NEWS AND REVIEWS
The Drowsy Chaperone
Rob Dyer as Man in Chair epitomised the character and delivered his lines with just the right amount of dry humour. It was unfortunate the singing in the opening number was somewhat overpowered by the orchestra which may have been due to the sound system picking up the orchestra more than the company on stage, but this was soon rectified for the subsequent numbers with fine singing and diction from all. Paul Sysiak as Robert Martin the bridegroom and Henri Hayler as George, his best man, were an excellent duo executing the tap routine well with fine support from the dancers (Alison Campion, Sarah Hassell, Paula Najair and Natalie Stevens). Paul kept control of the roller skates well, especially when he was blindfolded and singing “Accident waiting to happen” which fortunately did not happen. Jessica Roberts (Janet van de Graaff) with her beautiful singing and dialogue evoked the character and period of being a Broadway starlet determined to get married. Sheila Crighton as Drowsy was brilliant, especially when being seduced by Aldolpho (Lee Lyons) the self-proclaimed “ladies man” with his excellent movement and rendition of “I am Aldolpho”. Richard Moore (Feldzieg) was very much the Follies producer, under pressure to stop Janet getting married. Kitty (Natalie Idon) gave a believable dim-witted show girl companion of Feldzieg. Charlotte Collins (Mrs Tottendale) as the scatterbrained dowager together with Adrian Collins (Underling) her exasperated butler, gave us great amusement and a lovely duet of “Love is Always Lovely in the End”. Peter Elliott and Don Young as the two Gangsters doubling as pastry chefs added to the amusement and executed their roles well. The pièce de résistance was in the final scene with a bi-plane descending to hover above the cast as Trix the Aviatrix (Keren Keeler-Moore) made her entrance with her great rendition of “I Do, I Do In the Sky” and subsequently agreed to marry the four couples. The principals were well supported throughout by the Company. With Bob Murray’s direction, Sheri-Ann Fido’s choreography and Richard Eldridge’s baton, this was a production which provided first class entertainment.
Thoroughly Modern Millie
An impressive inclusion on the Elaine Paige ‘Break a Leg’ Sunday radio programme gave a good feel factor and from opening this production was vibrant, full of energy with foot tapping music. Set in 1922 Millie Dillmount leaves Kansas arriving in NY, and even after being mugged is still determined to become a flapper, find a job and marry her boss. Alison Campion portrays a first class Millie with conviction and is well teamed with young handsome Jimmy Smith ably performed by Mark Stevens. Some great comedy moments came from Sheila Crighton, villainous Mrs Meers alias Daisy Crumpler with catch phrase ‘so sad to be all alone in the world’ and her two Chinese laundry hands, Sharon Sellens as Bun Foo and Oli Man Ching Ho. An added attraction was the very funny projected translation. The lively band was led by Andrew Gill with singing of principal, cameo and ensemble well rehearsed and strong. Eye catching NY sets were designed and constructed by the team, with use of moving projection, effective lighting and sound effects. Costumes were of the era, neat and colourful with good finishing touches - Sharon Gordon particularly glamorous as Muzzy. Good character makeup and wigs. Although when a full cast was required the stage became a little cramped, there was particularly good use of the auditorium and off stage entrances. Keren not only danced, she set exciting choreography and directed resulting in a combined team effort of high quality. Mention must be made of the slick ‘Speed Test’ performed by Mr Graydon (Bob Murray), Millie, Miss Flannery (Charlotte Collins) and Ensemble, and wonderful duet from Mr Graydon and Miss Dorothy (Natascha Lampert-Montier).
