This raucously enjoyable production starts even before one enters the auditorium, when you are likely to find yourself accosted (in the nicest way) by some “cheery ladies”… let’s leave it at that for the moment! As the audience take their seats, a full-on Music Hall singalong is taking place on the stage, and songsheets are distributed for our participation. It’s a hugely engaging introduction to the evening, establishing both style and location superbly. It is also to the credit of the company that they deliver these numbers as if to the manner born, and even at this point there is a wonderful rowdy energy level that seldom flags as the show progresses.
If the prospect of a musical play about the notorious “Jack” might give anyone pause for thought (and admittedly there are some genuinely dramatic and creepy moments, made all the more so by Tony Lawther’s ingenious and atmospheric lighting), this still manages to be a jolly, frequently funny and occasionally hilarious show. Set and costumes ensure that it all looks terrific, and director Jacqui Beckingham has delivered a production full of life and ingenious detail. This Music Hall is a total environment, and the detail in both crowd and principal scenes is admirable. It’s worth mentioning again the energy and focus of the company, and the consequent high spirits.
Rob Jones’ terrific 4-piece band sounds wonderful and has a driving energy level of its own. They are situated high above the stage on the upper level of the set and the sound balance ensures that all the lyrics are clearly heard. Having the band situated thus means that the venue’s regular orchestra pit can be covered over, bringing the stage action and performers even closer to the spectators… it creates a real sense of unity between performers and audience, which is the very essence of Music Hall – another reason for the effectiveness of this production.
Every Music Hall needs a strong Chairman and Keith Wiggans dominates the proceedings marvellously. He has some hilarious moments… but watch his performance as the evening progresses, because there are moments when his ebullient persona suddenly seems faintly sinister. More sinister still is Gareth Billington-Ryan as Montague Druitt, whose contribution grows ever more unsettling as the line between the Music Hall and the Reality becomes increasingly blurred as the evening progresses. Amongst a company filled with such strong performers and performances, Rachael Spencer sings and acts the role of Marie Kelly superbly, Carole Lilly doubles ingeniously as Lizzie Stride and a delightfully cheeky Queen Victoria, and Louis Spencer manages to be strong, funny and menacing by turns, as gang leader Daniel Mendoza. The show also boasts some delightful cameo performances, not least from Charlotte Meader and Mick Attwood as Sergeant Coles. His number with the Police in the second act is alone worth the price of a ticket!
The show was received by a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience, and it would be good to think that audience numbers will increase as the week progresses. Eastleigh is fortunate indeed to have EOMS, and to currently have such an entertaining and enjoyable production playing at The Point.