I was very excited to be attending the School of Rock Press Night at the Wolverhampton Grand, especially as I am a rock music fan who saw and enjoyed the film way back in ‘the day’.
The evening was full of surprises. The atmosphere was electric even from the moment I walked through the Grand entrance! Everyone was genuinely uplifted to be there and appreciated it… and that’s even before the show started!
My next surprise was discovering that the book to this Andrew Lloyd Webber Touring production was written by none other than Julian Fellowes of ‘Downton Abbey’ writing fame!
As an introduction, a recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber tells us all of the instruments are played live by the children in the cast. This is absolutely amazing, especially when you hear the fantastic standard of them and find out for some it is their first time on stage!
All I could really remember of the premise of the film starring Jack Black is that he basically tricks his way into becoming a teacher, discovers musical talent amongst the children and forms a band with them. This production takes the original premise, but enhances it so much farther than I was anticipating.
There are so many hilarious lines, and the 14 extra songs work so well and have a natural warmth and relevance to them.
Jake Sharp oozes talent as Dewey Finn in a very Jack Black inspired performance. You can tell he genuinely enjoys the role and this rubs off on the atmosphere in the audience.
I also particularly rated the performance of Rebecca Lock who plays suppressed Principal Rosalie Mullins.
It was so uplifting and heartwarming to be part of this audience and I fully recommend this fun, warm show. Catch it at the Grand until Saturday 25th September 2021
The Roads we Take album is about the journey we take through life and the decisions that lead to the actions we ultimately make.
Due to the Covid pandemic it has been nearly two years in the making. Here is my review:
The first track ‘Breezin’ is a nice gentle start musically. Although it does give off a holiday vibe it is actually a story of someone escaping a previous life on a road trip across America trying to reach the Mexican borderlines, a very original theme.
‘Maybe we’ll be missing’ is the second track. It is about planning to escape from a controlled life, overcoming adversity to start over but could have romantic undertones to it.
‘She’s done me wrong’ has a livelier vibe to it. It is an optimistic song about giving a failed relationship another try.
‘A glimpse of you’ is about loss and hope. It is a melancholy song about really missing somebody, which I found moving.
‘So it’s over’ is about the frustrations and pleasure and pain of a relationship that didn’t work out. I particularly noticed the raw, passionate vocals on this.
‘The good times’ is a moving song about wishing how the dying relationship could return to being good friends again. I particularly like the instrumental sounds in this.
The theme of the album then takes a different direction. I like the classical music style intro to ‘Makin’ Money (in the city). The song is about the third worlds’ misery, inequality and distribution of wealth. It is a powerful song. It flows very naturally into ‘The roads we take’ which is about war torn environments, poverty and hardship, things we take for granted in the western world and how we turn a blind eye.
‘I’ll find you’ is a love song about a man determined to find his lost love.
‘Dreamers’ is a shock to the system as at first it sounds like a nice ballad with a funky beat, but it is actually a gritty song about killing the truth.
‘Island in the city’ is a melancholy song telling of islands of poverty, oppression and corporate corruption in the middle of rich cities throughout the world.
‘The truth left unsaid’ is about what happens when things are covered up and facts distorted and how people are left to cope with the aftermath of such events. It could also be interpreted about what people have gone through during the pandemic and how we can still find some optimism.
The last two tracks ‘I remember’ and ‘One good reason’ are both about relationships. ‘I remember’ is about one that has ended with one of the partners being in denial and ‘One good reason’ is about trying to find some redemption and forgiveness after realising the pain and anguish caused to a partner and finding ways to move on.
This is an interesting album with some very original themes.
(All tracks produced by Andy Hubble and Paul Harper, with additional lyrics by John Dietrich)
JJ Peart Esquire was born in 1939 in Jamaica. He immigrated to England in 1960. He had read a lot about England at school and liked what he read .
When he first landed in the UK, it was different from what he had read, but he ended up loving it! . He started music in the late 60’s, beginning with learning to play the saxophone. He was also exploring different instruments like the drums and bass guitar. Playing guitar really interested him and he found this really suited him He enjoyed it so much that he would spend hours practising right up until the middle of the night!
He then began looking out for musicians to form a band. In those days it was not hard to find musicians but to form a good sounding band was the real challenge.
He ended up putting a 7 piece band together and named the group ‘The Endeavour Band ‘
There were not any rehearsal studios back then. Lots of bands used to rehearse their music in their home cellars. This was a popular way with all musicians. An alternative was to get friendly with a pub owner. The pub would sometimes give you space for your band to rehearse in return for you putting on a free show for the pub owner.
The band rehearsed in his home in the spare room, which he named ‘The Music Room’.
The band played all sorts of genres. Reggae, Rock & Roll, Jazz, Country Western etc..
He called many venues to seek out work for the band and it was no problem. There were so many places to perform & earn money. There were plenty of pubs, clubs, social clubs.
Some of the shows his band performed were at the then famous HP sauce factory, Ansels brewery in Aston Birmingham , Social clubs, Corporate Events and also at many hotels. The famous Penns Hall Hotel Birmingham was great to play. .The band worked all around the UK. Even in the middle of the week, there was work for the band in Derby, Leeds, Wales and so on. They were very popular with all the venues, because they catered for all tastes.
