Monthly Archives: July 2011

Other Theatres of Birmingham – The Mac

I have just completed a short series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham, but as you can imagine there are more than just three theatres in Birmingham!  I focussed on those three as they’re the most well known.  Don’t worry though, over a number of blogs I’ll let you know of some of the other theatres.

The MAC 

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More than just a theatre, the MAC is a fully functioning Arts Centre which hosts galleries, a cinema and with a huge variety of workshops to get your teeth stuck in all things arty.  The MAC reopened last year after a massive refurbishment and is a stunning space within the confines of Cannon Hill Park.

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Crescent Theatre

The third, and for a while the final, blog about the theatres of Birmingham, this time a theatre that I have a massive respect towards, The Crescent Theatre.

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The Crescent Theatre is more about the company rather than the building.  The company is one of Birmingham’s oldest theatre companies dating back to the 1920s when it began as the Municipal Players performing in a converted building, formally Baskerville Hall in the Crescent, Cambridge Street.  It all began with a group of council employees wanting to entertain their colleagues and their friends and the rest, they say, is history.  The Crescent Theatre is an amateur group.  It is run mainly by volunteers with people taking time out of their schedules to perform, design, make, build, pour drinks and direct across the theatre.  The members of the theatre are vital in the running and there is a real community feel whenever you go to the theatre.

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It’s current building, part of the Brindley Place development opened in the 1990s.  It’s current building, boasting two performance spaces (a 340+ seat main house and a 120 seat studio), a large bar area and conference facilities as well as a workshop to build sets as well as a large props and wardrobe department.  It thrives to produce quality shows that attract a large amount of different people of different backgrounds and does so with great success.  In the season just gone the theatre produced a sell out production of Sweeney Todd (which, in my opinon put professional theatre companies to shame), a highly emotional All My Sons, a family production of Danny the Champion of the World, and a highly effective production of Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser to name just a few of the productions produced.  

The company produce on average 15 shows a year across the two performance spaces including a summer tour which visits a number of locations around Birmingham and a Christmas Wassail which also tours as well as having a sell out run in the main house.  The theatre is used by a large number of amateur groups from around the region who come back time and time again, as well as by musicians and comedians who also use the bar as a performance area.  Birmingham School of Acting also use the theatre to perform it’s productions in – a great chance to see some new acting talent.  Highlights in the forthcoming season include Talking Heads, Macbeth, and Bedroom Farce as well as The Rep taking residence over the Christmas period for their production of Sleeping Beauty.  I know that there are still some more awesome shows still to be announced so keep an eye out!

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What kind of shows will you find at The Crescent?

The Crescent does a variety of shows, usually mainly plays with a big musical once a season.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of shows and you’ll find a couple of shows at least per season that will get you interested.

Who goes to the Crescent?

Depends on the show.  You’ll find a lot of members going to shows and the families and friends of those in the cast, but at the same time you’ll find students, families, adults, a real mix really.

 What’s coming up? 

So far announced for the following season are Talking Heads (September), MADEA (devised by the theatre, October), Macbeth (November) and Bedroom Farce (January).  Over December and January The Rep will be taking residence with their production of Sleeping Beauty.

 First show seen here?

Acorn Antiques the Musical (the amateur premier production).

 Last show seen here? 

Sweeney Todd.

Over notable shows seen:

Danny the Champion of the World; Wedding Singer (GBMTC); Arcadia; Julius Ceaser; Dad’s Army; Women on the Verge of HRT

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LINKS:

The tailer for the smash hit production of Sweeney Todd

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News: Discrimination at Wicked – UPDATED .

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FURTHER UPDATE 8/8 Statement from ATG in comments

The following has just been brought to my attention on facebook:

‘Wicked’ Discrimination at The Apollo 

 

What you are about to read is a personal account on behalf of our son Gregor aged 12, regarding a recent visit to the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, London on the evening of Friday 22nd July 2011 to see ‘Wicked’-The story of the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t know if you have seen this show but it is about someone, who due to being different is subjected to bullying, discrimination and ridicule her whole life.

