Walking into the Prince of Wales Centre last night, Backstreet Theatre Company’s stage was a sight to behold. Intricate, beautiful, clever, there was a clear sense of anticipation before the show started, you knew it was going to be special and they didn’t disappoint.
From the offset the entire space was used cleverly, there was never a moment where the set felt sparse or overcrowded. Not only that, the space was filled with an incredible amount of talent. The story of Into The Woods is a complex one in terms of the number of storylines. Numerous recognisable characters venture into the woods in the search of fulfilling their wishes and dreams, but they have to come face-to-face with the decisions they make along the way and deal with the consequences of their actions.
Leading the way was the Baker and his wife, played by Dave Barr and Caroline Wilson, respectively. Wilson was superb, flawlessly capturing the essence of the Baker’s wife and paired with Barr they were both delightful. Particular highlights included buying the cow for beans, which garnered many a laugh and their charming performance of It Takes Two.
Phoebe Ellabani was outstanding as the Witch. Her emotionally fuelled performance was a sight to behold in Witch’s Lament, with equally stunning performances of Stay With Me and Last Midnight.
Craig Smart and Jack Knight were hilarious as Cinderella and Rapunzel’s steam-punk princes. Their performances were on-point and who knew rollerblades could be used in a Sondheim classic? Stepping into the role of Cinderella, for one night only, was Faye Watson, who came into her own in the second half and paired with Barr, they delivered a heart-swelling rendition of No One Is Alone.
Matt Pettifor is an exceptional performer. Taking on the role of Jack, Giants In The Sky was beautiful, not only vocally, but also superbly acted. His characterisation was dazzling and it is clear to see he that he is incredibly gifted. Whilst Katie Rowley brilliantly took on the role of Little Red Riding Hood, mixing feistiness and comedy to excellent effect.
Special mention must also go to Emma Richards as the pink-haired Rapunzel, Diane Whylie as Jack’s long-suffering mother, Sian Cameron-Prowse and Lucy Watkins as Florinda and Lucinda the ugly stepsisters, along with Matt Hunt and Callum Lerigo who held the story together as the two narrators.
The finale was remarkable as all of the excellent ensemble voices joined forces to create a powerful wall of sound. It was clear to see that both the cast and creative team have worked hand-in-hand to create this production, as musical direction, direction, costume and choreography was fantastic, it was a sparkling example of exemplary amateur theatre directing in the hands of Michele Windsor. The band masterfully injected all the power and passion needed for Sondheim’s beastly show under the musical direction of Gladstone Wilson and the lighting design was an utter spectacle, hats off to Alex Cartwright.
Into the Woods is playing at the Prince of Wales Centre, Cannock until 30 May and tickets are £12. To book, click here or call the Prince of Wales on 01543 578762.
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Emily Bronte's timeless tale of love, set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Moors, was brought to life quite brilliantly tonight at The Edge, Alderbrook School, Solihull by SSA Drama Section in Lucy Gough's 'darkly gripping' adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
This famous love story centres on the characters of Catherine Earnshaw and the gypsy, Heathcliff, who become inseparable companions after he is taken in to the Earnshaw family by Catherine's father. When Catherine breaks the bond between them by agreeing to marry the wealthy Edgar Linton from the neighbouring Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff's bleak determination to extract revenge impacts disastrously on most of the characters.
The complex character of Catherine Earnshaw was portrayed convincingly and passionately by Aimee Ferguson and both the younger and older Heathcliffs were brought to life magnificently by Matt Barnard and Simon King. The fierce and tender scenes alike between Catherine and Heathcliff were communicated beautifully all the way through and the audience was totally immersed in the love story unfolding before them.
Elliot Sayers gave a realistic and poised performance as Edgar Linton and Kimberley Bradshaw was an excellent Isabella Linton. Chris Cooper was utterly believable as the maligned, desolate brother to Catherine, Hindley Earnshaw, and Alice Davies (Cathy Linton), Liam Thorley (Hareton Earnshaw) and Harvey Grant (Linton Heathcliff) all portrayed the next generation of characters with potency and commitment. Angela Ingram gave a persuasive and emotionally charged performance as Nelly.
Credit must go to the production team who tackled this enduring tale of star-crossed lovers with consummate professionalism and produced something of exceptionally high quality. Special mention must also go to Charlie Smith, her directorial debut is a triumph. This book was published in 1847, but its themes and characters are as relevant and real today as they were when it was written and tonight's performance did Emily Bronte and her ageless classic full justice.
SSA Drama present Wuthering Heights at The Edge, Alderbrook School, Solihull until 30 May. To book tickets and for more information click here.
