Strictly Musicals 3

Date 23rd October 2021
Society Darlington Operatic Society
Venue Darlington Hippodrome
Type of Production Concert
Director Joanne Hand
Musical Director Steven Hood
Choreographer Joanne Hand

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Author: John Holliday

After an 18 month wait, DOS finally took to the stage to wow the audience with their latest episode of their Strictly Musicals productions and boy was it worth the wait.

It is a very bold statement to open a show with a song entitled The Greatest Show as part of their opening Medley from The Greatest Showman however it was a great introduction into what was to be a thrilling evening of Song and dance.

The opening numbers combined some wonderful solos, tight harmonies, and slick dance routines. All brilliantly backed up by a wonderful 13 piece orchestra brilliantly led by MD Steven Hood. It would be difficult to pinpoint anyone from this medley however their rendition of This Is Me was simply stunning.

It is always entertaining to see the new members of DOS in the spotlight but it was also lovely to see a trio of long-standing members; Sarah Harland, Zoe Kent and Sam Morrison perform a wonderful version of I Wish I May. The experience of these versatile performers came through as their lovely vocals drew us in to the wonderful story.

A number of the songs chosen tonight were performed in the Society’s brilliant Come Back Home concert in June. Numbers such as Six, looked even more polished and slick than earlier this year and the 6 of Rhiannon, Kate, Natalie, Claire, Jenny and Jessica again brought this number to life with wonderful characterisation.

Continuing the brilliant Medleys of the evening was a fantastic mixture from Dear Evan Hansen. Huge credit must go to Jo Hand and Steven for putting these challenging numbers together. Every hit had the energy and emotion that goes along with the title show and this built towards an amazing finale of You Will Be Found. Beautiful solos and amazing interaction led to a brilliant crescendo with the ensemble powerfully finishing off this fantastic selection. I am informed the cast had permission to have their phones on stage!!

The strength in depth of this cast means that not only are the vocals amazing but the dancers could easily have their own show. In the next number Clare Monaghan’s stunning vocals and the dancers blended perfectly to bring Cabaret to the Hippodrome with a powerful performance of Don’t Tell Mama.

It was turn of the men to bring some comedy to the evening. Possibly the strongest male line-up I have seen in amateur theatre. It is hard to pick out who had the solo lines during Two by Two from the Book of Mormon as everyone on stage found their own character and with Jo’s clever choreography gave us an outstanding routine. Some of the facial expressions were to die for.

I love the fact that Darlington are not afraid to strip back to basics at times, The World Will Remember Us did exactly that and Michael Hirst and Jessica Harrison were the perfect duo for this number from Bonnie and Clyde. They were truly believable in their roles and their harmonies were faultless.

You really feel like you are on a journey through the Strictly Concerts and the next 2 numbers did exactly that, taking us from a wonderful company number from Ragtime into a mind-blowing vocal performance from Rhiannon Walker. One Night Only from Dreamgirls is a monster of a song but she nailed every note, again telling a captivating story. This would have been amazing on its own however the Company involvement and amazing dance routine brought the audience to its feet.

I was half anticipating the curtain to fall on Act One at this stage and this would have been an epic finale however we were in for a right treat as the Company performed It’s A Musical, from Something Rotten. Wonderfully led by Leighton and Eddie Taylor-Jones whose comedy timing would not have been out of place opening the Tony Awards. The whole chorus took us on a visual and hysterical tour of musical theatre and let’s be honest, to quote a line from the song, “And nothing's as amazing as a musical”. Well done to the whole company on learning those lines and to perform them at that speed, a wonderful end to Act One.

Act Two opened with a beautiful medley from Les Miserables, something Darlington have become quite famous for now, and the simplicity of the Black and White costumes worked so well with the clever lighting. Julian Cound opened the selection with a soft and moving performance of Suddenly followed by a wonderful quartet of Lizzie Hogarth, Zoe Kent, Hannah Winship and Rachel Smith who produced the most emotive version of I Dreamed a Dream I have heard to date. The slow build as each singer joins in led to a wonderful finish, I certainly felt the hairs on my arms lifting. Tom Kentfield-Wells and Stacey Dobson added more amazing vocals as they and the rest of the Company took us on a journey through Bring Him Home and into Do You Hear The People Sing to close off a wonderful medley.

The light and shade of song selections was outstanding by Jo and Steven and this was again evident as Sam Morrison performed a lovely comic routine of Wherever He Ain’t which then took us straight into the powerhouse medley from The Bodyguard.

The solo performers, Jessica, Katie, Claire, Rhiannon and Kate blew the audience away with their vocal ability and power. Joined by the wonderful chorus and stunning dancers, Darrien Wright really stood out, these numbers could easily have been the main performance on the Sunday Night Strictly show as the professional dancers are joined by 1st class singers such was the quality throughout.

Two more songs followed as a number of lead vocalists including the amazingly versatile Andrew Hamilton led us to A New World, a new number I had not heard before but was performed with such ease and confidence from the whole Company. Claire Wilmer then took us to Oz with a great routine, wonderfully backed up the hard-working Company with an outstanding performance of No Bad News from the Wiz. Everything in this number made you smile, especially the Charleston style dance routine.

Next came the most emotional performance of the night as Julian Cound brought silence upon the audience with a wonderfully heartfelt solo performance of I Am What I Am from Cage aux Folles. Simple, yet effective, staging and lighting provided a real focus on the vocals.

The last medley of the evening was a wonderful selection from Cinderella. Before I mention the performances, I have held off raving about the wardrobe team until this stage. This team, led by Linda Sams, must have been working on this collection since the 1st lockdown such was the outstanding detail which complimented every single performer and number. The elegance and beauty of the dresses and colours used in the Waltz number in this medley was breath taking, beautifully matched by wonderful dancing and perfect vocal story telling.

What was lovely in this medley and the whole show is nearly every member of the cast has their moment in the spotlight. It was especially lovely to hear the ladies, mostly leading the dancing in this show, take to the mic for solo spots and they certainly showed their versatility and ability to perform in every part of a production. I am told by Jo that 33 out of the 39 performers had solo sections which really shows off the strength in depth at DOS.

It is clear that face to face rehearsals have helped the group and this was no more evident than in Movie in My Mind from Miss Saigon. This number was a huge success in June, but somehow Claire and Jessica seemed to find another gear and their polished performance was the perfect tease before the rousing finale.

What a choice of finale. A brilliant, fun and energetic blockbuster from Sister Act. Sam Morrison and Rhiannon Walker began the number showing off wonderful vocal ability and slowly the number built as they were joined by the female chorus and then by the male performers.

Spread The Love Around was an inspired choice and left the audience on their feet in appreciation of what we had all witnessed. It may have only been week one of this production but it would have easily scored a 10 from Len.

The whole evening had a warm, friendly yet very professional feel throughout from the warm welcome by Sarah Singleton who welcomed us, to the Hippodrome whose staff were as attentive as always.

When you think of Strictly Come Dancing you think of slick performances, wonderful costumes, amazing lighting and an audience glued to the screen. Well after tonight’s performance all I can say is move over BBC One, there is a new Strictly in town.