Press Reviews

Sister Act (2015)

Audience Feedback

 

South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an "amateur" production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two.

Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me.

The opening scene at Curtis's Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn't fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn't take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn't bode well.

When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show becomes a different world. From the moment we have to listen to the excruciatingly painful choir and the magnificent first rendition from the Mother Superior (Mindy Robinson) of 'Here Within These Walls' we are very much up and running. The nuns are indeed magnificent and once we are contained within the bosom of the cathedral, this becomes a delightful feast on the ears, eyes and that funny bone.

At the centre of the action throughout is a star making performance from Beth Hodgson as Deloris Van Cartier. She works her way into our hearts from the abrasive, almost horrible character at the beginning to the spirited and lovable person she learns through the nuns to become. Her partnership with Mother Superior is marvellous, with magic moments like the confession box scene a delight.

Mark Woodham's character of Monsignor O'Hara also goes through a rather delightful development. All prim and proper to begin with and later showing that he has the killer moves himself. Also another one hoping to have the killer moves is Pete Thorn's Officer Eddie Souther, out to get the girl but feeling awkward about it at all times. His sorrowful 'I Could Be That Guy' also gets to showcase another area of this superb production, the costume work. That is one neat, neat trick and oh so, smoothly done.

The baddie of the piece Curtis is played by Matthew Berrill, who was incredible in last years South Pacific and is no less a disappointment here, although he sadly has less to do. What he does get to do though is perform by far the funniest song of the musical 'When I Find My Baby'. A most deliciously black comic song and performed to perfection. His accomplices are no less disappointing. with Dan Hodson swapping his South Pacific coconut bikini for the most ridiculous wig and with T J (Josh Wright) and Pablo (David Routledge) they perform the tremendous crowd pleasing 'Lady In The Long Black Dress' with comic brilliance.

The nuns include a magnificent array of talent from Lillian Thorn's gentle Sister Mary Robert, to Sally Whitestone's wonderfully miserable Sister Mary Lazarus. Also great credit to Dawn Hall as the Turin Shroud aged Sister Mary Theresa. She does indeed wield a mean walking cane.

The sets and stage work in South Pacific were a surprise, however with Sister Act the bar has indeed been raised with busy stage crew work from Weekes Baptiste, Katie De Stefano and their team keeping a genuinely large amount of scene work moving along. The sets themselves, particularly for the cathedral are nothing short of magnificent, for what is I repeat, an amateur performance.

So a talented and magnificently large cast of 35 have taken to the stage and created a wonderful and surprising production of Sister Act. It is and will always be remembered as fabulous. A must see as the packed audience last night (and looking like every night) found out. Roll on October 2016 and what is sure to be an incredible Grease. In the meantime, get your act together and go see this near perfect production.
 A Small Mind

 

From curtain up until the finale, NMTC's production of "Sister Act" had the WOW factor in bucket loads.

Successful films don't always translate well to the stage and I remember being rather underwhelmed by the show when I saw it a few years ago. This presentation, however, had a great vibrancy and vitality which reached out across the footlights and enveloped the audience.

The story of the piece is pretty well known - would be cabaret star, Deloris Van Cartier, witnesses a murder carried out by her lover. Fleeing the scene she is placed in protective custody in, of all places, a convent. She proceeds to wreak havoc being totally unaware of the way of life within a religious establishment. Her lack of discipline adds to the concerns of the Mother Superior, who is already aware that the convent is in imminent danger of closure due to the lack of funding and support. With Deloris’ help, the nuns find their voices and by the show’s end she and the Mother Superior have learned to appreciate one another’s good points. The story is told with humour and a poignancy which gives the show a great audience appeal.

Beth Hodgson made an excellent Deloris. She demonstrated a fine ability to hold center stage; she has a good strong voice and dealt with the complexities of her character really well. Mindy Robinson, as the Mother Superior, also excelled showing good acting skills but just as importantly, the role gave her the chance to show off her beautiful singing voice as in ‘Here Within These Walls’.

Matthew Berrill (Curtis) in a change from his usual role as the hero, managed to become a very believable villain ably (or not so ably) supported by his dim witted sidekicks: Joey, TJ and Pablo. Dan Hodson’s Joey had the audience in stitches with his rendition of ‘Lady in The Long Black Dress’.

I was also impressed with Lillian Thorn’s portrayal of the young postulant Sister Mary Robert; her delivery of ‘The Life I Never Led’ must have touched many hearts. I enjoyed the performances of Sally Whitestone as the pessimistic Sister Mary Lazarus and Jay Snedker's as the ever smilingly optimistic Sister Mary Patrick. Both characterizations seemed to me, exactly right. The rest of the cast gave strong support.

Almost all the ensemble work was of high quality sung with exuberance and a joy that come with enthusiasm. Graham Tear, as chorus master had done a great job. Graham also took on the role of conductor and used his 12 piece orchestra to good effect. The sound and lighting were generally food and the set provided a suitable background to the show. The many scene changes were generally effected well by company members.

My congratulations to everyone who was involved with this fantastic production of ‘Sister Act’, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with you – this was a show of which you can all be justly proud. Well done!

 Jenny ChandlerNODA East Midlands Representative


 

First, appropriately, a confession...

