Tag Archive: Theatre


And another one bites the dust.

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

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

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

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

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

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

We Will Rock You — Birmingham Hippodrome — 11 July 2022

Antony N Britt 

“Rama lama lama, ka dinga da dinga dong.” 

At least that’s what I think the lyrics are. I performed We Go Together in panto and I don’t think I ever got the words right. 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

At short notice, I went to see Grease (School Edition) by Script Youth Musical Theatre Company, and I was so glad I did. Always a supporter of local companies and youth theatre and from the moment the show began, I knew I was going to enjoy the evening.

I’m not going to go over the plot of Grease (Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey) and this was the first time I have seen a junior edition of any show. Shorter and more suitable for younger cast members, this edition keeps the fun and spirit of the original version. To be honest, I’ve only seen Grease once before and apart from the removal of the pregnancy plot and alternative version of Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, I didn’t notice many more differences. I’m sure there were but the fact I was so immersed in the show is a credit to a wonderful performance by all on stage.

In the role of Sandy was Erin Mooney who was superb in her headline number (and my favourite Grease song), Hopelessly Devoted to You. Likewise, Ollie Roberts as Danny channelled his best Travolta with Sandy, and both captured their roles perfectly.

Unless living on a deserted island for the last 50 years, everyone has heard of You’re the One That I Want, Summer Nights and Greased Lightening, but there are many more feelgood songs in this show. One not just for principals, but a large ensemble as well of which there was plenty of talent. Shakin’ at the High School Hop, Born to Hand Jive, Mooning and Freddy My Love are all good numbers and certainly had the audience full of applause after each.

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

In addition to the main two, Grease is full of excellent supporting characters and to be successful you need the right people in the roles. Now when I watch a youth production, one person often registers with me more than others and on this occasion, it was Evie Rice as Rizzo. Yes, it’s an iconic role but you need excellence to fulfil its potential. Evie was in character right from the go, full of sass and attitude, facial expressions, and reactions consistent throughout. Evie tells in her programme biography that Rizzo is a “Strong character, so unlike herself,” which made the performance even more remarkable. And superb in There are Worse Things I Could Do. Well done.

Another great moment was Beauty School Dropout with Finlay Laidlaw doubling as Teen Angel alongside his T-Bird, Doody. It is one of my guilty pleasures, partaking in OTT performances and Finlay was on top of his game in this number; the audience showing its love and appreciation as deserved.

Grease is a great show by the fact there are plenty of principal roles in which to shine. Harry Robbins (Kenickie), Aimie Whillis (Frenchy), Josef Hammond (Sonny), Reanne Witheridge (Marty), Zachariah Scrivens (Roger) and Bethany Sall (Jan) all gave so much.

And there were a further 23 on stage in terms of excellent dancers and ensemble. Amature Theatre is for everyone with each as important as the lead. This is a nice company which showed enthusiasm throughout, the reaction to the deserved applause appreciated. Script Youth is also managed well. I felt welcomed on arrival and throughout the experience.

In charge of Production and Choreography was Louise Farmer who can be immensely proud of her cast and crew. Assisting, though, on Choreography was youth member, Molly Chamberlain, who also figured in a principal role as Patty the Cheerleader. Musical Direction was in safe hands with stalwart of Midlands Theatre, Chris Corcoran overseeing an excellent band.

A Lovely, enjoyable evening out and I look forward to more from Script Youth Musical Theatre Company. They prove youth and theatre do go together.

With a “Shoo-bop sha wadda wadda, yippity boom de boom.” 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

*** Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling. *** 

Young Frankenstein is a musical I have waited a long time to see, and if you’ve read my reviews in the past, you know I don’t care if it’s professional or amateur productions. Masqueraders Theatrical Company fall into the latter category, but there was nothing amateur about this offering.  

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Always a good indication of a great show is when your partner knows little about it, has reservations, but ends up buzzing at how good it was afterwards. This was the case and even me, who did have high expectations was not disappointed. 

