Oh Happy Day!

This type of concert show is a staple of the amateur musical society, its chief role being to put money in the bank to be able to splurge on the next big, expensive production. There are also opportunities for society members, who perhaps don’t get the lead roles in the big shows, to showcase their talents in a song or two in their own slot on stage. Sometimes it can be a case of recycling the same tired old numbers which may be tried and tested, but the audience have all heard them soooo many times before (mentioning no particular songs from no particular shows – but you know the culprits).

In this latter respect, this show by Poole and Parkstone mostly manages to surprise and delight. There are a few familiar numbers, but interspersed with them are refreshingly new songs from unfamiliar shows such as Newsies, Sunny Afternoon and Dear Evan Hansen, as well as some less frequently performed numbers from Into the Woods, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound of Music. Somehow Felicity Mullins, the director and choreographer, manages to weave a show from these disparate songs based around the course of a day – hence the title: Oh Happy Day!

From the opening ‘One short day’ (from Wicked) there is rarely an opportunity to draw breath. The excellent five-piece band, led by musical director Adam Tuffrey and set on a raised platform at the back of the stage, drives the show along from one fast-paced number into the next, while the large cast of experienced musical theatre performers and an even larger children’s chorus fill the stage with action and sound. It is good to see so many relatively young members of even the adult cast, but P&P have an eye on the future by involving so many children in this show – they have fun, from the exuberant ‘Wake up, Boo!’ via the bedtime story section to the drummers in the rousing finale.

Unfortunately in the ensemble numbers, particularly the children’s ensemble, the vocals were largely lost in the sound from the band. The principals had radio mic’s but this production was crying out for some boundary mic’s to pick up the chorus.

There are many great performances but particularly worthy of note are Paul Simkin’s sensitively sung and vocally perfect rendition of ‘You will be found’ (from Dear Evan Hansen), Stephen Downey’s confident and sophisticated tap-dancing in ‘Good morning’ (and other numbers) and the young stars of the future who feature as Jack and Little Red Riding Hood in the Into the Woods sequence. I would gladly spend a ‘Wonderful, wonderful day’ with Kat Steele, then a memorable ‘One night only’ with Rosie Luxford before flying away with Clare Albanozzo in her lilting ‘Someday I’ll fly away’. There are some fine three- and four-part vocal harmonies in ‘Mr Sandman’ and ‘Well all right’ and some excellent choreography throughout. Comedy combines with harmony in ‘Sleeping on our own’ from Martin Guerre, which featured Gail Carroll, Marie Coltman and Marilyn Coombesand we finally located the source of the vocals in ‘Thriller’ as being the musical director, Adam Tuffrey himself.

There are further opportunities to see this marvellous show at Christchurch’s Regent Centre on 24 November at 7.30 and 25 November at 2.30 and 7.30.