Les Miserables – Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Les Miserables (School Edition) – Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Monday 19th February 2024 – Dress Rehearsal
By Nigel Gambles
Photography – Studio 55 Photography

After their acclaimed and highly successful production of “Legally Blonde” Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre are back, and are taking on the epic Les Miserables following approximately seven months of rehearsals they had their opening night on Tuesday 20th February

This hard-working and enthusiastic youth company guided by director Georgia Young and her team seamlessly created the various groups of nineteenth-century French folk that ex-con Jean Valjean encounters on his harrowing journey in an unjust world. As convicts they shuffled around, shoulders slumped forward. This made for a stark contrast to the commanding, upright posture of the guards. As fighting factory workers, they whole-heartedly embodied the hand-to-mouth existence of the poor. As bedraggled prostitutes; spirited students; inebriated inn drinkers and other disparate characters the ensemble took every dramatic moment in their stride, displaying the vigour and versatility that Les Mis demands.

It was a real pleasure to hear these people sing! The whole Company pulled together to belt out the rousing group numbers and there were some stunning solos from the many main players too. Les Misérables is known and loved for its pounding anthems and stirring reflective lyrics so it was a real treat for the (very appreciative) audience that each and every song from the unforgettable score was well performed.

Ethan Bowleys’ portrayal of Jean Valjean’s fight for salvation was passionate and pitch-perfect. Relentlessly pursued by the police inspector Javert played by Ethyn James, Jean Valjean is a complicated character who is constantly evolving. Introduced to us as a jaded criminal, he becomes an industrialist; a hero; a father; a soldier. Unlike other characters who age during the course of the narrative, Jean Valjean is played by the same actor throughout. Fittingly, Ethan’s powerful performance matured accordingly – and convincingly.

Anamae Parkes was a terrifically tragic Fantine. Her haunting rendition of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was beautiful. Every note communicated the sorrow, despair and humiliation Fantine experiences as a troubled, down-trodden grisette.*

All the misery was wonderfully countered by the atrocious antics of Oscar Ralley and Ella Clarke as the corrupt innkeeper Thénardier and his wife, Madame Thénardier. Superb comic timing and synchronicity ensured this pair were despicably delightful as the malevolent and provocative chancers.

Becky Hanratty as Eponine had a voice straight off a cast recording. Toby Foetu-Foster had wonderful excitement and passion as Marius. His onstage ladylove, Cosette, played by Neve Matthews, had a voice as sweet and as clear.

Finally this review would not be complete without highlighting the passion, enthusiasm and total commitment of director Georgia Young, choreographer Esme Wade and Musical director Emily Beaman whose creative brilliance brought the show to life.

Full credit must also be given to all the back of house team who worked tirelessly to ensure the stage was always set.

* French working class girls

Showaddywaddy 50th Anniversary Tour

Showaddywaddy 50th Anniversary Tour
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Saturday 17th February 2024
By Nigel Gambles
Photography – Studio 55 Photography for What’s On In Sutton Coldfield

In their iconic Teddy-boy style suits hit the stage at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall with energy and enthusiasm and proceeded to entertain the sell out crowd with an endless jukebox of classic hits accompanied with vivacious choreography.

They certainly rocked the Town hall last night with some fantastic showmanship from Andy Pelos and Billy Shannon it was wonderful to watch.

What was lovely to see was Romeo Challenger the only original member of the band still performing brilliantly and enjoying every minute.

Billed as one of the greatest Rock n Roll bands they did not fail to deliver an excellent set including their chart hits and provide some great entertainment for everyone there.

Elvis – The Ultimate Experience

Elvis – The Ultimate Experience
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Friday 16th February 2024 By Nigel Gambles
Photography – Lee Williams Photography for Whats On In Sutton Coldfield

Multi Award winning Elvis tribute artiste Ben Thompson returned to Sutton Coldfield Town Hall for another sell out show, with some new costumes and even more songs from Elvis back catalogue we knew we were in for a fantastic night.

