NODA REVIEWS

42nd Street

Thanks for the kind invitation to review the latest production from Youth of Banbury Operatic Society (YOBOS) the ever popular 42nd Street. It’s always a pleasure to visit this thriving youth group. I often wonder if there is something in the water in the Banbury area which helps to create such a wealth of young talent and enthusiasm for ‘live’ theatre. Then I realise it’s the dedication and commitment of the ‘older’ theatre lovers who inspire and encourage the amazing youth in the area.

YOBOS have produced some wonderful shows in my time as Regional Representative and this production continued in the same vein. What an uplifting and wonderful experience it was and thank you for giving me the opportunity to see this fantastic production.

 

Principals:

Heading this knockout principal line-up was Misty Griffin as the stage struck Peggy Sawyer. This was a brilliant portrayal of this well-known character to which Misty brought a freshness and naivety that made the character seem very real. Tremendous delivery of the vocals and libretto and excellent dancing skills made this an outstanding performance. Misty made you just root for Peggy. Her interaction with the other characters was so natural and believable. You captured Peggy beautifully Misty. Many congratulations!!

 

Alfie Blackwell made an engaging Billy Lawlor with lots of bravado and cheeky chirpiness. His dancing was amazing as I think I’m right in saying he has not been dancing for very long. I liked his interaction with fellow actors and his affection for Peggy was nicely played.  Alfie also got the humour and self-congratulatory nature of Billy very effectively. I liked his name ‘announcement’ to the audience – very amusing. Well done!

 

Dorothy Brock the aging diva was beautifully portrayed in a mature and well-judged performance by Lauren Barlow. She captured the hard edged and pithy nature of the ‘diva’ but showed great warmth to Peggy in the dressing room scene. Her number About A Quarter To Nine was delivered perfectly. I also liked her vulnerability in the hotel scenes as she searched for Pat and her distain for Abner was well handled. This was a most memorable performance with excellent diction and strong vocals. Super stuff!

 

Connor Marron gave another memorable and very believable performance as Julian Marsh the famous Broadway director trying to revive a flagging career with a new show – Pretty Lady. This was a performance full of energy and the characterisation was spot on!  Connor has had many lead roles and his experience really shone through. A very watchable performance with some super sequences with Peggy – notably when he’s trying to inject more ‘passion’ into her ‘performance’. This was very funny! Again strong vocals and good diction with a well maintained accent made for a stand-out performance. Well done Connor!

 

I really liked Jack Sharkey as Dorothy’s love interest – Pat Denning. This was a mature and thoughtful interpretation of this character. His affection for Dorothy really shone through and he looked very good on stage too. Clear diction and an excellent (though under-used) vocal delivery rounded off this very good performance. Well done!

 

Chloe Reilly and Ciaran Mates worked well as a team as the song writing duo Maggie Jones and Bert Barry. There was some good but brief comedy exchanges and while Maggie has a more prominent role being one of the dancers and leading the number in the café scene Ciaran was always around and keeping very much in character. Chloe made a believable non-nonsense Maggie with some good comic timing and excellent dancing.  Her gusty brief but memorable rendition of Shadows On The Wall was hilarious! The interactions in their Shuffle Off To Buffalo wedding scene number was very funny. Well done to you both!

 

The other principal dancers and named parts – Keeley Thompson as Annie, Natalie Hunt as Phyllis, Lorraine, played by Katie Crowther, Zara Walton as Gladys, Caitlin Gold as Ethel and Diane played by Izzy Palmer all worked beautifully together with some great comedy exchanges (I loved the girls’ eye-rolling as naïve Peggy tells them her experiences with ‘boys’ during the café scene) and some fine well co-ordinated ‘tapping’. Great stuff! Well done to you all for some lovely character acting. Take care not to speak lines too quickly – pace is important but so is clarity.

 

Will Healy is becoming a very proficient comedy actor and his role as Dorothy’s sponsor and dare I say it - sugar daddy - Abner Dillon was very well played with some excellent comedic timing and a very believable characterisation. I liked the gruffly delivered American drawl it matched perfectly with Abner’s personality.  I really think his wonderful costume and make up (complete with grey wig and large moustache) helped Will to really get into the ‘character’. Very well done!

 

Alice Colmer gave a strong performance as Andie the dance captain. Usually played as a male character the casting as a female really worked. Alice demonstrated some excellent dancing skills and brought that gritty edge to the part which makes the ‘company’ work that much harder. Well done Alice!

 

 

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Supporting Cast:

The principals were strongly supported by a large number of the company undertaking smaller roles and one liners. Notably, Ben Pattinson, in a number of roles including the Doctor who delivers the bad news about Dorothy’s ankle, made an impression and I liked Phoebe Brogden as Olivia the rehearsal pianist. She made playing the wonderful prop ‘piano’ look very realistic. Colm Forde as the tap dancing waiter, Alex Wyllie-Howkins as a stagehand, and Hannah Bryer and Megan Veres as two very convincing Thugs all added to the fun. Well done to all of you.

 

Ensemble:

The ensemble were a delight to watch in this production with such energy emanating from the stage. Everyone was entirely focused and in character all the time with some fantastic and beautifully co-ordinated and synchronised dancing. The ensemble makes the company complete and of course there would be no show without an ensemble. You all worked so hard and having learned all those complicated and quite tricky dance routines in a week is nothing short of astounding. A huge well done to every one of you!

 

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Director:

I have seen director Luke Wetherill in many productions both with YOBOS and BOS and he has proved to be a talented actor. His directing debut was I believe with YOBOS in their successful production of the Wedding Singer but with 42nd Street Luke has really excelled in the directing department. This was as slick a show as you would see anywhere in any professional theatre. The characters were well drawn and the action flowed seamlessly in this complicated, multi-scene musical. The relatively small stage was complimented by using side and front areas in which to perform which worked perfectly. The pace never faltered and the energy and enthusiasm flowing from the stage was palpable. As well as the many touching moments I like the touches of humour for example the whole cast looked as one to the audience on the line ‘Kids can do anything’. Cracking stuff! As well as being a great story there is much humour which Luke brought out to good effect. Well done Luke you did a first class job!

