“Please sir, can I have some more?” Oliver’s immortal plea couldn’t have been a more apt request when leaving Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society’s production of Lionel Bart’s musical based on Charles Dickens’ famous story. From the cheery opening chorus of Food Glorious Food this vibrant production, under the direction of David Shaw, was a delicious treat full of thumping good tunes and whip smart choreography by Amy Williams.
The dozen young performers who made-up Fagin’s gang and the workhouse children were uniformly buoyant and confident and it was great to hear such young voices singing with clarity throughout. In the title role, Harrison Eno is a sweet singing cherubic Oliver, and his new found pal, the Artful Dodger, played by George Blower was a real charmer.
Leon Davies gave us an exemplary Fagin – the perfect combination of a slippery, sinister crook played with a touch of wit. Anna Forster plays Nancy with gusto and passion. Her performance was full of infectious vivacity particularly when the stage filled with the lively chorus for a Cockney knees-up during the raucous Oom-Pah-Pah. The ensemble chorus and choreography in this scene really packed a punch.
The Bloomsbury scene was colourful and full of some lovely detail - the school mistress and her pupils, flower sellers and milk maids. Personally (and this is a minor quibble) I would have liked a little more contrast to the dynamics during the quartet of voices in Who Will Buy? - a softer pianissimo would have given it more space and a dream like quality.
Special mention must go to the live band (it would have been nice to have their names in the programme), led by musical director, George Stuart and in particular the beautiful solo Kletzmer violin that features as part of Fagin’s number, Reviewing The Situation (sung brilliantly by Leon Davies), as he dithers between crime and respectability.
A final special mention to the stage management team for the fluent staging and the evocative lighting by Matt Bird. It takes a lot of dedication to pull off a show of this quality so hats off to SAOS, it’s great to see such a thriving company. Consider yourselves a success!
Solihull audiences have been treated to not one, but two productions from local company Peterbrook Players this year, to celebrate their 50th anniversary. With performances dedicated to the memory of Stephen Bickerton, there’s a real poignancy to this production week.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic has lost none of its beauty and charm, and in the hands of the talented Peterbrook Players they have delightfully brought this show to life. Directed by Kirsteen Stafford there has clearly been hours, weeks and months of love poured into this production.
The vocals are sublime through the night, with harmonies that make the spine tingle and solos that soar through the auditorium. It is clear the cast are in safe hands with their Musical Director Paula Whitehouse, leading the band with great aplomb. There is a plethora of excellent performances, including the trio of supporting nuns: Alison Tumber, Rachel Perks and Chloe Rawson - shoutout especially to the colourful Lonely Goatherd scene.
Good comic support comes in the form of Andy Alton as Max Detweiler and Charlotte Boulton as Elsa Schraeder, whilst Cathy King proves that you only need a few moments on stage to make your mark with her hilarious cameo as Fraulein Schweiger.
The Von Trapp children are an absolute joy. The septet of Amelia Bickerton, Sam Weir, Jacob Young, Annie Stephenson, Alice Keddie, Lauren Meehan and Harlow Grant display an abundance of talent. They’re not only beautiful singers, but also well drilled in the polished choreography from Suzanne Ballard-Yates.
With such an iconic screen adaptation, it’s a daunting task to step into the shoes of any principal role, but the trio of Iona Cameron as Maria, Fiona Krober as Mother Abbess and Thom Stafford as Captain Von Trapp really make each character their own.
Krober is vocally stunning throughout the night, closing Act One with a stellar performance of Climb Every Mountain, whilst Stafford brings an aloofness to Captain Von Trapp which gradually fades away as he falls in love with Maria. A highlight is his emotive performance of Edelweiss.
Meanwhile Iona Cameron is on fine form in the role of Maria. She brings a vibrant, child-like energy to the role, blended with a real talent for comic timing. Her voice is stunning and she really does light up the stage each time she enters.
The story is set against the backdrop of the Third Reich movement and the rise of Hitler, and Peterbrook’s interpretation does not shy away from this. The addition of the historical references, scattered throughout, very much emphasise and remind the audience of what was happening not too far from the Von Trapp’s. Personally, these moments only required the video footage and historical background as it was poignant and striking enough.
There were some sound glitches through the night, but these were handled mightily well by the cast, who ploughed on as the issues were fixed quickly and efficiently. It’s a very small gripe for what really was a superlative performance.
The hills (and the Core Theatre) certainly are alive with the sound of music this week and Peterbrook Players have lovingly and wonderfully brought this show to glorious life.
If you’re looking for a show to brighten up a rather drab and dreary October then look no further than Wolverhampton Grand this week as they play host to the gorgeously glittery Rocky Horror Show.
Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ’n’ roll musical has been touring the world this year and it doesn’t disappoint. As the audience took to their feet at the end, it’s clear that this show has lost none of its sparkle or splendour over the years.
Since being in Birmingham (at The Alexandra) earlier this year, it’s undergone some cast changes, including Stephen Webb who now follows in the heeled footsteps of Duncan James as the iconic Frank N Furter. Webb blurs the lines of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ terrifically well, with velvety smooth vocals that delight.
James Darch also joins the cast, excelling in the role of Brad and complementing the equally talented Joanne Clifton in the role of Janet - their vocals were on point through the night.
Other familiar faces include the wonderful talents of Callum Evans as Rocky, dextrous as ever he flips across the stage effortlessly, whilst Laura Harrison shines as Usherette / Magenta. Stalwart of the cast, Kristian Lavercombe, is on top form as Riff Raff.
Philip Franks makes for an utterly hilarious Narrator, with some excellent improvisational moments. His quick-witted responses had the audience laughing throughout.
The show never takes itself seriously, it is just sheer fun from beginning to end and a guaranteed night of pure joy.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.