Tag Archives: amateur musicals

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: Fiddler on the Roof – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Fiddler-on-the-Roof_StrapThis article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/fiddler-on-the-roof-eastwood-park-theatre-giffnock/

Book: Joseph Stein

Music: Jerry Bock

Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick

Director: Alasdair Hawthorn

Choreographer: Jonathan Parsons

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

There are few musicals which rely so heavily on a single central character to carry the show, but Joseph Stein, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiddler on the Roof is one.

The success (or failure) of this show hangs on the casting of the iconic role of Tevye; the poor Jewish dairyman, father of five free-thinking daughters and defender of the much cherished and long-held traditions of his Jewish faith. In the hands of Jonathan Proctor, Theatre Guild of Glasgow have a star quality Tevye, a rich baritone of exquisite tone and power, Proctor imbues the role with wisdom, wit and a winning warmth, which will charm even the hardest of hearts. Proctor lights up the stage with every appearance and the stage feels less bright when he’s not there.

Fiddler is a show about tradition, however it is anything but traditional: it is unusual subject matter for a musical, at its heart the story is undeniably bleak, focussing as it does on a turbulent time in Russian history: the pogroms, the victimisation of the Jewish people and the eventual Russian diaspora. Depressingly, the story still retains a resonance today as society fights to hang on to traditional values in turbulent times. Yes, there are moments of reflection, yes, it’s touching and yes, there are moments of utter sadness, but overwhelmingly it is a joyful celebration of life and of hope.

The staging here is relatively simplistic however, it is highly effective in evoking the bustling life in the shtetl Anatevka at the turn of the century. There is a large ensemble and the company are at their finest when singing as one. The evocative score has some stand out tunes too: “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”, “Sunrise, Sunset” and of course, “If I Were a Rich Man”, principle among them.

If any criticism is to be made with the production it is in some of the supporting roles, there were some pitch issues with a few of the cast, which were highlighted due to principal characters such as Proctor as Tevye and Suzanne Shanks in the role of daughter Hodel, being of such fine voice that it threw up any faults in those who had to sing alongside them. That said, it did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the evening.

A vivid re-staging of a classic show with a strong ensemble and a star leading man.

REVIEW: Runway Theatre present A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – Eastwood Park

estwood

Stephen Sondheim is the musical theatre equivalent of Marmite – it’s either love or hate and this seldom seen Sondheim is a brave choice by Runway Theatre Company.

Personally I am in the love category  – believing Sondheim’s works have the ability to scratch below the surface of life and really speak to an audience, but this isn’t your average Sondheim.  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the bawdy story of slave Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero woo the girl next door. The show is at its heart a farce, with punning a-plenty, mistaken identity and many a double-entendre on show.

The set alone sets the tone – a rollicking Roman riot of eye-poppingly bright colour and the infectious spirit continues throughout the performance.

Comedy is by far and away the most difficult genre to pull off but this is a sure-footed cast who deftly handle the quick witted dialogue and full-on farce with a joyous enthusiasm and an ebullient spirit. In a knock-out cast it seems unfair to single anyone out for particular praise but central to the success of the show is the casting of Will Pollock as Pseudolus and the quite frankly hysterical Iain G Condie as Hysterium. The pair’s razor-sharp timing and well-honed comedy skills provoke genuine belly-laughs from the audience throughout. Also deserving of praise are the ever-sonorous tones of J Campbell Kerr and Tom Russell, who to complement their already impressive vocal skills add perfectly pitched comedy acting to their repertoire.

This is a joyous production by a spirited company richly deserving acclaim, not only for their polished performance but for their clever artistic choices. Runway Theatre Company radiate warmth and charm and above all deliver unfailing quality every time.

Runs until Saturday 18th May 2013 at Eastwood Park Theatre

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol – Our Lady’s Light Opera, Motherwell Theatre

The temperature certainly has the feeling of the festive season, so what better way to warm your heart than with this musical version of Charles Dickens beloved tale. In their 50th anniversary year Our Lady’s Light Opera stage Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol.

