Thursday 26 March 2015

'You Can't Stop The Beat' of Galashiels Amateur Operatic!

Every year , if there's one show that I look forward to seeing the most it has to be Galashiels Amateur Operatic Society's production. 
This year they took us all back to 1960's Baltimore as they performed the smash hit 'Hairspray' - a colourful, vibrant musical that deals with the racial tensions of post-War America with big doses of comedy, memorable songs and lots and lots of hairspray.

Every year Galashiels push themselves to put on their best show yet and this year the standard felt impossibly high - there's no point to beating around the bush as I can confidently say that without doubt Galashiels managed to surpass even their own impeccably high standards and put on a show that had our mouths gaping open in amazement. 
With professionally choreographed routines, impeccable styling and costumes, fantastic sets (supplied by us, just sayin') and an incredibly talented cast their production went beyond the standards of just being a really really fantastic amateur show and would actually comfortably rival this years professional tour.

I actually feel sorry for the professional actors who are cast in these roles as I feel I will be judging them based on Gala's performances, however maybe not as sorry as I feel for the members of GAOS who now have to top this with next year's production of 'Sunshine On Leith'. Good luck guys - get some rest before you start it all again in a few months!

I'd like to say that I wake up like this...but that would be a lie

Gala AOS have a fantastic range of members and so are uniquely positioned to be able to perform almost any show - we are well aware of the problems many societies face of not having enough men. This is definitely not the case for Gala who have a strong & talented cast made up of all ages and genders - this year the lead role went to Kayley Henderson who starred as Tracy Turnblad. Last year Kayley had been part of the chorus for 'Half A Sixpence' so it was great to see her showcasing her talents in a lead role. She gave a fantastic and exuberant performance - not only easily handling the extensive vocals (i'm sure the half time intermission was a welcome break!) but also delivering a very likeable and funny performance. Maybe not all will agree with me but I find Tracy Turnblad can often come across as being deeply annoying (sorry!) an emotion which I feel intensely when I watch Nikki Blonsky's performance in the hit film. This was not the case with Kayley's performance, seeing her and Jan Baird, who played Penny Pingleton bouncing around on stage together definitely made you want to backcomb your hair back and be a part of Tracy's gang. This vivacity was not exclusive to the lead's performance however - the whole cast seemed to run on a supply of boundless energy. There were smiles all round as they bopped their way through some really extensive and impressive choreography and they kept it up throughout the show - not even lagging during their big finale. The show certainly finished with a bang and I was left feeling exhausted just from watching them all - in a good way of course. It certainly motivated me enough to go out for a run the next day.

It was this kind of behaviour that made Zayn leave One Direction
Kayley was well matched as returning lead Clark Eaton Turner wooed her as teenage heartthrob Link Larkin. As he crooned to the audience and the ladies in the cast swooned at his feet (quite literally for Penny Pingleton at one point) it reminded me of the old footage of bands like The Beatles in their heyday - Clark Eaton Turner certainly has the same confidence and charisma when on stage and was well cast as Link. He even managed to pull off a white guitar without looking like a cruise ship crooner or a member of The Shadows and on that achievement alone Clark, I must say well done.

They may all have exactly the same guitar but at least they're plugged in,
unlike another member of One Direction. Poor little Niall Horan

Also supporting Tracy were her friends Penny & Seaweed - both of whom
contributed to some of the funniest moments of the evening. Jan Baird has a very natural talent for comedy and her performance extended through all aspects of the production - she'd even put her own Penny-style spin on some of the dancing & the way she moved around the stage - even when the spotlight wasn't on her character. Seaweed, played by William Pearson, was also able to pull off his role with ease - there was some moments when the combination of the questionable dance moves & the cheesier-than-a-cheese-puff lines could have led to some serious corpsing but he kept it together throughout the show & delivered without a shade of self consciousness. His onstage Mom, the formidable Motormouth Maybelle was played by the fantastic Shelley Foster who delivered some powerhouse vocals & gave an authentic performance - her performance of 'I Know Where I've Been' was emotional and flawless, whilst her rhythms and rhymes brought the house down. The whole Motormouth family was completed nicely with Richeldis Brosnan portraying a sparky and feisty Little Inez. Mike Hyslop as Corny Collins also gave a strong performance - for his opening number there were a few technical issues with the sound however Mike carried on like a true professional, missing neither step nor note. He was very likeable and the audience definitely rooted for him as he stood up to resident racist Velma and battled for an integrated show.

The protagonists -mother and daughter team Velma and Amber von Tussle were played by GAOS veterans Ruth Davidson and Carla McColgan. This pairing worked extremely well with Ruth giving a flawless performance of the manipulative Velma (a former Miss Baltimore Crabs don't cha know) whilst Carla was consistently squirm-inducing with her portrayal of the spoilt, pushy Amber.
However of course the best pairing of the night had to be Tracy's parents - Ivor Lumsden and Alaistar Waddell as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, who not only gave the biggest laughs of the night but also performed the sublime 'Timeless to Me' which even without the jokes is still a very touching song. The comedy timing between the two was absolutely spot on and provided a fabulous foil to some of the more emotional parts of the show. There was also a great chemistry between them which made for a believable romance - you can imagine 's happy go lucky prankster Wilbur sailing through life with the feisty Edna by his side. Really they need a sequel of their own - did the Har De Har Hut's survive? Did Edna's dress making business take off? This is the problem with these great musicals - you always want to know what happened to the characters after they achieved their Happily Ever After - hopefully nothing along the lines of 'Into the Woods'! 

