NORTH EAST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

SHOWCASE FESTIVAL 2013-14

GROUP: LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP

PRODUCTION: FROM WEST END TO WALTHAM

ADJUDICATION DATE: 20TH JULY 2013

ADJUDICATOR: Dawn King accompanied by Sara Green

INTRODUCTION

I had visited this group’s interesting and informative website prior to coming, and had been impressed at the range of productions tackled, and so it was with some excitement that we arrived at Little Waltham on a sunny, balmy evening. This was enhanced even before we entered the hall by the attractive outdoor bar arrangements, complete with floral decorations.

FRONT OF HOUSE

There was an expectant buzz when we arrived in the hall, which had been set out with cabaret tables in front of the main rows of seats – complete with nibbles and table candle decorations. We received a warm and cordial welcome from the front of house team and were made very comfortable.

PROGRAMME

This was clearly set out, easy to read, and contained lots of little “snippets” which added interest. It clearly demonstrated the community support which this group enjoys.

SETTING

The West End theme was immediately visible with use of foil shimmer curtains and a string of “footlights”. The stage appeared to have been extended and gave us a number of different levels, which is so important when working with a large cast to create the visual picture. The cabaret style setting accommodated the musicians discretely up one side of the hall, and enabled the company to use the front steps for different entrance/exit arrangements.

COSTUME and PROPS

The use of basic black cocktail dresses allowed the ladies to add sparkle and the men to look elegant, whilst clever use of additional costume or props meant that visually the costume never became boring. Items like the white towels/umbrellas were utilised to great effect within the choreography. The only number that did “jar” for me was the Food Glorious Food where the colours of the aprons/overall and the obviously modern utensils didn’t quite work, and we both wondered about the necessity of the tap dancers white tops, which my companion at first thought were overalls.

MUSIC

Any initial anxiety that we felt by being placed right next to the musicians was quickly dispelled – this trio pitched their volume at exactly the right level, complementing the

singers without drowning them. For a couple of the solo numbers perhaps more could have been done to support some of the less confident singers, but overall this was a very well balanced and talented band.

LIGHTING

The general lighting was effective, and the follow-spot worked well. However, where we were sitting, the moving disco effect was over-bright and distracting – although we accept that this may not have been an issue for the bulk of the audience.

DIRECTION AND CHOREOGRAPHY

This was a slick, well rehearsed, evening’s entertainment. The songs had been well chosen to suit the talents of the group, and well programmed to ensure that the evening bounced along, and that there was no opportunity to get bored. This was assisted by judicious editing of some songs. There was great imagination used in the setting of the numbers, with no repetition of placement patterns, and variation in the use of entrances.

Dividing the ensemble into two enabled different approaches to be taken to different numbers. The choreography maximised the space available and was well executed. The movement added much to the overall presentation of each number, both in ensemble settings and where it was part of a solo.

Clearly this is a drama group, rather than a choir, and the quality of the singing was varied. However, the director and assisant are to be applauded in giving almost everybody an opportunity to sing solo or in a small group and, without exception, these songs were delivered with sincerity and a comprehension or interpretation of the words that made them very enjoyable.

The drama background of the group was particularly evident where characterisation was required in numbers like Master of the House and Food, Glorious Food, but the group also produced some glorious sounds in many different vocal styles – our favourites being Hey Jude and ensemble numbers Cheek to Cheek and Do You Hear the People Sing.

We both felt that for future shows the group should consider adding harmonies to more numbers that would add depth to the excellent ensemble sound.

PERFORMANCE

Narration

The pithy narration was beautifully delivered by Linda Burrows. She struck the right balance between fact and humour, and this greatly added to our overall enjoyment of the evening.

Ensemble Numbers

In the ensemble numbers the diction was clear, and despite the significant number of songs in the show, almost everybody knew all of the words, and almost everybody smiled all of the time.

There was a confidence about the performance of all ensemble numbers that showed that the performers were enjoying themselves, and this spilled over into the audience.

Mamma Mia provided a great start to the show, with good use of entrances whilst the Irving Berlin numbers were stylish, showing the men’s voices off well. The staging of the final number was very effective, allowing the intensity of the number to develop by use of off stage singing to compensate for the limited stage space, thus providing a rousing climax to the evening.

