Bus Stop To Broadway

Encore Theatre Productions

This company burst onto the local theatre scene just over a year ago with a show at Beaufort Community Centre in Southbourne, making a memorable impression. Now they’re back in the somewhat larger surroundings of the Life Centre in Moordown and this latest show, devised and directed by Jo Mansfield with Alastair Hume as musical director, proves to be equally memorable – for all the right reasons, of course.

It wasn’t without its problems; the venue being of a somewhat cavernous nature, body mics were a necessity but sadly there was rather too much reverb when the entire company was on stage, creating a strangely muffled sound on occasion. I was also slightly bemused that what was obviously meant to be ‘mood lighting’ sometimes meant that soloists were almost in the dark and there appeared to be only one follow spot in use – fine if there was only one soloist, but when there were two…

Technical hitches apart, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with plenty of fine talent on display, and it was a real pleasure to hear so much from (mostly) Broadway shows that, in several instances, are rarely given an airing on these shores. Both Scarlet Pimpernel and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying have fairly recently been performed by local companies but I missed both productions so the songs were new to me, although Wicked, Bugsy Malone, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid and Hairspray had me tapping my feet and trying hard not to sing along.

In each section the choreography was spot-on and exits and entrances were seamlessly executed, which always makes for a polished performance. Projections of each title with the dates of their Broadway performances plus a tiered level at the back of the stage were all that was needed by way of a set, and the many costumes were bright and colourful.

Vocally, the company makes a great sound, whether in solos or as an ensemble, and there were many highlights. I loved ‘Brotherhood of man’ and ‘Coffee break’ (How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying), ‘Let’s go fly a kite’ (Mary Poppins) and ‘You can’t stop the beat’ (Hairspray), the latter number featuring a great jive from Simon and Francesca Ozanne. And how could I leave out Becky Willis and Shannon Fisher singing ‘Poor unfortunate souls’ and Shannon’s ‘Part of your world’ (The Little Mermaid), Charlotte Starr’s emotionally-charged ‘I’m feeling fine’ and Amelia Shipton’s ‘Tallulah’ (Bugsy Malone) or Ellie Down and Frankie Mansfield’s venomous ‘What is this feeling’ (Wicked)? Oh, and let’s not forget Martin Mansfield and Dougie Gubbins’s tender ‘Timeless to me’ (Hairspray).

All that and a plentiful bread, cheese and wine supper too. What better way to spend an evening?!

There is a further performance at the Life Centre tonight, Saturday, at 8pm