Tag Archive: review


I’ll admit straight off, I’m not a Take That fan. Okay, I don’t dislike them. They seem nice guys and the music isn’t offensive. However, they wouldn’t be on my playlist and I could just about name five songs.

The Band – Birmingham Hippodrome 7 May 2018

The Band focuses on a group of 16-year-old girls who steal away in the night to see the famous, but unnamed band in the show. A series of soul-searching moments ends with them vowing to never lose touch. Of course, things never work out that way and an incident I won’t reveal a spoiler of, causes them to go their separate ways. Only 25 years later do they reunite, coinciding with the boybands reunion in Prague.

Now, both Queen and Abba have sounds which transformed brilliantly to the stage, therefore, would the biggest boyband of the 90s do likewise? Only partly, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the show. Tim Firth’s script is well-written and funny. Add to that, all the characters were brought to life in brilliant fashion by a superb cast.

And then the band began to sing, which is where the show falls flat. The lads in the band were chosen from TV talent show, Let it Shine and cloned from every generic boyband of the last quarter of a century. Decent enough singers, but nothing special and they were given too much exposure which took attention from the main characters in the show. They needed to be further in the background and I found myself switching off every time they took centre stage. The Band weren’t the stars, more of a Greek Chorus and should have been used so. If you want to see a boyband perform, go see a boyband. I watch an awful lot of musical theatre and unfortunately, many songs didn’t transform well to stage. In fact, the only ones which did wow me were those sung by the women (in both young and older incarnations).

The Band wasn’t about the pop band, rather the band of friendship between our main characters. Favourite of these for me was the introverted Zoe (Played by Jayne McKenna {grown up} and Lauren Jacobs {younger}) who came to life once when out of the comfort zone. I can relate to that. I also had a soft spot for Every Dave, a man portrayed superbly by Andy Williams who turned up in many situations with no pretence at all to be a different person.

In addition to Zoe and Every Dave, Rachel was played by Rachel Lumberg and Faye Christall. Claire – Alison Fitzjohn and Sarah Kate Howarth. Heather – Claudia Bradley and Katy Clayton. Debbie – Rachelle Diedricks. And finally, Jeff – Martin Miller.

Top numbers for me were: Rule the World, Shine, Greatest Day and Relight my Fire. But by far the best was the poignant Back for Good. Beautiful from start to finish.

The Band on the night were: A J Bently, Nick Carsberg, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon and Harry Brown. The show was directed by Kim Gavin and Jack Ryder.

At the end, we had a rousing finale in which most of the audience rose to join in, including me. And why not. It’s a great feat to perform and the cast deserved their moment.

The Band – Birmingham Hippodrome 7 May 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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You know a band has stood the test of time when they have 20th anniversary tours. This happened with The Manic Street Preachers in 2014 and 2016 with The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go, respectively. However, the Manics are not ones to rely on past glory and April saw the release of their 13th studio album, Resistance is Futile.Manic Street Preachers – Birmingham Arena 27 April 2018

There may not be singles chart successes these days, but albums continue to do nicely with Resistance is Futile reaching number 2. However, this still seemed to be a sore point for James Dean Bradfield who spoke tongue-in-cheek to the crowd: “Five number two albums now. Which of you are buying The Greatest Showman?”

Not needing to prove themselves in charts, though, with a career showing no signs of waning, the band continue wowing large audiences while fickle chart followers move onto the latest short-term fad.

And wow a large audience the Manics did.

Manic Street Preachers – Birmingham Arena 27 April 2018 (C) Antony N Britt 2018

Full of energy, and launching straight into new number, International Blue (a song ready-made for the live circuit), the scene was set: You Stole the Sun from My Heart, Your Love Alone, If You Tolerate This … the hits no longer fit on a double CD. However, as previously mentioned, the Manic Street Preachers are not ones to rest on their laurels with the tried and tested. First outings for Distant Colours, Dylan & Caitlin, People Give In and the brilliant Hold Me Like a Heaven were welcomed with arms waving. And not only debut songs. Rare outings for 4 Ever Delayed, Let Roebson Sing and There by the Grace of God were complimented by a first time live of the 1996 B-side, Horses Under Starlight. Then we had the solo acoustic interlude from James with Faster and From Despair to Where.

