Do You Hear The People Sing?

Date 23rd October 2021
Society Knutsford Musical Theatre Company
Venue Northwich Memorial Court
Type of Production Concert
Director Ben Ireson
Musical Director Michael J Scott

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Author: Joe Clarke

I was thrilled to return to Northwich Memorial Court this week for Knutsford Musical Theatre Company’s Concert/Revue show ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’?  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of revue shows that don’t have a through storyline or thread that hold everything together – otherwise it’s a glorified Karaoke evening, however, KMTC’s Do You Hear The People Sing had everything I needed, and more!  This revue show was a self-reflection story of the last two years during the pandemic and how the company have pulled together to finally perform on the stage again.  To hit this message home, we were inundated with videos of real-life footage of the pandemic which then linked to each song choice.  Onstage performing were NHS and front-line key workers, and the sympathetic undertones of the evening was felt by all.  If you were not emotionally affected by this revue show in some way, then you were in the wrong building.

Directed by Ben Ireson, it was clear from the beginning the vision that Ben had and where it was going.  With excellent use of the video walls and clever choice of video images (well done Ben Evans-Clarke & Jonathan Hall), this production was visually brilliant and thought provoking.  Despite there being an abundance of numbers, the pace was very good and technically fantastic, despite there being a few technical hitches (pesky gremlins)! and upside-down microphones (hilarious)!  The first act was a little more peaks and troughs, that contained a few numbers which were okay but didn’t quite hit home, but it was the second act when the audience were entertained number after number and when the positive energy was palpable in the air.  This reflected on the positivity of ‘coming out of lockdown’.

Visually, the costumes, lighting and video screen were all cohesive and worked a treat, however, I also felt that the lighting behind the stage door in ‘And I Am Telling You’ & ‘Beggin’ was far too harsh on the audience which made it very hard to see the acts on stage.  Audibly, the sound quality of the singers and the blend between orchestra and audience etc was brilliant.  As a whole, the production was very well directed under the helm of Ben Ireson and it’s not hard to see why he is a multi-award-winning NODA director.

The musical director for this production was NODA award winning MD Michael J Scott.  Again, it’s not hard to see why.  Michael was fully in control, and I felt totally at ease, knowing that the cast and large orchestra were in safe hands.  I love the way in which Michael uses his whole body to conduct.  The music is in his soul, and he expresses his passion when he at the helm.  I would’ve preferred if the light on his music stand was pivoted slightly downwards as it was a little bright, but I’m being very picky here.  I have to say that the orchestra were fantastic throughout – especially the drummer, Ste Jones!

There was no choreography in this revue show, merely staging.  Normally I would write something negative here about this, however, the staging was so strong that I felt that this production really didn’t need choreography.  In fact, it was a clever omission, as it possibly could’ve distracted from the storyline arch.

I loved the lighting design.  Clever use of movers and gobo’s on the walls of the building to bring us into the action as well as every part of the stage lit well – the lighting was fab and sympathetic to the number (e.g One Short Day was visually stunning from lighting and costume Kirst Hall & Lesley Reed).

There are far too many cast members for me to mention individually.  I felt that the opening half of numbers in Act One were a little tentative and subdued and I could tell that the cast were slightly vocally tired.  It wasn’t until ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ came onstage, the energy lifted, and it seemed that everyone relaxed into it.  This number was brilliant, and everyone looked like they were having the time of their life onstage.  Hannah Young’s ‘And I Am Telling You’ got a deserved standing ovation for her superb vocals.  I also loved this personalised version of ‘Maybe This Time’ by Dani Fay.  It was different from the norm which was right up my street.  I was also delighted to hear ‘All Shook Up’s  ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ which sounded stunning and was a fantastic showcase for the obvious talent this society has to offer.

There are tons of stand outs to mention in Act Two – from the brilliant ‘Beggin’ which was sung and performed brilliantly from Ben Evans-Clarke, Andrew Dunn, Thomas Frith & Jonathan Hall, through to the brilliant personal version of One Day More with new and intricate harmonies that I’ve never heard before.  That’s the thing that I adored about this concert/revue show.  It was personalised to this society throughout and kept us on the edge of our seats.  Despite brilliant vocals from individuals such as Ella Carr, Dani Fry, Emma Morgan and Emma Benson & Vicki Harrison, the star vocalist of the evening was Nikki Simms.  Her rendition of ‘With You’ from Ghost and ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ from Funny Girl were vocally stunning!  The control of breath and storytelling were fantastic – effortless!

The female ensemble got to showcase their stunning vocals (and brilliant comedic talents) in Sister Act’s ‘Raise Your Voice’ – this was one of the highlights of the evening for me!  The energy from Sophie Dickens to everything as brilliant to watch!  The male ensemble got to showcase their outstanding harmonies in the emotional ‘Bui Doi’ from Miss Saigon too – brilliant!

The best thing about this production was when the whole cast were onstage and showcasing their talent.  And boy, does this society have talent to offer!  As a company performing together, they come alive and that’s where the magic happens.  The whole company numbers were superb!

I have heard a lot of positive attributions toward this society and how positive they are as a cohesive group.  This was clear in their personal tribute to their former President Ken Webb, with the lovely version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, which was emotionally charged.

I sincerely thank Knutsford Musical Theatre Company for their kind hospitality and wish them all the very best for their 2022 production of Shrek the Musical!