Tag Archive: Writing


Another show off my tick list this week as Hairspray was in town. Always a fan of the story as far back as the John Waters film starring Ricki Lake, I recently also saw the musical movie plus the Hairspray TV Live last year. And the soundtrack gets played a fair bit too.

Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 October 2017

Hairspray is a story of the fight for racial integration in the early 1960s. It seems abhorrent now, the views of that time, but that’s how life was.

So how was the show? From the opening beats of Good Morning Baltimore, goosebumps rose and I knew I was in for a treat as one great number followed another. Nicest Kids in Town, Mama I’m a Big Girl Now and I Can Hear the Bells.

In the lead role was Rebecca Mendoza, giving a great acting performance while excelling in both song and dance. The perfect Tracy Turnblad. There were also good comic moments, (and some of them I’m not sure scripted) between Matt Rixon as Edna and Norman Pace (Wilbur). One that also shone for me was Annalise Liard-Bailey, blossoming from wallflower to summer rose in the role of Penny. Showing vibrant energy we had Layton Williams playing Seaweed. Also onstage were Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle), Gina Murray (Velma Von Tussle), Jon Tsouras (Corney Collins), Edward Chitticks (Link Larkin), Aimee Moore (Amber). Monifa James (Little Inez), Graham McDuff (Male Authority), Tracey Penn (Female Authority) and a full ensemble.

Hairspray boasts music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman with additional lyrics from Scott Whittman. The book is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Production credits for the show include Paul Kerryson (Director), Drew McOnie (Choreography) with musical direction from Ben Atkinson.

I don’t know how long it actually was, but Act Two rattled by. A good testament to the production in not giving the audience chance to catch breath. More good numbers including, You’re Timeless to Me, Without Love and The Big Dollhouse. Of course, the number I had waited for came at the end with You Can’t Stop the Beat and I was taken back twelve months when I performed that myself as part of a pantomime. Great fun. Great show.

Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 October 2017

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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This was my second experience of Bournville Musical Theatre Company, having witnessed their concert, Through the Decades, last year. Therefore, I hoped I would also be well entertained with a full show at the prestigious Crescent Theatre.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The theatre itself is a fine setting, even if my seat, F2, did collapse as I sat on it, meaning I had to move forward to an empty one. But these things happen, especially to me, and I should expect it by now.

With music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, The Pajama Game tells of the Sleep-Tite Factory and the workers’ fight  for a pay rise. The conflict plays out aside a love story between new factory superintendent, Sid Sorokin and the head of the grievance committee, Babe Williams, both acted superbly with powerful vocals from Steve Kendall and Rhian Clement.

Kicking off the show was a good overture by the band who shone all night, although I feel we could have done with some lighting on the house curtains to heighten anticipation of what was to come. Then, after a brief introduction and title song from character, Vernon Hines (the excellent, John Morrison), the company pulled audience attention further onto the stage with Racing with the Clock. In fact, it was the combination of chorus vocals and choreography in this number, plus Hernando’s Hideaway and especially Once a Year Day, which stood out. So much movement and background activity going on, there was no chance of getting bored. And boredom was never an option because in the words of time management obsessive, Hines; “Tempus fugit, tempus fugit.” Time literally did fly as before I knew it, the first act ended for a quick drink and an eager return to the auditorium for more of the same. Pajama Game is a fast-moving show which seems a lot shorter than it is. And that’s a great testament to the original script of George Abbott and Richard Bissell.

Other enjoyable numbers included, I’m Not at All in Love, I’ll Never Be Jealous Again, Her Is, Small Talk, Hey There and Seven and a Half Cents. I’d have to say, though, my favourite of the night was Think of the Time I’ll Save. Well written comedy mixed with good choreography.

There were further comedic scenes and many of my favourites involved the duo of Hines and Gladys, for whom Natalie Buzzard gave an outstanding performance as Gladys. My main love in a personal acting sense is when I create or interpret a character, and Natalie did just that, truly becoming Gladys.

Now I’ve mentioned dance, but special acclaim must go to showpiece number, Steam Heat. This was a routine which certainly raised the temperature in the auditorium, courtesy once more of Natalie Buzzard along with Sarah Sheppard, Peter Holmes, Helen Gauntlett, Sophie Wood, Kai Murai and Verity Smith.

I can’t list everybody involved but giving fantastic support to the leads were Kris Evans (Prez), Jill Hughes (Mabel), Karen Lane (Mae), Jonathan Eastwood (Hasler), Rebecca Lowe (Poopsie), Chloe Turner (Brenda), John Clay (Pop), Phil Snow (Max), Adam Slack (Charley), Phil Holloway (Joe), and an energetic ensemble.