 

Myself, and Jennifer my wife, have two children, Gregor, 12 and Emily, 9. Gregor has a condition called Neuronal Migration Disorder, is on the Autistic spectrum, suffers from epilepsy and struggles with his balance. Vocally Gregor communicates using vowel sounds to sound like words. Behind the huge smiles, Gregor is a very happy and clever little boy with an absolute abundance of affection, which in turn has touched the lives of many people. Emily is a fantastic young carer to her big brother and we as a family are very close.

 

At the show, from the very start, Gregor was really enjoying himself. He wasn’t making any more noise than any other child at a show or in the cinema would make, certainly nothing out of context, or disruptive. We are constantly assessing situations that affect Gregor and others around him and would most definitely have taken Gregor out of the show if he had been affecting any other member of the audiences’ enjoyment.

Fifteen minutes into the show, the front of house manager approached us and advised that we had two options. One – Gregor watched from behind a glass partition or Two- that we leave the theatre. The glass partition was completely unpractical- I even struggled to see over it! I asked to see the General Manager and queried the manner of the complaint. I was told –quote-,”it was our precious sound engineer”. I asked if any of the audience had complained and was told, “No.” One member of the audience for who we are very thankful for even stood up to fight our corner.

 

Something I will never forget, is the look of shock and surprise in the many faces of the audience nearby as we were asked to leave and for the humiliation caused to Gregor. The saddest part of it all was the look of sheer enjoyment on his face being wiped out as I had to tell him we had to leave.
At the interval, my wife and daughter were approached again to make sure they were ok and would like anything eg. Sweets/Drinks, from the obvious visual upset caused earlier. My wife’s response was an obvious one, “Yes, my son and my husband back.”

 

I was left with no choice but to take Gregor back to the hotel. I should say at this point that we live in the North of Scotland and were visiting London as part of our holiday. Jennifer stayed with Emily to watch the show but then had to find her way across London alone with our young daughter. Emily was extremely upset as to how her brother had been treated and all the excitement of going to the show was completely spoiled.
I personally find our treatment disgusting and extremely hurtful. In modern day London and Britain we are taught not to judge, discriminate or mock people because of their differences. Isn’t it ironic that this happens to a little boy in a show that is exactly about that.

 

Glyn Morris

This saddens me.  I take it that it has nothing to do with the cast of the show and that the front of house staff are going from a complaint of an over protective sound engineer.  The audience was fine with the boy’s noises and were happy to accomodate his needs and front of house staff seemed to be trying their best to make amends.

Wicked London, the official facebook page for the show has posted this response:

We are distressed to learn of the Morris family’s experience at the Apollo Victoria Theatre where our show is performed. WICKED embraces acceptance and works hard to champion tolerance through support of many charitable organisations that tackle social prejudice. We will work with the theatre owner The Ambassador Theatre Group to improve access for all and support a full appraisal of their operational procedures.

There may be a statement from the ATG later today, in which case I’ll update the post.  I hope this issue doesn’t dissuade people to see Wicked as it is an amazing show and it’s so sad that the serious issues that the show tackles has been brought to the forefront but with Wicked as the ‘attacker’.

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UPDATE:

The following statement from ATG has just been posted:

ATG OFFICIAL STATEMENT

 

We deeply regret any upset caused to the Morris family and would like to apologise for their bad experience last week at the Apollo Victoria in London. 

 

We are grateful to them for highlighting an issue that is at the very heart of our company. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to access live theatre and we especially welcome children and young people. 

 

We have prioritised training and have a member of senior management responsible for learning and access. However, this situation has emphasised the need for further training so that our operational staff can be better prepared in future and we have taken immediate measures to ensure that training is implemented and put into practice. 

 

We are further working with the Producers of Wicked to explore improving access to as wide an audience as possible for the fantastic production at the Apollo Victoria. 

 

ATG’s Joint CEO and Head of Learning and Access have both personally spoken to Mr Morris and held a useful discussion about our access provisions and the company will learn from this experience.