This vast and highly accomplished cast fill the stage with a quality and enthusiasm that cannot fail to capture your heart. Menken and Ahrens evocative and uplifting music is sung and acted at its best.

In the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge, John McKenzie‘s  powerful voice fills the auditorium with strength and clarity, skilfully driving the narrative throughout, his acting focus never wavering throughout the course of the two hour show. Especially effective is the realisation of the Ghost of Jacob Marley, fantastically clad with added voice effects, Laurie Thompson adeptly creates the role. Praise must also go to the fine voice of Christopher Morris in the small supporting role of Ebenezer’s nephew Fred, with a truly beautiful tone, he is a delight to listen to every time he is on stage. Possibly a performer destined for greater triumphs.

The junior performers equip themselves just as well, providing just the right amount of charm without descending into tweeness. Adam Stewart as Tiny Tim and Ciaran Rogers as the young Ebenezer are both in possession of crystal clear voices that won’t fail to move you.

Praise must go to director Alan C. Jones for inventively staging the piece: clever setting and smooth scene changes ensure a seamless transition from set piece to set piece. Lavishly costumed, the supporting performers add depth and bring the Dickensian characters thrillingly alive, giving the production a polished professional finish. The special effects too are highly convincing, adding extra dramatic effect and atmosphere – and you won’t fail to be charmed as the first flutters of snow fall in the final moments.

The evening flies by, and that is a testament to the quality of the story telling and the performances by the actors. Thoroughly engaging throughout, this is a sure footed and deftly performed show from a hugely accomplished cast. Highly recommended.

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.

 

REVIEW: The Producers – Hamilton Operatic Society, Hamilton Town House 22nd November 2011

Another adventure into the world of the Am-Drams, this time Hamilton Operatic & Dramatic Club. Now I’ve seen this at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane with Lee Evans in the starring role so I wasn’t exactly expecting anything on that scale, but, based on their high quality track record I was looking forward to this. The story goes…

“After putting together another Broadway flop, down-on-his-luck producer Max Bialystock teams up with timid accountant Leo Bloom in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world’s worst show.”

Well with a cast of 46, a musical ensemble of 18 and 17 scene changes, in a theatre that last hosted Bill Kenwright’s Joseph production, this was a huge undertaking. Apart from a few stray hands creeping out from the curtains to grab bits of scenery, this was approaching professional standards.

The most impressive thing were the singing voices of the two male principals; Gordon Watson as Max Bialystock and Paul Gilliland as Leo Bloom – just fantastic professional quality, both of whom also maintained excellent American accents throughout. Also deserving of a mention were Peter Scally as Franz Liebkind and John Carr and Ray O’Sullivan as Roger De Bris and his “common law assistant” Carmen Ghia. All three appeared to be more than relishing their roles!

The only weak link in the leads was Ulla played by Suzanne Gilliland who had the worst comic Swedish accent – totally unintelligible – now I know this is meant to be a caricature but she needs to be at least clear in the words she’s mangling to get the laughs. The fact that she was short and wearing a really badly fitting wig didn’t help either.

While not matching the 1968 Mel Brooks film for sheer hysteria it was packed with plenty of laughs. Oh and special mention must also go to the fabulous quality of the programme. On the basis of this it will be well worth checking out their future productions. Highly recommended.

all production pics from here

REVIEW: Crazy For You – Theatre Guild of Glasgow, Eastwood Park Theatre 8th October 2011

Today saw another visit to the Eastwood Park Theatre this time to see The Theatre Guild of Glasgow’s week-long, sell-out production of Gershwin’s Crazy For You. 

CRAZY FOR YOU is the story of Bobby Child, a well-to-do 1930’s playboy, whose dream in life is to dance. Despite the serious efforts of his mother and soon-to-be-ex-fiancee, Bobby achieves his dream. In doing so, he travels to Deadrock, Nevada, ostensibly to foreclose on the mortgage of the failing Gaiety Theatre. However, he falls for local girl, Polly, and he sets out to impress her. He decides to pose as New York theatre producer Zangler and put on a show to save the theatre using the deadbeat local townsfolk as the entertainment! Turning the sleepy local cowboys into dancers is not easy but, aside from that, all seems to go well until the real Zangler shows up with Bobby’s mother and the “Zangler’s Folly’s” in tow.

