Skid Row has arrived in Rugeley this week as Rugeley Musical Theatre Company bring to life the cult classic Little Shop of Horrors. Penned by Howard Ashman, with music by Alan Menken, the show is defined as a comedy, rock, horror musical. Blending multiple genres, the show is a whirlwind from beginning to end and is a hard task for any group to undertake.
RMTC have valiantly rose to the challenge of this show, with an enthusiastic ensemble filling the stage. Matt Hunt took on the endearing role of Seymour, paired with Claire Hughes as Audrey, supported by Roger Teece as Mushnik.
The Crystals, Chiffons and Ronnettes sparky performances got the toes tapping and when the whole cast were on stage there was a brimming energy. Juxtaposed to the brooding Jacob Bishop as the Nitrous Oxide inhaling dentist.
There were a few moments where dialogue got lost over the band and some points where accents became intelligible, but for an opening night performance the cast really pulled together showcasing a warm camaraderie on stage.
The highlight of the show, rather aptly, has to be the looming, impressive Audrey II that practically grows in front of the audience’s eyes. Manipulated by Dan Smith, the man-eating plant is vocally brought to life by the brilliant Alice Robinson who oozed sass. Quite a feat as she was never actually seen until the bows!
Congratulations to all involved.
Nobody could ever claim that The Producers is a musical that is lacking energy. Regardless of whether you consider Adolf Hitler dancing around the stage in tight black lederhosen to be uncomfortable, it is without a doubt, entertaining at least. The Producers tells the tale of two producers who try to make a fortune by putting on a flop musical. Mel Brooks' movie masterpiece which was adapted to the stage in 2001 received rave reviews and I can certainly say that the same will happen again based on St. Augustine's MTC's production at The Core Theatre, Solihull.
Leading the way with relative ease, a convincing John Morrison played Max Bialystock with all of the quick bursts of a changing personality when he's not getting his way. Max is such a difficult part to act, let alone sing but John delivered when expectations were so high. His performances of The King of Broadway and Betrayed! were excellent. Matching John every step of the way was the lovable Leo Bloom. Richard Perks plays the nervous bumbling accountant who wanders into Max's life and decides that he too wants to be a Broadway producer. Richard gives a touching performance throughout, with particular stand out performances of I Wanna Be A Producer and 'Til Him. The pair bounce off each other with their quick timing and rapport. An excellent partnership that is bound to get even better as the run continues.
Very strong performances from both Nicki Willetts and Nick Salter who played Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaden-Svanson and Franz Liebkind respectively; both singing their individual numbers with power and full of charisma. A couple of other stand-out performances from Mike Bentley as Roger De Bris/Hitler, but I won't tell you why, you'll have to see for yourself, and to Daniel Morris who demonstrated excellent vocals. The orchestra were fantastic throughout, expertly led by Musical Director Stephen Powell. The ovation received at the end of the show was well deserved.
Plus a quick mention for Stage Manager Tony Walsh and his crew. You would usually allow for a few mishaps with set changes as it's opening night but his team were slick and on point so congratulations to you all backstage. The show cannot go on without you.
A really great musical about a really awful one runs until Saturday 24th November.
The Witches by Roald Dahl is a classic children's story, popularised by the 1990 film, this is a tale of
disguised threats, dire consequences and of course evil witches.
Union Theatre, a Solihull based amateur dramatics society with director Victoria Ellery-Jones, has
worked hard across the past 8 weeks - a limited time frame even by professional standards - to
present this well-known play to appreciative audiences over the past week.
I had the delight to see the performance on Friday 8 November and was thoroughly whisked away
by the commitment, dedication and talent present on stage. The group had done an excellent job of
transforming the beautiful space of St James the Great Church into a minimalist stage - allowing the
space and setting to change with the rapid pace of the narrative - with the help of lighting and sound
we are transported from car, to tree, to bustling hotel and rocky ferry.
The play opened with a retelling of the life growing up of the chief character, three separate actors
in height order, sporting red garments enacted the happy, idyllic childhood of the generically named
Boy, before the play establishes and we soon learn that his caring parents are killed in a tragic
Boy is played by James Williams with a vibrancy and life that contrasts directly with the dark
undertones of the play entire. Throughout this performance, he was engaged, focused and
disciplined in his approach - a notable performance for a young actor and one that belies a promising
career if he sticks with it.
