All Together Now, is part of a global event celebrating local theatre. Having received special permission from London and New York to present an exclusive show comprising of West End and Broadway classics… Curtain Call Creative rose to the challenge. And they triumphed.
Hearing of technical problems with microphones during the matinee performance, and the resilience of the cast showing a ‘show must go on’ attitude, and the earlier audience buzzing about the show on social media…. I just knew that the young members of Curtain Call Creative would not let anything get in their way of a giving their best again for show number two of the day. And I can confirm, the evening production was faultless. I could end the review here, but I don’t want those of you who missed the show to miss out on the details…
Presented with an eighteen-piece orchestra looking and sounding great on stage, and the MD, Andrew Woodford, breaking out the white tuxedo for the occasion, you immediately knew that this was going to be something special. So, when the lights went down, and the overture (“There’s No Business Like Showbusiness”) started, the excited trepidation began for this reviewer. I was expecting a concert style performance, but we got a lot more…
The evening was introduced by a voice-over from the wings, giving an emotions-tugging monologue to set the scene: we have all missed the theatre, but now theatre is back! Out stepped Samuel Evans-Murray in full Willy Wonka costume soon to be joined by Bonita Hunnybun as Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray. These two characters were to be our guides for the evening, with Mr Wonka escorting Miss Turnblad in search for her heart’s desire Link Larkin (Tom Thorne), and introducing us to an array of musical theatre legends along the way. The opening number, “Pure Imagination”, cleverly revealing the whole company on stage in their resplendent costumes, gave us a teasing glimpse of the night’s entertainment ahead. As show opening go, they set the bar high….
… and first to respond were Team Matilda. Beginning with Tracy Turnblad inter-mingling with the classroom of characters, giving them inspiration to be whoever and whatever they want to be “when they grow up”. This set the tone for a raft of standout performances throughout the night. The confidence of Ellen Careless as Lavender, and sweetness of Ellie Pike’s Miss Honey was clear for all to see. Frankie Foster’s Matilda had real attitude, emotive acting, and strong vocals.
With a total of nineteen musical numbers throughout the night, they all flowed flawlessly, one hit after another like the ultimate play list. It would be remiss of this reviewer not to mention them all. Strap in.
In amongst the musical ensemble numbers, we have a string of solo performances… an opportunity for large group costume changes backstage! First up was Ellie Warne, who gave a very apt and mature rendition of “Back To Before” from Ragtime. The audience were awe-struck by her note-perfect performance; the rapturous applause she received was well deserved.
The format for the evening allowed for some acting between numbers, and Team Oliver, led by a very charismatic Henry Walker as Dodger, reminded us that Curtain Call Creative are in the business of producing triple-threat talents. Henry dropped those H’s perfectly, and he can move as well, leading a whole company performance. The choreography (Ashleigh Mackness) was all encompassing; cast marching in unison, chorus movement, and seniors making their entrance. At all times every member of the cast full of character in their performance. Again, the audience were fully appreciative. It felt like the end of an act after each and every number.
High production values were evident across the board, so a shout out to the technical team at the theatre. For the next number, the red lighting and follow spotlight transported us instantly to a night club. Mr Wonka introduced us to a Thoroughly Modern Millie in the guise of Caitlyn Mooney. Caitlyn gave a performance of “Gimme, Gimme” that matched the energy of the eighteen-piece orchestra. The audience were spellbound throughout and wowed by the delivery of that final note. Bravo!
We were then treated to a musical favourite, especially for the young members of the audience. But again, with the elegance of the white and silver costumes and creative lighting, and some simple, understated and classy choreography, “Let It Go” from Frozen was well received by all. Kudos to Kaitlyn Donovan rising to the challenge as Elsa. Together with Ellie, Macie, Sophie and Ruby supporting, they all nailed it. A clever number topped off with glitter and an enthusiastic member of the orchestra on electric guitar!
And speaking of guitars… six company members then took to the stage to demonstrate even more talent. Each with a guitar slung over their shoulder, we were treated to an acoustic (plus one electric) performance of “Good Riddance” from Green Day’s American Idiot. The whole number served as a point of reflection for cast and audience to take stock of the evening so far. Yes, we were “having the time of our life”.
So far, we had been spoilt by the level of performances throughout the evening, especially the voices. Then stepped up Sienna Hobbs to push the bar even higher. Performing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables is no mean feat on any stage. Sienna had the whole audience captivated. If this was an audition song, I’d say by-pass drama school and go straight into the West End.
The final number of Act One was truly glorious. There had been a narrative of hope and love throughout the evening and “Spread The Love Around” from Sister Act was the perfect number to take stock of the show so far. Another whole company number, with ‘jazzy nuns’ aplenty, complimented by the juniors as ‘little nuns and choir boys’. The Curtain Call Congregation was led with sass and swagger by Enid Rees as Deloris. Enid’s energy really did spark for all to see. The feel-good factor created had the audience joining in. A perfect end to Act One, with literal fireworks thrown in for good measure.
