Spirited salute to hit musicals

The You Can’t Stop the Beat number from Hairspray, one of 13 items in This Is Me: A Tribute to Musicals, at St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton. All pictures by Paul Henman.

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Stage: This is Me: A Tribute to Musicals – The Theatre, St Anne’s Diocesan College, Hilton
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
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A DRUMROLL and hats off, please, for Lynn Chemaly, theatre director at St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton, and her hard-working team – their first production in this beautiful school’s new theatre is a colourful, very enjoyable salute to popular songs from hit musicals.

A large cast of pupils has been assembled – 28 singers and 40 dancers – for the hour-long musical mish-mash, which is being presented at 7.30pm nightly, only until Thursday, March 28.

The lively Mamma Mia sequence.

Unfolding on a bare stage flanked by black curtains and fabric columns of light, the show features 13 items representing popular and lesser known songs from stage and screen musicals. Recorded dialogue, mostly excerpts from the screen versions of some of the featured productions, provides links and costume change time.

There may be only minimal live musical backing – Anthea Hibbert and Andri Potgieter on piano and keyboards, and Rudi Engelbrecht on drums can be glimpsed at the back left of the stage – but this is a fun, well-paced show with some very promising vocal and dance talent.

As with any production by amateur performers, there are, from time to time, some wooden moments and forgiveable minor technical glitches. But there is generally a great zest and a genuine sense of enjoyment from the girls that is infectious.

A show highlight – the O Maria routine from Sister Act.

The cast is a large one and it can have been no mean task to put this show together, but the school can be proud of its first production in its handsome, new, 300-seater theatre and the enthusiastic response it received from a packed opening night audience.

The production opens quietly with a lone figure in the dark on stage, performing the slowed-down opening bars of Abba’s Mamma Mia, which leads into the full cast bursting on stage and through the theatre doors for a robust rendition of the catchy song from the musical of the same name.

Next up is a vocal highlight, an opening night microphone wobble notwithstanding – Bridget Davies and Casey Mosdell in sweet harmony with a good rendition of My Love, My Life from the Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again movie.

Presented without an interval, the show goes on to offer interpretations of the lesser-known Once Upon a December from Anastacia and Reflections from Disney’s Mulan, both of which highlight some entertaining contemporary dance.

There is a lot of dance in the show, actually, and synchronisation is commendable with such a large cast of mostly non-dancers – so a hearty backslap for choreographer Tegan Peacock, assisted by Lynn Chemaly.

Highlights of the production include a delightful, amusing nod to Sister Act, with a group of girls dressed as nuns, giving a spirited and crowd-pleasing rendition of O Maria. Also of note are a well-sung Nature Boy from Moulin Rouge, a highly exuberant Our Father from Sarafina! and the closing This is Me from The Greatest Showman, led well on vocals by a charming Senzi Mathe.

The Our Father number from Sarafina! – a crowd-pleaser.

The show also features numbers from Hairspray, West Side Story, Victor Victoria, The King and I and Wicked.

This is Me: A Tribute to Musicals has a production team that includes voice training specialists Elsa and Riaan Oosthuizen, and technical director Marcus Henning.

“The numbers have been specifically chosen to expose our talented female voices, as well as for their musicality, theatricality and timeless relevance to making brave, individual choices in the face of conformity,” says Chemaly.

“We have also chosen a few unusual songs that do not generally make the cut in musical revues, but thoroughly deserve the limelight!”

Tickets cost R70 each (R50 concessions). To book, or for more information about This Is Me: A Tribute to Musicals, mail twoodgate@stannes.co.za

For my interview with Chemaly, who goes into detail about renovations for the Theatre Centre, click here: https://wp.me/p8dL0W-4fF

The This is Me sequence from The Greatest Showman. This photo was taken during the dress rehearsal and shows much of the impressive new theatre.

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