ROSE BOWL AWARDS
Adjudication by Caroline Whitehead
A very entertaining show
This was the very first musical that I went to see at the age of 9. It was a performance at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and I was spellbound by the story, by the dancing and by the brilliant songs that have been part of my life ever since. It really does have something for everyone and every song, without exception, is memorable and timeless. So, of course, it’s a popular choice for amateur groups; there is a part for everyone in this show and an opportunity for many performers to have their moment in the spotlight. As a group, you have a wealth of talent in your number and we were treated to some moments of really first class performance. The songs carry the show and, unsurprisingly, this is where you put most of your efforts. There was some excellent choreography in the musical numbers and strong singing, both by soloists and the company as a whole. The trickier challenge is keeping up the pace and the interest on stage during the dialogue and there is a fair amount of this in between the musical numbers in this show. There were moments when the pace slowed and some performers just hesitated a little too long in delivering their lines. Having said that, it wasn’t long before another great song came along and all was well again.
Your audience clearly enjoyed the performance and there were some real highlights, most notably the male chorus in’ Luck be a Lady’ and the Hot Box Girls in ‘Bushel and a Peck’ and ‘Take Back Your Mink’. For me, the key to this show is getting ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’ right and you certainly did that – that scene was a triumph! This was a well-directed show with some really polished performances. I could have stayed for the evening’s performance too!
I liked your hanging signs and the Mission truck was well used on both sides. You have a nice wide stage in the Strode Theatre and you took full advantage of this in the choreography as well as the design of the set. The Hot Box stage worked well too and all the set changes were well managed. Just make sure that you change the sets as quickly as possible to maintain the pace of the show. I was a little disappointed with the Havana set; it looked more like a day at the seaside rather than a Cuban Dive. Perhaps some moodier lighting would have helped. This is a tricky scene at the best of times because of the dependence on choreography and precise dance moves to get that fight scene looking realistic.
However, the Sewer set and lighting worked really well and this is a long scene so it’s important to get it right. Lighting generally was carefully designed to support the many varied moods of the show. Once or twice performers were in the dark and I was yearning for a little more. In ‘Bushel and a Peck’, the chorus was in shadow when we should have been enjoying the lovely costumes. That said, some of the romantic scenes – ‘I’ll Know’ and ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’ - were sensitively lit and really added to the emotion of those intimate moments.
The sound balance was really good throughout the show and well done to the operators for staying on cue. We had a good balance between the band in the pit and the Company numbers and then the sound checked down for the solos and duets. Guys and Dolls, with Nicely and Benny worked particularly well for sound and made this is a really memorable scene.
Choreography was excellent in the musical numbers – well done girls – and I saw some nice new touches to ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’. Everyone was totally committed to these numbers and the synchronization was first class. Also, in the duets with Nicely and Benny (‘Guys and Dolls’) and Sky and Sarah (‘If I Were a Bell’) there were some very clever moves that were well connected to the music and lyrics.
Many congratulations to this talented band of musicians, well led by your Musical Director. It was a real treat to listen to these tunes so well played and with all the sensitivity that is demanded in the score. Throughout the whole show, I thought you supported the performers really well and altered the pace where required. Just occasionally, there were times when the underscore was too loud for the dialogue to come through and this meant that some of the funny lines were missed.
What a lovely voice you have, deep and rich in tone but still retaining great diction and variance in strength . And, with such lovely songs to sing, it was a joy to listen to you. You also have the more difficult gift of being able to move around in stage in character while singing. In your first real number - ‘I’ll Know’ - I was impressed with this aspect of your performance. Musically, ‘My Time of Day’, was my highlight. This is a really tricky song and you did it justice. As for the all-round performance, ‘Luck, Be A Lady’, was the climax of the show and you carried this right the way through. Your applause after this one was particularly well-deserved. Sky is a challenge to play, I think. One the one hand he is the strong and respected bachelor, gambler and loner. And on the other, he is a man of true integrity and unnervingly romantic. No wonder that the ladies fall for him! I really liked your interpretation of the role and you delivered your performance with confidence and style.
