DIRECTOR: Kevin Shippey
CHOREOGRAPHERS: Laura-Jayne Shippey
and Danielle Beare
Date seen: Wednesday December 17th 2014
With another NODA Pantomime award under their belt (along with several other awards) I was looking forward enormously the RATz 2014 offering, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. With Kevin Shippey in the Directorial chair and the rest of his enormously talented family on stage it was the perfect Christmas curtain up.
There are two things you can always count on over at Wisbech, outstanding sets and stunning costumes. The former (designed by Kerry Shippey …. you can trust the brand!) were perfection, and the latter (Linda Brittin and Lenner Mockford) were both plentiful and colourful. The sound was unashamedly on mini disc this time and together with complimentary lighting (Robert Williams and Jonathan Salmon) did the job without incident.
The chorus numbered 8 and, augmented with 4 dancers, looked to be in all the right places at all the right times with buckets of enthusiasm. Of the supporting cast I enjoyed Amber Castillo-Roman as Speak True, Jenny Bryant as Senior fairy Wonderwings and Trainee fairy Goodheart played by the ever impressive Beth Handley. There was also an excellent characterisation from Liam Nixon bringing to life assistant baddie Black Wing whose costume was worth the ticket price alone.
In the more senior roles, Danielle Beare worked hard in the title role, as did her male counterpart Joanne Johnson as Prince Frederick and Emlyn Moment had plenty to do as Dame Dolly Dumpling, working the audience well when required. Josh Shippey always delivers the goods, and although the script gave him very little, he was on top form as comic lead Danny Dumpling, singing dancing and winging it with panache! In the same vein, sister Laura-Jayne Shippey couldn’t turn in a bad performance if her life depended on it and it was nice to see her playing a villain. As the most unpleasant Queen Caligula she got more than her share of boos and hisses to go with all the applause for her excellent choreography. I simply love Lorraine Carver. She can take a simple part, any part, and turn it into a masterpiece. On this occasion she was partnered with James Wetherall and as the two incompetent henchmen they got most of the big laughs.
Penultimate paragraph honours must be distributed this time round, and I share them equally between: Lizzy Bryant (T.D), Amy Milligan (Grouchy), Lauren Bird (Snoozy), Jess Goode (Sniffly), Emilia Reeves (Cheerful), Louise Mann (Dozy) and Phoebe Oram as Disney, who collectively stole the show with a fantastic team effort that looked effortlessly professional from the first entrance to the last exit.
Congratulations to Director, Kevin Shippey for another tidy piece of work. I did think the script was a little weak in places and a touch all over the place as far as the order of things usually goes … but having said that the wonderfully talented cast turned it into something that it might not have been, had it been anywhere but RATz. Merry Christmas guys you have started mine off perfectly.
Stephen P E Hayter
(Regional Representative – NODA Eastern Region Are 4 North)
Director: Kevin Shippey
Musical Director: Steve Simmonds
Choreographer: Laura-Jane Shippey
Vocal Coaches: Mark Checkley
and Sam Ashby
Date seen: Wednesday October 29th 2014
They won Best Youth Production, Best Youth Performer, Best Pantomime, Best Musical and to top it all off, ‘Avenue Q’ also received the NODA Area 4 North Best Overall Production Shield. As I took my perfectly placed seat towards the back of the sold out auditorium this incredibly talented group had me literally trembling with anticipation. This year it was Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s modern masterpiece, the recently released ‘Hairspray’ and the first time I had been offered it as an amateur production. The aforementioned anticipation was elevated to unprecedented levels by the acquisition of some of the best of King’s Lynn talent to go alongside the mountain of Wisbech talent. What could possibly go wrong?....
Relax, nothing went wrong. It all went beautifully right on a level that you are seldom privileged enough to witness. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up on the first number and stayed up until the Pullover Roundabout on the way home! The story is a multiple love story played out in front of the backdrop of racial tension and ethnic segregation in Baltimore in 1962.
The set was first rate and offered a two level vista with cartoon style decoration that was perfect. Lighting by Stephen Palmer and sound by Rob Williams were spot on as usual with nothing spectacular but nothing missing. Costumes by Kerry Shippey, Lenner Mockford and Bernie Ward were absolutely brilliant, with hair, wigs and make up by Kerry Shippey, Jema Seekings, Rachel Shepherd and Natalia Moment adding the finishing touches. Musical Director Steve Simmonds had mustered a very competent seven piece band who did complete justice to the great music available.
