Category Archives: AMATEUR THEATRE

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

REVIEW: Octave – 5till GLO-ing, GLO Auditorium, Motherwell

A quick glance around the packed auditorium is enough to tell you all you need to know about the popularity and quality of vocal ensemble Octave. Returning for their fifth outing at the GLO Auditorium, it’s another excellent programme of popular musical theatre standards, lesser known gems and classic pop hits.

As always, each member of the ensemble is given their chance to shine, but there are some standouts in this evening of quality performances: Esther O’Hara’s rendition of How Did We Come to This from The Wild Party is an emotive big hitter, as is The Sound of Music‘s eternal classic Climb Ev’ry Mountain from Carol Whitelaw.

This year the more obscure tracks outnumbered the big hitters with songs from Mame, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Man of La Mancha and Martin Guerre adding to more familiar classics from Evita, Les Mis and The Sound of Music. It’s an eclectic programme, and that is to be applauded, but if any criticism is to be made, it is that many of the tunes were emotionally similar in tone this year and as a result, it seemed as though there wasn’t as great a variety of light and shade – it is such a minor quibble though when there’s so much quality on display. The singing is universally top-notch and the production and staging utterly professional. To match the stunning singing, credit must also be given to the accompanying band who were on blistering form throughout.

Octave remain at the top of their game, still on unbeatable form – there are few vocal ensembles who could match their quality and professionalism. An evening of unquestionable quality from start to finish.

REVIEW: Evita – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

On one hand a masterclass in social climbing: B Movie actress and nightclub ‘hostess’ rises to become the saintly spiritual leader of the poorest and most disaffected in her country, on the other a portrait of a social climber who achieved riches and power in a finely calculated rise to the top. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is both a love letter to the saintly Eva Peron and an expose, through Che’s contradictory narrative that highlights Eva’s part in husband Juan Peron’s violent dictatorship, their silencing of enemies and the misappropriation of ‘charity” donations.

Evita is also a show melodically complex and huge in its staging, so it’s a brave undertaking for an amateur company, but Runway Theatre Company prove they are more than a match for Rice and Lloyd Webber’s epic musical.

The stage teems with life and under the disciplined direction of Robert Fyfe the hugely talented cast keep it tight and focussed throughout. Worthy of note is Greg Robertson’s exceptionally clever choreography, which plays to the strengths of a cast that varies in age and ability. At all times it is on-point and highly effective. There are some shining stars in the cast: as Che, Johnny Collins’ performance would put some recent castings in professional productions to shame, his diction is crystal clear and his delivery of Che’s iconic songs, in particular “Oh What a Circus” and “High Flying Adored”, are beautifully judged. Runway regulars J. Campbell Kerr (Peron) and Tom Russell (Magaldi) are in supremely fine voice as ever, as is newcomer Christina Rose Leon as Peron’s mistress. Less successful is Caroline Telfer as Eva, strong in her lower range, she ventures into shrillness in the soaring high notes, she also struggles in duets with Kerr and Collins, appearing to fight against the pair, who are both vocally excellent, instead of harmonising as the melodies require.

Runway do full justice to the dramatic intensity of Rice and Lloyd Webber’s much-loved work. This is a hugely accomplished staging with a stunning ensemble and strong core casting. As ever it leaves you waiting and wondering – what’s next from this exceptionally fine company?

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz – Motherwell Concert Hall, Motherwell

With the musical theatre behemoth that is Wicked (the untold story of the witches of Oz) currently treading the boards and packing the auditorium at the Edinburgh Playhouse on its record-breaking UK tour, Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club present the perfect opportunity to return to the source material that made it all possible; Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.

Baum’s century old tale of little Dorothy Gale and her adventures in the magical land of Oz is presented here in John Kane’s 1986 overhauled stage version, featuring the classic and much-loved movie score from Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, it also includes extended dialogue and the re-instated “The Jitterbug” sequence which was cut from the 1939 film.

With a new production team on board and a fresh influx of talent, the society have decided to kick of the theatrical festive season with a bang. The Wizard of Oz is no small undertaking: most of the audience being more than familiar with this beloved story and its classic soundtrack, and the team are to be applauded for the sheer scale of their ambition in staging this technically demanding and lengthy show. The actors must also be applauded for agreeing to share the stage with the inevitably scene-stealing Toto (played here by Alfie, who is a professional from the tips of his toes to his shiny nose and whose expression throughout was an entertainment in itself).

