IF ever we needed the season to be jolly it’s now.
A welcome pre-festive break away from the Brexmas blues.
BOST Musicals started the snowball rolling with their latest production of A Christmas Carol.
Stalwart performer Tony Prince donned the top hat and frayed frock coat as Ebenezer Scrooge but this was very much an ensemble piece.
There was also a new addition to the set design – a revolving stage or ‘revolve’ as it is affectionately called.
Surprisingly, director Karen Partington did not use this dramatic device for Bob Cratchitt’s poor-but-warm family Camden town residence.
It is not the familiar songs from the touring Tommy Steele Scrooge, but the lesser-performed Madison Square Garden show which ran for a decade from 1994 and subsequent TV version starring Kelsey Grammer.
There was also a West End debut in 2016.
Mike Ockrent and Lynn Adams (who wrote the original songs with Alan Menken) took many liberties with the Charles Dickens novel making London itself a ‘character.’
A Victorian sense-around was the result on stage.
Here the four ghosts stamp their own mark on the storytelling in very different ways: Jacob Marley (Frank Nance); Christmas Past and Future (Linzi Stefanov) Christmas Present (Michael Pearson).
They did not make grand special effects entrances.
It was their respective vocals and character interpretations that created the ghostly atmosphere.
Choreographer Sarah Walker presented some shovel-bearing gravediggers and sinister monks sporting dark habits.
Other highlights included Marley’s macabre dance and Fezziwigs’ annual party which simply fizzed with energy, colour and fun.
Christopher Simmons as Mr Fezziwig was clearly enjoying his 16th major BOST show.
It was no wonder Scrooge lamented over the fact his former boss made life so much better for his workforce and for so little cost.
But everyone on stage deserved a Christmas present for sheer enthusiasm.
There was snowfall at the finale as Tiny Tim sang ‘God bless us, everyone’ and BOST received well-deserved applause for another successful show and creative year.
Wirral Globe Rating: ★★★★ Spirited Adaptation
A Christmas Carol (2019)
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without Charles Dickens’ classic festive tale about a miserly man who despises it all.
With theatres already booked up with December pantos, BOST (Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust) is getting in the spirit early with the North West premiere of A Christmas Carol (the all-singing, all-dancing version by Broadway composer Alan Menken).
It might only be November but it makes for a fabulously festive treat packed with sumptuous costumes, sparkling song and dance numbers from its 70-strong cast – and a refreshing sense of humour cutting through some of the saccharine sweetness.
Some minor problems with sound aside – making it hard to hear actors at the back of the stage – it’s as close to a professional show as you’ll get on the amateur scene.
BOST stalwart Tony Prince makes for a satisfyingly scowling Scrooge; eyes darting everywhere, shoulders hunched and a mouth permanently puckered with annoyance. His Scrooge is funnier than you might expect at times and he’s clearly relishing spitting out all those Bah Humbugs.
He’s suitably grumpy (“I abhor how they whine!”) yet totally convincing in the radical personality transformation that ensues as poor Scrooge is taken through the sadness of his father’s prison sentence, his mum’s demise and the loss of his fiancee Emily when work takes over his life.
The arrival of his ghostly former partner Jacob Marley doesn’t pack the punch you expect – it’s almost a disappointment to see him just walk through the door – but what follows is a beautifully staged exchange between the chain-clad ghoul (Frank Nance) and Scrooge as he convinces him of his other-wordly existence.After some lovely floaty, ghostly dancing there’s strong support from Gina Phillips, Michael Pearson and Linzi Stefanov as the ghosts of Scrooge’s past, present and future, while Mark McManus makes for an endearingly warm Bob Cratchit (accompanied by a super cute Tiny Tim in Matthew Burke).
Director Karen Partington makes full use of the Royal Court’s 9m revolving stage to bring the story to life, and it’s particularly effective as a device when Scrooge is shown flashes of his past – and the future, which comes in the form of an eerie posse of grave diggers dancing with shovels and hooded mourners holding their candles.
The production is packed with detail, particularly in the big group scenes – witness a Punch & Judy show as Scrooge is invited to his family’s Christmas dinner, stallholders selling their wares, the cheery Gaiety Theatre actors are doing their rounds, Bob Cratchit buys a scrawny chicken and there’s a blind woman begging who Scrooge may yet meet again.
If you don’t have a lump in your throat by the heartwarming grand finale then you really are a Scrooge.
Liverpool Echo Rating: ★★★★
A Christmas Carol (2019)
Last night not only did I have the pleasure of reviewing BOST’s A Christmas Carol. I must say it’s a theatre experience I have never witnessed before. From the moment you walk in and sit down you’re immersed in to the surroundings and if you have a meal ticket you have the best Xmas dinner possible to.
Ebenezer Scrooge can’t get in to the Christmas spirit as there is not time to waste money and frivolities. No matter how much people try to plead or help him see the joy of Christmas. However, Mr Scrooge is visited by 3 ghosts. Christmas past, present and future. Will Scrooge listen and learn a lesson? You’ll have to find out for yourself 🙂
The talent in the cast was incredible from the get go my hairs stood up on my arms and I was full of goosebumps.
