Writer: Richard Sykes
Something truly magnificent happened on the boards of Lawrence Batley Theatre this evening – the world premiere of the first show that the LBT team have collaborated with an amateur company on a mainstage production as co-producers. The show proved that when local theatres works with local people something magical happens, tonight’s magic in the form of the truly inspired By George – The Chip Shop Musical was a testament to the relationship built between the theatre and an incredibly talented local amateur dramatic society.
You couldn’t get anything more local than this typical Yorkshire show. Witty, charming, upbeat and a cast of real ‘characters’. Written by Richard Sykes who also plays George Booth, the show follows the story of a Pauline, George and Sam, a down to earth family who own the local chip shop. Like many relationships after having children, they plod along, work hard and realise they don’t really talk much. Throw in a Yorkshire’s answer to Dorien Green – Marge (because she spreads so easily) played by Niove Armitage and we’re heading for disaster. The story couldn’t be more relatable, and likewise the cast. We all know a Pauline, George, Lil and Janet. We follow their normal lives through the pub, the local Zumba class, on a hen party and perhaps venture from the norm when their quiet teenage son Sam becomes a stripper.
The joy of By George is that it just ticks along, a simple story with simple characters, but full of quirky little surprises and so much humour. It’s light hearted and witty, the songs are well written and memorable, and the acting is superb.
The set, designed by Jon Hunt, Joe Hunt, James Clare and David Clarkson, is exciting and perfectly fitting for this performance. Half of the stage is the chip shop, the other half a pub. The band are in sight above stage at all times which is an excellent addition, especially as we’re treated to a larger band than expected in most musical performances these days.
And what a cast Woodhouse Musical Theatre Company are. The whole cast create a village of unique characters who are so identifiable. They are fully engaged and energetic throughout, have exceptional comedy timing and keep the audience captivated. There are too many stand out performers to mention, there really are no weak links in this production. Nicci Cooney plays the mammoth role of Pauline beautifully. She is funny, strong and sensitive, and her vocals are wonderful. Sam Roberts, as Sam, develops his character from a shy teenager to a confident performer. His vocals are spectacular, what a talent. It’s hard to take your eyes off Jessica Faye as Chloe – she stands out from the crowd throughout performing with the highest energy, and precise dancing and beautiful singing. The relationship between Pauline and Lili, played by Helen Woodhead is a joy to watch, they create some fantastic comedy moments. And one couldn’t not mention Colin Roberts as Harry Connolly who is just hilarious throughout.
By George is inspired from the story of its production to the very last bow. It’s impossible not to love everything about it: the set, the story, the characterisations, the music, the energy and the Yorkshire accents all create something beautiful. This reviewer would urge everyone to see it!
Runs until 16th September 2023