Supporting James, was his caring ex-pat Grandmother who lives in Norway but travels with Boy to
Britain for a holiday - Julie Moore carried the part of Nanna with a gentleness and sometime severity
befitting the role as she guides and instructs her young grandchild through the peril of spotting,
avoiding and dealing with witches.
The play progresses at a swift pace, and before we know it we stand at the entrance to the Hotel
Magnificent, treated fleetingly to an insight into the life of the second child woven into the narrative.
Bruno, well played by Matthew Parker, is a spoilt rotten nightmare child - filled with bluster and
greed Matthew's character oozes those contemptible traits that makes the Witches actions seem almost reasonable - if not preferable!
Before long we are sitting in the conference room as the Grand High Witch herself, played in drag
with a thick German accent excellently by Mark Firmstone, reveals herself and all the other Witches.
A nod should be given to the individuals responsible for the make-up and special effects of this
show, as itchy wigs are removed revealing horrendously scabbed bald heads.
These cackling harpies shriek and squawk their pleasure at the GHWs plan to get rid of all the
children in England - unknowingly revealing their plots to the hidden out of sight Boy.
The transformation of children to mice is achieved through the use of two larger-than-life mice
puppets who crawl and scutter across the stage.
With a cast of 23, this was a combined effort, giving the play life and vibrancy; an aspect of Amateur
Theatre that so often lacks in professional performances - with multi-roling and constantly changing
sets, props and costumes - the supporting actors not mentioned should hold their heads high for a job supremely well done. Special mention should be made of Jemma Reid who played a litany of
minor characters yet still managed to capture the audience’s attention at every turn - a performance
that solidifies the idea that there is no such thing as a small part!
If you, or someone you know, wants to join in and tread the boards, I would highly recommend
getting involved by visiting Union Theatre’s website for their next set of auditions.
Set in London during the Thatcher years, My Beautiful Laundrette tells the story of young British Pakistani, Omar, who transforms his uncle's run-down laundrette into a thriving business with the help of old school friend Johnny as an unlikely love story blossoms between them.
There’s plenty to like about this production. From the opening moments it screams 1980s Britain with all its social and cultural conflict and the iconic sound of the Pet Shop Boys is the ideal backdrop for a story which in its day powerfully defied Thatcherism and all it stood for.
Jonny Fines is excellent as reformed bad boy Johnny and Omar Malik turns in a thoughtful performance as Omar.
There’s good support too from the likes of Hareet Deol as the spivvy Salim and Gordon Warnecke, who played Omar in the original some 35 years ago but this time portrays the character’s father.
But something isn’t quite right and in this stage adapation the story feels a little lacking in substance; even trite at times.
In the screenplay Johnny and Omar’s relationship is frustratingly unexplored but it somehow works in the context of the age. In this production their bond is so quickly formed that it lacks credibility, no matter how hard the actors try.
Elsewhere the dialogue frequently borders on the corny. What should be a touching moment, when Johnny tells Omar he is ‘his prince’, instead feels a little cringeworthy.
The set is cleverly simplistic but at times it leaves the audience confused about where we are. And even Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s 80s anthems feel like set change music which isn't properly integrated into the piece.
The Oscar-nominated original was leagues ahead of its time in the 80s and challenged the cultural absolutes and negative stereotypes which were so typical of the dogmatism of the day in a hugely important way.
This production threatens to, but never quite succeeds at making that story resonate with modern day audiences.
With its story of lust, love, betrayal and murder, allied to a battery of memorable tunes, Verdi’s first mature masterpiece has been a staple of the operatic repertoire since its first performance in 1851. But it wasn’t guaranteed that Rigoletto would be a success.
Based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, that so scandalized Paris at its first performance, with its portrayal of the libertine French King Francis I, that it was immediately banned, Verdi and his librettist Piave had to agree to change the location and personnel of their story in order to get it passed the censors in Venice. Even then there were those who thought the character of the Duke of Mantua, who lusted after any and every woman, and was surrounded by courtiers only too happy to help feed his venal desires, would be to scandalous for the operatic stage. But balancing the libidinous Duke was his loyal, and very human fool Rigoletto, who harboured one great secret; he kept a teenage daughter hidden away, for fear what might happen if she was seen by the Duke and his minions.
