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11 April 2014


Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Friday 11th April 2014

Grease is the original "High School Musical" and the bright, retro design of Jeremy Tustin's production for CYGAMS this week escorts us warmly back to its 1950s setting.  Such a familiar story, this classic musical is brought to life with some excellent touches - the full scale 'Greased Lightning' car being a delightful addition for Kenickie's big number.  

Although the pace has a tendency to drop during the spoken scenes, this current CYGAMS incumbent definitely thrives on music and there are some stand-out numbers throughout the evening.  'Those Magic Changes' is given a confident rendition by Charlie Toland as the charming Doody, complete with golden backing girls.  'It's Raining on Prom Night' is styled as a powerful split scene duet between the Prom's vocalist, beautifully sung by Kathryn Peacock, and the lovestruck heroine Sandy, a doe-eyed characterisation by a talented Natasha Newton.  The group numbers are also sung with style and enthusiasm, particularly the big Prom dance contest number 'Born to Hand Jive', led by Elliott Elder as Johnny Casino.

Henri de Lausun leads the cast as the charismatic Danny Zuko, singing with power and excelling in the dance numbers.  Ben Wilton gives attitude as bad boy Kenickie, and Edward Bonney is an endearing Roger.  The Pink Ladies include the dreamy Frenchy played with a cute grin by Monique Crisell, and Sophie Walker's intelligently characterised Marty, thoughtfully and confidently acted.  A wonderfully funny dance break for geeky Eugene wins a deserved cheer for Jack Toland, maintaining his character with consistency.  

It is very difficult to teach stage presence.  It is the X-Factor, that extra something, and if a performer has it naturally it will draw the audience in completely.  Tamara Anderson is ideally cast as the tough, confident Rizzo, and she shows a depth of feeling and understanding during her 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do' number that is a rare moment of genuine emotion in this otherwise frivolous show.  She doesn't have the purest voice of the group and she isn't the best dancer, but the maturity she brings to her perfectly pitched characterisation is the highlight of the production.

Another unfailingly entertaining evening from this committed group of youngsters.  Excelling musically as an ensemble, their next production - the sung-through Andrew Lloyd Webber dance show Cats - will suit them perfectly, playing at the Cramphorn in April.

02 April 2014


Betty Blue Eyes
Made in Colchester
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Saturday 29th March 2014
Betty Blue Eyes began life in the West End in 2011, starring Sarah Lancashire and Reece Sheersmith, in a short lived but dazzling production that won over the critics.  Arguably not suiting a West End audience, this very British story follows the fate of one chiropodist and his wife in a small North of England town in 1947 - while rationing was still in force and the young Princess Elizabeth planned her wedding to Philip Mountbatten.  Based on the film A Private Function, the musical version by Stiles and Drewe concentrates on the illegally reared pig that is to be the subject of the town council's celebration banquet for the royal wedding. 
With leading cast members straight out of the West End themselves, Haydn Oakley and Amy Booth-Steel are exemplary in their performances.  Beautiful voices and gently comic characterisations make their two characters, Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers, warm and lovable.  Joined by an ensemble filled with triple-threats, there is a surprising and very entertaining amount of dancing for the size of the production, which was all executed with excellence. 
The Made in Colchester team have built a reputation for their production values, and the set, costume and technical aspects of this production are ideal examples of this.  The lighting design is particularly effective, with some lovely use of colour and a beautifully lit "dream" sequence during "Nobody". 
Where the West End failed to maintain audiences for this charming celebration of Britishness, perhaps with its large percentage of tourist-based audiences, on a more local scale the show works brilliantly.  Set to embark upon a UK tour after this initial run in Colchester, the wit and style of this clever production will charm audiences around the country.