for a long time.

Now beyond their 50th year, AMCS are known for delivering quality and professional shows which go beyond the remit of amateur dramatics. At the directorial helm is Sarah Beckett, doubling up with her usual role of choreographer while as musical director, Mark Bayliss leads a 19-piece orchestra.

West Side Story – Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock – 16 to 19 May 2018 Aldridge Musical Comedy Society AMCS

The show is going to be massive. Tickets are selling fast but you can still get some by calling the ticket secretary on 07984 465400 or the box office (01543 578762). Alternatively, tickets can be purchased via StageStubs at this link.

West Side Story is on 16 to 19 May (1930 start). Prices are £15/Adult, £12/Concession and £10/under 16s.

Tonight, tonight, won’t be just any night …

Don’t miss out.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Two years ago, I witnessed one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in The Witches of Eastwick. It came courtesy of Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA), therefore, browsing the What’s On pages, I had no hesitation in giving them a second run with Sister Act. Still, we had different Year 13s, and I wondered if it would it live up to expectations.Sister Act – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 24 March 2018 Birmingham Ormiston Academy. BOA

I have to say, I had never seen Sister Act and only knew one number (which isn’t in the show these days), so you can say I went in blind.

Sister Act tells the story of Dolores Van Cartier, on the run from her crime boss boyfriend. About to give evidence against him, Dolores is given sanctuary in a convent.

A blast of an opener in Take Me to Heaven had everything from great vocals to fabulous dance, all performed with skill and energy. Other numbers I enjoyed were Good to Be a Nun, I Could Be That Guy and Raise Your Voice before a powerful reprise of Take Me to Heaven. Act Two was equally blessed (sorry for the nun pun) with Sunday Morning Fever, Here Within These Walls, The Life I Never Led, Sister Act and a rousing finale in Spread the Love Around.

As for performances, I must pay a huge tribute to the wonderful Grace Mikhael in the lead role of Dolores. On the night, Grace gave everything I love in a character. Excellent throughout, fantastic voice and acting with attitude. Body language was superb, mannerisms perfect. She owned the stage.

Not alone, there was magnificent support from other principles, namely Beth Tyrrell (Mother Superior), Hana Copestake (Sister Mary Robert), Callum Maine (Monsignor O’Hara), Mariah Loizou (Sister Mary Lazarus), Tom Cowan (Curtis Jackson), Meg Aucott (Sister Mary Partick), Jack Christou (Eddie Souther), Frazer Howes (TJ), Nathan King (Joey), Harry Singh (Pablo) and Keith Barratt (Ernie).

Sister Act was produced and directed by Dan Branch with choreography from Lee Crowley and Musical direction, Daniel Summers.

Two years after my first experience of BOA, I was once again left breathless and am already looking out for future productions. This was better than many professional shows; my partner even commenting that it outshone a touring Sister Act some years back at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

There’s little more I can say but as a school/academy offering, I have no hesitation in giving Sister Act full marks.

Sister Act – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 24 March 2018 Birmingham Ormiston Academy. BOA

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Okay, I can officially announce the release of my second book.

Ghost Stories: Tales From The Dead Of Night © Antony N Britt 2017

Ghost Stories: Tales From The Dead Of Night is a collection of 20 short stories which might have you afraid to turn out the light. But don’t take my word for it. Read the blurb.

Meet …

Mark, who loves Alison, but must first get past her dead father.

Jessie and Tommy. In fear of what’s in the attic.

Colin. As a medium, he’s used to ghosts. It’s the living he needs to be scared of.

Alec, haunted by a tragedy which took place forty years ago. Now the past has caught up.

Karen and Matthew, locked in a manor house with the spirit of its sadistic former owner.

Irene. All she wanted was attention; now she wishes it would go away.

And meet Cara. Disturbed by the presence in her bedsit, and a bloodstain which keeps returning.

You don’t need to sleep to have nightmares.

You can buy Ghost Stories in either digital or print from Amazon by following the link below.

Ghost Stories: Tales From The Dead Of Night by Antony N Britt.

Cheers

Antony N Britt

 

October 25 1980 was the day I purchased a vinyl LP. My 17th birthday with money to spend, I had already been captivated by Eighth Day, which then led to me seeing the film, Breaking Glass, and so, in turn, progressing onto getting the album, and I was hooked.

I’d seen Hazel O’Connor as recent as 2014 but when advertised she was touring in a set showcasing the three albums released at the peak of her career, I had to go.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Hazel O’Connor had what would now be considered a short spell in the limelight during the early 1980s. However, although Breaking Glass and their follow-ups, Sons and Lovers and Cover Plus had great commercial success, life is short in the fast lane.

But not if you’re a fan.

Those three albums, incredibly, came out within the space of just over a year, but to me they’ve lasted 37 and are still going strong. Breaking Glass, as well as being one of my favourite films, is probably still in my top ten albums I love to listen to. And that’s out of a massive and varied collection of rock.

Opening with the awesome, D-Days, we were treated to hit after hit taking me back to that time when I first heard them.

