Friday 18 October at Lichfield Cathedral
Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre
Review By Jono Oates
The latest performance from the very talented Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre was The Greatest Movie Musicals, a sensational smash hit selection from some of the greatest musicals ever seen on the big screen.
The musical theatre group are now in their 34th year and, for the last few years, have recently performed their shows at Lichfield Cathedral, to great critical acclaim. This year’s show gave them the opportunity to showcase the full range of their combined talents with a cavalcade of hits from some of the most celebrated musicals featured at the movies, from both the modern era and from its golden heyday.
This show featured a non-stop selection of hits, with no dialogue or introductions, it was a jukebox medley of showstoppers from smash hit musicals. The performance was separated in to two acts and the first act started with the opening number, The Greatest Show, from the ever popular The Greatest Showman. With an opening five hander of Louis Caldwell, Louis McCoy, Lewis Collier-Smith, Ava Taroni and Hattie Rumsey, later joined by the ensemble company, it was a very assured opening and a taster of that was to follow.
Another Showman song, Never Enough, sung by Hannah Smith, was next up, followed by the very talented Lucy Allen singing All That Jazz from the musical Chicago. The first half continued with a selection of solos, group and ensemble numbers. Upbeat numbers like the impossibly cute, tub-thumping Hard Knock Life from Annie, Greased Lightning from Grease and the fabulously feelgood You Can’t Stop the Beat from Hairspray were interspersed with gorgeous solo performances. I’ll Never Love Again, a sensational Gaga performance from A Star is Born was sung with exquisite tenderness by Hattie Rumsey and Let it Go from Frozen, perhaps the most famous, and performed musical songs of recent times, was beautifully sung by Beth Dickson. My highlight of the first set was, however, the delightful Do-Re-Me. Originally performed by the peerless Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, the clipped, quintessentially British, tones of Katie Davey were perfectly judged and the ‘backing group’ of young Von Trapp children were excellent too.
After the interval, the second act opened with the infectious, dance-along fun of Mamma Mia from the company, led by Isabel Stone, followed by Stars from the wonderful Les Miserables with vocal by Alex Nicholls. Everybody Needs Somebody to Love from the Blues Brothers was great fun too with Dan McCloskey making a very fine look-a-like and sound-a-like Jim Belushi! The youngsters then took centre stage with the very cute I Just Can’t Wait to be King from the Elton John penned Lion King, with young Charlie Ward, Maisie Chatfield and Reis Munn with strong performances at very young ages. The tongue-twisting Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious from Mary Poppins was very supercali…well, you know the rest…another Julie Andrews classic was sung by Mary Preston and included a very clever, lightning-quick syncopated hand-crafted letters of the alphabet section.
The final three numbers of the performance really set the seal on a wonderful evening, starting with the Pink smash-hit, A Million Years, which was a fantastic four-hander with Louis Caldwell and Beth Dickson as the slightly-older duo and Charlie Ward and Poly Tyndall as the even younger duo with some great harmonies. Next was This Is Me, another classic from the Greatest Showman, starting with a slow-burn but, with a growing drum-beat, rising to a crescendo as Ava Tarnoni’s searing solo vocal fired out across the nave of the cathedral and the full ensemble filled the stage, a memorable performance. Finally, the last song of the evening was Shallow from A Star is Born and sung in the film by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. This version was a stripped-down, bare and emotional version sung by the whole ensemble rather than as a duo. It was a fitting way to finish this crackerjack box of hits from the greatest movie musicals of all time. The only surprise was that there was no standing ovation for this outstanding ensemble of young talent although I understand that this was put right on the Saturday night performance.
The performance was co-produced by musical director Oliver Rowe and Jessica Lambert, choreographer. They achieved outstanding performances from this young, but very talented, group of performers. I bumped in to a couple of the performers at another arts performance later in the week and was struck by just how young they looked off stage, yet just how confident and mature they looked when on stage at the cathedral. The music, from the seven-piece orchestra, was exceptional, whether in the soulful solo ballads or the foot-stamping ensemble pieces.
The stage lighting, by Stephen Rainsford, was stunning, especially as the blue, red and bright white spot beams flickered across the beautiful architecture of the cathedral. The costumes were authentic and summed up the eras of the various decades of the show musicals perfectly.
This show was a masterclass of young voices performing some of the greatest songs that the silver screen has ever seen. Their youthful exuberance, and mastery of songs, including some that were smash hits 60 years before they were born, was truly inspiring and emotional. At the end of the performance as the audience started to drift away, still humming the songs from the shows, I mentioned to my show partner that if you had paid £100 per ticket to see that show in the West End of London you would not be disappointed. Yet this was a performance that cost a fraction of that price, performed by a young and inexperienced cast and in the fabulous setting of the three-spired Lichfield Cathedral. This was the first time that I had been to a Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre performance…it won’t be my last and I can’t wait to see their next performance.
Photo courtesy of Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre