Leamington & Warwick Musical Society PAST PRODUCTIONS


 
    
    
    
Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde

4th–8th April 2017

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Matt Flint and choreography by Aaron Gibson.

Omigod you guys, Legally Blonde is a dazzling and effervescent triumph on Leamington stage

Omigod you guys – you’ve only gone and set an extraordinarily high new standard for local musical theatre.

This is a show that explodes onto the stage and rarely lets up. It’s a remarkably ambitious production – but rather than being daunted, the cast reach hitherto unscaled heights. I’ve not seen a better show at the Spa Centre in my 15 years of reviewing.

Legally Blonde tells the story of Elle Woods, an apparent airhead obsessed with all things pink, fashionable and cosmetic. Motivated by a desire to win back the boyfiend who’s dumped her, she surprises everyone – including herself – by winning a place to study law with him at Harvard, where she continues to confound expectations and realises that a mixture of hard work and being true to yourself enable great things to happen.

Directed by Stephen Duckham, the show is presented with such energy, colour, wit, intelligence and skill that it’s easy to forget these people are doing this in their spare time, for no money. You could put this cast on any stage in the land and they’d look and sound entirely at home. There’s a sharpness and slickness to everything: the demanding dance routines (watch for the skipping) are executed flawlessly, while the depth of talent among the company is something to behold, with even bit-part performers dazzling.

The luminous Nikki Claire Cross has all the charm and sass you could wish for as Elle, effortlessly commanding the stage and seemingly relishing every moment. Joanne Cheung as the downtrodden yet defiant Paulette is a vision of tottering tragi-comedy. Hannah Hampson brought both brashness and bearing to her role as the wronged Brooke Wyndham. I could easily have filled this review with a list of the cast members, lavishing praise on each of them. They were all that good – even the Dave the chihuahua and Clemy the bulldog. A word too for the musicians, who played with admirable verve and admirable versatility.

If you’re looking for nuanced explorations of gender and sexuality, you won’t find them here (one of the songs – all of which are great, by the way – is called Gay Or European). But that matters not – the world created by the show is so fantastical that it seems wrong to let the concerns of real life intrude. It’s actually superior to the 2001 film – it’s bigger, bolder, funnier, with a self-aware preposterousness that excuses, even celebrates, the shortcomings of the story.

This is irresistible, effervescent stuff. Pound for pound, it may well be the best thing you see all year. How lucky we are to have a production of such sublime quality on our doorstep.

Peter Ormerod, Leamington Courier



Singin' in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain

12th–16th April 2016

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Alastair Evans and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

Imagine the challenge facing a local theatre company in staging one of the most popular film musicals of all time.

You could hardly expect a convenient studio backlot for Kenny Robinson, in the Gene Kelly part, to stamp and splash his way to musical saturation in that most iconic of title numbers. And real water? On an amateur stage?

Under the inspired direction of Stephen Duckham, Leamington and Warwick Musical Society pull out the plug – and all the stops – to create a remarkable production of a show which began life as a film with all the technical wizardry that entailed.

There is no short change here. The rain is indeed there, upstage and pouring, while outdoor filmed sequences provide a clever comic insight of the making of silent movies.

It’s a huge package of entertainment in which the company tackle wide-ranging dance demands and knockabout comedy, backed by splendid musical direction from Alastair Evans. A ready highlight is a Moses Supposes vocal training routine delightfully performed by Kenny Robinson, Matt Goodwin (in the Donald O’Connor film role) and Ben Wellicome.

This follows an attractively staged duet on You Were Meant for Me between Robinson and Hannah Hampson, a notable newcomer on the local theatre scene who acts and performs with considerable charm and vitality.

In terms of characters, the show revolves around a principal quartet, completed by the effervescent and talented Nikki Cross who renders the squeaky-voiced disaster that is Lina Lamont, the silent star whose days are numbered with the arrival of talking pictures. She and Matt Goodwin’s Cosmo effectively provide the comedy hub of the show.

Inevitably, with the scale of the whole undertaking, there are areas of weakness. The opening scenes are ponderous and the Make ’Em Laugh section makes too many demands to be really effective. Robinson’s leading man has a few stolid moments but more than compensates with some fine singing and dancing.

The quibbles are minor, though, when ranged alongside the overall stature of a production which can be regarded as no less than a showbiz delight.

Peter McGarry



The Pajama Game

The Pajama Game

14th–18th April 2015

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Alastair Evans and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.




Annie

Annie

8th–12th April 2014

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Alastair Evans and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

New York attitude aplenty in this fine production of Annie

Using rather a quaint phrase, the programme proclaims: ‘Leamington & Warwick Musical Society Proudly Presents The Musical Annie’.

Judging from this performance, they have plenty to be proud of.

