The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – Louth Playgoers

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My first show of the new season, 11th – 16th September 2017 sees the current Louth Playgoers Production, written by Jim Cartwright, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.  I knew the film fairly well so was interested to see how the Director, Jeremy Smith and the Producer, Jamie Harris translated this story onto the stage and brought to life the funny yet sad story to the stage.

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The play tells the story of a shy, reclusive girl named Little Voice and her larger than life, out of control mother Mari.

Desperately missing her dead father, Little Voice spends her time locked in her bedroom listening to his old record collection and perfecting astonishing impersonations of famous divas including Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield.

When Mari starts dating small-time club agent Ray Say, she thinks he’s her last chance for a better life. When Ray Say hears Little Voice sing, he thinks she’s his ticket to the big time. Little Voice just wants a normal life and to be loved. Not everyone is going to get what they want

I actually can’t believe its 25 years since the film was made with Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn and Jane Horrocks, and was delighted to see that the play had its own particular quirks and nuances that added a brilliant comedic effect; definitely not a copycat version of the film despite still only having 7 cast members.

Helen Crawshaw played ‘Little Voice’ and I was really impressed by her impersonations and her portrayal of shyness in the beginning and her transformation on the stage when she eventually found herself (which brought a tear to my eye); it was really well done.

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Laura Martin, who played ‘Mari Hoff’ was very funny and utterly believable as the drunken, uncaring mother, delivering her lines with clarity and great comedy and her sidekick, Yvonne Bates who played ‘Sadie May’ made a brilliant pair; their MJ disco moves were fab.  I really relished the ‘vacant, vacuum and void’ look of Sadie, what a character.  Her little personal ‘gems’ totally grossed me out if I’m honest (in a good way), but added fabulous detail to an already brilliantly played character.  I’m just glad I wasn’t the one clearing up after her!  Very well done, I can’t say you were born to play that part Yvonne but I bet that was fun.

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Derek Maher obviously had a few fans in the audience on Tuesday evening as he played ‘Ray Say’; I loved the way his character changed from Mari’s lustful lover, to showing empathy and being manipulative in equal measures with Little Voice and then turning completely, by totally humiliating Mari; he moved from one Ray to another with believable ease despite some scenes being a bit uncomfortable to watch.

It was a wonderful performance by Jack Lovett in his third venture into a dramatic role as ‘Billy’ the telephone engineer’s assistant, and love interest of Little Voice.  His ability to show sensitivity and understanding to Little Voice’s concerns and helping her to overcome them came across beautifully.  I loved the way the audience could see his emotions without him having to say a word… a complete change from other roles I’ve seen Jack play previously.

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I loved the way the set was built, and the attention to detail was very clever; I did wonder how the transition to the club scenes were going to happen with the size of the set but it was very well done (the set was Designed by Eric Cahill and Brian Disbrowe)!  I also loved the use of lighting, to highlight the different elements of the stage and set, and the changes between scenes.  It all added a great atmosphere and made the audience feel they were there in the moment, especially in the ‘club’ scenes which were very cleverly thought out and Billy’s ‘lights’ at the end.  Well done also to Gareth Bates who played a delightfully cheesy ‘Mr Boo’; I don’t think I was the only member of the audience who felt that they had gone into the wrong theatre for Act 2; the ‘Phoenix Nights’ vibe was very funny!  It was good to have live musical accompaniment too from Matthew Jeffery  on piano and Stuart Spendlow on Drums (is that really your accent Stuart?).  I must also mention the ‘Phone Man’ Andrew Milsom, he played a dual role the ‘Showbiz Agent’ looking to take ‘Little Voice’ to greater things.

The Director was Jeremy Smith who has been with Louth Playgoers for six years;  the Producer was Jamie Harris, a familiar name at Louth Playgoers, directing, producing, singing, acting and even designing lights in many productions, as well as forming his own theatre company, JAM JAR PRODUCTIONS, who are currently rehearsing for their next production, ‘Confusions’ by Alan Ayckbourn to be performed at the Riverhead Theatre in November.

