A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
The Playhouse Theatre, Cheltenham
16th July 2019
Friends, Romans, countrymen, cricketers and astronauts: lend me your ears. It’s been a while, but, following their songfests of recent years, Promenade Productions are back in business with a full-blown summer musical production. Not only that, but in keeping with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, they, too, are treading new ground, specifically the Playhouse stage, where they have planted their society flag with renewed pride. they’ve even broken in company stalwart Ceri Winrow as débutante director. Now that’s three giant leaps for mankind. Make that four, if you consider their choice of show, Stephen Sondheim’s quirky Roman romp A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Like him or loathe him, you can’t deny that Sondheim is at least original. Up Pompeii meets the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in this imperial tale of pimps, petals and potions, a delightful piece of ancient revelry that is a real one-off in the field of musical theatre. With sterling support from the band under musical director Dave Whittle, the 19-strong cast soon proved themselves equal to the demanding score, and they were in fine voice during the rousing chorus sequences, although one or two of the principals seemed a tad nervous early on, and some intermittent over-amplification threatened to undo parts of the dialogue.
No matter. Melanie Warren radiated sweetness and light as girl-next-door Philia, a vision of loveliness who lit up every one of her scenes, as she negotiated the rocky road to marital bliss in the welcoming arms of eventual husband Hero, endearingly played by Jordan Phillpotts.
Elsewhere on the Appian Way, Neal Carter-Lewis provided considerable backbone as the senatorial Senex, ably supported by Maggie Preston as his dutiful wife Domina. Meanwhile, Sam Taunton upped the ante as their histrionic chief slave Hysterium, Ben Goodman commanded all attention as the bombastic army captain Miles Gloriosus, and John Pickup oozed charisma as Marcus Lycus, as he marshalled his glamorous courtesans. Anchoring it all was the capable Frank Dalton as the Lurcio-esque narrator Pseudolus.
All jolly good fun, and late on it even strayed into the Roman equivalent of Whitehall Farce, as the characters chased each other frantically in all directions and through the overworked doors standing in for the French windows, still several centuries off. That is, when they finally managed
to outrun the relentless Proteans, the pilum-wielding neighbourhood watch, who didn’t miss a trick keeping the local population in order, whilst also ensuring that no-one was accidentally impaled. Tom, Jasmin and Liz: take a well-deserved bow.
A funny thing happened at the Playhouse tonight, something very appealing, colourful (and I don’t mean the lunar eclipse) and well worth checking out at the old Bath Road forum. Salute!
Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
This version of Snow White had obviously been re-written and brought up to date with the introduction of modern technology with tablets and laptops, which gave rise to many jokes and misunderstandings with the associated terminology. Also the Dwarfs names were slightly different and there were a few unexpected twists in the story, such as the stepmother sending for Prince Ferdinand with the intention of marrying him herself, but he falls in love with Snow White. There was the inclusion of local references, plus this year the inevitable mentions of Brexit.
The show opened with Fairy Fortune telling us, in verse, the history of Snow White prior to her 18th birthday, and with characters acting it out on the other side of the stage. We were then taken to the Palace Courtyard and a lovely dance number. When the villagers came on and started singing they were a little tentative but they moved well. All of the hired in backcloths were beautifully painted and transported us to the various locations, this theatre has restricted ‘flying’ facilities and so the cloths were on a tab track and pulled across each time. The sound effects were appropriate and well cued, and there was a good well cued sound balance between voices and band. The lighting had been well designed, differentiating well between indoor and outdoor scenes, was atmospheric, and enhanced the set and costumes, and created a lovely effect for the mirror. The wardrobe department had worked hard to provide a set of costumes of a high standard, and combined with interesting makeup presented a colourful, overall picture.
There was a good selection of well-chosen songs and dance music. The well-performed songs under the musical direction of Paul Hardy, were of a suitable length holding the attention of the children in the audience, and mostly performed with good diction, although I felt the chorus sometime lacked confidence. The show had been well choreographed by Heather Newman and Kate Williams, with group of dancers performing intricate routines, with some lovely smiles. The whole cast had worked hard on the routines they were in and looked confident. The dance when Snow White was laid to rest after eating the poisoned apple was beautifully performed and very poignant.
The show benefitted from a confident set of principals who were well supported by minor principals and chorus, although it was a little slow in places due to the lines not being picked up quickly, but I am sure this would have improved as the week progressed. Maggie Preston made a lovely fairy godmother, Fairy Fortune. Ceri Holder, was every inch the callous, evil Queen Avarice, stepmother to Snow White, she certainly had the audience booing and hissing.
Samuel Taunton was an upper class Merlin, Wizard of the Magic Mirror, spending most of his time behind ’glass’ but eventually ‘breaking free’ from evil Avarice. Francesca Fiorentini was a charming Snow White who captivated the Dwarfs and the audience. It was a delight to see the inimitable John Panett back on form as, Edina Bouquet, the Palace Housekeeper, as always interacting well with the audience and other characters. Jordan Phillpotts gave a good performance as the quaint and sometimes bemused Magistrate and legal advisor to Queen Avarice.
Ben Goodman was hilarious as his rather confused Secretary, Scribbles. Dominique Yates confidently played Prince Ferdinand love interest of both Queen Avarice and Snow white. Frank Dalton did a sterling job as Chuckles, the Queen’s new Jester, working the audience well and telling so many silly jokes, he was energetic and engaging. Tessa Champion brought humour to the role of Slurp, the palace drain cleaner and the Queen’s henchman. Then there were the Dwarfs, renamed Brainy, Smiley, Grumbly, Dozy, Snoozy, Sniffle and Blushful, all played superbly by seven young ladies. They worked together as a team, were confident, clear, with excellent timing, they pointed the jokes beautifully and waited for the audiences laughter to die down before giving their next line, they showed a maturity beyond their years.
Director Heather Newman and assistant Daphne Herbert and made sure that all areas involved in the show had worked well together to bring about this Pantomime; that everyone was confident in their roles; that the stage was well used; and that the audience was well entertained and had a good evening. Well done everyone.
Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative South West District 15
The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham
19th January 2019
Hold on tight; it’s that time of the year again. Christmas is over, and Promenade Productions have returned to the Bacon Theatre to serve up another round of January jollity in the form of their annual pantomime. This time round it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Digital Edition), which had clearly undergone a 21st century re-invention. The Spock-eared dwarfs now answered to trendy names like Smiley, Snoozy and the intellectually-challenged Dozy, and what’s more, they were all girls capably led by Ella Critchley as the bespectacled and bearded Brainy.
