For many The Addams Family will conjure memories of either the 1960s television series or the hit movies from the 70s and early 90s. In fact this family of misfits dates back more than 80 years to a series of satirical cartoons published in the New Yorker.
Manor Musical Theatre Company keeps Charles Addam’s iconic creation alive in this enjoyable production of the decade-old musical version
The family’s macabre world is turned upside down when their devilish daughter Wednesday falls for Lucas Beineke a sweet boy from a normal family. And when the Beinekes are invited over for dinner all hell breaks loose.
Few shows have a power couple that rivals Gomez and Morticia and Mark Skett and Beth Hooper do a sterling job as the family's figureheads. Gomez in particular is rarely off the stage in this show and Skett doesn’t put a foot wrong as the suave Spaniard.
Elsewhere Tom Lafferty shines as a wonderfully gawky Lucas and Karrise Willetts is delightfully dark as his menacing pursuer Wednesday.
Jack Dolaghan impresses as Wednesday’s annoying and destructive younger brother Pugsley and James Dolaghan harnesses the power of the grunt to great comedic effect throughout.
Megan Daniels makes for a terrific Alice Beineke, her rendition of Waiting is a highlight. And Richard Parry is strong throughout as rock god turned bore Mel, her husband and Lucas's father.
Fester is one of this strange family’s more familiar faces and Andy Hooper does a good job of capturing the character’s overwhelming weirdness. And speaking of weird, Kate Dyer does a cracking job as the eccentric Grandma.
There are some great numbers in this show and with an array of excellent costumes, especially some of those donned by the ancestors, there are times where the company looks fantastic on-stage. At others it feels like proceedings could do with an injection of pace, but in truth this isn’t the most dynamic of shows for chorus members with the focus instead on members of the respective families.
That said the chorus does it give it their all and among them Matt Cotter and Katrina Cadman stand out for their characterisation and consistency.
Tim Harding's band belts out the score with real gusto and there were times where it was a little difficult for those of us nearer the front to catch some of the lyrics and dialogue - more to do with the acoustics in this delightful old venue than anything.
Congratulations to directors Pam and James Garrington, musical director Tim Harding and choreographer Maggie Moriarty on this entertaining production.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat - Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre - Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Joseph… is the first production from the new Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre, and what a lively, energetic opening production it was. On entering the theatre you notice not only the dominating set but the long runway jutting out into the auditorium, and you know this is going to be a different sort of production. Director Paul Lumsden has done a great job of getting the best out of the potentially awkward Town Hall space to tell this classic story, and his young cast respond brilliantly. The opening conceit of having a class of school children being told the story by the Narrators as their teachers works well, and from the moment the band of 11 brothers hit the stage the energy really takes off and never lets up.
The performances make a feature of the many different quirky musical styles within Lloyd Webber’s score, from the brothers taunting Joseph sounding almost like a football crowd to Tom Lafferty’s pitch-perfect Elvis look-a-like Pharoah. Leading us through the story are the Narrators Ellicia Smith and Juliet Fisher who both possess very clear, striking voices with excellent diction, and also seemed to enjoy the vast array of costumes they were given. The supporting performances from Bae Rooney, Joe Sutton, Jessica Dovey, Jessica Neil and Eloise Wilson were all strongly characterized.
At the heart of the production is Ben Hayfield’s Joseph, holding the stage with an easy charm and a very well controlled young voice. In fact it was a feature of this production, and a credit to MD Tony Orbell, that all the singing was very well controlled, with some nice moments of very confident harmony.
Jane Slassor’s choreography brought the best out of her young dancers, the Hoe Down being a particular highlight.
It’s just a shame that the lighting left performers in the dark on several occasions in the show, and the sound balance made it difficult to understand long sections of the songs; my 10 year old junior reviewer, who had never seen Joseph before, said she could only clearly hear about half of the lyrics, and therefore struggled to keep up with the story.
However this could not stop you noticing the energy and commitment from all the cast on stage.
Starting a new Youth Theatre must be a daunting prospect but an exciting challenge. Well done to the members of Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company for creating this youth company and giving so many young people the chance to experience live theatre, both on stage and in off stage technical roles. I look forward to following this fledgling company as they grow over the next few years.
"...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
"...a dark, sinful and seedy world of jazz and liquor performed faultlessly in true Ebb/Fosse style."
