Tag Archive: Theatre


I first saw Avenue Q years ago, therefore when I heard of a touring production coming to my area, I had no hesitation taking a second helping.

Avenue Q – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – 16 February 2019

Avenue Q is Sesame Street grown up – and totally corrupted. Simple, but it works, and there are numerous messages in the show which we may not wish to admit to – but are oh so true. With a book by Jeff Whitty, plus music and lyrics from Robert Lopez and Jeff Mark, Avenue Q has been entertaining audiences for years, and this packed New Alexander Theatre experience was no exception.

For those not acquainted, Avenue Q features puppet characters alongside three humans, interacting with each other. The puppets are animated and voiced by actors, who although unconcealed onstage, are completely ignored by both human and puppet characters. All puppeteers wear black to minimise distraction as opposed to the colourful clothing of the humans. This works and you soon focus on the puppets as though they were real.

The script to Avenue Q is funny, well-written and backed by an excellent selection of songs. These include Sucks to Be Me, If You Were Gay, There is Life Outside Your Apartment, I Wish I Could Go Back to College and For Now. But I also have special favourites. Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist totally speaks the truth while There’s a Fine, Fine Line would be at home in any musical. Also, The Internet is For Porn, which will bring the house down every time. “Me up all night honking me horn to porn, porn, porn.” Oh yes!

Then we come to the scenes. No matter how many times I see it, I will never be ambivalent towards puppet sex. And the dream sequence … “I know, put my earmuffs on the cookie.” But we also have the closet gay (Rod) singing My Girlfriend in Canada who “Comes from Vancouver and sucks like a Hoover.” The song then finishes with the words, “And I can’t wait to eat her pussy again.” I do have to admit, I’ve played around and used that line on many a musical theatre song at the end, just to hear how it sounds.

A great night with a brilliant cast led by the puppeteers: Lawrence Smith (Princetown/Rod), Cecily Redman (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut), Tom Steedon (Nicky/Trekkie Monster/Bad Idea Bear), Megan Armstrong (Mrs Thistletwat/Bad Idea Bear/Second Arm), And then the humans: Saori Oda was brilliant as Christmas Eve as were Oliver Stanley (Brian) and Nicholas McClean (Gary Coleman). Yes … this is meant to be Gary Coleman from TV’s Different Strokes. Ensemble were: Jasmine Bell, Ellis Dackombe, Chloe Gentles and Robbie Noonan.

Directing and choreographing Avenue Q was Cressida Carre with musical direction from Dean McDermott.

If ever you get the chance, I would certainly recommend a trip down to Avenue Q. I guarantee you’ll enjoy being in the neighbourhood.


Avenue Q – New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – 16 February 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

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It’s always a privilege to witness youth productions so I was delighted to attend this showcase from Walsall College’s Supported Learning Performing Arts Students.

A Showcase of Performance Work – Walsall College – !4 February 2019

With my background in autism, I’m all for inclusion, and my recent 2018 Sleeping Beauty Pantomime highlighted this with two of the cast members taking part. Performing Arts is for everyone, and a way people can express themselves.

On the night we were treated to music, dance, sketches and monologues, plus other spoken word. And what a joy it was to see the diversity of talent.

Kicking the evening off were the Level 1 Diploma Group dancing to Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop the Beat. A nostalgic trip for me, having danced this in panto (In full Captain Hook costume) a couple of years back. Further dances came with Stray Cat Strut although my favourite was a medley of Smooth Criminal, Don’t Stop Me Now and Mr Blue Sky. Come on, you can’t beat a bit of Elo and Queen. Also by the Diploma Group was a poignant tribute to fallen heroes with music and spoken word. This included The Sounds of War written and delivered by Mikail Ali. As both a writer and performer, I know first-hand how much harder it is with your own work as opposed to someone else’s. And we also had Alisha Clarke, reading from her novel, The Black Rose. Talent indeed.