Well done to the whole cast and crew; a fabulous production that I urge anyone who can make it this week before the end of the run to take the time and book your ticket, you truly won’t be disappointed.  The show runs from 11th to 16th September and tickets can be purchased from Louth Riverhead Theatre Box Office or by visiting Louth Riverhead Theatre, Victoria Road, Louth, LN11 0BX or by Telephone: 01507 600350, prices range from £4 to £8.50.
The Box Office is open for advanced booking every Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.

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Once Upon a Time – Louth Playgoers – 12 August 2017

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The first show I ever went to see at Louth Riverhead Theatre was ‘Musical Memories’ as I’d just started to get to know some of the performers from the Lincoln Cathedral Production of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2015.  I was so overwhelmed with the talent in that particular show that when I saw that there was going to be ‘Once Upon a Time’ featuring songs from our favourite family films I couldn’t resist.

Once upon a Time was Directed by Jamie Harris who has directed several of the shows I’ve enjoyed at the same theatre, and the Musical Director Keith Weston who I also have enjoyed work from.  Frances Brindle and Derek Smith were the Producers and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the production.

Derek Smith was a complete natural as our host for the evening and kept the audience interest as he relayed details about Disney and the other films, and I particularly enjoyed his first number with the children, ‘Heigh-Ho’; what a delight to see Derek getting right in with the kids performing the 1937 Disney Classic from Snow White.  It was wonderful to see the small children enjoying participating around the stage and the theatre.

A few highlights for me include another Derek Smith number, this time performed with his son Toby, where they had great fun with the favourite from the 1967 Disney film, Jungle Book, The Bare Necessities.  Kerry Ward did a great job as Mary Poppins, with her rendition of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious performed with Ruairidh Greig, a perfect crowd pleaser, followed by A Spoonful Of Sugar from Janine Walker, another really lovely performance.

Laura Harris delighted us with Colours Of The Wind from Pocahontas followed immediately by Jamie Harris who sang Alan Menken’s Out There from Hunchback of Notre Dame – he brought an absolutely beautiful song to another level!

A favourite film from my sons childhood was Space Jam in 1996, and Joel Browne, with the cast, uplifted the whole audience in Act 2 with I Believe I Can Fly. Although I enjoyed the whole production, Love Is An Open Door performed by Charlotte Bushell and Jack Lovett was another highlight.  Taken from Disney’s Frozen, 2013 its become a worldwide favourite and both Jack and Charlotte brought a whole lot of fun, comedy and romance to the performance, great characterisation and wonderful musicality.

Finishing the show with a Despicable Me 2 favourite, Happy, Sunny Williamson, Molly Carter & the cast brought the song to life on the stage with the audience really wanting to sing along, with the final performance from the whole cast of When You Wish Upon a Star ending the show with a rapturous applause from the whole audience.

There were quite a few young children in the audience which all seemed to be delighted with the great variety of films and musicals the songs represented, keeping the adults entertained with some of the older favourites.  A couple of older teens sitting near me delighted in singing along to just about every performance which although nice to see, got a little frustrating when they were nearly singing as loud as those on stage!

 

 

 

Details of the show:

ACT ONE

‘Be Our Guest’ (Neil Warne, Vanessa Allison & cast)

‘Heigh-Ho’ (children)

‘I’ve Got No Strings’ (Madeleine Barnes-Browne, Theresa Appleton, Beth Raithby, Poppy Barnes-Browne)

‘Cruella De Vil’ (Ed Mapletoft)

‘The Bare Necessities’ (Derek Smith and Toby Smith)

‘Supercali’ (Kerry Ward, Ruairidh Greig & cast)

‘Spoonful Of Sugar’ (Janine Walker)

‘Feed The Birds’ (Janet West & cast)

‘Somewhere Out There’ (Melissa Jenney, Ian Cahill & cast)

‘Part Of Your World’ (Katie Graham)

‘Beauty And The Beast’ (Helen Riley)

‘Friend Like Me’ (Neil le Sueur & tappers)

‘Love Survives’ (Natasha Connor)

‘I Stand Alone’ (James Burgess)

‘They Live In You’ (Helen Riley, dancers & cast)

‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ (Charlotte Bushell & Ben Browne)

‘Circle Of Life’ (Chris Driffield & cast)

ACT TWO

‘Mine, Mine, Mine’ (Derek Smith, James Burgess & cast)