You gave us exactly the right personality for this role – a combination of haughty prejudice and innocent vulnerability. And you have a very sweet voice. I have sung all of your songs and I appreciate how high some of the phrases are. Like you, I have to brace myself to reach the top notes smoothly (especially in ‘I’ll Know’). I felt your nerves kicking in when those phrases were imminent and that was a shame. With just a little more support and a touch more confidence, you would have soared over those top notes with less effort. Also, just watch that you don’t freeze on stage when you are singing solo. Sarah needs to stay in character even in those lovely songs and remain part of the scene. When you were singing in your semi-inebriated state (‘If I Were a Bell’) your voice was strong and natural and we saw the true potential you have as a performer. Here, you were moving around the stage with ease and managing those lyrical phrases at the same time. In, ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’ I could feel your apprehension return. Have the confidence with those high phrases. You have the voice to master them without fear. However, I really enjoyed your performance and you should be very pleased with it.
This is such a fantastic role, one can be fooled into thinking that you can’t go wrong with it. But, over the years, I have seen some really tragic versions of Adelaide, so I know how difficult it is to pull off. I thought your performance of this warm and lovable character was absolutely brilliant. Good diction, great body language and expert comic timing right through the show. From your entrance at the Hot Box, you showed us all the nuances of this character and ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ was one of the best I have seen (and I’ve probably seen about 20, both professional and amateur). Last year I saw the revival of Guys and Dolls at the Savoy and the brilliant Sophie Thompson played Adelaide. Yours was just as good - well done!
This is such an eccentric character, you can do so much with it and you really worked hard to bring something new to the role. We have to love Nicely Nicely and we certainly did. Well done to bring a good Bronx accent and some delightful moves to this role. I had my eyes on you every time you were on stage and really enjoyed your performance. You are the first to sing in the show and your strong voice set the scene for an entertaining show.
This is a key role and you have some big relationships to develop as the show progresses. For me, some of them worked better than others. I really liked your relationship with the guys, particularly Nicely, Benny and the Crapshooters. As one of the boys, you were the most comfortable on stage. I wasn’t as convinced with your relationship with Adelaide. I think I wanted you to be warmer to her, even though you were frightened of marriage. And she did give you every opportunity to engage with her! That said, your duet with Adelaide in the second act (‘Sue Me’) was really well delivered and there were some tender moments.
Although you are on stage quite a bit, you don’t have a great deal to do in the story until the second act when you have your solo number. ‘ More I Cannot Wish You’ - This is such a beautiful song and you clearly enjoyed performing it. At the start it felt a bit stiff, but when you sat down with your granddaughter things improved and you relaxed into it. It’s a beautiful melody with some glorious, poetic lyrics and we heard every word.
Benny, Rusty Charlie
Benny, your duet with Nicely was superb. This is the title track so it’s important to get this right. Choreography was really well designed and vocally this was a flawless performance. I really liked you boys on stage together; you were totally relaxed and in character. These are the light-hearted moments and so your comic timing and physicality is critical. Well done.
You gave us a perfect Big Julie. It’s only a cameo role but it is important as a foil to Nathan’s comic lines and you delivered it with good strong gestures and carefully timed dialogue.
What a joy to see such a strong male chorus! As soon as I heard the lines: “Good old reliable Nathan…” in your first company number, I knew that the show was going to be a delight. And ‘Luck, Be A Lady’ cemented my view that you had worked really hard to deliver some tight and tricky choreography, as well as some strong vocals. I am always apprehensive in this scene, because it does rely so much on a strong male chorus (just as it does in South Pacific) but I had no need to worry. You nailed it and clearly enjoyed it.
The Salvation Army troupe were a close knit group who had obviously worked hard to perform their numbers without a hitch. General Cartwright had just right amount of authority, with perfect diction and a command of the stage. And, ladies, those two Hot Box numbers were so good. I could have watched them over again. I have heard some audiences cry for an encore after these numbers and I was disappointed that your polite matinee audience did not. But the applause said it all. You clearly enjoyed performing them and your delight was infectious. I enjoyed all the Company numbers and the high point of ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ was a triumph.
