2015 - Peter Pan
Peter Pan by Reece Sibbald
In Edwardian London, Wendy Darling mesmerises her brothers every night with bedtime tales of swordplay, swashbuckling, and the fearsome Captain Hook. But the children become the heroes of an even greater story, when Peter Pan flies into their nursery one night and leads them over moonlit rooftops through a galaxy of stars and to the lush jungles of Neverland.
Wendy and her brothers join Peter and the Lost Boys in an exhilarating life, free of grown-up rules, whilst also facing the inevitable showdown with Captain Hook and his bloodthirsty pirates. Hilarious fun and magic to be had, join in this spectacular Christmas show. A fantastic story to be part of!
Musical Director :
Chorus Mistress :
|Performances - Sunday 27th December to Sunday 3rd January 2016|
Mr Darling/Captain Hook
Big Chief Panther
Elsie May Govier
Olivia Adey Peters
Charlotte Eastward Hoare
Fine Times Recorder - Review by Gay Pirie-Weir
THE cast of the Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society Peter Pan are flying high over the post Christmas lethargy to bring real fun and excitement to audiences at Strode Theatre. Who’d have thought a few years ago that the college campus theatre could have produced a show with not one flying actor but four, and that they’d be able to soar over the rooftops of London, past Big Ben striking their way to Neverland.
Barry Squance’s imaginative production is full of delightful and quirky moments as Mr Darling’s reminiscences catapult the audience into the world of make believe that JM Barrie turned into a timeless classic. With Sarah Neale in charge of the choreography, and a large number of talented singing acting dancers to call on, this is a Peter Pan full of spectacle, humour, sentiment and bravery … all with a very hissable villain and a crocodile many of us would have liked to take home to play.
Adaptor Reece Sibbald resisted the temptation to turn this into a Dame-and-all pantomime, and cut Nana from the characters, but Barry Squance knows what his customers expect, so he has given some howlingly dreadful jokes to Mr Smee (a scene-stealing performance from Dean Wilson) and his sidekick Starkey, played by Justin Hodge as David Walliams. Tobias Turley is a perfect Peter, full of swagger and adolescent confidence, and Olivia Kerton, Edward Yates and Oliver Shakesby are the Darling children, teleported out of their beds to a land full of pirates and Indians.
Joe Chester is just right as Hook, combining camp ego and perfectly-balanced menace so the children can hiss and boo without clambering under their seats. Hannah Switzer captures the devilish devotion of the jealous Tinkerbell, and Cherry Lewis is the bereft Mrs Darling, all ready to welcome an indeterminate number of Lost Boys into her home with open arms. There are only a handful of tickets left for this lovely show, on until Sunday 3rd January. Get one if you can. GP-W Posted in Reviews on 27 December, 2015.
Rose Bowl Adjudication
DATE OF PERFORMANCE:2.30pm Wednesday 30 December 2015
‘Peter Pan,’ a book originally written by J.M Barrie, is nowadays presented on the stage in various forms as – a Play, a Play with Music, a Musical, and a Pantomime. This version devised and written by Reece Sibbald fulfils many of the aspects of Pantomime although without a Dame, Role Reversals or a Romance with Hero and Heroine, but does feature Good versus Evil, A Journey, Slapstick, Audience Participation, and Song and Dance, and Transformation scenes – so in genre is a Pantomime.
SET including FURNITURE & PROPS
Excellent scenery provided by ‘Scenic Projects Ltd’ afforded colourful Sets and atmospheric Backcloths and all fitting the dimensions of the stage excellently. The use of an upper level and steps worked very well for scenes such as in Neverland and again the steps in the prow of The Jolly Roger, and, of course, all helping with the fine groupings especially with large numbers on the stage.
The use of Gauzes were very effective, specially for the Flight to Neverland. Fine Props and Stage Furniture such as the Bedroom furniture, Rocks, Toadstools, the Wendy House, Slapstick props, Boat, and the simple but effective Plank aboard The Jolly Roger, were all in good style and very effective. The Sets were always immaculate, colourful and well presented making strong location statements and I appreciated the wide stage areas left for the action and dance movement. A very fine and well conceived input.
This was generally first class especially with the aspect of the firm control of naturalistic flying. There were a couple of late cuing of scene changes but it was minimal. The control of exits and entrances of the actors especially all the young performers was first class and all spot on and secure, and the swift setting of Props and Stage furniture with the scene changes was impressive – there must have been a first class and well trained backstage team with this excellent stage management, and all lighting, sound and effects cues appeared to be promptly given. A really excellent input – Congratulations to the fine team who were vital to the successful presentation of this ‘Peter Pan’.
LIGHTING, EFFECTS, & SOUND
This was another very fine technical input. The Lighting Design was excellent and all very well cued and operated. Overall, lighting was always suiting atmosphere and a fine use made of the follow spot to highlight Principals, especially Tinkerbell and again throughout there were fine gobos directed onto the stage and many of them robotic. In the bedroom scene at the beginning there was a good overall warmth and then dimming with a soft Pink over the beds as the children go to sleep creating a lovely atmosphere.
Effective Blues used on the gauze for the flying scene and in the following scene with Smee and audience relating a good use of Amber colour and Green floor gobo, and later an effective Red on the entrance of the Crocodile and Green on Peter Pan and the Lost Boys entrance. Lovely Blues for the Mermaids Lagoon scene, and always effective use of the Star Curtain as a cyc.
Act 2 and Red on Hook as he sings with floor gobo and then change to Green for his excellent monologue, and Reds for the Indian Dance who were excellently silhouetted and with use of smoke. In the scene 2 good Blues as all children are in the Camp and change to Amber for Dawn breaking and only a light left as Tinkerbell dies. Romantic Soft Pink as Smee proposed to Kate. The Live sound effects were all timed and the others well recorded and again well timed – I did think the ‘O Fortuna’ a bit loud. Use of Smoke was well controlled and again well cued. This piece of video projection of flying over the rooftops was excellent and in subtle colouring to suit the night atmosphere and was a lovely sequence. This was an excellent and atmospheric input for all aspects and added greatly to the overall success of the Presentation.
COSTUME, WIGS, & MAKE-UP
Costumes were superb with input from ‘Triple C’s’ and ‘South West School of Dance’. I appreciated the excellent Edwardian costumes for the opening and the assorted clothes for the Lost Boys, and of course the traditional ‘leaf costume’ for Peter Pan and the floaty costume for Tinkerbell with shinning head dress. Captain Hook looked excellent in the traditional 18th Century coat and Pirates again in fine style. I am full of admiration for all the Indian outfits and for the Mermaids which I assume was valuable input from ‘South West School of Dance’ and all were fitting perfectly and in immaculate style. The Crocodile was superb and the actor moved perfectly in it – again a fine added input. Make-up and Wigs were excellent with Fine quick changes for Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Congratulations to the Wardrobe for all the quick changes and immaculate presentation of the costumes. This was another first class input and again adding greatly to the visual delight that was this ‘Peter Pan’.
The Band consisting of Keyboards, Reed, Bass and Percussion, was a light backing group and suited this magical Pantomime very well as the material is not strongly raunchy and does not require a loud and Brassy backing. From the beginning piece underscoring Mr. and Mrs. Darling, the keyboard input was delicate and sensitive. A good lively play off of ‘Drunken Sailor’ for Hook’s exit in Scene 4. The music underscoring Tinkerbell was again delicate with both Keyboard and Percussion. Input into Indian sequence was very effective and making a strong statement. Good sensitive Drumming throughout and a lovely subdued Roll as Wendy ‘Walks the Plank’. The live sound effects were excellent and the input of both Bass and Reeds adding fine backing.
Throughout the Pantomime the singing input was always delivered with clear enunciation and projection and a fine sound from the Chorus. Strong opening,’ Good Morning’ projected with energy and animation and with a well pitched final note. Well characterised input from Newsman (Smee) and a lovely, ‘Hushabye Mountain’ from Mrs. Darling with excellent enunciation and fine lower notes and an atmospheric softly sung Chorus input. Peter and the Children with ‘Pure Imagination’ was well characterised and projected. ‘Peter is Our Leader’ again strongly projected and with animation and finally through the audience. ‘Right Here Now’ from Peter was well delivered and a fine duet with Wendy and good entry of the Junior Chorus.
Act 2 and Hook, ‘It’s Good to be Bad’ delivering with an excellent vocal quality and strong pirate choral backing. Well characterised and strong singing from Tiger Lily, ‘I’m an Indian Too’ and with effective backing input from the entire Company. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Harm You’ with good holding of notes and making this a sweet number, and the final number, “Forever Young’ was beautifully projected and in fact I found it quite moving and so appropriate for this delightful ‘Peter Pan’.
From the opening to the ending I was fully engaged with this performance (perhaps I too have never ‘grown up’) but seriously it was an excellently co-ordinated production with all the elements both technical and creative, fully integrated. It flowed freely from acting, song and dance, with excellent characterisations and projection, and with the visuals both beautiful and colourful. The presentation impressed me with one major aspect which I have often found lacking in ‘popular’ pantomimes, and that was the fact that throughout, the children in the audience were fully involved and riveted to the stage. The children in the production were focused and believable and the children in the audience totally related with them.
The audience participation from both adults and children was strong due to the excellent audience relating projected by Smee, Starkey, and Hook and the struggle between ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ was played with conviction. Although I did miss the character of Nana the Dog, a fine script was chosen and the topical jokes very accessible, but I felt the Slapstick scene with Smee and Starkey, although well performed needed to be extended to make a stronger Slapstick statement. It was a great achievement in directing, grouping, and rehearsing a cast of nearly fifty and with four separate juvenile teams, and the responsibility of flying, and I congratulate the entire Production Team.
MOVEMENT & DANCE
CHOREOGRAPHY including DANCE SKILL & GROUPING
As mentioned above it was a fine achievement to group and choreograph so large a cast. The Choreography was generally simple especially for the children with their marching formations, but it was very well performed and grouping was excellent. Fine opening number with a stately routine and the six dancers with a brisk routine and neat footwork and a sweet entry of the excellently disciplined Juvenile Chorus. The movement in the flying sequences was graceful and secure and with Peter in traditional attitude, and throughout I admired the stylised movement and pointe work of Tinkerbell.
The movement style of The Crocodile was excellent and the audience loved it. Good marching routine to, ‘Our House’ and the fine quick assembly of the Wendy House was excellent. A fine ballet sequence for The Mermaids and well executed and very accessible and effective for the younger performers, and a good final grouping. The opening of Act 2 with Hook and Pirates was performed with good grouping and fine change of tempo into the ‘Morris Dance’ routine.
With the ‘O Fortuna’ sequence well stylised arm and leg movements for the Indians and effectively choreographed and performed spot by the six Dancers. This entire sequence was very well conceived and performed especially with so many on the stage a lovely finale, and a fine piece by Tiger Lily. Tinkerbell dying was sequence was excellent with nice piece of pointe work and dying exit. The Finale had very good entrances and groupings. My only reservation was that often the Children and Lost Boys were in straight lines rather than more relaxed groupings – but this is a minor observation. A first class input.
PETER PAN: This young performer held the stage magnificently with strong all round performance skills. An excellent first piece with Wendy and throughout good body language with the flying. He was excellently focused on the action at all times and with fine reactions to all that was happening. His fight sequences were well played with both The Crocodile and Hook, and he related well with the audience. Good piece with the mimicking of Hook and with well timed ‘Question and Answer’. The relating and leadership with the Lost Boys and with the three Darlings, especially with Wendy, was excellent. This young Actor certainly captured the spirit of Peter Pan and was totally believable and it was obvious the young audience believed in him too.
WENDY: A sweet motherly presence and with fine relating to her brothers and to Peter. The opening piece with Mrs. Darling was with warmth and understanding, and throughout I was impressed with her excellent diction with delivery of text .A fine ‘fall’ for her ‘death’ with the arrow and piece with Peter on the Rock. Her ‘mothering’ of the Lost Boys especially on the pirate ship was well projected as was the feeling in her song ‘Hushaby Mountain’. This was a sensitive performance with focus and reaction at all times.
JOHN: The older brother to Michael and although he was polite he was definitely more defiant and outspoken, especially to Hook. There were always fine reactions and relating to all that happened, and this afforded a fine contrast to younger Michael and motherly Wendy.
MICHAEL: He was nicely inquisitive and was always attached to his elder brother and sister. As with the other two, he reacted and related well and his delivery of text clear and well motivated and the piece mistaking his father for Captain Hook was well projected.
TINKERBELL: Throughout a fine, stylised stance and full projection of her mischievous nature. Excellent piece in Neverland trying to be nonchalant, then defiant and followed by a tantrum. Her dying sequence was very good and with a fine exit. The body language and movement was excellent throughout.
MRS. DARLING: A very graceful presence and with fine posture and ‘upper class’ accent, and she projected love for her children and understanding for her rather pompous husband. Fine scene at the end with her joy and the adopting of the Lost Boys. This was a fine characterisation.
MR. DARLING/CAPTAIN HOOK: There does seem to be a somewhat Freudian link with pompous and domineering MR. DARLING and self important and evil CAPTAIN HOOK. Both characters were played excellently with the first glimpse of MR DARLING in pompous repartee with the Newsman to his final address to the audience. CAPTAIN HOOK was first class and with great command of the stage and all on it, with his threatening and domineering presence. A super monologue at the beginning of Act 2 delivered in very dramatic manner with excellent vocal changes and tone. Throughout the audience loved to hate him. Congratulations on the quick change back to MR DARLING at the end of the Pantomime.
TIGER LILY: A feisty character was projected who was not going to be dismissed. She had fine stylised movement and body language with very good input into both song and dance.
BIG CHIEF PANTHER: An impressive physical presence and again with well projected body language and stylised movements.
SMEE/NEWSMAN: As the NEWSMAN a good presence with local accent and a fine singing voice. SMEE also with local accent but with completely different body language and throughout with good timing and cuing particularly with Starkey. From the very beginning a strong relating with the Audience with delivery of jokes and repartee and a fine use of the stage area. The slapstick scene was very well timed and delivered and I wanted it to be longer. A romantic Smee with Kate and later showing again a soft side on board the Pirate Ship. This was a fine comedy role and projected with excellent relating with both Starkey and the audience.
STARKEY: I appreciated this ‘side-kick’ who was an excellent foil for Smee having a smooth and camp presence. Excellent gestures and body language and good cuing and timing and nicely ‘dramatic’ he was a subtle and a fine contrast to the ‘rougher’ Smee. A fine performance.
PETTICOAT KATE: A cheerful and basic presence as a female pirate and with fine relating with Smee and delight with his declaration of love well projected.
THE CROCODILE: Super entrances and exits and excellent body language and movement – the audience loved The Crocodile.
THE LOST BOYS: A very well played band of Lost Boys who related well with each other and to all that was happening on the stage. I was impressed with the discipline and the focus of the young performers – well done!
This was a first class team effort with the cast relating well towards each other and also when required directly to the audience. Everyone was so secure and confident with the journey of the pantomime. Excellent Teamwork on all counts.
I was fully involved with this Presentation from the beginning to the end – as was the audience. Characterisations were strong, Visuals making great impact, and Song and Dance well integrated with the dialogue. The strengths of the Pantomime fully outweighed any perceived weaknesses. As previously mentioned the strongest statement for me was the total absorption of the children in the audience – and for me that says it all. I was Enchanted.
Thank you for your kind hospitality and I look forward in the near future to being asked once again to visit Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society. (Barbara Smith)
Review by Trudy Dyke, NODA SW District 8 Representative.
Peter Pan flies high!!!
Congratulations to all, this was a masterpiece of co-ordination of theatre both on and off stage and no mean feat to pull off! From the rousing opening street scene in Bloomsbury and Newspaper Seller singing the Prologue to the magical goings on in the Darlings Nursery you knew you were in for a magical experience!
Enter Peter Pan (Tobias Turley) who with the aid of some fairy dust demonstrates how to fly! Tobias is a ‘triple threat’ and was perfectly cast to play this iconic role. Wendy (Olivia Kerton) and her brothers John (Edward Yates) and Michael (Oliver Shakesby) sang and acted with confidence as well as mastering the art of flying! The Lost Boys were a delightful mix of characters some feisty and mischievous others timid and shy! Each one gave 100%. Peter's arch enemy Captain Hook (Joe Chester) completely deserved his hiss and boo’s as he taunted Peter! Joe played the audience like a fiddle! Finding the humour and vulnerability in Hook making him an almost lovable villain!
Comedy duo Smee (Dean Wilson) and Starkey (Justin Hodge) were the perfect combination; both have excellent comic timing and captivated the audience with their crazy antics. Hannah Switzer who is a beautiful dancer added extra magic to mischief making Tinkerbell as she flitted here and there! There were many other cameo and principal roles in the production and each of these was brought to life by this talented company. Choreography was slick and well executed. The principals and company had oodles of energy in their singing making their musical interpretation and diction spot on!
Costumes had been well selected and complemented the production. Congratulations to the Stage Manager and his crew, this was not an easy show to manage! Having to cope with flying! As well as the hazards of moving set! Scene changing was seamless.
Your expertise brought this show to life and more than contributed to the rapturous applause the company received. Well done!
2015 - Oliver!
Oliver! is one of the most beloved British musicals, vividly bringing to life Dickens' timeless characters with its ever-popular story of the boy who dared to ask for more. With music, lyrics and book written by Lionel Bart, it follows the life of a wretched orphan who, after many trials and tribulations, at last finds love and happiness.
The show contains many sharply drawn character parts including Mr Bumble the Beadle; Mr Sowerberry the Undertaker; Fagin, leader of a gang of child pickpockets; Bill Sykes and his downtrodden but plucky girlfriend, Nancy. The juvenile roles include Oliver, the Artful Dodger and the other child members of Fagin's gang.
The sensational score is full of Bart's irresistible songs including Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, You've Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two, I'd Do Anything, Oom Pah Pah, As Long As He Needs Me and many more.
Scroll down for Emails, Reviews and Rose Bowl adjudication..
Musical Director :
Edgar Phillips Jnr
Reviews, emails and commentsEmail from the Fine Times Recorder reviewer (MAB, see review below) to Liz after Wednesday's show, "Thanks for tonight, and please thank the whole company for one of the most entertaining and energising shows I have EVER seen.
Email from 'Duncan': "I just wanted to say congratulations to everyone involved with 'Oliver'. I went this evening with my daughters and it was fantastic, I am now at home again still singing the songs and inspired to get back on the stage, it really was an astonishingly good production.
Email: "We saw Oliver! last night and thought it was one of the best evenings at the Strode, or for that, at any theatre. Everything - diction, dancing, acting, scenery, movement and orchestra were all absolutely superb and quite worthy of a West End production. Oliver Twist (Shay Bobbett) could well merit acting school and a professional career. Keep up the good work.
Email from Lucy Smith: Hello - I just wanted to say congratulations to everyone involved in the production of 'Oliver' which I saw at the Strode on Friday evening. I live in London and was just visiting my elderly father who lives locally and is a Strode regular so I went along to keep him company, not really knowing what to expect. I have to say it was absolutely brilliant! I really enjoyed the whole thing and was so impressed by the quality of the singing,acting and dancing and the commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved in it.
The sets, costumes, lighting and music were great, and just the attention to detail of the whole thing. Everyone in it did a brilliant job, from the people in the leading parts to all the little details of the chorus and crowd scene parts including some of the more challenging numbers like 'Who will buy' - the standard of the singing and music throughout was really excellent. Very very well done to everyone involved - you should all be extremely proud of yourselves. Good luck with your future productions - I'll have to try and make a visit to Somerset again for the next one!
All the best Lucy Smith
Ken Edmonds' review in the Central Somerset Gazette
From the opening chorus of Food Glorious Food, I knew this was going to be good. The boys were spot on with their notes and moves, they looked the part and made a really good sound.
Shay Bobbett shone as Oliver - his innocent looking face was just right, he had a good voice, could dance and brought real feeling to the part. His partnership with the Artful Dodger, played by Ollie Garstang, was excellent and Ollie was the archetypal cheeky chappy with great accent and strong singing voice to boot.
Dave Bonser and Sara Holt were clearly having fun as Mr Bumble and Widow Corney and they made a delightful pair who really deserved each other.
James Newton, Alison Houselander and Will Howlett were on good form as Mr and Mrs Sowerberry and Noah Claypole, being by turns sinister and very funny.
Nancy was played by Jess Stradling who gave a really strong performance, particularly in her songs and especially in As Long As He Needs Me which was really emotional.
Edgar Phillips glowered and shouted his way around the stage as the terrifying Bill Sykes, leaving no-one in any doubt as to who was in charge. There were nice cameos from Barry Squance and Karen Squance as Mr Brownlow and Mrs Bedwin and Rodney Gifford as Dr Grimwig.
Matthew Maisey took the key role of Fagin and made him quite a soft-hearted character which worked well within this production. Pick A Pocket Or Two was great fun and Reviewing The Situation showed a different side to the part.
Under the baton of Matt Holmes, the orchestra made a lovely sound which complemented the singers very well. I felt the lighting was, by and large, good and atmospheric but the back lighting effect during the songs was perhaps used a little too often.
The costumes looked great (if a little clean apart from Fagin and Sykes) and the movement from one scene to another was smoothly handled by the crew and members of the cast.
Sheila Driver, as both Director and Choreographer, took on a mammoth task but rose to it magnificently as this was an assured performance by all involved.
Fine Times Recorder - review by MAB
THERE are few times when anyone can say they have seen two definitive productions of famous musicals within 19 days, but I am fortunate enough to have done so, and both of them thanks to people who live in Somerset. The first was the recent ground-breaking and site-specific Sweeney Todd, set in a rebuilt pie shop on Shaftesbury Avenue, seating just 69 people at benches and tables, facilitated by Cameron Mackintosh, and the second was at Street this evening.
I have seen Oliver five or six times, including two professional versions, and love the music, book, and the romantic story of Lionel Bart and how he came to write it, but I have never been more terrified by Bill Sykes, so sorry for Nancy, so captivated by Fagin and so concerned for Oliver as I was this evening.
This company, which has a long history, dating back 85 years, with almost 100 listed previous shows, have somehow managed to distill their shared experience and expertise to produce a show in which the songs were just one part of the very real and completely believable story, in a way which would make Dickens himself proud. From the moment the chorus of workhouse boys sprang into tightly choreographed action with crystal clear singing and absolute confidence, to the sad, quiet end, with Fagin leaving the corpses of Bill and Nancy on the stage, I was completely involved.
Oliver himself, played with a wonderful naivety and completely natural singing voice, with no vibrato at all and yet totally accurate on pitch and enunciation, by Shay Bobbett, drew us in from his very first line, and kept us enthralled throughout. Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney, too often played for comedy in other productions, were equally believable, as were every single one of the characters, through the comical, yet mildly threatening Sowerberrys, and Noah, to the upright Mr Brownlow and Mrs Bedwin, all completely rounded characters with motivation, lovely voices, and slick interaction. As Nancy, Jess Stradling was a true girl about town with a conscience, and she acted her way through her ballads with a subtle truth while belting out her bigger numbers. Matthew Maisey, as Fagin, had such a difficult task, following in such esteemed footsteps as his character does, but he made the role his own, bringing a gentleness and delicacy often missed by bigger “stars” or names from showbusiness. His lyrical baritone voice was beautifully used in Reviewing the Situation, the verses of which became a duet with the solo violin of Christine Bull, adding a whole new perspective to a song I know so well. The same applied to so many of the musical numbers, from That’s Your Funeral and a wonderful rendition of Who Will Buy, with four street vendors who could each have been playing a principal role, to the menacing My Name, which set Bill Sykes, played with a horrible reality by Edgar Phillips, up as a proper villain, out to get what he wanted, at any cost.
Space is relatively limited, or I would speak positively about every member of the cast, orchestra, stage crew, and whole company, and it almost seems petty to find one tiny piece of negative feedback, but I do wish the girls undergarments had not been quite so white – perhaps they had all been laundered by Fagin? Everything else was as slick and tight as any West End production, from the controlled use of “atmos” – wisps of smoke which help make lighting more effective, to the efficient sound balancing, seamless scene-changing of a fantastic set, and some amazing work within the band, including some lovely bass clarinet as well as the aforementioned violin. It is almost a shame that on my way out of the theatre I was asked by one of the ushers who it was that I knew in the cast, because of the enthusiasm of my cheering and applause, and I was able to reassure her that I know none of them, and that my reaction was just that, my reaction to a truly wonderful performance.
There are moments in life when you feel sorry for people you know, and even those you do not, who will miss a great experience; a unique sporting achievement, a one-off performance by a world-class musician or singer, or a definitive production of a theatrical work. This production, along with the “pie shop” Sweeney of Easter Saturday, is one of those moments.
I feel sorry for anyone who does not see it, and privileged that I did.
Letter from Nick Lawrence, NODA SW Regional Councilor
Many thanks for your kind invitation to see “Oliver!” last evening, and for the warm welcome I received from your President and Front of House staff. It was great to be back among friends.
Well done to all on a very entertaining and jaunty evening. It was great to have an all-male Fagin’s gang. What a difference it makes and all characters gave full-blooded performances. I trust that they will have all enjoyed themselves sufficiently (they looked as if they did) to return to boost the pantomime company and future shows. It was good to hear the familiar songs given energy and verve and the vibrant Company numbers were much appreciated.
The principal characters were all well cast and all worked together so successfully that this well-loved show was given a bright and joyous presentation. As usual, the performances were well supported by the backstage departments and the whole presentation ran smoothly.
Hopefully, Dave’s trousers will have received attention before he sits open-legged again in the audience’s eye-line! Congratulations to all on maintaining such a bright pace while ensuring the story was well told and the jokes clear. There was a lovely mix of well experienced and new actors. The future looks secure.
I trust that you all enjoyed doing something familiar. Your audience certainly appreciated the experience: picking up the jokes and the quirky elements.
I now look forward to your next venture and wish you all continued success.
Many thanks for a really good night out.
Review by Trudy Dyke, NODA SW Area 8 RepresentativeM
G&SMCS production of Oliver! A TRIUMPH FOR ALL!!!!!
It was a real treat to see so many talented ‘boys’ as Workhouse Boys and later as Fagin’s Gang! Shah Bobbett played Oliver and delivered on all fronts! His was not the saccharine sweet Oliver often seen but was a subtle mix of innocence, vulnerability and determination. . Throughout the show he rides an emotional rollercoaster and Shah captured all those emotions in his performance, most notably when singing Where is Love’ you could feel the loneliness and desperation in his voice.
In contrast playing ‘Dodger’ was Ollie Garstang blasting on to the stage and bursting into’ Consider Yourself’ making his mark! Cheeky and confident, make no mistake this young man was definitely ‘top dog’ in Fagin’s Gang.
Fagin is not a nice character nor is it an easy one to get right! So to see Matthew Maisy’s portrayal was great. He played him with an uneasy suspicious seedy air befitting his station, demonstrated best in the devious playing out ‘Pick a Pocket’ and later showing his desperation ‘Reviewing the Situation’.
