REVIEWS

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

 Jesus Christ Superstar was Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist  Tim Rice, third musical together written in 1970. The musical was first presented as a rock opera concept album before its Broadway debut in 1971 and is arguably said to have paved the way for the combination of rock ‘n roll with musical theatre.  However the radical songs within its score have divided some religious groups over the years, as the story is based on  the last week of Jesus's life during what is known today as Holy Week and is taken very loosely from the accounts in the Bible’s New Testament gospels.We begin with Jesus and his disciples getting ready to go into Jerusalem for what is known as Palm Sunday and ends with the crucifixion at Golgotha. It centres on the  political ideology, relationship and differences  between Judas Iscariot and Jesus. Judas, is not happy and is frustrated with what Jesus is teachings his followers, Judas feels that Jesus should be grabbing the opportunity to use his popularity to lead a revolt against the Romans. 
 This emotional experience was directed  by Betty Hall and the cast included some very talented singers and performers who all worked together as a team to bring this show to life on the stage. The talented Matt Casson was Jesus who demonstrated the agony and torment Jesus was going through while waiting to face his ultimate sacrifice, especially in his performance of the song Gethsemane. Leslie Longley showed us his versatility in the role of Judas Iscariot, his voice suited the demanding role of this frustrated, tormented and bewildered character, Matt and Lesley also complemented each other nicely which was very important for the success of this show. Kay Davies sang  beautifully with lots of feeling and gentleness in the role of Mary Magdalene  and the High Priest Caiaphas-  Les Gomersall and the Priest Annas-  Ed Casson  were suitably threatening and duplicitous while plotting  to bring about Jesus’s death.Then there was the rich singing voice of Liam Rabbette as Pontius Pilate, who’s  diction and interpretation of the role was just right.  Eric Fletcher once again showed us his comedic credentials by  treating us to a very enjoyable comedic characterisation of King Herod and the apostles Simone Zealotes played by Matt Christiansen and Peter  played by Scott Copeland both sung well and were secure in their roles.As is usual with Lloyd Webber musicals this show is completely sung through, so it is imperative that all the performers are able to tell the story through their singing, meaning diction should be clear and words must be heard easily which I am happy to say the cast did very ably. The chorus supported the principle cast with enthusiasm and appeared to enjoy themselves very much getting into the spirit of the show. Just a constructive point on occasions during chorus numbers the microphones picked up single voices meaning they were heard above others voices. Choreography also by Betty Hall was, right for this type of production and was performed well with energy by all the cast. There are three types of musical accompaniment available for this show which include a  35 piece  or an 11 piece orchestra or as in this case  a five piece rock combo led by Musical Director Charles Moss  who were excellent and supported the performers well, which is very important as in this show the vocal talents of the cast are relied on very much. This was the first time I have seen this show with a rock combo and I think personally I may prefer the larger sound but this is just me as I like big orchestral sounds.  Costumes were very well thought out, suited the roles and the setting of the show. Set design was minimalistic  various size blocks were used to change scenes and locations, the crucifixion looked realistic and Judas’s suicided scene was very well done and effective, you could hear an intake of breath coming from the audience. Well done to all the backstage and technical crew for all their hard work and efficiency.
Congratulations, to everyone involved in bringing this thought provoking enjoyable production to the stage for us all to enjoy,thank you for a lovely evening and thank you for inviting us.

Patricia Connor Noda Region 6

WHITE CHRISTMAS

The experienced production team of Ian Culshaw, Musical Director Adam Dutch and Choreographer Sarah Fletcher had at their disposal a cast of fine actors, great singers and talented dancers who all performed outstandingly. They included a superb performance from Lee Ashall in the Bing Crosby role of Bob, who was complemented brilliantly by Alex McKillop as his more outgoing partner Phil, they both understood their roles well resulting intwo very likeable characters. Alexandra Ashall produced a lovely characterisation and a excellent performance as Betty while a very talented Sophie Grant completed the quartet as Judy and I have to say that Alexandra and Sophie were very believable as sisters. Also well done to Sophie and Alex for their entertaining performance together in the lengthy very well choreographed night club dance routine . Jan Monkley was very entertaining as Martha Watson the no nonsense hotel receptionist and ex broadway performer, who also had a heart of gold and Bob Cleverly had a military bearing as General Henry Waverly who was also a loving grandfather to Susan, played very nicely in this performance by Kathryn Dilworth and in other performances by Olivia Galley.Other very entertaining roles were played by Liam Rabette as Ralph Sheldrake an old army friend, with Aidan Maj as Mike the hysterical and very comedic stage manager and Matt Christiansen was Ezekiel Foster a comedic handymanwho was supposed to be helping as a stage hand and doing odd jobs around the barn theatre.The enthusiastic ensemble performed with lots of energy and looked as if they were really enjoying themselves, while supporting the principle cast really well, producing good singing, and performing the very good choreography by Sarah Fletcher expertly which was in keeping for the era of the show. Generally American accents, diction and projection were good and the story could be followed. The Orchestra led by Musical Director Adam Dutch expertly played the big band type iconic music excellently, which seamed to be really enjoyed by theaudience, they also supported all the cast on stage very well. 

There were smooth quick changes between scenes by the stage crew with good technical input which kept the pace of the show just right, although it was difficult to see the lovely snow scene through the barn door at the back of the stage towards the end of the show as the cast obscured the view and maybe some more falling snow would have been nice, but that is just a personal observation.Costumes, hair and makeup were mostly right for the era and costumes were very colourful adding to the authenticity and the feel of the show. 