Also, no Manic Street Preachers gig would be complete without mention of Richie Edwards. If by some chance you’re reading and don’t know the story, google it. Even the term, gone but not forgotten, does not apply. There is a vacant space on stage with one song always dedicated to the genius that is, Mr Richard James Edwards. This time, Motorcycle Emptiness, and even on the huge screen we see the man cavorting on a backing video. Very much part of things to this day.

The Manics don’t do encores, and nobody cares. Once you hear the opening of A Design for Life we know “This is the end.” A fantastic show from one of the best bands of the last three decades.

I like to think I have good taste in music and lucky my favourite bands seem to keep going. Perhaps I do have an ear for a good-un – ones the public don’t want to give up on. I guess it makes a point. For those hoping the Manic Street Preachers would go away, resistance is futile. Long may they continue.

Manic Street Preachers – Birmingham Arena 27 April 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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

I love Me and My Girl, and I’ve had good experiences of youth theatre in the past. Therefore, when I saw the show was being performed by Brewood’s Lollipop Theatre Arts, I had no hesitation in giving them a try. Particularly so because my society, Aldridge Musical Comedy Society, are doing the show next year.

Me and My Girl – Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock – 26 March 2018

Lollipop cater for kids 6 to 18, and the full range were on show on the first of two nights.

Me and My Girl tells the story of Bill Snibson, the long-lost heir to the Hareford fortune. However, when the family discover Bill is a cockney of no standing, sparks begin to fly.

The score is from Noel Gay and book originally by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber (although it has been updated by Stephen Fry and Mike Ockrent). A funny and entertaining show filled with well-known songs throughout, there isn’t a dull moment.

First impressions of Lollipop … My God, they’re so young! Yes, I know it’s a youth company, but the opening chorus of A Weekend at Hareford was delivered with such a professional sound, you might have thought otherwise.

In the lead role was Tom Horton who totally captured the character of Bill Snibson with superb comic timing. Most impressive in a demanding role was Tom’s ability to carry on, ad-libbing on a couple of occasions when lines slipped the mind. The improvisation added to the enjoyment.

Also on the opening night we had a shining star for the future in Florie Miles. Playing Sally Smith, so good were Florie’s vocals, I did think it was an older actress to begin with. Then I saw the cast photo and realised her years and saw a maturity which went way beyond them. Once You Lose Your Heart was equal to the version on The London Cast Recording. Florie would be at home in an adult company.

Additionaly excellent were Abbey Laycock (Duchess of Dene), Alex Jeffrey’s (Sir John Tremayne), Katie Hayes (Lady Jaqueline), Emily Smith (Gerald), Jake Watkins (Parchester), Sam Green (Charles), Isaac Brant (Sir Jasper Tring), James Shaw (Lord Battersby) and Amy Horton (Lady Battersby). I must also acknowledge, on 27 March, Sally Smith was to be played by Millie Cooper.

Me and My Girl has so many great numbers: Thinking of No One But Me, The Family Solicitor, Me and My Girl, Leaning on a Lamp, to name but a few. And that’s before you get to The Lambeth Walk and The Sun Has Got His Hat On.

Direction was from Lucy-Ellen Parker and Grace Bradshaw with choreography by Helen Stone and Isobel Burgess. In charge of musical direction was Matthew Davis with lighting – Dan Bywater.

Watching a youth show, it’s always good to witness the next generation of musical theatre in the making, but more important, seeing the kids enjoy themselves. A thoroughly entertaining night from a company I would strongly recommend for future productions.

Me and My Girl – Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock – 26 March 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Two years ago, I witnessed one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in The Witches of Eastwick. It came courtesy of Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA), therefore, browsing the What’s On pages, I had no hesitation in giving them a second run with Sister Act. Still, we had different Year 13s, and I wondered if it would it live up to expectations.Sister Act – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 24 March 2018 Birmingham Ormiston Academy. BOA

I have to say, I had never seen Sister Act and only knew one number (which isn’t in the show these days), so you can say I went in blind.

Sister Act tells the story of Dolores Van Cartier, on the run from her crime boss boyfriend. About to give evidence against him, Dolores is given sanctuary in a convent.

