Tag Archive: review


Another show off my tick list this week as Hairspray was in town. Always a fan of the story as far back as the John Waters film starring Ricki Lake, I recently also saw the musical movie plus the Hairspray TV Live last year. And the soundtrack gets played a fair bit too.

Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 October 2017

Hairspray is a story of the fight for racial integration in the early 1960s. It seems abhorrent now, the views of that time, but that’s how life was.

So how was the show? From the opening beats of Good Morning Baltimore, goosebumps rose and I knew I was in for a treat as one great number followed another. Nicest Kids in Town, Mama I’m a Big Girl Now and I Can Hear the Bells.

In the lead role was Rebecca Mendoza, giving a great acting performance while excelling in both song and dance. The perfect Tracy Turnblad. There were also good comic moments, (and some of them I’m not sure scripted) between Matt Rixon as Edna and Norman Pace (Wilbur). One that also shone for me was Annalise Liard-Bailey, blossoming from wallflower to summer rose in the role of Penny. Showing vibrant energy we had Layton Williams playing Seaweed. Also onstage were Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle), Gina Murray (Velma Von Tussle), Jon Tsouras (Corney Collins), Edward Chitticks (Link Larkin), Aimee Moore (Amber). Monifa James (Little Inez), Graham McDuff (Male Authority), Tracey Penn (Female Authority) and a full ensemble.

Hairspray boasts music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman with additional lyrics from Scott Whittman. The book is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Production credits for the show include Paul Kerryson (Director), Drew McOnie (Choreography) with musical direction from Ben Atkinson.

I don’t know how long it actually was, but Act Two rattled by. A good testament to the production in not giving the audience chance to catch breath. More good numbers including, You’re Timeless to Me, Without Love and The Big Dollhouse. Of course, the number I had waited for came at the end with You Can’t Stop the Beat and I was taken back twelve months when I performed that myself as part of a pantomime. Great fun. Great show.

Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 October 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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It’s been a year since I first heard the soundtrack to this and my annual West End weekend was never going to involve any other show.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

School of Rock the Musical is a stage version of the 2003 Jack Black film of the same name. The plot follows closely to the original so fans of the film will not be disappointed. However, what makes the musical special is a fantastic soundtrack and performances by a cast playing their own instruments.

There is a decent opening with the No Vacancy number, I’m Too Hot for You. However, the show kicks into top gear when Dewey Finn takes centre stage with When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock. Playing the hapless Finn on this occasion was Stephen Leask. Billed as Alternate Dewey, Leask takes some shows each week and I was glad I caught one of these because his performance was out of this world.

There is so much to love about School of Rock. The struggles of life as a child while growing up, excellently portrayed during, If Only You Would Listen. It’s a great story and throw in a kick ass soundtrack and you have the hit this show has become.

Top numbers for me in addition to those already mentioned include: You’re in the Band, Time to Play, Teacher’s Pet and Where Did the Rock Go? However, my favourite is always going to be Stick it to the Man.

The cast were amazing. Leask as Dewey Finn, I’ve mentioned already, but then we had Florence Andrews (Miss Mullins), Oliver Jackson (Ned Schneebly) and Michelle Francis (Patti). And there were the kids. Oh my God! They were fantastic. Such talent, not only in song and dance, but those who played the band instruments blew the audience away. I really hope I’ve got the names right in this review but if I haven’t, feel free to correct me.

In the role of the bossy Summer was Stella Hayden whose lead in Time to Play kicked off Act Two perfectly. As for the band, Santiago Cerchione played guitarist, Zack with Milano Preston (Lawrence on Keys), Jacob Swan (Freddy on Drums) and Eliza Cowdrey (Katie on the Bass). And Katie … loved the hard face to the audience. Finally, giving great vocals, we had Nerys Obeng as Tomika.

Music for School of Rock was by the legend that it Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics from Glenn Slater and the book provided by Julian Fellows. Directing was Laurence Conner with choreography from Joann M Hunter and musical direction, Matt Smith. Special mention for the grown-up band who helped make the entire experience … rock.

It would have been nice to put cast names to characters and Dewey did introduce them in an energetic finale, but do you think I’m going to waste time writing them down when there was so much energy on stage.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

Yes, I said at the start, I’d waited a while to see this, and was not disappointed. The only downside now is that School of Rock is reportedly remaining in London until early 2019 at the very least. Damn … I was hoping for a tour. Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to the capital then.

