We're fools whether we dance or not, so we may as well dance – Japanese proverb
A Cornucopia of Shows
Gosh this last month has been incredibly busy, and I've been lucky enough to be in the audience for some marvellous performances. Some of them I saw with my daughter, and some of them featured her. She's hoping to make a career on the stage, and is taking both drama and music at GCSE level, so a night out at the Grand Opera House almost qualifies as homework.
Recent professional productions we've been to see included Cabaret and Fame. In Cabaret, Wayne Sleep played the part of Emcee, while Samantha Barks who'd been one of the Nancys in I'd Do Anything was Sally Bowles. I felt she was a bit young and sweet for that role— Bowles is a bit of an old slapper really— but her voice was magnificent, and reached right up to the gilded elephants and ornate painted ceiling of Belfast's much- loved theatre. But the most poignant moment and the best acting for me came from the Jenny Logan, the infamous Shake n Vac lady, playing Fräulein Schneider, who had the audience visibly moved during her rendition of "What would you do?". The production of Fame was a bit tame and instantly forgettable for me: yeah, the dancing was great, but it lacked any real oomph.
In contrast, there was oodles of oomph at my daughter's annual stage school production this year. They do little snippets from various musicals, but it often drags on a bit as all the little ones have to have their moment in the spotlight. This year J was singing and dancing in the Our House section, had a solo verse to sing in the Michael Jackson section, as well as a solo dance part as Dirty Diana, but where I really saw her shine was in the tap-dancing finale of Billy Elliott. She was wearing a sparkly sequinned number, and flashing her 100 kilowatt smile so that it reached the back row of the hall, and boy, was my heart bursting with pride.
No sooner was that over than she was finalising rehearsals for High School Musical: the, er, musical...In it she played Martha, a brainiac who admits that she loves hip-hop. She had a bit more solo singing and dancing here, including the number "Stick to the status quo" performed on a chair in a scene set in the school cafeteria. When I saw her on the Thursday night show, we started in the second row, but were deafened by the speakers, and so moved right to the very back for the second half, where I confirmed that yes, her dazzling smile does indeed reach to the back of the hall. Her ballet teacher, music teacher and head of year all came to see the show, and all were very enthusiastic in their praise for her.
Serendipity played a large part in me getting to see a terrific performance of Little Shop of Horrors, and who would have thought that being in the right place at the right time meant being on Facebook at 8 am on a Saturday morning! I'd read an updated status from Fizzymouse, and a brief emailed conversation followed, ending with me attending her daughter's version of Little Shop that same day. It was truly spectacular — the singing in particular was extremely professional (coached by the MD who's an old pal of mine, and who I was delighted to bump into in the foyer). And it's wonderful to be able to talent spot some of the stars of tomorrow at these shows. Dean, who played the dentist in Little Shop, is definitely one to look out for, and Matty, who played Troy in High School Musical, is one of those prodigiously talented people who not only sings like an angel, but also writes music and plays guitar. And is also a very sweet guy.
Back to the professionals, and an absolute joy was the Northern Ballet Theatre's production of Wuthering Heights. Someone elsewhere on hootoo was wondering if that particular story was suitable to be remade in other formats, and I did wonder how they were going to tell this classic tale through the medium of dance. The music was superb, written by Claude Michel Schönberg of Les Miserables fame, which I have to admit is one of my least favourite musicals. The costumes were gorgeous, and the dancing graceful and athletic. But what I admired the most was the set and staging: it recreated the windswept Yorkshire moors with a vast and empty blue wash, a single wind-bent tree the only feature, and then became an elegant country house, complete with tumbling autumn leaves. The final tableau, Heathcliff caught in a snowstorm, heartbroken and alone, as the ghosts of his youthful self and Cathy danced around him, was poignant and memorable.
Coming attractions include Never Forget, a musical based on the music of Take That, and J's doing Godspell during the summer with MT4UTH, another of the groups she belongs to. Break a leg, everyone!