With A Note In Time, Southampton Musical Society (SMS) invites you to celebrate their 90th anniversary with songs from award-winning West End and Broadway musicals throughout the years, promising a “spectacular musical revue [with] top musical theatre hits in one exciting show”. This they achieve with some considerable style, incorporating some of my favourite songs from musicals with shows that I’ve yet to come across. It is, however, unfortunate that the way that the programme has been designed, it is very difficult to credit all individual performances correctly; I ask forgiveness that there will be a mix of character and performers names when identifying highlights.
Opening with a lively rendition of ‘A Musical’ from Something Rotten, it is apparent that this is going to be a marvellous evening of varied music, song, dance and comedy, not least with the early indication of how much comic talent Adrian Jones possesses! As the show comprises of around 30 full-length musical numbers, it’s not feasible to mention each in detail, but merely summarise the highlights of a very entertaining production.
‘A Little Priest’ from Sweeney Todd is deftly performed by Dave Smith and Fiona Lynn, their acting throughout enhancing their perceptively understated characterisations, bringing out the humour of Sondheim’s lyrics. The emotion and commitment of ‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman brought shivers down my spine, while Elphaba’s passion, focus, commanding stage presence and powerful voice in ‘The Wizard And I’ from Wicked was for me one of the overall highlights of the entire evening.
Guys and Dolls is one of the few ‘older’ musicals celebrated, but the choice of ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat’ is always a crowd-pleaser, especially with the vocal quality that Dave Smith provides, although it is such a shame that on opening night less than half of the UV lighting seemed to be working, detracting from the overall visual effect.
‘Tell Me It’s Not True’ from Blood Brothers is another poignant and powerfully delivered song, beautifully sung, while the powerful performance from the young lady who sang ‘Somebody To Love’ from We Will Rock You is breath-taking and, despite the failure of mics, the comedy and musical flair from Liam Baker and Jim Smith in ‘You And Me (But Mostly Me)’ from The Book Of Mormon is brilliantly timed.
Although there are a number of memorable solo performances and duets in this show, it is essentially an ensemble production and the cohesiveness, energy and commitment of the whole Company is admirable throughout. ‘You Will Be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen is a terrific finale, with a beautiful opening duet from Baker and Lynn and brilliant close harmonies from the ensemble.
Director Heather Franklin has created amongst the singing and dancing some wonderful visual comic touches, while musical director Howard Corbett has ensured that the vocal talent and harmonies of the entire Company are used to their best (technical glitches with the microphones not withstanding!). The decision to use an amplified backing track rather than a live band is possibly as much a financial as creative one, but it does help to keep the pace going and synchronicity consistently excellent throughout.
The group of eight choreographers have expertly designed a show that has varying degrees of tempo and style, with consistently high energy throughout; all have numbers where their choreographic flair and panache shines through, particularly Harry Andreou with ‘We Both Reached For The Gun’ from Chicago (plenty of swivel in that Charleston!), Natalie Angell-Collins with a rather risqué routine in ‘Bring On The Men’ from Jekylll and Hyde, Ema Carpenter with ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ from The Sound of Music (wonderful humorous use of human marionettes), Sarah Earnshaw with ‘It’s Your Wedding Day’ from The Wedding Singer and Jennifer Brabbs with a timeless ‘Time Warp’ from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
There were issues with some of the microphones and resulting sound balance on opening night, but the affected soloists and ensemble members all demonstrated tremendous professionality in the way that they continued unabated with as much energy and intensity as they would have done if there had been no technical issues (a special shout out here to both Liam Baker and Jim Smith) – real troopers and most commendable!
The varied multitude of costumes suit each musical number to varying degrees – although the Elizabethan-style dress worn in ‘A Musical’ is so short that it reveals the tap shoes far too early, the words on the t-shirts during ‘This Is Me’ are a simple, subtle yet powerful emphasis of the message behind this emotive song.
The encore will be in my memory for a considerable amount of time… ‘Time Warp’ is the perfect high-energy, toe-tapping, sing-along wrap to the evening’s entertainment, with Michael Kurn commanding the stage and the ensemble’s slick dance moves getting the audience dancing in their seats… although I’m not sure that I will consider a Chairman in quite the same light ever again!
A Note In Time is a thoroughly entertaining cabaret that showcases so much that has kept SMS thriving for 90 years – here’s to the next 90!
Ends Saturday 6 October 2018