You know you’re in safe hands from the outset. Long-time watchers of theatre in these parts will be reassured by the involvement of names like Shurvinton (choreographer Nikki and actor Graham) and Duckham (director Stephen).

But what lays to rest any fear that this may be a rather cloying, sentimental evening is the striking performance of the orphan girls, who were the outstanding members of a gifted cast. From the outset, they understand the show’s requirement for edge, aggression, energy and attitude: an early, almost violent Hard-Knock Life is one of the undoubted highlights of the night. Their New York accents too were remarkably strong.

And the role of Annie herself – played by Mollie Dibb on the night the Courier visited – was performed exquisitely, her charm matched gallon-for-gallon by wit. A girl singing Tomorrow alone on a stage with a dog (Sandy, played by the delightfully obedient Daisy) could be a rather saccharine affair; here, it’s a genuinely uplifting ode to the power of hope.

The musical itself isn’t perfect: some songs are better than others, and the story (taking in the Depression, enteprenuerial largesse and radical social policy) could be tighter.

But the production itself is pretty much flawless. Particular credit is due to Joanne Murphy for her tragi-comic, bluesy-voiced Miss Hannigan, while the crew deserves plaudits for executing this technically ambitious musical with aplomb.

The only real drawback was the dry ice. I had a bit of a reaction to it; it made my eyes water.

It wasn’t that I was crying or anything. Honest...

Peter Ormerod, Leamington Courier



The Producers

The Producers

19th–23rd March 2013

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Alastair Evans and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

Exceptionally funny show by Leamington and Warwick group

You aim to create a Broadway flop, the worst story, worst director, worst actors, and it’s called ‘a satirical masterpiece’.

‘Springtime for Hitler’ – from the producers, larger-than-life Max Bialystock (Matt Everitt) and timid accountant Leo Bloom (Sam Henshaw) – is as far from PC as the Earth is from Mars. It’s an accounting ruse to make money – out of failure.

Bloom arrives to audit the books and finds a glaring error that the IRS would ignore. Max Bialystock has a coterie of little old ladies who generously support his productions in exchange for some pretty racy games, and he wants $2m – a million for each – to plough into the musical.

Franz Liebkind (Lee White), the writer, is keeping the flame alive for the Fuhrer, and also pigeons in a loft just off Broadway. Though initially set to play Hitler, the instruction to ‘break a leg’ comes true and he’s replaced by the director – Roger de Bris (Steve Smith) who, with his sidekick Carmen Ghia (Ash Spall), is part of a lively household and as camp as a row of pink tents. Saucy Ulla from Sweden arrives to audition for Eva Braun and stays to run off to Rio with Leo – while Max goes to jail.

This is a marvellous show – ambitious, fast paced and beautifully handled. My favourite scene is Max Bialystock in jail where he reprises the whole story – including the interval. This is well worth seeing, exceptionally funny and lovely stuff.

Jane Howard, Leamington Courier



Millie

Thoroughly Modern Millie

27th–31st March 2012

Directed by Stephen Duckham, with musical direction by Matt Flint and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

Best Production, 2012
NODA West Midlands District 5

Fresh ideas in a wonderful production

Prohibition America and the thoroughly modern girls such as Millie are cutting their hair, flapping, showing their ankles – and knees! – drinking to excess in the speakeasies and having a whale of a time.

You wouldn’t guess that alcohol was illegal. New York is the centre of a whirlwind of modernism and Millie (Sue Randall) is drawn there from Kansas to seek her fortune. Her grand plan is actually to seek someone else’s fortune – she plans to marry her boss. Oops! Boss Trevor Graydon (David Kilgour) falls for sweet and old-fashioned Miss Dorothy (Imogen Parker). Miss Dorothy is extremely pretty and orphaned, so at the mercy of Mrs Meers’ (Wendy Morris) white slavery scam. Millie’s plan is a goner as she falls for penniless chancer Jimmy (Sam Henshaw).

There is so much in this production to recommend it – the sets, choreography, costumes and music are first rate. Troublesome technology added some hiccups, which was a shame because these fresh ideas – particularly the screens that offered translations from Chinese – were what raised it well above the bar.

My favourite sections were where Millie gets a job as a stenographer at the Sincere Trust and also Miss Dorothy and Mr Graydon’s wonderful song Falling in Love.

There are some wonderful performances here but for me, Miss Dorothy and Jimmy were the ones to watch. They have gorgeous voices coupled with elegance and wit – very nice to watch and a dream to listen to. Thank you – it made a wonderful evening out. Highly recommended.

Jane Howard, Leamington Courier



Fiddler

Fiddler on the Roof

12th–16th April 2011

Directed by Judi Walton, with musical direction by Gary Lewis and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

Stunning performances on a brilliant set

For a society celebrating its 90th birthday, the Leamington and Warwick Musical Society serve up a wonderfully fresh, enthralling, engaging and energetic production.

