The Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society (NNOS) is keeping the tradition alive with their annual show at Norwich Theatre Royal, and this time, it’s the delightful “Betty Blue Eyes.” Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this musical, but you know what? I was genuinely excited to see it! There’s just something special about witnessing local amateurs own the stage.
No spoilers here, I promise. But if you’re curious about this musical and want discover how our local talents brought it to life, you’re in the right place. Check out the full review and make sure to grab your tickets before the curtain falls on this short run.
*We were invited to the press night to see the show so that we could share our experience with our readers. Photos in this post were provided by Norwich Theatre, the featured image above was taken by Laura Francis – @dinky_in_norfolk.
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About Betty Blue Eyes
“Betty Blue Eyes” is a delightful and humorous musical set in 1947, post-World War II Britain, where the echoes of wartime austerity still linger through strict food rationing. Spam is the reigning king of dinner tables, and Princess Elizabeth’s upcoming wedding to Prince Philip provides a glimmer of hope for the nation. In a small Yorkshire village, a daring plan is conceived to raise a pig named Betty as the centrepiece of a grand feast in celebration of the royal wedding.
The villagers, struggling to make ends meet, face a formidable obstacle in the form of the Inspector, Mr Wormold. Armed with a sharp nose for contraband and a staunch dedication to enforcing rationing laws, Wormold becomes the primary antagonist standing between the villagers and their extravagant pork roast. The plot unfolds with hilarious hijinks, retro revelry, and a toe-tapping score that adds a lively and infectious energy to the production.
Based on the 1984 Alan Bennett film ‘A Private Function,’ which starred Michael Palin and Dame Maggie Smith, “Betty Blue Eyes” is brilliantly adapted for the stage. Premiering in the West End in 2011 with award-winning actress Sarah Lancashire, the musical garnered nominations for ‘Best New Musical’ in prestigious awards such as the Laurence Olivier Awards, The Evening Standard Awards, and the WhatsOnStage.com Awards.
Now, The NNOS brings this feel-good musical to the stage, under the direction and choreography of Chris Cuming, known for his work on productions like “Kinky Boots,” “The Sound of Music,” “Made in Dagenham,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Top Hat” and more.
Review of Betty Blue Eyes at Norwich Theatre Royal
Walking into the Theatre Royal, I wasn’t quite sure what awaited me as the first actors took the stage. A story about an illegal pig sounded like it might be a bit mad, but “Betty Blue Eyes” turned out to be an absolute hoot. Funnier than I expected!
The whole audience was buzzing with laughter throughout the show, especially when Mr. Wormold, played by Alex Green, strutted in – and strut he did! When he appeared it was like the pantomime villain had taken the stage. He didn’t just bring the laughs; he danced and sang effortlessly. Green was clearly having enormous fun.
Between the chuckles, the show threw in some serious moments, diving into a tough time in the country’s history. Life in Austerity Britain was not easy. Post-war optimism was tempered with rationing and Britain was a fiercely hierarchical and class-driven society. “Betty Blue Eyes” manages to plot a course that uses social status (both protecting it and achieving it) and the idea that someone, somewhere is ‘on the make’ as a source of comedy and drama without ever becoming bogged down by the weight of these issues.
There’s this one song, “The Kind of Man I Am,” belted out by Will Mugford as Gilbert Chilvers – that stuck with me. He showed his vulnerable side and talked about feeling like he wasn’t enough, which is something I think a lot of us can relate to. I just wanted to give the him a big hug.
Gilbert’s wife, Joyce was played by Michelle Unstead, who you may remember from here role of Maria in the Sound of Music two years ago. They are somewhat similar characters, both strong-minded with lots of big songs to sing. To me, she seemed even more comfortable in this role as she could make it her own.
If you saw “Young Frankenstein” at The Playhouse last year, the actor playing Henry Allardyce probably looks familiar. It’s Joseph Betts, who even with a smaller role left his mark with killer physical comedy and passion.
The entire cast delivered an awe-inspiring performance. The high-energy dance numbers stole the spotlight, and the choreography was flawless. Even without flashy costumes, the show retained its mesmerising allure.
It wasn’t just about the dancing; it was the scenes woven into the songs that added an extra layer of intrigue. The constant activity on stage made it even more captivating, ensuring there was always something exciting happening.
Betty, the pig, stole the show. It was like there was a collective awe from the audience when she made her first appearance 45 minutes into the show. James Bell worked his magic to bring her to life as puppeteer. It was quite a contrast to his role as Igor in Young Frankenstein.
Thanks again to the NNOS and all those who poured their heart and souls into this production not because they were being paid but because they love it. You could feel the cast having a blast, and the audience was right there with them.
As they took their final bow, I couldn’t help but think to myself we’ve got some seriously top-notch local talent. What they’ve cooked up with this performance is genuinely special.
You may not have heard of Betty Blue Eyes before, but I promise you, if you see this performance, it’s not something you will forget anytime soon. Don’t just take my word for it – grab those tickets here now and catch “Betty Blue Eyes” pronto. You won’t regret it.
I’m already looking forward to the NNOS’s show next year. It will be their 100 anniversary and they will be performing Singin’ in the Rain. Tickets are on sale now here and there is an early bird discount.
Betty Blue Eyes FAQs
There will be performances of Betty Blue Eyes at Norwich Theatre Royal from 23 – 27 January
Tickets run £10 – £31. Check availability here.
While the show does feature a puppet, it’s more aimed at adults. Older children will appreciate it but there is some adult language.
The performance is about 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval.
You can have a pre-show meal in the Prelude Restaurant. Before the show and during the interval, snacks and drinks can be purchased at Cafe Royal or the Circle or Stalls Bar. We recommend ordering your interval drinks at the bar before the show starts.
Norwich Theatre Royal is easy to get to as it is located on Theatre Street (next to the Assembly House) in the Norwich city centre. It’s about a 7 minute walk from the Norwich Bus Station or a 20 minute walk from the Norwich Train Station.
You could use any car park in Norwich city centre, but The Forum and Chantry car parks are the closest ones to Norwich Theatre Royal. Alternatively, you could use the Park u0026 Ride as it’s a short walk from the Norwich Bus Station.
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