BLITZ! The Musical is a World War II based musical, with the music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart. He based the story on his own childhood memories of London’s Jewish East End during the Blitz. The musical was first performed in London in 1962 and had a short run, but never made the American market, so it never transferred to Broadway.
The scene is the platform of Bank Underground station, where the residents of Petticoat Lane are sheltering. They are singing along with Vera Lynn on the radio. The widowed, pickled herring seller, matriarchal Mrs Blitztein (Trish Ruff) then sings to the people who are lying on the platform, avoiding the bombs outside. She is a terrific actress, singer and performer, and plays a very convincing role. Her Yiddish accent and singing are abused and insulted by fruiterer, Alfred Locke (Philip Redgrave) who is also excellent in his portrayal of the character. Together they complement each other in their apparent dislike or even hatred of each other.
Alfred’s son, Georgie (Matt Tyler) is in love with Mrs Blitztein’s daughter, Carol (Georgina Oldcroft). I warmed to them both immediately and enjoyed both of their performances. I loved Matt’s dancing; he has obviously done a bit of ballroom! Harry Blitztein (Chris Stow), a rogue and bit of a ‘wide boy’, has rejected his usual girlfriend, lodger Elsie (Rachel Leggett), preferring a married posh Joyce Matthews (Chelsea Robson) whose husband is fighting overseas.
The bombings are becoming worse, and so with suitcases in hand, the schoolchildren are led by their teacher to Victoria Station for evacuation in the country. I thought the children were superb and took their parts very seriously, acting throughout the whole performance. Their expressions and body language were exceptional. Not only were they good but they looked like they were enjoying every minute – perhaps an up and coming star there somewhere!
Marie Coltman and Claire Lawrence did a great job choreographing the show; it was a large cast with quite a big age and ability range, but I thought it all blended in well and everyone moved in unison on the stage.
It’s not the best theatre in the area for acoustics; however, most of the voices came across well. It is a very difficult musical to perform as some of the melodies are very tricky to say the least. Most of the music is not that well known so no really catchy numbers to go out of the theatre singing.
I would like to mention the scene changes; they were slick and fast, so much so that you hardly noticed them happening. Congratulations to the stage crew and company members who brought on and off sets.
The stage came alive when all the ensemble was performing and it was difficult to know where to look, one didn’t want to miss anything. The blitz was obviously a depressing time, but this cast clearly demonstrated the greatest message of the day, which was love and support your neighbour through hard times.
I really enjoyed the performance immensely and hope you have a great show this evening. Congratulations.