 

Musical Director:  

The musical direction by Emily Sloan was absolutely spot on. The ensemble singing was excellent with some good harmony work while the principal vocalists really shone in this production. The band in spite of being heavily weighted to the brass section provided excellent backing to the company singing and never over-shadowed the principals’ vocals. The band played with skill and really added to the overall atmosphere of the production.

 

Choreographer:  

Being a dancing show the choreography is fundamental part of the show and I have to say I was completely mesmerized by Alice Robinson’s choreography.  There were many great routines and the company dancers were very proficient in all of them with some impressive synchronised sequences in which all the company were able to participate. The timing and musical interpretations were of a high standard. I liked all of the company dancing but one sequence that particularly struck me was the transition Go Into Your Dance number as the ‘company’ dancers moved into the café scene. Another memorable sequence was the mirror routine in Dames which looked amazing with some excellent precision movement. The choreography was splendid throughout the show and many congratulations to Alice and her assistant choreographer Amelia Haverson for achieving such an amazing standard of performance in such a short time. Impressive!

 

Stage management:

Frankie Dowers stage managed the show with no noticeable problems from the audience point of view and with such a complicated scene plot this was no mean feat in the relatively small confines of the Wykham Theatre. Well done!

 

Sound:

The sound design by Owen Vint, assisted by Camron Northcote, worked very well throughout the whole performance with personal mikes all working on cue with no apparent problems. The show obviously has a complex sound plot to accommodate with so many speaking and sung parts which Owen had covered well. I only noticed one tiny moment when an un-miked one-liner was a little lost. Congratulations on a slick sound plot.

 

Lighting:

The lighting designer and technical director Josh Lake had created an excellent lighting plot full of atmospheric lighting sequences and some very deftly executed lighting changes to show shifts in the action in some scenes. This was most prominent in the lighting changes between the  hotel set on the main stage and Dorothy’s hotel room down on the lower apron. The timing of the transitions was perfect and really made the scene work well. Many congratulations to Josh and his team Matty Sanders, George O’Connor, Camron Northcote, Chris Conlon and Steven Haynes.

 

Make-up:

The make-up by Jenny Tustian was most impressive and looked perfectly in keeping with the characters and the period of the production. Everyone looked splendid and the make-up was well applied and looked natural under the lights.

 

Hair and Wigs:

A production of this type necessarily requires period hair design and of course the extensive use of wigs. These were all effectively managed and co-ordinated by Kim Nicholls, Gill Crowther, Jennie Healy, Megan Veres and Katherine Cracknell. The hair and wigs looked excellent and the period feel of the production was captured well by the attention to detail especially in the female members of the company.

 

Set Design:

I really liked the set design with the raised multi-levelled platforms towards the rear of the stage which became the very effective setting for the Lullaby of Broadway number. The use of the front and side extensions worked a treat. Ben Coleman’s design vision really paid off. I was particularly impressed by the very quick back cloth changes. They whizzed across in the twinkling of an eye. The lavish curtains for the hotel bar scenes looked brilliant and with no ‘flying’ facilities they were in position with the bar and flower decorations in a few seconds – so important to keep up the pace of the story telling. In fact every scene change was so quick so as to maintain the pace and narrative thread beautifully. The Shuffle Off To Buffalo scene worked well and the clever setting with the girls seated on suitcases was very well handled dispensing with the usual carriage set. Congratulations to Ben and his trusty stage crew.

 

Props:

Sharon Smith had assembled an impressive array of props and the cast all used them effectively. I’m always slightly wary of the difference (if there is one) between set dressing and props. The ‘piano’ for example was very realistic but was it a prop or set dressing? Perhaps another ‘job’ in the programme – set dresser? But all the props looked in period and certainly added to the ‘look’ of the production.

 

Costumes:

I managed to have a word with my old friend after the performance a slightly frazzled Janet Bishop who had the arduous job of costuming this very complicated and demanding show. I’ve been in the show twice myself and know just how many costumes are required – some with VERY quick changes in some cases! Janet did a magnificent job with costumes supplied by Wacky Wardrobe and the BOS store. Everyone looked very good and the costumes reflected the period and setting perfectly.

 

Programme:

The programme designed by the very busy Ben Coleman (!), Debbie Coleman and Sam Brittain was full of show background and had all the cast photographs and short biographies. This is a nice touch and recognises everyone’s contribution to the whole company effort. A page celebrating NODA achievements is always good to see and I liked the page in which the ‘techies’ have their say about their thoughts on the production and the company.

 

Front of House:  

What lovely Front of House team led by Marilyn Fairbairn and Jo Mates who supplied me with my ticket and programme and of course my usual warm welcome from BOS President Barbara Homer was second to none. Thanks also for the very welcome refreshments prior to the performance and during the interval on what was a very warm August afternoon. It was also a pleasure chat again briefly to Elisabeth Irons the YOBOS’ Convenor and co-ordinator.

 

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record I must reiterate how much I enjoyed this production. Everything was just right and I’m sure the very appreciative audience left the theatre humming the familiar tunes as I did. Thank you to everyone connected with this production - it was one which will linger in the memory for some time to come.

 

With very best wishes to you all and for continued future success for YOBOS.

Rock of Ages

Thanks for the kind invitation to visit YOBOS to see their latest production of this unusual ‘Juke Box’ Rock musical based on the book by Chris D’Arienzo with musical arrangements by Ethan Popp – Rock of Ages.

It’s always a pleasure to visit YOBOS and this was no exception with the warm welcome for my guest and myself from BOS President Barbara Homer and YOBOS convenor Elisabeth Irons.

With the 80’s pop culture greatly influencing the style and ‘look’ of  the production and many of the songs classic ‘hits’ in their own right it was rather a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me but obviously immediate and exciting for the performers who gave absolutely 110% in their commitment, performances and sheer energy!  This was truly a tour de force for YOBOS as the company, through workshop and summer school activities, put on this amazing piece of live theatre in such a short time. 

