Review – ‘Ton of Bricks’ – Stroke of Genius Community Theatre Company

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This particular show had completely passed me by until I was asked to accompany my friends, Dawn, Jeannine and Helen on a bit of a girlie road trip to The Robin Hood Theatre in Averham.  It’s a small public theatre situated in the countryside close to Newark on Trent in Nottinghamshire, seating 150, it has the reputation of producing professional, high standard entertainment and it certainly didn’t let us down last night!

The main reason for our trip was to support one of our dear friends, Cliff McArdle who we all met in the cast of the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar in Lincoln Cathedral in 2015.  Cliff wrote all the Music and Lyrics for ‘Ton of Bricks’, with the script being Written and Directed by Carolyn Drury.  After the show, Cliff said he found the experience a really rewarding one, that was made easier by the clear directions given by Carolyn Drury; he said, “She knew exactly what she wanted from each song , and all I had to do was to write them!”  Well, what a fabulous job Cliff did with every single song; although he’s ‘dabbled’ in song-writing for many years, this particular show was his first foray into composition not specifically for children (despite it being set in a village school), having left the teaching profession a few years ago to concentrate more fully on music and song writing.

The show itself was set in a Village School, where the rich, older generation London weekend visitors were buying up all the property in the village, leaving the local young people, wanting to stay in their village, with no affordable housing.  The result of that, lead to the decline in the numbers of children attending the local school, with the stark fact that it might close within a year or two.  A fleeting thought by the Head Teacher, led to a series of well planned discussions and events, eventually saving the school from it’s sad demise.

There were some brilliant characters that were totally believable from beginning to end.  The wonderfully buoyant Head Teacher, Mrs Esther Dawson played by Sarah-Lee Taylor was so obviously drowning in ‘Paperwork’ as portrayed in a fabulous duet with her efficient school Business Manager Sarah, played by Kerri Saxby.  Despite her drive to success as Head Teacher, she was lonely, having only in the last few years been widowed.  Her school and her ‘school children’ meant everything to her so she needed to save it and them at all costs.

Mrs Dawson was plagued on a daily basis by her nasty neighbour from hell Bob, played brilliantly by David Baliol-Key earning him a very loud ‘booooo’ at the end!  He made Esther Dawson’s life a misery but it didn’t just end there; Bob’s very sad, downtrodden and very bullied wife Marilyn played by Yvonne Cockayne, showed the audience just what a mean character he was, fortunately getting his comeuppance in the end being left one lonely old grumpy man.  Sarah-Lee in pensive thought, gave a wonderful rendition of ‘If Only’, a beautiful song asking the question we might often ask ourselves, I wonder what would have happened if only…?

Two hilarious cleaners Molly and Sandra, played by Zanda Pepper and Flick Millis, doubled as ‘scene shifters’ earning special thanks in the programme from their mum, Writer and Director Carolyn Drury.  They were both wonderful, even just walking on stage, and the looks passing between them brought laughter from the audience.  Their duet ‘Get the bleach’ made me wonder whether there must have been some glue in their buckets and elastic on their mops…  (I will forever wonder!).  (I also thought I saw a slight resemblance to a couple of other ladies in the community meeting towards the end of the show… maybe some older, well-to-do great aunts also lived in the village and occupied a couple of the elusive properties…?)

The snooty Councillor/land owner Edward Montague played by Tony Smith, seemed initially to be the baddy, but with the help and money from the charming suave and sophisticated building entrepreneur Tony Marshall played by Ian Carr, eventually saved the day in more ways than one!

A gorgeous duet by Ian and Sarah-Lee, ‘What do I like?’ showed us that even with our personal differences and preferences, love can still prevail…  after all, we all like a bit of the ‘bright lights’ sometimes!

The wonderfully portrayed ‘posh’ head boy and girl were stunning in their performances, looking down their noses at the lesser beings in the playground, otherwise known as ‘Year 7’s’; Giles played by Kane Stone, was clear and articulate as well as showing a kind brave side, winning the heart of the unexpected girl by breaking up a fight.  Tara, the head girl, played by Hannah Roe, showed more than a hint of ‘Miranda Hart’ (Sorry Hannah I had to say it!).  She showed a brilliant sense of comedic timing and an altogether hilarious performance; their duet ‘I want to go where the action is’ was both enthusiastic and passionate.