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Hot Mikado, the musical comedy based on The Mikado, is vibrantly brought to life by House of GreasePaint; the in-house theatre company at Staffordshire University and South Staffordshire College. The cast have all trained at either one or both of these institutions and it was a pleasure to see a wealth of talent on stage for this uproarious production.
Following the story of Nanki-Poo (charismatically played by Daniel Roberts), the Mikado’s son, he arrives in the town of Titipu to find his one true love, Yum-Yum (played by Abbie Mead). However, he discovers Yum-Yum is marrying Ko-Ko. Meanwhile, the Mikado (played by James Rowney) demands Ko-Ko execute one person within the next month. Nanki-Poo strikes up a deal with Ko-Ko that if he can be husband to Yum-Yum for one month, he will then agree to be executed, but the plan goes awry when Katisha and the Mikado pay a visit…
The cast (which also included Alfie Kentesber, Vitalyia Harbord and Kaii Songhurst) hilariously captured what sounds like a head-spinning tale with assured performances. Elliot Lolley was superb as Pish-Tush, not only did he deliver with impressive vocals, but he was also utterly engaging throughout. The standout performances of the night came from Jamie Jones as Ko-Ko and Rachel Wrighte as Katisha. What a stunning pair of performers.
Wrighte commanded the stage as Katisha, with Hour of Gladness exhibiting her truly powerful vocals, whilst Jones had the audience in absolute fits of laughter. You could feel the audience anticipating each of his entrances, because he well and truly shone. I’ve Got A Little List and Tit-Willow were especial highlights and together Jones and Wrighte were brilliant in Beauty in the Bellow.
With direction from Laurie Asher, choreography from Katie McDonagh and musical direction from David Bebbington, House of GreasePaint should be delighted with their inaugural production, because there certainly was burgeoning talent in abundance.
Hot Mikado plays at Lichfield Garrick until 30 May. For more information and to book tickets for this show click here or call Lichfield Garrick’s box office on 01543 412 121.
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Studley was resounding to the sound of laughter last night as the talented cast of Wythall Theatre Company presented Ian Gower and Paul Carpenter's stage play of The Vicar of Dibley, based on the original TV series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer.
The beloved characters of Geraldine Grainger (Anne Cherry), David Horton (Ed Parrott), Alice Tinker (Denise Williams), Hugo Horton (Tony Lacey), Owen Newitt (Jason Trombley), Jim Trott (Steve Rossiter), Frank Pickle (Adam Lee) and Mrs Cropley (Estelle Shutkever) all sprang magnificently into life in front of our eyes, realistically and enthusiastically recreated by this small, but incredibly accomplished cast.
The play was beautifully crafted primarily from the first two series of the shows which were aired between 1994 and 1998 and included some hilarious scenes such as Alice and Hugo sharing their first kiss, Owen proposing to Geraldine in a less than romantic manner and Mrs Cropley nearly poisoning the members of the Parish Council by preparing pancakes with a hint of liver! The whole audience was in fits of laughter from start to finish and the comic timing of all the characters was first class. There were some poignant moments too, particularly in the scene where Hugo defies his father David when threatened with nothing and exclusion from his Will; the line 'On the contrary, sir, I shall everything in the world I desire' in response to this was delivered exquisitely by Tony Lacey.
Special mention must go to Jason Trombley who not only put in a stellar performance as the gauche Owen Newitt, but was also responsible for designing and building the wonderful set.
If you want a belly full of laughs, get yourselves along tonight for the last performance. Playing at Studley Village Hall, 7.30pm, tickets £10 fin out more about Wythall Theatre Company here.
It’s 1958 and Nathan Leopold is attending his prison review. The stage is sparse and dark, with the use of crackled audio to depict the review board as they deliberate Leopold’s parole.
Leopold and Loeb’s story is notorious; they believed they could commit the ‘perfect crime.’ And, that is exactly what they attempted to do in Chicago in 1924.
Jo Parsons takes on the role of Nathan Leopold, acting as protagonist, as his prison review is interspersed with flashbacks to 1924. He delivers an intensely beautiful performance as he appears to be swept up in the events that take place. His volatile relationship with Richard Loeb, played expertly by Ben Woods, make for an incredibly haunting duo.
Loeb’s obsession with crime rapidly becomes a hunger for something more than just petty thefts and arson. He wants to commit murder. Although it feels odd to laugh at such a dark and disturbing subject, there was a particularly humorous song, The Plan, where Loeb sets out to kill his younger brother because ‘he’d never touch my things' and 'I’d get the bigger room.'
On reflection, they decide to choose a young local boy from the school. As the plan comes together, Loeb sets out to lure the young boy in the song Roadster. Delivered masterfully by Woods, this harrowing part of the story really stayed with you long after leaving the auditorium.
