There is no doubt that the Midlands is filled with young theatre talent. And that was yet again proved tonight in the company of Lichfield Garrick Youth Theatre.
The raucous rock melodies of Green Day blasted through the theatre as the 43-strong cast energetically took to the stage in an utterly riveting performance of American Idiot that kept you hooked from beginning to end.
It was slick, with a more than competent cast who shone throughout. The three leading men were superb - Dominic Sterland as Will, Elliot Lolley as Tunny and Chris Buckle as Johnny were forces to be reckoned with. Especially Buckle's gritty and more-than-impressive performance of Johnny.
Rocky vocals reigned in Will Stevenson's performance as St Jimmy and excellent cameos from Lydia Gardiner as Whatsername and Harry Singh as Joshua/Favourite Son.
Jessica Lambert and Oliver Rowe make a formidable creative duo. Direction, Musical Direction and Choreography married together perfectly, with rousing harmonies, unquestionable pace and carefully orchestrated dances. Particular musical highlights included Holiday, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, 21 Guns and Wake Me Up When September Ends.
You'd be an 'idiot' not to miss this show! Playing until Saturday 2 April at Lichfield Garrick.
Shakespeare and sci-fi make strange bedfellows, but when the 2 collide with the vibrant energy of Tamworth Arts Club in Return to the Forbidden Planet the genres come together to make a thoroughly entertaining show, packed with toe-tapping rock and roll numbers.
The story is loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’and the 1950’s science fiction film ‘Forbidden Planet’ - which was also based on the bard’s masterpiece. A regular survey mission under the command of the dashing Captain Tempest (Adam Gregory) is pulled into a remote planet by a tractor beam. When they land they come across the “mad” Doctor Prospero (James Gorton) who was sent into hyperspace by his evil wife Gloria after working late one night in his laboratory on his mystery formula, “X”. They are introduced to Miranda (Stacey Ward), Prospero’s daughter, who was unwittingly sent into pace with her father. Both Captain Tempest and the ships cook, Cookie (Conner Brooks) fall for the beautiful Miranda and compete to win her affections. The crew come under attack from a gigantic alien.
During the attack, the ship’s missing science officer reappears at the airlock, and in order to save her, the captain orders it open, allowing the monster’s giant tentacles to penetrate and damage the ship’s hull. The science officer is revealed to be none other than Gloria (Nik Ellis), Prospero’s wife.
Act 2 opens with the ship still under attack from the giant alien, which is finally repulsed thanks to Prospero’s faithful android, Ariel. Gloria vows revenge on her husband by persuading Cookie to steal the formula X in return for advice on winning over Miranda. The monster reappears and is eventually revealed as a manifestation of Prospero’s Id, or subconscious mind, thanks to Formula x and he sacrifices himself to save the crew. As the planet was also created by Prospero’s Id it begins to self-destruct. The crew escape and Tempest flies off with Miranda as his bride.
With the story conveyed entirely in Iambic Pentameter, you may have expected some of the dialogue to be quite laboured but the talented actors were more than able to convey the comedy at the heart of the show. There were extracts from a number of Shakespeare’s plays, some of which were lovingly changed to suit a space adventure (“2 beeps or not 2 beeps”). Many of the principals, Gregory and Gorton in particular, had flawless delivery and had clearly tackled Shakespeare before.
The vocals were very strong throughout, with Gregory and Gorton once again shining. Stacey Ward was also very convincing as Miranda and solos were all well sung. The ensemble numbers really brought the show to life with their tremendous energy and tight choreography. The only negative was the brevity of the show’s sole tap number which showcased the talent of some of the company’s young dancers. The band were also excellent, with guitarist Jonathan Hood giving a great solo in the first half.
All in all, this was a very funny show, packed with Shakespeare and Sci-Fi references which will leave you counting how many you got. The company were energetic all night and the rousing medley of hits at the end will have you singing as you blast off all the way back home.