‘Colours Of The Wind’ (Laura Harris)

‘Out There’ (Jamie Harris)

‘I Believe I Can Fly’ (Joel Browne & cast)

‘Rumour In St Petersburg’ (cast)

‘When You Believe’ (Katie Graham & Evangeline Dodds)

‘I’m A Believer’ (Michelle Scott & cast)

‘What If?’ (Erin Ramsay)

‘Holding Out For A Hero’ (Sarah Hagerup & cast)

‘Happy Little Working Song’ (Natasha Connor)

‘Mother Knows Best’ (Kim Burchall)

‘In Summer’ (James Burgess)

‘Love Is An Open Door’ (Charlotte Bushell & Jack Lovett)

‘Let It Go’ (Evangeline Dodds)

‘Happy’ (Sunny Williamson, Molly Carter & cast)

‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ (cast)

 

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Director – Jamie Harris

Producers – Frances Brindle & Derek Smith

Stage Manager – Bob Booth

Sound Design – Brooke Vickers

Sound Operator – Ash Hagyard

Musical Director – Keith Weston

Choreography – Frances Brindle & Jamie Harris

Lighting Design – Jamie Harris

Lighting Operator – Peter Hall

Follow Spot Operators – Martyn Underdown & McKenna Smith

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – Louth Playgoers Summer Workshop – 3rd-5th August 2017

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Having seen and reviewed the CAODS production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels back in November 2016, in fact it was my very first show review on this blog, I couldn’t wait to see what Louth Playgoers Youth Theatre would do with the production, especially since it was the outcome of the Youth Theatre and a very limited rehearsal time of a couple of weeks in the school holidays.

Louth Playgoers Says about the show:

“Directed by John Hewer and Musically Directed by Chris Peters once more our talented young people take to the stage for their annual summer workshop production.
This year they have chosen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – the Musical as their challenge for 2017. Almost two weeks of hard work culminates in three impressive performances of this popular musical.
Synopsis: Two con men, a beautiful woman and the elite of the French Riviera collide in this sexy and irreverent farce.
Based on the popular 1988 MGM film, this hysterical comedy features a delightfully jazzy score by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and was nominated for a staggering 11 Tony Awards”

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The young people did brilliantly well and I was not disappointed for one moment.  The main roles of Lawrence Jameson and Freddy Benson were played by Ed Mapletoft and Jack Lovett; the way they both played their opposite characters worked really well together.  Ed brought the classy, suave sophistication with what looked like with incredible ease whilst Jack produced some hysterically brash, loud and overstated comedy.  A brilliant portrayal by both, especially as Lawrence was trying to teach Freddy how to win women, having his work cut out as Freddy was usually only in it to make a quick few bucks.  Jack as Freddy and especially Ruprect was the highlight of my evening; having seen the previous CAODS production, to be honest I wasn’t sure how he was going to match up, but he absolutely did; every element of Jacks performance was outstanding.

I also wanted to mention Beth Adams who played Murial Eubanks, and Matthew Claypole who played Andre (with a brilliant French accent!).  They both played great parts, and the little cameo by Joel Coward (who also played the Hotel Manager and the Policeman) was pure genius – never before have I experienced such a random way of keeping the audience amused during scene changes!

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Well done to the whole ensemble and the other cast members, you all did brilliantly, remembering all the words, dance moves and keeping the audience very well entertained.  I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of you in future LPG productions!

It was great to see and hear a live band which were a lovely addition to the show; Musical Director and Keys 1 – Christopher Peters, Key 2 and Violin – Amy Baker, Reeds – Mike Wood, Trumpet – Andrew Taylor, Trombone – Mark Tong, Bass Guitar – Chris Smith, Percussion and Drums – Stuart Spendlow.

The Director was John Hewer and Choreographer was Rebecca Miles.  Sound Design – Christopher Peters, Lighting Design and Operator – Jamie Harris, Sound Operator – John Hewer and Chloe Jackson, Follow-Spot Operators – Robbie and Holly Mapletoft, Set Design – Jean Bradshaw and Malvina Willis, Costumes – Fern Garland, Christine Cliffe and Barbara Vickers.

