Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1978 musical biopic of Eva Duarte Peron, the former first lady of Argentina, is a daunting challenge for any company to take on. The through-sung score features many angular rhythms and dissonant harmonies that do not sit easily on the ear; that is the point. Peron was an enigma and the show does not set out to portray her in any soft-focus glow.
That the cast were able to tackle this challenging show with so much confidence on a first performance is a credit to the production team of Director Faye Easto, Musical Director David Easto and Choreographer Jemma Tiso. The whole show flowed easily, and the simple set and few props used were enough to allow the story to unfold unhindered. I particularly enjoyed the musical chairs played by the Colonels in The Art of the Possible
Essentially Evita is a 3 handed show, with supporting chorus. The three lead parts are all extremely vocally challenging, and were all delivered here with strength and character. Che, our Narrator, is one of the most obtuse characters written in musicals, not really having a personality of his own, but rather reflecting the Argentinian people’s attitude to Eva and different times in her life, and guiding us through how we might think about her. Pete Beck as Che oozes easy charm and charisma, and displays a find rock tenor voice, as well as showing us easily all the differing colours of this complex character.
Alistair Jolliffe was a full-voiced Peron, Eva’s husband, showing us first a man scheming his way to power, but later the human side of a husband losing a wife.
Vickie Beck as Eva was, rightly, at the centre of the production, going from ambitious teenager to statesman with a performance convincing both in voice and physicality. You must love me was a particularly heartbreaking moment in the show.
Good support came from the louche Matt Collins as the entertainer Magaldi, and Kim Waldron as Peron’s jilted Mistress.
The chorus did well creating the background for many scenes very effectively, from street scenes to elegant soirees and military training; you often cannot tell where the director’s work ended and the choreographers work began, so well did the movement flow.
There were times that the sound balance did not help the production; other patrons I spoke to who did not know the show were struggling throughout to keep up with the plot as the diction could not always be heard clearly. Hopefully this will settle down as the show beds in over the week.
Evita runs at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall until 30th March.
For many The Addams Family will conjure memories of either the 1960s television series or the hit movies from the 70s and early 90s. In fact this family of misfits dates back more than 80 years to a series of satirical cartoons published in the New Yorker.
Manor Musical Theatre Company keeps Charles Addam’s iconic creation alive in this enjoyable production of the decade-old musical version
The family’s macabre world is turned upside down when their devilish daughter Wednesday falls for Lucas Beineke a sweet boy from a normal family. And when the Beinekes are invited over for dinner all hell breaks loose.
Few shows have a power couple that rivals Gomez and Morticia and Mark Skett and Beth Hooper do a sterling job as the family's figureheads. Gomez in particular is rarely off the stage in this show and Skett doesn’t put a foot wrong as the suave Spaniard.
Elsewhere Tom Lafferty shines as a wonderfully gawky Lucas and Karrise Willetts is delightfully dark as his menacing pursuer Wednesday.
Jack Dolaghan impresses as Wednesday’s annoying and destructive younger brother Pugsley and James Dolaghan harnesses the power of the grunt to great comedic effect throughout.
Megan Daniels makes for a terrific Alice Beineke, her rendition of Waiting is a highlight. And Richard Parry is strong throughout as rock god turned bore Mel, her husband and Lucas's father.
Fester is one of this strange family’s more familiar faces and Andy Hooper does a good job of capturing the character’s overwhelming weirdness. And speaking of weird, Kate Dyer does a cracking job as the eccentric Grandma.
There are some great numbers in this show and with an array of excellent costumes, especially some of those donned by the ancestors, there are times where the company looks fantastic on-stage. At others it feels like proceedings could do with an injection of pace, but in truth this isn’t the most dynamic of shows for chorus members with the focus instead on members of the respective families.
That said the chorus does it give it their all and among them Matt Cotter and Katrina Cadman stand out for their characterisation and consistency.
Tim Harding's band belts out the score with real gusto and there were times where it was a little difficult for those of us nearer the front to catch some of the lyrics and dialogue - more to do with the acoustics in this delightful old venue than anything.
Congratulations to directors Pam and James Garrington, musical director Tim Harding and choreographer Maggie Moriarty on this entertaining production.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat - Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre - Sutton Coldfield Town Hall
Joseph… is the first production from the new Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre, and what a lively, energetic opening production it was. On entering the theatre you notice not only the dominating set but the long runway jutting out into the auditorium, and you know this is going to be a different sort of production. Director Paul Lumsden has done a great job of getting the best out of the potentially awkward Town Hall space to tell this classic story, and his young cast respond brilliantly. The opening conceit of having a class of school children being told the story by the Narrators as their teachers works well, and from the moment the band of 11 brothers hit the stage the energy really takes off and never lets up.
The performances make a feature of the many different quirky musical styles within Lloyd Webber’s score, from the brothers taunting Joseph sounding almost like a football crowd to Tom Lafferty’s pitch-perfect Elvis look-a-like Pharoah. Leading us through the story are the Narrators Ellicia Smith and Juliet Fisher who both possess very clear, striking voices with excellent diction, and also seemed to enjoy the vast array of costumes they were given. The supporting performances from Bae Rooney, Joe Sutton, Jessica Dovey, Jessica Neil and Eloise Wilson were all strongly characterized.
