Dick Whittington was a huge production with a cast of 50, with the youngest members of the company aged around five. Just marshalling that size of company is a feat in itself, but the show also went through some very impressive song-and-dance routines, with excellent choreography from Rebecca Philpott (assisted by Faye Anteney) and some very athletic performances from the cast. As often happens in panto, the romantic leads (Alfie Potter in the title role and Olivia Fisher as Alice) played second fiddle to the more boisterous “goodies”, notably the dame (Lewis Philpott) and Idle Jack played by Ollie Uglow who was particularly good at working - and occasionally mopping - the kids in the audience. There was further comic work from Captain Cuttlefish (Owen Hawes) and his barely seaworthy first mate Scupper (Natasha Cope), chartered by Alderman Fitzwarren (Simon Virgo) for a trip to Morocco and a meeting with the Sultan (Emily Rose-Mould, who was well wicked).
This was my first visit to the Berry Theatre, and there were interesting technical aspects to the presentation, with lights mounted on the sides of the proscenium arch avoiding light spill through the gauze that provided the opening dramatic reveal from the prologue into scene one. I felt that the production missed a standard pantomime trick at the end of the second act. There was, of course, a community song (in this case led by Dolly Dumpling and Idle Jack). Part of the point of that structure is to allow the romantic leads to change into wedding clothes for the walk-down, but in this case the opportunity was passed over.
Hannah Autenay as Tom the Cat had splendid make-up and a prosthetic nose. Unfortunately, this severely restricted her range of facial expressions, but her movement was excellent. The other notable prosthetics - nose and ears - belonged to Ben Smart as King Rat, the villain of the piece. He was part rat, part gangster, with a tail poking out from the back of a long leather coat. His was a lovely growling, sneering performance, occasionally backed by a company of small rats, and opposed by a very business-like Fairy Bow Bells (Cathy Pearce).
Altogether a very joyful production with some fine singing from the youthful cast.
Author: Stuart Ardern NODA
As soon as the house lights went down the audience were captivated by the very effective setting and scenery. The scenic design had captured the essence of ‘Oklahoma’ in a few simple pieces. Oklahoma the evergreen R & H musical really is as old as the hills, but the director managed to find a freshness which combined with the romantic pairing of Laurey and Curley, and a totally committed and enthusiastic cast your society produced a delightful and successful show. The lighting was good and the sound for dialogue was clear and strong and the orchestra never overpowered the singers.
The costumes were mostly effective, although I would have wished for more differentiation between the Farmers and the Cowmen, they really all looked the same and the men’s boots were lovely but ‘Oh so Clean!’
The choreography was good, designed to suit the abilities of your dancers. I enjoyed the ‘ballet’, simple performed well is better than complex and beyond performer’s abilities. Using the ‘actual Laurey and Curley’ was brave, and although better actors than dancers, the emotion they portrayed made it work well. A special mention must be made of the two dancers, Hannah Anteney and May Jane Chamberlain, who gave a superb exhibition of dancing throughout, both individually and when leading the other members of the cast.
The company as a whole worked well and enthusiastically, real team work. The curtain rose for Steve Brown (Curly) to welcome us with “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”. This number was nicely sung and set the tone for the rest of the production. Cathy Pearce (Aunt Eller) brought a quiet relaxing air to the show, but showed her mettle in controlling and silencing the farmers’ wives and cowboys and girls fighting at the box social. Laura Lamb (Laurey) was a natural with a melodious voice and well cast for the part. Abbi Marchant (Ado Annie) sang well, and obviously was having great fun in the part, vacillating between Dan Kent (Will Parker) and Ben Smart (Ali-Hakim) who both played their very different roles with gusto. It was a pleasure to watch them throughout the production.
Mention must be made of Lewis Philpott playing a very menacing and sinister Jud Fry, but at the same time portraying a wistfulness about himself. Emily-Rose Mould (Gertie Cummings) played her scatter-brained role well amply demonstrating her screeching laughter. Philip Williams (Andrew Carnes) gave a reliable and enthusiastic performance.
The direction by Kevin Warne, well assisted by David Smith and choreographer Faye Anteney was excellent. He avoided the ‘Let’s update’ it trap and went for fresh, clean, clear storytelling at its best. The characters were well drawn and showed much time and effort and the results demonstrated this work. The pickup on cues was good leading to excellent pace, which in a long show is very necessary. Good support from Will Pickering, Musical Director, and his small orchestra together with the overall leadership and support from Barbara Fairclough, producer and company chairperson.
