Category Archives: AMATEUR THEATRE

REVIEW: Me and My Girl – Motherwell Concert Hall

It is the girls who shine brightest in Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club’s latest production of the much-loved Me and My Girl at Motherwell Concert Hall this week.

The multiple Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical Me and My Girl is the tale of humble Cockney costermonger Bill Snibson, his unexpected inheritance of the title of Earl of Hareford and the trials and tribulations he has to endure to keep the girl of his dreams by his side.

As the Duchess of Dene, Cathy Taylor and Marianne Millard, Lady Jaqueline are the stand-out talents of the night, the pair are fine actresses, with glorious voices and enviable stage presence, and the stage completely enlivens when they are there. The ensemble too are deserving of praise, and sound utterly gorgeous when singing as one. Less succesful is Gillian Black as Bill’s paramour Sally, whilst in possession of a beautiful singing voice her accent travels through virtually county and shire in England and at no point visits the borough of Lambeth. Accents seem to be an issue throughout, with one character beginning an act in RP English and ending it in Scots.

Quibbles aside, Hamilton ODC deliver high production values, with a rich-looking set and a fine chorus and orchestra under the baton of Mike Smith, and there are some professional quality performances throughout. An enjoyable evening of a little seen musical theatre classic.

REVIEW: Carrie – Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow

Louise Creechan Carrie Websters theatre Glasgow mad props

It takes a brave theatre company to tackle a show based on a 1974 Stephen King novel, notoriously dubbed the “most legendary flop musical ever produced”, well Glasgow-based Mad Props Theatre are just that, staging Michael Gore, Lawrence D Cohen and Dean Pitchford’s Carrie.

Debuting in 1988, (unbelievably) at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, it was met with decidedly mixed reviews, but that was nothing compared to its Broadway run, plagued with script and technical problems and the near-decapitation of musical theatre legend Barbara Cook, it closed after five performances, the most expensive theatre flop of its time. Thankfully, time has been kind, and after a successful 2015 revival at the Southwark Playhouse, Mad Props present the Scottish premiere.

Told in a series of flashbacks by her only ally Sue, Carrie is a telekinetic teen with an oppressive religious fanatic of a mother, humiliated by her classmates at prom, she wreaks her revenge on those who’ve wronged her.

The problems that have always existed with the production – weak script, forgettable music are still here, but thankfully judicial trimming, tight direction and some fine performances elevate this production above its source material.

Stand out among the talented cast is Katy Allan as Carrie’s controlling and abusive mother,  hers is a finely measured performance, that, despite the titters from some of the audience, treads the fine line between hysterical exaggeration and frightening believability. Louise Creechan’s acting skills are also worthy of note, she delivers the requisite intensity and naive vulnerability of the put-upon teen perfectly (as well as bearing a startling resemblance to movie Carrie, Sissy Spacek). There is also a brace of fine performances from the ensemble, the only gripe being a lack of dancing skills that rendered this very professional looking production a bit shambolic at times.

The small stage at Websters fits the production like a glove and the special effects are impressive from an amateur company.

Hugely entertaining and impressively delivered, mad props must go to Mad Props for continuing to deliver something different to musical theatre audiences in Glasgow – long may it continue.

 

REVIEW: Calamity Jane – Motherwell Theatre

The Deadwood stage has galloped into Motherwell courtesy of Our Lady’s Musical Society. Using the real-life adventures of Wild West frontierswoman Martha Jane Cannary as its inspiration, the musical of Calamity Jane is based on the much-loved 1953 Doris Day movie.

With a quite frankly preposterous plot, that at times is unfathomable: saloon owner Henry Miller is under the impression he’s hired famous actress Frances Fryer to perform, but when very male Francis arrives, Calamity rides out to bring backstage sweetheart Adelaide Adams to save the day (why it’s not the elusive Frances Fryer, I don’t know) thus ensues yet another case of mistaken identity that does nothing to help Calamity’s disastrous reputation. Throw into the mix some unrequited love and there you have it.

This is a musical choc full of familiar tunes, so familiar the audience sing along to the overture, however, they are delivered with mixed success. The big ensemble show-stoppers are the winners of the evening – The Black Hills of Dakota is particularly fine. A lack of crisp diction and tuning issues (and at times wandering off score, especially in a peculiar Secret Love) rendered many of Calamity’s best-known tunes almost unrecognisable. There’s also a fine line to tread when playing this part, whilst Calamity is as tough as they come, there’s also a vulnerability to her, which here, was completely trampled over in the gruff characterisation.