School of Rock the Musical – New London Theatre – Saturday 7 October 2017

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

This was my second experience of Bournville Musical Theatre Company, having witnessed their concert, Through the Decades, last year. Therefore, I hoped I would also be well entertained with a full show at the prestigious Crescent Theatre.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The theatre itself is a fine setting, even if my seat, F2, did collapse as I sat on it, meaning I had to move forward to an empty one. But these things happen, especially to me, and I should expect it by now.

With music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, The Pajama Game tells of the Sleep-Tite Factory and the workers’ fight  for a pay rise. The conflict plays out aside a love story between new factory superintendent, Sid Sorokin and the head of the grievance committee, Babe Williams, both acted superbly with powerful vocals from Steve Kendall and Rhian Clement.

Kicking off the show was a good overture by the band who shone all night, although I feel we could have done with some lighting on the house curtains to heighten anticipation of what was to come. Then, after a brief introduction and title song from character, Vernon Hines (the excellent, John Morrison), the company pulled audience attention further onto the stage with Racing with the Clock. In fact, it was the combination of chorus vocals and choreography in this number, plus Hernando’s Hideaway and especially Once a Year Day, which stood out. So much movement and background activity going on, there was no chance of getting bored. And boredom was never an option because in the words of time management obsessive, Hines; “Tempus fugit, tempus fugit.” Time literally did fly as before I knew it, the first act ended for a quick drink and an eager return to the auditorium for more of the same. Pajama Game is a fast-moving show which seems a lot shorter than it is. And that’s a great testament to the original script of George Abbott and Richard Bissell.

Other enjoyable numbers included, I’m Not at All in Love, I’ll Never Be Jealous Again, Her Is, Small Talk, Hey There and Seven and a Half Cents. I’d have to say, though, my favourite of the night was Think of the Time I’ll Save. Well written comedy mixed with good choreography.

There were further comedic scenes and many of my favourites involved the duo of Hines and Gladys, for whom Natalie Buzzard gave an outstanding performance as Gladys. My main love in a personal acting sense is when I create or interpret a character, and Natalie did just that, truly becoming Gladys.

Now I’ve mentioned dance, but special acclaim must go to showpiece number, Steam Heat. This was a routine which certainly raised the temperature in the auditorium, courtesy once more of Natalie Buzzard along with Sarah Sheppard, Peter Holmes, Helen Gauntlett, Sophie Wood, Kai Murai and Verity Smith.

I can’t list everybody involved but giving fantastic support to the leads were Kris Evans (Prez), Jill Hughes (Mabel), Karen Lane (Mae), Jonathan Eastwood (Hasler), Rebecca Lowe (Poopsie), Chloe Turner (Brenda), John Clay (Pop), Phil Snow (Max), Adam Slack (Charley), Phil Holloway (Joe), and an energetic ensemble.

The Pajama Game was well directed by Ann-Louise McGregor with stunning musical direction from Chris Corcoran and sublime choreography by Sadie Turner.

The main thing to note, the cast looked like they enjoyed it and it’s always a cert that if you can project that, the audience will have a fantastic time too. I know I did.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The Pajama Game is on at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 10 June with tickets still available at this link.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

When deciding to review this show, I was dreading what I might have to write. You see, never have I attended a show with so much favourable feedback as in the case of Billy Elliot. My God, everybody loved it, giving rave reviews. But what if it was another dud for me? That certainly happened with the Commitments.

No such fears. From the opening segment with The Stars Look Down, I was drawn into the stage. And this was no mean feat as I wasn’t in the best position to appreciate the view and acoustics back in Row T of the stalls.

With a book and lyrics by Lee Hall, plus music from Elton John, the show is based on the 2000 film of the same name. Billy Elliot tells of a 12-year-old boy set against the backdrop of the 1984 miners’ strike. Rather than attending boxing lessons, Billy stumbles into a ballet class and finds he has a love of the dance.

Now the writer in me first looks to the script, and this one was epic. Clever, natural dialogue which slaps you in the face when you least expect. Best line of the show. “Susan Parks, you look like a spastic starfish.” Oh yes, how I love blatant political incorrectness. And the music and dance was … fantastic. This is a show which truly ticked all the boxes.