Accompanied by a full live band Ben started with Elvis early days  arriving on stage in a resplendent pink jacket and dived straight into a selection of the old classics “All Shook Up” , “Don’t Be Cruel” and more we were then treated to Elvis in uniform “GI Blues” style

After the break we hit the Las Vegas days with Ben in a couple of amazing outfits made for him in America bringing us classics like “CC Rider” “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and Can’t Help Falling In Love”

You can certainly see why he is one of the best tribute acts in the country at the moment. If you love Elvis and get the chance to see this show then don’t miss out because you will be “Moody Blue”

Cloc Musical Theatre Company – Aladdin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Aladdin – Cloc Musical Theatre Company

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall

Monday 5th February 2024 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Studio 55 Photography

The members of Cloc Musical Theatre Company are back with their annual pantomime treat. This year its the turn of Aladdin to get the “Cloc Treatment”

The story is that of Aladdin and his adventure trying to save Princess Jasmine from Abanazer’s evil clutches. As you can imagine things do not go to plan for Abanazer played with gusto by Calum Reynolds giving us plenty to boo and hiss at. Enter Aladdin played by Katie Lewis she delivers an Aladdin we are all rooting for. With her widowed mother Widow Twankey played superbly by Krystian Wharton (for me the star of the show) with all the bluster and costume changes of a classic pantomime dame and their very silly laundry hand Wishee played by Lee Walker, Abanazers quest is going to be very long and arduous. Along the way we meet Princess Jasmine played by Erin Mooney who I last saw in School of Rock by The Script Youth Musical theatre, and I must say her confidence and stage presence has grown beautifully

Expect all the traditional panto ingredients – toe tapping tunes, a laundry full of laughs, puppets, loads of audience participation and look out for the spectacular magic carpet scene and also Fazil The Psychic Snake expertly bought to life by Eloise Tanley.

This show is just what is needed to get us through these first few miserable and grey months of 2024, A laugh a minute and plenty of slap stick

Running from Wednesday 7th – Saturday 10th February 2024

7.30pm Wed, Thur & Fri Evening. 1pm & 6pm Saturday

Sinbad – Mint Theatre Society ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sinbad – Mint Theatre Society

Aldridge Community Centre / Stonnall and Shenstone Village Halls

Friday 5thJanuary 2024

By Nigel Gambles

Photography ©Nigel Gambles Photography

This is the story of Sinbad- Ellie Ball who has big dreams of going to sea an exploring the world, but as luck would have it or script writers pen he has to help out in his sisters Beyonce’s bakery played superbly by Alex Howell with all you would expect from a pantomime dame

Sinbads dream comes true when he is press ganged by the evil Blackbeard’s David Daly- scurvy crew – Charlotte Ball and Dave Stonehouse and Blackbeards ruthless daughter Polly – Julie Guiver Wells.

After much fun and frolics, searing for treasure and falling in love the story ends with happiness abounding.

This is a terrace pantomime penned by Liz Daley who also plays a “Prawn” in the show, it captures all that should be included in a traditional family friendly pantomime which I promise you will beat those post Christmas blues.

Manor Musical Theatre Company – Fiddler On The Roof ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fiddler On The Roof – Manor Musical Theatre Company

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall

Tuesday 24th October 2023 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Nigel Gambles Photography

Tradition – something Manor has always been respectful of, and tradition is the main theme of this classic musical.

This the tale of Tevye, the turn-of the century Russian peasant wishing he were a rich man. Battling the wills of his five daughters and keeping the Jewish faith, as sinister forces infiltrate the peace of an historic village, and modern life starts to shift the balance of power. This production is more earthy than showy, and it was all the better for it. It was a stripped-back piece of theatre performed in a way that gave it an especially human touch and immediacy. Beautifully-textured costumes contrasted the threadbare layers of Russian winters with silky, Sabbath finery. Tam Weir a newcomer to Manor anchored the piece as conflicted Tevye (his third outing in this role) complemented by the wonderfully expressive Paula O’Hare as wife Golde, each trapped in the circumstances of changing times, their duet “Do you love me” was perfect. I’m sure we all remember Topol’s wonderful rendition of “If I Was A Rich Man” well Tam’s doesn’t disappoint.