As Act Two began, we were presented with the whole company decked out in plaid-checked shirts, producing a wall of soulful and confident vocals. A mesmerising rendition of “Seasons of Love” from Rent. Led by soloists Ellie Warne and Tom Thorne, the number radiated warmth and comradeship on stage. There were hugs all round. A real feeling of togetherness. [I’m not crying, you’re crying!]
Switching up to a fun number next. A well-rehearsed routine from the trio of Caitlyn Mooney, Katy Haggerty and Freya Mackay-Blake; “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” from Company, was a cleverly produced number. Harmonies of voice combined in this case with the harmony of feet, or rather placing of feet. Some intricate moves on show.
Mr Wonka and Tracy Turnblad returned to reminded us of their pursuit to find Link. Tracy fearful of losing her way, was guided on her quest by members of the Senior Company. “Children Will Listen” from Into The Woods delivered a real showcase performance. At times skilfully criss-crossing the stage with the precision of a marching band, this number afforded the Seniors an opportunity for their individual and collective voices to shine. Lines were shared throughout; this was a ‘team number’ and everyone was adept, delivering a mesmerising and clean performance.
Every playlist needs to introduce a new track into the mix… and for me it was “Writing Down the Story of My Life” from Junie B Jones, The Musical. And what an introduction we received! The trio of Grace Dempsey, Ava Andrews and Rhiannon Mackay-Blake were perfect as Junie B. Clean vocals and again, clever chorography – this time with props. The passing around of schoolbooks and the visual treat of a rainbow of colours from the costumed juniors who joined them on stage was enthralling.
There is only one word to describe the next whole company show-stopping number… “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”! Katy Haggerty was the practically perfect Mary Poppins in every way. Her diction and clipped characterisation were spot on. Brennan Coe as Bert, and Chantou Spit as Mrs Correy provided the main support, with Flossie Backshall and Arthur Bicknell delivering some cheeky lines as Jane and Michael Banks. This was a colourful and exciting number, demonstrating again at how adept the cast are when they all on stage at once. Stage positioning and ‘armography’ are the additional standout skills on show here – along with the audience clapping along once again.
From all that dancing, an exhausted Mr Wonka, emerges to introduce our next act. Jemima Rees, as Annie. Wow! A confident and polished performance. A tiny frame, but she dominated the stage. A vocal talent to watch for the future, her acting through song (looking for Sandy around the theatre) is commended. I really believed in her performance and that “the sun will come out, Tomorrow”.
The Seniors then took to the stage once more. Arriving on stage in turn, presenting “The New World” from Songs For A New World, it gave all an opportunity to again showcase their vocals. With each member delivering lines, one after another, emerging from the wings, it was like a tidal wave of talent emerging onto the stage. Coupled with the fact that this is a beautiful song, and the mature performance from all the Seniors, I think it was one of favourites from the night.
But all good things must come to an end. Having reached the end of her journey, Tracy Turnblad (Bonita Hunnybun) finally finds her Link (Tom Thorne). In the show-stopper “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, Tracy is announced as a winner, but the real winners of course are us, the audience. We have followed Tracy’s journey for love, but also our own journey for the love of theatre and supporting our young Island talent. This finale number is jam-packed full of standout moments – All Together Now is going out on a high! Bonita is superb, her energy driving the song and dance number with nearly all the cast now on stage. Sophie Frost gives us strong vocals as Penny. Shout out to Katy Haggerty as Velma and Grace Dempsey as Amber, who at one point are relegated to the side of stage and stay in character throughout as the disgruntled mother and daughter. The dancing builds further, with row upon row of the cast filling the stage. Sam Evans-Murray’s Mr Wonka persona makes an entrance as Edna Turnblad and is totally relishing the role! Asha Robins soulful turn as Motormouth Maybelle is perfect. The whole stage is filled with colour, movement and voice. The audience are clapping and singing along! Cue the standing ovation.
With the orchestra giving us “Ease on Down The Road” from The Wiz as an epilogue, the audience had a chance to reflect on the great evening they have just witnessed. The whole show felt that it was over far too quickly. Time flies when you are fun, eh?
As with all good playlists, they need to be on a loop. Hat’s off to Director Katy Allen, and the entire production team for delivering an inclusive production, where all company members shone.
Same time next year? Music Theatre International, please let them do it all over again!
Reviewed by: IW Theatre (Evening performance, 14th November 2021, at Medina Theatre.)
Photos by Rodger Hooper
[Follow the links above to see all the IW Theatre reviews relating to the company/performer.]