[Photo by Phillip Ingham]
"..a wonderful achievement and huge fun to watch."
Mellow Dramatics are performing the award winning musical Spend Sp£nd Spend at The Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton on Trent this week, and it is certainly a great way to spend an evening.
The story, set in 1961 Yorkshire, is based on the life of Viv Nicholson, a working class housewife whose husband won a £152,319 fortune on the football pools (equivalent to around £3.5 million today). Viv became a household name for her reply of "I'm going to spend, spend, spend!", when interviewed by a reporter about her plans for the windfall, and was soon the most envied woman of her time. But, her out-of-control spending soon ended in bankruptcy and her life spiralled downwards rapidly - from rags to riches and back to rags.
The musical by Brown and Greene, based on the book written by Viv Nicholson and Stephen Smith, is an account of Viv's life from childhood, through a whopping five husbands, fancy cars, boozy parties and, sadly, the tragedies associated with the inability to manage the lifestyle she was propelled into.
Mellow Dramatics have clearly worked hard to pull this off. And they have nailed it, as the expression goes. Musically it's a huge undertaking (hats off to MDs Sara Kimber and Alex Priestley). Directed by Andrew Warner, assisted by Caroline Betteridge and Chloe Lang on choreography, the show is so fast paced it keeps you on your toes from start to finish, with scene transitions that are hardly noticeable and a clever set design that enables rooms to almost pop in and out as the audience's attention is directed to spotlit areas upstage. With an excellent orchestra on an elevated level hidden behind a gauze also used for projected imagery, and clever choreography, it is technically a wonderful achievement and huge fun to watch.
Helen Thrupp plays the Viv of present time, hair dresser, telling the story directly as Natalie Veasey plays the young Viv - from ice-cream seller discovering her sexuality to international millionaire party girl. Both actresses play their Viv's brilliantly, with excellent singing vocals maintaining the 'Yarkshire' accent throughout. Joe Bromfield plays Viv's second husband, Keith, the kind and and gentle man who takes care of her in contrast to George, Viv's father, the alcoholic, controlling, 'beating but still loves her' miner played with conviction by Alan Rowe. Chris Moss plays Viv's first lover and 'accidental' husband, Matt, and Maria Smith plays Viv's mother, both portraying their characters well. It's a cast too large to mention individually but a cast that should take a bow for putting on such a fabulous show, keeping it exciting, and for mastering the complexity of songs and harmonies that make this production so unique.
Runs to 19 Jan
Contains adult themes
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