All present and seasonally correct were a cottageful of upbeat songs, a well-drilled corps of young dancers gliding the through the forest, and some intelligent one-liners from the more educated end of the wit pool, notably The Great Boots Corner and Frozen Gags (and a nod to Brexit), with more heart jokes and shortist barbs than you can shake a pick at.
A few of the adult roles had also received a refreshing makeover. Merseysider Maggie Preston engagingly re-invented the fairy godmother as the Scouse-accented Fairy Fortune. Equally, Frank Dalton’s very down-to-earth portrayal of wisecracking jester Chuckles prompted plenty of giggles and groans. (Oh, yes it did). Best of all, John Pannett was back! Need I say more? Never one to stand on his dignity, the indefatigable pantomime dame’s portrayal of Snow White’s housemaid Edna Bucket, sorry, Edina Bouquet, once again gave the show its backbone.
I still love a classy bad guy, though, so all rise for Ceri Holder as the wicked Killer Queen Avarice who exuded an almost Bondian villainy in the role, spitting contempt at anyone within range and milking every last millilitre of audience disdain. Velvet-voiced Jordan Phillpotts invested the droll and exasperated magistrate Justice Quill with considerable gravitas, while Ben Goodman was hilarious as his dim-witted secretary Scribbles, and Francesca Fiorentini oozed sweetness and charm in the title role. Down in the diamond mine, her resurrection resembled an atmospheric scene from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, as Time to Say Goodbye re-echoed mournfully round the deep chasms.
All great fun, with Queen’s I Want To Break Free (to go with Killer Queen earlier) adding some final gloss (My favourite band, yer know), as Samuel Taunton’s eloquent Merlin finally liberated himself from the requisite mirror and the evil Avarice’s captivity. This latest round of post-festive frivolity from director Heather Newman was a musical and visual treat which left me in good heart.
Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo
Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham
Sunday 21st January 2018
Think of January and what springs to mind? Forgotten new year resolutions, miserable weather, the FA Cup 3rd round and the annual pantomime by Promenade Productions, a deservedly permanent fixture on the Cheltenham theatrical calendar. With good reason; each show is a fun-filled affair that overflows with jollity, and their 2018 extravaganza was no exception.
Laden with a laundry basketful of jaunty songs, a string of corny jokes as long as the Great Wall of China, including the Great Nile, Brexit and Laptop Gags, the sprawling Peking gang was all here, their ranks swollen by the customary legions of disciplined young dancers basking in the limelight.
Add to that the usual whacky characters, pratfalls and, somewhere in the mix, the desire to rule the world, and this seasonal serving of oriental anarchy lit up an otherwise dismal and wet Sunday afternoon.
Mind you, I have to admit to a few misgivings early on; the leaden first act needed some tightening up and a much-needed injection of pace. The glittering cave scene that concluded it, however, was a joy to behold, and the far more spirited second act never let up. The wardrobe team had clearly been working overtime to create dozens of eye-catching costumes, whilst elsewhere in the Forbidden City, there was plenty more sparkle. Ceri Holder radiated buckets of cheer in the title role, as she wooed the beautiful Princess Mandarin, delightfully played by Melanie Warren. Jasmine James turned the incidental role of Aladdin’s dim-witted brother Wishee-Washee into a tasty Chinese takeaway (Ah, so!), before losing some height and years in his mother’s washing machine. April Marsden was all sweetness and light as the princess’s loyal handmaiden So-Shy, while Angie Aston and Martin Giles clowned around chirpily as the buffoonish Peking police force.
For the first time in ages, society elder statesman John Pannett was unable to play the pantomime dame, but all rise for Neal Carter-Lewis who capably filled the godfather’s shoes with a gloriously smooth portrayal of winsome Widow Twankey. Jordan Phillpotts excelled as the suave, matter-of-fact genie, crooning in his richest Frank Sinatra voice, indeed did anyone consider the subtitle The Jazz Singer ? Looking more like a magician than a sovereign, Sam Taunton invested the role of the grandiloquent emperor with a wonderfully Old Etonian quality. How many times have I said it, though? Give me a good villain anytime; Alan Wollaston stirred up plenty of hostility as the scheming Abanazar, even if he did rather overdo the evil laugh at times. Leave it to assured Jessica Avery as his glamorous nemesis the Spirit of the Ring to cancel out his wicked influence and ensure the good guys won the day, bringing the curtain down on another winner from this gifted company. On a grey and rainy day, it certainly coloured my world!
Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo
Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham
January 18th 2018
Director & Choreographer: Heather M Newman • MD: Paul Hardy • Assistant Choreographer: Kate Williams
I liked this revised version of the Alan P. Frayn Pantomime; it was up to date and slightly shorter. There were all the expected Pantomime elements Dame; good and evil characters; the not very bright one; the young man interested in a young lady above his station; lots of colourful costumes; and plenty of audience participation.
As always with this company they had hired in beautifully painted backcloths, I thought the one for the entrance to the cave, with the mountain scape with and separate gauze for a waterfall, with the entrance to the cave behind it worked extremely well. The set dressing had been well thought out and was well used. The stage crew worked efficiently to give swift scene changes. The lighting was well cued and showed the sets to good advantage and created good atmosphere. It also enhanced all the lovely costumes and makeup.
There were many well-executed routines from the dancers. They had all been well choreographed by Heather Newman and Kate Williams, and had been tailored to suit the dancers. The opening number got the show off to a good start and although I enjoyed the later tap number, I confess at first could not think why they were dancing to ‘42nd Street’ until I realised the scene was taking place on The Street of 42 Chopsticks. I enjoyed the choice of music for this production and MD Paul Hardy had taught the songs well and accompanied the singing sympathetically. The performers were enjoying the music.
The sound effects were all well cued and appropriate, the waterfall was very effective. Although there were one or two problems with microphones, they were mostly well operated and the balance was good.
Everyone worked well together, with the chorus giving good support to the action. On this opening night I felt there was a degree of hesitancy and holding back but confidence grew as the show progressed. Abanazar was not quite evil enough for me, but he got the audience booing him. The Spirit of the Ring had good clear diction and told the story well, and was warm and helpful. Aladdin is described as ‘a fun loving lad’ and I felt he needed to relax a little. Wishee Washee his ‘not very bright layabout brother’, worked hard to get the audience to respond. Widow Twankey gave an understated performance as the Dame, ‘she’ was not the usual flamboyantly over the top character, but it worked well. Hu-Dun-Pong and Yu-Dun-Wong, of the Peking Police Force, certainly brought a great deal of fun to the proceedings, but occasionally their accents became too thick and were difficult to understand. The Emperor played as a less imposing character with humour. Princess Mandarin, daughter to The Emperor, gave a mature confident performance, as did her Handmaiden and friend So-Shy, they made a good team. Genie of the Lamp, was a good contrast to Spirit of the Ring, he was much more aloof and commanding.
