Once More With Feeling

 

Surrey Advertiser

Diana Eccleston

These pre-Christmas revues are always good-fun affairs, crammed with favourite musical numbers, interlaces with occasional comedy items and a fish and chip supper served during the interval.

This programme has been organised by three people new to their roles: John Nash as director, Toni Frost as choreographer and Neil Shrimpton (heading up a fab band).

And they make a fine job of it.

On Tuesday's first night there were some distinctly under-rehearsed routines during which some dancers were frantically trying to follow the moves.

Some pieces were average. but some were simply splendid, showcasing the talent and fine voices which are a hallmark of WallOp.

I wasn't keen on all the items - well, you win some, you lose some in shows like this where the bill is cobbled together from a variety of musical sources - though there was certainly enough to keep everyone happy.

Maybe it took some time to warm up, but the second half seemed to me by far the best.

I liked the blokes dragged up for their Women's Clothes and there was more funny business from Tony's monologue Boring Bugger, Iain's Maurice the Mayfly and Iain and Rick's excellently timed Abbott And Costello radio sketch Who's on First Base.

Derek gave a fine Anthem and was joined by Jacky, Lucy and Ian for another strong item, Model of Decorum (both from Chess).

The Les Miserable selection was also very well done, with Cathie giving us the Fantine song I Dreamed a Dream, Rick with Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and the whole company in the rousing One Day More.

Enjoyable solos came from Barbara with Sunset Boulevard showstopper With One Look, John's Neil Diamond number America, Laurie's cheeky Making Whoopie, Shane's Ain't Gonna Wash For a Week, Celena's Mr Spaceman and Vykki's Santa Baby, which led neatly into the vibrant finale.

Always a well-costumed company, they ended up with I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day in festive red, white and green outfits with all the trimmings. A great way to another hit show.

Gregory Vincent

The annual musical production by the Wallington Operatic and Dramatic Society is now in it's 32nd year - and you can see why.

The solo singing by Cathie Poole in When She Loved Me and I Dreamed A Dream is almost operatic is excellent; she reaches (and holds) the high notes with perfect ease. Val Brooham has a pleasant Broadway lilt as she sings Nice Work If You Can Get It; Vykki Cartwright has star quality in her rendering of Santa Baby; and Celena Bain's Mr Spaceman is also very melodious.

Meanwhile, Ian Lambert, Derek Drennan and Laurie Bright are highly professional and self-assured. Poisoning Pigeons and Model of Decorum were remarkably well-rehearsed pieces, the latter involving several performers in an intricate, overlapping harmony. indeed, the charismatic make and female partnerships are too numerous to list; and I'm A Woman, complete with silky skirts and sensuous body movements, was a saucy number for all males in the audience.

Tony Wall was admirable as a compere. In the interval, there was a tasty fish and chip supper, and throughout, an efficient bar service enables drinks to be ordered and brought to your table. I thought the whole evening was fun and found the audience to be very responsive.

The choreographer, Toni Frost, cleverly moves a large troupe around a small stage; and I simply must mention the costume design by Barbara Windsor, Yvonne Mount and Jane Martin.

After a somewhat low-key start, it becomes dazzlingly colourful and well-coordinated, especially in With One Look and Baby It's Cold Outside. I suppose the humour could more contemporary. Who's On First Base, although competently delivered, was old-fashioned even for it's time. There are also occasions when the audience was left in limbo for a couple of seconds, waiting for the next group to come on. Indeed, the compere humorously alerts us to how difficult some of these change-over really are.

Nevertheless, it was a fine evening's entertainment; and some of the talent on display would not look out of place in the West End.

John Nash, the director, said "This is a big year for our Dramatic Society, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Tonight's show is the result of two years of preparation and everyone is thrilled to be part of it. in fact, it's the kind of show that could launch a career. Normally, I'd be up there."

As I remember, he was up there himself for one number and he sang it with gusto.

 

NODA

Theo Spring

Another wide-ranging compilation of songs we mostly know and love, and all dressed up in your usual finery too.

I must congratulate John Nash on his musical show debut as director - it is a tall order to find numbers which will suit the theme, the audience, the talent and the time slot.

It is unusual for me to find niggles, but I did this time and will start with these. Although I came on the second night, the show on Wednesday still had that first night fell to it, with little things going wrong. Costume changes just that bit too quick to manage, some of which requiring extra ad hoc time padding from our master of ceremonies. Dances were still not solid in a few routines and I noted several members of the cast who did not know the words to some of the numbers in which they appeared.