Absolutely delighted to have witnessed the fabulous musical Chicago, staged at the Brewhouse Theatre Burton. The Cabaret Theatre Company effortlessly, and with pro-standard, drew the audience into a dark, sinful and seedy world of jazz and liquor and performed faultlessly in true Ebb/Fosse style.
Set in the 1920s, Chicago is a story of murder, adultery and greed centred around hot cellblock rivals Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, and their silky smooth lawyer Billy Flynn. A main focus is on the vauderville-style dance design and choreographer Sally Everson absolutely nailed it. The production team comprising Chris Moss, (Director), Sally Everson (Producer/Choreographer) and Charlotte Daniel (MD) is clearly a successful one.
Continuously stellar performances from the stunning chorus-line girls, with every big number being an unquestionable highlight. Principles Sara Evans-Bolger (Velma Kelly) and Sian Scattergood (Roxie Hart) performed superbly opposite each other and classical singer Duncan Leech (Billy Flynn) and very amusing pro-performer Dan Webber (Amos Hart). Hilary Leam played a very confident Mamma Morton, again with an exceptional voice, and D Carter kept us giggling with a delightful Mary Sunshine.
Supported by an excellent orchestra and performed in a minimal set (less is more!) I congratulate the company on their achievement, their unsurpassed energy, required sultriness and dedication to perfection. Definitely a Company I would like to see again and a Company who have every reason to celebrate.
Next show Annie Feb 2010
"..a faultless production and hilarious to watch with lots of laugh-out-loud comedy.."
This week The Alexandra Theatre is staging Lopez and Marx's musical comedy - Avenue Q. The production cleverly features interacting puppets and human actors on stage and brings you the stories of several quirky characters who live at Avenue Q, featuring mainly around Princeton who moves into the neighbourhood in order to find his purpose.
The puppets have hilarious and sometimes naughty personalities. The puppeteers create the characters with unique voice artistry and clever motion. Even though the puppeteers are visible on stage the audiences focus is cleverly kept on the puppets. The Cookie Monster and the Blonde Bombshell were operated and voiced by Cecily Redman. Both Cecily Redman and Lawrence Smith, who voiced Princeton, were incredible at bringing these two on/off lovers to life. They provided superb voices and acted well throughout. Cecily Redman provided a strong and emotive vocal performance when she sang `There`s A Fine, Fine Line'.
Other puppet highlights were performances by the crude and naughty characters of Trekkie Monster, voiced by Tom Steedon, and the very entertaining Bad Idea Bears.
'Human' actors Christmas Eve (Saori Oda), Brain (Oliver Stanley) and Gary Coleman (Nicholas McClean) fitted in perfectly amongst all the zany colourful puppets. and all with great chemistry, delighting the audience with fast-paced comedic routines.
Musical highlights included `It Sucks To Be Me`, `If You Were Gay` and `I`m Not Wearing Underwear Today`. With slapstick comedy and crude jokes this is not a family show nor a show for the easily-offended, but adults with a great sense of humour will just love it. The set, which subtly adapts during the performance, works brilliantly along with the use of two television screens.
In all, this was a faultless production and hilarious to watch with lots of laugh-out-loud comedy, ending with a standing ovation which was most certainly deserved.
Runs to 16 February
Age guide over 16
Contains strong adult themes
"...the detail and commitment to the show unsurpassed."
Friends, Romans and Countrymen - this week, Spotlight Youth Productions are performing at Nortonicus Canicus High School and, in true Spotlight Youth style, they bring with them an abundance of energy, laughter and talent that’s guaranteed to keep you smiling all night. This young, Queen’s Awarded group never disappoints and continues to perform to the highest of standards and their take on this classic tale really is something to celebrate.
Set in pantoesque Roman Britain, the story features around the peaceful Romans and Brits of Nortonicus Canicus and the battle between the rotten Romans of nearby Brownhullisium (and their band of Gladiators) and the formidable Boadicea. Boadicea instructs her not-so-twin daughters to sell her horse, Jack, and buy a newer, improved model. The girls exchange Jack for some magic beans (aha! That old magic bean trick!) and a spaghetti beanstalk takes everyone into the land of the gorgeous Roman Gods, rather than warty old Giants.
So, it may be a step away from the traditional story, and a little more complex in layers, but the enthusiasm and energy from the cast is infectious and the detail and commitment to the show unsurpassed.
