Legally Blonde is doing the amateur theatre circuit rounds at the moment, with many youth theatres tackling this feel-good show. The Old Rep this week plays host to local company Youth Onstage, who have gutsily taken on the challenge of this complex production.
The show wasn't without its glitches. There were some cues missed, projection issues, a disappearing dog and a premature caravan appearance. However, considering these challenges, the capable cast pulled through with professionalism, not letting these distractions detract from their individual performances.
Hannah Brook is, without doubt, the shining star of this show. She really is Elle Woods. Her voice is sublime throughout and vocally she is one of the best Elle's I have seen on the youth circuit. Coupled with an assured character performance, it was a treat to watch her. Matty Brook complemented well as Emmett and James Woodward made for a sleazy Warner.
Good support came from Charlotte Young as the hilariously quirky Paulette - she had a beautiful time to her voice. Alongside, assured performances from Tom Ashen as Kyle, Eboni Green in great voice as Vivienne and Renee Squire as Pilar. The Greek chorus harmonies were tight and the girls blended well together.
Sometimes the funniest moments can lie in the cameo appearances and this was true of the performance I saw last night. Kia Gates threw everything she could at the role of Enid and really played up the character. It's such a brilliant role and it was great to see it showcased in this performance. And the final cameos came from the utterly super Jay Alves and Jordan Matthews in Gay or European - as always this song is a personal highlight.
With direction and musical direction from Deb Brook and David Jones, there was a wonderful, supportive atmosphere in the theatre last night and audiences whooped and cheered throughout. The palpable camaraderie is a credit to Youth Onstage and they continue to work hard to deliver a good show.
This is the first time an amateur group in the area has been given the rights to perform this show. It is a musical “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” From the audience reaction of cheers when familiar characters appeared, I would say CMTS pulled this off perfectly.
We follow King Arthur as he gathers men to join him as knights at the round table. The Knights are sent on a quest to find the Holy Grail which takes them around the world and encountering a range of people who are determined to stop them.
The slightly unusual pre show announcement (courtesy of Eric Idle) sets the scene for a night of laughs and silliness. Everyone in the company continues in the over the top, hamming it up spirit as they fish Schlap, do a cheer routine, sing and dance their way through the show. The enthusiasm and enjoyment is infectious with smiles all round.
In a production with a very strong cast, Emma Wylde as the diva-ish Lady of the Lake makes a fantastic impression with her powerful and varied voice, her presence fills the stage. Anthony James as King Arthur is equally impressive, he remains a strong and authoritative figure at all times, no matter what random character he is reacting to. Other performances of note come from Matt Everitt as the faithful Patsy and Chris Arnold as the scared Sir Robin.
With a set and props that carry on beautifully in the Monty Python theme, the show not only sounds great but looks it too.
Spamalot is full of favourite Monty Python and the Holy Grail moments that will satisfy fans of the film. The slick performances and enthusiasm will ensure that no-one leaves the theatre disappointed. Coventry Musical Theatre Society produces another winning show.
The “staged” concert is becoming an increasingly popular format. It provides the opportunity to explore a range of genres, styles and song, whilst still allowing for the full-size production that will get audiences talking about it for weeks afterwards. Celebrating 50 years of successful productions, Aldridge Musical Comedy Society treated us all to their take on it, with an added bonus of some comedy and even some Irish Dance.
The opening number, One Day More from Les Misérables, set a good benchmark with some good solo vocals and a balanced, full sound from the whole company. The essence of the original was nicely captured with the traditional choreography from the show. It may have felt slightly out of place, as One Day More typically concludes the first act, however it didn’t detract from the performance at all.
What followed was a whistle stop tour of some of the most famous musicals of all time, including Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady and Oklahoma. Although there were no defined sections, the costuming was very effective at giving each tranche of numbers their own feel and atmosphere. Highlights of the opening half were On the Street Where You Live, from My Fair Lady, and Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma, sung by Stuart Brooke and Chris Parry. The company rendition of Oklahoma’s title number was also excellent. The choreography had real snap and this got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
An interesting twist was the self-written committee sketch. It was full of local references and would have tickled anyone who has been part of an am-dram society. It did feel a little bit incongruous in what had been up till then a very fast-paced performance. The first act’s closing number was Flash Bang Wallop from Half a Sixpence and had really great energy.
