Apr 12 2019 | By More

★★★★☆  Explosive

Brunton Theatre: Thur 11 – Sat 13 April 2019
Review by Martin Gray

The Blitz spirit is alive and well and living in Musselburgh. More particularly, the Brunton Theatre, which is where you’ll find Lionel Bart’s unjustly forgotten follow-up to Oliver!, Blitz!.

He did like his exclamation marks, did Lionel! He also liked people, communities of people of every colour and creed just jogging along, forgetting their differences because, well, there’s a war on. And that’s the backdrop for Blitz!, Londoners getting by and getting on with one another in the face of old Adolf’s continuous assaults on the capital.

The cast of Blitz! Pic Musselburgh Camera Club

At the centre of the show are two families, the Jewish Blitzteins and the Cockney Lockes. Young Carol Blitztein and Georgie Locke are madly in love, and while mum Mrs Blitztein thinks it’s wonderful, rival costermonger Alfred Locke is less than thrilled.

As the play opens, Georgie is a squaddie on leave with Carol’s brother Harry, and while the former is ready to do his duty, the latter is carrying on with a married woman and falling in with black marketeers…

The opening number of this latest show from Musselburgh Amateur Musical Association, Our Hotel, suffered from a few sound problems on opening night – under-miked cast members, voices vanishing at the back of the set – but things quickly improved. Tell-Him-Tell-Her, establishing the warring relationship of the parents, proved a fun few minutes, and by the time we got to Opposites, a joyful duet between Carol and Georgie, the show was firing on all cylinders.

Playing the lovebirds, Michaela Turner and Mitchell Gobsill have rare chemistry, exchanging convincingly loving words and looks as they dance through the devastated streets outside Bank Tube station. As the action moves forward, and things get tough – as they tend to do midway through a musical – you’re really rooting for them.

emotional heart

You’re also cheering for the widowed Mrs Blitztein, as Harry goes AWOL and tragedy strikes another member of her large brood. As the emotional heart of the show, Jane Renton turns in a terrific performance, strong and tender by turns. Her song Bake a Cake is poignant enough, but she full-on breaks your heart with big ballad So Tell Me Jack – and all in a pretty convincing East End Jewish accent.

The Children’s Chorus. Pic: Musselburgh Camera Club

The accents are fine throughout, especially Gobsill’s Georgie – think Private Pike with a talent for tunes. Gobsill is also grand at acting the drunk – let’s hope the research was fun – and puts this knack to great use in the beautifully staged Who Wants To Settle Down. Even the kids manage commendable London lilts, and they’re seriously impressive performing Mums and Dads when they return from evacuation in the countryside.

The adult ensemble are also rather good in the big numbers Petticoat Lane, Down the Lane and Is This Gonna Be a Wedding!, while featured players Richard Tebbutt (Alfred), Dougal Affleck (Harry) and Cathy McAlpine (a gloriously plummy BBC announcer) are all delightful.

Blitz! is directed with real verve by Graeme Aitken, who uses the entire Brunton auditorium to good effect, filling the aisles with chirpy Londoners at every opportunity. The official set, dominated by a staircase behind which hides musical director Laura Paterson and her excellent band, is nicely adaptable – here the Underground, there a pub, everywhere the streets around Petticoat Lane.

Costumes, lighting, sound (once it settles down) and, of course, Bart’s brilliant lyrics and immediately hummable tunes all combine to make Blitz! a real treat – a proper Musselburgh knees-up and no mistake!

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA. Phone booking: 0131 665 2240.
Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 April 2019
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2pm.
Tickets and details: Book Here.

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Facebook: @mamamusselburgh
Twitter: @MAMAmusselburgh.

The cast of Blitz! Pic: Musselburgh Camera Club


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