Media Comments

A selection of critics’ comments about some of our recent productions…


Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust, with a budget of thousands and great ingenuity, performed The Scarlet Pimpernel in the Empire Theatre. Elsie Kelly (Director) and Meryl Langford (Chairman) saw [the show], … and decided they could stage it without the Broadway millions and THEY HAVE! Oh the glamour! … What a first appearance [Marguerite] has, … in a dress to die for, needing quadruple doors to get through, not knowing that her foppish (pretence) husband is really a James Bond character, rescuing the French nobility from the guillotine. (Yes, its there against a blood red sky, really chopping off heads, which fall into the basket!) Oh the wonder of the opening of the second half in a mirrored ballroom (they couldn’t move St. George’s Hall) with swags and pillars and chandeliers, golden costumes and MASKS. Oh the splendid diction and perfect upper class vowels of “They seek him here, they seek him there”… Oh the swashbuckling fights, and the disguises, and the badness of Chauvelin (could be Les Mis) and the business with the cart and the boat, and a glorious company of men. Was that really Mark Gairrusso in disguises turning a small part into a great cameo role? Such glamorous maids, and knicker-showing tarts, and grande grande dames (pronounced the French way) and the quiet pathos of the prison, with the victims leaving when their names were called. Oh, lots and lots of singing…, and misunderstandings and spy rings are all part of it and the (paid) fly men in the fly tower fly in instant altars or ship’s sails, and (unpaid) stage managers carry stone balustrades and statuary into the rose garden, and leather sofas into the library. Amateur members of the company rehearse and rehearse, and learn to act, sing, speak, dance, fight, and have the discipline of the professional. Few professional companies could possibly afford so much talent on and back-stage. Such delights:- a full orchestra, with musical director, boy trumpeters, Jim Langford doubling as a boat builder, French armies, winsome ladies and of course ROMANCE. What an evening! … As FOPS you’re the TOPS! Whatever it COST dearest BOST, you’re the BEST!

The Scarlet Pimpernel (2009) – Wirral Champion

David Niven, Anthony Andrews and even – sink me – Sid James have masqueraded as the Scarlet Pimpernel. But none got to sing and swordfight at the same time. Birkenhead Operatic Society Trust has pulled on the boots and pulled out all the stops to produce this lavish musical version of Baroness Orczy’s French Revolution classic for Capital of Culture year. The production is ambitious: a cast of 60, a slew of scenery changes, and hundreds of costumes which have kept the wardrobe department busy for several months… Pimpernel is really a boys’ own adventure, which means Julia Caroll has little to do as leading lady Marguerite but sing prettily and recoil from the advances of the murderous Chauvelin (a strong-voiced Jason Weightman). It’s left to real-life husband Mike Caroll, as cod-buffoon/wily saviour Sir Percy Blakeney, to lead his merry band of “Bounders” through the evening’s big numbers. The part-time fops cavort at court in frills and furbelows then don disguises to dash off to France and rescue dukes and duchesses from Madame la Guillotine. Their rousing numbers – Into the Fire, The Creation of Man – are crowd-pleasing highlights with some good ensemble harmonies. Director / choreographer Elsie Kelly runs a tight ship, and the staging and props, including a ship’s prow and a working guillotine, are smoothly professional. The two massive chorus set pieces, on each side of the interval, are also visually and vocally impressive… The evening ends with the French trounced and BOST and the Brits triumphant. Rating: 8/10. Swashbuckling.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (2009) – Liverpool Echo

BOST really are a cut above the rest – and I don’t just mean that because they have a guillotine on stage. They have pulled out all the financial stops to stage “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, a Broadway musical based on the book by Baroness Orczy. This is Capital of Culture year and so this company…decided to be ambitious. After last year’s faultless “Oliver!” they decided to tackle a show that ran for 700 performances on Broadway. And it’s something of a gamble as the songs are not the familiar ones that audiences might be used to. Paris in 1794 was a dark and sinister place and…this is a tale of intrigue, double identities and with some fine comic moments amid all Le Mayhem. Musical Director Tricia Gaskell weaves in plenty of ballads as the scenery crew and the costume team do their usual superlative job in the visual department. Mike Carroll as Sir Percy Blakeney (Ssh, he’s the Pimpernel) and Marguerite St Juste (Julia Carroll) have real chemistry. In real life, she is his wife and leading lady. Sacre bleu! No wonder when they kiss its so convincing. Jason Weightman deserves a round of special applause for his nasty black-coated bad guy, Chauvelin. There are some great comic scenes with fops galore and the song The Creation of Man. A sword-fighting scene is also an added highlight. It is a lavish production that’s full of adventure and spirit, just like BOST. This French connection is magnifique.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (2009) – Daily Post

BOST..have a solid reputation in the city…and continue to give professional crews a run for their money. … The songs are timeless and each character…does them justice alongside some very enthusiastic choreography. Director Elsie Kelly ensures the stage is awash with colour…and Trisha Gaskell’s musical direction hits the right notes on all the up tempo numbers and the classic ballards.

Oliver! (2007) – Liverpool Echo

What a show! It is very rare that all the constituents of a production come together with such excellence, but at the cavernous Liverpool Empire Theatre, they certainly did! Cast, dancers, costumes and orchestra were all on top form to give a colourful, fast moving and highly amusing account of this favourite musical. … The strong Birkenhead chorus was in fine voice…and with the fine orchestra giving full reign to the lively Jerry Herman score under Trish Gaskell, this was a worthy production to mark BOST’s 80th Birthday.

Hello Dolly (2006) – NODA Northwest Magazine

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