Mis-Casts

Date 6th April 2022
Society Bedford Marianettes
Venue Trinity Arts Centre Bedford
Type of Production Musical
Director Rosie Layton
Musical Director Tim Dawes
Choreographer Tara May, Chris Duncombe-Cooper, Victoria Heath and Rob Gregory

Report

Author: Richard Fitt

What a brilliantly novel idea from Director Rosie Layton! Ask your cast what number from a musical they would like to sing, but with one rule: it would be impossible to traditionally cast them as that character and then proceed to put that on stage.  Clever! So we end up with ladies singing male parts, and visa versa, older parts being sung by youngsters and child parts by adults. Not only that, the result produced quite a few songs that would not normally be included in a variety show and even songs from musicals, which to my shame I had never heard of, let alone seen. All of which made for a very different but thoroughly entertaining and enlightening evening.

Unfortunately, because of an overcrowded schedule of shows to attend, due to just about every society putting on long delayed productions at once I could only attend the dress rehearsal of this show. It did however produce a very relaxed evening but of course with no audience to gage public reaction to this novel idea. But in my humble opinion it worked splendidly.

The set was a totally bare stage except for a large video screen on the rear wall, used to give us the name of the song and in which musical it appeared, all displayed with the appropriate original artwork.  The five-piece band being situated underneath the screen. Leaving stage manager Steve Ward to make sure the appropriate props and furniture (mostly chairs) came on and off the stage as required. Simple and very effective!

The sound levels by Simon Barker were basically very well balanced. However, anybody who has read my previous reviews of shows in this venue will know I have never been keen on the acoustics in this studio and once again I have to admit there were times when I struggled to hear the lyrics, which got better in the 2nd Act, although bizarrely the band under MD Tim Dawes was crystal clear and undistorted throughout. I don’t envy Simon Barker the task of getting the best out of this studio and adjusting to the presence of the varying audiences levels.

Lighting by Lloyd Gray was excellent although one or two performers did stand in the shadows instead of on the correct spot, something I have no doubt that was sorted out in the director’s notes afterwards. That is of course what dress rehearsals are all about.

I won’t even pretend to remember who sung lead on what song, with 25 performers and 23 numbers I’d need to see it several times to stand any chance of doing that and sadly the programme doesn’t list that information. But what was fun was watching the blokes all being as camp as possible whilst the ladies brought out their masculine side. For example, Cell Block Tango (from Chicago), usually an iconic number for the girls, sung by a bunch of blokes being hard-nosed female inmates was certainly different and very entertaining indeed.

There was also a deliberate error where the band started the intro to Defying Gravity from Wicked but nobody appeared on stage to sing it, They tried again twice more and just as we were wriggling in our seats wondering what was going on MD Tim Dawes himself rose from his pit and stepped forward to sing it.. A neat bit of subterfuge which brought a smile to our faces! Loved it.

But what blew me away with this show was four extremely talented youngsters, average age of ten! Whose talent appears to have no bounds, show amazing confidence and a professionalism that defies their years, I refer to Eilish Smith, Ava Downer, Daisy Loft and Joseph Tyrrell. At one point the band made a rare mistake with an intro. They just took it their stride stopped whilst the band recomposed themselves and carried on without missing a beat. I’ve seen experienced adults that wouldn’t have coped that well.  Extraordinarily well done! If these four aren’t stars of the future I’d be very surprised indeed!

I note we had four Choreographers, all of whom gave us some very well drilled and imaginative routines, Tara May, Chris Duncombe-Cooper, Victoria Heath and Rob Gregory. The use of floorspace, chairs as props and hand movements in particular was very well done indeed.

So well done to this extremely good adult cast, the youngsters mentioned above and their director Rosie Layton whose novel idea this whole show was:

Sam Stevens, Giulia Cestaro, Rachel Clifford, Esther Walkling-Lea, Victoria Heath, Kate Brewster, Flo Rowntree, Marley Upton, Anna Wingerath, Adam Ledger, Charlie Hammond-Smith, Stephen Duncombe-cooper, Emily Bennett, Robert Greenhough, Lucy Collinson, Sophie Collins, Shannon Wilmot, Jasmine Heath, Rob Gregory, Hashir Shaikh and Rosie Layton herself.

Always a pleasure to see a Marianettes show and to see a few new faces as well as the usual array of stalwarts. And thank you to Mary Eaton for your usual welcoming hospitality. Nice one Marianettes!