Tag Archives: Amateur Theatre

REVIEW: Soho Cinders – Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s refreshing to see George Stiles and Anthony Drew’s little seen modern adaptation of Cinderella, Soho Cinders being staged in Glasgow, and highly anticipated when you know it’s Mad Props Theatre Company who are producing it. Known for fearless and original choices in their artistic output, Soho Cinders is another first for the company.

Life isn’t going well for skint student Robbie. His mother has died, and his lap-dancing club owning step-sisters have upped the rent on his beloved late mum’s launderette where he works and threatened to turf him out, coupled with that he’s fallen in love with the bisexual, engaged to a woman, London mayoral candidate, James. Oh, and to complicate matters even further, he’s also involved in a rather unconventional financial arrangement with a ‘fairy godfather’ Lord Bellingham.

The path of true love never runs smooth and needless to say there’s many a twist and turn until our Robbie is reunited with his mobile phone (the contemporary version of a glass slipper) and boy gets boy in the end.

There’s potential for Stiles and Drew’s work to be a bit more biting and make a bigger statement, but it remains a lightweight piece of fluff. The characters have been created with broad brushstrokes and the simplistic storytelling undermines the more serious points the musical is trying to make.

It has the feel both in tone and musically of Legally Blonde and Mamma Mia. There are also musical snippets that are reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar of all things. That said, the entire score is varied in style and pleasant on the ear. There are some knock-out tunes too – in particular, They Don’t Make Glass Slippers, sung by Mad Props stalwart Dominic Spencer (Soho Cinders marks his welcome return to the stage) they need him to elevate this average musical to something special, and he does. His rendition of this haunting ballad will leave you with goose-bumps. Marie-Anne McGrattan and Louise Daly-Creechan as Robbie’s grotesque step-sisters generate the lion’s share of the laughs, they look as if they’re having a ball and their energy transmits to the auditorium.

The supporting cast are universally solid and Jon Cuthbertson delivers a particularly repulsive turn as political aide William (his storyline uneasily resonant in light of the current sexual harassment scandals). Less successful is Stuart Taylor as Robbie’s love James. His voice doesn’t sound fully warmed up and it is often inaudible. On a side note, and a great coup for the company, the voice of Big Brother, Marcus Bentley provides the dead-pan narration.

Well worth watching for musical theatre aficionados who relish the chance to see less frequently staged works, and worth it alone to hear Dominic Spencer back in his finest form.

Runs until Saturday 4 November 2017 at Websters Theatre Glasgow.

Ticket details here

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: 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: Anything Goes – Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell

Anything Goes is classic musical theatre, complete with tap numbers, cheesy jokes, unlikely happy endings and an unforgettable score by the legendary Cole Porter, it includes some of his best known tunes: “De-Lovely,” “I Get a Kick Out Of You” and of course the title song itself, to name a few.

Set aboard the ocean liner S. S. American, nightclub singer Reno Sweeney is en-route from New York to England, her young pal Billy Crocker has stowed away to be near his love, socialite Hope Harcourt, but the problem is Hope is engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Joining this love triangle on board the luxury liner are Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin and his sidekick-in-crime Erma. With the help of some elaborate disguises and some good old-fashioned blackmail, Reno and Martin join forces to help Billy in his quest to win Hope’s heart.

This latest offering from Our Lady’s Musical Society has all the hallmarks of a winning night’s entertainment, great songs, great costumes and a light-hearted storyline, it’s the perfect piece for a large ensemble cast and there are some delightful highlights to be had: Christopher Morris shines as Billy Crocker, his era-evocative voice and golden-age of Hollywood characterisation are perfect in this pivotal role; Robert Kirkham is a delight as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, his spot-on accent and comic timing provide some of the biggest laughs of the evening and Jonathan Procter, a stalwart of many musical societies, proves why he is such an asset to any cast – his professionalism and ease on stage are a delight to watch.

