11th March 2016
Magna Carta Arts Centre
Type of Production
Author: E. Gloria Smith
This musical is seldom chosen by societies and I’ve not seen it before in 12 years of my being a NODA Representative. This can only be because societies are concerned that it is not ‘good box office’ and more is the pity! It has all the qualities of a great musical; good story, wonderful toe tapping tunes and bags of comedy. The audience must surely leave the theatre on a high and humming the tunes; I know that I did.
Nola York was the first woman to write a complete musical score for a West End show. She had success as a singer in The Chantelles, a girl group, and wrote a number of songs for artistes as well as being an actress. The show was first seen in 1981 at The Orange Tree in Richmond, before moving to the Theatre Royal Windsor, and then on to The Astoria in the West End. It was back at the Orange Tree in 2001 where 12,000 people attended an extended run.
Considering how much I enjoyed your production my only really negative criticism is with regard to the opening. I do like action during the overture and Karen Hanley’s concept of the folks going into the Saloon was good and added interest, but the black cloth did not look good. It was very creased and didn’t hang properly. The use of a gauze, with the saloon set behind and the cast walking in front of it and then entering the door to the saloon at the back would have looked much better - if that option was available.
Border Studios' back cloths set the scenes nicely and the properties and furniture were all suitable for the piece.
The opening number prepared the audience for a wonderful evening of Country and Western style music and all of the musical numbers were choreographed in keeping with the show. They were clearly well-rehearsed by the cast and confidently performed.
Roger Glenwright had a convincing American accent and projected well in the role of Judge West and Lucy Curtis appeared to be enjoying her first comedy role as his wife. As Alice Tibbs the leader of the women’s ‘love strike’,
Christina Best gave a first rate performance showing an Alice who was a strong, capable woman but who also had a softer side. Her husband Bill was played in a delightfully laid back way by William Hann - I thought the role suited him really well and his singing was strong.
Representing the head of the Clanton clan, John Carter was also at ease in the part and gave a good performance, and Faith Powell, whilst joining the ladies in the strike made it obvious that as his wife she wasn’t wholly ‘on side’!
A lovely portrayal of Jane, the Juliet of the show, was by Amy Curtis. She has a pretty voice and her acting was good. The simple and effective choreography in ‘Head Over Heels’ complimented the song and she and Robert put it across charmingly. Jody made an unassuming Robert and although his presence on stage is a gentle one, he holds the audience. It was a little difficult to imagine him being a part of the warring McLaird family though – obviously the ‘black sheep’ considering his peaceable nature and his choice of girlfriend.
Dawn Sainsbury, who had a convincing French accent, played the role of Madame Lola saucily and her singing was good. The other ladies, who all looked as though they were enjoying every disreputable moment as ‘Soiled Doves’, very competently supported her.
The role of Sister Priscilla, a great character to play, was acted brilliantly by Sue Tregoning who made a fun, lovable and not always unworldly singing Nun.
A particularly good performance too from Dan Curtis who brought out so much comedy, (I shall never forget the hat peg moment!) and the ‘Second Hand Rag’ was really good. The Earp family song was nicely done.
James Hanley made a suitably scary head of the McLaird clan and very much looked the part, and as his wife, Glenys Hann was very prim and proper. They worked well together in the roles.
As the recently married couple Clint and Myrtle, Wesley Wooden and Sharon Young raised lots of laughter and I’m sure had a lot of fun doing so.
That was something it was impossible to ignore in this production, that the cast were all ‘on board’ and loving every minute on stage. I imagine that at many of the rehearsals the cast were in stitches!
John Whelan’s orchestra never overpowered the singers, a rare treat these days, and I enjoyed all the musical numbers, especially ‘Wild, Wild Women’ and ‘Heart of Gold’ - ‘Dancing Backwards’ was matchless.
Karen Hanley’s direction and choreography were very good and I can see how she is hooked on this particular musical. I liked the white and red scene but it wasn’t clear to me why they were all dressed that way. Costumes were colourful and suitable for the period; make up was a bit mixed with a couple of very pale faces on stage.
The sound and lighting departments worked well.
Your programme cover is attractive, the contents interesting and well presented.