Jess Stradling’s portrayal of Nancy the tart with a heart! Was almost a reflection of Fagin’s, the same qualities and gut wrenching as she sang ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ not a dry eye in the house.
Bill Sykes (Edgar Phillips) and Bullseye were a formidable pair! Cold and cutting you could hear a pin drop! Edgar’s Bill really made you squirm.
Bumble (Dave Bosner) and Corney (Sara Holt) was a match made in heaven! Both have a natural comic timing, so no surprise that ‘I Shall Scream’ was one of the highlights of production.
Choreography had been well constructed and tailored to accommodate all. Highlights ranged from the dour opening ‘Food Glorious Food’ to the joy of the street life ‘Who Will Buy’ All choreography had been kept within both principals and companies capabilities and complemented their performance. All company worked hard to keep the production moving, adopting different guises throughout, and playing other characters throughout the show. Direction was creative and innovative making good use of company and the limitations of the stage.
Musical Direction was strong and the musicians created a beautiful well balanced sound. Both principals and company alike had been well instructed and were confident in their performance under the M.D’s baton.
Costumes looked authentic and the correct period. Make-up was used to great effect and was subtly used in the workhouse creating a grimy look for the workhouse. Fagin’s look well reflected his seedy and miserly demeanour. Wigs used were the correct style and period and added to the making of the individual characters, those not wearing wigs had styled their own hair to the same period look.
The well drilled stage crew kept the pace of production moving with swift and clean changes, which in turn kept the pace of production moving. Props and furniture required for each scene had been well selected enhancing each scene adding to the light and shade of overall picture. This production delivered on all levels and was great family entertainment.
Congratulations to all who made ‘Oliver!’ a successful and enjoyable production.
Rose Bowl Adjudication by Gerry Parker
When you consider just how dark a tale of Victorian society 'Oliver Twist' is it is remarkable that it converted so readily into the genre of Musical Theatre. The two biggest changes from the original story are the dropping of all references to Oliver's wicked step brother Edward Monks, and the lightening of the character Fagin. Gone is the evil user of children, and conniving 'Fence' for property stolen by others, like the violent tempered Bill Sykes.
In his place Lionel Bart places before us a loveable rogue with a touch of 'heart of gold' behind his less likeable attributes. He makes this change acceptable through a series of songs that capture perfectly the new character. Similarly whilst maintaining the violence within the character of Sykes, right down to the murder of Nancy, he produces music which just takes the edge off this psychopathic bully. Bill's 'My Name' has a slight touch of humour within it, and Nancy's 'As Long As He Needs Me' opens up a more tender side of Bill's nature that he never allows us to see in person.
The blending of what on the face of it is a light hearted tuneful score to the characters is essential, every vocal must see the dramatic character taken fully into the lyric if we are to believe the story. A big challenge then for the Director, Musical Director and Principle Players who, whilst taking every opportunity to bring out the humour in the tale, must also never lose sight of its highly dramatic background.
The MD made a fine opening impression with a splendidly played Overture which matched the threatening, expertly lit, set to be seen in the background. Always attentive to the needs of the singers, this MD and Orchestra provided a strong platform from Overture to 'Bows' from which soloists and chorus could launch their attack on this tuneful score.
Knowing the limitations of this stage the designer settled for a composite set which could be simply changed to keep the action flowing at the sort of rapid pace that the Director was determined to enforce. There were moments when the desire to create a completely new setting was slightly distracting to the scene in play. The Lighting and Stage crews put in some fine work in order to isolate Widow Corney's room, and Oliver's bedroom in Mr Brownlow's house, but could not fully eliminate the distraction of the set behind them. In the case of the bedroom in Mr Brownlow's house there was the added problem of accommodating those involved ‘so say’ in the street presenting 'Who Will Buy'. Although it would be fair to say that for the vast majority of the time the multi-purpose, multi-levelled set was admirably used creating some excellent effects, there were occasions - the exit of Fagin's lads singing 'Be Back Soon', and the chase to the death of Bill Sykes - that would have benefited from some more imaginative choreography.
I wondered whose decision it was to start the 'Food Glorious Food’ number at such a deliberate pace, Director or MD? Or, as Alfred P Doolittle put it in, 'My Fair Lady', when asked if he was an honest man or a rogue, “A little of both governor, a little of both”. Whoever can claim credit can take a bow, picking up as it did from the Overture so beautifully, this helped to provide a fine opening sequence to the show. This was also a place where excellent use was made of the set, the movement never interfering with the 'Boys' ability to sing the number with humour and enthusiasm. Their facial expressions left us in no doubt about their passion for food.
One little grouse; the 'Boys' white shirts, which may or may not have looked grubby from close up, but even from my position in Row B, appeared rather too clean; khaki, green, brown, grey, perhaps? I have already commented on 'Widow Corney's room, but must add here that the actual change to this situation from the Workhouse was achieved with great efficiency. Thanks to a combination of good work from the Stage teams and lighting crew, virtually all the changes throughout the production were carried out in this seamless manner. I will talk more about costumes as individual performances are discussed, but at this time may I complain about too many modern 'caps' appearing in the 'Three Cripples' Public House. (As I offer no alternative except to add to the costume hire bill in order to get a more authentic look, perhaps it is a little unfair of me to raise this point).
Both on and off stage this production gave the impression of being presented by a team. Individuals had their moments in the sun of course, but overall there was a feeling that this was a company show presented by a group who liked and enjoyed their work and conveyed that enjoyment to their audiences.
A wonderful opportunity for any young player, but one which also carries with it tremendous responsibilities. The main thrust of the story revolves around young Oliver and if you fail to live up to expectations there is a glaring hole in the production which cannot be fully repaired by the efforts of others. Just how challenging the role is I learnt firsthand from the grandson of a friend of mine who had the privilege of playing Oliver for a year, or to be more precise sharing the role with two others, in a recent production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Like 'Zak' in the last months of his London adventure you were a trifle tall for the role, someone smaller looks at first glance more vulnerable. I noticed a reference in the script to you being 13 years old, presumably put in to cover your physical appearance. During the main period covered by the original Dickens story Oliver is aged between 9 and 12 years of age. All that being said, I cannot say that there was anything about your appearance that clashed with the character, and you certainly showed a great deal of the essential vulnerability within the young man. Like Lady Bracknell’s famous “A handbag” line in 'The Importance of Being Earnest', you start proceedings with one of those lines the whole audience knows and anticipates, “Please Sir I want some more”.
Your style of delivery of the line did not disappoint us. You are one of life's great survivors, but with not all of the business in the Undertakers being fully convincing, the poignant 'Where is Love', despite being sung with true feeling, did not quite tug hard enough at our heart strings. You readily established yourself as being an outsider, albeit one ready to try and blend in, amongst Fagin's other 'Boys'. Your musical contribution to 'Consider Yourself' and 'I'd Do Anything' was more than just up to scratch. I have already commented on the staging of 'Who Will Buy?' where once again you handled your part of the vocal admirably. The changes of costume for the scenes in the Brownlow house were good, in the style of 'Little Lord Fauntleroy'. Back amongst the 'villains', you showed plenty of spirit even when faced with the bullying Bill Sykes. It was no wonder that Nancy was moved to defend you, as would nearly everyone in the audience, whom by now your warm-hearted portrayal had fully won over to your side.
Mr Jack Dawkins, alias, The Artful Dodger
If ever a character lived up to its name it is 'The Artful Dodger'. One of life's great survivors, 'Dodger' is the epitome of the cheerful cockney, ever cheerful no matter what circumstances he finds himself in, and with a natural quick wit that can usually be relied on to get him out of any trouble he finds himself in. He is the sort of loveable scamp that people naturally take to their hearts no matter how naughty they have been. Anthony Newley, who played the role in David Lean's outstanding 1948 film version, and Jack Wild, who took over for the 1968 musical version of the story, both took full advantage of the wonderful opportunity this role offers to launch their careers into orbit. On the face of it then the role is a sure fire winner, provided to quote the old theatrical saying that “You don't forget the words, or bump into the furniture”. Of course in practice nothing is that easy.
As with any broadly written part you can, unless you are very careful, overplay your hand turning character into caricature. You kept your portrayal well in hand, slipping neatly into the action when first seeing the potential in Oliver, and from there nicely taking 'Dodger' in the right spirit into 'Consider Yourself'. A good relationship with Fagin and Nancy quickly developed opening the way to more in-character contributions to I'll Do Anything', and 'Be Back Soon'. As the story develops in Act 2, 'Dodger' finds himself more and more moved to the periphery of the action. Keeping such a vibrant character in place without encroaching on the focal part of a scene is a difficult balancing act, and it says much for your judgement that when you were called on to intervene in a scene 'The Artful Dodger' was as strongly presented as he had been seen earlier in the show. It was a pity that, unlike in some productions, you were not called on to play out a little epilogue scene with Fagin, indicating the idea that these two loveable rogues would soon be back in business as a partnership.
One of those characters who can be described as a 'half way house'. There are enough chances within the script, and if the Director, and/or MD wishes within the musical numbers to draw him out from the crowd; not enough however to give the actor concerned the ammunition to make a really big impact upon proceedings. The few opportunities that came your way were eagerly gobbled up leaving the impression that here was a young man perfectly capable of handling greater responsibility if offered.
Charles Dickens was a great one for finding ideal names for his characters. Some of them, like Mrs Sarah Gamp, because of her reluctance to appear anywhere without her umbrella, have slipped into the language as alternative names, in her case for an umbrella. Bumble is indeed an ideal name for this self important pompous officer of the parish. With that background you deviate from the definite path Dickens has ascribed for you at your peril. Expertly turned out by the Wardrobe Team, you made a fine physical impact from the word go. The character that developed fitted the picture nicely enough, but there was room for a little more self importance. This is a man so blinded from his belief that he is socially and mentally far above his immediate associates that he can and is easily lead by the nose by The Widow Corney. We could almost feel a little sorry for the marital plight your rather nicer man found himself in when the Widow showed her true colours. 'Boy for Sale' proved to be a difficult number to stage, and perhaps that took some of the underlying nastiness out of the sequence.
When you were called back to chastise the rebellious Oliver you were in your element with a chance to show your superiority over the Sowerberrys when it comes to dealing with 'Workhouse Brats', and the anticipated fear you expect to find in Oliver. Room once again here for some more expansive playing. Earlier as you courted the Widow Corney, and later when you were at first trying to put the blame for your dealing with Oliver onto the Widow, and then pleading for a continuation of your parochial office, your always surely presented character fitted the bill ideally. We can argue about some of the interpretation of the character, never about the skilful manner in which Mr Bumble was created and calmly sustained throughout the portrayal.
A thoroughly disagreeable woman the Widow is for me as untrustworthy, and evil as Fagin. I know in this version, like Fagin, the character has been somewhat sanitised, so nasty elements which are still there, as seen when Old Sally dies, are pushed into the background. She is however for most of the time very much part of the comedy and marrying the two sides of her nature is no easy task. It is dangerous just to play her for laughs, although I have seen that done on more than one occasion, because if you do she ceases to be the threat she must be to her 'beloved husband' and to Oliver. You can afford to, and did, overplay the demure, so say innocent, widow in the courtship scene with Mr Bumble. Using this same ploy you led the poor man into a false sense of security when he attempted to show his authority over you, before demolishing him completely and sending him out with a flea in his ear. The song 'I Shall Scream' which goes with the first of those scenes was not quite as successful as the dramatic build up. Perhaps you and the gentleman were looking forward to it with too much anticipation. The result was that it came over like a well presented number in a concert, rather than part of a scene within a musical. The dark underside of the character was strongly conveyed as you brutishly dealt with the pathetic Sally in her last moments. Having to play this scene on an open stage, with only the good work of the lighting team to help isolate the players, added to the challenges which you handled in fine style.
The bitter words, “I thieved for you when I was half his age”, that Nancy spits out when she feels remorse at having returned Oliver to you gives a hint of the true nature of this evil user of children. Thanks to Lionel Bart, who supplies the numbers, 'Pick a Pocket or Two' and 'Be Back Soon', which you joined in with relish, the relationship between you and ' The Boys' is softened into an almost loving one. That moment when you believe that Oliver has been spying on you is therefore an extremely important one because it reminds us that there is still a dark side to Fagin's nature, and perhaps here the lines were said with a little too much ferocity, when a more sly inquisitive tone would have served the cause better. What I am trying to emphasise is how difficult it is to create a loveable rogue realistic enough to understand the dangers that face Oliver, and still deliver the large amount of comedy the character has to do to be part of in this version of the story. Dodger may not have been completely truthful when describing you to Oliver, but the fact that in your world you were something very special was a very true assessment of your position. Bearing that in mind, I expected you to dominate those first scenes with 'Boys', Nancy, and Bet rather more than you did. It was not that you did not immediately create a larger than life personality, more that it was not one that bore no challenge to his position from any of those sharing the stage with him at this point.
As the scene progressed you became more and more relaxed in the role, making telling contributions to 'I'd Do Anything', and 'Be Back Soon', which brought Act 1 to a close. The discussion with Bill Sykes about ways and means to find and return Oliver from Mr Brownlow's safe keeping is a delicious exchange where your deviousness, and his brutal nature should come readily to the fore. There was a little too much fun in this scene, which made it enjoyable, but not quite 'what the doctor ordered'. The blame for this can hardly be placed solely at your door, Mr Sykes and the Director must take equal responsibility. When Oliver did resurface, and the question of who had the £5 note and who had the books arose , the tone between you and the bullying villain was expertly judged. This led neatly on to the well sung trio reprise 'It's A Fine Life', and quite naturally onto 'Reviewing the Situation'. When you reprised this number after the highly dramatic interlude, where Nancy meets her death, you were left virtually alone to find the right style of presentation, one which slightly distanced itself from the drama which had just unfolded - one which lightens the mood for the 'happy' ending. As I mentioned before it would have been nice to have given you a 'mate' at this moment, 'The Artful Dodger' leaving us with the thought that these two loveable rogues still had a future.
Georgia Brown, a very strong willed lady whose own life and career, like Nancy’s, was a mixture of unbounded successes, and tragedy, originated this role on stage, putting a mirror to one of the most warm-hearted loyal characters to appear in any novel by Charles Dickens. The songs that Lionel Bart wrote for Nancy reflect these characteristics perfectly, and the adaptation also serves the lady exceptionally well. This is not therefore a role to attack in a half-hearted manner and you certainly could not be accused of doing that. This was a full-blooded performance, full of fire and passionate emotion coming to the fore in all the vocals and much of the dialogue. If I have any real criticism of this interpretation it was that you did not take enough advantage of the moments when you could have taken your foot off the accelerator, softening the character, showing us more of the deep desire for love and understanding within Nancy. You swept in on your first entrance depicting a young women brim full of confidence and ‘bon ami’. It was no wonder that Bet followed you in awe, desiring to emulate your every action, and the 'Boys' knew you as a true friend. With that back up no wonder , 'It's A Fine Life', took off like the proverbial rocket. A good setting helped, 'I'd Do Anything', to provide another winner for you and in this case your extended 'family'. After those two numbers I expected 'Oom-Pah-Pah' to lift the proverbial roof, and therefore although it was enjoyable the fact that it did not have the same enthusiastic exuberance left me just a tad disappointed. No disappointment from, 'As Long As He Needs Me', sung with real passion and deep commitment. No one could have had any doubts about your love for Bill after listening to this rendition. The presence of three men sat behind you at a table was a bit off putting, begging the question why were they there, because they added little or nothing to the scene. The fiery exchange with Bill over his treatment of Oliver fitted the characterisation better than the more muted scene with Mr Brownlow and Mrs Bedwin before another full blooded presentation of ,'As Long As He Needs Me', finished off your vocal input in fine style.
Unlike the other principal characters in the story, the dialogue of this version makes little attempt to soften the character of the psychopathic Bill Sykes. This is a man who lives off the law of the jungle that the strongest will prevail. You can just imagine, had he lived into old age, how the human hyenas would have gather round to consume him as his own strength started to fade. He is not however a simple character, more so I hasten to add in the book. Here is far more straightforward, and as such is easily overplayed. You pushed him pretty hard in your determination to make us fully aware of the evil in this bully, and in that respect succeeded in your aim. I was a little concerned about the constant growl in the voice, not because it sounded wrong, but would it last all week without damaging your vocal chords. One of those characters about whom we know quite a bit before you first appear, you have a great deal to live up to when you make your first entrance. Physically aided by a good costume and threatening big cudgel you looked the part, and then produced this gravelly voice to fit the image. Unlike the dialogue there is some humour, albeit on the dark side within, 'My Name', and although you risked getting too close to a 'send up', which you could not afford to do, you did give a hint of humour without suggesting that anyone could take the name of Bill Sykes in vain. The conversation with Fagin, leading to the clash with Nancy about getting Oliver back into the fold did not flow quite naturally. Where to place the blame for this lies between the three actors involved, and reaction from many others around, so is an impossible task. The only other chance you have to display your vocal talents is in the quartet singing the reprise of, 'It's A Fine Life'. This was a place where the MD must have been very pleased with his efforts in guiding the vocalists. The audience’s response told you that this was a vocal success for you and your fellow singers. The actual capture and return of Oliver to Fagin's den found you in good dramatic form. I have already mentioned the problems facing the Director when staging the death of Nancy, kidnap of Oliver and chase to the death, and in such circumstances it would be wrong of me cast any doubts about your powerful contribution to these so dramatic final scenes.
Mr and Mrs Sowerberry
The sly constantly tippling husband and mean-minded, acid tongued wife are two more broadly written characters whom you overplay at your peril. No need therefore for Mr Sowerberry to exaggerate his constant tippling, or his wife her domineering attitude. Both of you sailed rather close to the wind at times, but rarely did you slip over the accepted line where character becomes caricature. Whatever else he is, Mr S is a shrewd business man and before parting with money for Oliver you showed a clear head for where the value of buying such a boy would be. Mrs S picked this up nicely, and used the lines about Oliver growing up on her vitals very well. The business with Oliver in the coffin, before escaping your 'loving' home, develops into pure farce and, although all those involved played it wholeheartedly, there was not enough inventive comedy in it to gain the optimum amount of laughs available within the scene. Served extremely well by the Wardrobe Team you both looked ideally in character, sustaining them fully throughout proceedings.
Noah Claypole and Charlotte
It would be easy to imagine this pair some forty years on fitting into the shoes of the ill matched Sowerberrys. The bullying coward you immediately presented was just the sort of person we, the audience, wanted to be taken down several pegs, and when you failed to handle the much smaller Oliver we were all standing on the touch line cheering him on. The fight could have been more realistically staged, but I will concede doing so could have led to personal danger to all concerned. Charlotte, as she shows when dousing her mother with water when she asks for a drink after being assaulted by Oliver, is not the brightest intellectual star in the galaxy. She, like the Widow Corney, is happy to settle when it comes to a prospective partner for what is available, i.e. Noah, and will, like the Widow, no doubt live to regret her short-sightedness. Most importantly, two characters who readily fitted into their places within the story appeared and were sustained throughout their time on stage.
Amongst a company where broadly written characters and playing were more the norm, this lovely, underplayed performance was an oasis of calm. Immaculately dressed, another plus for the Wardrobe Team, you struck an ideal note, a man people could trust and whose judgement, although often questioned, was invariably accurate. A nice exchange with the 'doubting Thomas' Dr Grimwig, was followed by a finely judged show of upset and disappointment when Oliver failed to return. This well drawn character was worthy of being trusted even by the fearful Nancy.
Judging from the number of misdiagnoses you make in that short scene with Oliver and your complete failure to see anything good in the boy, I would not like to have you as my physician. As an amiable friend to the good Mr Brownlow you fitted the purpose neatly, looking quite at home in his company and therefore helping to create the right atmosphere for the scene.
The exact opposite of the Widow Corney, Mrs Bedwin is as warm-hearted and generous as the other is mean-minded and untrustworthy. In one guise or another you will find Mrs Bedwin's scattered liberally throughout Charles Dickens novels, and your quietly understated portrayal sat comfortably in its position of trust within this story.
The setting for this very important scene being virtually played in the audience’s 'lap', with wide open spaces behind, was fraught with dangers. Fortunately the Lighting and Stage Crews were on hand to help matters, and you were not thrown by the position you found yourself in. The result was a telling scene which conveyed its important information clearly, and in doing so helped the storyline flow along in a realistic manner.
There is an excellent farce written by Colin Morris, about an Army wartime unit, which ran for 1,610 performances between September 1950 and July 1954 entitled, 'Reluctant Heroes. The show’s title could well be applied to Bullseye when it came to taking a bow at the end of this production. Having performed his duties more efficiently than enthusiastically he was rather the shrinking violet during the curtain calls. In the book and film versions, Bullseye can of course play a much more important role leading the pursuers to whereabouts of Bill Sykes after the murder of Nancy. That is hardly an option on stage, but as always it was good to see a highly suitably bred animal on stage with his evil master.
The lyrics of the Irving Berlin song, composed for the 1936 Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers film 'Follow the Fleet', 'I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket', are words that can be used to describe your role in this show. I know you appear in more than one scene, but it is that initial entry into Fagin's den with Nancy that gives you the main chance, by a long chalk, to be noticed. There you have the chance to play a full part in the vocal and movement of two terrific numbers, 'It's A Fine Life', and, 'I'd Do Anything'. These were chances not to be missed, and you certainly took full advantage of the opportunities on offer. The girl you presented gave the impression that she hero- worshipped Nancy, desiring to emulate her in every way. At the same time you were not copying her, your Bet was a real person in her own right. Within the numbers you were an ideal foil to Nancy helping to add to the breadth of the presentation. Any other work you did in other numbers and dramatic scenes was an added bonus to the production.
Fagin's Gang, Workhouse Boys and Chorus
Finding sufficient numbers of Boys, especially ones who look undernourished enough to sing 'Food Glorious Food' with belief and conviction is getting harder and harder each year. The inclusion of young ladies in their own right or disguised as young gentlemen is a difficult choice to make. Here the girls and boys mixed in very well so that after the initial game of separating one from the other had been played, they became readily acceptable as a single entity. I have already hinted at the quality of the opening number, and made complaint about the cleanliness of some of the Workhouse’s inhabitants. When you metamorphosed into Fagin's Gang there was more of a feeling of the great unwashed amongst the 'Boys'. The first of the numbers with Fagin, 'Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,' was not as sure-footed as the, 'Food Glorious Food,' number. After that you seemed to hit your stride and the remainder of the numbers leading up to the finale of Act 1 were delivered in a much more confident style.
Whatever my feelings about the staging of these numbers, no criticism can be aimed at the work by the 'Boys' whose movement was always disciplined and, apart from the occasional 'left footed' individual in time with the music, followed the desire of the choreographer. Just as the 'Boys were a distinct asset to the production so too were the chorus who showed that, in a show where their opportunities are very limited, they were a hungry for work as the Workhouse 'Boys' had been for food. Whenever they were introduced, as in, 'Consider Yourself', and the exuberant 'Oom-Pah-Pah', they fell on the chance like a hungry stray dog finding a ham bone. As if to remind the audience that this is a musical society who in the past has presented all the great light operas, when given the chance to tackle rather more complex musical arrangements in ,'Who Will Buy', they were more than ready for the challenge.
Thank you very much for the warm reception and much appreciated hospitality extended to myself and our new secretary, Veronica Northam.
May I wish you every success with your forthcoming productions, and I look forward to my next visit to see one of these presentations.
2014 - Cinderella
For their 2014 pantomime G&SMCS are delighted to present Cinderella written by society member Matthew Maisey, once again in collaboration with the Strode Theatre. This all-time favourite tells the story of a widower who remarries only to find that his new wife is a domineering woman whose two daughters are equally overbearing and self-centred.
His own daughter, sweet natured and beautiful Cinderella, is banished to the kitchen as a scullery maid where she is badly treated by her two 'ugly step-sisters'.
All three daughters are invited to a grand ball given by Prince Charming in order for him to choose a wife but Cinders is prevented from going and her ticket is torn up. Fortunately, her Fairy Godmother come to the rescue and Cinders does go to the ball (in a golden coach drawn by real white ponies!) where she meets and captivates the prince.
As usual, there are many set-backs along the way. But together with song, dance and laughs galore, all ends happily in this traditional and most popular of family pantomimes.
Musical Director :
Chorus Mistress :
Di Gifford and Rebecca Cook
|Performances - Saturday 27th December to Saturday 3rd January |
2014 - The Witches of Eastwick
The Witches of Eastwick is a 2000 musical based on the novel of the same name by John Updike. It was adapted by John Dempsey (lyrics and book) and Dana P. Rowe (music), directed by Eric Schaeffer, and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.
The story is based around three female protagonists, the 'Witches' Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart, and Sukie Rougemont. Frustrated and bored by their mundane lives in the town of Eastwick, a shared longing and desire for "all manner of man in one man" comes to life in the form of a charismatic stranger, a devil-like character, Darryl Van Horne. Seducing each of the women in turn Darryl teaches them how to further expand the powers locked within, though their new unorthodox lifestyle scandalizes the town.
As these powers become more sinister and events spiral out of control, the women come to realise that Darryl's influence is corrupting everyone he comes into contact with and resolve to use their new-found strength to exile him from their lives. The show contains adult themes.
Performances 1st to 5th April, 2014
|Darryl van Horne|
Jennifer Gabriel (dancer)
Dr Henry Patterson
Mavis Jessup (dancer)
Little Girl (dancer)
Franny Lovecraft (dancer)
Marcy Wills (dancer)
Town gossip/Eastwick's first lady
Clyde & Felicia's daughter
Raymond's wife/church council
Real estate owner
Joe's wife/sexy, vampy
Grocery store owner
Frank's wife/bank teller
Homecoming King, Michael's friend
Homecoming Queen, Jennifer's friend
Schoolgirl, Jennifer's friend
| Edward Creswick|
|Director & Choreographer|
Assistant to the Director (Acting)
Assistant to the Director (Dance)
Reviews & Emails
'Witches' received the NODA Award for 'Best Musical' in the South West region.
Email from Cameron Mackintosh
Congratulations on your great success with Witches and I hope you had as much fun playing it as I had putting it together. I'm sure Andrew made you all dance like the devil and I wish I may see what he created with you all one day soon. Wishing you all a triumphant last night I'm only sorry I can't be with you. Cameron Mackintosh. Xx
Rose Bowl review by Gerry Parker
This is a show where the production values have to match, or even exceed, the talent of the performers if it has any chance of being successful. From the first jolting mixture of sound and lighting effects which brought the audience to heel quicker than anything I can recall in recent visits to the theatre, to the vibrant high octane post initial bows number this shows excelled in its visual and stage effects. The outstanding lighting and sound plots were delivered faultlessly, as far as I could judge, fitting perfectly the changes of musical and dramatic mood. The used of back spots was particularly effective in several numbers.
