Tag Archive: Theatre


The first thing to note is the formerly named, Coleshill Operatic Society, are now Coleshill on Stage. I like that. We all need to evolve, and musical theatre is no different. Still, names change, but I am happy to say the quality remains with Jack and the Beanstalk exceeding enjoyment of 2019’s Cinderella.

Full of life from an exuberant opening of Pharrell Williams’ Happy to the finale of We Go Together, the cast looked to be having as good a time as the audience. And there was the clincher. Those in the seats loved every minute and showed appreciation likewise.

I’m not going to bore with the plot; it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, for heaven’s sake. However, I did wonder how they were going to represent a giant with an amateur theatre budget. A simple unseen, booming voice of Brian Blessed proportions was the answer, vocals supplied by Adam Richardson. Did the job perfect.

In the lead role of Jack, we had a traditional principal boy in Molly Bennett. This is a part Molly carried of to perfection, excelling particularly in Evermore. Then, combining well with the equally outstanding Hannah Trowman (Princess Charlotte), was a lovely rendition of Rule the World.

However, if it’s tradition you want, there is nothing more pantomime than the dame. Therefore, it was great to see Lloyd Cast offering a more Edna Turnblad female than the rapidly outdating hairy-chested, graveled voice dame. The character of Dotty Dimple worked well, especially during Man, I Feel Like a Woman.

But panto needs a huge helping of comic relief and there was much on offer with the character of Simple Simon, played in great fashion by Kelvin McArdle. It’s a part of musical theatre I love myself, to engage and interact with the audience. And no mean feat to pull it off, either. This was no more evident than during the audience participation of Dotty Dimple Had a Farm. Great for kids and adults. Not that the adults would admit it, though.

In addition to a giant, Jack also contended with two seriously good baddies in Piccalilli (Natalie Bracher) and Rancid (Chris Britt). Both were superb in their acting, making their characters totally believable. And speaking of good character acting, I was equally impressed by Lucia Owen-Small who worked well with her partner Ray Rogers as the incompetent duo, Snatchet and Scarper.

Completing a fine principal cast we had John Kerr (King Crumble), Joyce Eyre (Queen Crumble), Pauline Peach (Fairy Sugardust) and Grace Lambert (Humphrey). Finally, a pantomime cow doing the rounds in the combined form of Claire Willson and Rachel Evans. I wonder which was the butt of the jokes …

Great musical numbers for me were Wake Up Boo, Monster Mash, If I Didn’t Have You and Celebration. My favourite, though, for personal reasons was Walking on Sunshine, a song I chose to end my self-penned show, Sleeping Beauty in 2018. Nostalgic moments indeed.

The director of Jack and the Beanstalk was Tom Willson with excellent musical direction and choreography from Chris Corcoran and Rachel Evans, respectively. All on the production team deserve credit because the whole cast lived their parts. It’s a sign of a job well done when you feel you know these characters, and that was the case for me. It was nice as well to see so many younger members on stage. They are the future of musical theatre and deserve inclusion.

Therefore, another great night out in the hands of Coleshill on Stage. Next production is the iconic Oliver. I shall be there.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’d not seen the stage version of The King and I before, only the classic Yul Brynner movie and the near forgotten, short-lived TV series, Anna and the King. However, the story is the same. British colonial governess takes up a position in the palace of the King of Siam, educating his children amidst a plot of culture clashes, romance, and a heavy dose of song.

So, how was it? Must be honest, from the start there’s a dated feel to not only the songs, but the script itself. It’s a good show, and I did enjoy it, but some of the magic has been lost in the mists of time. And to add to the tiredness, the image I got was a 1950s vision of what 19th century Siam would have been.

The production had a decent set and lots of colour, particularly in the costumes, but I didn’t have empathy for the King. He’s an ignorant tyrant and no matter what excuse you make for cultural differences, I could not get past the image he portrayed. I had also been warned about the Uncle Tom’s Cabin section which goes on for about fifteen minutes; however, I enjoyed it. It’s surreal and abstract in a way, and I quite like that.

