Something Old, Something New: The MTA Musical Revue
Directed by Jack Gunn
society/company: The MTA (student productions) (directory)
performance date: 14 Mar 2012
venue: Bridewell Theatre, off Fleet Street, London
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)
Musical Theatre Academy (The MTA) is a new vocational college for young performers and has carved out a very distinctive niche for itself since it was founded by Annemarie Lewis Thomas in 2009 with just 13 students. So much has The MTA achieved that, in January, it won the accolade of School of the Year in The Stage 100 Awards. Today there are 33 students at MTA on its trademark intensive two-year course – 15 second years and 18 first years – and it was these who presented the glitteringly accomplished revue, Something Old, Something New.
The first years, a talented bunch, who began their course last October, have so far had only 19 weeks of professional training so it was impressive to see the female first years, as a group, in the ‘Big Spender’ number from Sweet Charity, their diction impeccable, their vocal and movement rhythms crystal clear and suitably spiky. Then – and there couldn’t been a greater contrast – the same group, complete with dusters, was delightful in ‘A Woman’s Touch’ complete from Calamity Jane with its folksy tunes. These girls turned in very slick performances – beautifully and imaginatively choreographed by MTA staff like every other in this show – with overall musical staging by guest director Jack Gunn.
There was other good work from first years in this 24 item revue but, inevitably because they are more experienced and already seeking agents, it was the second years who shone the most and who were given the most to do.
CiCi Howells, for example, is an outstanding performer of whom I am confident we shall soon see and hear a lot more. Her lovely clear voice rang out, her intonation very tight even on the highest notes, in a duet from Closer Than Ever with Laura Webb whose work was very enjoyable too. We also saw CiCi, in several ensemble numbers. A fine actor, she also dances like a seasoned professional and I loved her tap dancing in ‘Stepping Out’. And, as if that weren’t enough, this talented young woman – who is small and fair and looks a bit like the young Hayley Mills - also augmented the four-piece live band by playing guitar in one number.
Keiran Kuypers and Carl Douglas are two to watch out for too. Their performance of a hilarious song from The Book of Mormon was great fun. So was ‘I want a Man’ from Ed in which Debbie Marino and Lorin Jane Forster gave us two randy office workers whose demure appearance belied the explicitness of what they were singing.
All MTA’s ten ‘boys’, from across both years, were involved a deliciously slick medley called ‘Altar Boyz’ which was not only funny but visually arresting. There were no weak links anywhere on stage.
All in all the ensemble was very strong, especially in the witty send up ‘You’re in a Musical’ from The Beggar’s Opera which was the penultimate item. The show finished with a medley from Jekyll and Hyde which put all 33 students on the Bridewell’s spacious stage and earned a great deal of richly deserved applause.