The title has grown shorter and the show has grown longer.
Following a plaintive moan from this corner that Les Miserables and The Drowsy Chaperone seemed to have given us enough downbeat musical titles to be going on with, The Sorrowful Tale of Charlotte Badger became just plain Charlotte Badger.
Meanwhile, however, what was a 50-minute musical when it was launched at a Bromsgrove pub earlier in the summer has since become an 80-minute show and finally a full-blown two-hour production that includes 3-D animation. Designer Colin Judges – like Charlotte Badger’s creator Euan Rose, he is a former member of Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre – will be responsible for turning the Bromsgrove Artrix auditorium into a pirate ship, with rigging to the ceiling.
Professional actress Gail Graye, playing Charlotte, will be seen climbing to the top of that rigging with a knife between her teeth. The 3-D is in the care of Phil Brown, one of the art’s leading exponents, who has worked with Disney and at Birmingham’s Sea Life Centre.
Charles Townsend, orchestral composer, writer of songs for his cabaret act and carpet retailer who advises on carpets on local radio, has written eight big numbers for Charlotte Badger. He and Euan Rose met about 30 years ago, when Euan was directing for Bromsgrove’s Avoncroft centre and Charles was in the company, since when they have been spasmodically in touch.
Euan Rose, who also hopes to present the show’s giant squid fight on screen for audiences to view through special spectacles, says, "I asked him how he fancied writing some music for my lyrics and we’ve gone on from there."
His story of Bromsgrove’s woman pirate – who led a mutiny and took over the ship on which she was being transported to Australia – is growing by the week. He’s not complaining: rather, he’s astonished at the way in which people in the know have taken the musical to their hearts.
"It’s like a snowball. Wherever I go in Bromsgrove, people talk to me about it – and the Hop Pole, where the first production took place in June, has adopted it as its own."
Since the show’s first outing, there have been two more open-air performances at the pub earlier this month, with a floodlit one because Rose wanted to see how it would work.
Meanwhile, impresario Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield – the man behind Jolsen, Buddy and Elvis the Musical – are showing interest in Charlotte Badger. The encouraging thought here is that unlike Euan Rose’s Brummie community musical, Wallop Mrs Cox, there are no Birmingham accents to offend the ears of a West End audience, which is why the man who wrote both shows thinks that this one has a better chance of going further.
A concert version of Wallop Mrs Cox will be at Birmingham Town Hall on October 6 as part of the week of festivities to mark the reopening of the building after its massive refurbishment and discussions are taking place about the possibility of its being staged at Birmingham Hippodrome.
There’s always the other side of any question.
Yes, the facilities at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre are indeed technically impressive and they’ve been brought into play for the first time for two years for the current production of The Importance of Bring Earnest.
They facilitate moving the first three rows of seats out of the auditorium and onto the stage – but I now hear that some backstage unsung heroes have in the past regarded this as being more trouble than it’s worth, and that when the seats are in their new places there can be problems in persuading audience members to walk across the stage to find them in what they regard as an unduly exposed position.
I suppose, from the viewpoint of patrons sitting in the auditorium in the usual way, there could also be a slight irritation at having other audience members up there onstage and in their sight. It must detract from the atmosphere the players seek to create.
I don’t think having an audience on stage in a main house production can be compared to having one in view in a studio. In a studio, you expect this sort of thing and there are enough studio productions to have conditioned any frequent theatregoer to know what’s coming.
On the other hand, avenue productions don’t come along all that often and are surely worth experiencing – even if only to grumble about afterwards.
I could not help thinking that Jaz Davison is not having much luck with the publicity machine these days. There was I, having a little gripe (Sept 12) about finding the curtains wide open when I turned up at Hall Green Little Theatre to see her production of Sleuth and going on to find that her name had been misspelled three times out of six in the programme.
And when she bobbed up again last week in a Stage 27 note to me about its forthcoming production of 3-4-1 I thought I’d find out a bit more from the company website.
Alas, the first thing I found was that the gremlins were still going strong, offering details of A Bit of a Sticky Wicket, The New Dress and The Fat Lady Sings in Little Grimley – all of which the group performed for three nights at the end of November last year.
For the record, as I found when I pressed on a little further, Jaz is directing Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound in the three-part bill at the Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull on Friday and Saturday next week. Patrick Ryan directs Crossing the Bar, by Don Nigro. And Richard Crofts is at the helm for Joining the Club, by David Tristram.
It is good to see David Tristram featuring again. The Fat Lady Sings is also from his fertile production line of comedies.
Canterbury Tales, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (to Saturday).
The Importance of Being Earnest, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
Men of the World, Oldbury Rep, Barlow Theatre, Langley (to Saturday).
Oklahoma!, Alcester Operatic Society, Palace Theatre, Redditch (to Saturday).
Jekyll and Hyde, Quarry Bank Operatic Society, Netherton Arts Centre (to Saturday).
A Chorus Line, West Bromwich Operatic Society, Mill Theatre, Sedgley (to Saturday).
Old Time Music Hall, Friends of the Swan Theatre, Swan Theatre, Worcester (Sept 28 & 29).
The Weir, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Sept 29-Oct 13).
Bouncers, MiG Productions, MET Studio, Stafford Gatehouse (Oct 2-6).
The Gondoliers, Worcester Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Swan Theatre, Worcester (Oct 2-6).
Sex, Drugs and Rick ’n’ Roll, Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa (Oct 2-6).
We’ve Got to Get Out of Here, From the Top Theatre Group, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield. Oct 2-6.
An Ideal Husband, Union Theatre, Dorridge Village Hall (Oct 4-6).
Dangerous Liaisons, Fellowship Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (Oct 4-13).