Friday, 10 June 2016

Made in Dagenham Show Review - East Ayrshire Youth Theatre

A few weeks ago we were very kindly invited by East Ayrshire Youth Theatre to attend the Scottish Premiere of 'Made in Dagenham'

We had spent the past few months working closely with their directors Michelle Laats and Michaella Mullen, as well as their Stage Manager Roger Robinson to come up with an exciting new set design for this show, so we were all incredibly excited to be able to go and see our set make it's debut up on the stage. I'm sure you would all agree that there is a big difference between how a set appears in daytime and how it appears when it is lit beautifully on a stage & surrounded by cast members in costume, so we were really looking forward to getting 'the full effect'! 
It was also the first time that many of us would be seeing the musical, although by this point we all already had a fairly good understanding of the script & the soundtrack. My own experience so far had been to watch the film, and of course many of our staff members were alive when the real life strikes were happening at the Ford Dagenham plant in the 60's. Being only 24 years old it does seem a bit strange that in the future I could potentially be watching musicals based on today's current affairs, however who knows? Maybe 'EU Referendum - a Musical Extravaganza' might become the new 'Les Miserables'!
We were particularly excited to see how our brand new cream Ford Cortina car was received- and I had purposefully avoided seeing it 'in person' so that I could enjoy the full effect of seeing it on stage for the first time.

We opted to attend the Saturday matinee show, and arrived early enough to be able to enjoy lunch at the nearby Franklin & Sloane gastropub. If anyone is in the Kilmarnock area and looking for a bite to eat then we couldn't recommend this place enough! A really lovely venue that showcases a comfortable, yet quirky interior design as well as a superb food and drinks menu. We'll be making it our go-to place for pre-theatre dinners from now on I reckon.
Franklin & Sloane was also just around the corner from the theatre too, so we were able to keep our car parked there and wander down with plenty of time to the Palace Theatre

As we entered the auditorium we were greeted by our lovely cobalt blue Ford Dagenham gauze, and once we were settled into our seats the show started pretty swiftly, with the gauze lifting to reveal the suitably messy and chaotic family home of the O'Grady's. EAYT had provided some of their own stage dressings and every time the show returned to the O'Grady's home I felt it worked well. Washing was strewn everywhere, retro cereal packets were on the table and the combination of this and the cast helped really 'set the scene' for the busy family home it was meant to represent. A memorable 'mistake' that actually added a little something extra to a later scene was when a football being kicked around by the O'Grady's son (played by Andrew Maxwell) went a bit astray and ended up bouncing off his Father's head (Eddie O'Grady, played by Christopher Williams) - just as he was complaining about the chaos in the house. It earned a laugh from the audience and was a moment that, if it could be recreated would work incredibly well in the show. 

From the moment the curtain went up, the whole cast threw themselves into their roles. They maintained a good energy throughout the whole production that was kicked off straight away with the first song 'Busy Woman' - a song that I'm sure resonated amongst many of the grandparents, parents and siblings that were sat watching in the audience. Leading busy lives & trying to pack everything into a day is definitely not something that has changed much since the 1960s! 
We then swiftly moved on (huge congratulations to the stage crew for quickly pulling off the many scene changes!) to the Ford Dagenham plant itself, where we were treated to a very lively number 'Made in Dagenham', and got to know some more of the key figures in the production. Two cast members that instantly stood out to us were the sweary Beryl (excellently played by Abbie McLelland) and the jolly, but forgetful Clare - played by Eva Beattie, who had such a transformation to become her character that I could barely identify her from the cast list! Both actresses had a wonderful stage presence and played their characters exceptionally well. They were often the light relief to some of the heavier issues addressed in this musical, and they had a great sense of comic timing and brought their characters to life. The ladies at the Ford Dagenham plant were all incredibly likeable, and you definitely rooted for them - and felt irritated at the 'Dagenham Boys' and Management (B*****ds!) for trying to undermine them. When they were dismissed as unskilled workers I was grinding my teeth and near enough clenching my fists in the audience - by the time we got to the end of Act 1 finale of 'Everybody Out!' I probably would have been angrily brandishing placards along side them if someone had thrown one to me.

There seemed to be plenty of feisty women outside the factory as well, with both Barbara Castle (played by Zhara Wark) and Lisa Hopkins (played by Katie Cameron) doing their best to support the strikers. Both gave confident and believable performances - you sympathised with Lisa Hopkins being reduced to the role of housewife despite her double first at Oxford, just as you sympathised with Barbara Castle for being a woman in a political game that was dominated by men. I'm not sure how the real life relationship between Castle and PM Harold Wilson really was, but within the musical it was clear who wore the trousers. 