The second half was very much a continuation of the same theme – a fast paced journey through musicals spanning over 40 years. Highlights for the second half were undoubtedly Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers and the rousing finale, Jailhouse Rock from All Shook Up. Ending the night on an Elvis number was a great decision, as the whole audience were clapping along and gave a huge cheer at the end. Arguably the best performance of the evening was West Side Story’s Somewhere by Richard Beckett. It was beautifully sung and genuinely emotive.
Again, the second half showed AMCS’s willingness to break with tradition. There was a restaurant sketch, set in a restaurant that was completely silent, and a second showcase of the society’s dancers, this time in the form of Riverdance. It was nice to see that the line was flanked by a couple of men, as well. Richard Beckett can move as well as he can sing, and the other was a surprise cameo by the clearly multi-talented MD Mark Bayliss.
AMCS clearly has a wonderful company feel, and everyone on stage had a great time from start to finish. Fabulous at 50 was a great way to celebrate their 50 years- here’s to fifty more!
Set in Cornwall in 1936, against the backdrop of the turbulent years between the two World Wars, the lives of spinster sisters Ursula Wittington (Christine Bland) and Janet Wittington (Louise Price) were beautifully brought to life tonight by Hall Green Little Theatre in their well crafted production of Ladies in Lavender.
The story tells of the hum drum lives of the two sisters (cocoa, scones and knitting feature as highlights of their lives) which is duly transformed by the arrival of Andrea, a young Polish man played by Matt Ludlam, who is washed up on the beach in front of their house after a storm. It turns out that he is a gifted violinist, and when he subsequently meets Olga Daniloff, who has also arrived in the picturesque Cornwall village where the action takes place to perfect her artistic skills, he is taken to London by Olga to meet her brother Boris Daniloff, who is a violin virtuoso. The story ends with Andrea performing in a concert in London.
The tale is simple and it is this simplicity which allows it to delve dexterously and cleverly into the human relationships playing out in the 1936 Cornwall village. Christine Bland and Louise Price, sisters in real life, brought the problematic and fraught nature of two ageing siblings living with each other 365 days a year to life brilliantly as they in turn needled and comforted each other. They portrayed with surety the strong bond between them, as they alternately sparred and sympathised with each other over various matters such as Janet's betrothed dying in the First World War and the baking of an unusual pie containing pilchards and hard boiled eggs.
Ursula falls ridiculously hard for the young violinist, played with real confidence and assurance by Matt Ludlam, and the ludicrous nature of her school girl crush is brought to life when a 'rival', in the shape of artist Olga Daniloff, appears. Played with excellent precision and good characterisation by Rachael Louise Pickard, the foreign artist attracts the attentions of both the young violinist and the local widowed Doctor Mead, played with conviction by Andrew Cooley. He, like Ursula, falls for the 'wrong person', this time in the shape of Olga, and his embarrassed and ultimately doomed pursuance of the attractive young woman was put across with authenticity. His awkwardness at her rejection was felt by all the audience.
Some light moments were introduced with genuine assurance and comic timing by Mary Ruane who played the role of the part time helper of the Wittington sisters, Mrs Dorcas. She entertained the audience with her constant plying of all the characters with a succession of baking triumphs, such as cherry scones and plum cake, and appeared to have a crush on Doctor Mead, which only heightened her determination to feed him continually with her home made delights.
The uncomplicated set enhanced the play beautifully; the sisters' old fashioned home was authentic and offset well by the part of the set which represented the garden and open space looking out to the sea. The fact that there were no scene changes really aided the slickness and seamless moving on of the story between the Acts.
Massive congratulations have to go to the Director, Jean Wilde, who clearly had a vision for the play which worked perfectly. She produced a show of quality with a very small cast and the whole audience really felt drawn into the story and into the lives of the various characters by the high standard of acting and convincing characterisation by all on stage.