Aka ‘The Lass That Loved a Sailor’ fourth G & S comic opera first performed in 1878 tells of Captain Corcoran’s Daughter Josephine in love with lower class sailor Ralph Rackstraw. However, Father intends her to marry First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Joseph Porter much to her distress. The couple decide to elope but this plan is foiled when Dick Deadeye tells all. Baby farmer of long ago, bumboat woman Little Buttercup, discloses a secret that she mixed high and low class infants thus Ralph is high and Corcoran is low! The couple are free to marry, the Captain can marry Buttercup and Sir Porter settles on Cousin Hebe and all are happy ever after. Good sound from the orchestra directed by Duncan Reid, an excellent deck of HMS Pinafore from Dickie Diamond painted beautifully by Cassie Dewing and Emma McGrath. Judy took on dual roles of director and choreographer using her limited space well and with simple movements the action flowed, with some comedy coming through. Imogen Willetts shone as Josephine with her diction faultless, supported well by a sound Kenny Giles as Ralph with solid performances from Adrian Collins as the Captain and Charlotte Collins Hebe together with strong contralto Carolyn Bruce as Little Buttercup. I enjoyed Boatswain, Richard Foster’s tenor rendering of ‘He is an English Gentleman’. Good quality chorus harmonies with a rousing opening from the crew. With colourful costumes, smart uniforms, very good wigs and hairstyles, particularly Josephine, reminding me of a young Queen Victoria, this was a jolly, foot tapping matinee experience. The well designed A4 programme with just that little bit extra has been put forward as a programme competition entry.
Merrily We Roll Along
BLOG are a group with a traditional background and every now and again experiment. I was therefore intrigued to see how they tackled a show, produced by Sondheim and Furth, which in 1981, was not a huge success. ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ has rarely been performed since and even less by amateurs. I, like most of the audience had never seen it done before. It has a complicated story told backwards, beginning in 1976 and ending back in 1957 and tells the story of rise to fame of three young talents, and the price they pay for success. To be honest, I think it’s a show that grows on you although there are no memorable melodies, as it proceeds through seven transitions, but would benefit an audience to see it more than once, to fully appreciate it.
Molly Armstrong and Sue Neighbour headed Box Office with John Barnes in charge of F of H. The bar was organised by Debbie and Dickie Dymond who vended his ice cream at the interval. Raffles were available from the two Shirleys and we won a prize!
What a pity the programme was not up to the usual standard this time but I hope your collection buckets did well.
The key three lead characters were performed with great confidence working much together as a team, with Chris Packham as Franklin Shepard at the start of the musical a successful film producer and songwriter, ably matched by Will Spears playing his best friend Charley Kringas and a solid emotional performance from Ali Adams as the lovelorn soak Mary Flynn. Most of the songs are difficult, very wordy and required considerable acting skills as well as passionate delivery to get them across and this I feel was achieved.
Characters were well costumed using some strong colour, in one scene using black throughout looked effective, and bearing in mind the wardrobe was working backwards in time the overall appearance was pleasing, with added personal touches of beads, scarves etc. Good props throughout. Although the natural hairstyles were well coiffured by Frances Horne, I was not totally happy with the wigs for the players, Gussie’s, in particular at the beginning, the side pieces masking her profile.
Dominating climber Gussie Carnegie, Frank’s second wife was a sexy perfectly ruthless woman played by Keren Keeler-Moore contrasting well by more naive and gentler Beth Frank’s first wife who really loved Frank was portrayed by Hollie Saunters. Both performers perfectly captured the mood of their respective periods of Frank’s life. Rob Dyer as impresario, Joe Josephson, puffed away on his large cigar conning his ex-wife Gussie for money whenever possible. KT was well portrayed as the TV News Interviewer by Vickie Rowland using such facial expressions as Charley and Frank’s relationship came apart on live TV whilst Sharon Gordon and David Horne as Beth’s parents captured the typical 50’s attitude to their daughter’s marriage. The rest of the cast made for believable supporting cameo parts and an excellent chorus with good harmonies well executed. Young Leo Jones was introduced as Frank Jnr playing his part with confidence and I’m sure he’ll be back in the future. I particularly liked the simple but effective Choreography created by Keren Keeler-Moore and Ali Adams.
Musical director Richard Eldridge and his hidden orchestra are to be congratulated on a fine performance quite an achievement considering the tight positioning behind the set. A first for me listening to the lively overture but not seeing the players. The set was designed by Lee Lyons was simple but included an impressive over-looking a LA view, constructed and painted with his team was seamlessly moved through the different locations and years. Sensible use of cubes once again and very good use of the build-ons for crossovers and one scene with Mary sitting at a small table for ‘Not a Day Goes By’ quite moving, also perfect for the lengthy lounging and smoking scene. Lighting from Gary Crawford and sound by Steve Allan and Sarah Jones of KDK Sound, enhanced the scenes. Good sync with music and typewriter. This show was quite a challenge to the audience and actors alike. Like an upside-down pudding - when revealed is a surprise – but a good one!