Of course 'Made in Dagenham' isn't just about the girls, and Sean McCafferty gave an excellent, very comical interpretation of Harold Wilson. He stole most of the scenes that he was in with his excellent timing, and strong Yorkshire accent, and definitely got the most out of a very funny character. He attracted big laughs even when he was just performing a quick walk-on, and definitely went down as one of the shows favourites, deservedly receiving a huge round of applause at the end. Another stand out comedian was the previously mentioned Andrew Maxwell, who played a few different characters throughout the show but is credited mainly as both Graham O'Grady and the Cortina Man. I had been looking forward to the Cortina scene most of all, and we were all in absolute fits of laughter at Andrew's eerily convincing performance. He managed to absolutely nail the performance with his smooth 1960's lounge lizard moves and with his backup dolly girls swaying and pointing, the big reveal of our cream 1600E Ford Cortina was made very special, and very funny indeed. He also managed to steal the show with a very convincing performance of a drunk in 'I'm Sorry, I Love You' - a bit too convincing perhaps! Andrew is a very confident and talented performer and I'm sure we'll be seeing him playing lead roles on stage for years to come.
Of course we must also mention the two main male leads - Christopher Williams as Eddie O'Grady, and Ross Macfarlane as Monty. Christopher gave a very touching performance as Rita's supportive husband,and you rooted for Monty as his character is transformed from being a bit lazy and patronising at the start to a truly sympathetic character just trying to do the best for his girls. Both actors gave strong, self assured performances and were excellent foils to the strong, gutsy female characters such as Rita, Connie and Beryl. 

I've made a point of not mentioning Rita yet as I felt she deserved a paragraph to herself. Rita is undoubtedly the lead and drive of the whole story, and any actress playing her would feel the pressure of carrying the whole show on her shoulders. Paige MGregor was an exceptional Rita O'Grady and delivered on all fronts - from the acting, to the singing and the general performance of the part. She was required to portray all different emotions and characters - from the gobby machinist having a laugh with her mates at work, to the worried mother, the tireless campaigner and loving wife to her husband, and she did so with ease. Rita accomplishes a lot in the show, but she is allowed to also be flawed and I think Paige helped to portray that vulnerable side just as well as the driven campaigner that the story revolves around. There is a huge amount of work for her to do throughout the show but she kept her energy up right until the end note - and then some, as witnessed by the energy the cast were still exhibiting as they were having their photos taken backstage! A huge well done has to go to Paige for her performance, she is obviously a very talented and experienced performer and I hope she continues to enjoy and participate in the performing arts. 

As well as the main leads, the chorus and supporting roles also played a huge part in the success of the show. It was great to see younger members of the chorus stepping up, and each member had clearly put their all into the production. Being part of something like this requires a huge amount of dedication and commitment, and the cast would have had to balance this alongside school, homework, exams and other commitments and activities they do. I think that each cast member must have a certain drive that enables them to manage all this and applaud them for it - they did all this and put on a wonderful show that has been met with a huge amount of positivity and praise. I've seen many many different productions across the country, both youth groups and adults groups, professional and community theatre and I can honestly say that the standard of this production was incredibly high. Even with a smaller part, or if you're right at the back of the chorus it is very noticeable if you're not pulling your weight but the whole cast kept on smiling throughout the show, pulled off their choreography flawlessly and spoke clearly - even with thick Essex accents!
The whole cast and the technical crew behind East Ayrshire Youth Theatre's production need to be offered a big congratulations. Knowing the creative team behind the production I already had big expectations for this show, however they easily exceeded them and I am looking forward to the next time that I can go to see this musical, as well as whatever EAYT's next production will be! It was a joy to work with them over the past few months putting this show together and I hope they were as happy with our set as we were to see it up on stage.

I may be a little biased but I think our set design really stood out and enhanced the production. I loved the slatted flats used to create the Ford Dagenham plant, which were lit beautifully, and we had also painted some really lovely cloths showing the Houses of Parliament, and the Factory Gates, and we'd also put together some very nice adjustable set pieces to show the O'Grady's and Hopkins houses. I particularly loved the jazzy wallpaper used in the Hopkins living room - I can give you 3 guesses as to who picked it out. This was a tough show to design as it has a lot of very fast moving scene changes, and requires some quite hefty set pieces - the Cortina car and the sewing machines being an example. Audiences forget that many theatres don't have the luxury of endless backstage spaces but the backstage team did well organising it all, and we've received a lot of great feedback complimenting our set for this show.