I went to this show with low expectations, having seen it at the London Palladium a few years ago - a dull production, the only memorable features being the spectacular singing of the nuns and the presence of Ian Lavender as Monsignor O'Hara.

But for me this was a very different show - funny, vibrant and very entertaining from beginning to end.

The key protagonists in Sister Act are the conservative and devout Mother Superior and the nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, who is avoiding the deadly attention of her former lover by joining a convent. Both roles are very demanding in terms of singing and acting. Mindy Robinson was excellent as the Mother Superior, serious and at times completely exasperated with a situation not of her making. Mindy has a fine singing voice which gave full expression to her songs - I especially enjoyed 'Here Within These Walls', a clever, funny song sung with subtlety and intelligence. Beth Hodgson was a huge presence on stage - cast just right as Doloris. Beth has a great voice, which did justice to everything she sang and she accomplished the transformation from brash hedonist to the respcetful and grounded young woman she becomes by the end of the show with aplomb. Smashing!

The nuns were all terrific - lovely ensemble work. Lisa Simpson made a totally convincing 'away with the fairies' Sister Mary Martin-of-Tours, and Sally Whitestone a grumpy but also very funny Sister Mary Lazarus. Especially impressive was Lillian Thorn as Sister Mary Robert - her solo The Life I Never Led beautifully expressing the young nun's uncertainty about her future in the convent.

Mark Woodham as Monsignor O'Hara seemed to gain confidence as the show went on and I enjoyed Pete Thorn's portrayal of the shy police office Eddie Souther - who eventually gets his girl.

Matthew Berrill was very convincing as nightclub owner/hoodlum Curtis and there was a lot of fun to be had from the performances of Josh Wright, David Routledge and Dan Hodson - who had the audience (especially the ladies!) in the palm of his hand with his verse of Lady in the Long Black Dress - as a trio of ineffectual henchmen.

Accents and diction were very good.

All accompanied by an excellent 12 piece orchestra led by Graham Tear. On the whole sound quality and balance was good, though there were on or two problems with microphones. For the most part lighting was good, though there were also one or two notable glitches here too.

The set, from Scenic Projects, was excellent, with all the other elements giving the whole show a professional feel. Scene changes - and there are many - were well-managed by the backstage crew.

A nice, rather meaningful story, great songs and lots of comedy (some of which I thought the audience missed on the night I went) made for a very fine show - so, thanks to Northampton Musical Theatre Group, for me, a complete redemption of Sister Act has taken place.

Alex Wood (Sardines review) [Read the Full Review at sardinesmagazine.co.uk]

 

Tonight, the packed out auditorium at the Derngate Theatre, Northampton was converted with exultant cries of Hallelujah and Amen as Northampton Musical Theatre Company, one of the country’s oldest amateur theatre dramatic societies in their country, brought the house down with their latest production of Sister Act. What’s not to love about an uplifting, feel good musical comedy written by musical theatre genius Alan Menken, who has penned so many world renowned musicals from Little Shop of Horrors to The Little Mermaid, a gospel choir of all-singing all- dancing, rapping nuns and even a sparkly Jesus.  

The plot of Sister Act, based on the film of the same name starring Whoppie Goldberg, follows the story of up and coming nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier, whose world is turned upside down when she witnesses her boyfriend murder a police informant and, for her own protection is forced into hiding. Within the sanctuary of the convent, Deloris, at first reluctant to follow the rules of Mother Superior, coaches the nuns into a global gospel sensation, that enables them to raise enough money to save the convent from being sold. When the world of liberty and order collide, each tempers the other and Deloris finds, for likely the first time in her life, a family, a sisterhood who believe and stand by her even at gunpoint.  

If ever there was a character written for Northampton vocal coach Beth Hodgeson, this would be it. As a former pupil, it was a joy and pleasure to see Beth get the opportunity to shine and she can be proud, along with the rest of the cast, that their performances tonight were truly inspirational. What really brought the piece to life was the humour the cast brought to the production created through their comic timing, injections and characterisation; it was obvious to me that the cast had great fun putting this production together.

In the smaller group and solo numbers of act one, confidence and conviction was lacking at times and despite the music being practically faultless, the movement in these numbers needed to be bigger to reach the back of the auditorium. I felt the opening rendition of ‘Take Me To Heaven’ needed to be sexed up a lot more so the audience sees even more of a character shift post nun-trevention. I also believe ‘When I Find My Baby’ would benefit greatly from Curtis and the guys really enjoying, almost salivating over how he is going to kill her, just so even more danger and humour is created at this point.  A couple of technical elements not being put into place correctly also meant that some of the transitions were slow and this did have a slight negative affect on pace. A few special mentions… the first for Sister Mary Robert (Lillian Thor) who really brought the house down with ‘The Life I Never Lead’ and always sang her heart out despite an intermittent stage mic. The second to Mother Superior (Mindy Robinson) who put in an incredibly tear-inducing performance of ‘ I Haven’t Got A Prayer’, highlighting the real moral conflict going on inside this characters mind. 