Of the songs, there were three which I immediately had in my mind: I Whistle a Happy Tune, Getting to Know You, and Shall We Dance? And at the end of the show, those were still the only tunes I recalled as most others were generic, especially the solos. Okay, I’m not a fan of solos anyway as I think they reduce the effects of musical theater, but these in King and I were very forgettable.

On the day, Anna was played in fine fashion by Annalene Beechey with good voice and character. Also, despite not liking the King as a person, the ruler of Siam was in excellent hands with Kok Hwa Lie. Supporting well were: Eu Jin Hwang (Kralahome), Jessica Gomes-Ng (Tup Tim), Sunny Yeo (Lady Thaing), Ethan Le Phong (Lun Tha), Phillip Bullcock (Captain Orton/Sir Edward Ramsay), Aaron Teoh (Chulalongkorn), William Mychael Lee (Phra Alack) and Joseph Black (Louis). The orchestra was conducted by Chris Mundy with choreography from Christopher Gattelli. The director was Bartlett Sher

I think the length of time it has taken between seeing the show and writing this review tells a tale of how little an impression was left on me. Thank heavens for my notes. Therefore, the message is this. Beware of sending me to see anything iconic because instead of praise for the Holy Grail, you might get a description of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Ever since I was in a concert which featured a musical number from this show, I have wanted to see The Producers. More than that; I want to play Max Bialystock, a role only equaled by Daryl Van Horne as far as my theatre dreams go.

I’d not seen anything from St Augustine’s MTC before, but I had heard good of their reputation. Therefore, I had high hopes for my first viewing of this Mel Brooks masterpiece. And I was not disappointed.

The Producers tells of Max Bialystock, Broadway’s worst producer, and his attempt, aided by accountant, Leo Bloom, to contrive a massive flop and the worst show in history, thus pocketing the invested money once it folds after opening night. Of course, things do not go as planned.

The Producers is fast, funny and full of excellent numbers. Add to that fine performances and good production, then you have a hit. Ironic that a show about how to make a flop is such a smash, notably reflected in a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards after opening on Broadway in 2001.

As I have said, such a good show, but a script can only do so much. You need a team capable of fulfilling the potential, and in St Augustine’s they had that and more. I see a lot of theatre, both amateur and professional, and I would not only rate The Producers as being one of the best of the unpaid kind, but in my top five of all time, including those on tour and West End.

Leading the line was John Morrison as Max. Quite one of the best character actors I have seen and having witnessed previous performances in other shows, the main draw for me going in the first place. From the King of Broadway to the brilliant Betrayed, the audience saw a performance up there with the best.

But then there was also Richard Perks as Leo Bloom, equally as good and both he and Morrison were magnificent in their collaborations on We Can Do It and Where Did We Go Right? And it does not end there. There is such a wealth of good character opportunities in this show and we had no weak links on this occasion: Nicki Willets (Ulla), Nick Salter (Franz Liebkind), Mike Bentley (Roger DeBris) and Lochlann Hannon (Carmen Ghia) were outstanding.

Other top tunes for me included: I Wanna Be a Producer, Der Gutten Tag Hop-Clop, Keep it Gay, When You’ve Got it, Flaunt It, It’s Bad Luck to Say Good Luck on Op’ning Night and Prisoners of Love. Best of all for me was Along Came Bialy. However, my favourite moment in the entire show is when Ulla paints the entire office white. Loved it.

“She’s even painted the numbers on the combination!”

I can’t praise highly enough, also, the production team: Veronica Walsh (Producer/Director), Stephen Powell (Musical Director), Sharyn Hastings (Choreography) and Tony Walsh (Stage Manager) can be so proud of their efforts.

A marvelous company, full of good acting, song and fabulous dance. What a show!

Picture blatantly stolen from St Augustine’s Facebook page.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s less than three months since I watched (and reviewed) Annie at the Birmingham Hippodrome. However, my love of amateur theatre is much, and I wanted to see if the good show I’d seen back then could be equally so on the amateur circuit.