Young Frankenstein is based on the 1974 Mel Brooks’ film of the same name and adapted for theatre in 2007 by Brooks (Music and Lyrics) with assistance from Thomas Meehan on the book. 

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by Andy Ward) inherits his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania (complete with his ancestor’s deadly experiments). Despite initial reluctance, he soon sees he can succeed where his grandfather failed, to great comic effect. Ward was excellent as the crazed doctor, particularly in The Brain, a number typical of Mel Brooks’ complicated arrangements. It must be so hard for any MD to reproduce. 

Supporting well was Chad Fletcher in the role of Igor who duetted well with Ward for the genius that is Together Again for the First Time. Then we had Naomi O’Borne as the very high-spirited Laboratory Assistant, Inga. Combining well with the aforementioned two, Roll in the Hay was superb. 

And then we meet Frau Blucher (cue the terrified horse noises), played by Kim Liggins who was simply out of this world in the role. He Vas My Boyfriend is such a good song, but you need a character actor to pull it off and Liggins did just that. 

But the principals just go on, and what a sign of a good show it is when you have so many characters of high-quality writing with performances to do them justice. Freja Brabazon shone as the pushy, insufferable, Elizabeth Benning (excellent in Deep Love and Please Don’t Touch Me) while Ashley Blackstock (Inspector Kemp) and Jenny Chappell (Blind Hermit) both supported well with He’s Loose and Please Send Me Somebody, respectively. 

Now, every version of Frankenstein needs a monster but until Mel Brooks, none had ever tapped on stage to Puttin’ on the Ritz. It’s the highlight of the film and the same is the result here. You cannot help but laugh, as did the entire audience. Richard Yates was amazing as the creature; great expressions, especially in the scenes with the hermit. 

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Other numbers of the night from a wonderful ensemble included Transylvania Mania, Hang the Doctor and Hang Him ’til He’s Dead. This looked to be a good company, and everyone seemed to revel in their roles. No airs and graces, either; the cast were even selling programmes and raffle tickets beforehand.  

The director for Young Frankenstein was Mike Chappell (assisted by Abbe Shields) with Musical Direction from David Adams and Choreography by Jenny Chappell

A thoroughly enjoyable night and a brilliant show. Will definitely return to see Masqueraders in the future.  

Young Frankenstein—The Abbey Theatre, Nuneaton—Saturday 11 June 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt  

***Apologies for the lateness of this review. Covid came calling.***

Some films don’t transfer well to stage, and Shrek is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an okay, enjoyable romp, but not one of the best scripts with a mediocre score. And that was such a pity because Quarry Bank Musical Theatre Company are one of the best I have seen on my travels. But you can only work with what material you have and fortunately, QBMTC did pull off a storm of a show, bringing alive characters far beyond what the script expects to deliver. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Based on the 2001 film of the same name, Shrek the Musical follows the plot closely, with some added extras, most notably expanding on Lord Farquaad’s plot, excellently portrayed by Tom Robinson. But he wasn’t the only one to shine. Carl Cook in the lead role was as good as Mike Myers and likewise, Sarah Coussens excelled too as Princess Fiona. Completing the trio of heroes, one actor had the unenviable task of being an Eddie Murphey. Fortunately, Luey Pearce made Donkey his own and had me forgetting the Hollywood stars’ performance completely. Other principals were Natalie Baggott (Dragon), Gillian Homer (Gingerbread Man/Sugar Plum Fairy) and Isabella Cook (Pinocchio). 

It is a credit to Quarry Bank and amateur theatre that the performances were that good, it put the West End in the shade. Sometimes with professionals, you get the feel of going through the motions yet here, professionalism came from the heart of those who do it for the love of theatre. And didn’t it show. Wonderful. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Shrek has a few excellent numbers: Morning Person, Build a Wall, Freak Flag and Story of My Life. Additionally, I loved What’s Up Duloc with the wonderful Duloc Performers. But my favourite number of the night was I Know It’s Today, where three Princess Fiona’s at different ages, tell of their wish to be rescued. Credit to Connie Davies and Katie Tranter who joined Sarah Coussens in this wonderful offering. However, there were a few songs which were fillers, not adding to the plot or moving it forward. Again, a fault of the original template. 