A blast of an opener in Take Me to Heaven had everything from great vocals to fabulous dance, all performed with skill and energy. Other numbers I enjoyed were Good to Be a Nun, I Could Be That Guy and Raise Your Voice before a powerful reprise of Take Me to Heaven. Act Two was equally blessed (sorry for the nun pun) with Sunday Morning Fever, Here Within These Walls, The Life I Never Led, Sister Act and a rousing finale in Spread the Love Around.

As for performances, I must pay a huge tribute to the wonderful Grace Mikhael in the lead role of Dolores. On the night, Grace gave everything I love in a character. Excellent throughout, fantastic voice and acting with attitude. Body language was superb, mannerisms perfect. She owned the stage.

Not alone, there was magnificent support from other principles, namely Beth Tyrrell (Mother Superior), Hana Copestake (Sister Mary Robert), Callum Maine (Monsignor O’Hara), Mariah Loizou (Sister Mary Lazarus), Tom Cowan (Curtis Jackson), Meg Aucott (Sister Mary Partick), Jack Christou (Eddie Souther), Frazer Howes (TJ), Nathan King (Joey), Harry Singh (Pablo) and Keith Barratt (Ernie).

Sister Act was produced and directed by Dan Branch with choreography from Lee Crowley and Musical direction, Daniel Summers.

Two years after my first experience of BOA, I was once again left breathless and am already looking out for future productions. This was better than many professional shows; my partner even commenting that it outshone a touring Sister Act some years back at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

There’s little more I can say but as a school/academy offering, I have no hesitation in giving Sister Act full marks.

Sister Act – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 24 March 2018 Birmingham Ormiston Academy. BOA

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

October 25 1980 was the day I purchased a vinyl LP. My 17th birthday with money to spend, I had already been captivated by Eighth Day, which then led to me seeing the film, Breaking Glass, and so, in turn, progressing onto getting the album, and I was hooked.

I’d seen Hazel O’Connor as recent as 2014 but when advertised she was touring in a set showcasing the three albums released at the peak of her career, I had to go.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Hazel O’Connor had what would now be considered a short spell in the limelight during the early 1980s. However, although Breaking Glass and their follow-ups, Sons and Lovers and Cover Plus had great commercial success, life is short in the fast lane.

But not if you’re a fan.

Those three albums, incredibly, came out within the space of just over a year, but to me they’ve lasted 37 and are still going strong. Breaking Glass, as well as being one of my favourite films, is probably still in my top ten albums I love to listen to. And that’s out of a massive and varied collection of rock.

Opening with the awesome, D-Days, we were treated to hit after hit taking me back to that time when I first heard them.

Okay … maybe not every song was a hit in the commercial sense, but they were, and still are, to me: Runaway, Monsters in Disguise, Blackman, Writing on the Wall, If Only – to mention a few. But we also had the more personal where Hazel engaged with the audience (most of whom looked, ahem … about 50 to 55). Many songs were introduced with their backstory including the beautiful Calls the Tune, inspired by the murder of Blair Peach at the hands of the SPG. Also, the tale of not knowing who Nina Simone was which led to the inclusion of Do What You Gotta Do on Cover Plus. And some great memories Hazel shared relating to her mother.

A couple more of my favourites were Cover Plus (Track) and the classic Will You? One of the most wonderful songs ever written, Will You? is also memorable for its sax solo and this was delivered in brilliant fashion by Clare Hirst (Ex Belle Stars), who along with Sarah Fisher (Keys), have toured with Hazel for years. Also in the band on this tour was Hazel’s brother, Neil O’Connor (Guitars) who played on the original Sons and Lovers and Cover Plus albums. Cover Plus tells of growing up, and it also takes on an additional meaning now because we’ve all truly – grown up.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Afterwards, it was a fanboy’s dream for me to meet Hazel in the foyer (Despite the efforts of the rude jobswoth venue employee who tried his hardest to get rid of the waiting crowd). Hazel was happy to talk to the fans, though, have photos and sign everything thrust at her. And for me, it was a dream to get that very same vinyl LP from 1980 inscribed.

Hazel O'Connor Breaking Glass © Antony N Britt

A great night. Thanks Hazel for taking me back and if only for a moment, making me seventeen again.