Many directors have updated many operas into more modern settings, so it’s no real surprise to find ourselves in the White House at the time of President John F Kennedy. Yes, it’s certainly true that many powerful men down the years have held sway with almost autocratic power, and power over women has always been a part of that. And Kennedy was certainly famous for his love of the ladies, and, seemingly, them for him. But apart from that opening gambit, director James Macdonald’s production for Welsh National Opera (first seen in 2002, and here revived by Caroline Chaney) really adds very little to the story. Indeed the setting for Act 2, inside the Oval Office itself, feels very on the nose, and rather unsettled. Act 3 is much more successful, given that Sparafucile’s dwelling could be in almost any run down area of any large city, and we can just focus on the characters.
That said, once you get passed the setting and focus on the music this is a tremendous production. The cast is uniformly excellent, and the WNO Orchestra and male chorus bring real life and energy to Verdi’s vocal and orchestral inventiveness, full of sombre brass and delicately skittish woodwinds, under the direction of conductor Alexander Joel.
Heading the cast as the Duke/President Korean tenor David Jungoon Kim effortlessly sang his way through the required list of Verdi’s Greatest Tenor Arias. Possessing a bright ringing tone, ideally suited to this middle Verdi sound, Kim also demonstrated real acting prowess, being completely nonplussed by Monterone’s Curse, convincing in is wooing of Gilda, and then throwing her away for Maddalena without a second thought.
As Gilda fellow Korean Haegee Lee was no less impressive. Although possessing a smaller voice, her clarity was exceptional, allowing her to comfortably cross the large orchestra. Despite a small stumble in the final coloratura Caro Nome was delightfully crisp and playful, and young woman showing her first feelings of sexual awakening. And when she discovers her lover’s betrayal in Act 3 her confusion and shock were convincing.
At the centre of the action is Mark S Doss’s noble Rigoletto. It’s true that, in this staging we really don’t know what Rigoletto’s role is, but in a performance this committed it hardly matters. From the jeering opening scene, through the paternal duets with Gilda to the betrayal at the finale, Doss is in complete command of both his voice and the stage.
Support come from the enormously menacing voice of James Platt (Sparafucile), and the richly toned, seductive Emma Carrington (Maddalena).
Act 3, shorn of the necessity for the specific setting, really does pack a punch vocally and emotionally. The quartet (Bella figlia dell’amore) is beautifully staged, with all four characters allowed to demonstrate their contrasting emotions in Verdi’s musical highlight. The offstage chorus also added its eery sound to the colourful orchestral storm which, supported by Simon Mills’ lighting design, underpinned the whole final scene.
Welsh National Opera have demonstrated, yet again, that they are at the forefront to top quality operatic and theatrical performance.
This BITA production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar has a distinctly modern urban-industrial feel, the bedraggled followers of Jesus wearing blue jeans and tattered army green t-shirts rather than rags and sandals of the biblical era. Pop-up tents adorn the stage while an impressive metal structure stretches across and is omnipresent, a constant reminder of the contemporary feel of the piece.
During the opening number, Heaven On Their Minds you are immediately struck by the fantastic choreography by Attiye Partridge and Cleve September which throughout the play always adds to, rather than distracts from the fantastic lead performances.
The production is rightly at its strongest when both Jesus, played by Dec Foster and Judas, played by Max Eade are both on stage. The relationship between the two young actors was particularly excellent as they exchange intense looks from across the stage. A standout Gethsemane, which is often the litmus test of a good Jesus, was valiently sung by the 17-year-old and deservedly garnered one of the biggest applause of the night. Special mention should go to Eade's performance of Judas who truly made the role his own.
The production remains true to the source material, but adds and expands subtly to create a unique performance. A role that is famous for apadaption is Herod and his self titled King Herod's Song. Played by James Luckins a hilariously jarring appearance of a scooter riding Herod certainly added some levity and got a big laugh from the audience as a Herod – who bares a striking similarity to a current world-leader – danced with his adoring fans.