And I hate to keep going back to the script, but it amazes me how fast things date. Only 20 years since the original film debuted, I now feel uncomfortable at the ridiculing of a person’s size with Lord Farquaad’s being used as a plot device for cheap laughs.  

The team behind Shrek, making this an enjoyable night for all, was Zoe Russell with dual duties of Directing and Choreography, while Chris Handley was Musical Director. 

Brierley Hill Civic Hall isn’t the best venue for Musical Theatre, echoing like a cavern at times but Quarry Bank raised the roof with exuberance and quality throughout. A wonderful showing from an excellent musical theatre company. 

Shrek—Brierley Hill Civic Hall—June 7 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

The Wedding Singer was never a classic movie in 1998, and the stage musical isn’t a classic either, but if you want harmless feelgood fun, this is a show for you. For what Wedding Singer lacks in depth of plot and music, it gives in escapism and nostalgia. But you still need to make the best of what you have and fortunately, Bournville Musical Theatre Company did just that.

The Wedding Singer – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 21 May 2022

The show tells the story of Robbie Hart, played superbly by Stuart McDiarmid, who gets jilted at his own wedding and falls in love with waitress, Julia Sullivan (the excellent Chloe Turner). However, Julia is engaged to rich businessman, Glen (Liam Mc Nally) whose example in life Robbie tries to follow. That is until he realises happiness is better than being rich. A sound philosophy.

But a production is not just about the main roles (as original Robbie in the film, Adam Sandler, often seems to forget) You need a strong cast, plus good characters, and meaningful sub-plots. Thankfully, there were; one such stand-out performance being that of Lisa Colvin-Grieve in the role of Holly. Great character and best number of the show with Lewis Doley (Sammy) in Right in Front of Your Eyes. Doley was also excellent as one half of the comic duo of bandmates with Robbie Love as George.

There were also good showings from Jill Hughes (Robbie’s Gran, Rosie) and Sarah Frances McCarthy (Julia’s Mum, Angie). One more to note was new member to the company, Harriet Marsland, who was exceptionally strong in her number, Let Me Come Home.

As well as the rousing opening number, It’s Your Wedding Day, there were decent tunes in Someday, Somebody Kill Me, Saturday Night in the City, All About the Green and Grow Old With You.

The Wedding Singer – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 21 May 2022

The show was directed by John Morrison with Rhian Clements and musical direction was in the safe hands of Chris Corcoran. Choreography was arranged superbly by Sadie Turner who also seemed to have made an unplanned excursion on stage, as she was in the programme stating, “She was looking forward to watching the show.”

First scheduled two years ago and like many, hit by Covid. The Wedding Singer also marked Bournville’s 100th Anniversary as a company. There will be a Centenary Concert at The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham on October 22 this year to celebrate this. An amazing feat to reach such a landmark. Here’s to the next 100 years.

The Wedding Singer – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 21 May 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

If there’s one musical everyone should see, it’s Les Misérables. And although it’s been running in London for many years between 1985 to the present, it’s always worth catching the tour. I do wonder, though, when Cameron Mackintosh took Schonberg and Boublil’s musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, did he realized what a phenomenon he was about to unleash?

But a gigantic hit it was. Spectacular in all areas and you know at the end of Les Misérables, you’ve seen a show.

I caught the tour at the end of their stint in Milton Keynes. A decent theatre and probably the best view I’ve had of Les Mis. The plot is straightforward. Over a period of 17 years, Jean Valjean breaks parole, makes his fortune, constantly evades the unrelenting Inspector Javert, flees to Paris with the daughter of a woman he wronged, then gets caught up in the June Rebellion of 1832 amidst romance, turmoil and redemption.

In the role of Valjean, and with an incredible commanding voice was Dean Chisnall, playing alongside the superb Nic Greenshields (who I have seen twice in the role now) as Javert. The chemistry between the two was formidable.