Like all companies there is a need for good support backstage, led by Stage manager Mark Preston, and front of house and this company is always well supported. An excellent and very enjoyable performance! Well done!
John Thomas, Regional Youth Advisor
West Side Story
There are not enough superlatives to praise this outstanding production by Performing Arts Company. This talented company just goes from strength to strength and the standard is just first class.
The pace, which was constant from the Prologue with the Orchestra who were on top form and sounded superb, leading into the opening scene with Riff and the Jets held the audience totally attentive, not wanting to miss any of the fast, slick action on stage.
Tight dance and fight routines which were so personal to every person on stage and their involvement in every move. We watched all the cast acting/dancing as individuals with the result of original and sometimes very unexpected new ideas and challenging routines.
Ryan Bishop as Tony in his first lead role with this company and Helen Waller as Maria were both outstanding. Their voices encompassed a huge range in their songs and were sung with great feeling in both tone and delivery.
The pairing was so charming and so believable with some tender moments making them very special. At times the tensions and atmosphere coming from the cast and relayed to the audiences imagination was so electric you could hear a pin drop.
Lewis Philpott as Riff and Kelly Blackburn as Anita played great supporting characters with huge commitment from them. Both with strong voices and excellent diction!
Ben Smart as Bernardo looked just right in this character and Thom Jones as Action and Adam Harding as Chino did well in their respective roles.
Abbi Marchant as Anybodys deserves a mention for her animation and energy which was terrific.
The main characters were supported by a very lively ensemble, and it was here in the ensemble numbers that the choreography came to life, and was performed with energy and enthusiasm. Overall the production was in the experienced hands of Director / Producer – Barbara Fairclough and Musical Director – Simon Ricketts. The Choreography was under the control of Jonathan Underhill, Jane Turnham assisted by Faye Anteney with special combat items by Thom Jones. Congratulations to a superb back stage staff led by Ian Underhill and an orchestra which gave super accompaniment to the singers without overpowering them.
It is comforting to know that there is so much good young talent coming through. The enjoyment of participating in a production with a group of like-minded friends is second to none and, although the learning curve is a big one, it is one which lasts and helps in other walks of life building self-confidence and the ability to work as a team.
On leaving the theatre I heard comments from people like, ”Why go to London to see a show when this talent is here.” "I laughed and cried all through the show it was brilliant.” ”I would like to see it again.” Praise indeed but so well deserved. Thank you so much for West Side Story! It was a wonderful evening’s entertainment.
Jack and The Beanstalk
It was a production that offered all the enjoyable features of the panto – the likeable hero and heroine, the comic sidekick, the dame, the delightful cow, lots of songs and dances, audience participation and physical comedy.
It was a nimble, nicely paced show with attractive costumes, a good use of lighting, well chosen songs and a sharp and funny script by Alan Frayn.
At its heart were the performances and the production was well served by its players. Dan Kent (Jack) had exactly the right confident charm for the panto lead and worked well with Lizzie Diaper (Princess Primrose).
Lewis Philpott was great fun as Dame Dottie Dimple and played the role and the humour to perfection. However, the real revelation was Ollie Uglow as Simple Simon.
Tall, lanky, with seemingly rubber limbs, he exuded natural comic talent, genial personality and had an enviable rapport with the audience.
This was a pantomime as it should be.
West Side Story
BERNSTEIN and Sondheim’s musical, inspired by Romeo And Juliet but transplanted to New York with rival gangs of whites and Puerto Ricans, offers a dramatic, colourful treatment of the story and unforgettable songs.
There was much to enjoy in PAC’s new production.
There was energy and dynamic athleticism to the tussles between the gangs which added an exciting edge to the action.
The big production numbers were striking and fun. Performances were detailed and well conceived – particular mention going to Kelly Blackburn (Anita), Thom Jones (Action) and Dave Smith (Schrank). And at the centre, Ryan Bishop’s Tony was engaging and sympathetic, his rendition of the role being one of the best I have heard.
Reviewed by: Margaret Fields on Friday 8 June 2012
Venue: The Dart Centre, Hedge End, Southampton
Type of Production: Play
Producer/Director: Marc Fairclough
It was hard to believe that this very successful production of “Teechers” was PAC’s first venture into non musical theatre. The young actors, Becky McIntyre, Lewis Philpott and Ben Smart, were very convincing in their multiple roles and were always in the right place, wearing the correct costume and portraying the required character. They switched easily between being teenagers and members of staff and the dialogue flowed swiftly with some very confident asides to the audience. The play has some very funny lines which the cast timed well, but they also showed that it’s not always easy being a teenager. The play was first performed more than twenty years ago but didn’t seem to be at all dated.
