Tag Archive: Birmingham


Omigod! Omigod, you guys. Looks like Elle’s gonna win the prize.

Well, you need to have been at The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham watching The Arcadians Musical Theatre Company’s production of Legally Blonde to find out if Elle Woods really did win that prize.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

Legally Blonde is a 2007 musical with score and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin and a book from Heather Hach. The musical itself is based on the 2001 film of the same name and follows sorority girl, Elle Woods as she enrols in Harvard Law School to win back ex-boyfriend, Warner.

This show is now officially the one I have seen the most over four different productions, both amateur and professional and the first thing I saw was an absence of the usual pink sorority backdrops and law school sets. This did not matter. I am quite a fan of the stripped-back approach. Let’s face it, as a director, I’d rather the audience be watching the cast than the scenery and when the cast are as good as The Arcadians were on view, who needs scenery? The other noticeable thing was the use of backing tracks instead of a live band. Yeah, I could tell the difference, but many wouldn’t and even I settled into it. But don’t be too hard on companies who choose this road as in times of financial hardship, an orchestra to do Legally Blonde justice would cost a minimum £3-4K; probably more.

In the role of Elle was Bethany Neame and as well as great vocals, I was impressed with the overall acting, especially facial expressions and reactions. Bethany shone, particularly in solo numbers So Much Better and Legally Blonde (Slow Version). Playing opposite as Emmett Forrest was Jacob Standbridge and again, a superb performance, including the humour for Chip on Your Shoulder.

Now, I always have a fondness for the character of ditzy Paulette. It has so much scope for the actor and I’m happy to say Rebecca Eastwood was the best out of four Paulette’s I have seen to date, and that includes Rita Simons. I just love Ireland as a musical number and Eastwood nailed it in great style.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

But Legally Blonde has baddies too where Cieran Nixon (Warner) and Rob Pushkin (Callaghan) excelled in that department during Serious and Blood in the Water, respectively. Supporting well in the principal line-up were Eleanor Hewer (Vivian), Adaze Crawford (Brooke Wyndham), Tom Cullen (Kyle) and Helen Rourke (Enid Hoops). Then, leading the Greek Chorus of Delta-Nu, we had Robyn MacPherson (Margot), Laura Peters (Pilar) and Ella Saunders (Serena) who due to an injury, was understudied in some scenes by Becky Murray.

This is such a feelgood show with a great script and so many memorable tunes. There! Right There! is always going to top my list due to its hilarity but What You Want, Positive, Whipped Into Shape and Legally Blonde (Full Chorus Version) come close. And not forgetting Bend and Snap. The auditorium of this marvellous theatre was full which is no surprise due to the popularity of the show. It just goes to prove having the right product in the right place with a great company is the secret to success.

In an earlier review for this show I was pulled up for not recognising the canine performers, so I make sure now not to repeat that mistake. On stage we had Willow (Bruiser), Archie (Rufus) and Mindy who is guide dog to Helen Rourke.

Legally Blonde was produced and directed by Nikki Genner with choreography from Adele David and vocal coaching courtesy of Jodi Matthews.

Arcadians appear an inclusive company, enjoying what they do. Congratulations are in order, and they fully deserved the standing ovation on the night of this performance.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

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

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 

*** Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling. *** 

It’s hard to describe Billie Eilish’s musical style: Ethereal, gothic, pop, dark pop. I can’t label it, and I don’t think you should. If anything, the correct term would be unique.

Billie Eilish

I came across Billie in 2019 after hearing a recommendation from Dave Grohl, and who was I to question the judgement of a rock god. So, I purchased the Don’t Smile at Me EP (All but an album itself) and after an eager wait, the first full release; When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? And I secured tickets for her first arena tour. Brilliant. Then Covid came cancelling and a huge wait. Since then, a Bond theme (and an Oscar), plus a further album, Happier Than Ever, has established the still 20-year-old as one of the biggest acts on the planet so when tickets went on sale again for 2022, I was first in the queue.