Owing to my fault in the lateness of my response to Laurie's kind invitation to attend, I found myself right at the back of the hall this year and experienced difficulty hearing words. In the main, these were the words of the MC, and certainly most of that delightful "Who's On First Base" sketch was inaudible, which was a great shame. I do know how tricky it is to get the sound balance right, particularly when there is a mix of song and spoken words, but it is worth getting someone to do sound checks - not only at rehearsal, but on the first night when the acoustics change once the hall is full of people.

But back to the gems - and there were many.

Jane Martin low gravely voice perfect for the Dietrich spoof. It was so realistic that it took many of us to realise that there was something not quite right with the words.

I thought that the harmonies in Because were spot on - presented by a talented group of voices. Mick, Rick and Ian did well with the tricky melody of Fixing a Hole and the company likewise with Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Barbara, looking wonderful in that silver turban gave is quite an intense With One Look..

The sound gremlins for to the Ladies Who Lunch, but good body and face acting here helped to underline the gist of the sketch.

I really enjoyed the Global Trotter's choreography for Sweet Georgia Brown  - a novel and well rehearsed number.

Vikki looked just the part of the Trolley Song - this is a legendary piece and many of us know the phrasing as well as the words, and this interpretation kept faith with the original.

What I Did For Love has odd phrasing and Clare found it difficult to start, with breathlessness and short notes, but she gained strength as she sang on.

Loved the costumes for I Got Rhythm - and great tap to match made this a really super number.

The band, who deserve huge plaudits for their wonderfully accurate musicianship throughout the show really excelled in Now You Has Jazz - very professional indeed.

Laurie's Making Whoopie had just the right touch of suggestiveness in it, but we missed some of the words - us at the back!

Ian and Derek's You Nothing Without Me was well sung, but difficult to follow. Jacky and Lucy gave us a splendid duet with You Can Always Count On Me with two voices that are growing nicely in stature.

The D W Washburn set was an excellent concerted number with Saved as an equally good follow on.

The second half reversed gender numbers were a very clever juxtaposition and the 'ladies' looked wonderful. The orchestration in America was an excellent mimicry of the original Diamond, but, for me, John Nash didn't quite come up to Neil's delivery.

Red and gold costumes for Baby It's Cold outside added much to the well-presented number and Derek's Anthem was beautifully sung.

Model of Decorum was confusing - it could have done with some pre-number explanation for the audience to have understood what was going on, but I did like the understated Chess reference in the black and white costumes.

Les Miserable is much loved, and well known. It was quite spoilt for me by the spoof Bring Him Home. Mick did an excellent job on the vocals, but sandwiching it in between two such serious numbers I felt it spoilt the praiseworthy emotion and delivery of Cathie's I Dreamed A Dream and made Rick's work to get things back on track with Empty Tables, very difficult. Such ideas (and I have heard this one done before), should be treated, with levity, in a solo spot. by the time we had got to One Day More, however, my ire had fled - what else could it do in face of such a rousing number?

I heard and appreciated the majority of Iain's Maurice the Mayfly and welcomed the good old 60's back with Mr Spaceman, well sung by Celena.

Vykki's Santa Baby needed just a little more 'Eartha Kit' to it, but the finale from Derek and the company was a merry was to say goodnight.

Taking show tunes out of context is never without its concerns. How well do the audience know the numbers, do they know which musicals, do they know the story of the musicals well enough to know what the particular numbers are saying? The answer to most of these of 'no'. We must not assume our audience have the same in-depth knowledge as those of us who are imbed with musicals. Often a note of the show and a short explanation will suffice. I realise that programme space is short but maybe an extra leaf and a little more on the selling price?

So once again, congratulations to John Nash, to the superb music of Neil Shrimpton and his talented band, to Toni Frost for excellent choreography and to the tireless wardrobe.

 

 

 

Surrey Advertiser

Diana Eccleston

 

Not so much a revue, more an extravaganza: that's the way supports have come to describe Wallington Operatic's entertainment each November. These affairs always boast a full company up to the nines, changing costumes for each routine.

The trouble with this show is that, like an over-stuffed pudding, it is too full of good things. It comes complete with a fish and chip supper during the interval and runs to almost three hours.

A bit of judicious trimming in future would leave more time to polish what remains. I'm not suggesting massive cuts, just a tweak at the medleys, and maybe omitting a couple of the monologues/sketches which are slotted in to give the rest of the cast time for their quick change.

This collection has been compiled by Brenda Meakin with the help of Vivenne Vassay, and they have picked lots of best bits from previous successes.