Key to the success of the piece is the casting of the central quartet: Marianne Millard is a competent Dorothy, vocally capable of carrying the role, she moves well too, however in the more emotive moments her dialogue defaults to an ear-piercing shrillness and at times her line delivery is a tad slow, especially when working off the other, more experienced actors. Stand-out however are the magical trio of the Scarecrow (John Carr), Tin Man (Gordon Watson) and the Cowardly Lion (Colin Vincent) the three men more than live up to expectations both vocally and in their acting. Vincent in particular could not have been better cast, his Cowardly Lion perfectly encapsulating the much-loved character and providing the biggest laughs of the night. Notable too are the impeccable American accents from the principal players which remain on point throughout,

There are many moments where the ensemble get their chance to shine too, but they are a little protracted in a show that comes in at just under three hours and add little to the storytelling, however this is no fault of the hard-working performers rather it is a criticism of the show itself.

There are an impressive number of scene/setting changes in the production, providing much to keep the interest levels high and a lot of nice small detail such as a crackling fire and pyrotechnic effects throughout, the costumes too are suitably colourful and liberal use is made of projected backgrounds to enhance each location. For the most part the transitions are handled very well by this amateur company, the only wish being that they were a little more brisk.

Mention must be made of the outstanding orchestra, ably directed by the youthful Christopher Duffy their playing remains tight and sharp and a delight to the ear for the duration of the show.

If this ambitious show is a glimpse of what the new creative team have to offer then I am keen to see what comes next. An impressive debut to build upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Lend Me a Tenor – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Based on Ken Ludwig’s play of the same name, it’s 1934, Cleveland, Ohio and Henry Saunders, manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company and his nervy assistant Max, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Tito Merelli (Il Stupendo). Merelli is in town to sing the lead in Verdi’s Otello, an event that will be the biggest coup in the history of the theatre. A sellout crowd awaits – what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything of course.

As always it’s quality assured when you see the name Runway Theatre attached to any performance. In a work that could easily descend into cheap slapstick in the wrong hands, this production manages to pull off the none-too-easy task of presenting a pitch-perfect musical farce.

The laughs are non-stop and the musical numbers are beautifully performed, staged and costumed.The shows greatest success though is the central casting of Kris Haddow as Max Garber and J.Campbell Kerr as Tito Merelli, both in possession of knock-out voices and impeccable comic timing, their impressive theatrical experience shines through and both could grace any West End stage with ease. The pair are ably supported (and finely voiced) by: Roslyn Hogg as Maggie, the object of put-upon Max’s affections, Aileen Johnston as Tito’s volatile Italian wife and Chriss Mills as opera diva Diana Diuane. The ensemble too are worthy of particular praise as one of the finest sounding companies in Scotland.

An utterly joyful evening’s theatre in the presence of possibly Scotland’s finest amateur company.

 

 

REVIEW: Back to the 80’s, Minerva Youth Theatre – Eastwood Park Theatre

The biggest hits of the decade, an engaging and nostalgia filled storyline, combined with the energy and commitment of this vibrant and highly talented cast, make Minerva Youth Theatre’s Back to the 80’s a must-see for every age group.

Regarded by most who had to live through them, as not the best decade for either fashion or music, this show proves that yes, some of the fashion moments may have been ill-judged, but there really were some fabulous hits in the 80’s, which this brilliantly exuberant and sure-footed cast deliver with unwavering focus and energy for the whole of its two hours.

There’s much to delight here for every age group; those who remember the 80’s can revel in the cleverly delivered nods to just about every famous face and fad of the decade (it’s a whirlwind tour of the pop culture of the day); while the kids can, in turn, laugh at what we found “cool” way back then and find out where all those neon fashions so prevalent now, actually came from. The kids will also surprise themselves at how many of those nearly 30 year old hits they actually know.

The show tells the story of 17 year old Corey (Matthew McCallion) and his friends and enemies in the 1989 graduating class of William Ocean High (get it?) as seen through the eyes of his almost thirty year old self in the year 2001. It’s a classic boy meets girl story infused with all the trials and tribulations of teenage love, but seen from the perspective of the now grown man, and all played out to the sounds of the biggest hits of the 80’s.