There were some lovely moments in this Pantomime, a few of my favourite were the opening dance certainly set the scene and feel for China; there were good freezes when Abanazar and the Spirit of the Ring were in conversation; the whole of the Cave scene from when he arrives outside the cave, to finding the treasure and the spirits of the cave who were guarding it, their choral speaking was excellent. Heather Newman had worked well with her cast encouraging good characterization and use of the stage. It was a traditional family pantomime, full of interesting music, silly jokes and plenty of colourful costumes. The audience, particularly the Brownies certainly seemed to be enjoying it. It was a good evenings entertainment.
Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative South West District 15.
The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham. January 19th 2017
Director & Choreographer: heather Newman MD: Helen Harris
Assistant Choreographer: Kate Williams
This was the first Sleeping Beauty I had in a while and it was a delight. It was full of well-painted backcloths, colourful costumes, well-loved characters and lots of fun. Fairy Lilac, who was soon interrupted by Bad Fairy Heather, introduced us to the story and so the battle of good versus evil commenced.
This Theatre does not have sufficient height for flying in backcloths, they have to be drawn across the stage and those from Scenery Hire, Newport were excellent, helping to depict each setting well, particularly that of the sumptuous Palace. They were all well lit, with well-designed and cued lighting and good use of follow spot. I thought the lighting for the wicked fairy and the forest growing were very evocative. The scene changes were executed smoothly and efficiently, with everyone working well together.
The choice of music was appropriate for the story, with some good singing. The duo of Helen Harris and Keith Brain accompanied the cast well, keeping up a good tempo. The dances had been well choreographed and were not overlong, they either added to the energy of the show, or as with the ballet routines, helped to tell the story.
There were some well-defined characters, Fairy Lilac and Bad Fairy Heather contrasted well. Fairy Lilac was good-natured, enjoying life and the company of the delightful little Rainbow Fairies; whereas Bad Fairy Heather exuded malice with every syllable she uttered. King Cactus and Queen Marigold were an amusing pair of kindly but clueless parents and made you think it was a good job they had Nurse Dottie Dettol to look after their baby. Although you did wonder if the Princess would survive long enough to reach her 16th birthday in the hands of Nurse Dottie, who truly lived up to her name. Dottie was a lovely, outrageously dressed Dame, who engaged well with the audience, particularly with one young gentleman, who she repeatedly returned to and whose name she kept getting wrong. Princess Rose was a lovely young lady well suited to the role giving a confident performance, both with singing and acting. Palace Servant Muddles certainly worked hard to encourage the audience to participate. This character was full of fun and energy, portraying a ‘muddled’ character well, and keeping the show moving at a good pace, the audience loved him/her, especially when sweets were being distributed. The comic duo of Palace Messengers Fetch and Carrie, showed their incompetence well, but once or twice I felt they needed to pick up their cues a little quicker. Our Hero Prince Alexis, who saved the day, played the role with confidence and worked well with Princess Rose.
The Chorus of Villagers and Courtiers worked well supporting the action throughout, they sang and moved confidently, reacting appropriately in each situation. The young people in the chorus were self-assured and well disciplined. The dancers were well rehearsed with poise and elegance in their movements in the ballet. I especially liked the growing of the Forest of Thorns.
Director and choreographer, Heather Newman, had worked well with her cast encouraging them to confidently bring this well-loved story to the stage. The script had been adapted to include many local references and the scene place names, was well timed and very funny. Musicians, backstage crew and wardrobe, had admirably supported the enthusiastic cast to give audiences a colourful, well-coordinated evenings entertainment, which lifted everyone’s spirits. Congratulations to you all.
Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative. District 15.
The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham. July 14th 2017
Directors for the adults: Heather Newman and Daphne Herbert
Directors for the Young Promenaders: Heather Gallagher and Ceri Holder
Choreographer: Kate Williams MD: David Manifold.
Promenade Productions decided on a Compilation Show this year instead of their usual summer show. This type of show often creates more organising than a full show but it does give opportunities to people who would not consider taking on a lead role and also being able to perform songs from shows not available to non- professional groups. On this occasion it was an extremely varied evening with the adult members combining with The Young Promenaders and the Phoenix Dancers in support of Sue Ryder, a local Hospice.
The evening began with the Young Promenaders and a selection from Oliver! starting with ‘Food Glorious Food’, which was followed by a moving rendition of ‘Where is Love’, finishing with a lively ‘Consider Yourself’ with the adults joining the youngsters.
It was simply set with a raised area towards the back of the stage with steps leading to it and a screen onto which relevant, well chosen images were projected, the Victorian street scene for ‘Consider Yourself’ in the Oliver! selection was evocative. Mostly the costumes were simple black and white outfits with additional adornment; I liked the Nuns with their white collars for the extracts from ‘The Sound of Music’. The variety of coloured tee shirts for ‘Joseph’ added to the ‘Technicolor’ image; and the masks for ‘Masquerade’ were stunning. The lighting created an effective atmosphere for each number and the sound balance between piano and drums and voices was good.
The programme had obviously been carefully planned with an enjoyable mix of items from the youngsters, adults and dancers, with choices from modern shows and old favourites, with the first half brought to a close with an ensemble number ‘You’ll ever Walk Alone’; and the second half opening and closing with two lively numbers ‘Putting On The Ritz’ from Putting on the Ritz, and ‘Razzle Dazzle’ from Chicago.
It is often difficult to deliver songs in a meaningful way when out of the context of a show, but the directors had managed this. Diction was excellent throughout. The singing was of a high standard and chorus mistress Jodie Dwight had worked hard in rehearsals. The Young Promenaders demonstrated what a wealth of young talent the group has with their selections from ‘Matlida’ and ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. The evening had many highlights and it was a delight to hear again the selection from ‘Chess’, which the Society had performed in its entirety two years ago, and ‘The King and I’ from last year.
I understand there had been difficulties on the musical front with people stepping in at the last minute but the team worked well together, with Jacqueline Adams on piano, Keith Brain on percussion and Alan and Karen Gillespie conducting.
The whole evening was most enjoyable with the dancers supporting several numbers and their lovely interpretation of the music from ‘The Lion King’. The whole company must be congratulated on their contributions but my personal favourites were Olivia Sheldon and Jodie Dwight with ‘I Know Him So Well’, Gary Lines singing ‘Bring Him Home’ and Olivia Sheldon with ‘Unexpected Song’.
