Tag Archive: review


After seeing them several times now, nothing about Birmingham Youth Theatre (BYT) should surprise me, however, each time that I do, the excellence raises another level. And this was again the case with their January 2023 pantomime, Cinderella.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

I’m not going to waste words on the plot; it’s Cinderella, for heaven’s sake. However, every version written is individual and this one by Joe Logan was top-drawer. As a writer myself, I praised Logan last year and once again we had a well-written (and extremely funny) script. Contemporary in style but keeping pantomime elements audiences have loved for years.

When recently reviewing Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I spoke about the differences between professional pantomimes, boasting named stars, and the amateur equivalents. I can honestly say, although both excellent, I cannot separate which I enjoyed best, nor which was the more polished. Because from the opening company number in Cinderella, Get on Your Feet led by Lola Harper as Cinderella, quality oozed from the stage and into the auditorium. And it’s Harper in the title role I must praise first. What a voice! Strong and controlled, superb in Easy on Me and (Ed Sheeran’s) Perfect, duetting in the latter with the equally outstanding Luke Griffiths (Prince Charming).

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

One of the things I love about BYT is their inclusion and versatility. Last year Lily-Mae Nicholls was “wonderfully evil,” while Maddison Clarke took on the comic fairy role. This time roles reversed with Nicholls as (the not too competent) Fairy Non-Bio, whereas Clarke ranked high in the villainous stakes in the part of the Baroness. Clarke, on the day, gave a great rendition of Confident and Nicholls did likewise at the end of Act One in a superb version of You Will Be Found with Cinderella and the Dance Team.

People who read me will know I have modern views about the portrayal of Pantomime Dames and once again I am delighted with what I saw. Gone, thankfully, are the days where we would laugh at the ugly, hairy-chested man in a dress, now having more trans sympathetic portrayals. Caedon O’Malley (Stacey) and Rhys Bishop (Tracey) were as good as anyone I have seen in such roles. In fact, so well were their characterisations, I had accepted them as female from the off and forgotten the actors were men by Act Two. Juice was amazing and both O’Malley and Bishop in this performance engaged the audience like professionals.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Unless you mess around with the traditional plot (Yes … I did in 2021), Cinderella is full of unrequited love. This time, it wasn’t only Buttons, but Dandini as well. David Morrison was a wonderful Buttons, full of energy and like the dames, interacting well with the audience. There was confidence great to see from one so young and What Makes You Beautiful was as good as any number on the day. The unfortunate Dandini, on the other hand, was portrayed by Carter Evans who made the character his own and I Can Hear the Bells was one of the best songs in the show.

Once again playing a monarch was Dylan O’Connor as the bombastic King Bernard. He gave a good showing in the other Perfect, this time the Fairground Attraction one before duetting well in Act Two with Carter Evans during a poignant Let Him Go. Then we also had great comic foils in Bish, Bash and Bosh (Harrison Doherty, Charlie McRoberts and Andrew Morrison) trying to be a One Direction Tribute but singing a Backstreet Boys song in Everybody instead.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Another of my top numbers in the show was Hammer to Fall. Let’s face it, you can never have enough Queen. This was excellent from Lucie Holcroft (Fairy Nuff) and Charlie Bland (Mysterious Figure, revealed to be Baron Hardup). And if one can’t have enough Queen, there is always room for Abba as well and favourite of the night for me was Angel Eyes (Lola Harper, Caedon O’Malley, Rhys Bishop and Company).

Other named principals were the excellent Saran Sambhi (Principal Godmother), Kitty Smart and Amelia Jennings (Masters of Ceremonies with some witty one liners), Marni Carroll (OAP Princess, proving again how good she is at these comic cameos) and Josh Mills (The Troll with excellent timing). Duos inside the animals were Niamh Flannagan and Sophie Terry (Moo Moo) with Abigail Bell and Cat Allsop (White Horse).

