Paul Johnson | 24 Mar 2014 19:29pm
Epsom Players delivered a competent and well staged interpretation of this well known piece, adroitly directed by Darren Flick.
The audience will have gone home happy with the value provided by the company in terms of the musical numbers, enthusiastic choreography and, in particular, a few neatly observed cameo roles adding to the enjoyment of the play.
The creation of the correct mood is the essential ingredient for this show, based on real life events in the late 1950s in Oklahoma. The premise seems flimsy and a little absurd, so the existence of areal life basis for the events unfolding gives it credence!
However, competence and faithful interpretation of the text, mood and songs are not, I feel, quite enough. The enjoyment and sparkle reached a particular level but then failed to elevate to a higher plane of performance that would have made the evening a journey of exhilaration and undiluted pleasure.
The production needed more stand out performances such as given by John Paul Sutherland as ‘Willard’, excellent in his comedy persona and observation of a small town hick in the MidWest. John trod the line between cameo and parody on just the right side, and for was conceivably the star of the show.
I would also cite a very fine performance by Corin Miller playing Willard’s girlfriend ‘Rusty’ with a wide eyed, rough and ready projection. Corin displayed humour, enthusiasm, neediness, and strength of character in equal measure. In respect of ensemble playing Corin was ably supported by Livvy Carr as ‘Wendy Jo’ and Vicki Terry as ‘Urleen’; Vicki displayed memorable facial expression and projection. This collaboration was shown to maximum effect in the strutting musical number “Somebody’s Eyes”. This song was a highlight amongst the musical numbers, combinig neat choreography with an intoxicating rhythm.
Cory Chambers as ‘Ren’, arriving in the troubled town of Bomontand sparking unrest and division unwittingly, had a huge task to fill as the leading man in imprinting his personality as required. He did very well for his first musical. Although hitting the heights of audience reception with a cleverly delivered rap number, Cory’s vocal projection in the main could have benefitted from a touch more strength and control of pitch and tone. This was evident particularly when duetting with ‘Ariel’ (Gemma Kate Gould) in “Almost Paradise”.
Gemma played the leading lady ‘Ariel’ with a convincing observation of character and a good singing voice.
Very good playing was also seen in the empathetic roles essayed by Katy Reid as Ariel’s mother and Lisa Scott as Ren’s mother ‘Ethel’. Both elicited a tenderness, concern and understanding appropriate to character and situation.
A testing role was presented for Andy Lingfield as the ‘Reverend Shaw Moore’, a man masking inner turmoil and hurt within the adoption of a harsh and disciplinarian attitude to the townsfolk under his control and influence. I felt that Andy played a game of two halves; not quite convincing or forceful enough in the greater part of the first half, but coming surely into his own in the second act when his vulnerability is revealed. A lovely delivery of a plaintive plea in song “Heaven Help Me” and some good dramatic playing in the latter stages won me over!
Choreography and ensemble opportunities abound in this show, and Epsom Players gave strong versions of numbers such as “The Girl Gets Around” early on, well staged and well dressed. This sequence leads on to a finely executed and visually pleasing set change, bringing gymnasium lockers down to head height; this was effective and sharp.
One of the three most well known numbers “Holding Out For A Hero” was given full justice by Gemma Kate Gould, Corin Miller, Livvy Carr and Vicki Terry.
Bursting on to the scene in Act 2 comes Emma June Dixon with a fine cameo as ‘Irene’, with an outlandish singing style and general projection.
“Mama Says” is expertly delivered by John Paul Sutherland with William Boulding, Tyrone Haywood, and Jonathan Ford, all playing the local lads well enough, with Cory Michael Leopold as ‘Chuck Cranston’, playing Ariel’s controlling boyfriend, is suitably violent, thuggish and feral; I liked this performance.
A host of smaller parts make up the cast which of course are all most important to the production, together with an ensemble of dancers who should properly be acknowledged for their sterling work.
Acknowledgements to the orchestra for their fine accompaniment, and of course to Nic Luker for musical direction and Aimee Clark-Hooper for choreography.
My contention is that the production had many good points but could have been even better with more distinct individual performances and a more convincing creation of mood prevailing in the town of Bomont.
Finally the lyrical highlight in one of the songs – the rhyming of Nasties with Ecclesiasties —brilliant!
All in all well done to Epsom Players – a fine night out
- : admin
- : 22/03/2014