Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Dan Cunningham
Assistant Director: Andrew Fearon
Musical Director: John Hudson
Choreographer: Kathleen Knox
This was the NODA North premiere of this production and following in the footsteps of recent professional tours it had high expectations to fulfil, including outrageous costumes and a bus, and they certainly achieved that. The production had the sparkle and glamour required for this musical including a huge costume plot and it was enhanced by excellent lighting and sound. The show is a songbook to the 80s club scene and the musical numbers were all well sung and accompanied by an accomplished band. The choreography was well executed and worked well with the sometimes extraordinary costumes and scenarios which the production requires.

The three Divas played by Jojo Hatfield, Melanie Hill and Melanie King provide the voices to the “mimed” drag artist performances and their vocals were superb with Jojo leading on some of the classics such as “It’s Raining Men” and” Girls Just Want to Have Fun”.

Getting the show underway was Jack Wonnacott as the loud and proud Miss Understanding; he captured the audience’s attention straight away and set the tone for the rest of the show with a strong performance. Amongst all of the glitz is a heartfelt story of three friends who set off on a journey to Alice Springs, in their bus they lovingly call Priscilla, in order to perform a Drag show but to also allow Tick to meet his son. They not only have fun but also encounter anti-gay hate along the way. Tick’s estranged wife Marion was played with compassion by Claire Pitchford, Claire also showed a different side to her performance skills as the outrageous ping pong popping Cynthia, and this scene was a favourite with the audience. Along their way the friends meet Shirley, a comedic character without the glamour in the rest of the show but well portrayed by Natasha Bishop.

When “Priscilla” needs some mechanical attention we meet Bob, played to perfection by Gavin Hobbs, his performance had real heart; his falling in love with Bernadette worked very well and was believable.

The three main characters and the back bone to the production were played by James Forster as the outrageous but vulnerable Felicia/Adam, Keith Wigham as former “Les Girl” Bernadette and Jason Jones as drag performer Mitzi/Tick. These three performers worked very hard with their characterisations and they did them justice. The notoriously difficult Australian accents fluctuated a little but this was overshadowed by the powerful performances given by these three actors. There were some very moving moments for all of them including the attack on Felicia, the touching moments with Bernadette and Bob and the scene with Tick and his son Benji played by Matthew Leitch at the performance I attended.

All of the big production numbers were well done, the “Floor Show” worked particularly well and the medley finale had the audience on their feet and dancing along sending them out very happy. Congratulations to the creative team, the army of back stage support and everyone involved for a super production.

The Wizard Of Oz

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Reece Sibbald
Musical Director: John Hudson
Choreographer: Kathleen Knox

The Wizard of Oz is rarely performed in pantomime version and it broke with tradition as there was no dame but it was none the less a hilarious romp.

Reece not only directed the panto but had also written it and supplied the costumes, he is certainly a tour de force in this genre of entertainment, his direction was excellent. The production rattled along keeping the young audience engrossed throughout. The set was suitably bright and cheery and worked well and this was complemented by the good lighting plot. Sound was also good. The 5 piece band led by MD John Hudson was first rate and supported the cast well; all of the musical numbers were well delivered and were popular choices with the audience. The dance numbers were all well executed and had tons of energy especially the opening number “Cotton Eyed Joe”, and the act finales “Hold My Hand” and “River Deep Mountain High”.

There were 2 teams of Munchkins sharing the performances and I’m sure that both teams will have given equal levels of energy and commitment.

Natasha Bishop as Glinda portrayed a loveable character and the perfect contrast to the believably nasty wicked Witch played by Amy Smith, both gave good vocal performances. Stephen Shield seemed to take delight in being the evil side kick and helped generate the necessary boos and hisses. The Wizard was confidently played by Alexander Carr giving good support to the leads.

