Emma Trimble's favourite shows of 2019
One of my favourite productions from last year at the superb Malvern Theatres has to be Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. It blew me away in a whirlwind of raw emotion and thunderous applause. “The devil’s got your number,” growled the narrator Robbie Scotcher, whose ominous presence throughout this incredible story about superstition and class, had the audience transfixed. Scotcher’s performance was powerful and captivating as we followed the journey of twin boys separated at birth to their inevitable demise. Scotcher will definitely stick in my head for a long time to come. A five star, emotional, rollercoaster of a musical, that certainly packed a meaty punch.
Another was Acosta Danza’s Evolution at Birmingham Hippodrome. “Dogs begin to bark and hounds begin to howl, watch out strange cat people, little red rooster’s on the prowl”. Now director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta, CBE, certainly ruffled feathers as he strutted his stuff wearing Cuban heels in an outstanding performance of Rooster. The piece de resistance of the trio with The Rolling Stones soundtrack from the 1960s and 1970s included the man himself Carlos Acosta, adjusting his tie and walking the walk. The preening cockerels dressed in velvet dinner jackets “Play With Fire” much to the amusement of the hens but we all need “Sympathy For The Devil”. Fabulous for Carlos Acosta to perform on The Strictly Come Dancing Results Show also at the end of the year.
What a treat also from start to finish was BRBs Beauty and the Beast at Birmingham Hippodrome which had the audience transfixed. An incredible score, beautiful choreography, costumes and a set so lavish and sumptuous you are magically transported into the castle and forest by simply sitting down and watching the curtain rise.
“Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome, Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret”. What can I say, live music, outstanding singers, dancers and a dramatic storyline powered through Emcee’s rude but loveable behaviour as he sung ‘Money makes the world go round’. As Emcee’s balloons popped and he stuck up his middle finger to fascism, all is laid bare as the gas chambers are fired up. An emotional journey with an underlying love story from the superb Anita Harris makes Cabaret a memorable musical with plenty of bang, sass and emotion. John Partridge was the perfect Emcee at Malvern Theatres.
Last but not least for those of you who saw Joe McFadden in The House on Cold Hill earlier in the year, you might not have recognised him, as Tick/Mitzi Del Bra as he completely transformed into a glamorous Drag Queen who dragged his friends aboard Priscilla for an unpredictable bus ride from Sydney to Alice Springs in search of his son in Priscilla Queen of the Desert also at Malvern Theatres. With choreography by Tom Jackson-Greaves and designs by Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith this production oozed fun, vibrancy and sass along with a thought provoking adventure of self- discovery and acceptance where true colours shine through. ‘Girls just wanna have fun’.
Oh and one more.. We all pulled up our fishnets, tightened those corsets and adjusted our sequined hotpants as Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show time-warped onto stage at Malvern Theatres in the summer months. It is not hard to see why this musical, directed by Christopher Luscombe, has been performed worldwide for 45 years, translated into over 20 languages and has such a cult following. With hits such as “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, “Dammit Janet”, “Sweet Transvestite” and of course “The Time-Warp”, the show is so much fun and magically interactive bringing down the fourth wall with an electrifying atmosphere throughout.
Favourite children's shows
My 7 year old daughter and I have reviewed many memorable and some revolting children’s theatre productions this year across Birmingham, Coventry and Malvern. One of our highlights was Horrible Histories with Terrible Tudors at Coventry Belgrade Theatre in October. From the horrid Henries to the end of evil-minded Elizabeth, we met monstrous Bloody Mary and survived the Spanish Armada as Bogglevision fired cannonballs into the audience and bugs scuttled towards our eyeballs. If you think applying a mixture of wiggly worms, pig marrow and the tail of a red-haired dog to your Gout ridden feet would be the ultimate cure then think again!
Another highlight was the world premiere production of The Worst Witch, which swooped into Malvern Theatres in March, with a performance far more magical than just a cheese sandwich. My daughter is an avid reader of the books and even dressed up as Mildred Hubble for the occasion so it was magical for her to see all the characters come to life creating havoc and mayhem across the stage with a lively score composed by Luke Potter.
In June it was as easy as ABC to follow the storyline of Thriller Live at Birmingham's Alexandra Theatre and we got to ‘Shake our Body’ down to the ground and jump up and down to celebrate the musical talents of Michael Jackson. The on-stage band added the concert feel to the evening with guitar solos by Allan Salmon and Rob Minns and keeping the ‘Beat It’ on drums was Matt Arnold.
The Worst Witch
Our top two productions for children that we would highly recommend for 2019 with 5 star reviews would be The Cat in the Hat we saw in February at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and In The Willows at Malvern Theatres we saw in April.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss somersaulted onto stage and delighted old and new in this creative balancing act. The story seemed to transform directly from the pages of this classic tail thanks to the ingenious set and costume design by Isla Shaw, definitely worthy of a Behind the Arras award for inventive set design. A Curve & Rose Theatre Kingston Production in association with the National Centre for Circus Arts thundered off proceedings as Sally, Melissa Lowe and Boy, Sam Angell, are forced to retreat inside from the storm and hole up from the rain. Straight away the audience is involved in the proceedings as the water pistols come out and water shoots from every direction as Sally and Boy run among the seats. My daughter Amy and her cousin Erin, aged 7, were transfixed by all the acrobatic stunts and are still talking about it now.
We were lucky enough to catch Metta’s Little Mermaid in May 2018 which mixed aerial acrobatics with upside down violin performances, but this fresh inventive retelling of the classic The Wind in the Willows written by Kenneth Grahame, incorporates British Sign Language (BSL) into the astounding choreography by award winning Rhimes Lecointe with street dance and incredible vocals that really hit a chord. Metta’s In The Willows features Olivier award-winning actor Clive Rowe who owns the stage as Mr Badger teaching in an underprivileged underfunded school with the knowledge learned from experience to guide his students through thick and thin reeds along the river of life. Why end an argument with violence when a dance battle will solve any conflict? Don’t expect a Disney ending where the Toad gets to turn into a Prince but do expect emotionally charged lyrics, fast paced rhymes and rhythms and if you dip your toe in the water you might unlock your potential. Anything is possible.