The issue of diction was prevalent throughout, not helped by under-amplification – many of the dialogue sequences were very garbled, particularly Calamity’s (Shiranne Burns). This year Christopher Morris, arguably the most talented company member, is the object of Calamity’s desire Lt. Danny Gilmartin, and only gets to showcase his wonderful voice in Love You Dearly. Along with Morris, it is Ray O’Sullivan’s Wild Bill Hickok that shines, his fabulously toned voice is perfectly suited to the era when this piece was created.

There’s still enough here to entertain, but with such iconic and well-loved material you have to tread carefully and deliver the highest quality. An admirable attempt but not without its faults.

REVIEW: The Gorbals Vampire – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Above the Gothic gatehouse of one of Glasgow’s cities of the dead, the Southern Necropolis, the sky flames red from the fiery furnaces of the nearby Dixon Blazes Iron Works. Hundreds of local children, from toddlers to teens, armed with stakes and knives, storm the graveyard in search of a vampire, not the highly romanticised version of modern times, but a seven foot, iron-toothed killer of two young boys. It’s 1954, it’s Glasgow’s Gorbals and it really happened…well…

Inspired by local myths and bogey man stories, and fuelled by US horror comics, an urban legend is born – The Gorbals Vampire.

There are “two wee empty chairs” at the back of a Gorbals’ primary school class, Chinese whispers in the playground escalate into full-blown hysteria as the “creative thinking” kids debate the fate of their two school pals. Night after night until the sun goes down, the pint-sized vigilantes return to hunt their man, and only the rain and the intervention of local headmasters puts an end to the marauder’s madness.

What would have been consigned to the local archives gained worldwide media coverage and a backlash against the American horror comics that were gaining popularity in the country. This mass indignation also spawned the 1955 Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, laws still in force today.

National treasure in the making, Johnny McKnight has not only created a work filled with humour, it is also a work cleverly and subtly interwoven with a social commentary on tenement life in Glasgow in the fifties – the overcrowding, neglect and social injustice, how this section of the city was unloved and unlistened to. This was the hardest part of town, and in the eyes of the police, if they were cowering indoors frightened of a 7-foot vampire then they weren’t on the streets bothering them.

The community cast of over 50 players makes the stage throb with life against the brilliant set design of Neil Haynes and the wonderfully atmospheric lighting of Stuart Jenkins, all enhanced by Kim Beveridge’s subtle but highly effective video projections – you can almost feel the metal tang in the air from Dixon Blazes.

This is a glorious celebration of Glasgow and what it means to be Glaswegian – when the chips are down, the community pulls together as one, the city’s divisions are forgotten and the people unite in a common cause.

A real gem of a production.

NEWS: Casting announced for Stage Experience Wizard of Oz

Glasgow Theatres’ Creative Learning team has announced the cast for its second Stage Experience production – The Wizard of Oz.

Among the 75-strong cast taking to the stage at Theatre Royal on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 July is East Kilbride’s Cara McQuiston,13, as leading lady Dorothy; Keira Bell,16, from Prestwick as the Lion; Marcus Hyka,16, from Glasgow as the Scarecrow and Alastair McLeod,16, from Cumbernauld as the Tin Woodsman.

They will be joined by Anna Cowen, also from Glasgow, as the Wicked Witch of the West; Matthew Cunningham,16, from Bishopbriggs as the Wizard of Oz and Ellie MConnachie,14, from Erskine as Glinda the Good Witch of the East.

The production follows the success of Stage Experience’s performance of Bugsy Malone last year, with Director Rebecca Atack and Musical Director Ryan Moir returning to their roles alongside Choreographer Lisa Kennedy who joins the creative team for the first time.

The well-known story of The Wizard of Oz was originally penned by L. Frank Baum’s in his novel of the same name and follows Dorothy and her pet dog after they swept from Kansas by a tornado to the magical land of Oz. Hopeful to return home, the Munchkins and Glinda the Good Witch of the East suggest they find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and ask for his help. After setting path on the yellow brick road, they meet some new friends including a Scarecrow who wants a brain, a Tin Woodsman who needs a heart, and a cowardly Lion who longs to be courageous. But before the great and powerful Oz considers their wishes, he demands they bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West – will they succeed before the witch gets her hands on the coveted ruby slippers?