Costumes wow! Choreography – a serious wow! Set, props and tech – all wow! (how many ‘wows’ am I allowed?). Live band absolutely spot-on, script by Jackie Anderson top notch... and the kids? Well, they get my biggest WOW! Too large a cast to mention individually but as an all-singing-all-dancing group they kept up the fast pace without a dip and succeeded in delivering the jokes, routines and daft drama in a most delightful and off-the-wall way. Its unique and it works.
Just before I sign off, I have to mention Ben Carr as Mercury – Ben, you were absolutely born for panto.
Congratulations to all.
Runs to 10 Feb
[Photo by Phillip Ingham]
"..a wonderful achievement and huge fun to watch."
Mellow Dramatics are performing the award winning musical Spend Sp£nd Spend at The Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton on Trent this week, and it is certainly a great way to spend an evening.
The story, set in 1961 Yorkshire, is based on the life of Viv Nicholson, a working class housewife whose husband won a £152,319 fortune on the football pools (equivalent to around £3.5 million today). Viv became a household name for her reply of "I'm going to spend, spend, spend!", when interviewed by a reporter about her plans for the windfall, and was soon the most envied woman of her time. But, her out-of-control spending soon ended in bankruptcy and her life spiralled downwards rapidly - from rags to riches and back to rags.
The musical by Brown and Greene, based on the book written by Viv Nicholson and Stephen Smith, is an account of Viv's life from childhood, through a whopping five husbands, fancy cars, boozy parties and, sadly, the tragedies associated with the inability to manage the lifestyle she was propelled into.
Mellow Dramatics have clearly worked hard to pull this off. And they have nailed it, as the expression goes. Musically it's a huge undertaking (hats off to MDs Sara Kimber and Alex Priestley). Directed by Andrew Warner, assisted by Caroline Betteridge and Chloe Lang on choreography, the show is so fast paced it keeps you on your toes from start to finish, with scene transitions that are hardly noticeable and a clever set design that enables rooms to almost pop in and out as the audience's attention is directed to spotlit areas upstage. With an excellent orchestra on an elevated level hidden behind a gauze also used for projected imagery, and clever choreography, it is technically a wonderful achievement and huge fun to watch.
Helen Thrupp plays the Viv of present time, hair dresser, telling the story directly as Natalie Veasey plays the young Viv - from ice-cream seller discovering her sexuality to international millionaire party girl. Both actresses play their Viv's brilliantly, with excellent singing vocals maintaining the 'Yarkshire' accent throughout. Joe Bromfield plays Viv's second husband, Keith, the kind and and gentle man who takes care of her in contrast to George, Viv's father, the alcoholic, controlling, 'beating but still loves her' miner played with conviction by Alan Rowe. Chris Moss plays Viv's first lover and 'accidental' husband, Matt, and Maria Smith plays Viv's mother, both portraying their characters well. It's a cast too large to mention individually but a cast that should take a bow for putting on such a fabulous show, keeping it exciting, and for mastering the complexity of songs and harmonies that make this production so unique.
Runs to 19 Jan
Contains adult themes
It’s that time of year again (oh no it’s not, oh yes it is). Pantomime is popping up left, right and centre and this year Wolverhampton Grand have delivered an absolute spectacle. From dragons and fairies, to magic before your eyes, this is the sort of theatre that makes children want to come back again and again. Serving up more double entendres than you could shake a stick at, Sleeping Beauty had all the ingredients to make this a pantomime to remember.
From the outset the children were enchanted as Fairy Crystal (Debbie McGee) was suspended above the audiences heads. Acting as protagonist, McGee soon locks horns with the evil Carabosse, played with flair by Julie Paton.
The much-loved story unfolds before our eyes, packed with humour, magic and music for good measure. McGee makes for an endearing fairy (even when she did forget her lines) - but that made it all the more funnier. She was supported well by an array of characters, including Bethan-Wyn Davies as Princess Beauty and Oliver Ormson as Prince Harry, who sang a lovely duet of Rewrite the Stars from the iconic Greatest Showman soundtrack. They also managed to weave in A Million Dreams and you could here echoes of little voices singing along in the audience.
