If you are looking for a sparkling night out, look no further than The Alexandra this week. Arriving in spectacular style, 9 to 5 opens its UK tour right in the heart of Birmingham and boy is it worth the hype. Already receiving critical acclaim in the West End, this toe-tapping treat of a show has undergone a few tweaks since its previous visit to UK soil. This fresh, new(er) version is a sheer delight from start to finish.
Based on the film of the same name, the storyline (progressive for the time its set) follows the trials and tribulations of the three central female characters who have to tackle the everyday obstacles thrown in their way by their male counterparts, in particular their misogynistic, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss, Franklin D Hart - played exceptionally well by the brilliant Sean Needham.
With music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, there is a real joy to be found in the melodies from start to finish. Her signature sound is stamped across the production, from the titular ‘9 to 5’ to the act one closing number, ‘Shine Like The Sun’ - the music brims with an infectious energy.
Much comic relief comes in the form of the excellent Lucinda Lawrence as Roz, with ‘Heart to Hart’ being a certain highlight. The stage pulses with excitement thanks to the talented ensemble, executing well drilled choreography from Lisa Stevens. The staging is impressive from designer Tom Rogers, complemented well by the lighting from Howard Hudson, it comes into its own during ‘Change It’.
But it is the trio at the forefront of this production who absolutely shine - Louise Redknapp (Violet), Amber Davies (Judy) and Georgina Castle (Doralee) are individual forces to be reckoned with. Their exceptional voices deliver spine-tingling moments throughout, including the beautiful harmonies in 'I Just Might’, Louise Redknapp’s brilliant ‘One of the Boys’, Georgina Castle’s beautifully memorable ‘Backwoods Barbie’, through to Amber Davies’ stand-out vocals in ‘Get Out And Stay Out’ - just wow.
Under the musical direction of Simone Manfredini and direction from Jeff Calhoun, this production certainly ‘shines like the sun’. Not only a fantastic night out, this newest version of Parton’s 9 to 5 is a triumph.
A brand new musical chronicling the story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan is brought to sparkling life on the Hippodrome stage. On Your Feet is a jukebox biopic, showcasing Estefan’s rise to fame, through the highs and the lows.
In a nutshell it’s an entertaining night out. Featuring Estefan’s back catalogue, the music erupts in spectacular style on stage, with a fantastic band under musical direction of Danny Belton coupled with an exceptionally talented ensemble.
Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and George Ioannides as Emilio Estefan oozed charisma, as the talented pair of lovers. You could not mistake their chemistry on stage and they both showcased superb vocal talent. Stefani embodied Estefan excellently, whilst Ionannides made for a strapping Emilio. Their relationship very much led the storyline, but there were brilliant characters we met along the way, including the indomitable Karen Mann as Consuelo. She brought so much warmth and laughter to the stage, she was a joy to watch. Meanwhile, Madalena Alberto was a force to be reckoned with as Gloria’s mother, Gloria Fajardo. As she watches her daughter achieve what she could only dream of, we uncover how she yearned to be a star. Alberto was in great voice, hitting notes that made the spine tingle. It was a poignant and well measured portrayal of a loving, sometimes misunderstood Mother.
Some moments felt glossed over, the loss of her Father and Grandmother seem to take a backseat in the narrative, yet they are characters the audience build a rapport with. Whilst other moments are dealt with tenderly, following the awful crash Estefan was involved in, Emilio reconciling with her Mother is beautiful, culminating in the emotionally charged duet ‘If I Never Got To Tell You’ - which was written especially for the show by Gloria Estefan and her daughter Emily.
Despite this, the overall production appeared polished, with a dynamic set design from David Rockwell, which thoughtfully integrated the band. Whilst the lighting pulsed to the Cuban-fusion rhythms courtesy of Kenneth Posner. Sergio Trujillo’s outstanding choreography lit up the stage, with each cast member expertly executing the dances. With overall direction from Jerry Mitchell (known for directing the likes of Legally Blonde) there is a simplicity to the story that makes it an easy-going night at the theatre.
