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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Monday, 28 October 2013

Lights!Camera!Music! (St Andrew's Players)

For those of you living on some distant planet, it’s been pretty rough down here lately. This week’s storms are little more than a sparrow’s fart compared with the harsh economic winds which seem to have been blowing through our wallets since Clegg and Cameron were in short pants. There was a time when folks splashing out tarted up their houses or upgraded the old motor. These days the lucky ones pay off their gas bill or shamelessly switch on their lights for a self indulgent half an hour. Or it seems like that. Given the constant media reminders of food banks for the starving and ‘eat or heat’ debates it is hardly surprising that the financial plight of local theatrical societies figures fairly low on the agenda. Parting people from their pounds for a night out gets harder and harder. And those pounds they do part with rarely reflect the true cost of all but the most basic productions. Especially musical ones for modern audiences conditioned for West End blockbusters.

They are a sensible lot down at St Andrews. You can’t do a high quality Into the Woods, Drowsy Chaperone, or Children of Eden for peanuts but that is the price you have to put on the tickets if you want a local audience. And that comes at a cost. So it is hardly surprising that in between times most societies find other means to subsidise their local blockbusters. Lights!Camera!Music! clearly falls into that category. Minimal staging, minimal props and costumes, minimal band. Rely heavily on your individual singers, sprinkle in a bit of visual trickery, and trust enough folks turn up to swell the depleting coffers and put a smile on the face of your accountants and your show choosing committee. Great news folks, we can do Miss Saigon after all.

With such shows you inevitably cherry pick. Well I cherry picked Your Song (David Mills), Man or Muppet (Luke Storey and Jonathan Mills), and Sound of Silence (David Mills and John O’Leary) as being particularly notable. And I would also have cherry picked You’ll Never Walk Alone (Frances Hall) if I wasn’t married to her and Moon River (Andy Sizmur) if they had included him in the programme. But perhaps I have anyway. But the outstanding numbers were the collective Sweeney Todd Prologue and West Side Story (Tonight) and the individual Diamonds Are Forever (Alex Colledge-Orr). All these made me tingle in unexpected places. Miss Orr has a voice as rich and brown as treacle and, against an imaginative backdrop of James Bond films, she delivered my personal top of the podium highlight.

I would have liked that filmic backdrop a bit more. It started proceedings nicely and ended imaginatively with a roll call of all the participants, including the popcorn maker, in true cinematic style. Stagers Emma Orr and Emma Mills, backed by Jonathan Mills’ lively trio, had clearly given their evening of limited resources a heavy splash of creative thought. I liked it. So did the audience, and there were a lot of them. And so did their accountants. Not many of them I am told. Far too expensive. Roy Hall

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