The Pajama Game was well directed by Ann-Louise McGregor with stunning musical direction from Chris Corcoran and sublime choreography by Sadie Turner.

The main thing to note, the cast looked like they enjoyed it and it’s always a cert that if you can project that, the audience will have a fantastic time too. I know I did.

The Pajama Game – The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – 6 June 2017

The Pajama Game is on at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham until Saturday 10 June with tickets still available at this link.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

When deciding to review this show, I was dreading what I might have to write. You see, never have I attended a show with so much favourable feedback as in the case of Billy Elliot. My God, everybody loved it, giving rave reviews. But what if it was another dud for me? That certainly happened with the Commitments.

No such fears. From the opening segment with The Stars Look Down, I was drawn into the stage. And this was no mean feat as I wasn’t in the best position to appreciate the view and acoustics back in Row T of the stalls.

With a book and lyrics by Lee Hall, plus music from Elton John, the show is based on the 2000 film of the same name. Billy Elliot tells of a 12-year-old boy set against the backdrop of the 1984 miners’ strike. Rather than attending boxing lessons, Billy stumbles into a ballet class and finds he has a love of the dance.

Now the writer in me first looks to the script, and this one was epic. Clever, natural dialogue which slaps you in the face when you least expect. Best line of the show. “Susan Parks, you look like a spastic starfish.” Oh yes, how I love blatant political incorrectness. And the music and dance was … fantastic. This is a show which truly ticked all the boxes.

Of the musical numbers, Shine stood out immediately. Then we had the spectacular of Solidarity with Billy and the Ballet girls amidst the conflict between miners and police. One, however, which really entertained was Expressing Yourself with the dancing dresses. At the start to Act Two, I can’t emphasise how much I loved Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher. Thatcher masks, puppets, and finally, a giant ogress nemesis of the 1980s miners. And my favourite song lyric. “Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling Heseltine. You’re a tosser, and a wanker, and you’re just a Tory swine.” Sung by children. Brilliant.

On the dance front, we were treated to an amazing segment of Swan Lake in which Billy dances with his older self. Electricity was as it says in the name – electric. Towards the end, we had the poignant farewells as the miners return to work and Billy says his goodbyes. Many a tear in the house. Then the finale topped off a great evening of spectacular choreography, voice and performance.

On the night, Billy was played by Haydn May with Amy Rhiannon Worth as Mrs Wilkinson. Dad was Martin Walsh, Tony (Scott Garnham), Grandma (Andrea Miller), Mr Braithwaite (Daniel Page), Michael (Elliot Stiff) and Debbie (Lilly Cadwallender).

Billy Elliot was directed by Stephen Daldry with choreography, Peter Darling and musical supervision from Martin Koch . The producer was Sally Green.

So, everybody else loved it, and as much as I enjoy being the dissenting voice, I can’t on this occasion. Billy Elliot was out of this world.

 

Cheers.

 

Antony N Britt

 

 

 

Antony N Britt

The Facebook page said it all. One man performing songs from West End and Broadway Musicals. So, did Richard Beckett (our one man) pull off a success?

One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

Straight into West Side Story’s Somewhere, we were taken on a journey through the breadth and depth of musical magic. A great tenor voice, delivered with power and charisma, had the audience captivated. From the powerful (Anthem) to the poignant (Empty Chairs at Empty Tables) to the downright lively (Footloose), Richard showed his versatility. And an enthusiastic audience was on hand to lap up the atmosphere as hit after hit sounded from the stage. Many of the songs I have heard in shows over the past couple of years were here, and it was enjoyable to relive those moments reproduced so well.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March 2017

On the night, Richard got the crowd going and inspired many to sing along to Sandy while getting on their feet to dance to numbers such as Move It. Heck, I’d have done so myself if I’d thought to wear my knee supports.

Personal favourites for me were Stars and Can’t Help Falling in Love, while finishing the show was This is the Moment. Yes, I can honestly say Richard Beckett pulled off the One Man Musical, and truly, this was his moment.

Richard Beckett One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

But that wasn’t all on the night and not quite one man as opening in support was the incredibly talented Katie Teitge. With charisma and humour, Katie also offered a variety of songs from musicals and beyond.

Katie Teitge One Man Musical – Pelsall Community Centre – 10 March

Beginning with I Don’t Know How to Love Him and the incredible On My Own, we also had Defying Gravity, I Dreamed a Dream and – the entertainment didn’t stop. With You, from Ghost, a song I’d not heard before, was also exceptional. Liekwise (and this is where my fondness for the humorous comes in), I absolutely loved The Alto’s Lament and The Girl from 14G. I’d not heard ‘Alto’s’ for years, and never sung live, while neither in the case of 14G, but I’ve been You-Tubing them ever since. That itself tells you the impact of the performance.

