Tag Archives: Christopher Morris

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: 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: 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.