Upstairs at the Gatehouse
14th Dec 2016 to 29th Jan 2017
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Guy Bolton, PG Woodhouse, Howard Lindsey and Russell Crouse
Directed by John Plews
Musical Director Dan Glover
Choreographer Chris Whittaker
Lighting Designer Sam Waddington
Designer Emily Bestow
(Photo Credit Darren Bell)
What an amazing show! So much better than Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre version in 2002! But then, many Fringe shows these days so easily beat the West End shows in terms of entertainment even when the budgets are minimal!
Phenomenal 5 Star Cast every one of them! Great acting, singing and dancing, all in character! The full house of well turned-out audience (surprising nowadays when you almost expect the audience to arrive with a takeaway to eat throughout the show!) absolutely loved it and were beaming ear to ear the entire show! OVATION has done an incredible job to bring this wonderful show to entertain us this Christmas!
You can’t beat Cole Porter’s music, it helps that we all know these catchy songs, and who doesn’t like a bit of tap dancing? Choreography (Chris Whittaker) and the delivery of the dancing just fabulous! All in unison with the best acting through dance you’ll see anywhere!!! Well rehearsed and all together, the Cast deliver every double shuffle-up hop and triple time-step precisely! Don’t sit in the front row if you scare easily – there will be high kicks past your ears and girls’ legs grazing your whiskers!
The Set is really good. With the audience sat in traverse on one end, there’s the Ship’s Bow up some steep stairs to a raised acting area platform, and to the other, the Ship’s Stern raised deck houses the 6 strong orchestra! Yes, a Cast of 15 and an Orchestra of 6!!! Having a Live Orchestra is so lovely!
The costumes look period and fit well surviving the energetic dynamic dancing routines. Various props and set pieces enhance the story – there’s not a dull moment anywhere!
The lighting (Sam Waddington) is very sympathetic to the piece. It conveys location and time of day whilst maintaining the delicate balance between visibility and atmosphere. Expertly achieved without any moving lights at all – some of the fixtures are older than some of the Cast (oh yes, 123s and 243s are in the rig) with only a couple of scrollers.
Speaking of the Cast, all are very strong in their characters, but a special mention has to be given to Lewis McBean and Chloe Porter who have exceptional Musical Theatre performance skills!
Jack Keane also brilliantly funny as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh!
So, why is this not a 5 Star Review? Well, there is so much to love in this production. And as I’m publishing this, news is breaking of 4 x Offie Industry Award nominations which doesn’t surprise me. There may very well be more before this production ends its run!
Jack McCann – Best Male Performance
Taryn Erickson – Best Female Performance
Chris Whittaker – Best Choreographer
Anythign Goes – Best Musical Production
But this website focusses on the Technical and the Design, and there are 2 areas of the show that are not quite 5 Star. The Sound and the Video fall short.
The Sound Image is just plain wrong. Perhaps because I was sat in front of a speaker from the rig at the other end of the room away from the Live Orchestra. It just feels wrong to have the Piano coming into my Right Ear from the Loudspeaker when the piano is actually over on my farthest left. Could the Piano speaker not be placed in the Orchestra area? That’s where you hear the other instruments playing. Similarly when the Cast are far left but you hear them from your Right the Sound Image is quite distracting. I looked around several times to find out where the actor was as it wasn’t where I expected.
And the Video. Oh dear! There are 3 Components to Video – the System, the content that you see, and the show integration. Unfortunately the Video misses on all counts. The screen has been rigged high in the rig over and above the front of the ship. The projector is rigged in a manner that permanently throws a shadow on the bottom centre of the large screen. And the screen is not flat, it has ruffles. The content is of the sea but it’s positioned where the sky should be. Since we’re watching real video footage of a real Sea that would make the Ship a Submarine. And the content is a loop of the ocean which is distracting when it cross-fades to restart the loop. Later the video is used to display a message that says “Intermission” along with the Ship’s co-ordinates so it’s no longer the front view from the ship’s deck, except the ocean, now a static image is still there. Then at another point it shows that we’re docked in Southampton, until a song comes on about Manhattan and suddenly we have the New York skyline, only at the end of the song to be replaced by the dock in Southampton but now the ship has inexplicably moved its mooring. It just doesn’t make sense and is quite distracting as you’re left pondering what it’s all about instead of focussing on the show. In my opinion, the show would have been better without any of this video.
Despite these technical flaws the show is totally amazing and I thoroughly recommend anyone to go see it. You’ll leave on a high!