Milton Musical Society Forest Arts Centre, New Milton Carole Gadsby 30 November 2022
The atmosphere as we walked into Forest Arts was buzzing with anticipation and excitement; we were warmly greeted by Front of House staff, which contributes to the feeling of “this is going to be good”. What I was expecting I am not sure, but I was certainly not disappointed.
The barman at The King Henry, Cayton Francis, opened the proceedings with all the other characters in tableaus strategically placed around the stage. Dan Murrell as Fagin was superb in his interpretation of ‘Gotta Pick A Pocket Or Two’ from Oliver! and maintained his character throughout the whole show; it is difficult to take your eyes off Dan when he is on the stage, he is compulsive viewing. Also loved ‘You’ll Be Back’, which was hologrammed onto the head of King Henry, it was a very clever visual. Catherine Smith as Nancy complemented the Oliver! section with her strong melodic voice and characterisation of her part. Steve Tuddenham and Suzanne Teather as Madame and Monsieur Trenardier were both excellent and their comedic timing and animation and very clear vocals added to the storyline. Emma Hardy as Sally kept in character throughout the show and showed emotion and raw talent in some of her numbers. Charlotte Squibb as Mama again perfectly portrayed with humour and feeling and her interaction with Cayton showed a clear connection between the two of them.
‘My Girl’, Chris Meineck had great interaction from both the ensemble and the audience and, being so close to the stage certainly made you feel very involved in the whole production. ‘Just One Look’, Olwen Adams strong vocals, emotionally sang and costume so fitted the character. ‘A Spoonful Of Sugar’ led by Tracy Knapp fabulous production, the chorus came into their own here, the choreography was stunning and effective with impeccable timing and precision. It looked such fun, I wanted to join in! ‘One Day More’, led by Cayton was fabulous, the ensemble was strong with great facial expressions throughout and very effective chorus formation.
The opening of Act Two was absolutely breath-taking with the Six wives, Anna Clay, Holly Prince, Jess Barras, Ashleigh Barker, Emma Hardy and Lizzie Crane. Their timing and attention to detail was excellent, it was slick, precise, well timed and staged and beautifully sung, the harmonies were great and they all complemented each other. The Nuns, Jenny, Pat, Hilary, Suzanne, Tracy, Sally, Jilly, Sue and Olwen, did a good job with their wealth of experience, the singing came together and their acting and facial expressions were excellent. The Jersey Boys led by Shae Carroll, ‘Oh What A Night’ was great fun, Shae was fantastic but what a cracking group he had backing him, Peter Hall, Gordon Short, Terry Barnett and Steve Tuddenham – perfect. ‘The Windy City’ sung by Ashleigh Barker had all the fun of Oklahoma! and she even looked a bit like Doris Day. The Dream Girls, Jess Barras, Holly Prince and Lizzie Crane with their rendition of ‘One Night Only’ was fabulous, again with superb harmonies. ‘You Will Be Found’, one of my favourite songs from Dear Evan Hanson, sung by Cayton did not disappoint, it was sung with such feeling and emotion.
Finally, ‘Time Warp’, how we loved and joined in with this, led by Tracey Alford; I am not sure who was enjoying it the most, the cast or the audience. Culminating with ‘Flash Bang Wallop’ which was okay but it lacked the slickness and timing which lots of the other chorus numbers had. However, it did include everyone on stage and they were certainly having a good time. Having said that, what a fantastic evening of entertainment.
The Band with Jo Kent on the piano, Jacob Corbin bass guitar and Chris Bucky on drums were amazing throughout the show; they were kingpin to the whole production, so much so you forgot they were there but what a difference they made.
The Production team are to be congratulated on a fantastic show. The lighting in this small theatre would have been quite challenging but in general it was superb and we were not aware of any hitches. The scene changes were done swiftly and efficiently. This was first-class entertainment, what a brilliant idea which all came together with excellent acting, singing and movement. I cannot comprehend how much hard work and skill must have gone into this production. Please tell all you family and friends, this is a show not to be missed. Well done.