Tag Archive: Walsall


I discovered Script Youth Musical Theatre Company earlier this year with their amazing production of Grease, so had no hesitation in booking tickets for their latest offerings. I say that in plural as the evening was split into two with the first half featuring a newly formed juniors’ section and Beauty and the Beast while the seniors treated the audience to a Musical Theatre Showcase in Unscripted.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

It’s bold to separate the ages but the move should prove good as the younger members can now develop at their own pace and not fall behind in the shadows of their older counterparts. This showed with confidence at being to the forefront in Beauty and the Beast and it was noticeable how well they shined. The panto featured excellent performances, particularly from Gracie Reynolds (Beauty), Hannah Bennet (Beast), Alex Brown (Bruno), Edward Lawlor (Papa), Lexi Shaw (Teapot), Isla Thorpe (Cup), Darci Rice (Clock) and a lovely extrovert character from Lee Stubbington as Candlestick. Narrating and delivering a good offering of Beauty and the Beast (Tale as Old as Time) was Maddie Howard who repeated the song alongside Gracie Reynolds with full company at the end of the show. We also had company versions of Be Our Guest. There are a couple of supporting members I’d also like to mention (even though I’d love to name them all). The first is Poppy Kerr (An acrobatic Rose) and Zachary Duke as the mime who I could not take my eyes off due to some brilliant facial expressions. Yes, these kids are young, and have a long way to go, but here is a good start and who knows where they will be in a few years’ time.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

After an interval the older members of Script took centre stage with songs from musical theatre and film opening with Finlay Laidlaw and Mya Cartwright leading a full ensemble with The Greatest Show. Following, Evie Rice and Harry Robbins delivered a lovely fun rendition of Love is an Open Door (Frozen).

Again, impossible to name every number but some of my other favourites included We Will Rock You, On My Own (Superbly sung by Sophia Powers) and Harriet. This latter number was an outing for a Script Society formed band, Fading Embers (Ollie Roberts, Finlay Laidlaw, Kadenna Glendon and Harry Robbins). It’s great to see initiative and another avenue for talent to progress and shine.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

I also enjoyed numbers from my two most favourite musicals. Seventeen (Heathers) was executed well by Erin Mooney and Sam Williams and I was delighted and could not help joining in during Stick it to the Man (School of Rock). I don’t care how loud I sang, it’s a song I have performed myself and relish every chance to relive the moment. Top number of the night, though, was Ex Wives – The Queens (Six the Musical) featuring Erin Phillips, Erin Mooney, Mollie Fitzpatrick, Sophia Powers, Evie Rice and Ella Gibson-Brookes. Brilliant.

Yes, this was a youth production and there is always room for improvement, obviously. The only area I would say was the case, however, would be for more confidence and audience engagement, especially during rock numbers like Stick It and Rock You. Break that fourth wall and get in the audiences’ faces. Performers will engage them and gain so much that anything is possible in the future.

Beauty and the Beast & Unscripted — Grange Playhouse, Walsall — 10 December 2022

The shows were produced and choreographed brilliantly by Louise Salt, Tim Rice, Molly Chamberlain, Madeline Fleming and Ellie Quinn. Compering events was Rob Bissett who linked songs with sometimes awful, but still funny jokes. He did pick on me at one point in the front row but at least this was to highlight that I was the strongest in joining in an audience participation song. As a performer myself, I’ll take that.

Overall, a wonderful night, so well done to everyone involved. Script Youth Musical Theatre Company return to Highbury Theatre in Sutton Coldfield next July with School of Rock. Oh, how I’d love to be a teenager again and part of that experience as I know the show so well, but I’ll settle for watching these talented youngsters bring it to life instead.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s always a challenge to review a company one has had connections with, but a writer can only give a critical appraisal without showing favouritism as was the case when Aldridge Musical Comedy Society took the stage in their latest showcase.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

I have spoken a lot recently in reviews about needing the right product to market in relation to shows. Therefore, it was a brave move to highlight one specific genre of musical theatre in this production. Fortunately, rock music is my speciality so I for one wasn’t complaining. However, I do have to question some of the song choices as I feel many shows in this category were absent from proceedings. And when over 50% of songs come from just four musicals, you wonder how well production knew their subject. Where were tunes from The Commitments, Shout, All Shook Up and most famous of all, The Rocky Horror Picture Show? And more blatantly, an absence of Hair, the original rock musical which started off the others. Despite this, there was plenty for an audience of family and friends to love, and with excellent costumes plus a simple but effective set which I approved of, we experienced Musicals That Rock.

