Thank You Ma'am
26th October 2016
Vera Fletcher Hall
Type of Production
In house creative team
Author: Jon Fox
A celebration of our esteemed Queen's life in song, punctuated each decade by the narrator, while the company all remain on stage throughout was a good idea for this revue. A mostly young or youngish adult company with many good or even very good singing voices and some spirited dancing including some tap made for an enjoyable evening.
The format of two tables with chairs, drinks etc where the bulk of the company sat in turns, while various members celebrated the Monarch's life in song and dance was made all the more successful by Olly Reeves as a rather endearing and richly comedic Master of Ceremonies. Though much of his musings were about his own woes, it was none the less enjoyable for that. He began by explaining that he had left his jacket at home. Whether or not he really had, this gentleman clearly has an off the wall gift for comedy which would serve him well in the world of stand-up comedy, if he were so minded.
As an older theatre lover especially for the older musicals, with melodic tunes aplenty, I must say at the outset that I enjoyed the 1920 - 1970s musical content the more. This, however, is merely personal taste and many of the youngish audience and cast would perhaps not share my taste.
The first act was performed using black, white and grey costumes and set (including the bunting), with colour all around in Act two.
The Company stars:-
Abigail Wingfield Carolyn Green Claire Weston Darryl Tullett
George Lester Gill Varon Katy Jackson Kay Colston
Lisa Guerriero Matt Brading Maya Harwood Michael Guerriero
Paige Fayers Sam Quick Sandra Mortimer Sophie Piedallu
Sue Letheren Zara Mason
If I may suggest, it would be useful in the programme to have everyone's individual name next to the songs they sang, certainly in solos, duets and trios. I had to ask a kindly company member to write these in my programme and it was necessary in order to write this review. I applaud the "we are all in it together" feel and of course that is true but even so some of your audience would not have known who sang the various songs and one never knows who might be in the audience and noting down those personal names! Most top professionals start life in amateur theatre. If it means an extra page, is that not worthwhile?
A tuneful "She's got Eyes of Blue" by the company set the show in motion, followed by a nicely pitched "Ain't Misbehavin'" by Carolyn (Cally). A soulfully and emotionally powerful "can't help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine" hauntingly sung by Zara was, for my taste, one of the evening's highlights, both in content and performance.
A simple but well rehearsed tap routine set the thirties off in style as seven girls and three boys tapped to "Puttin' On the Ritz". Carolyn and Paige sang " Somewhere Over the Rainbow" which went down well and the tuneful thirties were given a strong send off with two couples - Matt with Carolyn and George with Sandra rendering a jazzy "The Lady is a Tramp".
"In the Mood" kicked off the Forties with some sure footed girl hoofers, plus Darryl putting it over really well. Sam gave us a well pitched "Have You Met Miss Jones", complete with coffee cup and dancing couple. I much enjoyed this presentation. An upbeat and beautifully vocally blended "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" was given great rhythm and much attack by the Andrew's Sisters AKA Gill, Maya, Abigail and Kay with Sam as the object of their affections.
After speaking of Princess, soon to be Queen Elizabeth 2nd, Olly let the Fifties section commence with "Come and Go with Me" sung with beautiful vocal blend by Michael, Cally (Carolyn), Paige, Abi, Sophie and Gill. This was another one of the outstanding first act performances for my taste. Sandra then gave us an enjoyable "Misty" with much emotion showing on her face and Darryll really hit the spot with a comic and up tempo "Hound Dog". This went down well in the hall, unsurprisingly.
And so to the swinging Sixties - with a well choreographed dance routine the cast gave us the marvellous "I got You Babe". Suddenly I felt young again, though several of the cast's parents were not even born when this was released. That realization abruptly ended my youthful feeling!! Claire sang Cilla's big hit "Anyone who had a Heart" with a young sounding voice. Well, she is young, but she certainly put it over. In a figure of eight routine the cast wound up the sixties with Ringo Starr's "With a Little Help From My Friends". Though performed well, it was the worst chosen song in Act 1 and I thought it unworthy to close the half. With all those splendid Beatles' songs, I reasoned, why choose this turgid tuneless one?
All in all though, it was a most enjoyable if somewhat short first half. I would have liked some sketches to give more variety to the evening. There was clearly the talent present to give us some and also the time. At the very least, one sketch in each half would not have been asking too much.
Looking at the programme, I did not expect to enjoy Act 2 as much as Act 1, but let us see, I thought. After some more humour from Olly, the Seventies began and the company gave us a change of feel with a swinging and pleasing "In the Summertime". Darryll, Lisa, Claire and George blended well in "Don't go Breaking My Heart" - actually they gladdened mine - quite enough to dispel my interval doubts about the second act to come. An energetic cast "Time Warp" came next with box-steps and featuring a two-tone clad Michael holding a bottle. The song of the evening, Bohemian Rhapsody", superbly harmonised by the company reminded me that the Seventies certainly had some gems. This was special!
After more Olly gems about his clothes, the Eighties gave us another rousing company song "Dancing in the Street", led by six girls clapping. "Girls Just Wanna have Fun", featuring bonce boppers (who could forget them!) a pink wig and drinking from a bottle, ensured that not only girls had fun. I certainly did, watching them enjoy themselves. A good choice! "I'm Gonna be" Darryll, Matt Lisa, Paige, Cally and Gill - walked 500 miles and did so with stomping verve. By now , I had completely lost any interval doubts. This half had quality and energy and there was more to come.
More Olly - I could happily enjoy more of his quality stand-up too, this gentleman has real talent - and we were into the Nineties. An hilarious male drag routine, with musically together singing of "Hit me Baby One more Time" was a real show stopper. Well done guys! Katy gave us a superbly moving and powerful "With You" and my spine was tingling in true "Ghostlike" fashion. George and Zara had to follow this special performance, but they did so with an equally stunning "Candle In The Wind". By now I was actually cross with myself for my misplaced interval doubts.
After Olly we were into the new Millenium and "Bend and Snap" featured the cast with an unusual dance routine. I don't know how many of them were actually "Legally Blonde"? Sophie, Zara and Katy provided a well harmonised "Look at Me" and the Noughties wound up with an exhilarating "You can't Stop the Beat" (I didn't want it to stop!).
Finally, into the present decade and a lovely version of "Skyfall" by Claire with backing chorus. A strong finish gave us the cast in "Sing" and, finally, "Together", both classily performed.
A note about costumes which - despite one or two errors in decade style - especially in the earlier decades were overall of realistic feel and were well chosen. There was a distinct feeling of regret when the performance was complete. I wanted more, but, as they say "always leave 'em wanting more". The show was put together by a numerous in house production team who can be well satisfied. They were as follows: Zac Negri, Kelly Neilson, Stu's sound - Jo Epps, Sarah Platt, Josie Hazell, Jalisa Andrews, Paige Fayers, Carolyn Green, George Lester, Lisa Guerriero and Allison Whittle. Thanks to a talented and enthusiastic cast and the dedication of the lone pianist and musical director, Debbi Lindley, on stage throughout, HMOS certainly did that.
Her Majesty herself would surely be highly satisfied with this successful tribute to her great life.