Fiddler on the Roof is one of those musicals you think you know really well, and then a new approach pulls you up short. For me, it was the beauty of the music and the stunning choral performances from the whole company. Top that off with a great story, brilliant set and some great performances.

Home is Anatevka, a poor Russian village on the eve of the first Russian revolution and the pogroms where Tevye (Steve Smith) is trying to keep a lid on revolution in the family. His five daughters have minds of their own and are not going to follow the traditions of their Jewish faith and culture. His eldest daughter, Tzeitel, (Rohanna MacGregor) is promised to marry the butcher Lazar Wolf (Graham Shurvinton) but she wants the tailor, Motel (Simon Lucas).

Tzeitel’s bold action frees her sisters from arranged marriages. Tevye’s wife Golda (Kathy Evans) provides solid support during their many crises.

It is not unrelenting gloom – there is, as you’d expect, a rich dollop of humour. I’d never noticed the wonderful line from Tevye, “If we are God&rsquo’s chosen people, could he choose someone else for a change?”

This musical is hard work for Tevye who acts as narrator as well as the central character and Steve Smith delivers a top-notch performance. Why Fiddler on the Roof? Because they try to make sweet music while precariously perched.

Jane Howard, Leamington Courier



Seven Brides

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

23rd–27th March 2010

Directed by Judi Walton, with musical direction by Gary Lewis and choreography by Nikki Shurvinton.

A Wonderful, Wonderful show which goes the extra mile

It may have been cold and gloomy outside but colourful sets, bright costumes and feel-good music transformed the theatre setting into that of a sunny American town.

There was little sign of opening night nerves as the well-rehearsed cast told the story of seven farmer brothers as they looked for wives in a nearby town.

Darren Love was stern and funny as head of the family Adam Pontipee, who met his match when he went into town to find a wife to help him look after his six siblings.

And Leanne Willetts was fantastic as feisty Milly, who accepts his proposal and is determined to turn all the brothers into marriage material.

Funny and touching, the play featured catchy songs including Bless Your Beautiful Hide, Love Never Goes Away and Wonderful, Wonderful Day – and better still there wasn’t a ropey southern accent in sight.

The musical was well choreographed and I particularly enjoyed the sequence where Milly taught the six brothers to dance over breakfast in the farmhouse.

I have noticed from previous productions that members always go the extra mile to make their shows believable and this was no exception as the actors mastered several dances with a range of tricky moves and lifts.

They looked like they were really enjoying the performance and the brilliant sets made the show look every inch like a professional production.

Sara Fenton, Leamington Courier



Barnum

Barnum

31st March – 4th April 2009

“Barnum’s the name, P. T. Barnum, and I want to tell you that tonight on this very stage you are going to see bar-none...”

The award-winning musical traces the life of America’s great nineteenth century showman. A cavalcade of colour and circus atmosphere was provided by brilliant costumes, a stunning set, great songs and a cast displaying a huge range of skills including juggling, unicycling, tightrope walking and much more.

Barnum played to enthusiastic audiences at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, from Tuesday 31st March until Saturday 4th April 2009.

The show was directed by Steve Boden, with choreography by Nikki Shurvinton and musical direction by Claire Tyler.

Music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Michael Stewart; book by Mark Bramble.



Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun

On a cold April night, there are few better ways to warm the cockles than this zesty old-school musical. Annie Get Your Gun by Irving Berlin was one of the classic Broadway musicals of the 1940s and tells the tale of sharpshooter Annie Oakley and her romance with rival Frank Butler.

Leamington & Warwick Musical Society are putting on the new version, directed by Stephen Duckham, which is wonderfully sharp, upbeat and uplifting. All the cast are fantastic but Kate Squires shines as Annie and has a real onstage chemistry with Co-star Michael Coad, who captures Frank’s dashing charm and energy to perfection.

In the first act, the cheerful number Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, which Squires sings with three young cast members, stood out, as did slow song Moonshine Lullaby, sung by male cast members. In the second act, memorable songs were An Old Fashioned Wedding and Anything You Can Do, sung during a competition between Annie and Frank to determine who is the best at shooting. With colourful sets and costumes, lively choreography and memorable performances, this is vibrant theatre at its best.

Worth watching.



The King & I

The King and I

17th–21st April 2007

They do say you should never work with animals or children but thankfully the latter proved unfounded as the Leamington and Warwick Musical Society delivered their impressive version of The King and I.

The King of Siam’s many offspring scuttled across the beautifully designed stage in front of a packed house on Tuesday night as the audience was transported back to the 19th century.

Leading the strong and able cast through the trials and tribulations of his kingdom was Roy Donoghue in the role of the king. The actor switched with ease in his display of the sovereign’s many sides from defiance to sensitivity as he broadened his horizons with the help of Anna (Vicki Hollings).

