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

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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!

‘Fun Home’ – Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts

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For my second show review during my visit to the USA and Canada this time I’m in Kansas and had the privilege to visit the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts and see the award winning musical, Fun Home.  The musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir and is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.  I’d only read a few snippets about the story and hadn’t heard of it before, but had been advised to buy tickets as it has been a very popular show on Broadway and now on tour.

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One of the things that struck me about this show was how different it was from anything I’d ever seen before.  It’s absolutely not your typical ‘happy clappy’ fun and happy ending kind of a musical – we had moments of laughter but moments of shock and extreme sadness…  we saw into the lives of an American family, torn apart by a dictatorial, controlling father, who is owner of a funeral parlour (nick named Fun Home) and an English Teacher, who loved books.

 

It was really interesting to see Bruce, Alison’s father’s life, open up in layers, over the years, whilst ‘Alison’ watched on as her adult self, reminiscing about her childhood and the happy times she had with her father.  We saw Alison ‘grow’ physically, with her role being played by small, medium and adult Alison; and growing in both learning about herself and in looking back, reflecting on choices she’d made, discussions she had, and wondering ‘what if’.  We saw her coming to a sense of self realisation and in sharing those intimate moments with the audience gave us very special and brilliantly portrayed scenes using both word and movements.

It was both thought provoking and a beautiful insight into family life and all the good and bad that comes from an uncomfortable level of dysfunction all brought together with clever, witty dialogue, using repetitive, rhythmic poetry and song, with the inclusion of some lyrics in a kind of semi-spoken verse.

I loved the music; the live band at the back of the stage were discrete, yet wonderfully powerful at times; the lyrics and movement of both characters and stage set were very cleverly composed and carried out.  I loved the use of the walls, furniture and intelligent lighting; it all set the mood perfectly, especially in some of the more poignant scenes.

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I can completely understand how this musical has won so many awards; the vocal score was brilliant and there was a couple of absolute stand out moments for me through the show.  “Come to the Fun Home” – John, Christian & Small Alison, the ‘siblings’, played by Henry Boshart, Luke Barbato Smith and Carly Gold were fantastic, the dancing the vocals and the choreography – they pulled it off with magnificence – well done!!

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What a way to end a show – very atypical of musical theatre, we ended with “Flying Away (Finale)” – Alison, Medium Alison & Small Alison.  A triumph of a trio, their voices blended in fabulous harmony, they sang with heartfelt emotion and I was physically moved.  Congratulations Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan and Carly Gold, you were a sensation!

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If you get the opportunity to see this show while it’s on tour, I would highly recommend it, tickets are available from now until December 2017 in various US States with additional tour dates to be announced soon.

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‘Beatsville – The Beatnik Musical’ – Asolo Repertory Theatre – Sarasota, Florida

It’s not often I get home from the theatre and want to sit up half the night writing the review but last night was one of those occasions…  Working in Sarasota, Florida for a short while, I had a look at what shows were playing locally and came across this one at the Asolo Repertory Theatre.  Written by Glenn Slater and Wendy Leigh Wilf, and based on the 1959 Roger Corman film A Bucket of BloodOne of Slater’s first works with Alan Menken was writing the lyrics for the stage production Sister Act the Musical (2006).

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The Mertz Theatre is described on the Asolo website as ‘An elegant 500-seat facility originally built in 1903 as an opera house in Dunfermline, Scotland.’ So the links to the UK and it also being the first state theatre of Florida were enough for me to have a closer look.  The book was by Glenn Slater and music and lyrics by Wendy Leigh Wilf

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So what is ‘Beatsville’ – I couldn’t say it any better than the Asolo Theatre themselves so…

Dig this. One of the most highly anticipated new musicals from one of the hottest writing teams on the planet, Beatsville has its world premiere at Asolo Rep. It’s Greenwich Village, 1959 – the world of subterranean coffee shops, goateed artists, turtle-necked poets, and bongo-playing jazzbos. Tragically square busboy Walter Paisley wants nothing more than to be one of the beatniks, but he has no artistic talent whatsoever. When he accidentally kills a cat and hides it in a lump of clay, “Dead Cat” is declared a masterpiece, and Walter a genius. More “sculptures” bring more acclaim – but will the world discover Walter’s secret? From the writers of Galavant, School of Rock and Tangled comes this hip and hilarious new musical, hang onto your berets – we’re headed to Beatsville!

The whole premise of the show is about fitting in, about understanding what is real and what is fake, both materialistically and in people – a wonderfully heady, entrancing mix of upbeat music and dance, a lot of American Jazz from the fabulous live band, who took their turn on stage from time to time.

