Tag Archive: Bill Kenwright


One of the most famous shows of the last thirty years with the role of Mrs Johnstone considered iconic. However, I had never seen Blood Bothers so needed to tick another off the list.

This is a tale of a mother who after having twins, gives one (Eddie) away to make ends meet. To stop her ever seeing Eddie, the adopting mother uses Mrs Johnstone’s superstitious nature to spin a tale, saying if ever the boys learn of each other’s identity, both will die. Of course, they do meet, become friends, fall out, and then reach an inevitable tragic conclusion.

I had little empathy with Mrs Johnstone, as it happens. Well, she gave away her son far too easy. Still, the lead was played well by 1970s singer, Lyn Paul, considered by many to be the definitive in the role. Very powerful and poignant vocals. I am so glad I saw her on this occasion.

Also billed at the top was Robbie Scotcher as the Narrator. He too gave an excellent performance, although I did find the inclusion of a narrator obtrusive at times. Then we had the twins; the rough-edged Mickey and more sheltered and studious Eddie, portrayed by Alexander Patmore and Joel Benedict respectively.

Now, the thing about Blood Brothers is that it is set when the twins are aged 7, 14, then through to 18 and beyond, with all their Act One scenes as juveniles. And as well as Patmore and Benedict tackled being 7-year-olds, I still found it cringing and embarrassing to watch at times. Women can get away with this far batter, as was shown by the excellent Danielle Corlass as Linda, but grown men pretending to be little kids … Noooooo! Then, supporting well on the night we also had Chloe Taylor (Mrs Lyons), Daniel Taylor (Sammy) and Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) in addition to a good chorus.

My biggest praise for the show, as a writer, must go to the book by Willy Russell. Well-written, being funny and dark at the same time. It takes talent to turn a mood so quickly. However, if Russell’s script is top-drawer, the music is less so. I found the songs generic and dull, with the same tunes reprised too much. The most enjoyable for me was Kids’ Game with the more popular Tell Me it’s Not True, overrated (in my opinion). Other decent numbers included Easy Terms, My Child and Bright New Day, while on the other hand, Marilyn Monroe must be the most awful song I’ve heard in musical theatre (and it’s reprised to death).

Positives from Blood Brothers in addition to the script were the performances from the cast and band, whereas a major negative was the lack of dance (There is very little). Plus, the show has a dated feel to it, although that seems par for the course with Bill Kenwright directions, I’m afraid.

This review might suggest I hated Blood Brothers, and that’s not so. I did enjoy the show, but was not bowled over as one might expect. Still, I’ll give 7 out of 10 for a production which survives more on reputation than delivery.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was the first Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber production to have an audience, arriving in 1968. Therefore, considering my love of musical theatre and the amount of shows I go to, it’s criminal it has taken me until 2019 to see this.

I won’t go into detail, but the story is based around the Joseph saga from that famous work of fiction, The Book of Genesis. Basically, Joseph is the favourite son, which angers his brothers who throw him in a pit, then sell him into slavery. However, the tables are turned when Joseph rises to a position of power and the brothers end up begging him for help.

Including recognisable numbers like Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door, Joseph has been wowing audiences for years. So, would it do the same for me? Sadly not.

It’s a pity, because it started so well with great sound from the orchestra in the overture, and that’s where the fun ended. Heavens (Forgive the pun), it’s a dull show. The songs are not particularly interesting with poor lyrics and a flat storyline. To be frank, this Bill Kenwright production was drab. I expected a myriad of colour but got a stripped-back offering with the minimum of set. There were a few decent Egyptian pieces in Act Two, but that’s about it. Costumes looked cheap as did many of the props. Cardboard talking camels and a likewise Sphinx spring to mind. Not funny or clever. I’ve seen school productions put more effort in. Okay, I do have to say the cast were amazing, but you can only work with what you’re given, which wasn’t much.

