In the limelight - review

In The Limelight - a review by Joe Clarke, NODA rep District 8

12th May 2019

Director: Heidi Cook

Musical Director: Alex Williams

Choreographer: Kevin Clarke

A&WMTC opened their 2019 season this week with their annual concert/revue show: In The Limelight. Directed by Heidi Cook, this showcase of songs was staged in a small village hall with a cabaret style seating plan. Supported well by their audience, this revue was a great showcase for the vast talent that this society has to offer.

The theatre space was close to the audience which enabled the action and the sound to be ever present. I loved the opening dialogue which made it feel very personal to this society. The revue was directed, in sections, with a master of ceremonies introducing each section. Whilst this worked in the norm, I was confused as to the inclusion of some of the songs as they didn’t belong in a particular section, merely a showcase for that individual. This was apparent in ‘Send in the Clowns’, ‘I know Him So Well’ and ‘Pam’. They didn’t belong in any section and felt like they were included as they suited the performers ability.

I also found it strange that the two numbers from ‘Annie’ were separated into the two halves of the performance. Another slight negative for me was that a few of the soloists broke the fourth wall at times. Whilst this works in some of the songs, I personally find it easier to watch when I am invited into a performance and seeing the character emote.

I also found that some of the scene changes were ‘clunky’. Most of the actors brought on their own chairs and props, which added to the slight delay. I also question whether lots of the chairs were needed, especially for group numbers such as ‘Oom Pah Pah’, whilst they gave levels, maybe not so many chairs were needed? The change from Mary Poppins’ songs was particularly slow due to the small space backstage. Perhaps a closing of the curtain could’ve been used more to separate the sections and aid the transitions? This is merely a suggestion. I am, of course, being very picky.

The overall feel and look of the revue was great. I loved the gold lame curtain used as a backdrop. The fantastic lighting added another layer to the whole piece, and it was clear that the audience enjoyed this revue very much. The band sounded great throughout. I loved hearing the different sections of the band. Particularly in ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ and ‘Give A Little Love’. The use of the electric drumkit was fab too. A couple of the songs had backing tracks instead of using the live band but overall, the band sounded great!

I would’ve preferred if some of the singers had a little more direction in musicality as a few of them stuck rigidly to the timing or lacked expression and individuality, but again, I’m being very picky.

Due to the size of the performance area, the choreography was quite limited. Whilst it didn’t lack in style or energy, I could tell that there wasn’t much else that the choreographer could do due to the lack of space. I liked the movement during ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ and ‘Consider Yourself’.

The lighting was excellent. I loved the colours used on the movers and the uplighters. The lighting added another layer to the show and helped establish location and helped separate each song/section. I particularly loved the laser style lights that combined with the smoke machine. This added to the overall effect.

The sound was also very good. A cues were on time and the blend between the band, the cast mics and the audience was particularly good. I felt that two of the cast mics were slightly too high during ‘Be Our Guest’ (Beauty & the Beast) and ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ (Oliver) but maybe that was just me? I also found it strange that two of the soloists had hand-held mics. This made it feel more like a concert rather than a theatre style performance.

The costumes added to the overall effect and helped establish both character and scene. The costumes for the Les Miserables section looked particularly well. Overall, I really enjoyed this revue.

As I mentioned above, I personally preferred the songs/sections when the singer didn’t break the fourth wall and I was invited into their performance. It was also apparent that whilst some of the cast performed as the character, others were just singing a song. I personally prefer it when I can see a character and a performance rather than listening to someone sing.

Particular highlights for me were the ‘Spamalot’ section, which was both funny and thoroughly entertaining and the ‘Les Miserables’ section which was sung brilliantly. Phee Wild sang superbly during ‘On My Own’! She gave a masterclass in acting through song and I believed every word she sang! Phee also sing brilliantly with Annabel Thomson and Olivia Hall during ‘I Know It’s Today’ – Shrek. This was a great showcase for all three performers and was well staged.

Another masterclass in acting through song (with stunning vocals) was Tina Spiers. Her renditions of ‘Find Your Grail’ (Spamalot) and ‘Never Enough’ (The Greatest Showman) were both funny and haunting! Heidi Cook and Russel Caulfield were fab in ‘The Song That Goes Like This’. It was very entertaining with great comic timing from both.

Helen Lawrence displayed great diction and articulation during ‘Be Our Guest’ (Beauty And The Beast) and Katy Thomason-Stewart showcased great vocals throughout. Jonathan Creswell did well in the brilliantly staged ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, along with Michael Shneck in the brilliantly stage ‘Me’ (Beauty And The Beast). It is clear that A&WMTC have a lot of vocal talent.

The group numbers sounded fantastic and it’s also abundantly clear that they have both great dancers and superb actors amongst the cast.

The two shining stars of the show for me were Tina Spiers and Phee Wild. Both acted their socks off which showcasing their outstanding voices.

Overall, this was a fab showcase and well-staged. I thank A&WMTC for their kind hospitality and wish them all the very best for both the showcase at the Lowry Theatre in July, and their next show ‘Oliver’ in November.