Tag Archive: New Alexander


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 

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 

Tom Bryce finds a USB stick on a train and brings it home to try and find its owner to return it. However, on viewing, he witnesses the murder of a young woman in an online snuff video. Tom is then threatened by the perpetrators to keep silent otherwise it will be bad for him, wife, Kellie and son, Max. However, Max fails to do so and Kellie is taken to be the next star performer.

I’m a huge fan of Peter James, although I only started reading him with the Roy Grace novels. I guess that makes Looking Good Dead the second book of James’ that I read many years ago. I’ve since read them all and am now going through the standalones’ back catalogue.

Looking Good Dead, like many stage productions, had a small cast so roles from the book were reassigned. In fact, Grace wasn’t the main character on this occasion, the Bryce family instead receiving the focus. However, it was nice for a fan to hear references to off-stage police persons like Norman Potting, Cleo Moray, EJ Bountwood and Alison Vosper, among others. It brought a bit more of the books to proceedings.

In the roles of Tom and Kellie Bryce we had Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett duplicating their Eastenders soap marriage and the chemistry between them was obvious. Woodyatt had been in Eastenders for 35 years until recently and although Tom was similar in character to Ian Beale, he was different enough to be a person in his own right. Both Woodyatt and Brett delivered strong, believable performances on the night and the same can be said for Luke-Ward Wilkinson as Max. There were some lovely scenes which portrayed the typical lack of communication between parent and offspring.

On the police side were Harry Long as Roy Grace with Leon Stewart in the role of Glenn Branson. Completing the trio of detectives was Gemma Stroyan as one of my favourite Grace characters – Bella Moy. However, I didn’t see any Maltesers on this occasion (You need to read the books to get that one). Supporting, also was Ian Houghton (Jonas Kent), Mylo McDonald (Mick) and Natalie Boakye (Janie).

Looking Good Dead looked good indeed with a main set of the Bryce’s living room with occasional illuminated cellar backdrop behind a gauze and pop-up police station. Transition between scenes were smooth and you did have the feel of everything being bigger than it was.

It was probably good that it has been 15 years since I read the novel as I couldn’t remember many details. I’m now intrigued to learn the differences but will wait for the ITV adaptation as this tale is next in line to air, then I may re-read the book. I’m pretty sure, though, the brains behind the kidnapping differed in the book.

Looking Good Dead was adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna and directed by Jonathan O’Boyle with Joshua Andrews as Producer.

Overall, an enjoyable evening and I look forward to further theatre outings for Roy Grace and Co.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Failing guitarist, Dewey Finn, takes a job under false pretenses in an exclusive and expensive private school. He then teaches his class to play rock music and forms a band with them to win a prestigious competition.

Yes, I love rock, and I love musical theatre, therefore it is no surprise that I adore School of Rock. Closely based on the 2003 film of the same name, this is the best feelgood musical going these days. The notion that dreams come true, and you really can do anything if you try. It lifts the audience to their feet, and not just in the finale. With a cracking script from Julian Fellowes, lyrics courtesy of Glenn Slater and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, you have the instant recipe for an outstanding show.

I first saw it in the West End but this UK tour for me was even better. Perhaps knowing the songs so well, I was singing and moving in my seat throughout. Also revelling in admiration for the kids who do play their own instruments. Such talent from all.

In the title role, and totally at home as the hapless Dewey Finn was Jake Sharp. Outstanding with the strongest of performances and excelling in all numbers. Alongside, playing school principal Rosalie Mullins was Rebecca Lock who delivered Where Did the Rock Go? and Queen of the Night in great fashion. Supporting well, though were James Bisp as the much put-upon Ned Schneebly with Amy Oxley portraying the domineering Patty.

And then there were the pupils of the School of Rock. What can I say? The twelve on show during this viewing were out of this world. Harry Churchill (Zack on Lead Guitar), Angus McDougal (Lawrence on Keys), Chloe Marler (Katie on Bass) and Eva McGrath (Freddy {Fredrica} on drums). I’ve only ever known Freddy as the male originally intended but Eva was brilliant as the student who struggled to achieve. I had great empathy for her.

Leading the vocal section was Angel Lucero as shy Tomika and she delivered a powerhouse of a performance in Teacher’s Pet supported well by Lily Rose Martin (Marcy) and Elisha Kerai (Shonelle).

As a huge fan of The Voice Kids, it was a surprise and joy to see 2019 finalist Keira Laver as school swot, Summer. And Keira was amazing leading the class during one of my favourite numbers, Time to Play. Completing the class of excellence were Riotafari Gardner (James – Security), Ava Masters (Sophie the roadie with the killer pigtails), Alex Shotton (Mason on Lights) and Logan Matthews (Billy the costume drama queen).

Credit is due to a fantastic production team including Laurence Connor (Director), Joann M. Hunter (Choreography) and Michael Riley (Musical Direction).

In addition to the songs already mentioned, there are others of top-drawer quality: When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock, the beautiful If Only You Would Listen, You’re in the Band and the awesome Stick it to the Man.

I have favourites in musical theatre which change constantly. I can honestly say, though, leaving The New Alexander, I have never enjoyed myself in a theatre as much as I did on this occasion. Buzzing madly and still on a high days later. School of Rock is touring the UK until the end of summer and if you only go and see one musical in 2022, make it The School of Rock.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

*****

I admit from past experiences I’m not a fan of Bill Kenwright Productions, so I approached Heathers with a tinge of worry amid the excitement. You see, I had not seen the show before, yet was familiar with the music due to both Off Broadway and West End Original Cast Recordings. I also had good memories of the 1988 Daniel Waters film of the same name which (incidentally) this musical follows closely.

Heathers tells of Veronica Sawyer, an unfashionable High School student, desperate to belong to the major clique, all named Heather. After initial success, Veronica falls foul of leader, Heather Chandler and turns to new student and bad boy, Jason Dean (JD). What follows is a tale of murder, revenge and suicide. But however dark the themes may sound, there is a glorious wealth of humour throughout.

What makes Heathers work is an excellent book with a top-drawer selection of songs from Kevin Murphey and Laurence O’Keefe. All are memorable; not a weak tune among them. Still, to bring such a good template to life, you need the cast, and all on show were amazing.

I must say, I loved every bit of Rebecca Wickes’ performance; be it song or character; her mannerisms were so believable. She was outstanding as anti-heroine, Veronica, with numbers: Beautiful, Dead Girl Walking and I Say No, out of this world. Equally so was Simon Gordon in the role of JD who duetted exceptionally with Wickes in Seventeen and Our Love is God, as well as his own Freeze Your Brain.

“And then there’s the Heathers. They float above it all.”

On my viewing, the Heathers were Daisy Twells (Chandler), Merryl Ansah (Duke) and Lizzy Parker (McNamara). These three absolutely smashed it as the terrible trio, especially during the popular Candy Store. Individually and respectively, The Me Inside of Me, Never Shut Up Again and Lifeboat again exceeded expectations.

Supporting, we had Liam Doyle (Kurt) and Rory Phelan (Ram) as the expertly portrayed dense High School Jocks, lured to their deaths by JD. Also on show were Bailey Hart (Ms Fleming) singing Shine a Light, Mhairi Angus (Martha) with Kindergarten Boyfriend, plus Andy Brady and Kurt Kansley as Ram and Kurt’s fathers.

This tour production was directed by Andy Frickman with choreography from Gary Lloyd. Musical direction was in the hands of Gary Hickerson.

Heathers is a brilliant show, a real rollercoaster ride which flows at an amazing speed without a dull moment in sight. The tour has now ended but I urge you to check it out either back in the West End or the next available tour. This time, Bill Kenwright Productions left me satisfied and wanting more.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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.

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

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.

A month ago I saw Legally Blonde at The Crescent Theatre, performed by the brilliant Bournville Musical Theatre Company. As I enjoyed that so much, I thought I’d take the opportunity of seeing the touring production at the New Alexander Theatre.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Unlike last month, the opening was low-key, and the show took time to build the energy, perhaps needing some of that Red Bull Elle drinks in the show. I guess some of the atmosphere came from the fact this was a matinee with the auditorium barely a third full, which was a pity as it was a great show.

Legally Blonde is fast climbing the list of my top shows and this performance did nothing to harm that. In the role of Elle we had Rebecca Stenhouse, standing in due to the illness of Lucie Jones. Well, I never watch X-Factor or Eurovision, so had no knowledge of Lucie, and could therefore appreciate the characterisation with an open mind. And what a good portrayal she gave. Suited the role perfectly, giving a faultless showing with strong voice and acting.

Playing Paulette, the top billing went to former EastEnders actress. Rita Simons, who captured the role well, making Ireland one of the best numbers. I did think Paulette’s outfits weren’t oddball enough, but this did not detract from Rita’s performance. Also from the world of soaps we had Bill Ward, last seen plunging from a bridge in Emmerdale. He made the perfect Callaghan.

I have said the atmosphere grew throughout and the culmination of this was an energetic finale, complete with pink ticker-tape, much of which I found on me hours later. Best number of the day for me was Legally Blonde itself. However, Gay or European did not live up to my previous experiences. A slight downside also was that dialogue seemed a little rushed on occasions. Still, a show full of memorable numbers: Bend and Snap, What You Want, Positive, So Much Better and Take it Like a Man were all highlights of an enjoyable afternoon.

Also appearing were David Barrett (Emmett), Liam Doyle (Warner), Laura Harrison (Vivienne), Helen Petrova (Whitney/Brooke Wyndham), Ben Harlow (Kyle), Mark Peachey (Winthrop/Dewey), Alexandra Wright (Margot), Rachel Grundy (Serena), Delycia Belgrave (Pilar), Nancy Hill (Enid Hoops), Rosie Needham (Kate/Chutney), Michael Hamway (Aaron Shultz), Felipe Bejarano (Sundeep/Nikos), Lucyelle Cliffe (Judge/Pforzheiner/Store Manager), Sally Frith (Gaelen), Brett Shields (Grand Master Chad), Craig Tyler (Carlos) and Laura Mullowney (Swing).

Legally Blonde was directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams with co-choreography from Dean Street. The musical director was James McCullagh.

The second production of Legally Blonde I have experienced within a few weeks, and I would see a third if the chance came. A great show that I’d highly recommend if it comes your way.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I have a confession. Up until now, I’d disliked West Side Story. And it isn’t that I’ve not given it a chance. I purchased two separate cast recordings recently, but didn’t rate either. Also, I saw the 1961 film starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, and was bored by that too. However, I couldn’t totally write it off until I’d seen it in a theatre, so I took the opportunity with The New Alexander Theatre’s Stage Experience.

The Stage Experience offers just that to youngsters aged 9 to 24 where they get to put on a show to a paying audience, all in two weeks. Two weeks! Wow! Those on stage came from all backgrounds. There were many who’d been in productions before, those who attend performing arts schools and academies, plus some treading the boards for the first time in their lives.

West Side Story – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 25 August 2017

And what a show they gave.

As I say, I’m not a fan of West Side and that’s due to the original template. I find much of Arthur Laurents’ script poor and dated. And … puerile lyrics in some of the Bernstein/Sondheim songs.

When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way,” and “We’re gonna hand ’em a surprise, tonight. We’re gonna cut ’em down to size, tonight. Sounds lame this day and age.

To be honest, the show could do with a new book, bringing a fresh approach. This may shock traditionalists, but everything needs a revamp now and then. A fault with the book was I found little empathy with the main characters. The Sharks and Jets, as written, are pretty much … nobheads. Also, I had little fondness for Maria who sleeps with Tony knowing he has just killed her brother. And the whole gang thing. Maria says her parents would not approve, yet are happy for their offspring to belong to violent gangs.

Maria, it was an accident,” Tony says about killing Bernardo. No it bloody wasn’t! You stabbed him four times – twice in the back. Cue the daggers from those seated around me. I really must learn to shut my mouth at times.

So, how were a bunch of youngsters going to turn me in the case of a show I’d decided I was probably going to hate? Answer – by giving a fantastic performance with much energy.

Stand out numbers for me were Maria, America, Somewhere and Tonight – Pt 1, all done with superb voices and a great band. However, it was also the dance routines which made the show a hit. With a huge cast and great choreography, numbers like Dance at the Gym and the ballet sequence were amazing.

The leads were great and superbly playing Tony was Elliot Gooch, while Grace White as Maria was equally excellent. Also on the night, Riff was portrayed by Jordan Rickets, Bernardo (Javier Aguilera), Rosalie (Kathryn Irwin), Consuela (Melissa Huband), Action (Caven Rimmer), Snowboy (Charlie Howell) and Anybodys (Jasmine Bailey). The show was produced by Becky Charles with choreography and direction from Pollyanna Tanner, while the music was directed by Chris Newton.

I still dislike the show, but it proves one thing. You can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

West Side Story – New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 25 August 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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