Tag Archives: Motherwell Theatre

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: 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: Kiss Me Honey, Honey – Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell

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This article was originally written for and published  by The Public Reviews at:

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/kiss-me-honey-honey-motherwell-theatre-motherwell/

Writer: Philip Meeks

Director: Sam  Kane

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

A Gilded Balloon commission for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Philip Meeks’ Kiss Me Honey, Honey is on the surface a farcical romp about the lives of two single middle aged men, reduced to living in less than salubrious digs, who bond over a mutual appreciation of Shirley Bassey and a desperate desire for love. But as with all of Meeks’ work it masks a deeper, much sadder and sadly resonant tale of loneliness and the perils of dating in the digital age.

This amiable two hander plays out for the most part like an episode of a risqué 1970′s sitcom: there’s innuendo, female impersonation, in-jokes and misunderstandings a-plenty. There’s also more than a whiff of the panto about the whole endeavour, deftly handled by both Andy Gray, as recently divorced Ross and Grant Stott as naive dating newbie Graham. Gray is well known as a comedy actor and it is no surprise that he elicits the biggest belly-laughs from the crowd, but it is Stott that is the revelation here, usually seen as the pantomime villain, his finely tuned portrayal of the innocent Graham displays an up until now unseen dramatic talent.

There is an undeniable rapport between the two actors, honed over years as stalwarts of the Edinburgh pantomime scene and they manage to wring every last laugh from the material. However, the comedy is broad and the jokes too obvious, and whilst they elicit laughs from the largely older audience, the 70′s sexism and (at times) misogyny, is a little hard to accept in the 21st century and lessens rather than heightens the impact of the more thoughtful moments of tragedy and reflection.

That said, its easy to forgive its faults and the mirth continued as the audience exited the venue. A funny but undemanding and somewhat old-fashioned evening’s entertainment, but it could have been so much more.

Reviewed on 13th October 2013 then touring.

Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne

REVIEW: The Collection – Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell

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This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-collection-motherwell-theatre-motherwell/

Writer: Mike Cullen

Director: Michael Emans

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Mike Cullen’s The Collection is a tale of desperation, conscience, poverty, avarice, inevitable tragedy and depressing relevance and resonance, despite being written almost twenty years ago. After ten years, Bob Lawson (Jimmy Chisholm) is at the top of his “profession”, something to be proud of you would think, well it would be, were it not for the fact that his “profession” is debt collection. But Lawson’s life is shattered forever when one of his female clients commits suicide. Charting the sordid dealings and the financially, morally and spiritually bankrupt characters who pass through the collection agency’s doors, this is a grim tale for our grim times.

The smell of testosterone and desperation hangs heavy in the air and Cullen’s work wears its influences on its sleeve: the gritty dialogue, grim humour and male egos at their worst, particularly in the interactions between the wholly repellent hard man Joe played with chilling detachment by David Tarkenter and naive new boy Billy (Tam Dean Burn) can’t help but remind one of the work of David Mamet.

The dialogue is, as expected raw, the humour black and the drama intense, however, there is an overwhelming sense of inevitability and predictability about the whole affair. The storyline, whilst compelling never fully develops: it makes no comment on the causes of debt nor does it offer any solutions or judgements, and the portrayal of women as easy victims, willing to sell themselves for “a mutually beneficial business agreement” is quite frankly, offensive.

The small cast of actors more than makes up for its faults though, and Jimmy Chisholm’s central performance as Lawson is flawless. Tam Dean Burn too, turns in a convincing portrayal of the eager to impress new employee Billy who, despite initial reservations, throws the conscience he once had to the wind, in order to impress his boss.

Nearing the end of a national tour, this company is a well-oiled machine, both the scene changes and the interactions between the actors are seamless, slick and well-honed. Entertainment it is not, rather it is an often bleak but utterly compelling portrayal of an all too real and hellishly common problem enacted by a hugely talented cast.

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.