The set was simple. Huge stage with just brother/song writing partner, Finneas O’Connell, plus drummer, Andrew Marshall present; it gave more focus to the star of the show. There were some backing track vocals, but this was always going to be the case as many of Eilish’s songs are double tracked and more. But the main force was live to profound effect.

Kicking off with an explosive entrance, we had Bury a Friend, followed by I Didn’t Change My Number and immediately, the audience were captive of the magic and energy Billie Eilish releases. Everyone lapped it up, including me. You could call it hypnotism at times. It was how I like to enjoy gigs, immersed and totally lost in the experience.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

There are so many good numbers: You Should See Me in a Crown, My Strange Addiction, When the Party’s Over, NDA, Oxytocin, and not forgetting cameos of older hits like Bellyache and Ocean Eyes. A history of dancing injuries and sporting kinesiology tape, this didn’t stop Eilish giving a massive energetic performance which she seemed to enjoy as much as the audience. Billie Eilish is refreshing. There are no airs and graces, she is not full of herself, and clearly takes no shit, often concerned for people struggling in the crush of an audience.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

My top numbers of the night were Getting Older, Bad Guy, and especially the finale of Happier Than Ever, a song which is my current favourite tune of the moment. And there were others that I found a love for which I hadn’t thought of before. In this case, Lost Cause, which I cannot stop singing now.

Billie Eilish—Utilita Areana Birmingham—15 June 2022 © Antony N Britt 2022

It’s easy to see why Eilish is so popular with both audiences and peers. There is an honesty and stripped-back approach to the music that makes it pure. And there is something in the lyrics which not only resonate with the young, but also oldies like me. It was also wonderful to relive the experience with an identical set broadcast on TV from Glastonbury a week later. I was still buzzing, and it took me back to that wonderful night.

One of the best gigs I have ever been to. Here’s to many more. 

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

***Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling.***

Some films don’t transfer well to stage, and Shrek is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an okay, enjoyable romp, but not one of the best scripts with a mediocre score. And that was such a pity because Quarry Bank Musical Theatre Company are one of the best I have seen on my travels. But you can only work with what material you have and fortunately, QBMTC did pull off a storm of a show, bringing alive characters far beyond what the script expects to deliver. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, Shrek the Musical follows the plot closely, with some added extras, most notably expanding on Lord Farquaad’s plot, excellently portrayed by Tom Robinson. But he wasn’t the only one to shine. Carl Cook in the lead role was as good as Mike Myers and likewise, Sarah Coussens excelled too as Princess Fiona. Completing the trio of heroes, one actor had the unenviable task of being an Eddie Murphey. Fortunately, Luey Pearce made Donkey his own and had me forgetting the Hollywood stars’ performance completely. Other principals were Natalie Baggott (Dragon), Gillian Homer (Gingerbread Man/Sugar Plum Fairy) and Isabella Cook (Pinocchio). 

It is a credit to Quarry Bank and amateur theatre that the performances were that good, it put the West End in the shade. Sometimes with professionals, you get the feel of going through the motions yet here, professionalism came from the heart of those who do it for the love of theatre. And didn’t it show. Wonderful. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Shrek has a few excellent numbers: Morning Person, Build a Wall, Freak Flag and Story of My Life. Additionally, I loved What’s Up Duloc with the wonderful Duloc Performers. But my favourite number of the night was I Know It’s Today, where three Princess Fiona’s at different ages, tell of their wish to be rescued. Credit to Connie Davies and Katie Tranter who joined Sarah Coussens in this wonderful offering. However, there were a few songs which were fillers, not adding to the plot or moving it forward. Again, a fault of the original template. 

And I hate to keep going back to the script, but it amazes me how fast things date. Only 20 years since the original film debuted, I now feel uncomfortable at the ridiculing of a person’s size with Lord Farquaad’s being used as a plot device for cheap laughs.  

The team behind Shrek, making this an enjoyable night for all, was Zoe Russell with dual duties of Directing and Choreography, while Chris Handley was Musical Director. 

Brierley Hill Civic Hall isn’t the best venue for Musical Theatre, echoing like a cavern at times but Quarry Bank raised the roof with exuberance and quality throughout. A wonderful showing from an excellent musical theatre company. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

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