Tag Archive: Wolverhampton

Always a delight to experience a new theatre company. Well, new to me, anyway, which is a shame as Starcross Youth Theatre are celebrating their 30th Anniversary which means based on the evidence of Grease, I have missed a heck of a lot of great shows.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

I’m not going to dwell on the plot; it’s Grease, and if you don’t know it, where have you been all your life? Simply put, girl meets boy, fall in love, amidst lots of feelgood fun and great songs. But to have that you need a fabulous cast and crew and I’m happy to say Starcross delivered in bunches. What was clear from the start was not only professionalism all round, but quality as well. When you enjoy a youth production as much as big theatre shows, you know the company have much to offer. This was well-paced and full of instantly recognisable numbers of musical theatre history: Summer Days, You’re the One That I Want, Greased Lightening and so much more.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

Some of the roles, as is often the case in youth productions, were split, giving more members a chance to shine. Playing Sandy on my visit was Christine Cross who was amazing, giving a Girl Next Door everyone warmed to from the start. Christine particularly smashed in style what is my favourite number in the show, Hopelessly Devoted to You, sending goosebumps rising when she hit the high notes. As Danny, we also had excellence in Brandon Harrison, equally at the top of his game with Sandy.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

But those aren’t the only love birds in Grease. Rizzo is such an iconic role, needing to have someone who can manage that sass, and Faith Whitehouse did that including a tremendous rendition of There Are Worse Things I Could Do. Alongside, equally as excellent was Harry Webb as Kinickie, leading the rest of the T-Birds which included Noel Jeavons (Sonny), Lucy Keates (Doody) and Alex Hill (Roger). Supporting in the Pink Ladies were Shayera MacDonald (Marty), Lauren Downes (Frenchy) and Lily Cross (Jan). Outsiders to the main groups were Scarlett Bennett (Patty) and Jamie Nutting (Eugene) and like all principals, they totally owned their roles.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

Special mention for the dancing talents of Lexie Jennings as Cha Cha at the climax of an exceptional routine during Born to Hand Jive. Then there were those playing the adults. Chloe James was Miss Lynch while Ben Harley played Vince Fontaine. Plus, in the comic interlude of Grease, Beauty School Dropout, we had Mitchel Griffiths as Teen Angel. This cameo role, in professional performances, tends to be portrayed by a big star name, however here, Griffiths showed with such a phenomenal voice that he was up there with the best.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

Now I mentioned that some roles were split and only having seen one showing, I missed those who would have had principal roles on alternate days but on my night were featured in the ensemble. However, I’ll credit them, as I am sure they were marvellous as were all on show: Kelsey Taylor (Sandy), Elsie Harrison (Rizzo), River Onions (Marty), Dimitri MacDonald (Sonny), Sharon Kouessieu (Frenchy), Lil-Grace Palmer (Jan), Jack Harley (Roger), Bethany Broomhall (Patty) and Jay MacDonald (Eugene). Rounding off the rest of an excellent cast were Emmie Adcock, Ellie Fletcher-Brown, Erin Keates, Sofia Nahavandi-Nejad, Alexa Nutting, Lottie Wilkes, Zadie Wilson-Smith and Kitty Worth.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023

Producer/Director Phil Cross MBE spoke with pride afterwards about Starcross, also highlighting the Junior Members who have a Showcase – March 26 this year. He stressed the need to progress and keep the next generation coming, an ethos I totally agree with. Also on production was Christine Cross with Belinda Cross and Chloe James aiding in direction. April Kruszynski assisted by Emma Bably oversaw choreography and Ben Batt led an excellent band.

This was a marvellous show from Starcross and those 30 years of existence are due to be celebrated on the 17th and 18th of June this year at the same Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton. Well worth a check out.

Grease — Arena Theatre Wolverhampton — 23 February 2023


Antony N Britt

*** Catch up time, because I’ve fallen behind writing my reviews. Not convincing reasons, but in my defence, they do involve theatre and learning lines. ***

It’s hard to believe that there are people in this world who don’t like Mamma Mia. The cheek. It could be due to them not liking the Meryl Streep movie, or simply being an anti-ABBA snob. Possibly, most of these have never seen the stage musical because if they had, they’d have been part of a fun and enjoyable music extravaganza.

Mamma Mia — Wolverhampton Grand — January 19, 2023

Mamma Mia is a light-hearted romp, well-written with excellent tunes which have stood the test of time for 50 years. Some period musicals date; this has not. As soon as you hear the first chords of the overture, goosebumps rise and two and half hours then goes far too quicky.

