‘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!

Review – Treasure Island – University of Lincoln Drama Students

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What a delight seeing the University of Lincoln’s graduating drama students in Treasure Island on Tuesday night…  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the production, thinking that it might only be suitable for children (considering the number of Cub Scouts in the foyer before the show), but I was very pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

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We’ve all heard of the story, but this show really has got lots of its own twists and turns;  the LPAC website explains the story:

One snowy winter’s night a young girl searches through her uncle’s attic and finds a treasure chest…

With a treasure map in her pocket and the ghost of Captain Flint (James Ashfield) never far behind, young Jem Hawkins (Laura Potente) is drawn into a world of swashbuckling excitement, brimming with buccaneers and buried gold as she sets sail to Treasure Island.

Join us on the good-ship Hispaniola this Christmas for an action-packed retelling of the classic pirate adventure told by University of Lincoln’s graduating drama students.

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Walking into the theatre we were transported to the attic room where the big chest was revealed… throughout the performance the set transformed into a pirate ship, the details of which were exceptional, and then to an actual island, and then there was a bit of an ‘Indiana Jones’ theme.  All the sets and staging were so well done I was really impressed by the quality and details and the work that had obviously gone into the production.  I don’t want to give too much away about the finer details, as the element of surprise at each stage added to the overall experience, but all I will say is the show was fast moving, comedic, sometimes beautiful, and definitely great fun.

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The Director, Dominic Symonds, in the programme, writes:

… at times it’s exciting, as the courageous treasure-hunters carry out their quest; at times it’s exhilarating, as the menacing Long John Silver (Jordan Sheil) tries to scupper their plans; and at times it’s downright daft, as we follow the exploits of the bumptious buffoons who fund their voyage into the unknown.  In the end, it’s a story about a youngster’s hopes and dreams, about overcoming challenges and becoming stronger in the process.  That’s something we can all learn from…

There were lots of stand out moments for me; James Ashfield (Captain Flint and the Rock voice) really showed off his ghostly dark side in more ways than one; I definitely jumped a few times at his terrifyingly booming voice and could see the younger children looking a little wary as he made various surprise entrances throughout the show!

Jordan Sheil (Long John Silver) gave an exceptional performance, I’m not sure how his voice is going to last for the whole run, especially with multiple shows daily, but his characterisation of such a nasty character was brilliant.

Laura Potente (Jem Hawkins) and her 3 stage sisters Tabitha Foster (Charlie Hawkins), Holly Marshall (Lotte Hawkins) and Holly Lomas (Fran Hawkins) each had their own characteristics which came across clearly to the audience, I particularly loved the tutu and swan hat!

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Sophie Cole (Mrs Hawkins) showed off her great singing voice with a beautiful solo and Joe Turner (Ben Gunner and Uncle Jim) showed his versatility transforming from the old Uncle, to the Castaway Ben.

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Other cast members all played their parts well and contributed to the whole show, Heidi Green (Hands), Rob Clarke (Morgan), Adam Cockerill (Captain Smollett), Francesca Bolingbroke (Merry), Olivia Calvert (Gray) and Elliot Sargent (O’Brien), who had some of the funniest lines in the show.

But my favourite performances were given by Jason Lodge (Squire Tralawny), supported by his side kick Jordan Leith (Dr Livesey);  their hilarious antics and comedic timing had the audience in fits of laughter on several occasions, and definitely stole the show for me!

 

I can’t review the show without mentioning the brilliant musical score, provided to us by Mark Wilde who is currently the Musical Director for Lincoln Cathedrals 2017 production of Jekyll and Hyde as well as his other commitments which include singing in the Cathedral Choir and many other credits.  We had  a feast of songs and musical numbers which took us from scene to scene and included ‘What’s Within the Chest’, ‘We’ll Follow the Map’, my absolute favourite ‘How I lost me leg’, the most hilarious pirate gospel number you could imagine which had the children and the adults in the audience probably laughing at completely different things!

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‘Ahoy! Ahoy!’, ‘The Proposal’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘X Marks the Spot’, ‘Believe’, ‘Rock’s Riddles’ which the children (and adults) in the audience thoroughly enjoyed as they worked out the riddles as they show progressed. and finally ‘Treasure Island’ which ended the show on a great high (despite the abrupt ending – a little mistake by the sound team I think but all added to the fun!), plus lots of instrumental music for the sword fights which had the children sitting on the edge of their seats with avid interest.

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Those that know me well will understand that I don’t comfortably join in with the traditional ‘audience participation’, and yet the calls for ‘Captain Flint’ throughout the show saw me shouting at the top of my voice to my hearts content along with the rest of the LPAC auditorium, with our endeavours rewarded with the appearances by James Ashfield.  The way the cast embraced and encouraged the audience certainly enhanced the experience for me and I’d encourage anyone who fancies a good giggle and a feast of entertainment during the lead up to Christmas, to get their tickets and go and have a bit of fun!Lincoln University

I wouldn’t be doing the show justice if I didn’t mention those important people that work on shows like this behind the scenes, the Crew.  Firstly the costumes; there was obviously a great team in place to come up with such stunning and authentic (mostly!) designs;  so well done to Helen Symonds, Steve Nash, Regan Bailiss, Gemma Batey, Katie Daw, Oksana Dergachova, Claire Godfrey, Heather Gray, Alexandra Hall, Poppy Howell, Katie Jacques, Lucinda Spurling, Alex Stanley-Ahmed, Hollie Starr, Marine Sztana and Bethany White for all their creative inspiration!

The Producer was Craig Morrow, Director Dominic Symonds, Assistant Director Stacie Cavell and as previously mentioned, Musical Director Mark Wilde.

There was also the Stage Manager, Martin Rousseau, Technicians, Emily Cartwright and Simon Panayi and Lighting Design, Thomas Marcinek. The Fight Choreographer was Andrew Ashenden, Assistant Stage Manager, Dwain Brown and the Production Manager/Designer Michael Hoyle.

 

You’ve still got plenty of opportunity to book tickets and take your family to see this wonderful show; you can click here to book!

Emerald Performances

£15 Full // £10 Child // £6 Schools

Monday 19 December 10am

Tuesday 20 December 10am

Diamond Performances

£15 Full // £10 Child

Saturday 17 December 2pm & 6pm

Sunday 18 December 2pm & 6pm

Monday 19 December 10am

Thursday 22 December 2pm & 7pm

Friday 23 December 7pm

Saturday 24 December 10am & 2pm

(Thanks to Phil Crow and Ashley Walls Photography for the photos included above, and some of my own (taken during the show on Tuesday 13th December, with no flash!).