The line-up of the four main principals was strong and their contrasting characters and their rapport was super maintaining their energy throughout even in costumes which must have been very hot to work in. Abbie Stewart gave us a sweet, adorable Dorothy and worked very well together with her 3 new found friends. Chris Coates portrayed a pompous but ultimately sweet and amiable Tin Man and Gavin Hobbs was terrific as the Cowardly Lion, their antics were hilarious. Kaylea Hudson as the Scarecrow was outstanding; she maintained her “floppy” nature and was engaging, bouncy and full of energy throughout.

Congratulations to all for a very entertaining well performed family show.

West Side Story

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Andrew Fearon
Musical Director: Claire Jordan
Choreographer: Kathleen Knox

West Side Story is a masterpiece of musical theatre by Bernstein and Sondheim which is a huge undertaking for any company but it was a challenge that the cast for this production embraced.

The set was simple allowing maximum space for the dance numbers and it was enhanced by a sympathetic and effective lighting plot. The sound quality was excellent throughout the performance, not an easy job with a 13 piece orchestra and a large cast of individual characters to amplify.

It was apparent that the large ensemble had worked hard on the many dance routines, giving their all and maintaining the energy throughout in Kathleen’s excellent choreography and the singing throughout was of a high standard. The “Jets” made the most of their “Officer Krupke” number which was a definite audience pleaser and the fight scenes were good with the attack on Anita being particularly well performed. The director’s decision to leave the characters of Rif and Bernardo on stage at the end of Act One and also to have no curtain call was brave and gave excellent dramatic effect.

The named members of the gangs of Jets and Sharks gave good portrayal of their individual characteristics and personalities with notable performances from James Forster (Riff), Mark Armstrong (Bernardo), Philip Richardson (Action) and Holly Davidson Walton (Anybodies). There was also a beautiful vocal performance by Rhiane Finley as “the girl” in the “Somewhere” ballet. The adult cameo roles were all well performed by Pete Johnson, Gerry Troughton and Martin Anderson but Nick Goddard as Lieutenant Shrank gave particularly strong portrayal of a deep and menacing character in a very small amount of stage time. The role of Anita was shared and on the night I attended was superbly played by Melanie King who gave an all-round strong and emotional portrayal of her complex character. Dave Waller as Tony and Emily Ferries as Maria gave accomplished vocal performances; both have beautiful singing voices which complemented each other and their scenes were well portrayed.

The orchestra were superb and under the baton of Joe Wilson perfectly interpreted the emotive and beautiful score.

Congratulations to the entire company and production team.

Sleeping Beauty

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Reece Sibbald
Musical Director: Nigel Brown
Choreographer: Georgie Hulland

The traditional story of Sleeping Beauty was the basis for this very funny pantomime which was a collection of gag after gag cleverly written and directed by Reece, and it had the audience laughing out loud from the start. The scenery was good, and everyone’s costumes and make up were excellent which all added to the panto magic.

Chris Coates as “Norse” Nelly had excellent rapport with the audience and was an endearing dame. Alongside Chris, Stephen Shield, as Little Bobby, and Martin Anderson, as King Canny, worked hard to keep the slapstick and fun rattling along and to encourage the audience participation. The kitchen scene was particularly funny with custard pies aplenty and lots of slopping about. The comedy antics were further enhanced by Dave Bowerbank and Faye Brannigan as Whippet and Leggitt the broker’s men, and Gary Blackbird as Tommy Timpson the Keeper of the Keys, who all gave good support to the main line-up. All of the comedy scenes had good pace and worked well; the alternative 12 Days of Christmas song sheet was hilarious.

Rachel Slattery, as Princes Aurora, and Michael Taphouse, as Prince Neville, sang well and were well suited to their royal roles. Amy Smith looked stunning and acted the perfect Fairy Kindheart, and Claire Pitchford, as Carabosse, together with Holly Davidson-Walton, as Lambton, relished in their evil antics, being as wicked as possible and therefore being suitably rewarded with loud “boos”.