Of course we can't go without giving a special mention to our very own Graeme Lilley - by day he dispatches backcloths and prepares your scenery but by night he glides across the stage in a bubblegum pink suit. As part of Corny Collins' gang Graeme was at the forefront for many of the scenes and confidently showcased his acting skills, as well as his dancing talents. There was all manner of complicated lifts, steps and choreographed pieces that Graeme, and the rest of the cast managed to master & deliver without so much as a batting of an eyelid. The team behind 'Hairspray' - including choreographer Marie McCullough and Musical Director and P Jeff Thomson totally pulled the stops out for this show and they really did deliver. There was a polish to the performance that can only be achieved by months of hard work and every single member of the cast had absolutely put there all into it - on the night the cast were word & step perfect with
not one chink in the chain showing, if there was any at all.

Genuinely how I make my exits after most nights out, and how
 Kate arrives to work in the morning! 

GAOS on TV, live from The Corny Collins Show on the other side of the stage

The cast had been beautifully costumed by Ewan at Utopia Costumes. The costumes complimented our sets perfectly and the overall effect was fantastic - bright colours, happy faces and a clear enthusiasm for what they were doing. Visually the show looked stunning and I'm pleased to say that the performances definitely matched this - in fact I'm not even sure that I can go on as I'm running out of adjectives and well aware that I'm laying it on so thick that I need a trowel. A piece of stagecraft that I really enjoyed was the use of a video camera on stage to connect The Corny Collin's Show to the TV in Tracy's parents apartment - in black and white of of course. It helped sync up the two locations and I thought it was an effect that worked really well and was a nice added extra. 

'Our Graeme' (as Cilla Black would say) is the one in pink
All we can say really is a huge congratulations to everyone who was involved with Gala's production of 'Hairspray' - the quality was outstanding and we just don't know how it can be topped next year. However I'm sure you'll all give it a good go and I'm looking forward to coming to see 'Sunshine on Leith' next year! Well done Gala AOS - in the words of Gary Barlow - that was absolutely fantastic!

Written by Tamsin
Photo Credit: Sheila Scott at Sheila Scott Photography

Sheila Scott is based in the Scottish Borders and takes fantastic pictures - not just of the local shows but for local events, weddings, private photo shoots etc. If you're in need of a friendly, reliable and professional photographer then get in touch with Sheila via her website and see examples of her latest work. You can also order pictures from this year's production of 'Hairspray' and relive your moment in the spotlight! 
Don't forget to also like her facebook page and ours too!

If you're thinking of doing 'Hairspray' for your next show then please get in touch to receive a full colour brochure of our plans and pictures.

We would like to remind our customers that it is definitely not too early to start booking your cloths and pantomimes for next year! Get in touch today so that you don't miss out!

Contact us through our website or by calling us on 01750 20237.

The Border Studio - Design to Inspire
We are a theatrical hire company based in Scotland, and remain one of the UK's most popular scenic suppliers.
With a catalogue of over 100 different shows, the UK's largest collection of hand-painted backcloths and a vast prop store
get in touch today to see how we can help enhance your show.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile!

This year Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society very kindly gifted us with some complimentary tickets for their production of 'Annie'.
Every year 'Annie' has remained as one of the top five most performed musicals in the UK, along with other classics such as 'Guys & Dolls' and 'Oliver!'.

It's hard to really pinpoint what makes a musical so popular - in the office we all have our own favourites (mine's A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum!) however dealing with enquiries on a daily basis means we do see see patterns and trends that emerge over the years. If you visit our historical timeline on our website you can even see what the top musicals were for each decade. However, 'Annie' has always been slightly different as despite what the trends are for that year, 'Annie' has consistently remained within the top five most performed musicals.

Seeing Selkirk perform 'Annie' made it clear why the musical is so popular. Simply, it's a real 'feel good' musical with plenty of great musical numbers, a likeable lead character, and plenty of funny moments - even the 'bad guys' are, in their own way, endearing.
A huge bonus comes from the fact that there are also enough roles for a much larger cast - many of Selkirk's ensemble had a chance to portray their own characters at various points of the show instead of just being relegated to a few dance steps and chorus vocals at the back of the stage.

