Make 'Em Laugh

Date 7th October 2022
Society The Zodiac Amateur Operatic Society
Venue Frodsham Community Centre
Type of Production Concert
Director Gabrielle Stanfield
Musical Director Craig Price
Choreographer Jennifer Deakin, Jessica Martin, Tracey Ellams, Jess Rigby


Author: Joe Clarke

The Zodiac Amateur Operatic Society were back on stage this week with their sell-out run of their concert/revue show Make ‘Em Laugh. Directed and staged by first time director Gabrielle Stanfield, this concert was well received by its audiences. This was a great venue for this type of concert, and the cabaret-style seating gave it more of a community and intimate feel. I have to say that I loved the staging of this concert. Act one was the ‘rehearsal’ which gave us many comedy moments, whilst act two was the ‘show’. The actual staging was good too with an abundance of dance, songs, solos, duets and full company numbers.

For me, the visuals were very strong. The dancing, lighting and overall staging and humour were great, and it is evident that there is a lot of talent within this society. However, for me, the vocals were very weak in parts, and I was left disappointed in many places throughout. Having strong vocals is fundamental in staging a concert and unfortunately the level of talent in choreography sadly isn’t as evident in vocals. I am of course being very harsh here and the same isn’t true on an individual basis. There were some vocal highlights in both acts.

Craig Price was the musical director for this concert. I really loved the vocal harmonies in the whole company numbers – which were very strong. The small band of Keys, Drums and Guitar were outstanding – they really were a joy to listen to.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the sound quality. At times, mics were too low, too loud, left open and there was no blend between mics, band and audience. This is something that could be improved going forward in this venue. The lighting was generally very good, and the lights added to each of the numbers. All cast were well lit throughout.

There were four choreographers involved in this production – no mean feat – but it’s clear that there is a lot of talent within this society, and I really appreciate the shaping of some of the numbers and the passion for all things dance.

Cast members wore their own clothes/costumes to represent their ‘characters’. I liked the clothing choices. At times, cast wore costumes (The Book of Mormon) or made subtle hints towards costumes and style which was appreciated.

Act one for me was smoother than act 2 in terms of through story and comedy. I really enjoyed the added comedic elements between numbers which added to the tone of the evening. Well done to Neil Silcock (comedy genius) for your efforts. I also loved the added transitions between numbers too to give it more of a ‘rehearsal’ feel. I also loved the opening to the production too!

Act one opened to a great number from A Chorus Line. This really helped set the tone for the evening and was well performed by the company. I really enjoyed the company numbers such as Raise Your Voice from Sister Act – great vocals from Gabrielle Stanfield and We’re In The Money from 42nd Street. The choreography in this number was particularly great. I Remember it Well from Gigi had some sweet moments, and both Keep it Gay (The Producers) and A Musical (Something Rotten) really added to the comedy and title of this concert! I think you certainly made the audience laugh!

Whilst I preferred the staging in act one (in terms of story/plot), I have the say that Act 2 was a little more polished and performed. There were more highlights worthy of a mention here, Six (Six the Musical) was well staged and performed, Does Your Mother Know (Mamma Mia) gave the audience some lovely moments and Sexy (Mean Girls) was performed very well. I really loved the added lyrics to Anything You Can Do (Annie get Your Gun) which was updated and modern, as well as the comedic moments within The Song That No-one Likes (By Sara Smallwood Parsons).

I have to single our Francesca Forbes (and Valarie Ball) for their vocals during Not Getting Married (Company). I don’t think some audience members appreciated just how hard that patter song is to sing, and I could hear every word from Francesca Forbes, who not only sounded brilliant, but it was wonderfully acted through song too!

I also really enjoyed the harmonies in the full company numbers. As a whole society, there was some beautiful singing moments. Whilst I have been a little harsh in opinion at times in this review, I (contradictory) appreciate the way in which this society are fully inclusive and give each member their moment in the spotlight. This was a great setting for this and hopefully will develop confidence for future shows.

I wish The Zodiac every success for their next production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the Musical in March 2023.