The Mousetrap – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

Bob Saul and Jemma Walker  Graham Seed

Having opened at The Ambassadors Theatre, London in 1952 – The Mouse Trap is celebrating its Diamond Anniversary by touring the UK, providing the opportunity for patrons to watch it for the very first time, as well as return visits for those lucky enough to have seen it before. The show boasts numerous Guinness World Records including ‘the longest continuous run of any show in the world’. With this in mind we had high expectations for our maiden visit when Agatha Christie’s ‘phenomenon’ arrived in Wolverhampton.

The set itself had the ‘wow’ factor, with excellent effects outside the window giving the impression of a blizzard. The set was static throughout, yet it was imaginatively created to give the impression that the other rooms truly existed and in our minds, we could picture the ‘Oak Room’, the Cellar and the Drawing Room. We believe that when on television, Agatha Christie ‘crimes’ are given the most beautiful of settings, and it was no differently presented on stage although there are limitations, obviously.

The house that plays host to this story of intrigue, we discover is Monkswell Manor which is a newly opened Guest House run by ‘rookies’ Giles and Mollie Ralston, Bruno Langley plays Giles and he has shaken off his ‘teenage’ image from his days in ‘Coronation Street’ to give a sophisticated performance. Jemma Walker who has played roles in ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Family Affairs’ was outstanding as Mollie, she conveyed a range of emotions wonderfully and was extremely well cast in the role. Mr and Mrs Ralston’s guests have all applied in advance for a room in the Guest House and their arrivals are awaited while the snow causes havoc outside.

We eventually meet outlandish Architect Christopher Wren who skips about with impish joy and manages to persuade Mrs Ralston to let him take the room with the four poster bed in it! Then comes Mrs Boyle, cantankerous and extremely displeased with everything (played brilliantly by Elizabeth Power), she used to be a Magistrate. Mrs Boyle is quickly followed by Major Metcalf, a jolly fellow indeed played by Graham Seed and Miss Casewell played by Claire Wilkie. Both Seed and Wilkie are marvellous to watch and suited to this genre. Add to the mix an unexpected guest in the form of Mr Paravicini who is a man of mystery and played delightfully by Karl Howman. Then, as with any Agatha Christie story, there’s the policeman who turns up (on skis!) trying to solve a murder that took place the day before and that he believes is linked to the Longridge Farm case from years ago. Bob Saul plays Detective Sergeant Trotter who seems almost new to the job, he’s so ‘jumpy’. Despite there being few credits to Saul’s name in the programme, he gave a first-class performance.

The scene is set for the outing of secrets, stories that don’t add up and of course, more murders – all to the tune of ‘Three Blind Mice’ which reflects the title of the play. We had never considered ‘Three Blind Mice’ as being particularly sinister before watching ‘The Mousetrap’! The play also contains many humorous moments, especially when it appears that almost everybody fits the vague description of the murder suspect. As far as ‘whodunnit’ goes, we are sworn to secrecy and we wouldn’t want to reveal the ending, anyway – otherwise nobody would go and see it… and we highly recommend that you do go and catch it while it’s on tour. If we had one criticism it would be that the pace is slightly slow at times, but this does not detract from the fact that this is Agatha Christie at her very best, as always.

The Mousetrap stays in Wolverhampton until Saturday 1st June, to book tickets visit You can also find out tour information at

Break A Leg Review Interview: Rachel Dean

Interviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams
(Carole Newman (Karen Carpenter sound-a-like) and Rachel Dean)

There are two shows currently touring the UK at the moment that Break A Leg Review would like to bring to your attention: Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter Show and Forever in Blue Jeans. Singing her heart out in both shows is the lovely Rachel Dean and we were fortunate enough to catch up with her in her home town of Stafford where Voice of the Heart Show were performing at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre.

So, Rachel – you’re back in your home town, are you excited to be performing here at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre?
Oh, its brilliant to be back, the Theatre has changed a lot since I was last here. As this is my home town I have a lot of people in tonight including my mum and dad!