Between sets, Richard and Katie duetted with Last Night of the World from Miss Saigon to top off a fabulous evening. Here’s to many more from both.

Listen to Richard Beckett on Soundcloud

Watch Katie Teitge on YouTube

Cheers.

Nick

The pantomime is a great tradition and I’m always looking for companies I’ve not seen before. Therefore, when the two factors combine, I end up in places like the Dormiston Mill Theatre, Sedgley, watching Rainbow Pantomimes’ production of Cinderella.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

First off, a niggle at the audience. I watch loads of shows and people always forget to applaud the overture (and even more so, exit music). The band have worked damned hard, so give them appreciation, folks.

But the rest of the show. We all know the story of Cinderella, and Rainbow did the classic tale justice. Exuberant enjoyment from the cast projected to those watching, straight from the start with opening number, Reach for the Stars. Yes, good acting combined with decent dance numbers had the crowd whooping it up. There were comic moments, in particular, the Ugly Sisters’ Face Cream scene, although what had me laughing most was an innocent and incredulous comment from a child sitting in front when we had a delay in changing scenery. “Mom, they’ve left the door …” Oh, the little things that amuse me.

Fabulous musical numbers, notably: She, So Close, I See the Light, Open Doors, Raining Men and Celebrate. By far the best for me, though, was the full company version of Timewarp. Not a song I particularly like, so credit for making it stand out.

Of the cast, Katie Randle (Cinderella), Katie Teitge (Prince Charming) and Amy Cooper (Buttons) were superb. Also, well supporting were Jake Millington (Dandini), Helen Hollis (Beryl), Jonathan Pountney (Cheryl), Gemma Wilson-Brown (Baroness), Sally Parker (Fairy Godmother), Ian Totney (Mouse) and Dan Cubberley (Major Domo/Bear).

Cinderella was directed by Gemma Simner with Choreography by Emma Bate. On the music front, there was excellent use of a four-piece band directed by and including, Danny Teitge. Great sound throughout.

The only criticism I have is at times, the flow of certain scenes slowed. Too many pauses on stage with nothing happening. Although this may have been down to the original script, there was a danger of lost interest.

Still, as I say, I enjoyed, as did the rest of the audience. And my God, there were some hyper kids in the front of the auditorium. Was there a shortage of Ritalin or something?

All in all, well done to Rainbow Pantomimes. Looking forward to the next one.

Cinderella – Dormiston Mill Theatre – 20 January 2017

Cheers.

 

Nick

Last summer I reported on A Tale of the Railway, a joint project between all three schools of The Star Project. The branches in Droitwich, Solihull and Barnt Green give children a chance to express themselves through musical theatre. This time, however, I was in the audience to witness Barnt Green go it alone.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

There were two reasons for returning to The Star Project. Mainly, I was so impressed with my first experience of A Tale of the Railway, but also, I had myself taken part in Once Upon a Time a mere four weeks previous, and I was dying to see how it looked. I’m glad to say, I was not disappointed.

Written by Mark Nicholls, Once Upon a Time tells the story of what happens when villains turn the tables on the heroes and all the happy endings are reversed.

A more condensed version than my own, I still managed to get the same vibes from watching as opposed to being on stage. The feel-good factor came rushing back and I found myself laughing at all the jokes I’d heard for six months previous. This is a great testament to the young cast and teachers behind the project. A thoroughly enjoyable and professional production and more important, the kids looked like they had fun. There was great energy on stage as the show was brought to life before me once again. An excellent version of Let It Go ended Act One but my personal favourite of the night was All About the Bass.

The acting was what I expected after my previous experience, as was the dance. Once again, the singing of many was fantastic with voices defying their years. Okay, it’s a month later now but still sticking in my mind are performances by Genie, Jaffar, Evil Queen, Ugly Sisters, Charming and The Queen of Hearts. That’s not to devalue anyone else. They were all splendid. A special mention for poor little Ariel who had the unenviable task of contending with the most difficult costume ever (mermaid … having to slide on backside all evening), plus the fact she was unfortunately in line of fire for the fake snowstorm when it fell on stage. Well done for carrying on through adversity.