He still had the band, but had the bug to be more involved in music & became a DJ working at other venues. He was called by many venues. Sometimes working with his band early in the evening then running off to a club to work as a DJ. This all happened during the 70’s 80’s 90’s.
He played a lot of popular music & mixed it up with old music playing all genres.
He was very versatile and played Caribbean clubs to Irish clubs. He worked a lot at the Irish centre in Birmingham.
As a DJ, he also worked in so many clubs around Birmingham. Playing anywhere from Handsworth in Birmingham to as far as Sheffield, Leeds and Preston and some on. He performed lots of reggae events and Irish events like he had done at the Irish Centre in Digbeth.
At his local church.he formed a choir named ‘ The Erdington Sixways Baptist Church Male Voice Choir’ consisting of 10 members including the minister of the Baptist Church. The minister was absolutely delighted to be part of the choir. They started off as one of the performers at a gospel concert at Erdington Baptist the church which was fantastic for everybody! The choir was then invited to the next concert. They got invited to be the star guest for a Christmas event at a Residential home in Erdington, Birmingham. They were recently booked for other concerts too, but because of Covid 19, they understand and respect the cancellations.
Due to the lockdown, he decided to start recording some gospel songs. He chose songs that were very close to his heart. These songs took him back to his childhood in Jamaica . He started with 3 songs, recording them together with the help of his son. ‘eLAY’
He hadn’t done a voice recording before and found it very interesting, lots of fun and Inspirational. He also recorded a video of one of the 3 songs to go with the EP.
Limited copies of the JJ Peart Esquire EP are available on CD for £5
Dear to their heart, they’re donating a portion off each CD to
The Cancer Centre
Queen Elizabeth Hospitlal
Look at for JJ Peart Esquire
I have always been fascinated by any aspect of time, particularly the concept of time travel. I have seen countless films relating to time, but never heard an album of music devoted to it, so it was interesting to me to review the album “Relax Listen in Time” by Relax Listen:
The album begins with “At Present” which is the here and now for the individual listening to the album, it has a pleasant melody and beat.
“Change Clocks” follows nicely on from “At Present” and is about the perceived power to alter time.
“A Unit of Time” is an original idea for a track, based on the principle of the historical and cultural base unit of time is a second which is multiplied by 60 to make a minute then the minute is multiplied by 60 to make an hour which is multiplied by 24 to make a day or there are 86,400 seconds in a day.
Track 4 is the interestingly titled “Lapsed in the past”. “The Clock” is the first track to use a ticking clock as a metronome (a device that produces a steady pulse to help musicians play in time).
“Fall Back” has a cool, swinging beat to it which very appropriately fits the mnemonic “Spring Forward, Fall back”, which is the way I actually remember which way to move the clocks in March and October myself.
“Soul Tree" is described as “a place to hang your hopes and dreams”. I particularly like the sound of the piano in the background on this.
“Last Tuesday” - Relax Listen give food for thought with the question, “ if we are in the middle of the week and I want to refer to a day just passed in the same week, such as the case in the title, would I still say, for example, last Tuesday? Or would that mean the Tuesday before the one I mean?
As with “Last Tuesday”, we have much to ponder with this track as “time is regarded as the 4th Dimension because in relativity, we have to include the time coordinate in describing events fully in space along with the time, called the space-time coordinate or spiritually it is the level where pleasure is mild and taken for granted for the first time.”
“Again in good time” - this is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It is very slightly reminiscent to me of the “Stranger Things” theme, but is actually a re-working of the track “in good time” which was originally released as a part of the Relax Listen album “Gallery (a collection of pictures) in 2010. It also features a ticking clock to keep time.
The track “Remission” is about a state of period during which something is remitted, cancelled or refrained from and could sum up lockdown for people.
“Tic Toc” is phonetic respelling of the Tick Tock of a clock and is an interesting lively track.
“Not enough hours” is about the concept a lot of people can relate to that sometimes there are not enough hours in a day to get things done.
“Time” is actually my favourite track of the album. It is highly original and features a speaking clocks voice (belonging to the now deceased actor Brian Cobby), and maniacal laughter provided by a younger version of Andy Hubble (Relax Listen). It was recorded before the millennium and never released up until now. The technology used to record this track was the first of its kind on the market and features an Akai S612 sampler and a Yamaha DX7 synth, cutting edge for the time. It is a very fitting way to round off this unique album. Karen Hill
Being a big fan of both pantomime and the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (which is frequently referred to as one of the most beautiful theatres in the country) I was looking forward to watching Sleeping Beauty. I have seen both Ian Adams and Doreen Tipton previously and know how funny they are.
Myself and my son are both fans of Sooty and were also looking forward to seeing him with Sooty Show presenter Richard Cadell.
What I didn’t realise was how truly magical this panto was going to be. Richard Cadell is a brilliant magician who has been awarded the David Berglas Award for magic which has been previously won by Dynamo and Derren Brown! He transferred these skills to the stage with the aid of Sooty and performed tricks which delighted the audience!
