The perennially popular musical Annie popped into the Landau Forte Academy this week, giving Tamworth audiences a chance to enjoy the familiar antics of the villainous Miss Hannigan as she tries to stop Little Orphan Annie getting the happy ending she deserves with her adoptive father, Daddy Warbucks.
First time co-directors Louise Baldwin and Fiona Bell (who also musically directs) had the unenvious task of fitting this big show into a little space and, with a few little technical hitches (a cloth not being pulled far enough over, giving the audience a few seconds view of the industrious backstage crew going about their business!) it works well, even if the Hooverville scene is necessarily cramped by the available space.
Leading the cast at the Friday matinee I saw was Eliza Rose Tall, who has a very clear, strong voice and plenty of confidence for the role of the feisty orphan. She is very well supported by her team of 9 orphans who are all very well characterized; Chloe Hourihan’s sweet Pepper really makes an impression.
Michelle Gregory’s displays a very easy charm and distinct clear voice as Grace Farrell, which contrasts well with the ballsy hoofer Lily St Regis, played energetically by Karen Terry.
Natasha Beckett is playing her first lead as the boozy Miss Hannigan, and, while she may not be the most ferocious Hannigan we’ve ever seen, she’s growing into the role nicely. James Gorton is the lovable Oliver Warbucks, a man with a voice nearly as big as his wallet!
The rest of the busy company work really hard donning a dizzying array of costumes to play the multitude of characters required to bring this story to life, and it is to their credit that they are very well characterized.
The whole show is supported by an excellent 10 piece band, but sadly I cannot give a credit to the lovely dog playing Sandy as they are not credited in the programme!! I hope they are enjoying all the treats they are getting; they certainly deserve it!
Annie is running at the Landau Forte Academy until 20th April.
Selladoor Productions presents Green Day's high-energy rock musical, American Idiot. Debuting on Broadway in 2010, the national tour celebrates 15 years since the influential album.
Using a television screen showing news clips we learn of the post 9/11 backdrop for the disenchanted generation. Johnny (played by Tom Milner) takes the lead and hopes to chase after a better life with his friends Tunny (Joshua Dowen) and Will (Samuel Pope). Will's girlfriend Heather (Siobhan O`Discoll) soon becomes pregnant though and Will decides to stay in suburbia with her. Johnny and Tunny still set off to follow their dreams, but all bonds of friendship are broken when Tunny decides to sign up for the American army. Johnny also has his own battles as he fights his demons that tempt him into a life of drugs. Bad influence St Jimmy (Luke Friend) gives a strong performance as he convincingly keeps pushing Johnny back into temptation time and time again.
Blasts of the album’s title track American Idiot opens the show and sets the energetic pace, which is balanced out with some slower more poignant moments. With a live band on stage, overlooking the action, there's an infectious gig meets musical feel.
Highlights include their performances of Holiday and Wake Me Up When September Ends. The acoustic songs held the audience’s attention well and there were some strong harmonies between the singers.
Siobhan O`Discoll really shone with her vocals as did Sam Lavery as Whatsername. Most of the audience were up on their feet as Basketcase filled the auditorium.
There was a great chemistry between this cast of strong performers, with a fantastic set and costumes all helping to evoke the era. A nice touch was to see Alexandra staff dressing for the occasion too!
The show is a real delight for any Green Day fan.
American Idiot is showing at The Alexandra until Saturday 13 April
It’s snaps all round in Solihull this week as Legally Blonde crashes into The Core Theatre, courtesy of Peterbrook Players. Following their roaring success with Spamalot last year, there was a palpable excitement entering the theatre. The first of two shows to celebrate their 50th anniversary, the team brought in projections and stripped back the set, allowing for smoother scene changes and slicker transitions.
Following the story of lovelorn Elle Woods who sets her sights on Harvard in order to win back her smarmy ex-boyfriend Warner, the story was brought to colourful like by the extensive cast of Peterbrook Players. The beauty of this show (and probably one of the biggest challenges for the director) is the exhaustive list of roles available, which means many of the cast get their moment in the spotlight. Some cameo highlights included: Joe Allen and Martin Knott whose multi-roling skills are to be applauded; James Skinner as the grotesque Dewey; Audrey Martin as the brilliant Enid Hoops and of course, the wonderful canine talents of Rudi Bates and Duke Gough as Bruiser and Rufus. However, the cameo performance that stole the night was James Gough as Kyle. With the audience applauding from his first appearance, he made every single moment on the stage count and it was utterly hilarious.
There was a raft of strong supporting performances from this talented ensemble, including the spirited Greek chorus; Ed Mears as the self-obsessed, churlish Warner; Penny Simpkins as keep-fit guru Brooke who delivered a great Whipped Into Shape; Jonathan Busk made for a sleazy Professor Callahan with an impressive rendition of Blood In The Water and Laura Peters was in excellent voice as Vivienne.
Leading the way in spectacular style was a trio of fantastic performers. Jen Cole’s Paulette was a comic delight, whilst Mitch Coughlin-Miller expertly captured the role of Emmett, with his beautiful voice soaring through the auditorium in Chip On My Shoulder. And last (but by no means least), was the superb Sophia Bailey as Elle Woods. A triple threat of singing, acting and dancing, she brought Elle’s character to vibrant life.
Admittedly, there were a few technical glitches and some slight sound balance issues at times, but these are small gripes for what was a well-crafted production.
Under the assured direction of Richard Agg, he ensured a pacy production that delivered on laughs, with a suite of talented performances, supported by a fine ensemble. Plus, a huge shout out to choreographer Suzanne Ballard-Yates who created some fantastic dance numbers and Musical Director Chris Davis, who brought the music to life.
Congratulations Peterbrook Players, you’ve done it again!
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