Tag Archive: Youth Theatre


After seeing them several times now, nothing about Birmingham Youth Theatre (BYT) should surprise me, however, each time that I do, the excellence raises another level. And this was again the case with their January 2023 pantomime, Cinderella.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

I’m not going to waste words on the plot; it’s Cinderella, for heaven’s sake. However, every version written is individual and this one by Joe Logan was top-drawer. As a writer myself, I praised Logan last year and once again we had a well-written (and extremely funny) script. Contemporary in style but keeping pantomime elements audiences have loved for years.

When recently reviewing Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome, I spoke about the differences between professional pantomimes, boasting named stars, and the amateur equivalents. I can honestly say, although both excellent, I cannot separate which I enjoyed best, nor which was the more polished. Because from the opening company number in Cinderella, Get on Your Feet led by Lola Harper as Cinderella, quality oozed from the stage and into the auditorium. And it’s Harper in the title role I must praise first. What a voice! Strong and controlled, superb in Easy on Me and (Ed Sheeran’s) Perfect, duetting in the latter with the equally outstanding Luke Griffiths (Prince Charming).

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

One of the things I love about BYT is their inclusion and versatility. Last year Lily-Mae Nicholls was “wonderfully evil,” while Maddison Clarke took on the comic fairy role. This time roles reversed with Nicholls as (the not too competent) Fairy Non-Bio, whereas Clarke ranked high in the villainous stakes in the part of the Baroness. Clarke, on the day, gave a great rendition of Confident and Nicholls did likewise at the end of Act One in a superb version of You Will Be Found with Cinderella and the Dance Team.

People who read me will know I have modern views about the portrayal of Pantomime Dames and once again I am delighted with what I saw. Gone, thankfully, are the days where we would laugh at the ugly, hairy-chested man in a dress, now having more trans sympathetic portrayals. Caedon O’Malley (Stacey) and Rhys Bishop (Tracey) were as good as anyone I have seen in such roles. In fact, so well were their characterisations, I had accepted them as female from the off and forgotten the actors were men by Act Two. Juice was amazing and both O’Malley and Bishop in this performance engaged the audience like professionals.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Unless you mess around with the traditional plot (Yes … I did in 2021), Cinderella is full of unrequited love. This time, it wasn’t only Buttons, but Dandini as well. David Morrison was a wonderful Buttons, full of energy and like the dames, interacting well with the audience. There was confidence great to see from one so young and What Makes You Beautiful was as good as any number on the day. The unfortunate Dandini, on the other hand, was portrayed by Carter Evans who made the character his own and I Can Hear the Bells was one of the best songs in the show.

Once again playing a monarch was Dylan O’Connor as the bombastic King Bernard. He gave a good showing in the other Perfect, this time the Fairground Attraction one before duetting well in Act Two with Carter Evans during a poignant Let Him Go. Then we also had great comic foils in Bish, Bash and Bosh (Harrison Doherty, Charlie McRoberts and Andrew Morrison) trying to be a One Direction Tribute but singing a Backstreet Boys song in Everybody instead.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Another of my top numbers in the show was Hammer to Fall. Let’s face it, you can never have enough Queen. This was excellent from Lucie Holcroft (Fairy Nuff) and Charlie Bland (Mysterious Figure, revealed to be Baron Hardup). And if one can’t have enough Queen, there is always room for Abba as well and favourite of the night for me was Angel Eyes (Lola Harper, Caedon O’Malley, Rhys Bishop and Company).

Other named principals were the excellent Saran Sambhi (Principal Godmother), Kitty Smart and Amelia Jennings (Masters of Ceremonies with some witty one liners), Marni Carroll (OAP Princess, proving again how good she is at these comic cameos) and Josh Mills (The Troll with excellent timing). Duos inside the animals were Niamh Flannagan and Sophie Terry (Moo Moo) with Abigail Bell and Cat Allsop (White Horse).