The second of three learning groups were the Level 1 Certificate Group whose Latino Jazz Vibes was clever and entertaining. This group also rounded off the wonderful evening with When I Kissed the Teacher (No better way to end the show than Abba). However, they were also responsible for many monologues and sketches, the highlight of which for me was a wonderfully delivered piece by Imogen Williams titled, Sorry I’m Late.

The longest section of the show was an adapted version of The Wizard of Oz from the Entry Group 3 students. A delight from start to finish made more so by the wonderful performance of Abdul Raheem as the warlock whose wicked laugh had the audience in stitches. Following this the group then entertained with a mime to the vocals of Gemma Wyke with Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Credit goes to all students, though. Namely: Tom Andrews, Ayrshire Grant-Cable, Chris Cribb, Kane Hedley, Adil Hussain, Leighton Lewis, Sean Rogan, Devonite Smith, Olivia Tolley, Shantae Watson, Imogen Williams, Mikail Ali, Alishia Clarke, Symone Cunningham, Simranjit Dhillon, Dean Fields, Stuart Foster, Katie Henworth, Eleanor Peat, Brandon Pope, Jessica Matthews, Lauren Robbins, Matthew Britt, Ainsley Edwards, Stephen Miller, Abdul Raheem, Kirsty Startup, Jordan Titley, Ben Twells and Gemma Wyke.

The show was directed and choreographed by Thomas Armstrong, Katie Fieldhouse, Tanya Lewis and Emma Speake.

It’s all very well learning, but this must be fun, and there was evidence in abundance these gifted students were having just that – a great time. In fact, these young people are more than capable of progressing and would be welcome additions to many a dance and theatre company.


A Showcase of Performance Work – Walsall College – !4 February 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’ve never reviewed a music album before. As you will see from my previous, I mainly do rock gigs and musical theatre reviews. I’m also not interested in TV talent contests, most of the time. However, for two seasons I have been watching The Voice Kids (UK version) and am totally captivated by the talent of these youngsters which often surpass their years. One such is Lucy Thomas and I was delighted to learn she had gained a recording contract through Cavendish Records resulting in a debut CD, appropriately titled – Premiere.


Album Review – Lucy Thomas: Premiere

Lucy was one of three favourites of mine from the 2018 series (None of whom made the final, strangely enough). A travesty, and I still stand by my opinion that Lucy was the best and more so now based upon the resulting 12 tracks on Premiere.

At the time of release, Lucy is still only 14, and it defies belief when you listen to not only the purest of voices, but one which is so much the finished article. Up there with the best.

Premiere is a delightful mix of musical numbers for anyone with a love of the stage and screen. Opening we have Never Enough from The Greatest Showman. Way ahead of the rest (personally speaking) in being my top tune from that movie. And with this version, I have no hesitation saying Lucy’s is better than the original.

Next, we move to a classic; a tale as old as time with Beauty and the Beast. The words and Lucy’s voice are hypnotic. A true fairy tale in vocals. And these are just for starters. Other tunes include Let It Go (Frozen), Listen (Dream Girls), Someone Like You (Jekyll and Hyde), Defying Gravity (Wicked) and a second from Greatest Showman in Tightrope.

But Lucy also works well with other artists, duetting for two numbers with fellow Voice Kids contestant (and finalist), Will Callan. First, they perform Can I Have This Dance. Now – ahem, I have never watched or listened to High School Musical 3, but this is a lovely tune made special by two great voices. The second collaboration appears with the final track on the CD – The Day I Met You. This and three further songs on Premiere (Starlight, Suddenly and One Day) come from a new musical, Rosie (written by Chris Broom), and are all sung with the same excellence as the rest on the album.

I am so glad I made this purchase and listen to it a lot. I now also watch with interest at a fledgling career developing into a big one. I do hope there is more to come and looking at Lucy’s website, we see evidence of past performances in musical theatre. Maybe one day soon we will hear some of these massive tunes with Lucy in the West End or on tour. That must be the aim, and I think she can make it.

Album Review – Lucy Thomas: Premiere

You can buy Premiere through many outlets but also here from Lucy’s site.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

My only other experience of a Birmingham Rep festive production was three years ago with a very lacklustre (and far too arty) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. So, how did The Wizard of Oz compare?