By the end of the evening the audience were literally up on their feet, dancing in the aisles and judging by the title – that’s what Estefan would want!
West Side Story is brought gloriously to life on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome this week. Matt Hawksworth, the Director and Choreographer describes the piece as ‘one of the mightiest collaborations’ - but that seems to not only apply to the plethora of talent involved in originally conceiving this show; it also applies to the dynamic, multi-talented team behind this particular production.
Following 1,000 auditions, 40 incredibly talented individuals were selected to be a part of this epic production (plus 4 adults!) and they filled the stage with vibrancy, energy and sheer enthusiasm from start to finish.
There were moments where you could hear a pin drop and then there were moments of rapturous, unceasing applause for the talent witnessed on stage, by this incredibly supportive audience. The local theatre scene was out in force and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.
It’s hard with a show like this to single out certain performers as they each brought great skill to their roles, however particularly excellent performances came from Luke Rossiter as Baby John and Gibsa Bah as Bernardo, alongside Bethan Day as Betty, whose vocals wonderfully captured the beauty of ‘Somewhere’.
Matthew Pandya’s buttery vocals as Riff were an absolute delight, he excelled in the role and it’s hard to believe that he has just finished college; he is a serious talent. Leading the way and bringing the whole show together was Alex Cook as Tony and Kamilla Fernandes as Maria. They were a force to be reckoned with, both delivering fantastic vocal performances and capturing the heart-warming and heart-breaking moments with sensitivity and maturity beyond their years.
Admittedly, there were times when the stage felt overfilled and there were a couple of moments where dialogue was inaudible over the band, but these are small gripes for what was an incredibly polished production from a set of exceptionally talented individuals (both on and off the stage).
With a stripped back, cleverly designed set from Al Parkinson complemented by David Howe’s brilliant lighting design, the show was brought together by the rest of the creative team. From costume design (Rachel Baynton) to energetic choreography from Matt Hawsworth (also Director) and Ruth Seager and musical direction from Paul Murphy, this Bernstein, Laurents, Sondheim and Robbins show has been done more than justice right here, in the heart of the Midlands.
It is safe to say that there is a melting pot of young talent in the middle of the UK and to see a glimpse of just 40 of these performers last night was a real treat.
Formed in 2018, brand new Lichfield theatre company Let Me In Productions brings the hauntingly beautiful Spring Awakening to life in the intimate, stunning surroundings of St Mary’s. The recently converted church houses a fantastic performance space and through Richard Poynton’s direction, Jessica Lambert’s choreography and lighting design from Martin Pritchard and Christopher Buckle the space is cleverly transformed for this production.
Based on the play by Frank Wedekin, this musical adaptation has a book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. Originally opening on Broadway in 2006, the play is a brutal coming-of-age story, exploring mental health, sexuality, abuse and mortality.
The brilliant 13-strong cast work tirelessly in this stylish production and although there are a number of standout performances across the night, it really is an ensemble show. Glorious harmonies make the spine tingle, with the show closing on a vocal high with The Song of Purple Summer. Poynton’s direction brought some ingenious touches. The theme of light ran through the piece, with illuminated books and costumes providing moments of sheer awe.
Hattie Rumsey plays Wendla Bergmann. Opening the show excellently with Mama Who Bore Me, her voice resonated through the room. There was also superb support from Lucy Allen as Martha Bessell and a notable vocal performance from Dominic Sterland.
Matthew Facchino delivered a nuanced performance as Hanschen Rilow, with Joseph Riley confidently leading the way as an assured Melchior Gabor.
However, Christopher Buckle’s Moritz Stiefel shone through the night. His intense, pained portrayal of this complex character was exceptional. Also with an outstanding voice, he left a lasting impression on the stage.
A couple of minor gripes, included the sound balance issues (which did iron out as the performance went on) and although slick and pacy as a piece, some of the more harrowing moments flicked by a little too fast.