At the heart of the production is Ben Hayfield’s Joseph, holding the stage with an easy charm and a very well controlled young voice. In fact it was a feature of this production, and a credit to MD Tony Orbell, that all the singing was very well controlled, with some nice moments of very confident harmony.
Jane Slassor’s choreography brought the best out of her young dancers, the Hoe Down being a particular highlight.
It’s just a shame that the lighting left performers in the dark on several occasions in the show, and the sound balance made it difficult to understand long sections of the songs; my 10 year old junior reviewer, who had never seen Joseph before, said she could only clearly hear about half of the lyrics, and therefore struggled to keep up with the story.
However this could not stop you noticing the energy and commitment from all the cast on stage.
Starting a new Youth Theatre must be a daunting prospect but an exciting challenge. Well done to the members of Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company for creating this youth company and giving so many young people the chance to experience live theatre, both on stage and in off stage technical roles. I look forward to following this fledgling company as they grow over the next few years.
"...an uplifting and highly entertaining show .."
Stiles and Drewe’s utterly British musical comedy comes to the Stoke Repertory Theatre this week and it really is a treat not to be missed. Based on the 1984 Alan Bennett movie ‘A Private Function’ the story, full of eccentric characters, is set in post-war Britain of 1947 where ordinary folk survive on rations and local council officials bend the rules for their own gain. The musical features around Betty Blue Eyes, the long-lashed sow, whose fate looms as she is secretly reared to become the main dish at a private ‘Royal Wedding’ function held in the local town, and Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers, a timid chiropodist (with the magic fingers) who dreams of letting premises on The Parade for a practice and his more socially ambitious wife who is determined to be a ‘somebody’. The townsfolk encounter Inspector Wormold, a mean and obsessive destroyer of unlicensed meat, and later the sudden disappearance of the forbidden Betty causes panic amongst the councillors who have no back-up plan other than tinned salmon for the guests.
Production team Rachel Talbot-Millar (Director and Choreographer) and Liz Talbot (MD) have certainly created an uplifting and highly entertaining show with an excellent, versatile set, great lighting design and lavish, era-appropriate wardrobe. Paul Deakin (Gilbert) and the beautifully voiced Tracey Brough-Chesters (Joyce) play brilliantly against each other and of course with Anne McArdle (Mother Dear) with the hilarious song routine of Pig No Pig being a brilliantly choreographed highlight of the evening. Adrian Yearsley, Frank McGregor and Rob Mincher portray the characters of Dr Swaby, Henry Allardyce and Francis Lockwood respectively, and do so with lovable humour and perfect comedy timing. Tony O’Rourke portrays Inspector Wormold with wicked perfection and very impressive singing voice and Olivia Wilson was delightful as the brattish Veronica Allardyce. Too large a cast to mention individually but a cast that must be congratulated for their consistent energy and comedy, wide range of splendid and harmonious voices and their unrivalled connection with the audience, who they held captive from start to finish.
Special mention must go to Betty who was kept under control by clever use of animatronics and also to Betty’s Band, conducted by Liz Talbot, who played off-stage and was one of the best orchestras I’ve heard in a long time. The Stoke Rep is fast becoming one of my favourite theatres with the standard of amateur performance being top of the list, and this production by North Staffs Operatic Society is certainly no exception. Get a ticket (if you can).
Suitable for everyone.
Runs to 16 March
"...a dark, sinful and seedy world of jazz and liquor performed faultlessly in true Ebb/Fosse style."
Absolutely delighted to have witnessed the fabulous musical Chicago, staged at the Brewhouse Theatre Burton. The Cabaret Theatre Company effortlessly, and with pro-standard, drew the audience into a dark, sinful and seedy world of jazz and liquor and performed faultlessly in true Ebb/Fosse style.
Set in the 1920s, Chicago is a story of murder, adultery and greed centred around hot cellblock rivals Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, and their silky smooth lawyer Billy Flynn. A main focus is on the vauderville-style dance design and choreographer Sally Everson absolutely nailed it. The production team comprising Chris Moss, (Director), Sally Everson (Producer/Choreographer) and Charlotte Daniel (MD) is clearly a successful one.
Continuously stellar performances from the stunning chorus-line girls, with every big number being an unquestionable highlight. Principles Sara Evans-Bolger (Velma Kelly) and Sian Scattergood (Roxie Hart) performed superbly opposite each other and classical singer Duncan Leech (Billy Flynn) and very amusing pro-performer Dan Webber (Amos Hart). Hilary Leam played a very confident Mamma Morton, again with an exceptional voice, and D Carter kept us giggling with a delightful Mary Sunshine.
Supported by an excellent orchestra and performed in a minimal set (less is more!) I congratulate the company on their achievement, their unsurpassed energy, required sultriness and dedication to perfection. Definitely a Company I would like to see again and a Company who have every reason to celebrate.
Next show Annie Feb 2010
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.