This weekend, I had the delight of going to see ‘Musical Mania 2013’ at the Seaton Delaval Arts Centre. Earlier this summer, I went to see a performance of ‘The 39 Steps’ at the Arts Centre, joining a virtually empty audience. It was a relief to see a sold-out theatre, and I was optimistic about the rest of the show.
Beyond the rogue spotlights, overuse of the fog machine, and the over-excited trombone in my ear, something happened that night which made me come back next day to see it again. I was genuinely entertained. I was treated to a night of talent.
The spectrum of musicals ran from ‘Les Miserables’ to ‘We Will Rock You’; from ‘The Lion King’ to ‘Avenue Q’. There was no narrative thread to bind the musical choices, nor any method to its glorious composition. The clashing styles made you really listen. At times it was jarring, like the mistake of playing ‘At The End of the Day’ on the keyboard when clearly one of the longest running shows on the circuit deserved more respect than that. But there was no shortage of respect from the actors. While mostly novices, the singers and dancers had raw passion that showed in every movement.
My personal favourite performance of the night is a close call. On the one hand, I want to claim that it’s ‘It Sucks To Be Me’ from puppet musical ‘Avenue Q’ for sheer comedic value coupled with the modernised lyrics. The performers knew what they were doing, and while Rod and Nicky left something to be desired with their soprano renditions and wooden acting, Brian was bumbling and charming, and Kate Monster was hilarious and wonderfully talented. Updating Gary Coleman to Simon Cowell for a contemporary British audience was a stroke of genius, and I loved every minute of the song. The second night, I could hardly wait to see it performed again. The staging was simple, the music was light, and the stars really did shine.
But then on the other hand, there’s ‘I’d Do Anything’ from ‘Oliver’. Performed by children, it was already going to be a cute number. What I didn’t bank on was the abilities in the male lead. He had perfect timing in the comedies cues, and a voice that could be the next big thing if trained right. Though not his only solo in the show, ‘I’d Do Anything’ highlighted the diversity of his singing, and the acting of his two companions made the seen both adorable and funny to watch.
A special mention goes out to ‘Be a Dentist’ from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for its staging and the phenomenal acting of Orin. There was some gasping and a few screams in the audience during that particular number. A girl behind me told her mother that she would never be going to the dentist again. Bravo.
And as we talk of special mentions, allow me to bring to attention the costumes for Grease. God bless whoever outfitted Sandy (or as I’ve mentioned her before, Kate Monster), and a round of applause for the stunning actress who performed that routine in those heels. Ouch.
That’s not to say other songs weren’t enjoyable. The ‘Hairspray’ section of the evening was brilliant, ‘Nicest Kids in Town’ being the clear best song. Their Link, previously playing Brian, was a thing of beauty, surpassing my wildest hopes and even making me want to scream for him. Some girls in the audience lacked my self-restraint. It didn’t rank as my favourite though because I feel it was better suited as a finale. That role went, of course, to ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’, but it lacked the energy and audience-engaging power that ‘Nicest Kids In Town’ had. While still an enjoyable number, it was something of a let-down, which brings me to my one problem with the evening.
Talent aside, even the most brilliant of diamonds can be dulled in the hands of a mediocre craftsman. While the singers and dancers were amazing, there was a lack of direction and a haphazard atmosphere to the night. There were some performers I wished to see more of, and some of the staging was needlessly cloying, like the opening performance of ‘The Circle of Life’. The choreography ranged from okay to perfect, often one after the other. Maybe with more rehearsal it would have been a flawless night. But for what it was, it was still something of greatness, and I will be going to next year’s show. The show was greeted and bade farewell to with a sold-out house and a standing ovation, and quite rightly too. Well done to all.