Hooray for Hollywood!
Friday 20th - Saturday 21st August
The Louth Playgoers' summer concert is always a hit with audiences as this multi-talented company indulge their passion for musical theatre with aplomb. This year sees a concert with a twist. We are still presented with a sensory spectacular, but the music comes not from the stage but from the screen. Every song featured in this year's concert has found a home on screen rather than through musical theatre. And it works spectacularly.
The show is a cavalcade, travelling through the decades like Marty McFly's De Lorean as one classic song leads us into another. Soloist after soloist brings a fresh energy to the songs we know so well and readily associate with our favourite scenes in movies. Under Jamie Harris's direction, produced by Frances Brindle and Derek Smith, the large cast provide fun, glamour and colour to warm the hearts of everyone lucky enough to catch this show. Its clear that the cast have made every effort during lockdown to ensure that this show will give the boost its audience needs and it succeeds in spades; it is a joyous experience from start to finish. The Playgoers have real strength in depth in their performers. it is reassuring to see so many familiar faces from their musicals and pantomimes take to the stage once more, but it is even better to find new performers among their number and never letting the quality drop.
Opening with an ensemble number, the show declares "Hooray for Hollywood" and the frenetic energetic pace for the show is set, or so it would seem. The number is followed by a beautifully controlled interpretation of "As Time Goes By" from Bogart's "Casablanca" and Sophie Burgess really excels with poise and assurance and a deliciously warm vocal.
My personal highlight came from soloist Gareth Bates who performed a breath-taking version of "Unchained Melody" from "Ghost". I defy anyone to listen and not feel a chill, as Gareth's vocal soars into the familiar falsetto section with crystal clarity and real command of his vocal prowess. This number is a real showstopper.
The women of the company shone as they brought the sass and the sexiness to "Lady Marmalade" as featured in "Moulin Rouge", strutting across stage in a stunning array of corsets, colour and choreography. Not to be outdone the boys delivered a delightfully cocksure performance of "Stayin' Alive" from "Saturday Night Fever" with ruffled shirts unbuttoned to the waist as they served up their own brand of macho camp!
Regular Louth leading lady Katie Divilly, looked every inch the star in a red dress as she commanded the stage and calmed proceedings temporarily with her rendition of The Way We Were" and the warmth of her personality gave the song a resonance as she stood and commanded the audience' whole-hearted attention.
The first act of the show was concluded with a spirited tribute to the Blues Brothers, as Derek Smith and Mark Thompson channelled Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi respectively. The accompanying singers provided glamour and power to some difficult numbers and some terrific choreography that will leave the audience on a high as they take to the bar.
The high octane energy reaches 88 miles an hour as Act Two begins with a touch of Back to the Future as Gareth Bates and Joel Howard, accompanied by the ensemble in an incredibly high spirited performance of "The Power of Love". The enthusiasm and sense of fun was infectious and though simply set, the number is really effective. It allows everyone in the company to live their best life on stage, just having fun and delivering the goods for the audience.
At this point, I must mention and pay tribute toe the amazing Jacqueline Wilson, who as musical director has done a fantastic job but for once, Jacqui took to the stage herself and delivers a jaw-dropping performance of "My Heart Will Go On", accompanied by the gorgeous harmonies of Kennedy Gardner. Jacqueline also performed a duet with director Jamie Harris as the two delighted, singing Shallow from the latest version of "A Star is Born". I am so pleased that she did not decided to hide her light under a bushel and remain in the orchestra pit conducting proceedings in this show. With Jamie and Jacqui, we see confident performers delighting in the song, each content to deliver their vocal performance and enjoying the other's delivery.
Two performers who shone in Act Two were Matt Ellerby and Sarah Hughes performing the Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" as featured in "City of Angels". Accompanying themselves on guitar and mandolin it demonstrated the quality and musicianship on display in this show. I also enjoyed Sarah Hagerup's spirited performance of the 80s classic "Flashdance" and Rebecca Sylvester's chillingly beautiful rendition of "Show Me Heaven".
Kennedy Gardner and Derek Smith delighted us with a performance of "City of Stars" from "La La Land". Kennedy demonstrated what a talent she is, singing and recreating some signature dance steps from the film, before the show concluded with an incredible version of "I Will Follow Him" from "Sister Act".
The show runs until Saturday 21st August and I thoroughly recommend it if you want to be cheered by a talented cast and a terrific choice of songs.