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THE WIZ – Reviews


Derbyshire Times Review by Gay Bolton:

Ever wondered what happened to the little girl from Kansas who journeyed along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City?  The Wiz re-imagines an adult Dorothy on the same quest to find a brain, a heart and courage for her fellow travellers.

This funky, edgy version of the time-honoured tale may not have the popularity of the original or its well-known songs but it’s a dream of a show if you like your musicals with plenty of dancing and colourful characters. There’s nothing tame about this version of the classic tale in which the Lion is seduced by humanised poppies and is arrested for being as high as a kite. The wicked witch’s minions look like street gangs and the wizard is an evangelistic rock ‘n’ roller who gets a big piece of the action and a great song in Believe in Yourself.

Song-wise, the most familiar are Ease On Down The Road and Everybody Rejoice in which the ensemble of Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company generate energy and the feelgood factor in their production of The Wiz this week. Beautifully performed and spectacularly costumed, the presentation at Sheffield’s Montomery Theatre is so lively that the audience cannot resist clapping along and cheering every number.

Ria Westhead heads the cast as Dorothy, belting out fine songs en route to meet The Wiz, accompanied by very able companions Matthew Walker as Scarecrow, Andrew Stansall as Tinman and Josh Holliday as Lion. Andrew’s tap dancing is one of the high spots of the show and it’s great to see the Tinman get a bigger bite of the cherry than he does in The Wizard of Oz.

The three witches enchant the audience for very different reasons. Alison Stansall plays Addaperle as kooky and colourful, Danni Birks-Hibbert brings a whip-wielding, dominatrix look to Evilene and Katie Mather as Glinda is a vision of pure goodness in a white lace-trimmed gown. Richard Granger cuts a dash as The Wiz in light green shoes and purple, sparkly shoes and does a miraculous disappearing act as a hot air balloon takes off. Directed and choreographed by Claire Harriott with musical direction by Johnathon Bates. The Wiz continues its journey at The Montgomery until Saturday, June 18.



The NODA report from Mary Titterton for ‘Mother Goose’:

Many thanks for inviting Sue and I to your 2016 pantomime, which we thoroughly enjoyed. As Scott said in his programme notes, this particular story doesn’t get the panto treatment very often. In my 14 years as NODA Regional Representative for Sheffield & District during which time I have seen over 50 pantos, I think I have seen it once.

I am so pleased that you used a Limelight Script, particularly as they are Sheffield based. Well done to Chris on his Director debut – he certainly brought out the humour. Steve and his musicians accompanied just at the right level, and Hayley & Katie did really well with the choreography. It never ceases to amaze me how they get such a large ensemble from very young (who all know the words and movements) to not so young to move about the stage with such ease. As usual Matthew’s performance was outstanding and with his fantastic costumes “ he was a vision of loveliness”!!! – loved his teapot hat and his ad-libbing added to the hilarity. Josh put his heart and soul into the part of Priscilla – a difficult part to play. At this point, I must congratulate Luke – absolutely amazing as Demon Night – a super speaking voice with great diction – his duet with Ria was excellent – can’t believe that that I have seen him in most of the pantos from children’s ensemble to “a leading baddie” – a candidate for NODA Summer School in a few years (not sure of Luke’s age – has to be 18 .) Steve & Richard (didn’t recognise Richard until well into Act 1) worked very well together as Biff and Bash. Joe and Alex, Andrew and Ria, together with Robert, Amy, Molly, Phoebe and Debbie, and of course Duncan and Cathy completed a formidable cast. Costumes were fabulous and the children’s costumes looked super – all in all they gave a professional look to the show.

The scenery worked well and I thought the hot-air balloon scenes were excellent. What with a magic carpet in Wales’ “Aladdin” and your hot-air balloon – what next at the Montgomery?

An excellent panto! Keep up the good work.

I hope that you will be entering the Programme in the NODA 2016 Programme Competition – 6 copies to me by the end of the year.

Kind Regards

Mary Titterton
NODA North East Region
District 6 (Sheffield & District)

Derbyshire Times Review by Gay Bolton:

For most companies, it’s the best-selling show of the year and large audiences are rewarded with lively, engaging shows which reflect the dedication of cast and crew.

Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company have pulled a cracker out of the bag, with their production of the rarely-performed Mother Goose at the Montgomery Theatre this week.