I say, amateur, but in all I attend, there is never anything amateur about them, and Trinity Musical Theatre Company’s production was no exception.

Still, the Annie I saw in September was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen; therefore, Trinity had a lot to compete with. But what can I say, other than brilliant.

Freya Poulton was exceptional in the lead. A beautiful voice and magnificent characterisation to match. Tomorrow was out of this world. And then we had Lizzie Buckingham as the fearsome Miss Hannigan. Some weeks ago, I saw Jodie Prenger who was so enamored with my glowing review of her, she liked my Tweet on the matter. Here, Lizzie did just as well in matching the performance of one paid to do so. Outstanding.

Also giving fine showings were Chris Dowen (Daddy Warbucks) and Emily Rabone (Grace Farrell), as were John Sheard (Rooster) and Katie Rabone (Lily St Regis). All were commanding in presence and delivery of both song, dance and lines. I have to say, Easy Street is a great number.

Supporting well, though were Pat Lewis (Bert Healy), Matt Webb (President Roosevelt) and Wayne Butler (Drake).

But Annie is nothing without the kids. And such a good move by Am-dram companies to utilize shows like this. These kids are the future and most will continue being on the stage into adulthood, having got the bug at such a young age. Not only good for theatre in general, but also the company as eventual adult members.

Superb performances by Connie Davies (Molly), Kersten Davies (Kate), Molly Bastable (Tessie), Beau Bradburn (Pepper), Maisie Addinell (July) and Georgia Haycock (Duffy). Although unseen, I’ll also credit Elisia Brian who played Molly on alternate performances.

Annie was produced and directed for Trinity by Andy Poulton with choreography by Zoe Russell. Adding to this, overseeing a great sound from the orchestra was Sam Deakin. All on the production team can be well proud of those on stage. Well done to all.

The cast of Annie. Picture blatantly stolen from Trinity’s Facebook page.

So, second time in a short while and no less enjoyable. It’s certainly a show I’d love to do, even direct, and that is much due to the excellent showing I witnessed on this occasion.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

For many years I had promised myself I would see The Mousetrap, the longest running play in the West End. However, for me, the venue wasn’t the St Martin’s Theatre, London, but The New Alexandra in Birmingham with the play on tour.

Now, being a writer, I am also a prolific reader and have sampled nearly half of Agatha Christie’s catalogue to date. Therefore, I had an advantage in suspecting the murderer as soon as they made their entrance. I was proved right, as it turned out, but like a good detective, didn’t show my hand until it mattered. Assume nothing.

The plot involves a young couple, Molly and Giles Ralston, preparing for the opening of their guest house venture at Monkswell Manor. Numerous guests arrive, surrounded by the news of a murder in London. At the end of the first act, one of their number is also murdered and Sergeant Trotter, who appears before the manor is cut-off by heavy snowfall, investigates. And we get the usual Christie drama of multiple clues, false leads and sub-plots.

I am not going to reveal more as you are asked at the end, not to, and who am I to spoil the fun.

Using one set, The Mousetrap is a bit slow at the start and very little of relevance occurs until near the end of Act One, just before the murder. However, the characters and plot are set up well and you form a real attachment to the Manor’s owners and guests. What I liked was a good use of humour, essential in something as dark as a murder mystery, in my opinion, so as not to make the experience totally gloomy.

Topping the bill was a national treasure of British film and theatre in Susan Penhaligon as the ultra-critical Mrs Boyle. I have to say, it was a joy to witness someone I have watched in films and TV over the years and for me, the most memorable being in Doctor Who’s, The Time Monster, way back in 1972.

Supporting well, though, were David Alcock (Mr Paravicini), Geoff Arnold (Sgt Trotter), Nick Biadon (Giles Ralston), John Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Harriett Hare (Mollie Ralston) and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen (Miss Casewell). Finally, we had Lewis Chandler as Christopher Wren who gave a superb performance. Wren is a flamboyant character with many opportunities to shine, but Chandler took and exceeded all of them. The production was directed by Gareth Armstrong.