As well as writing a brilliant script, Joe Logan was also choreographer and the results on view were well above what you would expect for a youth company. You must remember, all these kids are 19 and under. Ellie Johnstone and Olivia Jefferson were dance captains to the highly talented team of Beatrice Roberts, Bella Hoppner, Hannah Allsop, Ruby Blount, Tabitha Vlok and Tegan Lynch. I particularly liked their movement as the trees in the forest, finding it hypnotising at times.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Completing the ensemble (because nobody deserves leaving out) were Daisy Wright, Edina Bilham-Moore, Emily Green, George Beckett, Kamile Kazlauskaite, Luke Holcroft, Maisie Cotterill, Megan Allsop, Mia Hodges and Sophia Cupples.

The other members of a brilliant production team were Vivienne Morrison (Director) and Chris Corcoran (Musical Director). Morrison can be extremely proud of her work and students in making this a show to remember. There really isn’t a negative word to say about it. And Corcoran once again shows why he is highly rated in Musical Theatre.

July sees Birmingham Youth Theatre taking on Sister Act, again at The Crescent Theatre, which is to be their new home. One of the reasons for this, we are told, is the increase in membership, essential to any company. Praise, therefore, must go to those behind the scenes; the committee, the friends and parents who support and spread the word. The Crescent is a great theatre and BYT fully deserve it to be their new base of performing.

Cinderella — The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham — 15 January 2023

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

“Rama lama lama, ka dinga da dinga dong.” 

At least that’s what I think the lyrics are. I performed We Go Together in panto and I don’t think I ever got the words right. 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

At short notice, I went to see Grease (School Edition) by Script Youth Musical Theatre Company, and I was so glad I did. Always a supporter of local companies and youth theatre and from the moment the show began, I knew I was going to enjoy the evening.

I’m not going to go over the plot of Grease (Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey) and this was the first time I have seen a junior edition of any show. Shorter and more suitable for younger cast members, this edition keeps the fun and spirit of the original version. To be honest, I’ve only seen Grease once before and apart from the removal of the pregnancy plot and alternative version of Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee, I didn’t notice many more differences. I’m sure there were but the fact I was so immersed in the show is a credit to a wonderful performance by all on stage.

In the role of Sandy was Erin Mooney who was superb in her headline number (and my favourite Grease song), Hopelessly Devoted to You. Likewise, Ollie Roberts as Danny channelled his best Travolta with Sandy, and both captured their roles perfectly.

Unless living on a deserted island for the last 50 years, everyone has heard of You’re the One That I Want, Summer Nights and Greased Lightening, but there are many more feelgood songs in this show. One not just for principals, but a large ensemble as well of which there was plenty of talent. Shakin’ at the High School Hop, Born to Hand Jive, Mooning and Freddy My Love are all good numbers and certainly had the audience full of applause after each.

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

In addition to the main two, Grease is full of excellent supporting characters and to be successful you need the right people in the roles. Now when I watch a youth production, one person often registers with me more than others and on this occasion, it was Evie Rice as Rizzo. Yes, it’s an iconic role but you need excellence to fulfil its potential. Evie was in character right from the go, full of sass and attitude, facial expressions, and reactions consistent throughout. Evie tells in her programme biography that Rizzo is a “Strong character, so unlike herself,” which made the performance even more remarkable. And superb in There are Worse Things I Could Do. Well done.

Another great moment was Beauty School Dropout with Finlay Laidlaw doubling as Teen Angel alongside his T-Bird, Doody. It is one of my guilty pleasures, partaking in OTT performances and Finlay was on top of his game in this number; the audience showing its love and appreciation as deserved.

Grease is a great show by the fact there are plenty of principal roles in which to shine. Harry Robbins (Kenickie), Aimie Whillis (Frenchy), Josef Hammond (Sonny), Reanne Witheridge (Marty), Zachariah Scrivens (Roger) and Bethany Sall (Jan) all gave so much.

And there were a further 23 on stage in terms of excellent dancers and ensemble. Amature Theatre is for everyone with each as important as the lead. This is a nice company which showed enthusiasm throughout, the reaction to the deserved applause appreciated. Script Youth is also managed well. I felt welcomed on arrival and throughout the experience.