Hazel O’Connor – Birmingham Town Hall – 2 December 2017 – © Antony N Britt

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

The Tide is High. Forty years ago I discovered Blondie and since then they have been my number one when it comes to feelgood pop. Therefore, even with Debbie Harry now 72 (Really …? Wow!), I knew I was in for a great night out. And yes, much of the audience were, ahem … older than most, but that didn’t mean they had to behave and were on their feet most of the show.

Kicking off with One Way or Another, I was suddenly a teenager again and the goosebumps continued throughout. Some things seem timeless.

On the night there was a blend of old and new. Five songs from the current album, Pollination, included Long Time, Too Much and Fun. But then we had the classics. Hanging on the Telephone, Call Me, Atomic and Heart of Glass, the list goes on. Highlight for me was the inclusion of Fade Away and Radiate, one of my favourite album tracks. Okay, the set was only 90 minutes long, but so much energy was packed into it. Another feelgood moment was the occasions Harry waved at the audience and on several occasions, seemingly straight at me.

Okay … I can dream.

Making a stand about saving the planet, in particular, the dwindling bee population, Harry appeared wearing a bee head-dress and cape which said, Stop fucking the planet. It was a message repeated throughout the night and one which hit home.

One thing I always have to shout, Blondie are a group and not just Debbie Harry. Integral to things are original members, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, supported by Leigh Foxx, Tommy Kessler and Matt Katz-Bohen. Without these, the music wouldn’t be the same.

I’m fortunate that many of my favourite bands just seem to go on and on. I know nothing lasts forever, so I enjoy these shows while I can. This was so good, though, I can only hope for more to come.

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

This was my second experience of Trinity Musical Theatre Company, having seen their offering of The Witches of Eastwick twelve months ago. So, would this year’s production also deliver satisfaction?

Return to the Forbidden Planet – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 4 November 2017

The first thing to note is the cast are already on stage as the audience enter the auditorium. A good effect which grabs your attention as soon as you hit the seats. An impressive set with costumes reminiscent of Sci-Fi films, one of which Forbidden Planet is famous. In particular, the clone-like appearance of the females which had me thinking of Gerry Anderson’s UFO series of the 1970s.

The show has a low-key opening with flight attendants giving a demonstration of safety precautions. Different, but amusing. Then we have countdown and blast off to the sound of Wipe Out. What caught me straight away was how full the stage was. This was much down to members of the Linzi G School of Dance. A great collaboration which not only sees additional energy and interaction on stage, it also gives pupils experience to add to the CV.

Any fan of rock and roll will love Forbidden Planet; the hits come one after another. Great Balls of Fire, Good Vibrations and Young Girl, to name a few. And a good way to end the show with a medley of tunes, culminating with the comic, Monster Mash.

This is a strange show for me because there is so much I don’t like to begin with. I’m not a fan of the clunky Shakespearian dialogue, neither do I like the cop-out reprise at the start of Act Two where you have a different conclusion to the previous scene, but that’s just the writer in me. The fact I have niggles with the original Bob Carlton script goes to show how good a job the cast and crew have done to get me still raving positive about what was before me.

On the night there were excellent performances from Mitch Bastable as Tempest, Beth Berwick-Lowe (Miranda) and Pat Lewis (Prospero). Also supporting well were Naomi-Leeanne Millard (Gloria), Steve Taylor (Ariel), Abigail James (Bosun) and Mark Moran (Cookie). Okay, Cookie was a trifle older than expected, but this was dealt with in a tongue-in-cheek way at the end of Teenager in Love.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable night out. The biggest compliment I can give, though is that on the way to the theatre, I had the London Cast Recording CD on in the car. Trinity’s performance was better. Production for the show was in the experienced hands of Andy Poulton with choreography by Lindsey Grant (of Linzi G fame) and musical direction from Dan Tomkinson.

Return to the Forbidden Planet – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 4 November 2017

Next year, Trinity turn their hands to The Wizard of Oz and on current evidence, it will be another great show.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

This was the third time I’d seen Bournville Musical Theatre Company in action and like the previous two occasions, I was not disappointed. Hollywood on Broadway featured songs originally from films which had subsequently been turned into shows. And there was much to love. Having seen many of those on the set list, I already knew I’d be in for a good time. But not only ones I was familiar with. Last year, Bournville introduced me to School of Rock and I enjoyed it so much, I purchased the soundtrack and recently saw the West End production. This time, my Amazon account has seen both Heathers and Shrek added to the basket.