Always good to have fresh talent so a pleasure it was to witness the professional debuts of Paige Blankson (Cosette) and Will Callan (Marius). I was extremely happy on the latter, having followed his journey during The Voice Kids in 2018 where he reached the final. A pity the online biography and program notes didn’t credit this.

Les Misérables – Milton Keynes Theatre – 20 May 2022

No performance of Les Misérables could be complete without the Thénardiers, this time perfectly portrayed by Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh. I never quite know if you should call them comic relief as they are so horrible, but I guess that’s good writing, to make people have a soft spot for something so vulgar. It is certainly ‘laugh out loud’ during Master of The House, particularly when the canary goes in the mincer.

Also giving strong performances were Rachelle Ann Go (Fantine), Nathania Ong (Eponine) and Samuel Wyn-Morris (Enjolras) among a cast of over 30.

The production on tour is directed by James Powell and Laurence Connor with musical supervision from Stephen Brooker and Graham Hurman. And there is still a way to go on this run, travelling the UK throughout the rest of the year and into early 2023. I’d advise you to catch it where you can.

Les Misérables – Milton Keynes Theatre – 20 May 2022

Cheers

Antony N Britt

I’ve begun many recent reviews with comments about how hard it’s been during the numerous lockdowns for Performing Arts, and now it is the time for Dance Schools to have their say. Almost two years to the day that everyone was ordered to close their doors, Keeling School of Dance took to the stage with the aptly named, The Show Must Go On.

Keeling School of Dance was established in 1934 by Beatrice Keeling at the age of 14, operating from her parents’ house before continuing in the area, finally moving to Aldridge in 1976. Sadly, Miss Keeling passed away in 2014, having taught until 2012. It is good, though, that the school has continued, run by former pupils: Jane Eardley, Sarah Beckett, Elaine Wigfield and Clare Cooksey. Classes begin from age 2 right up to advanced level and adult beginners. Also on the teaching staff is former pupil, Fran Eardley, who performed widely in the show including Point Solo (Arabian Dance) and Lyrical Solo (You Will Be Found). And it’s great to see the more experienced pupils moving forward. Grace Chambers (Jazz Solo {Show Me How You Burlesque}) and Niamh Reynolds (Contemporary Solo {Godmanchester Chinese Bridge}) now teach the younger pupils while Natasha Evans (Contemporary Solo {Showstoppa}) oversees Street.

I last attended a Keeling showcase in 2019 and the positive progression of pupils was staggering to see. Several who were tots, some whom I’d worked with in Theatre before that time, were displaying quality and polished skills. How quickly three years have flown, but so much hard work has obviously happened during that time.

On show were examples from all classes Keeling provide: Ballet, Tap, Theatre Craft, Gym, Street, Contemporary, Jazz, Lyrical and Broadway. Yes, the little ones pulled the heartstrings in their Olaf costumes during When I Get Older, but it was the overall enthusiasm and determination to get everything right during all the dances which was the overriding memory of an emotional and exhilarating afternoon. In addition to the solos already mentioned, there was also Sax, an excellent tap solo from Nadia Fallouh. I cannot name everyone, the same I won’t single out more dances as this would be an overly long review and to be frank, I’d have to list them all.

There were two awards presented on the day. The Cooper Cup for progress was won by the previously mentioned Grace Chambers while the Keeling Cup for enthusiasm, commitment and improvement went jointly to siblings, Lizzie Powell-Heyworth and James Powell-Heyworth.

Grace Chambers, winner of the Cooper Cup with mum, Elaine Wigfield.
James & Lizzie Powell-Heyworth with the Keeling Cup.