The ensemble and children did well in all of their scenes, dance numbers were good and the choreography was slick; musical numbers were well performed with good accompaniment by the band.
Congratulations to all involved for a very entertaining production.

Blood Brothers

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Craig Duggan

This brilliantly written play by Willy Russell is funny, thought provoking, perceptive but ultimately tragic and it is the tragedy that makes “Blood Brothers” memorable and effecting. The play is a powerful and well written piece of drama and has a few differences in the story line the phenomenally successful musical which it preceded.

Mrs Johnston is a mother ground down by the economic depression and men, and this role was capably portrayed by Melanie King; she displayed every emotion convincingly and was completely committed to her character.

Claire Jordan as Mrs Lyons also gave a strong portrayal of a mother destroyed by her own guilt and paranoia; her scenes as her character became more disturbed were excellent.

The Narrator of the piece is a conscience and a constant reminder that the play is heading for a tragic end, Dave Bowerbank gave a confident performance, maintaining the characters persona throughout.

In the roles of Mickey and Edward, Craig Duggan and Mark Armstrong both gave strong performances. From the physicality and comical antics of young Micky to the difficult transition to adulthood, Craig gave his character portrayal everything he had. The transition from public school boy to executive was well portrayed by Mark and the “girl in the middle “ of the two brothers, Linda, was well played by Kaylea Hudson, again she revelled in the young Linda’s fun and games and made an excellent transition into the girl forced to be old before her time. Liverpool accents are notoriously difficult to master but the cast managed this admirably. The static set of two streets was put to good use portraying the many different scenes with the addition of props and appropriate lighting.

The supporting cast were also strong and contributed to the overall success of the piece which was well received by an appreciative audience, I understand that this was Craig’s first venture into directing and what a start, he must have been very pleased with the end product and the positive response from everyone present. Congratulations to all.

The Wedding Singer

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Marjorie Bolam
Musical Director: Donna Graham
Choreographer: Lee Brannigan

“The Wedding Singer”, like the film starring Adam Sandler, is a celebration of the 80s when hair was big and greed was bigger, and tells the story of “wannabe” rock star Wedding Singer Robbie (Dave Bowerbank) who is jilted at the alter and then loses his heart to waitress Julia (Emily Ferries) but unfortunately she is engaged to someone else.

In the lead roles Dave Bowerbank’s ability to actually play the guitar enhanced the performance, and his character had a vulnerability which was endearing, and Emily Ferries gave a sincere and believable performance with her vocals, as always, on pointe.

The supporting cast members for this show were very strong. Stephen Shield and Michael Taphouse, as Robbie’s band mates Sammy and George, gave good comedic support and contrast to the leading man.  Gavin Hobbs, as Glen Gugia, gave an excellent portrayal of the money-focused, egotistical businessman engaged to Julia. The girls in the cast definitely stole the show for me; Amy Smith, as Holly, was a delight, singing well and giving her character a real personality, and Jan Foster, as Grandma Rosie, played the “hip”, outrageous grandmother very well, with the vibrating bed scene and her “rap” delighting the audience. Claire Pitchford also gave good portrayal of Linda, Robbie’s estranged fiancée, and she made her a character you love to hate.

The ensemble gave good support but I must mention the very funny group of “impersonators” who made their appearance in the show’s Las Vegas scenes, very well done.  Congratulations also for the attention to detail with all of the costumes.

The nine member band was very good and complemented the performers, never overpowering them due, I’m sure, to the sound engineering talents of Andrea Atkinson. The production choreography was good, interesting to watch and well executed, my personal favourite being “All About the Green”, the patterns and incorporation of props and furniture was very good. Marjorie’s direction kept the whole production moving at a pace with scene changes being achieved in the main through good use of furniture and props. Congratulations to Marjorie and her team for a slick production which oozed energy.

