Tag Archive: Walsall


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

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.

Great Wyrley was the setting for Keeling School of Dance’s showcase of talent. Titled, Dancing Through the Decades, the show was exactly that.

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 great, though, that the school has continued, run by former pupils: Sarah Beckett, Elaine Wigfield, Clare Cooksey and Jane Eardley (whose daughter, Fran Eardley, is also a teacher at the school). Classes begin from age 2 up to advanced level and adult beginners. Now, I’ve a huge fondness for this dance school on two counts. One, it’s where I rehearse every week in my attempts at musical theatre. Two, Keeling is where my mom and dad attended during the 60s and 70s and were rather more proficient at dance than I’ll ever be.

I have a passion for musical theatre and dance features heavily in that. There is also nothing better than seeing youth with its potential for the future. And what talent we saw. Dance is a fantastic medium to develop confidence and skills, all within a friendly environment.

The audience were dazzled by groups of various ages and it was fascinating to witness the skills within each age band. It’s obvious to see, children currently seven and under will in a short time progress to where those eleven and beyond are now. Numbers from The Greatest Showman, Oliver and High School Musical were among nearly fifty performed with excellent choreography and well-chosen music which blended seamlessly.

I can’t praise enough the standards on view from all. I had also a great amount of pride watching the musical theatre group, many of whom did such a fantastic job for me in my 2018 pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, at the same theatre. And it was also particular pleasing to see the innagural star pupil award go to Rosie Harris, who was a pleasure to work with in that same panto of mine. Well done. It’s too long to list everyone on stage, so I’ll settle for a page of the programme.

I can’t recommend Keeling School of Dance enough. Dancing Through the Decades was a fabulous afternoon, and it was the commitment and spectacular performances from all which made this a truly remarkable event.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

My second helping of Sister Act in just over a year, primarily as a research trip as I may be doing it in 2020. However, Sister Act is also a fabulous show and I looked forward to seeing Willenhall Musical Theatre Company’s production.

Sister Act – The Dormiston Sports and Arts Centre – 11 April 2019 Photo © Antony N Britt

Sister Act is the story of Deloris Van Cartier, on the run from her crime boss boyfriend after she witnesses a murder. Having to give evidence against him, Deloris seeks sanctuary in a convent, disguised as a nun with Mother Superior the only member of the order who knows her identity. With music from Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, plus book courtesy of Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, this is a fast-paced comedy which ticks the right boxes in terms of music, laughs and all-round entertainment.

In the lead role of Deloris was Laura Autumn Rai who gave the perfect performance in this iconic role. With powerful voice and great timing, she owned this part. Then we had Juliet O’Brien, again giving all you’d expect and more as Mother Superior. Playing Mary Robert was Abbie Rai whose character grows in confidence during the show. Nothing confidence-growing about Abbie’s performance though as hers was stand-out all through the night. In the part of Eddie, we had Daniel Haddon. Daniel, as on two previous occasions I have seen him on stage, showed what a fantastic character actor he is. All three have been so diverse you only have the credits to tell you it was the same person. Also getting their characters spot-on were Rachel Chadwick (Sister Mary Patrick) and Nikki Rai (Sister Mary Lazarus). The talent runs deep at Willenhall.

Now, memory had the part of Monsignor O’Hara as being rather dull. However, Roger Stokes brought it to life, raising the comic aspect and thus making Monsignor a great deal more fun to watch. Adrian Smith was excellent as Curtis Jackson. Good voice and marvellous stage presence. And then the henchmen: Will Phipps (Joey), James Totney (TJ) and Dom Napier (Pablo). These three had my number of the night with Lady in the Long Black Dress.

Supporting well among a talented and enthusiastic cast we also saw Abbie Sellick (Tina), Megan Rai (Michelle), Jennie Rullan (Mary Theresa), Simon Williams (Ernie), Alex Jeffreys (Copper) and Carol Ann Burgess (Sister Mary Martin).

Further songs I enjoyed were Take Me to Heaven, When I Find My Baby, I Could Be That Guy, The Life I Never Led, Sister Act, Spread the Love Around and Raise Your Voice. And then there was It’s Good to Be a Nun. I’ll never understand why How I Got the Calling was dropped in favour of Good to Be a Nun, but Nun does the same thing and is still fun.

Directing Sister Act for Willenhall was Alf Rai who can be proud of his cast. Equally, Gladstone Wilson brought forth a wonderful wall of sound in terms of vocals and band. Finally, choreography was at the top of the league in the hands of Lindsey Grant.

At the end of the performance, a packed audience (not bad for a Thursday) rose to their feet for an ovation, which was good, because Willenhall Musical Theatre Company had earned it.

Sister Act – The Dormiston Sports and Arts Centre – 11 April 2019

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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