Return to the Forbidden Planet runs from 29 March – 2 April.
Godspell is a really, really tough show to pull off. The story of the last few days of Christ’s life is familiar to musical theatre audiences through Jesus Christ Superstar, of course, but this 1971 Off-Broadway hit by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and John-Michael Tebelak is a completely different take on the story.
Told as a series of very anarchic scenes depicting the Parables, with the songs serving as a respite for the audience, and highlighting the emotions, rather than moving the plot forward, this musical provides a real challenge to any director and their cast.
I am very pleased to say that, largely, Stratford Musical Theatre pulled it off in this vibrant and touching performance for Easter week at the RSC’s, The Other Place, a small 200 seat black box space.
The company was excellently led by the charismatic Connor Clemons in the very taxing role of Jesus. Part leading man, part MC, part comic, part tragedian, this is a role that can be difficult for very experienced performers to pull off.
Leading a very young ensemble cast Clemons demonstrated great presence and timing, as well as a delicate but strong voice, ideal to Schwartz’s folk-rock score. And anyone who can pull off an initial entrance into a show as Clemons was asked to do certainly has balls!
As Judas / John the Baptist William Gorst provided a suitably sonorous foil. Equally at home in the slapstick sketches, or delivering the coup de graçe the climax of this story requires Gorst was a physical and emotional presence more than up to the task.
The rest of the 11-strong ensemble worked their socks off. The energy and commitment they threw at the series of often farcical parables was a wonder to behold. It is a complete credit to them and director Alan Gill that the reactions between the actors on opening night was pin sharp. Clearly they had worked very closely together on setting the scenes, and I would not be at all surprised if it turned out that the director had allowed the cast a lot of input in workshopping these scenes, so exceptional was the timing of the verbal and physical comedy. Not a trick was missed with the staging; 2 boxes and 2 planks became a table, a slide, a jail, a puppet theatre, the entrance to both Heaven and Hell, and the stage for a vaudeville Cane & Soft Shoe routine.
The vocals displayed by the company was generally strong, with Karen Welsh and Lauren Rensy-Clarke’s duet for On the Willows a particular highlight, and harmonies secure for the most part.
Overall, this show was a huge credit to SMTC's cast and production team. The 4-piece band was led by Musical Director Gary Lewis, and Choreography by Julie Bedlow-Howard. It was well received on opening night, with some audience members on their feet.
This show deserves to do well this week.
Godspell runs at The Other Place until Saturday 2 April.
With a plotline that hinges on the consequences of an early miscommunication, this production of The Government Inspector is ironically a multi-lingual masterpiece that celebrates communication in all forms.
A collaboration between Birmingham Repertory Theatre and exciting new project Ramps On The Moon; the adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical comedy effortlessly blends sign language, audio description, captioning, digital projection and the slickest physical comedy into a performance that takes inclusive theatre to a whole new level. Nothing here is overstated or included as a token gesture. This is not a production giving a nod to accessibility simply to tick boxes. From the elegant set design and the subtle use of digital projection, to the fully signed and interpreted performances; the various facets of the production hang together so well that it is difficult to imagine how the play would work without including any one of them.
The story follows a group of civil servants in a provincial town as they react to the news of an impending visit from a government official. With the hospital a health hazard, an unequipped army, unfinished building projects and rioting in school classrooms they have a great deal to be worried about in the advent of the incognito official visit. So when a stranger arrives from St Petersburg they will go to any lengths to see that he is treated to the very best hospitality that the town can offer.
There are excellent performances throughout, with the company of actors and interpreters creating a captivating ensemble piece from which it is difficult to single any individual out. The script races along with flair and a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek delivery that brings out the very best in Gogol’s satire, but also takes the opportunity to laugh at the production itself.