However, unlike previous productions from this top-notch society, this one suffers from a lack of the requisite high energy that the show requires. This is a show renowned for its large ensemble tap numbers (and the tap skills of its leading lady) and to be frank the dancing just wasn’t up to scratch and whilst Marie Hannigan was in very fine voice as Reno Sweeney her maturity of years and lack of dancing skills were at odds with what is expected from the role. Heather Slamin too seemed somewhat miscast as Hope Harcourt, at times rather lifeless, she appeared to suffer from pitch issues throughout, though this may have been thrown into more sharp focus acting alongside the fine-voiced Hannigan and Morris.

That said, there was plenty of fun (and dodgy American accents) to be had throughout and the mature members of the audience around me seemed to be having an absolute ball. One can only hope that Our Lady’s Musical Society will be back on track next time and hopefully with an injection of some youthful new talent to balance out the high number of more mature performers they will be.

 

 

 

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 – Lourdes Theatre Group, Glasgow

As we tip-toe towards the Christmas season, Lourdes Theatre Group take us a step closer to that festive feeling with this production of Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol. 

This is the perfect show to help get into the spirit of the season, having as it does a joyous charm throughout. Menken and Ahren’s music has that magical Disney feel that will soften even the hardest of hearts.

The large ensemble are fine voiced from the start and truly shine when singing together, their joy at performing together just radiates from the faces of the performers throughout. 

Accompanied by one of the best sounding orchestras I’ve heard anywhere in the UK the musicians are polished to perfection. Special credit must go to the masterful musical direction of Des McLean who keeps the energy levels and quality up for the length of the piece and to the sound engineers who had the balance of orchestra and voice perfectly balanced throughout.

This is a largely youthful cast ably supported by a small band of more seasoned performers: Kevin Lynch in the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge is a fantastic talent, with crystal-clear diction and a soaring voice, he convincingly portrays the transformation of the cold-hearted miser with a sureness of touch and no small amount of skill. In smaller but memorable roles are: Sarah Kerr as the Blind Old Hag/Ghost of Christmas Future – not only in possession of a beautiful voice, Kerr is a fine young actress and dancer as well. Lee Anne Holly and Claire McKernan as Mrs. Cratchitt and Sally Anderson are also both strong-voiced young actresses who doubtlessly would shine given bigger roles. Special mention must also go to Alexander Campbell, one of the tiniest cast members who stole the hearts of the audience as the young Scrooge.

This is an engaging production, performed with spirit and heart, and its warmth will fill you choc full of the true spirit of Christmas. See it if you can.

Runs until Saturday at Lourdes Secondary, Cardonald.

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: The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan – Glasgow Orpheus Society

“The Orpheus Club is the longest established amateur musical society in Great Britain, and probably the world, and have performed an annual stage production uninterrupted for 119 years. The Club was founded in the south side of the City of Glasgow, Scotland, on 3rd October 1892. The club performs major musical productions to the highest artistic standards, employing professional stage directors, musical directors, choreographers, make-up artists, wardrobe assistants, and musicians.”

Well that’s what they say about themselves – now to the production. It’s been years since I saw any Gilbert and Sullivan so when I saw this I thought I’d go for it. 

First and foremost the singing was first class as the voices soared through this converted church auditorium. However there were a few downsides – and big ones at that – the auditorium was lit throughout and as one of the performers was overheard to comment at interval, the audience were a little self conscious throughout, being as they were in very close proximity, as well as right in the eye-line of the performers. I’ll vouch for the fact that it was very off-putting! This was a minimally staged performance with only hat changes and the occasional sword or truncheon to stimulate visually. As a result with the lights full up and the lack of visual interest (except the rather elderly member of the cast who had difficulty getting up and down and as a result had the concern of all with him) the audience did a lot of programme reading, glancing self-consciously at one another and shuffling in their seats.

There is no doubting the sheer quality of the singing here, it was superb, but a few more visual treats, or even just the lights going down would have improved the audience experience immeasurably. As it was my two companions swore never to darken the doors of any Orpheus production again on the basis of this experience – so off putting was it for them!

Their next production promises to be a visual treat – Jerry Herman’s La Cage Aux Folles staged next door at the King’s – If they keep up the standards of singing and add the flamboyant visuals this should be a winner. We can only hope so.

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