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for The Luton News

Firstly, may I extend my thanks to all the Societies who welcome us to their productions, we love coming to see you all, and appreciate the hard work that goes into putting on a production.  Societies will notice that I now have an assistant in Richard Lovelock, who covers for me when I can’t get to a production, and I’d like to thank him and Dee his wife, for their help and support, it is much appreciated.

It takes a lot of sifting through to arrive at my final winners, but it is enjoyable to re-visit my reviews and make my selections.  Not always easy when going back nearly a whole year!  If you have not been mentioned here please do not despair, it was a very close run thing, and most categories had several people vying for the accolades!

Musical of the Year must go to the St Andrew’s production of Jamaica Inn, written by Richard Cowling and performed in St Andrew’s Church. It was extremely well-written and supported some excellent performances. The atmosphere created by the surroundings also made it a memorable production. My runner-up is Rock of Ages from Griffin Players, reviewed by Richard Lovelock, who said it was one of the best shows he’d seen in a long time.

We were a bit short on Youth Productions in the area, however the ethos of providing free tuition in dance and music and the general high standard of the recent Vita Artes production had me feeling really good about youth productions, and they are my winners for 2017.   Parkfields School production of The Lion King once again excelled, with the whole year being involved in some way from making costumes and scenery, to being on stage, to covering the technical side of things.  Well done to you both.

The Award for Play of the Year is shared by TADS for their production of Mojo, directed by Harry Rodgers, a very gritty play involving a cast of actors who gave it their all, a superb production. I also commend TADS for having the foresight to allow a young untried Director to have free rein.  My joint winner is The Haunting from Dunstable Rep, an excellent all round production, technically good, with some interesting performances.

My Pantomime of the Year goes to Phoenix Players for their memorable production in an aircraft hangar at Luton Airport, courtesy of Monarch Aircraft Engineering.  My runners up are Stage 1 – who despite problems with finding a venue, managed to put on a truly memorable production of Cinderella in the new Stopsley School theatre.  Stage 1 along with their Directors and team go up in my estimation every year.  Griffins maintained their high standards with both their family and adult pantos (Rapunzel and Into the Bush), so they share the runner up spot.  Always well-written and directed, with plenty of laughs.

MD of the Year goes to Tom Arnold for his super work on Cinderella for Phoenix Players, using good harmonies, and great accompaniments from his band - a young man who is going places.  James Driver is runner up for his work on Rock of Ages, he got the best out of his singers, with a good band.  Also worthy of a mention is Joanna Smale for the DAOS production of Sister Act, another good band, and some memorable musical moments.

My Young Performer of the Year goes to Jodie O’Loughlin as Dinah in Philadelphia Story, a sensational performance one of the best I have seen by someone so young - thoroughly convincing, played with just the right amount of attitude.  Runners up are Nathaniel Edwards as Buttons with Stage 1, a very cheeky young man who always performs well, and Isabelle Brown who sang and accompanied herself for the TADS Teens show, a very expressive performance.

Best Actress in a Play is Angela Goss for Ursula in the Rep’s production of Ladies in Lavender, a graphic but restrained portrayal, making me feel both exhilarated and sad.  Runner up is Kate Doherty Johns as Tracy in Philadelphia Story from the Rep.  On stage for almost the entire play Kate did a great job, acting superbly and convincing us that she was a slightly whiny, indecisive woman

Best Actor in a Play is Justin Doherty for his portrayal of Dexter in Philadelphia Story, a joy to watch, Justin is one of our most accomplished actors.  Runner Up is David Hillman as Detective Inspector Munroe – what a lovely part, which Dave accomplished with aplomb, creating a diverse and amusing character.

Best Performance in a Musical is shared by Katie Alys Barton in Rock of Ages for Griffin Players who sang beautifully and seemed as comfortable in the rock numbers as she was in the ballads, and Lucy O’Hare as Sister Mary Patrick in the DAOS production of Sister Act - the most energetic and lively of the Nuns, Lucy was delightful.  A worthy runner up is David Crew for his spot on performance as the Major General in the PBGS production of Pirates of Penzance.

For Choreography – my Award goes to Lynette Driver for The Haunting, where the Fates moved slowly and deliberately, with very precise and exaggerated hand movements, but were always in the right place at the right time, ready to open doors, hand the cast props, or move scenery, and also for Rock of Ages, where choreography was subtle in places and very raunchy in others, a fine mixture of styles and grouping throughout.  

Best Grouping goes to Putteridge Bury G&S for their Essex girls in Pirates of Penzance – played by Bryony Growden, Emma and Katharine Crew, they were a revelation, and really took on the Essex girl persona with gusto whilst singing beautifully.  Runners up are the Fates (Anna Carter-Brown, Denise Ryan, Katie Hanbury, Sarah Wilkinson and Graham Thomas) in The Haunting for the Rep, very well played and shared with Tim Hayden (Owen), Dave Sims (Jim) and Martin Pursey (Frank) as the Parish Council attendees in Griffins Vicar of Dibley, they gave us sterling performances, showing all their little foibles, bringing them to life.

Best Comedy Performance goes to Robin Edwards who, as Prince Charming in Griffins Into the Bush was a revelation, he’d got the attitude and the street talk down to a ‘T’.  Tim Hayden is a close second as an excellent Dame, Trixie G, in Griffins Rapunzel, he pulled out the stops and made the Dame both OTT and fun.

Best Director goes to Richard Alexander for Griffins production of Rock of Ages. Richard got the best out of his Ensemble, rarely has there been a show where the ensemble have been so engaged, active and enthusiastic.  Runners up are Harry Rodgers for Mojo with TADS, this young man knew what he wanted to achieve, and did so, with an excellent cast, and Alistair Brown for the Rep’s The Haunting which was very eerie and atmospheric, an intriguing production.

My Technical Award this year goes to Dunstable Rep for The Haunting – technically brilliant on all levels, followed closely by Phoenix Players for Cinderella, a pop-up theatre and production in an aircraft hangar was a great concept.

As always, we appreciate the time and hard work that goes into getting a production on, and continue to enjoy all your shows as much as ever.  The technical aspects are always good, sometimes outstanding, which always enhances a production.

I hope all of you who read our show reviews and support our local Societies will continue to do so – they all work so hard to entertain and give us productions often worthy of a professional company, and that is what makes amateur theatre such a thrilling and exciting hobby to participate in.

Review of the year 2017

Luton News

By Nova Horley


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