Tag Archives: Motherwell

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: Me and My Girl – Motherwell Concert Hall

It is the girls who shine brightest in Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club’s latest production of the much-loved Me and My Girl at Motherwell Concert Hall this week.

The multiple Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical Me and My Girl is the tale of humble Cockney costermonger Bill Snibson, his unexpected inheritance of the title of Earl of Hareford and the trials and tribulations he has to endure to keep the girl of his dreams by his side.

As the Duchess of Dene, Cathy Taylor and Marianne Millard, Lady Jaqueline are the stand-out talents of the night, the pair are fine actresses, with glorious voices and enviable stage presence, and the stage completely enlivens when they are there. The ensemble too are deserving of praise, and sound utterly gorgeous when singing as one. Less succesful is Gillian Black as Bill’s paramour Sally, whilst in possession of a beautiful singing voice her accent travels through virtually county and shire in England and at no point visits the borough of Lambeth. Accents seem to be an issue throughout, with one character beginning an act in RP English and ending it in Scots.

Quibbles aside, Hamilton ODC deliver high production values, with a rich-looking set and a fine chorus and orchestra under the baton of Mike Smith, and there are some professional quality performances throughout. An enjoyable evening of a little seen musical theatre classic.

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: The Elixir of Love – The Concert Hall, Motherwell

Scottish Opera’s latest touring production, Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, is a wonderfully witty, beautifully staged and finely sung treasure. An utter joy from start to finish, this is opera for people who think they don’t like opera. Donizetti’s gloriously melodic score is a treat for the ears and Oliver Townsend and Mark Howland’s charming and clever design – re-set from the 19th Century Mediterranean to a country garden in 1920s England, is simply gorgeous.

Humble gardener Nemorino is hopelessly in love with wealthy landowner Adina, but her head (if not her heart) is turned by the flashy Sergeant Belcore. But all is not lost when quack medicine man Dr Dulcamara literally rides into town, selling our hero a powerful love potion that promises to deliver the girl of his dreams into his arms within a day.

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Ellie Laugharne and Elgan Llyr Thomas as Adina and Nemorino in Scottish Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

This effervescent production bubbles and fizzes throughout, thanks largely to the delightful cast, and as befitting this ‘male Cinderella’ story, it is the boys who dominate. Elgan Llyr Thomas is thoroughly appealing as our love-lorn hero Nemorino and his show-stopping Una furtiva lagrima (one single tear falls silently) is a real crowd-pleaser, but he doesn’t have the limelight solely to himself thanks to scene-stealing turns from Toby Girling as the preposterously pompous Sergeant Belcore and the outstanding James Cleverton as the dodgy Doctor Dulcamara, whose timing, sonorous tones and perfect diction are a masterclass in comic opera acting.

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James Cleverton as Dulcamara Scottish in Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

Mention must be made of music Derek Clark, who deserves plaudits for trimming Donizetti’s score from 53 instruments to five without losing any of its richness and the brisk baton of conductor Stuart Stratford who drives the score along.

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Ellie Laugharne, Elgan Llyr Thomas and Toby Girling in Scottish Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

For a work that was written, if not in the two weeks that opera folklore claims, but certainly astonishingly quickly nearly 200 years ago, this sunny, funny, dazzling and delightful work is a five-star, must-see production.

Currently touring Scotland, booking information here: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/our-operas/16-17/the-elixir-of-love

REVIEW: Parton sings Parton – Motherwell Concert Hall

As one of Country legend and global superstar Dolly Parton’s 11 siblings, singer and actress Stella Parton, like most of her family, has been performing since childhood, and enjoyed chart success in the 70s with a series of singles including Danger of a Stranger and Undercover Lovers, I Want to Hold You in My Dreams Tonight.

In Parton sings Parton: a Sister’s Tribute, Stella Parton presents a night of country music based on the recently released tribute album to her sister, Mountain Songbird.  Punctuated with images from her own personal photograph album, Parton shares her sister’s inspiration for her songs and performs her own chart hits with her five-piece band.

mountain songbird stella parton

Concentrating on the so-called ‘story songs’ that hold personal meaning, it’s undoubtedly her sister’s big hitters that get the best reception, but the younger Parton’s own efforts largely hold their own. A competent singer, (there are some pitch issues at the higher end of her range) she has a good belt that goes down well with the crowd.

