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Am-Dram: Fair ladies, merry wives and plenty of kinky boots

This week, it is all about the ladies, and to be more specific – strong female leading characters.

Lola in Kinky Boots
Lola in Kinky Boots

The works of playwright Willy Russell offer the opportunity for amateur actors to really display their dramatic skills, as his writing is the perfect combination of comedy and tragedy.

Another favourite writer of mine is the late Carla Lane, who had the same ability to make you laugh out loud in one moment and then cry the next, taking you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Perhaps it is a trait of Liverpudlians; either way, it makes for superb entertainment.

Studio 61, a Wolverhampton based group, is presenting one of Russell’s best plays, Educating Rita, at Newhampton Arts Centre from June 28-30.

Frank is a tutor of English in his fifties whose disillusioned outlook on life drives him to drink and bury himself in his books. Enter Rita, a forthright young hairdresser who is eager to learn. After weeks of cajoling, Rita slowly wins him over with her innate insight and refusal to accept no for an answer. Their relationship as teacher and student blossoms, ultimately giving Frank a new sense of self and Rita the knowledge she so craves.

No doubt you will recall the 1983 movie of the same name, starring Michael Caine as Frank and introducing our national treasure, Julie Walters in the role of Rita. Described as a comedy-drama, the film enjoyed outstanding success, and the stage play is just as engaging.

In this production, Nikki Ellis appears as Rita and Ian Hartley as Frank.

For tickets, priced at just £10 each, visit newshamptonarts.co.uk or studio61.org.uk

You can also follow the group on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

In complete contrast, but still maintaining the theme of a strong female leading character, at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham this week you can catch a production of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, Lady Windermere’s Fan, presented by the resident group at the venue.

Lady Windermere’s seemingly happy marriage is rocked to the core when London society gossip, the Duchess of Berwick, indicates that her husband is conducting an illicit affair. So what is to be done about it?

With Wilde’s wit, satire and his outrageous, controversial style which was way ahead of the times, the play explains the destructiveness of gossip and judgement while challenging our perceptions of what constitutes a good woman.

Runs from June 23-26. For tickets, visit crescent-theatre.co.uk or call 0121 643 5858.

Side by Side Theatre Company is celebrating 25 years with their latest production, Alice in Otherland, (yes that’s right, it is a play on words!) their own take on the classic Lewis Carroll tale, at Stourbridge Town Hall from June 22-25.

Those of you who have seen a production by this group will know how talented and unique their performers are and how entertaining their shows are. This one is no exception.

Influenced by the happenings of 2018, 2019 and 2020, which was largely dominated by Brexit and the dreaded Covid 19, despite the social issues included, the show is full of music, dance and humour.

For tickets, visit sbstc.org.uk or email johanne.butler18@gmail.com or call 07880437117.

At the Belfrey Theatre in Wellington, Shropshire, the resident group is presenting My Fair Lady, the musical version of George Bernard Shaw’s classic work, Pygmalion, from July 8-10.

Phonetics professor Henry Higgins makes a bet with his friend, Colonel Pickering that he can transform a Cockney working-class flower girl, Eliza Doolittle into a cultured lady and pas her off in high society gatherings.

This show is a favourite amongst amateur performers and includes the songs, I’m Getting Married in the Morning, With a Little Bit of Luck, Wouldn’t it Be Loverly and The Rain in Spain.

For tickets visit belfreytheatre.com or call  01952 222277.

Outdoor theatre is just the ticket (if you will pardon the pun!) for the summer months and the Shawbury Village Players will present of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare’s farcical comedy in a story of jealously, marriage and lies at Reynold’s Hall from June 29- July 2.

Sir John Falstaff is down on his luck and short of cash and so he decides to woo and seduce two rich ladies who have control of their husbands’ money.

In turn, the wives decide to teach him a lesson and so they lead him on and long enough to humiliate him. As you can imagine, he gets his comeuppance, amid a riot of laughter and comedy.

The gardens will open at 6pm for picnicking with the show commencing at 7.30pm, and there is free parking on site.

For tickets visit shawburyplayers.co.uk or follow the group on Facebook. Alternatively, call Jo on 01939 250070.

Finally this week, the search is on for a very special 'lady' to appear in Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society’s production of Kinky Boots, which they will present at Stourbridge Town Hall in October, later this year.

The role of Lola is one of the most sought-after parts in musical theatre at the moment, but is not an easy one to cast.

The actor concerned has quite a long list of requirements. They need to be a member of the black African or Caribbean community, have a very strong tenor voice and be confident to command an audience, and all this while wearing high heels and beautiful gowns.

They need to be a superb comedy actor, but also able to play the serious dramatic scenes in the show with complete conviction and not be afraid to show their vulnerable side.

It’s not much to ask for and I know you are out there Lola!

For more information, contact info@stourbridge-operatic.co.uk and offer a short summary of your theatrical experience.

Well, that’s all for this week. Please send me details of all your news, together with good quality colour photos to a.norton@expressandstar.co.uk, call me on 01902 319662, or follow me on Twitter @AlisonNorton or on Facebook. Break a leg!

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