Our Reviews 2018 Jekyll and Hyde
"North Canterbury Musicals bring horror and drama with Jekyll and Hyde" - Stuff review online
Our Reviews 2017 Company
"Rangiora in good Company" - Stuff review online
North Canterbury's Company
Company. North Canterbury Musical Society. Until 11 November. Rangiora Town Hall. Directed by Fiona Bennetts. Reviewed by Sophie Ricketts.
Review online: www.backstage.co.nz
Full disclosure: Company is my favourite musical. Not just my favourite Sondheim musical, but my favourite musical. Full stop. So it was with equal doses of excitement and anxiety I approached the Rangiora Town Hall last night. The music is tricky, the harmonies are complicated, the timing is vital; would my expectations be too high? Would I be disappointed? I’m so pleased to report I wasn’t.
From the building rhythm of the opening number as it segued into the title song, I got a wave of goosebumps all over my arms. The harmonies were spot on, the timing was tight; this was serious, folks. Not just a top effort, but the real deal. The show opened on Broadway in 1970 and last night proved once again that its themes of love, partnership, fidelity, selfishness and loneliness are still universal. The set was simple and effective, with the orchestra seated on stage between the actors and the New York skyline backdrop. An excellent choice! I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see the musicians, while they never took our eye off the central action.
Colette Inkster’s choreography was slick and polished, making all of the cast look phenomenally agile as they executed a particularly tight opening number for Act Two.
Only two small thorns in my side emerged: the lighting was inconsistent, leaving me disappointed that I couldn’t clearly see all of the faces in every scene. At times actors were in shadow or only half-lit and this appeared to be an oversight as opposed to a dramatic choice. Also, the decision to have real liquid in some glasses but not in others (and some real food while some was mimed) was odd and walked the line of distraction. It felt like it was up to the individual actors to choose which option they found most comfortable, which led to inconsistencies from scene to scene.
As anticipated, not everyone’s accent was believable, but you know what? That was easy to forgive once it became clear just how talented every single member of the cast was vocally. They knocked my socks off. As someone who owns both the original Broadway cast recording and the London cast recording I was so moved by the vocal prowess and dynamic delivery of each of the songs. There were emotional layers emerging which I hadn’t come across before, which made for some exciting surprises.
Each and every member of the cast truly shone so brightly in their roles, this is a very evenly distributed show when it comes to talent. Having fallen in love with the show when I was a much younger (and single) person I was delighted to witness new subtext emerging from the characters, and so many nuances in the choices the actors were making. Although it seems unfair not to individually mention each and every performer, for they all were sensational, special attention must be drawn to Andrea Koorey who absolutely brought the house down with her patter song/nervous breakdown near the end of Act One.
The director, Fiona Bennetts, said Company has been on her wishlist for the last five years. Thank you so much, North Canterbury Musical Society, for letting her wish come true for we are truly reaping the rewards. I can’t wait to see what is coming up next!
Our Reviews 2017 The Sound of Music
"Sound of Music hits the right notes" - Stuff review online
Something quite special
The Sound of Music. Produced by North Canterbury Musical Society. 27 April – 13 May. Rangiora Town Hall. Director Tegan Patrick. Musical director Cheryllyn Callander. Choreographer Colette Inkster. Reviewed by Kineta Knight Booker. Backstage Online: www.backstage.co.nz
When you’re a superfan of The Sound of Music, not much can be done to make you like it more, however parts of The North Canterbury Musical Society’s version did just that.
I've spent a whole summer in a professional production of the musical, watched the movie so many times the VHS tape wore out, and I’ve even been on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg listening to Climb Every Mountain on my iPod as the tour bus made its way through the Austrian mountains, but no experience has come close to what I felt listening to that very song last night.
Phillipa Pink as The Mother Abbess utterly nailed what has got to be one of the most challenging songs in musical theatre. It left me completely covered in goosebumps and feeling absolutely electric.
Another lovely moment was with Mother Abbess and the Sisters, singing Maria. Although some of the cast's heavy Kiwi accents were a little unbearable, they can all sing harmonies beautifully.
There was other magic in the show, like when Maria (Shannon Peck) and the seven Von Trapp children are together on stage. Peck really excels in these moments, and she has a lovely, sincere relationship with them. It’s something quite special. And the children were true talents and, to be fair, the real stars of the show.
Although Peck has a truly beautiful voice, I wasn’t completely convinced by her as Maria. Most of her songs began by singing straight out to the audience instead of singing (the musical version of conversing) to the person she was talking to. Perhaps this was a directing issue, or it could be a confidence thing.
A pair not lacking in confidence, however, were the ever-fabulous Max Detweiler (Warwick Shillito) and Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Jane Godfrey). They brought a great boost of energy and charm to the stage. It was times like these you forget you’re enjoying a community theatre production, but during others it’s quite clear.
Two moments in particular. It’s unclear why director Tegan Patrick had so many nuns on stage for the opening number. I’ve seen larger theatres use about a third the number. It can’t have been to make a bigger sound, because the sound wasn’t huge. Perhaps NCMS had a lot of habits at their disposal?
And during I Have Confidence, Patrick should have had the courage to just let Maria loose on stage by herself. Once again, it was odd having a stage full of so many extras. It is such a brilliant song, with great lyrics, and the excess performers were distracting. Remember, “strength doesn’t lie in numbers”.
Having said all this, it really is just my opinion. The hundreds of voluntary hours that have gone into this production is quite clear – from the cast, crew, orchestra, production staff. It is a lovely production, and quite enjoyable in many ways. Ticket sales for this show are through the roof, so if you want to see all these magical moments and haven’t actually bought your ticket you'd better be quick.
Our Reviews 2016 AIDA
Our production (2016) of "Elton John & Tim Rice's AIDA", Directed by Teresa Dann, received amazing reviews. We would like to share them with you....
- "Absolutely blown away last night by the show. Musically has got to be the best. At times, it was hard to tell the music wasnʻt a recording - well done Leanne and crew. I hate to single anyone out as everyone was so brilliant, but Chuana, everytime you sang, hairs stood out on my neck, and there were tears streaming down my face in the encore!!! That is a voice from heaven! A huge well done to everyone for an exceptional show. Iʻve been to musicals in the Court Theatre that just donʻt compare to what you put on last night! Congrats to EVERYONE involved. " - Howard Pettigrew
- "Am watching it now. Well done. Especially Aida, Radames and Amneris. Love you guys. Ensemble sounds awesome and your characterisation is fabulous. I am looking forward to Act 2. Oh behalf of the South Canterbury Drama League. Well done." Bronwyn Chittock
- "We were absolutely enthralled with the entire performance – laughing at times, crying at times at such a moving and emotional story and presentation. As Elton John fanatics we were very impressed with the music – what an incredibly diverse range of sounds from wonderful players of complex music and arrangements which supported wonderful vocals.
Thank you for a wonderful evening by wonderful performers and support crew in a wonderful environment.
We will be back for future shows." George & Libby Drayton
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