All in all I thought this was a wonderful show, and effectively showcased the many talents the young people at East Ayrshire Youth Theatre have. They had a real professionalism around them and I think a lot of adult casts would struggle to reach a similar standard. The whole team had obviously worked incredibly hard over a few months and the result was a really stellar show that I would have happily seen multiple times. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do next - and also see what some of the older members of the cast go on to do!
A huge well done to everyone involved.   

A huge thanks and photo credits to East Ayrshire Youth Theatre & Lloyd Smith Photography.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hawick AOS - Simply 'Fabulous, Baby!'

I was really excited to attend Hawick's production of Sister Act - not just because Hawick put on a good show, but it was also my first time seeing the stage show of 'Sister Act' and also the debut of our brand new set for it!

I unfortunately missed last year's production of 'Summer Holiday' but had heard reports from numerous people, including our owner Kate about how good it had been so I was definitely looking forward to seeing what they did with 'Sister Act'.

'Sister Act' is a great choice of production for many societies as not only is it a new, fun musical adapted from a popular movie - we always believe that a show will be popular when there has already been a well loved film and I doubt many people haven't seen the iconic films starring Whoopi Goldberg, but it also solves that classic problem that many societies struggle with today - not having enough men! 

As much of the show is set within a convent there is a multitude of different roles and characters for women that all play to different strengths, and most importantly includes roles for all ages. A lot of the more traditional musicals focus on having a younger male and female lead so it is a breath of fresh air to see a musical where many of the main roles can be played by older members of the society - who can often be relegated to the chorus despite having the talent and experience enough to more than hold their own!
Just within the main roles there is the comedic Sister Mary Lazarus (a personal favourite!) the sweet Sister Mary Roberts, the enthusiastic Sister Mary Patrick, the maternal and protective Mother Superior -as well as the feisty Deloris Van Cartier herself! Of course there are also plenty of roles for the men in your society too - the thuggish Curtis and his cronies, the loveable Lt Eddie (Sweaty Eddie) , and the progressive Monsignor O'Hara amongst others.

Of course 'Sister Act' isn't just a simplified copy of the original film -with an entirely original score and an adapted storyline this is very much a brand new musical that I think will become a very popular choice amongst societies and, like 'The Producers' grow to become a well loved classic alongside older musicals such as 'Guys & Dolls' and 'Annie'.

We went on opening night and from the curtain up Hawick AOS were polished and professional. Kate had previously attended their dress rehearsal so we had the benefit of being able to compare performances - during the interval she immediately said that whilst she had been impressed at the dress rehearsal the energy levels were much much higher, and whilst some of the scene changes had been a tad slow in rehearsal on the opening night the stage team were slick and efficient. 

In 'Sister Act', as there are so many quick scene changes needed it would be impossible for total set changes (outside the West End of course!) and the pace of the show can easily be affected by a couple of sluggish scene changes. Luckily we have thought about all these issues carefully with our set design for this show but the pace of your production still depends on your stage team being able to get on with things quickly & efficiently. The team at Hawick were more than capable of doing their duties without giving any distraction to what was happening on stage and also did so quickly so that the shows pace and momentum were kept up. Often the great work of stage management teams and all those 'backstage' are left out in reviews like this so I thought I should make a special note to say well done to the crew at Hawick, and indeed to all the teams who have worked on the productions that we've seen this year so far. Your hard work definitely does not go unnoticed or unappreciated and it definitely helps us sleep at night knowing our sets are being cared for by such reliable hands! 

Anyhow - back to the production itself - we thought it was fantastic. I had been anticipating a great show but I had absolutely no idea as to just how strong the talent at Hawick AOS really is. There is great variety of different strengths and I felt that the main roles had an air of being seasoned, professional performers. 
The show had also been cast perfectly - I'm sure just by looking through the photos you'll be able to tell exactly who played who (despite the majority of them all wearing exactly the same Nun Habit costume!) and the leads all gave confident and authentic performances.

I had been nervous as to how Deloris would be played - the character is a confident, funny, feisty black woman much like Whoopi Goldberg's character in the original film, however here in the Scottish Borders we are (once again unlike the West End) severely lacking a variety of nationalities and ethnicities. Many in the same position could easily fall into the trap of just 'blacking up' but Ashley Wolf who played Deloris gave the role some guts and gave a brilliant performance - not just playing the feisty black woman but adding some personality & authenticity. She was very likeable and I definitely found myself rooting for the character to succeed and find her place amongst the convent. O
ne could even say she was 'Fabulous, Baby!' (I'm sorry, i'm sorry! I couldn't resist - what would this blog be without at least one dad joke?!)

