Written by Anna
Saturday, 26 June 2010 13:44
THE FESTIVAL PLAYERS : CHESS
Director : Suzanne Emerson
Musical Director : Brian Thomas
Choreography : Kirsty Smith
Performed at the ADC Theatre, Cambridge on 5th June, 2010
The plot of ‘Chess’ now seems a little dated and the story line was never very strong
but it is always nice to see shows that are seldom performed and, once again, the
Festival Players demonstrated that they are very competent musically. All of the
ensemble pieces were well presented with good movement and choreography
and I enjoyed the score more than I had anticipated. There were some nicely
performed quartets and, altogether, the large cast showed consistent enthusiasm
and commitment. All of the principals were well cast and were vocally strong. It was
interesting to see the Arbiter played by a woman and Frances Watson gave a very
clear and believable interpretation. Similarly, Warren Clark was excellent as Molotov
and complemented Chas Barclay as Walter particularly well. Both roles gave a lot
of strength to the production and each was well supported by their national ‘teams’.
As the two protagonists, David Smithet and Steve Nicholson handled their numbers
with confidence and flair and they were responsible for some nice moments. Steve
provided a lot of energy and drive to the part of Trumper and both looked exactly
right in their characters. David was especially strong in the Act 1 finale. The role of
Florence is a difficult one as the love triangle is not very well developed but Davinia
Denham deserves great credit for a very sympathetic interpretation supported
by some lovely vocals. The ‘memorable song’ was beautifully presented by both
Davinia and Harriet Graves as Svetlana and was one of the high spots of the
evening. In general, the overall presentation was good with a simple but effective
set and convincing photographic support. A lot of thought had also gone into the
themed wardrobe but I was a little disappointed not to see a more defined costume
approach to the short prologue sequence and the Chess ballet. Having said that, the
choreography itself was superb throughout and very well executed. Altogether, this
was a well directed, professional piece of work that only suffered from weaknesses
within the original material.
Michael G Williamson
NODA Regional Representative : District 1
Written by Anna
Saturday, 26 June 2010 13:39
A story about the love triangle between two players in a world chess
championship and the woman who manages one but falls in love with the
other seems a very strange thing to set a musical around. I was unfamiliar
with the show before I saw the Festival Players’ production and it was
obvious from the outset that one had to thoroughly concentrate on the words
of the songs in order to be able to follow the story.
The staging of the opening number (telling the legend of how chess as a
board game was allegedly invented) and the chorus movement around the
stage throughout was outstanding. The excellence of the singing is without
question with lots of good chorus numbers — I particularly enjoyed the Civil
Much thought had gone into the little extra touches such as with the
merchandising and paparazzi scenes, and my felicitations to the chorus who
had to wear coats, scarves, jumpers etc. on what must have been one of the
hottest nights of the year.
The four main characters played by WARREN CLARK (Alexander Molokov),
DAVID SMITHET (Anatoly Sergievsky), DAVINIA DENHAM (Florence
Vassy) and STEVE NICHOLSON (Frederick Trumper) were all impressive,
especially Miss Denham who had the lion’s share of the complex songs. All
handled their challenging roles well and deserve all the accolades which come
their way. Special mention must also be made of FRANCES WATSON who
did a splendid job as The Arbiter, HARRIET GRAVES (Svetlana
Sergievskaya) and CHAS BARCLAY (Walter).
The small but beautifully formed orchestra under the baton of BRIAN
THOMAS was probably the best I have heard for a Festival Players show for
some while and congratulations to them for meeting the challenges the, at
times, intricate music.
This show is extremely technical as it relies much on overhead cameras
showing the chess board as the game ensues and the filming of press
conferences in real time, which are relayed to television screens on stage.
So—much could go wrong if the gremlins got in. The evening performance I
saw was delayed by about 20 minutes because of technical problems. On
enquiring afterwards it appears that the link between the stage manager’s
desk and the lighting and sound box was not working. Many, many
congratulations to Stage Managers Emma Coonan and Andrew Booker and
lighting and sound men Edward Hopkins and Carl Bowles who, through a
series of telephone messages and hand signals, ran the show seamlessly.
Following on from their NODA award winning production of Sweeney Todd in
Festival Players have another success on their hands with Chess, which, as is
becoming a habit, played to sell-out houses. Plans are afoot for a production
of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s musical comedy The Producers for
2011— I can hardly wait.
Reviewed by Julie Petrucci (Combinations)
Last Updated on Saturday, 26 June 2010 13:42
Written by Matt
Sunday, 04 April 2010 08:42
MUSICAL DIRECTOR CLOCKS UP 50TH PRODUCTION
Festival Players’ THE WORLD IN MUSICALS
Reviewed by Julie Petrucci
Brian (Tommy) Thomas clocked up his 50th mFestival Players’ production by taking the show on a tour of Cambridge and the surrounding villages in February which proved a resounding success.
The Concert Tour was coordinated by Warren Clark and Tommy and concerts were performed at Godmanchester Primary School, Foxton Village Hall, The Vine School, Cambourne and St Faith's
The programme featured a range of solos, duets and ensemble numbers from musicals, loosely based around the theme of The World in Musicals. Very often with this type of programme we
get the old tried and tested ultra-popular numbers from shows. Many good show tunes don’t work well out of context but this programme was very cleverly put together. Each song/show was
introduced by a narrator and the song set in context for us and this worked splendidly and the extra information given was interesting. Little scenes from the shows were re-enacted. I
particularly enjoyed Well Did You Ever? Cell Block Tango, Kansas City, A Little Priest, We Can Do it, and The Song That Goes like This. The audience even got to participate with Master of the
As one would expect we heard some superb soloists plus brilliant ensemble numbers. I can not, and should not, pick any one person out so I will say well done and congratulations to Angela
Carr, Janice Chambers, Leas Chambers, Warren Clark, Davinia Denham, Rachel Duncan, Suzanne Emerson, Oliver Fisher, Matt Gregory, Connie Kam, Cat Nicol, Liz Simmonds,
Anna Stanley, Kristian Turner, Leslie Wheeler and Roger Wood for giving us such a grand evening.