This spellbinding musical features the much-loved songs from the Oscar-winning movie score including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Follow The Yellow Brick Road, and We’re Off To See The Wizard.

By arrangement with MusicScope and Stage Musicals Limited of New York, Stage Experience: The Wizard of Oz is an amateur production.

Glasgow Theatres’ Creative Learning team offers a unique training experience giving young performers the opportunity to act, dance, sing and follow the yellow brick road onto the prestigious Theatre Royal stage.

SHOW LISTING INFORMATION

THE WIZARD OF OZ

THEATRE ROYAL GLASGOW

FRI 22 & SAT 23 JUL

FRI – SAT EVES, 7PM

SAT MAT, 2PM

BOX OFFICE: 0844 871 7647 Calls cost up to 7p per min plus your company’s access charge.

http://www.atgtickets.com/glasgow

Full cast information

Cara McQuiston,13, will step into the glittery red shoes of Dorothy and just loves to perform. Cara attends musical theatre group, Cadzow Academy, weekly. She has bagged leading roles in school productions and she is also preparing to sit her singing exam with LAMDA.

Kiera Bell,16 is busy working on her roar as the Lion and has enjoyed singing and dancing from a young age. She has recently been preparing for her school show, We Will Rock You. When she is not on stage she enjoys spending time with her friends and is a huge fan of Harry Potter.

Matthew Cunningham, 16, will show off his power as the Wizard of Oz. He appeared in Bugsy Malone last year and plays piano and percussion in his spare time.

Anna Cowen,16, took on the role of Blousey Brown in Bugsy Malone and so she is no stranger to Theatre Royal. Anna is a member of Harlequin, Eastwood Youth Theatre Group and has featured on the BBC Watch Night programme. Anna plans to pursue a career in musical theatre and is eager to learn more about the production process.

Marcus Hyka, 14, is a triple threat with qualifications from LAMDA as well as dance skills in ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, street dance, hip-hop and commercial. He also attends Vivace Theatre School and also appeared in last year’s Stage Experience production of Bugsy Malone as Fizzy.

Ellie McConnachie, 14, regularly sings and dances and has taken part in numerous shows over the years. She also plays guitar..

Alastair McLeod, 16, from Cumbernauld is a member of Stagecoach Stirling and the Scottish Youth Theatre. Last year he played the super-sleazy super-sneaky Fat Sam and is sure to shine in his new role as the Tin Woodsman. Alistair is a keen musician playing the piano, trumpet and the bagpipes. In addition to performing in school productions, Alastair regularly sings in school choirs.

REVIEW: Curtains – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Written by the team that brought you Cabaret and Chicago, Kander and Ebb’s rarely seen musical murder mystery Curtains is a sparkling little gem of a show.

Unlike its illustrious stablemates, Curtains doesn’t have the darkness and decadence of these two musical theatre masterpieces, but what it does have is a whole load of heart and so much going for it that the two hour forty minute running time flies past in the blink of an eye. Helped of course, by the supremely talented cast in Runway Theatre Company’s production.

It’s 1959, Boston, backstage at Robbin’ Hood of the Old West, a would-be Broadway blockbuster were it not for the dramatically, vocally and terpsichorally challenged leading lady, Jessica Cranshaw. Collective sighs of relief abound when she’s murdered during the opening night curtain call, but with so many suspects the crime looks impossible to solve. Into the fray comes community theatre veteran and police lieutenant Frank Cioffi. Believing the perpetrator to still be in the theatre, he commandeers the building and sets about finding the culprit while offering a few words of wisdom on how to turn this theatrical turkey into a sure-fire hit.

Referencing a raft of shows from the Golden Age of Musicals; with Fred and Ginger dance numbers, nods to Oklahoma and Annie Get Your Gun, heck there’s even a showboat onstage at the end, this is a hark back to another era, where plucky showgirls get their big break, tough showbiz mommas get things done and true love always finds a way.

There are some fine tunes too, Show People, Coffee Shop Nights and I Miss the Music in particular stand out and there’s a script packed full of witty one-liners (best delivered by Will Pollock as English luvvie theatre director Christopher Belling), all adding up to a thoroughly satisfying night at the theatre.

