One: A Musical Revue
Directed by Rowan Marshall & Emma Evans
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Author: Julie Armsrong
Being a big fan of all things musical theatre, I was very much looking forward to VAMPS’ musical revue. The programme promised a great selection of songs so the excitement was palpable. I saw the matinee show on what was a beautiful day and the setting was lovely for a drink on the deck by the river, in the glorious sunshine before the show. Perhaps the good weather was to blame, but as we entered the theatre it was clear that ticket sales were not good for the matinee performance.
This was such a shame as it can be demoralising for the cast to play to a half empty house and unfortunately it did appear to affect them initially, as the opening number “I Hope I Get It” was a little flat. Smiles and ‘show faces’ would have helped enormously and some ‘acting through song’ technique. However, by the second song “One”, things had picked up and confidence clearly grew.
The songs chosen for the show seemed an eclectic mix until one realised that they were divided into groups according to their composer, although I do wonder how many audience members would have realised this. I thought that the programme could have given more information here, explaining who the composer was for each section and, more importantly, which musical each song was from. Musical director Rowan Marshall has a vast knowledge of musical theatre shows, some well known and others less so (particularly as some of the chosen shows have only appeared on Broadway and not in the West End) and I felt that perhaps most of the audience would not have been familiar some of the songs. The children’s songs were unfortunately not even mentioned in the programme. A bit more information next time please!
There were also many soloists throughout the performance, both adults and children, but not one of them was credited in the programme – what a shame! I recognised several faces from previous shows, but it would be very unfair to namecheck some performers and not others here. Needless to say, congratulations to all solo performers, who all did a great job. Rowan did well too in following some less confident soloists so that the band remained on track and is clearly a very able MD. The sound produced by both the ladies’ and the men’s chorus was lovely and when the whole company sang together it was wonderful. Congratulations to Rowan and all of the cast on creating a super sound.
This brings me to ‘the whole company’: with thirty five adult members and eighteen children the stage was more than a little cramped. I have never before seen a revue show where every adult member of company remains on stage throughout every number – and I can only imagine how much time must have been spent for each member to learn all thirty five songs! If each member had just six or seven songs to learn they would have the chance to really work on these songs and perfect them. It was very difficult to pick out any one member from the audience as the stage was permanently crowded. Personally I would have preferred to see a mix of full company numbers with some solos and duets in between (of course with half a dozen backing vocalists where required) to break it up a little. It was lovely to focus on the performers who did have solos and duets to perform, but the staging of each piece was distracting with everybody else still there in the background. The staging throughout could have been better: there were times when some soloists were singing facing upstage as they moved around the performance space and some of the choreography could certainly have been improved – the moves often seemed a little dated.
The VAMPS children, as always, were a delight and all performed beautifully – well done kids! They were backed up by the adult chorus, who were reading their lyrics from song sheets. This is understandable with thirty five other songs to learn as well, so I do see why, but I always feel that this looks unprofessional – and who doesn’t know the words to ‘Consider Yourself’? Shame on you grown ups – the children knew all of their words off by heart!
Both sound and lighting (Kate and Dave Maltby) were excellent and the projections used were lovely and really helped to set the scene. Well done technical team, you did a sterling job, I loved the helicopter for Miss Saigon and the uplighting during Sweeney Todd, very effective. VAMPS’ technical team always produce great results, as did the band who sounded great throughout.
On the whole this was a good production. There were, I felt, some missed opportunities: why were the children not used for the Joseph section, or brought back on at the end for the encore? Lots of children running on and a ‘Gavroche’ being lifted aloft with a large flag at the back would have topped the show off beautifully. The singing at the end here was superb, with some lovely harmonies – so well done to Rowan and the whole cast on producing a great sound throughout the show. Let’s work on the staging of the pieces next time and you’ll have cracked it!
Congratulations to VAMPS on a great afternoon’s entertainment.