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

In his programme notes, director Liam Steel states he didn’t want the production to be a carbon copy of the 1939 MGM musical (No problem there) while saying something about the world today. Now, I am a big advocate of updating films, TV, or stage shows into modern versions, but this wasn’t achieved here. With no clear vision, what we had was a mismatch of old and new which couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.

Yes, the cast were talented, and visual effects, despite being ambitious, paid off, especially the phantoms in the forest. But that’s where greatness ended. This was the end of the run and you would expect the cast to want to bow out with a bang. What you got, though, was a feeling of those on stage going through the motions.

One of the main problems is the original template which the team had to work with. The script is dull, my God, and I don’t mean mildly, either. Clunky dialogue was delivered too fast at times and I was thankful for the subtitles. And perhaps the memory cheats but I can’t remember the film being this boring. There are no sub-plots with scenes overly drawn out, making this a very long trip to the Emerald City. Into Act Two, with surreal moments meeting the Jitterbugs and Winkies (Yes … I know), this wasn’t enough to stop one of my party falling asleep.

Performances were okay but I had little or no empathy with the characters. When watching a stage performance I like to be drawn into that world, something which should come easy with The Wizard of Oz. But I had none of that.

I expected the show to be colourful and fast-paced. Instead it was drab and tedious. Costumes appeared to have come from a charity shop and whether this was an intentional concept, all it succeeded was to give the impression of cheap. And why was the Lion dressed to look like an Oompa Loompa?

One other point, we had a lovely little dog playing Toto in Kansas, however, when transported to Oz, the live dog was replaced by a puppet. Nice idea but the puppet did nothing bar hang around in the background looking neither funny or clever.

Something of interest to also note: We are told at the end Miss Gulch has broken her arm (or leg. By now I didn’t care). Well, if that’s the case, she still has the court order and is free to come and kill Toto when she recovers.

Musical direction was by George Dyer. However, I felt the orchestra was subdued at times and lost underneath the vocals. Also, there seemed little choreography. Very disappointing.

Playing Dorothy (whose Kansas accent disappeared after twenty minutes) was Chrisara Ago. Other cast members included Kelly Agbowu (Lion), Ed Wade (Scarecrow), Dillion Scott-Lewis (Tin Man), Lorna Laidlaw (Wizard), Jos Vantyler (Wicked Witch of the West), Thomas Vernal (Oz Guard) and Shanay Holmes (Aunty Em).

So, a second chance at the Rep for a festive show and a second dud. Don’t think I’ll try again.

The Wizard of Oz – Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 13 January 2019

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

Always a good show from Bournville Musical Theatre Company (BMTC) and The Best of British was no exception.

The Best of British– Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 27 October 2018

Split into several sections in either act, we had a powerful opening with two James Bond numbers (Live and Let Die and The Writing’s on the Wall) led by Rob Wheeler and Claire Brough, respectively.

An early joy for me were two tunes from Me and My Girl, a show I am due to perform in May. Here, a jolly Leaning on a Lamp from Kris Evans (and dancers) followed by the lovely Once You Lose Your Heart (Michelle Orton). A magic moment, indeed. Then, a great offering of Sweeny Todd’s, Worst Pies in London from Natalie Buzzard who is surely one of the best character actresses on the amateur dramatics circuit.

Now, I didn’t know what to expect from A Poultry Tale as the version from Honk I am familiar with is a bit lame (if you forgive the duck pun). However, Bournville’s full company outing was full of life and humour.

BMTC is a wealth of talent and it was pleasing to see many previously not in the spotlight, given the chance to shine. Magic moments came from Lily Moore (All That Matters), Greg Boughton (If Ever I Would Leave You), Rachael Fox (Don’t Cry for Me Argentina), Chloe Turner (As Long as He Needs Me) and Teresa Fittro (The Mist). And then we had a wonderful nostalgic trip (literally) with Those Were the Days, sung with great feeling by Sarah Debono.