As well as writing a brilliant script, Joe Logan was also choreographer and the results on view were well above what you would expect for a youth company. You must remember, all these kids are 19 and under. Ellie Johnstone and Olivia Jefferson were dance captains to the highly talented team of Beatrice Roberts, Bella Hoppner, Hannah Allsop, Ruby Blount, Tabitha Vlok and Tegan Lynch. I particularly liked their movement as the trees in the forest, finding it hypnotising at times.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Completing the ensemble (because nobody deserves leaving out) were Daisy Wright, Edina Bilham-Moore, Emily Green, George Beckett, Kamile Kazlauskaite, Luke Holcroft, Maisie Cotterill, Megan Allsop, Mia Hodges and Sophia Cupples.

The other members of a brilliant production team were Vivienne Morrison (Director) and Chris Corcoran (Musical Director). Morrison can be extremely proud of her work and students in making this a show to remember. There really isn’t a negative word to say about it. And Corcoran once again shows why he is highly rated in Musical Theatre.

July sees Birmingham Youth Theatre taking on Sister Act, again at The Crescent Theatre, which is to be their new home. One of the reasons for this, we are told, is the increase in membership, essential to any company. Praise, therefore, must go to those behind the scenes; the committee, the friends and parents who support and spread the word. The Crescent is a great theatre and BYT fully deserve it to be their new base of performing.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

As mentioned in my last review, I am not a fan of the last couple of weeks in the calendar year, so to attend two Christmas themed productions in those final few days of 2022, was a fete above and beyond the call. However, like the week before, I thoroughly enjoyed my outing which this time consisted of Nativity! The Musical.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Mr Madden, a teacher at St Bernadette’s Primary School is forced to organise the annual nativity play. After a war of words with rival, Mr Shakespeare, from Oakwood School, he vows to bring Hollywood to Coventry in the form of his former girlfriend, Jennifer, who is supposedly a high-flyer in Tinseltown. However, Jennifer’s status is not as grand as she once made out and adding the bizarre and extrovert antics of teaching assistant, Mr Poppy into the mix, Mr Madden has his hands full.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Yes, Nativity! The Musical is Christmas, all gift-wrapped and unashamedly full of seasons’ cheer. But even though this is the draw which brings the kids and their families in, it is an enjoyable show. And that’s the important thing. Many of these families may never have even sat in a theatre before. However, after such a good time, the hope is they now develop a feel for the art and will return next year, maybe going onto other theatre offerings in the meantime.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

A full company opening of Here Comes Santa Claus is followed by sometimes cheesy, but nevertheless, feelgood tunes in Five Star Review/Better Than You, St Bernadette’s, Hollywood Are Coming and especially, Sparkle and Shine which also features at the end of Act One and then in a finale reprise. I particularly enjoyed the Oakmore Nativity (Herod the Rock Opera) with the homage to Jesus Christ Superstar’s guitar riffs. And then there was the St Bernadette’s Nativity: Nazareth, One Look and Good News were all excellent before the story wrapped up with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and She’s the Brightest Star.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Then there are also principal numbers. Ben Lancaster (superbly playing Mr Poppy) shines in Very First Day at School as does Billy Roberts (Mr Maddens) and Daisy Steere (Jennifer) duetting with Wrapped in a Rainbow. And the villain of the piece, the gloriously evil Mr Shakespeare (Matthew Rowland) stood out with Hollywood Never Came.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Supporting well in the adult cast were Ralph Bogard, Jamie Chapman, Jemma Churchill, Tom Hext, Sydney Isitt-Ager, Cameron Johnson, Callum Train, Eliza Waters and Louie Wood. But I must give a huge shout out to the talented youngsters for whom many, this will have been the biggest production of their lives so far. Over the run they were split into two groups, but I’ll give them all the recognition they fully deserve.