That aside, with a band under the astute direction of Jack Hopkins, the music was an utter joy, coupled with the fiercely talented ensemble; the team at Let Me In Productions have created a real masterpiece.
Adapted from the multi award-winning film, Amélie The Musical is brought to the stage. Playing at The Alexandra until 27 July, this beautiful show gives a snapshot into Parisian life. Following the story of the shy Amélie Poulain, the audience are taken on a heart-warming journey through her early life, growing up, moving away, helping others and discovering love.
The ensemble comprises of sixteen multi-talented actor-musicians, who fill the stage with their glorious voices and exceptional musicianship. With music by Daniel Messé and lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé, there are some touching, intimate moments in this well-crafted musical.
Set against a stunning, dynamic set - designed by Madeleine Girling - you are instantly immersed in Amélie’s world. The ‘lampshade’ moments are particularly wonderful and the accessible, multi-faceted set allows the pace of the show to never drop.
Under the direction of Michael Fentiman, there is never a dull moment. With many of the cast filling the scenes, whether as musicians, actors, singers (or all three!) there is a real slickness to the delivery of the show. Alongside this, the lighting design from Elliot Griggs and sound design from Tom Marshall combine together to create some truly striking moments.
Performances of note included Caolan McCarthy as Hopolito/Elton John, he brought warmth and humour to his roles and brilliantly led the closing number of the first act, Goodbye Amélie. Meanwhile, Danny Mac impressed as Nino and Jez Unwin excelled as Amélie’s germaphobe, retiring father Raphael.
However, it was Audrey Brisson in the titular role who brought the entire show to life. You could hear a pin-drop by the end of the show and when she sat down and played the piano - that really was a moment.
The story is quite simple and quaint, but the production is a thing of beauty. Reminiscent of Come From Away and Once, its the music and musicians that rightfully take centre-stage.
Ending with the enchanting Where Do We Go From Here, well, you go and buy a ticket…
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland undergoes a re-imagining in Stage2’s staging, which is being performed in the studio space at The Crescent until 20 July.
Adapted by Alexander Butler, who has also directed this production, Alice is an evacuee, caught in the midst of World War II. When forced to leave her London home, to live with her Aunt and Uncle in the countryside, she finds herself embarking on a rather curious adventure in Wonderland.
Still true to Carroll’s literary nonsense, all the familiar characters you expect to meet are there, from The Queen of Hearts to the Mad Hatter. The whole Stage2 company have clearly worked tirelessly to bring this children’s classic to life. It felt like a true ensemble production - across the board the characterisation and diction was brilliant - with some impressive individual performances.
Notable supporting performances included Roni Mevorach as Aunt / The Queen of Hearts, she delivered an assured portrayal of the foul-tempered monarch. Meanwhile, Joel Fleming brought much character and hilarity to the role of Roger / Mouse, with an endearing cameo from Sebastian Parker-Duber as Harry / Dormouse.
Alongside this, the pairing of Amit Mevorach as Bill / Bill the Lizard and Brianna Whitty as Cook brought some solid comic relief to proceedings. Whitty was excellent, with well-placed, over-exaggerated mannerisms, she held the audience’s attention and garnered many a laugh.
Two stand-out performances of the night came from Emily Cremins, who shone as Wendy / Mad Hatter and leading the way, in the titular role, was Lauren Brine as Alice. Brine brought a sassiness to the role of Alice and took the character out of its twee confines, holding the audiences attention throughout.
However, this was very much an ensemble show. The transition to Wonderland was visually delightful, cleverly depicted through frenetic movements, lighting and a moving platform.
If you’re curious to know more, why not buy a ticket? Playing until Saturday at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham.
With a history that includes a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, two Tony’s, one Grammy, one Emmy and
nominated for eleven Oscars, The Color Purple is undoubtedly a work of utter beauty across artforms. From novel, to film, to musical, the piece has evolved through the decades and now it opens in Birmingham, at the Hippodrome, following a run at Curve, Leicester.
