This musical was first performed in 2007 but made famous by the adaptation into a film more recently. BMOS bring Sunshine on Leith to Birmingham in a premiere that is full of energy.
Set in Leith in the present day, following an ordinary family, this musical is down to earth and true to life. A liberal peppering of Scottish band The Proclaimers songs keeps the mood lifted and the feet tapping. The harmonies in all of the songs are beautifully sung.
Ally and Davy come back to Leith from active service in the army. How will they settle back into family life, what will they do now they are home? As Ally is dating Davy's sister, Liz, this keeps all the action tightly focused and inter linked to the family. The principals performances were polished with chemistry between the two couples, Ally and Liz and Davy and Yvonne, played by Chris Johnson and Maria Rodriguez and Mark Walsh and Brooklyn Barber. The emotion poured into the characters throughout draws you into the story. Mum Jean (Sharon Tozer) and Dad Rab (Rob Fusco) come into their own in the second act when they get their chance to shine.The company added life to some of the numbers with enthusiasm, especially the leopard-apron-wearing-cleaner.
From start to finish the Scottish accents were delivered confidently, both spoken and sung. They were broad, but clear enough for the dialogue to be heard, this is no mean feat for a whole cast to carry off. The scene is set with impressive projections of photographs of the cityscape of Edinburgh and Leith. It allowed the physical set to be minimal and symbolic. This keeps the action flowing between scenes.
Although there are moments of drama, this musical is a feel good show with excellent performances. It will leave you smiling and humming songs all the way home.
BMOS's production of Sunshine on Leith plays at the Crescent Theatre until 3 October.
Balancing ensemble storytelling with live music and simple staging, The Silver Sword takes the audience from moments of high drama to laugh out loud comic relief and heart-wrenching emotion. There were more than a few wiping away tears when the house lights came up on press night!
Based on the 1956 novel by Ian Serraillier, this is a compelling tale of four children’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Balicki family is torn apart when their parents are arrested in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Not knowing whether their parents have survived, Ruth, Edek , Bronia and their orphan friend Jan must embark on a journey across Europe to discover their fate.
Susie McKenna’s new adaptation for Sell A Door Theatre Company is gripping from start to finish. Drawing on the traditions of oral storytelling, the script takes the audience in to the world of the travelling storyteller. The staging is simple yet effective with the blend of digital projection and live action working harmoniously. As a piece of new music theatre, The Silver Sword is superb, with an evocative musical score composed by Stephen Edis flowing seamlessly from comic ballad to haunting lullaby.
The actor-musicians making up the majority of the cast add to this seamless quality, playing many roles between them and switching effortlessly between characters as much as they change their instruments. The vocal ability and musicianship onstage is sublime, as is the versatility and strong acting in the lead performances from Rachel Flynn (Ruth), Tom Mackley (Jan), Oliver Buckner (Edek) and Catrin Connellan (Bronia). All this combined makes for a truly captivating evening.
But the power of the production lies in more than the staging and excellent performances. The parallels of the story of the four young refugees with the current refugee crisis does not go unnoticed with the audience. There is a poignant underlying message of taking time to listen to a traveller’s story to uncover the truth. Yet the production manages to relay this message without seeming overtly political. Rarely does a piece of theatre cover a topical issue so subtly and convey a message so well to all ages in its audience.
Sell A Door Theatre Company’s principal aim is to provide exciting theatre for young adult audiences and this is one production I would love to see again sitting in an audience of secondary school students. I am keen to see how their reaction differs from the mixed family audience of this evening and hear their responses to themes and messages of the story. Engaging, beautifully crafted and with a strong message at its heart The Silver Sword is the sort of theatre we should be producing and championing to young audiences across the UK and beyond.
The Silver Sword is about to embark on a UK tour - make the journey to see it.
Playing at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until 3 October.
Playing at The Old Rep, Birmingham from 22 to 24 October.