I liked the bevy of brides in Waiting at the Church who hoist up their wedding dresses to launch into a tap routine; the Ovaltinies (who certainly bring back memories for many) with Cheryl Dunne and Jane Martin looking like a couple of truants from St Trinian's trying to get in on the act; and the X-certificate Andy Pandy sketch with Barbara Windsor reading the story in authentic Watch With Mother voice, Cheryl as Looby Loo and John Nash and Ian Lambert as the randy Andy and Teddy.

The Irving Berlin medley looks a picture in white and This Is The Army Mr Jones with high-kicking dancers in fishnets and battle dress jackets is great fun.

The brief Irish dancing spoof is another good laugh and Laurie Bright and Yvonne Mount make regular (rather too regular) appearances as the amusing gossipy char ladies.

Laurie, Cheryl and Brenda also make wonderfully tarty barmaids while Laurie heralds the festive finale with her witty monologue about the chaos of Christmas.

This good-looking show has the Victorian Christmas card look for its last sequence and a whole bunch of favourite songs to send you home smiling.

 

 

NODA

 

It was an excellent idea to look back on yourselves to recreate the best from past shows, for this one. There was, however, nothing musty about the programme - it came out with today's sparkle.

With so many good things to chose from, it is not surprising that 'what to leave out' was a problem, but I do feel that the programme was a little to ambitious, both in content and in running time. Your programme, too, seems to have had its own glitches being difficult to read with the printing smudged, and even the word programme Americanised to program.

The number of items also proved a problem for those hectic back-stage quick changes and a considerable number of costumes were not shown at their best on Monday night. Hems were sagging gaps and quite a lot of underwear showed and some costumes had been donned in such a hurry that their linings were all rucked up. The night I came was, I know, your first night, but you will have had the technical and dress rehearsals to sort out such problems.

These comments, however, in no way reflect upon the costumes themselves. They were colourful, well co-ordinated and, in some cases, quite spectacular.

Spectacular, too, is the right work for the opening number. The theme from Sunday Night at the London Palladium set just the right tone for the glitz to come, and those 'living' flames added excitement.

As soon as The New Foxtrot Serenaders struck up their overture, it was clear that the music for the whole evening was in good hands - what a great bunch of musicians they are, both as accompanist and in their own right.

Cheryl made the most of her moves in the New Fangled Tango, Cathie's lovely pure voice was not quite the right choice for the sexy Monroe number and Barnara's May to December, unusually sung by a lady, came over really well. I have never seen so many brides a'tapping - everyone really looked the part and it was quite a surprise when the routine started, as were the red garters for the unkind note!

The Roger and hart Medley gave a good opportunity for many of WODS good vocalists to really get their teeth into some wonderful songs - Celena's Where or When was particularly poignant. A wonderful flurry of costumes got the rock 'n roll of to a swinging start. Good to see that Shadows walk again here. The London Medley, with pearl buttons by the core was well composed, moved and sung. Why didn't you close the first half with it?

After a delicious supper (thank you so much), it was off to the Islands and a mixture of comedy and song. Mad Dogs and Englishmen was particularly well performed.

Liz and Cathie's version of I Know Him So Well was charming and Fascinating Rhythm made tap dancers of you all and looked great.

The costumes for Broadway Medley looked fabulous and Jane M's Broadway Baby stole that particular section. The furs for Take Back Your Mink caused quite a stir and the whole number was great fun, as were The Ovaltinies - freckles and all.

The Irving Berlin Medley, all decked out in white and silver, might have been improved by more duets/quartets and a little less of full company numbers, but the 'argument' in You're Just In Love came over very tunefully.

There are some really good comedy interludes. I really liked the Lighthouse, and Andy Pandy was very good indeed. Laurie's monologues were certainly up to her usual high standard. Those charladies had some amusing comments but I think we saw them a little too often (although I know they provided 'changing time'.

The Christmas Finale, complete with tree, was beautifully staged and very festive.

Vivienne Vassay's choreography brought light and air into the show, and I applaud Brenda Meakin's direction of such a huge undertaking.

 

Surrey Advertiser

Theo Spring

****

A really eclectic compilation of songs from diverse musicals made up the programme for this well-presented show. And the numbers chosen were not necessarily the major hits from the shows, but nevertheless, easily recognised.

Director Matt Beavis achieved a slick production, with music interspersed with some wonderfully brief comic sketches which gained their laughs and were gone. The most audacious but to my mind the funniest was the discussion between Margaret Catton as Grandmother and Anna Chidgey as Granddaughter, over the demise of Grandfather, due to making love to the rhythm of church bells on a Sunday morning. It has a great punch line. Trickled through the show these laughter breaks gave the show a light touch and also valuable time for others in the cast to change into one of the many beautiful costumes for which WODS are justifiable renown.