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Kane Stone in rehearsal
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Hannah Roe in rehearsal

The other 3 teenagers played by Lewis Wilby, Jo Anna Geary and Toby Lobmeister, despite looking and acting like the sort of teenagers you don’t want anything to do with, were obviously misunderstood, and their song, ‘Pride’, a mix of solo and trio, was very touching…

“…Yes, we’re often skint,

but we’re rich in the important things,

the importance a family brings

fills us up with pride…”

The Year 7’s really got involved in the whole show, both singing, acting, speaking and choreography;  I was impressed by their passion and obvious enjoyment throughout the performance.

One of my favourite numbers, apart from ‘Pride’and ‘If Only’ (there were many favourites!), was the solo ‘Sunday, Sunday’, sang again by Ian (despite my friend Jeannine speculating in advance Sarah-Lee would join Ian in her dressing gown before the end of the scene!).  The humorous reference to building Mr Trump’s wall in Mexico was a delightful addition to the script making it very current!

Since I left school back in 1982, I haven’t had much to do with teachers or schooling apart from through my son’s education, until I joined the Jesus Christ Superstar ensemble in 2015, where I met Cliff and a lot of other either current or past teachers…  being part of a community with a lot of people with a teaching background, you pick up a lot of vibes about the state of schools today, including the fact that record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession.  This production highlighted perfectly for me some of the key issues facing both schools, teachers and students in our world today with both hilarity and extreme sadness with hints of bullying, theft, overwork and long term sickness amongst the teaching staff (the lazy jobsworth caretaker Frank played by John Dodd a typical example).  The script was delightfully funny yet emotional and each song, and the unique, elusive harmonies, were performed with a sense of confidence and assurance.  It was also great to see Cliff supporting the male harmonies whilst playing the keyboard during a few numbers!

Jeannine said about the show:

“Cliff…. I can’t tell you how proud we ALL were of you… the show was fantastic… very refreshing to be honest…
We had no idea what we were coming to…I just thought that we were kind of coming to support you in this fantastic venture… which was ok in itself anyway… You’re our friend and we wanted to support you…
We had no idea that it would be such a brilliant show…
Interesting script… Amazing songs and harmonies… some wonderful performances from the youngest on stage to the older ones… I liked the choreography, it went perfectly with the songs…
It was funny yet at times rather moving…
I just loved it Darlin’ ….. Well worth coming over for……THANK YOU…”

Helen said:

“What a great show!  Funny in places, poignant in others. Very strong cast who were fully into their characters. Loved the score with themes running through it for the characters. Clever lyrics and I really enjoyed all the songs entwined in the final song. I had no idea what Jeannine and gang were taking me to, down the dark country lane, but what a great night. Well done you and your team x”

Dawn said:

“Well, I thought it was incredibly well observed, a modern tale with totally believable characters and songs that just, well, fit in perfectly with clever and moving lyrics.  I went from laughing out loud to holding back the tears”

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Helen Kent, Jeannine Ridha and Dawn Wilson waiting for the show to begin

I don’t know what more to add other than what has been said already above, except congratulations to all the cast and the Production Team, especially Carolyn, Cliff, the Choreographer Rebecca Ladds, the musicians, Stage Manager, Jean Baliol-Key, the sound, lighting, set design and construction and all others involved.  You’ve done a brilliant job and I really hope it’s not the last we see of the writers of this – this show needs to be seen again and again.

Congratulations!

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Cleaner’s break time!

 

Photo’s taken during show rehearsals…

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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Review – The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe – Lincoln Minster School

 

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I was really fortunate to get tickets for me and my husband to see the Lincoln Minster Senior School perform ‘The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe’ last Saturday following a tip off from one of my friends recommending it to me; and we were delighted to be welcomed at the door of the hall by someone (one of the cast’s mum) greeting us with ‘Welcome to Narnia’…!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It’s the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956).  This particular stage version was adapted especially, and brilliantly, by Lincoln Minster School’s Head of Drama, Jenny Wafer.