Of the musical numbers, Shine stood out immediately. Then we had the spectacular of Solidarity with Billy and the Ballet girls amidst the conflict between miners and police. One, however, which really entertained was Expressing Yourself with the dancing dresses. At the start to Act Two, I can’t emphasise how much I loved Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher masks, puppets, and finally, a giant ogress nemesis of the 1980s miners. And my favourite song lyric. “Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling Heseltine. You’re a tosser, and a wanker, and you’re just a Tory swine.” Sung by children. Brilliant.

On the dance front, we were treated to an amazing segment of Swan Lake in which Billy dances with his older self. Electricity was as it says in the name – electric. Towards the end, we had the poignant farewells as the miners return to work and Billy says his goodbyes. Many a tear in the house. Then the finale topped off a great evening of spectacular choreography, voice and performance.

On the night, Billy was played by Haydn May with Amy Rhiannon Worth as Mrs Wilkinson. Dad was Martin Walsh, Tony (Scott Garnham), Grandma (Andrea Miller), Mr Braithwaite (Daniel Page), Michael (Elliot Stiff) and Debbie (Lilly Cadwallender).

Billy Elliot was directed by Stephen Daldry with choreography, Peter Darling and musical supervision from Martin Koch . The producer was Sally Green.

So, everybody else loved it, and as much as I enjoy being the dissenting voice, I can’t on this occasion. Billy Elliot was out of this world.

 

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

 

 

 

Antony N Britt

I went into The Commitments blind. I’ve not seen the film, or read the book, so at least I could evaluate this show on its own merits. And, oh, how disappointed I was. However good the earlier incarnations are supposed to be, The Commitments does not translate well to stage.

The Commitments – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 15 March 2017

Straight from a lukewarm opener in Proud Mary which totally failed to make an impression, I was treated to a lacklustre Act One in which not a single number grabbed me. There was no flow or rhythm, and not only with the music. Too many characters diluted performances, giving no standout acting. Fast dialogue with little cohesion made the whole thing a mess. I like to be drawn into proceedings, feel as though I’m on stage and part of the wonderful theatre process. Not with The Commitments.

And Act Two was little better. After an hour of a first half which dragged, there were at least a few performances to make me sit up and take note now. But not many. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was the first to make me really want to applaud, as was the case with Papa Was a Rolling Stone. These instances, however, were too few during the show.

I think the main issue was the flawed script which production had to work with. The book written by original author, Roddy Doyle, is poor with characters lacking anything which would make me want to warm to them. Basically, I didn’t care about any and even in the case of the unlikable, that’s criminal in writing, to have gained no empathy. Also, little use of choreography meant there weren’t any plus points to be salvaged in that department, either.

Only when we reached the encore/finale did the talents of those on stage have a chance to shine once free from the bindings of the awful script. However, Mustang Sally and best of the night – River Deep, Mountain High were too little, too late. Many of the audience were fed up by then and there was nothing to be salvaged. Even the premier number, Try a Little Tenderness, didn’t live up to expectations. Asked to get to their feet with hands in the air, roughly 30% of the audience obliged, when it should have been everybody.

Playing the part of Deco on this occasion was Ben Morris with Andrew Linnie (Jimmy), and former Coronation Street star, Kevin Kennedy as Jimmy’s Da. It was a shame for Kennedy to have such an underused and irrelevant role, his only purpose seeming to be to shout, “Turn that shite off,” every now and again. I wish they had turned it off.

Supporting were: John Curran (Billy/Dave), Padraig Dooney (Dean), Sam Fordham (Mickah), Christian James (Outspan), Alex McMorran (Joey the Lips), Peter Mooney (Derek), Amy Penston (Natalie), Leah Penston (Imelda), Christina Tedders (Bernie) and Rhys Whitfield (James).

The Commitments was directed and choreographed by Caroline Jay Ranger with musical direction – Alan Williams.

I did feel for the cast, as I’m sure on another day, their talents will shine. But not in The Commitments.

The Commitments – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 15 March 2017

Cheers.

Nick

The Facebook page said it all. One man performing songs from West End and Broadway Musicals. So, did Richard Beckett (our one man) pull off a success?

