National Operatic & Dramatic Association (London Region) Review

A warm welcome from Tina Barclay, and thank you for the centrally placed table for 2.  The table decorations were, as usual, very appropriate and well thought out, perhaps next time a credit for this in the programme?  Anyway I certainly had an excellent view from where I was sitting – and I appreciated the snacks provided.  I noted you were videoing the show but as I have seen your licence to do so I am quite happy to send you this report.

I had no pre-conceptions regarding this musical because I had never seen any episodes of the TV series on which the show is based.  I think this was helpful because it can be hard to dismiss what has been seen on screen when watching different people act the parts on stage.

I also appreciated the opportunity to talk to director Steve Cubbage about some of the problems that arose, particularly the need to replace a lead player a week before curtain up – more on this later in this report.  This was a well directed production, and you told me that the whole team had helped you achieve the excellent results, including your MD,  Frankie Alexandra, and Assistant Director and Choreographer, Steve Element.

All groups, especially one such as yours which leans more towards dramatic productions rather than musicals,  need a first class MD, and you certainly found this in Frankie Alexandra who I think probably had to work  hard to get you all singing as well as you did.  The two other musicians who played in the small accompanying group, Chris Franklin on bass guitar and Liam Burgoyne on drums, were excellent and their contribution to the music made a great difference.

The choreography for ‘A List’ was particularly good; I assume this was the work of Steve Element although as there are two names listed as choreographers I must mention  Leanne Reilly as well.  Well done to both of you.

The set, designed by Alan Caesar-Gordon and Tina Barclay, worked very well.  I liked the projected skylight effects when the action was taking place inside one of the cells.  A lot of the set changes were managed efficiently by members of the cast, directed, I am sure, by your stage manager, Alan Caesar-Gordon.  The changes were slick and silent – always a plus as the action is not then delayed.

The opening ‘elf ‘n’ safety announcement worked well, coming as it did from one of the Bad Girls in character.  Nice touch this.

Lighting by Les Brewer also worked well all the time and Ollie Bentley and Rob Paines, who were responsible for sound, kept the levels just right.

Properties, Janeta Kling and Joan Carr were all appropriate.

Costumes – Liz, I assume Peskin and not Perkins? – and Georgie Kling were just right.  The fantasy number with the wigs was most effective.

Your programme, designed by Steve Cubbage, Tina Barclay and Lucy Shirley, was informative and the effect of cell bars on the pages worked well.  Shame there were a few ‘typos’, including the name of one of your cast, but I know these sometimes slip through the net – accurate proof reading is vital.  Cast photographs were not as sharp as they might have been perhaps?

The first cast member I want to mention is Georgina Kling who took over the role of Rachel Hicks from Jane Rawlinson a week before the show.  Jane, I hope you are a lot better now.  Georgina, how you learnt all that dialogue in such a short time beats me.  Especially as, after your character’s suicide, you sang and danced as a member of the ensemble in Act 2.  An amazing  performance, very well done indeed.

Suzie Lavington played toughie Shell Dockley effectively.  You sang ‘Guardian Angel’ with Denny well, one of the best numbers in the show.  Your appearance, acting and singing all combined to give us a very believable characterization.

Another excellent number came from Leanne O’Reilly as Nikki Wade; ‘One Moment’ is an emotional song and you not only sang this very well indeed but put over all the necessary emotions at the same time.  An excellent performance.

Janeta Kling had the part of the older prisoner, Noreen Biggs.  You played this in a slightly comic way which worked well as a contrast to some of the other, rougher and tougher inmates.

Katie Hatrick’s  Denny Blood partnered well with Shell, and you have a very good singing voice which showed especially well in ‘Guardian  Angel’.

The two Julies, Lucy Shirley, as Julie Johnston and Sarah Golding as Julie Saunders both acted and sang very well indeed.  You too provided some comedy moments as a contrast and you worked well together, your number ‘All Banged Up’ with Yvonne was really excellent.  Lucy, you have a very expressive face and you reacted well to the action around you at all times even when you were not the focus of attention.

Tina Barclay portrayed Yvonne Atkins, the recently imprisoned wife of a well known gangster, as an experienced ‘Bad Girl’ who expected to rule the roost.  Your song ‘A List’ was put over very well too and all your movements were especially good.

SJ Paines , Crystal Gordon.  SJ, you are not a strong singer but you acted very well and put the song ‘Freedom Road’ over in a way which worked well.

The last ‘Bad Girl’, listed just as an inmate, was played by Claire Jenkins.  Not very easy to play as there was no character to get your teeth into and develop but you were on the ball all the time, acting and reacting to the others well.

So much for the inmates, now for those on the outside:

John Sharp, Number One.  You gave us a very unpleasant prison Governor in a believable and disciplined way.

Graham Caesar-Gordon as the corrupt and manipulative warder Jim Fenner was very good.  You sang well too, especially ‘The Key’ and your duet with Shell, ‘First Lady’ was excellent.

Liz Peskin (I will get it right, even though your programme didn’t) as wardress Sylvia Hollamby.  Liz you are always so very good in everything I have seen you do.  You made the audience believe that you were in lust with Jim Fenner too!

Kirstin Stansfield as wing governor Helen Stewart was a difficult character to portray.  Bisexual, going out with Justin and attracted to one of the female inmates at the same time.  You managed to put this over in a totally believable manner, well done.

Louis Stansfield portrayed honest warder Justin Mattison in a way that made the audience warm to his efforts to get the prison functioning properly.

Finally, I just want to add that although you are not usually a musical society, all the songs in this production were put over so well that any odd moments when one of you didn’t quite get the top notes, or some of the harmonies suffered slightly, simply did not matter.  It was the way you acted, sang and danced your way through the show that carried credibility.  A very enjoyable evening.

Thank you again for inviting me and I look forward to your next production.

Judith Watsham
Regional Rep NODA London 11A