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CLOGS Musical Theatre, Neeld Hall, Chippenham

Friday 28th March 2014

Director: Matt Heaton; Musical Director: Peter French; Choreographer: Debi Weaver

Graeme Savage reports:

After the success of the more family-friendly Annie, last year, the CLOGS Musical Theatre Company returned to one of the all-time classics of musical theatre, and did so with some triumph.

Despite having some of the most famous characters in the musical theatre canon, what struck me was the strength of the chorus work in Matt Heaton's tightly directed production. From the opening Runyonland sequence, through the hilarious trip to Havana and excellent Crapshooter's Ballet, the chorus movement was crisp and precise, and the volume and harmony, under the musical direction of Peter French was fantastic.

The stand-out performance for me came from Rich Lucey, as Nathan Detroit. Rich gave an exceptional performance throughout, full of gestures and mannerisms which added to the character without resorting to caricature or upstaging his fellow cast. He and his long-suffering fiancé Adelaide, Sandra Mayo were perfectly matched, making them a more believable couple than they can appear in some productions, summed up perfectly in Sue Me. Russell Syrett sang the role of Sky Masterson perfectly, but unfortunately seemed a little too clean-cut to really convince as the world-weary and highly respected (and feared) gambler, but worked nicely with Elly Fortune's Sarah Brown, particularly in the Havana scene where both were able to let themselves go a little more. In a company full of lively characters, Gary Ibbetson's Nicely-Nicely Johnson also stood out, leading the company through a brilliantly boisterous rendition of Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat.

While the director had worked well to keep the pace going during some of the wordier scenes (the build-up to Luck Be A Lady, for example) and the script benefitted from a little trimming, some of the musical numbers felt a little laboured - most notably, The Oldest Established where Debi Weaver's otherwise well-pitched choreography looked a little uncomfortable, as though the cast had been used to rehearsing at a quicker pace. The orchestra was very well-balanced against the singers voices, and the choreography throughout was well-set, and executed with precision and character, especially Adelaide's numbers in the Hot Box scenes. The set was well-constructed, with some nice cartoonish touches complimenting the original Runyon characters without getting in the way of the action. All was subtly lit by Mark Read, and the whole atmosphere complimented by excellent costumes.

Congratulations to all involved for a thoroughly entertaining production, and a refreshing performance of a show which can too often appear show its considerable age! I look forward to your next show.