Do you come back home quite regularly?
I have two homes, really, Southsea is also my home and where I currently live – but I do return to Stafford as often as I can and I have recently been to Lichfield Garrick Theatre (in the audience this time) as my Dad performs with Lichfield Operatic Society and they perform at the Garrick.

Did you always want to be a singer?
I wanted to be a dancer when I was growing up, but I got to an age where I was told it was unlikely I would grow much taller and therefore I wouldn’t be tall enough to be a leading dancer. It was suggested to my parents that they pushed my singing and I had singing lessons.

We gather you are connected with The Lion King in the West End?
Yes, I was front of house at the Lyceum Theatre for eight years, I appeared in Casper the Musical while I was there. I also started to take singing lessons again during my time there so that I didn’t ‘lose it’. I was told by my singing teacher at that time that it doesn’t matter where the stage is that you’re performing on or the size of it, a stage is a stage, that has stayed me throughout my career.

Would you like to return to a musical?
No, I like The Voice of the Heart Show and Forever in Blue Jeans and as long as they’re happy to have me, I’m happy to stay.

Tell us about the two shows…
The show you’re watching tonight (Voice of the Heart) is a tribute to Karen and Richard Carpenter and is a celebration of their music. Carole Newman who sings as Karen tells the audience that she isn’t trying to be like Karen or look like her. The show is relatively new in comparison to ‘Blue jeans’ and started because audience members from ‘Blue Jeans’ commented that during the Carpenters medley that we performed, Carole sounds like Karen and that could be a show by itself. Forever in Blue Jeans is a mixture of many types of music, all of which you can sing along to and we don’t stop – we’re on and off stage all night. Voice of the Heart has challenged my vocal range as I used to sing the middle (the tune) in Forever in Blue Jeans and now I sing the top as Carole is singing the tune.

Finally, Rachel – what would your advice be to anybody wishing to ‘follow in your footsteps’?
I’d say just keep going because if you’re going to do it – you’ll do it!

We’d like to thank Rachel for chatting to us while the team were in the midst of a sound check! The show was fantastic – see review here:

Break A Leg Review Interview: Marc Robinson (aka Buddy Holly tribute)

Interviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams


Marc Robinson tours the country as Buddy Holly, as a winner of Stars in Their Eyes he holds the accolade of being the top-rated Buddy Holly tribute act. We caught up with Marc in advance of his appearance at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre in ‘Buddy Holly: A Legend Reborn.

As the top-rated Buddy Holly tribute artist and previous winner of ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ – we’re interested to know how this started foryou, are you a life-long Buddy Holly fan?

I first heard a Buddy Holly song probably around the age of 8. One of my older sisters had a Holly LP which I first heard at that time. When I left school I became interested in vintage Rock n Roll and rediscovered Buddy and also became a fan of most of that music from that era. With 3 friends I formed a band and started playing the local pubs and clubs. As a big Buddy fan I insisted that we did at least 2 or 3 of his numbers. People began to remark on the similarities between him and myself physically and vocally and it all grew from that.

As you play the guitar as well as sing, which came first? Singer or guitarist or both?

I started leaning the guitar first although as a child I was in the local church choir.

Are you the sort of Buddy Holly enthusiast who collects rare memborabilia related to him?

No I have nothing. It’s all about the Music as far as I’m concerned.

If you weren’t a Buddy Holly tribute artist, is there any other artist that you might have considered mimicking?

I also perform a Hank Williams Tribute. Buddy was a big Hank Williams fan so I decided to see what the attraction was and could immediately see why Hank was such an influence on Buddy.

If you weren’t a performer what do you think your job might be?

I used to be a Quality control Engineer so i may have still been doing that.

How has the tour of Buddy Holly: A Legend Reborn been going? Any favourite venues so far?

It’s been going very well. 4 or 5 years down the road it’s still going strong. Over the years not just with Legend reborn we have played most of the Major Venues in the country from the Palladium to St Davids Hall in Cardiff. One of my Favourites is The Sage in Newcastle.

Finally, what is your personal favourite Buddy Holly song and why?

I love them all and its very difficult to pick out any particular one. All I can say is that if I had his talent then I would have written the type of songs that he wrote and chosen to perform and record the songs that he chose. I guess I have the perfect job.