The children of St Bernadette’s were Ava Ayodeji, George Bakel, Frankie Bradbury, Ava Carty-Jones, Madison Davis, Hattie Disney, Matilda Flower (playing the tiniest but brightest star), Seth Foster, Isaac Fox, Felix Holt, Ava Hupperdine-Perrin, Molly Jin, Sophie John, Kyrelle Lammy, Mac Manumbre, Oliver Milchard, Darcie Morris, Alexandra Ngwenya, Mischa Palor, Abigail Salt, William Stafford and Ziame Stewart. Whereas those from Oakmore featured Willow Adamson, Toby-Jay Amphlett, Bronte Ashmore, Zara Bench, Beatrice Carpenter, Amelia Katie Connor, Thomas Cox, Amelie Davison, Alyssa Dewar, Ivy Edwards, Betsy Fahey, Ayana Freckleton, Effie Gell, Isla Granville, Ocean-Flower Hemmings, Jessica Howell, Alfie JenningsNia King, Ava Knight, Will North Lewis, River Mahjouri, Annabel Parsons, Zara Pearson, Max Reekie, Gerline Rosales, Frankie Stephens, Eboni Rae’ Thomas-Witter, Amelia Uma Thompson, Isla-Belle Trimble, Ryley Trimble, Daniel Webley and Iman Wilkins.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Debbie Isitt is the writer/musical composer of the show and directed the production. Co-Composer, on the other hand was Nicky Ager and the Associate Choreographer, Rebecca Locus. Musical direction came from Joshua Griffith while orchestral supervision was from George Dyer.

Nativity! The Musical, like Christmas, is over now. However, if as the main subject, it reappears again at the end of this year, I’d certainly recommend giving it a go.

Nativity! The Musical — Birmingham Rep — December 30 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I discovered Script Youth Musical Theatre Company earlier this year with their amazing production of Grease, so had no hesitation in booking tickets for their latest offerings. I say that in plural as the evening was split into two with the first half featuring a newly formed juniors’ section and Beauty and the Beast while the seniors treated the audience to a Musical Theatre Showcase in Unscripted.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

It’s bold to separate the ages but the move should prove good as the younger members can now develop at their own pace and not fall behind in the shadows of their older counterparts. This showed with confidence at being to the forefront in Beauty and the Beast and it was noticeable how well they shined. The panto featured excellent performances, particularly from Gracie Reynolds (Beauty), Hannah Bennet (Beast), Alex Brown (Bruno), Edward Lawlor (Papa), Lexi Shaw (Teapot), Isla Thorpe (Cup), Darci Rice (Clock) and a lovely extrovert character from Lee Stubbington as Candlestick. Narrating and delivering a good offering of Beauty and the Beast (Tale as Old as Time) was Maddie Howard who repeated the song alongside Gracie Reynolds with full company at the end of the show. We also had company versions of Be Our Guest. There are a couple of supporting members I’d also like to mention (even though I’d love to name them all). The first is Poppy Kerr (An acrobatic Rose) and Zachary Duke as the mime who I could not take my eyes off due to some brilliant facial expressions. Yes, these kids are young, and have a long way to go, but here is a good start and who knows where they will be in a few years’ time.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

After an interval the older members of Script took centre stage with songs from musical theatre and film opening with Finlay Laidlaw and Mya Cartwright leading a full ensemble with The Greatest Show. Following, Evie Rice and Harry Robbins delivered a lovely fun rendition of Love is an Open Door (Frozen).

Again, impossible to name every number but some of my other favourites included We Will Rock You, On My Own (Superbly sung by Sophia Powers) and Harriet. This latter number was an outing for a Script Society formed band, Fading Embers (Ollie Roberts, Finlay Laidlaw, Kadenna Glendon and Harry Robbins). It’s great to see initiative and another avenue for talent to progress and shine.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

I also enjoyed numbers from my two most favourite musicals. Seventeen (Heathers) was executed well by Erin Mooney and Sam Williams and I was delighted and could not help joining in during Stick it to the Man (School of Rock). I don’t care how loud I sang, it’s a song I have performed myself and relish every chance to relive the moment. Top number of the night, though, was Ex Wives – The Queens (Six the Musical) featuring Erin Phillips, Erin Mooney, Mollie Fitzpatrick, Sophia Powers, Evie Rice and Ella Gibson-Brookes. Brilliant.