The chorus was large, with very focused, very energetic components, all confident with Laura- Jane Shippey’s excellent choreography. There were no weak links (Pun intended) but Jenny Coleman oozed quality and Danae Larham, who blew me away in ‘The Adams Family’ earlier in the year, showed her class again with a chorus performance that was impossible not to watch.
In the supporting roles there were solid perfomances form Red Vaughan in a variety of cameo roles and Danielle Beare as Little Inez with the incredible Lorraine Carver proving (once again) there are no small parts only small perfomances, as she stole a selection of scenes as Prudy Pingleton, the Gym Teacher, and, as the Prison Guard, where she delivered (with some skill) the best line in the show … “Hand in you tap shoes on the way out!”
In the more prominent roles, I enjoyed Rob Newton as Wilbur Turnblad, and new face Ady O’ Connor as Seaweed J. Stubbs who made a lovely job of his song “Run and Tell That”. Wisbech regular Josh Shippey never turns in a bad performance and, as teen idol Link Larkin, he delivered the goods once again. I loved the characterisation that Steph Larham brought to the part of Velma von Tussle although she struggled just a bit with the songs. With so much singing talent on show this night, even good singers looked ordinary. This was also true of Natalia Moment as Amber von Tussle, who delivered a great acting performance throughout. By the same token, when you are on stage with the best, and you can still leave your mark then that is something to be proud of. As black television presenter and rights campaigner Motomouth Maybelle, Emily Blake may have been less accomplished as an actress, but when she delivered the anthem “I Know Where I’ve Been” she held her own at the very least!
I made it plain before, after, and a little bit during the show that, having seen Kevin Shippey do dame in pantomime, I was worried what he would do with the drag part of Edna Turnblad, but from his very first entrance I knew I had no cause for concern. Mr Shippey delivered one of his most controlled and accomplished performances… even looking like he knew all his lines … and most of the dance moves as well!!!
As someone who spends way too much time with the local amateur performers, I know that Ross Woodhouse had hoped to portray Link Larkin but was given the Corney Collins role instead. Well bravo Kevin Shippey! Perfect casting. and bravo Mr Woodhouse! It was a master class in multi-layered acting as he switched effortlessly from the real person to the television persona pausing only slightly to deliver a selection of wonderful songs.
I always save the penultimate paragraph for the person who has made the biggest impact in the show and on me, and I am never happier that when I agonise over who to dedicate it to. This time it has taken 48 hours and in the end I had to split this section between comedy lead Laura-Jayne Shippey as repressed best friend, Penny Pingleton and the female lead, plump pioneer Tracy Turnblad, played by the sublime Sara-Jane Brennock. Laura-Jayne Shippey is a fantastic performer, and has one of the largest acting ranges I have ever seen. She can do everything, looks fantastic, and has one of the best voices in the area. On this occasion she delivered the ultimate in comedy characterisations that never slipped or drifted and tackled some of the most difficult (and ludicrously high) song lyrics imaginable. I watched transfixed as she summoned up all her technical skill to hit the big notes and never missed one … only to then make me cry with laughter as she turned herself into the frumpy, socially inadequate Penny. It was one of her finest perfomances and she has delivered quite a few of those. Sara-Jane, Sara-Jane, Sara-Jane … you could quite simply have taken that perfomances to the West End and brought the house down. You put every ounce of your very soul into the part of overweight Tracy, the big girl with the big heart who wanted to change the world starting with Baltimore, and it showed! A tireless characterisation that actually made me forget who you really were and some of the best singing I have heard … ever, ever, ever! I know how much this part meant to you and I know how much you valued this opportunity. Well, you absolutely made the most of it and the great and the good of Wisbech and King’s Lynn will be talking about it, and you, for many years to come.
Well done Kevin Shippey, the direction was flawless and every scene an individual triumph, and well done RATz, you nailed it!
Stephen P E Hayter
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region - Area 4 North)
RATz Summer Musical Challenge
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Director: Emlyn Moment
Musical Director: Gabriel Fitzsimmons
Choreographers: Katy Lilley and
Date seen: Friday August 15th 2014
Without wishing to sound like a sad old man (I admit to two thirds only) it scarcely seems possible that a year had passed since I was thoroughly entertained by the 2013 summer workshop challenge which was “Grease”. To claim you have put together a youth production in two weeks is impressive enough, but when you consider that they don’t rehearse at the weekends and the completed presentation was excellent, words simply don’t cover it! This year it was to be the recently released “Addams Family”. The family I knew of, the production, I had not a clue.