We’d like to thank Marc for taking the time out to chat to us, and we can’t wait to see the show in Stafford.

Read our review of Marc’s show here:

Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter – Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams


We’re on the top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation we can find – is the most wonderful evening we enjoyed at the theatre in the company of the marvellous cast of ‘Voice of the Heart Karen Carpenter’. Karen and Richard Carpenter possessed one of the most unique and recognisable sounds during their ‘era’ and continue to be exceedingly popular with many age groups, today. This was proved by the age range in the packed house at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre last night. Carole Gordon who sings as ‘Karen Carpenter’ doesn’t pretend to be a tribute artist by trying to look like her idol, yet her voice is uncanny, because we closed our eyes and we were in the presence of ‘Karen’ as far as we were concerned. Carole has one of the best voices that we have heard in a long time and to sound like such a talented and well-loved artist as well, is a talent to be treasured.

The band are simply amazing, there’s Musical Director Mat Newton who plays synths and piano, Andy Saphir who is fascinating to watch as he plays three different guitars throughout the course of the evening. John Blackburn is outstanding on drums, Carolyn Lawford is multi-talented playing flute, saxophone and clarinet beautifully and Rachel Dean on backing vocals helps to create beautiful and technically difficult harmonies. Completing the line-up is Bob Newman who is Carole’s husband and plays bass guitar as well as providing backing vocals. Indeed all members of the band assist with backing vocals and produce the right sound for a Carpenters themed show.

There were many old favourites on the set list, including: For All We Know, Close To You, A Kind of Hush and Superstar (an audience choice). Surprises were introduced throughout the evening, some of which were Beatles numbers recorded in the Carpenters’ inimitable style, ‘Ticket To Ride’ and ‘Help’ were our particular favourites. The medley that was selected towards the end of the second act show-cased each member of the band and gave an opportunity for Rachel Dean to demonstrate lead vocals with ‘End of the World’ – a memorable song for all the right reasons. Also a lively number that had the audience member bopping in their seats was ‘Fun Fun Fun’ which was sung superbly by Bob Newman.

A couple of songs from ‘Voice of the Heart’ album were included and they brought tears to our eyes as they followed a commentary from Carole relating to the year that this album was made. It was recorded in 1983 and therefore the last album that Karen Carpenter ever recorded. It was clear throughout the show that Carole idolises Karen and as she told us after the show, when she first heard Karen’s voice, she was pleased to share the same vocal range. However we believe that more than just the vocal range is similar and she truly has to be heard to be believed.

With an impressive following and a fantastic rapport with the audience, this show is highly recommended by us and by visiting you will find tour dates and booking information.

For an interview with Rachel Dean have a read here:

9 to 5 The Musical – Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

9 to 5 Four 9 to 5 One

The glitz and glamour of ‘Dollywood’ arrived in Wolverhampton this week in the form of touring musical ‘9 to 5’ based on the film starring Dolly Parton and with music and lyrics written by the lady herself. Our second visit to see this fun, fast and furious show, yet it did not fail to have us exiting the theatre with a huge smile on our faces and a real hankering for a pink glittery Stetson (maybe just for Helen…).

‘9 to 5’ tells the story of three working girls from very different backgrounds, they need a job but they don’t need the hassles that come from their chauvinistic, sexist boss Franklyn J Hart. However, a hazy ‘day-dream’ during an alcohol and smoke-fuelled girls night in comes to fruition, and with outlandish consequences. There are some toe tapping numbers, including the title song ‘9 to 5’, ‘Shine Like the Sun’ and ‘Change It’. There’s also a surprise visit from Dolly herself, making it a show that we truly believe has something for everyone.