The cast are, as always from Runway, top-notch. Brendan Lynch’s Lieutenant Cioffi has the perfect mix of wide-eyed wonder at this crazy showbiz world he so longs to be part of, and eagle-eyed detective out to get his man (or woman). Lynch is the personification of a triple threat and rises to the demands of the role with ease. He is more than ably assisted by his fellow cast members, the aforementioned Pollock is a shining star and his razor sharp delivery of the pithy barbs, hits the mark every time, Aileen Johnston delivers a great big Ethel Merman-esque turn as producer Carmen Bernstein and Holly Steel should be applauded for pitching her chorus girl with ambitions of bigger things, Bambi, just perfectly, a role it would have been so easy to over-play.

This is all you could want from a musical: the big tunes, the big laughs, the fabulous production numbers and the great cast all add up to a fabulous night’s entertainment. If you want a perfect piece of escapist fun, then look no further.

Curtains runs until Saturday 14 May at Eastwood Park Theatre.

NEWS: Our Lady’s Musical Society is on the lookout for new talent

Following its successful White Christmas last November, Our Lady’s Musical Society will perform its new production Calamity Jane at Motherwell Theatre this November. With songs like “My Secret Love”, “Deadwood Stage”, “Windy City”, “Black Hills of Dakota” and many other familiar favourites it is sure to be another sell-out for this popular society.

White Christmas Blue Skies MT

Blue Skies from Our Lady’s Musical Society’s last production White Christmas.

The show, based on the classic Doris Day film, tells the story of the real-life Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok in mid-19th century Deadwood, South Dakota.

The club is on the lookout for new members – principals, dancers and chorus – particularly men, especially basses – with the talent and enthusiasm for musical theatre.

Rehearsals begin on Thursday 21st April, 7.15pm at Our Lady’s High School, Motherwell.

Charity presentations 2

The Society will soon be holding open auditions for the principal roles, so all you budding Doris Days and Howard Keels, head for the website http://www.ourladysopera.org.uk for all you need to know. The Society, known for its welcoming nature and high production values, is open to everyone with the talent and desire for musical theatre, with or without previous experience. The company meets regularly on Thursday evenings and welcomes potential new and returning members.

graphic basics

REVIEW: Sister Act – Motherwell Concert Hall

With a fresh outlook and some new faces, the 111 year old Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club are a society with a renewed spring in its step.

This year tackling Sister Act, the strong central casting raises this above the usual amateur theatre fodder.

Based on the much-loved 1992 movie, Cheers writers Cheri and Bill Steinkellner have revamped the story for its musical incarnation and while the movie features a raft of Motown hits, copyright issues mean that Broadway and Disney veteran Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater are charged with creating an all-new score.

When lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses her mobster boyfriend murder one of his low-life associates, she is put in protective custody in a convent. While transforming the tone-deaf choir into the hottest ticket in town, Deloris puts herself back in the firing line of the very gangsters she is hiding from.

Following on from her role as Dorothy in last year’s Wizard of Oz, Marianne Millard stars as Deloris. Millard has found her perfect role here, the larger than life singer with the powerhouse voice is the perfect fit. There are some knock-out nuns too (if there could be such a thing): Anne Morrison is a delight as the doubting Mother Superior as is Emma Rodger as the eternally optimistic Sister Mary Patrick and Cathy Taylor delivers a hysterical turn as the deadpan Sister Mary Lazarus.

There is extremely strong vocal support too from a fantastic (almost all-female) ensemble who are an absolute delight when singing as one.

While it really all is about the women in Sister Act, the boys manage to hold their own. Gordon Watson wins the audience’s sympathy and support as put-upon cop with a heart of gold, Eddie, it’s just a shame that there’s little opportunity here to exercise his impressive vocal skills in this part. In fine voice too is Peter Scally as mobster Curtis, who gets to deliver the hysterical When I Find My Baby, his acting however lacks conviction. As the trio of intellectually challenged, would-be hoodlums: Joey, Pablo and  T.J., Cameron King, Marc Costello and Allan Cochrane provide laughs as does Roland Russell as Monsignor O’Hara.

Former performer, now director, John Carr delivers a sure-footed production which cracks on apace and the finished result is a polished, tight and ultimately entertaining evening’s theatre.

If they continue to bring new talent, new ideas and a clear focus on the future, then this can only mean a sure future for Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club.

*as a footnote to the production, (and nothing to do with HODC) mention must be made of the appalling behaviour of the audience throughout the production. With constant latecomers (some half an hour after curtain, clutching a drink from the bar in each hand); incessant talking and sweetie eating and rustling; endless trips in and out to the bar accompanied by the theatre staff helping them in and out with full beam torches; there was little respect for the performers onstage and no respect for the people sitting around them. The only concern for the staff seemed to be the use of mobile phones.