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From the moment I walked into the theatre and found my seat I was entranced…  The set was truly spectacular and as the show got underway outside the ‘Yellow Door Cafe’ with ‘Natasha’ played by the brilliant vocalist Cayman Ilika  and ‘The Claude’s’, hilariously played by Charlie Johnson and Connor Russell, we were in for quite a few more set surprises.  The design was ingenious; spinning, alleyways, doors, panels, sometimes colourful and other times just plain grimy, we had it all and the overall effect was sheer brilliance!  Natasha and Claude’s 1 and 2 took us through the whole show, with their musical narration and beautiful movements and physical shapes – the casting was perfect!

I won’t go into the story any more than I have above with the summary as if you get chance to go and see this show you truly won’t be disappointed.  We moved from extremely fast paced dance and vocals, to static shapes by the main cast and the ‘Beatniks’, in typical mannequin challenge style, ensuring the audience focused on the action intended.  The lighting added its own drama as particular events led to their own special effects – the audience came to recognise these as the show went on and could pre-empt what would happen next – all adding to the comedic effect and overall hilarity.

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Max Crumm was a perfect ‘Walter Paisley’ – the geeky outsider who just wanted to fit in… his sidekick was the wonderful Lauren Marcus playing ‘Carla’, the girl geek who had the same ambition worked brilliantly together.  Their vocal duets and chemistry on stage was great to see and hear, and enabled the audience to get swept away with the story…

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Another favourite character was the wonderful ‘Alice’ played by Billie Wildrick.  I have to say she was sensational – her vocals, dance and acting brought the character to life in every scene she was in.  Sheer brilliance!

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I don’t know a time when I laughed so much at the theatre before, and I was not alone, the whole audience joined in with many laugh out loud moments, and ‘Mrs Zwicker’ played by Ann Morrison looking for her ‘Frankie’ (the star of the show) was something special!

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If you do get the opportunity to visit this show, I cannot recommend it enough, the music, dance, brilliant choreography and direction and the story, which kept me guessing right up until the end.

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Theatre Magic!

 

The whole cast were marvellous so wanted to ensure they were all given a mention…

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Photo’s from Asolo Repertory Theatre Web site and photographer – thank you

Get tickets here until May 27th 2017

‘Oliver’ – Newark Amateur Operatic Society (NAOS)

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Saturday 1st April was the final performance of ‘Oliver’ by Newark Amateur Operatic Society (NAOS) at the Palace Theatre, Newark.   It’s my first visit to this theatre and I was really impressed, not only with the facilities and the seating, but the staff, bar, refreshments and general organisation.  I’m fairly familiar with the film ‘Oliver’ as I’m sure many of you are, but I’ve never actually seen the stage show until now; the music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart was produced for the Broadway stage by David Merrick and Donald Albery.  Both the film and the stage show were based on the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens and it was great to be reminded again of the story and the well loved songs!

The first thing that impressed me from the start was the wonderful stage, although fairly simple in look, it was very effective;  it was set Victorian London with a backdrop depicting St Paul’s Cathedral and the London skyline, it really set the scene, with stairways and a gallery that were all used in various scenes in different ways.

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Things got off to a great start with the ‘Workhouse Boys’ lining up in the dining hall… and ‘Food Glorious Food’. The young lads did really well, their enthusiasm and energy was inspiring, despite being the last show of the run!

Although the whole show was very enjoyable, there were a few stand-out performances that I want to call out…

First, ‘The Artful Dodger’; although there were 2 principles for the junior roles, in our performance it was played by Cody Harrison.  My programme tells me that this was Cody’s first performance with NAOS, although he has appeared at the Palace Theatre previously with AJ Dancing School.  Cody really brought the character to life for me, the brilliant cockney accent, the singing (especially ‘Consider Yourself’ and ‘I’d Do Anything’ with ‘Nancy‘), the movement, the dance and the comedic timing were all brilliant, I am keeping a note of this young man’s name as I’m sure I will see it again sometime!

Another special mention must also go to ‘Nancy’, played brilliantly by Jo Dewberry aka Show Jo.  Her portrayal of what appeared to be a loving, caring motherly figure, but was really a strong, powerful heroine, was exceptional, coupled with her beautiful vocal renditions and heartfelt solo’s, definitely moving not just for me, but the audience as a whole, well done Jo!