The three leading ladies are all exceptional, each one stands out on in their own right for playing believable characters who couldn’t differ more from the other. Jackie Clune is Violet, the head-strong widow who is desperate for promotion and who’s dream is to become the first female CEO. Clune has a beautifully rich vocal tone, ably singing all of the numbers to a high standard. ‘Let Love Grow’ (duet with suitor Joe in act two) was a memorable moment. Natalie Casey has put her trademark ‘quirkiness’ on the role of Judy and displayed her usual precise comic timing together with a marvellous vocal range. Casey is an actress of immense talent and her career successes to date reflect her versatility. It must be a difficult task to take on the role of Doralee which is cherished by Dolly’s fans (it’s the role that Dolly played in the film) but we couldn’t fault Amy Lennox, she epitomised Parton while simultaneously making the character her own. ‘Backwoods Barbie’ was her solo number and Lennox’s singing voice lent itself to the country and western genre, superbly. This girl is one to watch out for, and we both felt that we could picture her in many other leading roles, we hope our prophecy comes true!

Ben Richards is an outstanding ‘Mr Nasty’ aka the boss, Franklyn J Hart, the character is despised by most but adored by Roz Keith, office memo enthusiast and ‘odd-ball’ who’s desire is that Hart feels the same way as she does about him. Bonnie Langford played the role of Roz when we watched this for the first time, so these were big shoes to fill – but Anita Louise Combe should be commended for a hilarious performance.

The cast for this production is fairly minimal in comparison to other shows that we have seen, but there’s a real sense that this is a team effort and opportunities for each performer to provide a glimpse of what they’re capable of. A thoroughly talented ensemble, indeed and praise must go to Lori Hayley Fox as Margaret, a cameo role that has stayed with us since the first time around and that we eagerly anticipated watching again – “atta girl!”.

The show stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 18th May and you can book tickets via their website Tour dates can be accessed at

Made in Brum – New Alexandra Theatre


Reviewed by Helen McWilliams

Birmingham was rocking on Friday night with side-splitting comedy from the ever hilarious Jasper Carrott, who introduced artists from the Birmingham area – all of whom have enjoyed successful careers (and continue to do so). They entertained the full house on their home turf to the point of well and truly ‘raising the roof’.

With resident Bev Bevan band (Bevan on drums) which included Tony Kelsey, Phil Tree and Abby Brant, we were treated to music that far out-classed anything that can be heard in the charts today (in my opinion) and memorable songs that everyone could sing along to, irrelevant of age group. There was a large screen at the back of the stage where photographs were projected of the guest stars (from years ago to current day). I noted many gasps of recognition from the audience members around me as they gestured wistfully towards the black and white pictures that appeared and were clearly ‘taken back’ to ‘the day’. There were also scenes from Birmingham in years gone by which evoked memories for me, personally.

The artists who performed with the Bev Bevan band were superb all-round entertainers, Trevor Burton who plays with ‘The Move’ and was one of the founder members of the band in 1966 astounded me with his guitar skills and has an extremely versatile singing voice. Geoff Turton who still performs with ‘The Rockin’ Berries’ (they have been voted one of the UK’s number 1 comedy show bands) gave a witty performance coupled with crowd pleasing numbers such as ‘Pretty Woman’. Danny King is described as ‘Birmingham’s first pop star’ and he demonstrated amazing vocal ability while singing my favourites ‘Move It’ by Cliff Richard and ‘True Love Ways’ by Buddy Holly. Topping off the line-up, was Joy Strachan-Brain from locally-based band ‘Quill’. I have been supporting ‘Quill’ for the past 15 years and I thought I knew what to expect from Joy. However, she was a revelation as she took songs that I’ve never heard her perform before and made them her own – ‘Nutbush City Limits’ rivalled Tina Turner and ‘Going Back’ by Dusty Springfield was simply stunning.

Jasper Carrott was on top form, even picking up a guitar himself in the second act and asking “are you ready to rock & roll?” before bursting into a folk song! He is a comedian who does not date and whose jokes are still relevant, the audience were rolling in the aisles and my husband had tears streaming down his cheeks! Wonderful talent has come out of Birmingham and continues to do so, but we were fortunate enough to be in the company of the crème de la crème throughout this inspired show. It ended on a high note with the popular ‘Blackberry Way’ (original hit from ‘The Move’) and my husband and I continued to sing it all the way home.

Please visit for information and to book tickets.