 

Principals:

 

Connor Marron was impressive as the narrator keeping us up to date with the plot and characters then slipping seamlessly back into the action as Lonny Barnett with some skilful acting bringing this charming and funny character very much to life. Excellent singing with Connor’s usual ease of movement and dance moves very much in evidence. The ‘bro-mance’ with Dennis was played sensitively.

 

Theo Cumming gave an excellent performance as Dennis Dupree the night club owner. Theo moved and sang well and the excellent wig gave that very authentic 70’s look.

 

Amelia Haverson as the small town girl trying to make it big in the big city Sherrie Christian gave a very good performance – a remarkable one in fact given that she had only taken over the role at the very last minute. She gave an assured and confident portrayal with some believable ‘chemistry’ with her leading man. The dialogue and vocals were outstanding and one would never had known that Amelia had come very late to the role – so, many congratulations indeed!

 

Amelia’s (Sherrie’s) love interest Drew Boley was played very convincingly by Nathan Shaw who demonstrated some fine acting skills as well as an impressive voice range. Believable ‘chemistry’ with ‘Sherrie’ rounded off a well-judged performance. Nathan impressed me with his clear diction in both his spoken and vocal delivery.

 

Zara Walton captured the character of Anita Bath - the Mayor’s assistant and then sometime protester – very well. Zara gave a gutsy performance and was very convincing characteriastion. The surprise love interest with ‘Franz’ was played well. Zara used her strong vocals to good effect in We’re not gonna take it.

 

Saskia Mollard was very good as the ‘baddie’ property developer Hilda Klinemann and looked very much the part in her power dressing suit and severe wig. She maintained a believable German accent throughout and used her vocal range to good effect. I liked the passion in We built this city/Too much time.

 

Will Healy as Franz Klinermann was very much in danger of stealing the show with his over-the –top characterisation of the not so slightly camp son of Hilda. This was a very well-judged performance sometimes in danger of caricature but with Will just reigning it in before this happened. Will certainly came into his own in Act two with some great comic timing and very funny facial expressions. A memorable performance indeed!

 

Sherrie’s father and mother were played by Joe Canning (who also doubled up as Ja’keith Gill with an impressive performance in that role) and Phoebe Brogden. The pair worked together well and made convincing ‘concerned parents’ with good vocals.

 

Jack Sharkey as Stacee Jaxx made an impressive ‘aging rocker’ with some challenging vocals and just the right amount of ‘sleaze’ factor in a well-judged performance. He also displayed some good comic timing and made this character really come to life.

 

I liked Holly Chandler as Justice Charlier the owner of rival club The Venus a Go Go. She gave a powerful performance with strong vocals and a well maintained accent. She showed her warmer side as her concern for her ‘girls’ (and Sherrie) was apparent.

 

Natalie Hunt captured the inquisitive reporter Constance Slack perfectly with good diction and stage presence as did Ciaran Mates as the comical character

Joey Primo with the classic line I poop money which not everyone could deliver with such aplomb! Chloe Riley made a believable Mayoress with excellent diction and good interaction with fellow performers as well as a convincing ‘protester’ in other scenes.

 

Supporting Cast:

 

Strong support was found in the form of Rachel McLean and Dhahabu Karansa as two more ‘protestors’ with Hannah Bryer, Matt Rea, Luke Bonner, Jasmine Popoola-Adkins and Camron Northcote donning a number of personas to good effect.

 

Ensemble:

 

The ensemble moved well and made their entrances and exits slickly and on cue – never detracting from the focus of the action. There was so much enthusiasm and vitality in the ensemble work with routines and moves well-rehearsed and carried out with faultless precision. Everyone appeared to have their own ‘character’ so important in ensemble work. Everyone knew their words and dance moves and where they had to be. I certainly didn’t spot a ‘weak link’! Congratulations to you all.

 

Director:

 

Former ‘YOBOS’ member and talented actor in his own right Luke Wetherill was once again at the directorial helm. The performances were very good and he certainly made excellent use of the stage and his enthusiastic ensemble who all acted well and remained focused and in character in all their scenes. Principal performances were all outstanding and Luke seems to have struck the right balance in giving all the company their chance to shine. I noticed chorus members were always in different configurations which gives everyone their ‘moment’

 

Musical Director:  

 

Emily Sloan was very capably once again welding the baton and certainly must have worked the company extremely hard to master lyrics, music and harmonies in such a short period of time. The company gave strong performances and I didn’t notice one member who was not word perfect. The small group of talented instrumentalists gave ‘big band’ performances with some stirring and toe-tapping rock sequences contrasting with some quite tender and sympathetic gentler moments. Some of the under-scoring caused me to lose moments of dialogue but this didn’t detract from the overall performance.

 

Choreographer:  

 

Alice Robinson’s choreography was perfectly suited to the style and setting of the production and her dancers were well drilled in some quite complex routines. Ensemble work was very good with the whole company displaying accurate and well-synchronised movement and dance steps. Many congratulations!

 

Sound:

 

Owen Vint, with assistance from Chloe Wilson provided  a well-coordinated sound plot with mikes working well with just the odd ‘wobble’ on a couple of occasions. This must have been a sound person’s nightmare show with many characters darting off and on stage with rapid frequency. Well done for making the dialogue and vocals so accessible. I did lose some dialogue on under-scored sequences – maybe these could have been given an additional tweak volume wise.

 

Lighting:

 

The lighting plot by Josh Lake and assisted by George O’Connor, Matty Sanders, Josh Smith and Steven Haynes really enhanced every scene with its ‘disco’ themed effects and some well-timed lighting cues giving the scenes added dramatic depth.

 

Make-up:

 

Sarah Rubery’s make-up with assistance from Jenny Tustian was very good and looked perfectly in keeping with the style and setting of the production. The eye make up on the show girls was particularly striking.

 

Set Design:

 

The set designed by Ben Coleman and Sam Brittain work very well. The static up-stage split level configuration enable entrances and exits to be executed from a variety of places and also ensured the cleverly positioned cloths could be speedily ‘walked’ into positon thus enabling the scene changes to take place smoothly and speedily. The ‘palm cloth’ looked particularly effective.

