Tag Archive: Birmingham


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

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I see many amateur productions throughout the year and decided it was time to experience BMOS Musical Theatre Company in action. Therefore, following reading about last years’ award-winning Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I had no hesitation going. Of course, musical societies differ in terms of profile, budget, size and location, so the smaller can never compete with one who can hire the New Alexander Theatre. Therefore, BMOS must deliver and I’m pleased to say they did just that. What a marvellous, professional company. Amateur in name but nothing of the sort in terms of evidence on stage.

Half a Sixpence is the tale of Arthur Kipps, a shop assistant who comes into an inheritance which leads him to a choice of love for Ann, or the more socially acceptable, Helen. To be honest, I found the plot rather pedestrian with some superficial characters who are redundant at times, and the occasional song lacking that extra something. But then I remembered this was not the more recent Cameron Mackintosh revival, but the 2008 Warner Brown version. It didn’t matter. BMOS managed to drag the mediocre up to the higher echelons of musical theatre with quality of cast and production throughout.

In the lead role of Kipps was Daniel Parker, and what a pro. Magnificent from start to finish, particularly in numbers such as My Heart’s Out There and Half a Sixpence. Equally supporting with excellence was Annabel Pilcher as Ann who was outstanding with I Know What I Am.

There was also a fantastic performance from Jake Genders in the part of Harry Chitterlow, a strange character who seems to serve no purpose other than being the solution to Kipps’ problems at the end. Could do with a deserving subplot, especially in this production as Genders was amazing.

Rounding off the principals were great displays from Carys Wilson (Helen), Jo Smith (Mrs Walsingham) and Lee Navin (Walsingham). Supporting these in marvelous fashion we had the shop staff in Alex Nicholls (Pearce), Neil Ward (Sid), Andrew Treacy (Buggins), Morgan Bebbington (Kate), Rosie Harvey (Flo), Charlotte Boyer (Victoria) and Patrick Pryce (Shalford). Other named parts included: Lucy Homer (Laura), Adam Wheeler (Deckchair Attendant & Mayor), Keir Poutney (Photographer & Dog Model Maker), Sian Patterson (Gwendoline), Aaron Hollyoak (Young Kipps) and Sophia Patel (Young Ann). The two younger versions were also played by Harry George and Olivia Brookes for half of the run.

At the helm in production was Stephen Duckham (Director), David Easto (Musical Director) and Suzi Budd (Choreographer).

Half a Sixpence is a great show for the chorus and there was plenty on view, full of energy which travelled through to the audience, especially in Flash, Bang Wallop! BMOS return to the Alexander Theatre in November with A Christmas Carol and on the evidence of Half a Sixpence, it will be well worth a visit.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Is it worth the waiting for, if we live ‘til 84?

I’ve become a huge fan of Bournville Musical Theatre Company in recent years, so I particularly looked forward to their latest presentation – Oliver. And not only did I see the show, I made four separate trips. This meant I could evaluate the performances from both casts of children which had been separated for the run.

Now, anyone who has knowledge of musicals will recognise Food Glorious Food, Got to Pick a Pocket, I’d Do Anything, As Long as He Needs Me, and … the list goes on. And if you think you are not that well up on the show, you’d be surprised how many songs you actually do know: It’s a Fine Life, Boy for Sale, Where is Love, Be Back Soon, Reviewing the Situation and the title song – Oliver. In addition, to those made famous by the 1968 Carol Reed film, there are some great tunes missed out in that medium: That’s Your Funeral, My Name and I Shall Scream. All of these were delivered without exception by a fantastic cast throughout, be they principals or chorus who excelled during Consider Yourself, Who Will Buy and Oom-Pah-Pah.

In the lead roles we had James Whatmore and Billy Stait as Oliver with Hayden Stocker and Jack Smyth (Artful Dodger). As for the rest of the children which included Flynn McBride-Hogbin and Cameron Dews as Charlie, I could not separate which was the best as each were of a high standard. And the same can be said for the entire performances. All top quality. The only criticism I could have would be a lack of inclusion with the children restricted to only boys.

