THE award-winning Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust Musicals recruited two of Merseyside’s leading choreographers for their outstanding musical version of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.
it was superby choreographed by Nazene Langfield and Graeme Henderson, who have both appeared on London’s West End stage.
There’s snow busness like show business … indeed.
The society, now in its 90th year, is in sparkling form.
The sheer scale of their musicals conjure up the word ‘spectacular’ and I have said it before anything the West End can do they can match them for production values.
White Christmas is all about super troupers and BOST has plenty of them in front and behind the curtains.
With director Elsie Kelly and musical director Tricia Gaskell at the helm you know they will pull out all the stops.
Sets and costumes, yet again, are first class.
This is a show that has some cracking numbers including Blue Skies, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep and the title song.
I Love a Piano also hit all the right notes with the sell-out audience.
BOST Musicals display their considerable talents from individuals and entire ensemle.
The storyline remains a timeless one.
Two soldiers help out an ailing hotel in Vermont.
Loyalty, friendship , dreams and ambitions are key themes along with, of course, love.
Stalwart Tony Prince played Bob Wallace, the role made famous by Bing Crosby in the 1954 Paramount movie.
Bob is an all-round good guy and not only talented in the trenches of 1944 but on the stage alongside his de-mobbed double-act partner Phil Davis (that name sounds familiar) ten years later.
The characater is played with great enthusiasm by Chris Simmons. Danny Kaye was Phil in the classic, feel-good film.
Gina Phillips as Betty Haynes (sung and danced by Rosemary Clooney in the movie) joined Linzi Stefanov as younger sibling Judy.
Their rendition of the evergreen Sisters a highlight Medals, too, for old soldier Frank Nance as eager-to-serve again General Waverley with a commanding performance.
And full marks to Millie Kiss one of two talented young stars who alternated as savvy Susan the other being Sofia Lawton.
There’s also plenty of humour something BOST excel at.
There’s star-struck house-keeper, Martha Watson played by Pat Davies. Les Hampson’s Ralph Sheldrake – a TV executive for The Ed Sullivan Show and two bubbly chorus girls courtesy of Jessica Walter (Rita) and Elizabeth Beattie as Rhoda.
Carl Loughlin’s frantic stage manager Mike was consistently funny -shrieking the panic buttons for most of the show within a show theme.
And waiting in the wings for a snow-covered festive finale was aerial acrobat, high-flyer Kellie Giddman who made me feel giddy watching her her high-wire performance.
Thanks to a stellar cast and crew this White Christmas got everyone in the mood and it was only November.
Rating: Five Huge Snowflakes (STARS)
White Christmas (2016)
Christmas is well and truly upon us with Liverpool Empire Theatre playing host to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical.
Bob Wallace – portrayed by Tony Prince – steals the show with his awkwardly-cute nature and smooth voice. Bob’s’ voice is the echo of Frank Sinatra and the audience falls for his traditional morals and gentlemanly charm through his rendition of ‘White Christmas’.
But Bob is not complete without Betty! Gina Phillips does a phenomenal job at sending her stunning voice across the room. Her chemistry with Bob is adorable and they are a perfect match – the kooky singing duo are unmissable performing ‘Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep’ in Act One.
Chris Simmons takes the stage as Phil Davis – Bob’s partner in crime. He is consistent with the strong American accent, including through song. Look out for their hilarious take on ‘Sisters’ – complete with burlesque feather fans!
Phil’s love interest is Judy. A loveable, bubbly character portrayed by Linzi Stefanov, she carries a sassy attitude and is the essence of Marilyn Monroe down to her smile. The girls are in perfect harmony for ‘Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun’. A minor wardrobe malfunction is quickly overlooked following a very speedy outfit change.
The true champions of this performance would be the dancers. Their smiles and stamina are breath-taking and it’s very hard to take your eyes away. Act One includes a lengthy tap-dance of which the majority is acapella. The audience is able to appreciate some fine dancing by such a large group.
White Christmas will be sure to get the festive mood flowing – it includes dazzling costume, ever-changing sets and even some snowflakes!
PR Rating: ***** Magical and Charming!
White Christmas (2016)
Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust (BOST) brought their latest production of ‘Anything Goes’ to the stage this evening and there followed one of the most colourful, bright, funny and highly entertaining shows I have seen for a while. This wonderful musical with music of Cole Porter is the perfect platform to flaunt the excellent talents of this company.
Supported by a fabulous orchestra who started off the show before the curtain rose with the obvious ‘Anything Goes’ had the audience head bobbing along but then followed with another tune which made the intro just that little too long. Anyway, on with the show and apart from a couple of lighting issues at the start leaving the cast in shadows which I will put down to first night technicalities, what a treat was in store for us all.
Set aboard the S. S. American on a voyage from New York to London it’s basically a love story of boy, Billy Crocker, (John Tetlow) meets girl, Hope Harcourt (Sarah Chidlow) the love of his life from an unforgettable night, who is about to be married to the wealthy Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Wesley Wharton) to the delight of her mother Evangeline Harcourt (Diane Dale) who sees an end to their ‘poverty’ with him. No true love story runs smoothly and this is no exception. Billy is only aboard the vessel looking for his boss who has forgotten his passport but upon seeing Hope he desperately seeks a ticket to stay on board and try to woo her back. With a twist of fate also aboard the ship is Moonface Martin (Tony Prince), a man wanted by the FBI and much to his disgust is currently listed as their number 13 most wanted, will he make it to the number one spot? Disguised as a Bishop the ambling gangster has a spare ticket as his accomplice Snake Eyes has been warned not to travel. Unknowingly Billy directs the FBI in the direction of a real Bishop on board, Henry T Dobson (Jimmy McLoughlin) and in gratitude Moonface hands the spare ticket to Billy.