The show has a few mishaps mainly backstage with microphones cutting out or not even on I. The first place. I was 4 rows back so although I could hear when the microphones were not on you’d be in trouble right at the back in the balcony. Some set looked like it came on either to late or wasn’t taken off as soon as it could of been in particular when the ghost of Xmas past came on stage the door opened half way and got stuck. Whilst the singing was out of this world some harmonies were a bit flat. I’m sure these are opening night tweaks. The show and indeed talent was incredible the children within the cast are paving a very bright future in the arts and I hope they do cause they will ace it.
Watching the show I forget I was there review it was that good and would fit any West End professional theatre. Tears were shed don’t worry they were of absolute joy and pride that Merseyside have such an amazing range of talent from children to big children. If you have a chance between now and Saturday evening. Go and see it and the big surprises in store in the show. You won’t be disappointed especially with the gravy on that roast dinner. This story is timeless, for me I prefer this version cause what’s not to like when you have a little sing song. The song of the show for me is Christmas Together.
Merry Christmas it’s time to get in that sprit
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★
A Christmas Carol (2019)
Last night, we joined Bost Musicals at the Liverpool Empire where they presented their incredible adaptation of ‘Hello, Dolly!’ This musical was written in 1964 by playwright Michael Stewartwe with lyrics and music by Jerry Herman.
‘Hello, Dolly!’ was our first experience of a production from Bost Musical, and whilst we had heard of their exceptional reputation, we were incredibly surprised at the level of quality from the whole team.
The whole cast were fantastic – leading the show was Pat Davies as Dolly who was a real joy to watch. Her co-star Tony Prince who plays the petulant yet still slightly endearing Horace Vandergelder had a brilliant on-stage presence and fulfilled the role as the half-a-millionaire bachelor very well.
The musical director Tricia Gaskell and choreographer Sarah Walker ensured the show was presented at an incredibly high quality that matched the talent.
The renowned director Elsie Kelly who after 46 of years of dedication to Bost, will be retiring after the end of these performances and we were incredibly grateful to see her final show and it made us feel like we were able to be a part of something really special.
Theatres Online rating: ★★★★
Hello, Dolly! (2019)
Last season BOST took a noirish journey into the sinister, unsavoury savoury world of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.
This year they’ve swapped the worst pies in London for the best dinner in New York, served up in a colourful and warm-hearted production of the preposterous tale of meddling Manhattan matchmaker Dolly Levi.
It’s an ambitious staging of the Stewart/Herman musical, with energetic choreography which spills off the stage and promenades on to ramps and a catwalk which together encircle the band in the pit.
The design stops the action becoming too lateral and gives it an extra sense of movement and pace.
At the centre of this production are not one but two leading ladies – principal player Pat Davies as BOST’s Dolly dazzler, and veteran director Elsie Kelly who is hanging up her director’s hat after almost 50 years with the company.
As swansongs go, Kelly should be pleased with what her performers achieve. This is an amateur company with a professional attitude, and there is a lot of experience on show here (including, in a tribute to Kelly, a brief guest appearance by West End actor and dancer Graeme Henderson as a tap-dancing chef).
The chorus are in strong voice through the big ensemble numbers – buoyed by a bright and breezy orchestra (whose overtures deserve to be listened to, not talked over!), and there are a number of impressive solo performances.
Last season’s Sweeney, Tony Prince, clearly relishes his baddie role as the irascible Scrooge-like miser Hector Vandergelder, while Sarah Chidlow, playing sparky widow Irene Molloy, has a lovely clarity to her soprano singing voice.
And then there’s the simply delightful double act of John Francis Viagus and Brian Comer as Vandergelder’s naive and put-upon clerks Cornelius and Barnaby, who get a taste of freedom on a madcap day out in the big city. The pair have great comic timing and are incredibly watchable whenever they set foot on stage.
Meanwhile Davies sweeps majestically through her scenes as the fast-talking, scheming Dolly, the matchmaker who just wants to settle down.
There are still a handful of sections that need smoothing out and tightening up, but all in all BOST has delivered another impressive production of a musical favourite.
Arts City Liverpool rating: ★★★★
Hello, Dolly! (2019)
We are saddened by the recent passing of Davina (Dee) Jones. Davina was a member of BOST for many years and was a talented performer and good friend. She first joined in 1979, fresh out of University, for our production of The Sound of Music. ...Read More
Theatre fans given the chance to join exclusive online events with West End stars We have launched a series of special West End Masterclasses, which will be held throughout the year, with a different West End star taking part each time. Exclusive to BOST’s membership base, ...Read More
Earlier this month we made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming production of ‘When The Lights Go On Again’, as the health of our audience members, cast and crew is of utmost importance. While further rehearsals are unable to take place at the moment, ...Read More
© 2020 Birkenhead Operatic Society.
Alexander Hall, 24A Clifton Road, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 2SG
Charity No/259 306.