Tag Archives: Motherwell

REVIEW: Opera Highlights (Scottish Opera) – Motherwell Theatre

There’s much to delight in every season at Scottish Opera, but the annual Opera Highlights tour is always a shining star of the programme.

We’re invited to a beautiful country garden where our protagonists are setting the scene for a party. We’re not exactly sure who our host is, but while the action unfolds we are introduced to each character, a little of their back stories and their relationship to one other. The inevitable cases of mistaken identity, star-crossed lovers, heartache and romantic resolution ensue.

Scottish Opera 2019 Autumn Highlights – © Julie Broadfoot – http://www.juliebee.co.uk

Derek Clark, Scottish Opera’s Head of Music has again chosen an eclectic and engaging set of arias, from the comic to the heart-breaking on which to weave the lively narrative. Among pieces by Mozart, Handel, Lehár and Tchaikovsky there are works by Ambroise Thomas, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Mildred Jessup, Alfred Cellier and the great Kurt Weill. There is also a world premier from Scottish Opera’s Composer in residence Samuel Bordoli. As fitting for a tour that’s aim is to bring new audiences to opera, there are a large number of pieces in English, either pieces original written in the language or in translation, increasing the accessibility for opera newbies.

Scottish Opera 2019 Autumn Highlights – © Julie Broadfoot – http://www.juliebee.co.uk

As important as the selection of music is, much depends on the quality of the singers. This year the calibre is universally excellent. The quartet: Soprano Charlie Drummond, Mezzo Martha Jones, Tenor Alex Bevan and Baritone Mark Nathan, as well as having fine voices, are easy to warm to, each can act and draw the audience in, keeping them engaged throughout. Of note is Roxana Haines direction, which is tight and breathes even more life into the already sprightly programme.

Scottish Opera 2019 Autumn Highlights – © Julie Broadfoot – http://www.juliebee.co.uk

If you are an established opera lover or someone curious to find out more, Opera Highlights is the perfect event. The extensive tour continues throughout Scotland (see below for dates and venues).

As ever, a five-star production from Scottish Opera.

The Albert Halls

Stirling

Sat 14 Sep

Book Tickets

Stonehaven Town Hall

Stonehaven

Tue 17 Sep

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Duthac Centre

Tain

Thu 19 Sep

Book Tickets

The Macphail Centre

Ullapool

Sat 21 Sep

Book Tickets

An Lanntair

Stornoway

Tue 24 Sep

Book Tickets

Aros Centre

Portree

Thu 26 Sep

Book Tickets

The Corran Halls

Oban

Sat 28 Sep

Book Tickets

Volunteer Hall, Galashiels

Galashiels

Tue 1 Oct

Book Tickets

Perth Theatre

Perth

Thu 3 Oct

Book Tickets

Carnegie Hall

Dunfermline

Sat 5 Oct

Book Tickets

Thurso High School

Thurso

Tue 8 Oct

Book Tickets

Orkney Theatre

Kirkwall

Thu 10 Oct

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Haddo House

Ellon

Sat 12 Oct

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Ryan Centre

Stranraer

Tue 15 Oct

Book Tickets

Beacon Arts Centre

Greenock

Thu 17 Oct

Book Tickets

The Brunton

Musselburgh

Sat 19 Oct

Book Tickets

 

NEWS: OPERA HIGHLIGHTS TOURS TO 17 VENUES ACROSS SCOTLAND THIS AUTUMN

On September 12, Scottish Opera’s hugely popular Opera Highlights tour kicks off with four singers and a pianist journeying to 17 venues the length and breadth of Scotland, from Kirkwall in the north to Stranraer in the south.

Travelling the highways and byways by land, sea and air, the Autumn tour begins in Motherwell before heading to Stirling, Stonehaven, Tain, Ullapool, Stornoway, Portree, Oban, Galashiels, Perth, Dunfermline, Thurso, Kirkwall, Ellon, Stranraer, Greenock and Musselburgh.

The setting for director Roxana Haines’ production of Opera Highlights is a beautiful garden party, and features a playlist of operatic classics and must-hear rarities, curated by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark. Highlights include Delibes’ ‘Flower Duet’, Vaughan Williams’ ‘Blue larkspur in a garden’ and many more from the likes of Mozart, Lehár and Scottish Opera Composer in Residence, Samuel Bordoli.