A wonderful production that should leave all those involved very proud and those in the audience excited to see what this talented company will do next.
JM Barrie's classic Peter Pan has enchanted children and adults alike for over 100 years so it's lovely to see this triumph brought to the stage to be performed by a youth theatre group, full of boys and girls that I'm sure don't want to grow up.
A feeling of magic, wonder and excitement fills your whole body when you enter the auditorium, with the orchestra pit and stage extensions dressed up with a woodland effect, and filled with fairy lights. Having already being greeted by a friendly front of house team, the audience knew they were going to be in for a treat. I'm not one for spoilers but by now you should all know the story of the boy who doesn't want to grow up. With Peter Pan flying off to Neverland with Wendy and her brothers John and Michael, joining the rest of the Lost Boys in their quest to beat the wicked Captain Hook.
This being SCMYT's second show after the success that was 'Joseph...', the bar was certainly set very high. It was pleasing to see a number of returning cast members from last year along with a number of new faces, who all look like they've been working together for years.
The show was lead by Nate Wallace. This 12 year old has a very bright future ahead of him based on last night's performance. He plays Peter Pan with great energy, but also with a softness to the character that comes across really well. His number 'The Cleverness of Me' showed what a beautiful singing voice he has and you can tell he's no stranger to the stage. Supporting Peter on his quest was Wendy Darling, played beautifully by Sophie Pegg. The caring motherly figure to all of the Lost Boys shone whenever she was on stage and had a lovely stage presence. Sophie sang 'Just Beyond The Stars' with ease. An excellent performance. Finley Waldron played Captain Hook well, delivering the correct level of nastiness and comic timing so to not be associated with a pantomime villain. There was a comedy moment where Hook's moustache fell off at the start of Act 2, but the laughter from the audience didn't phase him. Hook's right hand man, the clumsy, positive, light-hearted Smee, was played well by Ben Hayfield. His accent, costume and comedy timing made for a great overall performance.
The chorus full of excitable Lost Boys, the fiercely warrior-like Braves and the infamous Pirates, each member had their own character to play, whether it was to help or hinder Peter Pan. Some stand out performances by Bae Rooney, full of energy and a wicked laugh, Lost Boy Twins Gracie Cawsey & Emily Haycock-Lamb who had excellent stage presence.
It would be unfair of me to miss out the fact that everybody gave a sterling performance and you should all be very proud.
A nice use of the new digital screen at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall and an excellent range of choreography set by Jane Slassor, showcasing the many strengths of this talented group.
A great half term treat for all of the family with the show running for three more performances, including a matinee and an evening performance on Saturday 2nd November.
And remember, it's important to believe in fairies!
Embarking on its third UK tour, Nativity sparkles on the Wolverhampton Grand stage this week. The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production originally opened in 2017 and it returns in dazzling style. Penned by the talented Debbie Isitt and a team of sensational collaborators, the production stays true to the festive film of the same name.
The enthusiastic cast fill the stage with a pulsing energy right from curtain up. ‘Team Bethlehem’ represent the children tonight and they certainly do shine. Standout performances come from Nicholas Vakis, Alexander Hogg and Lyla Peters who each excelled in their respective roles. Hogg’s rapping skills are a particular laugh-out-loud highlight.
Jamie Chapman, clearly the king of multiroling, is hilarious as reviewer Patrick Burns, alongside all his other characters. Meanwhile, Charles Brunton blends comedy and villainy in equal measure as the overly-competitive Mr Shakespeare and Penelope Woodman brings a great operatic vocal to the role of Mrs Bevan.
The trio of Ashleigh Gray as Jennifer Lore, Scott Garnham as Mr Maddens and Scott Paige as Mr Poppy is a sheer delight. Gray’s stunning vocals soar through the auditorium and Garnham makes for a wonderful Mr Maddens. However, Paige’s Mr Poppy steals the show with his sensational performance. From beginning to end he is a bouncing ball of brilliance.
With a sprinkle of added cuteness with Pepper the dog as Cracker, Nativity is a glittering triumph.
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