Let’s All Go To The Music Hall

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Marjorie Bolam
Musical Director: Donna Graham
Choreographer: Lee Brannigan

In my youth, many years ago, Music Hall was the staple diet of Saturday evening TV. Over the years its popularity has waned somewhat but if Astravaganza’s version of it was a ‘taster’ to the current generation then it is hopefully due for a renaissance.

Audience were seated in ‘Cabaret’ style – each table named after Edwardian music hall stars – I being seated at the ‘Florrie Ford’ table. This same audience were throughout receptive and responsive to the ‘Chairman’ of the music hall, Gerry Troughton, who introduced the acts in customary ‘alliteration’ with aplomb

Lee Brannigan, in the talented and confident manner that these events require,  invited us all to ‘Lets all go to the Music Hall’ in a colourful chorus opening number.

Music Hall gives an opportunity for many to take ‘centre stage’ and ‘many’ did so with solos and duos from many performers including, but not restricted to, Stephen Shields, Melanie King, Lee Brannigan, Abbie Stewart, James Robson and Holly Davidson-Walton amongst others.

There were many thematic ‘sections’ ranging from London songs, traditional Victorian Music Hall songs, Local ditty’s and War melodies and it was from this last section my personal favourite number of the evening came, with the superb, and harmonised, voices of Claire Jordan and Donna Graham singing the verses and chorus from the evocative music of Ivor Novello and lyrics by Lena Gilbert Ford – “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.
Comedic intersections of monologues of “Albert and the Lion” and “The Clippy Mat” by Melanie King and Grahame Foster respectively enhanced the proceedings but another personal favourite of the evening was the well delivered song “Following in Fathers Footsteps” by Martin Anderson

The trio in the musical combo entered into the spirit of the evening despite the introductory barbed insults hurled at them from the ‘Chairman’ and played really well regardless. Movement was well crafted in choral numbers and choreography in the capable hand (or should that be feet?) of Lee Brannigan complemented the action especially in the exhausting actions of the ‘Can Can’.

Sound was once again crisp and clear as you would expect from Tony and Andrea Atkinson. Costumes were colourful and in context of the era.

The evening finished in the traditional manner of Music Hall with the raucous singing of ‘Old Bull and Bush’ by the entire company (but chiefly ‘ourselves’).
Marjorie Bolam is to be congratulated for bringing together a marvellous masterly, mellifluous melange of inordinately interesting illocutionary impishness – Well Done.

Cinderella

Producer and Director: Liam Glendinning
Musical Director: Donna Graham
Choreographer: Lee Brannigan

Cinderella is one of the most popular pantomimes and Astravaganza Entertainment worked hard to make it magical.
The costumes and scenery were very good and certainly enhanced the production as did the inclusion of real Shetland ponies to pull Cinderella’s carriage, a magical touch to conclude a magical transformation scene.

The story began with the appearance of the Fairy Godmother played very well by Donna Graham who was also MD for the production.  Donna’s rendition of “When You Believe” was beautiful.

Craig Duggan, as Buttons, had the audience on his side from his first entrance. His comedy timing was good, and he was very comfortable with the audience participation.  He also had a good on stage relationship with  Emily Ferries,as Cinderella. Emily sings beautifully, and this was the perfect role for her to showcase this.

The mayhem began in earnest with the arrival of the step-sisters Verruca and Veronica, played by Martin Anderson and Stephen Shield respectively. Their relationship as a comedy duo was very good, and they quickly became the ones the audience loved to hate.  Chris Coates portrayed the sweet but downtrodden Baron Hardup, and the comedy exploits were completed by Katherine Willett and Rachael Allsopp as the broker’s men, their scene with the funnel and water being a particular favourite with the audience.  Holly Davidson Walton, as Prince Charming, was suave and sophisticated, and Kaylea Hudson, as her sidekick Dandini, gave a super characterisation which she maintained even during her songs.

All of this together with competent ensemble support, delightful children, super choreography and a good choice of music combined to produce a very entertaining production.  Well done to everyone involved!