Of the adult roles, I must lay great praise for Sophie Wood as Nancy with the ovations saying it all. Excellent in every department. Now, it’s easy to copy Ron Moody in the role of Fagin but Phil Snowe made this role his own with strong characterisation. As Bill Sykes, Jimmy Van Hear was a truly menacing figure, making me genuinely frightened at times whereas there was good support in the Nancy/Fagin scenes from Rhian Heeley as Bet.

Oliver is a different show in a way due to some scenes being more akin to mini episodes, which, in fact, was how the original Oliver Twist was published beginning in 1837. Of these segments, we first see the workhouse where Kris Evans and Jill Hughes were brilliant as Mr Bumble and Widow Corney. Then we had my favourite part of the show, the undertakers. Jonathan Eastwood gave a sublime depiction of the drunken Mr Sowerberry and was well supported by Karen Lane (Mrs Sowerberry), Natalie Buzzard (Charlotte) and Stuart McDiarmid (Noah Claypole). Finally, there was the Brownlow household with great rapport between John Clay (Mr Brownlow), Colette Preece (Mrs Bedwin) and John Morrison (Dr Grimwig). Credit must also go to the street sellers: Claire Brough, Rachel Fox, Adam Heeley and Lily Moore.

At the helm in direction was Terry Wheddon whose hard work was evident with the results on stage. Also, the fabulous choreography of Chloe Turner. Not an easy task with such a large cast but top drawer on the nights I was there. Chris Corcoran had the job of bringing together the vocals, backing them with a great orchestra. The icing on the cake for a magnificent show.

Now I always like the random and bizarre, and there was no better example of this than one of the street signs on the London cloth. Have you seen the industrious fleas? Okay … And then the voice from the audience during the rendition of I Shall Scream when a child shouted out, “Scream then!” Oh, little things amuse me.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Okay, the most popular musical in the world comes to town. Now, I’ve experienced Les Misérables in the West End so therefore couldn’t pass an opportunity to see the tour. However, the fact it is so popular means tickets are like gold and despite great efforts, my party was still in Row W of the Birmingham Hippodrome (Three from the rear of the stalls).

Now my only major gripe is with the theatre itself. Don’t charge over £50 for seats with what is essentially a restricted view. In Row W, you’re under the Circle and viewing the stage is somewhat akin to watching through a letterbox. Then, the sound. You’re in this claustrophobic area and the full audio experience doesn’t reach. Think ditching a surround sound system to use a transistor radio instead. There we have the big niggles, so on with the show.

From start to finish Les Misérables is everything you’d expect. Good staging and excellent performances in both acting and voice. Okay, the set is nowhere near as good as at The Queen’s Theatre, London and the revolving stage is sorely missed. But not every theatre is equipped for this, therefore I’ll give the tour the benefit of doubt.

I must first pay great praise to Killian Donnelly (Jean Valjean) and Nic Greenshields (Javert). Both are at the top of their game and could not have been better in the respective solos of Who Am I? Bring Him Home, Stars and Javert’s Suicide. Other great numbers on the night (Not that any were poor) included Master of the House, In My Life, A Heart Full of Love and A Little Fall of Rain. My favourite number, though, is always One Day More, having performed the Javert lines on several occasions.

The character of Marius was Harry Apps who gave a good rendition of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. However, the appearances Marius’ dead friends were not as haunting as I’ve previously seen them. Cosette was portrayed by Bronwen Hanson and for once, it was lovely to see this character less of a Mary-Sue and more realistic as the young woman she would have been, given her upbringing. And a beautiful voice.

The unfortunate Fantine was Katie Hall who delivered I Dreamed a Dream the best I’ve heard. Then there were the Thénardiers (Martin Ball and Sophie-Louise Dann). These roles always add comic relief, surprising for characters so vile, and this occasion did not disappoint. Eponine has always been my favourite, though, so I was delighted with the excellent vocals from Tegan Bannister while Will Richardson was also in good form as Enjolras.

A couple of downsides with the show itself: I did wonder why Eponine changed ethnicity during puberty and it would also have been nice to know which child performers were in the roles on the night. Plus, the consequences of the barricade battle were a let-down without the revolving stage to reveal a tableau of broken bodies on the other side.

The touring production of Les Misérables was directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell while musical supervision and direction was in the hands of Stephen Brooker, Graham Hurman and Ben Atkinson.