The props, lighting and back stage crew all contributed splendidly to the successful execution of this gentle, delicate story and the only downside were the empty seats in the auditorium. As this play runs until 27 May, there is no reason not to help change that by grabbing some tickets and to looking forward to being right royally entertained.
One of Shakespeare’s greatest works comes to Sutton Coldfield Town Hall this week in this dark, atmospheric production which strikingly captures the Bard’s 400-year-old tale of ambition, murder and destiny fulfilled at great cost.
Simon Garrington turns in an impressive performance as Macbeth, capturing his descent from respected general to maddened king with great skill – particularly in the second act when his character’s growing paranoia yields increasingly gruesome consequences.
Meanwhile Rosalyn Paterson is captivating as Lady M – capturing her transformation from ruthlessly ambitious wife to guilt-ridden madwoman beautifully. The destiny laid out for Macbeth is never quite as clear to him and Garrington portrays this inner struggle well – contrasting well with the relentlessly ambitious Lady Macbeth.
Elsewhere Ben Thorne impresses as Macbeth’s doomed ally Banquo and Lyle Mitchell is superb as the vengeful Macduff. Hannah Perrin, Sarra Theressa and Rachel Barnes make a haunting trio as the prophetic witches. And there’s good support from Robin Johnson as the trustworthy and ultimately victorious Malcolm.
The production is well-staged and scenes move into one another seamlessly, with lighting and visual effects complimenting the action well. Some extremely impressive combat scenes deserve a special mention – this was especially effective in the heart-stopping climax.
Congratulations to producer and director, Ben Field, his cast and everyone involved in this excellent production of Shakespeare’s great tragedy. It wasn’t so long ago that the town hall was under threat of closure. For audiences to have missed out on productions like this would have been the real tragedy.
Macbeth runs at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall until Saturday 27 May.
Adam Sandlers classic cult comedy film 'The Wedding Singer' was given a new lease of life at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, in its second UK tour since its first performance in 2006.
Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy's musical makes its intentions very clear from the outset, this will be a fantastically fun and carefree night of comedy, and it sure delivered on that front. From the moment Ben Cracknell's lighting design dazzles the audience, with Sklar's joyous overture, the audiences faces were grinning with delight.
Nick Winston's direction and choreography was hilarious, outrageous and inventive throughout the production, a stand out moment coming from the choreography at Act Ones finale 'Saturday Night in The City'.
Jon Robyns played an hilarious Robbie Hart throughout the performance, engaging the audience throughout the piece and allowing the audience to see every essence of his characters journey throughout the show. Equally, Cassie Compton played a brilliant Julia Sullivan, and the pairing of the two together was beautiful, a true leading pair. Ray Quinn was showcased wonderfully as Glen Gulia, showing how he truly is a triple threat musical theatre performer. The highlight of the night however, was the unexpected double act of Ruth Madoc's Rosie and Samuel Homles George, the pair absolute blew the audience away, especially in Act Two, with a song that words couldn't do justice!
The whole cast however, should be commended for energy and effort that was shown throughout the production, not once did I ever feel the pace of the piece drop, and this could be seen from the tight nit ensembles commitment throughout the show, each playing an array of characters so well, that it would be a tough job trying to tell who was playing who!
There were unfortunately a few technical issues on the first, despite Francis O Connor's inventive use of projection, the sound of the sets transitions were distracting and Ben Harrison's sound design was unbalanced, unfortunately the dialogue and songs were lost to an overpowering band. It was a shame that for a show that was so heavily involved in a rock band, that the vocals of the piece were lost, especially with Chad Beguelin's hilarious lyrics.
The Wedding Singer is an incredible 3 hours of escapism and the perfect care free summer treat. Catch it while you can at The New Alexandra Theatre – Birmingham.
The Woman in Black has earned a spine-chilling reputation over the years. Audiences across the world have witnessed this eerie spectacle on stage and now it arrives at Wolverhampton Grand for a strictly limited run.
This two-hander is ably performed by the dynamic pairing of David Acton as Arthur Kipps and Matthew Spencer as The Actor, and 27 years on the story of the Woman in Black is still just as chilling.