Grease

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Marjorie Bolam
Musical Director: Donna Graham
Choreographer: Kathleen Knox

It was clear from the buzz in the audience before the show and the evidence of audience members being dressed up as characters that “Grease” definitely is the word! From the opening number the atmosphere was that of a party and the attendees would not be disappointed,

This is a high energy show and that energy did not dip at any point. The choreography plays a major part in this piece and it was superb, well executed and all of the numbers were slick.

The adults of the piece; Grahame Foster (Vince Fontaine), Gary Blackbird (Johnny Casino) and Fiona Havercroft (Miss Lynch) gave good support. I hardly recognised Fiona – such a change of role for her and she seemed to enjoy being the authoritarian of the piece. The smooth vocals of Graeme Smith were perfect for “Teen Angel”; his scene with the girls was excellent.

Each of the “Pink Ladies” had identifiable characters from the bubbly, constantly eating “Jan” (Rachael Allsopp), the striving to be sophisticated “Marty” (Abbie Stewart), the appearance conscious “Frenchy” (Holly Davidson-Walton) and their leader “Rizzo” (Kaylea Hudson), they worked really well together. Kaylea’s rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was particularly good. Katie Smith as “Pattie” gave us a typical all American cheerleader and the role of “Cha-Cha” was well portrayed and danced by Katharine Willet.

The T-birds also portrayed each of their characters competently; the tough and surly “Kenickie” (Andrew Emerson), the baby of the group “Doody” (Dave Bowerbank), the mischievous “Rodger” (Stephen Shield), and the want to be tough guy “Sonny (Chris Coats), they clearly enjoyed being a “gang” and their rendition of “Greased Lightnin’” was a definite audience pleaser. I must also mention Chileshe Stobbs as “Eugene”, super characterisation and a scene stealer.

The role of the sweet, innocent “Sandy” was portrayed by Nina Walsh and she was partnered by Craig Duggan as “Danny” who used every opportunity possible to work the audience, gave good vocals and embraced being the leader of the pack.

The costumes and the set were good; especially the car and Burger Place, and good sound and lighting complemented the piece. The scene changes were swiftly executed and never affected the pace of the show.

Congratulations to Marjorie and her team for a super night’s entertainment and for rocking the Civic Hall!

The Vicar Of Dibley

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Lee Brannigan

The stage version of The Vicar of Dibley encompasses some of the most memorable scenes of the television series into one performance, ensuring lots of laugh-out- loud moments as well as giving a donation to Comic Relief via the play’s royalties. The scenes selected by Lee & Liam included the new vicar’s arrival, Hugo and Alice’s love affair (with that kiss!) and the subsequent outrageous wedding.

With an adaptation from television script to stage came many, many scene changes from the front cloth village hall scene to the full stage set of Geraldine’s cottage, and these changes were carried out seamlessly by the crew. The set was good, and there was excellent attention to detail regarding the props and furniture,

The success of the production is also down to how well the cast impersonated the well loved characters, and it was obvious that each had worked hard to ensure authenticity to the original portrayal. The Dibley Parish Committee is made up of a diverse cross section of people (aren’t they always!) from cookery expert “Letitia Cropley” (Jan Foster), the pedantic minute taker “Frank Pickle“ (Martin Anderson), sex mad farmer “Owen Newitt” (Peter Johnson) and the indecisive “Jim Trott” (Gerry Troughton), and each character was well portrayed, although Gerry as “Jim Trott” was my personal favourite. At the head of the committee was “David Horton”, played in a suitably pompous manner, and with an eventual thawing caused by his unspoken love of “Geraldine”, by Grahame Foster, and at his right hand side his hapless, love struck son “Hugo” played by Chris Coates.