This was a very entertaining sentimental heartwarming show, just right for this time of year which was really enjoyed by the appreciative audience. Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this show to the stage, thank you very much for a lovely  entertaining evening, I was ready for my cocoa when I got home which seamed to be appropriate for the evening.

Patricia Connor Noda Region 6

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE

This production was Directed by the vastly experienced Betty Hall; Musical Direction placed in the safe and capable hands of Charles Moss and Choreography efficiently handled by Gaynor Hale; with such a talented production team, this show was never going to be anything less than entertaining.

‘Millie’ isn’t the easiest show to stage, a big set and 21 scene changes to be navigated ... a massive congratulation to Nick Evans (Stage Manager) and his crew for the efficient manner in which they dealt with everything that was thrown at them and to Charles Moss and his orchestra for filling in those ‘spaces’ when ‘blackouts’ can slow a production down ... great team work!
This show demands that the leading lady ‘Millie’ be on top of her game... a challenging role that demands stamina and stage craft and Sarah Fletcher, in her first lead role, looked completely at ease and was well suited to the part and I thought she dealt with the role well.  She was ably supported by the very cool ‘Jimmy Smith’, Millie’s love interest, played well by Alex McKillop,  
Natalie Metcalfe gave an assured performance as the sinister’ Mrs Meers’, the owner of Hotel Priscilla. Her comic timing was ‘spot on’ and she handled the two accents really well. Natalie was ‘skilfully assisted’ by Graham Heap and Matt Christiansen who played ‘Bun Foo’ and ‘Ching Ho’ respectively. These two guys made a great comedy duo, worked well opposite Mrs Meers and their conversations and singing in ‘Mandarin’ with subtitles were an audience favourite. 
Millie finds friendship with ‘Dorothy Brown’ a somewhat sophisticated character who is trying to find out how the other half live. Phoebe Hill brought a real characterisation and elegance to this part.  ‘Mr Graydon’ played by Liam Rabbette stole the show for me.  Liam played the part of Millie's boss at Sincere Trust with great assurance and presence. His characterisation, mannerism and comedy timing were impressive.  Sandra Heap took the part of Graydon’s overbearing chief of staff ‘Miss Flannery’.  She provided good support and was well suited to the part.   Sheri Warbrick played the part of the ‘big hearted’ ‘fun loving’ ‘Muzzy Van Hossmere’ the famous Broadway party host and singer with style and confidence.  This was Sheri’s first lead role as well; she looked and suited the part well and sang with great authority. 
The principles were well supported by an ensemble that sang, danced and performed with enthusiasm and appeared to embrace the show whilst enjoying themselves immensely. 
Congrats to you all.
The costumes were excellent and in keeping with the era. The lighting, provided by Andrea Clare and Sam Robinson-Davies was ideal as was the sound provided by Alistair Johnson.  These three elements all enhanced the overall effect of the show.
Congratulations once again to everyone involved. Thank you so much for inviting us, for your hospitality throughout and for making us feel so welcome. Look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Patricia Connor Noda Region 6

MADE IN DAGENHAM

This was an outstanding production and there was an experienced production team who guided the talented cast, they were Director Betty Hall, Musical Director Charles Moss and Choreographer Alexandra Ashall. The show delivers a strong feminist message and has some very strong female characters, such as Rita O’Grady superbly played with resolve by Phoebe Hill, who was the reluctant spokesperson for the women and takes the fight to the House of Commons where she meets both an entertaining and forthright Barbara Castle - Jennifer Corcoran and a very comical Harold Wilson brilliantly played by Eric Fletcher. Rita is accompanied on her visit by supportive Connie the Union Shop Steward, very nicely played by Jan Monkley. Unfortunately, all the campaigning has major personal consequences for all the workers both men and women which causes a rift with her husband Eddie O’Grady played excellently by Lee Ashall. Phoebe and Lee made a very believable couple and Lee’s rendition of the song “The Letter” was well performed and very poignant. There were also lovely performances from the young actors in the roles of Rita and Eddie’s children who also start to feel neglected, they were Elliott Heap as Graham with Olivia Galley and Kathryn Dilworth sharing the role of Sharon. Rita was supported by her friends and colleagues who were all strongly played producing several very different interesting characters, who performed very well together and were very comedic they were Natalie Metcalfe as Beryl, Sophie Grant as Clare, Alexandra Ashall as Cass, Kimberley Russell as Sandra and Sarah McNalley as the plant bosses’ wife Lisa Hopkins. There were also good strong characters from the men in the cast who included Bob Cleverly as the women’s representative Union Steward Monty, Andrew Sloman as Mr Tooley the American owner of the plant, Brian Brady as the Plant Manager Mr Hopkins, and Barry Ruth as Cortina Man. The Ensemble and the actors in the smaller cameo roles all worked hard supporting the principle cast excellently producing some great characters of their own and performing the lively choreography very well with lots of energy. Diction, accents and clarity of words were very good so the story could be followed easily, although there was an occasional problem with the microphones. There was an expert orchestra led by Musical Director Charles Moss who played and supported the cast very well.

The multi-use set was effective as well as innovative and enabled smooth seamless transitions between scenes, well done to the stage crew and technical crew for doing a good job. Costumes hair and makeup were also spot on for the period, a great deal of thought must have gone into getting them just right, they also added to the feel and success of the production.

At the end of the show Rita also speaks to the TUC Conference where she calls for the delegates to stand up for women’s equal pay and the reaction in the auditorium was so strong that most of the audience stood with the cast which was great to see making an excellent end to the show.

 This was an energetic, fast paced, feel good production which everybody appeared to enjoy being part off. Congratulations must go to the production team and anybody involved in bringing this show to the stage as this was an outstanding production. Thank you very much for inviting us.

Patricia Connor Noda Region 6