Grab Your Air Guitar: Rock of Ages Hits Birmingham

It is the raunchiest, cheesiest, loudest musical of them all, and Rock of Ages has now come to Birmingham and is once again making the second city gasp at its sheer outrageousness.. Full of more grown men in neon and spandex than should ever be acceptable, the musical that takes a tongue in cheek look at all those 1980s rock classics opened last night at Birmingham’s The Alexandra, and made sure that the audience left the theatre singing Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ all the way home.

Rock Of Ages Production Photos
©The Other Richard

The story is fairly simple – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, and they all live happily ever after. So far, so predictable. But add the element that it’s the girl who loses boy after she has wild toilet cubicle sex with a bona-fide rock god called Stacee Jaxx (Axl Rose surely), hilariously played to perfection by Sam Ferriday, and we start to get a twist on the story. Add in further developments of the leading man joining a New Kids on the Block Style band, and a couple of hilarious cartoon Germans trying to destroy the Sunset Strip where all the action takes place, but being foiled by the sassy Regina (Rhiannon Chesterman – perfect) and you have a raucous, fun, ball of energy that can’t fail to entertain.

The music is like a who’s who of 80s rock, with the tunes coming thick and fast. Whitesnake, Starship, Pat Benatar, Poison, REO Speedwagon and Journey are all represented. Standout tracks include Whitesnake’s ‘Here I go again’ and Posion’s ‘Every Rose has it’s thorn’ both delivered by the ensemble with passion and verve, especially by Zoe Birkett as Justice with a voice that can only be described as incredible.

One of the things that makes this such a great night is the cast’s obvious enjoyment in the show. The narrator Lonny (a standout performance from the charismatic crowd pleaser Lucas Rush) has such fun ad-libbing and connecting with the audience, whilst the young stars Luke Walsh and Danielle Hope are suitably sweet and winsome, but show a tougher edge as the musical turns darker. The already mentioned Sam Ferriday is superb as the debauched Stacee Jaxx, a raddled mixture of Dave Lee Roth and David Coverdale, wearing those skintight white pants and Axl Rose  withair h aplomb and turning in a scene stealing performance. Coronation Street Legend Kevin Kennedy is also superb, showing his class as Dennis with a series of knowing one liners. His scene with Lonny when they sing the REO Speedwagon classic ‘Can’t fight this feeling’ is the funniest scene in the whole show, saying something in a show that is full of them.

Rock of Ages is the ultimate fun night out for those who never travel without their air guitar.

It runs at the The Alexandra until Saturday 17th November. For ticket information visit  www.atgtickets.com/venues/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/

Awful Auntie Live On Stage In Birmingham

Awful Auntie stormed into the Birmingham New Alexandra Theatre tonight delighting both children and adults alike. The latest David Walliams novel to be adapted for the stage has all the hallmarks that make Walliams’s books so brilliant, a monstrous villain, a plucky, determined child, a story of loss and friendship. But, unlike the other Walliam’s stories, this is a story set in the past, in the 1920s, and there’s no sign of Raj. That said,it is still a brilliantly told tale, and in Alberta Saxby, it has one of the most memorable baddies in recent times.

Stella Saxby is 12, almost 13, when she wakes up in her bed swathed head to toe in bandages. She’s been in a coma for four months, since the car crash that killed her parents Lord and Lady Saxby, and is now in the care of her Aunt Alberta and her giant Bavarian Owl Wagner. Stella is suspicious that her Aunt means her harm and may have been involved in the death of her parents, and this is confirmed when Stella is locked in the dark coal cellar. But in the cellar she meets a friendly ghost, Soot, a chimney sweep who lost his life when someone lit a fire underneath him. With Soot’s help, Stella sets about getting rid of her ‘awful auntie’, but it turns out to be a difficult job as her aunt outwits her every step of the way. Will Stella ever be safe again, and who is Soot really.

Awful-Auntie-by-Birmingham-Stage-Company.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-

The key to the success of ‘Awful Auntie’ is the superb casting. Timothy Speyer is a hoot as Aunt Alberta, playing the role as a cross between Stanley Baxter and, well, David Walliams, in drag. His comedic timing his just brilliant, particularly in the Home Alone – esque scene when his bedroom is booby trapped. Georgina Leonidas and Ashley Cousins are also great, giving spirited charming performances as Stella and Soot, characters you can really get behind in their troubles. Elderly butler Gibbon, played by Richard James was another crowd pleaser, have the young audience in stitches with his short sighted, decrepit ways and actions, actions that include serving a pair of burnt slippers as breakfast and wiping a dirty floor with a priceless fur stole.

Awful-Auntie-by-Birmingham-Stage-Company.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-

The staging of Awful Auntie is clever, with a vintage motor car careering across the stage, and sets that rotate to create a coal shute and a library and other rooms to give the impression of Saxby Hall. Wagner is wonderfully controlled by puppeteer Roberta Bellekom.

Awful-Auntie-by-Birmingham-Stage-Company.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-

Awful Auntie is a delight for children of all ages.

Awful Auntie

New Alexandra Theatre 

Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 November 2017

Click here for ticket information

Miracle On 34th Street – Feelgood Fun

Feelgood is a word that is overused at this time of the year, but when it comes to BMOS production of Miracle on 34th Street, it is the perfect word to use. This lovely production of a Christmas classic is warm, funny and charming, and in Stewart Keiller it has a lead character who may just be Santa Claus.

The story of Miracle on 34th Street is that of a Christmas Classic. A kindly elderly gentleman, Kris Kringle, comes into the life of a cynical little girl called Susan Walker. Susan’s mother Doris has hired him to play Santa at Macy’s, but Doris and Susan have no real love of Christmas, they don’t believe that Santa is real. Doris is also bruised by her experience of love, so when her new neighbour, retired marine Fred Gaily starts to pay attention to her and Susan, her defences go up and she tries to shut him out. But they are thrown together when Kris Kringle is accused of being insane because he says he is the real Santa Claus, with Doris asking Fred to defend Kris. Can Kris be saved from commitment, and can it be that he really is Santa Claus?

Ariane Photography Studio

Ariane Photography Studio

This is a heartwarming story that is told well by its talented cast. Stewart Keiller is just right as Kris Kringle, he plays Santa exactly as you want him to be, jolly, kindly and with a twinkle in his eye. Jo Smith has a wonderful singing voice that is shown to great effect as Doris, and she has a great chemistry with her leading man Matthew Collins as Fred. Matthew is great as Fred, particularly in the funny scene featuring ‘She Hadda Go Back. Willow Heath makes a super Susan, sweet and cute without being precocious, she touches the heart when she wishes for a farm house, with a swing and a cow.

The sets are just beautiful, recreating 1940s Macys and the parade with real style. The whole feel is of a Christmassy winter wonderland, a feeling only enhanced with the use of ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’. With a snowy fairytale finale, I left the theatre totally ready for Christmas.

Just lovely.

Miracle on 34th Street

New Alexandra Theatre

16th-18th November

Click here for ticket information