Christie’s writing desk at Greenway. Who knows, perhaps The Mousetrap was written here.

All in all, a good show. Yes, I guessed whodunnit! And yes, there are plot holes, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A lovely night out.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I always love concerts by local theatre companies for two reasons. One, they highlight songs already known to me and two, I have, in the past, been introduced to some wonderful shows based on what I have seen at such productions.

I have experienced Bournville Musical Theatre Company many times, including their last three showcase concerts, so I looked forward to this one. The Magic of the Musicals was a simple but effective idea. Take eight top musicals, many which you cannot perform on the amateur circuit and give them 15-minute slots each. To achieve this for The Magic of the Musicals the company were split into two, taking four shows each. Easier for production and suitable for a small venue, but I’m not sure it worked on all the songs as the chorus was diluted on occasions. Really, you can’t have Step in Time with just three men.

The musicals on display were Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Hamilton, Hairspray, Dear, Evan Hansen, West Side Story and The Greatest Showman. There were only two I hadn’t seen in full and wasn’t enamoured by the songs from Hamilton, but was by Evan Hansen, therefore a trip to see it when it finally appears near me, beckons.

With so may excellent shows, you may think it was hard to choose a favourite, but I did, and it’s one which surprised even myself. You see, 18 months after appearing in it and never wanting to hear the name West Side Story again, this was the section I enjoyed the most. Somewhere, sung by Sarah Frances McCarthy was exquisite while America led by Karen Lane and Jill Hughes brought back memories of watching from the sound booth each night. And finally, I was so impressed with Tonight which included strong performances from Yvonne Snowe, Liam McEvoy and Ellie Morrow.

It’s too much to mention everybody as this was certainly a team effort, and we all have our favourites. For me, standout numbers included Claire Brough and Sarah Debono with One Short Day while All I Ask of You, sung by Lucy Herd and Greg Boughton was probably the top tune of the night. Then, I cannot possibly choose between the two Mary Poppins’ in Sibs Ganley and Lily Moore for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Spoonful of Sugar, respectively. As ever, Chloe Turner pulled off a magnificent solo with Burn while hats off to Phil Snowe and Lewis Doley for Timeless to Me. I can always admire those unfazed by having to send themselves up

I also enjoyed Waving Through a Window, a number which suited Peter Holmes well and You Will be Found (featuring David Page, Hannah Young and Lily Moore) was also excellent.

To wrap things up with Greatest Showman, I was impressed with Never Enough performed by Claire Brough (despite the curse of Am-Dram in mic problems), and This is Me with Rachel Fox and chorus.

Magic of the Musicals was produced by Lisa Colvin-Grieve and David Page with musical direction from Chris Corcoran. The choreography was then well-shared with Karen Lane, Abbie Jones, Sophie Wood, Kris Evans, Claire Brough, David Page, Stuart McDiarmid, Helen Gauntlett and Verity Wadesmith all chipping in.

Bournville’s next show is in April 2020 with The Wedding Singer and I am sure, as always, it will be exceptional.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

One of the most famous shows of the last thirty years with the role of Mrs Johnstone considered iconic. However, I had never seen Blood Bothers so needed to tick another off the list.

This is a tale of a mother who after having twins, gives one (Eddie) away to make ends meet. To stop her ever seeing Eddie, the adopting mother uses Mrs Johnstone’s superstitious nature to spin a tale, saying if ever the boys learn of each other’s identity, both will die. Of course, they do meet, become friends, fall out, and then reach an inevitable tragic conclusion.

I had little empathy with Mrs Johnstone, as it happens. Well, she gave away her son far too easy. Still, the lead was played well by 1970s singer, Lyn Paul, considered by many to be the definitive in the role. Very powerful and poignant vocals. I am so glad I saw her on this occasion.