Yes, this was a youth production and there is always room for improvement, obviously. The only area I would say was the case, however, would be for more confidence and audience engagement, especially during rock numbers like Stick It and Rock You. Break that fourth wall and get in the audiences’ faces. Performers will engage them and gain so much that anything is possible in the future.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

The shows were produced and choreographed brilliantly by Louise Salt, Tim Rice, Molly Chamberlain, Madeline Fleming and Ellie Quinn. Compering events was Rob Bissett who linked songs with sometimes awful, but still funny jokes. He did pick on me at one point in the front row but at least this was to highlight that I was the strongest in joining in an audience participation song. As a performer myself, I’ll take that.

Overall, a wonderful night, so well done to everyone involved. Script Youth Musical Theatre Company return to Highbury Theatre in Sutton Coldfield next July with School of Rock. Oh, how I’d love to be a teenager again and part of that experience as I know the show so well, but I’ll settle for watching these talented youngsters bring it to life instead.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

We’re going to need considerably bigger buns.

An iconic line from an iconic film now transformed into a popular musical. But to make that musical a success you need an excellent company and fortunately, everything I have ever seen from Third From the Right Productions has been out of this world.

Calendar Girls — The Cornbow Hall, Halesowen — 19 November 2022

Calendar Girls is a 2015 musical based on the 2003 film of the same name. With music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and a book from Tim Firth, it tells the true story of a group of women who produce a nude calendar to raise funds for a local hospital when one of their husbands dies of cancer. This is an extremely emotional story which includes humour side by side with tragedy and eventually an ending of euphoria.

In the role of the feisty Chris was Natalie Baggot who as always portrayed a commanding figure on stage, excelling at the climax of Act One in Sunflower. As Annie, who loses husband, John (Jez Luckins) was Sarah Coussens who I saw earlier this year in Shrek. Again, it was a top notch performance and Coussens continues to be one of my favourite actors in local Musical Theatre. Kilimanjaro was sublime and Scarborough equally as poignant.

Gaynor Whitehouse returned to the stage as Cora after being at the directing helm during TFTR’s pre-Covid show, Soho Cinders while Jo Tranter aged up to play pensioner, Jessie, giving a great showing during What Age Expects. Completing the Calendar Girls were Bekki Jackson as the brassy Celia and Gillian Homer playing low self-esteemed Ruth who struggles to break free from her deadbeat husband. Both were excellent in solos, So I’ve Had a Little Work Done and My Russian Friends and I, respectively.

Supporting tremendously, though were Kaz Luckins (Marie), Charlie Bullock (Danny) and Niamh Hadley who along with Natalie Baggott provided one of the numbers of the night in Protect Me Less. Then we had Jeni Hatton (Lady Cavendish/Brenda Hulse), Carl Cook (Rod), Sam Gordon (Lawrence), Ian Howarth (Colin), Adrian Raybould (Denis) and Joe Neale (Tommo). Finally, the two unmarried Miss Wilsons (Laura Wright and Shan Nolan Beach) who bared near all in a cheeky cameo.

Jez Luckins was Artistic Director with assistance and choreography from Gaynor Whitehouse in addition to both treading the boards on stage. And then there was Chris Corcoran who continued his wonderful association with TFTR as Musical Director while the Production Manager was Dave Gardner.

Calendar Girls — The Cornbow Hall, Halesowen — 19 November 2022

The climax of the show sees the girls discreetly hidden by various food produce and utensils in For One Night Only before an uplifting finale in Sunflower of Yorkshire. At the end, the entire audience were on their feet with an ovation richly deserved.