Equally efficient was the work of the stage crews who swept one scene from sight replacing it with the next at a speed which fair took your breath away. In doing so they ensured that the production never faltered in pace running through as seamlessly as it would have had it been presented on film instead of a live performance. With that sort of backing the Director / Choreographer was able to drive his troops forward in relentless wave after wave when the scene called for such a style. Safe in the knowledge that the show as a whole was going along at a cracking pace he could when the storyline called for a quieter more thoughtful moment take a pull on the reins allowing his cast, and the audience an opportunity to refill their lungs with air ready for the next piece of breakneck action. This was important because just as a cast and audience needs a rest from too much tension in a thriller, if they are to retain their concentration, so in a show like this one must have a moment of relaxation or the sheer power being displayed will overwhelm them.
Costumes like the Lighting and Sound equipment were I know hired in, but no matter how good the quality of such items are, and on this occasion they were first class, they will not reach their full potential unless the equipment is handled with skill, and in the case of the costumes the initial choice does not suit the characters and story ideally. Those fine flared skirted dresses that ‘Hot Pant’ outfit that Jennifer was enticed into and Felicia dressed splendidly in pink from stem to stern were just a few examples of the good choices made by the Wardrobe team. Visually this production was virtually always a joy, just the odd thing like that dull coloured bar in Felicia and Clyde’s home failed to please. The combined work of the Musical Director and Choreographer bore fruit time and time again with movement and chorus singing never looking or sounding strained.
This company appeared to enjoy every opportunity that came their way, with some excellent individual lines and pieces of business popping up in the ensemble work. When a company comes over as well as that you can almost guarantee that they are performing well within their capabilities, with a little extra to spare. This is not the most melodious of scores, but the numbers fit very neatly into their place within the story, that is providing they are delivered clearly, the words are often extremely important to our following of the story, and confidently. Obviously there will be more discussion about these things as individual performances are examined, but taken overall there is no doubting the ability of this cast to capture the spirit of this libretto and score.
That last remark may appear to be rather obvious, but having seen productions of this show where the performances slipped into playing in a mere ‘Send up’ style I can assure you that keeping the right balance between fun and drama, as we saw here, is most important. Another important element is not being frightened by the raunchiness of some of the dialogue and physical actions that go with the words. If, as I have seen, the actors appear to be shy or embarrassed by what they are being asked to perform then these actions and words can easily become offence to the audience. If they are attacked full on with conviction you have a far better chance of having them accepted by the audience. The Director obviously believed, quite righty, that the correct procedure with these scenes was to follow the command of the leader of the Union Fleet, David Farragut, when some of his ships began to falter after several had struck mines, known as torpedoes, which were guarding Mobile Bay, the last Confederate port in the American Civil War still active ‘Dam the torpedoes full steam ahead’. This full blooded attitude towards the content filtered right through this high octane production and the performances of individuals, ensemble, and the tremendously supportive group of talented musicians in the ‘pit’.
Darryl Van Horne
A wonderful extravagant character, Darryl offers great opportunities, vocally and dramatically, providing you do not get carried away by his extravagances and overplay your hand. Ah I can hear some people saying, thinking of Jack Nicholson’s at times outrageous performance in the 1987 film version of John Updike’s 1984 novel, how can you overplay such a role. The answer is like playing a drunk on stage, all too easily. You have to hang on to that last little bit of control if the portrayal is to retain its credibility, and that is exactly what this actor did. Time after time he pushed it within an inch of going overboard only to then draw back just a fraction so that lines and action were delivered with expert timing. Your stall was laid out on that first entrance, and the line about the style in which you made water, delivered with true aplomb, and not a hint of embarrassment. With the flood gates already firmly wide open the Darryl Van Horne number was ripe to be staged in a raunchy manner, smoke, mirrors, and excellent use of the vocally well drilled chorus by the choreographer.
A splendid example of the fine timing of a humorous line came in that ‘Not quite’ reply to Jane’s outburst ‘Jesus’ Christ’ when she discovered you in her home. The fluttering eyebrows which accompanied the seduction of Jane were an added bonus. This was the start of a trio of well staged seduction scenes, all immaculately changed by the stage crew, with support from the lighting team, MD and Orchestra. The ‘Words, Words, Words’ number which contrasted nicely with the more vocally challenging ‘Your Wildest Dreams’ gave us a taste of the breadth of this player's musical range. You would be hard pressed to say which the better of the two numbers was. For sheer exuberance they could, nor were they designed to, compete with ‘Dance with the Devil’. With Darryl at its head the whole company on and off stage rose to the challenge of this production number, delivering it in a manner that fairly lifted the audience out of their seats. During Act2 we have to see a darker more serious side to the egotistical Darryl when his authority is challenged, and in his courting of Jennifer. When a character has been drawn so freely for so much of the show such a change is difficult to do without making it appear to be completely phony. The fact that this portrayal never appeared to be in any way phony tells you all you want to know about the quality of a performance where the vocal content was matched by the dramatic input.
Alex Spofford, Jane Smart, Jennifer Gabriel
Although these three characters are so individually important to this show it seems only right to place them together because so much of their work of each is dependent on the other two. Let us establish to begin with that there was no question of the three characters blurring together, these were three very distinctive portrayals. Despite the fact that if we were going to be completely true to the script one of you should have been carrying a few more pounds of weight, physically you fitted the roles extremely well. Little changes of hair styles, and a good range of costumes helping to fix you all in the right time and place. In the opening scenes you created a trio of rather dull provincial ladies frustrated in real life, with only dreams to lift your spirits and expectations. The ladies you so strongly created were an ideal target for the marauding Darryl Van Horne. We did not have to wait long for an example of your combined vocal powers in ‘Make him Mine’. With plenty of frustrated pent up feeling in the presentation this was an admirably delivered number, but more variation in the individual vocal styles would have made it even better. The end of this number saw the lighting team once again showing their work off to good effect, the lighting change helping to take the action seamlessly into the next scene. The three seduction scenes were an ideal place for all of you to expand your characters and these opportunities were taken with both hands.
I have already touched on the start of Jane’s seduction and Darryl’s response to Jane’s exclamation on his first appearance in her home, a response that was only that good because it was set up so well by her oh so natural ‘Jesus Christ’. This standard of exchange continued throughout the scene enhanced by the musical combination in ‘Words, Words, Words’, and the mime as he prepared his bow whist you attempted to concentrate on playing the Cello. At one stage you became so lost in his actions I thought you might be about to copy Meg Ryan’s efforts in the restaurant scene in the 1989 film ‘When Harry Met Sally’. An action which brought forth one of the most oft quoted lines in the film world ‘I’ll have what she’s having’.
With a few very personal refinements Sukie showed a similar aptitude to accepting the advances of Darryl Van Horne. You not only showed great verbal dexterity in the way in which you handle lyrics that at times sounded as if the belonged in a Gilbert and Sullivan ’Patter’ song, but showed the same dexterity in the physical side of the exchange with the representative of the Devil. Alex at first showed some nice defensive moves when Darryl first made his approaches which ensured that this seduction was going to develop along very definite lines than the other two ladies, albeit lines which would lead to the same terminus.
Darryl having already set out his raunchy stall we had to have the same open responses from you three if the story was to develop, and in these scenes you all showed that you were as willing as he to play the roles without any inhibitions. You also took readily to flying, congratulation here to those in charge of setting up this sequence for making sure you were always facing out front. A friend of mine was once forced when playing the name part in ‘Scrooge’ to sing virtually the whole of one number facing the back way, having spun round in that direction and receiving no help to change his position. Just one little moan it would have be nice to have seen some more variation in your body positions, and hand movements during the flying sequence. In contrast the use made of that giant figure, presumably made by Alex was extremely good full of telling variations
The opening number in Act 2 ‘ Another Night at Darryl’s’ saw you take you new found freedom straight into the heart of your vocals, and opened the door to your violent reaction to the same gentleman when you discovered just how selfish and dishonest he was. The costumes seen here fitted excellently into your new personalities just as well as the first costumes we saw you in suited the ladies we first met. You showed signs of how far along Darryl’s selfish line you had gone in the ‘attacks’ on Felicia, and reversed the coin nicely when you so forcefully turned your attentions to revenge on Mr Van Horne. The final trio ‘Look at Me’ found you once again in fine voice using tones that suited the returning mellow characters with just a hint of a new found strength discovered during your excursion into the world of Darryl Van Horne.
Felicia and Clyde Gabriel
There used to be a ‘Twice Nightly Variety’ comic who always filled his act full of ‘Mother-in-Law jokes’ one of which was ‘A lovely women I worship the ground that’s coming to her’. This line for me sums up Clyde’s feeling towards his beloved spouse. These feeling were reflected strongly in the way in which Clyde was so admirably played in this show. I say admirably because this is a role that can, and often is so overshadowed by the strong personality of the person playing Felicia that he all but disappears. When this happens the by-play between Clyde and Sukie and the reasons for his final violent outburst tend to get lost in the shuffle. I have actually heard people say at the end of the show why did Clyde do that to Felicia, or was that bit a true attack or just a mined bit of fun. In the hands of this accomplished practitioner the relationship between these ill assorted ‘Star crossed lovers’ was always clearly in view, his frustration, and her overwhelming bullying ego firmly in place.
Your duet ‘Evil’ took this relationship into the world of music where it was a clear and good fun as it was in the dramatic part of the show. In the same vain Felicia was in her elements discussing ‘Dirty Laundry’, a good enough number for her to also show us that given the opportunity there were vocal talents here merely awaiting the opportunity to be properly displayed. In your hands Felicia was indeed a lady it would be a pleasure to hate. With that in mind we were all delighted to watch your discomfort , as ‘Les Girls’ popped different goodies into the jar for you to later ‘bring up’.
There were so few things to like, if any, about Felicia that we began to have doubts about you actually having given birth to someone as nice and agreeable as Jennifer. Dressed imperiously in a mainly pink ensemble you presented an ideal image for Clyde to find the prospect of kissing you on the cheek so distasteful. His beautifully conveyed attempts to place a loving kiss upon this unwelcoming cheek were those of a man struggling to cover his true feelings towards this virago of a woman. The way in which you smuggled items into your mouth before disgorging them expertly on cue deserves more than one word of praise. In recent seasons I have seen several Felicia’s who made such moves all too obvious thus loosing the effects of the scene. Whist Felicia’s character correctly changed little throughout the show whereas Clyde needed to, and was subtle changed by this skilful player. The understanding tone to the conversation with Michael when the now well honed characterisation of Felicia hove into view. The neatly staged, cleverly sung duet ‘Evil’ took this pair further along a natural progression leading to their final tragic encounter.
Jennifer Gabriel, Michael Spofford
The juvenile leads this pair are not that easy to portray in a show which has at least half a dozen far more strongly written characters on view. Jennifer because of her conversion by Darryl has the better opportunities, opportunities that were quickly devoured, compared to the more conventional Michael. Like Jennifer Michael realised what sort of person he was being asked to play and was wise enough to paint his portrait within the limitation in which he found himself. When we first encounter you the diffident manner in which you adapted in the conversations with your mother, Jane, and Sukie gave us an immediate insight into your character. The love you felt for Jennifer was clearly on view, but it was the lady who was the more dominant personality. The balanced setting of that scene, making use of the inside of the house and an area outside was very well planned.
Jennifer’s relationship with her parents was equally well drawn, genuine love towards Dad, and an acceptance that mother held the power as ‘head’ of the family rather than Dad. This was the sort of semi naive young lady who once the props of her parents had been removed was an ideal target for the attentions of Darryl Van Horne. The physical change, once Darryl had tempted you, aided by excellent choice of costumes by the Wardrobe team, took the new character the right distance away from the initial young lady we had encountered. It was important that the change in Jennifer’s character was not too violent, for all the new more garish clothes, because once Darryl has met with his comeuppance we have to accept that you return to your first love, Michael, who has despite making a half hearted effort, changed not one iota. Musically neither of you has tremendous opportunities, the nicely presented duet ‘Something’ gave us a welcome touch of vocal romance. In contrast your duets with Darryl showed that both of you had the ability to easily handle a more feisty vocal presentation. It seemed on fair that Jennifer having looked so attractive in that short skirted Wedding Dress should be lined up at the end with her true love.
This is one of those supporting roles that appears to be oh so simple, but in fsuch find yourself involved in some telling mime work with Darryl, and others. You did your part of the bargain in fine style, but as is so often the case not all that work was highlighted enough within the changing scene for all the audience to appreciate what you were doing, and why you are doing it. It would be easy here to put the blame for this on to the shoulders of the Director, certainly very little if any belongs on your shoulders. However in all fairness it is also unfair to throw all the blame at the Director for what is really an inbuilt problem caused by the writers of the libretto. This is a case of something looking perfect on paper, but far from clear when performed, even as in this case well, on stage. When we did twig what your role was all about, we being the audience, there was much to enjoy, and as your fellow cast members, and the Director must have felt this was a good performance.
Unlike The Girl, Fidel has a very definite framework in which his character can be created and displayed to good advantage. Taking full advantage of these opportunities to take centre stage, albeit only in short bursts, you went for it with great enthusiasm and drive. It is all very well having that sort of attitude but you have to have the breath of talent o go with this sort of full blooded presentation if it is to be a success. Producing a series of lovely pieces of business, acrobatic and dancing skills you ensured that we noticed and enjoyed Fidel’s contribution to the production.
Reverend Ed and Brenda Parsley
In real life I am sure that same clergymen become completely integrated with the community they serve, on stage once you turn a gentleman’s collar around he invariably stands out from the crowd. We could therefore pick you out in every scene in which you were involved whether it be on the fringe of the action or trying so hard to conduct that wedding ceremony. In such circumstances not for a moment can, or did you, drop out of character. Similarly with the lady the more pedantic amongst your parishioners would describe as’ your good lady’, every time you emerged as the vicars wife in scene we had to see this character firmly in place. Both the Reverend and his wife are rather one dimensional figures as written in this script, and quite rightly you did not seek to give them any more depth than that. As a result you were both quickly recognisable fitting admirably in to your place within the action. On other occasions you were part of the very good ensemble always pulling your weight in the production numbers.
Sixteen named characters
Before someone looks at the heading above and complains that it is a ‘cop out’ on my part not to break the number down and give most of them a personal adjudication let me plea my case for not doing so. The main problem lies not in my unwillingness to go down that line with the lengthy amount of work entailed, but the fact that messes Josef Weinberger Limited will only nowadays allow clubs to hire Scores and Libretto’s, and insist that they are returned immediately on pain of a sizable fine for a failure to return them as soon as the show is over. Because of this I had to leave the copy your secretary so kindly loaned me when I attended this production I had to rely on my pre production notes, knowledge gained from seeing several other productions, and the notes made during the performance that I attended on which to base my adjudication.
Although I tend to make copious notes trying to separate so many cameo performances, whilst at the same time trying to make sure that I missed no important moments in the production, or in the principal performances proved to be just one step too many. Had I still had access to the score and script I could have researched the input of many of the sixteen characters, and I have no doubt would have found much to praise. The problem is that if I rely on the few stray notes referring to individual member’s of this group of players, who I unhesitatingly state were a distinct asset to the overall production, it is almost certain that I will place the praise and/or the blame on the wrong person. There were amongst the group some lovely cameo portrayals, with one-off lines delivered almost invariably beautifully timed to gain maximum effect. When asked to work as an ensemble in vocal or movement they looked like a well drilled group always giving willingly to the Director, Choreographer and Musical Director.
Looking at this adjudication I find that not enough comment and praise has gone the way of the way of the Musical Director and her Orchestra. The manner in which they tackled the Overture sent out signals that here was a group who knew what sort of sound this score required if it was to fit the libretto and lyrics. Throughout the evening I found myself making a note about the strength of support coming from the orchestra pit. They were continually at the heart of the changing moods and visual pictures within the story, and the build up of dramatic moments, enhancing all of these aspects of the production. An added bonus was the confidence that both soloists and chorus must have felt from having such skilful strong support every time they started to sing. A great deal of work must also have gone into the preparation of the soloists and chorus and once again this was repaid in the confident way in which they tackled their vocal tasks. The good and brassy Overture was followed by a well played sequence into the slickly performed opening chorus number’, The Bay’ which served a a good introductions to some of the local characters. The Sound team showed their merit during this sequence, and the stage crew in the manner in which they transformed the stage from Eastwick to Alex’s home kept up the same high standard.
The Ensemble input to the ‘Darryl Van Horne’ number built into an even better effort when led by Brenda they picked up the telephone calls in fine style leading to another well staged company number. It is always difficult to integrate a wide range of ages in these sorts of numbers, and the smooth way in which such integration took place in this production as much for the quality of performance from the younger element, and the skill of the choreographer. Watching the ‘Dirty Laundry’, and ‘Dance with the Devil’ routines I was impressed by the raw energy on view, an energy that pervaded practically all of this production. Importantly the fine array of characters which had been established from the word go were not abandoned on the altar of speed, and aggression. With that in mind I once again apologise for not being able to say more about individual contributions.
One last word on the vexed question of hired scripts and scores the Rose Bowl committee have for some years now been engaged in a battle with companies like Josef Weinberger’s Limited in the hope of alleviating the problem in a way which would help their Adjudicators and be beneficial to clubs , so far to little avail.
My thanks for the friendly reception, help with any queries about the production, and very welcome interval ice cream. My I wish you well with your future production, some of which I hope I will have the pleasure of seeing.
Review by Gay Pirrie-Weir in the on-line Fine Times Recorder
WHEN you have a global reputation for music like Glastonbury has, a world-renowned shoe manufacturers like Street, and your long-established joint musical comedy society boasts an internationally in demand award-winning choreographer among its alumni, perhaps it’s no surprise that the current show at Strode Theatre in Street is a spectacular, triumphant hit.
The G&SMCS is one of the first amateur companies in the country to perform the musical of The Witches of Eastwick, adapted by John Dempsey and Dana P Rowe from John Updike’s short story, via the memorable Jack Nicholson 1987 film. And the Street version, on stage until Saturday 5th April, is directed and choreographed by Andrew Wright, who was not only born and brought up in the town but returns to the place where he first trod the boards when he has a moment, between working on major shows in the West End and on Broadway. From the first clap of thunder to the final jump-up-and-clap number, this is high-energy enjoyment for the cast and the audience.
Set in a reactionary small town in America, it’s the story of Alex, Jane and Sukie, all bored out of their minds by the parochial concerns and prurient minds of their neighbours, getting together over a jug of Martini to combine their fantasies for a fun future. But, as the Chinese warn, you should be careful what you wish for. Before the trio can say Bless My Soul, a stranger appears to buy the big house on the hill, and he’s called Darryl van Horne and he describes himself as “the average horny little devil.” Sex is his stock in trade, and he’s got warehouses full and more to spare, as the women soon discover.
Darryl’s also got a darker secret, and under his tutelage the three women learn to unleash their inner Wicca. When the town busybody Felicia Gabriel interferes once too often, they set about a little cursing. But their power to the power of three has fatal consequences. Darryl’s domination has got to stop … but not before he makes a last ditch stand and leaves a legacy the women didn’t expect.
It’s a marvellous satire on small town morality and the unpredictable power of sexual attraction, all wrapped up in a rhythmic musical with evocative costumes, rock’n’roll dances and enough spice for the average vindaloo. The Glastonbury and Street company is joined by Somerset estate agent Edward Creswick in the devilish central role, one that requires a deal of self confidence, a fine singing voice and dancing feet, all of which he has in spades.
The witches of the title are played by Cherry Lewis, Becki Tucker and Sue Collings, a sculptor, a musician and a journalist who literally fly into a new life. Karen Squance has a marvellous time as the ghastly Felicia, with Brian Epps as her henpecked husband Clyde. The young lovers are delightfully played by Jess Stradling and Will Howlett, and there’s a fine bit of breakdance from Mitchell Miguel as Fidel.
The show is full of big, colourful choruses and hilarious vignettes, and it’s all done with huge pizzazz, accompanied by the excellent ten-piece band under the direction of Lynne Merrifield. The songs might not be the most memorable in music theatre, but the show is a joy from start to finish. See it at Street before it materialises all across the region in the coming months – first off at Bath Theatre Royal next week. GP-W
Email from Nick Lawrence National Operatic and Dramatic Association South West Regional Councillor Many thanks for your kind invitation to see "Witches of Eastwick" and for the kind and warm welcome I received. As you will have gathered I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I was (as always) most impressed by the hard work that everyone had put in. It was evident that the cast & crew were happy in their work and this helped the audience enjoy a fabulous evening. Of course, the imaginative direction, lighting and scenery combined well with wonderful music excellently played and sung to produce a stunning show. One I am sure you are all proud of. It was great to be able to chat to Lynne & some of the cast afterwards. My apologies to those of you who I did not get to, but it was your night and I didn't want to overstay my welcome. Many congratulations, Nick Review by Trudy Dyke, NODA SW Representative
The Witches of Eastwick fly high!!!
Congratulations to Director, Andrew Wright, this was a masterpiece of theatre and no mean feat to pull off! From the opening Thunder Clap! to the ‘Glory of Me’ the show just flew! ‘Eastwick Knows’ the highly charged first company number introduced all the townsfolk setting the bar for what was to follow! Alex (Cherry Lewis), Jane (Becki Tucker) and Sukie (Sue Collings) bored with all the parochial business and nosey neighbours joined together over a jug of Martini each fantasising how different their lives could be! If only? Enter Darryl van Horne (Edward Creswick) the devil in disguise! Sex is his game and in turn he seduces Alex, Jane and Sukie.
These were intense scenes riddled with humour all done in the best possible taste! All four are masters of their craft and excelled in portraying these sex starved individuals! Plenty of fun and great comic timing. Karen Squance totally embodied the ghastly town busy body Felicia Gabriel and her ability to sing and produce random items out her mouth was a sight to behold. Brian Epps was perfect as the henpecked almost always inebriated husband Clyde. In contrast to the lustful older adults were the young would be lovers! Jennifer Gabriel (Jess Stradling) and Michael Spotford (Will Howlett) both were perfectly adept in portraying innocence and later under Darryl’s influence sexual awakening!
There were many other cameo and principal roles in the production and each of these was brought to life by this talented company. Choreography was slick and well executed, in particular ‘Dirty Laundry’ (reminiscent of ‘One Brick at Time’ from Barnum). Both principals and company had oodles of energy in their singing making their musical interpretation and diction spot on! Costumes had been well selected and complemented the production. Who ever made the decision to use the white picket fence and the Little Girl was genius making the scene changes seamless, so the show never lost pace.
Congratulations to the Stage Manager and his crew, this was not an easy show to manage! Having to cope with flying! As well as the hazards of moving set! scene changing was seamless. Your expertise brought this show to life and more than contributed to the standing ovation the company received.
Review by Ken Edmonds - Central Somerset Gazette
Witches show casts a spell.
Bright, brash and full of energy, with some excellent performances this show was great fun. Taking the lead as Darryl Van Horne was Edward Creswick, who glowered and strutted around to great effect and grew more into the part as the evening wore on. He could hold his own with the three female protagonists and had a fine set of lungs to boot.
Playing the artist Alex Spofford was Cherry Lewis who gave another full-on performance, full of humour and sympathy. her singing was excellent, as always, and she nailed the character too.
Cellist Jane Smart was performed by Becki Tucker with great gusto. Hers was another great characterisation full of warmth. The scene when Van Horne seduces her was very well done. I particularly liked the freestanding cello.
Bookish Sukie Rougement was played by Sue Collings who made clever use of a stammer to show her character's changing nature and had some lovely mannerisms to go with a great voice.
The despicable Felicia Gabriel was played by Karen Squance with devilish glee although in a later scene she was able to give the character vulnerability which was no mean feat. Her long-suffering husband was ably performed by Brian Epps getting plenty of comedy from the role and showing a darker side at the end.
Their daughter, the too-good-to-be-true Jennifer, was played by Jess Stradling who caught the innocence of the role well and made a dramatic transformation at the end. Jennifer's love interest, Michael Spofford, Alex's son, was another fine comic turn from Will Howlett. He does the geeky young man very well but his transformation in Dance With The Devil was also well done.
There was a funny cameo from Mitchell Miguel as Fidel, Van Horne's silent street dancing butler.
The singing was spot on with some great harmony work from everyone, but particularly from the three witches. Musical director Lynne Merrifield had clearly drilled everyone very hard and got great results.
However, I felt the overall volume of the songs and the speech was just too loud. Almost all the characters with speeches wore microphones so it would have been possible to turn everyone down without losing the effect. During the second act there were times when the mics were on the verge of feeding back they were up so high it put me on edge.
My main gripe is with the show itself which I felt had a script which let a good story down and forced some of the characters to act out of character for no apparent reason.
Andrew Wright did a fantastic job on both the direction and the choreography, ably assisted by Matthew Maisey and Sarah Acreman respctively, bringing a touch of West End to Strode Theatre.
2013 - Puss in Boots
Take a talking Cat, a flashy Dame, a gentle King, a wicked Ogre, and Queen of Catland, and what have you got? Well, you have a cat-alogue of comic characters who will cat-apult you into a world of cat-chy song and dance, and cat-aclysmic cat-astrophes! But it all comes right in the end, we assure you... cat-agorically!!
Puss in Boots, that swashbuckling and cunning feline from Street, dons his magic boots to help poor Colin, the miller's son, overcome the spite of his siblings, Cecil and Cecilia, and win the love of Princess Marigold.
Scroll down for all the reviews and adjudications.
The Good Fairy
Queen of Catland
|Performance Dates and Times|
|Saturday 28th Dec|
Sunday 29th Dec
Monday 30th Dec
Tuesday 31st Dec
Wedneday 1st Jan
Thursday 2nd Jan
Friday 3rd Jan
Saturday 4th Jan
|2.30 and 7.00pm|
Review by Gay Pirrie-Weir of The Fine Times Recorder
THERE’S a talking, walking, scheming feline in Street until 4th January, and he and his chums are delighting audiences at Strode Theatre. Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society is back on the Strode stage for the fourth Christmas season, this year with Keith Marsden and Geoffrey Rundle’s version of Puss in Boots, directed by Rodney Gifford.
Played against beautiful new sets in sumptuous costumes, this show is full of humour and invention – and a lot of dance. With the talented members of the South West School of Dance fielding two teams of young dancers, all under the eye of Sarah Neale, there is a dance number for every occasion, and the singing is also excellent.
The bones of the story are all there – brave and hardworking Colin is duped out of his inheritance by his step siblings (here Helen and Joe Chester in their Krankies manifestation), but falls in love with the princess, is helped by a magic cat who foils the ogre and his henchman … and of course all live happily ever after. The drowning of the cat and its arrival in Catland is a bit weird, since Catland is at the bottom of the sea and bereft of cream, milk, butter, fish and comfy cushions, but the backdrop will do nicely for other panto stories.
James Newton and Pete Fernandez are terrific as the flamboyant, pretty and powerful queen and the diffident king with an endless repertoire of bad jokes. Matthew Maisey is a very hissable Slime the Lawyer, looking extraordinarily like the late great Mick Ronson from the Spiders from Mars. Kate Hatt’s plucky puss saves the day for Colin (Georgia Wall) and the princess (Bethany Baker), whose voices blend so well for the big romantic duets. Steve McCullagh makes the most of a brief ogre-ish appearance.