One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

Straight into West Side Story’s Somewhere, we were taken on a journey through the breadth and depth of musical magic. A great tenor voice, delivered with power and charisma, had the audience captivated. From the powerful (Anthem) to the poignant (Empty Chairs at Empty Tables) to the downright lively (Footloose), Richard showed his versatility. And an enthusiastic audience was on hand to lap up the atmosphere as hit after hit sounded from the stage. Many of the songs I have heard in shows over the past couple of years were here, and it was enjoyable to relive those moments reproduced so well.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

On the night, Richard got the crowd going and inspired many to sing along to Sandy while getting on their feet to dance to numbers such as Move It. Heck, I’d have done so myself if I’d thought to wear my knee supports.

Personal favourites for me were Stars and Can’t Help Falling in Love, while finishing the show was This is the Moment. Yes, I can honestly say Richard Beckett pulled off the One Man Musical, and truly, this was his moment.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

But that wasn’t all on the night and not quite one man as opening in support was the incredibly talented Katie Teitge. With charisma and humour, Katie also offered a variety of songs from musicals and beyond.

Katie Teitge One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

Beginning with I Don’t Know How to Love Him and the incredible On My Own, we also had Defying Gravity, I Dreamed a Dream and – the entertainment didn’t stop. With You, from Ghost, a song I’d not heard before, was also exceptional. Liekwise (and this is where my fondness for the humorous comes in), I absolutely loved The Alto’s Lament and The Girl from 14G. I’d not heard ‘Alto’s’ for years, and never sung live, while neither in the case of 14G, but I’ve been You-Tubing them ever since. That itself tells you the impact of the performance.

Between sets, Richard and Katie duetted with Last Night of the World from Miss Saigon to top off a fabulous evening. Here’s to many more from both.

Listen to Richard Beckett on Soundcloud

Watch Katie Teitge on YouTube

Cheers.

Nick

This show is personal to me because less than 12 months ago, I performed in Thoroughly Modern Millie with my own local theatre company. So how did the professionals measure up?

Well, the first thing to note was looking at the programme, I saw one of the Chinese duo was being played by someone from Hong Kong. Now having spent six months learning lines in Mandarin, I reckon that was cheating.

I jest. The show was great. Straight from the off we had vibrant energy and good fun.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – New Alexander Theatre – 13 February 2017

Playing the part of Millie Dillmount was Strictly Come Dancing’s, Joanne Clifton. What can I say? Well performed with good vocals and fantastic dance. Nothing, though, that I wouldn’t expect from one who had just partnered the winner in the recent series.

The other billed star was soap actress, Michelle Collins, who played the villainess, Mrs Meers. Now I do actually like Ms Collins, but I wasn’t particularly wowed on this occasion. There was a lack of character and not enough differentiation between the American accent (which wasn’t convincing to start with) and the fake Chinese. It seems a regular downside for me, seeing the big name stars not living up to the hype. She was still good, but not up there with others in the show, particularly Katherine Glover as Miss Dorothy,

There was excellent direction and choreography on the night, but I’d anticipated this when learning Racky Plews was at the helm. This is the third Plews outing for me in a year and all have been of a high standard. Amazing for me, also, was how good a sound was produced by only having a seven-piece band under the direction of Rob Wicks. Overseeing everything was Executive Producer, David King.

Also on stage for the tour are: Sam Barrett (Jimmy Smith), Jenny Fitzpatrick (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Damian Buhagiar (Ching Ho), Andy Yau (Bun Foo), Catherine Mort (Miss Flannery) and Graham MacDuff (Trevor Graydon III). The latter stole a good part of Act Two and it’s amazing how a drunk scene can do this.

It’s hard to pick a stand out number as I am so familiar with all of them. Therefore, I’ll simply say, Gimme Gimme, Speed Test, Forget About the Boy, and all the rest were top quality, too.

Couple of niggles. No Mamma appearance at the end, and Muqin could have been more OTT.

Still, a great night out, and plenty of goosebumps reliving my own experience of last May. So did the pros do it justice? Certainly, in my opinion.

 

Cheers.