Having not seen a school production since I took part myself in  ‘Joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat’, probably back in 1976/1977 if my memory serves me, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show; but having been pleasantly surprised by Lincoln University Graduates in ‘Treasure Island’ a few days before, I had high hopes for an entertaining evening, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

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As we walked into the relatively small hall, we were faced with the ornate ‘wardrobe’; flanked either side by moveable walls and curtained entrances, and at the back of the hall, ‘the lamp post’… a point of reference throughout the production.  The evacuees were the first members of cast to reveal themselves and I was immediately hooked by their characters.  Peter Pevensie, the first of the siblings played by Aidan Turner, showed himself as the level headed of the 4; the sensible one.  Then there was Susan, played beautifully by Nicole Lyttle, a kindly and bouncy character who’s continuous chatter and movement highlighted the nuances of her character really well.  Then came Edmund, wonderfully played by Finley O’Sullivan; his humorous, argumentative and naughty nature, came across sometimes as being a bit bullish but at times showed his vulnerable side. And lastly there was Lucy, played by Hannah Secker. At first I thought one of the weaker cast members but I was sorely mistaken.  Her quiet nature and sensitive personality was brilliantly portrayed and I soon realised that it was down to her acting ability and skill on the stage showing a level of innocence that I’m certain belied her real persona and age.

Other characters in the house included the starch Mrs Macready, played by Gracie-Mai Wood, Professor Kirke, the children’s guardian, played by Charlie Servonat-Blanc and Ivy and Betty, played by Olivia Webb and Tilly Mair.

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The world of ‘Narnia’ is a land of talking animals, mythical creatures and the ‘White Witch’ who had ruled for 100 years of deep winter with no Christmas.  ‘Narnia’ in Watkins Hall was beautifully magical…  the set allowed the wardrobe to move away, turning, revealing white, sparkling trees with glimmering lights and snowy scenery.  I found out that the whole production was student led, so the lighting, sound and set was all planned, organised and created by the senior students; they made and painted the set themselves and taught their own choreography; a superb testament to their passion and skill, led by Cathy Servonat.  The costumes throughout were exceptional, from the WWII evacuees in simple attire to the creatures of Narnia that were modernistic in their look, with suggestions and hints at the animal portrayed.

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Once in Narnia, happy go lucky Lucy had her first encounter with Mr Tumnus, played by Stephenson Catney.  I think, overall, he was my favourite character in the show…  his mop of unruly hair, little white horns, and brilliant characterisation, had me mesmerised whenever he was on stage.  He played the twitchy faun, that desperately tried to be good and ultimately kind, but with underlying slyness where he was trying to hide the fact that he was really working for the white witch that was ultimately tearing him apart…

The other mythical characters included Jacob Baker and Poppy Wells who played Mr and Mrs Beaver, the squirrels (Olivia Parkinson, Felicity Waddingham, Zoe Lyttle and Sasha Neesham (they also played robins, an eagle and wolves); and there was a fox (Poppy Rogers) and other mythical creatures including Tilly Mair as a Dryad and Olivia Webb a Naiad, whilst Sophia McGill was a unicorn.  All these characters worked throughout the show, not only to bring magic to Narnia, but in moving the set around between scenes, transforming the stage from wardrobe to magical lands, and back again, several times.

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We saw Gracie-Mai (Mrs Macready) also playing Maugrim, the head wolf; Captain of the White Witch’s Secret Police, quite a scary but impressive character. Father Christmas (Seth Birkinshaw, who also played 1st wolf) also made an appearance, visually and with very distinctive vocals and the giant, Rumblebuffin, was a huge puppet, with the voice by Ted Latus.  The white witch was guarded by two crow guards played by Jacqui Henes and Esther Yip

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Our first glimpse of The White Witch was when the big pile of gleaming snow turned to reveal her sitting on her throne; adorned in glittering robes, embellished with sequins, diamanté, and silver thread, shimmering in the house lights, covered with a beautiful white fur robe.  Amber Ackerman played a chilling part; scarily angry and dangerous and with a booming voice that would make any innocent or guilty person quake in their boots.  The power she portrayed was brilliant, in contrast to the earlier scene where she showed remarkable versatility by showing us the complete opposite, convincingly persuading the vulnerable Edmund with her tempting Turkish Delight Treats.

