Shrek the Musical
Belgrade Theatre Coventry
Coventry Musical Theatre Society
23rd – 26th May 2019
Shrek the musical is based on the family favourite animated films by Dreamworks. Coventry Musical Theatre Society bring this Coventry Premiere to the stage with their usual polish and style.
It is a big challenge to bring a large amount of story book characters to life, but it was executed brilliantly The favourite characters from the film are all there, 3 little pigs, Pinocchio, gingerbread man, 3 blind mice, the wolf and of course Donkey, Fiona and Shrek. The actors balanced being faithful to the film with bringing their own thing to the part, everything you would expect from the characters was there, but they weren’t copies or impressions, there was something of the actor there too.
Some of the comedy highlights were provided by Lord Farquaad, Craig Garner. What he lacked in height he made up for in presence and a polished delivery, the ballad of Farquaad was a joy. The dragon was amazing, brought to life by several puppeteers and stunning vocals from Hannah Roberts. Young Fiona was a delight to watch, with energy, poise and a great voice she is someone who is bound to go far. Adult Fiona (Emma Wilde) portrayed the two sides of Princess Fiona wonderfully. Connor Clifford’s Donkey bounded around the stage as he guided Shrek on the right path, he was the perfect companion to Shrek played by Dan Peet. Dan was Shrek, he was scary and vulnerable, he brought out the comedy and the sentiment, all while wearing ogre head gear and huge shoes.
There were great performances from all the cast, the story book characters a total delight bringing smiles and laughs. The choreography by Sue Biddle had something for everyone and included tap dancing mice and prisoners dancing in stocks.
This is a very colourful production; the costumes are bright and add an extra pop to the show. The detail in every costume from the main principals to the chorus is wonderful. The sets and lighting also add to that fairy-tale feel.
All but one of the songs in this show is original which helps to tell the story through the songs as well as the script. There is humour throughout, the children in the audience were giggling away in all the right places and having a great time. Adults needn’t worry there are the odd lines in there for them too. At 2 hours 30 (including interval) it may be a little long for younger children but there is enough to keep them entertained, there are no pauses during set changes, and everything runs smoothly and quickly.
This production under the direction of Steve Boden proves once again that the word “amateur” isn’t a reflection on the quality of a performance. This show is full of heart, humour and talent. With limited availability on tickets, don’t hesitate to book for a half term treat.
Jill Murphy’s popular children’s series, The Worst Witch, is brought to magical, musical life in this energetic stage adaptation from Emma Reeves. Directed by Theresa Heskins, artistic director of the New Vic, this fantastic show is a perfect potion for families.
Featuring a 10-strong cast, the story features all the characters children have grown to know and love, plus the odd enemy or two, that we love to hate.
Composer Luke Potter has created an underscore that pulses through the show, adding a fresh, modern feel and the songs are catchy, with brilliant lyricism. Molly-Grace Cutler, Meg Forgan and Megan Leigh Mason form a trio of talented actor/musicians, bringing Potter’s compositions to life. In fact, the creativity behind this production excels, set on a superb design from Simon Daw, it is a visual treat.
However, a show is nothing without its cast and Danielle Bird excellently led the way in the role of the hapless Mildred Hubble. Rachel Heaton made for a fiercely wonderful Miss Hardbroom, Rosie Abraham (Ethel) packed her role full of sass and Rebecca Killick was an endearing Maud, who even showed off some impressive aerial skills!
There was great support from the comical Emma Lau as Drusilla and Consuela Rolle who was in excellent voice as Enid, however it was Polly Lister’s dual performance as Agatha / Miss Cackle which was an absolute highlight. From her soulful vocals, to her hilarious mannerisms, she was a delight to watch.
This really is a remarkable example of children’s theatre - imagine Harry Potter meets St Trinian’s, with something for everyone to enjoy. As children sat entranced in the auditorium, it was clear that this show cast a spell on them.
Catch it at Birmingham Hippodrome until 26 May.
