Our House is a quirky ska/pop musical with music and lyrics from Madness and a book by Tim Firth. The show played to critical acclaim in London receiving an Olivier award for Best New Musical and Solihull on Stage have brought this show to life at Solihull Arts Complex.
The story follows the journey of Joe Casey, a Camden lad whose life takes two different directions on the evening of his 16th birthday. As he attempts to impress the girl of his dreams, Joe breaks into a building development and when the police turn up Good Joe stays behind, but Bad Joe flees. The show unfolds with the iconic Madness music underpinning the plot.
Opening with a touching scene between Joe Casey's Mum and Dad, there was an explosion of colour, as an energetic and enthusiastic ensemble took the stage with an infectious performance of Our House. We are immediately introduced to Joe, played brilliantly by Matt Branson, he flawlessly switched between his Bad and Good alter egos and he deserves an award for the number of costume changes he had to undergo. As the show twists and turns between his two lives, Stephan Hayes (playing Joe's deceased Dad) eased the transitions as he narrated the story of his son.
His love interest Sarah is played beautifully by Emma Doran. She came into her element in the second half as she performed N.W.5 and, paired with Branson, they expertly delivered a heartfelt rendition of It Must Be Love. Musically directed by Mel O'Donnell, the harmonies were tight throughout and they packed a punch in the ensemble numbers.
The talented supporting principals were played superbly by Dani Godwin, Suzanne Brittain, James Gough and Nicholas Tuck, all delivering excellent performances. Jack Bushell and Keith Parry shone through as Joe's friends Lewis and Emmo, they garnered many a laugh throughout the night with their fantastic portrayals.
The second half of the show was powerful as Joe's alternate lives reached two parallel climaxes. His relationship with his Mum (played poignantly by Emma Wheeler) takes two drastic directions and the heart of the story comes to the forefront. As an audience member, you could see the commitment the entire group had for this show and the abundance of energy that was poured into it.
So, if you're looking for a night that's wacky, crazy and downright mad, then Our House is the musical for you.
Solihull On Stage present Our House at Solihull Arts Complex until 2 May. For more information and to book tickets click here or call Solihull Arts Complex box office on 0121 704 6962.
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This first adaptation for the stage of Agatha Christie’s earliest thriller comes to Coventry, bringing with it the feel of bygone days.
You are transported to London in the 1920s, a time of uncertainty but hope for the future. This thriller taps into that and delivers a complex and twisting plot that is so typical to this genre. Tommy and Tuppence decide to become adventurers to make their money. Before they can find an adventure, it finds them when Tuppence unwittingly uses a false name which is significant to those around her. They are hired by Sir James to investigate the disappearance of the mysterious Jane Fish. From then on nothing is as it seems.
There are just seven cast members in this production. Quick costume changes allow them to play multiple parts. They also provide the music for the musical interludes and dramatic moments. Morgan Philpott is the band leader, narrator and magician who invites the audience into the play. His piercing and expressive eyes add to the tension. Our bold adventurers Tommy and Tuppence are played by Emerald O’Hanrahan and Garmon Rhys with conviction and enthusiasm throughout. The cast are constantly changing characters and running around the set without losing the drama of the piece.
The set is a design triumph, not only does it look good but it enables the chases and fast paced action to flow unhindered around the stage. There is a slight tongue in cheek feel about the production, aided by the interaction with the audience and the use of stylised props. This may not sit comfortably with some Agatha Christie fans, although the adaptation has tried to retain much of her original story.
The Secret Adversary is a perfect introduction to mystery thrillers of this era. An enjoyable romp that keeps you guessing until the end.
The Secret Adversary runs at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 2 May. To book, call the Belgrade Theatre Box Office on 024 7655 3055 or click here and book online.
"To me, it is delightful", Sir Thomas More declares in Union Theatre's accomplished production of Robert Bolt’s renowned play, A Man For All Seasons - and it is indeed delightful.
Based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England, this compelling version focuses on the last seven years of his life, in particular the fierce struggle between Thomas and his King, Henry VIII. Whilst Henry is determined to break with Rome so he can divorce his wife Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, the staunchly Catholic More internally battles with his inability to go along with such heresy. With hugely successful stage and screen adaptations of Hilary Mantel's best selling novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, there is currently a real interest in this rich period of history - and the Solihull-based Union Theatre do not disappoint.