Other particular musical highlights included My Glasses/Just Lay Low, which was tension-fuelled and Life Plus 99 Years, making for a stunning finale. Parsons and Woods depict the intimacy of Leopold and Loeb’s relationship startlingly well and these cold-blooded killers were unnervingly brought to life on stage. Not only that, without revealing any spoilers, the twist at the end added yet another layer of eeriness to the play.
With musical direction from Tom Turner and direction from Guy Retallack, Stephen Dolginoff’s musical, Thrill Me makes for an eye-opening experience that people should go out and see.
Thrill Me plays at The Old Rep until 23 May. Tickets are just £15, with concessions available at £13. To book, please call the Box Office on 0121 359 9444, or visit www.oldreptheatre.co.uk (booking fees apply).
A classic British tale of rags to riches, Oliver! is a popular piece of musical theatre that will always attract the masses. Coventry Musical Theatre Society has brought the toe-tapping production to life, with an abundance of energy and dramatic flair, it is clear to see the performers are in their element. Faces beam with delight as charming choreography is well executed, lively and full of expression.
I am welcomed to the sold-out auditorium by a stunning backdrop of St. Paul’s Cathedral. A live orchestra warm up and their presence is appreciated, live music always adds quality to a show, and under the Musical Direction of James Suckling the talented musicians create magic with their instruments. The company is large; devoted performers fill the stage, the smallest children melting hearts with their sweet expressions.
The impressive set transports the audience to the slums of London, full of poverty and disease the streets are overpopulated and money is hard to come by. With adult humour, miserable scenes are lightened with comedy and playful gestures. Mrs Corney (played by Sarah Boden) and the intolerable Mr Bumble (played by Matt Everitt) are a great double act, though at first disagreeable they later reveal their hearts are in the right place.
Caleb Griggs-Taylor portrays Oliver with real conviction, not once does he lose momentum for the role, responding to each scene and setting with perfect emotion. Claire Griggs provides great entertainment as Mrs Sowerberry, with a convincing Cockney accent she dominates her husband (played by Terry Bright) and all those around her using fear and cruel taunts.
Songs are well sung, though scene changes and musical numbers could have flowed more seamlessly. Costume is well-sourced, with the use of colours reflecting social class. With a tattered top hat, and wearing distressed velvet The Artful Dodger (played by James Proctor) is engaging and charismatic, it is clear to see the young performer is at home on the stage. Fagin (played by Callum Roberts) is incredibly well cast, smashing Pick a Pocket or Two’and playing up to his role, successfully securing the biggest laughs of the evening.
Best singer in show goes to Hannah Farquharson for her portrayal of Nancy; with a rough charm she makes a vibrant entrance and absorbs the limelight. Hannah is the full package, with a large range and effortless vibrato; she is the calibre of performer that rivals the West End professionals.
For warm laughs and songs full of clout, Oliver! is the perfect show for all ages. Full of spirit and great showmanship Coventry Musical Theatre Society publicly parade the star quality behind their NODA award collection, creating a legacy full of success.
For more information and to book tickets click here or call the Belgrade Theatre box office on 024 7655 3055.
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Written by Caryl Churchill, Top Girls made its debut performance in 1982. Performed by AS Level Drama students the current production has been reinterpreted and brought up to speed. Directed by Oakley Flanagan the play jumps between 1980 and 2015, observing the Tory rule and examining the role of women in society. It is a surreal piece, with a dreamlike sequence in Act 1 introducing the audience to a number of famous and influential women that the history books forgot. It is the stories of these women that run parallel to the characters in the earlier era, where we follow the driven and successful Marlene, a natural survivor in a man's world and a champion of Thatcher's government.
The cast of 10 young women show an abundance of potential, many at the start of their professional training. Eliza Bunce shines as Marlene, the power dressing Business Woman who appears to have it all, though the shocking truth of her reality is later revealed to the audience. Megan Gellatly provides nervous humour as Marlene's niece, Angie. A disturbed and angry child who dreams of killing. A highlight of the dinner party scene is the tale of Lady Nijo (played by Sophie Pheasey); decoratively dressed in oriental costume she recalls the circumstances that determined her existence over 700 years ago.
Though ambiguous at times, the production is thought provoking, intentionally leaving questions unanswered and providing no real finale, allowing audience members to draw conclusions from their own experience of the show. The effective use of projection and audio clips from political archives help to set the scene, providing reality and transporting the audience back to an iconic time, a time of great change that would provide the Conservatives with their legacy.
Exploring politics, feminism, class barriers, and family ties, Top Girls is an explosive production, pensive and profound.
The show ran at the mac for one night only. For more information on the show click here.
