Grease is the word!

No matter where you stand with musicals, everyone knows Grease. It is, quite frankly, staple musical theatre, so as the ultimate stagey person, I’m pretty embarrassed to say I’ve never seen, nor do I like the show. But after seeing RTSA’s knock out performance, I’m converted and I cannot wait to see it again! As soon as the music started, there was an instant buzz in the theatre, everyone was sat in their seats, ready to be taken back to 1950’s Rydell High.

Every single cast member was giving it their all throughout the show and the energy never faltered. From the adorable ‘Elementary School’ kids right up to the powerful leads, their energy and passion fuelled the audience, even up to where I was sat right on the back row! There wasn’t a single weak link in the cast, the movement was slick, energetic and original and the vocals were tight and precise, but special mentions have to go to a few of the leading cast.

In a show like this, there are so many ‘leading parts’, so it would be impossible to mention everyone, but I have to start with little Eugene, played by my very own brother Kiran Richards. I’ve never felt so proud watching him on the stage, he was confident, funny and working in a part that suited him down to a tee. His acting skills were amazing and he was living the part. Him and Millie Ducker (Patty Simcox) were perfect opposites and Millie’s high energy was perfect in this part- she made me knackered just watching her. She played the part with such maturity and never fell out of character, even when she was met with a slap around the face from Sandy. Jan and Roger (Ciara Stothard and Marcus Bagley- Hodkin) were also such a perfect pair. Both had outstanding vocal talent and acting skills and such a hilarious chemistry on stagey. Emily Wallbank was perfect as beauty school drop out Frenchie- sweet, sassy and everything in between. Her counterpart Dan Fenwick was also brilliant in the role of Doody. His comedic timing was spot on and it was great to see him showcase such excellent vocals when his character made us believe he was tone deaf. That’s real acting.

Will Legetter was hilarious as Sonny with fantastic acting skills, whilst Georgia Collins was very impressive as Marty and it was great to see her showcasing her vocals in this role with a fabulous rendition of Freddie My Love. Her other Pink Lady counterpart Beth Atkin was insane as the powerful Rizzo and after overhearing comments from other audience members during ‘There Are Worst Things I Could Do’, its not just me that was blown away. Her partner Kenickie (Josh Roberts) was passionate, funny and I could tell he was loving every moment. All the supporting leads were incredible, but kudos has to go to the two principle characters, Danny and Sandy. I was so excited to see Brad Ryan and Chloe Jackson as the dynamic duo and boy did they deliver. These parts were made for the pair and they were just ideal. Brad’s acting skills were better than I’ve ever seen them before and I loved seeing him bring the part to life. Chloe Jackson, however, was definitely something special. With such amazing vocal abilities and acting skills, there’s no wonder she had Danny on a string!

For me, the only downside was a few problems with microphones, which meant we missed a couple of lines of libretto and offstage chorus singing being missed but I’d put this down to a few technical teething problems and the fact I was literally sat at the back of the venue, nothing more. It didn’t affect the show in any way and I completely loved the performance. The reaction from the audience was so incredibly positive and the entire society should be very very proud of themselves!

 

 

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They Built This City on Rock and Roll- Splinters 25 Rock the Ages!

Now, out of all the musicals I’ve seen- and believe me, I’ve seen a lot!- Rock Of Ages is one that’s never really appealed to me. Full of 1980’s Rock classics, hence the name, this show is certainly not your average musical theatre piece, but Splinters25, which was formed to celebrate 25 years of the original company, put on a brilliant show, with excellent principles and energetic choreography.

The show beings with the character Lonny Barnett (played by Mark Holmes), who acts as the narrator and provides comedic relief throughout. This character breaks the sacred fourth wall at various points during the show, something not often seen in musical theatre productions, however Mark Holmes did this in such a clever way that it almost seemed natural to him. As the show begins, Lonny introduces us to Drew Boley (played by Adam Walker), an aspiring rocker working in The Bourbon Room, a rock bar found on the Sunset Strip and owned by music guru Dennis Dupree (Daniel Storey). Drew instantly falls for girl next door Sherrie Christian (Jess Curr) who leaves her hometown in Kansas to follow her dream of acting all the way to LA. Both Walker and Curr demonstrated great vocal talent throughout, with both lead roles having to deal with incredibly demanding songs, which were performed very well. Jess Curr’s acting talent was also superb, especially in the more emotional and reflective scenes and I felt that she really connected with the character.

As the Sherrie/ Drew romance starts to blossom, the residents of the Sunset Strip and regulars in The Bourbon Room are faced with disaster as developers Hertz Kleinman (Pete Lane) and his son Franz (Matthew Bevan) suggest bulldozing the strip in favour of more clean living, ultimately threatening the ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’ lifestyle of the city. This doesn’t go down well with the Mayor’s assistant Regina Koontz, who starts a protest group and discovers a spark with Franz during the process. Pete Lane and Matthew Bevan worked perfectly together and the father- son duo were both talented and entertaining. Danni Hibbert was also fabulous in her role as Regina Koontz, with great vocal talent and excellent acting skills, notably in the more intense scenes towards the end of the show.

The entire cast and crew gave their all to the performance and there was no doubt that it was a feel good evening for us all. The audience was clapping along throughout and it was great to see people singing along, albeit quietly, to songs they’d only ever sing after a few too many beers. Unfortunately, there were a few instances in which the band drowned out the libretto and singing from cast members, as well as a few technical issues with microphones not being on for certain cast lines, but, due to my being in the audience on the opening night, I’d put this down to a  few teething problems. For me, the only other downside was the lack of precision with the harmonies. It seemed as if the ensemble was almost competing with one another to push their own voices further rather than working together and blending the sound to create the smooth backing vocals required for many of the songs. Despite this, I still had an amazing night in the Octagon Centre, a quirky venue that was perfect for this show. Everyone involved with the show should be very proud of themselves, and I cannot wait to see what Splinters and Splinters25 do next.