Hollywood on Broadway – Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 29 October 2017

A fun intro with video montage of both film and stage set the scene. And use of a three-piece band produced a great sound, making one believe  we had more musicians than there actually were.

Opening with three numbers from Footloose, namely the title song, Learning to be Silent and The Girl Gets Around, we were soon in full swing. And then there was an excellent performance by Rachel Fox with I Have Nothing from The Bodyguard. Highlight of Act One for me was Freak Flag from Shrek. So much energy, so much fun.

A year ago I was in Thoroughly Modern Millie and despite seeing it twice since, I never tire and enjoyed Forget About the Boy and solos from Peter Holmes (What do I Need with Love) and Sophie Wood (Gimme Gimme). Also, we had tunes from Little Mermaid including Fathoms Below (Male Chorus), Part of your World (Natalie Buzzard) and Poor Unfortunate Soul (Lily Moore). Another lovely song on the day was With You from Ghost, delivered well by Claire Brough.

Act One ended on a high with an ad for next year’s show, Legally Blonde. Featuring first, Adam and Rhian Heeley with Serious, we then had the energetic Bend and Snap. And then into Act Two with a chorus of 42nd Street.

I’ve mentioned already that I’m intrigued by Heathers and this is due to the song, Candy Store. Then to contrast the previous fast pace, we had the poignant Seventeen from Jonny Stoker and Lily Moore.

One the best bits for me in Act Two were three numbers from Witches of Eastwick, featuring much of the cast. I’ve seen Witches twice in the last couple of years and it was a pleasure to revisit.

What I enjoy most in theatre are character parts and two stand out performances showcased this. Chloe Turner with What’s Wrong with Me from Singin’ in the Rain and Karen Lane with He Vas My Boyfriend from Young Frankenstein.

The show then ended with a retro trip and medley from Saturday Night Fever, leaving the audience in no doubt, they’d been entertained. Apologies for not naming everybody, but it’s impossible to do so. However, I will pay tribute to the fact all played a great part.

Hollywood on Broadway was directed by Sadie Turner with musical direction from Chris Corcoran.

Hollywood on Broadway – Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 29 October 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Apart from recognising a couple of numbers, I knew little about this show prior to arrival at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I’d hurriedly purchased the Broadway Cast soundtrack but in two hearings, very little had sunk in. So, would seeing it live change that?

Crazy for You – Birmingham Hippodrome – 25 October 2017

 

Crazy for You tells the story of Bobby Child who is sent by his banking mother to foreclose a loan in the backwater town of Deadrock, Nevada. Based on the 1930 Ira/George Gershwin show, Girl Crazy, the story was reworked with a book by Ken Ludwig in 1992 and incorporates songs from several other Gershwin productions.

The first thing of note was the doubling up of band/cast with most instruments played on stage. It’s a method I’ve seen a lot recently and works well, although this time at the loss of huge dance routines. We had a decent opening which continued in an inoffensive manner throughout. Songs like Someone to Watch Over Me, Things are Looking Up and But Not For Me were well delivered but it’s the chorus numbers which make the show. I’ve Got Rhythm is no doubt the best known but equally, Stiff Upper Lip and The Real American Folk Song is a Rag were also enjoyable.

Taking the lead in Crazy for You was Tom Chambers as Bobby with Caroline Flack (Irene), Charlotte Wakefield (Polly) and Neil Ditt (Bela Zangler). My only real criticism would be that the supporting characters lacked depth, making them more forgettable, which is a shame for the actors who did a good job. The script was decent, if a little predictable, but there were several funny moments. My favourite had to be the drunk double scene which (I’m not sure if intentional or not) paid homage to the Marx Brothers mirror scene from Duck Soup.

The ending is a little low key but I still came out of the theatre with the feelgood factor. And next day, I listened to the CD for a third time and on this occasion, found myself reminiscing the show with more familiarity concerning the numbers. Therefore, for me, the show had done its job.

Crazy for You was directed by Paul Hart with musical supervision from Catherine Jayes and choreography, Nathan M Wright.

Crazy for You – Birmingham Hippodrome – 25 October 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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