A Team

Take a Chance on Me needed to be slightly more clipped and precise, and the men’s chorus sound was a bit lost at the back. The Dancing Queen number was well executed by the ladies although the men’s movement was less than confident, and the moves were not particularly appropriate for this number. The Top Hat number was great fun and enhanced by the three tap dancers – (well done those ladies), but as previously said, we thought Hey Jude was beautifully performed, and showed the full vocal capacity of the team off well.

B Team

There was great work by this group, delivered with plenty of energy, and some excellent stylized movement. They really did work as a team, constantly aware of each other, and the visual presentation they were making. All the girls were confident with their props, and Wash that Man/ Singing in the Rain was slick and well-rehearsed . The team tackled some reasonably ambitious choreography extremely well (Crazy Little Thing/Good Morning), particularly given the limitations of space! This was a team that “sold” their numbers well when performing as a team, and a couple of girls in particular had great facial expression. However, they rarely distracted from a soloist when they were supporting that number, and they were particularly effective in numbers such as Mr Cellophane.

Men’s Chorus

The Men’s chorus were particularly entertaining in the Queen Section, and we just loved the delivery of I Saw Her Standing There and the Jersey Boys medley. Although vocally patchy, the delivery of Nothing Like a Dame was highly entertaining. In some numbers, the men needed to develop greater awareness of each other to work as a cohesive unit rather than competing individuals.

Solos/Duets etc

Verity – A good voice and good movement. This number was engaging and presented very well.

Brian – Mr C is one of my favourite songs, and was delivered by Brian with pathos and excellent interpretation of the words. It was well contrasted by the Master of the House solo, nicely embellished with blackened teeth, and confidently delivered.

Val – Her voice may be small, but it is sweet, and in her interpretation of this normally ‘gutsy’ number, Val gave it a plaintive quality that made her solo memorable.

Darrel Empty Chairs was a notable show highlight for me, together with the Medley. Darrel is obviously musical, has a very pleasing voice with lots of potential, is vocally accurate, and with more experience will undoubtedly develop his stage skills and movement to become a real asset to the group.

Nicola – An expressive rendition of Consider Yourself, delivered with energy and enthusiasm.

Jackie – Another song where the meaning of the words was well delivered, ensuring that the audience developed a warmth towards her

Andrew – Andrew has a very pleasant voice when he is relaxed, but the challenges in parts of Music of the Night obviously caused him anxiety.

Bill – his characterisation and positive delivery of Luck be a Lady and Singing in the Rain indicated his experience and ability to engage with his audience. Bill and Jenny worked well together in the Part 1 finale.

Chrissy and June – This song is deceptive, and unless you build contrasting characters, it doesn’t work. This performance, although not always vocally accurate, did work in terms of the way that both ladies conveyed the meaning and emotion behind the words. A nice arrangement.

Vicky- A popular song, delivered beautifully by Vicky. The use of consonants to create volume and attention to detail in articulating onomatopoeic words was excellent, as was her body language and facial expression.

Karen – Karen conveyed the desolation and heartbreak of this song so well my colleague wrote – I didn’t know the song and was riveted by the story. Perhaps slightly more attack on the final phrase, but otherwise, well done.

Jenny – Jenny’s lovely pure voice and accomplished delivery was a joy in Let’s Face the Music and I Dreamed a Dream. Although in the latter song the phrasing used seemed awkward on occasion, resulting in loss of intensity and tone, the delivery was sincere and heartfelt.

Mike - Obviously confident on stage, with good movement and a nicely resonant voice, Mike made us laugh in both I Want to Break Free and Nothing Like a Dame. The more ambitious Bring Him Home was delivered with the appropriate emotion, but needed slightly more breath control, and openness on some sounds (ng in bring).

Viv – Viv worked hard in all the numbers she was in, and gave excellent and entertaining contribution to Master of the House.

Can You Feel the Love Ensemble – This was a lovely number, and Hannah completely captivated us. We both liked the setting of this number,made more powerful by the quiet stillness of the performers. Sometimes, less is more.

Thank you all for a very entertaining evening.

Dawn King

26.7.2013