The comic routines include a very funny 12 Days of Christmas and a ghostly encounter with two ghouls and two swing doors – and brilliant timing. There’s nothing too scary for even the youngest audience members, and the whole thing is backed by Tom Billing’s terrific quartet.
Another memorable panto from G&SMCS, whose next show at Street is The Witches of Eastwick in April.
Ken Edmonds' review in the Central Somerset Gazette and the Shepton Mallet Journal.
Bright, colourful and funny are all words that can describe this year's pantomime at Strode Theatre, the fourth produced as a profit-share project by Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society for Strode Theatre. From the smallest performer to the seasoned hands everyone seemed to be having great fun and this came across to the audience.
Taking the central role of Puss was Kate Hatt who had good stage presence and some lovely lines. Comedy duo Cecilia and Cecil were played by Helen Chester and Joe Chester with great aplomb. Their spot-on clowning was a big hit with the younger children and their smiles didn't waver once.
A second comedy duo was the King and Queen, played by Peter Fernandez and James Newton and they were brilliant. James got the queen off to a tee, being over-the-top and snooty while still being able to be friends with all the children in the audience, a well judged and very funny performance. As the king, Peter was well under-the-thumb but played the role with such a sunny disposition that we got the impression that he didn't really mind, again another really nice performance.
Playing the young couple who fall in love were Georgia Wall and Bethany Baker as Colin and Princess Marigold. Georgia was excellent as the all-action Colin being unafraid to tackle any challenge while Bethany played the Princess beautifully and her scene where she had to choose a suitor was very funny. Their duets were lovely as they can both really sing and you certainly wanted to cheer them on.
For the baddies, there was Slime, an evil lawyer, played with great gusto by Matthew Maisey. He was as nasty as they come but never too frightening for the little ones - again a nicely judged performance. Steve McCullagh as the Ogre had only one scene but made the most of it with some wonderful make-up and exaggerated walk. He was a truly unpleasant sight and the character he played wasn't much nicer. Great fun. Sarah Neale was sparkly and sympathetic as the Fairy and mention must be made of Justin Hodge as Wilberforce, the long-suffering chamberlain who did sterling work.
The dancers wee excellent and the junior choruses were well drilled in everything they had to do and they all smiled which makes such a difference. Singing was excellent from everyone and the dancing was very effective. Costumes were bright and colourful and well thought out and the lightinhg was effectively used to create moods and atmospheres.
At two-and-three-quarter hours it was a tad long but the earlier start time of 7pm helped with this. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable night spent booing, cheering, clapping and shouting, panto as it should be.
NODA SW Review by Trudy Dyke
Glastonbury and Street MCS’s ‘Puss in Boots’ kicks of ‘Footloose’.
Puss in Boots is possibly one of the lesser known pantomimes we see presented! Making it a new challenge for Director, Rodney Gifford and his cast of ‘new blood.’ Great to see a company looking to the future!
G&SMCS poured in every element expected in a traditional family pantomime into Puss in Boots! from the slapstick to the hiss and boo! Slime (Matthew Maisey) was one of the first to appear and quickly established himself as Mr Evil, setting the bar for the rest of the company in what was to be a magical evening. Two of the ‘new bloods’ were James Newton playing the Queen, James gave the Queen a soft soporific voice and matched it with an air of superiority ever ready to put down his partner the classic bumbling King (Peter Fernandez) they were a perfect pairing, both at ease with their audience and they with them.
This production was bursting with talented young performers making their pantomime debut! Puss (Kate Hatt) was a strong ever present sidekick to Colin and excelled in ‘Don’t Stop Me Now'. Providing the love interest were besotted thigh slapping! Principal Boy Colin (Georgia Wall) and the feisty Princess Marigold (Bethany Baker) not too slushy! And a comfortable match vocally. Choreography was innovative incorporating many different genres of dance and there were some extremely talented dancers performing. In contrast the musical element of the production was weak and the ensemble singing was thin! Costumes were stunning, especially the Queen’s Hunting Outfit! Well done to all who brought this magical quest to life.
Rose Bowl Awards Adjudication by Barbara Smith
SET including STAGE FURNITURE and PROPS
An excellent Set was provided by Scenic Projects Ltd with well designed and painted traditional backcloths suiting the 12 scenes and including a fine Front cloth and festive Pros arch frieze. The Set had been effectively adapted to suit the proportions of the Strode Theatre and provided both an atmospheric and colourful background for the Pantomime ‘Puss in Boots’. The Props were again in good traditional style with fine gold and red velvet Palace Thrones, excellent Scrolls, OTT Sandwiches and Tea Pouring Gag, spooky Spider props, lovely Cauldron in the Ogre’s Castle, and of course the Mouse. I very much appreciated the use of image projections of Lion and the Song Sheet.
All set changes were fluid and silent but there did seem to be a small problem with the cuing of some set changes and lighting which resulted in a few slightly elongated blackouts between scenes – but this could be due to fly changes with limited backstage facilities – it did not in any way hamper the overall flow of the production. I greatly admired the way in which the large cast was swiftly entranced and exited, and of course the management of the many costume changes – especially the Dame. The young members of the cast did an excellent job with setting and striking of props such as tables and chairs – congratulations on such swift and disciplined work. Cuing for sound and Smoke was well managed and lighting changes very well prompted. Obviously an excellently organised stage management which ensured a smooth production.
The overall use of bright lighting perfectly projected the cheerful atmosphere of Pantomime, and the atmospheric changes of both colour and discreet directional lighting again highlighted the story. Fine use of Green for the entrances of Slime and the use of Spots for Principals, and I appreciated the colour changes on the backcloth of ‘Halfway There and Back’ with Reds for ‘Celebrate’ and then going into Green for Slime and into Pinks for Colin and Puss. Good strobe effect for the transformation into Puss in Boots, and later there was a good use of gobo and Green for the scene with Slime, Cecilia and Cecil. Good dim lighting and use of Blues for the Catland scene and effective use of the Gauze.
In Act 2 a well projected ‘Moon’ gobo for scene 8, but there did seem to be a lighting error for the Skeleton Dance as UV did not come on. I appreciated the effect of Starburst gobos in the Haunted Mill and Ghost scene – it was effectively controlled. Fine lighting in Ogre’s Castle with super spot giving effect of shaft of light coming from window over Ogre’s table and Cauldron, and good use of Reds and smoke. Effective flashing lights for the fight between Colin and Ogre, and well timed Lion projection. All lighting operation was well timed apart from already mentioned slightly long blackouts between some scenes. A well designed lighting plot and the overall input gave excellent atmospheres alongside the well lit general scenes.
This was a very fine input with well timed effects. I greatly appreciated the live effects from the Band and also the well recorded pieces of effects and music. The micing for the Principals was excellent and without distortion and all at a good level. A first class input.
COSTUME & MAKE-UP
The costumes supplied by Triple C’s Costumes were excellent in both style and fitting and the theme of general Sixteenth Century costumes was perfect for the storyline of ‘Puss in Boots’. I liked the ‘villager’ style of costuming for the opening Chorus, and the many changes of costume for the Dancers were excellent and especially the costumes for the Junior Chorus – ‘trooping the colour’ costumes, and later lovely gold outfits. Both Mill Cat and Puss with orange leotard and excellent wig and make-up. The Dame had excellent and well fitting many costume changes with changes of wig and of course the traditional OTT make-up.
Cecilia and Cecil in alternating tops and pants and odd socks were very good, and King immaculate in his Sixteenth Century lavender coloured outfit, and formal Chamberlain. Colin in traditional high boots and pants, Princess in simple romantic long dresses – both looking excellent together. Fairy, Slime, and Ogre again well characterised with costumes, and excellent make-up and long grey wig for Slime. Congratulations to the Wardrobe team for the well fitting and immaculate costume presentation – nothing looked ‘tatty’ – and especially the superb costumes for the Dancers, and congratulations to the Make-up team for the first class and well characterised make-up.
The four piece Band number was perfect both for the Production and also suiting the small Venue, and the musical combination just right for the Pantomime material. A rousing opening number with excellent rhythm and sensitive drumming which did not overpower. Throughout the sound level of the Band was first class and did not intrude upon the singing but was excellently supportive. I appreciated the live ‘exit’ music and the live sound effects all spot on, and also the super keyboard underscoring as in the King and Queen ‘Sandwiches’ gag, and also the sensitive underscoring during scene changing blackouts. A first class and very supportive input which added greatly to the spirit and success of the Pantomime.
The opening number from ‘Footloose’ was delivered with good vocal projection and energy, and the following ‘Almost Paradise’ from Colin and Marigold came over well with well harmonised input and lovely lower notes from Colin and fine strength from Marigold, the song well animated and characterised, both singers having good vocal control and giving a lovely soft final phrase. ‘Together Wherever We Go’ with Colin, Mill Cat and Chorus was given a good input by Colin and well supported, and the fine Soprano ‘a capello’ input from Fairy was lovely. ‘Busy Doing Nothing’ from the King and Queen & Puss was well characterised and delivered with energy and strength. Act 2 ‘Fantasies Come True’ with Colin and Marigold well characterised and with good pitch and breathing technique but slightly insecure top notes which were being a little forced, but a sensitive and well animated duet.
A strong and well projected ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ from Puss and with fine energised input making impact. “The Twelve Days of Christmas’ was a very challenging number and was well animated but did go a little awry and instead of going faster towards the end it in fact became slower – but it was fun and the audience loved it. Well projected Finale numbers from the Full Company. The singing input was with good style and energy and along with the Musical backing projected a strongly energised musical input which was fully appreciated.
The strong and well co-ordinated Direction ensured that all the traditional elements of traditional Pantomime were fully realised, with technical input well co-ordinated with Sound, Lighting, and Costume all complimenting each other and highlighting both the atmosphere and the story line. The slapstick was secure and slick with an excellent tea pouring gag, banana joke, and the audience participating with the traditional “Oh No… and Oh Yes…” and then followed with slapstick routine with Slime, Cecilia and Cecil, over the attempt at kidnap. Fine grooming horse slapstick routine, false leg, ‘powdering face with sunshine’ and ‘singing in the rain’, and excellent
Ghost business which the audience loved – the little boy in front of me was doubled up with laughter each time! The characterisations were secure and projected in traditional style with the main focus on King and Queen who initially were dominant Queen and meek King, but the King did become as forceful as the Queen and the balance became a little upset and some potential for further fun ‘inequality’ did not happen – in a long run dynamics do change and its difficult for Direction to control – but throughout the acting from both was excellent. The dance input was first class and was smoothly integrated with the passage of the story line and journey taken by the Lead characters.
Good and Evil were well balanced with twinkling Fairy and insidious Slime and Scary Ogre, and of course the stupid ‘wicked’ Cecilia and Cecil. I felt the fight scene could have been extended with more activity to help a headlong rush into the triumph of Good over Evil – the pace did drop a little here. The Production flowed with good overall pace and energy and with excellent audience participation and local topical one-liners, and all on stage related well with the delighted audience. A secure and well directed Pantomime with fun for all the family audience.
MOVEMENT & DANCE
CHOREOGRAPHY including DANCE SKILLS & GROUPING
Excellent input with well choreographed routines and good technique from the dancers, and they reacted well to the dialogue of the Leads onstage. The opening routine was a lively routine with input from both older and young dancers and making a good use of the stage with changing patterns. ‘Together Wherever We Go’ another well choreographed and performed piece with good energy and patterns and again with good technique. ‘Celebrate’ with the Junior Chorus was lovely and I was very impressed with the focus and discipline of the young performers which was excellent.
A fine marching routine and Drum Majorettes with ‘trooping the colour’ scene and again the younger performers excelled. The Cats Ballet with some good en pointe work and effective ballet input was another fine piece of dancework with fine picture at the end. The Minuet opening Act 2 set a lovely atmosphere and dancers with well controlled and stylised input. The Skeleton Dance unfortunately did not truly come over as the lighting was lost and I could not ‘capture’ the number. I appreciated the simple movement patterns given to Colin and Marigold for their songs, and the lovely twirling entrance and exit of the Fairy. The Dance input was very good and it was a pleasure to see trained dancers on stage and also such well trained young dancers.
PUSS – A feisty performance with energy and good movement and a strong vocal input. The relating with Colin was excellent and with good reactions to all that was happening. The scene with the Ogre was very well timed and the fight input was with energy and good movements. A fine performance.
COLIN – It was good to see a traditional Principal Boy with all the skills needed – fine singing, well projected and enunciated voice with the dialogue, very good movement skills, and all projected with energy. The relating with Marigold and Puss both excellent, and I appreciated the strong exits/entrances and movement on stage. This performer was an impressive Principal Boy.
PRINCESS MARIGOLD Another fine performance and again all the skills were in place with singing, projection of dialogue, and movement. There was a sweet stage presence and lovely sensitive relating with Colin, but there was also a feisty resistance to her demanding parents. Another fine performance.
CECILIA – With her petite stature she was perfectly suited to the burly Cecil and stood up to him well. A nicely ‘simple’ character who was not really so dumb, and the cueing and timing of dialogue with Cecil was delivered with a good pace and energy making a fine duo. A fine energy with the slapstick routines and reactions with Slime and the facial expressions and body language were well portrayed – a performance of energy and focus.
CECIL – The louder and more dominant partner in crime and together with his fine repartee worked very well with both Cecilia and with Slime. Well timed ‘leg’ routine with Cecilia, and the piece in the Haunted Mill was played excellently with well time reactions. A fine performance.
SLIME – The body language and movement was excellent and his evil character came over with strength. Super exits and entrances and a really ‘evil’ laugh, and he worked very well with Cecilia and Cecil with well timed repartee and pace of dialogue. A very strong performance relating well with the audience throwing out his wicked ways to the delight of the children.
QUEEN – A fine traditional Dame with the non-stop energy that is required for this demanding role. The relating with the audience was excellent and the partnership with the King in the slapstick, stage business, and running gags was first class. Fine timing of repartee and delivery of the one-liners. Lovely piece of interrupting the King with his Poem, and the Trooping of the Colour routine was excellent. This was a performance with all the elements of Dame firmly projected – and the audience loved it!
KING – His initial vagueness was a perfect match for the overpowering Queen and I felt that this balance could have been maintained throughout to give a further contrast to her dominant strength, instead of standing up and matching her dominance. Excellent repartee and slapstick and a super use of well timed asides and one-liners , and as mentioned above the interruption of Queen’s poem was an excellent one-upmanship. The energy matched that of the Queen and together their stage presence was very strong and well focused. There was a fine stage presence and strong vocal delivery.
WILBERFORCE – A fine Court Chamberlain who made a strong impact with strong voice and good declamatory style – and he was suitably pompous with his body language. There was a fine relating with the King and Queen and in the ’12 Days of Christmas’ gave a spirited input. A good stage presence and focus on the action.
FAIRY – A lovely presence and her first piece was delivered with good vocal clarity and with understanding giving colour and impact to her words. Lovely body language and movement. A perfect foil to creepy Slime.
OGRE – A strong voice and commanding presence but I felt the pace of delivery was a little slow and even with the long pauses. He looked excellently frightening and physically dominated the stage.
MILL CAT – Good body language and movement and a fine relating with Colin with good reactions and focus.
QUEEN OF CATLAND – She looked excellent and moved well but the dialogue could have been given more vocal light and shade to give it further depth of feeling and meaning. A good potential from a young performer.
HORSE – Very good reactions to the slapstick with the Queen and well timed responses.
This was a fine overall achievement with a Production that involved both very young members of the community alongside older and more experienced performers. All the elements of Pantomime were fully respected and with good slapstick routines, stage business, outrageous characterisations, and of course intimate relating with the audience. The overall pace was good apart from a slight drop during the Ogre’s Castle scene, but it retrieved to come to rousing Finale Pieces. The presentation was visually colourful and with all technical input fully co-ordinated, and dance routines excellently executed, and above all the relating and reaching out to the audience was first class – we all loved it!
Thank you for your kind hospitality and I look forward to being asked once again in the near future to another presentation from Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society.
2013 - Acorn Antiques - The Musical!
Creative Team: Brian Epps, Lynne Merrifield and Carol Applegate.
Co-Producers: Fiona and Ralph White.
|Cast List |
Young Mrs O
Reviews, Adjudications, Nominations
Jane Sayer has been nominated for the Melanie Evans Award for Best Actress (Musical) in the prestigious Rose Bowl Awards as Mrs Overall. Many well-deserved congratulations to Jane from the Society and from the cast and crew of Acorn Antiques The Musical!
Gay Pirrie-Weir - Blackmore Vale Magazine
Strode Theatre, Street
VICTORIA Wood’s musical based on her own cult skit Acorn Antiques is on stage this week at Street in a terrific production by Brian Epps for Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society, with a cast throwing caution to the winds in recreating the famous television characters. Perhaps you have to be a fan of the hysterically funny Crossroads skit that started life on As Seen on TV to fully appreciate the show, with its tweedy twins (or is it triplets?), its moving sets, its wildly improbable plot lines and its ham acting. Suffice it to say that I was always a fan, so very few of the “nuances” (albeit heavily underlined nuances) passed me by, although the group in front of me were clearly bemused and antagonised by the unfamiliar story.
Set, of course, in Manchesterford, Victoria Wood has set her story in the terrace of shops owned by the Countess, now up for grabs by the wicked multi-national tanning parlours, coffee emporia and thong shops. The busty Miss Babs and her sister Miss Berta are determined not to sell, and they are supported by the local amateur dramatic society which rehearses in the shop every week! Then there is the amnesiac Mr Clifford, once engaged to Miss Berta, a fact he’s forgotten. And a loan shark called Tony, on a diet so strict that he has lost all emotion, a situation he can only remedy by the ingestion of sugar. And a thrustingly ambitious businesswoman who turns out to the the third triplet. And then, sound the trumpets, Mrs Overall, the cleaner and general help whose own murky past holds the key to the missing fortune.
Victoria Wood has always been known for her ability to write pastiche songs for her own solo shows, but here she excels herself, taking “inspiration” from Les Mis, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Chicago, Blood Brothers and more, all these brilliantly evoked in Brian Epps’ production. There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, and, since Acorn Antiques is certainly no more broke that it was intended to be, the company makes no effort to reinterpret the cherished performances, but pays fulsome tribute by giving their own impersonations on stage at Street this week. Jane Sayer captures every twitch and ungrammatical stammer of the Brummie Mrs O, created by Julie Walters. Cherry Lewis is the sex obsessed Miss Babs with Jo McCartney as her lovelorn sister.
There are a couple of teenagers in the place of the usual two customers, and David Williams and Maisey Durston give memorable performances in these very funny and fast changing roles. Simon Boddy is hilarious as the deadpan Tony, and Joe Chester is the forgetful Mr Clifford. There’s a touching duet between gay couple Mr Watkins and Derek (no longer the odd job man) performed with subtle charm by Paul Townsend and Dave Bonser. It’s a large cast and they are having a great time in this hilarious show, on until Saturday. Don’t miss it if you like to laugh. GP-W
Central Somerset Gazette - review by Ken Edmonds
Written by Victoria Wood, Acorn Antiques The Musical! is the stage incarnation of the spoof soap opera sketches from Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, first screened in the 1980's. While the TV series lampooned the soap operas of its day, the musical takes a friendly swipe at musical styles with Chicago, Les Miserables and A Chorus Line all in evidence. The show requires a lot of tongue in cheek playing and the lively cast supplied this in spades.
As the sexually frustrated Miss Babs, Cherry Lewis was on excellent form wringing every last bit of physical comedy out of the part with great timing too. Jane Sayer as Mrs Overall was very funny getting the mannerisms, movement and voice just right - her entrance in Oh Oh Oh Mrs O! was spectacular.
Jo McCartney as the lovelorn Miss Berta was an often sad figure but she played it so well it was also very funny, as intended. Her facial expressions were spot on.
Alison Houselander was having a great time as the schemimg Miss Bonnie, who even gets to fire Mrs Overall. Her characterisation was lovely and got plenty of laughs. Simon Boddy, played the loan shark Tony with the suave confidence required and I particularly enjoyed the number The Old Small Print.
The two teenage "pitifuls" were well portrayed by David Williams as Hugh and Maisey Durston as Mimi. Their transformation from act one to act two was very funny and well done.
Joe Chester as the amnesiac Mr Clifford was excellent, once again demonstrating fine comic timing particularly in his exchanges with Miss Berta. Excellent support came from fellow High Street shopkeepers, Derek and Mr Watkins, played by Dave Bonsor and Paul Townsend, who also sang a touching duet. All the cast gave well thought out charaterisations; there was no weak link anywhere.
Technically there were some challenging aspects but the company rose to them and created a set which looked complicated but worked well.
Musically the band were well drilled and the singing was top notch. Covering so many musical styles cannot have been easy but Musical Director Lynne Merrifield managed to create a delightful sound throughout.
Victoria Wood claims to have wanted to give people a "nice night out in the theatre" when writing this show, But Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society do much more than that.
It's a riot!
Letter from Nick Lawrence, NODA South West Regional Councillor
Many thanks for you kind invitation to see "Acorn Antiques" last Wedenesday evening and for the warm and generous welcome I received. Maureen & Ray certainly saw to it that we had a thoroughly VIP evening.
Many congratulations to everyone involved for such an entertaining evening. The show is geat fun and you all worked hard to keep the pace moving and keep us laughing. I laughed so much that the man next to me asked me to stop shaking the row - success!
Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoying themselves and this wonderfully varied script. Of course, it is made so much more fun by the pastiche nature of the vocal score. Always familiar despite being completely new.
Everyone captured their roles well and maintained the style throughout. It was good to see so many young stars on display while boasting the usual array of talent. They all combined to produce a lovely team spirit which gave the show its much needed friendly feel. This was all captured extremely successfully.
My apologies for not seeing you all afterwards but Lynne and I found plenty to discuss - suddenly you had all gone; no doubt to a much needed celebration. It was great to see you in action again and to be so thoroughly entertained.
May I take this opportunity to remind you to remind everyone (as I have to) that Noda South West's weekend at Bicton College will take place between 19th & 21st July 2013. Among the tutors this year we welcome Ben Crocker & Jane Levan with acting workshops and Chris Horseman of Theatek with a course on effective lighting. We also have two showstopper numbers for you to get your teeth into, a couple of vocal classes, and a wardrobe workshop and many more delights. Perhaps I might see some of your members there.
Our awards dinner will be held next year at the International Golf Resort & Spa, St Mellion, on Saturday 1st March. I hope to see some of you there.
Once again, many thanks for making me so welcome. With best wishes, Nick. Letter from Trudy Dyke, NODA Representative South West Region District 8
Director, Brian Epps’s interpretation of Victoria Wood’s little known gem was nothing short of genius!
Acorn Antiques hit the ground running! Opening the show with an extended arm teasingly appearing wearing Mrs. O’s iconic yellow rubber glove!
G&SMCS are fortunate to have a wealth of talented actors within the company and it was evident from curtain up that from the youngest to the more seasoned performers that they were a team. Manchesterford High Street was home to some eccentric and colourful characters, all of them brought to life by the ensemble who embraced each character.
Acorn Antique’s iconic characters, voluptuous Miss Babs (Cherry Lewis) and her demure twin sister Miss Berta (Jo Mc Cartney) wielded their cut glass accents and airs to all those who walked in and out of Acorn Antiques. Both Cherry and Jo embodied their tweed suits! Jo Chester as flaky Mr. Clifford the would-be fiancée of Miss Berta combined his admirable use of comedy and pathos to play Mr. Clifford.
Mrs. Overall (Jane Sayer) is a very demanding role, it requires unlimited stamina and exceptional comic timing, these qualities Jane has in spades. Her eyes lit up as she sang Macaroons!
Highlights of the show were Tip Top Tap and Oh Oh Oh Mrs O! Ensemble work was exceptional! Musicality and Choreography was slick and well executed. Costumes and set were well selected and enhanced the overall concept of this superb production.
Congratulations to everyone who brought this show to the stage.
Rose Bowl Review bt June Rayner
For some years, a TV series of the same name was broadcast as a send-up or satire of under-rehearsed, ill-prepared TV soaps. Complete with shaky scenery, haphazard camera work, late or missing entries, forgotten lines and confusions of every possible kind, the series developed a faithful and enthusiastic fan base. It is this series that has been revised as a stage show where the satire is aimed at the absurdities of those who, disliking the changes in modern urban life, think that by locking the door and dropping the blinds they can shield themselves from the effects of change.
In order to satisfy audience expectations, characters must replicate as closely as possible those in the TV series. For this second revision, the plot has been modified while preserving some of the characters’ typical predicaments and hiccups. In essence, the shop is run by twin sisters – who later find that they are triplets- Miss Babs and Miss Berta, assisted by a Mrs Overall, the domestic help. A developer purchases the parade of shops, including Acorn Antiques, intending to close down current businesses to replace them with coffee bars and other popular chains of shops. Babs and Berta together with other shop-keepers, decide to fight. Rescue comes only in the nick of time with family help and finance.
A totally absurd plot one might think, but such characters hardly need a plot at all. Certainly, they never had much plot to work with on TV. The musical is a satirical, farcical comedy-of-manners where one-dimensional characters are put into ludicrous situations where normal events and standards of behaviour do not apply. The libretto and lyrics were written by Victoria Wood in her much appreciated style of comedy. She also composed the score which, in style, is similar to the ditties that Miss Wood is often heard performing. She mixes these with an amusing a pastiche of well-known musicals: Cabaret, Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, Blood Brothers and Gypsy, were just a few of the musical targets. The orchestra is asked to adjust its style according to the sound quality of each different orchestration – not forgetting to send it up, of course.
The time is the present and the location Manchesterford which, although originally located in Lancashire, can be placed in any urban location in other parts of the country. A couple of scenes take place in the street outside the antique shop but most are staged inside the shop which is described as “bright, pretty and old-fashioned”. It should be crowded with objects and small furniture. Hazardous steps abound mainly in aid of Mrs Overall’s tottering entrances and exits. There is an arched entrance with shop windows either side. Difficult as it may seem, an area that can be occupied by a chorus is necessary. Costume is eccentric modern, the most essential items being Mrs O’s overall and her yellow rubber gloves.
The shop was created in all its cluttered detail. The arched entrance was flanked by large windows looking out into the street. Occasionally, a highly artificial backdrop fluttered, or drooped, outside. St L. steps, criss-crossing at various angles, led to the pantry door where Mrs O slaved to produce tea and macaroons. So steep and awkward were the steps that we held our breath every time Mrs O wobbled up and down. D.St.R there was a very large portrait of a female which, when removed later, disclosed the presence of a screen able to show messages. The final scene required modernisation when the business becomes a coffee shop. Stage management had worked really hard to acquire all the ‘stuff’ necessary to furnish the set appropriately. It certainly had all the authenticity of the original TV setting.
The technicians totally entered into the spirit of this farce. They made a wonderful rainbow panorama onstage that had very little to do with the action. Light or dark, whole stage or areas, the picture was adventurously illumined completely unpredictably. They enjoyed the trip and so did the audience. It was a pity to use blackouts when the audience might have enjoyed watching the scene changes.