The stage adaptation is written by Marsha Norman with music and lyrics from Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Based upon the novel by Alice Walker and the motion picture that followed, Birmingham Hippodrome’s first ever co-production with the Curve is a sure-fire hit.
Featuring a 17-strong cast, this remarkable story is heart-breaking, yet heart-warming. Addressing many urgent, pertinent themes, the story delves into the deep, dark depths of racism, rape, oppression and domestic abuse, yet soars into the realms of love, freedom, hope and overcoming adversity.
The entire ensemble dazzle with astonishing voices that fill the vast Hippodrome auditorium. Spine-tingling harmonies delight, with outstanding individual performances. It really is the voices that shine in this production. Musically directed by Alex Parker and orchestrated by Martin Higgins, the music is sublime throughout.
Shy of listing the entire cast, special mention must go to the wonderful comic trio of Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah (Darlene), Landi Oshinowo (Jarene) and Danielle Kassaraté (Doris), who constantly break up the action with their hilarious gossiping, plus shout-out to Anelisa Lamola as the brilliant church soloist.
Superb supporting performances come from Delroy Brown as the skin-crawling Pa and Danielle Fiamanya as Celie’s headstrong sister Nettie, with Ako Mitchell making for a suitably detestable Mister. There were audible gasps from the audience throughout, followed by whoops and cheers when Celie stood up for herself - it was a moment to behold, and much credit due to Mitchell for embodying such a character so excellently. Alongside this, his rendition of Mister Song gave him an opportunity to showcase his impressive vocal range.
However, there were two parallel relationships that really shone through the night. Firstly, the pairing of Karen Mavundukure as Sofia and Simon-Anthony Rhoden as Harpo. Mavundukure was an absolute joy from start to finish - garnering many a laugh through the night, she navigated through a rollercoaster of emotions and beautifully portrayed the role of Sofia. Rhoden made for a likeable, endearing Harpo and when they joined together for their duet Any Little Thing, it was laugh-out-loud fun.
The second pairing of the night was Joanna Francis (Shug Avery) and T’Shan Williams (Celie). An unbelievably talented duo, their tenderness, feistiness and, above all, love, was brought to convincing life on stage. Particular highlights were Francis’s Too Beautiful For Words and their duet What About Love? which powerfully closed Act One, however it was the jaw-dropping performance from Williams in I’m Here that saw the audience erupt into applause - it was a stunning and memorable moment.
Blending dynamic set design (Alex Lowde) with complementary lighting (Joshua Pharo) and under the direction of Tinuke Craig, The Color Purple is a triumph which earned a well-deserved standing ovation.
It’s beautiful and it’s here in Birmingham until Saturday.
Snowfall in July is a brand new acoustic musical taking place over at the Old Joint Stock Theatre until Saturday. Performed by Midlands theatre company Starbuck, the group have always prided themselves on presenting new or rarely performed musicals. Yet again, they have found a nugget of beauty in the form of this show, with music composed by Andy Smith and Sam James (also Musical Director) and written by James Edge - alongside support from the company.
Staged in traverse the storyline flits from the UK to Amsterdam and back again. As tensions rise in the UK, and following a late night argument, Jack leaves his girlfriend Beth to seek solace in Amsterdam, where his Aunt Jean runs a rather unfortunately named Irish bar - ‘Jean’s Tally Whacker’.
Still coming to terms with the loss of his mother, Jack tries to find himself, meeting Charley along the way, whilst his cousin Ollie resides back home in the UK with Beth.
The overarching storyline is held together by protagonist Bernard (Ben Andrew), a hapless busker who has attempted to win the heart of Jean for seven years. Andrew’s depiction of Bernard is utterly endearing and his relationship with Sarah Pavlovs as Jean is simply heart-warming to watch.
As all of the character storylines interweave throughout the show, you find yourself fully immersed and invested in their world.
The whole cast delivered polished performances, with Ashleigh Aston’s brilliant vocals in the role of Beth, whilst Robert Dearn brought much comic relief as Ollie, Tom Silverton excelled in the role of Jack and Jessica Rowe was excellent as Charley.