Overall, a great production one that everyone involved with can be proud of and we at Live Arts Connect recommend if you can, to go to see it.  Sister Act runs from 28th October 2015 every night at 7:30pm at The Derngate Theatre, Northampton. Tickets, between £10.00 and £21.00 can be purchased by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk or by calling 01604 624 811. For links for more information about the company search Northampton Musical Theatre Company, on Facebook and Twitter or go their website at http://www.nmtc.me.uk.

Daniel Seath, Live Arts Connect [Read the Full Review at Live Arts Connect]

South Pacific (2014)

Audience Feedback

Went to see South Pacific last night… totally fabulous – loved it. Well done all. - Becky Stronnar

It was a fab show so well done! - Francesca Gosling Chronicle & Echo

Been this evening to see your show. South Pacific is one of my favourite shows and every song a show stopper. You were fantastic. Vocals spot on. Leads amazing and ensemble pieces fabulous; You should be proud. Beats the last professional performance I saw of it hands down. Well done. I'm a musician and also a HUGE musical fan, justice was done. Vocally it was wonderful and the huge band was a joy to hear. I may just have to go again. - Ann White
 
Wonderful show, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. - Rosemary Jones

Excellent show, congratulations to everyone. - Graham Civil
 
Fab, fab, fabulous darlings!!!!!!!
South Pacific was fantastic!! Rachel James, Matthew Berrill, Susie Pack, Daniel Hodson, and special mention to 'not so little any more' little Conrad who opened the show and everybody else who I've not mentioned it was wonderful. Anybody who hasn't booked yet: Get yourself down to the Derngate this week!! - Katrina Gedny
 
Wow NMTC! What a return to the Derngate stage! Fantastic show throughout. If you haven't got your tickets for South Pacific yet... what are you waiting for? Superb singing and acting from everyone. Very proud to hear all the lovely comments afterwards as the audience left too. Here's to a great week - Becky Woodham
 
Well done to Martyn Knight and the cast of South Pacific - great singing, great production, I had a great night. - Alex Taylor

Wonderful, just wonderful! Well done the cast and crew of South Pacific, it sounded great and looked great as well. Special mention to Rachel James, Matthew Berrill, Daniel Hodson and Susie Pack who all just owned the stage and had the audience so wrapped up in the story. A few standing ovations out there last night and here's to many more over the rest of the week!! - Mark Woodham

I didn't really get musicals until this year. I had watched a few film versions and did enjoy them, but before Blood Brothers on 26th March this year, I had never seen one live. Since then I have seen five more, one of which was Blitz! (review here) by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company, a group formed of amateur performers very much on a level with a professional production. Blitz! was, rather obviously due to my lack of musical knowledge, completely new to me. However these people acting, singing, dancing and in the talented orchestra pit, playing, introduced me to a lovely musical, with catchy tunes.

So I was back for more at Royal & Derngate this weekend for their production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific. It goes without saying that I have never seen it (not even the film), so once again all was mostly new to me. This time however, unlike Blitz!, some of the tunes were known (in the case of one, thanks to Captain Sensible).

The glorious scene was set by the magnificent 21 piece orchestra led by Graham Tear as they presented the overture of the songs to come. Then curtain was up and "The Hammerstein Team" of the young and talented Abhisri Chadalavada and Oliver Knaggs performed "Dites-Moi" and the afternoon was clearly going to be full of entertainment.

Rachel James as Ensign Nellie Forbush made a wonderful hick, sweet and delightful while her would-be love interest Emile played by Matthew Berrill was stunning, torn between his love and his contribution to help with the war effort. While everyone of the main cast were nothing short of excellent, the power of Berrill's voice was simply incredible and without doubt the very best of the show. Susie Pack (so good in Blitz!) was once again excellent in her role of Bloody Mary, excellently performing the beguiling "Bali Ha'i" and her "Happy Talk" in particular was absolutely superb. Bringing the absolute amusement level to the high though was Dan Hodson's performance of Luther Billis. Totally willing to put his all into the role, he wore the coconuts and grass skirt well. All the songs were performed to perfection with the stand out tunes being Berrill's "Some Enchanted Evening" and the incredible group performance of "There Is Nothing Like A Dame".

The accents were also spot on, as was the clarity of speech from the cast. I have attended other professional productions this year where the speech lacks clarity and the accent a little heavy, so to be able to hear every word was magnificent.

It was also a delight to see the Derngate 99% full in the stalls for the matinee that I attended. Such support for this group was lovely to see and I hope they all went home and told their friends how brilliant it was. Also myself and several others gathered at the end and looked over into the pit and stayed for the leaving performance of the orchestra. They don't always get the credit they deserve, but they got another round of applause from me and the select few who stayed to the true end.

Director Martyn Knight created a production of professional standard with his cast of exceptionally talented "amateurs". It nothing short of amazes me that a production like this could be created with peoples own time and dedication and without doubt I wait with baited breath for the next opportunity to see them perform.