So, which is better, the version in the West End or this one? If, I’m honest, I’d opt for the former, but this was still a fantastic show which I highly recommend.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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.

The sun has got his hat on. Hip hip hip hooray!

This May, the NODA nominated Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) return to The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock with a classic musical in Me and My Girl.

Set in the 1930s, Me and My Girl tells the story of the noble residents of Hareford Hall and their search for a new heir. That lucky person is common cockney, Bill Snibson, however, the Duchess of Dene, who has the task of imposing tradition onto Bill, does not approve of Bill’s girl, Sally Smith. He must learn to live within the rules or retire back to Lambeth with an annuity.

With a musical score by Noel Gay, plus book from L.Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber, the show enjoyed colossal success in the 80s and 90s following script revisions by Stephen Fry. Me and My Girl is still funny today with instantly recognisable songs: The Lambeth Walk, The Sun Has Got His Hat On, Love Makes the World Go Round, Leaning on a Lamppost and Once You Lose Your Heart. These are but to name but a few. Adding to that, great dance routines which audiences will love.

Now in their 52nd year, AMCS are known for delivering quality and professional shows which go beyond the remit of amateur dramatics. At the directorial helm this time is long-serving member, Julie Lamb. She is supported in production in excellent fashion by the trusted team of Sarah Beckett (Choreography) and Mark Bayliss (Musical Direction).

Tickets are on sale now and you can get them by calling 07588 141841 or direct from the box office (01543 578762). Alternatively, they can be purchased online at this link.

Me and My Girl is on 16 to 18 May 2019 (1930 start) with an additional Saturday 18 May Matinee (1430 start). Prices for evening shows are £15/Adult, £12/Concession and £10/under 16s. Matinee prices are £12/Adult, £10/Concession and £10/under 16s.

Next time that you’re Cannock way, any evening, any day, you’ll find us all, doing the Lambeth Walk. Oi!

Me and My Girl Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock – 16 to 18 May 2019 AMCS

Don’t miss out.

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt.

I first saw Avenue Q years ago, therefore when I heard of a touring production coming to my area, I had no hesitation taking a second helping.

Avenue Q – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – 16 February 2019

Avenue Q is Sesame Street grown up – and totally corrupted. Simple, but it works, and there are numerous messages in the show which we may not wish to admit to – but are oh so true. With a book by Jeff Whitty, plus music and lyrics from Robert Lopez and Jeff Mark, Avenue Q has been entertaining audiences for years, and this packed New Alexander Theatre experience was no exception.

For those not acquainted, Avenue Q features puppet characters alongside three humans, interacting with each other. The puppets are animated and voiced by actors, who although unconcealed onstage, are completely ignored by both human and puppet characters. All puppeteers wear black to minimise distraction as opposed to the colourful clothing of the humans. This works and you soon focus on the puppets as though they were real.

The script to Avenue Q is funny, well-written and backed by an excellent selection of songs. These include Sucks to Be Me, If You Were Gay, There is Life Outside Your Apartment, I Wish I Could Go Back to College and For Now. But I also have special favourites. Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist totally speaks the truth while There’s a Fine, Fine Line would be at home in any musical. Also, The Internet is For Porn, which will bring the house down every time. “Me up all night honking me horn to porn, porn, porn.” Oh yes!

Then we come to the scenes. No matter how many times I see it, I will never be ambivalent towards puppet sex. And the dream sequence … “I know, put my earmuffs on the cookie.” But we also have the closet gay (Rod) singing My Girlfriend in Canada who “Comes from Vancouver and sucks like a Hoover.” The song then finishes with the words, “And I can’t wait to eat her pussy again.” I do have to admit, I’ve played around and used that line on many a musical theatre song at the end, just to hear how it sounds.

A great night with a brilliant cast led by the puppeteers: Lawrence Smith (Princetown/Rod), Cecily Redman (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut), Tom Steedon (Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear), Megan Armstrong (Mrs Thistletwat/Bad Idea Bear/Second Arm), And then the humans: Saori Oda was brilliant as Christmas Eve as were Oliver Stanley (Brian) and Nicholas McClean (Gary Coleman). Yes … this is meant to be Gary Coleman from TV’s Different Strokes. Ensemble were: Jasmine Bell, Ellis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles and Robbie Noonan.

