Tag Archives: Julie Thomson

REVIEW: Octave GLO Celebr8 – GLO Auditorium, Motherwell

The classiest choral group around are back in town. Octave bring their eighth annual concert, GLO Celebr8 to the GLO Auditorium in Motherwell.

With a programme of 35 songs, and as the title of their debut CD, Music for Everyone proclaims, there truly is something for everyone here. From pop classics such as Blame it on the Boogie and Son of a Preacher Man, through traditional British classics The Crookit Bawbee and The Foggy, Foggy Dew to movie and stage musical theatre big-hitters old and new, the evening’s programme is a carefully curated gem.

Musical Director David Fisher has a canny ability to programme a concert to please an audience. That said, he has some of the finest amateur vocalists in the region to sing his specially selected songs. While there are some stand-out solo efforts, the concert elevates when the eight performers sing as one. Particular highlights include beautiful ensemble renditions of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Your Song and Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The superlative acoustics in the auditorium mean that these wonderful voices have the chance to soar and prove that Octave still have the ability to give you goose bumps.

A welcome, new feature of this year’s concert is the inclusion of a Master of Ceremonies, Bill Craig. Craig is a natural raconteur and the witty, professionally delivered introductions are both informative and amusing. It allows the singers to concentrate on singing and move the proceedings from one section to another with aplomb.

Octave deliver something fresh and new every year and long may it continue.

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: 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: Octave GLO 4th – At the GLO Auditorium, Motherwell

Vocal ensemble Octave return to the GLO Auditorium for their fourth annual charity concert and deliver a jewel-coloured kaleidoscope of music from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries.

Any musical director who can programme songs as diverse as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Nella Fantasia’, ‘Puttin on the Ritz’, ‘Phil the Fluter’s Ball’ and Tom Lehrer’s ‘A Spring Song’ a barmy little ditty about “poisoning pigeons in the park” into a recital schedule and make it seem like the most natural marriage in the world deserves not only praise, but respect for bravery, creativity and a sure artistic vision: David Fisher your audience salutes you.

The programme of songs delivers something for every musical taste and as expected from this supremely talented ensemble, has as many surprises as familiar favourites, but always provides the best showcase for the singers. This year is no exception; highlights include Esther O’Hara’s version of Lloyd-Webber’s ‘Love Changes Everything’, Janis Cunningham’s ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ and the female members of the ensemble’s hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck-raising rendition of ‘Time to Say Goodbye’. The boys don’t do too badly either, each managing to let their big personalities shine through especially in their tongue in cheek delivery of the Monty Python classic ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

Always guaranteed to put a smile on your face and send you onto the street with a song in your heat, it is rare to find performers of this quality in the amateur spectrum. Octave are the ensemble to watch out for – do yourself a favour and catch them wherever you can.

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: Triumphant return for Octave at the GLO Auditorium

It is a joy, and unfortunately becoming a rare thing indeed, to be able to sit in an auditorium and bask in the musical glow when an ensemble are truly in harmony with one another in every sense of the word.

Too often musical directors fail to find the talent to match their ambitious musical choices – this cannot be said of OCTAVE. Musical Director David Fisher provides an inspired and inspiring selection of musical genres and eras in this carefully crafted programme of aural delights. It deftly treads the fine line between providing the audience with enough familiar material from the West End and Broadway big-hitters, whilst retaining its musical integrity by introducing some unexpected and less well known, but stunningly beautiful songs perfectly pitched to showcase the immense talent of its singers.

Where the performers are at their most exquisite is when they sing as an ensemble – the soaring volume and beautifully crafted layers bring goosebumps. Their unique selling point however is the ability of the singers to act, to truly sell the songs – this is no static choir performance – there is a range of beautifully and subtly choreographed pieces as well as high comedy and show-stopping razzmatazz which help sustain interest throughout this two hour performance.

You would be hard pressed to find a musical ensemble of better quality than this anywhere in the UK and believe me I’ve seen a lot, reviewing all over the country. Hopefully this fledgling group will spread their wings so that we can all have the opportunity to enjoy them.

At the GLO Auditorium Motherwell until Saturday 8th September see below;