“Yet another stellar production, flourishing with enthusiasm, beautiful harmonies, and an incredibly talented cast…

Collingwood’s Woodplayers Troupe have produced yet another stellar production, flourishing with enthusiasm, beautiful harmonies, and an incredibly talented cast. The showcase features classic monologues and musical theatre pieces which are guaranteed to put a smile on people’s faces. There is something here for everyone to enjoy!

Directors Hannah Thomas and Gia Sanderson excel in the difficult task of producing a highly entertaining and fast-moving production, which involves intricate choreography and the challenge of featuring a large number of performers, each with diverse strengths. The entire stage is fully utilised in every scene; clearly a lot of thought has been put into the creative vision, as the lighting impeccably aids the acting choices without overshadowing the talent of the cast. Not enough credit can be given to the lighting designers and operatorsAna Stinson and Carl Murta – who flawlessly highlight the actors with such vibrance and precision, even with the minimal use of setting and props, such that the stage never feels bare. At times transitions feel slow and sloppy due to the lack of any background music and pre-emptive lighting cues, however these small errors do not detract from the overall quality of the production.

Another stand-out feature is the incredible vocal quality of all the performers, whose microphones are generally extremely effective at amplifying vocal choices. The sound designers and operators – Riley Hutton, Fathima Ashiq and Martynas Leonavicus – do an exceptional job of ensuring the projection of all performers is heard by the audience. This aids the softer-spoken monologues, which become just as powerful as the group numbers. Occasionally, the decision to use handheld microphones for some of the musical numbers becomes slightly distracting, especially when there is movement involved, but this never hinders the stage presence of the performers. Co-musical directors Damola Amusa and Charlotte Dixon should be heavily praised for creating such ambitious harmonies in many of the musical numbers. Specifically, the vocal arrangement of ‘A Soft Place to Land’ is incredibly beautiful, sounding almost angelic. Likewise, the collective performance of ‘I Hope I Get It’ and ‘The Nicest Kids in Town’ display great vocal diversity and it is evident how well-rehearsed the songs are. Sometimes in smaller group numbers the overall sound is not so crisp, and at times comes across as under-rehearsed, but this could be down to first-night nerves. The musicality of all the performers is definitely the highlight of show and this couldn’t have happened without such great direction.

Each performer is worthy of individual recognition for bringing such passion and energy to the stage. The chemistry of the cast is evident and really helps maintain the stamina needed for such a demanding showcase. In terms of acting, Ella Brannen shines in her piece from ‘Fleabag’, whereby she expertly utilises pacing and intentional movement to perform a refined and confident monologue. Likewise, the comedic timing of Michael Berendt does not go unnoticed, as he provides humour and skill in equal measure. Polly Harwood’s facial expressions are eye-catching, and many of her scenes feel polished and professional. The directors should be praised for ensuring the general pace of the acting scenes never falters, as there’s a risk for monologues of this type to become repetitive, though this is not the case here with such a compelling vision.  

An equally impressive element of the showcase is the musical theatre performances. There are many standout performers who have unique and controlled voices. One of the most impressive performances is given by Cate Cooper, who sings a pitch-perfect rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’, her flawless tone and vocal control putting the audience at ease, before she continues through the whole show as a stellar soloist. Similarly, the group rendition of ‘Cell Block Tango’ excels through well-timed chorography, entertaining facial expressions, and soulful singing. This one is definitely one of the most fun performances to watch. Praise must also be given to the costumes chosen for this number, which look sleek and professional. The excellent variety of songs selected is a credit to the musical directors – the choice to perform ‘Falling Slowly’ after much more upbeat numbers, for example, is a very wise decision. The gorgeous vocals and believable acting by Amy Delaney and Damola Amusa reinforce this clever choice, as it creates a more intimate setting suited to the softer songs to follow. 

Overall, “Theatre Through the Ages” is a joyful evening of astounding talent, presenting a diverse range of stunning performances which you don’t want to miss!

By Niamh Williams

“Theatre Through the Ages” will have one more performance at 19:00 on Friday the 3rd of November at the Mark Hillary Arts Centre.

Photo Credits: Woodplayers