Okay … maybe not every song was a hit in the commercial sense, but they were, and still are, to me: Runaway, Monsters in Disguise, Blackman, Writing on the Wall, If Only – to mention a few. But we also had the more personal where Hazel engaged with the audience (most of whom looked, ahem … about 50 to 55). Many songs were introduced with their backstory including the beautiful Calls the Tune, inspired by the murder of Blair Peach at the hands of the SPG. Also, the tale of not knowing who Nina Simone was which led to the inclusion of Do What You Gotta Do on Cover Plus. And some great memories Hazel shared relating to her mother.

A couple more of my favourites were Cover Plus (Track) and the classic Will You? One of the most wonderful songs ever written, Will You? is also memorable for its sax solo and this was delivered in brilliant fashion by Clare Hirst (Ex Belle Stars), who along with Sarah Fisher (Keys), have toured with Hazel for years. Also in the band on this tour was Hazel’s brother, Neil O’Connor (Guitars) who played on the original Sons and Lovers and Cover Plus albums. Cover Plus tells of growing up, and it also takes on an additional meaning now because we’ve all truly – grown up.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Afterwards, it was a fanboy’s dream for me to meet Hazel in the foyer (Despite the efforts of the rude jobswoth venue employee who tried his hardest to get rid of the waiting crowd). Hazel was happy to talk to the fans, though, have photos and sign everything thrust at her. And for me, it was a dream to get that very same vinyl LP from 1980 inscribed.

Hazel O'Connor Breaking Glass © Antony N Britt

A great night. Thanks Hazel for taking me back and if only for a moment, making me seventeen again.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The Tide is High. Forty years ago I discovered Blondie and since then they have been my number one when it comes to feelgood pop. Therefore, even with Debbie Harry now 72 (Really …? Wow!), I knew I was in for a great night out. And yes, much of the audience were, ahem … older than most, but that didn’t mean they had to behave and were on their feet most of the show.

Kicking off with One Way or Another, I was suddenly a teenager again and the goosebumps continued throughout. Some things seem timeless.

On the night there was a blend of old and new. Five songs from the current album, Pollination, included Long Time, Too Much and Fun. But then we had the classics. Hanging on the Telephone, Call Me, Atomic and Heart of Glass, the list goes on. Highlight for me was the inclusion of Fade Away and Radiate, one of my favourite album tracks. Okay, the set was only 90 minutes long, but so much energy was packed into it. Another feelgood moment was the occasions Harry waved at the audience and on several occasions, seemingly straight at me.

Okay … I can dream.

Making a stand about saving the planet, in particular, the dwindling bee population, Harry appeared wearing a bee head-dress and cape which said, Stop fucking the planet. It was a message repeated throughout the night and one which hit home.

One thing I always have to shout, Blondie are a group and not just Debbie Harry. Integral to things are original members, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, supported by Leigh Foxx, Tommy Kessler and Matt Katz-Bohen. Without these, the music wouldn’t be the same.

I’m fortunate that many of my favourite bands just seem to go on and on. I know nothing lasts forever, so I enjoy these shows while I can. This was so good, though, I can only hope for more to come.

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

This was my second experience of Trinity Musical Theatre Company, having seen their offering of The Witches of Eastwick twelve months ago. So, would this year’s production also deliver satisfaction?

Return to the Forbidden Planet – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 4 November 2017

The first thing to note is the cast are already on stage as the audience enter the auditorium. A good effect which grabs your attention as soon as you hit the seats. An impressive set with costumes reminiscent of Sci-Fi films, one of which Forbidden Planet is famous. In particular, the clone-like appearance of the females which had me thinking of Gerry Anderson’s UFO series of the 1970s.

The show has a low-key opening with flight attendants giving a demonstration of safety precautions. Different, but amusing. Then we have countdown and blast off to the sound of Wipe Out. What caught me straight away was how full the stage was. This was much down to members of the Linzi G School of Dance. A great collaboration which not only sees additional energy and interaction on stage, it also gives pupils experience to add to the CV.

Any fan of rock and roll will love Forbidden Planet; the hits come one after another. Great Balls of Fire, Good Vibrations and Young Girl, to name a few. And a good way to end the show with a medley of tunes, culminating with the comic, Monster Mash.

This is a strange show for me because there is so much I don’t like to begin with. I’m not a fan of the clunky Shakespearian dialogue, neither do I like the cop-out reprise at the start of Act Two where you have a different conclusion to the previous scene, but that’s just the writer in me. The fact I have niggles with the original Bob Carlton script goes to show how good a job the cast and crew have done to get me still raving positive about what was before me.

On the night there were excellent performances from Mitch Bastable as Tempest, Beth Berwick-Lowe (Miranda) and Pat Lewis (Prospero). Also supporting well were Naomi-Leeanne Millard (Gloria), Steve Taylor (Ariel), Abigail James (Bosun) and Mark Moran (Cookie). Okay, Cookie was a trifle older than expected, but this was dealt with in a tongue-in-cheek way at the end of Teenager in Love.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable night out. The biggest compliment I can give, though is that on the way to the theatre, I had the London Cast Recording CD on in the car. Trinity’s performance was better. Production for the show was in the experienced hands of Andy Poulton with choreography by Lindsey Grant (of Linzi G fame) and musical direction from Dan Tomkinson.

Return to the Forbidden Planet – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 4 November 2017

Next year, Trinity turn their hands to The Wizard of Oz and on current evidence, it will be another great show.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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