All in all, this was a pleasing performance of good, well-rehearsed talent from a Company that was comfortable with the show. You clearly had great fun with the musical numbers and this permeated to the audience, who I am sure had a very enjoyable afternoon. The music was first class and, apart from a few uncomfortable dialogue hitches, the production was accomplished.
I look forward to watching many more great shows from you.
DAVID BEACH Competition
Adjudication by Jadi Carlyon - Somerset Fellowship of Drama
As a local resident for many years, I have been fortunate to have been able to see many productions by this established society which has a long history of bringing both well-loved and modern musicals to local audiences. On arrival at the comfortable Strode Theatre for this fourth of six performances, my guest and I were warmly welcomed by the theatre staff and volunteers. Thank you for your kind hospitality. It is a tribute to your many past successes that you attract a wide audience and the auditorium was soon full of excited theatre-goers. Any criticisms or suggestions made in this adjudication are those of just one member of that audience who saw one performance. The smiles on the faces of the departing throng are what are most important. With all necessary paperwork quickly to hand, I had time to glance at the colourful programme which included some lovely photos of your rehearsals as well as the expected synopsis and cast profiles. Thank you for including the Fellowship of Drama logo. The show started at 7.32 and finished at 10.18 with a refreshment interval.
Direction – Paul Townsend
For a Society which has brought many musicals to the Street audience for the first time, it is a different challenge to revisit one of the classics of the genre with fresh eyes. After performing in Guys and Dolls with G&SMCS yourself 33 years ago, I guess you have had plenty of time to mull over directorial plans! In the attention span of a modern audience, this is a long show, so it is vital both to capture and to retain interest. Your opening, with all the colourful Runyonland characters, miming to the upbeat score was delightful, there was so much to catch and hold the eye from each little cameo performance. Nicely-Nicely then set off the singing at a brisk pace and the Fugue for Tinhorns, not an easy piece to perform, had power and accuracy from all 3 participants. There was visual variety within the show, use of tableau ‘’I name her... cider’’ and some delightful comedy touches such as the see-saw comedy within the Mission as Big Jule sat down, simple but very effective. I also liked the constant association of Nicely-Nicely with a food item, the Eskimo kisses between Nathan and Adelaide and the comedy aspect of the Joey/Nathan ‘phone call. However I was not quite sure about Adelaide being carried off, rather than escorted, by Nathan’s henchmen. Accents varied, some, like Adelaide, Benny and Nicely-Nicely, were credible and well-sustained; others struggled with this aspect, notably Nathan and Lieutenant Brannigan. There were a couple of moments during non-singing sections of the first Act when energy seemed to flag but pace picked up again and Act 2 was clearly enjoyed by all participants with lovely contrasts such as the silent wedding preparations after the strong delivery of ‘Marry the Man Today’ by Sarah and Adelaide.
Musical Direction- Kathryn Stevens
The experienced musicians within the pit orchestra, with its enhanced wind section, produced a very supportive sound from the outset. I liked the light and shade shown when representing the Mission Band, appropriate foreground or background as required. Whilst confident actor/musicians are rare in amateur theatre, it would have been lovely if at least the percussion instruments could have been played by the onstage mission band, but I appreciate that this would have required additional rehearsal time which perhaps was not available. Your Principals and chorus groupings all sang with confidence and enthusiasm, whether in harmony or deliberate disharmony, evidence of good coaching and much practice. The duet pairings, Nicely/Benny, Sky/Sarah and Sarah/Adelaide all worked well together.
Choreography – Claire and Hannah Switzer
Although the hired sets gave very limited opportunity for variation in height above stage level, the use of choreography (such as the collision between the drunk and the parcel carrier and the spillage of trade goods in Runyonland) provided visual contrast. I was particularly impressed by the dance choreography for your males. The opening number by the crapshooter chorus to ‘The Oldest Established’ with its marching/shoe cleaning routine combined with great vocal harmonies and the later delivery of ‘Luck be a Lady’ were both stylish and perfectly choreographed for this group. Movement by Nathan and Benny in ‘Guys and Dolls’ was also well-considered to enhance the duet. The Hot Box girls delivered a fine dance performance, not perfectly synchronised as befitted performers at a second-rate venue. Each individual had clearly worked on their body language with mincing walk, limply flapping hands and good interaction with their nightclub audience. Havana provided an opportunity for couples to dance in a Hispanic style and this too was embraced with enthusiasm by your younger dancers.