Our interview with Joy Strachan-Brain can be found here:

Published on 30.04.13

The Searchers 50th Anniversary Tour, Leamington Royal Spa Centre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

Henry Murphy 2

Some music stands the ‘test of time’ and appeals to all generations, and in our experience music from the sixties does just that. In particular, ‘The Searchers’ have maintained a loyal fan base, continuing to perform widely around the UK and have also recently returned from touring Australia. Their popularity is unquestionable and courtesy of familiar hit songs coupled with great humour – we had a superb ‘party’ with the band last night.

The line-up has changed since the early days although it still includes John McNally, one of the original members and Frank Allen (see Helen’s interview who joined the band a few years into their run of success. Guitarist and vocalist Spencer James has been a regular for the past 27 years and their recent addition is Scott Ottoway who has played the drums with ‘The Searchers’ for three years, now. Ottoway is an incredible drummer and suits this genre of music extremely well, James has a powerful voice which lends itself to all styles and the two stalwarts; Allen and McNally are still amazing performers. They are both charismatic and to watch them play guitar is akin to a master-class.

Almost the entire back catalogue of famous songs that we remember listening to (while growing up in houses with parents who were in their teens/early twenties in the sixties) were in the set and we both sang along to every number (to the amazement of some of the patrons that have followed the band for years). If we closed our eyes we felt as though we had been transported back to ‘the day’ and it reaffirmed our theory that we were born in the wrong era. ‘Sweets for My Sweet’, ‘Sugar and Spice’, ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’, ‘Needles and Pins’ and ‘Every Time That You Walk In The Room’ filled the auditorium and were all met with delighted reactions. Also included were hit tunes from other great artists who are sadly no longer with us (as John McNally reminded us in the most humourous way possible, considering!). ‘Running Scared’ which was originally recorded by Roy Orbison was a favourite for us and Spencer James surpassed himself – the lighting effects were spot on too, building with the song as it crescendos.

The banter between Frank Allen and John McNally is definitely a highlight of the show, McNally is extremely quick-witted and some of Allen’s jokes had the audience in fits of laughter. It’s already a feel-good concert with so many opportunities to join in with the band and we were all up and dancing by the end of the second half – but the humour is an important factor too. We all enjoyed a good boogie to a medley of their greatest hits as well as ‘Twist and Shout’ and the finale topped off with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. The boys have a show that will put a smile on your face and leave you wanting more, surely the sign of a great night out. They are joining up with other artists (Gerry & The Pacemakers, P.J. Proby and The Fortunes to name a few) for a ‘Sixties Gold’ concert later in the year (we have our tickets already!) so look out for that as well as their other solo tour dates at

Cooking With Elvis, Derby Theatre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

Cooking%20with%20Elvis%20at%20Derby%20Theatre%20#%204_%20Directed%20by%20Mark%20Babych_%20Photo%20credit%20Robert%20Day_0  Cooking%20with%20Elvis%20at%20Derby%20Theatre%20#%205_%20Directed%20by%20Mark%20Babych_%20Photo%20credit%20Robert%20Day

This is a play that we weren’t initially familiar with and as the first Derby Theatre Production, we were intrigued to know more about their choice. Not at all deterred by the ‘promise’ of strong adult content and sexual references, we took our seats in the auditorium and were instantly impressed with the set. In fact we likened it to that of ‘The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband’ at the New Ambassadors Theatre, London back in 2002 which starred Alison Steadman. What we didn’t realise at this point was the vague similarity that would materialise between the two plays. The stunning set remained static throughout, that of the contemporaryily decorated house belonging to Mam, Jill and Dad (aka Elvis!) with a nod towards the relevance of the kitchen and copious amounts of alcohol.

The story revolves around ‘Elvis’ and ‘cooking’ as the title suggests, but the undertones run much deeper and it is easy to over-analyse every nuance. Jill is a fourteen year old girl who harbours a food obsession and a firm belief that her Dad will recover from the effects of a serious road accident. The accident has left him with severe paraplegia and he remains in a vegetative state. Mam is exploitive of her own ‘needs’ even though her husband is still alive and living under the same roof, which is where Stuart comes in. Starting out as a ‘love-interest’ for Mam, he soon becomes a focal point and provides (as Jill states when announcing the final scene of act one) ‘a surprise twist’. ‘Cooking with Elvis’ differs from anything we have seen before, it’s a fresh and innovative script by Lee Hall which has been directed in a highly observational way by Mark Babych.