Ashley is a very talented vocal performer who coped magnificently with the many musical numbers in the show. 'Take Me To Heaven' in particular was very catchy and I had it stuck in my head for a number of the days after the show....and now back again as I write this blog. She also had excellent comedic timing and excelled at portraying the extraverted, extravagant, bubbly diva that is Deloris without making her seem like she was a bit selfish or arrogant (there is a fine line!)

Of course, where would Deloris be without her sisters? 
Collectively all the actresses and the chorus who made up the nuns of the Queen of Angels church were brilliant - all of them played their various parts with plenty of enthusiasm and it was a very animated cast - even from those right at the back. All of the nuns had their own distinct characters and it was a pleasure to watch a cheekier, or even dare I say naughtier side of them come out as they embraced Deloris and her wild style.

Natalie Paterson had been perfectly cast as the very sweet Sister Mary Roberts. She had a lovely tone to her voice (thanks to that diploma in shower singing! I thought the cast member biographies in the programmes were a nice personal touch) and did very well in her portrayal of a character who overcomes her shyness over the course of the show. The overenthusiastic Sister Mary Patrick was played by the fantastic Amanda Blacklock, making the character very loveable and just the type of friend you want to have. She too has a fantastic singing voice and a very natural stage presence, she kept up her characters movements throughout the show and added little touches such as nodding her head which I felt perfectly fit the character and added that extra something. A personal favourite and one of the stand out stars of the show had to be Pamela Millan who played Sister Mary Lazarus. Sister Mary Lazarus would be my dream role to play - being both very grumpy and very hilarious. I'm not quite sure how Pamela was able to maintain her stony composure when delivering her lines in that growly voice but she did very well. Her comic timing was perfect and her part in 'Take Me To Heaven' was one of my favourite moments in the show. I'm looking forward to the next time I get to see 'Sister Act' performed so that I can see Sister Mary Lazarus again! 

Of course no flock of nuns would be complete without their Mother Superior, and Hawick's Mother Superior Marie McSherry gave a spectacular performance. The audience definitely saw the character's caring, nurturing side as she tried to protect her sisters and even as she argued with Deloris it was a clear that a mutual respect and love began to develop between the two characters. Marie and Ashley worked very well together - although their two characters are at odds for most of the show it wasn't portrayed in a nasty way and more like ying and yang. There was a bit of gentle teasing between them but I felt that it was clear that the two characters understood each other, embraced their differences and developed a mutual respect for one another. Marie McSherry also had a very clear, beautiful voice and her performances of 'I Haven't Got A Prayer' and 'Here Within These Walls' were very touching. 

However it wasn't just the nuns that inhabited the Queen of Angels church - they were also joined by Iain Scott as Monsignor O'Hara as well as a trio of choir 'boys'. Monsignor O'Hara is a great character to play and Iain was very very funny in the role and the choir boys had us all laughing as they brought out the totaliser like a couple of traditional game show assistants - as well as appearing with gurneys at a few well timed moments in the show! Churches are places of great peace but from watching the cast you kind of felt like the Queen of Angels church was actually a great, lively place to hang out - especially when Deloris entered the mix!
Opposite Deloris was her old school friend 'Sweaty Eddie' - who had become Lt Eddie Souther in the Philadelphia police force and was tasked with hiding Deloris so that she could testify against Curtis and his gang. Lt Eddie was played by Stuart Mitchell - who had also played 'Rooster' in Selkirk AOS's recent production of 'Annie'. (Read the blog here) Quite how Stuart managed to cope with rehearsals for not just one main part but two in two separate shows goes beyond me, however he is clearly a very gifted performer and he delivered fantastic performances in both. Lt Eddie was a very sweet character and you kind of felt sorry for him being stuck with the nickname 'Sweaty Eddie'. I realise that he is a fictional character but High School must have been tough. 

There were even more 'roles for men' amongst the villains of the musical - local Philadelphia gangster and nightclub owner Curtis Jackson, played by David Paterson and his accomplices Joey, TJ and Pablo - played by Craig McCredie, Richard Millan and Merijn Schepens. Curtis and his goon squad, despite being the bad guys, were very very likeable - a result of the funny and charismatic performances by all the actors. David Paterson had a real stage presence as Curtis, definitely making him a character that you wouldn't want to meet down a dark alley whilst Craig, Richard and Merijn were firm audience favourites with their comedic performances of the hapless gang. Their rendition of  'Lady In The Long Black Dress' was hilarious and energetic and they really engaged with the audience throughout the show, and they seemed to work very well together by bouncing off each other's energy and ramping it up. Looking through all the photos after the performance there are some great 'stills' of them all in character that really captured the mood of the show.