Pianist/Music Director Ian Shaw is joined by Scottish Opera Emerging Artist soprano Charlie Drummond; mezzo-soprano Martha Jones; tenor Alex Bevan and baritone Mark Nathan, who is also a Scottish Opera Emerging Artist this Season.

The same show returns in Spring 2020, with a different cast: soprano Zoe Drummond; mezzo-soprano Jade Moffat; tenor Andrew Irwin and baritone Arthur Bruce, The Robertson Trust Scottish Opera Emerging Artist who is a former member of Scottish Opera Young Company. It will tour another 17 venues around Scotland from February 4: Bathgate, Birnam, Markinch, Campbeltown, Bowmore, Arrochar, Bunessan, Arisaig, Beauly, Cumnock, Castle Douglas, Callander, Lerwick, Peebles, Fochabers, Alford and Rutherglen. In total, this Season’s Opera Highlights is visiting 34 venues.

Roxana Haines, who is directing Scottish Opera’s Fox-tot! at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer, said: ‘This year’s Opera Highlights cast cordially invite you to a party on your doorstep, set throughout luscious gardens and magical flora and fauna of Opera. The stage has been set, decorations unpacked and the guests have all arrived but, the only problem is, no one quite knows who or why we’re celebrating…

‘As the evening progresses, the connections between our characters unravel through music from the likes of Handel, Donizetti and Mozart, and lighter pieces from Gilbert & Sullivan and Vaughan Williams as well as a new work by Samuel Bordoli. Prepare for charm, magic and love in all its operatic forms.’

Scottish Opera’s General Director, Alex Reedijk, said: ‘I am delighted that Scottish Opera will be touring what promises to be another sensational Opera Highlights to 34 venues across Scotland in the Autumn and Spring. This longstanding and much acclaimed commitment by the Company to presenting work across Scotland is part of what makes us Scottish Opera, and is welcomed by our far-flung audiences as a lovely operatic tonic! Opera Highlights also serves to introduce young singers to our audiences, and greatly assists their development as artists alongside presenting the joys of opera and singing to our widely spread audience.’
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Opera Highlights Autumn Tour Cast and Creative Team

Soprano Charlie Drummond*
Mezzo-soprano Martha Jones
Tenor Alex Bevan
Baritone Mark Nathan*

Pianist/Music Director Ian Shaw
Director Roxana Haines
Composer in Residence Samuel Bordoli*

*Scottish Opera Emerging Artist

Performance Diary

Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell
Thu 12 Sep, 7.30pm

Albert Halls, Stirling
Sat 14 Sep, 7.30pm

Stonehaven Town Hall, Stonehaven
Tue 17 Sep, 7.30pm

Duthac Centre, Tain
Thu 19 Sep, 7.30pm

Macphail Centre, Ullapool
Sat 21 Sep, 7.30pm

An Lanntair, Stornoway
Tues 24 Sep, 7.30pm

Aros Centre, Portree
Thu 26 Sep, 7.30pm

Corran Halls, Oban
Sat 28 Sep, 7.30pm

Volunteer Hall, Galashiels
Tues 1 Oct, 7.30pm

Perth Theatre, Perth
Thu 3 Oct, 7.30pm

Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
Sat 5 Oct, 7.30pm

Thurso High School, Thurso
Tue 8 Oct, 7.30pm

Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall
Thu 10 Oct, 7.30pm

Haddo House, Ellon
Sat 12 Oct, 7.30pm

Ryan Centre, Stranraer
Tues 15, 7.30pm

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock
Thu 17 Oct, 7.30pm

The Brunton, Musselburgh
Sat 19 Oct, 7.30pm

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.

ellie-laugharne-as-adina-and-elgan-llyr-thomas-as-nemorino-in-the-elixir-of-love-scottish-opera-2016-credit-tim-morozzo-2

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.

james-cleverton-as-dulcamara-in-the-elixir-of-love-scottish-opera-2016-credit-tim-morozzo-3

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.

ellie-laugharne-as-adina-elgan-llyr-thomas-as-nemorino-and-toby-girling-as-belcore-in-the-elixir-of-love-scottish-opera-2016-credit-tim-morozzo

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.

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