 

Props:

 

Sharon Smith’s collection of props were well used and served the company well. I loved the ‘brick’ mobile phones or perhaps I should call them cell phones!

 

Costumes:

 

The costumes from BOS store and Wacky Wardrobe in the capable hands of Wardrobe Mistress Janet Bishop were extremely good with lots of attention to detail and looking very much in period. I know Janet works incredibly hard to ensure costumes look right and fit!  There were a few ‘wow’ costume moments notably in the second scene of act two – the black and white theme in Anyway you want it/Wanna Rock –most impressive!

 

Programme:

 

The programme design by Ben Coleman, Debbie Coleman and Sam Brittian was very well put together with a striking front cover featuring a line-up of the principals. There were the usual biographies and a very informative but brief synopsis always useful in these fast-paced rock musicals.

 

Front of House:  

 

Thank you for your usual warm welcome Front of House and for the very welcome refreshments.

In conclusion I would like to thank and congratulate everyone associated with this first class, far from the run-of-the-mill but certainly most entertaining piece of musical theatre. It is always a joy to see the verve and enthusiasm and sheer enjoyment that emanates in bucket loads from these young performers. I look forward to seeing you all for your next production if I am lucky enough to be invited.

 

And finally a word from our region’s Youth Advisor who saw the Saturday evening performance:

 

My thanks to everyone at YOBOS for the friendly welcome and many congratulations to everyone involved with ROCK OF AGES from the production team, support teams, backstage crew and of course the performers. Having directed many shows 'page to stage' in just a few days with youth groups , I am very aware of the importance of complete commitment from everyone involved to get a successful end result. The cast performed this new Juke Box musical with superb energy throughout and it was good to see that past YOBOS are now 'at the front; so to speak directing, choreographing and MD'ing. I was particularly impressed with the dance skills of Connor as LONNY and the vocals from Amelia (at relatively short notice I understand) as SHERRIE and Nathan as DREW. 

I look forward to seeing you again soon. Annie Hertler-smith, NODA London Youth Advisor. 

Ann Martin (Hertler-Smith)

The Wedding Singer

Thank you for the kind invitation to review the latest production from YOBOS (Youth of Banbury Operatic Society) the Wedding Singer. What a pleasure to receive my customary warm welcome from BOS President Barbara Homer and the YOBOS Convenor Elisabeth Irons. Thank you also for the very welcome refreshments.

 

I noted that the YOBOS’s NODA Awards and commendations for their past theatrical productions and activities were proudly on display in the foyer!  This is always so nice to see.

 

In the auditorium the open stage revealed a simple yet effective set design with the stage prepared for the opening scene.

 

There was a lively and toe-tapping first number - My Wedding Day which got everything off to a fine start and the high standard of dancing, singing and general verve and enthusiasm continued until the joyous finale.

 

Principals:

 

Connor Marron was outstanding in the lead role - Wedding Singer - Robbie Hart.  This was a hugely energetic and multi-layered performance with some amazing changes of mood for the character which Conner achieved with seemingly effortless ease.  He used the stage well and his comic timing was very good. Also impressively playing the guitar and accompanying himself on stage this was indeed a most accomplished performance.

 

Amelia Haverson gave an affecting performance as Julia Sullivan.  She captured the love-torn dilemma which Julia faced beautifully.  There was a very believable chemistry between her and ‘Robbie’ and she sang and acted well. A very polished and confident performance.

 

I liked Theo Cummings interpretation of the materialistic, slightly sleazy and money orientated Glen the less than faithful fiancé of Julia. It took Theo a short time to get into the character but soon it was evident he was having a great time in this role. Strong vocals and spoken dialogue made this a very believable performance.

 

Holly was played touchingly but with conviction by Holly Chandler. (Was it strange I wonder playing a character with the same Christian name?)  However, ‘Holly’ did have her outspoken moments and the characterisation perfectly complimented her best friend, the quieter and more reserved Julia. This was a well-judged performance with strong vocal and spoken delivery.

 

Josh Berrie and Nathan Shaw had great fun playing Robbie’s fellow band members Sammy and George. These two talented actors gave us two nicely contrasting characterisations. Josh as the slightly quieter Sammy contrasted well with Nathan’s camp sometimes over the top George. Both actors displayed great stage presence and strong vocal interpretations. Their on-stage chemistry with Robbie was very believable. Well done to both of you.

 

Linda, Robbie’s erstwhile fiancée was played with relish by Brittany Bain. This is a great part for an actor to be totally over the top and completely get away with it. Brittany excelled and her vampish performance was a joy to watch. She used some wonderful facial expressions and really brought out the comedy in this role. Brittany had good vocal attack and her diction was first class. A memorable performance indeed. The wonderful Goth make up and costume really helped to bring the character to life!

 

Katie Crowther was outstanding as Robbie’s rather risqué and most certainly unconventional grandma Rosie. This was a delightful and skilful interpretation of the more ‘mature’ lady and by, I believe, the youngest member of the principal line up. There was such confidence in this portrayal and the audience certainly loved it.  Katie had a great singing voice and delivered her lines with wonderful comic timing. I shall look forward to seeing Katie in future productions. The ‘granny’ wig and outfit looked perfect!

 

Raine Eastwick was good as Julia’s mother Angie.  This is not a huge role but a very important one and Raine gave a strong and believable performance with a good American accent.

 

Ensemble: 

As well as playing a wide variety of supporting and cameo roles which highlighted some amazing talents, this ensemble certainly worked very well as a team and had obviously been well drilled in their dance steps and movement. The quality of singing was first class with very clear diction and everyone looked like they were having a great time. Luke’s direction had ensured that everyone was given their ‘moment’ - no matter how small - to shine. The ensemble was certainly a key feature in this production so well done to all of you! It really lifts a show from the audiences’ perspective if the ensemble look like they are having a wonderful time and very importantly smiling (at the appropriate times of course!) and this certainly was the case in this production.  I noted there were numerous quick costume changes which all seemed to go smoothly.