It was never truer than with this spontaneous production to say that it was a team game. From casting through rehearsals and lighting and all back stage functions, all these juveniles must have worked together to get the project to the stage in time for me, and a full auditorium to view it. I mention that because it seems wrong to single out a certain performer to praise of criticise but I personally think that it would discourteous and disrespectful not to review this production as I would any other, more conventional one.
I have never been to a RATz production without being impressed by the set, and this night was no exception. The complimentary lighting was perfect for the occasion and the sound delivered flawlessly both vocally, and from Gabriele Fitzsimmons and her four piece combo. The chorus were excellent throughout, dressed as the dead (or maybe undead … I can’t be sure) with white-out makeup that must have been murder to wear on such a warm night and superb costumes from Geraldine Moment, Rosie Turley, Sue Maguire, Tina Handley and Jenny Bryant. It was good to see some of the leads from past shows pitching in and it’s always nice to see so many bodies (pun intended) on the stage.
In the supporting roles, I enjoyed Georgia Beers as Grandma and Ben Durrant as Pugsley with some nice work from Harry Bradley as omnipresent family retainer, Lurch. I have seen Lizzie Bryant on this stage many times but this is the first time I have seen her take such a significant role, and what a great job she did. I have no idea how old she is but as Alice Bieneke the rhyming mother of the romantic lead she was excellent. This was also true of Edward O’Connor as the aforementioned romantic lead, who did everything right as love struck Lucas Bieneke. I think you would classify the part of the father Mal Bieneke as a supporting role but the performance I witnessed from Christopher Moment was perfection. Utterly compelling, and equal to the standard (if not the size) of the leads!
In the senior roles, Dominic O’Dwyer was solid throughout as Gomez with plenty of support from Edward Tranter as Uncle Fester, who had the most difficult make up to endure and did so in fine style. I knew I had seen Eden Carver before but had to check my notes to see that she took a lead role in Miss Saigon and was superb, although I think in this production she had improved significantly and had a delicate touch with the comedy that almost made this the take home performance of the night.
Luckily, LJS was sitting in front of me so I was able to check on the age of Danae Larham who took the part of Morticia Addams, and simply blew me away. In reviewing terms, under sixteens can be no more than endearing, whereas it has to be said, Miss Larham’s performance was just plain sexy! Aside from that I just could not believe the standard of her stagecraft with a brilliant characterisation and looks and movements to underline every syllable. She never took her eyes from the audience and it felt that she was addressing every word straight to me. She was confident and charismatic from start to finish and although she barely looked her sixteen years her performance was as mature as I have seen for some considerable time.
It doesn’t really matter that they put this together in two weeks; the show was good enough that it is not even remotely relevant. My profound congratulations to Director Emlyn Moment and all concerned for a great nights entertainment. RATz continue to set the standard.
RATz and Friends
Date seen: Friday May 23rd 2014
After the recent NODA Eastern Region awards were distributed, there is no denying that Wisbech Groups have had much recent success to celebrate, and with a venue in need of fundraising this retrospective review show was a perfect opportunity to do both!
There is no doubt that across all the performers, from youth to adult and all the directors and choreographers, there is a wealth of talent within The RATz company and The Wisbech Players talent pool, and whilst looking again at things I have already seen can be tedious, it really wasn’t on this occasion. The program was diverse with Youth meeting drama meeting ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Avenue Q’ and frankly I loved it all. A slightly unexpected but much enjoyed segment from The Wisbech Players recent Aykbourn ‘Neighbourhood Watch’, looked a dodgy inclusion but actually worked just fine. Ratzcool dance group brought two routines and The Katy Lilley School of Dance another two, all of which broke things up nicely.
It was wonderful to relive a little of the RATz Youth groups, ‘Miss Saigon’, and an even larger portion of their most recent delivery ‘Guys and Dolls’, with it pleasing the crowds just as it had before. Equally a little ‘Fawlty Towers’ xenophobic humour went down well as some subjects never seem to get tired, at least in England!
