1st November 2022

Review: UoM Musical Theatre Society autumn showcase

UoM’s very own Musical Theatre Society’s Autumn Showcase assembled snippets from the outstanding shows performed last academic year
Review: UoM Musical Theatre Society autumn showcase
Photo: Josh Stainer and Amber Daly

With an assembly of songs from last year’s productions Pippin, A Very Potter Musical, Company, and A New Brain, the musical theatre society wowed their audience with perfect pitch, fantastic comedic timing, and unadulterated joy for their craft that shone through in each performance.

A Very Potter Musical was a brilliant beginning, with Ginny (Hannah McCoy) singing with a cheeky romantic look in her eyes and a bright, youthful voice. She was accompanied by Harry and Ron (Xavier Moras Spencer and Charlie Steggall) as backup dancers. They swayed to the music before joining in, a creative decision which sparked many well-deserved laughs from the audience.

Arran Kemp continued the fun with a rendition of ‘Be Polite to Everyone’ from A New Brain. The number was sung in a gorgeously deep voice with a humourous tone that worked well to establish a sassy villain persona.

Next up was Charlie Steggall, who sang (to my disappointment) the only song from Pippin that was included in the line-up. Nevertheless, his performance of ‘Corner of the Sky’ was enough to have me berating myself for not seeing the full production last year.

Rosa Gatley weaved sincerity through her character when singing ‘Not Getting Married Today’ from Company. Although her timings were a little off in places. Her voice overlapping with Rowan Wilson’s and Aimee Wilmot’s at the end was goose-bump worthy.

‘Mother’s Gonna Make Things Fine’ from A New Brain was possibly my favourite song from the whole performance, deftly sung by Lucy Whelan. She not only captured the fraudulent positivity of the character at this moment, but the power of her voice gave the song a sustained momentum that had the audience captured. She reminded me of Stephanie J. Block, which as any theatre lover will know, is a huge commendation.

The whole cast had an amazing understanding of harmonies, which was especially noticeable in ‘Granger Danger’, sung by Charlie Steggall and Ella Kendrick. Their performance was another highlight for me.

Having seen the 2018 run of Company at the Gielgud Theatre in London, I had a high bar for Fran Wolfin’s ‘Ladies who Lunch’, and she certainly did not disappoint. Her projection was strong and, the development the audience followed her with on stage was a masterclass in performance. In the future, I’m certain she could give Patti LuPone a run for her money.

Aimee Wilmot’s ‘Change’ from A New Brain was not only technically glorious but commanded a strong stage presence. She sprinkled in an appreciated bit of humour at the end by giving a few lucky audience members some coins she had in her pocket.

The pianist, Leo Gatty, must also be given major props as, despite apparently having only four days’ notice, he handled each song with the nimbleness of a professional.

Technical issues were handled well, eliciting laughs from the performers and audience alike. My particular favourite was the moment one of the microphones seemingly fell to pieces in one of the cast member’s hands. However, the accompaniment being a tad too loud during ‘Being Alive’ (sung by Xavier Moras Spencer) did sadly drown out some of the softer moments of one of the most impressive renditions of this song I’ve heard to date.

The showcase overall exceeded all expectations I sat down with. The obvious camaraderie and glee the performers get from each other and what they do had me grinning all the way through. It wasn’t just me either; the whole room seemed to buzz, whether from the sound system, the fact that most of the audience was indulging in a drink from 532, or from the pure energy that flowed through each song. I personally think it was a perfect combination of all the factors. I couldn’t tell whether freshers’ flu hadn’t affected a single member of this cast, but the beautiful tones they sang with certainly suggests not.

Upcoming projects for the Musical Theatre Society include a production of Spring Awakening in November, which judging by today’s talent, is certainly not one to miss. I for one would love to see queues rivalling those for the 142 bus back to Fallowfield after a long day of lectures.

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