It’s Fair Shares for All as crisis, rations and pork pies take over this 1947 English town in the mist of Austerity Britain. But all is not well as further ration cuts means that Gilbert and Joyce must hatch a plan to get some meat and Steal The Pig. Meat inspector Wormold (Geoff Bird) appears to dictate the full force of the law on this little town and to ensure that everyone gets their fair share. It’s a tale of greed, comedy and wartime community spirit as Walsall Operatic Society present Betty Blue Eyes at the Lichfield Garrick. It is a fun night filled with great music and a story that reminds us there’s always Another Little Victory For Little England'.
Stiles & Drewe’s score is the spitting image of a 1940s Vera Lynn track with a great composition of joyous wartime treats and 'We'll Meet Again' style solos. It is the musical direction of Ian Room that leads the stunning band for this week's performance and it is a pleasure to listen to such a great cast with such a strong orchestra.
Casting was also a treat - Connor Bacon leads well as the hopeful Gilbert Chilvers, a protagonist in the unlikely form of the town’s local chiropodist, notably a song that quotes ‘tinial infection, fetty fungle growth step into my parlor I can cure you both’ brings comedy from this character fairly early on! His vocals blend nicely with his onstage wife Joyce (Ruth Harvey) and their onstage relationship works well, heightening the storytelling of this show. But good things come in threes, as their 74 year old incompetent mother (Trish Humphreys) becomes the centre of the comedy, particular in act two for the climax in Pig No Pig - a great number.
Other commendable performances include Ian Shephard as the pig-loving Henry Allardyce who, when paired with Connor Bacon, their rendition of Betty Blue Eyes became a real heartwarming number. Mrs Allardyce (Steph Coleman) was also a prominent figure, not only in the community, but also in this performance. Coleman provided a real atmosphere to the stage in her scenes. A strong female ensemble also shone in the number It’s An Ill Wind where the choreography and staging hit a real high.
Congratulations must go to the direction of Richard Poynton whose staging covered the Garrick nicely and his appearances throughout the show were a nice cameo touch! The direction blended well with Jess Lambert’s choreography. It is often understated and hard to choreograph an amateur dramatic group with such a large ensemble, but Lambert treats this with ease and really relates her movement to the period. Steve Rainsford’s lighting complimented Scenic Project's new 1940s bunting covered set and shifts nicely between the musical numbers and the scenes.
But the star of this show is of course, Sratchbuilt Productions ingenious puppet... Betty; characterized by Eleanor Shepphard's on stage actor-puppeteering, which heightens the life of this little puppet.
Despite a few opening night glitches, it was a real treat and highlights a beautiful authenticity to what was Austerity Britain! Trot along to Betty Blue Eyes at the Lichfield Garrick this week and oink your way to the front row to experience a night of frivolous pig puns!
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