An outstanding, stand out performance!

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The White Witch was accompanied by the evil dwarf, Grumpskin, played by Katie Care.  I worked with Katie previously as a cast member when she sang the beautiful descant part in the musical piece, John 19:41 at the end of Jesus Christ Superstar in the 2016 production in Lincoln Cathedral.  Her beautifully melodic, angelic singing voice (as heard again in Mr Tumnus’ lullaby) was as far away from her portrayal of Grumpskin as you could ever wish to see.  I admire her versatility which was remarkably evident when walking through the aisle to the stage; she was both threatening and menacing and her loud, harsh and raucous voice made me jump and edge away from my seat beside the aisle several times!  Very disturbing and brilliantly played.

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We saw for a second time, Charlie Servonat-Blanc playing ‘Aslan’ the rightful King of Narnia and other magic countries.  He showed remarkable versatility in the contrasting performances; Professor Kirke, a quietly spoken, yet funny character, but Aslan, formidable, strong and authoritative showing great power.

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Overall I was delighted with the whole performance; the ending left us looking for more as Professor Kirke slipped through the wardrobe doors into the twinkling light of Narnia with a nod and a wink.

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Before I end, it would be remiss of me to not mention the interval…  we were asked to leave the hall as the set was manipulated ready for the second half, and walk over to another building where we were delighted and surprised by some complimentary refreshments.  Red or White Wine, orange juice, and some tasty treats to choose from including the best mince pies I’ve ever tasted – thanks to Head Chef Rob Smith, who made an appearance on BBC radio Linconshire with Melvin Prior on Monday December 19th.

Congratulations to all the cast and backstage crew, wonderful teamwork:

Scenic Art: Cathy Servonat, Finn Dillon, Ben Harris, Katie Mysers, Imogen Burch, Amelia Barrett, Lauren Lee, Oliver Blanchard, Regina Fan, Bella Wong, Carole Waynes, Hettie Holmes, Julia Higgins.

Lighting Design and Operation: Edward Latus

Sound Design: Jonathan Kobrus, Jenny Wafer

Sound Operation: Jonathan Kobrus

Costume: Birmingham Costume Hire

Stage Management: Caitlin O’Beirne, Sebastian Newell and Joshua Mackey

Choreography: Amber Ackerman

Mr Tumnus’ Lullaby performed by Katie Care

Costumes for Grumpskin and the Crow Guards designed and made by Nicole Lyttle

Directed by Jenny Wafer

Production Images were provided by Patrick Stubbs: available at Natural Expressions (client ordering password: Narnia)

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.

Yo-ho-ho…!

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!).

 

Review ‘White Christmas’ -BOS Musical Theatre Group

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Local performers from the BOS Musical Theatre Group are performing “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin between Saturday 19th to Saturday 26th November at 7.30pm, including a matinee performance on Saturday 26th at 2pm .  The musical is based on the well-known film, and features some of Berlin’s best known songs including “Blue Skies”, “Snow”, “Count your Blessings” and of course “White Christmas”.  Without giving too much away, if you’re not familiar with the story, it is set in 1944 just behind the lines where the American troops are waiting to go into battle. They are being entertained by one of the Captains, and it’s nearly Christmas.  The years roll on, there’s love for some, and not so much love for others, but in the end, in true Hollywood style, everything works out beautifully, just in time for a ‘White Christmas’.

I attended the opening night performance on Saturday 19th November with a couple of friends; we’ve seen another production by the BOS group previously (‘9 to 5’ back in April 2016) so were eagerly anticipating the music and fun the evening was going to bring.  One of the performers, Christian Slingsby (playing Phil Davis), is a good friend of ours, having performed with my 2 friends and I in the Lincoln Cathedral production of Jesus Christ Superstar back in 2015.  We were expecting great things having seen him play Franklin Hart Jnr in ‘9-5’ earlier this year and once again we weren’t disappointed, especially the uniform (and lack of it at certain moments!)

