Blitz

Date 11th April 2014
Society Essex Police Musical Society
Venue Assembly Hall, Essex Police HQ, Chelmsford
Type of Production Musical
Director Tessa Davies
Musical Director Sue Edwards

Report

Author: Stewart Adkins

What a delight to review a show for the first time, especially one that impressed so much with its combination of nostalgia, warmth and vitality. I confess that the songs were new to me with the exception of Mums and Dads, which I have heard at a concert but there were several others that left their mark nevertheless. While the company in total numbered 35 souls the stage rarely looked too crowded and if anything the intimate feel on the platform of a subway or at Victoria Station was appropriate for the scenes. There were times when the set, particularly the side flats and the movable trucks, looked a little flimsy but the decision to use gaps between the house flats for most entrances and exits kept flex to a minimum.

Costumes, hair and make up were as near authentic as makes no difference and the use of scarves and caps to disguise modern hairstyles was excellent. I particularly liked Carol Blitztein’s hair, which seemed to have a very period look to it. Being picky it would have been good to see Joe in lace-ups and slightly longer non-uniform trousers.  The technical effects including the use of directed vapor, moving spotlights, the red “flame” effect lighting, the well-timed sound cues and the polystyrene bricks all worked very well.  The orchestra too was well controlled as to volume and I could see the conductor working hard to mouth everyone’s words and bring in everyone on cue. The balance between stage and band was good.

Moving to performances Blitz was very much a star vehicle for the matriarchal Mrs Blitztein and Sally Summers did justice to the role, maintaining a good Jewish accent without being pantomimic and delivering some wonderful songs, especially the moving soliloquy So Tell Me Jack.  But Shannon Sheldrick as Carol and Jon Beales as Harry both held their own within the Blitztein family; Shannon did particularly well as a blind girl in Act2 and Jon was a very fluid and naturally strong character throughout, culminating in the stirring Duty Calls.  Joe Baker as Georgie Locke had a lovely voice and could move well too. Each of his songs was beautifully delivered. Paul Osborne and Peter Sheldrick captured the patriotic, verging on anti-semitic, old guard very well, as Alfie Locke and Ernie Nearmiss. Although the dialogue calls for them to tread a fine line between humour and offensiveness in these politically correct days they never veered across that line. It would have been easy to have adopted an Alf Garnett persona but that was avoided.   I particularly liked the patriotic As Long as this is England.

The girls had their share of action too with Laura Mills as Elsie giving a robust performance and Donna Stevenson standing out during the choreographed numbers. The choreography was simple but appropriate and the steps were sympathetic to the time and the acting space. Finally a word about the children, who were delightful. Not only did they know their words but they also belted them out so we could hear them and acted their socks off.  Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable show.