Lichfield Garrick Youth Theatre could not have concluded their 30th year more spectacularly. Choosing Ghost the Musical is a bold move for any theatre troupe, but to take on such a monster show with a Youth Theatre cast is even more special and LGYT delivered an impressive production of the 2011 musical.
With digital screens, a brilliant orchestra and a strong cast - both principle and ensemble - the show was brought together by a stellar cast and creative team.
Taking on the leading roles of Sam and Molly were Dominic Sterland and Lydia Gardiner respectively. Sterland and Gardiner's performances were nothing short of excellent with Gardiner's haunting vocals and Sterland's rich tone. A particular highlight was the beautiful rendition of With You, which packed a punch of emotion from the young Gardiner. They were supported well by the manipulating Carl (played by Will Stevenson).
A stand out performance of the night came from trio Lucy Foley, Hattie Rumsey and Ava Taroni as they performed Are You A Believer? Foley's Oda Mae had the attitude, the voice and the superb comic timing, a winning combination. Supported fantastically by Rumsey and Taroni (as Clara and Louise), their voices were sensational.
Special mention also to Gus Wade, who played a rather convincing Hospital Ghost and confidently led the ghostly ensemble.
With a show that could have posed so many obstacles, LGYT have no doubt proved the calibre of their group. The creative team are an absolute credit, with wonderful choreography, musical direction and direction from Jessica Lambert, Oliver Rowe and Richard Poynton.
The entire stage was filled with passion-fuelled talent and it is clear to see why so many professional actors have emerged from this Youth Theatre. Considering the group only spent 5 months in rehearsals, it would be amazing to see how much further their potential can stretch.
Well done LGYT.
Don't miss Ghost at Lichfield Garrick, playing until Saturday 26 September.
We are a culture born to be curious about the lives of other people and there are a great many examples in which art has most definitely reflected 'real life'. Along with playwrights such as Joe Orton and Mike Leigh, Alan Ayckbourn has often drawn us into the intriguingly tangled web that surrounds our everyday existence and his 1974 classic Absent Friends is a shining example of this.
The Grange Playhouse is an intimate little venue nestled off the main road in Walsall. Filled with memorabilia, the group have been established since 1951 and Something's Afoot kicks off their 63rd season.
Having only played 61 performances on Broadway, it subsequently found greater success in London's West End being nominated for Best New Musical at the Oliver Awards in 1977.
The piece is very much tongue-in-cheek, with performances laced with humour throughout. Jenny Gough confidently takes on the Miss Marple-esque role of Miss Tweed, whilst the guests around her evoke the stock characters of Agatha Christie's work.
There was a particularly hilarious comic turn from Tomos Frater as Nigel Rancor, the nephew of the deceased Dudley Rancor; especially in the number I Know What I’m Looking For. Alongside Frater, Phebe Jackson delivered an assured performance as Hope Langdon, paired well with Robbie Newton as the unexpected stranger, Geoffrey. The 'candelabra incident' had the audience laughing away. Special mention must go to Andy Jones, who brilliantly portrayed the stern army man Colonel Gilweather.
This zany plot sees the cast being killed off one by one, and as numbers dwindle, tensions rise as to who the culprit is. The piece would have worked just as well without the musical numbers, but kudos to director (and last minute Dr Grayburn) Dexter Whitehead and Musical Director, Tom Brookes for tackling and modernising a challenging show, that featured gas explosions, electrocution and much more!
Something’s Afoot runs at The Grange Playhouse until 26 September. More information here.
It’s a bold move to take on any centuries old literature and make it interesting for today’s audience, let alone a seminal piece of beloved theatre like A Midsummer Night's Dream. Stone Revellers have done just that, and the gamble has paid off as the talented cast reimagine the wonderfully funny and fantastical play, with stellar casting and confident performances throughout.