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There were stand-out performances from some of the cast, in particular 10 year old Alice Parkin (playing Susan Waverly), who thrilled the audience from the moment she came on stage.

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Her comedic timing, from someone so young was impeccable, and that, added to her American accent, her singing voice in ‘Let me sing and I’m happy’ and her dancing ability certainly gives us all a name to look out for in the future; definitely a star in the making!

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Rob Callaby (playing Bob Wallace) had a beautiful voice following in the footsteps of the legend, Bing Crosby, and Andrea Townshend (playing Betty Haynes) really made the audience sit up and take notice of the beautiful ‘Love you didn’t do right by me’ in which she duetted with Rob at the same time singing ‘How deep is the ocean’.

 

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Despite it being a Saturday night (and me missing my weekly fix of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing), we were entertained with a variety of dancing;  the cast mixed it up with tap and several different ballroom styles with a very intricate routine from Christian and Lucy Allen (who played Judy Haynes).

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I have to mention 2 other cast members that were memorable for completely different and individual reasons.   I could have easily mistaken Ray Featherby (playing General Henry Waverly) as an American, rather than an Englishman playing an American, his accent was astounding (I read in the programme that he’d tested out his American accent on his sister who has lived in the USA for 40 years, she too was impressed!)

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And Kim Sands (playing Martha Watson); I’d seen her previously in ‘9 to 5’ and she impressed me then, but in this show, the part of Martha was perfectly suited to Kim’s comedy style and personality.

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Thank you to Stuart Bull, Director, Katy Tabor and John Sabberton, both Assistant Co-Director/Producers, Anthony E Grunwell, Musical Director and Abi Kingsley-Parker, Choreographer for their hard work in bringing this production to the Blackfriars Theatre, as well as everyone else involved, backstage, lighting, crew and musicians.

Prior to coming to see the show, I got in touch with Rob Barclay, Chairman and Director of BOS Musical Theatre Group to ask for his help in finding out a bit more about the cast of White Christmas;  here’s what I found out:

Andrea Townshend tells us about playing Betty Haynes and her previous experiences in theatre:

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  1. How long have you been involved in theatre and how did you get started? 

I started dancing at 4 years old with local dance school Allen School of Dance and I had my first onstage leading role in one of their shows when I was about 8 years old. At the age of 16 I went to The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London and got a 3 year performing arts degree. I returned to Boston and took part in several shows in the 1990’s including the lead role of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. I then emigrated to New Zealand where I performed as Rumpleteaser in CATS at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. Since returning to the UK and having children I have taken on numerous roles both in the chorus and as a lead with BOS. 

  1. What has been the show that you’ve most enjoyed being part of?

My favorite BOS role of recent times has to be Calamity Jane. Although Sally Bowles was also an amazing role, as was Charity Hope Valentine in Sweet Charity. 

  1. What is your favourite part/song from this show?

I have several favourites songs in this show – if I had to pick just one it would be ‘Love you didn’t do right by me’. My children would probably choose ‘Count your Blessings instead of Sheep’ which is their current favourite bedtime song.

  1. If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Barbara Streisand – she has been my inspiration for many years. 

  1. What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play and why?

Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, I have always loved the movie and recently saw Sheridan Smith play the part at the Savoy Theatre in London….. Amazing! 

Rob Callaby tells us a bit more about himself and his views on theatre, and this production in particular:

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  1. How long have you been involved in theatre and how did you get started?

I really started doing shows in my last year of college after a friend encouraged me to get involved so that makes it about 18 years now. 

  1. What has been the show that you’ve most enjoyed being part of?

I have done a lot of amazing shows over the years but I can probably narrow it down to 3.   The Edinburgh Fringe was my first show with the Cambridge colleges called ‘Closer than Ever’ which was an amazing experience. The other two are more recent playing Seymour in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ in Spalding and around the same time I had the great pleasure of playing Judas in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in Boston with BOS MTG.

  1. What, for you, makes a great performance?

Obviously as a performer you want to nail every part of your performance but from my point of view it’s a great performance if the audience enjoy the show and leave with a buzz

  1. What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

I personally try to arrive at the theatre early so everything is organised and in place which gives me time to relax and focus in on my character. I think if you can get a good feel for the motivations and emotions of your character and relate that to your own experiences that really helps.