Jesus Christ Superstar
Solihull Theatre Company
The Core Theatre
14th – 18th May 2019
This show is Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera, based around the last weeks of Jesus Christ’s life. It won’t be to everyone’s taste but the almost capacity audience at the Core Theatre certainly appreciated the performance.
Solihull Theatre Company have stripped back the set using minimal staging allowing you to focus on the stunning performances with no distractions. This also means the action flows seamlessly into the next song and scene creating a slick pace. Complimenting the modern stage was the contemporary costuming. Jeans, leather jackets and t-shirts are the order of the day with not a loin cloth in sight.
The ensemble work hard throughout the show delivering precise harmonies, energetic dance routines (choreographed by Amy Price) and heartfelt acting. There are also some fast costume changes as the ensemble are a large part of the show featuring in numerous songs. The effort pays off as they match the performance level of the principles with ease.
The musical numbers range from upbeat and celebratory, sinister and devious to unsettling, played by an experienced orchestra led by Musical Director Kevin Gill.
All the principals have honed their characters through the rehearsals to give excellent performances. Chloe Houghton as Mary Magdalen gives a rendition of “I don’t know how to love him” which has a palpable air of devotion and confusion. Judas (Dan Gough) is an opinionated man who battles with his actions. His realisation, remorse and pain are clear to see, leading to his artfully depicted demise. David Steels Jesus draws your attention whenever he graces the stage, and not just because of his white costume amid a sea of black. His torment in the iconic “Gethesmane” perfectly displayed. He also hit the impressive high note with ease. The three plotting priests (Caiphas – Keith Western, Annas – Michael Bentley, Priest – Mike Walker) are imposing and sinister as they plot the downfall of their enemy, the bass of Keith Western especially worthy of note. Michael John Greene brings an edge to Pontius Pilate that chills you.
With a number of modern twists (including King Herod as a ringleader clown, played by Katherine Allen, accompanied by dancing girls) this production directed by Andrew Johnson, brings something new and fresh to the 1970’s musical to great effect.
“..as much energy, colour and comedy as the original.”
It’s Mellow Dramatics’ 100th show this week and, to celebrate, the group are rocking this highly entertaining, musical comedy at The Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton Upon Trent. The Wedding Singer movie, made famous by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, had its screen success in 1998 and was followed by a Broadway stage musical in 2006. It has been a firm favourite for both professional and amateur performers ever since with its poplar soundtrack, big personalities and gentle story-line and The Mellow Dramatics performed from start to finish with as much energy, colour and comedy as the original.
Well directed by Donna Nolan, assisted by Nicola Wagstaff, this is a really great casting. Christopher James is a strong and commanding performer and excels as Robbie Hart playing against the lovely Lucy Robinson as Julia Sullivan-almost-Gulia, both perfectly complementing each other with seriously good and effortless voices. The singing ability as a whole was of very high standard throughout the cast as was the fast-paced comedy and timing. Memorable performances by Amy Glover (Holly) and Rhys Jones (Sammy) and eccentric band member George, played by Jack Broughton. Equally great performance by Sian Plummer as the hot Linda and Ross Harris was perfect as the swanky, equity trader Glenn Gulia. Lauren Taylor bought a lot of humour to the stage as the lovable Grandma Rosie and stole the show when she grooved some funky moves with George in Move That Thang.
Too big a cast to mention individually but a huge 5* well done to every member of the group for a truly stunning production. Excellent choreography by Natasha Ingham, simple yet effective set design with live orchestra nestled upstage, and wardrobe should take a bow for such a large and successful undertaking, colour, individuality and continuity. Well done too to the stage crew for getting that huge headboard and bed on and off the wing and for keeping all transitions well-choreographed and executed. Special mention to MD Rob Murray and his talented musicians, who played to perfection, carrying the show along smoothly, competently and without fault.