Once Upon a Time – The Artrix Theatre Bromsgrove – 6 December 2016

Barnt Green was the first Star Project, opening in 2008 with the children guided by the watchful eyes of Jo Edwards, Sarah Carter and the brilliant team of teachers. I often see the case of people who love musical theatre, never live their dream, then regret the lost years later. Here at The Star Project, talent can be nurtured from an early age, hopefully with development leading to more in adult life.

So, cheers for The Star Project Barnt Green. Well done, fabulously performed, and just good all round entertainment.

The Star Project runs weekly with special workshops during school holidays. The next is a two-day event during February half term, titled Musical Madness. Details can be found at the Star Project’s website.

Cheers.

Nick

Over the past couple of years I’ve tasted a variety of musical theatre companies and looked forward to Throroughly Modern Millie at The Core Theatre, Solihull. I’d not seen anything by St Alphege Musical Productions Society (STAMPS) before, so didn’t know what to expect.

Thoroughly Modern Millie – The Core Theatre, Solihull – 5 November 2016

So how were they? Well, the beginning was low key and failed to grab my interest. It needed to be spectacular, but wasn’t. Then came a further disappointment in the characterisation of Ching Ho and Bun Foo. These guys are a comic duo, but hardly raised a laugh, not to mention some of the pronunciation being a bit dodgy. However, the subtitles worked well.

On the plus side, Becky Willetts as Millie gave a good performance and both Miss Dorothy, played by Lucy Clarke and Trevor Graydon (Kris Evans) were excellent. Also, the character of Jimmy Smith played by Jack Walsh was likewise good, but I would expect nothing less from a former student of BOA.

Now I do know the show well and will say, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t wow me. Good, but not dynamic, and I found concentration waning towards the end of Act One, which is criminal as Millie is funny and engaging. This was illustrated by the fact that on the night, I heard little more than general applause much of the time.

Stand out songs for me were Speed Test and Falling in Love. We also had good choreography in some numbers, but little in others, particularly Muquin. There were also lost opportunities for jokes. For instance, failing to capitalise on the George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue gag, and it made me wonder if direction really understood the script.

Also giving good performances on the night were Fran Foster (Muzzy Van Hossmere), Rosie Asher (Mrs Meers) and Kim Bradshaw (Miss Flannery).

Musical direction came from Phil Ypres-Smith with Viv Morrison as director and choreographer.

A decent enough offering, but a lost opportunity after what must have been many months hard work.

Cheers.

 

Nick

I was recently privileged to witness a journey through the years, courtesy of Bournville Musical Theatre Company. And Through the Decades was just that. A showcase of not only several eras in pop, rock and musical theatre, but also an example of how music has evolved during those times.

Through the Decades – The Austin Social Club – 16 October 2016

This was my first experience of the Bournville company and I was not disappointed.

From the opening rock and roll of the 1950s, I found myself captivated, tapping away and singing along (and not always silent, I may add) to the numbers performed on stage.

Good use of a three-piece band: Keyboard, drums and bass, provided all the sound needed. Combine that with great singing, dance and characterisation, you had a fabulous show before you.

Each section was introduced by a video consisting of films representing the relevant decade before launching into their opening number.

Of the songs, themselves, I’d have too long a list if I named all I enjoyed. Therefore, I’ll have to rely on the first which spring to memory.

A mix together of You’re my World and All I See is You were exceptional as was the case with the harmonies of Mr Sandman. For the 70s we had a Grease set of which Hopelessly Devoted to You, shone. Act One ended with a company number of Bohemian Rhapsody, and it shows you’re good if you pull that one off.

Into Act Two and a song from one of my favourite musicals in One Day More (Les Miserables). It was then I found myself further surprised. You see, I consider myself more a rock person. However, I was completely drawn in by fabulous performances of Total Eclipse of the Heart, She’s the One and Torn (one of my favourites of the night). Then we had Bournville’s very own Spice Girls. Now come on, I’ve said I’m into rock, and I’ve never taken any notice of the Spice Girls. But I liked these ones.

Probably, for me, the most powerful number was a combination of the Adele songs, Turning Tables and Rolling in the Deep. And that’s where I come back to what I said at the start. Whereas my eras are more late 70s to early 80s, it’s interesting to see how much music has evolved since the 1950s. Despite not being my type of music, there seems to be greater depth and complexity about more recent offerings. I guess we’re always discovering techniques that it’s inevitable a new generation will improve. And that’s a good thing. I enjoy the past, but don’t want to live it again.

Rounding off the show were two numbers from School of Rock. Great. A bit of rock. I’d not heard these songs before but having done so courtesy of Bournville Musical Theatre Company, I went online and ordered the original cast recording CD the next day. And I’ll probably be making a trip to the West End, too.