Laura Elsworthy plays the culinary expert, Jill, we are sure that Elsworthy must be older than fourteen – but she plays the young teenager with gawkiness and indeed a ‘Wednesday Addams’ quality at times. A very talented young actress who was perfectly cast in the pivotal role. Polly Lister is bawdy and outlandish as Mam, the unlikely English teacher who is still grieving for her husband (even when he is in the same room). Lister particularly shone when portraying the ‘real’ Mam, showing vulnerability to the brink of earning pity from the audience. Adam Barlow plays the baffled yet conniving Stuart and gives a brave performance, especially given the complexity of the character.

The most outstanding of the cast of four was Jack Lord as Dad, not only having to convincingly portray a physically and mentally disabled man, but also play Dad’s alter-ego ‘Elvis’. For, as the story unfolds we learn that Dad was an ‘Elvis’ tribute artist and Jill has kept hold of the costumes – they’re in her wardrobe (among other things). Lord could sing like ‘the King’, move like ‘the King’ and even talks like him, which was incredible to watch, we could literally hear a pin drop during the witty yet poignant monologues. At times it seemed that the appearance of ‘Elvis’ was a memory for Mam and Jill and at other times we believed that this was a ‘figment’ of Dad’s imagination.

‘Cooking with Elvis’ is a sexually explosive, deliciously raunchy and dark tale which may not suit all tastes but pushes the boundaries and it’s refreshingly different. However, essentially it’s an everyday story of a dysfunctional family endeavouring to cope with whatever life throws at them. Astounding twists keep the energy of the piece to a high pace which captured and held our attention. It stays at the Derby Theatre until 18th May so visit to book your tickets.

The Blues Brothers – Approved, Presented by Judith Belushi & Dan Akroyd, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

The Blues Brothers - Belgrade Theatre 3

“Bend Over Let Me See you Shake Your Tail Feather”… Yes, you! Don’t just sit there – this is a fast-moving ‘revue’ which we guarantee will have you dancing in the aisles, or at the very least jigging in your seat!

Starring Brad Henshaw as Jake and Chris Chandler as Elwood, this is a show that is faithful to the film and the ‘brothers’ are extremely well cast, the charismatic pair have soulful voices which lend themselves to the popular hits. Highlights from the duo are difficult to pinpoint as the entire show is excellent, however Chandler sings ‘Rubber Biscuit’ extraordinarily well (no mean feat) and Henshaw excels with ‘Shotgun Blues’. As a combined force they delighted the audience with ‘Rawhide’, ‘Living in America’ and ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ to name but a few.

The set was reminiscent of the film and the resident band were all great characters, as much a part of the ‘cast’ as the performers themselves. Also putting in a fierce appearance were the ‘Bluettes’ namely: Alexus Ruth, Jenessa Qua and Jenny Fitzpatrick. All of the girls were of the same high standard and belted out ‘Respect’ and ‘Think’ to the lively, receptive audience. The ‘Bluettes’ wore glittery outfits and lit up the stage with their synchronised dance moves and bubbly personalities. Also, not forgetting William Hazell who sang the famous number ‘Minnie The Moocher’ and encouraged us all to ‘hi de hi de hi de hi’ along with him. We were more than happy to oblige and felt that Hazell made a wonderful contribution throughout.

Not only was there audience participation with ‘Minnie the Moocher’ but also in ‘Flip, Flop and Fly’ – and with that came actions for us to learn… The entire cast looked like they were having a ball and that atmosphere filled the auditorium, the one complaint we have is that we could have gone on dancing and singing all night long and the show finished just before 10pm!

The tour is officially licensed and presented by Dan Akroyd (from the original film) and Judith Belushi (widow of John Belushi from the film), it is the only live ‘Blues Brothers’ stage show that carries this seal of approval. You can catch ‘The Blues Brothers’ at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry until Saturday 4th May. For more tour dates and venues please visit


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