Tag Archive: Walsall


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

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

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

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

“How did the Foo Fighters get this fucking big?” That was the question asked by Dave Grohl to 80,000 fans who packed the London Stadium. And do you know, I truly believe he’s as mystified as he made out.

Foo Fighters – London Stadium – June 22 2018 © Antony N Britt 2018

Well, I’ll tell you the answer. By having nine albums of the highest calibre in 24 years and transferring that standard onto the live arena, making the Foo Fighters currently the biggest rock band on the planet.

Quite a statement, and when I consider how many bands I’ve followed over the years, with many still going, it’s a massive accolade.

This was the fourth time I have seen the Foo Fighters and easily the best. Perhaps longevity is the reason. By continuing to produce music of such a high standard, the quality increases with each new release.

Launching the set with All My Life, the hits followed one after another: Learning to Fly, The Pretender and My Hero. However, we also had the new in The Sky is a Neighborhood, Dirty Water and Run. Then the classics again: Monkey Wrench, Best of You, Breakout, Times Like These and finally, the marvellous Everlong.

One thing I admire about the Foo Fighters is they’re more than just Dave Grohl. The magic is the fact that they are a band. And it’s nice to see not only Taylor Hawkins having the usual solo, but also Chris Shiflett with a cover of Alice Cooper’s Under My Wheels.

Okay, one niggle. Not fond of instrumental solos, especially drum which go on for ages. Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather have more songs.

So, we had the old, the new, and the downright bizarre. Only the Foo Fighters could do a mash up of John Lennon’s Imagine backing with the vocals of Van Halen’s Jump.

These days, the question isn’t what they played, more, what did they leave out.

As I have said, each gig I’ve been to from this band has been bigger than the last. And add to that, the ever-increasing pool of songs. How the hell will they top 80,000 at London Stadium? We await the answer with the next album and future tour.

I’m sure it will be magnificent.

Foo Fighters – London Stadium – June 22 2018

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

A month ago I saw Legally Blonde at The Crescent Theatre, performed by the brilliant Bournville Musical Theatre Company. As I enjoyed that so much, I thought I’d take the opportunity of seeing the touring production at the New Alexander Theatre.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Unlike last month, the opening was low-key, and the show took time to build the energy, perhaps needing some of that Red Bull Elle drinks in the show. I guess some of the atmosphere came from the fact this was a matinee with the auditorium barely a third full, which was a pity as it was a great show.

Legally Blonde is fast climbing the list of my top shows and this performance did nothing to harm that. In the role of Elle we had Rebecca Stenhouse, standing in due to the illness of Lucie Jones. Well, I never watch X-Factor or Eurovision, so had no knowledge of Lucie, and could therefore appreciate the characterisation with an open mind. And what a good portrayal she gave. Suited the role perfectly, giving a faultless showing with strong voice and acting.

Playing Paulette, the top billing went to former EastEnders actress. Rita Simons, who captured the role well, making Ireland one of the best numbers. I did think Paulette’s outfits weren’t oddball enough, but this did not detract from Rita’s performance. Also from the world of soaps we had Bill Ward, last seen plunging from a bridge in Emmerdale. He made the perfect Callaghan.

I have said the atmosphere grew throughout and the culmination of this was an energetic finale, complete with pink ticker-tape, much of which I found on me hours later. Best number of the day for me was Legally Blonde itself. However, Gay or European did not live up to my previous experiences. A slight downside also was that dialogue seemed a little rushed on occasions. Still, a show full of memorable numbers: Bend and Snap, What You Want, Positive, So Much Better and Take it Like a Man were all highlights of an enjoyable afternoon.

Also appearing were David Barrett (Emmett), Liam Doyle (Warner), Laura Harrison (Vivienne), Helen Petrova (Whitney/Brooke Wyndham), Ben Harlow (Kyle), Mark Peachey (Winthrop/Dewey), Alexandra Wright (Margot), Rachel Grundy (Serena), Delycia Belgrave (Pilar), Nancy Hill (Enid Hoops), Rosie Needham (Kate/Chutney), Michael Hamway (Aaron Shultz), Felipe Bejarano (Sundeep/Nikos), Lucyelle Cliffe (Judge/Pforzheiner/Store Manager), Sally Frith (Gaelen), Brett Shields (Grand Master Chad), Craig Tyler (Carlos) and Laura Mullowney (Swing).

Legally Blonde was directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams with co-choreography from Dean Street. The musical director was James McCullagh.

The second production of Legally Blonde I have experienced within a few weeks, and I would see a third if the chance came. A great show that I’d highly recommend if it comes your way.

Legally Blonde – The New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham – 23 May 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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