WITHAM AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY
Directed by Amy Trigg
Musical Director Thomas Duchan
Choreographer Loiuse Lachance
Performed at Witham Public Hall 29th October 2015
This is a show which struggles to get audiences and I have known many societies which have failed on counts of both finance and artistic presentation. How delighted I am to say that Witham does not fall into that category and they deserve all the praise that this critique delivers.
When the overture stuck up, I feared that the singers were to be drowned out but this superb orchestra was always under control and delivered expertly on all counts. Then, when the curtain went up, I was disappointed to see a plain black stage and thought that I would soon get fed up of it – not a bit! Once the plot started to unfold, one was so immersed in it that the ‘blackness’ just disappeared. And how well the actors portrayed their roles! I could list each and every one but would require a long list of superlatives as all delivered an interpretation of their role of which they, and the society, can be very proud. In the scene in which Leo & Max meet, over-acting is the order of the day and this was played to perfection. So easy to cross that very fine line but this was not the case here. Brilliant!
The principal line-up could not have been bettered and, for that reason, I’m singling no one out. The dancing girls delivered high quality output of some pretty complicated and challenging dances and the ensemble coped well when they were involved. This show gives lots of opportunities for people to take small parts and they too can be complimented. Costuming, hair and make-up all made the desired impact and the lighting, whilst not being too challenged provided what was necessary. Follow spots were slightly wayward on occasion but the sound was first rate. All in all, this was an outstanding piece of theatre and one of which WAOS can be justly proud. Thanks for a superb evening’s entertainment.
Witham Amateur Operatic Society
A “new Mel Brooks musical”. Well, not so new, now. It's nearly 15 years since Bloom and Bialystock hit Broadway running. But it certainly has the hilarious hand of Brooks all over it, adapted of course from his cult film of 1968, though a little lighter in tone, more upbeat, and of course crammed with loads of extra songs.
In this fine production for WAOS, Amy Trigg sets the relentless slapstick action against a black set, cleverly focussing our attention on the actors and the colourful costumes.
The unlikely pairing of mild-mannered accountant and hard-bitten impresario is the core of the comedy. And Witham field a superb double act, in the glorious tradition of musical theatre. Michael Watling is the callow Leo, hysterically clutching his blue blanket and dreaming his fantasy world of showbiz. Max, the cynical hack who's lost the Midas touch and now turns to little old ladies for kicks and cash to bankroll his shows, is in the capable hands of David Slater, selling some pretty so-so numbers and enthusiastically painting this larger-than-life portrait of a desperate producer.
They're surrounded by an OTT collection of eccentrics and oddballs, including Corrina Wilson's buxom Ulla, David Everest-Ring's delicious De Bris with his Chrysler Building gown and his “common-law assistant” Carmen [Lewis Behan], who gets to join the brown-shirt kickline in Act Two. Stuart Scott Brown makes the most of the Nazi nutter Liebkind; a very strong comedy performance, excellent vocally, too. Amongst the grannies and the camp followers, honourable mentions for Rhianna Howard's “Hold Me Touch Me”, Tim Clarke's Stormtrooper, Dexter Montgomery's promising Sabu [without his elephant] and Constance Lawton and Emma Loring as the Usherettes who kick off the whole show at the première of Funny Boy, Bialystock's take on Hamlet.
Some great ensemble work, with choreography by Louise La Chance: the Zimmer routine amongst many others. “That Face”, for Leo and Ulla, is a perfect pastiche of the glory days of the romantic musical.
Like Max's dire musicals, the show is, if not “guaranteed to offend”, then at least coarse, tasteless and unsubtle. Jews, Irish, gays and geriatrics all on the sharp end of the satire. Some of the numbers seem like padding, even the brilliantly done recap soliloquy for Max.
But the central concept is still strong, and the energetic company at Witham extract every ounce of outrageous comedy from it. Lots of delicious detail [De Bris' doorbell] and slick staging – the scene changes laudably smooth and swift.
In the pit, the nostalgic sound of a big, brassy band – Thomas Duchan is the MD.
Next up from WAOS, not, alas, the Bialystock/Bloom Rabbis of Penzance, but the almost as improbable Australian version of the G&S Pirates – not one for Savoy purists, I would guess.
Gamble pays off with this fast-paced Mel Brooks classic
Witham Amateur operatic Society
Witham public Hall
A play within a play has been a device much used more or less since people starting writing
Apart from any dramatic purpose, it often gives actors a chance to let themselves go and create characters well outside their normal range.
There is really no need in this Mel Brooks classic which includes a full panoply of eccentrics in its main cast even before they stage the guaranteed flop that doesn't flop; Springtime for Hitler.
David Slater's anguished Max Bialystock is balanced by Michael Watling's naive Leo Bloom, while Corrina Wilson poo-poo-pa-doos in true Marilyn Monroe style (with a swedish accent).
David Everest-Ring and Lewis Behan joyously try to out-camp each other and Stuart Scott Brown struts the stage magnificently in jackboots and swastika.
Add stooping 'old ladies' dancing with their walking frames, some catchy songs and snappy one-liners and it all adds up to an often hilarious experience.
The set is colourful, the dancing intricate, the humour frequently post-watershed and the whole production thoroughly slick and fast-paced.
It reflected a gamble taken by the society to leave the whole thing in the hands of the next generation. Director Amy Trigg, musical director Thomas Duchan and choreographer Louise Lachance are all in their early twenties.
There can be no doubt that they will be invited back again.