The main fault lies in the darkness of the theatre. It didn't feel eerie enough when the audience were plunged into darkness, with bright exit signs shining out into the auditorium. The thought of not being able to see the hand in front of your face or the person next to you was the sort of experience I craved. That aside, this did not detract from the impeccable acting from Acton and Spencer. They delivered enthralling performances, holding the audience in the palm of their hands as they shared this creepy tale.
Michael Holt's set design is a masterstroke. Conjuring up the unsettling Eel Marsh House, with particularly striking moments in the nursery scene. On the whole though, the beauty lies in the simplicity of the set and props. This is storytelling at its finest. A wonderful sequence featuring 'Spider the dog' is cleverly imagined and the use of sound (Rod Mead) heightens the tense atmosphere, as ear-piercing screams ring out through the theatre. Lighting (Kevin Sleep) further assisted with the transition of scenes and was again simple, yet effective.
It didn't deliver scares on the level expected, but it certainly unnerves you. And the very end leaves you with a tingle down your spine.
Based on The Who & Pete Townshend's concept album from 1969 - Tommy, the musical of the same name narrates the story of a young ‘deaf, dumb and blind kid’ who’s ability to play a pinball machine leads to both his success and downfall. It is a heartwarming story about isolation, family and communication and in this production by New Wosley Theatre Ipswich and Ramps On The Moon it is one of the most visually striking pieces of new musical theatre and casting a deaf actor - William Grint – as Tommy, really provides strength in performance as the character is abused and led astray before breaking down at the end as his success becomes overpowering.
Neil Irish’s strikingly appropriate set design is impacting right from the preset. It reflects not only the inside of a metal pin ball machine but also the harsh metallic feel of the 1940s wartime Britain with colour changing light bulbs and LED strips down the set. The addition of having the show’s band (lead by Musical Director Robert Hyman) on view upstage is also nice allowing for a constant reminder that this is a musical story. Even with this, it does not feel like a standard jukebox musical and is instead fully integrating in its music and narrative, making its appearance fresh and relatable. Design in the show reaches a real high point at the end of act one: Pinball Wizard which is punchy and poignant as Townshend's music soars across the metallic set, and the stage explodes into colour and movement, heightened by Arnim Friess lighting and AV design which really reflects the inside of a pinball machine.
Ramps on the Moon's enhancements in utilising accessible theatre in the performers and staging is what is the real success behind the piece. Placing the protagonists’ disabilities as a ‘deaf, dumb and blind child’, as the thematic driving force for the take on this musical really lifts the piece and its integration into the main staging of it through Kerry Michael’s direction really works. Alongside this, Mark Smith’s choreography is cleverly driven by sign language itself, lifting the words through what is being sung and being captioned onto the back wall.
One element that could be worked is the underdeveloped plot points in the latter of act two and a particular lack of character exploration in the young girl Sally (Amy Trigg) and Acid Queen (Peter Straker). Despite the two being very strong performers – and Straker's vocals are immense for the role – their characters are questionable in the grand scheme of the narrative.
The rest of the cast are also strong, with particular highlights from Julian Capolei and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan as the voices of Tommy and Alim Jayda as Frank (the lover). The three are strong vocally in these roles and really lift Townshend’s writing during their moments on the show. Additionally, the female collaboration in the show comes in the relationship between Donna Mullings as Tommy’s mum Nora and her voice – Shekinah McFarlane. The two are inseparable as the character, with Mullings' performance being reflected by McFarlane’s electrifying voice particularly in the moments with her husband Captain Walker (Max Runham) whose actor musicianship really lifted his moments in the role. On the whole the integration of performer musicians was clever, with it soon becoming apparent that these performers truly are the most versatile and multitalented in the industry.
Do not miss this spectacle of new theatre at The REP, before it continues its UK tour.
A slice of the West End was brought to Burton this week as Mellow Dramatics present the Laurents, Styne and Sondheim musical, Gypsy.
Director Tom Brassington has set himself and the Mellow team a monumental task, but they tackled the challenge of this show head on. Taking on perhaps one of the most iconic female leads, Sharon Plummer has huge shoes to fill as the overbearing Mama Rose. With some facial expressions reminiscent of Imelda Staunton herself, Plummer brought an admirable gumption to the role, paired with strong comic timing she delivered an assured performance – it would be really lovely to see the raw emotion shine through even more in her songs.