Everyone had worked together as a team contributing to the success of ‘A Musical Journey’. Well done everyone.
Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative. District 15.
A Musical Journey
Posted: September 16, 2016
Choreographer: Heather M Newman
Musical Director: David Manifold
Promenade Productions' staging of The King and I was an impressive and memorable experience.
Previous musical shows have demonstrated their skill and professional understanding for the genre and the traditional productions seem to get better and better.
From leading cast members to 'back-room-boys' the team led by husband and wife John Pannett and Heather Newman created a masterly and sumptuous presentation which flowed seamlessly throughout.
Derived from a 1944 novel by Margaret Landon the musical is based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens governess to the children of the King of Siam for six years.
The relationship between the two diametrically opposed protagonists and cultures unfolds through the well-known melodies of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein's emotive but often humorous script.
Set in Siam (modern-day Thailand) in the 1860s its first appearance was on Broadway in 1951. In this current production the costume department created lavish hooped gowns for Anna and towering balance-defying Siamese headdresses with all the glitter and styles of the era.
Evocatively painted backdrops of the palace and Siamese landscapes conjured the exotic orient and transported us to times and lands afar.
The singing from the whole cast was a leap forward. The major characters showed both polished technical ability, clear words and ease in their excellent singing which was infused with passion, sensitivity, warmth and empathy.
Olivia Sheldon as Anna was a strong lead, taking an unequivocal stance in her beliefs and standards, outwardly confident and weaving a thread of continuity throughout.
Neal Carter-Lewis gave a brilliant portrayal of an overbearing, controlling, imposing yet soft-centred king. Their duet Shall We Dance? was a real show-stopper as they twirled and sang without seemingly becoming giddy!
The king's solo A Puzzlement was both reflective and pondering Youngsters Connor May as Louis Leonowens and Max Puffett as the Crown Prince expertly recapitulated A Puzzlement in duet version and captured the audience with their singing and consistent acting abilities throughout.
Slave girl Tuptim was close to stealing the show on occasions. Singing clearly and freshly but often tinged with sadness April Perrott's high notes and breath control revealed a high standard of singing suitably matched by her acting ability.
Well done to the 'inner play' of the re-enactment Siamese style of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and the underlying lessons of history and geography in this scene. The Greek-type chorus had a difficult job but accomplished the singing-narrative exceedingly well.
Appealing and fascinating choreography and dance sequences, slick scenery changes and an orchestra to support the solos and duets all added to the rich mix.
We could take away with us not only a myriad of images and songs but many home-spun philosophies and lessons on equality, slavery and different cultures and the message that magnificent teamwork results in magnificent outcomes.
If you missed this production do not miss Sleeping Beauty in January - same venue, more traditional fun in pantomime.
Jill Bacon, The Gloucester Citizen
The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham September 15th 2016
Director: John Pannett MD: David Manifold
Choreographer: Heather Newman Assisted by: Kate Williams
This musical is derived from a novel by Margaret Landon and based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowen ‘The English Governess and the Siamese Court’, and tells of the time she spent as Governess to King Mongkut’s many children. After we had settled into our seats the overture reminded us of the songs we were about to hear, and we prepared to be transported to Siam in 1862. When the curtains opened we saw a well-painted seascape from the deck of The Chow Phya as it arrived in Bangkok, this was to be the first of several excellent back cloths from Scenic and Property Hire, which helped create the splendours of the East. The costumes were equally exotic, with amazing headdresses. Anna’s hooped dresses were splendid but must have caused a problem trying to manoeuvre around the stage.
This large stage gave the space to create the feel of palatial spaces and absorb the large cast without being overcrowded. The stage crew worked well to change the set quickly and efficiently and not slow down the pace of the show. The costumes, apart from those of the Westerners, were all exotic and well worn, and the difference in dress between the two cultures left no doubt as to who was who. Make up and hairstyles all contributed to the overall picture.
The production had been well lit with appropriate changes for indoors and outside and the more intimate scenes; although the ‘follow spot’ was not always focused properly or operated well.
The sound was well balanced and operated with good sound effects.
The Orchestra under the Direction of David Manifold was well controlled and did not overpower the voices, it produced a well-balanced sound and numbers were taken at a good pace. There were one or two slow entrances into songs, and there were a couple of places when a little
music to cover a scene change would have been nice. The standard of singing from both Principals and chorus was high.
This is an older style show which requires a large cast with all the wives and children, but when I realised how many children were in the show I was a little concerned how long The March of the Siamese Children would take as sometimes it can be a little tedious, but it was lovely, well
timed and each child presenting themselves in their own way to ‘Mrs Anna’. The perception of this show is that apart from the King there are no parts for men, but there are several very important male roles, albeit small in comparison to the King. The Kralahome, The Interpreter and Captain Orton all help to put the story into the context of the time helping us to understand the protocol and manners of the time, and the vast differences between the two cultures and they all did it very well.
Sir Edward Ramsey a British Statesman and old friend of Anna’s, was every inch an English gentleman and again showed the differences between the cultures. Lun Tha, the Burmese scholar and envoy, who brings the slave girl Tuptim to the Siamese Court, and falls in love with her, was played a little hesitantly and I felt there was a touch of ‘first night nerves’ but he sang his duet with Tuptim well. I am sure he would relax into the role as the week went on.
The two youngsters who played Prince Chualalngkorn, the King’s son and Louis Leonowens, Anna’s son were both very confident in their roles. Prince Chalalngkorn emulated his father in every way, and Louis was a good contrast with his western ways and concern for his mother.
They worked together very well and their duet ‘A Puzzlement’ was a delight. It was a tribute to the grounding from Young Promenaders. The Priests and Guards are very minor roles but very necessary to the story and action.
The large number wives and children were well dressed and all moved, sang and acted well.
The scene with Anna ‘Getting to Know You’ was a delight; also ‘Western People Funny’ with Lady Thiang was well sung and most amusing; and I really enjoyed ‘The Small House of Uncle Thomas’ it is a deceptively difficult play within a play but was well executed. Lady Thiang, the
head wife of the King, was portrayed sensitively with a good mixture of subservience to her husband, dominance of the other wives and Tuptim, and curiosity of Anna and her Western ways. It was well sung and acted.
Burmese slave girl Tuptim, who had been sent as a present to King Mongkut was played exceptionally well by this talented young lady, she displayed her sadness at being in a strange land and her affection for Lun Tha very well, with a lovely voice and wonderful diction which
enchanted the audience.