The story is confidently brought to life by a strong cast. Mark Firmstone gives a convincing portrayal of the perilously moral Thomas More, and Victoria Ellery-Jones gives a poignant and powerful performance as his long-suffering wife, Alice. Special mentions also go to the engaging Rosie Jewell as their daughter Margaret, and to Jackie Justham, who injects welcome doses of humour in her wonderfully diverse roles as the Common Woman.
An intelligent and complex play, this humour is balanced by a real sadness, which we see in the play’s emotional examination of the strength of More’s integrity and the effect of this upon those around him. Sir Thomas More stays true to his conscience but, whilst he retains his principles, he ultimately loses his wife and family in the process.
The setting of St Edburgha's Church in Yardley plays an interesting and significant role in itself. Steeped in the historical context of the production, the North Wall of the church is adorned with a stunning carved door to celebrate the first wedding of Catherine of Aragon to Henry’s brother Prince Arthur. The parish of Yardley was also given to Catherine as part of her divorce settlement from Henry when their marriage ended, giving a truly immersive sense of being transported back to the era we see skilfully depicted on stage.
Founded in 1979, Union Theatre is an amateur group affiliated with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and NODA West Midlands and won a Best Drama Award for their version of The Government Inspector at the NODA West Midlands Regional Awards 2013. Having last performed Peter Pan The Musical, their latest offering perfectly showcases their talent and versatility as a company.
Union Theatre's production of A Man For All Seasons runs at St Edburgha's Church until Saturday 25 April. For more information and to book, call the ticket hotline on 0121 784 4067.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I is a classic musical, and one that has been performed worldwide since its debut in 1951. Lichfield Operatic Society have embraced the show with both hands, giving it a new lease of life and delivering a professionally polished production that would be sure to make the theatre's patron, Elaine Paige (a former Mrs Anna herself), incredibly proud.
With musical direction from Jack Hopkins the orchestra open with the most wonderful overture, transporting the audience to the decadent and visually striking Kingdom of Siam. Not one penny has been spared on this production, it has been a worthy investment judging by tonight's full house. We are very quickly acquainted with Mrs Anna and Louis Leonowens (played by the delightful Lewis McLaren) who are greeted to shore by the frank and physically impressive Kralaholme (played by Fidel Lloyd). It is clear that Lichfield Operatic Society members are passionate about theatre and serious about their craft as incredibly capable singers and gifted performers grace the stage in abundance; surely all the talent in Lichfield was at The Garrick.
The leads deserve a special mention. Both superbly cast and absorbed by their roles they prove themselves performers of high calibre who would not be out of place on a West End stage. Jordan Adams successfully portrays the King of Siam, brutal but likeable, with a charming self-righteousness. Dawn Welch takes on the independent and dignified Mrs Anna, bringing warmth and perfect poise to the role. The King and Mrs Anna's connection is playful and endearing, both proud and each intrigued by the other, there is a genuine spark to their relationship. All tensions are released during Shall We Dance, full of energy it serves as the highpoint of the show before Mrs Anna exposes the King's conscience, wounding his pride.
Lavish sets and stunning costumes bring the production to life. Lighting is well designed and used and assists beautifully in setting the mood of each scene. Sound quality is excellent and the large stage is used to its full potential thanks to the direction of Julie Mallaband and choreography of Jess Lambert. Dances are alert and lively, oriental gestures and mannerisms are well executed, and voices are well trained. The show is smooth and engaging, a feast for the eyes and a joy to the ears, and a credit to Lichfield Operatic Society.
Tickets are now very limited, so make sure to book as soon as you can. For more information and to get your tickets click here or call Lichfield Garrick box office on 01543 412 121.
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If you're searching for a show that will leave a smile on your face, look no further than The Producers. Following the story of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, who set out to produce the ultimate Broadway 'flop,' the show is filled with hilarious moments that keep the audience beaming from start to finish.
Studley Operatic Society have assembled a stellar cast of principals who bring this show to life, expertly led by Keith Parish playing Max and Jonathan Boxall-Southall as Leo. Both are superb in their roles and they are strongly supported by an array of characters, including Michael Bentley as Carmen and Richard Smith as Roger. Providing the campest comic relief you could possibly imagine, they were both fantastic.
Vicky Khawaja and Anthony Roige confidently took on the roles of Ulla and Franz. Khawaja's performance of When You've Got It, Flaunt It and Roige's Have You Ever Heard The German Band were particular highlights of the evening.
Two special mentions must also be given. Carole Corden's portrayal of Hold Me Touch Me was utterly hilarious and Aaron Gibson shone through as Stormtrooper in Springtime For Hitler - what a fantastic voice he has.
