Tag Archive: Musical


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

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Before going to see 9 to 5, I only knew three things about the show: Two songs and the fact it’s famous for Country and Western songwriter, Dolly Parton. And as the show kicks off, we get to see two of those with a video intro from Dolly before launching the title song, 9 to 5. A nice touch, but not needed as the cast straight from the start have the audience’s full attention with excellent song and dance, full of energy and perfected skill.

I had a special interest in this show, however, as Here for You was one of the first numbers I ever sang solo in my own stage exploits during a concert. Sitting centre of the stalls on row B, I got almost as good a view of Doralee (Ahem!) as when I was on stage.

Now, twenty minutes into the show and with both songs I was familiar with having already gone, I wondered if it had peaked for me. Not a chance. It does always help if I know songs, but such was the calibre of delivery, it didn’t matter. Around Here, Backwoods Barbie, Heart to Hart, Change It and Shine Like the Sun were all amazing. Great vocals with equally matching choreography.

Set in the 1980s, 9 to 5 is the tale of three women fighting their boss for equality, and leading the pack, former Eternal star, Louise Redknapp was outstanding as Violet. Then we had Amber Davies playing Judy and I have to say, what a shining performance, especially during Get Out and Stay Out. But how can anyone fit into the heels of Dolly Parton? Well, Georgina Castle did, and Dolly would be proud. The trio really worked well together and looked a close-knit team

Supporting well, though were Lucinda Lawrence as the devoted assistant, Roz, to the sexist Franklin Hart Jnr (Sean Needham). And we also had Christopher Jordan Marshall (Joe), Jemima Loddy (Missy), and finally, Laura Tyrer as the gloriously alcoholic Margaret.

9 to 5 is simply a fantastic feelgood show, full of laughs included in a good script from Patricia Resnik. But credit to the production on this tour who made the whole experience unforgettable. Jeff Calhoun (Director), Lisa Stevens (Choreographer) and Mark Crossland (Musical Director) led a great team.

A good indicator of how much I enjoy a show is if I immediately purchase an original cast recording. And I have (Well, streamed it, at least). This is a show not just for fans of Dolly Parton, but everyone. One of the best I’ve seen and appreciated by the entire audience on my visit.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Just who the hell is Alan Menken? Let Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) enlighten you.

The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors and Pocahontas are just some of the shows by this wonderful songwriter and composer. Tunes from these and many more, including AMCS’s 2020 production of Sister Act will be featured in a showcase concert at The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock at the end of November.

AMCS have been producing quality shows for over 50 years and Magic of Menken will be no exception. With a talented cast, AMCS also benefit from having Mark Bayliss as Musical Director (Directing/Producing this time around too) and Sarah Beckett in charge of choreography. These are two people most companies can only dream of having so expect great vocals and harmony combined with excellent dance: Be Our Guest, Zero to Hero, I See the Light and Topsy Turvy, to name but a few.

One thing is sure, an AMCS audience always goes home happy and with mainstream theatre so expensive, this is a great alternative.

Magic of Menken is on 28 to 30 November 2019 (1930 start) at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock. Prices are £14/Adult with Concessions and Under 16s/£12.

Tickets are available by calling 07588 141841 or the Box Office on 01543 578762. Alternatively, you purchase online.

BUY TICKETS ONLINE HERE

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

It’s amazing to think that Soho Cinders is only the third outing for Third from the Right Productions. And it’s been a privilege to experience all the shows from this talented lot. And how they’ve grown. From a cast of six in Shout, to eight in Disenchanted, and now a full company with a massive 24.

Loosely based on the fairytale of Cinderella, Soho Cinders sees us in modern day London with our own Cinders (Robbie) trying to juggle his love life between the possessive Lord Bellingham and London Mayoral candidate, James Prince. Other elements from Cinderella include the ugly sisters in Clodagh and Dana (Two 1970s Eurovision names, perhaps?) and Robbie’s best friend, Velcro, who is unrequitedly in love with him. Of course. Velcro/Buttons. Took me a minute to get that one. Simple but clever.

In Styles and Drew, Soho Cinders have songwriters of the highest calibre, having been previously given the job by Cameron Mackintosh to add new songs to enhance the classic Mary Poppins for the stage, plus, the recent revival of Half a Sixpence.