Show runs to 18th May
Suitable for everyone
The camp cult classic has arrived in town this week and it doesn’t disappoint. Playing at The Alexandra until 25 May, the Rocky Horror Show is overflowing with incredible talent.
Our narrator for the night, the fantastic Alison Hammond, felt like a perfect fit for the role. An audience favourite, her warmth, humour and wittiness shone through, especially with her gift of repartee.
Taking on the leading roles of Brad and Janet were the equally talented Ben Adams and Joanne Clifton, both in great voice they made for a brilliant pairing. Plus, there was sparkling support from the hilarious Miracle Chance as Columbia and Ross Chisari as Eddie and Dr Scott.
With over 1,300 performances under his belt, it was a pleasure to see the wonderful Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff and Laura Harrison was unbelievably stunning as Usherette/Magenta. Her vocals soared through the auditorium and jointly with Lavercombe - and the rest of the ensemble - the Time Warp was a sure-fire hit.
Another highlight was the gloriously acrobatic Callum Evans who sprung, flipped and tumbled across the stage effortlessly as Rocky. Bringing real dynamism to the role, it was a pleasure to watch.
And last, but by certainly no means least, Duncan James excelled in the role of Frank N Furter. Strutting across the stage, he owned that role in style. With superb vocals throughout, James brought Frank N Furter sublimely to life.
Packed with all your favourite songs and more than a sprinkle of naughtiness, Rocky Horror Show is a saucy triumph.
A firm favourite on the community theatre circuit, Oliver! provides a wonderful platform for local companies to showcase their young talent - something that Bournville Musical Theatre Company displayed in abundance last night. The children’s ensemble were a delight, from their workhouse rendition of Food Glorious Food, to the street urchins in Fagin’s gang, they held their own on The Crescent stage.
What really shone through in this particular production was the brilliant adult ensemble. The chorus numbers really sparkled, with particular highlights including Consider Yourself and Oom Pah Pah.
There was a plethora of solid supporting performances, including Hayden Stocker as the cheeky Artful Dodger, Stuart McDiarmid as the antagonistic Noah Claypole and Phil Snowe in the iconic role of Fagin, whilst Jill Hughes and Kris Evans made for a rather amusing duo as Widow Corney and Mr Bumble.
However there were some performances that deserve a special mention. Jimmy Van Hear stalked the stage as the brooding Bill Sykes. In great voice too, he made the most of this fantastic cameo role. The final two standout performances of the night came from James Whatmore as Oliver and Sophie Wood as Nancy. Their respective voices filled the auditorium and you could hear a pin drop amongst the sold out audience. Whatmore’s Where Is Love? was beautifully delivered, whilst Wood’s passion-filled As Long As He Needs Me cleverly juxtaposed her earlier spirited performance of It’s A Fine Life.
Together, alongside Director Terry Wheddon, Musical Director Chris Corcoran and Choreographer Chloe Turner, BMTC have put together a fine production that they should be incredibly proud of. And judging by the audience reaction last night, they certainly loved it.
Following the stage success of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hossein’s bestselling novel A Thousand Splendid Suns has also been given the stage treatment in this UK premiere production at The REP. After a visit to Afghanistan, Hossein decided to write about the horrific female experience, almost as a contrast to The Kite Runner, through the tragic stories of two women; Laila and Mariam both wives to an abusive man Rasheed.
Although there is a cast of 9, Ursula Rani Sarma’s adaptation primarily focuses on these three characters, especially Laila played by Sujaya Dasgupta. While she goes through incredibly painful and traumatic situations it is clear that Laila as a character is a fighter who in the face of misogyny and danger is totally in control of her story that Dasgupta terrifically evokes within her performance. Mariam, the older wife has also gone through a huge amount of suffering and she is more reserved about fighting her way out of her situation, but Amina Zia gives a heart-breaking performance that shows she is willing to sacrifice herself in some instances to protect Laila and her children. But it is a monstrous performance by Pal Aron as Rasheed that makes our skin crawl and gut wretch at the brutal misogyny, manipulation and abuse that he brings. In this sort of story, it almost feels wrong to call him a “baddie” or a “villain” which would pantomime-ify it, but there is absolutely no denying that is what he is. He is the absolute catalyst to the pain and misery in these innocent characters and a ruthless reminder that in Eastern cultures and other parts of the world, these are real situations.