SOUND AND EFFECTS
Pick up was reliable whether from orchestra, speakers or singers. Relay was characterised by a good balance between cast members and the orchestra. Excellent work. Smoke swirled at one point but we were never sure of the reason. Were the macaroons burning?
Wardrobe took immense care to hire the best. Notable were Misses Babs and Berta whose costumes were different interpretations of the same idea. Mrs O looked perfect. In general, the costumes were imaginatively selected, highly suitable to character. When the whole company was onstage, the picture was kaleidoscopic - most appealing.
MAKE UP AND WIGS
Heads and faces were entirely in tune with the show.
Worked extremely hard to achieve big changes speedily.
Ms. Merrifield needed a comprehensive knowledge of stage musicals and their different types of score, in order to satirise them. She had selected her instrumentalists accordingly and slight variations of sound quality were achieved. The band was very capable both in accompaniment and when playing for dance. Clear signals were given to singers and if, chorally, the sound was often jazzy, that was just as it should be. Nothing, in this show, must appear to be perfect. A few late entries, badly pitched tunes, duff notes might have been attempted. A musical contribution that was supportive if never inventively unpredictable in the style of the show.
The show opened like Chicago in the Fosse style. It was well danced, played and sung, making an impact. Initial dialogue was bawdy and the actors delivered it with gusto. The opening of the letter informing the shop-keepers of their impending ejection was received with just the right amount of shock and horror. Mrs Overall’s first appearance was received with immense enthusiasm and the sight of her performing a tottery striptease was gruesomely funny. She timed song lyrics and stage business so well.
A discussion of the possible changes to the shops was coloured with despair before Mr Clifford voiced the opinions of all with his Lament. He suggests that most of the neighbours would rather starve than ‘chase the dollar’. But they were not too sure about that. Babs is quite sure that she was once engaged to Clifford – an idea he hears with a certain reluctance. Babs’ dialogue includes such a super-abundance of satirical one-liners that we missed half of them. She delivered them with care but paused too little. This might be the moment to comment upon the excellent clarity and crispness of delivery from everyone in the cast. We should not, otherwise, have been able to follow this garbled story at all! The brass-band underscoring emphasised tone of old-fashioned sentimentality communicated by these scenes.
Mrs O wandered on with a tray. We discovered that her cups and saucers were stuck on! We heard about the identity charm of such significance. Bonnie was revealed as sister triplet and learned of the fortune left to the girls. Several characters contributed to her number There’s A Life, performed in the Old Fashioned Music Hall style before the music style changed. Tony’s flattering flirting with Miss Babs gives rise to the Gypsy-like I May Seem Prim. This number was less melodic and not very surely timed. In a scene where Mrs O discloses that she is the mother of the triplets one of whom she had to ‘let go’, ends with Berta singing hopefully of her love. That the different story lines are so jumbled, make the plot difficult to follow, but certainly emphasises the nonsensical nature of the entire show.
A very funny street scene was followed by the ‘loan sharks’ number particularly well –timed and delivered very loudly with huge attack. The act concluded with a ‘hit’ song and dance number:Tip, Top, Tap, which was performed with immense zest, that was much appreciated by the audience. When the curtain rose upon the second act, we found the setting transformed by series of small café tables surrounded by red seating and the installation of a coffee machine. Had the girls succumbed to the blandishments of the landlords, we wondered? The action surprised us with Lucy flashing her ‘grubby garter’. We learned of changes to the other businesses in the street followed by Mrs O’s touching decision that it is time to leave.
Sc.2 featured Clifford’s Find Her delivered before he noticed the changes in the location, expressing his determination to be re-united with his fiancée. Shagarama! was a lively production number during which the triplets became united. Clifford is gently reminded of his former commitment to Babs. The Men’s Duet ,was, in fact, very musically and lyrically sung coloured by just the right amount of sentimentality – nicely judged. Trolley business was extremely slick, thoroughly rehearsed. After the search for the lost Mrs O concluded, the cast lined up for Oh! Mrs Overall a ridiculously ironic send-up of One from Chorus Line, distinguished by the nudges, elbows and staggers. All that remained was for the safe to be discovered. The pace rightly quickened; all the necessary searching and discovery was performed neatly, swiftly, setting up a suitably happy ending with Mrs O’s macaroons and the cast triumphant.
It is not possible to assess every performance when the cast numbers are so great. Suffice it to say that the whole team entered fully into the farce and into the desire to represent the show authentically - a wish that the director must have fostered. Their contributions, whether large or small, were essential to the success of the production. They all deserve to feel great satisfaction in helping to create the show.
Gave a beautifully brisk performance, developing just the right cut-glass accent to match. There was always a hint of toughness behind this efficient exterior
Clearly had her eye on Clifford from the outset – and she got him in the end. The most sentimental of the triplets and the most affectionate.
An extremely hard-nosed young woman fixated upon filthy lucre. That kindly Mrs O had nothing to do with her upbringing surprised no one. A strongly emphatic performance.
This was a remarkable impersonation of Julie Walters in the role. She could have stood in for her and no-one would have known. The ‘Brummy’ accent was beautifully sustained as was the awkwardly crouched posture. Her management and control of tottering and wobbling as she negotiated the steps together with her pigeon toes made us laugh even before she spoke. Very well done.
Presented us with a complete wimp, a Mother’s Boy, keen on fitness while showing few signs of it but suffering from, I think, varicose veins. His helpless disposition was imaginatively played for laughs especially when trying to sound tough but unable to deliver.
Glossy in appearance and manner but, in reality pretty lethal and, as he says of himself, cold and heartless in charter. He was a necessary touch of harsh reality in the fantasy world of Acorn Antiques.
EFFORT, ORIGINALITY AND ATTAINMENT
This was not an easy selection because the possibilities of failure were so great. Nor was staging it simple. However, audience reaction must have told you how well entertained it was and how very much your patrons valued an evening of unbroken laughter.
Thank you for your most kind welcome.
2012 - Aladdin
Musical Director :
Chorus Mistress :
|Juniors - Team A|
|Juniors - Team B|
|Rose Bowl Review by June Rayner|
That the Company managed to stage their pantomime so close to Christmas for an audience that is still in holiday mood, is a tribute to the energy, determination and willingness of the Company. Hopefully, their efforts were well repaid at the Box Office.According to tradition, a Pantomime is a show of burlesque character, based on a fairy story or legend, much of it told in action and gesture, which usually includes magical transformation. Which are some of the reasons that a good pantomime script is so hard to find. Not too long or too wordy, humorous, including at least one of the traditional scenes of knockabout comedy and all the possibilities of magic to say nothing of the traditional characters and cross-dressing. Difficulties are now greatly increased since much slapstick comedy is limited by the constraints of the dreaded Health & Safety regulations.
The group settled upon a reasonably amusing script that was easy to cast and straightforward to stage but it included long-winded dialogue and the way it chose to relate the story was very poor. Aladdin was not in possession of the lamp until the interval – about 75 minutes into the production – when, as we know, most of the excitement comes as a result of his adventures with the lamp. So Act I seemed endless and Act II was rushed. This was not the fault of the players or the Director, who, it has to be said, ought to have taken the scissors to Act I. It was the writer’s fault. To summarise, there was too much dialogue and not enough action.
The script offered few opportunities for magic – so important in a pantomime. While children were given lots of opportunity to laugh, they were seldom enchanted. Since pantomime stories are so well known, it is up to the Company to create something original, delightful and fascinating around the basic plot. The Director seems not to have secured the real interest of the technicians, stimulating them to creative invention. They always play a huge part in a successful production, but nowhere so much as in a pantomime. Time and discussions are necessary.
A large number of visually interesting back drops, had been selected that enable the show to appear well varied pictorially. The swift changes showed us a stage management that had been well planned, immaculately organised and was super efficient. By far the most attractively mounted scene was the Cave scene, glittering gorgeously and mysteriously as Aladdin searched for the lamp. The other big success was the Laundry scene where inventive props were amusingly used, often in a surprising manner. Many scenes were presented with little or no furnishing, relying upon the players in a perfectly satisfactory way. This also had the advantage of leaving a clear acting space for business and for dance. Properties were supplied, often ingeniously, as asked.
There was a good overall wash over the acting area, although this was sometimes rather yellow in tone. In so light and jolly a show, pinkish tones are to be preferred, or, should the Technicians become really interested, daring primary colours and effects could well feature. In fact, a pantomime presents them with the opportunity to do something wildly original. Illumination, apart from that Cave scene, was safe but dull. It lacked invention and individuality and only once ventured into fairy-tale magic (see further below).
SOUND AND EFFECTS
Limited time for Technicians to set up is the rule, unfortunately, but setting up is always more important than getting out! Much more time to set up the appearances of the Genii was vital. They must appear from nowhere, not stroll on from the wings! Where is the magic in that? There were opportunities to dazzle the audience, or create a blackout, or a flash of lightning or whatever wizardry the Technicians can produce. The possibilities of shock and surprise must be explored if audience sensibilities are to be affected. It is realised that this requires co-operation from Director and actors and it does take time, although much can be done during planning and preparation. The entrances were ordinary, dull and unexciting. Sounds must also play a greater part in establishing an eerie, magical atmosphere. So, it was merely competent, but not a shred more, on this occasion.
Along with décor, costume had been given thought. Most were highly suitable to character, except that of Aladdin, whose garb was a shade too exotic for a washerwoman’s impoverished son, also undermining his final transformation. Bizarre exoticism was achieved for the Dame, well combined with a sense of fun. Dance costumes were most interestingly varied, achieved without great expense but with lots of imagination and ingenuity.
Some very interesting faces appeared, well contrasted with some more natural looking characters.
The group made a very unusual contribution, combining recorded and actual playing that became noticeably atmospheric. It was they, not the Technicians, who ever suggested anything enchanting. Obviously led by a highly capable and imaginative MD, their contribution was extremely positive.
What one witnesses during a production, inevitably leads one to certain assumptions about the Director. His work happily reflected his obvious comedy experience but seemed to suggest a person fairly inexperienced as a Director. His work was directed towards the actors and hardly at all to the technical aspects of production. That he had worked modestly with an experienced choreographer was also evident. Between them, some amusing movement was created. Mr Maisey shows a good deal of promise and will doubtless come to realise that his best ideas need the most thorough and careful planning during the months before rehearsals begin.
This careful planning should begin with his scrutiny of the script. Does he understand, for example, that every scene must have a purpose and that a scene can only continue until that purpose is realised or fails. A number of dance or movement scenes, amounting to about 30 minutes of performance time, that served no purpose, were included. They should have been scrapped. We’re not talking about charming little scenes performed by infants to delight the audience; I’m speaking about scenes of song and/or dance by the main characters that failed to move the story along. This kind of scene lacks purpose and he will find himself with time to be even more inventive in his comedy scenes and given room to manoeuvre.
The pairing of Feng and Shui, together with Wishee Washee and Widow Twankey, formed the chief sources of comedy. A variety of amusingly Funny Walks had been devised for the two Policemen but too little invention was shown in the physical comedy conceived for Twankey and Wishee. However, their washing scene was enjoyably precise, well rehearsed and performed with precision by everyone involved. They were all deft, so that lots more slapstick between them would have entertained us. We never even caught a glimpse of Widow Twankey’s bloomers! The ‘Camel’ number was ridiculously funny while the ‘Behind You’ chase was well realised.
The romance was nicely and briefly played by Aladdin and Princess Jasmine – just enough for the girls in the audience but not too much for the boys. Such scenes were well judged, as were the melodramatic appearances of Abanazar. He was just scary enough. Songs were mainly subtle in their selection and timing, with the occasional big choral number giving the show a fillip from time to time and helping to create a finale that had a cheery impact.
Dance was performed with admirable skill, whilst choreography was almost always appropriate to the scene and situation – except in the scenes mentioned earlier which added nothing to the plot and looked like filling. Dance was of a high quality and was generally expressive. The ‘Diamonds’ number that opened Act II was much too ladylike. It should be seductive.
With his large presence and big, resonant voice, this actor made an instant impression. He delivered his threats with great relish concluding Act I with his number about Destiny which he delivered confidently and musically. He was a sufficiently intimidating villain and very proficient as a performer.
Certainly had the legs for the role and a most appealing smile. A cheery, good natured principal boy who sang best when she wasn’t going flat out. There is not the slightest need to force the voice. Just keep the tone suitably romantic.
SERGEANT FENG AND PC SHUI
Well contrasted in type, this was an amusing duo that worked together extremely well. They were very well rehearsed. It was a pity they were not asked to perform more physical comedy because they would probably have produced some original tumbles. The Director might have sought their ideas.
Performed with speed and agility, while relating very well to the audience with whom he built exactly the right sort of relationship. A sparky contribution.
Brought a great deal of masculine energy to the role which made the cross-dressing all the more amusing. The voice is very rough but he got his numbers over effectively. He was very much in charge on stage – a character with authority.
Ill-tempered, aggressive and always shrill. The audience was easily able to dislike here character and her bullying manners. She presented herself extremely well in her red dress.
Was nicely costumed in a pretty, feminine way. She played and sang sweetly although her delivery of dialogue could be much more distinct. Lightly graceful in movement and dance.
GENIE OF THE LAMP
An effervescent character whose appearance was original and punk-ish. When spirits were at low ebb, she brought a shot of hope to the quest.
GENIE OF THE RING
An elaborate make up was adopted which, although it signalled strangeness, was not wholly matched by a magical air. Try to move very lightly.
Paid attention. Their concentration was excellent, they listened and responded well and their musical numbers were cheerfully delivered. A well united team.
EFFORT, ORIGINALITY AND ATTAINMENT
The Company fared better with this script than expected. Activity on stage sometimes needed lengthy thought and preparation but we all participated in a happy, friendly show.
Thank you so much for your friendly and courteous welcome. (June Rayner)
Review by Trudy Dyke, NODA Representative for SW Region District 8
Glastonbury and Street MCS’s ‘ALADDIN’ soared just like the magic carpet!
Every element expected in a traditional family pantomime was there from the slapstick to the hiss and boo! Congratulations to Director, Matthew Maisey and Choreographer Emma Boddy their expertise and vision brought this stunning spectacle to life! Abanazar(Joe Chester) was first to appear and quickly established himself as Mr Evil setting the bar for the rest of the company and what was to be a magical evening.This production was bursting with talented young performers; one making his pantomime debut was Luke Holman playing Wishee Washee the not so bright brother of Aladdin! Adding the Ahh! Factor was Tyson the Panda (Phoebe Coppell) mischievous and lovable running rings around Wishee Washee! Comic timing is essential when playing dame and Widow Twankey (Barry Squance) had it in spades! As did the trio of PC Feung (Will Howlett) Sergeant Shui (Matthew Maisey) and the Empress (Cherry Lewis) who delivered some excellent visual gags. Providing the love interest were besotted Aladdin (Jess Stradling) and the feisty Princess Jasmine (Jess Michelmore) not to slushy! And a comfortable match vocally.
Providing the biggest surprise when she appeared was the Genie of the Lamp (Helen Chester) Punk Ronnie absolute Genius! Every member of the company was focused and gave 100%. Choreography really was the highlight of this production and featured some excellent new and innovative dance routines incorporating martial arts. Well done to all who brought this magical work to life.
2012 - 42nd Street
Show dates - Tuesday 27th March to Saturday 31st March, 2011.
Set in 1933, the curtain rises on the audition for the female chorus for "Pretty Lady". The show's writers warn the dancers that at $4.40 a seat the audience will demand some spectacular dancing. Young Peggy Sawyer misses the audition but gets into the show anyway by impressing Producer Julian Marsh with her tap dancing skills.
Peggy is involved in a brush with Dorothy Brock, the show's 'over-the-hill' star, and is fired from the production. But when Dorothy eventually has to pull out of the show, Peggy is the only one with the potential to take her place. Julian Marsh begs her to rejoin the company in the lead role and utters the immortal line, "Peggy Sawyer, you're gonna go out there a youngster but you gotta come back a star. Which, as you'd expect, she duly does! The pic shows the dance team with Claire Switzer (Peggy Sawyer) centre of rear row.
Musical Director :
Dorothy Brock :
Peggy Sawyer :
Maggie Jones :
Ann Reilly :
Phyllis Dale :
Lorraine Flemming :
Diane Lorimer :
Julian Marsh :
Bert Barry :
Billy Lawler :
Andy Lee :
Pat Denning :
Abner Dillon :
Reviews, Letters, Emails, CommentsRose Bowl Adjudication of "42nd Street" by Gerry Parker
This adjudication is fourteen pages long, it came as hard copy so had to scan it and include as a series of jpg's.
Letter from Gerry Branton, 30th March 2012
Thank you for inviting us to your production of the above which Denis and I found most enjoyable last night. I was left feeling quite breathless and exhausted after such a feast of energetic dancing, which underlined how exhilarating tap-dancing can be when delivered in such an expert way. Undoubtedly, the “stars” of the evening were the big ensemble numbers, which involved so many members, each intent in doing their utmost to portray the professionalism we have come to expect from this company. Bravo!
Congratulations to the Production Team, who must have worked so hard to produce such a polished finish – your Director who ensured the pace never flagged, and added the necessary pzazz; MD who, with the Orchestra, delivered those lovely Broadway melodies; Choreographer, whose responsibility was to uphold the true Broadway dance routines we expect;Costumes for producing such stunning outfits and making everyone look glamorous, and us so envious(!) and all the wonderful Backstage crew who provided the backup for effects and seamlessly changed each scene.
Congratulations to all, with just one personal bug-bear: your sound was overloud, making some musical numbers and dialogue quite painful for me! At times it seemed more “Forte 2nd Street” rather than what was intended, but possibly might not have affected others in the same way.
My compliments to your fine Principal line-up, led by Claire’s delightful Peggy Sawyer, Cherry’s well-played Dorothy Brock, Simon’s authoritative Julian Marsh and Robert’s effective juvenile lead, Billy Lawlor. Other principals contributed well, bringing out the humour and the pathos of the times and giving tremendous support throughout, as did the effective Chorus of Dancers. I salute you all!
Thank you for your generous hospitality – it is always such a joy to visit and I send you all my best wishes for the remainder of this successful run.
With kind regards,
NODA Immediate Past President
Email from Kim Fisher
Just had to e-mail to tell you how much I enjoyed the show on Saturday. What a fabulous night , the costumes were stunning, I loved the set and everyone looked so comfortable in their roles. As for the dancing, wow ! Sheila had drilled everyone to perfection, no one put a foot wrong and you all had great smiles on your faces , I was envious I can tell you . Congratulations to every member and to Jane for her first major production.
Hope to see you soon,
Kim Fisher xx Revue by Gay Pirie-Weir
Strode Theatre, Street
THE buzz and bright lights of Broadway are blazing off the stage of Strode Theatre in Street this week, as members of Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society perform the pastiche 30s musical 42nd Street. Incredibly, it is the first time that Jane Sayer has directed a musical, and a magnificent job she does of it, full of freshness, quirky ideas and general joie de vivre. It is an all-female “creative” team, with Sheila Driver choreographing up a storm, Lynn Merrifield presiding over a terrific orchestra and Mary Parker putting it all together as producer.
The story is based on a 1933 Busby Berkeley film, and was adapted for the stage until 1980, since when it has been a worldwide hit. The Cinderella story hurls hopeful chorus girl Peggy Sawyer from Allentown PA to the centre of the stage as she steps in for injured star Dorothy Brock at the last minute, saving the show. Legendary director Julian Marsh has lost all his money in the Wall Street Crash, and the “kids” of the chorus have been resting too long when it’s announced that Marsh is mounting a new show, Pretty Lady. Peggy misses the auditions, but catches the eye of leading man Billy, and before long she is in the chorus, where she fells the star, Dorothy (who is past it, but has been included because her rich Texan sugar daddy is bankrolling the production). With Dorothy in plaster, Peggy, who has been sacked, is persuaded back to save the day.
This show is really all about the dancing – a huge challenge for the average am dram mus soc. But there is nothing average about G&SMCS, and they are proving it this week in Street. From the opening moment, when the whole company is seen from the waist down, tapdancing below the half-raised curtain, it’s clear that the the audience is in for a treat. Cherry Lewis is having a great time as Dorothy Brock, past her hoofing prime and juggling the man she loves with the man who pays. Sheila Driver has created some stunning routines for the company, and she can always rely on her son Shaun, surely one of the great dancers of the amateur stage and here playing Marsh’s choreographer in Pretty Lady.
Claire Switzer, who played the leads in the company’s Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast has another beautiful role as Peggy and Rob Reid steps into the leading man part of Billy, with Simon Boddy as Marsh and Barry Squance and Jan Wooliston as Pretty Lady’s writers and cameo performers. Joe Chester makes the utmost of his role as Abner Dillon, the man with the stetson and the dosh. Essentially, this is an ensemble show, and if the story gets a bit repetitive, it’s the music and dancing that counts. And it’s a brilliant directing debut for Jane Sayer, full of wit and invention – and she also designed the set! GP-W
NODA Review by Trudy Dyke
What a show, from the moment the band struck the first note the bar was set, this company was on fire! To make 42nd Street believable you has to have real ‘hoofers’ and they did, their execution of choreography was superb.
Peggy Sawyer had a ‘unique talent’ and so has Claire Switzer she is Miss Showbiz, the triple threat! Simon Boddy’s portrayal of Julian Marsh was top drawer, his understanding and effortless play of this man was truly believable. Cherry Lewis delivered a powerful performance and put her own mark on Dorothy Brock! All principals were well cast, each enhancing the overall production.
This company was blessed with a very talented cast of mixed ability and it was a pleasure to see how the new and more seasoned performers worked together and complimented one another’s performance. Choreography of the company was tailored to suit all abilities, making good use of the limitations of the stage. Musicality overall was strong. Costumes and set complemented one another.
Congratulations to all who put this production together.
Review for The Central Somerset Gazette by Ken Edmonds
42nd Street opens with the well known audition scene with everyone hoping to tap dance their way into the new show, Pretty Lady. This was done with great energy and the dance was excellent, meaning the show had impact from the start.
Claire Switzer was great fun as Peggy Sawyer, the chorus girl who is thrown in at the deep end. She could tap, she could sing and created a very likeable character. Robert Reid was enjoying himself as leading man Bill Lawlor and had the right kind of arrogance that suited the role, but never became annoying. Cherry Lewis made a totally believable Dorothy Brock, her snooty behaviour was just right and she got plenty of laughs, particularly in her first scene.
Barry Squance and Jan Wooliston as Bert Barry and Maggie Jones created a nice double act, their comic quickfire lines were well done with some lovely facial expressions. Becky Cook, Helena Woof and Aimee Barlow as chorus girls Ann Reilly, Phyllis Dale and Lorraine Flemming were excellent, creating a nice camaraderie, I particularly enjoyed Go Into Your Dance.
There was good support from Shaun Driver as an athletic choreographer Andy Lee, Joe Chester as an extremely gullible Abner Dillon and Matt Maisey as a sympathetic Pat Denning.
Parts of the show are dramatic scenes and others are part of Pretty Lady the musical the characters are putting on. I felt at times there was and over emphasis on playing things for comedy which glossed over some of the more dramatic moments - many of the characters played directly to the audience when they were in scenes from 42nd Street, not scenes from Pretty Lady which seemed out of place to me.
The one exception to this was Simon Boddy as Pretty Lady's director Julian Marsh. This was a performance of authority and Simon was in control of the character from beginning to end and created some lovely relationships with the other characters on stage.
That said, the big numbers were very well handled with some excellent choreography, top-notch harmony singing and good energy throughout. Costumes were of the period and plentiful, I think every character had costume changes every act and some within individual songs, I'm thinking of Dames here. Well done.
Lighting was effective, but just occasionally it got a little dim towards the front of the stage. Director Jane Sayer can be proud of this the first musical she has directed, it was fun, slick and gave great entertainment.
2011 - Sleeping Beauty
G&SMCS, producers of last year's pantomime at the Strode Theatre, are delighted to return to the Strode stage with Sleeping Beauty, an age-old tale of goodness triumphing over evil.
At the christening of Princess Aurora (the Beauty of the title), the wicked fairy Carabosse, furious at not being invited to the ceremony, casts a spell on the baby princess that on her eighteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die.
But the good fairy Peaceful changes the curse: princess Aurora will not die, she will fall into a deep sleep from which she can be awakened only by the loving kiss of a handsome Prince.
Billy, the royal butler, a hilarious dame (Queen Dorothy, aka 'Dotty') and a delightful cat, Kitty, join a full cast of lively characters to bring you music, song, dance and laughter in this well-loved family pantomime.
Musical Director :
Chorus Mistress :
Princess Aurora :
Prince Orlando :
King Norbert :
Queen Dorothy :
Fairy Peaceful :
Fairy Graceful :
Fairy Beautiful :
|Nominations, Emails, Reviews, Adjudications: NOMINATIONS|
NODA South West Award Nominations 2011
Awarded the June Baker cup for Best Pantomime in the NODA SW Awards.
Email from Simon and Carol Morris, Badgworth, Somerset:
My wife and I went to see the Panto on Thursday 29th December. We really enjoyed the whole evening and the production was excellent. In particular the humour, audience participation and the cast not taking themselves too seriously. Please pass on our thanks to all involved.
Thank you. Email from GD, Street:
In a word, Brill-i-ant!!
ADJUDICATIONSRose Bowl Awards adjudication by Linda Evans
This traditional Pantomime was a visual treat with fairytale sets and beautiful costumes. All the ingredients were there for a very enjoyable Production, with lots of variety in the contrasting characters, sustained comedy and upbeat choreography. The young people and children had some wonderful opportunities to shine and their joy of performing pervaded the matinee I attended. Seeing all the happy Company in the foyer at the end was a novel idea as was the organisation of the ‘children’s’ song, seeing so many of them walking across the wide stage with confidence worked really well.
There was a strong Principal line up to keep the pace going, having a male ‘Principal Boy’ was a refreshing change and a female baddie the two cats and three fairies were also innovative touches.
The slapstick element was very well timed, particularly in the kitchen scene, the cake-making involving the bowler hat and ‘milky’ mixture fountaining out of the top will stay with me. The comedy timing in the military ‘routine’ was another highlight, and the ‘business’ overall was slick and polished. I loved the scene with the baby grand for instance.
The band kept everything bubbling along with some popular numbers and maintaining the changing moods.
The use of a gauze contributed a lot to this romantic love story.
Musical Direction and Singing
The lively band was much enjoyed. The chorus and principals projected with confidence, but I have to say that it wasn’t until the final two numbers, ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ and ‘Spread The Love’ that I felt the Company fulfilled its potential because the volume suddenly went up considerably and I felt everyone was giving 100% , this may have been because of the matinee situation. I did make a note that the first number, ‘Wake Up It’s A Beautiful Morning’, lacked a little vitality. This is meant as constructive criticism for the future of course; I enjoyed ‘Food, Glorious Food’ and ‘Oom Pah Pah’. There were some lovely duets and a solo from Kitty. You could possibly have added a few more songs. There seemed and occasional ‘lull’. The taped music for the ballet around the ‘Bier’ was acceptable but took a minute or two to get used to.
