18th May 2019
Miners Welfare Hall, Garforth
Type of Production
Author: Bryan Craven
'High Society’ was originally an American musical comedy film made in1956 starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The musical was based on the play ‘The Philadelphia Story’ by Philip Barry. ‘High Society’ was the last film appearance of Grace Kelly, before she became Princess Grace of Monaco and it was released three months after her wedding to Prince Rainier III.
The show has not been performed very often over the years compared to others, even though it has some really well known musical numbers in its score. These include ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ ‘Well Did You Ever’, ‘True Love’ and ‘It’s All Right With Me’, so it was nice to hear these songs again. I must congratulate the Society and Elaine McAleese, making her debut as the director of a musical, for the way the production moved through the innumerable scenes – being a show from a film always involves endless scene changes and these were performed, often by the cast, in a very slick and efficient way and perhaps most importantly without dropping the pace in any way. Stage Manager, Andrew Oxtoby, and his set building team, Mark Jackson, Andrew Stone and the cast, should be very proud of their achievements.
The whole show was well cast, some of the ages perhaps a little ‘off’ and there was no attempt at American accents but that did not detract in any way from the whole show as there were some great characterisations and some simply wonderful facial expressions. The humour was well brought out and greatly enjoyed by your almost capacity audience. There were some quite excellent examples of how to play someone who had had ‘one too many’ – almost too good – just wondering if it was observation or experience?
There were some nice performances from the cast in this production including Joanne Jackson as Tracy Samantha Lord who was on the stage most of the time, she gave a good energetic performance singing well and her dialogue was clear. I particularly enjoyed her duet ‘True Love’ with Neil Duff who gave us a nice easy going pleasing characterisation as Dexter Haven. Barbara Hawksworth as Margaret Lord, Tracy’s mother was suitably flustered and confused as the chaos unfolds; she also had some nice comedic nuances. Lucy Sharp played Dinah Lord, Tracy’s precocious sister and partner in crime to perfection while Lynne Hill gave a good amusing performance as Elizabeth Imbrie the photographer. She had very good comic timing and an expressive face which added to the comedy especially when being pursued by the comical Graham Oxtoby as the alcohol loving Uncle Willie. Richard Sharp gave a very agreeable performance as Mike Connor the reporter, his scene with Tracy at the party when they had a little too much to drink was very enjoyable. Mark Dixon and Ken Hill who played George Kitteridge and Seth Lord fitted into the action well and gave pleasing characterisations. I was very impressed with ensemble work – the chorus of staff worked hard and was very supportive of the principals. They appeared to be continually on and off stage performing a number of reprises as well as some of the main musical numbers, all of which they appeared to cope with very well.
Choreography by Lynne Hill was simple, yet effective and performed well. The small band consisting of the Musical Director, Brenda Knowles, on piano and Ben Stone on drums played well and were very supportive of the cast. As indeed, was Adam Holmes on lighting and sound.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening, the society had obviously worked together with feeling and enjoyment to produce a light hearted and entertaining show. The obvious talents of the entire cast and production team produced an evening of theatre worthy of their talents: the audience clearly enjoyed the show and rewarded the production with loud and much deserved applause. My thanks go to Garforth Musical Society - on stage, behind the scenes and front of house - for a most enjoyable evening and very warm welcome.