 A Small Mind

The only Rodgers & Hammerstein's I have ever seen has always been high quality PROFESSIONAL shows. Last night my youngest son played Corporal Hamilton Steeves and many other bit parts in the performance of South Pacific at the Royal & Derngate Theatre, Northampton. This was his first musical production with Northampton Musical Theatre Company; however from the Overture to the Finale, one would never have known that this is a show produced out of love for the theatre and musicals AND not for profit. The Orchestra sounded full and without error under the Musical Direction of Graham Tear who never fails to bring together musicians of quality. And yes, my friend Brendan J. Rayner wonderful on drums. Under the Direction of Martyn Knight this varied group of actors, dancers and singers brought to life the South Pacific. Earlier in the week, someone had given the show a 'not so nice' review, saying that the American Accents were not good. I must comment here as an American married to a Londoner about this as it irritates me to no end. WHAT IS AN AMERICAN ACCENT!? Like the UK it varies dependent upon where one grows up, Scots are not Welsh, Irish or Cornish and in London alone a variance from East to West. My accent does not contain the overused 'Southern Drawl' that so many actors have a tendency to be drawn to, I'm from California. Last night I heard 'The Bronx' 'Los Angeles' Mid-Western States and of course the South: voices from the 50 states, what I did not hear was a British accent. Which was much more true to life of the War in the Pacific.

I couldn't find fault in the show and within seconds forgot that these actors, musicians and dancers were not of the top professional rank. The French language used in the script flowed and for a brief moment I forgot these were English actors. Matthew Berrill and Rachel James did a wonderful performance of Nellie and Emile. Susie Pack and Dan Hodson playing Bloody Mary and Luther Billis kept us all in stitches as once again. My own son was told by teachers he could never do a Musical Theatre career as the dance demands would inhibit him. I think his performance proved them wrong and I am relieved he has not wasted his education in that discipline as this is proof that he is not only in the making of a good actor and musician but has the drive and capability of a future career. Like so many before him who are great actors now, South Pacific will always be special. I was quite surprised on his performance as many of his parts were unbeknown to us. Nathan is proving to me, like the rest of my family, that he will not have to "Get a Day Job". Welcome to our world. As for all of you out there that are local, there are a few seats left for the matinee and evening show. Today is your last day to see a very PROFESSIONAL Rendition of South Pacific. My grandchildren were not very happy to give up their Halloween for this and after the show were delighted that they did. From Front of House to Backstage Crew... I can only say "I'm impressed and a job well done!"

Northampton Drummers - [Read on Facebook]


To me, a visit to the Derngate Theatre in Northampton is always a treat. It’s nicely modernised in a way that feels luxurious without the high price tickets to match! Parking is reasonably priced and within easy walking distance of the theatre.

I was really keen to see South Pacific because even though I'm a child of the eighties, thanks to my grandparents I was brought up on the music from this show and was even taken to a performance of it on my teens. I was interested up see of this performance would bring back those memories for me.

South Pacific is set on a paradise island during World War 2 telling the parallel love stories of Nellie, Emile Joe Cable and Liat.

This show was performed by members of the amateur theatre group, Northampton Musical Theatre Company, the N.M.T.C so obviously I should review it as such… an armature production by people giving their time voluntarily. However, from the very start, this high quality performance bordered on professional, the sets were perfect and the costumes were fabulous. The acting and in particular the singing was mostly of a very high standard, especially if you take into account first night nerves! Dan Hodson taking the part of the comical Luther Billis and Susie Pack playing Bloody Mary were notably outstanding and every bit as good as you would expect from professional theatre.

A definite highlight to this production is the live orchestra who played to a very high standard throughout. They turned what is fundamentally an amateur production into something else, again bordering on professional. We were treated to a medley of the shows classic songs prior to the start of the show and the orchestra continued to accompany each number. In fact they played near constantly adding atmospheric sound effects throughout.

The second half of the show was even better, with the story becoming more involved and Luther Billis bringing more hilarious comedy moments! This show really brought back the memories from my childhood and I found myself singing along to all the wonderful songs!

With ticket prices starting at just £10 this is absolutely worth a visit, especially with it taking place at the Derngate making it a very affordable special evening out. I give it a well-deserved 4 out of 5.

 Natasha Kolb (What's Good To Do? Review)  [Read the Full Review at whatsgoodtodo.co.uk]

“South Pacific" is probably one of the most popular musicals of all time. The music and lyrics of Rogers and Hammerstein certainly earn it that accolade. The musical is one of my personal favourites with some of the most beautiful music ever written for musical theatre.

The director (and Choreographer), Martyn Knight has done great justice to "South Pacific" with the excellent staging and perfect casting of the show I was constantly reminding myself during the evening that this was an amateur production! Graham Tear the musical director, has once again put together an amazing orchestra of very talented musicians, the overture was so beautiful to listen to. The quality of singing from principals and chorus throughout the evening was to a very high standard indeed. I loved the choreography for the show this too was of a really high standard, well done.