Opening with Bat Out of Hell (Sung well by Ashley Brown and Emma Wallage and Company) followed by Rent and Radio Ga Ga, the pace picked up dramatically when Richard Beckett took centre stage for Step One (Kinky Boots). Then followed Evie Etheridge with an outstanding offering of Anywhere But Here from Pretty Woman which for me was the best performance of the night.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

You can’t beat a bit of Joan Jett, someone I have seen several times, so I particularly enjoyed I Hate Myself For Loving You sung by Helen Jolly. Other stand out numbers included No One But You (Only the Good Die Young) and Defying Gravity, both delivered strongly by Chloe Robinson. Act One finished well with a full company medley from Come From Away, a show I know nowhere near enough about, but this gave me the incentive to do so.

One song which received huge applause was the excellent Revolting Children by the junior cast led well by Amelia Critchley with Grayson Brown, Holly Etheridge, Zach Jolly, Ella Thornley, Evie Westley, plus Rebecca Oatley and Evie Etheridge from the older children. These kids are the future and need nurturing after showing such promise.

Act Two began with a bang in We Will Rock You led by Matthew Britt before being joined by Lucy Pountain for A New Argentina with Full Company. I also enjoyed Give Up Your Dreams, ditched from School of Rock before that show ever reached Broadway and the West End, but Nicola Critchley exploited the humour well with on-stage stooge, William Bosworth while engaging well with the audience. If I’m honest, that was an area I found lacking elsewhere. Nowhere near enough audience interaction. This is rock. Performers need to be in the audiences’ faces while many were at the back and some numbers too static.

My major niggle, however (and it is only a personal one), was the bastardisation of Green Day. I have followed the band for 30 years and know every track intimately, as I do the musical, American Idiot. These numbers are meant be edgy, raw, but what we had were soft rock Glee-type arrangements. Again, know your subject. Some may disagree but as a die-hard fan, this was a heinous crime against the guys from Oakland.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

Musicals That Rock was directed by Gaynor White and Ashley Brown with excellent choreography in some numbers from Sarah Beckett. And when you do rock, you need a band, and Musical Director, Mark Bayliss (also Keys) oversaw a fantastic one featuring Dan Stubbs (Keys 2), Nigel Beer (Guitar), Lauren May Ross (Bass) and Ben George (Drums).

It was unfortunate on this occasion the audience was smaller than most amateur company productions I have seen recently, and this could be due to Rock being a niche genre and not everybody’s cup of tea, even though it is mine. A lesson to learn.

Musicals That Rock — Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock — 25 November 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

Look out, here comes Audrey Two. Look out, here I come for you.

Ominous words, summing up events witnessed in Brownhills Musical Theatre Company’s offering of Little Shop of Horrors. With music from Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, this 1982 musical is loosely based on the 1962 film of the same name.

Little Shop of Horrors — Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock — 4 November 2020

Seymour Krelborn works in a failing flower shop for the cranky Mushnik while harbouring feelings for fellow assistant, Audrey. When Seymour discovers a strange and interesting plant, he puts it in the shop window which attracts customers, boosting sales in the shop. However, this alien plant feeds on blood, leading to Seymour supplying it with humans to protect his secret. Having only ever seen the 1986 musical film adaption, I was surprised about the different conclusion which I won’t spoil here but let’s say with the scenario just described, it’s never going to end well.

