"...an uplifting and highly entertaining show .."
Stiles and Drewe’s utterly British musical comedy comes to the Stoke Repertory Theatre this week and it really is a treat not to be missed. Based on the 1984 Alan Bennett movie ‘A Private Function’ the story, full of eccentric characters, is set in post-war Britain of 1947 where ordinary folk survive on rations and local council officials bend the rules for their own gain. The musical features around Betty Blue Eyes, the long-lashed sow, whose fate looms as she is secretly reared to become the main dish at a private ‘Royal Wedding’ function held in the local town, and Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers, a timid chiropodist (with the magic fingers) who dreams of letting premises on The Parade for a practice and his more socially ambitious wife who is determined to be a ‘somebody’. The townsfolk encounter Inspector Wormold, a mean and obsessive destroyer of unlicensed meat, and later the sudden disappearance of the forbidden Betty causes panic amongst the councillors who have no back-up plan other than tinned salmon for the guests.
Production team Rachel Talbot-Millar (Director and Choreographer) and Liz Talbot (MD) have certainly created an uplifting and highly entertaining show with an excellent, versatile set, great lighting design and lavish, era-appropriate wardrobe. Paul Deakin (Gilbert) and the beautifully voiced Tracey Brough-Chesters (Joyce) play brilliantly against each other and of course with Anne McArdle (Mother Dear) with the hilarious song routine of Pig No Pig being a brilliantly choreographed highlight of the evening. Adrian Yearsley, Frank McGregor and Rob Mincher portray the characters of Dr Swaby, Henry Allardyce and Francis Lockwood respectively, and do so with lovable humour and perfect comedy timing. Tony O’Rourke portrays Inspector Wormold with wicked perfection and very impressive singing voice and Olivia Wilson was delightful as the brattish Veronica Allardyce. Too large a cast to mention individually but a cast that must be congratulated for their consistent energy and comedy, wide range of splendid and harmonious voices and their unrivalled connection with the audience, who they held captive from start to finish.
Special mention must go to Betty who was kept under control by clever use of animatronics and also to Betty’s Band, conducted by Liz Talbot, who played off-stage and was one of the best orchestras I’ve heard in a long time. The Stoke Rep is fast becoming one of my favourite theatres with the standard of amateur performance being top of the list, and this production by North Staffs Operatic Society is certainly no exception. Get a ticket (if you can).
Suitable for everyone.
Runs to 16 March
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