Particular highlights of the show included Jessica Rowe’s performance of Run, Ben Andrew’s Rose for Jean and the ‘letter song,’ beautifully performed by Sarah Pavlovs.
The story had a real heart to it. And although there’s definite scope to trim it; there were some real moments of beauty captured in this new musical production. I
"A tremendous performance from an awarded group.."
The Spotlight youngsters never fail to delight their audiences and last night’s performance of You Can’t Hurry Love was no exception. Brilliantly written by Spotlight member Steve Groves, this colourful and vibrant musical comedy features holiday makers, holiday camp entertainers and the dedicated, nail-biting staff of Pontlings as they prepare to open their holiday camp to the public for the very first time.
A fabulous set-list of well-loved, mainly up-beat songs from the 50s and 60s drive the storyline along at an enthusiastic pace as auditions turn into summer jobs, holiday romances blossom, new friendships are sealed and big dreams come true. And this exciting all-singing-all-dancing cast of young people have clearly worked very hard indeed to produce a truly sparkling, fast-paced and highly entertaining show.
Directed by Charlotte Cowley and Michele Windsor, with Chris Allen and Ian Windsor in charge of music, the production is backed by a competent live band off stage and technically steered by an adept sound and light crew who have designed some really lovely schemes to compliment the big dance numbers and scene changes. Nice, simple set pieces with quality, hand-painted designs are utilised well and scenes change almost unnoticeably as the over 60-strong group of well costumed performers execute well-rehearsed entries and exits with Red Arrows precision (or so it seemed from the front!), always with confidence and self assurance.
Too large a cast to mention individually (although I would love to!) but a huge well done to the principal actors for their excellent character portrayals and confident singing, congratulations to the lead dancers who demonstrated some excellent choreography and, of course, to the supporting character actors - from tiny to tall who all did the company proud.
A tremendous performance from an awarded group who are clearly big on the ‘theatre family’ ethos, who, as a group, radiate love and confidence and who should be incredibly proud of their continuing achievements.
Runs to 13 July
ps. Looking forward to seeing the Christmas panto production of Creepy Hollow!
Bringing more than just a splash of colour to Birmingham, Joseph bursts onto the Hippodrome stage until 13 July.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical theatre phenomenon is by no means a stranger to a UK audience, previously touring to great success in Birmingham and now opening a new production on the West End. This UK tour produced by Bill Kenwright ticks all the boxes. It’s simply a musical theatre spectacle, from its dynamic staging (Sean Cavanagh) to its bright, bold and beautiful lighting (Nick Richings), Joseph is brought to re-invigorated life.
Jaymi Hensley takes on the iconic title role. Finding fame in X Factorgroup Union J, Hensley is certainly destined for musical theatre. With an encapsulating performance and gorgeous vocals, he made for a brilliant Joseph.
Supported by a spectacular cast of brothers (Andrew Geater, Alex Hetherington, Arthur Boan, Ed Tunningley, Lewis Asquith, George Beet, Mikey Jay-Heath, Matt Jolly, Corey Mitchell, Joshua Robinson, Callum Connolly) these eleven talented actors not only showcased delightful harmonies, they executed the mesmerising choreography from HenryMetcalfe and Gary Lloydto drilled perfection, packed with energy. There were also some superb performances from Henry Metcalfe (Pothiphar / Jacob) and the aforementionedAndrew Geater, who also took on the role of Pharaoh. Plus the female ensemble of Anna Campkin, Amber Kennedy and Gemma Pipe multiroled wonderfully throughout the show.
Transitioning through a range of music styles, from calypso to French ballads and Elvis inspired rock ‘n’ roll to western music, it cements Joseph’s beauty as a musical. With the band on top form, the iconic songs were performed excellently, with special mention to the talented children’s choir and, of course, Trina Hillas the Narrator, who blew off the roof with her phenomenal vocals.
Colourful and camp, this superlative production left the audience on its feet.
Catch it at the Hippodrome until 13 July.
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