Little Shop of Horrors — Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock — 4 November 2020

Little Shop caters for a smaller cast than most shows with less opportunity for chorus, but Brownhills used these well when used. The set was impressive, giving the feel of the shop but the most spectacular was the Audrey Two models themselves with several to show the progression of growth.

Present throughout are the street urchins: Hattie Parry (Crystal), Sarah Taylor (Chiffon) and Charlottle Trigg (Ronnette) who were amazing. They supplied a running soundtrack which allowed scenes to flow. Also on stage for the duration was a wino (Brian Washington) who spent much of the time slumped in the rubbish but then used for good comic foil.

In the role of Seymour, we had Brett Dewsbury who showed a fine voice and good characterisation during Grow for Me before teaming superbly with Charlotte Foulkes (Audrey) in Suddenly Seymour. Foulkes was also excellent in Somewhere That’s Green, a lovely number and my favourite of the night.

Another brilliant song was the team-up of Dewsbury’s Seymour with Peter Brown (Mushnik) for Mushnik and Son. Brown captured the florist’s character perfectly as did Chris Parry with Orin Scrivello, particularly during Be a Dentist. Orin’s death scene was hysterical, inducing infectious laughing from the audience while the ill-fated dentist dies from inhaling nitrous oxide. But I can’t heap praise without Audrey Two itself. It must be surreal to be in a production as vocals only, but Katie Gibson gave stunning deliveries as the monster plant’s voice. But if I’m mentioning the audibles of Audrey Two, I can’t leave out Lauren Knowles’ skills as its puppeteer. This was a sharp professional production directed by Kelly Tye and Richard Tye with Alex Priestley overseeing a sympathetic orchestra as Musical Director.

Little Shop of Horrors — Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock — 4 November 2020

In a time of recession and financial hardship, it was still nice to see a near full auditorium which gave their appreciation with a standing ovation at the end of the show. Brownhills’ next offering is A Chorus Line, February 17 & 18 next year at the same venue. If it’s as good as Little Shop of Horrors, it will be well worth seeing.

Little Shop of Horrors — Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock — 4 November 2020

Cheers.

Antony N Britt 

  • Some photos blatantly stolen from BMTC’s Facebook Page.

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

“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

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

*****

Legally Blonde is one of the best musicals to appear in the 21st Century, popular with audiences and critics alike. However, it needs to be done well and fortunately for the people of Cannock, Brownhills Musical Theatre Company did exactly that.

This is a show I have seen a lot but also the smallest venue/stage I’ve witnessed it performed. I’m glad to say, nothing was lost. Much of that was due to the size of the cast. Many amateur societies struggle for members, so it was refreshing to see around forty on stage. The difference this makes to company numbers cannot be ignored. A huge wall of sound combined with great expression and interaction from all.

Legally Blonde tells the tale of Elle Woods (played superbly by Phillippa Mills) who goes to Harvard to pursue love, but instead finds herself, fresh love, and a new direction. It’s a great script by Heather Hack, alongside fantastic music and lyrics from Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin. And one of the main plusses is that Legally Blonde is filled with strong characters. In these, Adam Gregory excelled as Emmett while Charlotte Simcox shone in the role of Paulette. Her main number, Ireland, is such a good (tongue in cheek) number and always raises a laugh, as it did on this occasion.

Then we had the villain of the piece in Professor Callaghan with Chris Parry delivering a top-drawer performance in stage presence and during Blood on the Water. Also starring was Adam Merrall as Warner who cruelly dumps Elle at the beginning of the show during Serious. Then we had Stacey Ward (Vivienne), Charlottle Trigg (Brooke Wyndham) and Emma Wyatt (Enid Hoops). Supporting too, were Hattie Parry (Pilar), Louise Hewitt (Serena) and Claire Goodwin (Margot) – The Greek Chorus of Delta Nu. As I have said, it was a large cast, so I can’t name everyone. However, as I was needled the last time I reviewed this show for ignoring the dogs, on this occasion they were Humphrey and Stan. They behaved well.