It’s a high energy comedy which includes mistaken identity, plot twists, fabulous dance numbers and classic Gershwin music. It played for 1,622 performances on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre and won 3 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Songs include They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Bidin’ My Time, Embraceable You, Someone To Watch Over Me and I’ve Got Rhythm.

This is a high quality amateur performance. The ensemble were of such fine voice that you would be hard pressed to hear better in the West End. There was a perfect balance of every vocal range and each note rang out perfectly for the whole performance. The orchestra were also top notch. This was a huge cast (over 40+) and there were few weak notes. If any criticism could be levelled it would be at the two leads – Adele Simpson as Polly Baker was a strong performer and when singing the “belting” numbers she was competent, but her voice in the lower range was less than reliable. I was also slightly distracted by thoughts of her resemblance to a young Margaret Thatcher! David McCurrach in the lead role of Bobby Child was rarely off stage and his voice was competent enough but he really was no mover! There is a lot of dancing for the leading man in this show and he looked ungainly and a bit embarassed throughout. As a seasoned performer (according to the show notes) he should know that a poor dancer with confidence and conviction can get away with a lot! He also lacked charisma which this role really needs. (Oh and next time please  make sure the poor guy has a suit that fits him!) On the whole however, this was a visual delight – the set design, costumes and sheer size and quality of cast meant it was an impressive and entertaining show.

REVIEW: Return to the Forbidden Planet, East Renfrewshire Operatic Society, Eastwood Theatre 24th September 2011

What do you get if you combine a retro soundtrack, Shakespeare’s Tempest and an outer space setting? This!

It was with a bit of trepidation that I took my seat for this amateur production of Return to the Forbidden Planet by EROS. Expecting cardboard and tinfoil sets and granny’s old curtains masquerading as space suits. My fears were initially allayed on seeing the set which was on full view before “curtain up”. It was professionally done and the costumes good, bearing in mind the variety of shapes and sizes they had to accommodate. The only problem was that having the set on view before hand and having the players “acting” whilst the audience took their seats, made it feel as if the action took even longer to get going. As it was there was a good bit of dialogue to set up the story before any music struck up and the show and audience took a while to warm up.

That said, there were a few standout performances – those who managed to act and sing without forgetting the other – Mike Denholm was fantastic as Dr. Prospero and Pamela Marshall as Gloria were excellent.  Philip Larmour as Captain Tempest had a repertoire of tongue-in-cheek moves but his voice let him down in the lower range (he also had the look of the local dentist or accountant letting out his acting fantasies on stage, a little bit cringey) and Andrew Tasker as Cookie showed promise.

My only bug-bear with amateur productions is the lack of good diction. I know that nerves play a massive part in wanting to rush through the dialogue to just get it out, but I wish they would enunciate properly and take their time. This musical is, of course, based on The Tempest and there were Shakespearean quotes thrown in for humour all over the place, but they were completely lost in the mangled pronunciation. All in all a very good effort and a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I look forward to seeing what they do with more traditional musical theatre material.

REVIEW: Billy Elliot – Shine Youth Musical Theatre – Pavillion Theatre Glasgow 8th June 2011

The producers of Billy Elliot in the West End operate a youth programme and have selected Shine Youth Theatre Group to stage this production of the award-winning show at Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre.

The Pavilion has a large stage to fill and it was really heartwarming to see children performing with absolute professionalism. Their focus was unfaltering throughout especially Reece Miller in the title role, Ryan Cuthell (11) as cross-dressing best friend Michael, and Lawrence Sharkey as Mr. Elliot, a 17 year old with a tenor voice full of resonance that would match any West End leading man. Stars of the future for sure.


Billy Elliot Official London Merchandise