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I wasn’t as blown away in 2014 by the general standard of shows – it was very good overall, but hadn’t built as much as 2013 over 2012.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of productions, and saw some super portrayals from experienced and also emerging actors.

Musical of the Year goes to DAOS for Fiddler on the Roof, a beautiful production of a traditional musical, a delightful and emotive show, with some very strong character portrayals.  The music is always a joy.  A close second was Eurobeat from St Andrews - a fun evening, taking advantage of the glitz and glamour, plus downright craziness of Eurovision, but surprisingly good performances, and from dreading going to see it, I came out having had a super evening.

Best Youth Production Award must go to Stage 1, I was thrilled to have been a part of the audience for this accomplished and charming pantomime, which had all the traditional elements, and allowed the cast to create characters and interact with each other and the audience.  However, I was also impressed with Parkfields School in a school’s version of Oklahoma, which the whole class got involved in to deliver a slick, well-acted, well-sung and good-looking show, and TADS Teens production of Nursery Crimes, a very charming and intelligent vehicle for some lovely performers.

Henry V from TADS has to be my dramatic Play of the Year – for both technical and acting excellence – an enthralling evening – proving that Shakespeare is just as relevant today.  Close seconds were Sleep No More from Dunstable Rep – and On Golden Pond from TADS – both plays excelling in technical accomplishment and acting ability.

My Comedy Play of the Year was The Ladykillers from Griffins – well-acted and staged with very good performances, I liked the comparisons of the portrayals, creating a very interesting as well as funny evening’s entertainment – it was certainly a triumph for the feel-good factor. Out of Order from Dunstable Rep also made its mark - farce is often seen as the poor relation to drama, but when it is well done, it shows the strengths of the actors, as in this production – no weak links here, a super light-hearted evening, with loads of laughs.

My Best Young Performer in a Musical is shared between Allanah Rogers and Rachel Ridout, for sheer feeling and putting a song over, I loved them both.  Completely diverse songs, Allanah put real meaning and emotion into her song, whilst Rachel let rip with a deep jazzy/bluesy feel to her number.

Best Young Performer in a Play is shared between Harrison Watson who brought excellent understanding to his part as Billy Ray Junior, and his relationship with his grandfather was very touching.  Harrison’s commitment to a role grows with each performance he gives; and Josh Kendall as PI Puss in TADS Teens Nursery Crimes bringing out the humour and reasoning powers of his part, whilst engaging the audience in his deductions.  Good comic timing.

MD of the Year is Chris Young for Fiddler and also Avenue Q both with DAOS, whilst Ashley Mead shone in the choreographic field for Fiddler.  I also liked Lynette Driver’s work for Avenue Q, along with hers and Kate Johnson’s work for Eurobeat.

Best Actress goes to Rona Cracknell, as Eleanor in Lion in Winter – a flawless performance, the whimsical quality of an imprisoned Queen, who would stoop to all sorts of scheming to secure her freedom and succession for the right son, followed very closely by an equally striking performance from Lea Pryer in Henry V showing what a versatile actress she is.  The emotion from Hostess Quickly, then Catherine, and her superb handling of the French words.  Stephanie Overington also shone in the Lion in Winter - I love her approach, she gives such depth.   Stephanie showed us her love for Henry was naive but heartfelt, and her revulsion for his sons.  A lovely performer who will go far.

Best Actor in a Play must be shared between Peter Carter-Brown for his fine performance as Henry V – so believable and three-dimensional, his experience and understanding of the part was excellent, and Anthony Bird, who was the softer, gullible John in Lion in Winter, still a child but promised the earth. The gentle, simple soul came through, I liked what he did with the part.  

Best Actor in a Comedy goes to Joe Butcher as Richard Willey in Out of Order, adviser to the Prime Minister, an archetypal minister, charming, faithless, manipulative, telling lies to extricate himself from situations – Joe always gives us a well-studied character, nice one Joe. A worthy runner up was Matt Flitton as Reg in Table Manners - excellent facial expressions at the breakfast table – and his laugh was super.  A first-class portrayal.  I was also very impressed with Anthony Bird once again, as George Pigden in Out of Order.  Anthony started with a timid persona, finally taking advantage of everything thrust upon him.  An excellent portrayal.

Best Performance in a Musical must be shared, as there were two very different performances of note. Alan Clarke as Tevye in Fiddler encompassed the whole ethos of the man, bringing all his experience and understanding to the role, which I loved – an insightful and gripping performance, along with David Crew as Pooh-Bar in the PBGS production of The Mikado. His vocal capability is always outstanding, and the variety of accents for his many state positions were very good.  I loved his commitment to the part.

Best Group in a Musical must go to the Russian entry in Eurobeat – Dave Corbett, Jonny Mills, Richard Cowling and John O’Leary, who created different characters, enhanced by good vocals.  Well sung, and choreographed!  I was also very impressed by Paula Fraser as Yum-Yum, Catherine Harvey as Peep-Bow and Emma Crew as Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, who all achieved well vocally with contrasting and excellent characterisations.

I loved Griffins adult panto – it gave me pleasure on so many levels – irreverent and rude but not coarse – and as a complete production was excellent.

I was also impressed with the improvement in Alex Brewer’s performances, he has turned in some increasingly good work for the Rep.

My Director of the Year is Sue Sachon for Henry V with TADS, which was enthralling and well-acted, with excellent prologue and epilogues written by Sue, which really added to the whole production.  Alistair Brown was a close second for Sleep No More, the technical side was as well-developed as the performances, with well-researched music that both created and added to the mood.  

Best Set – the Rep for Lion in Winter, and TADS for Henry V and On Golden Pond – both excellent and well-thought out.  I also liked Parkfields School’s Oklahoma set, as this was constructed by the pupils, and made an impact.

Best Costume Award must be Stage 1 for Jack and the Beanstalk – the youngsters are always so well turned out, with good hair, fresh and bright costumes with good extras, a super look.

Technically Paul Horsler is creating some beautiful lighting plots and effects, mainly for TADS, which enhance a production so much.

I really appreciate the insight and effort everyone gives to a production, the cast, technical teams and crews work their socks off to give us slick, effective and interesting performance, which never fail to please – my thanks to you all for keeping my love and interest for amateur theatre alive and very well – with some productions veering towards professional rather than amateur status.

Nova Horley

Review of the year 2014

Luton News

By Nova Horley


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