While it is a brave and boundary-breaking story to attempt to tackle on the stage, you equally need a bold and striking production to present it, however, sadly this one at times misses that opportunity. It all feels a bit too safe and lacking the full depth required for such an emotionally brutal story. Yes, Sarma’s script does tread the balance of light-heartedness and tragedy pretty well, and director Roxana Silbert ticks the boxes with elements that should go into an epic stage piece such as an Afghan desert set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita with colourful lighting by Simon Bond and music by Mahmood Kamen but it does all feels like it could do with tightening up and putting in the extra detail and professionalism to entirely capture its audience. Even the fight scenes by Terry King and magic by Ben Hart don’t quite get us on the edge of our seats like they should
Despite this, the production clearly did something right as a few members of the packed out audience rose to their feet by the end having been engrossed in this heart-breaking but empowering tale. I hope over time the weaker elements of this production can be re-thought as it is absolutely full of potential, but anyone who loves thrilling and intense stories about how we as human beings can find lightness in the darkest of situations then perhaps you may find that in this thought-provoking piece.
A Thousand Splendid Suns runs at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until Saturday 18th May.
Considered one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most iconic creations, Brownhills Musical Theatre Company came together in full force last night to bring the wonderful story of the Von Trapp Family Singers to life.
Directed by Kelly and Richard Tye, with Ian Room as MD, the high production values were apparent from the start with an exquisitely designed church set setting the standard for the rest of the show.
The musical opened with a beautifully performed Dixit Dominus led by Helen Norgrove (The Mother Abbess) and Nuns of Nonnberg Abbey. Soprano, Norgrove executed this piece with confidence as she also did with Climb Every Mountain. Norgrove showed a strong sense of guidance as she sang to Maria, with the Act 1 Finale being a highlight of the show.
The postulant turned Governess, Maria Rainer, is indeed a marvellous role for any female in musical theatre and Sian Cameron-Prowse blossomed throughout the show with excellent renditions of well-loved classics The Lonely Goatherd and Something Good. Her pairing with Jamie Norgrove as Captain von Trapp was convincing and Norgrove’s portrayal of the Captain was commanding.
A particular mention must go to Alison Room (Elsa) and Brett Dewsbury (Max) who brought some light relief to the dark political tones of the show. I have had the pleasure of watching Room perform previously as Eva Peron I was looking forward to seeing her again. How Can Love Survive is my favourite song in this show and they did not disappoint. The supporting nuns were also a delight to watch, and I was thoroughly impressed with the rendition of Maria.
The set really did capture the audience’s imagination. A couple of longer than expected scene changes didn’t alter the pace as a whole and I’m sure any technicalities will be remedied quickly. In all, I would conclude that this is one of the best amateur performances of The Sound of Music that I have had the pleasure of witnessing.
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning the fantastic group of young actors who performed as the Von Trapp children. Too many to mention individually but I must congratulate them on their confident performances and for giving the audience goose-bumps with those perfected harmonies.
Very best wishes to BMTC for a successful run.
The Sound of Music runs at the Lichfield Garrick until Saturday 11th May.
"...a fabulous, family show."
Rugeley Musical Theatre Company are, this week, staging this popular, family classic and they have certainly brought a lot of whip-crackin’ sparkle and fun to the Rose Theatre stage.
Directed by Elaine Bradbury and musically directed by Matthew Hunt, the production features well-known songs including ‘Windy City’, ‘A Woman’s Touch’, ‘Black Hills of Dakota’ and the timeless ‘Secret Love’.
