Ringwood Musical & Dramatic Society [RMDS] The Barn, Ringwood School, Ringwood Caroline Burr 12 April 2023
This was a very ambitious evening’s entertainment as the company performed 30 numbers and added three sketches for good measure. The theatre itself has excellent facilities, and sound, lighting and smoke machine were used to good effect throughout. The costumes were often very colourful, and the many quick changes were accomplished successfully. I loved the attention to detail on the women’s costumes for the two numbers from Made in Dagenham which included Ford badges on all the blue overalls. The period costumes for Titanic were also a pleasure to see.
The first half of the show was particularly strong both in the choice of songs and the level of performance. We started with an enthusiastic You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray, this involved the whole chorus, who were obviously enjoying themselves and were full of enthusiasm!
There were excellent solo performances too, particularly from Richard Bennett singing If I was a Rich Man and Charlie Squires who sang She Used to be Mine from Waitress. We also had a very amusing and well-choreographed Officer Krupke from West Side Story featuring seven of the men.
However, the five numbers from Les Misérables were the highlight of the Act One for me. The songs are so powerful and were brilliantly executed. It’s difficult to single anyone out, but Jo Bower gave us an emotional rendition of On My Own and Tom Andrews was utterly convincing singing Empty Chairs. My only criticism was that the cast didn’t look miserable enough! I would have liked to see ragged, dirty costumes and some grubby faces. However, I was left wondering if the company have ever performed Les Misérables, and if they haven’t, I wish they would!
Although I understand that the sketches may have been included to cover costume changes, I didn’t feel that they worked very well. They tended to interrupt the flow of the evening, which by its nature was a little disjointed as 21 shows were included. Calendar Girls was the longest and best of the three, but ‘Allo’Allo made me feel uncomfortable. If you are going to do it, then you need to be able to do the accents, but more importantly it is so dated that it seemed completely at odds with a generation that has for the most part rejected sexual stereotypes.
The number Sweet Transvestite from Rocky Horror Show might have been an antidote to this as its about fluid sexuality, but unfortunately, the women looked decidedly awkward. This number needs to be over the top and delivered with 100% conviction, otherwise we, as the audience, feel awkward too.
After a cold, wet dash to the bar (it’s in another building) we settled back into our seats for Act 2. I felt that this didn’t quite fulfil the anticipation generated by the first half. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t familiar with some of the songs. However, there were some stand out performances by Caroline Windsor singing Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music and we had an exuberant version of Ex-Wives from Six, which looked and sounded great, and was beautifully choreographed. The traditional top hat and tails dance for A Chorus Line also worked well. I really liked Tamsin Barnes version of Now that I’ve Seen Her from Miss Saigon too.
The orchestra did an amazing job, there are some very talented musicians here! The director Jane Howell is also to be congratulated for putting together such a complex, but polished show. The standard was very high throughout, as we transitioned smoothly from one number to the next. A very well-rehearsed show which I would recommend. You will just need to get there early as parking is limited!