Directing and choreographing Avenue Q was Cressida Carre with musical direction from Dean McDermott.

If ever you get the chance, I would certainly recommend a trip down to Avenue Q. I guarantee you’ll enjoy being in the neighbourhood.


Avenue Q – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – 16 February 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

I’m always excited to encounter new talent and in Cinderella, Coleshill Operatic Society certainly delivered the goods.

Cinderella – Coleshill Town Hall – February 1 2019

This pantomime had all the ingredients one would expect and more. From the obligatory “It’s behind you,” to doses of “Oh no it isn’t,” we also saw tricycle riding dames and even a pantomime horse (Something I’ve not seen for a few years). I did laugh, though, during the bows when one child shouted out “Where’s the horse?” Come on, give the cast their moment.

The show had a bright opening with a number from Hairspray, renamed Good Morning Balti-More. This set the tone for an evening of high entertainment which didn’t disappoint. The only downside I found was the script, and I know it’s the script because I’ve experienced this version before and made similar comments in my review back then. Some scenes were over wordy with not enough jokes. This meant the cast carrying the show through talent and character which I am glad to say they did in abundance.

Two stand-out roles for me were our romantic leads in Lucia Owen-Small (Cinderella) and Molly Bennett (Prince Charming). Both portrayed their parts in superb fashion and excelled in the duet, Love at First Sight. Supporting well, though, was Jack Deakin playing a wonderfully camp Dandini and Joyce Eyre as our Fairy Godmother. Then, holding everything together, we had the reliable and lovestruck Buttons (Tom Willson). Now, I always feel sorry for Buttons as everyone really wants him to win Cinderella’s hand, but we know he never will. This is something that needs addressing (laughs wickedly) one day by a brave writer. You see, I always find it weird that Charming states Cinders is the most beautiful girl in the world, yet he can’t recall what she looks like without trying on a shoe.

Comic relief came from two sides. First, we had our Ugly Sisters in Chardonnay (Kelvin McArdle) and Shiraz (Lloyd Cast). Now, personally, I am not a fan of the traditional masculine dame, feeling the role has had its day, however, these two did what it said on the tin and thoroughly entertained the audience throughout. And we had a second helping of pantomime stooges in Mr Snitch (Pete Slater) and Mr Snatch (Jeff Martin), both going about their characters’ incompetence in a very Chuckle Brothers’ style. Rounding off our principals was a dastardly evil Lady Devilla (Natalie Broacher), the weak-willed Baron Hard-Up (John Kerr) and Major Domo (Robert Dutton). Oh, and I can’t forget the two halves of Bright Eyes in Clare Willson and Rachel Evans.

So many more good tunes during the show, among them: I’m a Believer, You’ve Got a Friend in Me and How Can I Live Without Your Love. One delight for me, though (and a complete shock), was the inclusion of What Do I Do Now? from A Slice of Saturday Night. Reason for this, it was the most obscure number used in my own Sleeping Beauty pantomime last year and I’m amazed anybody else had heard of it (Nobody in my company had). Brought tears to my eyes hearing it. And preceding the bows, a little audience participation with the jolly (but terribly irritating) I Like the Flowers, a song guaranteed to stay in your head for days. Well … it’s for the kids, isn’t it.

Direction for Cinderella came courtesy of Tim Willson with choreography by Rachel Evans. Then, leading a good three-piece band on top of musical direction was Tim Harding.

Coleshill seems a friendly society and everyone on stage looked to have enjoyed performing the show as much as those in the audience did watching it. My first opportunity to witness this society but not my last.

Cinderella – Coleshill Town Hall – February 1 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

This was my fourth time seeing Frank Turner and first in an arena venue. And as with previous experiences, one thing you can guarantee from Frank is entertainment. So much energy, the guy and the band keep going at a breath-taking pace, much like Frank’s work schedule.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Birmingham Arena – 22 January 2019 © Antony N Britt 2019

We are informed this is show 2299. Now, even if you divide that by his adult years, it still averages out at well over one hundred shows a year. Then you consider the seven studio albums since 2007 and you appreciate the tag of The Busiest Guy in Rock. However, there is a downside. With a huge catalogue of songs, it does mean many of my favourites are left out of a two-hour set. Dammit, I’ve still never heard Father’s Day live!