Transitioning between the real world and the invented, the play starts with the transformation of Oberon the imagined fairy king into ruler of the Kingdom Theseus, played to perfection by Tom Waldron – a name you should be certain to watch out for in the future.
Approached at his throne he is requested to intervene in the tangled affairs of Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius played by Beatrice Goodwin, Alec Voss and Leo Capernaros respectively. The love triangle becomes more complicated still with the arrival of Helene Sandy, brilliant played and cast as the witty but woeful Helena.
The developing relationships between the four is made all the more watchable by the strength of the individual characters, who interact and dominate as allowed by the script to provide a really great balance – a credit to the work of the actors involved, with particular highlights including the stand-off between Lysander and Demetrius as they rival for affection.
Centred around a dream-fuelled love story the cast explore their conscious romantic decisions and unintentional obsessions as the interfering Puck, played very well by Dan Leadbetter, casts love spells over almost all of the visitors to the fairy kingdom. Madness and much confusion ensues, as the lines between dream and reality become increasingly blurred.
From the compelling beginning, through dreams and finally back to waking the twisting and turning narrative is kept interesting but made accessible to the audience. Oberon’s fairy land was wonderfully charming whilst the man himself is portrayed by Waldron with such physicality and incredible authority, and is deeply engaging to watch. The contrasting kingdom of ruled by Theseus and Hippolyta, played by Bethany Harrison, grounds the story, with the lovers flitting in and out as easily as the blink of an eye.
Waldron’s Oberon and Theseus command attention and drive the show, but a great supporting cast bring a touch of pure magic to the piece. Notable mention must go to the mechanicals for their hilarious - deliberate – overacting and providing the comedic pulse throughout, particularly Dave Bryan as the enthusiastic Bottom.
A risky direction to take with their first ever Shakespeare, Revellers breathe new life into the classic with fantastic costumes, music and set. Purists be warned that under the direction of Mark Doran and Harri Bailey the traditional setting takes a back seat to a more modern vision, however the result is triumphant and well worth a watch.
This new comedy musical takes you back to school. Back to the schools you read about as a child with a dash of St Trinians thrown in.
The girls of Dame Dorothea Dosserdale School for Girls had the perfect school, about expression rather than academic achievement. Their world is shattered when a new headmistress with very different ideas takes charge. As their school is transformed can anything stop the tide of change.
This story line unfolds in parallel with one about two girls love for each other. What could be seen as a tricky subject is handled beautifully with sensitivity.
Adults playing school girls can be awkward, but the characterisation is perfect and they are completely believable. Rosemary Ashe is the tyrannical Miss Bleacher, her final number creating a perfect dramatic exit. Brianna Ogunbawo plays Daimler, a girl suffering from unrequited love. Her two songs are different in feel, but both beautiful and powerful. One of the standout moments of the night is the dance routine with hockey sticks led by Miss Givings (Kirsty Malpass). Malpass has her work cut out playing multiple characters, which she does with ease. Stephanie Clift (Susan) and Charlotte Miranda-Smith (Camilla) have a girlish chemistry together which is a joy. The whole cast were superb in every way, the enthusiasm was palpable and the comic timing perfect.
With a set that looks hand drawn and taken from a school exercise book, the scene is set with a clever use of space. The transformation into a nightclub is especially effective and hosts a two of the shows most memorable numbers, Sugar und Spice and What if.
All of the songs are original and have a meaningful purpose, they don’t feel contrived or shoe horned in, they add to the flow of the story.
The audience were laughing out loud throughout, there is a real jolly hockey sticks vibe that doesn’t fail to entertain. This is a show that deserves to be a huge hit.
Based on the 1950 blockbuster Sunset Boulevard tells the desperate story of the fading Hollywood star Norma Desmond and is considered to be one of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest musical achievements. With this in mind, WBOS delivers the compelling tale with confidence, and showcases some of the best local talent around.