Challenging staging was overcome by Bob’s simple and effective designs created by a host of helpers. The elevator was smartly turned, particularly astute timing of bobbing heads and lighting effects. Using the height back of stage with the actor’s legs dangling plus safety bar, perfect for a stuck ferris. Using corner stage for Charity’s plunge also worked very well. The crew moved various items through black gauze, with the exception of a bright light at the back on a couple of occasions, movement was fairly unobtrusive.
Lesley, on keyboard, kept the orchestra up to pace, the music full of energy transferred to the performers, with both excellent solos and ensemble work. Ali’s choreography, Fosse influenced, was slick and full of vigour – from sleazy ‘Big Spender’, to a well synchronised ‘Frug’. The sound system vastly improved using KDK Sound.
Wardrobe produced seductive body clinging costumes and flower power colour - we certainly needed shades! Contrasting was Ursula’s elegance and Vittorio’s suave appearance. Amusing dirty old man and even a few flasher macs! Amazing hair styles with copious amounts of back combing, suited blond Nickie and dark Helene. Bob's amusing touches, with his characters well cast.
Keren Keeler-Moore brought humour and emotion to the demanding Charity role in both her powerful singing and dancing. Great characters were developed by Paula Najair (Nickie) and Liz Baker (Helene). Don Young was perfectly cast as romeo Vittoria, superbly delivering ‘Too Many Tomorrows’. Chris Eyre gave a well interpreted, heavy breathing, clearly on the edge Oscar, with Colin Adams as Herman and Rob Dyer as poetry in motion Daddy Brubeck. Principals were supported admirably by the ensemble, and what a well behaved Alfie (the dog)!
Thoughtful set design and construction from Brian Grainger, David Horne and Lee Lyons, painting taken on by Hannastina Crick and members of the cast. There was a real feel of a tropical island, using bamboo cane and palm trees. The shower construction was a masterpiece, but I didn’t feel Nellie really washed that man aright out of her hair with such a small amount of foam. The radio control room appeared realistic, with attention to detail. Good props throughout – military equipment, grass skirts, shrunken heads etc.
Costume designer Libby Montagu and her assistants supplied the costumes, all in keeping from officers’ uniforms to attractive playsuits, denims, lais, grass skirts and coconuts! 40’s styling by Frances Horne – even Billis with a crew cut. Nurses however, would not have shown long hair with uniform caps. Good styling and make up for both Tonkinsese Bloody Mary and Liat.
The sound desk disguised in camouflage using the expertise of Steve Allan and Sarah of KDK Sounds, plus general improvement within the hall itself made for better sound with noises off well cued. Gary Crawford set colourful effects, blues and reds giving magical tropical appeal.
Film projection of American troop action during the overture certainly set the action. Talented Avril Crawford had a wonderful musical to direct, drama of a war zone, an unlikely successful love story, a secondary love affair ending sadly, racial undertones, the island magic and of course light hearted comedy moments, with the addition of so many super musical numbers. Alison Campion played the bubbly principal Ensign Nellie Forbush pairing well with Adrian Collins maintaining his very acceptable French accent as the older hero Emile De Becque, giving a very moving ‘Some Enchanted Evening’. Alex Roberts as Lt. Cable sang a perfect rendition of the beautiful lovesong ‘Younger than Springtime’ whilst under the spell of a charming Liat played by Emily Harper. Sun tanned Robert Dyer as Billis came into his own with hip swivelling choreography set by Sherri-Ann Fido. Both Lee Lyons as Commander Harrison and Colin Adams, Brackett suited their uniforms. Movement throughout was fluid and natural and together with rousing chorus numbers, the ensemble supported the principals and minor roles extremely well. Judy Welsh came across with a wonderful cheekiness as Bloody Mary – brilliant laugh, real strength in character and putting over a strong Bali H’ai, with a special mention to younger members of the Welsh family, keeping up the tradition.