 

Ambassador Theatre Group

No real answer to be honest, and appears pretty standard, but let’s hope that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

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A Blog that Came About While Listening to the New ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ Soundtrack…

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is an awesome musical.  I first saw it in Chichester several years ago with an awesome cast and when I heard it was being revived on Broadway I was actually quite excited – even though I knew I wouldn’t get to see it.  Then I heard Daniel Radcliffe was going to be the main character….  Not only do I find it difficult to think of him as an adult and not a 10 year oldf boy wizard but there’s something about him that I don’t like.  Watching the latest couple of Harry Potter films he was clearly acted off the screen by everyone and everything including a CGI creature.  He’s also a bit too excited about, well, everything and comes across as a smug person trying to be humble, so I was almost kind of glad I wasn’t going to be able to see this production.  Then I heard the soundtrack had made it’s way to Spotify where I can listen to it (albeit 5 times and only if I still have time allowed) for free so I can have some form of judgement on Radcliffe’s performance – even though I can’t be sure if hasn’t been tampered with.  I’m guessing it hasn’t as I’m only on the first big number and already Radcliffe seems to be struggling with his singing (I dread to think what he’s like when he has to dance around too).

Anyway, the music for the show is brilliant, so I’m going to carry on listening.  Don’t want to get myself into a track by track review but will come back when something good or bad happens…

  • Coffee Break is just as good as I remember it being when I saw this show years ago! (Maybe it’s because there’s no Radcliffe?)
  • Oh, some talking, Radcliffe’s accent is…. interesting.
  • Advert time for a Blackberry Play Book – this is exciting me more than the music…. not a good sign :S
  • The support cast are either fantasitc or just sound better due to Radcliffe
  • 20 seconds into track 18…. Oh. My. Word. It’s a soundtrack recorded in a recording studio over time – how does Radcliffe sound so crap?
  • Oh Ghost the Musical is oh Spotify now too – though I did buy the album last week on itunes (but it’s now on Amazon to download for a bit cheaper!)
  • I am going to have to give up.

Let me be clear – I love the music, I love the show and I think most of the cast are fantastic – but, call me narrow minded – I just can’t get over Daniel Radcliffe.  I saw Joe Macfadden in his role and he was brilliant.  Robert Morse in the film is fantastic.  Radcliffe…. is making me cringe.  I don’t want to feel like this when listening to music.

…………………………………………………..

Well… I went to YouTube to try see a clip of the show and watched this – the performance from the Tony awards:

And my opinion, though not changed, has softened.  Softened to a more ‘Gawd-bless-‘im-and-his-little-cotton-socks’ attitude, but still softened.  He is doing a much better job than I could do so if any Radcliffe fan girls see this I have admitted he is better than me OK? BUT he still comes across as unnatural, a bit too excitable and slightly ‘high’ (if you get what I mean).  Also, anyone else notice how out of breath he gets? I know it’s a high energy number, but there’s a lot of them in this show.  I dread to think what he’s like by the end of a full show!

And for a comparrison, here’s Robert Morse in the film of the musical (it’s brilliant, if you can see it do so!)  It’s not as big as the above video but it’s still brilliant.

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Congratulations Rod & Ricky

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Awwww ain’t it sweet!  To celebrate New York’s new move to allow gay marriages, one of New York’s most famous gay couples got married at the weekend.  Rod & Ricky from Avenue Q clearly have had a great relationship since meeting at the end of the funniest musical in recent times, Avenue Q.  Now I’ve seen the moment that Rod & Ricky met 6 times now, twice in New York, three times in London and once in Birmingham, and it was clear even the first time that these two were meant to be together.

To see more pictures of this joyous partnership then head over to BroadwayWorld.com

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Six Summer Saturdays… Hmmm…

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When I did my Hippodrome blog you may recall I mentioned Six Summer Saturdays.  A fantastic idea and I cannot fault the Hippodrome for trying to fill those summer Saturdays with some culture and theatre – however, and the ‘Hmmm’ in the title probably suggests, I wasn’t that excited or thrilled by what I saw on Saturday when I was in Birmingham.