Hana Bradbury makes a splendid and confident Calamity with a good singing voice and abundance of energy, playing against the dashing Connor James as Wild Bill Hickock. Kittie James is played delightfully by Katie Brown and Matthew Hunt plays the suave Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin.
Nicely choreographed by Pat Giles and Claire Hughes, and with a competent six-piece band out front, this production features a full cast of enthusiasts who are clearly enjoying every moment. A quick-change set and good tech is always a pleasure to witness and a mention should go to Elaine Bradbury and Pat Giles for managing such a vast array of excellent costumes.
Great performances by Claire Hughes (Susan), David Stacey (Henry Miller) and Emily Rogers (Adelaide Adams). Really enjoyed Roger Teece’s charismatic portrayal of Francis Fryer. Too large a cast to mention individually but congratulations to all involved on a fabulous, family show. Will look forward to Little Shop of Horrors in November.
Runs to 4th May
I Wanna Make Magic is a musical number from the opening moments of Fame and that is certainly what Youth Onstage made at their production this evening – a magical evening of entertainment! Expertly directed by Deb Brook; the young, talented cast gave it all they had to produce a slick, fast-paced performance – they certainly did her proud in her 30th year of directing youth theatre shows!
The well-drilled chorus opened the show with a rousing rendition of Hard Work and set the standard for the rest of the evening and ending with a wonderful performance of Bring on Tomorrow. Strong vocal harmonies and innovative, energetic choreography were the hallmark of the chorus work in this show. David Jones (Musical Director) and Amy Evans (Choreographer) had obviously worked extremely hard to guide these young performers through the challenges that a musical like Fame brings.
There is a wealth of talent within the members of Youth Onstage. Hannah Brook shone as Serena, with powerful vocals, excellent comic timing and a relaxed professional manner on stage. Her rendition of Let’s Play a Love Scene was a real highlight. She was well supported by Adam Brown (Nick) who had excellent characterisation. Matthew Brook gave a strong performance as Schlomo and his rich, mature vocals brought a tingle to the spine and a tear to the eye, particularly in his opening verse of Bring on Tomorrow! Ellie Burley was a perfect Carmen. Her performance was wonderful, showing an energy and passion in the big dance numbers and yet bringing the audience to tears in her rendition of In LA. I don’t think I have seen this number performed so well and with such emotion – a really memorable moment!
The high standard of dance within the production was highlighted by the performances of Gibsa Bah (Tyrone) and Lauren Chapman (Iris). Gibsa performed with energy, clarity and showed just the right amount of “attitude” – a natural dancer. Lauren was elegant and showed excellent poise and control in the many challenging lifts and routines. Excellent comedy was provided by Mark Cornaby (Joe) and Emily Jenkinson (Mabel). Mabel’s Prayer was a wonderful moment of humour and a strong vocal performance.
It was a lovely touch to utilise the musical talents of the young performers with Lottie Rix (Goody) performing on the trumpet as part of the show and Joe Burley (Lambchops) showing off his versatility on a variety of percussion, including an impressive drum solo.
Renee Squire (Miss Sherman) gave a heartfelt performance as the English teacher struggling to get her pupils through the academic requirements of the Fame High School and her performance of These Are My Children showed real emotion and an understanding of her character. She was well matched with Esme Read (Ms Bell) in their Teacher’s Argument. It is wonderful to see younger performers moving up through the ranks and becoming principals in their own right. They were well supported by Phoebe Mason (Ms Myers) and Bethany Leonard (Mrs Sheinkopf) as the other teaching staff at P.A.
If I were to have one piece of advice, it would be to ensure that some of the minor principals slow their dialogue down to ensure we can understand every word. That said, the characterisations of all the young performers were excellent.
With a wonderful set, professional-sounding band and colourful costumes, Youth Onstage have produced a real hit! Fame really is a show that the production team, committee, crew and talented cast should be extremely proud of!
Fame runs at The Old Rep, Birmingham until this evening, Saturday 4th May.
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