This is the UK premiere of a show that was a huge off-Broadway success in New York. It is a fresh and cheeky new musical with original songs written by Donna Moore.
Meet three ladies with different stories, Mary-Marie the established Cougar running a cougar bar,
Clarity a woman with a thesis to write on the rise of the cougar and Lily who is recently divorced and
looking for a life. We follow their journey as they pursue their aims and men.
This is a comedy musical, the songs at times firmly tongue-in-cheek, especially Julio, with some
interesting props. The humour is not subtle, but that doesn’t matter, this is an easy-going, relaxed
piece of theatre to enjoy and laugh out loud with. There are, however, touching moments in Love is
Ageless and Mothers Love. The latter strikes a chord with every mother in the audience with
beautiful harmonies changing the tone of the show for a moment.
There are only four cast members, the three ladies and one very versatile young man. Barnaby
Hughes plays all the men in the story with clear definition of character between each one. His
characters are meant to be the object of desire for the ladies in the story, he is well cast. Suanne
Braun (Mary-Marie), Dawn Hope (Clarity) and Pippa Winslow (Lily) bring the story to life with energy, enthusiasm and believability.
With a versatile colourful set, imaginative projection, strong vocals and music this production looks
and sounds great. It is a story with a heart and a message about strong women. While it’s a perfect show to see on a girls night out, it also appeals to a wider audience.
Cougar The Musical is guaranteed to be a truly funny and highly entertaining evening.
The show runs until the 6 June. Tickets for Cougar The Musical are available to book from the box office on 024 7655 3055 or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk.
Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men has made a welcome return to the West Midlands. Having started its life at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 2013, before opening on the West End, it now arrives at Wolverhampton Grand, with a stellar cast that deliver a dramatic punch.
Twelve Angry Men follows the story of a jury who are responsible for delivering a verdict that is essentially between life vs death. Leading the cast of 13 (12 jurors and a guard) is the charismatic Jason Merrells (Juror 8), the one juror who cannot say that beyond reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty of murder. The only problem; there are 11 other jurors that think the defendant is guilty.
However, gradually the tables are turned, literally, as one by one the jurors begin to see past their prejudices and pre-conceptions to uncover that they can’t explicitly say that beyond reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty.
Andrew Lancel plays the role of hot-headed juror 3 excellently, with equally powerful performances from Denis Lill and Paul Beech. The play is sprinkled with humour throughout, and this balance between laughter and drama is what makes it so special. The performances from the entire cast were stunning and you were drawn in by these brilliant characters from the offset.
Designed by Michael Pavelka, the set was superb. From the dingy bathroom, to the non-working fan and the overheated jurors room, there were fantastic finishing touches such as running water and the juror’s table, which gradually turned 360 degrees through the show.
If you have not yet managed to catch this play on stage, do not miss it at Wolverhampton Grand this week. It is a sure-fire hit.
Twelve Angry Men plays at Wolverhampton Grand until 22 May. To book your tickets, click here or call the Grand's box office on 01902 429 212.
It’s 1925. It’s windy and wet. Flickering lights introduce us to the small general waiting room at a remote Cornish train station called Fal Vale. The scene is set and the story begins. The Ghost Train is not terrifying, as its name may suggest, but it is thrilling, mysterious, and highly addictive. Written by Arnold Ridley (Godfrey from Dad’s Army), the current production by talking Scarlet cleverly embraces the text, allowing the minds of the audience to take flight as vital information is withheld and old tales retold.
The production features a stellar cast of 11; fine actors who each portray their roles a little too well. The audience are quickly introduced to Elsie and Richard Winthrop (played by Corrinne Wicks and Ben Roddy), Peggy and Charles Murdock (played by Sophie Powles and Chris Sheridan), Miss Bourne (played by Judy Buxton), Saul Hodgkin the Station Master (played by Jeffrey Holland) and a mysterious chap who is somewhat irritable and a tad eccentric (played by Tom Butcher). He proves himself quite the joker as he ruffles the feathers of those around him, providing the audience with subtle humour to lighten the mood.
Costumes are well designed by Geoff Gilder; from smart tailoring to fur and cloche hats, the era is well depicted. Directed by Patric Kearns the stage is used effectively and the wide set sits comfortably providing great views from every seat. Lighting design by Dave North allows our imaginations to bring the outside locomotives to life, and as the story unfolds our minds grow; consumed by superstition we long for answers.
The Ghost Train will have you laughing, puzzled, and questioning fate. A hugely entertaining light-hearted horror with nervous thrills, it is a journey we would hate for you to miss.
talking Scarlet’s production of The Ghost Train runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 16 May. To book call the Box Office on 024 7655 3055 or visit http://www.belgrade.co.uk/event/the-ghost-train.
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