It’s always a challenge to review a company one has had connections with, but a writer can only give a critical appraisal without showing favouritism as was the case when Aldridge Musical Comedy Society took the stage in their latest showcase.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

I have spoken a lot recently in reviews about needing the right product to market in relation to shows. Therefore, it was a brave move to highlight one specific genre of musical theatre in this production. Fortunately, rock music is my speciality so I for one wasn’t complaining. However, I do have to question some of the song choices as I feel many shows in this category were absent from proceedings. And when over 50% of songs come from just four musicals, you wonder how well production knew their subject. Where were tunes from The Commitments, Shout, All Shook Up and most famous of all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show? And more blatantly, an absence of Hair, the original rock musical which started off the others. Despite this, there was plenty for an audience of family and friends to love, and with excellent costumes plus a simple but effective set which I approved of, we experienced Musicals That Rock.

Opening with Bat Out of Hell (Sung well by Ashley Brown and Emma Wallage and Company) followed by Rent and Radio Ga Ga, the pace picked up dramatically when Richard Beckett took centre stage for Step One (Kinky Boots). Then followed Evie Etheridge with an outstanding offering of Anywhere But Here from Pretty Woman which for me was the best performance of the night.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

You can’t beat a bit of Joan Jett, someone I have seen several times, so I particularly enjoyed I Hate Myself For Loving You sung by Helen Jolly. Other stand out numbers included No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) and Defying Gravity, both delivered strongly by Chloe Robinson. Act One finished well with a full company medley from Come From Away, a show I know nowhere near enough about, but this gave me the incentive to do so.

One song which received huge applause was the excellent Revolting Children by the junior cast led well by Amelia Critchley with Grayson Brown, Holly Etheridge, Zach Jolly, Ella Thornley, Evie Westley, plus Rebecca Oatley and Evie Etheridge from the older children. These kids are the future and need nurturing after showing such promise.

Act Two began with a bang in We Will Rock You led by Matthew Britt before being joined by Lucy Pountain for A New Argentina with Full Company. I also enjoyed Give Up Your Dreams, ditched from School of Rock before that show ever reached Broadway and the West End, but Nicola Critchley exploited the humour well with on-stage stooge, William Bosworth while engaging well with the audience. If I’m honest, that was an area I found lacking elsewhere. Nowhere near enough audience interaction. This is rock. Performers need to be in the audiences’ faces while many were at the back and some numbers too static.

My major niggle, however (and it is only a personal one), was the bastardisation of Green Day. I have followed the band for 30 years and know every track intimately, as I do the musical, American Idiot. These numbers are meant be edgy, raw, but what we had were soft rock Glee-type arrangements. Again, know your subject. Some may disagree but as a die-hard fan, this was a heinous crime against the guys from Oakland.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

Musicals That Rock was directed by Gaynor White and Ashley Brown with excellent choreography in some numbers from Sarah Beckett. And when you do rock, you need a band, and Musical Director, Mark Bayliss (also Keys) oversaw a fantastic one featuring Dan Stubbs (Keys 2), Nigel Beer (Guitar), Lauren May Ross (Bass) and Ben George (Drums).

It was unfortunate on this occasion the audience was smaller than most amateur company productions I have seen recently, and this could be due to Rock being a niche genre and not everybody’s cup of tea, even though it is mine. A lesson to learn.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022


Antony N Britt