The show opened with the appearance of Ngana and Jerome, delightfully played by Abhishri Chadalavada and Oliver Knaggs and a convincing performance by Nanette Lovell as Henrietta. Rachel James playing Nellie Forbush had beautiful vocals and portrayed her character with lots of charm. Matthew Berrill as Emile De Becque was outstanding his wonderful rich tones in his vocals melted my heart, his performance had great passion. Michael Bowie although quite young for the role of Lieutenant Joseph Cable did very well and he had the most beautiful tenor voice, and shows much promise for the future. Dan Hodson as Luther Billis gave a performance full of character and humour with a fine singing voice too. An excellent portrayal of Bloody Mary was given by Susie Pack who has tremendous stage presence and I feel gave the performance of the evening. Good solid support in their roles from Keith Gamble (Captain George Brackett) Robert Laurie (Commander William Harrison) and Pete Thorn (George "Stewpot" Watts). There were promising performances from Josh Wright (Professor) and Amelia Knaggs (Liat). The ladies and men of the ensemble all played their part in the show with good vocals throughout and some great production numbers; in particular "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair"

The sets for this production were stunning as were the costumes. Lighting and sound were exceptionally high quality throughout the musical. The hairstyles and makeup also added to the visual effect of the show.

It was lovely to see N.M.T.C. performing at the Derngate Theatre again with this production of "South Pacific". Congratulations to the entire company on an excellent opening night. I wish you all a happy and successful run and look forward to seeing you all again in the future.

Caroline JervisNODA East Midlands Representative


Bloody Mary! Bloody Hell! (What a great performance!)

A shining light on the stage at the Royal and Derngate was without doubt Susie Pack's performance of Bloody Mary. She displayed the consummate skills of a professional in singing, comedy, movement and timing. 'Happy Talk' was a delight to watch. Elsewhere there was some excellent singing from Rachel James (Nellie Forbrush), Matthew Berrill (Emile de Becque) and Michael Bowie (Lt. Joseph Cable).

Dan Hodson (Luther Billis), an excellent comic actor [who] came into his own during the Thanksgiving scene, not least because of a pair of strategically placed coconut shells! The enthusiasm and energy of the cast was very enjoyable and many of the scenes finished on a terrific high! Everyone connected with theatre should always remember the old adage 'leave your audience wanting more' and judging by last night's patrons that was exactly what NMTC achieved.

David Supper (Sardines review) [Read the Full Review at sardinesmagazine.co.uk]
 

Blitz! (2014)

On arriving at the Cripps Hall I passed through the glass doors that had been taped in the style that was mandatory during World War II, inside all the windows were taped too, I was given a programme fashioned on a war time ration book; I think I knew then that it was going to be a very special evening!
Blitz!, written by Lionel Bart, has a score rich in melodies that are uplifting, humorous and at times very moving. The musical starts at the beginning of a night air raid in 1940 in London’s Bank Underground Station…
 
Director, Lisa Simpson, has certainly done an excellent job with Blitz!… not just with the Principal performers, but also with the very strong chorus line up, each one holding their characters throughout the performance. The team of thirteen children (Jives) were absolutely delightful, their number “Mums and Dads” was a joy to watch and I’m sure the other group of children (Jitterbugs) will be equally enchanting. Well done Lisa for what you achieved with the company.
 
Musical Director, Graham Tear, has once again brought the score to life, along with his very talented twelve piece orchestra, doing great justice to Lionel Bart’s music.
Charlotte Franks’ choreography was both original and energetic with some superb routines, the full company numbers were terrific to watch. Well done!
 
All the principal actors were well cast in their roles and each one gave very good performances. Becky Woodham gave an outstanding portrayal of Mrs Blitztein, without a doubt this was the performance of the evening! Ian Stark as Georgie Locke was most endearing with strong vocals, especially the number “Far Away” that his character sang with Carol and the company, this was my moment of the evening - it was beautiful. Lillian Thorn, Carol Blitztein, gave a sweet performance, with lovely vocals, her solo “Far Away” was really moving. Lillian was very convincing when her character was blinded, not an easy thing to convey. Susie Lamb as Elsie, brought plenty of humour to her role, giving a performance that I enjoyed very much. There were strong performances too from Robert Laurie as Alfred Locke, Peter Thorn as Harry Blitztein, Keith Loynes as Ernie Nearmiss, Helen Loynes as Mrs Josephs and Joshua Mobbs as Siddy Blitztein. These were all ably supported by solid performances from actors in the smaller roles. Well done to you all.
 
The set design was excellent, with the use of a balcony and steps leading up to it there was a great sense of depth to the stage; I loved the use of the projection screen throughout, which added much to the visual impact. The props were well made and used. Costumes were in keeping with the period and looked really good. The hairstyles were stunning, well done to Richard Blundell who must have worked so hard on them. The makeup, sound and lighting all added to this production.
 
Overall this was an excellent opening night, the NMTC should all be proud of “Blitz!”. Thank you for a most enjoyable evening and good luck for the rest of the run.
 
Caroline Jervis. NODA East Midlands Representative

I came to Blitz! with zero knowledge of both the musical itself and the amateur group Northampton Musical Theatre Company performing it. It is safe to say that I left after almost three hours pleasantly surprised by both.


My live musical theatre viewing had amounted to just two previous, both in the last couple of months and I had been surprised how much I had enjoyed them, despite trepidation at the outset. Likewise my only previous example of an amateur theatre group had been of the Masque Theatre and they had been very good and set a high bar for NMTC to jump over.

