Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Kiss Me Kate

Manor Musical Theatre Company

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall


WHAT a bonus it can be to attend an amateur show packed with good music that sends you home humming the tunes and glad to HAVE missed a couch potato night in front of the telly.

This Cole Porter musical is a real corker with one hit after another, ranging from Another Op’nin, Another Show to From This Moment On, and Wunderbar to Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

The Manor MTC certainly do it justice, cashing in, too, with the humour laced into the show within a show which tells the story of an American theatre company staging a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, and the on-and-off-stage conflict between the director-producer and star, Fred Graham, and the leading lady who happens to be his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi.

Vital, then, for the couple playing the couple to be on their game, and both Barry Styles and Susan Bushby blossom as the action accelerates. Their early duet, Wunderbar, is impressive, and during the Shrew production you can feel the sting in row Z when Susan (Lilli) swats her ex across the face with a most realistic smack.

Barry, the lusty Petruchio, soon exacts his revenge, however, with an equally lively spanking that leaves the man-hating Kate unfit to ride a mule following the wedding - a wedding very much desired by her wealthy but tormented father who is desperate for some man – any man – to tame his fearsome offspring.


Styles certainly leads from the front in both his roles, delighting the audience with a fine delivery of Where is the Life that Late I led, in which he recalls past loves including Lisa, who gave a new meaning to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Returning choreographer Maggie Roberts has made her mark in the musical, particularly in the blistering Too Darn Hot number featuring the full ensemble and dancers.

Another highlight comes with Rebecca Perry (Lois Lane and Bianca) singing Always True to You in my Fashion. A real cracker, beautifully presented.

Fine performances, too, from Patrick Stevenson (the song and dance gambling addict Bill Calhoun), and Malcolm Roberts who, in the relatively small role of General Harrison Howell, is the most military-looking – and sounding - actor I have ever seen in the part.

Then we come to the two gangsters who find themselves in the Taming of the Shrew cast because they are taking care of a large betting debt owed to their seedy boss by one of the actors. George Fletcher and Lynne Ridge are a hoot as the hoods. and their big moment comes near the end of the show when they sing the amusing Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Just need to brush up those dancing steps, a touch though, lads.

Musical Director Peter Bushby and his orchestra make a huge contribution to the success of the show in which Pam and James Garrington are production directors. Kiss Me Kate runs to 28-04-18

Paul Marston


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