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.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.