|Date||30th March 2022|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Reece Crane|
|Choreographer||Nicola Sandall and Louise Cook|
|Producer||Louise and Lee Cook|
|Written By||Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan|
Author: Jules Jones
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and it was lovely to meet everyone after the production and to be allowed to walk the stage and see the enormous set. Thank you for staying to see us.
I felt the level of talent on and off stage was tremendous. The costumes were wonderful, from the traditional German dancers, the Tiller Girl style glitzy, fringed dancing outfits, the ‘gay’ production team, the stormtroopers, the old ladies with wigs and matching fascinators, to Ulla’s sexy dresses and coat. I particularly enjoyed the men in their lederhosen, with Franz doing the Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop. Duncan, you had me in stitches. Mick's drag dress, the shimmery number with headdress and unforgettable wig, the prison outfits, usherettes with pillbox hats, everything looked amazing and perfect for the characterisation of all the cast. There were a lot of quick changes for almost everyone. Most were achieved with aplomb, some less so. I asked how many dressers you had, only one, came the reply. I would have had a lot more, especially for the lead characters Max and Leo. Several times Glen and Michael, arrived on stage in disarray, which was such a shame as the costumes were lovely. A dresser would have also been able to keep track of the hats, and bits that got left and swept away with pieces of the set. Just something to think about for your next production.
Sofology – something very special was created onstage. The sofa became an integral character of the show. It was the casting couch, the boudoir, the stranger, the waste bin, the hat crusher (hilarious moment noted by this reviewer), and the screen of love. I was delighted that it was utilised by the cast to bring out the story and carefully considered choreography of mood and action within the Producers' Office. On the flip side, I felt the desk could have been left off all together. It had a clunky way of appearing, in the light, by two miserable-looking crew. (Sorry, I know you think you can’t be seen but we could clearly make you out). This set piece included a chair, heavy and difficult to manage, and a very modern waste-paper bin. Now, I know it had an essential part to play, as the receptacle of the blue childhood blanket, but really, you couldn’t find a waste bin more in keeping with the time? It really jarred with the rest of the set. A minor point perhaps, but worth considering for future productions. Is it essential, is it utilised in the action, is it period, how can we adjust/manage the piece smoothly – I know a desk is essential in an office, but a smaller, easier to manoeuvre one would have sufficed.
I know you suffered from the curse of Covid and a shocking accident on tech rehearsal, which meant you were a few cast members short. I wouldn’t have known. You all seemed to work so hard, you looked like you were enjoying yourselves and the sparkling chemistry between you all was clear to see. The ensemble numbers were excellent, the actual choreography, by Nicola Sandal and Louise Cook, was stunning, but the acting in character really made an impact. I believed the usherettes were gossiping about the new productions, I knew the gold dancers were an exaggerated dream, but most of all I loved the ‘Little Old Lady Land’. So many laughs, so much slapstick, but most of all you looked like you were having fun. ‘Keep it Gay’ was also wonderful, especially when I was told some of you were on stage for the first time. The characterisation of each individual was perfect but when you all came together you morphed into an unashamed, confident troop. Excellent. The prisoner number with the mirror dance was very well achieved, it must have taken many hours of practice to get it that slick. I’d like to mention a few people who particularly shone, Phoebe Candlin – always took my eye, very confident, enjoyable performance. First-timer Benjamin Morton – really funny portrayal of your characters. I could really sense you were enjoying the audience’s reaction, and this encouraged you to greater heights. You really grew in confidence, before my eyes. Glyn Mould – I particularly enjoyed your performance, your exacting timing, your energy on stage, and the relationship you built with the audience, wonderful. Dan Stamp and Sarah Dorson also gave outstanding character performances.
The musical performances were also wonderful. Glen Whitmore, Diane Lander, and Duncan Balcon all gave confident, harmonious performances. Leo seemed less confident, but then I realised this was your first time on stage since 2014, I could understand your first-night nerves. I hope this smoothed out over the following performances: I know you all knew your parts well. The musicians led by Reece Crane gave a very confident and professional performance. I understand there was a lot of effort to manage the music for a smaller orchestra and I commend you, as I wouldn’t have known. I couldn’t tell from your program the name of the violinist, whose outstanding performance on stage at the beginning of act 1, was excellent. By the way, I loved your program, it was full of pictures and information, which will be entered into the NODA Program Competition.
So, can you tell I enjoyed it? I laughed and laughed, but you knew that. I feel you deserve every credit for producing this show, in these times, with that much confidence, wow. Very well done. I hope you had bigger audiences for the rest of the run, you deserve it.