Tag Archive: The Old Rep Theatre


I have a confession to make. I had never seen Phantom of the Opera until this experience. Sure, I’m familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber music, having played the soundtrack for years and have also seen the 2004 film version. However, I always thought the first time I saw Phantom it should be at its traditional home of Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End. That was until I discovered it being performed local to me by Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA).

Now, I’m no stranger to BOA, having seen and reviewed two of their Year 13 productions in The Witches of Eastwick (2016) and Sister Act (2018). Both were of the highest quality, talent surpassing the years of those on stage. Therefore, when I searched out this years’ offering, I had no hesitation in breaking my promise of waiting for London. I knew I’d be in for a treat with BOA and boy, I was not disappointed.

As before, the academy provides four performances with the cast split into A and B (Two each). The fact they can produce this with two entirely different casts of the same calibre makes it more amazing. I won’t go over the plot as really, if you’re reading this, you should know it. What I want to do is laud as much praise as I can on the remarkable BOA students.

In the role of The Phantom on the night we had Llewellyn Graham who captured the role with mystery, character and great voice. Then, speaking of voice, we had our Christine Daaé. OMG! Colleen Curran was amazing. I have witnessed leading ladies in professional shows who were not as good. An outstanding performance. I was on the edge of my seat during Think of Me with goosebumps on my arms, it was so magical. See you in the West End one day, Colleen. Equally, Rhiannon Street as Carlotta owned the stage with her presence. A fabulous voice and acting which totally exploited the character the way it needed. Then, playing Raoul was Sam Astbury who complimented his love interest in great fashion. Much good chemistry between the two.

An interesting take on the original tale saw André and Firmin played by in Kitty Hosty and Libby Clifford respectively. I know these are generally male roles, but these two worked so well, providing much comedy in a wonderful double act. Rounding off the principals were Niamh Slater (Madame Giry), Katherine Lester (Meg) and Leo Carl Abad (Piangi). Each once more than attained the high standards of others on stage. And that went for the rest of the cast too, which was massive. Wonderful ballet routines added to great sound from the chorus during musical numbers with lots of interaction and characterisation.

Then we had the effects. Yes, the chandelier came down (and made everybody jump, even though I suspect half the audience knew it was coming). Also, there was good use of the set for the signature number where The Phantom takes Miss Daeé into the catacombs. A successful use of doubles also made this appear like the long journey down into the depths it’s meant to be. Mood and magic were consistent throughout until that final scene where The Phantom disappears into his chair, leaving Meg Giry alone on stage with the mask. Both chilling and beautiful.

Of the musical numbers, there are many highlights: Phantom of the Opera, Music of the Night, All I Ask of You, Masquerade, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, The Point of No Return … Hell, I could list the lot.

In charge of production was Dan Branch with musical direction of a good band by Daniel Summers. Choreography was from Lee Crowley, assisted by Lucy Jennings and Georgie Meller.

I began by saying this was my first experience of the show. My partner, who accompanied me, has seen it both in the West End and on tour. Her verdict was that this surpassed both. These student productions are not just for parents to watch and credits towards an education, they are welcome inclusions in any theatre schedule. I thoroughly recommend them to be checked out. I know I’ll certainly continue to do so.

Phantom of the Opera – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 22 March 2019

* Post to this review being published, I’m informed all production and tech were completed by students too, making the entire process more amazing. Full details kindly supplied by Heather in the comments section below. Thank you.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Many thanks to BOA for providing cast names for this article.

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I love youth theatre. I’ve seen a fair bit in the past couple of years and however much I enjoy professional and amateur productions, youth theatre is where it begins.

I’d not heard of Back to the 80s before but being (Ahem!) a certain age, the tunes were familiar to me. I’d also not had any experience so far of Birmingham Youth Theatre but on the night, was not disappointed.

Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Back to the 80s is a coming of age, feelgood romp set in the senior year of William Ocean High School (nice pun) and told retrospectively through the narrative of Corey Palmer Senior (Callum Byrne). Characters are split into the familiar which you would relate to from any school experience. We had the regular kids, the cool guys (Were they ever really cool in our school days?), the popular girls, the outcasts and the teachers. With a decent script from Neil Gooding, the show is brought to life immediately with Kids in America. Okay, I was sold, and suddenly seventeen again.

And the numbers kept coming: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Total Eclipse of the Heart, Material Girl, Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car) and The Final Countdown. These were just a selection which made Back to the 80s such a blast. Ending the night, we had I’ve Had the Time of My Life, a song which has never been a favourite of mine, but one perfect to finish on. Also, strangely, another song which I openly dislike, ended being my top tune in We Are the World.

Founded in 1987, Birmingham Youth Theatre stage two shows a year, featuring talent up to 19 years of age. And talent was very much on view. What impressed me most was that nobody was left out. Everyone appeared to have dialogue and more importantly, solo lines during the songs. All delivered in great style.