The three older daughters played by Sasha Marsh (Tzeitel) Malaika Martin (Hodel) and Eliza Tall (Chava) play their roles wonderfully showing their struggles with what tradition dictates and what their own hearts want.

The story flows well, the cast gel superbly, and the show set as it is in 1905, resonates in today’s political landscape even more than the company must have anticipated when it was first programmed in.The importance of community is a message clearly at the heart of this production.

Directors Pam and James Garrington have done an amazing job creating a cast with a strong bond supporting each other and sharing their enjoyment at performing with the audience. The group numbers were performed beautifully and choreographed perfectly by Jennie Mason

Tudor Musical Comedy Society – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang– Tudor Musical Comedy Society

Sutton Coldfield Town hall

Monday 9th October 2023 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Nigel Gambles Photography

The most phantasmagorical stage musical has flown into Sutton Town Hall

We have never seen this show so were very excited to be able to see this production by Tudor Musical Comedy Society

A quick recap of the story, originally written by Ian Fleming (Of James Bond Fame) follows the adventures of Caractacus Potts, his wonderful children and their eccentric Grandpa Potts. They meet up with the beautiful Truly Scrumptious who joins them on their adventures, including a trip to Vulgaria a few lucky escapes and of course a very impressive automobile.

‘Team work makes the dream work’ is a recurring phrase within this musical and never has a truer word been spoken than with the company of Tudor Musical Comedy.  Choosing such a technically advanced production, filled with prestigious musical numbers, was always going to be an enormous challenge to undertake. However it was met and overcome with great gusto and enthusiasm.

The show has numerous fantastic characters, and I feel I must highlight the two comedic duos who stole the stage every time they appeared. Firstly the dimwitted Vulgarian Spies Boris (Alex Nash) and Goran (James Fisher) certainly in the running for double-act of the year their timing was perfect and their rendition of “Act English” is a highlight.

Vulgaria must be the centre for producing fantastic comedians as the Baron and Baroness performed by Mark Skett and Karrise Willetts were just that. They especially shone during “The Bombi Samba” playing the audience brilliantly.

Moving on to the stars of the show, Natasha Cartwright as the lovely Truly Scrumptious really does have the most delicious vocals and her chemistry with Caractacus (Ben Foulds) was wonderful to watch. Anyone who has seen the movie musical will remember the iconic music-box scene and Natasha was superb in this  – she is a natural leading lady.

Lets not forget the children Jemima (Myleigh Davis alternating with Rachel Kirk) and Jeremy (Jack Brayley-Boddington alternating with Peter Barker) who were wonderfully entertaining.

Credit must also go to Director Richard Poynton who has managed to make every character shine individually but also come together as a strong and united ensemble. He is supported by musical director Andrew Timmins who’s direction ensured the musical numbers were performed perfectly from the title song to “Me Ol’ Bamboo” and “Toot Sweets” all this accompanied by Jenny Morris’s excellent choreography makes for a not to miss spectacle.

One last mention must go to all the tech teams and back of house teams whom without them the show just would not be.

Trinity Players – A Streetcar Named Desire ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Streetcar Named Desire – Trinity Players

Streetly Community Centre

Monday 25th September 2023 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Nigel Gambles Photography

A Streetcar Named Desire was written By Tennessee Williams and is one of the most critically acclaimed plays of the 20th century.

The play portrays the experiences of Blanche DuBois a former southern belle who after a series of personal losses has to move into a small apartment with her younger sister Stella and brutish brother in law Stanley and displays the phases of Blanches disintegration.

I have to say from the start, this is a superb production and is a first for Trinity Players as it is self directed by the cast who take on the roles of the production team off stage as well as having to learn their stage roles. To say the passion and commitment they have put into this project is anything less than 110% would be totally disrespectful.