The show is, of course, a Jukebox Musical, with a sharp but easy on the mind script by Catherine Johnson with music coming from the ABBA writing duo of Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. And what you get musically is hit after hit after hit. Instantly recognisable songs that have the audience singing and clapping all the way to the end. Yes, I was guilty as charged, so shoot me. It’s a fantastic show.

Mamma Mia — Wolverhampton Grand — January 19, 2023

In the role of Donna during this performance was Sarah Harlington who excelled in one of my favourites — Slipping Through My Fingers. Also at the top of their game was Jess Michelmore as the feisty but still vulnerable Sophie for which I Have a Dream was wonderful. Playing Donna’s comic foil friends were Sarah Earnshaw (Tanya) and Nicky Swift (Rosie). As well as their own numbers (Does Your Mother Know and Take a Chance on Me respectively), they completed a great trio with Harlington’s Donna for Chiquitita, Super Trouper and Dancing Queen.

Of course, Sophie has friends as well, plus a fiancé. Tanya Butterfield was Ali while Freya Humberstone played Lisa. Both combined well with Michelmore for the funny and light-hearted Honey Honey which sets the story for the rest of the show. As Sophie’s groom to be, we have Sky, portrayed well by Christopher Foley who duetted with her in Lay All Your Love on Me.

Mamma Mia — Wolverhampton Grand — January 19, 2023

On stage as Sophie’s three potential dads (forgive me if you don’t know the plot; go watch the show) were Neal Craig (Harry), Phil Corbitt (Bill) and for the second time seeing his as Sam, Richard Standing. Completing the principal cast were Jaden Oshenye (Pepper), Archie Flynn (Eddie) and Andrew Bateup (Father Alexander). As was everyone else in the cast, these were out of this world making this a real show to remember.

Mamma Mia — Wolverhampton Grand — January 19, 2023

Other great and personal favourite tunes included Money Money Money, Thank You for the Music, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), Voulez-Vous and of course, Mamma Mia. I also love the feelgood I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do. And just when you think it’s all over after the bows, you get an encore with a full cast Dancing Queen and the one that made ABBA famous — Waterloo.

I can’t keep repeating enough, this is a fantastic show, directed by Phyllida Lloyd with choreography from Anthony Van Laast, plus musical supervision in the hands of Martin Koch.

Mamma Mia is still touring the UK for the early part of 2023. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Mamma Mia — Wolverhampton Grand — January 19, 2023


Antony N Britt

Never land that’s the secret of flying. Never land, nothing equals the thrill.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

I’m always harping on about the secret to success in amateur theatre. Well, Bilston Operatic Company certainly had that in Styles and Drewe’s Peter Pan. Three Ps: The right Product in the right Place with the right Publicity. Another couple of Ps with Peter Pan, there’s added family appeal. Parents bring their kids to shows like Peter Pan, enjoying the experience so much, they do return.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure is a 1996 reimagining of J.M Barrie’s original 1904 play. With music and lyrics from George Styles and Anthony Drewe plus a book by Willis Hall which is still faithful to the original, I need no explanation of plot. Really … who doesn’t know Peter Pan?

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

I really like this version and the main reason is the score. Styles and Drewe are epic, probably the best musical theatre song writing collaborations in recent times. Catchy tunes with emotion and depth. However, I do think Willis Hall’s book needs bringing up to date with 21st century attitudes. Make Peter Pan less egotistical and Wendy certainly more feminist as opposed to her lot in life being there to cook and clean for males.

Peter Pan, is of course, a magical story, whatever format it takes, and in this show you had the perfect opener with a full chorus and There’s Something in the Air Tonight. Talk about goosebumps, but nothing you would not expect from Styles and Drewe. Even so, this song needs to be done right and with swirling fog and ethereal mystery, Bilston’s voices were magnificent.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Leading the way as the boy who never grew up was Fergus Edwards, and no surprise to find he is a student at the prestigious Birmingham Ormiston Academy. The performance was out of this world; a fine singing voice up there with the professionals. The same for Maddy Evans who captured the character and innocence of Wendy Darling perfectly. The duets in The Cleverness of Me and One Big Adventure were wonderful, and Neverland is just a magical number. The latter also included 12-year-old Joseph Dowen as John and Jett Austin-Richards at an amazing 7 years old playing Michael. Such confidence and stage presence from ones so young. Amazing.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Narrating we had Amy Frost as the storyteller, eventually revealed to be grown-up Wendy who duetted lovely with Lydia Hackett as Mary Darling in Just Home. Hackett also set the scene early on with Just Beyond the Stars which was tremendous. Supporting also as George Darling was Jon Dempsey who portrayed well the consequences of his children’s disappearance, inducing what was basically a personal breakdown.

