It explored the constituent parts of any good musical.
One of the key challenges of amateur theatre (especially for operatic societies who typically only produce one show per year) is how to develop new talent. Yes, rehearsals are a factor, but the best way to learn stagecraft and build confidence is on stage.
Enter I ❤️ Musicals - a musical revue that saw Leicester Amateur Operatic Society (LAOS) put the genre under a microscope, break it up into key parts, and perform their favourite examples of each.
The show was held together by co-compères Nick Cox (also the director and deviser of the show) and Martin Bell, with Nick teaching musical-novice Martin how musicals are structured, and thus providing a framework for the show.
By producing a show that didn't require one lead actor to carry all the big numbers, LAOS have given some 24 performers something to sink their teeth into - many of whom were receiving their first featured roles. This was glorious to see. Performers who'd I'd previously only seen in small parts or ensemble roles were given the chance to show what they could do, and they did it very well.
It was not all new talent: established soloist/duet performers provided several numbers, including Debbie & Andy Longley-Brown, Sarah-Jane Barton-Wales, Shelley Henry-Thornton (who I'd not seen before, but my God... she nailed "The Diva's Lament" from Spamalot), Kerry Smith and Matt Barton-Ashcroft, Emily Childs, and Vaughan Barton-Ashcroft. They all performed with their customary flair, stunning vocals, and many surnames, which gave the show a guaranteed level of quality.
Not that this was a concern, as there was no shortage of talent involved, and the fresher faces (at least to me) stepped firmly into the spotlight when called upon. I can't mention everyone, but Jacq Ardron's Hungarian monologue in "Cellblock Tango" was flawless. Boo Cooper and James King did a lovely job singing "Seventeen" from Heathers. Pip Iliffe and Jenna Leigh showed their stunning vocal skills in "Movie in My Mind" from Miss Saigon. Ed Turner delivered a powerful yet intimate performance for "Michael in the Bathroom" on his LAOS debut. Olivia King was incredibly charming in her performance of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", continuing to establish herself as one to watch. And Nade Franklin and Callie Barter each led the company very well for their respective solos in "What I Did For Love" and "Tell Me It's Not True".
"Six", "Cellblock Tango", and "One Day More" were stand out group numbers, each giving the performers their moments to shine. The lighting and costuming especially elevating the SIX/Chicago numbers, and the most dynamic staging of the night featured in the Les Miserables act one finale.
The whole company performed well, especially in group numbers, with excellent harmonies and execution of choreography.
To that point, this show had also given first-time (or relatively new) choreographers a chance to prove themselves, with Nicole Collins and Rosie Chalmers, Nick Cox and Shelley Henry-Thornton, Sophie Kandola, and Sarah Sharland all given numbers to oversee. Each had their own quirks and styles, but it all blended together in a delightful smörgåsbord of dance.
There were few minor niggles - some of the soloists' staging felt samey, the compères' scripts could probably have been trimmed a little, one or two song-type sections felt over-catered to (four openings numbers felt excessive), and the stage occasionally felt crowded when the full company was dancing. But these things are not the end of the world.
No, it was not a perfect show but nor should it be. It was still a very good show and perfectionism isn't really the point here. It's about showcasing more - very able - talent and building for the future, and it certainly did that. Credit to LAOS, Nick Cox, MD Steve Duguid, and assistant director Charlotte Beaver for creating this platform to let the membership shine.
LAOS is off to Curve in June 2024 for their production of RENT, but I sincerely hope that this format remains at The Little as an annual tradition. It has a lot of value beyond just these two performances. As a hotbed for new talent to get stage time, it excelled.
More of this please!