I was really surprised by just how good the cast at Hawick was, and I definitely think 'Sister Act' was the perfect show for them to do this year. They had cast it very well and it'll be difficult for me to see other people playing the parts - or indeed these actors playing different parts in the future. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what they choose to put on next year, especially as Hawick has made some interesting choices in the past few years - choosing more modern musicals rather then relying on the traditional favourites. In fact all the local societies based near us in the Scottish Borders have made some great choices for their productions this year - my last blog looked at Gala AOS's production of Hairspray and my next one will be reviewing Kelso AOS's production of The Addams Family. In fact i've noticed that this year there has been a real shift with more societies looking to perform the 'freshly released' musicals - we've just ordered a whole stack of librettos to look through to make sure we're one step ahead for next year!

Anyway - as long as this blog already is, it just wouldn't do without mentioning our scenery and the fabulous costumes provided by Dress Circle Costumiers
Sister Act was quite a tricky show to design a set for as there are so many different scene changes that needed to be fast & slick - nor can it really be a large static set that makes clever use of different lighting or trucks which is a technique that's used for a lot of shows. We all agreed that we needed a few 'showstopper' cloths and from looking at the pictures I'm sure many of you will agree that we think we achieved this. In fact since the Hawick production we've had a whole flood of Sister Act enquiries coming in from all over the UK- many of them new customers who haven't worked with us before!

"The set design is nothing short
of spectacular"
The show also received some very positive and well deserved press attention - and we were very surprised and happy to see The Southern Reporters lovely comments about our set design. 
A lot of hard work and careful thought goes into all our shows so it's always nice for that work to be appreciated, and the feedback and response that we've received about our new set for Sister Act so far has been wonderful and given us all a big boost after what has been a few very busy, draining weeks. If you've got in touch to say how impressed you were then a big thank you to you all! 
As well as our scenery, we thought the costumes from Dress Circle Costumiers were absolutely marvellous - there were even audible ooh's from the audience as different costumes were revealed.
Particular favourites of mine were the beautiful nun's habits adorned with hearts, but I thought the bright colours of the jewel toned habits worked perfectly with our Cathedral cloth - Cloth No 0889 Cathedral Window Interior 2 (Enquire here!) If anyone is considering whether to perform Sister Act in the future then not only must you enquire with us but please do get in contact with the lovely folks at Dress Circle Costumiers too!

Overall this was simply a fantastic show - achieved not just by our wonderful scenery (I'm well aware that I'm overcooking the point a fair bit now)  and the beautiful costumes but by a brilliant cast and team that worked well together and had clearly put the hours in to deliver a very professional and polished production. A huge well done to everyone that was involved with Hawick AOS's production - and an especially big congratulations to Producer Brian McGlasson, Choreographer Anne Anderson and Musical Director Derek Calder (who made a surprise appearance as the Pope at the end!)

Written by Tamsin
Photo Credit: Rob Gray Photography & Alwyn Johnston

If you're thinking of doing 'Sister Act' for your next show then please get in touch to receive a full colour brochure of our plans and pictures.

We would like to remind our customers that it is definitely not too early to start booking your cloths, shows and pantomimes for next year! Get in touch today so that you don't miss out!

Contact us through our website or by calling us on 01750 20237.

The Border Studio - Design to Inspire
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get in touch today to see how we can help enhance your show.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

'You Can't Stop The Beat' of Galashiels Amateur Operatic!

Every year , if there's one show that I look forward to seeing the most it has to be Galashiels Amateur Operatic Society's production. 
This year they took us all back to 1960's Baltimore as they performed the smash hit 'Hairspray' - a colourful, vibrant musical that deals with the racial tensions of post-War America with big doses of comedy, memorable songs and lots and lots of hairspray.

Every year Galashiels push themselves to put on their best show yet and this year the standard felt impossibly high - there's no point to beating around the bush as I can confidently say that without doubt Galashiels managed to surpass even their own impeccably high standards and put on a show that had our mouths gaping open in amazement. 
With professionally choreographed routines, impeccable styling and costumes, fantastic sets (supplied by us, just sayin') and an incredibly talented cast their production went beyond the standards of just being a really really fantastic amateur show and would actually comfortably rival this years professional tour.

I actually feel sorry for the professional actors who are cast in these roles as I feel I will be judging them based on Gala's performances, however maybe not as sorry as I feel for the members of GAOS who now have to top this with next year's production of 'Sunshine On Leith'. Good luck guys - get some rest before you start it all again in a few months!