The role of “Alice Tinkler” was in the experienced and talented hands of Claire Jordan. Her portrayal was such that you could have been watching the actual television character. The role of “Geraldine Grainger” was shared between Claire Taylor and Helen Davidson-Walton, who alternated performances. I was at one of Claire’s performances and she gave a warm and assured portrayal of the character, with excellent timing and a good rapport with the other characters, in particular in the scenes involving “Geraldine” and “Alice”.

The youngsters in the cast gave strong performances in their scene in the vicarage and, of course, as Teletubbies and a Darlek at the wedding.  There were good cameo performances from Helen Wilson and Gary Blackbird, and support from the residents of Dibley who filled the choir stalls and pews.

The end of the show was marked with a surprise “mega-mix” style finale for the cast members to let down their hair and dance as well as take their bow, which gave the audience a chance to clap and sing along, something you rarely get the opportunity to do at a play!  Well done to all as judging by the response from your audience you sent them home with huge smiles on their faces.

Little Shop Of Horrors

Producer and Director: Liam Glendinning
Musical Director: Claire Jordan
Choreographer: Lee Brannigan

After their inaugural production last year this was their main production follow up, and a slick sequel it was. From the first moment you entered the theatre the scene was set as the ‘Skid Row’ area of a imaginary 1950’s US town with vagrants and winos wandering around and amongst the audience – ambience sound effects helped set the scene also of the slightly scary ‘dark’ story that was to follow.

Opening the production with the title number were three school drop-outs, played, sung and danced well by Claire Jackson, Emma Scott and Holly Walton. These three provided continuity and, at times, narration to the whole production. Mr Mushnik’s flower shop’s fortunes are revived by a strange and unusual plant – playing the shop owner was Gerry Troughton with his believable ‘Jewish’ actions and accent. He showed a slightly ruthless streak as he dealt with his two shop assistants, the mild mannered, slightly nerdy Seymour (James Taylor) and the vulnerable victim of physical abuse Audrey (Izzy Roy). Both James and Izzy played their roles with great chemistry between them – no more so than in the superb ‘Suddenly Seymour’. The sadistic abuser of ‘Audrey’ was ‘Orin’ (Peter Johnson) as he demonstrated his love of pain, (pain inflicted on others, that is). The role was played as a mostly manic dentist with great skill. It was ‘Orin’ who was the first victim of ‘Audrey II’ the plant which nurtured on human blood. This ‘plant’ grew throughout the production and was one of the highlights of the show being manipulated by Peter Archer in lip-synch to the voice of Colin Coulson. Colin’s voice (with suitable cavernous echo) was scary and amusing in equal measures with its sarcastic dialogue yet sinister undertones.

Chorus involvement was well moved and sung. Set evolved throughout the production from a dowdy, downbeat, Skid row shop to a classy flower boutique and was dressed well – a credit to backstage workers. Sound quality was, as usual for Terry Caine and Pauline Swann’s efforts, exemplary. Lighting was good and great use was made of close up spotting to give a sinister feel to certain numbers.

This was not only Liam’s first attempt at directing but also Claire Jordan’s first attempt at Musical Director – both are to be congratulated, as is Lee with his appropriate choreography.
Well done all.

Time Of Our Lives

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director / Choreographer: Lee Brannigan
Musical Director: Dave Johnson

This was a compilation concert with a difference – not a show tune to be heard. The concept was a journey through the music of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and each section was introduced with video clips of the highlights of those particular decades.  Our compères for the evening were Gerry Troughton and “Bella Bluebell” (the alter ego of Lee Brannigan), using their chatty presence and friendly demeanour to introduce each section.

The many individual performers also took part in the ensemble numbers, and everyone not only sang well but they were obviously enjoying their involvement. The musical numbers were slick and full of energy, and the ensemble choreography was good.

The evening also provided a showcase for the guests of the company, 42 members of the Kathleen Knox School of Dance, who interspersed the programme with their high standard of dancing talent,

The set was simple but effective, and superbly lit, creating good changes of mood to suit the various numbers, as well as a party ambience with the use of festoon lighting and a juke box. The company were well dressed and there was attention to detail with accessories and colour which tied the look together.