 

Director:

Although this was Luke Wetherill’s directorial debut he manged to coax some excellent performances from his well-cast line-up of principals. There were some really exceptional moments and Luke had ensured that everyone was given their moment on stage by making sure that everyone had a cameo part. The pacing was good and the scenes flowed well. I was particularly impressed by the picking up of cues – always a good sign that the director is on top of the job. Speaking to Luke in the interval it was clear that he was pleased with the results of his hard work.

 

Musical Director:  

Emily Sloan as Musical Director was also making her debut with the baton and what a great job she did too. The singing and quality of delivery was always of a consistently high standard and the principals and ensemble were all word and note perfect. The orchestra also was well controlled and never over shadowed the performances on stage.  I liked Emily’s calm and relaxed style of conducting. I have known occasions when a rather over-enthusiastic and animated MD can be quite distracting!

 

Choreographer:  

As already alluded to this was a strong ensemble with everyone playing their parts with conviction. However the skilful choreography by Alice Robinson really allowed the company to demonstrate some marvellous dance moves and very good synchronisation of movement. The steps were inventive yet accessible to all and the enthusiasm with which they were performed was wonderful to see.  Alice had obviously worked everyone very hard and the effort was clearly evident in all the dance numbers.

 

Set and Stage management:

The set design ensured that the scene changes were effected quickly and smoothly. The many interesting and often quite obscure props - assembled with loving care I’m sure by Izzie Wright and Sharon Smith - and pieces of set dressing were brought on and removed by the cast, as well as crew, which also gave pace to the proceedings. This must have taken lots of co-ordination and rehearsal time.

 

Well planned stage management by Ben Coleman and his team ensured major pieces of set dressing appeared and were removed at the correct time with the minimum of fuss. The folding bed I thought worked particularly well enabling the scenes in which it was involved to be set and cleared very quickly.

 

Sound:

The sound by Owen Vint worked very well and the use of ‘personal’ and hand-held mikes ensured that most of the dialogue and vocals were clearly heard. However, on a couple of occasions un-miked cast members had lines which were sadly lost. The special sound effects worked very well indeed.

 

Lighting:

The lighting by Josh Lake was worthy of particular note in this production. The 80’s disco era was well captured in the complex and seemingly faultless lighting plot. The colours used for the number All about the Green were particularly effective. The lighting was atmospheric and certainly enhanced the look of the production. Ronan McClean on follow spot (a difficult and certainly responsible job) ensured we didn’t miss any of the action.

 

Make-up:

The make-up by Jenny Tustian and Fran Dowers was perfect for the setting and period of the piece. It had been applied well and really enhanced the characterisations - notably Linda’s ‘Goth’ make-up as mentioned elsewhere.

 

Hair:

Lisa Nicholls and Kim Nicholls hair design looked very impressive capturing the 80’s look perfectly. The wigs used also appeared to fit well and looked suitable for the characterisations.

Costumes:

 

Costumes:

The costumes from BOS store and Wacky Wardrobe and co-ordinated by the experienced hand of Wardrobe mistress Janet Bishop were well suited to the setting and period. There were numerous ensemble costume changes which all seemed to go according to plan. I was particularly impressed by the matching secretary’s costumes in the office scenes - they looked stunning. The Las Vegas ‘impersonators’ costumes were also most striking.

 

Programme:

This was a colourful and well-produced programme packed with show gossip and the usual cast biographies. It was very gratifying to see YOBOS’s NODA achievements given prominence in the programme too.  I also liked the page devoted to notable events in America from the same year as the setting of the production – 1985.  How things have moved on…but for the better??

 

Front of House:

The Front of House team led by Marilyn Fairbairn gave their usual warm welcome and were on hand to help with any queries. Thanks to all of you. 

 

Finally I must say thank you to everyone associated with this splendid show. The hours of hard work and behind the scenes planning had certainly paid off.  The whole cast and crew gave an incredible evening’s entertainment and this was certainly evident by the wonderful audience reaction at the end…a well-deserved standing ovation.  The fact that all this is achieved in such a short rehearsal period is nothing short of astounding!

 

I shall look forward to YOBOS next ambitious production with anticipation.

Legally Blonde

Many thanks to Jenny Tustian for the kind invitation and for the very warm welcome from your President Barbara Homer on my arrival at Wykham Theatre, Banbury for the matinee performance of Youth of Banbury Operatic Society (YOBOS) latest ambitious production of the hit musical Legally Blonde.  I like the way this thriving group are constantly challenging themselves and is coming up trumps every time.

 

YOBOS are quite rightly proud of their achievements and it was very gratifying to see their well-earned NODA awards and nominations prominently displayed in the foyer.

 

It is always a pleasure to come along to a performance from this lively and energetic group and I was not to be disappointed.

 

This is quite a formidable show to stage in certain respects. The leading lady has a mammoth role and there are numerous quick costume and scene changes to contend with as well as the appearance of two canine ‘actors’- but once again YOBOS rose to the occasion.

 

There is also a lot of solo and chorus singing to master and this was all achieved with style, and even more impressively so, given the relatively short rehearsal and blocking period within which this group operates.

 

The production was pacey and the action never faltered largely due to the skill of director Ben Coleman who teased some mature and thought provoking performances from his young cast. There were many outstanding performances but generally the ensemble really looked as if they were working as ‘one’. The characterisations were very believable and it appeared that everyone had developed their own individual ‘character’. There were numerous ‘one-liners’ and it was good to see so many company members being given a ‘moment of glory’ no matter how brief. The packed court room scene in Act Two was a good example of the ensemble really being involved and focused on the action with some great reactions and ad-libbing going on.

 

The choreography by Robbie Fell, assisted by Alice Finnie, was first class - inventive and stylish and complex enough to challenge the more natural ‘movers’ whilst also being accessible to those to whom movement and dance does not come easily. There was good synchronisation in the ensemble routines and perhaps crucially everyone was smiling and really looking like they were having a wonderful time. Well Done!