I'd like to say that I wake up like this...but that would be a lie

Gala AOS have a fantastic range of members and so are uniquely positioned to be able to perform almost any show - we are well aware of the problems many societies face of not having enough men. This is definitely not the case for Gala who have a strong & talented cast made up of all ages and genders - this year the lead role went to Kayley Henderson who starred as Tracy Turnblad. Last year Kayley had been part of the chorus for 'Half A Sixpence' so it was great to see her showcasing her talents in a lead role. She gave a fantastic and exuberant performance - not only easily handling the extensive vocals (i'm sure the half time intermission was a welcome break!) but also delivering a very likeable and funny performance. Maybe not all will agree with me but I find Tracy Turnblad can often come across as being deeply annoying (sorry!) an emotion which I feel intensely when I watch Nikki Blonsky's performance in the hit film. This was not the case with Kayley's performance, seeing her and Jan Baird, who played Penny Pingleton bouncing around on stage together definitely made you want to backcomb your hair back and be a part of Tracy's gang. This vivacity was not exclusive to the lead's performance however - the whole cast seemed to run on a supply of boundless energy. There were smiles all round as they bopped their way through some really extensive and impressive choreography and they kept it up throughout the show - not even lagging during their big finale. The show certainly finished with a bang and I was left feeling exhausted just from watching them all - in a good way of course. It certainly motivated me enough to go out for a run the next day.

It was this kind of behaviour that made Zayn leave One Direction
Kayley was well matched as returning lead Clark Eaton Turner wooed her as teenage heartthrob Link Larkin. As he crooned to the audience and the ladies in the cast swooned at his feet (quite literally for Penny Pingleton at one point) it reminded me of the old footage of bands like The Beatles in their heyday - Clark Eaton Turner certainly has the same confidence and charisma when on stage and was well cast as Link. He even managed to pull off a white guitar without looking like a cruise ship crooner or a member of The Shadows and on that achievement alone Clark, I must say well done.

They may all have exactly the same guitar but at least they're plugged in,
unlike another member of One Direction. Poor little Niall Horan

Also supporting Tracy were her friends Penny & Seaweed - both of whom
contributed to some of the funniest moments of the evening. Jan Baird has a very natural talent for comedy and her performance extended through all aspects of the production - she'd even put her own Penny-style spin on some of the dancing & the way she moved around the stage - even when the spotlight wasn't on her character. Seaweed, played by William Pearson, was also able to pull off his role with ease - there was some moments when the combination of the questionable dance moves & the cheesier-than-a-cheese-puff lines could have led to some serious corpsing but he kept it together throughout the show & delivered without a shade of self consciousness. His onstage Mom, the formidable Motormouth Maybelle was played by the fantastic Shelley Foster who delivered some powerhouse vocals & gave an authentic performance - her performance of 'I Know Where I've Been' was emotional and flawless, whilst her rhythms and rhymes brought the house down. The whole Motormouth family was completed nicely with Richeldis Brosnan portraying a sparky and feisty Little Inez. Mike Hyslop as Corny Collins also gave a strong performance - for his opening number there were a few technical issues with the sound however Mike carried on like a true professional, missing neither step nor note. He was very likeable and the audience definitely rooted for him as he stood up to resident racist Velma and battled for an integrated show.

The protagonists -mother and daughter team Velma and Amber von Tussle were played by GAOS veterans Ruth Davidson and Carla McColgan. This pairing worked extremely well with Ruth giving a flawless performance of the manipulative Velma (a former Miss Baltimore Crabs don't cha know) whilst Carla was consistently squirm-inducing with her portrayal of the spoilt, pushy Amber.
However of course the best pairing of the night had to be Tracy's parents - Ivor Lumsden and Alaistar Waddell as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, who not only gave the biggest laughs of the night but also performed the sublime 'Timeless to Me' which even without the jokes is still a very touching song. The comedy timing between the two was absolutely spot on and provided a fabulous foil to some of the more emotional parts of the show. There was also a great chemistry between them which made for a believable romance - you can imagine 's happy go lucky prankster Wilbur sailing through life with the feisty Edna by his side. Really they need a sequel of their own - did the Har De Har Hut's survive? Did Edna's dress making business take off? This is the problem with these great musicals - you always want to know what happened to the characters after they achieved their Happily Ever After - hopefully nothing along the lines of 'Into the Woods'! 