The well matched pairing of Anna and the King was a joy to watch. The King was very dictatorial and in total control of all those around him, but beneath this hard exterior there was a softer side which came across with his very small children and Anna. Anna was a very strong and uncompromising character who knew what she wanted, and was quite a match for the King who was used to total compliance from everyone but particularly his women folk. They complimented each other beautifully and displayed the many facets of their developing relationship. They both spoke and sang with very clear diction their ‘Shall We Dance’ was lovely.
The choreography from Heather Newman was full of ‘eastern promise’ and all performed confidently. Director John Pannett had brought out a great deal of humour in the production.
He had encouraged his cast to use the stage well had worked with the strengths of his cast, choreographer, musical director and backstage team to provide a well rounded production which this first night audience really enjoyed.
Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative. District 15
The King And I
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Jack And The Beanstalk
The Bacon Theatre,
Cheltenham: 8th – 11th July 2015
By Gloucestershire Echo | Posted: July 9, 2015
Review by Judith Wordsworth
Promenade Productions present “Chess” by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice, directed by Daphne Herbert
Chess would be a challenging production for any amateur company but what one can say but those that missed tonight’s first night of the Promenade Productions missed a show worthy of being on a West End stage. Buy, beg or steal a ticket before the run ends.
Under the first-rate skilful direction of Daphne Herbert this production was nothing short of stupendous, brilliant, terrific, astounding and fabulous. Her imaginative use of forward and back projections on to a screen behind the action gave another dimension to what was going on on the checkerboard stage with simple risers.
Do not be put off if you know nothing about the game of Chess, this is more about human pawns in the West v East / Americans v Soviet Union cold war even though the storyline involves two world chess championship matches. If you link the game of chess with quiet deliberation you’re in for big a surprise.
The conflict between two Chess Grand Masters, Russian Anatoly Sergievsky (Neil Burge) and American Freddie Trumper (Gary Lines) continues all the way through the musical with the love triangle between Anatoly, Freddie and Florence Vassey (Olivia Sheldon) forming the core of the plot.
The show opens with David Purchase as the stealthy referee-narrator Arbiter setting the high standard of what we are about to hear and see and followed by an opening Chorus with not a note out of place nor a twitch or shuffle. The orchestra under Dave Whittle’s baton was one of the best amateur and semi-professional orchestras I have heard accompany an Am-Dram performance in recent times even though at odd times was slightly a shade too loud.
Peter Hughes was completely believable as the Russian Molokov speaking and singing with a secure Russian accent as was his American counterpart Ben Perkins playing Walter de Courcy. Wonderful voices and acting the pair of them. The male Chorus, both in the Russian drinking/dancing scene and British Embassy "Embassy Lament", brought chuckles from the audience. Dancers were excellently used to portray chess pieces moving about the board, superb choreography by Liz Warner throughout.
Jodie Dwight (Anatoly’s wife Svetlana) appeared in Act 2 but made her presence felt with superb singing and her duet “I Know Him So Well” with Olivia Sheldon (Florence Vassey) was sung with tenderness and passion.
Gary Lines (Freddie Trumper) had tough and demanding songs in Act 1 which he handled well especially “Pity the Child”. By Act 2 he had many of the audience swaying along with his rendition of “One Night in Bankok” and was much more comfortable with the vocal range of Act 2’s songs.
Neil Burge (Anatoly Sergievsky) has a wonderful voice with clear diction and sang with great skill and control whether solo “Anthem", or in duets "Mountain Duet" or ensembles “A Model of Decorum and Tranquillity”.
As for Olivia Sheldon she should leave her day job. Any West End stage would be honoured to have her tread their boards. A truly outstanding talented singer and actress with a stunning voice she gave an emotionally convincing performance. Her final duet was heart rendering as was her solo "Heaven Help My Heart".
Judith Wordsworth, Gloucestershire Echo
CHESS The Musical
Thursday July 11th 2014
It’s always a pleasure to visit the Promenade Productions’ shows. You can be sure of a warm welcome and caring hospitality. Is there a prize for Front of house?
They sound great. But because they left the house lights up, the audience talked all the way through this lovely playing. I mentioned it during the interval and the Lighting guy was very obliging. In fact I thought this orchestra was one of the many highlights of the show. THANK YOU DAVID MANIFOLD AND ALL OF THE PLAYERS.
Crowd. I know it was first night but no crowd is ever completely static or silent. Try to make me believe that this is where you all work and that you are going about your business. Directly the action/Dialogue starts then listen and really listen as if you have never heard it before. Its called THE FIRST TIME and actors are taught to make every moment on stage seem as if it is the FIRST TIME any of the dialogue or action has ever happened so that your reaction to it is completely natural. Crowds are so IMPORTANT. They make the main characters more believable and the action of the play is understood more clearly by the audience if the crowd react to it in an ‘in the moment’ way.
In the opening scene when the Twister arrives I thought that the crowd gave us a good idea of its force by their reaction. More please. This was really good.
DOROTHY – Lauren Poulson
Well communicated and beautifully sung. You are a talented young lady. Now work for more variety of pace and particularly tone. Your performance was very high pitched which is not easy on the ears of the audience. I think that because you were trying to project to the whole audience (which you did) you thought it was necessary to raise the pitch in order for your voice to carry. This is a common thought and it JUST ISNT TRUE! In fact lower tones carry further. I have mentioned this Laura, because you gave such a good performance and I felt you were ready to ‘raise your game’ even higher. Thank you for a delightfully clear performance.
AUNT EM- Judy Bourne
Good clear diction and well projected. Be careful that it doesn’t become too high pitched when emotion becomes involved.
UNCLE HENRY/LORD GROWLIE- Paul Avery
You made a good contribution to the show Paul with the two characters and your chorus work. Thank you.
FARMHAND/COWARDLY LION- Michael Fay
Well, MICHAEL at least you had a short spell out of the lion skin. I do sympathise with you as I know how hot those skins become even in mid-winter.
It was worth the pain Michael. Your performance was so enjoyable. It is so easy to overdo the Lion and you managed to get all the laughs out of the role without ever going too far. Well done.
THE SCARECROW- Jack Overington
Such a good role for you Jack. I loved your physical flexibility ! Such a laugh! You managed to get the most out of this sensitive character. Since I have been adjudicating I have witnessed a huge improvement in your performances Jack. Well done!
THE TINMAN- James Russell
This too was such an enjoyable performance. Well played James! The costume is a challenge I know but you really made me believe in him with this strong performance.
IN FACT I MUST SAY THAT THE TEAMWORK BETWEEN DOROTHY SCARECROW, LION AND TINMAN WAS EASILY ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SHOW. THANK YOU
THE SORCERESS OF THE NORTH.- Julia Glaudot
This was such a lovely portrayal. Julia you were lovely to look at and lovely to hear too. You certainly deserved that glorious costume. Thank you.
THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST - Lisa Gaskins
You certainly exuded evil from every pore, but your speech was so high pitched that I lost a lot of the dialogue. Do bring your tone right down, Many people when asked to play witches think it has to be screeching all the time. An audience will switch off if it is as they cannot focus at that range for too long. Every other aspect of your playing was so good so do work on your voice to make your performances even better. Thank you.
INZOMNIA- Jane O’Connor
Good contribution to the witches scene.
Again watch your pitch.
MOMBI – Nicola Sedman
Another good performance though pitch too high.
TIBIA – Ella Hiscock
I Particularly like your movement which showed your costume off well. Good work.
GLORIA, LORD GROWLIES DAUGHTER
- Jodie Hemming
Well done Jodie and good singing too.
PRIVATE – Poppy Storey
GENERAL – Vicki Talbott
OZ LADY – April Perrott
SZMAS – Dave Evans
All of you contributed well to the scene in Oz and helped us understand the awe in which the Wizard was held. Well done.
THE WIZARD – Mike Sheldrick
Well played. Communicated well, was clear and well projected
HIS VOICE – Peter Hughes
Well done Peter – great voice!
These characters were so enjoyable.
A real high point of the show.
THE MAYOR – Callum Prosser
Excellent work Callum.
I really enjoyed every minute of your performance
The Farmer;- Max Puffett : good work Max.
The Coroner:- Isabel Johnson Well done.
The Barrister: Claudia Slater Good work.
The City Fathers:- Clear and well projected.
3 TOTS - Lotte Freeman; Anna Slater; Annabelle Williams. This was such fun! Well done girls.
3 TOUGH KIDS: Bethan Avery; Rebecca Gazzard; April Marsden :-Another great trio.
Munchkin and Adult Chorus
Well done all of you. I’m sure you realise how much I value a chorus. You certainly added to the whole show. Now let’s see you develop the natural chatting and groups rather than straight lines. Don’t consider yourself a member of the chorus but an individual with relationships with each of the other characters in the crowd and the main characters.
CHOREOGRAPHY – Heather Newman
These were very enjoyable and certainly were a real treat for us all.
COSTUMES- Sue Pemberton
I’ve come to expect very good costumes at Promenade Players productions. This show was even more spectacular. I loved the fun of the Munchkins and the witches and Tibia were great. I just loved the Sorceress’ costume. Wonderful. Thank you.
LIGHTING- Pete Richards.
The scenes were well lit and atmosphere created. Thank you.
I KNOW THAT NO SHOW WORKS WITHOUT AN EFFICIENT STAGE MANAGEMENT TEAM. THANK YOU FOR ALL THE HARD WORK FROM ALL OF YOU IN THE BACK STAGE TEAM.
I thought that you managed the tricky moments of the Bridge and the mirror into the other world so well. I think that the way the play developed and particularly the bond you built between the 4 main characters was excellent. Work to make your chorus individuals who are in natural groups and can chat before a scene actually begins to give us a more real atmosphere.
Well done John. I had a very enjoyable evening. Thank you.
by Sheila Mander, AGSM Hons LGSM HonsHonorary fellow of the University of Gloucestershire
Posted: July 11, 2014
Choreographer: Heather M Newman
Musical Director: David Manifold
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way out west...OK, The Bacon Theatre on Hatherley Road, there’s a show that I heard of once, when I was very young (and more than a few times since).
It’s taken me nearly 50 years to see a stage performance of this classic, but all things come to those who wait, the wisdom of which was amply demonstrated by John Pannett’s thoroughly entertaining presentation that again demonstrates the remarkable depths of talent within Promenade Productions’ multi-generational ranks.
Bristling with those immortal songs, the greenest show in Cheltenham is a right old ding-dong, a blaze of colour, glitz and glamour, reflected especially in the sparkling Emerald City set and the exquisitely costumed Munchkinland sequence, populated by a legion of well-drilled and clear-spoken children, especially Callum Prosser as the authoritative mayor.
There is plenty more to savour. As soon as she started singing, the supremely capable Lauren Poulson looked and sounded perfect as the exuberant heroine Dorothy, effectively a blond Judy Garland, and from then on all the leading characters were on top form
James Russell excelled as the Tin Woodman, Michael Fay ran the full gamut of emotions as the engagingly timid lion, and if ever someone was custom-built for a role, it is stalwart Jack Overington who was magnificently manic as the unstable scarecrow.
Standing motionless for nigh on 20 minutes takes some doing, too.
It’s all very pantomimish; there’s a fairy godmother-cum-sorceress permanently on call, the sinister witches ensure a decent side-order of villainy, even if the choreography for Saint-Saëns’ thrilling Danse Macabre was a shade flat, likewise the ending which arrived rather suddenly and lost some of its impact.
The curtain call could also do with some tidying up. But these are minor considerations. The whole is still greater than the sum of its parts, and a final, deserved mention for Ella Hiscock as the witches’ drole, downtrodden servant Tibia, maundering about her mistresses’ grim castle like Toyah Willcox with a hangover.
The first encounter with the wizard is visually impressive, likewise the cyclone that kills off the Wicked Witch of the East, and when even a real hailstorm breaks, you begin to believe all things are indeed possible.
Supporting it all is the disciplined orchestra, once again under the expert control of David Manifold. A night of midsummer magic, so dare to dream, for they will come true for anyone following the yellow brick road to theatrical splendour.
By Simon Lewis, Gloucestershire Echo
The Wizard Of Oz
July 10th 2013
National Operatic and Dramatic Association
The Bacon Theatre Cheltenham
Director: John Pannett
Choreographer: Heather M Newman
Musical Director: David Manifold
The temperature outside the Theatre certainly put the audience into the right frame of mind to be taken to the hot, dusty American Prairie. The opening set of this much loved musical showed Laurey’s farmhouse and the bunkhouse, with picket fence upstage leading to open spaces beyond, with Aunt Eller churning butter. Curly’s opening number ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ was well sung, but the volume should have built gradually as he approached the farmhouse and ‘surprised’ Aunt Eller, not at full volume from the outset.
Aunt Eller, Curly and Laurey quickly established their characters and held the interest of the audience in the long opening scene. Tegwin Minett, as Aunt Eller, watched and reacted in a ‘knowing way’, to the banter between the other two. In act, everyone had developed good characters, both principals and chorus. Jenna Surman, as Ado Annie, was suitably flighty ending up in romantic dilemmas through her inability to say no, a lovely performance.