The main event for the weekend just gone was circus performance and circus skills in Chamberlain Square.  Fine, it’s a good idea and parts were great – however when there’s a huge event happening on the adjoining space (Victoria Square) that is seriously outdoing what they’re doing in terms of effort and activities it doesn’t bode well.  And sadly I felt deflated and let down by the Hippodrome’s offers on Saturday and I spent most of my time enjoying the music, food and festivities at Jamaica Live – that huge event next to them.

Looking further into these two events they were apparently linked, although Jamaica Live had been arranged by other groups.  The one thing linking them was the Olympics Open Weekend.  Events were happening across the country to celebrate there being only a year until the start of London 2012.  Jamaica Live had the Olympic mascot, Olympic flags and genereally had a huge celebratory atmosphere – it also had a clear link to the Olympics, celebrating the Jamaican team not only for next year but also with a display of replica tobaggan carts used in training for the winter Olympics.  I find it very difficult to see what link the Hippodrome’s ‘No Fit Circus’ had with the Olympics.  Maybe at a stretch some gymnastics, but apart from that not much else.  It seems very much that the Hippodrome were more latching themselves onto a (I’m pesuming) funded event and taking advantage with some strenious (if that) links.

Looking through the programme for this year’s Six Summer Saturdays I’m not impressed.  The first event for example was some Jazz music – which, with massive ‘coincidence’ just so happened to fall into Birmingham’s International Jazz Festival.  So nothing new of different from what had been happening across Birmingham, nothing unique, nothing that exciting.  Poor effort for something to launch a summer of ‘big’ events.  Another event they had was using Titan the robot.  You’ve seen him on Paul O Grady, in pantos, on other TV shows, on Big Brother and a number of other events – a couple of years back.  Where’s the new, exciting, unique and artistic things we’re expecting? Also, to highlight my opinion that the Hippodrome have been jumping onto pre arranged things and hijacking them – the Hippodrome have been promoting ‘Ping!’ which, in fairness they do acknowledge that it’s run by another company, as an event you can do as part of 6SS…. they had nothing to do with them being installed, and if I’m right in thinking, members of the public can use the ping pong tables across the city whenever they want or whenever someone from STK International is present.

To compliment the negative vibes so far, I do have to admit that the events planned for the next few weeks do look better.  But when promoting the event ‘Snow in the City’ why do they have to use a picture of the event being held in London?! Make these things seem unique to Birmingham, make them look special, make them look fun and make them look like they belong to the people of Birmingham like the theatre.  This year’s 6SS doesn’t seem to have the intregrity and promise that last year’s highly successful one had.  Whatever the reason why needs to be addressed as 6SS is a fantastic idea, and needs to be brilliantly executed. 

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Nun Yourself with Sister Act

Sister Act the musical is about to embark on a national tour (which currently doesn’t include the Midlands sadly).  As part of the promo there’s a new feature to Nun Yourself, a simple yet possibly quite funny tool.  Shall have to try it out later!

Nun Yourself here

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Ghost the Musical – New Google-inspired Trailer

We’ve all seen that Google advert where the new Dad sets up all these Google accounts for his new daughter.  It’s heartwarming isn’t it?!

Anyway, now think of it the opposite way and using lots of Apple gadgets (sure the fact it’s all Apple is a coincendence).  You’ve just died and trying to get messages across.  Well this video explores that, again it’s heartwarming!

Also, I know I have done a lot of blogs on Ghost – the Musical, I will give it a break now until I hopefully see it!

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Birmingham Rep

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The second in this series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham visits the Rep.  Well, I say visit, if you visit the Rep at the moment you’ll come face to face with a building site while the new library is built next door and improvements are made to the theatre.  The Rep’s building might be closed, but the Rep are still producing shows across Birmingham visiting other theatres and performance spaces.