It was no surprise to me, and should be no surprise to you, that penultimate paragraph honours go to the remarkable ‘Avenue Q’ compilation which reminded me once again ‘ what a truly Stellar production this had been. It picked up three honours at the NODA Eastern Awards and I just sat and thought; I could watch this show again tomorrow!
Congratulations to everyone involved with this cracking cabaret, it was top quality from start to finish and I loved every minute.
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region Area 4 North)
GUYS AND DOLLS
Director: Emlyn Moment
Musical Director: Gabriel Fitzsimmons
Choreographer: Katy Lilley
Date seen: Thursday April 10th 2013
To be completely honest this RATz youth production was on a sticky wicket from the off! Last year’s Miss Saigon had been a real tour de force and was always going to be tough to match. Combine this with the fact that I am absolutely the last person you should invite to any Guys and Dolls production on the assorted grounds that: It’s just about my favourite musical; I have directed it; I have played Nathan Detroit and I know every syllable of every word of every line of the script. Having said that, this RATz youth company are a major talent.
The set was excellent with light and sound every bit as good as I have come to expect at this venue. The costumes were an early revelation, so many and such a high quality I was stunned. My compliments and complete admiration go to Geraldine Moment, Katy Lilley, Sue Maguire, Shirley Lilley, Cynthia Maxey, Rosie Turley and Mandy Fowler for what must have been months of work aided in some part no doubt by Harlequin and Dereham costume hire.
There were a lot of bodies on stage a lot of the time during this production and the chorus were at the very top of their game. Nice busy crowd scenes and plenty of acting throughout gave the right feel to such an atmospheric musical, complimented by excellent dance routines on both a small and large scale. Of the supporting cast there was a good showing from Ellen Thrasher as General Cartwright, Jessica Goode as Martha and Fern Paterson as Agatha, and solid work from Amy Milligan as Angie the Ox/Joey Biltmore. Lizzie Bryant worked hard as Big Jules (not quite sure when it stopped being spoken as big Julie) and Amber Castillo-Roman never missed a line as Lt. Brannigan.
In the more senior supporting roles Daniel Putterill and Bethany Handley put on a good show as inveterate gamblers Harry the Horse and Rusty Charlie with a nice piece of scene stealing from the very watchable Edward Tranter as Benny Southstreet. Presumably casting issues had caused Uncle Arvide to become Auntie Annie (Abernathy) but in the role of the wise mentor, Amy Milligan was superb with an remarkable delivery of “More I Cannot Wish You” that had me on the edge of tears. My only small criticism would be that she rather lost the ‘welching on the marker’ line which is one of the most important in the show.
Of the lead characters Edward O’Connor was excellent as Nathan Detroit, showing some nice comic timing on occasions. He was helped in no small part by Isobel Ward as long suffering girlfriend Miss Adelaide who struggled just a bit with the acting but more than made up for it with a superb singing voice. Likewise Scott Killingworth didn’t completely get across the diversity of the Sky Masterson character but, despite a nervous start to each song, settled into them nicely with an inexperienced but good singing voice.
I think this is the first time I have seen Chloe Philips- Bartlett in such a major role and she looked extremely comfortable front and centre. There was inexperience in her stagecraft in places but what a voice! Sarah Brown’s songs are not the easiest and she put each one away with a flourish.
I save my penultimate paragraph on this occasion for the man (boy?) who didn’t just steal the show, he walked away with it unchallenged. As we got ever closer to “Sit Down
You’re Rocking the Boat”, I was already mesmerised by Thomas Gregory as Nicely Nicely Johnson and turned to my companion and said “If he nails this song, he’ll make the production his own”. Well, I had no need to worry. The brilliant delivery of those extremely high notes put the icing on a very accomplished cake. His stagecraft was remarkable and his character acting was of a standard I rarely see in adults with facial expressions to match every line.
My compliments to Director, Emlyn Moment for another quality product, and to Musical Director, Gabriel Fitzsimons and her five piece combo (who was that on drums?) together with Choreographer, Katy Lilley. I warned you in the opening paragraph about my history with this show and I would just pose the following questions of the Production team. Why was Joey Biltmore in a suit?, why was Lieutenant Brannigan in a uniform? and why did Big Jules not actually have any spotless dice? all rhetorical of course ….
Well done RATz, you have some amazing youth talent.
Stephen P E Hayter
(District Representative NODA Eastern Region - District 4 North)