In charge of Production and Choreography was Louise Farmer who can be immensely proud of her cast and crew. Assisting, though, on Choreography was youth member, Molly Chamberlain, who also figured in a principal role as Patty the Cheerleader. Musical Direction was in safe hands with stalwart of Midlands Theatre, Chris Corcoran overseeing an excellent band.

A Lovely, enjoyable evening out and I look forward to more from Script Youth Musical Theatre Company. They prove youth and theatre do go together.

With a “Shoo-bop sha wadda wadda, yippity boom de boom.” 

Grease—Highbury Theatre Sutton Coldfield —8 July 2022

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

It’s been a heck of a long time. Eighteen months, to be precise. For everyone who loves Musical Theatre. And this was no more so evident than seconds into the opening number of Disco Inferno; the aptly placed Celebration/A Night to Remember. The smiles on the faces of Birmingham Youth Theatre showed exuberance at being on stage, plus that bit extra on returning. For most, this was the first time in a theatre since before Covid hurled itself onto an unsuspecting world and I admit, there were tears in my eyes to be finally witnessing theatre once more.

Birmingham Youth Theatre – Disco Inferno – Crescent Theatre Birmingham – July 24 2021

As a lover of both Amateur and Youth Theatre, Disco Inferno was a joy to watch from start to finish. What is even more remarkable was the short time and opportunities needed to put this show together. From Zoom rehearsals to dancing in the local Cannon Hill Park, it exemplifies what being on stage means, and the desire to create a show.

Set in 1976, Disco Inferno tells the story of aspiring singer, Jack, played excellently by Charlie Bland, and his deal with the Devil’s right hand, Lady Marmalade – the equally outstanding Maddison Clarke. The fallout of this arrangement is Jack’s relationship with Jane of whom Ruby Blount also excelled with a strong performance.

I must admit, I was a little sceptical at first regarding the musical subject matter as 70s disco fills me with horror, being more a rock fan. However, Disco Inferno wasn’t just limited to one genre. We had a smattering of Bowie (Starman) and The Sweet (Ballroom Blitz) which I totally approved of. And generally, Elton John (Crocodile Rock, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting) is liked by all. The music was treated with respect and the kick it deserved under the guidance of Musical Director, Chris Corcoran.

Sometimes in theatre you witness a simply magic moment, and I was fortunate on this occasion to do so. Enter Lily-May Nicholls as Kathy giving a rendition of Street Life, only to be confronted by the demon of Am-Dram, dodgy microphones. This one cut out through the entire song, but I was happy to be in Row B where I could hear the excellent vocals. But it’s such a shame when something happens to ruin the moment. Therefore, forward to Act Two where Lily-May was given the opportunity of a second run of the song and boy did she smash it. So brave to do so, as I know from experience when something has gone wrong, it plays on your mind that the next time could go equally as bad. Not so this time. Fantastic.

As well as those already mentioned, we had tremendous principal performances from Harrison Doherty (Tom), Mollie Ewins (Maggie), Josh Mills (Heathcliffe), Florence Slade (Terry), Joe Logan (Lily), Lola Harper (Nicky Diablo) and finally, Cameron Simpson (Duke) who stoked the fires of Hell with a bit of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Fire.

In addition to those mentioned above and choreographed by the aforementioned Joe Logan, were six specialist dancers: Bethany Gilbert, Liv Jefferson, Ellie Cosgrove, Matilda Ventham, Anna Simpson and Wiktoria Matysiak. These performed exceptionally considering the shorter amount of practice they must have had during the run up to the show. But they were not alone. An ensemble too big to mention must have made director, Mark Shaun Walsh proud indeed.

It’s great to experience Musical Theatre again and even more so witnessing the talent of the future. And one of the youngest also caught my eye. Little Marni Carroll seemed to be active and in character every time she was on stage. Something I like to instil into my own casts. Always an interaction, expression or reaction. Tremendous.

So, well done Birmingham Youth Theatre for coming back with a bang. An inferno of music and dance for all to see.

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

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

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