And then there be pirates … Ahhh! Captain Hook is such an iconic role; one I had fortune to play once upon a time, and Dan Smith had the voice, the presence, and overall charisma to make you believe he was Hook. When I Kill Peter Pan was especially good, mixing humour with menace at the end of Act One. But you can’t have Hook without Smee, and I have to say Zachary Hollinshead is up there with the best and made himself the audiences’ favourite. Yes, it’s in the character as written but you need talent to complete the task and Hollinshead had that in abundance. A Pirate with a Conscience with Hook and Rose-Tinted Eyepatch which included all the pirates were top-drawer on the night. The same could be said for Good Old Captain Hook – a rousing ensemble number which showed good characters and chemistry. We also had excellent dancers in the indigenous inhabitants of Neverland (Natives, Mermaids and Wolves) led wonderfully by Issy Checketts (Tiger Lily) during Crocodile and Tiger Lily/Siren Song.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Now, I’m a great advocate of kids in shows, for they are the future, and the audiences love them. Fortunately, in Peter Pan, there are so many opportunities for these to shine. The Lost Boys were magnificent and even included a couple of girls in their number. This is great for inclusivity as in the past I have despaired when shows like this and Oliver have restricted the junior numbers to male only, just because an original script says so.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022

Peter Pan was produced and choreographed by Laura Canadine with assistance from Amy Evans while an eight-piece orchestra delivered an auditorium of sound with musical direction in the hands of Gareth Howard.

Wow! I’ve gone way more than my usual 500-word reviews which reflects how much positivity I have to say about this production. It did look expensive with no cost spared and while the cynic may think the company have endless money thrown at them, I disagree. Although the programme had a page filled with patrons and financial support, this is simply good business for which Bilston Chair, Brenda Arnold can be proud.

So, an enormous success which looks to be repeated next year in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Family show, lots of kids, and well-known songs. Bilston surely have that succesful formula nailed and I for one can’t wait.

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure — The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton — 10 November 2022 


Antony N Britt

  • Some photos blatantly stolen from Bilston Operatic Society’s Instagram page.

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


Antony N Britt

The Witches of Eastwick was my first experience of Trinity Musical Theatre Company. In fact, it was everybody’s as the company had recently been reborn from being a Gilbert and Sullivan Operatic Society to reflect more modern trends. So how did they fare?


Well, I saw Witches of Eastwick in February performed by Year 13 students of Birmingham Ormiston Academy. Now some might class that as a school performance, but such was the excellence of young talent that day, I knew Trinity would have a lot to live up to.

Now the first thing I encountered in the show were glaring lights from the stage in the overture, shining onto the audience and I must admit, I had spots in front of my eyes for five minutes. However, it was a minor negative and from the opening number of Eastwick Knows, superbly introduced by Freya Poulton as Little Girl, I was reminded why Witches is one of my favourite musicals.

Good performances by the three, particularly in Make Him Mine and I Wish I May were all I would expect of a Professional Amateur Theatre Company. Playing Alex was Maggie Page with Phaedra Brickwood as Jane and Beth Berwick Lowe (Sukie). Each produced the power the roles needed, fully exceeding my expectations.

Then we had Mitch Bastable as Darryl Van Horn. A truly great role and Mitch did it justice. Enigmatic, great mannerisms; he was so Darryl Van Horn.

Supporting well were Tina Stephenson playing Felicia Gabriel, Pat Lewis (Clyde), Emily Fisher (Jennifer), David Ball (Michael) and Adam Dolan (Fidel).

It’s interesting seeing different productions. In February, the best chorus number was Dirty Laundry, which although good on this occasion, was outshone by Dance with the Devil. It’s a shame Loose Ends was omitted as was the case with the shorter version of Something, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

Again, comparing to my earlier experience of the show, this time I got the full adult version, doing things maybe Year 13 students couldn’t. All in all, a great experience once more which hasn’t lessened my hankering to see the show again.

Witches of Eastwick was produced and directed by Ashely-Miles Wilkes, choreographed by Emilie Walters with musical direction from Karl Babarczi.

After 8o years as a G&S Operatic Society, I’d say Trinity made the transition into musical theatre with success, and long may it continue where I am sure I will be in attendance.





In the name of sanity …

You may remember me talking about Christmas the other week and how we seem to start shopping in October. Well, I was driving home the other evening in the pouring rain, slowed down for a second, and saw it.

Duh, duh, duuuuuurrrr!

I know it’s blurry, but you can just about make it out through a rainy windscreen – the horror. Yes, it wasn’t even late November at the time and some idiot had their Christmas decorations up.