Stage Management – Mike Linham, Helen Bulman and Crew
The simple but effective hired set used illuminated signs to designate several of the locations. At this performance there was a brief delay with the smooth repositioning of the hanging signs after the ‘Havana’ scenes. However the signs and room sets for nightclub, sewer and Mission were for the most part operated silently and efficiently by the stage crew, with cast members giving a hand with furniture as befitting their roles. Sweeping the open stage to cover one of the more complex scene changes from Havana back to Broadway was a useful ploy, particularly after the choreographed pandemonium of the previous few moments.
Lighting – Chris Sealy and Crew
The professional lighting team ensured that all areas of the stage were appropriately lit. For my own part, I could not see the benefit of slowly flashing the signs during the ‘Guys and Dolls’ duet between Nathan and Benny, preferring to focus on the singers, but would presume that this was a directorial decision. The orange backlight gave a lovely warming glow to the Havana scene without the need for complex scenery and the moon against a beautiful blue background was a perfect location for romance.
Sound - Joe Tong and Lewis Packham
A professional rig with functioning mics throughout. My perception was that the mics started a bit loud but settled during the first ten minutes of the show. It is sometimes more difficult for the ear to adjust to accents when it is also having to cope with a greater volume than feels right, but it is not always possible to suit everyone!
Properties - Mo and Andy Pickford
The best props are often invisible; by that I mean that they are so appropriate that they are not noticed. That was largely the case in this show where, notably in the opening scene and in ‘Cuba’ the many accoutrements were brought on and off at such speed and in such numbers that they almost passed by unnoticed. There are times, however, when a prop is needed which adds to audience understanding. In that context, particularly as ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’ is not the easiest of opening numbers for the audience to interpret, it might have been helpful if the newspapers had clearly been headed ‘Racing Post’ or similar. I loved the accoutrements at Adelaide’s kitchen-shower batchelorette party. However perfection is not always required – Adelaide’s handkerchief had been ironed flat, surely if kept in a woman’s handbag and in almost constant use, it would have had folds, or even creases! The box in which Nathan’s ‘belt’ was offered was much too small to hold a man’s belt and you could have got an extra laugh out of making the box said to contain Adelaide’s bridal veil much larger and more cumbersome. I am aware that one cannot mess around with valuable instruments, but the big drum could perhaps have had its plastic skins disguised with some cream cardboard with the ‘Save our Soul Mission’ painted, rather than printed on it. These minor suggestions do not detract from the fact that there were numerous props, used to provide context which were managed very efficiently.
Wardrobe, Hair and Make-up - Di Gifford , Marie Salter and Assistants
Despite opening Pathe film footage of 1933, the flavour of your part-hired, part-self-sourced costuming for women was somewhat more 1950s with those many halter-necked day dresses, but it worked for me with the make-up and hair in the same style. Although there was little contrast in quality of suiting between the successful , respected Sky and the impoverished Nathan and his associates, there was a great visual contrast between the grey/brown sharp suits of the crapshooters and the red of the sometimes sizeable army of missionaries. Ideally your men at Havana, could have had brighter ‘tropical’ shirts to match their partners (loved the red satin frilly shirt sported by one of the waiters) but I appreciate that there are always budget constraints. Although he had, as might have been expected, failed to button up his coat correctly, the drunken man was the smartest and cleanest I have ever seen and should perhaps have been ‘spruced down’ a little. The only costume which seemed ‘out of period’ was Sarah’s Havana dress. A modestly styled plain 50s summer dress would have been in period here.
Group and Individual performances
It is a fortunate society who have so many male performers of mixed ages who can both dance and sing well and also do both simultaneously. This show was made for you and you were clearly having a ball. An excellent effort by the whole team.