I have to say, they cleared the bar with sufficient ease, with a quite stunning, polished and enjoyable show. The production was quite simply excellent with hardly a duff note to be heard. I think I would be fair to say that their also wasn't a duff performance amongst them. A few stuck out as being simply excellent, like Susie Lamb as the loud and brazen Elsie, complete with eye popping swift dress off performance. Keith Loynes was also wonderful as the comical Ernie.

Also impressive as the lovers Georgie Locke and Carol Blitztein were Ian Stark and Lillian Thorn. However although I keep doing it (and I suppose I must), I do hate singling out performers as this was a cast performance of great quality and for an amateur one, a wonderful commitment from all involved to get it to this standard.

The unfamiliar songs were tremendously well performed. Leave It To The Ladies a delight on the ear and eyes. Mums And Dads wonderful by the highly talented young stars (they received the biggest reaction of the night from the audience).

My pick of the songs though has to be Be What You Wanna Be, a great tune, and most entertainingly and professionally staged with the pause and move action of the main cast, and excellently sung by Becky Woodham (Mrs Blitztein). This one song summed the whole up for me, an absolute delight.

Music was superbly performed from their orchestra pit and the staging was also solid and professional on the obvious lack of budgeting that must come with an amateur production. Likewise the front of house organisation was of the highest quality, with drinks, raffle and display in abundance.

All in all the whole evening was of the utmost quality from arrival to departure and without doubt I shall be at the Royal & Derngate in October/November when their production of South Pacific hits the stage. Just wonderful and well done to ALL involved.

Oklahoma! (2013)

Because of its status as a classic musical it is easy for a society to present Oklahoma! in a lazy, lacklustre way in the expectation that it will always sell. And, candidly, my experience of amateur productions of shows like this has been disappointing. That's a shame as Oklahoma! is still a very fine show with a good story, excellent songs, and themes that are still relevant to an audience the vast majority of whom were not born when the show was first produced.

But I am very pleased to say that NMTC did Oklahoma! proud. This was an excellent show.

There were some fine acting and singing performances from the principals who were well supported by the ensemble. I was impressed by Lisa Simpson as Aunt Eller, Dan Hodson struck just the right note as Will Parker and Matthew Berrill made a fine Curly. Katy Manning played Laurey with the right balance between a girl who is no pushover but who wants a good man in her life - in contrast to Ado Annie, played with wonderful comic skill by Beth Hodgson who was totally convincing as the 'girl who can't say no'. To make the character Jud Fry believable requires real acting skill in order to avoid a weird caricature and Jonathan Reynolds' portrayal was absolutely right.

There was a large chorus, all of whom were kept occupied throughout the show - in character all the time. Singing and dancing were of a very high quality. Choreography is clearly a forte of Martyn Knight, the director, and this showed in what I took to be demanding dance numbers especially as, at times, the whole cast of 40 were on what is really quite a small stage. Accents were consistent and diction was excellent throughout.

A 13-piece orchestra, led by musical director Graham Tear did the score full credit.

The set design was enhanced by the use of slides on a backdrop augmented with items of small, easily moved scenery on stage and this arrangement worked extremely well. The lighting design combined the practical and the creative very well. Costumes were appropriate and of good quality, with no corners cut.

The whole piece clearly bore the hallmark of strong and intelligent directing and Martyn Knight (supported by an excellent team) is to be commended on producing such an entertaining Oklahoma!

Alex Wood (Sardines review) [Read the Full Review at sardinesmagazine.co.uk]


Having not seen “Oklahoma” for many years, I was really looking forward to this production… what a treat was in store for myself and the rest of the audience! N.M.T.C. presented an almost flawless opening night of one of musical theatre’s most loved musicals. “Oklahoma”, written by Rogers and Hammerstein, is a classic love story set in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906.

The opening of the show was very original, there was a projection screen that showed the cast list, production credits, photographs of the company, and shots taken during rehearsal time. Whilst watching this, the orchestra played the overture of the show… a perfect start to a lovely evening.

“Oklahoma” was well directed by Martyn Knight, the staging was excellent, the company was clearly well rehearsed and the show had good pace throughout. The projection screen was in use during the entire show, to great effect, giving a classic musical a really updated “feel”.

The musical direction by Graham Tear was superb, the vocals from both principals and ensemble was to a standard not often achieved in amateur dramatics. Graham has assembled an excellent orchestra with some very talented musicians. Well done!

Choreography was very good throughout the show, in particular, the dream scene, which I thought was beautiful. There was a strong male ensemble, with some good dancers in their midst, which was very nice to see in an amateur production. There were some very impressive performances from the cast, most of the principals maintained their characters well and managed to keep their American accents throughout.

Matthew Berrill gave a confident performance in the role of Curly, and had wonderful vocals. Katy Manning who played Laurey gave a good performance, and had a beautiful singing voice too. Jonathan Reynolds showed his brilliant acting skills in the role of Jud Fry and when he sang “Poor Jud is Daid” with Matthew Berrill (Curly) gave me my favourite moment of the evening. All the other principals played their roles extremely well, however, I must single out the two performances that I thought outstanding, these were Lisa Simpson as Aunt Eller and Beth Hodgson as Ado Annie Carnes, congratulations to both of you.

The scenery and props were all well-made and effective, with the use of the projection screen and costumes that were in keeping with the period, this was visually an excellent production. Technically there didn't appear to be any major problems, the lighting, sound and stage managing all worked really well.