The ensemble as a whole are polished and assured, but special mention must go to Matthew McCallion as central character Corey Palmer whose affable charm, impeccable American accent and highly accomplished performance are the lynch-pin of the evening. He is ably supported by Reece Thomson as the object of Corey’s affection, Tiffany and Kyle Nolan as his rival in love Michael. Also deserving of praise are: Ross Moynihan as high school nerd turned Internet millionaire Feargal McFerrin, who wholeheartedly throws himself into the role and raises the biggest laughs of the night (I won’t waste the surprise but his Karate Kid routine is priceless) and Hannah Verlaque and Jennifer Scott as Laura and Debbie a pair of girly geeks with fantastic comic timing.

The show whizzes past at breakneck speed, punctuated by some fantastic hits sung by a hugely talented cast –  go along and enjoy the roller coaster ride Back to the 80’s – I promise you’ll love it.

Runs until Saturday (including Saturday matinee) at Eastwood Park Theatre

Tickets from Box Office 0141 577 4970

or

0141 569 9469

REVIEW: Singin’ in the Rain – Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Glasgow Light Opera Club

If ever there was a musical that could wash away those impending winter blues then Singin’ in the Rain is that show. How can anyone fail to be entertained by musical classics such as Make ’em Laugh, You Are My Lucky Star, You Were Meant for Me and of course the magical title song? This tale of the dawn of the “talkies” is one of the best-loved musicals of all time.

Glasgow Light Opera Club bring a touch of stardust and good old-fashioned theatrical class to the King’s Theatre in this, their latest production. Giving the central performance of the night as Don Lockwood, Brendan Lynch is a revelation. This role requires the classic  “triple threat” – an actor, singer and dancer, and outside the professional theatre world that’s hard to find. Lynch’s voice is so utterly evocative of the era, that if you closed your eyes you’d swear you were listening to a 78 rpm record on a wind up gramophone. When you add in immaculate footwork executing the imaginative choreography and finely tuned acting, you can’t fail to see that Lynch truly is a star – the stage only fully lights up when he’s there.

Providing the high comedy moments with a deft touch are Suzanne Shanks as silent movie diva Lina Lamont and Aaron Mooney as Don’s life-long side-kick Cosmo Brown, Shank’s ear-splitting rendition of What’s Wrong With Me raises the biggest cheer of the night and praise must also go to the dancers who provide a touch of sparkle and polish with their Busby Berkeley-inspired routines.

If you want to be transported to a time when stars were stars and glamour and elegance were king then Singin’ in the Rain is the show to take you there, and I dare you not to skip through the next puddle you find humming the famous theme tune.

Runs at the King’s Theatre Glasgow until Saturday ticket details here

REVIEW: Footloose – Theatre Guild of Glasgow, Eastwood Park Theatre

When Ren and his mom move from Chicago to small town Bomont, Ren is prepared for big changes at his new high school, but what he isn’t prepared for is a ban on dancing instituted by the local preacher, determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth. When the Reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage his reputation. With many of the locals eager to believe the worst about the new kid how can Ren turn them all around?

The movie turned into musical might be a familiar formula but this faultless company don’t put a foot wrong in this high octane version of Dean Pitchford’s Footloose.

The cast burst onstage with an exuberant flourish and their infectious charm carries the audience along on a wave of energy right to the end in this engaging and affable tale.

The Theatre Guild of Glasgow are renowned for the quality of their cast and here it’s no exception. Central to the action is Connor Going whose assured performance strikes the right balance between arrogance and affability as rebellious teen Ren, but where the production really shines is when the more experienced members of the ensemble take to the stage. In particular Cameron Lowe gives a finely tuned performance as Reverend Moore, the lynch-pin of the community with a strangle-hold on the town’s youth. Lowe perfectly conveys the inner turmoil of a man struggling with his duties as town leader and his true feelings. His beautifully nuanced performance is the highlight of the night. Adele Simpson and Suzanne Lowe as the mothers of the two central characters also deliver a “hairs on the back of the neck” scene in Learning to be Silent, where both actresses’ soaring voices are given a chance to shine. As well as these moments of drama, Andrew Neilson as Willard provides the comedy set piece of the night with his rendition of Mama Says. Pure comedy gold.

This is a show guaranteed to put a smile on your face – get a ticket if you can, go along and be swept away by its joyous charm, and be confident that where you see the name Theatre Guild of Glasgow you can be certain that’s it’s quality assured.

REVIEW: Whistle Down The Wind, Runway Theatre Company, Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow

There are amateur theatre companies and there are amateur theatre companies, and Runway Theatre Company are no ordinary amateur theatre company, this production, the Scottish amateur premier of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down The Wind must be the closest to professional perfection that I’ve seen.