The Hot Box girls
A great group of gigglers, with the guts to dance in scanty underwear. Well done.
Suitably committed in intention and sombre when in role; I am aware that you were also playing many of the other ensemble parts so you did have a chance to dance and to smile!
Arvide Abernathy – Rob Trayhurn
A small role but your sympathetic personality shone through and you have a beautiful gentle singing voice. You played it ‘English’ but it worked. Well done.
Sky Masterson – Dean Wilson
I was not entirely convinced by your opening demeanour that you were a high roller in the crapshooter community and your American accent took a while to be established. However your interactions with Sarah and developing affection for her were entirely convincing as were those more introspective moments. I very much enjoyed your performance with that lovely rich singing voice. Very well done.
Sarah Brown – Eronwy Selwyn (aged 19)
You are blessed with a high soprano voice which any woman would envy and used it to great effect in this role, most notably in that lovely introspective first duet ‘I’ll Know’. Although young, you delivered a confident performance with a good command of accent and beautifully clear diction. The ‘in denial’ relationship with Sky was believable but there were moments, particularly in Act 1, when your body language did not quite fit the maturity of a Salvationist who, whilst promoted to Sergeant at a relatively young age, was suffering inner mental turmoil. Your portrayal of the inebriated Sarah in Havana was the moment when, for me, you started to relax into the role. This is a big part and you played it well. Thank you for your major contribution to the show.
Miss Adelaide - Jess Stradling
For me, and judging by the laughter and the applause you received, for many of the audience this was the stand-out individual performance of this show and your ‘Sue Me’ duet with Nathan with handbag and glove action stole the show. You looked and acted the part, ditsy blonde showgirl (with that permanent cold) but ultimately strong female, great dancer, well-sustained accent and big personality. I have no idea how you managed the speak/shriek, sing/shriek aspects without losing your voice completely! An excellent effort.
Nathan Detroit - Paul Parsons
I cannot deny being surprised to see a more mature actor playing this role but, after fourteen years with Adelaide, why not a few greyer hairs? The two of you worked well together; I loved those Eskimo kisses. Your anguish at having to choose between Adelaide and your (other) favourite pursuit, crapshooting, was perhaps all the more realistic for being depicted by someone with more life-experience. It was clear to the audience that you were enjoying playing Nathan and as noted above, the ‘Sue Me’ duet with Miss Adelaide was a show stopper. A great performance. Thank you.
Nicely Nicely Johnson – Liam Frampton
You worked this character part with real confidence, maintaining both accent and cheeky chappie persona throughout. Great interactions with the other crapshooters, notably your best mate Benny. An excellent supporting performance.
Benny Southstreet – Joe Houlihan
Lovely duo work in song and movement with Nicely Nicely. Good attention to accent, well done.
Big Jule - Matt Taylor
You were clearly having fun playing the socially awkward but slightly scary big man and you added a wonderful baseline to the crapshooter chorus.
This was a very enjoyable show in the tradition of Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society, a testimony to the hours of preparation by all involved both on and off the stage. Thank you for inviting me.
NODA REVIEW by Leigh Conley, NODA SW Regional Representative District 8
Any observation made by the reviewer can only be based on what they see at the performance in question. The reviewer may have received information in advance of the performance and it is inevitable that their assessment will be affected by that knowledge. The N.O.D.A. Representative’s intention is to give an objective critique of the overall production and in particular the performance viewed. It should be remembered that any review of this nature can only be objective as far as the techniques used during the performance observed. Any criticisms expressed may not have been valid at other performances, and are only made to encourage higher standards in Amateur Theatre. It is hoped that the audience’s appreciation of your efforts will have given everyone a lift and encouraged you to greater achievements in the future and that the observations made by the reviewer will prove helpful in improving future productions As the curtains opened the audience were greeted with their first view of the staging for this production of Guys and Dolls. The set was pretty minimalist with illuminated signs hanging above the stage, which could be pulled up or back down depending on the scene. Other scenes were created with the use of a reversible shop front, for The Mission, a news stand and a moveable bar, for the Havana scene. This meant that the staging for this production was very simple but looked really good and meant that scene changes were dealt with in a swift and effective way. The lighting and sound, which were presumably hired in from Bright Production Services Ltd, was generally good, although occasionally some sound levels had to be changed mid-song to allow the audience to hear properly.
