By Milan Perera, Arts Critic Columnist
After a bumper year culminating in the 48-hour production of The Heathers, Music Theatre Bristol (MTB) is back for another year of musical theatre to enthral, enchant and entertain the theatre lovers with their unique renditions of popular musicals.
“An adrenaline pumping tour de force through the history of musical theatre with a stellar cast.”
MTB kicked off the new academic year with the sixth instalment of The Showcase, featuring a heart-warming compilation from six showstopping musicals.
When The Winston Theatre fell into complete darkness and pin-drop silence, the musical director Madeleine Warren gave a downbeat which struck a spark, electrifying the cavernous space that opened the evening’s proceedings with a serving from The Addams Family.
The morbidly discordant Addams family gather round for their yearly family reunion where they summon the presence of a diseased ancestor. To their horror, their daughter Wednesday (Becky Stanton) has fallen in love with a “normal” boy, Lucas (James Tudor).
There was well-orchestrated business and chaos on the stage, embellished with some soaring vocal displays. Mia Rudden’s portrayal of Alice replete with menacing energy and unparalleled vocal prowess brought the audience to a stunned silence. The love duet of Stanton and Tudor was heartfelt and spontaneous which climaxed in a stage kiss much to the delight of the audience.
The next segment for the evening was a luscious tableau of Spring Awakening based on the controversial 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, which explores the theme of emerging adolescent sexualities in their various guises. The jarringly wholesome instrumentation provided a gleaming veneer to the piece, which captured the rebellious spirits of the adolescents to a tee.
Fran McDaid’s Fraulein Knuppledick was every inch a terrifying martinet with a growling low voice while Maddy Morgan’s silvery vocals nearly brought the house down. Ava Hinks and Tom Wilson-Dowdeswell shone as the central couple, Wendla and Melchior, whose fateful romance struck a chord with many in the audience.
The final segment before the interval was a generous lashing of the evergreen musical Singin’ in the Rain which transported the audience to the Golden Age of Hollywood that included egotistical movie leads, sycophants and wannabe stars.
The story pertains the romantic lead Don Lockwood (Jessie Millson), Don’s sidekick, Cosimo (Aoibh McCann) and the aspiring actress Kathy (Serafina Bird). The toe tapping number, “Good Mornin’” sung by the trio had the audience clapping and accompanying their flawless tap dancing with an undiminished enthusiasm. The choreography for the piece was sassy, sensual and sensational which captured the opulence of a nostalgic bygone era.
The second half of the evening kicked off with a spirited rendition of The Rocky Horror Show which was characterised by its brisk, crisp and rip-roaringly funny outlook thanks to an effervescent cast that responded to its original satirical intentions.
The story revolves around a newly engaged couple Brad and Janet (played by Divvij Yajnik and Isabel Haynes) getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of the eccentric scientist Dr Frank-N-Furter (Wilfred Kemsley) who is building up a Frankenstein-type monster! Wilfred Kemsley was sensational as the crossdressing scientist with bright red make-up, shiny black leather hot pants and a staggering vocal presence.
The penultimate piece for the evening was a serving of Tick Tick Boom which captured the story of a struggling music composer, Jonathan (Finely Carty-Howe), gripped by a relentless melancholy as his 30th birthday approaches.
Carty-Howe managed to achieve the fine equilibrium of a gregarious public persona with a doubting and reflective lover. Amani Priddy, who played Susan, was the perfect stage match for Carty-Howe as there were many poignant moments shared by the two. The renditions of the fan favourite 30/90 was a testament to the showmanship of Carty-Howe who executed the tremulous high notes with ease.
The final segment for the evening was a homage to the music of Queen, We Will Rock You with a series of foot tapping numbers and a heart-pulling love story of Galileo (Josh Simango) and Scaramouche (Grace Shropshire) at the centre. And then there was the evil Killer Queen (Jasmine Sakpoba) who banned musical instruments from the futuristic terrain of Planet Mall.
Each number sang by the cast was accompanied by a strong chorus from the audience who knew the lyrics by heart. The audience participation was further extended to rhythmic clapping, especially for Radio Ga Ga. The energetic dance routine was elevated with the searing vocals of the cast which had the audience in the seventh heaven. The proceedings for the evening ended on a high note with a high-octane rendition of the power ballad, We Are the Champions, followed by a standing ovation.
The 80-strong cast was led by the creative vision of the production cohort that included the choreographers Evie Rutter, Alice Fenton and Juliette Dudley alongside the directors Esia Forsyth, Marine Saint, Freya Noonan, Olivia Proctor, Becky Stanton, Finley Carter-Howe, Freya Thompson, Grace Shropshire, Poppy Whittaker, Ava Hinks, Sophia Woolfenden, Abi Wander and James Tudor.
The Showcase was jointly produced by Evie Rutter and Sam Sayan as their first creative venture for the year. Speaking to Epigram after the performance, the President of MTB, Evie Rutter pointed out that:
“Working on this show has been such a joy. Everyone has put in so much time and effort and it really shows on stage. I couldn’t be prouder”.
The Showcase runs from 23 Nov - 26 Nov 2022 at The Winston Theatre.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Milan Perera
Have you got your tickets for The Showcase?