This show wasn’t a vanity project for parents to see how good their kids were in a chosen field of the arts, it was to engage with the wider world and show that dance is an important part of culture and should not be ignored. Covid restrictions hit the arts badly and to bounce back fighting is a credit to the staff and pupils of Keeling. The students of today are stars of tomorrow and there were plenty on view during this showing.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Tom Bryce finds a USB stick on a train and brings it home to try and find its owner to return it. However, on viewing, he witnesses the murder of a young woman in an online snuff video. Tom is then threatened by the perpetrators to keep silent otherwise it will be bad for him, wife, Kellie and son, Max. However, Max fails to do so and Kellie is taken to be the next star performer.

I’m a huge fan of Peter James, although I only started reading him with the Roy Grace novels. I guess that makes Looking Good Dead the second book of James’ that I read many years ago. I’ve since read them all and am now going through the standalones’ back catalogue.

Looking Good Dead, like many stage productions, had a small cast so roles from the book were reassigned. In fact, Grace wasn’t the main character on this occasion, the Bryce family instead receiving the focus. However, it was nice for a fan to hear references to off-stage police persons like Norman Potting, Cleo Moray, EJ Bountwood and Alison Vosper, among others. It brought a bit more of the books to proceedings.

In the roles of Tom and Kellie Bryce we had Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett duplicating their Eastenders soap marriage and the chemistry between them was obvious. Woodyatt had been in Eastenders for 35 years until recently and although Tom was similar in character to Ian Beale, he was different enough to be a person in his own right. Both Woodyatt and Brett delivered strong, believable performances on the night and the same can be said for Luke-Ward Wilkinson as Max. There were some lovely scenes which portrayed the typical lack of communication between parent and offspring.

On the police side were Harry Long as Roy Grace with Leon Stewart in the role of Glenn Branson. Completing the trio of detectives was Gemma Stroyan as one of my favourite Grace characters – Bella Moy. However, I didn’t see any Maltesers on this occasion (You need to read the books to get that one). Supporting, also was Ian Houghton (Jonas Kent), Mylo McDonald (Mick) and Natalie Boakye (Janie).

Looking Good Dead looked good indeed with a main set of the Bryce’s living room with occasional illuminated cellar backdrop behind a gauze and pop-up police station. Transition between scenes were smooth and you did have the feel of everything being bigger than it was.

It was probably good that it has been 15 years since I read the novel as I couldn’t remember many details. I’m now intrigued to learn the differences but will wait for the ITV adaptation as this tale is next in line to air, then I may re-read the book. I’m pretty sure, though, the brains behind the kidnapping differed in the book.

Looking Good Dead was adapted for stage by Shaun McKenna and directed by Jonathan O’Boyle with Joshua Andrews as Producer.

Overall, an enjoyable evening and I look forward to further theatre outings for Roy Grace and Co.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

“One of the least known stories of the First World War.”

That was the opening blurb of the advert, and I was intrigued. I’m no fan of the British Empire; its atrocities make modern day Isis and Al Qaeda look like beginners in the human rights stakes: The Boer concentration camps, the massacre at Amritsar, the famines in India during 1940 and the subsequent partitioning years later. All are now known but still little talked about. But who were the Chinese Labour Corps?

Towards the end of the First World War, the British Government needed a workforce to continue its campaign. Therefore, the Chinese government, wanting to establish itself as a world power offered its own labour to help the shortages. Over 100,000 men from the Northern Chinese Provinces travelled to Canada, then onto Europe to help in a war they knew little about. Most worked as unskilled labourers in appalling, dangerous conditions near shellfire and were terribly malnourished. At the end of the campaign, up to 20,000 had died and for a hundred years, mostly forgotten.

I am therefore indebted to the author of The Chinese Labour Corps, Walsall poet and playwright, Ian Henery, for illuminating me on a subject I now want to know more about. An excellent story (additionally adapted by Emma Cooper) where the audience went on an eye-opening journey of life one hundred years ago.

Although only a cast of four, the story moved seamless from one scene to the next and was almost immersive with a feeling of being a part of proceedings. Fully rounded characters who you believed in, felt empathy for, and got to know intimately.