This is billed as Roxana Silbert’s ground-breaking production and it truly is a show that pushes at the boundaries of what has been considered inclusive theatre in the past. Theatre practitioners, teachers, students, audiences can learn a huge amount from this production and enjoy a hilarious night in the theatre to boot. This is the first in a series of nationwide projects by Ramps On The Moon and the bar has been set at the highest level for those set to follow.
The Government Inspector plays at The REP until Saturday 26 March, before embarking on a UK tour.
I had the pleasure of being invited to a charity concert at Redditch Palace Theatre on Saturday. One Night Only featured a talented bunch of individuals who joined together to raise money for MACS.
The eclectic programme featured numbers from a variety of musicals, some very familiar and others less heard of. This made the evening ahead even more exciting.
As the ensemble broke into Just Arrived (Copacabana), it was clear that the audience were in safe and experienced hands, with joyous harmonies from the outset.
With songs from Smash, Avenue Q, Evita, I Love You Because, Sweet Charity and Little Shop Of Horrors (to name a few) it was a brilliant evening of entertainment.
Sophie Grogan's vocals shone through the night and there was a near show-stealing performance from Emily Summers as she performed If They Could See Me Now (Sweet Charity) - it was sheer perfection.
The men were equally impressive with lovely vocals, particularly showcased in Santa Fe/Seize the Day (Newsies). Daniel Summers, Ryan Allen and Ash Clifford each brought their own unique stamp to their performances.
But, it was Aaron Gibson that stole many of the laughs in his hilarious number To Excess - it was simply hysterical.
Lovely cameos came from Sarah Pavlovs and Dean Bayliss, with short extracts from the charming musical, I Love You Because and Emma Davies performing Vanilla Ice Cream from She Loves Me.
However, the standout of the night came from the entire ensemble as their rousing harmonies in Nobody's Side (Chess) were spine-tingling.
All in all, it was a dazzling evening of entertainment from an experienced group of performers, exquisitely showcasing the abundance of talent in the Midlands and beyond!
It says a lot for BOA Musical Theatre when they are able to cast a full-scale musical two times over. I had the pleasure of seeing Company B on stage tonight, but judging by what I've heard, Company A have also delivered a stunning performance of the Olivier Award nominated The Witches of Eastwick.
It is safe to say that the future is bright for these talented students, who brought the small, picket-town of Eastwick right into the heart of Birmingham tonight. Each performance was unfaltering, not one quiver, not one slow scene change. It was slick, sharp and bloody brilliant.
The calibre of acting, singing and dancing talent was breath-taking across the whole company. All in excellent voice, and each had a beaming stage presence. There is no doubt that the quality of this production exceeded their years, exuding professionalism from the outset.
The trio of witches were utterly delightful. Each with fabulous voices (and harmonies to match), Talulla Wheatley (Alexandra Spofford), Heather Foster (Jane Smart) and Lydia Gardiner (Sukie Rougemount) individually shone in their roles, and the rather suave Jack Sanders was perfectly cast in the role of Darryl Van Horne.
Brilliant performances also came from the endearing pairing of Andrew Smith as Michael Spofford and Harriet Davenport as Jennifer Gabriel. As well as impressive cameos from Frederica Williams-Davies as the bolshie Felicia Gabriel, and Dylan Hartnell as the long-suffering Clyde Gabriel.
After seeing the abundance of talent on stage tonight, it would be more than easy to list off each and every person on and off stage, for the sheer time and effort into making this production a magical evening out. But, it cannot go amiss that massive congratulations should also go to the creative team behind this show, including director Rian Holloway, choreographer Lee Crowley and musical director Michelle King who have clearly worked tirelessly behind the scenes.
Huge congratulations class of 2016, your futures are certainly bright you talented bunch!