  1. What is your favourite part/song from this show?

I feel really lucky to have some beautiful songs in the show but I would say that the song ‘How deep is the Ocean’ which is intertwined with Betty singing ‘Love You didn’t do right by me’ is stunningly beautiful and emotional

  1. If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

There are lots of actors and actresses I admire and would love to work with, however from a Musical Theatre point of view I would have to say Frank Sinatra. I just loved his style and how effortless everything he did looked

  1. What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play and why?

My absolute favourite musical is ‘Rent’ which is a very modern musical, and I would love to play Roger. The music is more rocky where my roots tend to lie and Roger goes on such an emotional journey I would love to explore that.

Christian Slingsby now tells us about himself and his acting experience:

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  1. How long have you been involved in theatre and how did you get started?

I got started back at school in the 80’s but really got the bug when I was about 20.  I went along to my then local theatre and did my first show Romeo & Juliet where I was given the job of running the lighting board for the whole show.  Been involved with theatre one way or another ever since.

  1. What has been the show that you’ve most enjoyed being part of?

That’s a difficult question because they all have their special moments.  The show that will always be special to me as I had the most memorable moment within a show would be Return to the Forbidden Planet where I played Ariel the Robot.  My first ever standing ovation

  1. What, for you, makes a great performance?

Seeing and hearing that the Audience has enjoyed themselves.  Hopefully along the way we all have a great time and enjoy ourselves BUT it’s the audience that makes a great performance

  1. What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

I always like to get to the theatre about 90 minutes before a performance starts.  I like to check my props and costumes are all there and in place ready and then I like to turn off to the outside world.  There’s then time to sit and relax with your fellow actors before the real routine starts like doing a vocal warm up, getting into makeup, opening costumes and just running through the show in my mind to prepare for the nights performance.

  1. What is your favourite part/song from this show?

There’s 2 I’m afraid.  SNOW and White Christmas because with so many of us on the stage and all being involved it feels like a big Christmas Family.  Cheesy I know 😀

  1. What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play and why?

Tom Collins from RENT.  I was lucky enough to see this show on Broadway and fell in love with the show.  It’s hard to describe how the show makes me feel with the whole emotional rollercoaster that takes place between the characters during the show but the story and the way it’s told with the music and lyrics just seems to hit a soft spot with me and it is by far THE ONE show that I would love to be a part of.  Saying that I do also have quite a few others on the list that I would one day like to be in.

You might like to take a look at the BOS Musical Theatre Group’s ‘Mannequin Challenge’ by clicking here

Thank you to Neil Watson Photography for use of his photographs in this blog post.

 

About BOS Musical Theatre Group:

BOS Musical Theatre Group is based in the town of Boston in Lincolnshire, England. Founded in 1964 (as Boston Operatic Society), we have gained an enviable reputation for the high quality musical productions which we stage twice yearly at Blackfriars Arts Centre, Spain Lane, Boston. All productions are entirely produced, cast and staged using local people, and we are always keen to meet anyone who would like to become involved with us, whether backstage or treading the boards.

 

Review – ‘Anything Goes’ – Curtain Up Productions

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Unfortunately I couldn’t make the live run, but I was very lucky, having spoken to Susan Warren, the Chairman of Curtain Up Productions, to be offered the chance to go to see the dress rehearsal for the fabulous show ‘Anything Goes’ at the Cleethorpes Memorial Hall and also to take some photos during the performance.

To be honest, when I arrived the venue looked a bit like a very large village hall, but once inside, the stage, although very small (I don’t know how the cast managed in the available space!), had been transformed into a luxury liner, the S.S. American. Thanks to Lee Howson for designing and building the set (with assistance from John Tilby), they did a great job.

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The music and lyrics were from Cole Porter; it’s a very fast paced musical comedy that certainly takes you back to the golden age of high society and includes some of his most iconic songs including ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’, ‘De-Lovely’ and the title song ‘Anything Goes’.  I hadn’t actually realised I knew any of the numbers, but was pleasantly surprised when I could join in to some of the songs.  Jeannine Ridha, a friend from Lincoln Cathedrals production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in 2015, and a long standing member of Curtain Up Productions (her 50th Anniversary next year), was sitting with me, and had actually performed in the same show, also with Curtain Up Productions, on exactly the same date (16th November, her son’s birthday) in 1991.  In fact, the society was the first to be granted the licence to perform this show outside the professional ranks!

