There is a school of thought which says that laughter is good for you and prolongs life. If that is true, then the entire audience which had the privilege of watching Studley Operatic Society's performance of Spamalot tonight at The Palace Theatre Redditch will surely have found the elixir of life.
There was laughter aplenty from the get go, as a fine cast of principals took us on a journey with King Arthur and his hapless Knights in search of the elusive Holy Grail (which is eventually found in a most unusual place, but never fear, there are no spoilers here!).
Matthew Bridgewater was perfectly cast as the rather dour and serious King Arthur, particularly shining in his rendition of 'I'm All Alone', and was ably assisted by Patsy, played with excellent comic timing by Craig Robert McDowell. In a dazzling line up of Principals it is always a little harsh to single out certain individuals, but the nights' award for the most outstanding performance has to go to Steve Hyde, who played in turn Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, The Knight of Ni and Sentry. His brilliant portrayal of all four parts was made all the more astonishing by the fact that this was his theatre debut. It was easy to imagine that you were watching a seasoned performer of many years standing, such was his command of the stage and each individual character.
In a predominantly male dominated line up, the Lady of The Lake is a role which has to be executed well, and Beth Garden rose to the challenge magnificently, particularly dazzling the audience in both 'The Song That Goes Like This' and 'The Diva's Lament'.
Sometimes the smaller characters in a show shine through too, and Dylan Faulkner really brought some wonderful comedy to the parts of Prince Herbert and Not Dead Fred, delivering both with conviction, and Paul Mitchell Jr's portrayal of Prince Herbert's father and his dislike of his son's singing brought the house down.
Everybody in the auditorium joined in with 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' at the end and left the auditorium refreshed and energised by the evening's entertainment.
In a large cast there were literally no weak links at all, which is a testimony to the talent and commitment of not only all those on the stage, but also the production team, and it was clear to see from the outset that the entire membership of the society on stage had been well drilled and prepared for this production. Credit for such a slick, inspired and inventive production has to go to the Directors Alison and Kevin Hirons, and a particular mention must go out to the choreographer Donna Rhodes. Many a good production has fallen by the wayside in the amateur theatre world generally over the years due to over ambitious, complicated choreography, and this production scored top of the leaderboard due to the simplicity and brilliant execution of all the dance numbers. The tap dancing in particular was excellent, and the smiles on the faces of those tasked with the dance routines assured us all in the audience that everyone was a Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire out there tonight.
There have been a fair few productions of Spamalot in the amateur world recently, and where this one scored above all the others was the energy on the stage ,and the fact that you were aware of the great 'team feel' about the show. It was quick and seamless and relaxed and happy in equal measures, and whilst the storyline was utterly convincing and you were entranced from start to finish, by the same token you felt that you were watching a groups of friends just 'putting on a show'. It is a rare, rare thing to get all these elements into one production, and Studley Operatic Society managed it in spades.
Spamalot runs at The Palace Theatre, Redditch, until Saturday 4th May.
Summer vibes and 80s nostalgia arrived in Wolverhampton with this new fun musical show.
Bringing all the touches you would expect from an 80s show such as big hair, shoulder pads and plenty of fake tan, this show never takes itself too seriously.
The story begins when a bride and groom suddenly get cold feet and turn to the support of their friends. They both decide to chase after the sunshine and jet off abroad without realising they've both checked into the same hotel. There are also dramas at the hotel too with unrequited love and a hotel inspector eager to close the resort.
The bride Lorraine, played by Karina Kinds, and Olly, played by Cellen Chugg Jones, both had a strong chemistry with each other. Their duet of She Drives Me Crazy was a highlight of the show which showcased both of their vocal talents.
X-factor star Joe McElderry delivered a strong charismatic performance as Gary throughout. He arrived on the stage with lots of energy and immediately got the audience up on to their feet and learning some new dance moves.
The hotel staff included Serena, played by Amelie Berrabah, who delivered outstanding vocals and she had great chemistry with Robert, Neil McDermott. There was also the grumpy chamber maid Consuela, played by Kate Robbins, who was hilarious and kept the audience laughing throughout.
Hits included Don't Leave Me This Way, Relax, Take On Me, Just Can't Get Enough, Temptation and Addicted To Love.
Proving many laughs along the way, all of the storylines have a satisfying ending. With comedy and many well-known 80s hits this is an easy to watch feel good show.
Lichfield Cathedral proved an extremely atmospheric setting for Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre’s production of Oliver, with the fading light and emerging shadows from the arches of the building mirroring the story as it moves towards its darker aspects of kidnap, violence and murder. Having seen many productions of the show in the past, these elements are often played down, somewhat losing the impact of young Oliver Twist’s plight and eventual salvation. I was so pleased then to see that LMYT’s production team have not shied away from tackling them head on and with excellent realism. This commitment to portraying every aspect of the story and the fantastic attention to period mannerisms across the whole company, really bring a sense of Dickensian London to Lichfield.
It is often the case in such reviews that key performers are highlighted first and then a cursory nod is given to the ensemble at the end, but the whole company for Oliver really deserve the first mention today, as the quality of the ensemble performance was outstanding throughout. Every single member of the ensemble (including Fagin’s Gang) attacked their role with great tenacity and intricate characterisation, to the extent that whoever you looked at onstage told you instantly who they were, what their position was in that Dickensian London and how they related to others around them. With their characters’ quirks reflected in the delivery of the song and dance routines, it gave a fresh approach to the well-known production numbers, while using the cast to change the scenery while also in character helped the production to flow almost seamlessly.
There are excellent performances across the featured roles with every performer really finding something in their character to make it their own. The title role of Oliver is in assuredly safe hands with Nate Wallace. He gives a genuine, honest and likeable performance with more depth of character than I have ever seen in previous Olivers. He has a remarkable singing voice too, which soars in the Cathedral acoustic. Also in fine voice were Grace Willis as a wonderfully emotional Nancy and James Padley, proving the ideal showman for the big numbers as Dodger; while Isabel Stone (Rose Seller), Beth Dickson (Milk Maid) and Phoebe Lago Willetts (Strawberry Seller) won over the whole audience with their stunning rendition of Who Will Buy. Cordie Osborne (Widow Corney), Matthew Bishop (Mr Bumble) and Alex Nicholls (Mr Sowerberry) each brought a wonderful touch of comedy to their roles, resisting the temptation to be stray into caricature, while one of the stand out performances of the night for us was Lucy Allen as Mrs Sowerberry – curt, funny and never letting a single moment of her brief stage time drop, making a character that is often overlooked in the show very much one to be remembered.
LMYT have earned a reputation for strong, high-quality performances and this production certainly lives up to expectation. From the impeccable costume design and simple effective staging, to the energised and intricate choreography, the whole production team should be applauded for bringing a fresh approach to a beloved classic show. Lichfield Cathedral is a notoriously difficult space for performance and the use of the space and its acoustic is extremely well-handled. The only down side overheard from audience members was to the restricted view from some areas of the seating, despite the tiered approach; although having the stage in traverse certainly went some way to bringing the audience closer to the action.
As a long-standing fan of the show I always love to see productions that dig beneath the surface. LMYT certainly give “MORE” to this polished production of Oliver! than I have seen in a long time. If you can grab any of the few remaining tickets I would certainly recommend heading to Lichfield before the final performance this Saturday.
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