This was in contemporary style and well rehearsed, the children were especially good as mice, maids and skeleton/zombies. The imaginative use of the auditorium was fun. The ballet was very well done around Princess Aurora’s ‘Bier’. The dreamland sequence was most engaging including the pillow fight. The numbers from ‘Oliver’ were very entertaining and I thought the general movement and grouping made imaginative use of the stage. The sword fight was well rehearsed and controlled.
These were of a very high standard. I note you had hired them from Triple C with additional items from Benham Academy. They looked fabulous with some lovely coordinated pastel themes. They all enhanced the characters such as Billy, Carabosse, Spindleshanks and Kitty and the beautiful trio of fairies. But of course the Dame’s costumes stole the show with all the extraordinary outfits and wigs; the red sparkly dress with embossed notes of music was most fetching. The surprise element was sustained to the Finale where the overall gold and cream theme for the curtain call was breathtaking. The varied nightwear captured the humour.
As aforesaid, it all looked very much in keeping with the fantasy of ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The end of Act 1, with the descending spirals of material was spectacular, the use of the gauze was essential and added to the mystery. I enjoyed the 18th century houses in the village, the forest and turret scene. Carabosse’s lair and kitchen set were absolutely right. The baby grand was an ambitious gesture and the unusual props added to the comedy, of course not forgetting the spinning wheel.
Lighting and Sound Effects
The overall lighting design and flashes were artistic and very important to create the menacing atmosphere for Carabosse’s entrances and for the contrasting fairies. The dry ice for the dream ballet and ‘snow storm’ at the end were most effective, likewise the beautiful background shades on the cyclorama, particularly the star cloth.
The sound effects of thunder and lightning etc, were always spot on cue. The technical support was excellent throughout.
This was ideally cast, there was a romatic interaction with Prince Orlando without being too sentimental, a charming singing ability was appreciated with good dancing skills. The dramatic tension with Carabosse and the spinning wheel was spontaneous and convincing. ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ and ‘When Will I Hold You Again’ were enjoyed immensely.
Having a male Principal Boy worked very well. The heroic stance and dignified delivery of dialogue made this a convincing Prince. The interaction with Aurora and the pleasing duets were highlihghts. The awakening of the Princess preceded by the sword fight built up the necessary excitement.
This endearing comic character was also well cast to sustain the comic dialogue and timing, facial expressions, body language and movement, together with the interaction with Queen Dotty made an engaging foil for all the pantomime antics. The kitchen scene and repartee with the King in Act 1 were outstanding.
Playing the Dame is always a coveted role for any actor, a sort of ‘rite of passage’! This one was great fun and ticked all the boxes. The interaction with Billy, the King, Aurora and the fairies kept the story bubbling along at a fast pace. Congratulations too on the achievement of learning all those long speeches and maintaining clear diction. The kitchen scene was one of the best I’ve seen, likewise the Dreamland sequence.
Another larger than life comic buffoon character was established, his dialogue flowed well for all those baby’s names. The Dreamland scene with the piano and the guitar for the ‘Amarillo’ song was most entertaining.
Another wonderful role to explore; the audience the loved the chance to hiss and boo! Body language, voice and gestures realised her evil intentions. The ‘Thriller’ number, with cohort Spindleshanks, said it all.
This was a most elegant sophisticated cat, with lots of opportunities for conniving feline expressions and movement. The loyalty to her mistress and support for her intentions, came through.
This was a sympathetic performance and had all the attributes of a sparkling fairy. The poised movement and delivery of her lines had that touch of magic whenever she appeared. I enjoyed her transformation into an 18th century wench for ‘Oom Pah Pah’.
The idea of having three fairies really suited the story line and gave lots of extra comic golden moments to the action. This fairy had a convincing stage presence adding to the fantasy with her singing and dancing skills.
Another amusing fairy with appropriated dainty movement, working well together in the threesome and giving support to Fairy Peaceful.
A lovely dancer, ‘Nola’ was a special performance! Her anxiety over protecting the Princess was touchingly played.
The chorus, young dancers and children gave a 100% to the memorable pantomime.
Thank you for the kind hospitality and best wishes for future productions,
Adjudication by Trudy Dyke, Representative NODA SW District 8 Glastonbury and Street MCS’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ was FAB-U-LOUS!
Every element expected in a traditional family pantomime was there from the slapstick to the hiss and boo! Congratulations to Director, Rodney Gifford and Choreographer Emma Boddy their expertise and vision brought this stunning spectacle to life!
‘Wake up it’s a Beautiful Morning’ opened the show setting the bar for what was to be a magical 150 minutes! Every member of the company was focused and gave 100%. Billy (Matthew Maisey) King Norbert (Joe Chester) and Queen Dotty (Barry Squance) the perfect comedy trio! Their comic timing was spot on. Carabosse (Cherry Lewis) epitomised evil and well deserved every hiss and boo! Her talking cat Spindleshanks (Jess Stradling) was her perfectly matched side kick aping her mistress.
Adding the Ahh! Factor was Kitty (Jemima Thomas) the lithe and lovable palace cat. Providing the love interest were Princess Aurora (Claire Switzer) dreamily Disney-Esq.! And Prince Orlando (Will Howlett) the cheeky prince with a twinkle in his eye! Fairies Beautiful, Graceful and Peaceful made an enchanting trio.
Choreography really was the highlight of this production with new and innovative ideas, one being the Dream Dance on a cloud! With Queen Dotty at the piano and company in their PJ’s floating on a cloud performing a ballet with pillows! Congratulations to all who brought this magical work to life.
The Blackmore Vale review by Fanny Charles:Take one of the world's favourite fairy stories, sprinkle on some pantomime magic, and you have the recipe for the sparkling triumph that is Strode Theatre's Sleeping Beauty. This is the second year that Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society has staged the Christmas show at the theatre, and if anyone had any concerns that it might not match the success of last year's debut, it was obvious within minutes that this was going to be every bit as good.
The show, directed by Rodney Gifford and using a script by Ben Crocker, who for years wrote the popular pantomimes at Exeter's Northcott Theatre, draws on some of Somerset's finest talent, on stage and in the pit (led by musical director Tom Billing). Sleeping Beauty really has it all - charming heroine (Claire Switzer as Princess Aurora), handsome Prince (Will Howlett), multi-talented knockabout comic (Matthew Maisey), terrific dancing, good fairies, pretty sets, splendid singing and lots and lots of laughs. Barry Squance, with ever more extravagant wigs and plenty of quick-witted repartee, has a wonderful time as Queen Dotty, a dame with a touch of that great Australian cultural icon, Dame Edna Everage. Cherry Lewis all but steals the show as the evil Carabosse, in spectacular slinky black and silver gown, hissing and prowling like a black panther, with her feline familiar, the malign Spindleshanks (Jess Stradling). Jemima Thomas is the gentle palace Kitty, who finds her claws at just the right moment, and Joe Chester as King Norbert has great fun, particularly reciting the full (26, alphabetical) names of the princess.
Sleeping Beauty can be somewhat unbalanced because it does not fall naturally into two halves. There's plenty of action up to the drama of the princess's 18th birthday, the interval can then pass as the 100 years, and all that remains for the second half is for a handsome prince to cut through the thicket, find the sleeping beauty and kiss her back to life. Crocker's inventive version happily solves this difficulty by giving Carabosse and Spindleshanks lots of fun, tormenting the sleeping royals with nightmare visions of zombies and gruesome encounters with leering skeletons. And then good Fairy Peaceful (Helen Christie) comes along and grants them some happy dreams.
The dancing in this show is really exceptional - the choreography, by Emma Boddy, is more contemporary than you usually see in an amateur panto (or many professional shows). The six female dancers and one very talented young man (Max Nicholson-Lailey) have an eerily beautiful dream sequence as the princess falls into her century of sleep and are also energetic and vivacious performers in the crowd and chorus scenes.
Nowadays an evening for a family at one of the area's big professional pantomimes will cost well over £100 (tickets, programme, sparkly tiaras, wands, balloons, ice-creams, etc), not to mention the price of petrol and parking, and there must be many people looking for an affordable alternative to take the children or grandchildren to see - you won't find a better pantomime than Strode's Sleeping Beauty this side of Fairyland! Oh no, you won't! The show runs to next Monday, 2nd January, and there are a few tickets left. Don't miss it. FC
Nick Lawrence, NODA Regional Councillor
30th December 2011
Many thanks for your kind invitation to see “Sleeping Beauty” and for the warm and generous welcome I received. It was great to see so many familiar faces and especially to catch sight of Ray Wright doing all the moves as well as singing along in the “community number”.
What a fabulous evening it was. I do not have happy memories of “Sleeping Beauty” as a pantomime but it remains my favourite of Tchaikovsky's ballets after fulfilling a walk-on role with BRB some years ago. All my fears for this production were swept away by the upbeat, energetic opening.
What a start! A lot of companies could learn from this – hit the audience from the very start. Pace was generally excellent never letting the audience off the hook. The script kept the story going without boredom and included regular gags and, thankfully, short songs. Tom & Karen had done a great job on the music which was appropriate, melodic and with some welcome harmonies. Emma's choreography was really innovative and well danced. The whole proceedings were staged under the watchful and humorous eye of the experienced Rodney Gifford – bravo !
There were some great performances from the excellent principals who were excellently supported by the company and especially the enthusiastic youngsters. I'm sure you could tell from the reaction of the audience how well the panto came over and how much we enjoyed it. Just goes to show what a good script, pleasant music, fabulous costumes, props & scenery beautifully lit can do. The whole presentation was a joy. A great boost for live theatre – thank you.
Many thanks for a fabulous evening.
With best wishes for the rest of the run,
Ken Edmonds - Central Somerset Gazette
Confident panto with lots of laughs
From the opening scene, this panto fizzed along at a great pace providing laughs aplenty and some memorable characters. It told the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty with some fun extras including a slightly surreal dream sequence.
Claire Switzer played Pincess Aurora and gave her just the right level of sweetness and her strong vocals were a delight. As Prince Orlando (both of them) Will Howlett was great fun with a good line in knowing looks - a good ironic (?) performance.
Matthew Maisey gave an energetic and well judged performance as Billy, working the audience well and getting lots of laughs. In Barry Squance, Queen Dotty was in very safe hands. He was in total command of the part, the audience and the stage, well done. His wigs and array of costumes had to be seen to be believed. Joe Chester as King Norbert was excellent his comic timing was very good and really enjoyed his reciting his daughter's names - all 26 of them.
Mention must be made of Jemima Thomas who played Kitty the palace cat, as she had to spend most of the performance on her knees but continued smiling and gave the part a real character through her movments. Three fairies sent to protect Aurora were Peaceful, Graceful and Beautiful played by Helen Christie, Sally Wood and Fiona White respectively and they added a touch of magic to the proceedings.
Every panto needs a villain and this one had two in the shape of nasty fairy Carabosse, played by Cherry Lewis and her evil cat Spindleshanks, played by Jess Straddling. Cherry was fantastic, interacting with the audience and commanding the stage but she was matched by Jess as Spindleshanks who was determined to take a more human role in proceedings to comic effect.
Choreography by Emma Body was very good, particularly in the dream sequence, and the seven dancers, Lucy Hobman, Max Nicholson-Lailey, Harriet Durston, Eloise Hawtin, Sarah Neale, Georgia Wall and Sarah Acreman, were excellent. Costumes were fantastic and the lighting delivered changes of mood when required. Music under the direction of Tom Billing was well handled.
The only thing which was slightly odd was the children's parade on stage during the house number, it seemed a little bit of something and nothing to me and it would have been nice to make a little more of it somehow.
From start to finish this was a confident (on the first night) performance of a fun show which gave lots of laughs.
2011 - Jesus Christ Superstar
Press crits, adjudications and emails for JCSEmail
Hi, I feel compelled to write after watching the fantastic production of Jesus Christ Superstar on Monday night. I have been involved with amateur productions in Bristol for 25 years and have now moved to Somerset. I brought my family along not knowing what to expect and can honestly say that we were completely blown away by your enthusiasm, energy and professionalism throughout the entire show. The whole cast were strong; not one weak member amongst you and I certainly didn't think the meagre audience applause in the finale was a reflection on your performance. Thank you all for entertaining us on Monday and wishing you success throughout the week. We look forward to your next production.
With Best Wishes, Julie Taylor Email
I went to your production of Jesus Christ Superstar yesterday evening, but had to leave at the interval, as I found the sound level uncomfortably loud. I gather I was not the only member of the audience who thought so.
Why is it necessary to set the volume so high? I do appreciate that it is a rock musical, but at that sound level, the overall impact takes precedence over any other aspect of the performance. Also, I cannot but wonder what effect it has on people's hearing.
Yes, I did read the warning notice about amplified music on my way into the theatre, but what was I supposed to do about it at that stage? It would have been more helpful to put it in the publicity beforehand. As it was, I felt that I had wasted both my ticket money and my evening - a great shame, as I have enjoyed your productions in the past.
Regards, Liz Clark
(This email was negative only about the sound levels. By the time it was displayed back-stage and on this website there had already been walk-outs and Liz had put up notices about amplified music etc, so the fact that some members of the audience couldn't tolerate the music volume was already in the public domain. RW)Email
Just wanted to write a note of appreciation. My sister and I saw your performance of Jesus Christ Superstar last Tuesday, and were hugely entertained. It was a wonderful show, powerful, passionate and very professional (thought I'd let rip with alliteration). Everything was so well done, the cast were superb, costumes fabulous, the set made the best use of the space, the musicians brilliant, and excellent lighting. What a great show, thank you all.
Sincerely, Carole Brooks Letter from Trudy Dyke, NODA Representative, Region 8
Director Brian Epps’s interpretation of JCS was breath taking! Using a simple set and a cornucopia of lights this production was the epitome of a true rock opera. Philip Cox’s calm and effortless persona coupled with his stunning singing voice was perfect to play Jesus. Matthew Maisey’s portrayal of Judas was finely tuned! Showing us the vulnerability of his tormented soul, in complete contrast was Jessica Stradling’s beautiful portrayal of Mary calm and caring but also tempered with vulnerability. There were many other cameo and principal roles in this production and each of these was brought to life by this talented company. Herod’s Song was a delicious ‘camp seedy romp’ and those gold hot pants were inspired! Company work was exceptional! Musicality and Choreography was slick and well executed. Costumes and set were well selected and enhanced the overall concept of this superb production. Everyone who brought this show to the stage truly deserved the standing ovation they received. Well done Letter from Gerry Branton, NODA President
Thank you for inviting me to Glastonbury & Street’s production of the above, which Denis and I attended on your opening night – and what a night! Full congratulations to the cast and production team who pulled out all the stops to ensure we would all go home changed. So many adjectives occur to me: outrageous, OTT, spectacular, thought-provoking, loud, vivid.... I could go on, which is what a good show should impart. We must not forget controversial either and I would love to have met daily shoppers in Street the following morning, as I can guarantee your production will be on everyone’s lips this week – good for you! Commendations must be awarded to Philip Cox’s superb Jesus, who lived and breathed the role and around whom the crowd at times, appeared superfluous.Such supreme presence carried him through to the bitter end and only served to highlight the frailties of lesser mortals. Impressive performances were also given by Matthew Maisey (Judas), Iain Muton-Phillips (Pontius Pilate), King Herod and the High Priests. Unfortunately the level of sound in some of their concerted numbers, was such that we were not able to clearly understand the words, which was a shame. However, the delightful relief and purity of Jessica Stradling’s Mary Magdalene brought us back on track, although I doubt there were many who were unfamiliar with the story! So pertinent at this time of year too. Full marks to the enthusiastic cast of Apostles, Ensembles and Dancers, who went that extra mile and raised the level of performance to an all-time high. Well done everyone and I include the fine Orchestra, who gave such sterling support throughout. Production credits must surely include impressive set design, costumes, lighting and props, which were all of a uniform high standard and will surely be included in the list of impressive productions for this adventurous and gifted society. Thank you for inviting me and for entertaining Denis and me so beautifully throughout.
With kindest regards for the rest of your run,
NODA President. Letter from Nick Lawrence, NODA South West Regional Councillor
Dear Fiona, Many thanks for you kind invitation to see 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and for the warm and generous welcome I received. It was good to meet up with so many friends. It certainly topped the evening for me. Thanks for finding a few moments to meet me. Knowing how things work at the Strode, I know that you were very busyand am most appreciative of you finding time to say "hello".
This was a wonderful presentation of this amazing show. As I kept reminding everyone, I remember going to see it when it first came out of London, and what a huge impact it made on me then. I'm certain your audiences last week were equally stirred. I don't suppose everyone liked it, or agreed with the interpretation, but that is a good thing. Musical theatre as much as drama should provoke the audience to discussion. There is no definitive way to approach a show, especially in this case. Since becoming your Councillor last September, this was the fifth "JCS" and all have been completely different. You must be delighted with your production team and the result of their efforts.
It must have been a slightly difficult decision to take on this challenge as it inevitably meant that there would be an influx of new members especially drawn to this show. I trust that the superb results of everyone's hard work made this welcome. The audience certainly appreciated the newcomers' contributions.
As expected with this production team, there was a clear vision and purpose combined with a performance that was tight and accessible. Every section of the production was moulded together to provide a seamless whole. Every department contributed fully and provided many startling moments. Many congratulations to all.
With best wishes for your activities in the future.
Nick Lawrence. Central Somerset Gazette review.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's biblical story is a far cry from Sunday School, especially in the capable hands of the Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society.
Hailed as a rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar is one of Lloyd Webber's most famous, and the cast handled it very well.
The show, performed at the Strode Theatre, tells the story of the final days of Jesus, from the perspective of his betrayer, Judas.
The 70s rock music style often requires an unusual vocal range, especially for the main characters, Jesus and Judas.
Particular commendation must be given to Philip Cox as Jesus, a part which inevitably requires a draining emotional performance. Philip gave the part a great deal of emotion and effort and it paid off, especially for the song Gethsemane, which demonstrated his range and was followed by rapturous applause.
Judas, played by Matthew Maisy, was a complicated character and Matthew showed that he was more than worthy of the part in many scenes. He particularly shone in the Last Supper, where his subtlety and evident consideration for character development were a pleasure to watch.
By far the most proficient vocalist was Jessica Stradling, who played Mary Magdelene. Singing one of the most famous songs from the musical, I Don't Know How to Love Him, Jessica's voice was beautifully confident.
However, the main parts were not the only stars of the show: Christian Lockyer's King Herod will be unforgettable for any member of the audience. Christian used his short appearance to full effect in gold lamé shorts, accompanied by dancers with sequined top hats and bare chests. (I must have missed that bit!!)
Shaun Driver as Caiaphas and Dave Bonsor as Annas, were enjoyably sinister villains; Dave Bonsor's Annas was particularly well developed for a small part, and performed excellent vocals at every opportunity.
Ian Muton-Phillips was an outstanding Pontius Pilate, playing at first drunk and depressed, then commanding, then conflicted and guilty. He was no clean cut-villain, but a real character with dimensions not so often seen in less central characters of Lloyd Webber's musicals.
What really came across was the cast's enthusiasm, which was infectious, especially in the large group numbers.
Were there to be one criticism of the production, it might be the sound levels, which many thought were too loud, meaning that some words could not be heard clearly. At some points it was difficult to hear chorus members who had been given solos, presumably due to balancing issues.
A rock opera cannot perhaps be played quietly, and the musical prowess of the orchestra, in particular Jules Reason and Rich Cox on guitar enlivened the performance.
Brian Epp's direction and sparse stage design allowed the cast to remain the focus, but the cross on which Jesus is finally crucified created a striking finale for the show.
The interesting, arranged by Sheila Driver, often took inspiration from bhangra, and the costumes also had unusual Indian influences.
Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society can be truly proud of this epic production, which fearlessly approaches its often dark subject matter without compromising on entertainment.
Alex Hoskins Fosse Way Magazine review.
Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society decided on a total change of style from the record-breaking Beauty and the Beast last year, and its pantomime debut, both at the Strode Theatre in Street. So they chose Andrew Lloyb Webber and Tim Rice's early work Jesus Christ Superstar, created as a double album and translated for the stage as a rock opera. It has always been a show that divides audiences. There are those who are attracted to the bombast and energy of mixing rock with religion, and those who just can't get their heads or ears around the idea of expressing mystic thought via screeching voices and thundering guitars.
For sure there are some great tunes, from the now standard 'I Don't Know How to Love Him' to the title anthem. Brian Epps' production has the WOW factor as I have never seen it before in many productionds of JCS, and it has been created by stunning lighting set devised by Chris Sealey, who works at the Strode Theatre. It would not embarrass a stadium rock show, preceding the action and creating tense expectation among the audience (those not put off by a barrage of light and sound) for the arrival of the superstar. The premise is that Judas, once an avid supporter of Jesus, sees a man overtaken by celebrity, and manages to justify his betrayal as the result of his pure faith in the original, unadulterated ideaals of the messiah.
But in Brian Epps' version (there is little or no guidance in the script) we have a one dimensional Mary Magdalen, an underpowered and smiling chorus that transmutes from palm-waving devotees into shiny, vicious, bat-like harpies (an unfortunate reference to the Taliban perhaps?) and Judas taking the final bow.
Did the director see this as a religious rock opera or a high-octane heavy rock show whose story might be familiar to those who know something about the New Testament?
For me, the revelation was Shaun Driver, who eight years ago played Pontius Pilate in a Yeovil production, and in Street put in a mesmerising performance as Caiaphas, a tiny figure in black whose presence was utterly magnetic as he produced a basso profundo that reverberated round the auditorium. Astonishing! Philip Cox's anguished Jesus and Matthew Maisy's tortured Judas brought off the very difficult music with huge skill and conviction - these were roles composed for Deep Purple rock god Ian Gillan and the talented Murray Head. Iain Muton-Philips was a virile Pilate, with Christian Lockyer as Herod in Julian Clary-style gold lamé. The band, led from the keyboard by Lynne Merrifield,included the guitars of Jules Reason and Rich Cox, and Paul Denegri's trumpet. There were times when they were just too loud.
For me, Jesus Christ Superstar succeeds when the opening notes of I Don't Know How to Love Him, prettily sung first by Mary Magdalen (Jessica Stradling) and repeated by Judas after his betrayal, must tear your heart. Here they failed, which was compounded in Judas's rendition by the audience applauding at the end of the introduction to the song. Perhaps that is the root of the problem - that neither cast nor audience knew exactly what was expected. There was so much that was so good about this staging, but it lacked both faith and soul.
Gay Pirie-Wier Any other communications will be added as and when received (e.g. Rose Bowl still to come).
(When the Rose Bowl crit fially came it was a hard copy nine pages long and we couldn't persuade the adjudicator to email it as a doc. So it's been emailed to you as an attachment.).
2010 - Dick Whittington
Director: Barry Squance
Musical Director: Tom Billing
Producer/Choreographer: Sarah Acreman
Dame Daphne Dumpling
Well & Truly Fleeced
Tommy the Cat
Cherry Lewis & Matt Maisey
Gay Pirrie-Weir's review of the production for Fosse Way Magazine:
Dick Whittington'ss legendary quest for fame and fortune began in rural Somerset (or Gloucester, according to some versions) so it was the ideal choice of pantomime for Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society for their show at Strode Theatre in Street.The society that usually produces big musicals on stage at the Strode took to the challenge of its first panto, directed by Barry Squance, with relish, even on a foggy dank Christmas Bank Holiday Tuesday afternoon.
The sumptuous sets and splendid costumes brought the packed audience of parents and children right into the magic of the show, a battle of good against evil, pluck against nastiness. On the good side, our hero, his wonderful cat and Alice Fitzwarren, always aided by Fairy Moonbeam, fought against the evil of King Rat, the naughtiness of penniless solicitors Well and Truly Fleeced and the inept plots of Dame Daphne Dumpling and Idle Jack.
The news that Somerset County Council wants to “lead the country” in cutting arts out of its budget has ricocheted around the UK, and Strode Theatre would be particularly hard hit by the cuts, which could be mirrored by the withdrawal of district authority funding too. So a pantomime (always a money spinner) in which costs and profits are split between theatre and company, was a welcome addition to the programme. The threatened cuts also gave the company members an added incentive to work hard for the theatre that has provided a home and professional support to so many of them for so many years in a variety of productions. The result is a spectacular success, with big, bold performances, great music and choreography and some memorable – and new – set-piece scenes. Among the revelations are Harriet Durston's Tommy the Cat, making “his” mark from the early scene where Dick meets Alice right through to the denouement with King Rat. It’s a characterisation full of subtle charm, keen observation and terrific dancing.
Christian Lockyer, in his first pantomime, is an audience-pleasing Idle Jack, growing in confidence as the show continues and delighting everyone. Dave Bonser is enjoying himself in the (rather under-written) role of the dame, and Matthew Maisey and Cherry Lewis are loving the roles of the knockabout Well and Truly, written with great verve and invention. The 15-year-old Will Howlett, a “veteran” of Strode Youth Theatre, is the perfect hero. I am not usually a fan of male principal boys, but he could change my mind. He is well matched by Jessica Stradling’s Alice.
Rodney Gifford has all the gravitas and timing for Alderman Fitzwarren and Steve McCullagh returns to the stage after a gap of 30 years to play the rotten royal rodent. Because this is a musical and operatic company, the singing is exceptional, and it is matched by the dancing, all arranged by Sarah Acreman, Tom Billing is again the musical director, presiding over a four musicians who know everything about accompanying pantomime. It's an exciting, excellent show, and if some of the younger chorus members are inaudible in their individual questions, it should improve as the run continues, and doesn't detract from the magic of the experience. The production is dedicated to Sian Wood, an actress and musician who performed in many Strode shows, and who died earlier this year.”
Central Somerset Gazette review Thur 30th Jan by Ken Edmunds
This was the first pantomime produced by this company, done in a profit sharing agreement with Strode Theatre and there was plenty of entertainment on offer.
Unusually the principal boy's role of Dick was played by a boy, Will Howlett, but he was more than up to the task with a strong voice and a charming portrayal of the character which soon had the audience on his side.
His cat Tommy was played in fine feline style by Harriet Durston, who must have very strong knees, and she captured the essence of cat-like gestures brilliantly.
There were not one but two comedy duos in this show. The first was Idle Jack and Dame Daphne, played by Christian Lockyer and Dave Bonser respectiveely, who had good timing, great ad-libbing and really brought the comedy to the fore.
Occasionally I felt their banter overstepped the mark for a family show but they got plenty of laughs and kept the show moving nicely. Secondly there was Well and Truly Fleeced played by Cherry Lewis and Matthew Maisey. They were obviously well rehearsed in their slapstick and their timing was impeccable with a good line in facial expressions too.
Jessica Straddling played Alice Fitzwarren as a fiesty young woman and she has a fine voice making her and Dick's duets a delight.
Her father, Alderman Fitzwarren, was beautifully played by Rodney Gifford in a well judged fatherly performance but he also showed his ability for comedy in his betting scene with Well and Truly.
