Friday, 17 March 2017

“Bad Girls The Musical” by Kristian Thomas Company
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
“Bad Girls – The Musical” is based on characters and stories from the popular television drama and based in the fictional HMP Larkhill Prison. It was developed by the creators of Bad Girls, Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus, in collaboration with composer and lyricist Kath Gotts.
The main focus of the musical is on the rather detestable chief warder, Mr Fenner, who uses his position for sexual gratification. He's also at loggerheads with the liberal governor, and when a newly arrived inmate commits suicide as a result of Fenner's sexual advances, he tries to usurp the governor's position to obtain career advancement.
“Bad Girls – The Musical” isn’t a comedy as such as it deals with gritty issues such as sexual exploitation of female prisoners and bullying. Ut also highlights the effect that being in prison has on those family members on the outside.
Saying that some of the song lyrics are very humorous, and it’s not often you get a full on tap routine as well as a glitzy, high kicking leggy dance routine inside a women’s prison, not that I have any prior knowledge of a women’s prison. No wonder it’s sometimes called a prison camp, with the emphasis on the “camp”, but we all love a bit of camp don’t we? Don’t we?
Duncan Leech is Fenner. I knew this would be a test of his acting skills as he is nothing like Fenner. This is the first time that I’ve seen Duncan on stage, as opposed to being this side of the auditorium and the last time I saw Duncan, he told me that he couldn't dance. Well the phrase "pants on fire" comes to mind. His tap dancing is fluid, he has rhythm and he looks natural and relaxed while performing the choreography. His voice is also very easy on the ear. An enjoyable watch all round.
Carrie-Anne Corner is Sylvia Hollomby aka "Bodybag". I love Carrie as she is such a lovely fun lady to be around and she injects that fun into this role as Fenner's right hand woman. Carrie and Duncan are a classy duet and match each other in the dance routines and with the vocals.
Vocally this cast are extremely strong and when the leads and the ensemble sing as one they produce such a gorgeous sound, almost like a heavenly choir. there's not one cast member who fall short of being more than capable vocally.
Hannah Eve Brent plays Helen Stewart, the prison boss with a conscience and I must commend her on a her lovely Scottish brogue. Hannah is not Scottish and she doesn't have a Scottish accent in real life but she has perfected that soft wee sound.
The male "screws" played by Mark JarvisBenito Preite and Thomas James Martin, who when they're not trying to keep the peace and the inmates of this women's prison's hands off them, they are dancing around doing high kicks. It's all great fun! Mark also has a bit of a crush on the boss so has more of a major role, but there's no good news on that front either.
Phil Stanley is "Number One" who is trying to keep his nose clean while also trying to cover up Fenner's activities.
So to the girls. they look so young that it could almost be like an under age institution. this also makes Fenner's actions all the more seedy.
Helen Perry (Nikki Wade), Scarlett Symons (Yvonne Atkins), Beth Denham (Shell "The Baddest & The Best" Dockley), Kirsty Rice (Denny Blood), Lauren-Rose Stirland (Julie Johnston), Anna Cousins (Julie Saunders), Candice Shevaun Curnow), Tayla Evans (Rachel Hicks), Charlotte Bond (Kat), Laura Powell (Natalie), Sinead Patkin (Noreen), Georgie Bond (Sarah-Lou) and Louise Grantham (Spike) make a wonderfully strong band of criminals who sound and look good.
One of the many highlights is when Julie S (Anna Cousins) speaks to her son from prison. She is ashamed of being in there and has told her son that she is abroad working. Her song "Sorry" is just gorgeous and Anna pours so much emotion into that song.
There are many excellent ballads in this musical like "Every Night" and "Freedom Road", and some great big old fun songs here as well. Songs like "Jailcraft", which is the tap number performed by Fenner and Bodybag and the song "All Banged Up Without A Bang" which doesn't need any explanations and is sung by Yvonne and poor Mark, Benito and Thomas have to put up with being treated like pieces of meat at the hands of the women. It's a tough job!
The live band is on stage all the time and I couldn't believe there were only three musicians. The sound filled the theatre creating a virtual wall of sound. Bob Upton, Dave Hanson and musical director Tom Bond were excellent with a lovely full and clear sound.
Talking of sound, you could hear everything thanks to designer Harry Greatorex. Brilliant lighting designed by Stephen Greatorex, a basic but very effective set design by Alysha Gomes who also directed this fast moving show.
I loved the choreography, very reminiscent to the old Busby Berkeley old Hollywood movie style in many parts. Kristian Cunningham was the man responsible for this, as well as producing the eye catching and informative programme.
This is the first time that I have seen this musical. It's also the first production that I've seen from the Kristian Thomas Company. I was very impressed with both.
You can see the hard work that has gone into this production, and it has paid off as this is a very professional company who present very high quality theatre.
“Bad Girls The Musical” is at The Bonington Theatre in Arnold until Saturday 18 March 2017 and on Saturday mat all tickets are just £10.00. It’d be a crime to miss out on this steal!

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