A Night At The Musicals

Date 21st October 2023
Society Gosforth Amateur Dramatic Society (GADS)
Venue Gosforth Public Hall
Type of Production Concert

Report

Author: Clark Wilkinson

It was my absolute pleasure to visit Gosforth Amateur Dramatic Society for the first time to see their production of A Night At The Musicals, held in Gosforth Public Hall. Having never been to this venue before, I was intrigued to see what the company would pull off in at first glance, what seems to be quite a restrictive venue.

When pulling together a concert programme, there’s always an element of personal taste and I’m always fascinated to see what different directors come up with when working out what makes the final set list.  The key is to find the right balance in giving your ‘average joe’ audience member what they want, but also thinking outside the box and picking something that they might not necessarily have heard of but is musically interesting enough for them to enjoy something new!

Whilst I did feel the songs chosen for A Night At The Musicals were safe choices – the company had clearly put a lot of work into rehearsing the music and put on an excellent nights entertainment!

The show (which was performed in two acts) had many highlights throughout from the classic Kander & Ebb opening number All That Jazz to the rocking Don’t Stop Believing finale. The audience had a lovely time and it was great to read so many positive comments left by audience members in the hall and on social media.

The show was directed and compiled by Alison Fligg.  Alison also did most of the legwork during the show, featuring in many of the 23 numbers performed during the evening.  A while ago now, I had a very close connection with Blood Brothers and have heard Tell Me It’s Not True – a lot.  So much so that I can’t really listen to Blood Brothers anymore, however… I thought Alison’s delivery of Tell Me It’s Not True was absolutely brilliant, it suited her range perfectly.  As the song progressed, a few soloists were layered into the mix before the full adult ensemble joined to culminate in a powerful and quite moving climax. For the first time in ten years – I listened to the full Blood Brothers recording as I made my way back down the M6 and remembered just what a marvellous show it is - so thank you for that team!

Stepping into the forefront due to illness within the cast, Natasha McGregor took on the deceptively difficult Practically Perfect from Mary Poppins.  It’s one of those songs that doesn’t have a chorus, rather just a series of verses, each slightly differing with a lot of intricate rhymes thrown in for good measure. Learning all those at short notice must have been daunting and I admire Natasha greatly for jumping in at the deep end, and going off book. It would have been an easier way out to use the lyrics in a folder or even still, cut the number.  I’m delighted you chose to keep it in as it’s my favourite of the ‘new’ songs from the Mary Poppins stage musical.

Natasha also featured in the very pastiche Song That Goes Like This from Monty Python’s Spamalot alongside Will Sands.  I love this song and the duo clearly had a blast chewing scenery and hamming it up to the nines – exactly how is should be!

From the silly to subdued, Will also sang Music Of The Night from The Phantom Of The Opera – a total contrast from Spamalot! It’s not a song I’d choose to listen to in the car but I can appreciate when its performed well as it requires a lot of vocal technique, not to mention a two octave range and I thought his rendition of it was one of the highlights of the night.

From the junior section Jake Phizacklea shone not just in his solo’s but also in the ensemble numbers.  He knew what he was doing, every step and where he should be doing it - looking totally at ease on the stage.   I really really hope he considers studying ‘showbiz’ when the time comes around to choosing his career path in life – he’s got it (whatever it is!) and I think could be one to watch in the future.

There were so many lovely performances, I couldn’t possibly list everyone at the fear of missing someone out, but the entire company gave very polished vocal performances.  Well done to Alison and team, for a thoroughly entertaining performance, there was something for everybody in the programme, the only song I didn’t feel fit on this occasion was the Time Warp. I adore the score of The Rocky Horror Show but The Time Warp is a song that has never worked for me when performed non-diagetically.

I know rules are very strict on what you can and can’t do when it comes down to costuming and staging these ‘Songs from the shows’ concerts and I’m surprised by the amount of groups that have said personally to me how restrictive they find it.  My advice is to look at it from a different angle and start with what you can do where there is no restriction, and build the show from there.  The biggest and easiest one for me is ‘acting through song’. 
The most important thing required is there in front of you from the first rehearsal – the lyrics.  If you delve a little deeper than what is written on the page, you’ll find you don’t need elaborate costumes or fancy staging or choreography. If you have that emotional connection with the audience, whether they know the song or not, they will ‘get it' and if we as performers enable them to connect with the words we are singing – it becomes SO much more than just standing downstage centre and singing out front.

I was really impressed by the lighting and sound during the show.  Whilst waiting for a show to start, I’ll usually size up the technical capabilities of the venue as to what might be coming my way.  I have to say for such a small lighting rig, the amount of thought that had gone into the design of each song and I assume the timecoding of each was totally brilliant, really enhancing the production.  The sound was also very good as well.

Thank you to all in Gosforth for such a lovely welcome, I’m looking forward to Once Upon A Time In Pantoland in the New Year.