Also billed at the top was Robbie Scotcher as the Narrator. He too gave an excellent performance, although I did find the inclusion of a narrator obtrusive at times. Then we had the twins; the rough-edged Mickey and more sheltered and studious Eddie, portrayed by Alexander Patmore and Joel Benedict respectively.

Now, the thing about Blood Brothers is that it is set when the twins are aged 7, 14, then through to 18 and beyond, with all their Act One scenes as juveniles. And as well as Patmore and Benedict tackled being 7-year-olds, I still found it cringing and embarrassing to watch at times. Women can get away with this far batter, as was shown by the excellent Danielle Corlass as Linda, but grown men pretending to be little kids … Noooooo! Then, supporting well on the night we also had Chloe Taylor (Mrs Lyons), Daniel Taylor (Sammy) and Tim Churchill (Mr Lyons) in addition to a good chorus.

My biggest praise for the show, as a writer, must go to the book by Willy Russell. Well-written, being funny and dark at the same time. It takes talent to turn a mood so quickly. However, if Russell’s script is top-drawer, the music is less so. I found the songs generic and dull, with the same tunes reprised too much. The most enjoyable for me was Kids’ Game with the more popular Tell Me it’s Not True, overrated (in my opinion). Other decent numbers included Easy Terms, My Child and Bright New Day, while on the other hand, Marilyn Monroe must be the most awful song I’ve heard in musical theatre (and it’s reprised to death).

Positives from Blood Brothers in addition to the script were the performances from the cast and band, whereas a major negative was the lack of dance (There is very little). Plus, the show has a dated feel to it, although that seems par for the course with Bill Kenwright directions, I’m afraid.

This review might suggest I hated Blood Brothers, and that’s not so. I did enjoy the show, but was not bowled over as one might expect. Still, I’ll give 7 out of 10 for a production which survives more on reputation than delivery.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Before going to see 9 to 5, I only knew three things about the show: Two songs and the fact it’s famous for Country and Western songwriter, Dolly Parton. And as the show kicks off, we get to see two of those with a video intro from Dolly before launching the title song, 9 to 5. A nice touch, but not needed as the cast straight from the start have the audience’s full attention with excellent song and dance, full of energy and perfected skill.

I had a special interest in this show, however, as Here for You was one of the first numbers I ever sang solo in my own stage exploits during a concert. Sitting centre of the stalls on row B, I got almost as good a view of Doralee (Ahem!) as when I was on stage.

Now, twenty minutes into the show and with both songs I was familiar with having already gone, I wondered if it had peaked for me. Not a chance. It does always help if I know songs, but such was the calibre of delivery, it didn’t matter. Around Here, Backwoods Barbie, Heart to Hart, Change It and Shine Like the Sun were all amazing. Great vocals with equally matching choreography.

Set in the 1980s, 9 to 5 is the tale of three women fighting their boss for equality, and leading the pack, former Eternal star, Louise Redknapp was outstanding as Violet. Then we had Amber Davies playing Judy and I have to say, what a shining performance, especially during Get Out and Stay Out. But how can anyone fit into the heels of Dolly Parton? Well, Georgina Castle did, and Dolly would be proud. The trio really worked well together and looked a close-knit team

Supporting well, though were Lucinda Lawrence as the devoted assistant, Roz, to the sexist Franklin Hart Jnr (Sean Needham). And we also had Christopher Jordan Marshall (Joe), Jemima Loddy (Missy), and finally, Laura Tyrer as the gloriously alcoholic Margaret.

9 to 5 is simply a fantastic feelgood show, full of laughs included in a good script from Patricia Resnik. But credit to the production on this tour who made the whole experience unforgettable. Jeff Calhoun (Director), Lisa Stevens (Choreographer) and Mark Crossland (Musical Director) led a great team.

A good indicator of how much I enjoy a show is if I immediately purchase an original cast recording. And I have (Well, streamed it, at least). This is a show not just for fans of Dolly Parton, but everyone. One of the best I’ve seen and appreciated by the entire audience on my visit.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

Just who the hell is Alan Menken? Let Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) enlighten you.

