Welcome to the House of Fun! This week Bilston Operatic Society come crashing into the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for their 2016 production of Our House the Musical! This Madness Juke-Box Musical tells the story of Joe Casey (Ben Evans) as he tries to become rich, win his girlfriend over, break into flats, impress his mum and many other acts in the overcasting shadow of his imprisoned father. This particular production was very strong in presenting such a great narrative and the vocals did the Madness score more than justice!
The young talent - Ben Evans - led the piece outstandingly as Joe Casey with some particularly strong vocals and acting throughout. He was paired well with the stunning Abii Strudwicke as his onstage romantic interest Sarah, who proved her strong vocal ability in NW5. Joe’s Mum, Kath Casey (Sue Towler) really brought an emotional connection to the story in numbers such as The Rise and Fall and was contrasted well by Joe Casey's banter-filled mates Emmo (Matthew Coombes) and Lewis (Tom Withers) who brought some comic enhancement to the production leading musical numbers. Their performances in My Girl were enhanced brilliantly by their strong vocals and they should both be commended for their performances. Additionally Sarah's on stage “bitchy” mates Billy (Jordan Barratt) and Angie (Katie Harrison) again furthered the hilarity of their scenes and provided some very strong characterisation to the musical.
Technically the show also held well - Scenic Project’s set filled the stage nicely with a brickwork staging, blue wing flats and a rather funky front cloth to set the mood of this musical and created a real setting for the production as a whole.
Complementing this, Matt Bird’s Lighting Design sparkled in It Must Be Love. There were some impromptu blackouts, which distressed the narrative and one moment where there was no clear change in set or lighting for the Wings of a Dove sequence, although the choreography, direction and narrative moved to the glitzy Las Vegas.
Some nice additions in the musical came from the projection in Driving in my Car which successfully filled the whole upstage wall creating a real comical 3D effect of the moving car. A big shout out to the crew who have clearly been led well by Robbin Morrison as Production Stage Manager.
The strong talent and ability provided by the band was palpable (led by Ian Room as Musical Director), but there were moments when it was a little too quiet, there is always a tricky balance between the band and the vocals, but there was scope for the band to be a bit louder and showcase Madness's wonderful music further.
Laura Canadine’s Direction and Choreography fitted well with the piece and, despite some hyperbolized moments in the performances, their were some clear moments of creativity, particularly apparent in Baggy Trousers and Tomorrow’s Just Another Day.
In Baggy Trousers a particularly notable performance came from Jacob Kohli, who was full of energy and gave a darker tone to the musical towards the latter end of the show, as the villainous Reecey.
Kohli, the strong ensemble and Mike James as Joe’s Dad really helped to push the darker side to this seemingly light-hearted narrative. The ensemble roles shone in The Sun and the Rain with some hilarious lyric alterations and stunningly comical portrayals.
As Madness puts it: “The Sun shines east, the Sun shines west, but I know where the sun shines best… The Wolverhampton Grand this week!” Easily one of the strongest amateur dramatic productions I've had the pleasure to review - do not miss BOC’s Our House at the Wolverhampton Grand playing until 19 November 2016.
Review by Andrew Exeter.
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