This entertaining production is undertaken with her older sister’s blessing, and while some may perceive it as cashing in on her sibling’s success, it comes across as a genuine and heartfelt personal tribute.

Touring the UK throughout spring.

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: 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: Aled Jones – Motherwell Concert Hall

Despite releasing more albums than Madonna and Queen (30 to be precise), and three decades since first appearing on the nation’s conscience, Aled Jones is still working to shake his image as the rosy cheeked choir boy who went walking in the air.

Now 44, Jones has recently been in the public eye from his two year stint on the ITV breakfast time sofa with Lorraine Kelly and as one of the principal presenters of the BBC’s flagship religious show Songs of Praise.

He is now back on tour doing what what he loves the most – singing from the heart. This concert, Songs of Hope and Inspiration delivers exactly what it says on the tin, a selection of pop-standards, religious, Scottish and Welsh folk ballads and traditional tunes all with a “hymn-like quality” to soothe the soul or inspire.

Despite the tiny audience in this cavernous concert hall, Jones gives his all during the programme, interspersing the diverse song choices with amusing anecdotes and (due to the intimate numbers) lots of one to one banter with members of the audience.

Thirty years on Jones is still in fine voice and manages to breathe new life and some interesting arrangements into old favourites as well as ably tackling the more modern folk-inspired numbers. His voice remains rich and melodious throughout.

This is an evening of musicianship of the highest standards and quality, it’s just a pity that the locals didn’t turn out in greater numbers to see it.

 

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz – Motherwell Concert Hall, Motherwell

With the musical theatre behemoth that is Wicked (the untold story of the witches of Oz) currently treading the boards and packing the auditorium at the Edinburgh Playhouse on its record-breaking UK tour, Hamilton Operatic and Dramatic Club present the perfect opportunity to return to the source material that made it all possible; Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.

Baum’s century old tale of little Dorothy Gale and her adventures in the magical land of Oz is presented here in John Kane’s 1986 overhauled stage version, featuring the classic and much-loved movie score from Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, it also includes extended dialogue and the re-instated “The Jitterbug” sequence which was cut from the 1939 film.

With a new production team on board and a fresh influx of talent, the society have decided to kick of the theatrical festive season with a bang. The Wizard of Oz is no small undertaking: most of the audience being more than familiar with this beloved story and its classic soundtrack, and the team are to be applauded for the sheer scale of their ambition in staging this technically demanding and lengthy show. The actors must also be applauded for agreeing to share the stage with the inevitably scene-stealing Toto (played here by Alfie, who is a professional from the tips of his toes to his shiny nose and whose expression throughout was an entertainment in itself).

Key to the success of the piece is the casting of the central quartet: Marianne Millard is a competent Dorothy, vocally capable of carrying the role, she moves well too, however in the more emotive moments her dialogue defaults to an ear-piercing shrillness and at times her line delivery is a tad slow, especially when working off the other, more experienced actors. Stand-out however are the magical trio of the Scarecrow (John Carr), Tin Man (Gordon Watson) and the Cowardly Lion (Colin Vincent) the three men more than live up to expectations both vocally and in their acting. Vincent in particular could not have been better cast, his Cowardly Lion perfectly encapsulating the much-loved character and providing the biggest laughs of the night. Notable too are the impeccable American accents from the principal players which remain on point throughout,

There are many moments where the ensemble get their chance to shine too, but they are a little protracted in a show that comes in at just under three hours and add little to the storytelling, however this is no fault of the hard-working performers rather it is a criticism of the show itself.

There are an impressive number of scene/setting changes in the production, providing much to keep the interest levels high and a lot of nice small detail such as a crackling fire and pyrotechnic effects throughout, the costumes too are suitably colourful and liberal use is made of projected backgrounds to enhance each location. For the most part the transitions are handled very well by this amateur company, the only wish being that they were a little more brisk.

Mention must be made of the outstanding orchestra, ably directed by the youthful Christopher Duffy their playing remains tight and sharp and a delight to the ear for the duration of the show.

If this ambitious show is a glimpse of what the new creative team have to offer then I am keen to see what comes next. An impressive debut to build upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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