Synopsis

The S.S. American was sailing between New York and England, and the story includes a wonderfully colourful ensemble of passengers including:

Reno Sweeney, a popular nightclub singer and former evangelist, (played by Hayley Wrightam, who was also the choreographer for the show!).

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Billy Crocker, (played by Gary Howson), is a lovelorn Wall Street broker who has come aboard to try to win the favour of his beloved…

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…Hope Harcourt (played by Chloe Hallam) who is currently engaged to another passenger…

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…Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Played by Scott Smith).

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Moonfaced Martin (played by Andrew Bailey), a second rate conman, aka ‘Public Enemy #13’, who assists Billy, with the help of Reno, to win Hope’s heart through a variety of comical antics, hilarious and cunning disguises and some good, old fashioned blackmail.

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The other main characters included Mrs Harcourt (played by Ann Forward), Bonnie (played by Sarah Hagerup), Elisha J. Whitney (played by Ian Jones), The Bishop/Captain (played by James Gosling), The Purser (played by Stephen Campbell), Ching and Ling (played by Ieirren O’Hara and Kerry Ward) and The Reporter (played by Fiona Beasley).

Last, but not least, The Angels, played by Kelly White, Gemma Williams, Charlotte Preston, Janine Walker, Kirsty Channon and Sophie Fenty)

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The Angels

What struck me most, from the moment the show started and the cast started making their way through the door in the auditorium to the ‘liner’ was the fabulous costumes.  These were sourced by Scott Smith, a job well done!  Throughout the show there were several costume changes, and not only were they done with speed, they looked sensational.  The whole look of the cast seemed authentic, and gave the impression that you were taken back to a bygone era of luxury and sophistication.  With fur stoles, wide brimmed hats, sparkling sequins and dashing tailored suits, all added to the style, flair and a glorious elegance and sophistication.

I loved the comedic timing; there were some great laugh out loud moments (as I know the cast overheard quite clearly in the dress rehearsal I attended!), the wonderful disguises; beards, wigs, straw hats and tartan rugs all went a long way to fool the audience, and trick the Captain and passengers on board! I also loved the accents, very believable and often, also very funny.

Although all the cast deserve congratulations for a wonderful performance, I particularly wanted to mention Hayley Wrightam.

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Not only did she play the lead role (in which she looked very comfortable), she was also the choreographer.  How she managed to take on both roles I can’t imagine but she pulled both off with great results.  The tap dances were on point, looking and sounding dramatic, as were the bigger dance numbers, where all the cast were together; a visual feast for the eyes, with the dancers using every spare inch of the already small stage!  Well done Hayley and the dancers!

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I can’t complete the review without a mention to the music, the live band of 5 members did a good job:

Led by Keith Weston, Musical Director, Matthew Jeffery on Keyboards, Liz Abe on Bass, Andy Simons on Guitar and Kev Rogers on the Drums.   The music was full of energy and even the ‘in between scenes’ sections, kept the audience uplifted and engaged.

Overall I was really impressed with the look and feel of the whole show and the wonderful singing and dancing.  David Wrightam (Director and Principle of the Class Act Theatre Company), should be proud of what has been achieved by a relatively small group of local performers, many of whom I would imagine, have their own day job or profession and theatre and singing performances are a hobby. Many of the cast certainly wouldn’t look out of place in the West End or Broadway.

I don’t want to say too much more, the only way to really get a feel for the show is to go and see for yourself.  The show runs from Wednesday 16th until Saturday, 19th November 2016;  each evening performance starts at 7.30 with an additional Saturday Matinee at 2.15pm, and if you haven’t got your tickets yet, please hurry as there may still be a chance, buy tickets here!

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@curtainuptweets

@eirajane

(Photos and review by Eira Hammond, for the full photo album click here )

Thanks to Helen Kent for bringing this production to my attention!