 

Musical Director Joe Cummings kept the well balanced orchestra under firm control and they played very well together. The standard of solo and ensemble singing was generally very high although some of the words in the opening number were quite hard to understand mainly because the writers of today’s modern musicals often, in my view, over complicate the musical arrangements and sacrifice the words as a result. Generally the words were clear and diction was good. Everyone knew the words and sang with conviction. The harmonies were good and solo performances were very professional.

 

Owen Vint’s sound plot worked well and most of the dialogue and vocal work was clearly audible.  I appreciate it is impossible to mike everyone when budgets are tight. The one or two feed-back issues at the performance I attended did not detract from the over-all experience. Well done!

 

Josh Lake’s lighting design worked well and added atmosphere and sparkle to the production. The lighting change for the ‘Irish Jig’ was very striking. Well done!

 

Wardrobe mistress Janet Bishop had done a wonderful job in costuming such a large and varied show. Everyone looked splendid and were totally in keeping with the style and setting of the production. Elle’s instant transformation dress was astonishing!  Well done!

 

Hair and make-up by Jenny Tustian and her team looked very good and everyone was appropriately made-up and the hair design was in keeping with the production style and setting. Congratulations.

 

The props by Emily Sloan had been well chosen and were used to good effect by the cast. Property co-ordinator is often a thankless but vital role in any production so well done! The hair dryers in the salon were a particularly authentic looking touch.

 

I liked the simple yet functional set design. It enabled group entrances and exits to be achieved smoothly and quickly.  There were some very skilful and nifty scene changes achieved by drawing a ‘brick-wall’ backcloth swiftly across the stage and speedily re-dressing the playing area. Cast and crew worked very well together to achieve these very quick scene changes – well done!

 

Milly Taylor who played Elle Woods was outstanding. On stage nearly all the time this role is very demanding and Millie rose to the challenge admirably. This was a polished and professional performance with very clear spoken and vocal dialogue and good stage presence - always aware of her fellow actors. There was some excellent chemistry between Elle and her ‘leading men’.

 

George Sothcott as selfish and spoilt Warner Huntingdon III was excellent. He portrayed this rather aloof and self-absorbed character very believably. George had a good strong singing voice and clear diction which made for a well-judged performance. His interactions with his two ‘love interests’ were very nicely portrayed and the chemistry worked well. 

 

Max Griffin gave a wonderful and believable portrayal of the shy and rather down-trodden Law Teaching assistant Emmett Forrest. His acting ability (I have seen Max in a number of roles now) is consistent and he always captures the essence of a character very well. Here was no exception. Max used the stage well and his strong sung and spoken dialogue ensured that every word was crystal clear. The chemistry between Emmett and Elle was very well shown. The change in Emmett when he goes to get a ‘sharp suit’ in the department store was handled well.

 

Clare Primrose captured the humour perfectly in the role of Paulette Buonofuonte the brash and funny owner of the hair salon - Hair Affair. Here was some wonderful comic timing and a really believable characterisation. There were some fine comedic moments - one being when she was lusting after Kyle the steamy and provocative delivery man. A well maintained accent and good stage presence all contributed to an overall first class performance.

 

The afore-mentioned Kyle was played strictly for laughs by a straight-faced but very funny Connor Marron. He really milked this part and why not? It’s a wonderful and very funny sequence in the show as Kyle appears, to deliver a package to the wide-eyed Paulette. Hilarious! Connor also took the role of Dewey - Paulette’s unpleasant and rude dog stealing boyfriend which was also a believable characterisation.

 

Luke Wetherill gave a stand out performance as the pompous and manipulative Professor Callahan. Luke had extremely good stage presence which he used to really bring this character to life. He looked the part and delivered his spoken and sung dialogue in a well maintained and convincing accent. The grey hair really helped to capture the character! Well done!

 

Hannah Goodyear gave a convincing performance as Vivienne Kensington a stuck up and aloof law student and Elle’s rival for Warner’s attentions. There was good diction both in the sung and spoken dialogue and some good interactions with fellow actors. A well maintained and convincing accent completed this excellent performance.

 

Scarlett Primrose was very good as Brooke Wyndham the fitness guru on a charge of murdering her millionaire husband. She really got into the part and the opening number in Act Two ‘Whipped into shape’ was very impressive. There were some challenging ‘work-out’ routines and some clever choreography with skipping ropes but Scarlett did not seem the least bit out of breath afterwards!  This was a well-observed characterisation. Her courtroom appearance was particularly impressive. She used the stage well and interacted convincingly with her fellow actors.

 

Maisie Berry gave an assured performance as the rather ‘butch’ feminist Enid Hoopes. She maintained the characterisation through-out and interacted well with the other actors. Maisie had, and maintained, a very good American accent.

 

Kate another sorority member of Elle’s inner circle was played well by Chloe Riley. She was always in character and used the stage well. Very clear diction and a well- maintained accent ensured a well-rounded performance.

 

Elle’s other close sorority friends were Margot, Serena and Pilar played as a great team by Amelia Haverson, Brittany Bain and Jamie Fell respectively. Not only were they present in Elle’s life but they acted as an unseen (except to Elle) ‘Greek Chorus’ guiding and advising on the path to take.  They were all very good and worked very well as a team. Their singing and dancing was excellent and I’m sure this trio of actors had a great time bringing these characters to life. Well done!

 

The two canine stars - Dora as Bruiser and Archie as Rufus - were in great danger of stealing the whole show but I’m sure modesty prevented them from doing so. Actually they were brilliant and did not put a paw wrong!

 

The ensemble work was first class and there were numerous one liners and other named characters that it would be impossible to identify and comment on each and every single performance and so please accept my apologies if you have not been mentioned by name but rest assured every performance was noted and appreciated. Congratulations to you all.

 

The programme was informative and contained just the right amount of back stage information and show ‘chat’ to keep the audience entertained while waiting for curtain up. As well as interesting cast biographies the two canine ‘biographies’ were just hilarious!

 

Finally, may I say a huge thank you to everyone associated with this production of Legally Blonde. My guest and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time with you all. May I wish YOBOS every success with their next venture which I hope I shall be lucky enough to be invited to.

Grease

Many thanks for the very warm welcome I received on my arrival at the Wykham Theatre on the Banbury Academy campus for the YOBOS’s production of that ever popular and well-known musical Grease.