Jack Overington, as slow-witted Will Parker, in love with Annie, portrayed beautifully the confusion of having obtained the 50 dollars needed to enable him to marry Annie, but then having spent it on gifts, so once again unable to marry her. He also coped so well with the problems he had with his microphone coming adrift, not letting it impede his energetic dance routine or distracting him noticeably.
Jodie Hemming as Gertie Cummings of course had ‘that laugh’; you felt quite sorry for Ali Hakim eventually having to live with it. Two characters I was doubtful about when they
first appeared was Judd Fry and Ali Hakim. Jud looked far too young to cope with the brooding dark character and Ali Hakim did not, in any way look Persian. They both surprised me me; Sam Forbes as Jud Fry gave a mature performance as the brooding loner, who it is hinted at, takes bitter revenge if he is slighted. He followed the story created by Curly in ‘Pore Jud is daid’ and showed, by his reactions and facial expression that he was totally absorbed. He was menacing enough to make you you believe that Laurey was uneasy to be alone with him, but not too much to make you wonder, if she she felt that way, why she had hired him at all. Good characterisation.
Rightly or wrongly, the expectation created by references to Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler, is of someone with a swarthy complexion; so that the arrival of Keith Swinford with a pale complexion seemed wrong. Once he started it was clear he was relishing the role of the womanising peddler, and brought the character to life,and maintained his accent well.
The part of Andrew Carnes, Ado Annie’s father is often overshadowed by other characters, but Colin Bennett played ‘the backwoods man’ with gusto. Kate Aston-Williams as Laurey was feisty and confident, and sang well. Curly the swaggering cowboy with a soft spot for Laurey, was well portrayed by Ben Perkins and these two created a good rapport. I wish the line about him having curly hair had been cut as his was straight!
All the named characters worked well together and were given strong support by the chorus, and maintained their accents. The choreography had been well devised and was appropriate to the abilities of the cast. The ‘Dream Ballet’ was effective and the opening of the second act was energetic, creating the atmosphere for the ‘Box Social’. There was good attention to detail in costumes and hairstyles. The sets worked well and the scene changes were carried out efficiently.
The lighting for the Opening and the Dream Ballet were effective, but there were problems in other scenes and with the Follow Spot. I am sure this was first night gremlins and would have improved later in the week. Everyone sang the well-loved songs with feeling and good diction.
I felt the orchestra was possibly under-rehearsed, as there several times when singers and musicians were not together, particularly in ‘All or Nothing’. Again, probably first night gremlins.
Director John Pannett had worked hard to develop a well-paced show, which was enjoyed by both cast and audience.
by Frankie Telford, NODA
Regional Representative. District 15.
July 11th 2013
by Sheila Mander, AGSM Hons LGSM Hons
Honorary fellow of the University of Gloucestershire
A warm welcome awaited me when I entered the busy foyer at The Bacon Theatre. The experience of sitting in an auditorium listening to the overture never fails to excite me. The 17 piece orchestra led by David Manifold set the mood and magic of the Richard Rogers’ memorable score.
As the curtain opened I admit I had a negative moment as I saw a wrinkled cyclorama. Is there a difficulty with backdrops at The Bacon? I noticed the same thing last time that I visited. Is it not possible to stretch them?
However my attention was soon distracted by the beautiful tones of Ben Perkins playing Curly. What an excellent start to the show to have such a strong leading man singing that opening number ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’. Ben managed to create a very natural easy-to-read performance of Curly. He showed the conceit of the man overriding his honest affection for Laurey
In fact I felt that Curly was a perfect part to show the extent of Ben’s Singing and Acting ability. Well done.
Perhaps I missed the moment when Aunt Eller reacted to him coming in and then deliberately ignored him, because Tegwin Minett who played the part of Aunt Eller with such strength of character from then on in the production, seemed to be completely unaware of his presence. Had she shown the antipathy she felt about Curly by being more vigorous in her churning, I would have got the message. As it was I felt sorry for her not being able to react to the song in any way.
My mistake, possibly, but the body language needed to be stronger in the beginning. Tegwin, as I say, went on to give one of the strongest and amusing performances of the evening. Her comedy timing was a treat. Congratulations.
Laurey played by Kate Aston Williams
Kate has a beautiful singing voice to match and blend so well throughout the show with Curly. I felt that Kate went a long way to create the character of Laurey and saw quite clearly her mixed emotions as far as Curly was concerned. His conceit inadvertently drove her towards letting the sinister Jud take her to the Box Social.
Her eventual fear of him and need for protection forcing her to admit her love for Curly, that she’d been battling to hide. All these emotions were clearly shown. A delightful performance. Well done Kate.
Will Parker - Jack Overington
A lively confident performance of Will Parker was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. Jack has the ability to paly naturaly and at the same time engage with the audience in an enjoyable manner. There was a good relationship with Ado Annie throughout and Jack played the naivety if his character to perfection. He handled the songs and dances with gusto. Enjoyable performance. Congratulations.
Ado Annie Carnes – Jenna Surman
Here is an excellent singer who also is a great character actor too. Jenna managed to squeeze every ounce of comedy from her role. She was naive, impetuous and loveable. Her scenes with both Will and Ali Hakim were unselfishly played. You won the hearts of the audience and mine too. Well done Jenna.
Andrew Carnes - Colin Bennet
Colin made a good impression on us all as a demanding father. As the judge of the place he entered into the phoney trial without too much protest and so helped to bring the conclusion of the Musical to a happy ending for all but Jud. Andrew has great comedy timing and gave a lively performance of this cantankerous man. Well played.
Jud Fry - Sam Forbes
This sinister character, gave Sam the opportunity to give one of the best performances of the evening. He created the dark quality of this character with just the right degree of subtlety. It is very easy to overplay this part. However, Sam managed to make us believe this troubled farmhand was a real but bitter person.
Sam has an excellent singing voice to compliment his exciting acting ability. His performance was one of the real treats of the whole show. Thank you Sam.
Ali Hakim - Keith Swinford
Keith had the right amount of cunning and a great sense of comedy. His timing was excellent. I was just so disappointed by his lack of a Persian accent as I feel it enhances this character and creates a great contrast in every way to all the others on the stage. However as far s characterisation goes – I could find no other fault Keith.
Gertie Cummings - Jodie Hemming
Jodie, what an irritating character you played! Well done. That laugh will drive any man mad.
Cord Elam - Simon Lewis
This was an excellent performance from Simon, who managed to make his presence felt throughout and played the wealthier farmer well.
Ike Skidmore – Josh Jones
A small part but well played with the right amount of energy and focus.