In an evening of delights it is hard to know where to start heaping praise: From the richness of the sound of the accomplished orchestra; to the stunningly versatile set; the soaring multi-layered voices of the ensemble; the scene-stealing junior players to the astonishing quality of the principals, this was in a class apart.

Special praise must go to Elle MacKenzie as Swallow whose crystal-clear soprano was a joy; to Kate McVey and Ethan Kerr whose performances belie their ages, both performing with a focus and strength that many adults could only aspire to – all the while never faltering in maintaining convincing American accents; but the most praise must go to the phenomenal power-house that is J Campbell Kerr. It is rare to see a performance of this quality on any stage let alone an amateur one. Kerr’s acting is pitch-perfect but his voice is simply sublime – good enough to challenge any of our celebrity tenors or baritones out there – indeed much of the interval chat was praising Kerr as a rival to Alfie Boe.

This simply shines with sheer quality from curtain up to curtain down. I urge you to beat a path to the Mitchell Theatre door before this ends on Saturday.

Ticket info from: Susan Russell 07801 048527 or sbrussell@ntlworld.com

REVIEW: Oliver! – Hamilton Operatic Society, Motherwell Concert Hall

Bringing vividly to life Dickens’ timeless characters with its ever-popular story of the boy who asked for more, Lionel Bart’s sensational score includes Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, You’ve Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two, I’d Do Anything, Oom Pah Pah, As Long As He Needs Me and many more.

Six months on from The Producers, this is Hamilton Operatic Society’s latest offering. With another enormous cast (50 adults and 50-55 children – yes, you read that correctly!) and a change of venue a few miles north to the cavernous Motherwell Concert Hall – It’s time for Oliver!

The last production by this society was of such high quality  that I was looking forward to this enormously. So did it live up to expectations? Well if I’m being honest – no. 

But first to the highlights; Yet again, John Carr was a fine Fagan – both his acting and singing were of excellent quality and he played the role with a engaging warmth and charisma. Gordon Watson, stand-out performer from The Producers, was again in fine voice in the small, but key role of Bill Sykes. Peter Scally as Mr.Sowerberry made an impact in the short time he was on stage and the children playing Oliver and the Artful Dodger did so effectively – Oliver possessing a clear voice (but a bit lifeless) and the Dodger full of life (but constantly hauling up his trousers!)

One highlight of the evening were the ensemble members who sang Who Will Buy, each, to a man (and woman) were fine, fine singers so much so, that I wonder why some of them were passed up for bigger roles. Which brings me to the most jarring note of the performance – yet again. Now I took two guests to see this with me and in the interest of bringing an unbiased opinion here, I asked them what they thought of the performances before I shared what I was going to write. Both were astonished at the casting of Nancy – Now as anyone who has seen, heard or read about this show will know that it is one of the pivotal roles. So why oh why was the dialogue mangling Suzanne Gilliland cast as such a key character again. Not a line of dialogue or lyric was intelligible. The only line that was decipherable was the belting out of –  as long as heeeee neeeeds meeeeee! at the end of said song. I wasn’t exactly a fan of hers from the last show but was willing to cut her some slack if she proved me wrong here. Well she only confirmed that she was woefully miscast yet again. Both my guests agreed as did some colleagues who expressed their dismay at her performance.

Once again the scenic team provided some unexpected moments of slapstick in their scenery- removing. My special favourite was the gent, who, in the middle of Fagin’s big dramatic number Reviewing The Situation decided to dismantle the fireplace directly behind Fagin’s head in full view of the audience. I wondered if he was a disgruntled reject from the casting process who was getting his moment in the spotlight – quite literally – RIGHT in the spotlight  – pure comedy gold. Another slightly alarming addition were the crinoline-clad ladies who wafted down the aisles, waving their hands in the air then promptly wafted off again out of sight. I personally think it was just an excuse to wear a big pastel coloured satin frock!

Now back to the performance – credit must go to the children of the ensemble – they were absolutely charming, step-perfect, and of fine voice throughout. They kept up levels of energy and professionalism that the adults would have been proud of.

This production had many plus points – John Carr and Gordon Watson especially and some very good supporting performances, but ultimately there was something missing – it didn’t have the heart or the warmth that would have made it great. I keep my fingers crossed for their next production Fiddler on the Roof in November.

Until the production photos are posted here are some rehearsal shots from STV online.

 

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