The ensemble harmonies shone through in Along Came Bialy and Goodbye, under the musical direction of Norma Kift. Directed by Kevin Hirons and choreographed by Maggie Moriarty, Studley Operatic Society received a well deserved standing ovation last night and left the audience rapturously applauding.
For more information and to book tickets for Studley Operatic Society's The Producers click here or call 01527 65203.
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One of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first musicals explodes onto the Belgrade stage in a riot of colour as part of a national tour.
The story is an inspirational tale narrated by Amelia Lily of X Factor fame, with the opening scene transforming before our eyes into an almost comic book vision of biblical times with bright colours, pop up sheep and singing camels. We meet Joseph, his eleven brothers and the coat that causes the trouble. The brothers plot Joseph’s downfall, little realising that this is actually part of a higher plan that will save them all. We follow Joseph on his journey from slave to hero.
There are few musicals that can boast as many musical styles as Joseph, it moves from country and western, to Rock & Roll, calypso and a French lament. Each change of style is beautifully complemented by lightning quick costume changes, subtle set decoration and themed choreography.
Most of the cast double up on their roles, the brothers also play all of the other male 'chorus' roles, such as guards. These guys (and the three girls) are stunning throughout, nailing every dance move with boundless energy.
Another X Factor Alumni, Lloyd Daniels plays Joseph from slightly annoying younger brother to commanding pharaohs assistant. His rendition of Close Every Door was one of the most powerful I have heard.
Pulling it all together is Amelia Lily with a compelling stage presence and voice to match. Matt Lapinskas is the Elvis look-a-like Pharaoh who rocks the room with flair. Joining the touring cast are children from Stagecoach Coventry, Solihull and Sutton Coldfield, their professionalism is to be commended.
This high energy production is a wonderfully colourful, toe-tapping evening of entertainment, suitable for the whole family.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat runs at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until 25 April. For more information and to book tickets visit belgrade.co.uk or call Belgrade's box office on 024 7655 3055.
"The atmosphere was intoxicating," we are told near the start of the hugely enjoyable production, Bouncers - and it is true. The audience was hooked from the very beginning of John Godber’s hilarious play, with real heart behind the humour, which is currently playing at the Old Rep Theatre.
Originally performed as part of the 1977 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bouncers went on to become a cult hit and has been staged around the world. It was chosen by the National Theatre as one of the top 100 plays of the 20th century – and it is clear from this lively version that it has lost none of its charm.
Set in the 80s, in the seedy nightclub scene of Pontefract, the play takes place over the course of one night to tell the story of a night out on the town. A four strong cast embody a multitude of relatable characters – including teenage boys, adolescent girls, a suitably sleazy DJ, a weary kebab seller and of course, hardened bouncers – which give the play both a fast pace and an infectious sense of fun. The minimal set and lack of costume changes (the cast wear suits throughout) only serves to highlight the versatility and energy of the actors, who bounce off each other (forgive the pun) to give utterly captivating and poignant performances – plus some thoroughly entertaining dance moves to classic 80s tunes.
At the same time, the play had depth and occasional darkness in its subject matter. Strip back the abundant humour, and we see that it is unafraid to tackle difficult and important issues as it paints the sometimes bleak reality of relationships, violence, power, despair and sexuality.
With so many characters, there is sadly not the opportunity to delve too far into the backstory of each – but perhaps this is prime material for a potential, and certainly much-hoped for, sequel, judging by the smiles on the audience’s faces.
It is easy to see why it is award-winning. Don’t miss your chance to see it.
The John Godber Company and Theatre Royal Wakefield production of Bouncers runs at the Old Rep Theatre until Saturday 18 April. For more information and to book, click here, or call the ticket hotline on 0121 359 9444.
After being released as a film back in 1933, 42nd Street was originally adapted for the Broadway stage in 1980, with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin, and music by Harry Warren.
Peterbrook Players now bring this toe-tapping musical back to Solihull audiences, after first performing it in 1996 and then again in 2005. Unlike typical musicals where the songs are very much at the forefront, 42nd Street is more about the spectacle, colour and vibrance. As the curtain raises on the performance, there is a delightful dance sequence as feet tap quickly to an infectious rhythm.
The play follows the story of Peggy Sawyer (played by Charlotte Bickerton) and her rise to fame from chorus girl to Broadway star. Standing in her way is diva Dorothy Brock (played by Sharon Tozer), but after an unfortunate accident Peggy lands a chance to prove to everyone that she is deserving of the spotlight. Mark Hughes delivered an assured performance as director Julian Marsh, with vocals that shone through in the cast.
