Theatre in Wales

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Treat of a Bonus Show from Summer Cast

Aberystwyth Summer Musical

“Chicago” Cast - Aberystwyth Arts Centre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-24-10
Aberystwyth Summer Musical by “Chicago” Cast - Aberystwyth Arts Centre Times of trouble are good for musicals. On July 31st, a Saturday night, the Proms were wholly given over to musical theatre. Bryn Terfel and Simon Russell Beale even joined in a soft shoe shuffle and sang verses from “Everybody Ought to have a Maid.” August 21st conductor John Wilson gave Richard Rodgers’ music, also in the Albert Hall, the kind of orchestral treatment he felt it warranted. And on August 22nd Aberystwyth’s summer company put together, with just a few days’ preparation, an evening of music from Bernstein and Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, Menken and Ashman, Wildhorn and Bricusse, Frank Loesser, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman and Marvin Hamlisch, among others.

Twenty-five or more numbers, with the sizzler “All that Jazz” from “Chicago” for an opening. That, and later on the full-cast ventriloquist number, was a reminder just how sharp, fresh and composite is the choreography in that show. In between, the company mounted a series of solos, duets, trios and more. A similar tribute to musical theatre earlier in the year had been marred slightly by a soggy, show-bizzy tone. Here respect and affection for the musical tradition were evident but that need not necessarily preclude humour. Here fun was leavened with fine vocal tributes from across six decades of music.

Ian Knauer has a warm stage presence and a tone perfect for “Somewhere”. It’s not the very peak of Sondheim’s ballads but it is still sounding good. If there were a prize for sheer vocal pyrotechnics it would have go to Carrie Ellis. Her voice, particularly on “Just moved into 14G”, moved from whisper to growl to high soprano.

Rachel Crane got to sing in duet beautifully with Lisa Bridge, then in the parodic “the Song that Goes Like This” with David Barrett and solo with “Diva’s Lament” from “Spamalot.” Her voice is a familiar in Aberystwyth but this number was an opportunity to see a comedic talent in blossom.

In a towel and not a lot more Bobby Windebank sang the quite absurd“ My rubber duckie”. (“Every day when I make my way to the tubby/ I find a little fella who's
cute and yellow and chubby”). Shona Lindsay sang powerfully from “A Chorus Line.” Nia Jermin in a flouncy yellow dress did an audience-winning comic “Taylor the Latte Boy” (“So many years my heart has waited/ Who'd have thought that love could be so caffeinated?”)

Rodgers and Hammerstein were represented by “the Sound of Music” alone. In the first half David Barrett and Elizabeth Diamond put “Sixteen going on seventeen” through a comic treatment the poor song was never built for. That the last scene from “Some Like it Hot” was grafted on probably gives it away. That was nothing compared to what the second half held in store for “Do re mi.” By the time Elizabeth Diamond, in blonde curls and dirndl with a virtuoso blend of parody and athleticism, came to head-butt one of the “children” in her care the audience was in ecstasy.

Anthony Williams provided light-touch direction as well as engaging in sex and murder as “Chicago” character Fred Casely. Different members of the company introduced the numbers with a few crisp sentences of description, no anecdotes, no stories. Whether star or chorus, solo, duet or ensemble they performed, smiled, and departed the stage. To the last woman and man they radiated joy at being there. Maybe it is nearing the end of a five-week season, maybe it’s the Aber effect or maybe they are all naturally joyous in character.

There is a habit now of charity coming with a lot of noise. The show came without programme or credits and it took a bit of digging to find out it was a benefit-raiser. Appropriately from a crack dance troupe the cause was the creation of bursaries for young dancers. In the middle ages the great philosopher Moses Maimonides made a classification of eight types of charity. He accorded a high value to giving in quietness. In that light this ensemble is possessed not just of big voices but of big hearts too.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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