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Cast (in alphabetical order)

Beth Adams – Muriel Eubanks

George Adams – Bellboy, Sailor & Ensemble

Emilia Berriman – Woman (solo) & Ensemble

Charlotte Bushell – Jolene Oakes

Matthew Claypole – Andre

Jade Fraser – Maid & Ensemble

Joel Howard – Hotel Manager, Policeman & Ensemble

Jemima Jefferies – Woman (solo), Violinist & Ensemble

Carrie-Ann Leahy – Conductor, Nun & Ensemble

Saskia Lewis – Desk Clerk, Dancer & Ensemble

Jack Lovett – Freddy Benson

George Maher – Porter, Sailor & Ensemble

Ed Mapletoft – Lawrence Jameson

William Mapletoft – Bellboy, Sailor & Ensemble

Beth Raithby – Renee & Ensemble

Erin Ramsay – Sophia, Nun & Ensemble

Lydia Reeves – Lenore, Nun & Ensemble

Erica Slonskyj – Christine Colgate

Jade Smith – Usherette & Ensemble

Mollie Tunnicliffe – Waitress, Croupier & Ensemble

 

Well done to everyone – congratulations!

Rehearsal Photographs courtesy of Andy Evans (and Facebook!)

 

‘Out of the Hat’ – CAODS Lincolnshire Tour

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For the first time, CAODS – The County Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society of Lincolnshire took the decision to put this variety show together and take it on tour at several venues throughout Lincolnshire over the next few months.  I have seen 2 CAODS shows in the past, the NODA Best Musical Award ‘Sister Act’ in 2015, and the critically acclaimed ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ in 2016.  Both were brilliant shows and so I was really looking forward to what they would bring to a much smaller production in a variety format.

The opening night of the tour was in the Neverland Theatre, Skegness; an intimate, 100 seat theatre in the heart of the town.

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CAODS said about the show:

Join CAODS during their 2017 tour of Lincolnshire. This award-winning company are ready to entice you with a magical evening of song, dance and laughter. A variety show like no other with a magical twist supplied by the talents of the amazing Brian Hellyer.

The show features music from some of the most popular musicals (both modern and traditional) ever staged, together with mesmerising dance routines and comedy sketches, all ages are sure to find ‘Out of the Hat’ delightfully entertaining. With a wave of a magic wand, we will bring the world of musical theatre to life before your very eyes; you just won’t believe what we can pull out of the hat!

Unfortunately, Act One got off to a poor start when a number of unforeseen technical issues detracted from some of the opening acts.  Happily, once those issues were overcome, and the cast settled down into their performances I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

I know a lot of the cast from working with them in previous productions, and for some, this was their very first time performing solo, either singing or taking part in a comedy sketch.  I was delighted to see them out of their comfort zone and the audience applause for the songs and sketches showed how well they’d done!  Congratulations!

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The 2 Highlights for me both included the fabulous Dawn Wilson (Guest reviewer on this blog for the recent Made in Dagenham);  having never seen her in full solo character mode previously, her comedy timing was absolutely perfect and had the audience in raptures, the first sketch was split into a couple of sections, and we couldn’t wait to see what would happen next, performing with Emma Bowler and Pete Hawbrook; it was brilliant!  She was then joined by CAODS Chairman Andrew Wydrzynski for a fabulous comic duet from ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ I was blown away by the chemistry and fun they seemed to be having on stage, which carried across into other ensemble performances throughout the evening!

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Dawn Wilson
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Andrew Wydrzynski

There were also some great solos and duets, my favourites were performed by Heather Wydrzynska, Rachel Pick, Kellie Loughlin and Vicky Turzanski.

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Rachel Pick

Very well done to all the cast and crew for a great evening of comedy and entertainment, and well done to Director Heather Wydrzynska, Co-Director and Choreographer Rachel Pick, Rehearsal Repetiteur Jonathan Jarvis and Magician Brian Hellyer.  I liked the ‘hat theme’ which ran throughout the show, it linked the magic sections very well.  It was a shame about the technical issues and as with all variety shows, I enjoyed some acts more than others but I wish you every success for the rest of your Lincolnshire tour.  I look forward to coming again when you perform at the New Theatre Royal in Lincoln in October.