Steve McCullagh as King Rat was clearly having lots of fun terrifying the audience which he worked very well with but he was never too scary for the little ones and had some good ad libs. A good foil for him was Fairy Moonbeam played in fine style by Jan Wooliston. There was strong support from David Williams as the Captain and Matt Salmon as the Emperor. and the chorus were in fine voice too. Choreography was well handled.
Just occasionally I felt the scene changes could have been covered better, perhaps with a little music but the pace was generally excellent. The band were well rehearsed and despite being only four playeres made a very good sound. As a first attempt at pantomime for this society it was an accomplished performance with plenty of laughs and some excellent singing. Letter from Mrs Geraldine Branton, NODA President
Thank you so much for inviting me to see last night's production of the above pantomime, which Denis and I enjoyed immensely and would like you to pass on our congratulations to all cast and crew for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
The sets, cloths and props were attractive and eye-catching, as were the colourful costumes, particularly the Dame's outrageous ensembles. Everyone worked so hard and your Production Team are to be commended for bringing this production to fruition, after what must have been a trying time beforehand due to the dreadful weather. Nevertheless, you delivered the goods in spades along with merry voices, happy faces and twinkling feet - or should that be "Cosyfeet"? The script stuck faithfully to the age-old story of Dick Whittington, his cat and his rise to Lord Mayor of London, with added comedy scenes which were deftly handled by Idle Jack and Dame Daphne. Another successful duo, Well and Truly Fleeced, are also to be commended for their synchronised movement and delivery. Well done Dick and Alice who maintained the romance against all odds and gave us some lovely vocal moments, and King Rat and Fairy Moonbeam, who portrayed the elements of good and evil so eloquently and, of course, the delightful Tommy, the most feline of pantomime cats I have seen this year. Congratulations to you all for giving us a splendid evening's entertainment.
It was so good to be able to meet many cast members afterwards and to thank them personally for their contribution and to meet many members of your Society. Thank you once again for the invitation, your generous hospitality and your warm welcome to Denis and me, which was greatly appreciated. I send best wishes for the rest of your run and for 2011.
Letter from Nick Lawrence, NODA South West Regional Councillor
Many thanks for the kind invitation to see "Dick Whittington" and the generous hospitality shown to me during my visit. What a bonus for the Strode Theatre! Well done, all. I trust you have received the appropriate support from the locals and have managed to make some useful funds for the continuation of your lovely theatre.
The traumas of collecting the set and its erection against time and the weather certainly was worth it from the audience's point of view. The magic of pantomime was brilliantly served by the glorious scenery and bright costumes. All impressively on show under some excellent and unfussy lighting design and near perfect sound quality. Accompanied by a very professional band plus some witty musical contributions and appropriate properties, the presentation was at the high standard we have come to expect from Glastonbury and Street MCS.
Although I thought the script was a hindrance, the story was clearly put over and the comedy bright and energetic. Idle Jack certainly drove the production and the audience with some hilarious facial expressions and excellent banter, while never forgetting the story which must be told. He formed an excellent working relationship with the warm, cuddly Dame (I'd have liked a little acid here). It was great to see so many youngsters on show, displaying a lot of talent and good stage presence. It was slightly distracting that some of the men didn't wear white tight underwear under their flimsy white trousers. Despite this, costumes looked beautiful - as they should in panto. As expected from a musical comedy society, the presentation of the songs was very good. Dick & Alice made a lovely pairing and their obvious enjoyment of the experience helped the audience to empathise with them when things didn't go quite to plan.
Despite the audience being rather on the slow side (not enough kids in or was it those NODA dignitaries?), the Company sparkled and the reaction from the audience at the finale showed that everyone had had a good time. Congratulations to one and all.
NODA SW Review by Trudy Dyke, SW Region District 8 Representative:
Congratulations on your 'maiden' pantomime.
You had all the ingredients! Magical Set, Colourful Costumes, Slapstick, Heroes and Villains!
First on stage was Fairy Moonbeam (Jan Wooliston) with her trusty wand and larger than life persona oozing with goodness. In complete contrast enters King Rat (Steve McCullagh) seeping evil from every pore of his body, he really earned every hiss and boo from the audience, together these two were perfection.
The backbone of the company was its enthusiastic chorus ranging from infants to more mature performers who sang and danced their socks off.
Sadly not all the principals had the same work ethic and this showed!
Pantomime needs strong discipline, timing and pace, these are important elements in any production but crucial in pantomime, if you let this slip you lose it! And the attention of your audience is gone; sadly at times this did happen.
Overall singing was good and choregraphy was well executed.
Backstage crew's scene changing was seamless.
This was a good first attempt and I look forward to your next.
Rose Bowl Awards Review by June Raynor
This traditional and much treasured fable tells how young Dick Whittington, a country boy of humble origins who takes a decision to go to London to try if he can make his fortune. He then meets Alice, daughter of Alderman Fitzwarren, a merchant. Dick falls in love taking a poorly paid job in the Fitzwarren business in order to be near her. Dick experiences a series ot testing adventures including a shipwreck, before at last marrying Alice and becoming Lord Mayor of London.
keeping a close watch on events are 'Good' and 'Evil' in the persons of Fairy Moonbeam, who helps Dick to prosper, and King Rat whose efforts to bring about Dick's ruin are finally foiled.
But a traditional pantomime is not so easily described by an outline of the story. Audience exxpectations must be satisfied. They anticipate spectacle, magic, song, dance, slapstick, low comedy and cross dressing. If a few amusingly ingenious touches are included, so much the better.
Locations were always clearly established whether the streets of London or the deck of a ship. Only the glittery forest suggested a touch of magic. Changes were effected swiftly and efficiently causing no loss of continuity - that speaks of careful planning with some scenes staged in front of a drop-at-one so that setting could proceed behind. There is no doubt that the director and stage management had spent time and thought to produce a show that ran so smoothly. It is a pity that lttle magic or spectacle had been created or that an attempt to surprise us was missed. When this is a child's first visit to the theatre, every opportunity to enchant them should be siezed. Plenty of suitable props were used, those in Fitzwarren's business and on board ship were well chosen as was the raft. There were a few comic additions that were appreciated, especially Jack's shoes. Surely some inventive, technically minded person could have created an amusing parrot? This was a wonderful comedy opportubity that ought not to have been overlooked.
Nothing very demanding was attempted but, in general, lighting was well distributed, sufficiently intense whi;le being responsive to mood and atmosphere. It could have played a greater part in spectacle and magic.
SOUND AND EFFECTS
Pick up and relay aws very well judged. Audibility was clear and comfortable. Smoke effects were very subtle while percussion effects were smartly cued.
The most striking choice was King Rat communicating evil and melodrama in the best possible way, Fairy was insufficiently characterised. This must be a joint effort between performer and Wardrobe. She is a tall woman whose height lends her some authority. An effort to make he conventionally fairy-like is doomed to failure. Rather capitalise on the characteristics she has. A Medieval costune with a tall, conical head-dress and a grand dress with a train in a heavy fabric would have been a more effective contrast with King Rat. Or you could even have gone modern and costumed her in leather biking gear! Think outside the box. Other characters were well and colourfully costumed according to type but Alice's pretty dress ought not to have been the same as the chorus's. Sailors needed a nautical hat. Tricorn hats are worn forward, not on the back of the head. The cat was excellent. The Finale costumes looked rich if not magical. Were they the best use of your budget? You could have got away with sspecial costumes just for the wedding party.
The dame's face was suitably ridiculous. Dick needed a queue tied with a black ribbon.
Except in one respect, casting was very good. I refer, of course, to the casting of Dick, and while understanding the temptation of his looks and ability, casting a boy in this role is like casting a woman as the dame. Unthinkable! The audience expects observance of tradition and this involves a good-looking girl with great legs that go up to her armpits, wearing high heels. To see Dick slapping his male shanks rather than a girl exhibiting her shapely thighs is simply unacceptable.
The Director showed a good understanding of the need for pace in the production and he saw to it that everyone moved on their delivery. He should feel free to cut the script in favour of action also. While the comic tricks outlined in the script were faithfully performed, they would have benefitted from greater creative development. Actors and Director could put their heads together to create original additions. Does the company really need a script to tell them how to be funny or couldn't they have invented something unique of their own? Isn't that the most enjoyable part of rehearsal? The performance of comedy was speedy and well timed but it seldom surprised us or had us sliding off our seats with laughter.
Opening with the choral number One More Day the scene introduced us to most of the leading characters led by Alderman Fitzwarren, an actor who, in this script, becomes the real backbone of the pantomime. His excellrnt delivery ensured that the audience was fully in the picture and was able to follow events. Meanwhile, Idle Jack lost no time in establishing a good relationship with the audience. His dog was a great help in encouraging audience participation and the children liked him. After their meeting there was a nice duet between Dick and Alice. Except at a big climax, repeats are not necessary. The cat could have been more involved in the song. Well and Truly Fleeced appeared and one was delighted to see the pair had invented two strongly drawn characters both in appearance and behaviour. They had a faintly threatening air about them yet were able to play comedy with great confidence. Children are generally a little low key when delivering jokes so not all of them registered. A few could have been given to the Dame who isn't given enough of them in this script.
Might the fruit have been used in the Latin number? Well and Truly delivered Side by Side comically including movement and business and this was followed by a good fight/dance scene involving Jack and the cat. A successful comic episode in the store, which was played with gusto, separated these numbers from a pleasing 'waltz' scene with Dick and Alice, and romance blossomed. Observing this, Jack's romantic aspirations were dashed and King Rat appeared, sharing with us his hope of defeating Dick. This dramatic scene was extremely well supported by the band. Perhaps this is a good moment to comment on their sensitive acccompaniment and their responsiveness to mood throughout the show. Balance between music and singers was excellent.
The scene concerning Dick's honesty was sufficiently shocking and with Fitzwarren immoveable. Dick's honesty only becomes apparent too late with him making his way to Puddle Dock. The show then took on a nautical flavour with almost the whole cast participating in There's No Cure Like Travel. They produced a nice robust sound without forcing and they worked together with enthusiasm. The cannon ball business was mildly amusing but could have built to a better climax - something to really make us jump! While the full ballet was omitted, in its place came again King Rat to the magic forest declaring his dastardly intentions. The very young dancers were a delightful introduction who were able to entertain with charm, but this was not quite enough recompense for the absence of a really magical forest scene which ought to have been full of mysterious enchantment aided by several magical effects - which is what your effects technicians are there to invent. Children want magic. They believe in it and a pantomime must create it for them.
After the interval we were given another nautical scene, this time heartily led by Well and Truly. The dance was suitably choreographed as was most of the dancing, from a sensible choreographer who never asked for more than dancers could comfortably manage. The dance was rhythmically accurate and well rehearsed. Preparations to set sail were in hand helped by useful and appropriated properties and set dressing. After a brief scene on the sea shore, we found ourselves in the most exotic location - the Emperor of Morocco' Palace. A sexy belly dance was bravely performed before the country's problems with rats was disclosed. Of course, among the 'intruders' was Dick's cat who, to everyone's delight soon made short work of the rats. In triumph, the partyy set sail for home with the reward of treasure. It only remained for a very good sing-song scene, extremely relaxed in style and beautifull managed by Jack and the Dame; their good humour was contagious and they quickly engaged the audience, ending on a suitable note of jollity.
A clearly articulated performance that ensured her goodly triumph.
His dark voice and emphatic delivery coupled with his threatening movements were wonderfully melodramatic.
He created the role with considerable relaxation and just a touch of ardour from time to time. He sings and acts naturally.
Balletic in her movement, this was a lithe, agile performance, certainly cat-like. A touch of comedy would have added interest.
Entirely at home on stage, this was a performance that supported the entire show. Experience tells.
Looked pretty, acted so naturally and sang sweetly. An excellent partner for Dick.
Was, in fact never idle but moved about in the most energetic and lively way. His ability to get on terms with the audience was admirable.
A Dame with promise. When this actor has another go at the Dame's part, he will doubtless have become more assertive and even sillier in his role. He should try for bombast.
WELL and TRULY
A splendid partneship whose work was the result of concerted creative thought and practice. Most successful.
A good-looking actor who was always mindful of his seafaring background.
EMPEROR OF MOROCCO
Smooth grandeur initially that quickly crumbled in the presence of the rats. Good movement.
A solemn and courtly presence aware of his own importance to the court.
Were contributed by an attentive and able chorus whose cuing was excellent and whose movements were closely controlled. Always supportive in their acting and tuneful in their musical contributions.
EFFORT, ORIGINALITY,AND ATTAINMENT
A good cast, a director able to exert discipline and a sensible choice of script very clearly communicated, ensured our interest and enjoyment. Much more magic on the one hand, and slapstick on the other, would have been received with enthusiasm. You are encouraged to be a little more daring.
Thank you for your warm and attentive hospitality which was much appreciated.
2010 - Beauty and the Beast
Just thought I'd keep these couple of paragraphs on the reviews page to remind us of Andrew's input, and help us all to always work towards achieving that level.
The creative team for Beauty and the Beast were :
Director & Choreographer: Andrew Wright
Musical Director: Lynne Merrifield
Assistants to the Director: Becky Cook and Jane Sayer
Producer: Mary Parker
Performances: 21st - 27th March at 7.30pm, with a performance on Sunday 21st at 6.00pm and a matinee on Saturday 27th at 2.30pm.
Andrew Wright started his career with G&SMCS twenty-six years ago and is delighted to be returning to mark the society's 80th anniversary. He moved to London to train professionally and appeared in the West End for fourteen years. He says, "Beauty and the Beast holds many wonderful memories for me and it will be an enormous joy to bring this terrific show to local audiences. It is a story of love, morality, and the triumph of good over evil. It includes some huge production numbers, a great book and stunning effects. The audience is guaranteed to be transported into a magical world". David Beach Review
Follow the above links to the main Competition Reviews.
Meanwhile, for your delectation, here's a selection of emails, letters and comments made by audience members throughout the week:
"Brilliant show!""...this is the most professional 'amateur' show I've ever seen"."Magical!""...just shows what a talented bunch of amateurs can do in the hands of an inspirational director"."Why do we need to go to London when we can see a show like this in our local theatre"."You're so lucky to have such a beautiful and accomplished 'Belle' in your company"."Andrew Wright's direction/choreography was just wonderful to see"."I'm not a fan of fairy-tale theatre but I wouldn't have missed this for the world"."The whole company were clearly enjoying every moment. They were terrific, principals and chorus alike"."Wonderful, just totally **** wonderful! (Expletive deleted)Email received after Monday's performance
from Nick Lawrence (ex MD of GSMCS)
Just a little note to say how much I enjoyed yesterday evening's performance of "Beauty & the Beast". Having so many good friends at GSMCS always make the trip worthwhile, but the performance was truly delightful. We started smiling as the band struck-up and didn't stop until we were well on the way home. With Andrew's guiding hand the company captured the magic of the story along with some stunning singing, energetic dancing and well timed comedy. All this was supported by a super band and extremely smooth technics. Of course, I have some idea of the hell backstage, but from the stalls everything came across calm and smooth. An excellent pace was maintained and the many youngsters in the audience were completely captivated. In "Be Our Guest" the child behind me was so enthralled it stopped eating ! Thanks to many of the company for taking the time to stop and speak to me afterwards. Many thanks to everyone for such fabulous entertainment. Well worth every bit of the journey back and forth. I trust the rest of your audiences enjoy your enjoyment as much as we did. All the best, Nick Lawrence Noda South-West Membership Secretary. Tuesday's performance.
In spite of it being a less than perfect show, the audience loved it and were on their feet and giving massive applause at the bows. But as Cogsworth might have said, "If it's baroque, fix it!"
And it was a very happy occasion for Claire and her family - her eighteenth birthday party that neither she nor we will ever forget!Email received Wednesday am
Would just like to contact you to say Congratulations on a fantastic performance last night. Exceptional performances by all in lead roles, we are so lucky to have such good quality local talent and such a lovely theatre to house it. My only point was that the personal microphones let you down particularly over some beautiful vocal numbers, is it a system problem or are the mic's reaching the end of their day? if so would be great to see some fundraising effort in the local paper for companies or individuals to put in some sponsorship so they could be replaced?? Can't wait till the next show and will be singing your praises to friends and family. Mrs V CoppellPhone call received from Yeovil AOS Wednesday am
Congratulations. The group raved about your production. Absolutely fabulous show! Amazing! Spectacular production numbers! Terrific cast! Email from Brian Buttle after opening night
Andy, Lynne, Production Team, Cast and Crew Hi Everybody, Re your first performance of "Beauty and the Beast" last evening. I only have two words to say: "Bloody Marvellous". You really set a high bench mark on last night's showing, the set and costumes were marvellous with a real fairy-tale feel, the acting was excellent with good character work and I felt fully transported into the magical story which was being created before me. The orchestra and singing was superb and the chorus work so interesting to watch. I must confess to blubbering away by the end of the show, all the elements of the story were revealed so well, how could I do anything else. A special production for your special '80th Year'. My congratulations to everyone - have a great week but don't let up.
Brian Buttle Thursday's Central Someret Gazette
Double page spread with great pics. Ken Edwards - very positive review. Too much to print here.
If there are still any seats available, they should soon go.
Letter received after Monday's performance
from Richard Field, painter and sculptor, Glastonbury School of Art:
The most lavish and stupendous musical production I have ever seen at Strode. The set was so perfectly designed and the sound and lighting effects astounding. The choreography was so absolutely professional, like ballet, and the costumes.... what outrageous splendour.
I was completely enthralled by the whole show, the acting and singing completely faultless, and sitting right at the back, with the whole audience in front of me, I could see just how mesmerised everyone was by the best, most enjoyable show GSMCS has ever produced. Absolutely well done everyone.
Fosse Way Magazine, Friday 26th March
GP-W's review of Sunday's performance.
DISNEY'S Beauty and the Beast is the sixth longest running show in Broadway history, and although it has been produced around the world by non-professional companies, it was only released to UK amateurs in February this year.First in our region to mount this spectacular musical version of La Belle et La Bête is Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. And it is a triumph.
It all came together just right for the company. Andrew Wright, who was a stalwart of G&SMCS before he left for the bright lights of London, had been in the Dominion production of Beauty and the Beast, and as soon as he heard that his old friends in Somerset had secured the rights to the show, this celebrated choreographer offered to direct it for them on the stage of the Strode Theatre in Street. His involvement brought a fresh energy and commitment to the very talented company, and he quickly made it clear he was cutting no corners to produce a show of professional standards.
It opened with a packed-out early evening performance on Sunday, and although the stage is clearly too small to accomodate the hired sets and cloths comfortably, the 35-strong cast and the excellent band under the direction of Lynne Merrifield put on a show that took your breath away.
The music, by Alan Menken, is not the strong point of this show. It isn't particularly tuneful and is therefore difficult to sing, but not in a Sondheim way. What it does is tell a story with gusto and imagination, and some wonderful visual trickery.
A vain young prince spurns an old lady and is cursed. He will carry the physical attributes of the beast that fit his temper, until such time as someone can love him for himself. Exiling himself in an enchanted castle surrounded by servants turning into pieces of furniture to suit their own characters, he festers in angry misery.
But in a nearby village a lovely young girl is pestered by Gaston, the local stud, whose bombastic charm hides a violent cruelty. Belle's a bit of a bookworm and her neighbours can't understand why she'd rather read than accept Gaston's demands. When her eccentric father gets lost in the woods, and finds his way into the Beast's castle, she goes to rescue him and offers to swap places to get him out of the dungeon. Of course, the beauty and the beast find love, but not before a frustrated Gaston eggs his followers on to kill the beast and his petrifying servants lay romantic traps for Belle and their master.
The characters are strong, and as in all Disney shows (this one adapted from an animated film) particularly strong on sentimentality and vitality. It was very hard to remember that this was an amateur production, so excellent were the performances. No lame dancing from the local school here, but high kicking and ensemble routines of the highest quality. Iain Muton-Phillips as a Gaston without the customary Elvis-fright wig had just the right charismatic edge. (My companion thought he was better than the professional Gaston she saw in Bristol). And the brilliant comedy performance of Matthew Maisey was a perfect counterpoint. Young James Newton was a convincing beast, trying to remember NOT to climb up onto the back of his throne to eat his supper.
Claire Switzer's performance as Belle is simply stunning. She can do it all - dance, sing, act and hold the audience's attention on a crowded stage - and she'll celebrate her 18th birthday this week!
Company favourites like Brian Epps, Karen Squance, Cherry Lewis, Dave Bonser and Christian Lockyer joined newcomers in leading roles. Karen's solo as Mrs Potts was particularly memorable, and special mention too for Paul Denegri in the band. The "big number" Be Our Guest is mounted with all the panache of a West End production. This is the biggest show ever mounted at the Strode Theatre, and a handful of tickets remained at the start of the run, which continues to this Saturday 27th March. See it if you can, because it will set the standard for the many other amateur productions we'll be seeing in the coming months across the country.
Letter from Geraldine Branton (NODA Vice President/South West Councillor),
after Thursday's performance.
May I offer you, and your talented society my sincere thanks for inviting Denis and me to the production of "Beauty and the Beast", which we viewed last night, along with heartiest congratulations to all concerned on a most professional presentation. So much care and thought, and I suspect utter commitment from the Company, had gone into the preparation of this notable occasion - your 80th Anniversary - to ensure we were offered a fabulous experience! It is so difficult for me to list everything I loved about this show, so I will just select items which so appealed, not only to me, but also to your most enthusiastic audience.
Lighting and effects were superb and I found myself gazing heavenwards so as not to miss the the wonderful effects above me. The champagne bottles (ok, the one bottle) exploding was magical, along with the confetti descending on us just before the interval. I adored little Chip in his teacup and even managed to extract his "secret" from the Director afterwards, for which I shall be eternally grateful! Sets were wonderful and so were your crew who operated seamlessly throughout, maintaining the magical story uninterrupted. Costumes were a delight and I so loved the Cutlery ensembles and the wonderful plates and napkin girls. Crinolines have always held a soft spot for me they are SO glamourous and theatrical and I commend the directing, which showed them off to best advantage in what was really a fairly limited working area. Choreography was inspired, even balletic, and again I salute Andrew for his fine achievements in the space provided - he really must be a magician! My special favourite has to be "Be Our Guest" with intricate hand/tankard movement included. Superb! Then of course your Orchestra brought the whole production wonderfully to life with excellent tempi, a fine instrumental balance and strong support to the cast, ensured by a commendable sound system.
The cast of course rose to the occasion in spades, with excellent portrayals of well-loved characters and led by a most charming, appropriately-named Belle. Ideally cast, she was equally at home with her delightful soprano voice as with her dance routines. Congratulations! Well done also to the Beast/Prince in this most difficult of dual roles, whose commanding presence and fine voice breathed life into his character. All other main Principals are to be commended, notably a suitably OTT Gaston, his aide Lefou, the wonderfully "camp" Lumiere, Cogsworth, charming Mrs Potts and her little Chip, Babette, Madame and the three Silly Girls. In fact the whole company are to be commended on a first class performance which we, and I suspect they, all enjoyed immensely. It was truly a worthy choice for such a prestigious occasion as your 80th Anniversary. Let us hope there will many more.
With kind regards and best wishes to you all for the rest of the run,
Email from Andrew Carpenter - Frome Operatic
after Friday's performance (to Ray Wright):
Please pass on the congratulations of my wife, Liz, and myself to Andrew and you entire cast and crew of BATB. As you know we came to see it last night and were totally 'blown away' with the quality of the production. West End standard from start to finish with brilliant individual performances and great ensemble numbers. You must all be very proud - well done ....... but how are you going to follow that?
PS Happy 80th birthday (that's GSMCS not you!!!)
(Verbatim, scanned fron Brian Saunders email.)
David Beach Trophy 2010
Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society
Beauty and the Beast
Friday March 26th 2010 Not having seen the Film or London stage production, I wondered how you were going to cope with the magic of this story. I soon found out, consequently I am pondering over how many ways I can explain the well dones, excellent and supers that eminated from this production. I will try not to be too repetitive and boring.
ACT 1. On entering the auditorium, we were confronted with a striking and picturesque front gauze. I felt an atmosphere of the magic that this produced knowing that behind it we were about to be taken into a world of make believe that has possibly never before been seen on the Strode Theatre Stage.
Musical Director ( Lynne Merrifield ) realising a dream come true, raised her baton to commence the overture ably performed by her 11 very competent musicians.
The voice of Narrator ( Jon Newman) came over loud and clear. Commenced the story depicted in mime behind the gauze by The Entrantress (Sarah Neale) and The Young Prince (Matthew Salmon) The spell of turning the Prince into a Beast was cleverly produced with great lighting, smoke and pyrotechnics and brought us nicely from the dramatics into a charming, provincial French Village.
Belle (Claire Switzer) together with the company of Townspeople (introducing Gaston,Lefou and the Silly Girls) all giving good strong performances and interacting well with each other.
A super piece of prop making entered in the form of the latest invention of Belle’s father Maurice ( Brian Epps). This machine was suppose to do everything (we never did find out what) but what it did do was to add a lot of comedy to the scene. Your portrayal of Maurice was superb, the slightly addled genius inventor part of your character was played to perfection and in strict contrast with your duet with Belle in “No matter what”. Excellent.
The wolf chase was very well choreographed, the costumes realistic ,the music and lighting all contributed well to this dramatic scene. Finding the castle, Maurice was let in and was eventually met by Cogsworth (Ross Baker) and Lumiere (Christian Lockyer) both wonderful character. You certainly lit up and ticked all the boxes for comedy (sorry, I just could’nt resist) your interactions with Maurice together with added comedy from Mrs Potts (Karen Squance) and her offspring Chip (James Moore ) and finally I (Cherry Lewis) made for a great scene. Who would have thought that one could be so entertained by a Clock, Candelabra, Tea Pot, Cup & Saucer and a Feather Duster. Well done all. The meeting between Maurice and the Beast ( James Newton) with his very magical entrance was well conceived.
Next we see Gaston (Ian Muton-Phillips) outside Belle’s cottage with the three Silly Girls in attendance. ( Sharon Muton-Phillips, Jess Stradling and Charlotte Wood). Sobbing there hearts out having been told by Gaston that he is going to get married. Well done ladies, you came over very strong in your performances and portrayed your characters well.
Gaston now meets Belle and proceeds to tell her of her dreams in his song “Me” A good strong vocal from you put over the song with true feelings for Belle. Belle in return with her version of “Belle” tells us of her reasons for not accepting Gastons proposal. Altogether a very touching scene, well played. Belle meets Lefou (Matthew Maisey) refuses to take her back to the woods to find her fatherso she goes on her own.
A good smooth scene change back to the interior of the castle we find Cogsworth and Lumiere in conversation about the recent happenings. Belle eventually finds her father locked in a cage, Mrs Potts & Chip, Barbette and the Beast all play an integral in this scene, ending in The Beast showing Belle to her room. Left alone she contemplates her position and sings “Is This Home? This was a very serene moment ,beautifully portrayed and sung with a great deal of feeling. Well done.
