Friday, December 3

West Midlands

Death Drop – The Alexandra, Birmingham
West Midlands

Death Drop – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Having started life in the West End, Death Drop comes to Birmingham to bring its unique twist on the murder mystery genre to brighten the city. It is 1991, the Lady of Shantay Mansion invites a seemingly random group of personalities to celebrate a special anniversary. However, on this stormy night strange things soon start to occur. As secrets are revealed, will anyone make it out alive? I have never seen a show like it, it brings the art of Drag (be it Queens or Kings) into a mainstream theatre. The lines of gender are blurred, all you see are larger than life characters as they fill the stage with their performances, and it works, it makes you wonder why this hasn’t happened before. This is part pantomime, with slap stick and tongue twisters, part musical with a couple of crac...
9 to 5 The Musical – The Alexandra, Birmingham
West Midlands

9 to 5 The Musical – The Alexandra, Birmingham

After an enforced break, this feel-good musical takes to the road again, stopping off in Birmingham for a week. Based on the 1980s film of the same name and of course, the iconic song, this show tells the tale of three woman (Doralee, Violet and Judy) with office jobs, struggling to get noticed in a man’s world. Their boss, Franklin Hart Jnr, has views that (hopefully) are outdated in the workplace today. Can the ladies get him to take them seriously? Being set in the 1980s, everything is of the era. The costumes, hair and make-up instantly transport you right back, as does the pared down set. Clever use of projection does the leg work for the scene setting allowing for a few well placed furniture items to create the location. The set changes create a choreographed musical interlude...
Groan-Ups – Wolverhampton Grand
West Midlands

Groan-Ups – Wolverhampton Grand

It’s probably an apocryphal tale and often attributed to, among others, Edmund Kean, that on his deathbed he is asked how he feels to which he replies, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” And it is a wise aphorism borne out by tonight’s performance of “Groan-Ups” presented to us by Mischief Theatre who you will immediately recognise from “The Play that Goes Wrong” and TV’s hugely successful “Goes Wrong Show” - very familiar faces. Since giving us the first of those shows which was a smash hit in the West End they have travelled to Broadway and, having seen its original production, I can say it was undoubtedly one of the funniest evenings I have ever spent in a theatre in my life. Ever. So you’re probably wondering why this one has only earned two stars. Here goes… It explores familiar gro...
Blood Brothers – Birmingham Hippodrome
West Midlands

Blood Brothers – Birmingham Hippodrome

Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” famously opens with one long, droning tone from the orchestra which engages, entrances and thrills in equal measure. “Blood Brothers” employs the same technique and hits exactly the same, as it were, note. We are drawn into a dark and tragic world where the outcome of the plot is set out as clearly as the two dead two bodies laying before us. This is the plot spoiler of all plot spoilers but, oddly, though we know the end we want to know why it happened. Not a whodunnit, but a whydunnit? And so, the drone draws us in… My first Mrs. Johnston was Kiki Dee, which for all you BB buddies out there, means I saw it quite early on in its humungous run. Barbara Dickson did it first, of course, in a version that didn’t take off. Bill Kenwright sprinkled his Liverpudlian ...
Chicago – Wolverhampton Grand
West Midlands

Chicago – Wolverhampton Grand

“Chicago” can hardly be described as bursting with colour with a limited design palette of black, white, grey and occasional splatters of bloody red light during the murders it aims to emulate, perhaps, the movies of the period. More accurately it emulates the still photographs of the newspapers of the period and chooses to present it all in a stilted and, oddly, uninvolving fashion. As the production adopts a distancing alienating technique (I’m guessing more a directorial decision than an authorial one) it deliberately stops us from engaging and empathising with the characters or plot - so all that is left to beguile us is technique and design. The band dominate the stage sitting like a jazz orchestra trapped in a roll-top desk leaving just a sliver of fore stage for the remainder of...
Dirty Dancing – The Alexandra, Birmingham
West Midlands

Dirty Dancing – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Originally performed in London in 2006 this show has toured numerous times. It’s a joy to see it back on the road once again. The Houseman’s spend their vacation at Kellermans resort where everyone is shown a good time. Baby is entranced by the dancers Penny and Johnny and soon gets caught up in their world. This will be a summer she will never forget. While the storyline may not be the most in depth it still manages to touch on peoples’ preconceptions, unwanted pregnancy, racism and growing up. Of course, the main theme is love and redemption. Musically this is a blend of soundtrack and live music performed by the onstage band and company. Colin Charles (Tito Suarez) opens act 2 in style whipping the audience into an even higher state of excitement and Samuel Bailey (Billy Koste...
The Rocky Horror Show – Alexandra Birmingham
West Midlands

The Rocky Horror Show – Alexandra Birmingham

Let the Party and the Sounds Rock On! With all vim, vigour and verve of a lady half her age “The Rocky Horror Show” rocks up horrifically at the Alexandra Theatre and, with a well aimed stiletto, crashes through the stage door and struts her sassy chassis before the goggle-eyed, costume-clad, schlock-worshipping clan of the Rocky fans like the mothership returning home laden with every wicked vice and indecent indulgence your little earthling mind could dream of. Since it slithered from Richard O’Brien’s unfettered imagination somewhere back in the early seventies “Rocky” has evolved, expanded, regenerated and reinvented itself time and time again like an indestructible life form from those beloved 50’s movies it seeks to parody and continues to prove itself unabashedly brash, unash...
Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome
West Midlands

Hairspray – Birmingham Hippodrome

The John Waters film “Hairspray” has always struck me an odd source for a Broadway musical stemming from the sub-sub-cultural independent movie starring the Ricki Lake and the unsettlingly bizarre Divine. Waters films were, and perhaps still are, deliberately shocking, subversive and cheaply shot. But musicals have been created from odder sources - cats and trains spring to mind. Since 2002 “Hairspray - the musical” has delighted audiences on Broadway and West end and beyond with noted performances from Michael Ball and Brian Conley. So far, it’s ticking all the right boxes and a fun night seem to be ensured…Okay, so the place was full of engaged, delighted and whooping fans intent on a good night and a good night they had, though I’m not sure the show was entirely responsible for it. The...
The Woman in Black – Regent Theatre
West Midlands

The Woman in Black – Regent Theatre

It is always great to see a show that is so well established in theatres. Having been viewed in the West End for over 30 years, Susan Hill's ‘Woman In Black’ has its routes firmly embedded on the stage. Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation ensures that this chilling, eerie story continues to put fear in to the most fearless of audiences. For those that may not be aware, and without giving the game away, the story is essentially about the retelling of a traumatic occasion in Lawyer, Arthur Kipps life and he asks ‘The Actor’ (Anthony Eden), to tell his tale. With a silent woman in black appearing when you least expect it, it is clear she is intent on seeking revenge. With just two speaking actors in the performance (Anthony Eden and Robert Goodale) the gripping tale is retold as the reality o...
Heathers the Musical – The Alexandra
West Midlands

Heathers the Musical – The Alexandra

After a successful run in the West End, the long-awaited Heathers the musical tour reaches Birmingham for a week. Based on the 1989 film of the same name starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, this production had a very appreciative audience on its feet. Veronica longs to be one of the cool girls with the Heathers rather than a nobody. When she gets her wish, she realises it isn’t all she dreamed. A night with new boy “J D” means her life will never be the same as they take on the school together. This show is bright and colourful with original up-tempo songs. The subject matter however is dark and thought provoking. There are many difficult subjects covered throughout the show, bullying, homophobia, sexual assault, bulimia, and the main topic of suicide. Although serious topic...