The show can be seen at the following venues:

The Lion Theatre, Horncastle – Saturday 22nd July, 7.30pm
1 Bull Ring, Horncastle. LN9 5HT
The Corn Exchange, Bourne – Saturday 30th September, 7:30pm
3 Abbey Road, Bourne. PE10 9EF
New Theatre Royal, Lincoln – Thursday 19th and Friday 20th October, 7:30pm
Clasketgate, Lincoln. LN2 1JJ

You can buy your tickets using the following information:

THE LION THEATRE, HORNCASTLE – 22nd JULY 7:30pm

Tickets: £8.00 regular / £7.00 concession

Available: –

  • on the door
  • through the Box Office (Horncastle Music Shop) 01507 526 566

(No online booking facility available at this venue).


THE CORN EXCHANGE, BOURNE – 30th SEPT 7:30pm

Tickets: £11.50 regular / £10.00 concession

Available: –

  • on the door
  • Bourne Library (during opening hours)
  • through the Box Office (Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham) 01476 406 158
  • online at www.guildhallartscentre.com

NEW THEATRE ROYAL, LINCOLN – 19th & 20th OCT 7:30pm

Tickets: £12.50 regular / £10.50 concession / £40.00 family ticket

Available: –

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Some of the team preparing back stage
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Emma Bowler and Geoff Middleton

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Thanks to Lester McCone and Dawn Wilson for photographs

‘Live in Five’ – Louth Playgoers

 

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Louth Playgoers described the show:

The winner of our 2016 Scratch Night, “Live in Five” written by Beth Raithby follows the hilarious SLWK News Team. Sex. Booze. Moles with socks and rogue panthers. It’s all in a day’s work. But with the Station Manager on her way and the team at loggerheads, anything could happen!
Tickets £7
Booking info: www.louthplaygoers.com or Box Office is open Mon -Sat 10am-1pm 01507 600350

Email: admin@louthplaygoers.co.uk

Phone: 01507 600350

Website: www.louthplaygoers.com

It was a pretty fast paces comedy, in which a series of very different characters, all of which were played brilliantly, all came together in the stressful environment of a back stage newsroom; directed by John Hewer, assisted by writer Beth Raithby.

There were only 8 roles, and every one of them was portrayed very well.  I loved all the characters in different ways so I’m not going to pick any of them out in particular (see the cast list and their roles below), but for them all to remember the vast amount of lines was remarkable!  Each one of them had a different persona, which regularly clashed, as you would imagine when stresses run high.  If you don’t appreciate regular use of profanities, it’s possibly not the show for you; but in my opinion the bad language was appropriate in the context of the show and not overused or deliberately offensive in any way and often added to the hilarity of the scene.

The set was very simple but effective, and I liked the use of the clock and calendar which gave the audience a sense of the lapsed time.  Even the set changes, although done in full view of the audience, despite the lowered lights, did not detract from the performance.

I applaud the whole cast for their obvious hard work in pulling together a play like this that left each cast member no room for error.  With the amount of laughter coming from the theatre – and there was a lot of it – the rest of the audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed it too.

So well done everyone – if you haven’t got tickets to see this brilliantly funny play, you have tonight and tomorrow to take advantage of the few tickets there are remaining!

Esme Blake – Station Executive – Efficient; Acerbic; Exacting – Holly Mapletoft

William Calloway – News Presenter – Charming; Charming; Even-More-Charming – James Burgess

Matt Booker – News Presenter – Brash; Belligerent; Boozer – Derek Maher

Jessica Fletcher – Floor Manager – Pragmatic; Unfazed; Focused – Kim Birchall

Heather Wilson – Weather Reporter – Commanding; Cynical; Seductive – Erica Slonskyj

Daniel Jones – Off-Site Reporter – Caring; Foolish; Absent-Minded – Daniel Wakefield

Maisie Hawthorn – Autocue Operator – Naive; Ditsy; Innocent – Lydia Reeves

Colin – Matt’s Mate – Confused; Gullible; Broke – Darren Melton

 

Thanks also to all the technical and stage crew:

Sound Design – Christoper Peters, Assistant Director – Beth Raithby, Technical Advisor – Daniel Wakefield, Lighting Operator – Bryony Plaskitt, Sound Operator – Joel Howard, Set Design – John Hewer, Bob Booth, Eric Cahill, Props – Ashley Stevens & Hambledon Productions, Costume – Hambledon Productions & Cast

 

Booking info: www.louthplaygoers.com or Box Office is open Mon -Sat 10am-1pm 01507 600350

Email: admin@louthplaygoers.co.uk

Phone: 01507 600350

Website: www.louthplaygoers.com

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‘Wizard of Oz’ – LAODS – Guest Review – Jordan Leith

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Thank you Jordan for writing and allowing me to share your review.  Having stayed in Kansas for the last 3 weeks, I’m totally disappointed not to have been back to see this show, but thankfully I at least have a glimpse into the fun that this show brought.

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After seeing LAODS (Lincoln Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society) bring Spamalot to the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre last year, I was optimistic for this year’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and was not disappointed. The company brought the land of Oz to life fantastically, paying tribute to the classic well-loved story, whilst also making the performance relative for a modern-day audience.

The show opens in weary Kansas and Dorothy Gale (Natalie Rowe) sings a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, the song which traditionally paints the picture of Dorothy as a country girl from the ranch with her head in the clouds, constantly dreaming of better but never doing anything about it. However, Natalie Rowe’s performance developed Dorothy beyond just a damsel in distress, creating more interesting character development and a worthy moral at the show’s conclusion. The director also chose to add a subtle reference to “friends of Dorothy” which was both amusing and a pleasing nod to the legacy of the performance within the gay community.

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After creating a thrilling storm, Dorothy, her house, and her dog, Toto (Daisy), are transported to the colourful land of Oz, turning the stage into a vivid contrast from Kansas. The sudden madcap world of Oz, with munchkins, witches, and talking trees, was portrayed with the wicked sense of humour I have come to expect from LAODS. An outstanding display of comic delivery came from the Scarecrow (Jim Burrows) who brought instant delight with his clumsy tumbling around the stage. Another highlight was the Lion (Andy Morris), charming the audience at every possible moment, and stealing the stage as the dandy lion in every song. Together with the Tinman (Jamie Chatterton), the four leads had an excellent rapport and the friendships felt very real. Every scene between them kept a quick pace and the dialogue and humour between them flowed effortlessly.

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A mention must also be given to Sian-Elizabeth Rees for her portrayal of the wicked witch, a villain we love to hate. She made a menacing foe for the heroes whilst also having a sharp wit, which made her presence missed whilst off-stage. Accompanying her performance was an impressive amount of pyrotechnics to create a stunning supernatural villain. There were various technical elements that brought the show together and although there were a couple of wobbles likely due to the complexity and this being the opening performance of the run, they were all covered smoothly and didn’t take anything away from the show.

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There was also an opportunity for younger children (and big kids) to get photos with the characters after the show to make for a memorable experience. Ultimately it is excellent to see an amateur dramatic group putting on a musical and demonstrating the time and effort of creating a fun-filled show purely because they enjoy it. The enjoyment shines through the performance and altogether, the intricate costumes, the colourful set design, and witty performances created a delightful feel-good show, leaving everyone beaming and skipping home via the yellow brick road.

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The show is on at the LPAC until Saturday 17th of June. Tickets can be bought online by clicking here or at the box office along with the official programme

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‘Made in Dagenham’ – Lincoln College Performing Arts Students  – Guest Review – Dawn Wilson

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Thank you Dawn for taking the time to write a review for this show – it’s definitely one I would have made an effort to get to see so thank you!

Matinee 9th June 2017

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Having a day off meant that I was able to attend the matinee of ‘Made in Dagenham‘ performed by the 2nd year Performing Arts students of Lincoln College.  I have seen this show before when it was performed by a youth group in Spalding, Lincolnshire, and was excited to see how a slightly older cast would handle it.

A very brief synopsis of the show is that it is based on the true story of the female workers at the Dagenham ford plant who find that their jobs are to be downgraded to “unskilled” and later find that they are paid less than their male  counterparts for the same job.