Cathy King and Andrew Alton provided much of the comic relief as Maggie and Bert, with a particularly hilarious moment when King performed the Shadow Waltz. Other mentions also to Melissa Bickerton who elicited many a laugh from the audience in her role as Anytime Annie and the incredibly adorable Beau the Dog, making his debut at only 8 months old!
Lullaby of Broadway stood-out as the strongest ensemble piece of the night, there was a beautiful male harmony and as the cast came together on stage they formed a formidable chorus. There was tap dancing aplenty and the cast tackled complicated routines with verve, which made for a refreshing and enjoyable evening.
Peterbrook Players production of 42nd Street runs at Solihull Arts Complex until Saturday 18 April. Tickets are sold out, though there may be some limited availability if you speak to Solihull Arts Complex directly.
Not for the faint hearted, Susan Hill’s The Mist in the Mirror explores fate, family ties, and the dark path to evil. Adapted for the stage by Ian Kershaw, the story is simple yet effective. Oldham Coliseum Theatre and imitating the dog have embraced the production and made it their own, with an interactive set and chilling effects.
A small cast of 5 prove that they are worth their weight in gold as they convincingly portray a variety of characters. Martin Reeve is particularly memorable, taking on numerous personalities with great distinction. Paul Warriner takes the lead as Mr James Monmouth, acting as a catalyst for the strange happenings that determine his path. Though ignorant and persistent he is a warm and likeable character, unnerved by the unexplainable and determined to learn all he can about the mysterious Conrad Vane.
Music composed by James Hamilton is beautifully haunting, and sound design by Lorna Munden serves to bring imaginations to life; sudden and abrupt, tension fills the auditorium in abundance. The psychology of the stage creates fright and unease amongst the audience. Danger is anticipated, it can be heard and sensed, however it appears when least expected.
The production is incredibly enjoyable, with a plot easy to follow the tale is one of human interest. Descriptive narration paints vivid pictures in the minds of the audience, allowing us to connect with the two eras running parallel before us. Though entertaining throughout The Mist in the Mirror delivers a profound message: that the ending is written for us. We are merely the vessels that provide the twists and turns, but undoubtedly we walk into the inevitable in plain sight.
The Mist in the Mirror runs at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 18 April.
Many of us will already be familiar with the 1987 cult classic film version of John Updike's novel The Witches Of Eastwick. However, John Dempsey's translation of the story into a stage musical offers a new and exciting journey through the lives of the small-time inhabitants of Eastwick as their otherwise perfect lives are blighted by scandal, indecency and unintentional witchcraft. This is a story that ultimately needs commitment and Stafford & District Operatic Society deliver that commitment in absolute abundance, providing the audience with show-stopping ensemble numbers and attacking the more risqué elements with confidence.
The show is opened by a character simply called Little Girl - played entirely convincingly and charmingly by Charlotte Hernandez. She is soon joined by the rest of the ensemble cast who treat the audience to an opening number worthy of any West End show. Throughout the performance, they continue to deliver, teaming their wonderful vocal skills with expert choreography, particularly in Dirty Laundry which was a clear audience favourite.
Will Wood took on the role of Darryl Van Horne, surrounded by three leading ladies who were a pleasure to watch. Tracey Brough as Alexandra is perfectly sarcastic and treats us to beautifully jazzy and seductive vocals throughout. Jessica Smith achieves an excellent balance between stuttering shyness and sweetness as Sukie and Katie Phizacklea provides the audience with plenty to talk about as Jane, transforming from utter repression to unstoppable passion in the passage of a single song (Waiting For The Music To Begin). Her amazing operatic overtones gave the song the perfect element of manic abandonment. All three ladies blend their vocals and characters together seamlessly and their close harmonies are a joy to listen to. Make Him Mine and Another Night At Darryl's are numbers to definitely watch out for.
Special mention must also go to Hannah Morris and Sam Parton as Jennifer and Michael, portraying a very innocent picture of young, fresh-faced love. Jon Wilson delivered well as the hen-pecked yet adorable Clyde and Jane Steed's Felicia also had great potential with her prim and busybody attitude.
Stafford & District Operatic presented a stellar show with such impressive vocal talent, this is a tantalising little slice of musical theatre that should definitely not be missed.
Stafford & District Operatic Society’s The Witches of Eastwick will be at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre until 18 April. For more information and to book click here, or call the ticket hotline on 07817 215 420.
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