Legally Blonde has terrific numbers: Positive, So Much Better, What You Want, Bend and Snap and the title song, Legally Blonde (of which there are two equally good versions). However, my favourite is still the glorious There! Right There!

All shows need a good production team and Legally Blonde had theirs with Kelly Tye and Richard Tye (Directors), Alex Priestly (Musical Director) and Alex Woolliscroft (Choreography).

The last couple of years have been hard on theatre and local amateur companies. It was, therefore, a joy to see the audience appreciate the challenging work of cast and crew and display as much enjoyment as those on stage.

Theatre is back.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

You are cordially invited to the Palace Ball in honour of Prince Charming (who has been ordered to find a wife by The King). Dressing up–optional. We want you to have the time of your life. Therefore, let the magic commence.

It’s pantomime time and Aldridge Musical Comedy Society (AMCS) are staging Cinderella at The Prince of Wales Theatre, Cannock. AMCS have a reputation for great shows and Cinderella is no exception.

Cinderella lives at Hardup Hall with her sister Bonnie, and three attractive, but not nice stepsisters named, Chardonnay. Spumante and Prosecco. Also at the Hall are the cook and part-time witch, Madame Lidl, plus Buttons, who tries to hold everything together.

Prince Charming, along with his assistant Dandini, searches for the girl he danced with at the Ball, but who vanished leaving nothing but a shoe. To complicate matters, the land is in a crime wave. Not only are the villains Deichmann and Brantano about, but also the notorious Ninja Cat, who keeps beating them to the spoils.

Will Cinderella have her happy ending? Does the prince find his bride? And how can a size 5 shoe fit only one person? With outstanding songs and laughter, the truth will out.

21 to 23 October 2021 (1930) plus Saturday Matinee (1430).

To welcome you back to live theatre, AMCS are offering Cinderella at vastly discounted prices, an unbeatable offer for this classic tale audiences have enjoyed for years.

£10 Adults & £7 Under 16s

Tickets are available from the Box Office on 01543 578762 or online at https://boxoffice.wlct.org/event_description.aspx?eventid=1051

Cinderella is my latest work, combining once again my love of musical theatre and writing. It’s been a long hard road for theatre, and we would love to see audiences return. Plus, it hasn’t been easy rehearsing, with full removal of restrictions yet to happen. So, socially distanced groups of six it has been, then taking to the outdoors to learn the dances. Well, the show must go on.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My latest short story (Spillage) is available now in the latest anthology from the wonderful Monnath Books, titled, Tabula Rasa.

Antony N Britt - Spillage - Tabula Rasa

Tabula Rasa is the theory that humans are born without preconceived notions or built-in mental content. In a more philosophical sense, it represents a clean slate. Within this anthology, we have twenty-one diverse stories from authors exploring this concept. These stories depict new beginnings, new relationships, and even new worlds. Join us in exploring frightening interactions with strangers, metaphysical body swaps, future technology, and strange occurrences.

Edited by Natalie Rix and Lozzi Counsell, Tabula Rasa is the latest in an excellent line of anthologies from Monnath Books.

You can purchase Tabula Rasa HERE!

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Antony N Britt is delighted to announce the release of his latest novel – Finding Jessica.

Buy now by clicking here.

Jessica, Jessica, who were you? And what brought you to that bar last night?

Rob Devlin. Former TV investigative reporter, former alcoholic, formerly alive. The experience in an afterlife of near-death ends when Rob’s soul returns to the body. The wrong body.

Jessica Davies was the stranger Rob died trying to save; the reward is to live her life. But was it more than chance they met? Rob needs answers and unable to resume his old life, one option remains. She must become Jessica. First, Rob needs to know who Jessica was and in order to put things right, Rob must set about finding Jessica.

From the author of Dead Girl Stalking and Ghost Stories: Tales from the Dead of Night, Finding Jessica is available on Amazon.

“I believe horror is not zombies and vampires. Horror is us.” ~ Antony N Britt.

Finding Jessica is available here.

Cheers

Antony N Britt

Coming Soon!!!

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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