There were of course some particular stand out performances, namely Ian Adams as Queen Wilhelmina and Doreen Tipton as Nurse Doreen. They were hilariously brilliant in their respective roles, with a great nod to Baby Shark squeezed in for good measure. However, the stars of this pantomime were Richard Cadell (Muddles), Sooty and the delightful, unexpected appearance from Sweep. Cadell’s warmth on stage was palpable and he really got the audience going. And with Sooty and Sweep, it felt as if the adults in the audience regressed back to their childhood as they excitedly called out “Izzy wizzy let’s get busy”. Meanwhile, Sweep’s Luciano Pavarotti performance is perhaps one of the greatest things I’ve seen in Panto. Laugh out loud funny.
However, it was the spectacular magic and illusions in this particular pantomime that took my breath away. Audiences were left in awe as magic happened before our eyes and to hear the audible gasps from children goes to prove why pantomime is such a brilliant way of introducing youngsters to theatre.
Sleeping Beauty is packed full of sparkle and wonder. What better way to show children the magic of theatre? And what a Christmas treat for Wolverhampton!
It might not be the greatest story ever told, at least not at this time of year, but it’s surely one of them. The Wizard of Oz follows the yellow brick road into The Rep in this immensely entertaining re-imagined staging of the classic story.
The story of Oz has become such a staple of storytelling that it’s hard to believe the film is now nearly 80 years old. But as this production demonstrates – a great story never gets old.
Liam Steel’s production is described as a ‘bold but faithful re-imagining’ of the classic story in the programme and that it is. The production is visually stunning and the striking set and wonderful costumes suck you into Dorothy’s world from the outset.
Matt Nicholson’s choreography is superb throughout, with a particularly wonderful sequence involving ingenious puppet Munchkins and a brilliant number in Emerald City.
Chisara Agor makes an excellent Dorothy; capturing her innocence and ultimate love for home quite beautifully. Meanwhile Ed Wade is terrific as Scarecrow and Lorna Laidlow impresses as Professor Marvel/Oz.
The standout performance comes from Jos Vantyler who makes for a fantastically horrid Wicked Witch.
There are some terrific vocals on display of which Kelly Agbowu (Lion) and Shanay Holmes (Glinda) stand out. And a gifted ensemble supports the production throughout.
And of course it wouldn’t be The Wizard of Oz without a Toto – played by the adorable Teddy in this performance. He even managed a little look out to the audience as the curtains came across at the end – a true professional.
This is an all-round thoroughly entertaining festive treat.
The Wizard of Oz plays at The Rep until Sunday 13 January.
"...every company member demonstrated a high level of talent and stage presence, stunning vocals and technical ability."
There is nothing more warming to the heart than being able to lose yourself in an evening of musical theatre bliss and the Guild Music Theatre’s Group’s recent production of Magic of the Musicals was indeed just that.
Following their recent production Legally Blonde, which, incidentally, was an absolute joy to watch, members of the group presented this one-night performance which featured many well-loved musical favourites including songs from classic shows such as Oklahoma to some from more recent West End productions such as the ground-breaking smash Hamilton.
The evening was opened by the delightfully entertaining compere Alastair Winning, who comically introduced us to a friend who was ‘just passing by’ and invited her to co-host the show. The addition of ‘Tash Llewellyn was an absolute highlight of the night. Llewellyn, clearly born to be on the stage, entertained us with comedy acts and singing and she had all the moves – what we might refer to in the business a ‘a true triple threat’!
Together, Alastair and Llewellyn carried the show along, introducing the acts and maintaining the pace and humour.
As you can imagine, there are far too many numbers to mention but I felt that each individual performance was excellent with every company member demonstrating a high level of talent and stage presence, stunning vocals and technical ability.
Highlights of the evening included performances from the incomparable Helen Parsons (who really had the audience in stitches) with a delivery of Adelaide’s Lament, Windy City and the hilarious Anything You Can Do which really showcased her ability.
We were witness to some beautiful harmonies particularly in the popular duet Can You Feel the Love Tonight, performed by Lizzy Ives and Thomas Kershaw-Green.
A lovely section of the evening was the company’s rendition of the Hamilton medley and the finale One, from A Chorus Line. The show was complimented by simple and understated choreography, directed by Cam Wilson.
I must also congratulate MD Zoe Farrow who conducted her orchestra beautifully.
This very talented group is certainly one to watch out in the future, possibly one of the most talented I have witnessed, and I certainly look forward to watching their forthcoming productions.
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