On one hand a masterclass in social climbing: B Movie actress and nightclub ‘hostess’ rises to become the saintly spiritual leader of the poorest and most disaffected in her country, on the other a portrait of a social climber who achieved riches and power in a finely calculated rise to the top. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita is both a love letter to the saintly Eva Peron and an expose, through Che’s contradictory narrative that highlights Eva’s part in husband Juan Peron’s violent dictatorship, their silencing of enemies and the misappropriation of ‘charity” donations.
Evita is also a show melodically complex and huge in its staging, so it’s a brave undertaking for an amateur company, but Runway Theatre Company prove they are more than a match for Rice and Lloyd Webber’s epic musical.
The stage teems with life and under the disciplined direction of Robert Fyfe the hugely talented cast keep it tight and focussed throughout. Worthy of note is Greg Robertson’s exceptionally clever choreography, which plays to the strengths of a cast that varies in age and ability. At all times it is on-point and highly effective. There are some shining stars in the cast: as Che, Johnny Collins’ performance would put some recent castings in professional productions to shame, his diction is crystal clear and his delivery of Che’s iconic songs, in particular “Oh What a Circus” and “High Flying Adored”, are beautifully judged. Runway regulars J. Campbell Kerr (Peron) and Tom Russell (Magaldi) are in supremely fine voice as ever, as is newcomer Christina Rose Leon as Peron’s mistress. Less successful is Caroline Telfer as Eva, strong in her lower range, she ventures into shrillness in the soaring high notes, she also struggles in duets with Kerr and Collins, appearing to fight against the pair, who are both vocally excellent, instead of harmonising as the melodies require.
Runway do full justice to the dramatic intensity of Rice and Lloyd Webber’s much-loved work. This is a hugely accomplished staging with a stunning ensemble and strong core casting. As ever it leaves you waiting and wondering – what’s next from this exceptionally fine company?
Based on Ken Ludwig’s play of the same name, it’s 1934, Cleveland, Ohio and Henry Saunders, manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company and his nervy assistant Max, are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Tito Merelli (Il Stupendo). Merelli is in town to sing the lead in Verdi’s Otello, an event that will be the biggest coup in the history of the theatre. A sellout crowd awaits – what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything of course.
As always it’s quality assured when you see the name Runway Theatre attached to any performance. In a work that could easily descend into cheap slapstick in the wrong hands, this production manages to pull off the none-too-easy task of presenting a pitch-perfect musical farce.
The laughs are non-stop and the musical numbers are beautifully performed, staged and costumed.The shows greatest success though is the central casting of Kris Haddow as Max Garber and J.Campbell Kerr as Tito Merelli, both in possession of knock-out voices and impeccable comic timing, their impressive theatrical experience shines through and both could grace any West End stage with ease. The pair are ably supported (and finely voiced) by: Roslyn Hogg as Maggie, the object of put-upon Max’s affections, Aileen Johnston as Tito’s volatile Italian wife and Chriss Mills as opera diva Diana Diuane. The ensemble too are worthy of particular praise as one of the finest sounding companies in Scotland.
An utterly joyful evening’s theatre in the presence of possibly Scotland’s finest amateur company.
Stephen Sondheim is the musical theatre equivalent of Marmite – it’s either love or hate and this seldom seen Sondheim is a brave choice by Runway Theatre Company.
Personally I am in the love category – believing Sondheim’s works have the ability to scratch below the surface of life and really speak to an audience, but this isn’t your average Sondheim. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum tells the bawdy story of slave Pseudolus and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master Hero woo the girl next door. The show is at its heart a farce, with punning a-plenty, mistaken identity and many a double-entendre on show.
The set alone sets the tone – a rollicking Roman riot of eye-poppingly bright colour and the infectious spirit continues throughout the performance.
Comedy is by far and away the most difficult genre to pull off but this is a sure-footed cast who deftly handle the quick witted dialogue and full-on farce with a joyous enthusiasm and an ebullient spirit. In a knock-out cast it seems unfair to single anyone out for particular praise but central to the success of the show is the casting of Will Pollock as Pseudolus and the quite frankly hysterical Iain G Condie as Hysterium. The pair’s razor-sharp timing and well-honed comedy skills provoke genuine belly-laughs from the audience throughout. Also deserving of praise are the ever-sonorous tones of J Campbell Kerr and Tom Russell, who to complement their already impressive vocal skills add perfectly pitched comedy acting to their repertoire.
This is a joyous production by a spirited company richly deserving acclaim, not only for their polished performance but for their clever artistic choices. Runway Theatre Company radiate warmth and charm and above all deliver unfailing quality every time.
Runs until Saturday 18th May 2013 at Eastwood Park Theatre
There are amateur theatre companies and there are amateur theatre companies, and Runway Theatre Company are no ordinary amateur theatre company, this production, the Scottish amateur premier of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down The Wind must be the closest to professional perfection that I’ve seen.
In an evening of delights it is hard to know where to start heaping praise: From the richness of the sound of the accomplished orchestra; to the stunningly versatile set; the soaring multi-layered voices of the ensemble; the scene-stealing junior players to the astonishing quality of the principals, this was in a class apart.
Special praise must go to Elle MacKenzie as Swallow whose crystal-clear soprano was a joy; to Kate McVey and Ethan Kerr whose performances belie their ages, both performing with a focus and strength that many adults could only aspire to – all the while never faltering in maintaining convincing American accents; but the most praise must go to the phenomenal power-house that is J Campbell Kerr. It is rare to see a performance of this quality on any stage let alone an amateur one. Kerr’s acting is pitch-perfect but his voice is simply sublime – good enough to challenge any of our celebrity tenors or baritones out there – indeed much of the interval chat was praising Kerr as a rival to Alfie Boe.
This simply shines with sheer quality from curtain up to curtain down. I urge you to beat a path to the Mitchell Theatre door before this ends on Saturday.
Ticket info from: Susan Russell 07801 048527 or firstname.lastname@example.org