Matthew Walker is outstanding in the role of the dame Mother Goose, projecting the character and his voice well as he joshes with the audience and asserts his authority.  Joseph Walker piles on the humour as the dame’s energetic son Silly Billy, establishing a great rapport with the audience in a top-notch performance.  And Josh Holliday gives it plenty of attitude as Priscilla The Goose, a role which he milks for all its worth. Andrew Stansall and Ria Westhead make a good pairing as sweethearts Jack and Jill, their duet of I’m A Believer is one of the high spots of Act One.

Manic laughs echoing across the stage send the chill factor up the spine in a terrific performance by Luke Harriott as Demon Night while Amy Roe-Parkin is every girl’s idea of a fairy in her sugar pink dress and illuminated wand.  The children dance like a dream and are a credit to choreographers Hayley Wilbourne and Katie Mather and assistant choreographer Beth Dray.

This egg-stra special panto is a great debut for new director Chris Badham and a feather in the cap of musical director Steve Trotter. Catch it at the Montgomery Theatre until Saturday, January 30.



BILLY - Reviews

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The NODA report from Mary Titterton for ‘Billy’:

“I have only seen this show twice before, once in the 70’s at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London with Michael Crawford as Billy and Elaine Paige as Rita – her credits in the programme had 5 lines – Michael Crawford had 20 lines!!!! In 1993 STOS Theatre Company produced the show at the Lyceum with a cast of well known Sheffield amateurs. I have to start with Joseph as Billy – what a performance – well done! – this part showed his talents of acting & dialogue including different accents, singing and dancing – he was never off stage. Congratulations to Gina – no-one would have known that she had only had 5 weeks rehearsal. John certainly came across as a grumpy Yorkshire father, and as for Debbie, she was certainly unrecognisable as Gran Fisher and to me that is pure theatre. Katie, Danni and Vicky – portrayed three completely different characters who were trying to sort out their relationships with Billy. David Jefferson’s interpretation of “It were all green hills” certainly made me proud to be a Yorkshire person. The other characters were all played well. The ensemble worked very hard. The show is not an easy one to produce so congratulations to Adam, Jane and Claire. I liked the use of the sides of the proscenium arch. Also congratulations to Anna for stepping in as Musical Director at the last minute due to illness of the Society’s MD. The scenery design worked very well and helped to make the 15 scene changes look simple.”
Derbyshire Times Review by Gay Bolton:

“Musical comedy Billy is a show that is rarely performed by amateur companies in this part of the country – no doubt due to the lack of performers able to portray the diverse characters and accents or the technicalities required to stage it. No such problem for Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company whose dazzling production is pure ambrosia.

Cracking characterisations see a working-class Yorkshire family transform into an uppercrust Home Counties clan at the click of the fingers.  Army personnel and a Marilyn Monroe lookey-likey march out of a wardrobe and a Las Vegas-style staircase lights up as the main man walks down it to join in dance numbers as good as any you’ll see on Strictly.  The cast sing their hearts out, dance up a storm and wring as much comedy as possible out of the story of a likeable daydreamer in a dead-end job who juggles three girlfriends.

Joseph Walker is awesome in the lead role of Billy Fisher, excelling in the challenges which the part presents. He mines so much comedy gold out of the character particularly in the stand-out number The Witch’s Song in which Billy mocks his prim and proper fiancé Barbara (beautifully played by Vicky Haigh).

The rival for his affections Rita is played by Danni Hibbert, who looks just like a young Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street in her leopard-skin top, black leather jacket and killer heels, A great contrast to straightlaced virgin Barbara, Rita is a rough diamond who has been around the block a few times and has rotten luck when it comes to men.

Katie Mather gives a lovely characterisation of Liz, the ideal girl for Billy who shares his zest for life and spontaneous approach – but the big question is, does she get her man?

Getting plenty of laughs out of the audience are Billy’s family, played by Gina Townend in the role of plain-talking mum, John Crowther as oppressive dad and Debbie Mather cast as poorly gran. Billy uses his daydreaming as an escape mechanism from the constant nagging, transporting his family to aristocratic affluence where kidneys are served for breakfast on a silver platter and gran smokes a big cigar. Back in the real world, gran is having a funny turn (an hilarious performance from Debbie) while mum and dad are so caught up in bickering with Billy that they don’t even notice! One of the most moving parts of the show is where Billy teams up with a councillor who is reflecting on what life used to be like in their village. David Jefferson, playing Cllr Duxbury, gives a lovely performance of the song It Were All Green Hills. Of the songs, perhaps the best known is Billy’s signature song Some Of Us Belong To The Stars – and few can argue with this after watching such a spectacular production. Billy, directed by Adam Walker with musical direction by Anna Wright and choreography by Claire Harriott, continues at the Montgomery Theatre until Saturday, June 20.”