Playing the lead role of Callum Junior was Dylan Mulholland who turned in a fine performance. Equally so were Sam Cox (Mr Cocker), Georgia Taylor (Miss Brannigan), Cameron Simpson (Billy), Zak Hayes (Michael), Anna Simpson (Cyndi), Harry Chamberlain (Fergal) and Maddison Clarke (Tiffany). However, those were the principles. I never normally stretch as far as naming an entire cast, but the whole of BYT deserve it, so I will. This includes: Sydney Pope (Mel), Wiktoria Matysiak (Kim), Molly Ewins (Laura), Abbie Hudson (Debbie), Kishan Sambhi (Alf), Daniel Bromley (Kirk) and Holly-Mae Nelson (Eileen). In the chorus, we had Saran Sambhi, Abigail Guest, Abi Shiriane and Karina Galloway. Lastly, a special mention to the lad who appeared to be the youngest member; Dylan-Jak O’Dwyer who portrayed several comic mini characters including Yoda, Mr Miagi and Mario.

In charge of production we had Adam Swift (Director), Chris Corcoran (Musical Director) and Sam Depper (Choreography).

After the curtains closed I was, as often, the solitary sole applauding the band’s play-out music (Everyone always forgets the band). And I could hear from the stage the cries of “We are BYT! We are BYT!” Something to be proud of, indeed.


Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 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

The Witches of Eastwick – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 18 March 2016 Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

I have to admit, when buying tickets for this, I’d never heard of Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) before and at £10 a seat, I wondered what level of performance I should expect. Despite the excellent value in price, though, I still guessed it would be good, but never expected how good.

Over the past few months I have seen The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe at the newer Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Jesus Christ Superstar (starring Glenn Carter) at the Hippodrome. I can honestly say, this production of The Witches of Eastwick knocked both those offerings out the building in terms of enjoyment.

The Witches of Eastwick – My new favourite show, and all thanks to the wonderful production team, orchestra and more important, the talented Year 13 musical theatre students of BOA.

An academy in performing arts for ages 14 to 19, BOA have the cream of the region and it was obvious from the outset, you’ve got to be damn good to get into this school.

My interest in The Witches of Eastwick had been piqued while taking part myself in a concert featuring two of the numbers, and I wanted to see what the entire show had to offer.

The Witches of Eastwick – The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 18 March 2016 Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by John Updike, but having more in common with the 1987 film, The Witches of Eastwick tells of three women searching for the man of their dreams. Pooling energy together, their dreams do come true, but they also get more than they bargained for.

The enigmatic Daryll Van Horne arrives and soon seduces all three, causing destruction, and eventual death along the way. The women realise what it is they have created and decide they have to put things right and send Daryll back from where he came.

Looking at the programme, the pen pictures tell me there were two casts. I learned that these were basically the A and B teams. I don’t know if there was any significance in these categories, or that it was simply a way of dividing to give the students an equal opportunity over the course of the run. As it was, I saw the B cast and if the A lot were meant to be the primary, then they must have been something extra special because the B team I witnessed were out of this world.

Once you got over the fact that, yes, the majority of parts are meant to be played by older people, you soon became lost in the show. In fact, I’d forgotten how old they really were halfway through the opening. Sitting in Row B, I think I spent the entire show leaning forward with chin in hand, mesmerised by what I saw on stage. Not an easy task to keep me from fidgeting throughout a performance.

I imagine it must be hard to pull off characterising much older parts, especially the males, but Jack Sanders did a fantastic job with his portrayal of Daryll. And then you had the witches, themselves. Wow! To get one good voice is great, but all three? Talulla Wheatley (Alex), Heather Foster (Jane) and Lydia Gardiner (Sukie) were all amazing. Incredible voices and fantastic harmonies with great acting to top it off. Then you also had the supporting principles and an ensemble which brought their numbers onto another scale, Dirty Laundry, in particular. And what an opening we had!

I have to say I already had a liking for I Wish I May but at the climax to Act One when Alex, Jane and Sukie send their spirits soaring skyward and fly, I wanted to get to my feet and give a standing ovation there and then. But I thought, behave, there’s still the second act to come yet.

As well as those already mentioned, I loved every number in the show, in particular, the three seduction numbers, each different in their own way. Now I’m not into narcotics, and the strongest thing I’ve ever smoked is a piece of salmon, but even I craved a cigarette after Waiting for the Music.

Since watching, I’ve had the Original London Cast CD on repeat in the car. This is all testament to the BOA cast and production team. A mention, of course, has to go to Director – Rian Holloway, Musical Director – Michelle King, Choreographer – Lee Crowley and Company Manager – Amy Rutter. I hope those credits are right, I got them from the back of the programme. Also, hats off to the rest of the band and crew who made this occasion for me – magic.

Cheers.

Nick

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