Media Comments

A selection of critics’ comments about some of our recent productions…

 

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)

HELLO Dolly – goodbye Elsie Kelly … after 46 of years of dedication the director leaves the stage with a fitting, typically high standard production.

It’s just what we have come to expect from BOST.

The company is renowned for having the ambition and ability to handle different types of musical genres as shown in their exceptional adaptations of Oliver! and Sweeney Todd.

Here musical director Tricia Gaskell and choreographer Sarah Walker again show top-notch teamwork.

In Hello Dolly! we are are transported back to 19th century New York.  A time to go bonkers in Yonkers as we celebrate the world of the matchmaking, indefatigable Dolly Levi – a character made famous in many big screen and stage versions.

This is a very happy show with a happy cast who who are all allowed to shine in Elsie Kelly’s direction.

These Wirral Globe Arts Ambassadors give 100 per cent every time.

Pat Davies as Dolly paces herself well into the pivotal role.

Her interaction with Tony Prince’s gruff but ultimately endearing Horace Vandergelder has plenty of comic moments.

Elsie has directed this charming show three times before and always gets the best out of

the trademark cross-generational cast.

True to form the costumes are wonderful and the set capturing the Big Apple is a visual delight, complemented by two ramps allowing the audience to get a wee bit closer to our local stars.

Everyone pulls out all the stops from the jaunty orchestra to the ladies and gentlemen of the marvellous chorus.

There are the usual individual and collective performances.

Sarah Chidlow as Irene Molloy and Bridie Flanagan as Minnie Fay both weave in and of the fun proceedings to great effect.

The double-act team of shop assistants Cornelius (John Francis Viagus) and Barnaby (Brian Comer) are a joy – enthusiastic and enjoyable scene stealers.

In her programme notes Elsie Kelly waves farewell by saying: “I’m incredibly privileged to have worked with such a responsive company.”  The feeling is clearly mutual.

Another sparkling feather in the cap for Elsie and her outstanding legacy.

Now the shows must go on.

For this sunny Hello Dolly, I counted more than 50 performers on stage – everyone deservedly taking a well-earned bow.

Onwards and upwards.

Wirral Globe rating: 4 Stars, Hats Off to BOST

Hello, Dolly! (2019)

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the latest offering by amateur musical theatre company Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust (BOST), hosted at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre which celebrates its 80th birthday this month.

BOST is no stranger to big theatres having performed Oliver at the Royal Court last year and are preparing to take on Hello Dolly! in May 2019 at Liverpool Empire Theatre, this isn’t your community centre or church hall amateur dramatics group. In fact, within its ranks BOST boasts performers from the West End production Matilda the Musical, National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) award winners and the most experienced Director of Musicals in Merseyside.

With a pedigree to rival many professional companies, I had high hopes for BOST’s version of Sweeney Todd. The cast was enormous with an ensemble of 26 supporting the principle cast of 10. This enabled a wall of voices to hit you from the first note, creating a haunting and uncomfortable introduction to a familiar horror story. The voices were enhanced by the wonderfully talented band who delivered Stephen Sondheim’s musical classic perfectly.

Sweeney Todd is a chilling story but the cast, particularly the brilliant Gina Phillips as roguish opportunist Mrs Nellie Lovett, added an undeniable humour to the dark and dastardly tale of close shaves and dubious pies.

Phillips Mrs Lovett, was matched by the eponymous protagonist Sweeney Todd, played by Tony Prince, in intensity rather than humour. Whenever Phillips and Prince were on stage together, it all just clicked. They were the perfect pairing – the heartbroken, revenge seeking yin and the love sick, expedient yang. They’re performances where enhanced by the faultless supporting cast, most notably 15 year old Brian Comer who played Tobias Ragg and undoubtedly has a very promising future ahead of him.

Everything just worked, except the set. A good deal of the performance was on a movable high platform which was Sweeney Todd’s barbers shop, above Mrs Lovett’s pie shop. I was sat in the stalls, slightly to the left (or stage right) and could see very little of the action that took place in the barber shop because if was obscured and in some cases completely blocked by the set itself or by some of the props. My view wasn’t as bad as those in front of me or further to the left who couldn’t even see Sweeney Todd’s chair never mind what occurred to the patrons who sat in it.

I feel that the set could have worked much more effectively had it been simpler. It was beautiful and the stage hands worked tirelessly to change between scenes, however I would much rather see the performers clearly with a basic set than have complex scenery and no clear view of the actors.

Overall, BOST’s Sweeney Todd hit many of the high note and is a company I am excited to see more of.

North West End Rating: ★★★★

northwestend.co.uk

Sweeney Todd (2018)

Five years ago, the ever-game BOST dazzled (literally) the Royal Court audience with The Full Monty, while last year they returned to the venue with Lionel Bart’s Oliver!

Now the amateur company with professional standards has pushed the boundaries by taking on Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning ‘black operetta’ Sweeney Todd, with impressive results.

Sondheim created a devilishly difficult sung-through score for his pitch black 1979 musical about the ‘demon barber of Fleet Street’, packing it with complex counterpoint and moments of delicious dissonance.

But BOST’s cast of strong singers has mastered the composer’s lyrical intricacies, and under the expert eyes of director Elsie Kelly and musical director Tricia Gaskell they deliver them with real confidence.

The ensemble, a Greek chorus of everyday London folk, creates a terrific wall of sound in the opening Ballad of Sweeney Todd, reprised at moments throughout the show, and generates a real sense of drama tinged with an undercurrent of menace.

There’s also latent menace in Tony Prince’s revenge-obsessed barber, all Ludwig van Beethoven locks and powerful bass-baritone delivery.

His lowering, monosyllabic gruffness is beautifully juxtaposed by Gina Phillips’ Mrs Lovett. Phillips is an absolute delight as the morally malleable purveyor of pies, a captivating bundle of energy whether bashing out pastry to make the ‘worst pies in London’ or bashing out a tune on the harmonium.

Still, although she reigns supreme, she’s given a run for her money in the flamboyant character stakes by Chris Simmons’ posturing con artist Pirelli, and by Michael Pearson’s Beadle Bamford.

The first half proves slightly stronger than the second – both dramatically and musically, while the two-storey scaffolding set is rudimentary but serviceable.

But BOST should be rightly proud of its ambitions in continuing to deliver such a wide and challenging variety of work, and to a consistently high standard.

Liverpool Echo rating ★★★★

Liverpool Echo

Sweeney Todd (2018)

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