First of all let me say I would (almost) crawl over broken glass to see any production by Oliver Rowe’s Lichfield Youth Musical Theatre – but I never thought I would have to go as far as, well, Walsall. What possible state of affairs can obtain whereby this marvellously prestigious and successful non-profit making outfit has to leave its home city for a sports centre in the Black Country? After all, many of its alumni have quite rightly gone on to shine at the very top of the theatrical profession. Dear city fathers, and mothers, please take note. This is a sign that there is something seriously wrong with the priorities of an ancient Midlands city famous for its historical world class contributions to science and to the arts, not least Johnson and Garrick who walked to London to revive the very art of theatre itself which we are still nationally enjoying the benevolent results of. Just not in Lichfield any longer, as it turns out. That said, Oliver Rowe’s latest production at Walsall’s Forest Arts Centre is a first-class example of how to allow talented young people to present a marvellous range of performances from comedy to tragedy with deceptive ease but as much passion as if their very lives depended on it thanks to director and choreographer Jessica Lambert’s sheer theatrical – well, genius. In Rent, based on Puccini’s La Boheme, they’re all young and they’re on the street, but they live, love, take risks, have lives, and often move on having learned lessons for the future. In other words they’re recognisable and realistic young people learning how to grow in an increasingly complex and demanding world. In other words, real life, right now. In a fabulous cast easily adept at both comedy and tragedy plus everything else in between it is hard to single out any names, but I have to mention our very own Chris Buckle and the new (to me) Tammie Morgan who I’m told is planning to study further. Personally I’m not sure she needs to. She has star quality of the rarest kind and you heard it first here. Walsall’s gain is very definitely Lichfield’s loss. I ask city fathers (and mothers) what has gone so wrong that this disgraceful situation has come to pass, and can they do nothing to reverse it?