Marc Fairclough, the director, had only a month to work with the cast, and they all made the most of their time. It was well thought out and the action moved seamlessly from scene to scene. All involved should be proud of this production and I look forward to PAC’s next foray into drama.
December 2011 - NODA
Christmas came early this year with PAC performing a great mix of just about all the seasonal favourites. Both the Junior and the Senior cast had their chance to shine, with solos and chorus numbers, and some neat dancing, very well choreographed and in several different styles. There were a few comic sketches and a potted version of Cinderella. The first act ended with some excellent traditional carols. All the singing was lovely and the sound from the Juniors was very clear and true. Their performance of a simplified “Peter Pan was delightful. The whole cast was very confident and enthusiastic. The show ended with several of the Christmas standards and I think that the audience went home
Guys & Dolls
6th July 2011 - NODA
The Berry Theatre is a brand new venue and it seems to be a very comfortable venue, seating about 300. Performing Arts were the first amateur company to perform their show there and everything went very smoothly on their opening night. There was some excellent singing and dancing. Danny Kent was a very cool Sky and Helen Waller was a rather prim Sarah - although she certainly let loose in the Havana scene. Joseph Warne and Kelly Blackburn were super as Nathan and Miss Adelaide, bringing out all the humour in their roles. The Crap Game in the sewer was brilliant, starting with some great choreography and then an excellent version of “Luck be a Lady” from Sky. The Mission Meeting was super, with great singing from Dave Smith, and well choreographed movement from the chorus. The men’s costumes were very good and the ladies – especially the Hot Box Girls – were very stylish. The set was very simple – mainly cloths and a few props – so scene changes were swift – and there was plenty of room for the lively chorus. PAC certainly set a high standard for this opening production.
2:49pm Tuesday 20th July 2010
A TALE of a small town in the US where dancing is banned and the rebellious outsider who brings change for good, Footloose is an exuberant experience with some lively, foot-tapping tunes and quite a lot of dancing.
PAC’s production exactly captured the spirit and mood of the piece, varying the pace of scenes perfectly. As befits a musical about dancing, the choreography was strong. The cast really invested a great deal in each number. If the two leads were slightly underpowered, there was excellent support.
Graham Thorpe and Cathy Tuttle gave outstanding performances as Rev Shaw and his long-suffering wife Vi, respectively. Eliza Dunn (Rusty) and Lewis Philpott (Wilard) were the comic hearts of the show.
This was a fun show with style and lots of energy.
Footloose – Performing Arts Company, The Point, Eastleigh.
The Likes of Us
9:49am Tuesday 7th April 2009
“A wonderful story about a wonderful man… Dr Thomas Barnardo – whose tale – has become world-renowned” is Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s first musical collaboration.
David Harris (Barnardo), Kate Shepherd (Syrie) and Simon Humphris (Johnny) all had lovely singing voices and excellent diction, but the lyrics of unknown songs were lost from the chorus. The musicians provided a rich accompaniment but were overamplified, causing toning issues with the singers.
Whether by design or accident, it was more a concert than a musical performance.
Stronger narration was also needed to bring the story to life.
Lack of direction, choreography and pace contributed to insufficient drive and passion, surely essential in a production about such an inspirational man. The company – arguably much more talented than evident in this production – deserved better The Likes of Us, The Performing Arts Company, Hedge End Village Hall
Wizard of Oz
Behind the gingham and those ruby slippers, there's some serious girl power waiting to be clicked into action.
Seventeen-year-old Tina Kerton from Lordshill is playing the lead role of Dorothy in the Performing Arts Company's (PAC) version of Wizard of Oz and is determined to make her character a little more modern and a lot less girly.
"I still like the traditional Dorothy," says Tina, who is studying for an A-level in Performing Arts and Drama at Barton Peveril in Eastleigh, "but I have made her character a bit tougher and more forceful in order to give the role my own stamp."
Tina, who has been with PAC for two years, beat competition from five other girls to take the title role.
"I loved the film when I was a child and always imagined myself playing Dorothy," says Tina.
The musical follows the story of a girl from Kansas city who gets whisked off in a whirlwind to a magical land full of munchkins, witches and an almighty wizard. It includes all the well-known songs from the film including Somewhere Over the Rainbow and We're Off to See the Wizard, plus some lesser-known songs that only feature in the stage version.
"My favourite is Evening Star, which doesn't feature in the film. It's a lovely song that I sing with the rest of the female cast," adds Tina.
Eastpoint Centre, Thornhill from Wednesday to Saturday December 11.