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One Night Last Summer

Date

1st November 2018

Society

Hinchley Manor Operatic Society

Venue

Vera Fletcher Hall

Type of Production

Musical

Director

George Lester

Musical Director

Debbi Lindley

Choreographer

George Lester

Report

Author: Jon Fox

George Lester, whom I realised had a special talent when first seeing him on stage several years ago, had written this innovative and interesting story. The relevant theme, especially for a predominantly young cast, concerned Ava, the central character on the night prior to her leaving home. Her friends all returned after graduating from University and new adventures began all round.

A cast of twelve with only two men among them gave an unbalanced feel to the piece at first sight. However, by the conclusion of the evening, I had long forgotten this thought.

Debbi Lindley, the definitely talented musical director had worked closely with George on both newly written music and several classics, by legendary writers from the top drawer of musical theatre history.  

Opening and also closing the show was George and Debbi's "Whole World" a distinctly catchy melody which made for a strong opening and finish.

In common with most amateur companies, the players' standards ranged from professional standard to merely enthusiastic amateur. The stand out stage performer for my money was Lisa Guerriero, who had danced professionally - and how it showed. Other charismatic and quality performances were given by both the men; Chris Madden as Ben and Tom McGowan as Freddie. Abi Wingfield as Tina, Shannon Hearn as Lianne,  Sophie-Lee Colchester in the key role of Ava and Gill Varon playing Heather all gave quality performances as well. However, I did have some niggles with certain players speaking too quickly, not facing forward (not "cheating front"), lazy consonants and insufficient vocal production.

I thought it unwise to have quite so much music playing under dialogue, especially without front stage mics., as  a deal of words were lost, though I well understand that companies often have to work within moderate financial budgets.

The suitable use of easily changed and fairly minimal stage sets made for a seamlessly running show. Clearly much thought had been given to the interchangeable set design and to its effective use.

I thought the overall musical content very well chosen and allocated through the production. The story set in the present day, reflected the welcome lessening of taboo subjects in musical theatre. It is cathartic to reflect that the inclusion of  gay characters,  a normal and natural part of society, makes no waves among the more evolved society we all live in today. Well within my own adult lifetime this would not have been possible.  How we have moved on and I therefore applaud George!  Theatre must always push boundaries.

I found the story very modern and realistic. In fact I think this show deserves to be performed before wider audiences.  Newly written shows such as this one are so important in the continued success of our shared great love.   I also much liked many of the distinctive new musical arrangements by Debbi, with good percussion courtesy of Joshua Davies. Allison Whittle on lighting played a full part in this believable show and I commend her. 

Wardrobe was not specifically credited in the well set out and easy to read programme, so I must presume that each cast member used their own clothes. Wardrobe should always be credited even if the wardrobe person - and I trust there was one - merely approved each member's clothes, rather than actually provided / altered them. The programme featured a very welcome and full page about NODA. George, who designed the programme / leaflets, as well as writing, directing and choreographing, clearly dislikes having spare time on his hands. How fortunate for HMOS!   I would suggest HMOS enter the programme for our NODA programme competition. 

All in all this show was a definite success and made for a most enjoyable evening.