When in it’s current home (since 1971) on Centenary Square in Birmingham, it boasts two performance spaces – the main house (901 seats), and the studio theatre known as ‘the Door’.  The theatre has been in existance since 1913 and it’s original home, the Old Rep Theatre is still a much used theatre space in Birmigham.  Unlike most of the other theatres in Birmingham, the Rep has a history of producing many shows themselves (averageing on 20 a year) varying from well known shows and musicals (recently a new production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’) to the less known, as well as hosting a number of touring productions of (mainly) plays.  The theatre has many links with other theatres around the country, most notably the West Yorkshire Playhouse which it has produced shows alongside and ‘swap’ productions with regularly (most recently ‘The Wiz‘).

The theatre building is currently closed as mentioned above, and the theatre is producing a season of shows around Birmingham.  So far they’ve performed in an old factory, a kitchen in a house, the Alexandra Theatre and have just produced a Young Rep (the youth section) show in the Old Rep.  This Christmas they take Sleeping Beauty to the Crescent Theatre and the Rep’s smash hit The Snowman to the ICC.  When the theatre re-opens not only will it have improved backstage facilities but also a brand new 300 seat studio theatre giving the theatre another performance space.

Before the new library:

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Artistic impression of what it will look like when the library has been built:

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What kind of shows will you find at the Rep?

The Rep does have a variety of shows, but tends to have more plays and ‘highbrow’ shows than musicals and lighter shows.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of their own inhouse shows and you’ll find anything from family books on the stage through to a translated version of an obscure German play.

Who goes to the Rep?

Depends on the show.  Some shows will attract families, others a large amount of school groups studying said play, while others will attract a very culturally aware crowd.

 What’s coming up? 

This Christmas Sleeping Beauty at the Crescent and The Snowman at the ICC.  In September/October The Imporatance of Being Ernest and The Travesties at the Old Rep.

First show seen here?

Trainspotting.

 Last show seen here? 

The Wiz (though at the Alexandra was a Rep production) / at the actual Rep, Little Shop of Horrors.

Over notable shows seen:

Once on this Island; East is East; The 39 Steps

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LINKS:

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham has a vast array of theatres from the large theatres that host touring spectaculars to the smaller theatres that host new writers and groups.  Which leads us into a new series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham (well, the ones I’ve been to – I’ll admit, I’ve not been to all of them!)

First up is the first theatre in Birmingham I went to when I first moved here, the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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The Hippodrome has a vast history opening back in the 1890s as the Tower of Varieties and Circus it even had a replica Blackpool Tower which stayed until 1963.  It was an enterprise that failed quickly and reopened as the Tivoli in 1900, becoming the Hippodrome in 1903.  The current auditorium was designed in 1924 and seats around 1,900.  It underwent a huge transformation in the early 2000s to update its facilities and building as well as the opening of the Patrick Centre – a studio space that is used primarily by the Dance XChange as well as by other outside groups.

Although it tends to host touring shows, the theatre is the home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB).  Recently celebrating 20 years together there was a gala performance with HRH Prince Charles (which I was lucky enough to attend).  Therefore within the regular touring musicals there will be a season of ballets that compliments the array of shows that they show.

Last year the Hippodrome launched Six Summer Saturdays.  Six different events that take place in a variety of locations across the city.  Last year it was a huge success and is being repeated this year with six new events.

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What kind of shows will you find at the Hippodrome?

The Hippodrome is the home to the big touring musicals (in the summer there tends to be a blockbuster musical for several weeks), the huge record breaking pantomimes (the last one starred Joan Collins, Julian Clary and Nigel Havers!) and ballet and opera.

Who goes to the Hippodrome?

Thanks to its varied seasons, anyone from families to the older generation and from all walks of life are found at the Hippodrome.

What’s coming up?

Currently the host to the smash hit tour of ‘We Will Rock You’. Future shows this season include ‘Top Hat’, ‘End of the Rainbow’, ‘Slava’s Snow Show’, ‘BRB’s Nutcracker’ and the panto ‘Cinderella’ with Brain Conley and Lynda Bellingham.

First show seen here?

Jerry Springer the Opera

Last show seen here?

Yes, Prime Minister

Over notable shows seen:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Mary Poppins; Slava’s Snow Show; Flashdance; Footlosse; Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, The Car Man & Dorian Gray; BRB Nutcracker

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Links:

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