Jennifer Holyhead who plays Blanche is magnificent, the evening belongs to her and her portrayal of Blanche’s spiralling into a mental collapse is spectacular.  Arron Armstrong-Craddock who plays Stanley is a terrific tattooed bruiser who roars like a goaded bull. He is, as he should be, both bullying – “I’m king around here” – and magnetic. As Stella, Sasha Marsh is totally besotted, in desire for her husband, and blind to his brutality. Dan Barnes who plays Mitch, Blanches suitor who offers her a glimpse of hope and a possible future, with a good mixture of charm and defeat. Quick mention for the rest of the cast who deliver strong and passionate performances.

If you do not have tickets for this show, then you must definitely get some it is one not too be missed a brilliant portrayal of hope and despair.

Script Youth Theatre – School Of Rock 5 ⭐️

School Of Rock – Script Youth Musical Theatre Company

Highbury Theatre

Monday 3rd July 2023 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Nigel Gambles Photography

I was lucky enough to be invited to Script Youths dress rehearsal of School of Rock and I have to say the kids are more than all right and definitely “Sticking It To the Man”

The show is based on the hit movie starring Jack Black and focuses on Dewey Finn, a slacker wannabe rocker who has been dumped by his band and winds up masquerading as a supply teacher at a snooty prep school. He proceeds to introduce his pre teens class the joys of rock and gets them ready to compete in “The Battle Of the Bands” Along the way Dewey finds romance, self-worth, a proper job, and, most importantly he teaches the children and their parents the beauty of rock!

Harry Robbins is a joy to watch as Dewey delivering an explosive performance full of energy. He comes across as the scruffy free loader possessed with rock, and performs knockout versions of “You’re in the Band” and “Stick it to the man” He is  complemented by the wonderful Evie Rice who plays Rosalie the uptight headmistress, she sings a fantastic rendition of “Where did the rock go?”

I had thought that all the singing might be a little high pitched and the instrument playing not that good- boy was I wrong! The singing was varied and interesting, the kids played their instruments live, but you could also hear the house band playing holding it all together.

The performances  were universally knock-out – from Ruby Edmonds as the face-melting guitar genius Zack to Gracie Reynolds as Tomika who emerges from her shell with a shockingly good “Amazing Grace”; from Kadeena Glendon as Lawrence, the gluten-intolerant loner who becomes a cool dude on the keyboards, to Zachery Duke as the flamboyant, design-mad Billy. Full credit to Alex Brown who plays Freddie the drummer who learnt to play drums for the show. Top marks and gold stars to the remainder of the cast who were all tremendous.

Trinity Players – The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 5 ⭐️

The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Trinity Players (A Birmingham Premiere)

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall

Monday 5th June 2023 – Dress Rehearsal

By Lee Williams

Photography – Lee Williams Photography

What an amazing show, full of exquisite colour and sound brought together in a play many of us would have heard of but don’t know much about. A classic Directed by Dan Barnes with music by Peter Bushby. Labled ‘A Journey from Paris to Sutton Coldfield’ this is the story of Quosimodo and Esmeralda which has endured many retellings since its original conception nearly 200 years ago. The version on display here is a culmination of centuries of adaptations. The main players are Quasimodo, played by Steven Blower – what a powerful and captivating performance. At times he just has you transfixed by the powerful story line and the emotional feeling and effort he puts in to the role, it’s something to behold. Esmeralda (Janine Henderson) plays an amazing part. As a gypsy, she is an outcast and un-welcomed. Seen as different and something to be shunned, much like Quosimodo, this brings them together. All this with Jeanne Claude Frollo (Paul Wescott) playing a leading part of the religious leader who whilst attempting to be defiant, shows that even he can display weakness too. Then there is Phoebus, the dashing Soldier who falls for Esmeralda, which leads to both of their downfalls!! With so much colour, music and passion,
this will definitely be a hit show to remember.

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