The fourth production by Third From The Right I have seen and each time the bar raises higher. November 2023 will see the company return with (the delayed by Covid) Tommy. By then I expect the bar to hit the roof.

Calendar Girls — The Cornbow Hall, Halesowen — 19 November 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

  • Some photos taken from TFTR’s Facebook page.

Never land that’s the secret of flying. Never land, nothing equals the thrill.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

I’m always harping on about the secret to success in amateur theatre. Well, Bilston Operatic Company certainly had that in Styles and Drewe’s Peter Pan. Three Ps: The right Product in the right Place with the right Publicity. Another couple of Ps with Peter Pan, there’s added family appeal. Parents bring their kids to shows like Peter Pan, enjoying the experience so much, they do return.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure is a 1996 reimagining of J.M Barrie’s original 1904 play. With music and lyrics from George Styles and Anthony Drewe plus a book by Willis Hall which is still faithful to the original, I need no explanation of plot. Really … who doesn’t know Peter Pan?

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

I really like this version and the main reason is the score. Styles and Drewe are epic, probably the best musical theatre song writing collaborations in recent times. Catchy tunes with emotion and depth. However, I do think Willis Hall’s book needs bringing up to date with 21st century attitudes. Make Peter Pan less egotistical and Wendy certainly more feminist as opposed to her lot in life being there to cook and clean for males.

Peter Pan, is of course, a magical story, whatever format it takes, and in this show you had the perfect opener with a full chorus and There’s Something in the Air Tonight. Talk about goosebumps, but nothing you would not expect from Styles and Drewe. Even so, this song needs to be done right and with swirling fog and ethereal mystery, Bilston’s voices were magnificent.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Leading the way as the boy who never grew up was Fergus Edwards, and no surprise to find he is a student at the prestigious Birmingham Ormiston Academy. The performance was out of this world; a fine singing voice up there with the professionals. The same for Maddy Evans who captured the character and innocence of Wendy Darling perfectly. The duets in The Cleverness of Me and One Big Adventure were wonderful, and Neverland is just a magical number. The latter also included 12-year-old Joseph Dowen as John and Jett Austin-Richards at an amazing 7 years old playing Michael. Such confidence and stage presence from ones so young. Amazing.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Narrating we had Amy Frost as the storyteller, eventually revealed to be grown-up Wendy who duetted lovely with Lydia Hackett as Mary Darling in Just Home. Hackett also set the scene early on with Just Beyond the Stars which was tremendous. Supporting also as George Darling was Jon Dempsey who portrayed well the consequences of his children’s disappearance, inducing what was basically a personal breakdown.

And then there be pirates … Ahhh! Captain Hook is such an iconic role; one I had fortune to play once upon a time, and Dan Smith had the voice, the presence, and overall charisma to make you believe he was Hook. When I Kill Peter Pan was especially good, mixing humour with menace at the end of Act One. But you can’t have Hook without Smee, and I have to say Zachary Hollinshead is up there with the best and made himself the audiences’ favourite. Yes, it’s in the character as written but you need talent to complete the task and Hollinshead had that in abundance. A Pirate with a Conscience with Hook and Rose-Tinted Eyepatch which included all the pirates were top-drawer on the night. The same could be said for Good Old Captain Hook – a rousing ensemble number which showed good characters and chemistry. We also had excellent dancers in the indigenous inhabitants of Neverland (Natives, Mermaids and Wolves) led wonderfully by Issy Checketts (Tiger Lily) during Crocodile and Tiger Lily/Siren Song.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Now, I’m a great advocate of kids in shows, for they are the future, and the audiences love them. Fortunately, in Peter Pan, there are so many opportunities for these to shine. The Lost Boys were magnificent and even included a couple of girls in their number. This is great for inclusivity as in the past I have despaired when shows like this and Oliver have restricted the junior numbers to male only, just because an original script says so.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Peter Pan was produced and choreographed by Laura Canadine with assistance from Amy Evans while an eight-piece orchestra delivered an auditorium of sound with musical direction in the hands of Gareth Howard.