Another amazing moment for me was the opening sequence where Strictly Come Dancing’s Debbie McGee performed magic of her own by flying high in the air as The Lovely Fairy Crystal! Oliver Ormson and Bethan-Wyn Davies were very likeable as Prince Harry and Princess Beauty and Julie Paton played the part of the wicked Carabosse extremely well and had an amazingly powerful singing voice.
What made this panto so special for me though was the truly hilarious script. In classic panto style the humour worked on both levels with something for children and adults alike.
Doreen Tipton as Nurse Doreen and Ian Adams as Queen Wilhelmina were fantastic and along with Richard Cadell (who had a much greater stage presence than I was expecting) had the audience in stitches. Debbie McGee also impressed us with her fantastic dancing skills.
There were also great special effects and music and the sets and costumes were a fantastic standard.
I highly recommend you catch this superb production, you definitely won’t be sleeping!
To whet your appetite, check out the trailer here:
(with thanks to Tim Thursfield of the Express & Star for the images)
Sometimes when you see a show you have seen on the TV adapted for stage it doesn’t quite work, but this is definitely not the case with ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’. I remember watching the show as a young child and finding it very funny. This is mainly down to the childlike appeal of main character, Frank Spencer, who Michael Crawford made iconic.
It must be hard to fill these shoes (and trench coat and beret!) but Joe Pasquale could not be a more perfect choice.
Since seeing Joe live many times over the last 18 years, I had a feeling he would be good as Frank, but couldn’t have predicted just how good! Unusually for Joe, he sticks to the script but does so in an extremely impressive way. As well as the inevitable funny lines and slapstick, there are of course the on stage disasters waiting to happen, and these are performed brilliantly with credit to Ian Horrocks-Taylor and Matt Haskins for their sound and light design.
What I also liked was how as an audience we warmed to all of the characters as soon as we were introduced to them. Sarah Earnshaw is equally brilliant as Betty (Frank’s wife) and there are some great lines from Susie Blake (of Russ Abbot Show and Coronation Street fame) who plays Frank’s long suffering mother-in-law!
The 70’s set is very impressive and there is a kind of innocence to the show which is rare to see in this day and age.
I can count on one hand the times I have actually had my eyes fill with tears of laughter and this is one of those times!
Act 1 is very funny and clever in its own right, but Act 2 builds up to a hilarious crescendo and whilst it is nice to watch comedy at home, you can’t beat the atmosphere of a live audience who, judging from the atmosphere, also loved this performance.
Whilst many people in the audience may remember the show from the TV, it was nice to also see a few younger faces, may be experiencing this kind of live humour for the first time.
I would fully recommend this show for the whole family, it runs at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 19th May, see this link for more details:
I have always been fascinated by the theme of different adaptations of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ and was looking forward to this being brought to life on stage with the iconic Phil Daniels playing both protagonists.
In Act 1, the tension in the audience was so quiet you could hear a pin drop! This was no doubt intentional by the very talented director Kate Saxon.
This adaptation by David Edgar has a few tweaks to the original, mainly the addition of two women very key to the plot, Jekyll’s sister Katherine and maid Annie.
Perhaps the most sinister addition though is singer Rosie Abraham whose haunting vocals quite literally bridged the gap cleverly between set changes whilst keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.
A lot of thought has clearly been put into the lighting,costumes and props. This production doesn’t particularly rely on the special effects you would usually associate with Jekyll turning into Hyde, although it is very clear to the audience from Phil Daniels’ changes in stance and Scottish dialect which side he is depicting.
The theme of good versus evil is explored in a very intelligent, refreshing way and Phil Daniels’ impressive performances are enhanced by many other fine actors including Ben Jones as Dr Lanyon/Carew and Sam Cox as dry butler Poole. There are additional subplots with interesting twists and turns, particularly in Act 2.
Although the show felt it had been brought up to date in some ways, it still had the feel of a timeless classic and it was refreshing to be surrounded by a mesmerized audience which added to the eerie atmosphere.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is on at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 5th May 2018 https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/drama/dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde
Relax Listen (who often fall into the category of Easy Listening, but blend styles including Jazz, Pop and Rock) have a brand new album out called ‘Tonight’.
Although the Tonight album is not strictly a concept album; like my favourite Relax Listen album to date Through a Looking Glass, or the clever dREaM album, there is an ongoing theme throughout a lot of the tracks which to me conjures up a late night feeling of clubs in the 70’s and 80’s.
Here’s a track by track review of the Tonight album:
As a big fan of 80’s nostalgia, I was really looking forward to The Wedding Singer at The Wolverhampton Grand, particularly as it starred Ruth Madoc who I fondly remember as Gladys Pugh from Hi de Hi and Ray Quinn who I remember as Brookside’s Anthony Murray.
I have seen also seen the film version so I correctly predicted that a fun, light hearted experience was in store.
What first drew my attention though, was the set. Even before the show actually began, the audience were treated to trailers from films that were big in the 1980’s, like The Goonies and Rambo! The very start of the show whetted our appetite even more with a very clever ‘Back to the Future’ nod! I found this very impressive.