Honk! It's the definitive fairy-tale; an age old story about acceptance, friendship and love in spite of differences. So it's no coincidence that even 170 years after it was first penned by Hans Christian Andersen, almost everyone over the age of about five would know the story of The Ugly Duckling. In their colourful, fun-filled and energetic production of the musical adaptation of the story, Honk!, Tudor Musical Comedy Society do their damnedest to bring the heart-warming tale to life. Max Thompson-Brooks is suitably bashful as Ugly and plays the protagonist with a charming vulnerability with a nice stage presence. His performance is all the more impressive given he is just 15 years old. This was his first show with the society and on this evidence it will certainly not be his last.
As his parents Drake and Ida, Paul Lumsden and Paula O’Hare are the production’s shining lights. Lumsden plays Drake with a booming charm and humour and a strong vocal that was delightful from start to finish. His cameo as the cockney Bullfrog later in the show was equally enjoyable and funny. It’s Lumsden’s 20th year performing in the area and you can tell; he so very comfortable on stage – a pleasure to watch. O’Hare too was excellent. She has a beautifully effortless voice and really lights up the stage as Ugly's adoring mother. There's a lovely chemistry between her and Thompson-Brooks.
A slightly long first act comes to a colourful close before Sarah Clarke and Carly Hyland kick off the second act in style. The pair make an excellent twosome, Hyland as Lowbutt, the frightfully middle class hen, and Clarke as her equally snooty cat companion Queniee. Hyland in particular has a lovely poise and really brought out the comedy in her lines.
Elsewhere Alan Waldron is perfect as the sonorous and majorly Grey-lag and Mia Turley as his young sidekick Dot has a confidence beyond her years, while Nathan Rock is entertaining as the sly Cat who is always finding new ways to try and eat Ugly.
As the familiar tale unfolds, Ugly’s young siblings add colour and humour, while scene changes were for the most part very smoothly done with nice interludes; including some glow in the dark puppetry when Ugly takes a dive.
There's certainly no shortage of talent in the society but if there is one slight problem with the show it is the story. The Ugly Duckling is of course a children's fairy-tale but at the risk of stating the obvious, like the story, the musical is just a little juvenile and uneventful for adult audiences.
That's not the society's fault though. They've cast and delivered the production just about as well as it could be performed. In truth this is a show to take your kids to and enjoy through them more than it is a show for adults. But there's no harm at all in good family fun and director Faye O’Leary and her team have plenty to be proud of.
MUSCOM graced the Wolverhampton Grand stage tonight as they presented the 1980s musical, Fame. Based on the film of the same name, the story follows a group of performing arts students as they navigate their way through high school.
The impressive, tiered staging provided the perfect setting for slick scene changes and worked well in the large ensemble numbers, adding a variety of levels.
One of the most outstanding elements of the night was the incredibly well executed choreography, under the more than capable direction of Denise Robinson. I should add that she also the very talented director and producer of the show!
Superb performances came from the whole cast, and under the musical direction of James Maddison, there were fabulous harmonies throughout, which built up to the rousing finale of Bring on Tomorrow.
Fame hungry Carmen was excellently played by Georgia Hudson, feisty and fierce she was well cast in the role. Liam Sargeant was equally brilliant as the 'too cool for school' Joe Vegas, especially in the uproarious number Can't Keep It Down.
Laura Canadine was a scene stealer as Mabel, captivating the audience with her hilarious facial expressions. It really does go to show that even without lines you can still steal a scene. She also exuberantly belted out Mabel's Prayer which was a particular highlight of the night.
Triple threat, Jason Guest, encompassed all that I admire in a theatre performer, exquisite dancing, good vocals and engrossing acting. Alongside this, there were particularly admirable performances from Jess Olford as Serena Katz and Luke Bennett as Nick Piazza.
Colette Forsyth received one of the warmest receptions of the night as she took centre stage in These Are My Children. A vocal powerhouse, she was greeted with a whooping, rapturous applause at the end.
The tireless effort of the entire cast and creative team was abundantly clear and MUSCOM should be more than proud of what they have achieved.
Fame plays at Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 19 March.