 

It was delightful to see so many now familiar faces beavering away on front of house duties to welcome the eager and high-spirited audience. Thanks especially to Barbara Homer, BOS President, for the informative and informal chat and the much appreciated pre-performance refreshments.

It was very pleasing to see, proudly on display in the foyer, your Flame Award Trophy and other well-deserved NODA nominations.

 

This was my second visit to review a YOBOS production and expectations were high following the excellent previous production I saw of 13 - The Musical last year – these expectations proved to be exceeded and more!

 

This Grease was a winner from the opening bars. The energy and enthusiasm from the young cast was infectious and filled the packed auditorium. It’s a great pity it couldn’t be bottled!  Here were all the key elements to ensure a successful and entertaining production – a strong line-up of principal players, a well-rehearsed and enthusiastic company and a group of talented and well-disciplined musicians.

 

This story of teenage love and angst (including some quite adult themes) was played out beautifully to the delight of the sell-out audience.

 

Jessica Page as Sandy Dumbrowski and Connor Marron as Danny Zuko were perfectly cast as the star crossed lovers. They complimented each other very well on stage and made us believe they were really in love but ‘too much in love to show it’ They made a very believable couple of High School kids on the brink of true love.  Jessica had very good stage presence and a strong tuneful voice. Connor really made us believe he was the swaggering school heart throb but his tenderness towards Sandy was very apparent. Two very well-judged performances from both actors.

 

Danny’s side-kicks – the T Birds – namely Kenickie, Doody, Sonny and Roger were played enthusiastically by Luke Wetherill, Freddie Dadson, Isiah Rudkin and Hal Wallis respectively. This quartet of talented young men used the stage well and danced with appropriate bravado and swagger - each achieving a very different portrayal with their interpretation of their given character. You all performed effortlessly together and each character complimented the next, while at the same time giving good support to ‘Danny’. Well done to all of you!

 

Sandy’s corresponding retinue - the Pink Ladies - were played by Brittany Bain as Rizzo, Frenchy by Amelia Haverson,  Saskia Mollard as Marty and Jamie Fell as Jan who all gave very believable performances as dizzy, fashion-conscious and gossipy High School teenagers. They each captured their character to good effect. Brittany’s performance as the ‘worldly’ Rizzo was particularly outstanding. Each of these young ladies used the stage well and the interaction within the group was natural and believable. Again, well done to you all. I very much liked the ‘Freddy my love’ and ‘There are worse things I could do’ numbers - the latter being powerfully delivered by ‘Rizzo’.

 

Conor Dowers as Johnny Casino made this character stand out in the production with a strong portrayal coupled with some ‘nifty’ dance moves. Conor’s dance studies from an early age were certainly evident in his performance.

 

Izzie Wright as Patty Simcox was a joy to watch with her clear diction, excellent comic timing and some very amusing facial expressions. This was another outstanding performance.

 

Josh Berrie as Eugene Florczyk also treated us to some very funny comic timing and played the character very convincingly. He used the stage well and clear diction made this a well-rounded portrayal.

 

It might be prudent to mention here that I thought all the American accents were well maintained and that the diction from all the company was very good both in the spoken and sung dialogue.

 

I liked Theo Cumming as Vince Fontaine the super cool DJ with a way with words who presided over the school dance competition. He handled the tongue twisting DJ ‘speak’ very effectively and made the character come very much to life.

 

Scarlett Primrose as Cha Cha DiGregorio was perfectly cast with some excellent dance moves and a strong characterisation.

 

The small interlude – ‘It’s raining on Prom night’ quintet headed by Rachel McLean and accompanied by Chloe Evans, Katie Johnson, Maisie Berry and Abbey Stevens was very well done and had just the right blend of humour and pathos. Well done all of you.

 

Max Griffin’s Teen Angel number was excellent and what a costume! This was a wonderful cameo performance which the appreciative audience really enjoyed. Max moved well on stage and his strong vocals really added to the over-all performance. There were some very funny interactions with the ‘beauty school drop-outs’.

 

Miss Lynch, the prudish and rather severe English teacher, was portrayed well by Scarlet Gradwell.  She looked the part perfectly and good diction and stage presence made this a well-judged performance.

 

Carla Hawkins as Blanche and Dimitri Michael as Mr. Woods gave strong supporting performances.

 

The Ensemble work was first class and gave excellent support to the principals. The dancing and movement was well co-ordinated and very much ‘in sync’ when required – you must have all worked extremely hard to master some quite complex dance steps – well done all of you! What was so noticeable and pleasing to see was that not one member of the ensemble lost concentration or slipped out of character for one second!! My opening remarks echo the verve and commitment shown by the each member of the cast. It is often said the ensemble can make or break a show and this one certainly made it!

 

 

I liked the staging of the production with the band set towards the back of the stage on a raised platform – well above head height - which gave more interesting scope for entrances and exits and of course freed up the playing area downstage enabling the action to be brought much closer to the audience giving the performances much more immediacy and excitement!

 

The direction and choreography by Ben Coleman and Robbie Fell was excellent and you had obviously worked very hard teaching your players the dance moves as they were all executed with outstanding precision. Entrances and exits were well managed and scene changes happened quickly and unobtrusively allowing the action to continue almost seamlessly. The characterisations were strong and always believable.

 

The third key member of the production team – musical director Joseph Cummings - had assembled a talented groups of musicians who really provided a strong back-drop to the show with their interpretation of this well-known score. The band never over-shadowed the soloists which can so often mar a performance. The singing - from principals and ensemble - was tuneful and the diction was very good. 

 

The car - Greased Lightnin’ - was almost as big a star as the live ones!!!  What a wonderful idea using an old Reliant Robin – making the idea of it being a ‘passion-wagon’ even more amusing!  Hilarious!

 

The Lighting and Sound by Jack Bennett and Owen Vint all worked well and really enhanced the production. Rufaro Mada did sterling work on the follow spot – not the easiest of jobs!

 

The props, ably co-ordinated by Emily Sloan all looked in period and seemed to work well and not cause any problems to cast members.