Of course we can't go without giving a special mention to our very own Graeme Lilley - by day he dispatches backcloths and prepares your scenery but by night he glides across the stage in a bubblegum pink suit. As part of Corny Collins' gang Graeme was at the forefront for many of the scenes and confidently showcased his acting skills, as well as his dancing talents. There was all manner of complicated lifts, steps and choreographed pieces that Graeme, and the rest of the cast managed to master & deliver without so much as a batting of an eyelid. The team behind 'Hairspray' - including choreographer Marie McCullough and Musical Director and P Jeff Thomson totally pulled the stops out for this show and they really did deliver. There was a polish to the performance that can only be achieved by months of hard work and every single member of the cast had absolutely put there all into it - on the night the cast were word & step perfect with
not one chink in the chain showing, if there was any at all.

Genuinely how I make my exits after most nights out, and how
 Kate arrives to work in the morning! 

GAOS on TV, live from The Corny Collins Show on the other side of the stage

The cast had been beautifully costumed by Ewan at Utopia Costumes. The costumes complimented our sets perfectly and the overall effect was fantastic - bright colours, happy faces and a clear enthusiasm for what they were doing. Visually the show looked stunning and I'm pleased to say that the performances definitely matched this - in fact I'm not even sure that I can go on as I'm running out of adjectives and well aware that I'm laying it on so thick that I need a trowel. A piece of stagecraft that I really enjoyed was the use of a video camera on stage to connect The Corny Collin's Show to the TV in Tracy's parents apartment - in black and white of of course. It helped sync up the two locations and I thought it was an effect that worked really well and was a nice added extra. 

'Our Graeme' (as Cilla Black would say) is the one in pink
All we can say really is a huge congratulations to everyone who was involved with Gala's production of 'Hairspray' - the quality was outstanding and we just don't know how it can be topped next year. However I'm sure you'll all give it a good go and I'm looking forward to coming to see 'Sunshine on Leith' next year! Well done Gala AOS - in the words of Gary Barlow - that was absolutely fantastic!

Written by Tamsin
Photo Credit: Sheila Scott at Sheila Scott Photography

Sheila Scott is based in the Scottish Borders and takes fantastic pictures - not just of the local shows but for local events, weddings, private photo shoots etc. If you're in need of a friendly, reliable and professional photographer then get in touch with Sheila via her website and see examples of her latest work. You can also order pictures from this year's production of 'Hairspray' and relive your moment in the spotlight! 
Don't forget to also like her facebook page and ours too!

If you're thinking of doing 'Hairspray' for your next show then please get in touch to receive a full colour brochure of our plans and pictures.

We would like to remind our customers that it is definitely not too early to start booking your cloths and pantomimes for next year! Get in touch today so that you don't miss out!

Contact us through our website or by calling us on 01750 20237.

The Border Studio - Design to Inspire
We are a theatrical hire company based in Scotland, and remain one of the UK's most popular scenic suppliers.
With a catalogue of over 100 different shows, the UK's largest collection of hand-painted backcloths and a vast prop store
get in touch today to see how we can help enhance your show.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile!

This year Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society very kindly gifted us with some complimentary tickets for their production of 'Annie'.
Every year 'Annie' has remained as one of the top five most performed musicals in the UK, along with other classics such as 'Guys & Dolls' and 'Oliver!'.

It's hard to really pinpoint what makes a musical so popular - in the office we all have our own favourites (mine's A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum!) however dealing with enquiries on a daily basis means we do see see patterns and trends that emerge over the years. If you visit our historical timeline on our website you can even see what the top musicals were for each decade. However, 'Annie' has always been slightly different as despite what the trends are for that year, 'Annie' has consistently remained within the top five most performed musicals.

Seeing Selkirk perform 'Annie' made it clear why the musical is so popular. Simply, it's a real 'feel good' musical with plenty of great musical numbers, a likeable lead character, and plenty of funny moments - even the 'bad guys' are, in their own way, endearing.
A huge bonus comes from the fact that there are also enough roles for a much larger cast - many of Selkirk's ensemble had a chance to portray their own characters at various points of the show instead of just being relegated to a few dance steps and chorus vocals at the back of the stage.