Mrs Potts with the help of Madame de la Grande Bouche ( Jan Wooliston ) spelled as a Wardrobe. They try to persuade Belle to go down to dinner. The various actions with the items of clothing from the drawers of the wardrobe were very funny and the timing and pace was good. I loved the way you portrayed the wardrobe with the opening doors etc.
We next meet Gaston in the local tavern with the company number of “Gaston” What a number this was. There was absolutely everything put into this ie,. Singing, dancing and company choreography with a spectacular mug routine the likes of which I have never seen. There was not an arm or step out of place with the touching of mugs. Especially. It was very slick and deserved the tremendous applause it received.. There is only one word to totally sum it up, SUPERB. Thank you.
At the fireplace in the castle we have yet more comedy with the addition of a wind-up key in the back of the clock as the scene continued, matters became more serious and all concerned played their parts well with the beast singing”How long must this go on?” and the falling of yet another rose petal. Lumiere and Barbette have a touching moment when her hands have turned to feathers.
“Be our Guest” was again full of the spectacular, with all the place settings even down to the Napkins parading the dining room. To choreograph this good a number must have taken a lot of dedicated rehearsals from you all and it paid off. It was a joy to watch and I simply adored those gorgeous plates, wonderful costumes used to great effect. With the large champagne Pyro bottles and the dusting of the audience with paper confetti could have ended the scene and the Act,however, we continued with Belle Continuing with a grand tour of the castle escorted and well conducted by Lumiere and Cogsworth. Who leave her to her in the library to explore further. Her attempt to get a closer look at the rose in the dome was boldly interrupted by The Beast. The lighting here was very dramatic and added greatly to the scene. Bella, refusing to stay in the castle, leaves The Beast, all alone in his remorse, who sings “If I can’t love her”. A lovely song and sung with great feeling and understanding of his position in life “If I can’t love her ,let the world be done with me” ended Act 1.
Your hospitality in the interval was most welcome and appreciated. As was the general clean up of the paper confetti in the auditorium by a band of helpers. The act opened in the forest with belle,(running away from the castle) being attacked by wolves, rescued by The Beast who has been wounded, is taken back to the castle by Belle. Another dramatic action performed with excellence and understanding of the scene being played. Good lighting once more contributed.
We now start seeing the change in the realisation of the new found feelings between Belle and The Beast. With “Something There”. Belle is attending to The Beasts wounded arm and in doing so starts to melt the ice that held them apart. She reads to him with Mrs Pots, Chips , Cogsworth and Lumiere listening and looking on at the one thing they have been hoping to find, the possibility of love between the Beauty and The Beast. This was played to perfection and the understanding of every ones part in this scene was clear and well constructed letting us know that within their wildest of dreams, they could be “Human Again”. Another good company number involving all The Objects! Good interaction and understanding of what each and every one of you had to do.You all moved well and had good stage prescence. Again the singing was of a high standard and the orchestra kept within it’s limitations of sound levels to compliment the singers. The frozen picture of all, in the shadows with follow spot on Belle and The Beast completed the ending of another super number. Thank you.
Back in the Tavern we find Gaston and Lefou talking to the proprietor of the local Lunatic Asylum. Monsieur d’ Arque ( Dave Bonser) and their “ Maison des Lunes” number reveals the scheming of the three to force Belle to marry Gaston.
The Beast’s Lair in the West wing where The Beast, Lumiere and Cogsworth ,are anxiously awaiting the appearance of Belle, when hopefully, The Beast will ask Belle to marry him. He looks into his mirror and she appears in a most stunning Golden coloured Ball gown. He escorts Belle to be seated at the banqueting table, Mrs Potts arrives with Chip and she sings that beautiful song around which the show revolves, “Beauty and The Beast” .This again was another weepy!!! During the song Belle and The Beast danced together. Mrs Potts, you sang this with great feeling and understanding of the pathos required at that moment in time. A nice performance.
The only one thing that I would have cut during this number, was the Mirror Ball .It did nothing to add to the atmosphere of the scene as it did not infiltrate into the stage area at all, it just went around the front top half of the proscenium and to my mind became a distraction rather than an attraction.
Belle returns home with her father realises that in some way or another she has changed and tells us so in “A Change in Me” again sung with the feeling and pathos that the number required. The company now enter and let all chaos loose with “The Mob Song” followed by “ The Battle” all hell let loose again but these are well directed and controlled actions and every one involved played their parts to the full. I felt quite exhausted watching it..
Finally we come to the all important Transformation /Finale. More boxes of tissues required. The death of Gaston , Belle’s “Is this Home” reprise. The Beast has collapsed on the stairs Bella holds him in her arms and the transformation begins.With the right amount of smoke , clever lighting and the help of hydraulics The Beast is no more, a handsome Prince rising up through the smoke takes Belle’s hand and they kiss, the kiss that all have been waiting for for so long has broken the spell and all become human again. The finale was spectacular with those lovely pastel shades of the ladies ball gowns and the men suitably attired to compliment them. The groupings on the staircase and stage were lovely. The singing and the sound of the orchestra all put together to make a finale not to be forgotten.
Now if that is not a classic ending to a fairy tale, I don’t know what is. What I do know is, that from the start it was a show that contained all the elements of comedy, drama, great singing and dance and you are all to be congratulated on a splendid performance throughout..To me this was….
“A touch of the West End brought to a Somerset Stage.” Thank you for inviting us.
Stage Management : (Tony Harris and Crew) What a challenge to take on. There was a lot of scene changing and all moved very smoothly and quietly, The pyros and smoke all effective and worked really well.The sets by Scenic Projects were stunning as indeed were the props by (Mo Pickford and team.) The person who made the cranky machine is to be congratulated. It gave us all a laugh. Other props were well presented and suitable for the occasion.
Lighting Design : (Chris Sealey) This was very well presented and executed. The special effects with spotting etc worked well and added greatly to the magic of the story. There was just thing I did notice, and that was the Star Cloth was late lighting up on a couple of occasions.
Lighting Design: (Dominic Sandford) I understand there were problems with this throughout the run. It certainly was on the night I went. Apart from some individual mics being down, there was a one almighty loud Feedback???. during the performance. I noticed that the equipment was hired in and could have possibly been the problem rather than the operator.
Wardrobe ( Di Gifford & Pauline Cullen with Bethany Baker assisting) What a mammouth task you had on your hands. With just the three of you. managing to keep the costumes looking fresh and tidy for each performance. I dread to think of how much in the way of repairing you had to do!!. A task well done.
Make-up (Kerrie Sellick and Team of nine) Another successful department, so vital to a show and it all looked as it should with not a hairpiece out of place. Hard but rewarding contribution to the production.
Musical Direction : (Lynne Merrifield). This orchestra was nicely balance with strings, brass and wind instruments and you kept the sound to a level that complimented the singers .Your discipline at rehearsals showed in the high standard of the voices and singing produced. Thank you.
Choreography/Direction : (Andrew Wright). Not a lot I can say, except you knew what you wanted, you chose the people to compliment and produce those requirements together with the knowledge and expertise of the professional stage you put on a show that Street and the Strode Theatre will remember for a very long time. Thank you.Programme:( Marie Salter & Mary Parker). A good quality programme for the price. With lots of imformation and good pictures.The centrefold picture was great and I liked the Black/White format. A synopsis of scenes would have been helpful, it lets me know where I am for my notes especially for a show that I am not familiar with.Page 6
Belle ( Claire Switzer.) Excellent vocals and stage prescence. Your characterisation was spot on and your interaction with other characters was excellent. You can act, sing and dance. What more can a school of Performing Arts ask for. All the very best for your future development within the arts.
The Beast : (James Newton) What a part to play, but how you coped with that makeup and costume is beyond me. That of course was just the beginning you also had to present and act the character. This you did well and your vocals were excellent.
Maurice : (Brian Epps) Another cracking performance under your belt As soon as I read the programme and saw the character you were playing I knew we were in for a treat and you did not dissappoint us. The slightly addled inventor, the gentle father and the added dramatic events, all became part of your character . A great portrayal of everything demanded of you.
Gaston : (Iain Muton-Phillips) A strong character required here and you provided just that. Your attempt to procure Belle’s favours towards marriage was a very interesting one.and you captured the spirit of the character just right. Your vocals and stage prescence were top of the range and enjoyable to listen and to watch.
Lefou : (Mathew Maisey) A Lively character a sort of Gaston’s right hand man. You portrayed all the right characteristics for this part and interatcted well with your fellow actors.
Lumiere: (Christian Lockyer) A super Candelabra if ever I saw one.I loved the flaming arms which you used to good effect. Your stage prescence and energy with the portrayal of the part came over well and was most entertaining.
Cogswoorth: (Ross Baker) As one would expect with a clock, your timing of comedy was perfect . You interacted well with Lumiere where most of your work was performed. Not the most comfortable of costumes to wear especially with the addition of the key. A good performance.
Mrs Potts & Chips :(Karen Squance & James Moore) A delicious cup of tea provided by an equally delicious Tea Pot. The design of the trolley with young Chips inside worked well and Chips you spoke your lines nice and clear. Tea Pot was a dream, such a sophisticated character and played with just the right amount of charm, mixed with the comedy. You worked well with your opposites and your Beauty and the Beast solo was a delight to listen to.
Madame de la Grande Bouche : (Jan Wooliston) Another brilliant touch of comedy well portrayed. Not the easiest of costumes to have to manipulate. Your wardrobe was a hoot and with the practical doors act with made the part extremely funny.
Babette : (Cherry Lewis) Dare I say…Another feather in your hat!!!! I always expect a super performance from you and you did not disappoint. Your stage presence and interaction with all about you establishes you as a great all rounder.
There were other smaller parts, too many to mentioned individually but nevertheless played an important part in the story As expected they were all played well and added to the enjoyment of the production. May I end by wishing the society a very happy 80th birthday.
This was a production full of pyrotechnics, effective and well constructed lighting, Music in abundance, stunning choreography and costumes to go with it .Put all these things together with a group of dedicated people who can sing and dance there socks off!! Those wonderful people you could’nt be without both behind and in front of the curtain and you have a show that will be talked about and remembered for a long time. This was just such a show. Thank you one and all.
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Letter from Trudy Dyke, NODA Representative SW Region District 8Glastonbury and Street MCS's 'Beauty and the Beast' was FABULOUS!!!!!!
Congratulations to Director, Andrew Wright, his expertise and vision brought this stunning spectacle to life! he stretched every member of the company and raised this talented company to a new level.
Claire Switzer is a very talented young lady and was the perfect choice to play Belle, her singing voice is absolutely stunning and she lit up the stage each time she appeared.
James Newton played the Beast and his portrayal was amazing, he cleverly found the right balance of emotion to show us the Beast's intial anger and ultimately his love for Belle.
Gaston (Iain Muton-Phillips) is the villain of the piece, though he isn't very bright! Iain cleverly brought out the humour in Gaston making him as stupid as he was vain.
There were many principal and cameo roles in this production and each of these was brought to life by this talented company.
Musicality and Choreography was slick and well executed.
Costumes were magical and the set was stunning; the back-stage crew's scene changing were seamless.
Everyone who brought this show to the stage truly deserved the standing ovation they received.
Back to the top Rose Bowl Review
NAME OF COMPANY Glastonbury & Street Musical Comedy Society
NAME OF PRODUCTION Beauty and the Beast
VENUE Strode Theatre, Street
DATE Tuesday 23 March 2010
ADJUDICATOR Barbara Smith
SET including STAGE FURNITURE & PROPS
The professional Set, Props and Furnishing hired from Scenic Projects Ltd., was first class and had been adapted for the rather small stage at the Strode Theatre very well indeed, and proportions were well managed and leaving a fine acting area for the cast to perform. There was only one flaw for me as sitting close to the stage, the balustrade in the final scene hid the dying Beast – I realise that he had to ‘drop’ behind and probably it would have been difficult to change – but this is a minor grumble. I appreciated the uses of the Gauze for transformation scenes, and also the stylised addition to Proc Arch and the edges of flats, and all the backcloths and Sets were magnificently conceived and constructed – in wonderful Disney style. It was an expense well worth to project such a visual delight to the audience.
This again was well managed and with very disciplined set changes both swiftly and silently – and above all so securely. All exits and entrances well managed as were costume changes, and lighting and sound cues all prompt. There must have been a very organised backstage team and management – and I congratulate them with the many scene changes and technical support needed to cover this ambitious Production.
Excellent lighting design and operation. The first scene behind the gauze worked very well with the dim lighting and then we burst into bright daylight for Maurice and Belle, and then a quick scene change with gauze and into the greens for the forest and wolves. A fine use of well dimmed colour on the set of the Castel interior adding a mysterious atmosphere to the scene and the outlandish characters. Good use of white spot on Belle for reprise of ‘Belle’. I appreciated the use of purple while the inhabitants of the Castel were bickering and then again spot on Bell for ‘Is this Home’. Good use of amber lighting for Gaston in ‘Gaston’ and the warm lighting for the Tavern. Again ambers for ‘Be Our Guest’ , and later a fine Moon gobo and dark blues for the Beast ‘If I can’t Love Her’. Act 2 and use of Gauze for the Wolves in the forest, and later as Belle and Beast are reading in the Library and effective white spot isolating them. Effective use of the glitter ball. Tavern scene again, and a fine change of lighting and atmosphere. Later the lighting dimming for Belle looking in the Mirror at the dying Beast. An effective robo sweeping the audience for the transformation of Beast into Prince in the final scene and lovely sensitive lighting on them both behind the balustrade. I fully appreciated the lighting input and the swift changes of atmosphere created for each scene. The strong colours used fully supported the ‘Disney’ background of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The robo and pyro effects again well conceived and activated.
Again a fine technical input. All sound effects well recorded and well cued. Excellent Wolves’ howling, and good re-verb effect for Maurice in following scene. The roar of the Beast was very dramatic, and I liked the ‘winding’ effect for Cogsworth. The mic levels were excellent for Act 1 but there was a problem in Act 2 which was resolved. Well timed input.
COSTUME & MAKE-UP
Again the professional input of Costume Workshop, Isle of Wight, was outstanding and with the visuals of the Set made this a visually stunning presentation – were these replicas from the West-end production? I was impressed with the way in which the entire Company were at ease with the wearing of the costumes – especially the staff at the Castle. It is not easy to wear stylised costume or indeed eighteenth century costume with the bodices and padding, and also the wearing and moving of extreme stylised costumes for the Castle inmates – but all looked so natural and moved superbly. Dancers wore the very stylised costumes again with aplomb and apparent ease – especially those large headdresses. I must congratulate the make-up and hair dressing teams – magnificent input. The Beast looked excellent, I loved the addition of straw in the hair for the ‘silly girls’, and Maurice looked in perfect character with white wig and his make-up, and the ‘Dame Edna’ glasses for Madame de la Grande Bouche again a fine touch of character. Of course the white eighteenth century ‘fop’ make-up was perfect for Lumiere and the clock hands on the face of Cogsworth, and lovely red eye make-up for D’Arque. I fully appreciated all the character touches in the make-ups and hair styling which again added to the visual delight of this stunning production, and not forgetting Gaston’s hairy chest! Congratulations to the make-up and hair styling teams, and also to the Company upon the secure ease in wearing the extreme costumes, make-up, and wigs.
The Overture was beautifully modulated and the orchestral blend was excellent – a lovely sound and with a fine rhythm going from number to number. Throughout the underscoring for pieces of dialogue was sensitive and provided a perfect background for the speech – it was never intrusive but complemented the atmosphere. – it was particularly effective for the Narration at the beginning and then later the sudden appearance of the Beast in the Castle. Throughout I was impressed with the sound of the Reeds and Keyboard adding an ethereal quality – the entire orchestral input during the Belle ‘Home’ piece and preceding struggle with the Beast was lovely with sympathetic light and shade. Again throughout the Percussion input was sensitive and controlled. Superb input backing the Beast with ‘If I Can’t love Her’ following his anguish and then a build up at the end – very moving! Act 2 and fine Trumpet input in Entr’acte in the lively pace of ‘Be My Guest’. Again a fine build up when the Beast is dying. Fine drumming and Trumpet in “The Mob Song’. I was very impressed with the entire orchestration and sound, and the secure hand of the Conductor projected a fine musical backing with superb modulation and sensitivity.
Again I was impressed with the overall quality of pitch and characterisation given to the lyrics – projection and clarity was first class. ‘Belle’ projected with fine pitch and vocal projection – I have to mention (for the song and dialogue vocal coaches) it is not “lit-tul” but “li-tle” and the tongue remains in contact with the hard palate behind the teeth for the second syllable of “tle” – on a personal level it irritates and jars to hear the word ‘little’ so commonly mis-pronounced. ‘No Matter What’ given fine vocality by Maurice and holding of notes from Belle, and both giving a superb characterisation and sensitivity to the number. ‘Me’ from Gaston and delivered with a fine baritone quality, superb relating to the audience, singing, gesture and movement making this an outstanding number with both vocality and characterisation – first class. ‘Is This Home?’ sung by Belle with great felling for the lyric, and a lovely final note – it was very moving. ‘Gaston’ was a superb number in every aspect! Lefou adding fine comedic characterisation of the song and with fine pitch and phrasing, Gaston with fine vocal quality and projection of a magnetic stage presence with his characterisation input. The Chorus was first class with pitch and projection – and such brilliant movement as well, and projected with such energy and focus, and all in their characters – superb number! ‘How Long Must This Go On’ from the Beast with excellent diction and command of the lyric– there was a very moving anguish given. ‘Be Our Guest’ was spectacular with the fine choral input and the movement of the Enchanted Objects, the changes of rhythm, and routines – and again all in excellent characterisations and projection with fine audience relating. The final song “If I Can’t Love Her’ again given fine diction and anguish – excellent command of the lower notes – again very moving projection from the Beast. Act 2 and ‘Something There’ delivered with sensitive characterisations and fine command with the movement and singing. ‘Human Again’ – they were all superb with diction, projection, harmony and characterisation, and a fine refrain from the Chorus– lovely input from Chip. ‘Maison des Lunes’ – a nasty trio – and fine singing input with the super characterisation and projection of the lyric. I was very impressed with the input from Mrs. Potts with ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – despite trouble with the Mic she sang with excellent vocality and pitch and I could hear despite the problem – she gave the song a memorable quality. ‘A Change In Me’ delivered with fine holding of the notes although a little harsh at times on the higher notes – the mics again troubling and perhaps shouting to compensate was the problem with vocality – but excellently characterised. ‘The Mob Song’ and ‘The Battle’ were outstanding with its energy and projection and first class input from the Chorus with all the coming and going – super groupings and frenzy building up and excellent vocal projection and unison. An impressive Finale and super final chorus. An outstanding singing input.
First of all I have to comment that the Professional input here was again a worthwhile investment. A Director who is also an accomplished Choreographer is a godsend for Musical Theatre – and to have performed in the Show as well – is an added bonus. This professional input was excellent. I have to praise the Director’s Assistants who have to ensure that the ground laid by the professional, is rehearsed and built upon, and above all that the routines and characterisations are secure. This presentation was immaculate and totally secure and praise must be given to the Director’s Assistants. I cannot fault the characterisations and the movement and choreography – the use of the stage and the Set were excellent. All the elements, both technical and creative were firmly co-ordinated, and again the use of excellent professional Set and Costume, ensured a visual extravaganza and delight. The Company were obviously dedicated and well rehearsed – all focused and secure with their individual characterisations – and all energised and vital. All involved with the Direction and performance, obviously worked together and co-ordinated immaculately to present this stunning production. Congratulations!
MOVEMENT & DANCE
CHOREOGRAPHY including DANCE SKILLS & GROUPING
The professional choreography was superb and I congratulate the Choreographer on stretching the Company with the superb moves, groupings, and the dance steps that with hard work, were all within their range to achieve with success and smiling aplomb. The opening mime sequence behind the gauze was excellent and with well controlled body language and movement. Fine routine for the opening number of ‘Belle’ and immediately the individual characterisations of all were firmly established with again fine body language and stage movement /dance skills. Super final grouping. Lovely use of the stage and movement with Belle and Maurice for ‘No Matter What’. The Wolf Chase was projected with excellent movement skills and was very effective. ‘Me’ was hilarious with Gaston and his melodramatic gesture, movement, and outward projection to the audience all conveying as excellent sense of comedy and indeed slapstick play with his carrying and pushing of Belle around the stage – I loved his ‘press-ups’ and the play with Gaston and Lefou was excellently orchestrated – both with fine movement skills and relating with superb timing. The Beast had beautifully controlled movement skills which fully projected his torment and anguish – again finely controlled and choreographed. The Enchanted Objects all moved with lovely characterised gestures and body language – how did Mrs. Potts keep her arm extended that long? Chips rotated his head and never once lost focus or character – he was perfect! The routine for ‘Gastpn’ was breathtaking with its energy, well timed tankard clashing, and the floor level leg kicking of the Silly Girls – lovely exit with Lefou jumping in Gaston arms. ‘Be Our Guest’ was an extravaganza with Plates from the steps a la Buzby Berkley, the Napkins with a Can-Can Cutlery moving across, and all ending with a high kick routine and champagne and pyro – it was truly a fine spectacle, and all performers so secure with their moves – and smiling. In Ac 2 ‘Human Again’ with fine input by the dusters and cutlery – and of course the finely characterised movements of the Enchanted Objects. Later a fine Waltz from Belle and the Beast. ‘The Mob Song’ and “The Battle’ were masterly with the exits and entrances of the entire Company and mounting to a magnificent frenzy and climax – again outstanding input from the Chorus – and all so disciplined and secure with the moves. A lovely traditional final scene and walk down by the Company. I have nothing but admiration for all the hard work so obviously undertaken by all.
BELLE – A fine performance – she was at first feisty, intelligent with her love of books, and loving to her Father, and as the journey progressed we saw the sensitive compassion for the Beast. A fine relating with Maurice in the ‘No Matter What’ scene, and a splendidly independent reaction to the egotistical Gaston. Her relating with the Beast was at first with anger over the imprisonment of her Father and gradually after being refusing to eat, being chased by Wolves, rescued by Beat, she showed her compassion and finally love. There was a gambit of emotions to portray with Belle, and the performer succeeded magnificently – all emotions clearly projected with both dialogue and body language.
THE BEAST- The actor fully projected the anger, bad temper, loneliness and anguish of the Prince transformed into a beast. I was very impressed with the movement and body language given to the Beast – he projected his anguish and loneliness at all times. A fine growing attraction as Belle tended his wound and then the tenderness creeping in as she read to him. Again this performer finely projected all the emotions of his journey with clarity both dialogue and movement. Another first class performance.
MAURICE – A delightful performance of warmth and pride with his delight for his daughter. There was a fine touch of eccentric comedy and a bumbling quality with his invention. Excellent improvisation and audience relating when it really went wrong! In Act 2 I appreciation his thoughtful look sat on the steps of the house as Belle sang ‘A Change In Me’ – and then a proud look. This was a very well motivated performance of fine quality.
GASTON – The actor projected everything that Gaston should be – Vain, arrogant, egotistical, ultra masculine, and utterly evil hearted. I appreciated his total relating out to the audience arrogant body language and pseudo sexy hip thrusting, his grasping of the females, his boasting and posturing at all times - he was truly objectionable. All performance skills were excellent – singing, moving, and the capture of the OTT extreme melodramatic style of acting. There was an impressive energy and vigour to the performance, and also a great sense of comedy play with first class timing and pacing of the dialogue. An outstanding performance.
LEFOU – As the side-kick to Gaston he was superb – fawning, egging him on, playing up to Gaston with amazing facial expressions and body language. The sense of comedy and relating with Gaston was excellent and his body language and movements skills fully projected the toady sidekick. Another first class performance.
LUMIERE – An elegant characterisation in true eighteenth century ‘fop’ style. He was reactive with his ‘arm’ waving gesticulations which suited this elegant Enchanted Object. His relating with Gogsworth was one of teasing his formality, and his attraction for Babette well projected. I finely fussy Lumiere was characterised and complemented his foppish aristocratic visual appearance.
COGSWORTH – I appreciated the almost ‘John Cleese’ character of this Cogsworth – with his sense of being up tight and having to be correct as the Head of the Beast household. Lovely contained body language and facial expressions and serious ‘posh’ contrast to the frivolous Lumiere. Fine relating to the other Enchanted Objects and stylised movement and delivery of dialogue marked this excellent performance.
MRS. POTTS – Again lovely stylised movement and a fine homely and chatty delivery of the dialogue with trace of a country accent. I admired the way she held her hand/spout and the busy pushing of the tea-trolly and talking to and relating with Chip. Very fine singing skills with a projection that went on despite the mic failing. This was a lovely characterisation.
CHIP – What a tour de force for a young performer. Turning the cup around, relating both to Mrs. Potts and the audience. An excellent piece about him being a boy soon delivered with clarity and motivation. I loved the piece where he went to sleep while Belle and the Beast were dancing. I have nothing but admiration for the input of this young performer – especially the relating and the constant cup turning.
MADAME DE LA GRANDE BOUCHE – A lovely characterisation of the lady with the great mouth – a former Opera Diva. Well timed input and I liked the delivery of the dialogue with the occasional singing note. A hilarious moment when she ‘opened up’ and carefully drew items of clothing from her ‘chest’. A well timed comedy input with excellent sudden appearances.
BABETTE - Lovely flirty flighty Enchanted Object with a fine French accent. She moved beautifully in the restricted outfit and fluttered her arms bemoaning the growing feathers. It was a delightful characterisation with excellent relating to the others.
THREE SILLY GIRLS – They were superb! I appreciated the almost ‘Bedminster’ accent of the three good time girls with straw in their hair. They worked together well and followed Gaston around with flirting and enticement. Lovely movement skills and ‘rolling’ around the floor. Fine comedy input with energy and excellent timing.
MONSIEUR D’ARQUE – A very sinister characterisation and scheming in league with Gaston. His input in Act 2 was excellently melodramatic and with creepy body language. A fine cameo role.
NARRATAOR – An excellent quality voice with good inflections and diction which prepared us for the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
ENCHANTRESS – Another fine cameo role with good movement skills and dramatic input into the beginning of the story.
YOUNG PRINCE – Good mime sequence at the beginning and clearly depicting the story.
BARMAID - A good cameo role and projected with vitality and good timing.
WOLVES – They were excellently controlled with their movements and scary routine behind the gauze. All well controlled and very effective.
This was a stunning presentation. I realise there was a lot of professional input but it was well placed and worth the obvious expense. This input does not in any way take from the input of the Company, but in fact has enhanced all the skills, especially the movement and acting skills which gave such comedy dimensions to the characterisations. I am sure that the Company has gained much from this experience – and together with Direction and Technical support has achieved magnificently. My overall impression was that of admiration for the total security that all in the Company possessed with their roles, and with projection of performance skills. Heartfelt congratulations on such a fine presentation. Thank you for your kind hospitality and I look forward to being asked again to visit Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society at some time in the near future.
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