The Adventures of Mr Toad

Date 25th March 2023
Society Springers Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue The Civic Theatre Chelmsford Studio
Type of Production Musical
Director Lula Hemmings & Matt Scott
Musical Director Sue Edwards
Choreographer Charlotte Golden

Report

Author: Christine Davidson

OffSpringers – The Adventures of Mr Toad

Chelmsford Theatre Studio

For their Spring Production, OffSpringers chose the charming and gentle play, ‘The Adventures of Mr Toad’ which was set by the Riverbank with a back drop of the woods. The directors chose to keep the relatively small stage clear, as with 38 children to get on to the stage this was a very wise decision. The set was delightfully painted and the lighting of the river added to the set.

Meeting directors Lula Hemmings and Matt Scott at the beginning of the show and during the interval, we were struck first by just how young they were, but also that they were brimming with excitement and happiness at just how well their show had gone during the week.  This must have been infectious as we definitely took our seats as excited as they were to see this show.  We were not to be disappointed.

This was simply one of the best shows that we have witnessed from OffSpringers. The directing was thoughtful, had been obviously worked on and understood.  The children were totally engrossed on stage, while the five leads were superb. Lula and Matt must have had their hands full with children as young as seven in this production but this did not seem to deter them. The result was a really well-crafted and happy show.

Maja Skoric as Mole, appeared through a mole hill up stage and her song ‘Hang Spring Cleaning’ opened the show. Her crystal clear voice and superb costume, including huge round glasses just emphasised her character. She embodied the role completely; she was a joy to watch. I was very impressed that she could still sing whilst eating!!!   I also saw from the programme that she did a lot of the movement for many of the songs.  This young lady is obviously someone to watch for the future.

We then met the marvellous Ratty played with huge confidence and pizzazz by James Birchmore.  This young man oozed stage presence and you would have forgotten that he is only seventeen, such are his singing and acting skills.  He was an excellent foil for Mole and for Mr Toad when he arrived on stage.

What can I say about Jack Funnell as Mr Toad? Another excellent choice by the directors, this young man was totally confident on stage and gave us the Mr Toad we love.  A bumbling, impetuous and brash character, Jack exhibited great acting and singing ability, demonstrating what a really fun role this was to play. Although he was the lead he worked well with the team and gave us all a brilliant evening.

The elderly badger was played by Olivia Lambert.  Again, great costume and makeup here, her performance shone on stage and she dominated the animals, making herself the leader against the weasels. This was a strong performance, well-acted and sung.

Chief Weasel (Abel Brett) in a super Steam punk outfit, with his punk band of weasels, all in black leather and chains, was suitably evil and had some good rock numbers to sing.  This is his last show with OffSpringers and he obviously really enjoyed being the villain of the show.  I’m sure we will see him move to Springers as he is very talented.

Rosy (Chloe White) was a joy as the Jailors daughter, who helps Mr Toad escape jail disguised as a washer woman. She dances delightfully and has a lovely singing voice. This is her first large role and I’m sure it will not be the last.

I loved the smaller roles of the Lady Magistrate (Lulu Dodsworth) and the Clerk of the Court (Stefan Dodsworth.) Lulu has a huge vocal range, showing it here to good effect.  How she continued to knit throughout it all I will never know.  Young Stefan was brimming with confidence; he had a huge smile throughout. For a small young man he carried himself as if he was six feet tall, taking no nonsense in the court.  Well done both of you.

A wonderful ensemble of Weasels and Riverbank Animals added to the show, all were totally absorbed in the production.  One member, who I found out was called Myla-Lilly Russell, stood out for me, with a beautiful smile and acting ability.  I found myself drawn to her; I am sure she will move on to be a very competent young actress.

I have to compliment Leonie Rose, the Society President who made all the costumes. It took her over six months and they were absolutely fantastic.  The makeup was also well done, never over the top but enough to denote each character. All the props, especially the simple cart made out of umbrellas and canopy worked really well.

Musical Director Sue Edwards with her small band of three never drowned out the cast and gave us some good musical numbers to hum to as we left the theatre.  Some good guitar playing during the Weasel rock numbers, by Andy Pike, made the accompaniment memorable.

Lighting and sound were of a good standard complementing the high quality of the production.

I have to say this was truly a superb show and I really do congratulate all the cast, crew and hardworking back stage members.  All of you should be very proud of what you have achieved and I hope I get to see both young directors producing another show to the same standard as this one.

Congratulations to all.

Christine Davidson

NODA East District 8 Rep