Set in 1968, it tells the story of Rita O’Grady who finds a strength she didn’t know she had, to lead the women in the fight against the might of Ford; but would it come at the expense of her home life, in particular her relationship with her husband Eddie?

From the opening number, ‘busy woman’ we see the domestic Rita, holding her family together, before heading off to work.  That first number set the bar very high for the rest of the show; Rita’s voice sang out and when joined on stage by the rest of the women, the harmonies were perfect – and indeed remained perfect throughout. This is surely testament to the work of the musical directors Lisa Cowley and Lee Harvey and indicative of the hard work that the students had obviously put in. Having been in, and seen lots of shows, I fully appreciate that when the adrenaline of performance kicks in, it is sometimes at the expense of the harmonies – certainly not a problem with this talented cast!

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I am not sure if there was an issue with some of the mikes, but some of the dialogue did get lost in places and the band, whilst note perfect, were a little loud.

The musical numbers in the show ranged from the rousing ‘Made in Dagenham’ and ‘Everybody Out‘ to the tender ‘I’m sorry I love you‘ and ‘The Letter‘ to the wonderful ‘America’ complete with cheerleaders and Marilyn Monroe , an almost Donald-Trump-like ode to the UK!

The struggle that Rita faced as her battle took her to Westminster is surely faced by every single working mum up and down the country; Rita missed her son’s music concert and battled with the guilt. Rita was played beautifully by Rebekah Bowen, strong, feisty and funny, yet vulnerable and insecure.

Joel Gibson who played Eddie O’Grady, Rita’s husband, had just the right mix of being “one of the lads” to baring his soul in the tender song ‘The Letter‘, and he also played out the struggle between wanting to support his wife, wanting his home life to be perfect and trying to stand up to the same factory lads who struck out at him for not “controlling his wife” when they were laid off; another complex role handled really well.

The factory girls Sandra, Beryl, Claire and Connie were brought to life with  humour and some rather fruity language.

Other great performances included Natalie Rowe as the steely Barbara Castle. Natalie must be one of the busiest actors  in Lincoln at the moment as she opens as Dorothy in LAODS ‘Wizard of Oz‘ next week at the LPAC, juggling such different roles is testament to the talent that this young lady possesses.

For me the line of the show belongs to Harold Wilson, when asked if he had ever seen a she lion bring down a wildebeest his response “I’m from Huddersfield” showed a real comic timing from Barrie Howard, however for me personally the portrayal of the gruff northern prime minister was a little too camp.

The set was simple but effective, but some of the scene changes, whilst done efficiently by the backstage crew could probably have been made slicker by the use of trucks, but no doubt budget constraints (the bane of most productions) prevented this.

This production, the choreography, the music, the lighting , the use of the entire stage,  the casting , its entirety, was just wonderful from the opening note to the final note.  It was a shame that they didn’t perform to a larger audience, but whilst we may have been small in numbers we were huge in our appreciation.

Well done Lincoln College, it was a privilege to see this production, and it goes to show that Lincoln really does have talent in bucketloads. Former students of this course have gone onto drama schools and indeed Michael Dyer won the prestigious Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship to study at the Laine Theatre School so we really are seeing the future stars of stage and screen right here.

I would also like to add that I thought that the direction of the show was spot on. This show has focuses on very adult themes; the struggle to juggle relationships and work being just one, and the director Jenni Bagnall has done a wonderful job coaxing some incredible performances from  young performers – I was able to forget that I was watching a “college” show and just enjoy it for what is was, great theatre.

To know that Jenni not only directed but also choreographed this show is incredible, two very demanding roles. The choreography was just right for this show, at no point did the stage feel “crowded” and the cast seemed to be enjoying every single second, again a testament to the hard work that has gone in. I was looking around the various performers and could not see even one who seemed to be concentrating on the steps at the expense of performance.

I must also give credit to the tech team, the lighting was subtle and effective, even when using the extremities of the stage, thanks to Andy Whitehouse & the LPAC Tech Team!

To  have put so much work into this production for just three “performances” seems a real shame, but as I said earlier, I loved this show and would have no hesitation in recommending future productions of this creative team, they clearly instil a professionalism in their cast which is to be applauded.

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Thanks to Dawn Wilson for this fabulous review, and well done to all the cast and crew!