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It would be remiss of me not to mention some of my ‘Superstar‘ buddies…several cast members were part of the Jesus Christ Superstar production in Lincoln Cathedral in 2015 and/or 2016 including;  Pete Merrick (Pilate 2015 and 2016) who played a gorgeously cuddly ‘Mr Bumble’, complete with whiskers and rotund tummy, delighted the audience with his wonderful love tryst with ‘Widow Corney’ played by Kate Fenn – their beautiful banter and harmonious duets, and solos, were a complete delight!  Lyndon Warnsby (Herod 2016) played ‘Bill Sykes’, a nasty piece of work who got plenty of ‘boos’ at the end of the show;  his companion, ‘Bullseye’, played by Ollie the English Bull Terrier, just added to the brutal image perfectly!  ‘Mr Brownlow‘, the saviour of the day, was played by Barry Thompson (Tom the Shepherd 2015, Slave Trader 2016); it was lovely to see him realising Oliver was family and he could offer him a home… Last but not least Helen Robinson (Juliette 2015) was part of the chorus in this, her ninth production with NAOS.  We’ll watch out for Helen again as she takes part in Annie in May with Worksop Light Operatic Society (WLOS) and a showcase later in the year with CATS (Charity Amateur Theatre Society) with various other roles coming up during 2017 and 2018!

Our ‘Oliver’ was played by Sam Barnard, he was a delight to watch on stage, and once he found his feet, his rendition of ‘Where is Love’ was really lovely… his numbers with Cody, Jo, Justin Day who played Fagin and the rest of the boys were also great to watch, and we have to thank Natasha Logan for the brilliant choreography.

It was great to be reminded of lots of old musical favourites, ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘I’d Do Anything’,  ‘Pick a Pocket or Two’, ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’ and of course ‘Food Glorious Food’.  The orchestra, led by Musical Director Andy Raine,  did a fabulous job – along with all the musicians, soloists and chorus, the harmonies were gorgeous.

I’d like to thank the rest of the cast as a whole, I’m sorry I can’t mention you all, for the wonderful performances and to Mike Follen, the Director for bringing it all together.  I thoroughly enjoyed the show!  Thanks also to the Creative and Production Teams, the stage, lighting and costumes were all superb, a great job!

Lastly, thanks to those that were involved in putting together the programme.  I buy one for every show I watch; I not only like to read about the show after I’ve watched, but I like to read about the characters, the show, and other interesting facts.  I have to say that the programme for this production of ‘Oliver’ is probably one of the best in content, and certainly best value for money of all the programmes I’ve bought in recent times.  I’m sure there were many people involved in its production, but well done Ben Atkinson at Tall Lime, (who also played ‘Dr Grimwig’) for the Design and Production.

Well done NAOS; Rent was the very first show I reviewed when I started this blog, and Oliver certainly won’t be the last!

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Review -‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ – The Lincoln Company, Louth Playgoers

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Having read previously that this show was about a group of people taking part in amateur dramatics I was very interested to see exactly how a play could be made with this subject.  I have to admit, when the curtain went back and my husband and I were introduced to the whole company, in ‘cheap low quality’ and ‘amateurish’ looking costumes, performing a ‘very interesting’ song and dance routine, I really did wonder what we’d let ourselves in for, especially as I’d got such high hopes for cast members I’d worked with previously!

It soon became apparent that the cast had become very adept at getting across the ‘amateur’ vibe; I knew exactly what they were capable of and it certainly wasn’t amateurish!

In summary, the story follows a young, seemingly shy and placid, widower, Guy Jones (played by Mark McCredie) as he attempts to join Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society (PALOS). After a very amusing audition, he gradually rises through the company ranks, mainly by his inability to say no to anybody or anything, and through what other people in the cast read into him!  The company then attempt to put on The Beggar’s Opera, and Guy becomes the male lead, while simultaneously conducting various liaisons with several of the female cast. Many of the scenes and songs from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera are kept within the play, usually being sung with their own, new context.

The play was Directed by Rebecca Mann who says in the programme:

“I was particularly interested in working on Ayckbourn’s play because of the absolute recognisability of these characters found in village halls across the country taking part in amateur dramatics.  I think that every theatre enthusiast and amateur thespian will see someone they’ve met – perhaps even a reflection of themselves!”

I totally agree with Rebecca.  Having only been involved in amateur theatre for the past 2 years, I could see a remarkable resemblance to some of the cast and crew that I have worked with in that time…  We laughed incessantly, as did another particular audience member, very loudly, at many stages throughout the show. It was especially amusing while the cast seemingly took weeks to get through the first 2 pages of the script, going over and over the same sections time and time again, and changing direction and lead roles at every rehearsal, with half the cast sitting out until they were needed;  all of which were hilariously brought to life by each and every cast member!

