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Annie Get Your Gun Write-up 2011

The ensemble had plenty of energy, they were well drilled and performed the ensemble choreography with style. The singing was good with some nice harmonies which came through well. Sarah Brown was a delightful Annie, portraying the ‘backwoodswoman’ with style and great comic timing. David Pridige gave a good performance as Frank Butler, and there were also good performances from Rick McGeouch (Charlie Davenport) and Wendy Clark (Dolly Tate). As always, I don’t have the space to mention everyone but all the supporting Principals played their parts well. This version of the show is somewhat ‘pared down’ from the original and it is a long time since I have seen the previous version so it is difficult to make comparisons. Personally I found the settings just a bit too ‘pared down’ but that is a personal opinion and the Director, James Sinclair, got the best out of the script and settings. The scenery was good looking and the changes were slick and, unusual for a first night, there were no apparent problems. The show is well costumed and there was good attention to detail in hair and accessories. The orchestra, led by Natalie Thurlow produced a good sound and, probably because they were behind the performance, the sound did not overwhelm the singers. The technical sound was fine, although the mics were sometimes a little late in being turned on so we missed the first few words of a song or dialogue. Lighting was sympathetic and appropriate. If I have a criticism at all, it is in the detail. The use of a dummy Annie on the trapeze just didn’t do it for me; it didn’t even appear to have a gun! As this is a key moment in the show I am sure there were more effective ways to have done this. I have a strong dislike of seeing empty glasses used on stage. Having to use plastic glasses always makes it difficult for the person carrying a tray full to stop them falling over. Putting a small amount of coloured liquid in a glass would make them easier to carry on a tray. There is also something rather silly about everyone raising empty glasses in a toast. Finally, in a show that is based around sharpshooters, it is a shame that the key guns (Annie’s and Frank’s) were not ‘working’ guns. Using drum rimshots was not as effective, especially when it didn’t happen! However I understand that this was a restriction placed on the society by the theatre so they did not have a choice. Under the circumstances the rimshots was the only possible thing to do.

Overall, though, an enjoyable and well performed production.

Tessa Davies

Mack & Mabel Write-up 2009

YOU missed a real treat if you did not manage to see the Shenfield Operatic Society's production of Mack and Mabel last week. I was thrilled to see an amateur group produce one of the most professional shows I have seen in the last few months.

Mack and Mabel is a comic musical love story based on a real but tragic relationship between film-maker Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand, who at 37 died of tuberculosis. The musical follows their fiery relationship, which is set to an amazing musical score.

The orchestra, directed and conducted by Natalie Thurlow, was spectacular. It felt as though I were at a West End production as soon as I walked into the theatre and heard the wonderful brass section transporting the audience to a 1911 Brooklyn.

Most of the time, the pace of the production was very good even with the huge amount of songs. I was never bored because there was always set movement by the chorus in the background as well as constant dance numbers. Again, the choreography by Amanda Ling was top class, particularly used in the slapstick scenes and within songs 'Hundreds of Girls' and 'Tap Your Troubles Away'. The different poses at the end of each dance or song were aesthetically brilliant too.

The only criticism I had was with the frustrating lack of passion between Mack and Mabel, played by David Pridige and Sarah Brown. For example, when Mabel sang, 'Wherever He Ain't', her fiery heartbroken anger was not there in the way that the pure emotion and poignancy had been at the end of 'Mabel's Roses'. Although, very talented singers and actors in their own right, I could not feel as much empathy towards their relationship as I wanted to.

However, the comedy in the piece was received very well as the combination of Mabel's witty one liners and Mack's arrogance provided a great energy.

This was the first time I had seen a production by the Shenfield Operatic Society and I was hugely impressed by it. It is a real shame only a handful of shows were on offer because a production of this caliber deserves a much longer run. Tiffany Holland