So well done to all, especially Rachel Fox (Producer), Chris Corcoran (Musical Direction), and Kris Evans, Helen Gauntlett, Karen Lane, Chloe Turner, Sadie Turner (Choreography).

At the start of Act One, we had a preview of the companies next show, The Pajama Game. On this performance, it will be well worth going to see.

Through the Decades – The Austin Social Club – 16 October 2016

Cheers

Nick

So how do I go about reviewing a show that’s run for thirty years? Well, most I write up are local to me, therefore, I thought I’d concentrate on the difference between these and the West End.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016 © Antony N Britt

How did they compare? Well, shows I’ve seen at Birmingham’s Hippodrome and Alexander Theatre, etc, have all been excellent. However, whether or not it was the occasion, or the fact I saw Les Miserables in its actual home, there seemed to be a little extra magic. Yes, I can say I lived the dream.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016 © Antony N Britt

The first thing to notice is the intenseness of the Queen’s Theatre auditorium. This helps somewhat to draw you into proceedings, making you feel every emotion as if you are part of the show. I’ve heard the soundtrack too many times to count so from the moment Look Down began, I was hooked.

A set changing like a 3D jigsaw included an impressive barricade, complimented by a revolving stage which heightened the motion before you.

As for the show itself, there were polished performances both on stage and from the orchestra. And I guess there may have been greater impact for my viewing than I’d have seen on a tour. Then again, they’ve had a few years to perfect this at The Queen’s.

By far the best number for me was Stars in which Jeremy Secomb as Javert was excellent. Also delivering a fine performance was Peter Lockyer as Valjean. However, my favourite has always been Eponine as I’m captured by the tragedy and hopelessness her character represents. On this occasion, Eva Noblezada did the part total justice. One My Own was powerful, although I was slightly disappointed with A Little Fall of Rain as I felt the musical arrangement lacked the feeling the song should have had. Other stand out numbers included One More Day, Lovely Ladies and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the latter of which had the poignant appearance of the dead behind Marius, this performance, played by Felix Mosse.

David Langham and Katy Secombe added comic relief at times as Thenardier and Madame T. Other cast included Sophie Reeves (Fantine), Zoe Doano (Cosette) and Chris Cowley (Enjolras).

The only down I’d put on the show are certain lines of dialogue. And it’s not really a criticism, more a niggle. There are far too many mentions of God’s will and generally being grateful to God for everything. Quite frankly, I don’t reckon the world’s number one imaginary friend cares much for his subjects portrayed on stage. But as I say, that’s just a personal observation from the atheist in the audience.

On the day, time flew and the cast received a well earned standing ovation at the end. And I have to say, I’m delighted to have been witness to a little magic.

Les Miserables – The Queen’s Theatre, London – 1 October 2016

Cheers.


Nick

 

I was privileged the other week to be a witness to Shout – The Mod Musical. Shout was the debut show from Third From The Right Productions, and a successful production it was at that. Well, in terms of audience enjoyment.

Shout – Rowley Learning Campus – July 30 2016

Shout tells the story of the 1960s through lives of five women, all of whom have their ongoing struggles. Throughout the show, the five send letters to Gwendoline Holmes, an advice columnist for Shout Magazine who responds in consistent fashion … with useless advice. For instance, recommending new a hairstyle or manicure as remedies for domestic abuse.

Shout was a novel show which had me tapping the beat all the way to the standing (dancing) ovation at the end. Musical highlights were: To Sir With Love, One Two Three, Those Were the Days, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, These Boots are Made for Walkin’ and one of my favourite Sixties songs, Downtown. Interspersed between these were sometimes poignant, but often, funny vignettes and monologues. These ranged from discovering sexuality, dealing with a wife-beater, learning the side effects of the pill, and one girl’s most embarrassing moment in forgetting a word to a song while performing on stage. “Down – Town! It’s the name of the bloody song!

Third From The Right are a new company who aim to bring quality, but lesser known musical theatre to a wider audience, appealing to all ages.

Performing were: Amy Pearson (Red Girl), Natalie Baggott (Blue Girl), Jo Foley (Orange Girl), Kaz Luckins (Green Girl) and Gaynor Whitehouse (Yellow Girl). Gaynor was also responsible for choreography. Completing the all female cast was Jeni Hatton as Gwendoline Holmes.

Directing Shout was Jez Luckins with musical direction from Chris Corcoran.

So with a statement of wanting to bring the lesser known musicals into a wider domain, did Shout do it for me? Well, I’d certainly go and see it again. Well done, Third From The Right.

Third From The Right Productions

Cheers.

Nick