Rebecca also says:

“We had fun finding the quality of the performances inside ‘The Beggar’s Opera’.  Gay’s characters already give plenty of room for exaggeration –  adding on Ayckbourn’s characterisation only allows for more eccentricities!”

The whole cast certainly went to town with their exaggeration and obviously had a blast rehearsing and performing in this show.  Each character had their own unique idiosyncracies which were accentuated to highlight their individual traits and quirks. The energy, enthusiasm and skill with which each character was portrayed made it simple for the audience to completely relate; understanding who they were, and some insight into the background of their particular individual role.

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All the cast did extremely well but I particularly enjoyed the performance by Mark McCredie, playing Guy Jones.  Mark graduated from the University of Lincoln with a First Class BA (Hons) Drama degree.  Mark played ‘Judas‘ in the 2015 production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in Lincoln Cathedral, and his interest is now primarily in physical and musical theatre.  His interpretation of the quiet, subdued young widower Guy, barely opening his mouth, transforming into Crook-Finger’d Jack (hilarious what you did with your digitus secundus!), Matt of the Mint and then finally Macheath, the star of the show…  his voice as well as his characterisation also transformed, as his character grew in confidence, and he delighted the audience as he fluently performed his auditions and ballads – typical of opera’s of their time; (the Beggar’s opera being the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today).

Tom Hallmark played Daffyd ap Llewellyn, Director of ‘PALOS’; he’s a first year drama student at Lincoln University and loves comedy, particularly classic sitcoms.  Tom showed several sides to his character, the firm and often harsh director, friend, absent husband and performer (his rendition of the beautiful Welsh song ‘All through the night’ or ‘Ar Hyd y Noswill be one of my most remembered from the show!  Wouldn’t it be hilarious if all auditions could be like this!  I really enjoyed Tom’s portrayal of Daffyd, and the contradictions in how he behaved as a man v director… showing how typically directors hold all the power and control but like all power it can be abused.

We saw corruption, swinging, cheating, politics and sexual tension…  the show had it all, and Hannah Llewellyn, wife of the director, Daffyd, played by Sophie Cole really had it all; her declaration of undying love for Guy, although gloriously portrayed, wasn’t reciprocated.  She captured the attention of the audience several times throughout the show with her beautiful solo soprano melodies! I saw Sophie and several other cast members perform recently in the Lincoln University production of ‘Treasure Island’.

The cast also included Laura Potente playing Bridget Baines, an aggressive, angry character, but one fuelled with tension and a love for creating havoc with a keen eye for the men, usually someone else’s!

Mr Ames, (the fabulous pianist) was played by Ed Wellman, Enid Washbrook by Jess Bark, Rebecca Huntley-Pike by Lauren Simpson, Fay Hubbard (the not so subtle swinger fighting over the pants was very amusing!)!) played by Samantha Miles and Ian Hubbard (the apparent loser in the swinging game!) played by Joe Giggs.  Jarvis Huntley-Pike was played by Simon Panayi, Crispin Usher (and the wonderful knee in the groin moment) played by Elliott Sargent, Linda Washbrook  (and the fabulous ‘girl fight’ with Bridget) played by Hannah Thorpe and finally Ted Washbrook (with his moody exit from rehearsal), played by James Ashfield.

All the performers of this show are either current or previous students from the University of Lincoln – all proving the dedication, professionalism and a passion for performance!

The Musical Director was Mark Wilde (past musical director for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in Lincoln cathedral, 2016, and current musical director for ‘Jekyll and Hyde: the musical’ 2017 also in Lincoln Cathedral).  Assistant Director and Stage Manager was Emily Cartwright.

Other thanks,

For the Lincoln Company:

Production Manager – Martin Rousseau

Stage Manager – Alex Kent

For the Riverhead Theatre:

Stage Manager – Bob Booth

Lighting – Roy Hobson

Sound – Brooke Vickers

Programme Design – Jeremy Smith

—————————NOTE——————————

For those of you who missed out on seeing this marvellous production at Louth Riverhead Theatre, you’ll be pleased to know that The Lincoln Company are going to be performing ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ for 2 nights only, at Lincoln LPAC, tickets are available here.

Fri 24th Feb – Sat 25th Feb

The Lincoln Company 


Tickets: £10 Full // £8 Concessions // £5 LIVE PASS

Running Time: 2 hour 20 mins (inc. interval)

Age: 12+

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