Wow! I’ve gone way more than my usual 500-word reviews which reflects how much positivity I have to say about this production. It did look expensive with no cost spared and while the cynic may think the company have endless money thrown at them, I disagree. Although the programme had a page filled with patrons and financial support, this is simply good business for which Bilston Chair, Brenda Arnold can be proud.

So, an enormous success which looks to be repeated next year in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Family show, lots of kids, and well-known songs. Bilston surely have that succesful formula nailed and I for one can’t wait.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022 

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

  • Some photos blatantly stolen from Bilston Operatic Society’s Instagram page.

Omigod! Omigod, you guys. Looks like Elle’s gonna win the prize.

Well, you need to have been at The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham watching The Arcadians Musical Theatre Company’s production of Legally Blonde to find out if Elle Woods really did win that prize.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

Legally Blonde is a 2007 musical with score and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin and a book from Heather Hach. The musical itself is based on the 2001 film of the same name and follows sorority girl, Elle Woods as she enrols in Harvard Law School to win back ex-boyfriend, Warner.

This show is now officially the one I have seen the most over four different productions, both amateur and professional and the first thing I saw was an absence of the usual pink sorority backdrops and law school sets. This did not matter. I am quite a fan of the stripped-back approach. Let’s face it, as a director, I’d rather the audience be watching the cast than the scenery and when the cast are as good as The Arcadians were on view, who needs scenery? The other noticeable thing was the use of backing tracks instead of a live band. Yeah, I could tell the difference, but many wouldn’t and even I settled into it. But don’t be too hard on companies who choose this road as in times of financial hardship, an orchestra to do Legally Blonde justice would cost a minimum £3-4K; probably more.

In the role of Elle was Bethany Neame and as well as great vocals, I was impressed with the overall acting, especially facial expressions and reactions. Bethany shone, particularly in solo numbers So Much Better and Legally Blonde (Slow Version). Playing opposite as Emmett Forrest was Jacob Standbridge and again, a superb performance, including the humour for Chip on Your Shoulder.

Now, I always have a fondness for the character of ditzy Paulette. It has so much scope for the actor and I’m happy to say Rebecca Eastwood was the best out of four Paulette’s I have seen to date, and that includes Rita Simons. I just love Ireland as a musical number and Eastwood nailed it in great style.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

But Legally Blonde has baddies too where Cieran Nixon (Warner) and Rob Pushkin (Callaghan) excelled in that department during Serious and Blood in the Water, respectively. Supporting well in the principal line-up were Eleanor Hewer (Vivian), Adaze Crawford (Brooke Wyndham), Tom Cullen (Kyle) and Helen Rourke (Enid Hoops). Then, leading the Greek Chorus of Delta-Nu, we had Robyn MacPherson (Margot), Laura Peters (Pilar) and Ella Saunders (Serena) who due to an injury, was understudied in some scenes by Becky Murray.

This is such a feelgood show with a great script and so many memorable tunes. There! Right There! is always going to top my list due to its hilarity but What You Want, Positive, Whipped Into Shape and Legally Blonde (Full Chorus Version) come close. And not forgetting Bend and Snap. The auditorium of this marvellous theatre was full which is no surprise due to the popularity of the show. It just goes to prove having the right product in the right place with a great company is the secret to success.

In an earlier review for this show I was pulled up for not recognising the canine performers, so I make sure now not to repeat that mistake. On stage we had Willow (Bruiser), Archie (Rufus) and Mindy who is guide dog to Helen Rourke.

Legally Blonde was produced and directed by Nikki Genner with choreography from Adele David and vocal coaching courtesy of Jodi Matthews.

Arcadians appear an inclusive company, enjoying what they do. Congratulations are in order, and they fully deserved the standing ovation on the night of this performance.

Legally Blonde — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 5 November 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

But on my tombstone when I go, just put “Death by Rock and Roll.” 