If you read the Jackie magazine as a teenager in the 70s, this is the show for you. In essence it is a love story complete with the need to turn to an agony aunt for answers. Add to that a selection of 70s music and you have a fun filled evening.
Jackie, the soon to be divorced 50 something woman, is sorting through her attic in preparation for the move out of the marital home. She finds a box of old Jackie magazines and starts to flick through them. Her alter ego appears in the form of her teenage self, full of excitement and wonder at what her life will hold, the young Jackie stays around offering advice straight from the pages of the magazine while the other Jackie, with the encouragement of her best friend and the local bar tender, tries to find love again. Does she find that love? Will her sons unrequited love be returned?
With a nifty bit of hairdressing and mirroring movements it is very clear from the start that Daisy Steere is the young Jackie to Janet Dibley’s current day Jackie. The dynamic between the two Jackie’s is an interesting one, it is one of balance, neither is the boss, they are equals, not the more experienced looking down on the naivety and youth of the other. Steere oozed with teenage exuberance and optimism. There were many stand out moments in the show, Frankie (Bob Harms) and David (Michael Hamway) both took centre stage with powerful voices for a song or two, to tell you which ones will spoil the story. The dancing was intricate, energetic and snappy, it was hard to know where to look at times with the dancers all giving extremely polished performances. While the main set was static there were moving parts that transformed it for each scene, the lighting adding to this to fantastic effect.
I have never heard a reaction from the audience like the one I heard tonight when a plot twist revealed itself, the penny dropping was audible as it swept around the theatre. This to me showed how engaged the audience were, although that wasn't in any doubt. Almost every song had the audience singing along and swaying in their seats, when it came to the end and the obligatory musical medley curtain call, the whole theatre was on its feet dancing, clapping and singing. There were many knowing laughs too, the script was perfectly tuned to ladies of a certain age while still triggering laughs from other members of the audience.
Jackie the Musical is a jukebox musical; using songs from an era that many are nostalgic about, this is very likely to make it a hit as it tours around the country. Grab a group of friends and go along for a fabulous fun night out.
Jackie runs at Belgrade Theatre until 19 March.
Jesus Christ Superstar was first staged back in 1971, but after seeing CATS (Chaddesley Amateur Theatre Society) perform the show tonight there is no doubt that this show continues to be supremely popular. Within the wonderfully quaint setting of St Cassian's Church, this theatre group brought the iconic rock opera superbly to life.
Leading the cast was Cy Wooldridge as Jesus. Ably depicting this iconic role, he not only looked the part, but sounded the part too. His voice was in good form, with a particularly notable rendition of Gethsemane. Kim Lavender reprised her role as Mary Magdalene, having previously played the part with another local group. She dazzled, and although her mic seemed quiet during I Don’t Know How To Love Him, you could still hear every word.
Some fantastic cameos came from the utterly brilliant Mark Horne as Herod and Tom Robinson as Simon. Robinson’s voice was incredible in Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem – there were gasps from audience members by the end of his song. There was also strong support from Hugh Richards (Peter), Steve Coussens (Pilate), Barry Carpenter (Caiaphas) and Matthew Tunnicliffe (Annas).
Last and by no means least, it was George Stuart who really shone in this show. His unfaltering vocals, engrossing acting and stage presence were a joy to watch and combined with the rest of this talented group the show was a mighty achievement.
With elegant dancing, it was amazing that the chorus, dancers and apostles could all fit onto the stage; a big well done to Anna Forster for her carefully planned and excellent choreography. Kudos, also, to Jonathan Hill (MD) who masterfully directed the rousing orchestra to the fantastic Superstar climax.
Under the admirable direction of Matthew Tunnicliffe, it is clear that Jesus Christ Superstar truly is an ensemble piece and every single member of the cast and crew played their part in making this show a success. From the chorus, to the choir and the apostles and dancers, CATS delivered an atmospheric production, which the sell-out audiences for the rest of the run will be enthralled by.
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