Love At The Musicals

Castle Players Lytchett Matravers Village Hall, Lytchett Matravers  Renée Claude 10 May 2024

Although Saint Valentines’ Day seems so long ago, Love At The Musicals is a beautifully thought-out showcase of romance, friendship, and relationships.

Directed by Phil McMullen and musical director Steve O’Neill, this interpolation of sketches, poetry, and musical numbers is a delightful evening out with something for everyone. Including classics such as ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and some well-read Shakespeare’s sonnets, as well as modern hits from Hamilton and Six, there is something for all to enjoy.

The opening numbers were punchy and extravagant, and set the bar high for the rest of the evening, while the closing numbers left you wanting more. Becki Lavender, Kim Burdon-Thompson, Lindsey O’Neill, Naomi Butchart, Mollie Burdon, and Kelly-Anne Singleton lead the group numbers with ease and created exquisite harmonies, particularly in the opening number of Act 1, ‘Six’ from the musical Six, as well as Act 2’s opening acapella number ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. Closing numbers for each act consisted of ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘You Will Be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen which were thoroughly enjoyable to watch as it was clear the cast were enjoying themselves and had a passion for being on stage.

The crowd favourites seemed to be the young Ella Burdon and Clara Singleton, aged 12 and 11, who performed a heartwarming rendition of ‘If Mama Was Married’ from Gypsy. The two budding stars later recited a touching poem about friendship.

There were plenty of belly-laughs brought on by sketches such as ‘One Letter’ in which Pete Bennet and Nikki Cross change one letter from famous musicals in order to make a new, absurd one e.g. a cricket-based musical called ‘Wicket’. Several jokes seemed to take a while to get, and others were more well-received, but the effort and comedic timing that is necessary to make comedy sketches work is no small feat and were expertly delivered on this night.

In addition to these hilarious moments, there were times when I was moved to tears; Pete Bennett’s ‘My Son’, ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ read by Sarah Peacock, and Nikki Cross’ ‘Love Song’ were particularly moving readings that held the audience captive with every word.

The occasional microphone issues did not seem to faze the cast at all, and although the staging was simplistic, the sound, lighting and stage crew did an excellent job in immersing the audience into each new song, dance, and scene. Whilst there were several instances of forgotten lines and a couple of notes were flat, it did not take away from the sheer talent of these performers.

Some standout vocal performances include Becki Lavender’s ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman, Mollie Burden’s and Christopher Polychronopulos’ ‘Helpless’ from Hamilton, which featured vocals that sounded identical to the soundtrack. The bright, clear voices of Kelly-Anne Singleton and Kim Burdon-Thompson filled the hall with an operatic vibrato that brought on chills, and Naomi Butchart sang the emotionally charged ‘Maybe This Time’ from Cabaret exceptionally well.

The lack of programme was not an issue as we had Steve Moore acting as an MC to introduce each new performance, and these were often smoothly integrated and kept the evening flowing at a steady pace.

And even though I did not win any raffle prizes, I was totally in awe of the production value from the Lytchett Matravers Village Hall. This show goes on for one more night on Saturday 11 May at 7:30pm and I highly encourage readers to attend this show and any others the group puts on.