Performing this big, brash Broadway musical with a cast of only 10 in the intimate confines of the Blue Orange Theatre was always going to be a creative challenge. But it was met gamely by the energetic cast of MAMT students who largely succeeded in this enjoyable production.
CiCi Howell’s lively choreography was delivered crisply by the entire cast, many doubling 2 or 3 roles as well as chorus, and used the confines of the theatre well. The opening of the show is, unusually for a big musical, a solo, and Emma J Farrell delivers Not for the life of Me with confidence and lets us know we’re in safe hands for the evening. Possessing a strong voice with a good range, I would have liked a little more dynamic contrast in some moments, and some of Farrell’s acting choices were too hard for my liking, but it was a committed performance that held the show together well. As her best friend Miss Dorothy, Jade McGovern has a pleasing soprano and a good line in comedy, particularly when supported by the solid (a compliment, for this character!) George Hargrave as Trevor Graydon; their duet I’m Falling in love with Someone was a particular highlight. However some jokes didn’t land due to poor timing; after Dorothy and Trevor have sung this duet for 2 minutes (with everyone else on stage frozen) Millie “wakes up” and utters the wonderful “Have you two met?”. Sadly that number was delivered during the applause for the song, and therefore missed by the majority of the audience.
Linden Iliffe is a very likeable Jimmy, and does well with his big act 1 number, whilst Mirren Howarth’s Mrs Meers feels a little rushed in much of her dialogue, preventing her character from developing enough menace.
There is delightful support from Will Wheeler and Danielle Myles as the loveable (and reluctant) Chinese henchmen, and Minnie Sami and Rachel Wells lend excellent support in a number of cameos.
For me the performance of the evening came from Melissa Huband. She has a beautiful relaxed power to her voice, perfectly suited to Muzzy’s cabaret songs, and her dialogue was effortlessly characterful and classy.
One small thing bugged me all evening, and I believe if you are training students for the business these little points matter. In the first office scene the manager Miss Flannery upbraids Millie for being too modern, particularly in the amount of Rouge she was wearing. But this Millie didn’t appear to be wearing Rouge at all, but rather her cheeks were emblazoned with a very modern looking (no pun intended) silvery shine.
MD Dan Tomkinson led a live 7 piece band, no easy task in quite an unforgiving acoustic. The sound balance was mostly good, but all credit to the college for being committed to live music for their shows rather than the cheaper option of recordings.
Overall a very likeable production, making the best of a limited venue, with some really delightful episodes.
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