It wasn’t only solos though. Chloe Turner led the ladies well with Somebody to Love while Jimmy Van Hear did likewise with the lads in The Stars Look Down. Now I’m not a fan of the Lion King’s Circle of Life but fronted by Lisa Colvin-Grieve, this company number really stood out. Fun was had with a surreal Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Chris Britt, John Clay and Company) and The Song That Goes Like This (Phil Snowe and Siobhan Ganley). Finally, the show was rounded off with a full company presentation of Raise You Up.

In May, BMTC perform Oliver and we had three tunes to promote this in Who Will Buy, Oom Pah Pah, and the previously mentioned As Long as He Needs Me. I can guarantee from this evidence the audience will be in for a treat and you can get your tickets here.

The production and some choreography from The Best of British was in the hands of Kris Evans and Adam Slack with musical direction from Chris Corcoran. Additional choreography was split between Helen Gauntlett, Karen Lane, David Page and Chloe Turner.

The only downside on the night was the curse of Am Dram in the form of sound problems, but that was vastly overshadowed by the Best of British talent.

The Best of British– Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull – 27 October 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s pantomime time and Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) are staging Sleeping Beauty at Great Wyrley. AMCS have a reputation for great shows and Sleeping Beauty is no exception. Fantastic voices and dance, plus an original script by local writer Antony N Britt (Yes … me). Being an author and loving amateur dramatics, it was only a matter of time before the two worlds collided. And this is it!

Sleeping Beauty - The Pantomime  (Coming to Great Wyrley – 22 to 24 November 2018)

The show is full of great numbers which will have you clapping and tapping your feet until the end. Songs include: Tragedy, Colour My World, These Boots Are Made for Walking, Dear Future Husband, Electricity, Walking on Sunshine, Once Upon a Dream, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Hot Stuff, Electricity and … the list goes on.

AMCS have produced exceptional pantomimes in the past and I’m overjoyed at the opportunity to continue that tradition. Writing Sleeping Beauty took five months. One to concoct a matter of fact plot, then four more to complete the script. It’s a mammoth workload, also being in the show, but the temptation was too hard to resist. And what a joy to be not only directing but appearing alongside my fellow members whom I’m proud of every single one.

Assisting me with direction is Julie Lamb while I’m also thankful to be working alongside the exceptional Sarah Beckett (Choreography) and Mark Bayliss (Musical Direction)

The show is at Great Wyrley High School Theatre from 22 to 24 November (1930 evenings with an additional 1420 matinee on Saturday 24 November).

Tickets are available by phoning 0798446400. Alternatively, you can go online to Stagestubs at this link.

Prices are £13/Adult, £10/Concessions and £7/Under 16s. We also offer a family ticket (2 adults/2 children) for £35.

Great entertainment for all the family.

 Sleeping Beauty - The Pantomime  (Coming to Great Wyrley – 22 to 24 November 2018)

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

First time seeing Sutton Coldfield Theatre Company and a first watching All Shook Up.

All Shook Up is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and supported with music by various songwriters, made famous by Elvis Presley. A simple plot by Joe DiPietro is funny and well-written, but it’s the familiar tunes which get the audience going.

Launching full company with the massive Jailhouse Rock, we were treated to excellent voice and dance, full of energy. And then the hits kept coming: Heartbreak Hotel, One Night with You, Teddy Bear/Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Don’t Be Cruel, A Little Less Conversation, Fools Fall in Love and of course, All Shook Up. I normally only list half a dozen in my reviews but this show is an exception. And that’s before I reach my own personal favourite – Can’t Help Falling in Love which I like for my own reasons. Another good number was Let Yourself Go which included a great scene in the museum where the statues come to life. The show ends with Burning Love where the cast have their moment and are allowed, quite rightly, to go wild. And much deserved an ovation they got.

Leading the line with a strong voice was Adam Gregory, playing Chad, while opposite we had Lucy Surtees, also in great form in the role of Natalie/Ed. Supporting well in their principal roles were Tony Orbell (Dennis), Kerrie Davies (Sylvia), Ben Green (Jim), Chloe Child – who had one of the loveliest smiles I’ve ever seen (Lorraine), Ed Mears (Dean), Louise Grifferty (Matilda), Vanessa Morgan (Sandra) and Ben Adams (Earl).