I don’t know why some folk bother to take them down in the first place, they seem to be back up again before you know. I mentioned sanity in the title to this piece but with Christmas, sanity goes out of the window. Why do folk go overboard, spend thousands they can’t afford, all for some superstitious nonsense? Let’s face it, Chico Marx was right.

“There ain’t no Sanity Claus.”

A disturbing revelation.

The other week, I posted a piece about the dentist and to illustrate, used a still from the old Aquafresh advert with the smiling cartoon family. Well, thanks to my good friend, Mr Rich Wiltshir, I have been traumatised since by the image in my mind after an observation he made.

He said, “Am I the first to think the couple in your toothpaste add look like siblings?”

Arrrgghhh! I never thought of it before, but he’s right. The Aquafresh family are brother and sister and the cute Aquafresh child is a result of an incestuous relationship. Either that or Rich and I have far too much time on our hands.

It can’t be true. If they were inbred, they’d have bad teeth, not sparkling ones and they’d be on the Jeremy Kyle Show. As far as I can see, this family are off to Florida.

Bit of a Rolling ripoff …

I like the Rolling Stones. As I said the other week when commenting on a piece, I have some of their albums. However, I keep reading of fans complaining that their big 50th anniversary show in London was being ticketed at over £100 for the cheapest seats to nearly four times that for better ones.

An absolute ripoff. They should be ashamed. It’s not like they need the money. A decent tariff would have rewarded fans.

On another note, I see Bill Wyman has been drafted in to make a reunion appearance. I see everybody has conveniently forgotten he used to be a pedophile.

Yes, I know she was 18 when they married, but she states he’d been shagging her since she was 13. If it happened today, he’d subsequently be shagging a beefy skinhead called, Boris – in prison.

Strange things in a strange town.

Went to a great concert the other night in Wolverhampton by one of my favourites at the minute – Frank Turner. I took Matthew, my 13-year-old and it was on the way back to the car in Wolverhampton Town Centre, he pointed something out to me.

‘Look at that chair on its own.’

In Wolverhampton, seating is provided for shoppers. Most look like this …

However, the one my son pointed out was single and lonely, as is shown below.

I though it rather funny. But why install a single chair? The only thing I can think of is the politically correct brigade in Wolverhampton want to cater for all people so they have several solitary seats for those who have no mates.

Bureaucratic madness.

I read the other day that over 5000 under-aged offenders have received driving bans which have been imposed even though they are not legally old enough to drive. Five kids have had this ban even though they are only 11.

What the hell is the point of that? Yes, fine them and do everything the system allows within the range of common sense but why ban them from doing something they aren’t supposed to do anyway?

The circus comes to Stamford Bridge – again.

I see multimillionaire, Roman Abramovich wielded the axe again this week. Now when Roberto Di Matteo was sacked by West Bromwich Albion nearly two years ago, I thought it harsh. However, they were facing relegation and history shows the right decision was probably made, in hindsight. Still, Roberto went to Chelsea and became manager when the mad Russian sacked the last poor sod after half a season in charge. Robbie took the job, then went onto win the biggest prize in European football.

Not good enough for Abramovich. I mean, after a few games this season, Chelsea are only in 4th so Robbie had to go.

Bollocks. I feel for Chelsea fans … Actually, I don’t. They’ve had all this glory just because some billionaire wants to use them as his plaything. Still, what does Abramovic expect? A manager needs time. Far more than this twat gives them.

What a clown.

He has now installed former Liverpool manager, Rafa Benitez, in the hope he will lead Chelsea to the Premier League title. If past managers are anything to go by, Rafa shouldn’t worry about buying a house in SW6 just yet. Having a long stay in the Premier League? Rafa Benitez should expect a few weeks at a Premier Inn.

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

David Cameron has said that the battle for global prosperity is the same as the one we had when fighting Hitler.

Now there is a thing called Godwin’s Law. This is the idea that as soon as you bring Hitler and the Nazis into an argument, you immediately lose that argument.

Okay, not exactly the same but by using Hitler as a reference in this one, Cameron has proved one thing.

He is a pillock.

No – still not in the festive spirit.

And I won’t be for many weeks to come. I do celebrate Christmas, but as an atheist, I use it as a time to be nice to my family once a year. Other people take it to the extreme, as in the case of the November Christmas lights on that house at the top of this roast. Then you have all the stocking up in case the world ends because the shops shut for one day a year. And don’t get me started on cards. You have all the palaver of sending cards to people you see every day, but it doesn’t end there.

What was it I saw in the shop the other day? One with a greeting – Happy Christmas from the cat.

From the fucking cat????

Yes, sanity has more than gone out the window. It’s now stuck up the chimney with last year’s rotting remains of Father Christmas.

Cheers – and bah humbug!


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