I have followed this band since the start over a decade ago but until now had never seen The Pretty Reckless live. Thankfully rectified at the O2 Academy, Birmingham.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The Pretty Reckless perform Hard Rock/Post Grunge with a decent amount of Country thrown into some numbers for good measure. Fronted by the powerful vocals of Gossip Girl actor, Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless also feature Ben Phillips (Lead Guitar), Mark Damon (Bass) and Jamie Perkins (Drums). And boy, do they rock.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022
Death by Rock and Roll

Launching straight into the title track of the most recent album, Death by Rock and Roll, The Pretty Reckless had the audience in their hands from the go. Since You’re Gone came next followed by Only Love Can Save Me Now, then, And So it Went. If it wasn’t already, the Academy erupted even further with the arrival of the band’s debut hit, Make Me Wanna Die with everyone joining in the chorus. The energetic Miss Nothing followed before Halloween had its celebration with my personal favourite, Sweet Things and Witches Burn with Broomsticks outro. The awesomeness continued with My Medicine, My Bones, Going to Hell and Heaven Knows. The latter featured a guitar solo, something I am never keen on, but I admit, Phillips was amazing. The main set ended with the sole offering from 2016’s Who You Selling For in Take Me Out. It could be that this album has a softer, country mood, and the show I experienced was, rock, rock, rock. Momsen herself interacted well with the audience showing a genuine pleasure at playing in Birmingham.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The band returned for one more number — Fucked Up World at a massive nine minutes long with another solo, this time drums from Perkins. I don’t like drum solos either, but I’ll excuse it. I would have loved a couple of more songs instead but seeing as the evening was so awesome, I certainly had value for money. At just over £30 a ticket, it was a bargain considering The Damned are charging double that a week later.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

The Pretty Reckless get nowhere near the recognition they deserve and are outstanding, owning every hall played. Perhaps Momsen’s Gossip Girl past puts some people off and the fact that aged-7, she was Cindy Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. People … Momsen is not Miley Cyrus or Zac Efron, playing to Disney fans. Here we have a rock goddess. Treat her like one. If you follow the band, I need say no more. If you don’t know much about them, check out the albums and go see them live. You will not be disappointed.

The Pretty Reckless — O2 Academy Birmingham — 30 October 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

The biggest surprise on seeing Beautiful is just how many Carole King songs you know. Sure, I’d heard of Tapestry, and It’s Too Late, You’ve Got a Friend and Beautiful itself, and I also knew she was one half of the iconic writing duo of Goffin and King. But what I didn’t count on was hearing classics from The Shirelle’s, The Drifter’s, Bobby Vee and Little Eva, then realising who wrote the songs in the first place. To be honest, as well as being an excellent show, it was an education.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

From humble beginnings, King (with Goffin lyrics) wrote for the best. The show is based predominantly in the recording studios within an almost claustrophobic set which works well. There is also no intent on hiding rear and side stages with performers often seen moving with props and scenery. This too is effective as along with the enclosed studios, it gives the feel of a busy environment outside. Then, with all the music played onstage by the performers themselves, you really do feel you are in the studio as history was made.

Beautiful is a Jukebox Musical and that description is perfect because it is like hit after hit on the jukebox, with a story added for good measure. It Might as Well Rain Until September, Some Kind of Wonderful, Take Good Care of My Baby, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, One Fine Day, and Chains (Made more famous by the Beatles). All of these were showcased in Beautiful.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

Music aside, what Beautiful also offered was a well-written script from Douglas McGrath which moved at a good pace. Obviously, words and music to most songs came from King and Goffin, but there were also numbers from contemporary composers, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, who featured heavily as a side plot. And the education was there as well as I did not know much about them, but they also delivered fine songs, notably You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, We Gotta Get Out of This Place and On Broadway.