 

Nick

The pantomime is a great tradition and I’m always looking for companies I’ve not seen before. Therefore, when the two factors combine, I end up in places like the Dormiston Mill Theatre, Sedgley, watching Rainbow Pantomimes’ production of Cinderella.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

First off, a niggle at the audience. I watch loads of shows and people always forget to applaud the overture (and even more so, exit music). The band have worked damned hard, so give them appreciation, folks.

But the rest of the show. We all know the story of Cinderella, and Rainbow did the classic tale justice. Exuberant enjoyment from the cast projected to those watching, straight from the start with opening number, Reach for the Stars. Yes, good acting combined with decent dance numbers had the crowd whooping it up. There were comic moments, in particular, the Ugly Sisters’ Face Cream scene, although what had me laughing most was an innocent and incredulous comment from a child sitting in front when we had a delay in changing scenery. “Mom, they’ve left the door …” Oh, the little things that amuse me.

Fabulous musical numbers, notably: She, So Close, I See the Light, Open Doors, Raining Men and Celebrate. By far the best for me, though, was the full company version of Timewarp. Not a song I particularly like, so credit for making it stand out.

Of the cast, Katie Randle (Cinderella), Katie Teitge (Prince Charming) and Amy Cooper (Buttons) were superb. Also, well supporting were Jake Millington (Dandini), Helen Hollis (Beryl), Jonathan Pountney (Cheryl), Gemma Wilson-Brown (Baroness), Sally Parker (Fairy Godmother), Ian Totney (Mouse) and Dan Cubberley (Major Domo/Bear).

Cinderella was directed by Gemma Simner with Choreography by Emma Bate. On the music front, there was excellent use of a four-piece band directed by and including, Danny Teitge. Great sound throughout.

The only criticism I have is at times, the flow of certain scenes slowed. Too many pauses on stage with nothing happening. Although this may have been down to the original script, there was a danger of lost interest.

Still, as I say, I enjoyed, as did the rest of the audience. And my God, there were some hyper kids in the front of the auditorium. Was there a shortage of Ritalin or something?

All in all, well done to Rainbow Pantomimes. Looking forward to the next one.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

Cheers.

 

Nick

Last summer I reported on A Tale of the Railway, a joint project between all three schools of The Star Project. The branches in Droitwich, Solihull and Barnt Green give children a chance to express themselves through musical theatre. This time, however, I was in the audience to witness Barnt Green go it alone.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

There were two reasons for returning to The Star Project. Mainly, I was so impressed with my first experience of A Tale of the Railway, but also, I had myself taken part in Once Upon a Time a mere four weeks previous, and I was dying to see how it looked. I’m glad to say, I was not disappointed.

Written by Mark Nicholls, Once Upon a Time tells the story of what happens when villains turn the tables on the heroes and all the happy endings are reversed.

A more condensed version than my own, I still managed to get the same vibes from watching as opposed to being on stage. The feel-good factor came rushing back and I found myself laughing at all the jokes I’d heard for six months previous. This is a great testament to the young cast and teachers behind the project. A thoroughly enjoyable and professional production and more important, the kids looked like they had fun. There was great energy on stage as the show was brought to life before me once again. An excellent version of Let It Go ended Act One but my personal favourite of the night was All About the Bass.

The acting was what I expected after my previous experience, as was the dance. Once again, the singing of many was fantastic with voices defying their years. Okay, it’s a month later now but still sticking in my mind are performances by Genie, Jaffar, Evil Queen, Ugly Sisters, Charming and The Queen of Hearts. That’s not to devalue anyone else. They were all splendid. A special mention for poor little Ariel who had the unenviable task of contending with the most difficult costume ever (mermaid … having to slide on backside all evening), plus the fact she was unfortunately in line of fire for the fake snowstorm when it fell on stage. Well done for carrying on through adversity.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

Barnt Green was the first Star Project, opening in 2008 with the children guided by the watchful eyes of Jo Edwards, Sarah Carter and the brilliant team of teachers. I often see the case of people who love musical theatre, never live their dream, then regret the lost years later. Here at The Star Project, talent can be nurtured from an early age, hopefully with development leading to more in adult life.

So, cheers for The Star Project Barnt Green. Well done, fabulously performed, and just good all round entertainment.

The Star Project runs weekly with special workshops during school holidays. The next is a two-day event during February half term, titled Musical Madness. Details can be found at the Star Project’s website.

Cheers.

Nick