The cast were supported by an excellent band and there were many good solo and ensemble performances too numerous to name individually, but my personal favourites were ”RESPECT” by Emily Ferries, “I Feel Good” by Brian Jordan, and “River Deep Mountain High” by Clare Jackson & The Ensemble.

It certainly came across to the audience that the entire cast and their guest dancers were having the time of their lives.

One Night Only

Producer and Director: Liam Glendinning
Choreographers: Lee Brannigan & Helen Wilson

This is only the second production for this company since it was formed by Liam Glendinning earlier this year. In this programme of song and dance the cast of 14, including Peter Archer as M.C., took us through the A to Z of musicals performing over 30 numbers and medleys with some well-known classics from Oliver!, Grease and Kiss Me Kate, as well as some lesser known musical theatre pieces including numbers from The Lion King and Zorro. The juke box musicals such as Never Forget, Viva Forever and Rock of Ages were also represented and well received by the audience,
Seasoned performers Peter Johnson, Brian Jordan, Claire Jordan and Lee Brannigan led a strong line up and gave excellent solo vocal performances; Lee “dressed up” a little and brought along a couple of “friends” for his performance of “One Night Only” much to the delight of the audience. There were also superb performances by Claire Bidnell, Emma Scott, Simon Devlin and Stephen Shield. The pairing in the duets was very complementary and the rendition of “Sun and Moon” by Claire Bidnell and Stephen Shield was a particular favourite of mine.
The ensemble numbers were well executed both vocally and choreographically and the sound balance of the vocals and backing tracks was good. Well done to Liam and his team.

A Slice Of Saturday Night

Producer: Liam Glendinning
Director: Peter Archer
Musical Director: Dave Johnson
Choreographer: Georgie Hulland

Set in the “Club a Go Go” owned by aging ‘rocker’ Eric ‘Rubber Legs’ de Vene, we followed the exploits of eight teenagers – four boys and four girls – as they negotiated the minefield that were teenage relationships in 1964. A bright and lively musical score and energetic choreography, coupled with some splendid character acting, combined to produce a very enjoyable production from start to finish.
Garry (Simon Devlin) as the cocky, arrogant ‘Jack the Lad’ character who thinks he only has to snap his fingers to get his dream girl Sue (Charlotte Archer) to follow him to the end of the earth. Eddie (Dan Dickinson) who is convinced he can ‘defrost’ ‘Frigid’ Bridget (Claire Jordan) before the night is out. Rick (Lee Brannigan) as the painfully shy lad out to win over the equally shy Sharon (Claire Bidnell) before he leaves town the following day. Making up the group of friends were John (Phil Martin) and girlfriend Penny (Philippa Smith).
There were many humorous scenes between the couples and some great vocals both individually and chorally. Many of these scenes took place in the clubs male and female toilets with many ‘laugh out loud’ moments from the appreciative audience. Critical to the production was the interaction between the youngsters and the club owner Eric, a great commanding performance by Peter Johnson.
Notable of mention were small but stand out roles by Stephen Shield and Holly Davidson-Walton as Flower Power hippies, Stephen Stokoe as a ‘camp’ Barman, Bouncers (Gary Blackbird and Gary Eglington) and the ‘balcony dancer’ Emma Scott, alongside a talented chorus – each of whom contributed greatly to an overall well directed performance by Peter Archer.
Hairstyles and costumes reflected the era as did the music, directed by David Johnson, which was sympathetic to the performers, Choreography by Georgie Hulland was well appreciated and received by the audience, and set by A1Stage was appropriate for a 1960’s club.
I have never laughed so much out loud for many a long year as I did with this performance due mainly to the sexual innuendos, which whilst ‘near the knuckle’, were appropriate in the context of the production especially during the song PE – You had to be there……..
Well done Astravaganza in this your inaugural production – now follow that.