Congratulations to the entire company, both on and off stage for what was an excellent production of “Oklahoma”. I sincerely hope you all have a successful and happy run.

Thank you N.M.T.C. for the wonderful hospitality shown to my guest and myself during our visit, I greatly look forward to seeing you again in the future.

Caroline Jervis. NODA East Midlands Representative

Whistle Down The Wind (2012)

Many thanks to NMTC for your kindness and hospitality last week. Peter and I really enjoyed the production. It was a great production all round and the kids were lovely. Not many productions can boast a real Harley-Davidson. The story was very well told and with very believable characters. Bravo to all concerned!

Thanks again. The production has whetted my appetite for more amateur theatre.

All best wishes to you.
David Robinson, Head of Stock & Amateur Licensing,
The Really Useful Group Ltd.

In a score requiring strong soloists from children and adults alike as well as a highly disciplined ensemble, NMTC was musically easily up to the job. Gibbs’ casting of Ian Stark as The Man was inspired and spot-on. It was a real treat to watch this talented tenor perform handling Lloyd Webber’s mix of pop and rock so naturally. Opposite Stark was a conveniently young-looking Samantha Pollitt, as Swallow, in her first lead role for the society. Looking ten years her junior, Pollitt brought plenty of naivety to the role which was reflected in her chemistry with Swallow’s younger brother and sister as well as the rest of the children’s ensemble.

With two groups of seventeen children performing throughout the run, NMTC’s child-licensing team obviously had their work cut out, but it was worth it, with the children’s scenes arguably the most entertaining of the evening. ‘The Hurricanes’ group I saw were all well-rehearsed and focused – in my experience children often learn everyone else’s lines on top of their own, without even trying! Megan Timlin (Brat) and Harrison Willson (Poor Baby) deserve plenty of praise for their respective roles as Swallow’s younger siblings. And of course, the children’s ensemble also got to sing two of the show’s most popular numbers, When Children Rule the World and No Matter What, which went on to became one of Boyzone’s most memorable hits.

Paul Johnson (Sardines review) [Read the Full Review at sardinesmagazine.co.uk]
"Whistle Down the Wind" is based on the 50's novel written by Mary Hayley Bell, in 1961 it was made into a film starring the author’s daughter, Hayley Mills and Alan Bates. In 1996 Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the musical version; transforming it from its Lancashire setting to a small town in Louisiana. The musical premiered at the National Theatre in Washington DC in December 1996 and later had its West End premiere at the Aldwych Theatre in July 1998. In my opinion it is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most underestimated musicals.
"Whistle Down the Wind" is a delightful tale of a family of three children, who mistakenly think that an escaped convict found in their barn is Jesus. "The Man" asks the children not to tell anyone he is there, but such is their belief in who they think he is, they let all the local children in on their secret. All the children subsequently go to the barn to see "The Man" and play homage to him.
Northampton Musical Theatre Company must be congratulated for their interpretation of "Whistle Down the Wind" for it was indeed amateur musical theatre at its very best! The orchestra, so important in any ALW musical, was superb and under the direction of Graham Tear took us on a musical journey, from the spine-chilling melody of the overture through to the exciting climax of the musical. Tony Gibbs direction shone through the entire production, the castings were excellent and both principal and chorus work was of a very high standard. Ian Stark, who played " The Man " gave a mind-blowing performance, his vocals were exceptional and his Soliloquy was just awesome! The three children, Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby, played by Samantha Pollitt, Emily Halton and Robin Skeppstam worked well together as a family and all gave charming performances. The team of children (The Tornadoes) all gave excellent support to the central characters and clearly enjoyed being part of this company. Lillian Thorn (Candy) Tom Pinny (Amos) both portrayed their characters well and had good vocals. Mark Woodham (Boone) gave a sensitive performance as the father of the three children. The actors in the other supporting roles also gave confidant performances.
Technically the production was very good; the sets were authentic and I thought the barn set especially had that "worn in" rustic look to it. Well done to all the stage crew for their efforts in the show, however, there were occasions when scene changes could have been slicker. Costumes were all provided by the company and were all in keeping with the period. Props, lighting and sound were also very good and well executed throughout.
Overall this was an excellent production with little to find fault with. The entire company and production team should be very proud of what they have achieved with "Whistle Down the Wind". Thank you Northampton Musical Theatre Company for a most enjoyable evening, I hope the rest of the run goes well for you all. Also I must thank the company for the wonderful hospitality shown to my guest and myself. Special mention to Cliff for looking after us during the evening and telling us so much about the history of the society.
Caroline Jervis, NODA