I saw the concert at Cambourne where our enjoyment of this great show was enhanced by special guests The Rhythm of Life, Cambourne’s own ladies-only singing group. Formed just
over a year ago, the ladies gave a stunning performance (particularly soloist Phillipa) so watch out for other dates they may have coming up. They are definitely worth seeing (and hearing).
The Festival Players used their concert tour to raise money for charity and are pleased to announce the tour raised 475 for Red Balloon and 150 for the Vine School, Cambourne.
This must have been a huge organisational undertaking. Congratulations to the organisers, singers, compilers of the excellent programme, musical director and all concerned with The World
in Musicals.. As one member said to me when confirming the amounts raised “… with the monies raised, the positive feedback received and the celebration of Tommy's 50th production it
was a win, win, win situation all round”.
Written by Anna
Tuesday, 03 November 2009 13:17
NODA Eastern Review by John Seaman
FESTIVAL PLAYERS - SWEENEY TODD
Director James Dawson
Musical Director Brian Thomas
ADC Theatre, Cambridge. 5th June 2009
I have often wondered what I would do or say if I was asked to revue a show that had nofaults or weaknesses whatever. Cloud cuckoo land? No way! It happened to me on 5th June at
the ADC Cambridge. Not my favourite show by any means – human pies are a definite
discouragement – but this show had everything. Firstly the music under Brian Thomas’ baton,
we were bound to have quality. The score requires the orchestra to back the performers for
most of the time, and they were magnificent. The relatively simple set of stairways with a
platform between them served the company well. They, entered, exited, and dressed the
stage well at different levels with precise movements and perfect control by principals and
chorus in the musical numbers. The costumes (Liz Millway) were just right and the company
were very comfortable in them. Voice projection was very good. The Penguin Club were in
charge of the set changes and performed with their customary efficiency. In the title role,
Warren Clarke was very confident, and, together with the other male singing roles, gave us a
musical treat. Warren’s development as a mass murderer, aided and abetted, of course, by
Mrs Lovett (Cat Nicholl) was very realistic. His disposal of his victims on the high level
platform by tipping them forward from the barber’s chair was very well done. The romantic
element was provided by Joanna (Rachel Jarmy) and her sailor boyfriend Anthony (Simon
Young). Len Packman as Judge Turpin and Suzanne Emerson as beggar Woman were
excellent in their roles. Judging by the comments of the audience as we left the auditorium,
most people agreed with my reactions to the show.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 November 2009 13:23
Written by Administrator
Friday, 03 April 2009 20:29
A few memories of the sell-out show - all images copyright Lee Marshall...
Last Updated on Friday, 03 July 2009 20:37
Written by Anna
Monday, 01 December 2008 13:20
Little Shop of Horrors
Robinson Theatre, Hills Road
Dir: Suzanne Emerson
The hairstyles were spot on, the accents wonderfully clichéd and the cast inspiringly enthusiastic. With these ingredients, Suzanne Emerson’s production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ could never go far wrong. The popular cult musical follows the fortunes of Seymour and his human-devouring, insatiably hungry, hip-hopping plant, Audrey II – ‘catchy name, I like it’. After acquiring this ‘strange and interesting’ plant, Seymour is catapulted to fame but the plant proves to be more than a little demanding and Seymour has to make some difficult choices. Since its release as a low-budget b-movie in the 1960s, ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ has gained a strong cult following. The score has so many well placed lines and such a plethora of catchy songs that the play can almost perform itself and is a gift to amateur theatricals everywhere.
In this, the festival players’ version, Thomas O’Connor as Seymour strikes the right nervously nerdy note and Davinia Denham’s Audrey is pitched at just the right level of cliché. The three girls, Ronnette, Chiffon and Crystal (Lea Chambers, Rachel Bye and Melody White), provide polished and witty performances in their role as chorus and narrator and Mark Bak’s sadistic dentist, Orin, is pleasingly demonic and melodramatic. All the cast sing well, if a little tentatively at times and each actor, without exception, embraces the spirit of the bizarre musical. The stage belongs, however, to the plant. Emerson’s production sees the plant encroaching onto more and more of the set while Oliver Fisher (as the plant itself) sits enthroned in tendrils in the centre of a giant pot. Each time a character is devoured, Fisher’s plant contraption gives birth to a new shoot – with appropriately grotesque sounds effects. Fisher writhes, gestures and sings with gusto, clearly revelling in such a deliciously outrageous part.
The performance had its weaknesses but few that weren’t attributable to first-night jitters, (sound balance, tentativeness, for example). In this production, Suzanne Emerson has created a light-hearted, competent and highly enjoyable amateur performance of a hilarious show. It may not live up to the original 1960s film, or the 1980s remake, but it is an enthusiastic and visually effective tribute to Charles B Griffiths’ work. This show is worth a trip – if only to catch a glimpse of the ‘mean green mother from outer space’ for yourself. Just remember: ‘DON’T FEED THE PLANTS!’
Recommended rating: 4 stars