Most of the costumes and wigs looked really good and definitely worked well for the era the production is set in. All the ‘guys’ looked great in their gangster outfits and the ‘dolls’ of the hotbox, also, looked very impressive. Unfortunately, the same attention to detail did not seem to be there on the ‘mission’ uniforms which didn’t look as good, the black lapels particularly looked strange and very fake, it also appeared that some of these uniforms didn’t quite fit properly which was a real shame. The make-up by Marie Salter and her team was good and no-one stood out in an unusual way. The choreography by Hannah and Claire Switzer was simple but was incredibly polished and very snappy which gave the whole production a real lift. Stand out moments, again, had to be the choreography of Miss Adalaide and her Hot Box girls (or should that be goils!).
The orchestra under the musical direction of Kathryn Stevens played well and accompanied the singers beautifully, however there were a few occasions where either the singers sound dropped or the orchestra level increased either way this meant, for these few occasions, it was hard to hear the cast singing. Luckily these moments were few and far between.
A big stand out moment in this productions was the fun way in which the company dealt with the overture, this can often be a little boring as there is usually not much to watch. However, this production made the overture into an extra scene with a significant amount of the cast (if not all) involved in little scenarios. These were all choreographed to the music and all told fun little stories about the characters that were being portrayed and it seemed all the characters interacted in each other’s stories. This was a lovely start to the show and gave the chorus members extra to do. During the show all the chorus were engaged throughout the whole performance and all worked really well together, it was clear that everyone was having fun and, as usual for Glastonbury, there was a great sense of teamwork.
As mentioned the hotbox girls were particularly impressive and very funny. Other chorus members that stood out were Imogen Pearce and Amelia Chinnock-Shuman whose dancing during the Havana scene was very elegant and precise. It wasn’t just the ‘goils’ who were good, as usual, the excellent George Flint was superb in his many roles and yet again showed that he is not only a good chorus member but also a very accomplished background performer never once slipping out of character. All ‘the guys’ worked very hard as did ‘the dolls’ and ‘the mission’ although what a joy it was to see Lee Butt in his roles as Joey Perhaps and as a chorus member. Lee did not stop smiling throughout the whole production and was clearly having a great time.
Paul Townsend must’ve been thanking his lucky stars when he cast this show. Dean Wilson was charismatic and suitably aloof in his main role as Sky Masterson although Dean didn’t quite seem comfortable with the role at first, he soon settled in and produced a very strong performance, winning the hearts of both Sarah Brown and the audience. Sarah was played by Eronwy Selwyn who had a lovely singing voice and sang really well with Dean, she also paired well with Rob Trayhurn who was perfectly cast as Arvide Abernathy and you easily believed that he had fatherly affection for Sarah. Paul Parsons was very charismatic and watchable as Nathan Detroit and, like Dean, effortlessly had the audience behind him, although the age gap between him and Miss Adelaide did seem rather large. Jess Strading as Miss Adalaide was exceptionally good and definitely one of the star performances of the night. Her singing voice was perfect for the role and she kept her accent brilliantly throughout all her songs which she sang with great characterisation, energy and humour, especially ‘Sue Me’ which was absolutely hilarious.
If Jess was one of the star performers then the other one had to be Liam Frampton as ‘Nicely Nicely Johnson’, Liam, like Jess, found a lot of humour in his characterisation and brought a lot of heart to his role. His singing voice was lovely as was shown in the number ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ and also in ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’ which he sang with Joe and Dave, this song was performed just brilliantly, with perfect timing and harmonies throughout and, along with the scenes in the overture, gave the show a fantastic, strong opening. Although I have highlighted only a few of the main principles everyone contributed really well and made this a great show with some fabulous moments.
Huge congratulations to Paul Townsend, Mary Parker and the rest of the team for pulling together a very enjoyable show, and at the end of the day ‘More I Cannot Wish You’.