The area premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell, played to very good houses at The Cripps Hall in Northampton. Whistle Down The Wind follows the fortunes of a fugitive caught between the prejudice of adults and the innocence of children in the deep South of America. 15 year old Swallow (Samantha Politt) finds The Man (Ian Stark) hiding in the barn and his answer to her question “who are you?” is “Jesus Christ”... all the children, believing him to be Jesus, vow to protect him from the outside world.
Ian gave to the role of The Man a tremendous amount of skilful acting, his presence and ability to show vulnerability and yet remain strong was a credit to him. Samantha was a beautiful Swallow, her excellent vocals and characterisation was consistently good throughout the show. Emily Halton as Brat and Robin Skeppstas as Poor Baby were delightful in their roles, both showing remarkable stagecraft for ones of tender years. I am reliably informed that the alternate roles played by Megan Timlin and Harrison Wilson were also successful in their respective portrayals. Tom Pinny, as Amos, again enhanced his growing reputation as one of the county’s finest young actors. His scenes with Candy, played by the extremely talented Lillian Thorn, were very well executed with a wonderfully balanced mix of tension and emotion. Lillian’s vocals were a highlight of the production. Among the supporting roles Tristan Wentworth-Smith as the Sheriff and Snake Preacher David Mills were deserving of a mention - both giving strong consistent performances.
The character work with the principals and children was, in the main, very good but I was a little perturbed by the apparent lack of awareness the Director, Tony Gibbs, had regarding the audience views from the balcony seating. With the unusual shape seating structure that the auditorium has I was disappointed, despite not being in the most restricted of seats, that I was unable to see some important scenes due to the fact that they had been set on the downstage right edge. I understand this also applied to people sitting opposite with scenes downstage left. I generally like a minimalist set but I do think that the production would have been enhanced greatly by a little more thought to the barn staging. Having no sides to the barn removed the opportunity to use special effects during the blaze scene which I, along with many other audience members, thought was a great shame.
Special mention must be made of the orchestra who, under the direction of Graham tear were excellent. Graham also took the role of chorus master and his good work certainly paid off, the company and ensemble singing was of a very high standard. Congratulations to NMTC for producing this area premiere and how good to see so many talented youngsters on the stage.
Jonathan Reynolds - For "Events On Magazine"

Sweet Charity (2011)

For not only was there no trace of opera to be found, the standard of performance was certainly worthy of that which would be expected on the professional stage.
The musical follows the mixed fortunes of New York dance hall hostess, Charity Hope Valentine, in her search for Mr Right.
Including well-known songs such as Hey Big Spender, The Rhythm of Life and If They Could See Me Now, it is a charming crowd-pleaser, and NAOC did not disappoint with this staging, which featured strong vocal performances and energetic dance routines.
The musical relies heavily on the performance of its leading lady, as the character of Charity is by far the largest role, and congratulations must go to the brilliant Lynnette Turner-Parry for her engaging performance in this adaptation.
In an all-round strong cast, special mention must also go to Lisa Simpson and Alexandra Underwood, who played dance hall hostesses Helene and Nickie respectively, and to Alex Taylor for his role as Charity’s fiancé, Oscar.
I was delighted to hear the company will soon change its name to Northampton Musical Theatre Company.
The sooner they get rid of that “amateur” tag the better.

Jesus Christ Superstar (2010)

An excellent production, well cast. Adrian Taylor as Jesus had just the right feel for the part. Both singing and acting were just right for the part. Ian Stark as Judas gave us a stunning performance with excellent timing and looked right for the part. Hannah Taylor as Mary Magdalene was outstanding and when performing with Adrian it had just the right chemistry and came across as a very strong performance. An excellent Herod played by Mark Robbins was one of the highlights of the show backed by a brilliant set of dancers. Pontius Pilate played by John Simpson played the part well with just the right amount of authority not to be menacing.

The production itself was very slick and the choreography worked extremely well. The singing was excellent. Very good set and costumes. All in all a stunning production. This was a great company show and came across as a real team production. Well done.


Feedback from audiences
"I have just returned from seeing the show and am emailing to say what a tremendous production (as usual) this was. It was very challenging and moving, the effects and presentation was first class, you are all to be congratulated".

"Just a note to say how wonderful Wednesday's matinee was. At times the hair was standing on the back of my neck. The singing acting, dancing, lighting and set was fantastic. Who needs the West End? The only thing missing was the ice cream!"

"Just had to drop you a line to say how amazing last night was. I have seen quite a few of your shows over the last 20 years and this was most definitely the best (so far....) Every single member of the cast would not have been out of place on a West end stage. The set, costumes, choreography, lighting were all just right. Having worked on that stage myself I know that first night can have technical hitches and the volumes on some of the body mics did vary or occasionally switch on late but that did not detract in any way from a fantastic performance.
All of the main characters were superb, both in voice quality and portrayal of emotion, and the whole ensemble worked together extremely well. I was already feeling teary by the crucifixion scene but Mary's heartbroken sobs finished me (and many other audience members) off completely.
Please pass on my congratulations to the whole team on and off stage for yet again proving that Northampton produces the best amateur theatre in the country (and in spite of the Carlsberg connection, that statement does not need to be qualified with probably)"

"Just got back from the first night of your latest production. A super show obviously under difficult conditions, with such a small stage for a major production such as this. There were obviously some super individual performances, but mainly everyone should be congratulated on such a slick and moving show. It’s unfortunate that the band had to be in another place and the sound problems that this entailed, however it did not detract from the overall enjoyable evening.
You have a show that you should be proud of and hopefully all your seats will be sold for the rest of the week. Please pass my congratulation and thanks to the cast and crew for a great evening out."

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