Still, with each new studio album comes a host of material and 2018s Be More Kind is no exception in quality: 1933, Blackout and Little Changes are but to mention three of these. Mix with the back catalogue and you have a show that delights the fan and hopefully pleases recent converts.

Always great to hear Photosynthesis, Recovery, The Road, Don’t Try This at Home and I Still Believe. Also, my atheist anthem, Glory Hallelujah. Heck, my evening was complete. Well, complete bar Father’s Day, Frank. It was also pleasing to hear Love, Ire and Song, not played for a few years, apparently.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Birmingham Arena – 22 January 2019 © Antony N Britt 2019

We had music, crowd surfing, plus a little dance with audience members for the final number, Four Simple Words. I was exhausted merely watching. Good humour and banter along with crowd participation. And an apology for missing Birmingham out last time around. In fact, this was my first reunion with the man in five years as previous local shows have coincided with productions of my own. I hope the next isn’t too far away, probably at this rate, with a new album. And let’s not forget the Sleeping Souls: Ben Lloyd, Tarrant Anderson, Matt Nasir and Nigel Powell, always a magnificent contribution to the show.

The only thing I would note as a minor negative is nothing to do with Frank Turner, it’s just the crowd were not as lively as my previous encounters. This could be to do with a larger arena venue and maybe the energy is less likely to be infectious due to the greater number of people to share it with. I didn’t care. It was a great show by a great showman.


Frank Turner - Be More Kind Signed

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My only other experience of a Birmingham Rep festive production was three years ago with a very lacklustre (and far too arty) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. So, how did The Wizard of Oz compare?

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

In his programme notes, director Liam Steel states he didn’t want the production to be a carbon copy of the 1939 MGM musical (No problem there) while saying something about the world today. Now, I am a big advocate of updating films, TV, or stage shows into modern versions, but this wasn’t achieved here. With no clear vision, what we had was a mismatch of old and new which couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.

Yes, the cast were talented, and visual effects, despite being ambitious, paid off, especially the phantoms in the forest. But that’s where greatness ended. This was the end of the run and you would expect the cast to want to bow out with a bang. What you got, though, was a feeling of those on stage going through the motions.

One of the main problems is the original template which the team had to work with. The script is dull, my God, and I don’t mean mildly, either. Clunky dialogue was delivered too fast at times and I was thankful for the subtitles. And perhaps the memory cheats but I can’t remember the film being this boring. There are no sub-plots with scenes overly drawn out, making this a very long trip to the Emerald City. Into Act Two, with surreal moments meeting the Jitterbugs and Winkies (Yes … I know), this wasn’t enough to stop one of my party falling asleep.

Performances were okay but I had little or no empathy with the characters. When watching a stage performance I like to be drawn into that world, something which should come easy with The Wizard of Oz. But I had none of that.

I expected the show to be colourful and fast-paced. Instead it was drab and tedious. Costumes appeared to have come from a charity shop and whether this was an intentional concept, all it succeeded was to give the impression of cheap. And why was the Lion dressed to look like an Oompa Loompa?

One other point, we had a lovely little dog playing Toto in Kansas, however, when transported to Oz, the live dog was replaced by a puppet. Nice idea but the puppet did nothing bar hang around in the background looking neither funny or clever.

Something of interest to also note: We are told at the end Miss Gulch has broken her arm (or leg. By now I didn’t care). Well, if that’s the case, she still has the court order and is free to come and kill Toto when she recovers.

Musical direction was by George Dyer. However, I felt the orchestra was subdued at times and lost underneath the vocals. Also, there seemed little choreography. Very disappointing.

Playing Dorothy (whose Kansas accent disappeared after twenty minutes) was Chrisara Ago. Other cast members included Kelly Agbowu (Lion), Ed Wade (Scarecrow), Dillion Scott-Lewis (Tin Man), Lorna Laidlaw (Wizard), Jos Vantyler (Wicked Witch of the West), Thomas Vernal (Oz Guard) and Shanay Holmes (Aunty Em).

So, a second chance at the Rep for a festive show and a second dud. Don’t think I’ll try again.

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

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