The Chinese Labour Corps – The Blue Orange Theatre Birmingham – February 4 2022

Our cast were Nathaniel Tan (Sun Gan – a teacher), Amanda Maud (Chinn An Chu – a woman pretending to be a man to enlist), Tao Guo (Lin Cheng – who leaves his family to earn money) and Ali Taheri (Liu Den Chen – the loveable rogue who does his best to make money in other ways).

The stage movement, courtesy of Director, Marcus Fernando worked well, particularly the drowning of workers during the sinking of the Canadian ship. Poignant and emotive. And the knowledge that when Chinn An Chu returned home, her father had died, having spent none of the money she sent back to him. But there was also humour, especially the sending up of a British Sergeant. Then you had both humour and sadness mixed. The beautiful scene where Lin Cheng recovers in a Field Hospital and befriends a young English nurse, Miss Alice. They play music together, badly, before life is cut short amidst the jollity when Alice falls prey to the horrors of war when the area is bombarded by opposition fire. Notice I do not use the word, enemy fire. For me, especially in this war, there was no enemy, only different sides. It’s something we could all learn.

The Chinese Labour Corps – The Blue Orange Theatre Birmingham – February 4 2022

A highly entertaining and informative evening at The Blue Orange Theatre. Not only did I enjoy the production, I also learned something too.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Failing guitarist, Dewey Finn, takes a job under false pretenses in an exclusive and expensive private school. He then teaches his class to play rock music and forms a band with them to win a prestigious competition.

Yes, I love rock, and I love musical theatre, therefore it is no surprise that I adore School of Rock. Closely based on the 2003 film of the same name, this is the best feelgood musical going these days. The notion that dreams come true, and you really can do anything if you try. It lifts the audience to their feet, and not just in the finale. With a cracking script from Julian Fellowes, lyrics courtesy of Glenn Slater and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, you have the instant recipe for an outstanding show.

I first saw it in the West End but this UK tour for me was even better. Perhaps knowing the songs so well, I was singing and moving in my seat throughout. Also revelling in admiration for the kids who do play their own instruments. Such talent from all.

In the title role, and totally at home as the hapless Dewey Finn was Jake Sharp. Outstanding with the strongest of performances and excelling in all numbers. Alongside, playing school principal Rosalie Mullins was Rebecca Lock who delivered Where Did the Rock Go? and Queen of the Night in great fashion. Supporting well, though were James Bisp as the much put-upon Ned Schneebly with Amy Oxley portraying the domineering Patty.

And then there were the pupils of the School of Rock. What can I say? The twelve on show during this viewing were out of this world. Harry Churchill (Zack on Lead Guitar), Angus McDougal (Lawrence on Keys), Chloe Marler (Katie on Bass) and Eva McGrath (Freddy {Fredrica} on drums). I’ve only ever known Freddy as the male originally intended but Eva was brilliant as the student who struggled to achieve. I had great empathy for her.

Leading the vocal section was Angel Lucero as shy Tomika and she delivered a powerhouse of a performance in Teacher’s Pet supported well by Lily Rose Martin (Marcy) and Elisha Kerai (Shonelle).

As a huge fan of The Voice Kids, it was a surprise and joy to see 2019 finalist Keira Laver as school swot, Summer. And Keira was amazing leading the class during one of my favourite numbers, Time to Play. Completing the class of excellence were Riotafari Gardner (James – Security), Ava Masters (Sophie the roadie with the killer pigtails), Alex Shotton (Mason on Lights) and Logan Matthews (Billy the costume drama queen).

Credit is due to a fantastic production team including Laurence Connor (Director), Joann M. Hunter (Choreography) and Michael Riley (Musical Direction).

In addition to the songs already mentioned, there are others of top-drawer quality: When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock, the beautiful If Only You Would Listen, You’re in the Band and the awesome Stick it to the Man.

I have favourites in musical theatre which change constantly. I can honestly say, though, leaving The New Alexander, I have never enjoyed myself in a theatre as much as I did on this occasion. Buzzing madly and still on a high days later. School of Rock is touring the UK until the end of summer and if you only go and see one musical in 2022, make it The School of Rock.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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