Nothing short of spectacular. This is the only way to describe Brownhills Musical Theatre Company’s Rock & Roll to Broadway at times. A riot of colour, beautiful choreography and gorgeous vocals, this was more of a full production than concert, with an undeniably talented company and featured some solo performances which were of West End quality.
The format is very clever – the first act featured mostly musicals, with numbers tied together in neat segments like Victoriana and Children’s fantasy. Not only did this lend the programme a massive diversity of numbers, but also allowed a seamless transition between them. It worked extremely well and offered a wonderful journey through some of Broadway’s greatest hits.
The production started with a section called “Airport Swing” – a mixture of songs from the musical Catch Me if You Can, and an arrangement of Come Fly With Me and Fly Me to the Moon. We were immediately treated to a full company routine, either in flight uniform or 60’s dress, with fantastic choreography supplied by Michele Windsor & Charlotte Fletcher. The scale and scope of this was repeated time and time again, and I shudder to think at the amount of work which went into this production.
We then moved into Children's fantasy, which focussed on the younger members of BMTC. Emily Hardy gave a charming rendition of Naughty from Tim Minchin’s Matilda, with great vocals and just the right amount of feistiness. This section also contained what was arguably the best performance of the night. Charlotte Fletcher’s version of the seemingly ubiquitous Let it Go from Disney’s Frozen left the audience speechless. It is a very difficult number to sing and Fletcher sang it to perfection. With such power and brilliant control, it is astounding to think that she has no professional work in her previous theatre credits. She also featured in a superlative rendition of In His Eyes with the precociously talented Helen Norgrove.
The Norgroves featured heavily in this show with Director, Jamie Norgrove providing a fantastic turn as Sweeney Todd alongside Alison Room as Mrs Lovett. Their A Little Priest was extremely funny and a worthy addition to the evening. The act finished with a New York section and included a wonderful piece of set where a taxi suddenly transformed into luggage. Born showman, Richard Ainslie ended the half with New York, New York, supported yet again by the wonderful company.
The second act consisted of pop hits from 4 decades. The production team made the courageous decision to mix up the order, instead of just performing everything chronologically. This definitely paid off and provided the show with a rock and roll 1950’s ending which was absolutely spectacular. Before this we opened with the 60’s, before leaping ahead to the 80’s, then the 70’s and finally the 50’s. Although seemingly random, the order definitely worked. The highlight of the opening two sections was undoubtedly was Nick Allen with Something Inside So Strong, ably supported by the company’s children. He has a wonderful tenor and absolutely nailed this song.
One highly positive aspect of the show is that performers who feature numerous times in the opening act took a back seat in the second half allowing others to shine. It was a very impressive display of the wealth of talent on offer. This was also the case going into the 70’s section. The vocals were as impressive as the platform shoes. My personal favourite was Tiger Feet, as sung by Richard Ainslie and the rest of the male company. Helen Norgrove and Kathryn James’ Chiquitita was also delightful.
The 1950’s section worked spectacularly well as a Finale. Not only did they have the whole cast dancing, the rock and roll numbers came one after the other and it was a superlative close to a brilliant show. There was so much to be commended. The band were on point all night. They achieved a fantastic sound for a 6-piece ensemble. The costumes were bright and vibrant, and the direction superb. The biggest plaudits has to go to the talented cast, however, their undeniable hard work shone through all night and made this an absolute must see for all.
Rock 'n' Roll to Broadway runs until Saturday 7 November at the Prince of Wales Theatre Cannock.
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