Whilst watching Selkirk, many individual performances stood out to me - Ian Wilson who played Radio Host Bert Healy had managed to capture that distinctively American smooth radio voice perfectly ('Oxident! Because you're never fully dressed without a smile!') and the dancers were well rehearsed, handling their routines with ease and keeping in sync with each other and the beat. Freya Hoppe and Ellen McFadzen both stood out as being particularly confident and comfortable on stage. Freya is a talented dancer who is able to maintain a beaming smile throughout the show - after months of rehearsals I'm sure she must have been feeling tired however she still looked fresh & like she was having the time of her life. Meanwhile Ellen had a real stage presence and had made a real effort with her hairstyle and makeup, which fitted the era perfectly & had been applied well.
A topic that Ewan from Utopia Costumes has touched on in his columns for NODA Today has been the importance of styling makeup & hair for the right era for the show. Every now and again we do still see examples of modern fringes, tans and makeup looks up on stage, whilst they undoubtedly make the person look great they're not always a look that is right for the era, or the character - imagine the Matchmaker from 'Fiddler on the Roof' appearing with bright red lipstick & a sideswept fringe.  Not only is it fun to try a new look from a bygone era but when hair is properly styled and the right makeup applied then it can really pull a costume and the whole look of a show together. It can even have that psychological effect of helping you become your character as you go through the application - however, this is probably a blog for another time!

As we went on the Thursday night we saw Jess Thomson play little orphan Annie. We were both very impressed with Jess's performance - there are a lot of lines to learn and she didn't stumble once through the whole show & delivered them clearly & confidently. She pulled off Annie's sassy personality well, sweet talking the policeman to rescue Sandy the dog, and won the hearts of the audience alongside Daddy Warbucks & his assistant Grace. She also handled 'Sandy' (played by Meg the Border Terrier) well, although there was one very funny moment where Meg struck gold and managed to get her head in the pocket containing all the treats. What I initially thought was a lovely cuddle between dog and girl quickly turned into Annie having to wrestle Sandy as she tried to sing 'Tomorrow'. Whilst a nervous performer might have visibly panicked Jess didn't even flinch, managing to continue to deliver a perfect rendition of 'Tomorrow' whilst hauling Sandy away from the treats.
Jess also worked well with Grace played by Karen D'Agrosa. Karen's Grace was very likeable and managed to play sweet without being sickly, and was also one of half of a brilliant husband & wife team as her real life husband Raymond D'Agrosa played Daddy Warbucks. Raymond has a really fantastic voice and the developing relationship between little orphan Annie and her potential adoptive Father Oliver Warbucks felt authentic. Raymond also effectively portrayed the changing nature of Warbucks who grows from being a workaholic with no time to a loving Father who makes time.

Last year's King from 2014's 'The King & I' had swapped his palace in Siam to the Oval Office in Washington DC to play the President Franklin D Roosevelt and did so with aplomb, and his Cabinet had the audience in raptures as they sang 'Tomorrow' together. Lewis Wilde and Kyle Fairbairn also did well to juggle multiple roles throughout the show - I am sure the many costume changes and different cues kept them on their toes for the six months of rehearsal!
For me however, the absolute standout stars of the show had to go to the comedic and dastardly trio of Miss Hannigan, Rooster and Lily St Regis (like the hotel!) who were played by Val McLean, Stuart Mitchell and Yvonne Mitchell. Val McLean stalked the stage like an exhausted hawk, clutching onto her 'medicine' and nursing her constant hangover. You almost felt sorry for her as she descended into madness during 'Little Girls'. That is until she teams up with her con artist brother and his latest squeeze in a plan to take up Daddy Warbuck's offer of a reward by pretending to be Annie's long lost parents - Mr & Mrs Mudge. Stuart Mitchell is a confident performer who played the despicable Rooster perfectly, balancing the badness with a touch of comedy and Yvonne Mitchell shone as Lily St Regis. With a girlish American accent and a squealing giggle just right for the character - think Shirley Temple on helium - Yvonne had the down-on-her-luck glamour girl with loose morals absolutely pegged. When the three performed 'Easy Street' it was with much hilarity.

Overall Selkirk AOS put together a really fantastic performance of 'Annie' and it would be easy to just go through the entire cast listing all the positives. The children's cast gave a performance that was polished and professional, and the adults all performed well in their roles - often many of the supporting cast played more than one role but put their all into each one.
This was a very confident performance from Selkirk and there are several members of the cast who are starting to emerge as real stars - i'm sure it won't be long till we start to see some of the younger, newer members taking on some leading roles! Well done Selkirk on a fantastic show - we're looking forward to seeing what you do next year!

Written by Tamsin
Photo Credit: Yvonne Mitchell

If you're thinking of doing 'Annie' for your next show then please get in touch to receive a full colour brochure of our plans and pictures.

We would like to remind our customers that it is definitely not too early to start booking your cloths and pantomimes for next year! Get in touch today so that you don't miss out!

Contact us through our website or by calling us on 01750 20237.

The Border Studio - Design to Inspire
We are a theatrical hire company based in Scotland, and remain one of the UK's most popular scenic suppliers.
With a catalogue of over 100 different shows, the UK's largest collection of hand-painted backcloths and a vast prop store
get in touch today to see how we can help enhance your show.