Barbara Windsor, Yvonne Mound and Jane Martin amassed these, colour-themed as usual, but their sea-greens for the underwater scene were just lovely.

Quick knock-knock-type jokes added more comedy and there was a clever school sketch too.

WODS build out an apron from the stage for these productions which offers space for more movement and opportunities for some more intimate dialogues.

The show was pinned together by Will Harris - master of the understated who, in curmudgeonly mood berated the chosen numbers as being not to his taste but was slowly brought round as the show progressed.

Choreography played a strong role in the production, with a group of young dancers supplemented by older ones, performing the creations of Vivienne Vassay.  Three small dancers brought grace to With A Smile And A Song and everyone who could hoof it joined in the tap for Zippidee Doo Dah and made a splendid sound.

Many of the numbers had a soloist with the company joining in. The Second Star To The Right from Anna Chidgey was sung with tenderness, Be Our Guest from Ricky Thompsett was sincere and developed into a fun number with the company dressed as maids, cooks, butlers, waiters etc as we, the audience, were invited to our fish and chip supper.

Part Of Your World was an emotional plea from  mermaid Jacky Davis to have feet and experience walking down the street and Helen Teasdale and Joe Goodall got the voices, actions and harmonies just right with Doll On A Music Box and Truly Scrumptious.

The snake song from Jungle Book - Trust In Me - was given another meaning altogether by the seductive and richly-voiced Jane Martin and Dorothy and her Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion reminded us what they needed from The Wizard Of Oz.

A well rehearsed happy show of perfect length - and supper too - an excellent evening.

 

 

NODA

 Theo Spring

What a really thoughtfully put together show this was. The title leads once to suspect it might be the well known numbers from popular musicals which compile the programme but no, here we had the expected alongside the unexpected, all glued competently together by the slightly grouchy Will Harris who was won over to the joy of music from the musicals, in the end.

The comedy was short, pithy and very funny. I enjoyed the short interludes from Laurie and Yvonne and the quick-fire rounds of 'knock-knock'  or 'ello ello'type jokes which were there, laughed at and gone, to be followed swiftly by the next one. It was To The Sound of Church Bells, presented with such straight faces by Margaret and Anna which really tickled, and I shall think of ice-cream vans in an entirely different light in future, - whatever tune they constantly ring out!

WODS is fortunate in its range of ages and the talent of all. Concerted numbers sound all of a piece and then out steps a soloist from that crowd with a really good voice. Director Matt Beavis and MD Brian D Steel had obviously spent a good deal of time working out who was going to sing what as the chosen numbers were very well suited to each voice. In particular Jacky Davis (where did she find the time to do this, and star in Croydon Stagers' Half a Sixpence?) and the wonderfully throaty voice of Trust In Me which Jane turned into such a sexy number that I completely forgot it was originally a snake's song - or perhaps the two were more closely related after all?

Costumes for this show were well up to WOD's own high standards. I particularly applaud the underwater scene - for its inventive costumes, its beautiful colouring and lighting and its collection of numbers. Other costume drama was achieved by those wonderful witches with their impressively large pointed hats and dresses in such an abundance of colours - and all matching too.

The quartet following the Yellow Brick Road had certainly had some care lavished on their costumes - I thought the Tin Man particularly splendid.

Vivienne Vassay's dance numbers blended in well with a highlight being the tap number to Zippidee Doo Dah bringing in anyone in the cast who could do as little as a shuffle ball change!

The school scene with teacher Helen's patience being tried at every turn was slick and fun and I loved that outrageously rebellious wig with its punk overtones.

Highlights from the show, for me, were Ricky's Hush-A-Bye Mountain, Helen and Joe's Doll On A Music Box and Truly Scrumptious, Celena and Joe's Something Good, Anna and Shane's Sixteen Going On Seventeen, the whole concept, execution and timing of Be Our Guest, so cleverly inviting us, the audience, to tuck in to our welcome fish and chips and the very well executed Consider Yourself from Stephen, Katie, Samantha and Sophie.

Having taken eons to get the tune of It's A Small World out of my head where it seemed to take up residence, you have very kindly re-introduced it. I am hoping it will depart again soon!

Well done WODS for presenting a most enjoyable evening which was an excellent length, slick, entertaining and serving as a good reminder of all the songs from the musicals we have heard but which have not remained at the forefront of productions such as this. It was good to hear them again.

Thank you for inviting me, once again, and for my delicious supper for which you sang!