Taking on the roles of her two daughters, pushed to the limit on the Vaudeville circuit, the pairing of Emilie Arnoux as the downtrodden Louise and Hannah Parker as June was a delight. Their duet of If Momma Was Married was a vocal highlight, with beautiful harmonies soaring through under the musical direction of Sara Kimber. Arnoux’s character development was truly impressive and she really stood out in Let Me Entertain You.
There was support from Joe Bromfield as hapless agent Herbie and Rhys Jones came into his own as Tulsa, particularly in All I Need Is The Girl and there was a lovely cameo from Lily Dunne as Baby Jane. Special mention, however, must go to the incredibly versatile Dan Robb, who not only played multiple roles throughout, but transitioned seamlessly between accents. No mean feat.
With a bubbly ensemble, enhanced by some nice choreography from Andrea Osborne, Mellow Dramatics delivered a show of much merit. Tackling a complex score and some of the most iconic musical songs, it is certainly a congratulations to all involved.
At its debut in 1983 La Cage aux Folles was already ahead of its time, opening to criticism and claims that the musical - centred around a love story involving 2 male protagonists - was an attempt to mainstream homosexuality.
Back and revamped for the national tour, the story remains just as relevant over thirty years on. The lavish production currently making it’s way around the country is an unapologetic exploration of human relationships irrespective of sexual preference, and continues to highlight the importance of acceptance and inclusion of the gay and trans community.
Set on the French Riviera, the show is immersive from the outset, and opens with nightclub owner Georges (Adrian Zmed) and the introduction of his sensational chorus line Les Cagelles, who deliver relentless and high-energy choreography throughout – no mean feat, in 4 inch heels and sky-scraper headdresses. The jewel of La Cage’s crown is the inimitable Zsa Zsa (John Partridge) a.k.a Albin, Georges’ high-maintenance but devoted wife and surrogate co-parent to Georges’ 24 year old son, Jean-Michele (Dougie Carter). With a surprise engagement announcement, Jean-Michele throws the couple’s life into chaos, owing to his betrothed being the daughter of career politician Edouard Dindon (Paul Monaghan). As Deputy General of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party he publically pledged to eradicate drag and cabaret clubs, and association with Jean-Michele’s family could pose a problem.
What follows is a hilarious tale of deception, reconciliation and a family’s love as Georges and Albin try to hide their relationship and identities from Dindon.
For a small company, the ensemble create a big impression, headed by Zmed who confidently delivers strong vocals and endearing character. Similarly, John Partidge is nothing short of magnificent as both leading man and leading lady. With exuberance and grace he embodies Zsa Zsa and her over-the-top eccentricities, but as Albin he displays tenderness, vulnerability and humility. Pride anthem and Act 1 finale I Am What I Am was spellbinding and had the audience on their feet and rightly so, as his stage persona crumbled and for the first time emotion took hold.
Criticism has been made in earlier reviews of Partridge’s cheeky over-egged scripted ‘ad-lib’ section in the preceding scene, but if anything it just served to show the split in personality between showgirl Zsa Zsa and Albin. Similar comment has been passed on the noticeable age-gap between the leading men, but with Zmed’s unique old-hollywood style charm it’s easy to see why a younger budding starlet might fall hard, and vice versa. Their relationship was played out with beautiful familiarity - as long-time lovers should - and was a joy to watch.
Of merit too, were Monaghan’s Dindon as the chauvinistic villain, and Marti Webb’s wonderfully grandiose local restauranteur, Jacqueline.
The bones of the production were brought to life by a rousing band and a sumptuous set, transforming between the lavish setting of the night club and Georges and Albin’s apartment in its varying state of décor – a credit to musicians, designers and production staff alike.
So throw off your inhibitions, grab a feather boa and head over to the Birmingham Hippodrome to enjoy this hilarious and fabulously fun tour de force of a production, playing until Saturday – La Cage aux Folles will not disappoint!
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