If the venue wishes to operate as a professional one then the management and the staff need to act accordingly.

 

REVIEW: White Christmas – Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell

The Christmas Season has started early in Motherwell as Our Lady’s Musical Society present one of the best-loved seasonal shows of all time, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. A show that never fails to warm the cockles of even the hardest of hearts.

After leaving the army and their pals in the 151st Division, Captain Bob Wallace and his buddy Private Phil Davis become celebrated song and dance men. When they hear that their beloved old General is running a failing hotel in Vermont, they hatch a plan to help. With misunderstanding, mayhem and a touch of romance thrown into the mix, the duo try to ensure that everyone has the perfect white Christmas after all.

Where this production is on to a winner is the casting of the central roles, Andrew Rodger (Phil Davis) and Christopher Morris (Bob Wallace) are a knock-out pairing. Wallace’s wonderfully, warm-toned voice would give Bing Crosby a run for his money any day of the week, but it is Rodger who really shines; a fabulously talented actor, his finely detailed and brilliantly judged performance commands the stage. So on-point is he that he could grace any professional production.

The enviable talent of the central duo does, however, throw into sharp contrast any weaknesses. The pair are a hard act to grace a stage with and some fair better than others. Who does succeed and does so phenomenally well, is pint-sized, 11 year old Samantha Todd. Most astonishing is the fact that Todd stepped into the role knowing neither show nor part, with only four days to curtain up, due to the indisposition of the original actress ( it would have been nice if the programme could have reflected this – a typed slip added in to credit her effort). Todd, to put it simply, is a star. Her accent is perfect, her comic timing sublime and her singing and dancing skills put many of the adult actors to shame. This kid is going to go far.

The rest of the principal cast are a sure-footed bunch save for Julie Thomson as Betty Haynes. Thomson’s American accent is poor and her light soprano range isn’t suited to Berlin’s jazzy tunes.

The simple set comprised drop cloths and minimal props but served the production well and the changes were smooth and slick. (One quibble would be the feeble snow effect at the end – it is White Christmas after all). The costumes were a bit hit and miss period-wise and the wigs were, quite frankly, shockingly bad – those with styled natural hair were more period appropriate. Overall though, the look of the production was pleasing.

The large band were on form and fine-sounding throughout, doing full justice to Irving Berlin’s sublime tunes and the sound balance was well-judged.

An entertaining evening at the theatre and a lovely start to the festive season that will leave you looking forward to what’s next from Our Lady’s Musical Society.

 

REVIEW: Sweet Charity – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon’s 1966 musical Sweet Charity is chock full of familiar tunes and the occasional funny frolic, but nearly 50 years on it is showing signs of wear and tear. The story of the eternally optimistic, but forever unlucky in love, dance hall hostess Charity Hope Valentine and her search for the man of her dreams, is well and truly of its era.

The problems with the show lie firmly in the writing, the meandering narrative lacks a natural flow and feels like a series of random scenes tacked on to one another, some also seem unnecessarily long and need judicious cutting, (the elevator scene outstayed it’s welcome by a good 10 minutes) and it doesn’t provide enough reflection or comment on Charity’s situation (it stops short of using the label prostitute but heavily hints at it and we are left in no doubt that these women and their life choices are the lowest of the low. Their characters remaining firmly two-dimensional rather than fully fleshed out). This is a musical from a transition period between the Golden Era of musicals and the more forward thinking modern works to come; aiming to provide something new, but to our modern eyes, unfortunately, it just looks badly dated. For all its faults, the knock-out soundtrack more than makes up for its shortcomings.

Theatre Guild Glasgow manage to do their best with the dated material and have a genuine comic star in the form of Lisa Dutch. Dutch is an absolute delight to watch and has enviable comic timing with a fine set of pipes to match. The ensemble is energetic, enthusiastic and glorious sounding when singing en masse, doing full justice to the irresistible soundtrack. Praise must go to the band too, who are on fine form, sounding sprightly and on point throughout. The technical team also transition smoothly and glitches are rare.

If you want to have fun, a few laughs and a good time then go to see Dutch’s fine central performance and hear these classic tunes, if you want your musicals with a little more substance you might be better to look elsewhere.

Runs until Saturday 10th October 2015

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