All Shook Up was directed by Elisa Millward with musical direction from Sheila Pearson and choreography, Maggie Jackson.

This show is a period piece with a modern feel and the traditions of an old-time farce. Something for everybody, even if you’re not an Elvis fan. And then you have the wonderful job Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company did in bringing it to an audience. I always say I enjoy watching an amateur company as much as professional productions, but there was nothing amateur about this. Right up with the best. All Shook Up is a show which must be real fun to perform, and this transfers well onto the audience.

Great theatre company, great show.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Two years ago, Third From The Right Productions introduced me to a brilliant show I’d not heard of: Shout! And now they’ve gone and done it again with the excellent Disenchanted. This Off-Broadway musical is the brainchild of Dennis T. Giacino who wrote the book, music and lyrics.

Disenchanted tells about several fairy tale princesses whose stories have been corrupted by that most evil of beings – Disney. These are characters gone wrong, and in spectacular fashion. Very off-the-wall and tongue-in-cheek.

Bemoaning the fact they often seem to be vulnerable and in need of rescuing by a handsome prince, our princesses put the record straight. Life is not all happy endings with reality very different. It’s a sentiment I totally approve of, as will be seen by anybody attending my own self-penned pantomime in November; ironically, Sleeping Beauty, from AMCS.

Leading the disenchanted we had a fearsome Snow White (Natalie Baggot), a dreamy Sleeping Beauty (Gaynor Whitehouse) and a fluffy-headed Cinderella (Jo Foley). Foley’s performance reminded me, in looks as well as character, of Emma Chambers’ Alice in The Vicar of Dibley. Combining well for Once More Happily Ever After and A Happy Tune, the three were present throughout much of the performance, supporting, complimenting and downright bickering.

Also present were Gillian Homer (Pocahontas), Amy Pearson (Mulan – who may or may not be a lesbian) and Kaz Luckins (Rapunzel & The Princess Who Kissed A Frog). Then we had the out of rehab, Little Mermaid (Sarah Coussens) and Princess Badroulbadour (Kerry Davies). The latter also played my favourite character in the show, the clinically insane Belle, singing (of course) Insane.

Each of the cast contributed to great all-round entertainment. A breath of fresh air which the only shame is afterwards, I can’t find evidence of a CD Soundtrack anywhere. Damn! I want to relive the moment.

Other top numbers for me were: Honestly, Big Tits and All I Wanna Do is Eat. Then there was Not Von Red Cent, involving audience participation in the form of a sing-off between the front row right and … the rest of the audience. Guess where I was sitting? I don’t think we did too bad, though.

Disenchanted was directed by Jez Luckins with choreography and supporting direction from Gaynor Whitehouse. The musical director was Chris Corcoran.

Second time for me experiencing Third From The Right Productions and the first for Disenchanted. I’d recommend both whenever you get the chance. Word of warning, though. Sit on the front row at your peril.

Disenchanted – The Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham – 31 August 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My only other encounter with Lollipop Theatre Arts was earlier this year when I attended their presentation of Me and My Girl.  But what could I expect this time? The Addams Family was a single performance resulting from a summer school. I learned afterwards, the kids had begun from reading initial scripts, auditions, then rehearsals to a full show in just nine days. I mean, come on, they were brilliant last time, but can you really pull off a show in nine days?

The Addams Family - Great Wyrley High School Theatre - August 17 2018. (Photo used with kind permission from Lollipop Theatre Arts)

The opener, When You’re an Addams, was outstanding. One of the best-delivered first numbers I’ve ever seen. And it was then I knew I was in for a treat.

Stand outs for me were Wednesday’s Growing Up, Just Around the Corner, Crazier Than You, What If? Live Before We Die and the exceptional The Moon and Me. Top track on the night, though, was Pulled, sung by the excellent Abbey Laycock (Wednesday Addams).