There follows a brilliantly scripted musical with exceptional talent from many of its cast, in particular the part of Reno Sweeney a night club singer portrayed by Linzi Stefanov who not only has amazing vocals but also a relaxed and easy manner with her acting skills, born for the part. The drunken Elisha Whitney (Eddie Bentley) makes one wonder just how much was consumed in the research of this part so convincingly is it performed! Scene stealer is the Purser, (Andrew Heath) who with his overly camp style has the audience in stitches with his every appearance. Tetlow is likeable from the start as his character and also shows a great talent in singing. There were some real comedic moments with Wharton too.
Throughout the show there is perfect comedy timing with not just one or two performers but with each and everyone, whether at front of stage or background, all worked extremely hard to put on this musical and it shows with the incredible ease the song and dance routines appear, everything just flowed. The costumes added glamour and colour and the scenery mainly set upon the deck of the ship was changed quickly and smoothly.
Space does not permit me to mention everyone individually but all principal parts were perfectly cast and I cannot imagine anyone performing them better than they did. For an amateur group this is an extremely professional production and one that I urge people to go along to. Not to be missed!
North West End
Anything Goes (2016)
Following last years triumphant production of White Christmas I expect that many must have echoed the thought “follow that”; well keep it in mind because the same comment will still be relevant next year. BOST’s continued success lies with their strong production team and talented players and “Anything Goes” once again illustrates the benefit of having these factors “in Spades”.
New Director Karen Partington with seasoned campaigner Musical Director Tricia Gaskell and Choreographer Charlotte Elverstone gave us a splendid nights entertainment combining laughter with fine singing and terpsichorean delight. And this show was a perfect opportunity to bring these elements to the fore. Cole Porter’s Thirties musical is as light as a fairy cake and was performed with such style and, exuberance as to make it irresistible. The evergreen songs are such that when, dare I say it, Brittany and Madonna are forgotten they will still be enjoyed by people of all ages. Add to this snappy dialogue and repartee which is still relevant not surprising when one of the original writers was P.G Wodehouse.
As the would be lovers John Tetlow (Billy Crocker) and Sarah Chidlow (Hope Harcourt) brought the characters to life making the most of their songs. It was a pity that John experienced some microphone problems but it is to his great credit that he could still be heard clearly. It was a joy to see Tony Prince (Moonface Martin) in a comedy role. His timing and reactions were both excellent and he revelled in the opportunity. Jennifer Swanepoel as Erma his “sidekick” demonstrated that she is a real talent and proved it every time she made an appearance. Wesley Wharton was cleverly funny as the upper-class fellow who comes on as a ferrety invert and in one number, shimmying in his dressing gown, turns into a Gypsy sex bomb.
Andrew Heath was a tremendous Camp Purser bringing laughter in his wake whenever he “minced” on stage and as the permanently sozzled Wall Street mogul Elisha Whitney, Eddie Bentley more than demonstrated his flair for the comedic. Diane Dale (Evangeline Harcourt) finally succumbs to his charms proving that “money talks” and that she could hold her own in this distinguished company of players. Frank Nance was the “Captain” and his skill in playing this kind of part, remember the General in White Christmas, is always noteworthy.
If there was a prize in this great cast for “First among Equals “ then I doubt if anyone would quarrel with Linzi Stefanov’s claim. This was a Tour de Force across all the Singing, Dancing and Acting disciplines; in essence she was splendid and one rarely sees a performance of such magnitude in the amateur theatre.
Four lovely “Angels”, a strong group of supporting players, a fine team of dancers and chorus all added to the fun. Nice to see two very young dancers included.
The backstage production teams contribution is always of the highest standard; another fine feather in BOST’s cap.
As tune-and-toe tapping shows go, this is about as good as it gets.
Anything Goes – NODA Review
As the autumn leaves begin to fall, and the nights draw in there are few plans better than spending an evening enveloped within the warm glow of the theatre. Halloween is just around the corner, and with that in mind something spine tingingly sinister is on the menu. Enter Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust (BOST) with their presentation of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Written in 1886, Stevenson’s macabre novella is a classic tale of mans eternal struggle between good and evil. Thought by many to be one of the greatest gothic tales ever written, late October is the perfect time to indulge in some delectable horror.
The dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde are confidently portrayed by Chris Simmons. Expertly tackling such vocally demanding performances takes real skill, and Simmons is a delight to watch. His voice holds so much power that it feels as though he could scarcely play a more perfect role. As Dr Jekyll he elicits our complete sympathy as he is consumed by the evil of Mr Hyde. His time on stage is always captivating, none more so than during the moments when he wrestles against the inner demon that ultimately claims him. With such a role it would be forgivable to steal every scene, yet thankfully there is much more on offer throughout BOST’s production.
Linzi Stefanov is flawless in her role as Lucy, a poor tavern girl who fate delivers into the path of Jekyll, and then later Hyde. Stefanov gave a blistering performance of every single song she delivers, and was more than deserving of the applause her moments on stage received. There is a fragility to her portrayal that is as heart breaking, as it is commanding. Her duet with Hyde is particularly memorable.
Director Elsie Kelly has embarked on an ambitious project in bringing the world of Jekyll and Hyde to life. The production boasts fantastic costume and set design, and effortlessly transports us into another time and space. There is competent work from the chorus, who shine especially bright in the second acts performance of Murder Murder.
With such a rich multi layered story there are bound to be a few teething problems, and they make themselves known with minor sound and lighting issues. There are also moments when it feels as though the story could be sped along a little, but on the whole this is a wonderful production from a company that shows real passion and heart.
Jekyll And Hyde ~ The Musical
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