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26 October 2013


The Opinion Makers
Made in Colchester
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Saturday 26th October 2013

2013 has been an excellent year for the Made in Colchester team with a string of successes that have made huge strides to put the Mercury on the map as a top quality producing house - the Intimate Exchanges series, The History Boys, The Butterfly Lion and most notably the wonderful The Hired Man.  Despite a pre-show announcement that one cast member was unable to perform due to injury, on paper The Opinion Makers ticks all of the boxes to continue this accomplished series; directed by the Mercury's own Daniel Buckroyd and starring a cast of recognisable West End and comedy talents.  

Market Research in the 1960s is not the most obvious topic for a new musical, following as we do the plights of 'Fernsby Market Research' as they take on a re-branding research project for Dr Campbell's Lotion.  FMR's lazy staff fabricate their piles of questionnaire responses and simply tell their inept boss and crazed clients the result that they wish to hear.  

Justin Edwards takes on the bumbling company owner, warming into the role after a shaky start.  His reactions during the metaphor number were particularly well done making the most of the unlikely scenario.  The Great British Bake Off's Mel Giedroyc plays his fawning long-term employee with a pretty singing voice and a sincere characterisation in a funny and hard-working performance. Proven musical theatre stars Daniel Boys and Julie Atherton sing with unsurprising style and finesse, with Atherton's lullaby one of the highlights, although neither are given numbers to make true use of their talents.  

This is true of the writing throughout, with the show never living up to it's "hilarious" billing despite a hard working and talented cast.  The plot is thin to the point of tedium with the hints of surrealism never going far enough to add anything but confusion.  The musical numbers, despite being played expertly by a consummate band and sung mostly successfully by the various singing talents on stage, rarely remain in the memory and often manage to delay rather than tell the story.

There is so much potential in this group of talents who have been brought together both on and off the stage, but unfortunately it is not potential we see fulfilled in this new musical.  

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