Playing Robbie was Joshua Hawkins who gave a good performance, excelling in the number, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers. Opposite, him, Prince Charming was Adam Siviter who combined well with Hawkins on Gypsies of the Ether.

The last time I saw Kerry Davies and Sarah Coussens with Third From the Right, they played a clinically insane Belle and an out-of-rehab mermaid in Disenchanted, Now with more serious roles, they worked brilliantly together as Velcro and Marilyn in one of the numbers of the night – Let Him Go. Another performance of note was Carl Cook as the shady William, especially with The Tail That Wags the Dog. And I can’t mention character performances without heaping loads of praise on Gillian Homer and Natalie Baggott as Dana and Clodagh, especially during their rendition of Fifteen Minutes.

Supporting well on the night, we had Tony Newbold (Lord Bellingham), Amy Pearson (Sidesaddle), Kaz Luckins (Sasha) and Jake Winwood (Customer and Goldfish Man). Finally, adding narrative to proceedings was Matt Dudley.

As I have said already, Soho Cinders was a step-up with the introduction of chorus, and these new members worked well with energy and enthusiasm. It must be difficult for a relatively new company to build up camaraderie and a family atmosphere, but Third from the Right pulled it off.

Other top numbers of the night for me included: Old Compton Street, You Shall Go to the Ball and Who’s That Boy?

At the helm in production and having done a great job was Gaynor Whitehouse with direction and choreography, assisted by Jez Luckins and Dave Gardner. And in charge of an effective five-piece band, with high standards as ever, was Chris Corcoran.

The only criticism I would have of the show has nothing to do with production or cast, it is that the script felt a bit sluggish as times with not enough laughs. This I’d put down to the writers combining their obvious songwriting talents with delivering the book. You really do have to be top drawer in all departments to achieve this. Also, some of the lines could have made Robbie and James more likable. As it was, I had little empathy for them and more so those they left behind.

Still, we had a good show complete with a vibrant ending. A new dawn for a wonderful company. Long may they continue.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

What came first, the stage or the movie? That’s a question sometimes asked when attending a performance which has been showcased in both mediums. And it might surprise a few that Grease was on Broadway six years before the 1978 Newton-John/Travolta film, such is the iconic status of that version. As with Annie recently, I had seen neither. Okay, I probably have seen most of Grease, one way or another in bits during the million and one times it’s been on TV, but this was a first for me, viewing from start to finish.

So how did it start? Quite well actually. In a predominantly female audience, we had a good opening with Grease is the Word by the company before the legendary Summer Nights. However, for me, this summer night didn’t get going until the energetic and brilliantly choreographed Greased Lightening. A great showcase by all involved; it was amazing.

But then we had a series of lulls. The show did drop several times with a risk of the audience losing interest. As a writer, I immediately saw that some of this was the script, but also the energy on stage fell too. These lapses were only temporary, though, and it wasn’t long before things picked up again. The script is nearly fifty years old now, so maybe it’s time for an update to give a more contemporary feel in terms of language and structure.

The same can be said for Act Two which did not become exciting until Hand Jive. In fact, the several preceding minutes were mostly irrelevant. Which is a crime. You really must make every word count.

It really lifted, though, with my number of the night, Hopelessly Devoted to You. This was sung with passion and quality by Martha Kirby (Sandy) who gave a five-star performance throughout the evening.

In the opposite lead role was Dan Partridge who delivered a softer Danny than might have previously been seen. He did well, though, and it’s nice to vary things with a different interpretation.

Playing Kenickie, we had the excellent Louis Grant, more in tone of what I would expect of a Danny. Also giving a good showing was Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky as the formidable Rizzo.

The above were well supported by numerous T-Birds and Pink Ladies. But I did have one criticism here. All the male and female characters in the respective groups seemed … generic, with little distinction between them, which was a shame.

Then came Teen Angel. On the night we had TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing winner, Ore Oduba. This is a cameo role, but I have to say, I do love Beauty School Dropout.

Other numbers of the night to note included: There Are Worse Things I Could Do, You’re the One That I Want, Sandy and the rousing We Go Together.

The director for Grease was Nikolai Foster with musical direction from Neil MacDonald. I cannot praise enough, though, the choreography from Arlene Phillips. No more than expected from one of her experience, but what the show needed anyway.

