Tag Archive: Crescent Theatre


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

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A new one for me and yet again, a show I’ve not seen a film version of. However, I hadn’t gone unprepared and bought the CD a couple of weeks earlier, and so good is the soundtrack, I knew I was in for a treat. Equally so with the case of it being staged by the wonderful Bournville Musical Theatre Company (BMTC) whose 2017 Pajama Game was one of my theatre highlights of the year. You know what you’re getting with BMTC so add a show which is impossible not to enjoy and you have the recipe for a great night out.

Legally Blonde – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 26 April 2018 Bournville Musical Theatre Company BMTC

Legally Blonde tells the story of ditzy Elle Woods who goes to law school in search of love, and her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III. However, things rarely go to plan and Elle shows we can find our way without having to change who we are.

A great show full of energy from the opening Omigod You Guys and beyond. It’s a great testament to Legally Blonde and the cast and crew of BMTC that I never checked the clock once and that time literally flew. Stunning acting, fabulous dance and great voices.

Other number to love include … well, there are so many. I particularly liked Ireland, What You Want, Whipped into Shape, Bend and Snap, Legally Blonde and Find My Way. Heck, I even loved the bows. However, my outright favourite (and best scene of the show) was There! Right There! (Gay or European?). It’s so wrong, it’s brilliant. Had me rolling all though the number.

Playing our Legally Blonde Elle we had Chloe Turner who was made for this role. Great voice, great moves and a wonderful presence that owned the stage. No mean feat when you consider the fantastic support. Can’t name everyone but I’m going to try a lot. It’s not often you come across a situation where every part seems to have been perfectly cast, but is was here. David Page as Emmett, Peter Holmes (Warner) and Phil Snowe (Callahan) were everything I’d imagined from my two weeks listening to the CD. Also giving fine performances were Lily Moore (Vivienne), Karen Lane (Enid Hoops), Claire Brough (Brooke Wyndham) and Adam Heeley (Kyle). Loved the walk, Kyle. Providing sporadic appearances were the girls of Delta Nu (Sophie Woods, Natalie Buzzard and Siobban Ganley). They shone throughout as Elle’s conscience and inner thoughts, a surreal idea I approve of totally. And then the rest of the cast – I can’t find fault with any. So much fun, so much professionalism, so much enjoyment. Finally, I always have a favourite character and this time it was Paulette, the oddball underdog, portrayed magnificently by Rhian Heeley. Very believable. Great comic timing.

At the directorial helm was John Morrison who has delivered a real hit. Supporting on the production side was Sadie Turner (Choreography) and Chris Corcoran (Musical Direction).

Next year, BMTC are performing Oliver and I already have my tickets sorted. I would say go and see Legally Blonde at The Crescent as it’s on until Saturday. However, it’s sold out, and justifiably so. One thing I’m sure of, audiences for the three remaining performances are in for the ride of their lives.

Legally Blonde – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 26 April 2018 Bournville Musical Theatre Company BMTC

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

This was my second experience of Bournville Musical Theatre Company, having witnessed their concert, Through the Decades, last year. Therefore, I hoped I would also be well entertained with a full show at the prestigious Crescent Theatre.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The theatre itself is a fine setting, even if my seat, F2, did collapse as I sat on it, meaning I had to move forward to an empty one. But these things happen, especially to me, and I should expect it by now.

With music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, The Pajama Game tells of the Sleep-Tite Factory and the workers’ fight  for a pay rise. The conflict plays out aside a love story between new factory superintendent, Sid Sorokin and the head of the grievance committee, Babe Williams, both acted superbly with powerful vocals from Steve Kendall and Rhian Clement.

Kicking off the show was a good overture by the band who shone all night, although I feel we could have done with some lighting on the house curtains to heighten anticipation of what was to come. Then, after a brief introduction and title song from character, Vernon Hines (the excellent, John Morrison), the company pulled audience attention further onto the stage with Racing with the Clock. In fact, it was the combination of chorus vocals and choreography in this number, plus Hernando’s Hideaway and especially Once a Year Day, which stood out. So much movement and background activity going on, there was no chance of getting bored. And boredom was never an option because in the words of time management obsessive, Hines; “Tempus fugit, tempus fugit.” Time literally did fly as before I knew it, the first act ended for a quick drink and an eager return to the auditorium for more of the same. Pajama Game is a fast-moving show which seems a lot shorter than it is. And that’s a great testament to the original script of George Abbott and Richard Bissell.

Other enjoyable numbers included, I’m Not at All in Love, I’ll Never Be Jealous Again, Her Is, Small Talk, Hey There and Seven and a Half Cents. I’d have to say, though, my favourite of the night was Think of the Time I’ll Save. Well written comedy mixed with good choreography.

There were further comedic scenes and many of my favourites involved the duo of Hines and Gladys, for whom Natalie Buzzard gave an outstanding performance as Gladys. My main love in a personal acting sense is when I create or interpret a character, and Natalie did just that, truly becoming Gladys.

Now I’ve mentioned dance, but special acclaim must go to showpiece number, Steam Heat. This was a routine which certainly raised the temperature in the auditorium, courtesy once more of Natalie Buzzard along with Sarah Sheppard, Peter Holmes, Helen Gauntlett, Sophie Wood, Kai Murai and Verity Smith.

I can’t list everybody involved but giving fantastic support to the leads were Kris Evans (Prez), Jill Hughes (Mabel), Karen Lane (Mae), Jonathan Eastwood (Hasler), Rebecca Lowe (Poopsie), Chloe Turner (Brenda), John Clay (Pop), Phil Snow (Max), Adam Slack (Charley), Phil Holloway (Joe), and an energetic ensemble.

The Pajama Game was well directed by Ann-Louise McGregor with stunning musical direction from Chris Corcoran and sublime choreography by Sadie Turner.

The main thing to note, the cast looked like they enjoyed it and it’s always a cert that if you can project that, the audience will have a fantastic time too. I know I did.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The Pajama Game is on at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 10 June with tickets still available at this link.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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