The show opens with aspiring screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by Leon Davies, working the studio circuit in an attempt to get hired, and trying his best to stay out of trouble. Taking refuge in the ground of a great house he stumbles into the eccentric world of former starlet Norma Desmond, played by Sarah Moors, and it doesn’t take long until influence and circumstance fast forward their casual liaison into something more contrived.
The two give stellar individual performances, with Moors portraying the oddball vulnerability of Norma perfectly against Davies’ charming, opportunistic but ultimately commendable Joe. The chemistry develops with the narrative and flashes moments of brilliance, particularly with the power struggle and shifting dynamic of their relationship – a credit to the direction of Jason Capewell. They make an engaging duo, but equally hold their own with seriously impressive solo vocals and stage presence.
Equally, Olivia Jones commands the stage as Betty Schaefer, Joe’s writing progeny and Norma’s rival for his heart. Presented with purpose and poise, the real shame is that there was not more time in the script to allow for the developing romance with Joe to play a bigger part, and allow Jones and her glorious voice more of the spotlight.
Special mention must go to Tim Jones as the long-suffering Max who provided real humanity in the Hollywood spectacle that surrounded him, and whose rich vocals lent themselves beautifully to his heartfelt solo pieces.
The chorus too should be commended, with well-developed characters, their individual turns showcased their natural talent. The collective vocals were much stronger than what you would expect of an am dram ensemble: a credit to the cast but also in no small part to the MD James Maddison, it would be assumed. Claire Flavell’s choreography was interesting and supported the narrative, with particular highlights being Nicholas Sullivan and the marvellous twirling tailors in The Lady’s Paying, and the ruthless Consultant’s in A Little Suffering.
WBOS took a risk with this ambitious and challenging show, and despite a few technical glitches (handled by the cast without a flinch) it was certainly one that paid off. With the show licensed to only a few societies across the county for a very limited run you’d have to be mad to miss this blockbuster show – get down to Sunset Boulevard, if you still can.
Sutton Arts Theatre bring hilarity in abundance as they present Michael Frayn’s Noises Off until 12 September.
Set over three acts, the audience are taken on an exhausting journey as cast and crew relationships unravel during a tour of their silly comic play, Nothing On.
Brimming with physical comedy, it is no mean feat for an amateur theatre group to take on this play and Sutton Arts Theatre triumphed. Brilliantly cast, every single actor relished their roles and delivered an impressive production.
Leading the way was Denise Phillips as Mrs Clackett/Dotty. From her very first entrance there was already ripples of laughter through the audience and by the end there were howls of laughter. Her performance was utterly compelling. Patrick Richmond-Ward was equally excellent as the hapless director, Lloyd Dallas, whose sonorous voice perfectly fitted the role.
Dexter Whitehead and Emily Armstrong played Roger/Garry and Vicki/Brooke respectively. Armstrong took on the challenge of being in the play, as well as directing, both roles that she has clearly embraced. There was much hilarity within the scenes involving her contact lens and the mysterious appearing and disappearing bag. Meanwhile, Whitehead probably had the most tiring challenges of the evening, from falling down stairs, jumping up on staging and running around the set, it’s a wonder he made it to the end of the show!
Ian Cornock hilariously took on the roles of Philip/Frederick/Sheikh, with a particular highlight concerning numerous bed sheets, whilst Alison Daly shone in the role of Flavia/Belinda. Always trying to placate the various characters, Daly’s performance was both amusing and endearing.
Special mentions to the remaining cast, which included stage manager Poppy, played by Louise Farmer, Tim, the other stage-hand, played by Len Schofield and Selsdon, an actor with a drinking problem, played by Barry Atchison.
The cast excelled in their individual roles, against a spectacularly built set, designed by John Isplip, Jeff Darlow and Mark Nattrass. Noises Off has to be one of my favourite farces and Sutton Arts Theatre have done it absolute justice. If you’re after a night of rib-tickling comedy, this is the place to go. Must end 12 September.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.