Hollings also delivered an impressive performance as the King’s governess from the west – providing credible emotional and comedic performances in equal measure. A humorous sketch which involved the King demanding that Anna’s head be lower than his at all times proved popular with the audience – as, particularly in heels, Hollings towered above Donoghue.

The leading pair were supported by an array of royal wives and children, Amazons, slaves, guards and priests, which made for a delightful spectacle.

Special mention must be made of the scenery for the show – simple, yet effective, the sets provided backdrops as diverse as the royal palace and the forest at night.

The costumes were also amazing – multiple changes for the principals and a colourful collection of outfits for those supporting. Both the scenery and costumes added to the overall feel of the show.

Strong acting and singing performances combined with impressive costumes and setting resulted in a good night of family entertainment.



Full Monty

The Full Monty

16th–20th January 2007

LWMS scored another resounding success with the stage musical based on the phenomenal British comedy film.

All the characters, the laughter and the tenderness of the film the whole world fell in love with comes to life in this triumphant stage musical.

“Heart, humour & terrific songs, The Full Monty is a wonderfully welcome reminder of musical comedy at its best". – Daily Telegraph



Summer Holiday

Summer Holiday

5th–8th April 2006

A red double-decker London transport bus ventured out of the capital to make a guest appearance in the Leamington and Warwick Musical Society’s pleasing adaptation of Summer Holiday at the Spa Centre.

Catchy songs including, of course, Summer Holiday, Bachelor Boy and The Young Ones proved popular with the audience – many of whom were singing and some even got off their seats – be it with a little persuasion from members of the cast.

A fun-filled performance – thoroughly recommended.

8/10

Review by Emma Stone



Crazy For You

Crazy For you

5th–9th April 2005

Review by Ray and Marianne Howes, Leamington Courier:

The opening night of Crazy For You was another fine production by the Leamington and Warwick Musical Society and was a great success.

The music was written by George and Ira Gerswhin over 70 years ago and many of the tunes – Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me – were well known to us. This together with a good storyline produced a musical of high quality.

The two leading roles were played by Ken Robinson as Bobby Child and Sue Randall as Polly Baker.

Their all round performances were outstanding, their acting, singing and dancing were top quality and they were well supported by the remainder of the cast, particularly Steve Smith as Bella Zander, Alec Brown as Lank Hawkins and Tabitha Bradburn as Bobby’s fiancee Irena.

Wendy Morris and Trevor McClay provided some hilarious moments as Patricia and Eugene Fodor, a very ‘English’ couple who turn up in Dreadrock to review Lank’s saloon.

The show contained some exceptional dance routines, particularly the tap dancing, and was supported by a first class orchestra, lighting and sound.

Praise should be given to Stephen Duckham, the director, Richard Taggart, musical director, and Wendy McClay, choreographer.

If you enjoy a good musical, with plenty of tap routines, then this is the show for you.

It is a production not to be missed.

9/10

Review by Annette Kinsella:

High energy, toetapping feel-good fun with more twists than spaghetti junction – that’s Crazy For You.

The Gershwin-composed musical, based on the traditonal guy-meets-girl, guy-loses-girl, guy-gets-girl-back formula, was performed by a cast of talented all-rounders which would have put many professional companies to shame. The entire ensemble was note and step-perfect throughout the show, despite staging some incredibly intricate routines. The plot, revolving around mistaken identities, slapstick and people who burst into song at the drop of a hat, was pure schmaltz. But the larger-than-life numbers and extraordinary choreography injected sparkle into what could have been a predictable story.

Nimble-toed Kenny Robinson, as male lead Bobby Childs, wowed with his footwork, while Sue Randall provided the perfect foil as country girl Polly.

However the unsung heroes were undoubtedly the backstage technicians, who created an ingenious set in which backdrops moved seamlessly during the song and dance routines without the audience even noticing.

Overall a slick and polished production – you’d be crazy to miss it.



Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar

LWMS presented this barrier-breaking musical in April 2004, following its outstanding hit, Copacabana. Jesus Christ Superstar was a blockbuster success, with some of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest songs, including Gethsemene, Superstar and I Don’t Know How to Love Him.

A strong cast and a cracking story of the last seven days of Jesus of Nazareth, as seen through the eyes of Judas, helped make this one of the society’s most popular productions.

70 Years of Musical Memories
Pickwick
Hello Dolly
Mame
South Pacific
Fiddler on the Roof
The Great Waltz
Annie
Guys and Dolls
7 Brides for 7 Brothers
Half a Sixpence
La Cage
Camelot
Anything Goes
Hello Dolly
4 of the Best
The Sound of Music
Me and My Girl
Kiss me Kate
Chess
The Music Man
Oklahoma
Mack and Mabel
Copacabana
Booking hotline: 01926 425507    Affiliated to the National Operatic & Dramatic Association