All in all, a decent, likeable offering, but probably not one I’d see again.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The Sun’ll come out tomorrow.

Well, I certainly felt it had last week at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Confession time. I’ve never seen the original Annie film or watched a stage version. I did sample the 2014 movie remake, though, which I thoroughly enjoyed but knew it differed in style to the traditionals. Therefore, I approached this show with an open mind of the unknown. I am happy to say then, I enjoyed this stage Annie from start to finish.

Beginning in the orphanage, we immediately see the magnificent stage presence which was to compliment a powerful song and dance performance by leading lady, Mia Lakha as Annie. A lovely vocal opener with Maybe was followed by a kick-ass rendition of Hard Knock Life, sung with attitude by all the orphanage kids. And it’s those kids too I must also heap great praise on. Zara Bench (who was amazing as little Molly), Kacey Agwuegbo (Duffy), Dulcie Allsop (Tessie), Marie Peedle (Pepper), Saskia Salmon (July) and Sophia Smith (Kate) were all outstanding. What young talent, indeed. Great dancing, too.

Then, we had the entrance of the top-billed actress and Jodie Prenger (as Miss Hannigan) gave a five-star performance. A great character throughout, delivering comedy alongside impressive vocals, particularly during the gloriously over-the-top, Little Girls.

In the role of Daddy Warbucks we had Alex Bourne and like Prenger, he led with a commanding and likable character. Also supporting well though was Carolyn Maitland (Grace), Richard Meek (Rooster) and Jenny Gayner (Lily). Then we had the remainder of the cast who are too many to mention but all were of the highest quality.

Song highlights other than those already mentioned were Hooverville, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, You Won’t Be an Orphan for Long, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile and I Don’t Need Anything but You. A special mention must also go to the brilliant Easy Street and I cannot review Annie without singling out the iconic Tomorrow.

Although an old musical now and set in 1933, there was a real contemporary feel to this Annie which is a credit to production who kept it fast-paced all the way through. The cast and crew can be well proud and each of them fully deserved their ovation at the end, especially Little Orphan Annie.

For this production, the director was Nikolai Foster with excellent choreography by Nick Winston and musical direction – Daniel Griffin.

Not knowing what to expect is always the risk when going to the theatre, especially when the previous visit to the same venue was the appalling Joseph and his Awful Technicolour Dreamcoat. However, not only did Annie deliver the entertainment, I rank it as the best and certainly most enjoyable show of the year so far.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My only previous experience of Rainbow Pantomimes was their excellent 2017 Cinderella; therefore, I had no hesitation in seeing what else they had to offer.

Music on My Mind was written by Producer and Musical Director, Danny Teitge, and staged to raise awareness for dementia. Plus, it was an excellent showcase a wealth of local talent.

Blending poignant narrative with well-chosen songs, Music on My Mind took us on a journey of one man’s life. Jimmy, played with sensitivity by Nadine Sandle, has memory problems in his later years and seeks help from a therapist (Jonathan Poutney) to re-live and experience the full impact of his life.

I must admit, the opening sequences were very dark indeed. However, this is a method I totally approve of, bearing in mind the subject matter. The opening chorus number (Let the Sunshine In) had a surreal effect and set the scene well. I did find some of the dialogue a bit stilted and awkward on occasions, with instances of dead stage times, but again, maybe this was needed.

Throughout, we were treated to great tunes delivered in top fashion by an enthusiastic and energetic cast: When I Grow Up, With You, Tell Me it’s Not True, Nicest Kids in Town and What a Wonderful World were just a few examples of this. Top of the night for me, though, was the full cast version of From Now On, led in powerful style by Jack Rubery (Young Jimmy).

Supporting well we had Helen Holis (Dora), Jodie Bragan (Lily), Amy Cooper (Rose) and Laura Stevens (Debbie).

At the end of the show we’ve come full circle with a reprise of the opening number and this time it’s more upbeat, a celebration, and life is like that when looking back. No matter how hard the times, there should always be something to smile about. A good message for all.

Also on the production team was Amy Louise, responsible for the excellent choreography, and she brought the best out of a predominantly young cast.

Rainbow’s next show sees them return to their pantomime roots with Babes in the Wood early next year. I highly recommend a trip to see it.

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.

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