All the performers were outstanding, including Molly-Grace Cutler (Carole King), Tom Milner (Gerry Goffin), Seren Sandham-Davies (Cynthia Weil), Jos Slovick (Barry Mann), Claire Greenway (Genie), Sorrel Jordan (Betty) and Garry Robson (Donnie Kirsner).

The director for Beautiful was Nikolai Foster with Choreography by Leah Hill and Musical Direction from Sarah Travis.

After the breakup of King’s marriage to Gerry Goffin, she embarked on a new career as a performer in her own right and (as depicted in the show) the rest is history. Such an impact this show made on me, I immediately went out and ordered Tapestry (as I did not have it in my music library.

Beautiful is still currently touring the UK until the end of November. I recommend it highly.

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — Birmingham Hippodrome — 30 August 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

And another one bites the dust.

Well, at least another musical off the tick list. I’m a massive fan of Queen, and a musical theatre fan, but I’d never seen We Will Rock You until this showing. Okay, I was supposed to see it two years ago, then Covid came calling. Finally, though, I got to experience what it’s all about.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

I have never witnessed a show like We Will Rock You before. Or rather, never been faced with two extremes. On one hand, the cast and band with their musical performances were outstanding. As good as anything I have ever seen or heard. Then on the other, you have the book by Ben Elton. I can honestly say, it is awful. I’d compare it to a low-grade GCSE project, but that would be unfair to the students. Little or no plot, terrible script, and contrived that many lines are only there as an excuse to wring out another Queen number. Many of the songs are irrelevant to the plot as well: Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Flash, The Show Must Go On and Fat Bottomed Girls. All fillers which do not move the (tenuous at best) story along. Not only that, many are not even great Queen songs. No One But You (Only the Good Die Young), These are the Days of Our Lives and Radio Ga Ga are average at best. Even the title number, We Will Rock You, is vastly inferior to the fast live version from Queen gigs of old. At least we got a cameo of that in the bows.

And then there were the characters as written. Little to them and only made good by the excellence of those in the roles. We are introduced to Meat and Brit, whose characters are built up to be major influences on developments, then both are discarded, having served their purpose.

The dialogue was filled with song puns, like “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really, want,” then “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and the comment that the truth is “Blowin’ in the wind.” One or two maybe, but when you’re on the 30th pun, you want to scream. And that was just Act One. Similarly, did we really need four Covid references? Less is good; no chance of overkill. But you didn’t need to kill Ben Elton’s script as it was dead already in an act of suicide by the writer.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

But I still enjoyed the show. Well, mostly. This was because, as I have mentioned, the cast were phenomenal. I can’t give them enough praise. In the role of Galileo was Ian McIntosh who was out of this world. I Want to Break Free, in particular. Similarly, Elena Skye gave one of the best vocal performances I have ever seen. Let’s face it, unless you can deliver with power, sass, and stage presence, don’t even try to sing Somebody to Love. Skye was brilliant. Best number of the night.

Michael McKell played Cliff and he gave a good rendition of These Are the Days of Our Lives. Likewise, Martina Ciabatti Mennel (Meat) and Edward Leigh (Brit) were on top of their game, the former, excellent in No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) and together with I Want it All.

The villains of the piece were Jennifer O’Leary (Killer Queen) and Adam Strong (Khashoggi). Both were superb. O’Leary with Don’t Stop Me Now and Strong giving us Seven Seas of Rhye, plus together on A Kind of Magic.

And I must mention the band: Zachary Fils, Matt Herbert, James Barber, Simon Croft, Neil Murray, and  Dave Cottrell. All delivered a sound of pure rock genius and it was wonderful to see them invited into the bows and take front stage at the end.

So, a standing ovation for the performances, they were excellent. Shame about the script, though. It says it all when there are only seven named principals in a show and half of them only used when needed. Ben Elton — Could have done a whole lot better. Perhaps he was Under Pressure when he wrote this book.

What! Bad pun? Jeez, it must be catching.

Cheers.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

Antony N Britt 

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