Of course, that’s not to say there weren’t other top performances. In fact, I couldn’t see a weak-link. Youth can be misinterpreted as inexperienced at times, but there was nothing of the kind here. Any of these artistes would be welcome in mine or any other company treading the boards.

Of the other principles, Thomas Gould played Gomez with a stage presence to be proud of. Supporting as his other half, Morticia, was Katie Hayes, who I can also not praise enough. And then we had Tom Horton as Fester. This kid will go far if he wants to. A natural entertainer. Other excellent showings came from Sasha Donoghue (Pugsley), Millie Cooper (Grandma), Emily Smith (Mal), Amy Horton (Alice) and Alex Jeffreys (Lucas). A special mention must also go to Florie Miles (Lurch) who apart from creating a great character, had the difficult task of keeping a straight face throughout.

Supporting well were a troop of dancers and ensemble who looked as if they were having a great time (Loved the corpse bride outfit).

The Addams Family was directed by Lucy-Ellen Parker with choreography from Helen Stone and musical direction of a good orchestra by Matthew Davis.

Asking about the summer school (I still couldn’t quite get into my head – nine days), I was told the cast are there every day, then return home to cram-up. And it showed. This did not have the look of a holiday project, more a polished production which had been months in the making. Perhaps there is something to be said for this type of method. With the intenseness of the shorter period, there is less chance of forgetting what you have learnt than with a weekly schedule spanning months. You’d have expected rawness, and mistakes, but none were obvious to me. And for the rest of the audience, it was pure faultless entertainment.

So twice now I’ve seen Lollipop who really deserve a bigger audience. And I’m sad I was on my own this time as I want to share them with my friends. Spread the message, folks. This is a great company.

The Addams Family – Great Wyrley High School Theatre – August 17 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

I’m a great fan of theatre, be it professional, amateur or youth. And to be honest, some of my best experiences come from the latter two. Therefore, it was pleasing I saw a mixture of both in Around the World in Amazing Musicals, presented by Comic Theatre Company.

Around the World in Amazing Musicals – Sunfield Community Theatre, Clent – July 6 2018

Interspersed between amusing sections of dialogue from Phillies Indiana Fogg (John Underwood) were song after song from a variety of musicals which indeed, covered all areas of the globe.

Kicking off with Hello and You and Me from Book of Mormon, we then journeyed to Chicago where I particularly enjoyed We Both Reached for the Gun. This was sung well by Justin Randle with a superb ventriloquist performance, if a little creepy (But we like creepy) from Natalie Buzzard. Afterward, Natalie showed her singing skills in Roxie with great support from Peter Holmes and Ian Underwood.

We then went on a sea trip with songs from Anything Goes, a show I’ve enjoyed in the past and it was great to see an exuberant cast giving it all for Bon Voyage. So much so, I then wanted to see the whole of Anything Goes. Of course, I didn’t, apart from further offerings of I Get a Kick Out of You (Denise Jefferson) and You’re the Top (Jan Brennan and Peter Holmes).

Further numbers on our trek came from Sweeny Todd, Oliver! and Mamma Mia. Who doesn’t like a bit of Abba.

Into Act Two and three from Matilda. This is a show I’ve not seen and is currently on at the Birmingham Hippodrome near me. After seeing Comic’s interpretations, I may just check the whole show out.

I’ve said in the past how much I adore youth theatre, seeing the genesis of careers and the potential. Well I did on this occasion as one of my two favourite numbers of the evening came with Holly Nelder’s rendition of Naughty. And it wasn’t just the powerful voice, also the performance which captured the attention. Owning the stage.

The other highlight of a great evening was Movie in My Mind from Miss Saigon. An incredible duet by Chloe Turner and Jess Billingham. Then, to round off the night we had a bit of fun with When You’re an Addams from The Addams Family.

Direction and Choreography was by Chloe Turner with musical direction from Edward Harrison.

An excellent evening supplied by an excellent company. And to top it off, we won a very nice picnic basket in the raffle. Okay, this now means I have to go on a picnic, but who’s complaining.

Around the World in Amazing Musicals – Sunfield Community Theatre, Clent – July 6 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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