The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors and Pocahontas are just some of the shows by this wonderful songwriter and composer. Tunes from these and many more, including AMCS’s 2020 production of Sister Act will be featured in a showcase concert at The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock at the end of November.

AMCS have been producing quality shows for over 50 years and Magic of Menken will be no exception. With a talented cast, AMCS also benefit from having Mark Bayliss as Musical Director (Directing/Producing this time around too) and Sarah Beckett in charge of choreography. These are two people most companies can only dream of having so expect great vocals and harmony combined with excellent dance: Be Our Guest, Zero to Hero, I See the Light and Topsy Turvy, to name but a few.

One thing is sure, an AMCS audience always goes home happy and with mainstream theatre so expensive, this is a great alternative.

Magic of Menken is on 28 to 30 November 2019 (1930 start) at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock. Prices are £14/Adult with Concessions and Under 16s/£12.

Tickets are available by calling 07588 141841 or the Box Office on 01543 578762. Alternatively, you purchase online.

BUY TICKETS ONLINE HERE

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

It’s amazing to think that Soho Cinders is only the third outing for Third from the Right Productions. And it’s been a privilege to experience all the shows from this talented lot. And how they’ve grown. From a cast of six in Shout, to eight in Disenchanted, and now a full company with a massive 24.

Loosely based on the fairytale of Cinderella, Soho Cinders sees us in modern day London with our own Cinders (Robbie) trying to juggle his love life between the possessive Lord Bellingham and London Mayoral candidate, James Prince. Other elements from Cinderella include the ugly sisters in Clodagh and Dana (Two 1970s Eurovision names, perhaps?) and Robbie’s best friend, Velcro, who is unrequitedly in love with him. Of course. Velcro/Buttons. Took me a minute to get that one. Simple but clever.

In Styles and Drew, Soho Cinders have songwriters of the highest calibre, having been previously given the job by Cameron Mackintosh to add new songs to enhance the classic Mary Poppins for the stage, plus, the recent revival of Half a Sixpence.

Playing Robbie was Joshua Hawkins who gave a good performance, excelling in the number, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers. Opposite, him, Prince Charming was Adam Siviter who combined well with Hawkins on Gypsies of the Ether.

The last time I saw Kerry Davies and Sarah Coussens with Third From the Right, they played a clinically insane Belle and an out-of-rehab mermaid in Disenchanted, Now with more serious roles, they worked brilliantly together as Velcro and Marilyn in one of the numbers of the night – Let Him Go. Another performance of note was Carl Cook as the shady William, especially with The Tail That Wags the Dog. And I can’t mention character performances without heaping loads of praise on Gillian Homer and Natalie Baggott as Dana and Clodagh, especially during their rendition of Fifteen Minutes.

Supporting well on the night, we had Tony Newbold (Lord Bellingham), Amy Pearson (Sidesaddle), Kaz Luckins (Sasha) and Jake Winwood (Customer and Goldfish Man). Finally, adding narrative to proceedings was Matt Dudley.

As I have said already, Soho Cinders was a step-up with the introduction of chorus, and these new members worked well with energy and enthusiasm. It must be difficult for a relatively new company to build up camaraderie and a family atmosphere, but Third from the Right pulled it off.

Other top numbers of the night for me included: Old Compton Street, You Shall Go to the Ball and Who’s That Boy?

At the helm in production and having done a great job was Gaynor Whitehouse with direction and choreography, assisted by Jez Luckins and Dave Gardner. And in charge of an effective five-piece band, with high standards as ever, was Chris Corcoran.

The only criticism I would have of the show has nothing to do with production or cast, it is that the script felt a bit sluggish as times with not enough laughs. This I’d put down to the writers combining their obvious songwriting talents with delivering the book. You really do have to be top drawer in all departments to achieve this. Also, some of the lines could have made Robbie and James more likable. As it was, I had little empathy for them and more so those they left behind.

Still, we had a good show complete with a vibrant ending. A new dawn for a wonderful company. Long may they continue.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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