It seems to have become a regular gig for me to review WMTS’s November show, but I’m not complaining: it is always an enjoyable evening and I am always impressed by the huge amount of work that has gone into a show that has only two performances, both on the same day.
To celebrate their 50th anniversary, WMTS cast their net wide by encoring some of the shows they have put on in the last half-century. It provided plenty of variety, as well as the opportunity for the majority of the cast to have their moment in the spotlight. The show opened auspiciously with an impressively large and talented group of tap dancers giving their all in ‘42nd Street’. In fact, the dancing was excellent throughout, and Gemma Davis provided imaginative and attractive choreography.
The singing was like the curate’s egg: parts of it were excellent. The ensemble seemed smaller than usual but made a pleasing sound, notably in ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, ‘9 to 5’, ‘Anything Goes’ (more good tap dancing here) and the complexly wonderful harmonies of ‘Who Will Buy?’. Comparing my notes and the programme afterwards, I found that of the solos I had jotted down as making a particular impression, two were sung by Julie Sissons: ‘I Whistle A Happy Tune’ and ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’. Also memorable were Selina Rumbold’s ‘As Long As He Needs Me’ and ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ by Heather Pretlove. Pam Mizon showed her talent for comedy in ‘Shall We Dance?’ and ‘60, Going On 70’, a hilarious parody of The Sound of Music, while Jemma Cable’s ‘I Hate Men’ was well acted.
Overall, though, I came away with the feeling that this was not one of WMTS’s best efforts. It is good to let everyone have a chance, but it does mean slightly patchy quality. One expects the men to be outnumbered but they were also outclassed. None of them seemed to know what to do with his hands while singing solo, and in ensemble numbers, tentative, individually invented hand gestures were a distraction.
A technical blip was that especially in ensemble numbers, a mike was often turned up halfway through a soloist’s first line, so that the first few words were lost. It is infuriating when the performers have worked their socks off preparing a show but then are let down by the technical team: why can’t they attend enough rehearsals to understand as clearly as the performers what is expected of them?
Having had my moan, I must emphasise that there was a lot to admire about the show (performed on a bare stage with few props and minimal lighting changes), not least the efforts of musical director Stuart Darling and his four-piece band. The speed of some of the costume changes must have beaten some records, too. If I am asked to keep up my record and to review next year’s show, I will be delighted to do so.