 

Make-up and hair by Immy Isaacs and Ann Sloan with their trusty team of helpers looked very appropriate for the style and period of the production. Congratulations – the cast looked very good indeed.

 

The costumes, from BOS store and with credits to Wacky Wardrobe and in the very capable hands of wardrobe mistress Janet Bishop, looked amazing! Each member of the company looked appropriately attired in the style and fashion of the production. Needless to say costuming fifty or so young and excitable performers must have been quite a challenge which was certainly well met!

 

 

The rehearsal schedule for the YOBOS’s productions are interesting with, I believe, three separate ‘Workshop’ days and then an intensive week’s rehearsal to get to performance level. This is an amazing time frame to produce such a polished and professional looking performance. The finished production bears testimony to the talents and skills of the production team and all those associated with bringing it to the stage.

 

Finally, may I thank all those who have helped in any way to make this production of Grease so enjoyable and to wish you all the greatest success with your next production.

13 the Musical

It was with great pleasure I attended the Youth of Banbury Operatic Society’s exciting latest production of ‘13’ an unusually titled, relatively new, musical based on a book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. It chronicles the ‘coming of age’ and that step into manhood of a Jewish boy, Evan Goldman, as he reaches that pivotal age in his life - 13 - and the trials and tribulations he goes through along the way.

 

I must say YOBOS rose to the challenge and presented a feast of colourful costumes, good music, lively dance routines, and some first class acting.

 

On entering the auditorium the curtains were open revealing a striking New York sky-line silhouetted against an orange back drop.  The silhouette was even fringed with small lights giving a very realistic effect to the scene.

 

The opening was very atmospheric as a Rabbi intoned a religious chant which then gave way to the up beat opening number ‘13’ performed with great verve and enthusiasm by Evan and the Company.  There then followed a roller-coaster ride of tuneful songs, touching moments, and some very amusing situations as the story unfolded.

 

Given that the central character – Evan – has to experience a wide range of emotions it goes without saying that a strong and self assured actor would need to be cast in the role. The part of Evan was played to perfection by Maxwell Griffin. He was sure footed and sounded confident with both the singing and dialogue. Very good American accent maintained throughout. He really made us believe in all that Evan was experiencing. A very good performance, and one which was at the very centre of the production.            

Evan’s new neighbour and friend, Patrice, was played with sweetness and naivety by Jamie Fell. She managed to get the right amount of ‘quirkiness’ which the character required. Congratulations on a first class performance.  One of the highlights of the evening for me was the wonderfully moving duet between Patrice and Evan -  ‘Tell her’. 

 

Jack Watling played the slightly dim but archetypal popular High School heart- throb, Brett, with great conviction.  He looked suitably ‘cool’ and moved well in the character with strong singing and dancing and a well maintained accent throughout. I think he really had fun playing that part. 

 

Malcolm, (Isiah Rudkin) Simon, (Charlie Finnie) Eddie, (Conor Dowers) and Richie, (Hal Wallace) made an excellent team. There were some lovely, genuine comic moments and hilarious antics in their dance routines.  Well done lads. You each created your own character and all moved, and interacted well with each other in your scenes.

 

Amelia Haverson as Kendra and Meg Glossop as Lucy (both rivals for Brett’s affections – yet supposedly the best of friends) were played with great conviction and both performances were of strongly defined characters.  (Special mention must go to Meg for coping admirably with a dislocated knee!). Very well done to you both!  Lucy was given excellent support in her ‘dark doings’ by her ‘gang’, Cassie, Charlotte and Molly played with relish by Brittany Bain, Katie Johnson and  Lauren Hayden respectively.  Well done girls, some fine characterisation and singing.

 

The part of Archie (the disabled best friend of Patrice) was played very impressively by Luke Wetherill.  He captured the nature and essence of the character so well, moving us to laughter and tears by turn. He stayed in character the whole time and used his ‘crutches’ to some hilarious comic effect. There was excellent comic timing in Luke’s delivery of his lines.  Archie’s duet with Evan, ‘Terminal Illness’, brought the house down!!

 

Other minor characters were well played and the team work was very evident. I particularly liked Theo Cumming’s interpretation of the Rabbi with very impressive costume and make up.

 

The whole ensemble gave a lively and scintillating performance and are to be admired for putting on such a first rate show in under a week’s rehearsal time!

 

The success of this production must be largely down to the enthusiasm and dedication of the two co -directors/choreographers, Ben Coleman and Robbie Fell. These two gentlemen must have worked extremely hard with this talented group of young people and I think you are all to be congratulated on such a polished piece of musical theatre.

 

The choreography was inventive, exciting and at times very amusing! The whole ensemble performed the routines with precision and control and completely ‘in sync’ where this was required. It makes even the simplest of movements so effective when they are all done together!

 

The staging and set (designed by Steve Hatt) was simple yet very effective with the cast largely moving their own ‘scenery’. I liked the two trucks doubling as lockers and loos!!  The playing area was used effectively and all entrances and exits were executed well as were the seamless scene changes denoted by the sound of a school bell.

 

The effective lighting design by Jack Bennett gave great atmosphere to a number of the scenes.  The sound was handled very well by Owen Vint with no noticeable gremlins. Well done!

 

The costumes, sourced mainly from the cast, were appropriate for the youthful spirit of the piece with, I expect, the more specialist costumes being supplied by Jeanette Gee at Wacky Costumes.  All costumes were clean and well presented. Make-up was very good and looked totally natural and was applied well.

 

The band, under the masterly baton of Theo Perry, played with feeling, accuracy and flair.  There are some lovely melodies in the musical and this came across in the delivery of the music.

 

The programme was colourful and concise with a clever touch on the front cover – picturing the thirteen main characters.  It was nice to read the biographies of the cast along with a picture.

 

The whole evening was a most enjoyable experience and it was refreshing to see, what for me was a brand new show, performed so well by this excellent group of talented young people.

 

Many thanks to your President Barbara Homer for the warm welcome and hospitality and to everyone associated with this production.

 

May I take this opportunity to wish you every success with your next show.

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