Slim – Jake Higgins
This was another invaluable performance. The whole contribution made by the smaller parts is what makes an ensemble company work.
Out Of My Dreams Soloists:
Bethany Gilbert; Lauren Poulson; Laura Weston; Rosie Weston.
What a delightful contribution you made to the show. How lucky that Promenade Productions are to have such excellent young voices ‘waiting in the wings’ for their chance to take over the principal parts. Thank you girls.
Chorus of Cowboys and Gals and Farmers & their Wives.
As you may well know, as far as I am concerned the Chorus can make or break a show. Never mind the principals – its the crowd that give a Musical the reality and vitality that it requires. One little pointer for even better performance is to make the dialogue that you speak on a stage a level that, whilst not distracting from the main action, sounds real. Don’t whisper. Well done all of you for a focussed and energetic performance throughout.
Dream Ballet - Josh Jones; Laura Weston; Simon Lewis
So often in ballet sequences the dance is great to watch but the story takes second place. These three actor-dancers managed to achieve both a character-led lyrical and at times threatening dance interpretation of Laurie’s dream/nightmare so well. well done.
Stage Management – Alan Gaskins; Assistant Stage Manager - Phil Sidey
Stage Co-ordinator – Adrian Prewer
All of you worked so well that the show was presented smoothly without a hitch.
Lighting - Pete Richards
I, myself have encountered the problem that occurred in this show. Whenever a principal began to sing the stage darkened. Then a not powerful enough follow spot or spot came up. At the end of each solo the stage would lighten. Try to lift the actual song by bringing up more light on the principal – even if it doesn’t entirely come from the FS. Build into the cue some other light in that area to make sure the intensity of light is apparent. Songs should be a signal for more light with a definite focus. The general states were excellent and operation smooth. well done.
Sound – Ian Toft
I was very impressed with the sound in this show. The balance of the radio microphones was excellent.
Wardrobe – Sue Winrow
As some costumes were hired it doesn’t mean that many hands were not needed to fit and adapt these costumes and I imagine that Heather and Sue and others had a great deal of work to produce such colourful authentic looking costumes. Well done to whoever it was responsible for such a display.
Choreography – Heather M Newman
Heather always manages to use the stage so well. The actual staging of the Musical numbers was always interesting to look at and depicted the mood of the particular event so well. Te ballet was so simply and yet convincingly choreographed. The dance and movement was always fun to watch.
Musical Director – David Manifold
I have the highest praise for both the way you conducted the orchestra and the quality of the singing in this show. David… I think you had a talented group of musicians and singers to start with, but the harmonies and the joy of Rodgers’ music was communicated well. Thank you for the music – as the song goes!
Director – John W Pannett
What a credit to you John that you managed to tell the story so easily with this vast cast. I thought your casting was superb. I always think that good casting is 70% of the job done. However, the final 30% is the hardest work. I was struck by how well the characters came across. The general standard of diction and projection was excellent. Characterisations were clear and contrasting.
I would like to suggest that it would be good to see you embracing the style of production where each scene doesn’t end with a fade or a blackout but the set changes evolve from the actors and stage management together moving the set before our eyes. More costumes for stage management, I know, but so much more interesting. We know what you are doing anyway. Only very occasionally is it necessary to have a complete fade or blackout. Audiences enjoy seeing the workings of the stage these days.
Also encourage the crowd not to whisper but to gauge the volume of their reactions and entries so that they don’t interfere with the action/speech on stage and yet come across realistically. So many productions I see have a lot of whispering in them. In real life we only whisper occasionally. Both of these suggestions do not deflect from the pleasure your direction gave me and the happy audience on the night I attended. Thank you John.
As a general note – I am so impressed with the way John and Heather manage to attract such a large talented cast of all ages. Promenade Productions are a very healthy company and as far as I can see, a very happy one. Congratulations for creating the atmosphere in which that can happen.
Sheila Mander AGSM Hons LGSM Hons
Honorary fellow of the University of Gloucestershire
The Bacon Theatre, Cheltenham July 13th 2018
Director: Daphne Herbert MD David Manifold
There was a buzz about the Bacon Theatre where we were welcomed by John and Helen.
The programme said it was a mix of musical genre showing the changing face of Musical Theatre over the past 70 years.
Staging was a two tiered rostra plus a screen for projected scenes. This worked well but I felt the edges of the rostra could have been covered to soften the lines.
The company wore black, with flashes of colour added to depict various scenes which ensured the busy cast were not worried by numerous costume changes.
A great deal of planning had gone into the programme with changing moods and tempo with numbers chosen to reflect the versatility of the Society.
There's No Business Like Show Business was followed by the perennial favourite Oklahoma which gave us a taster of what to expect.
Young Promenaders were excellent in Bugsy Malone's Fat Sam's Grand Slam and Ella Blackwell's 'Tallulah' was cheeky.
West Side Story and Chicago gave a chance for soloists to shine with Tonight, beautifully sung by the ensemble. The Cell Block Tango sextet certainly delivered, nicely contrasting with Dave Herbert's gentle Mr Cellophane.
Beth Gilbert shone in The Life I Never Led from Sister Act followed by the ensemble in the haunting Whistle Down The Wind.
Scarlet Pimpernel is not well known but has some wonderful music. Madam Guillotine, a robust number with strong solo parts was contrasted by the reflective When I Look At You before taking the audience into The Riddle, again a demanding number for all.
Act II opened with Skid Row from Little Shop Of Horrors, performed by a very enthusiastic cast and followed by the lovely Somewhere That's Green.
Gregory Aston, a guest soloist brought in to replace an unwell cast member gave a terrific performance of Fiddler's If I Were A Rich Man portraying the irony and pathos of the number, Matchmaker was fun and Anatevka beautifully sung.
Seussical lifted the audience with the Young Promenaders getting into top
gear, how they enjoyed this section, especially Green Eggs and Ham.
From Kiss Me Kate we saw Where Is The Life Of Late I Led well performed by Samuel Taunton followed by Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
Miss Saigon's Movie In My Mind and Last Night Of The World and Billy Elliot's, Electricity performed by Ella Critchley were all excellent.
'Les Miserables'. The arrangement was a beautiful piece encompassing every emotion through strong soloists and ensemble until it's dramatic conclusion.
The cast richly deserved the standing ovation.
Finally, Hairspray's You Can't Stop The Beat sent everyone home on a high.
Congratulations to all the Production Team for guiding this very talented group especially David and his musicians, always supportive, never intrusive.
To Daphne, Kate, Heather and Ceri for bringing your talents from page to stage.
Thank you for a super evening and your hospitality.