Whilst watching Selkirk, many individual performances stood out to me - Ian Wilson who played Radio Host Bert Healy had managed to capture that distinctively American smooth radio voice perfectly ('Oxident! Because you're never fully dressed without a smile!') and the dancers were well rehearsed, handling their routines with ease and keeping in sync with each other and the beat. Freya Hoppe and Ellen McFadzen both stood out as being particularly confident and comfortable on stage. Freya is a talented dancer who is able to maintain a beaming smile throughout the show - after months of rehearsals I'm sure she must have been feeling tired however she still looked fresh & like she was having the time of her life. Meanwhile Ellen had a real stage presence and had made a real effort with her hairstyle and makeup, which fitted the era perfectly & had been applied well.
A topic that Ewan from Utopia Costumes has touched on in his columns for NODA Today has been the importance of styling makeup & hair for the right era for the show. Every now and again we do still see examples of modern fringes, tans and makeup looks up on stage, whilst they undoubtedly make the person look great they're not always a look that is right for the era, or the character - imagine the Matchmaker from 'Fiddler on the Roof' appearing with bright red lipstick & a sideswept fringe.  Not only is it fun to try a new look from a bygone era but when hair is properly styled and the right makeup applied then it can really pull a costume and the whole look of a show together. It can even have that psychological effect of helping you become your character as you go through the application - however, this is probably a blog for another time!

As we went on the Thursday night we saw Jess Thomson play little orphan Annie. We were both very impressed with Jess's performance - there are a lot of lines to learn and she didn't stumble once through the whole show & delivered them clearly & confidently. She pulled off Annie's sassy personality well, sweet talking the policeman to rescue Sandy the dog, and won the hearts of the audience alongside Daddy Warbucks & his assistant Grace. She also handled 'Sandy' (played by Meg the Border Terrier) well, although there was one very funny moment where Meg struck gold and managed to get her head in the pocket containing all the treats. What I initially thought was a lovely cuddle between dog and girl quickly turned into Annie having to wrestle Sandy as she tried to sing 'Tomorrow'. Whilst a nervous performer might have visibly panicked Jess didn't even flinch, managing to continue to deliver a perfect rendition of 'Tomorrow' whilst hauling Sandy away from the treats.
Jess also worked well with Grace played by Karen D'Agrosa. Karen's Grace was very likeable and managed to play sweet without being sickly, and was also one of half of a brilliant husband & wife team as her real life husband Raymond D'Agrosa played Daddy Warbucks. Raymond has a really fantastic voice and the developing relationship between little orphan Annie and her potential adoptive Father Oliver Warbucks felt authentic. Raymond also effectively portrayed the changing nature of Warbucks who grows from being a workaholic with no time to a loving Father who makes time.

Last year's King from 2014's 'The King & I' had swapped his palace in Siam to the Oval Office in Washington DC to play the President Franklin D Roosevelt and did so with aplomb, and his Cabinet had the audience in raptures as they sang 'Tomorrow' together. Lewis Wilde and Kyle Fairbairn also did well to juggle multiple roles throughout the show - I am sure the many costume changes and different cues kept them on their toes for the six months of rehearsal!
For me however, the absolute standout stars of the show had to go to the comedic and dastardly trio of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily St Regis (like the hotel!) who were played by Val McLean, Stuart Mitchell and Yvonne Mitchell. Val McLean stalked the stage like an exhausted hawk, clutching onto her 'medicine' and nursing her constant hangover. You almost felt sorry for her as she descended into madness during 'Little Girls'. That is until she teams up with her con artist brother and his latest squeeze in a plan to take up Daddy Warbuck's offer of a reward by pretending to be Annie's long lost parents - Mr & Mrs Mudge. Stuart Mitchell is a confident performer who played the despicable Rooster perfectly, balancing the badness with a touch of comedy and Yvonne Mitchell shone as Lily St Regis. With a girlish American accent and a squealing giggle just right for the character - think Shirley Temple on helium - Yvonne had the down-on-her-luck glamour girl with loose morals absolutely pegged. When the three performed 'Easy Street' it was with much hilarity.

Overall Selkirk AOS put together a really fantastic performance of 'Annie' and it would be easy to just go through the entire cast listing all the positives. The children's cast gave a performance that was polished and professional, and the adults all performed well in their roles - often many of the supporting cast played more than one role but put their all into each one.
This was a very confident performance from Selkirk and there are several members of the cast who are starting to emerge as real stars - i'm sure it won't be long till we start to see some of the younger, newer members taking on some leading roles! Well done Selkirk on a fantastic show - we're looking forward to seeing what you do next year!

Written by Tamsin
Photo Credit: Yvonne Mitchell

If you're thinking of doing 'Annie' for your next show then please get in touch to receive a full colour brochure of our plans and pictures.

We would like to remind our customers that it is definitely not too early to start booking your cloths and pantomimes for next year! Get in touch today so that you don't miss out!

Contact us through our website or by calling us on 01750 20237.

The Border Studio - Design to Inspire
We are a theatrical hire company based in Scotland, and remain one of the UK's most popular scenic suppliers.
With a catalogue of over 100 different shows, the UK's largest collection of hand-painted backcloths and a vast prop store
get in touch today to see how we can help enhance your show.