Julian Eaves reviews Crazy For You presented by third year musical theatre students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Crazy For You
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
23rd June 2018
Here, once again, was proof of the astonishing work being done in the capital’s drama schools. The graduation show of the third year musical theatre students at this one was presented at Stratford Circus’ main house: a splendid new building standing right next door to the 19th century Theatre Royal Stratford East, and it reminded us once again that the bar for these students is set very high.
Sarah Redmond was called in to direct with trusted collaborator choreographer Anthony Whiteman working with the company of 24, and MD Tony Castro commanding the stunning orchestra of 25 (all seated on stage throughout the performance, underneath a raised platform at the rear of the stage). They distinguished themselves by putting together a remarkably detailed and accomplished production in pretty much just 12 days: how on earth they managed this feat it is difficult to say. Yet, the amazing energy of these youthful performers was given meticulous shape and purpose by their combined efforts, creating a finished performance of truly West End quality. The super-flexible stage and lavish costume design was by Amy Yardley, with tightly controlled and brilliantly lush and apt lighting by Jack Weir. Chris Tanton managed the sound (supported by Jack Pennifold), with amplification used judiciously to bring out the best in both voices and orchestra.
In the leads, Christian Andrews took on the mantle of Bobby Child with just the right amount of wildcat drive and innocent artlessness, making his many dance numbers the stuff of wonder, equally strong in tap and ballet moves; he also has magnificent comic timing and blissfully controlled poise – he can raise a laugh with a single step. It is very easy to visualise him leading big shows of this kind in the future: he has such charisma and an inexhaustible capacity to charm and delight an audience. Meanwhile, Jochebel Ohene MacCarthy (alternating with Ella-Jane Thomas in the Ethel-Merman-meets-Ginger-Rodgers role of Polly Baker) clearly stood out as future star material: having begun singing in choirs at an early age, she is blessed with a powerful voice that is solid and clear throughout its wide range, enhanced with perfect diction and especially well supported top notes that never fail to thrill with their shine, resonance and magnitude: added to that, MacCarthy can act, with a wonderfully expressive face, and a body language that makes even this 1930’s set show feel contemporary and relevant, also marking her out for success in dramatic roles, whether on stage, film or TV. I understand she is going straight into her first professional job after this production and we are sure to be seeing a whole lot more of her in the coming years.
The rest of the company fairly fizzed and crackled around these two dynamos. Martha Burke (alternating with Eliza Roadnight) made a superb impact with her pushy fiancee, Irene, and her 2nd number, ‘Naughty Baby’, was one of the stand-out moments in the show, marvelously showcasing her Marilyn-Monroe-like voice and excellent movement; Simone Sullivan was lovely and terrifying at the same time as Mrs Lottie Child (the hero’s demanding mum), and her competitive scenes with Burke were another memorable highlight of this production. David McNair had loads of fun with the stuffy impressario, Bella Zangler, and Jonathan Barakat made a fabulously comic opera villain with his prat-falling Everett Baker. Harry Westwood made an appealing Lank Hawkins, and the rest of the boys larked about with a mix of boyish artlessness and Magic Mike attractiveness: Philip Murch stood out particularly as Moose, with Alex West as Mingo and Daniel-Thomas Forster as Sam.
However, this is a show that really belongs to the girls. In number after number, we got to see their tireless and spectacularly differentiated artistry: Becky Stockley was a sprightly Tess; Ciara Ennis a gifted comedienne as Patsy; (Co-Dance Captains) Johanna Pearson-Farr a sweet Mitzi and Rebecca Wickes a smart Elaine; Molly Osborne a warm Louise; Eliza Roadnight took the roles of Susie and Betsy; the way they were used through the show as a chorus to support the story of the leads was really gorgeous and brought so much heart to it. Then, the ensemble was completed with Elric Doswell, Claire Keenan, Lauren Poulson (Vocal Captain), Lizzie Burgess, Thomas and Sullivan, and topped up with the wonderful Laura Barnard, who assistant directed, too.
And a final word for the band. This is a rare treat, hearing a big Broadway score in its entirety: the scoring by Bill Brohn still sounds utterly ravishing, and with these fine young players relishing its many exotic twists and turns, as well as the full-throttle big band tutti asked for again and again to support the full strength of the company, the performance, so well managed by Castro, with his student AMDs Tom Knowles and Lawrence Michalowski, was unforgettable. Laban is, we hear, delighted with the outcome of this their grandest ‘big show’ venture to date, and has already got a whole of new productions of works of this scale in the pipeline. Congratulations to them all!