To start with, we had a choir of 40 children who were great in the entr’acte and probably so all the way through. However, the sound was not balanced once in competition with the cast and you could barely hear the kids. Such a shame as they put in so much effort, all to be sadly let down. Then we have the character of Joseph. Union J singer Jaymi Hensley did a good job vocally, but I had no empathy for the character. Joseph is supercilious throughout, even when he is down on his luck, and if I was one of his brothers, I’d have probably flung him in a pit as well. And left him.

Another disappointment was the choreography, or rather, lack of it. It all seemed basic and having attended a dance school performance the previous week, I know which I’d award top marks for.

However, worst of all had to be the song parodies. A Country and Western dance … really! I know this and others were also in earlier versions, but they simply don’t work. Anubis’ who looked like grid iron footballers and Joseph’s family dressed as Parisians, complete with striped shirts, berets and neck-scarves. To complete this, we had a pop-up Eifel Tower, just in case you weren’t sure they were supposed to look French. I’m surprised we didn’t have a full house with them sporting a string of onions. Pathetic. But the icing on the cake as far as supreme tacky went to the Elvis impersonator. Again, this has been part of the show before but on this tour, you get the full Vegas experience (Oh, I kid you not). After Song of the King, Joseph asks Pharaoh if he can sing it again. I don’t think those around me expected to hear the stifled cries, of, “Oh, please don’t.”

But none of this was the fault of the cast, as I’ve stated, and in addition to Hensley as Joseph, we had a magnificent performance from Anna Campkin as the Narrator while supporting well on the night were: Henry Metcalf (Jacob/Potiphar) and Andrew Geater (Pharaoh).

Direction for Joseph was the responsibility of Bill Kenwright with Choreography from Henry Metcalf and Gary Lloyd, plus musical direction by Jeremey Wootton.

Now I’m all for reinvention and updated versions, I look forward to them, but this wasn’t a good one. What may have set out to be a clever idea looked more dated than it would have been 30 to 40 years ago. I really think in 2019 we can do better. I also have to say I feel sorry for the folk for whom this was their first musical experience, because they may not come back.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The stage was alive in Birmingham with the Sound of Music in the form of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ world famous show.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016

As one of my favourite musical films, I did wonder how seeing the live version would compare. Yes, it is different, of course, with no place on stage for the Austrian mountains. There is also the matter of songs excluded from the 1965 film and a slightly different order of others. No matter. After all, the stage version came first and unlike the film, each performer in front of me sang their own lines.

Having recently seen a magnificent set at the same venue for Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music was the complete opposite in comparison. The barest of backdrops and a sparse scattering of props was in keeping with a small cast. However, this did not distract from the experience. The performances on stage were exceptional enough that any superficial extras were not needed.

So how did a live version of a popular film match up? Excellent, as it happens. I loved the numbers, How Can Love Survive and No Way to Stop It and cannot understand why they were omitted from the film in the first place. Also, I do prefer the more sympathetic characterisation of Elsa, the Baroness and that Rolf helps the family escape at the climax of the show.

As well as the songs already mentioned, other musical highlights for me were Do-Re-Mi, So Long, Farewell and Something Good.

Portraying the part of Maria was The Voice Runner Up, Lucy O’Byrne with Andrew Lancel (more familiar as DI Manson in The Bill) as Captain Von Trapp. Max Detweiler was played by Duncan Smith, Elsa Schraeder by Lucy Van Gasse, Liesl by Annie Holland with Jan Hartley as The Abbess. There were also good performances by all of the children on duty which topped off a fine day, indeed.

The Sound of Music was produced by Bill Kenwright, directed by Martin Connor with musical direction from David Steadman and Tim Whitting. Choreography was by Bill Deamer with Gary McCann on Design.

So was it a case of so long and farewell when I left the theatre as I considered my verdict? Well, unlike recent shows I’ve seen, I haven’t been motivated to play the London Cast CD since. I felt the show was a little let down by the meagre set and maybe the whole thing could have been more dynamic, but the cast pulled it round. And I’d say it was still an enjoyable experience which I would happily see another version of in the future.

The Sound of Music – Birmingham Hippodrome, 25 June 2016

Cheers.

Nick

 

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