Jesus Christ Superstar – Louth Playgoers – Revew by Frances Brindle

 

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I’m absolutely delighted that even though I’m still away in the USA I am able to publish a review for this great show via a wonderful friend from Louth Playgoers (LPG), Frances Brindle, for their current production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the Rock Opera, in Riverhead Theatre, Louth from 17th to 27th May.

Frances is usually onstage for the musicals but as well as performing for LPS she’s been Assistant Director, Producer and taken Choreographer roles.  She’s also on the marketing team and is on the Board of Directors. You can also find her smiley face in the box office from time to time!!!

Frances next  LPS project is Once Upon a Time, the summer concert on August 12th where she’s Producer and choreographer.

Over to you Fran…

Having not been involved in this years musical (an odd feeling!) I thought I’d embrace being on the other side and I’d review it.

Not being a massive fan of Jesus Christ Superstar, hence not being part of the show, I can’t say I wasn’t looking forward to the show, but my reason for going was to support the cast who have worked so hard to produce it.

And a huge amount of hard work has gone into it. I’ve heard first hand that there’s literally been blood sweat and tears, and that was just building the set! Bob Booth and his crew have produced the largest construction our stage has ever seen. With giant steps, platforms, trapdoors, and multi levels, the immense presence of it is the first thing you notice when the curtains go back. It is utilised in so many different ways, which I won’t spoil, but the cast are constantly all over this giant structure making full use of the dynamics this set has to offer.

The most striking thing about this show was that everyone on that stage was fully invested in it and committed to providing a great performance. It was lovely to see so many new faces on the stage too, I hope they’ve loved it enough to join us in the forthcoming season.

The wardrobe team must be congratulated for their efforts because you could quite happily believe you were in biblical times, which is no easy feat when you have to source clothes in a modern society. They were tasteful, suited and my favourite part was that there were so many colours on that stage but they weren’t super bright and they fitted the show perfectly. The use of scarves and shawls was an excellent addition to each costume and I’m sure it aided the cast in defining their characters.

Colours for me played an important role in this show, Pilate in purple typically an “evil” colour, Herod’s glamorous gold, and Judas in Red which is essentially an angry colour and in the scene where he’s fighting his inner demons under the red lighting and wearing a red costume absolutely took the audience on a journey of his mind set.

The lighting in the whole show was very atmospheric and the use of candles to create a hazy glow in certain scenes definitely worked for me. There’s something to be said for emotional scenes portrayed in the flicker of candlelight.

The show is full of strong voices but the trio of Jesus (Jody McCutcheon) Mary Magdalene (Evie Dodds) and Judas (Rik Hardenberg) carry the show along at a pace which tells the story beautifully yet keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, literally. Their performances are brilliant and all differently so emotive that towards the end of Act two my stomach was in knots and I still felt a bit shaky after the show. It’s intense, shocking, heart wrenching and emotional whilst still having moments of upbeat, lively fun.

The fun mostly comes from the ensemble who are the heart of this show. They never stop! They are constantly climbing up and down stairs and scaffolding, on and off the stage, and it’s their commitment to this merry dance that makes the story so believable. All whilst performing perfectly placed choreography (by Sarah Hagerup) remembering harmonies, singing and still managing to breathe!! Hats off too to Keith Weston, the Musical Director, because it takes an awful lot of work to accomplish a rock opera with no spoken lines and just pure singing, and it’s a hard sing! And a hard play for the band too who absolutely rock!

The concept of this show is still one I can’t get my head around, but a lady who has, is the Director, Sue Hamilton. She has had the enormous task of bringing this vision to reality. It has been done in such a way that not only works, but flows so much that a scene disappears before your eyes before you’ve had a chance to realise it’s gone. And it happens more than once!

For a show that I don’t like, tonight I loved it! I smiled, I clapped and I cried, it moved me so much!

So if between now and Sat 27th May you want a great night out then go and see Jesus Christ Superstar, because they’re all Superstars!

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There are some tickets left and you can get them at www.louthplaygoers.com or call Box Office on 01507 600350 open 10am-1pm Monday -Saturday.

Thank you Frances for taking the time to write this great review, I’m just very disappointed that I’m unable to see this show that I know and love, and that I was part of in the Lincoln Cathedral production in both 2015 and 2016 with some of the same cast as in this particular production.

I hope that all the cast and crew have a great rest of the run, and that everyone enjoys it as much as Frances obviously did!

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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)