Bad Girls - Musical ☆☆☆3
Showing from - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 through till Saturday, May 16, 2015
Brewhouse Arts Centre - Burton-upon-Trent
Bill Pritchard | Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Taking a gamble on staging a relatively new work seems to have paid off for Burton's Mellow Dramatics as the musical Bad Girls is packing them in at the town's Brewhouse arts centre.
Chairman Melvyn Edwards told me that after the announcement of this production hit social media, the company has seen a rise in its followers and this was backed up by an enthusiastic opening night crowd with many unfamiliar faces in the audience.While the stories told are for the most part unrelentingly grim the musical numbers do add a touch of lightness
Bad Girls is set in a women's prison but the musical deals with eternal themes - albeit with a twist - girl meets girl and rather than pitting good against evil it manages to have not so bad against very bad.
Very bad takes the form of Jim Fenner an 'old style screw', a man who is a nasty, sleazy, bully that takes advantage of the women who find themselves on 'his' wing of HMP Larkhall and his spiteful assistant Sylvia Hollamby.
Not so bad are the inmates. Women who 'shouldn't be here' but are far from innocent, ranging from murderers to a couple of lifestyle prostitutes.
Thrown into this mix are 'liberal' wing governor Helen Stewart and caring warder Justin Mattison.
Bad Girls is based on the popular, award-winning ITV drama which ran from June 1999 until December 2006, and features some of the characters from the show. While the stories told are for the most part unrelentingly grim the musical numbers do add a touch of lightness and there is a good dollop of humour - albeit black humour to relieve the dystopia.
Andrew Warner's portrayal of Fenner is very good - bringing to life all the warder's ugly characteristics without becoming a caricature. Seedy and without humanity.
Hollamby, played by Maria Smith, has a nice line in spitefulness. For me these two 'baddies' also get the best numbers with 'Jailcraft' in the first act and the showstopping 'The Future is Bright' in the second half which brings some razzle-dazzle to the stage.
A simple set consisting mainly of cell doors, beds and toilets suffices with a set of bars across the back of the stage used as both an entrance and exit point to various parts of the prison - it also serves to keep the musicians at bay.
The cons also have their moments with Natalie Veasey and Helen Parker as the two Julies providing some light relief - as it were - as prostitutes - and Suzanne Huthmacher bringing the wise-cracking, seen it all wife of the local Mr Big, to life.
The main protagonists among the prisoners - Nikki, Denny and Shell, played by Stacey Summers, Lucy Warner and Lucy Robinson - demonstrate the seamy side of prison life.
A suicide on the wing allows Fenner an opportunity to remove Stewart, played by Sharon Plummer, but will he get his way or will the prisoners back the governor?
As ever with the Mellows there is strong backing from the ensemble in the musical numbers and I must mention the opening of act two with Amy Glover singing 'Freedom Road' backed by the other prisoners from behind the bars.
Directed by Donna Stephenson with choreography by Natasha Ingham and musical direction by Rob Murray, Bad Girls is on at the Brewhouse until Saturday at 7.30pm with a matinee at 2.30pm on Saturday.
For tickets contact the Brewhouse Box Office on 01283 508100.
This show contains adult themes and strong language.
Mellow Dramatic's chairman Melvyn Edwards also told me about a theft they have had to come to terms with.
As well as the flyers for Bad Girls the company also invested in a couple of banners advertising the show. One was hung outside the Brewhouse arts centre and the other was taken to various locations around Burton to help publicise the show.
The banners use the same image as is featured on the flyer (seen here) and the front of the programme. Sadly, Melvyn told me, this proved too much for one member of the public who has made off with said banner.
While they don't think they will get the banner back Melvyn said he hoped it was bringing the new owner some pleasure.
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