TEN

June 24, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★☆   Pert and pertinent

King’s Theatre: Thurs 23 – Sat 25 June 2016
Review by Thom Dibdin

Bold, bright and unashamedly bouncy, the MGA Academy’s tenth anniversary show at the King’s this week is also a surprisingly pertinent piece of entertainment.

That the energy levels are higher than elephant’s eyes and the quality of talent on show is sharper than new pins is as you would expect from the Academy, which has grown in quality and professionalism over its decade of existence.

The Cast of TEN. Photo: MGA Academy

The Cast of TEN. Photo: MGA Academy

Here, after all, is a group of over 200 young folk whose ambition is to perform professionally on the stage. Which extends down to the school-aged performers from the Stage Academy and Fierce Theatre School, as well as those studying full time.

The company is only slightly constrained by the format of only performing numbers which have been featured in previous productions. But that still gives creative director Murray Grant plenty scope to create a rounded and well-paced show, given that many of those were portmanteau events themselves.

It starts out with the young company proving the potency of Hushaby Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with a performance that gets the tear ducts ready for action even before the show has had time to get on its feet.

And it ends with proof that musical theatre can be both political and of-the-moment when, on the night of the referendum, first year musical theatre student Benjamin Collins stood in one of the boxes and sang Springtime for Hitler from The Producers.

suggestive twitching

Putting the stress on all the places that add innuendo, combined with a suggestive twitching of the hips and impressively passive, yet open-faced demeanour, he gave the kind of lasciviously inappropriate performance that lampooned to perfection the utter ridiculousness of those who base their ideas on racist and fascist ideologies.

Off With Their Heads. Photo AJG Photography

Off With Their Heads. Photo AJG Photography

Chilling stuff, though, when he descends to the stage and is crowded around by the goose-stepping, swastika-wearing and tap-dancing ensemble, leaving you to wonder where irony ends and the truth begins to bite. That said, Keziah Grace has an utterly splendid take on the Swedish secretary Ula, which gives a suitable balance to the raised arm salutes.

Between times there is a concentration of fun and frivolity with some surprisingly nuanced and mature performances.

The dancers of the school get to show off their stripes with a series of numbers which range from a big, full-blown Tap Dogs routine to the delicacy of the dream ballet sequence from Carousel, via some proper MTV Music video moves to the likes of Bang Bang and a routine called Mary Queen of Scots danced to a cutup version of Material Girl.

If the Tap Dogs provided a hugely pleasing opportunity to see some proper tap on the King’s stage – a skill much missed – and crisply executed at that, and the modern dance is correctly athletic and invigorating, it is the Carousel sequence which provides the really thoughtful moments.

condemned

It starts, after all, with a young woman being passed from man to man – a dance expression of, if not rape, at least exploitation of a vulnerable individual. And ends with a passionate sexual encounter between the young woman and her Carnie lover. An act condemned by those who might have already been involved with her, before going off into a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

You'll Never Walk Alone. Photo AJG Photography

You’ll Never Walk Alone. Photo AJG Photography

Not exactly comfortable watching, but adroitly put together and expertly handled by the young dancers – Georgia Fordyce and Ross Evans, who build a real tension between the two protagonists.

There is more maturity, this time from the vocal department, as returning MGA graduate Natasha Barrie provides a superb vocal accompaniment to a ballet depicting Romeo and Juliet. Here, you feel, is the kind of understanding and skill to which the whole company can aspire.

The musical theatre specialists have an equally broad canvas on which to parade their skills. Besides the Producers finale, there are medleys and hot numbers from the likes of The Witches of Eastwick, the Addams Family, the wonderful Zanna Don’t and the utterly crazed Bat Boy: The Musical.

What’s great is that with such a large and talented company, there is scope for both individual expression and tightly precise group routines. The chattering Ancestors of the Addams Family are a collection of well-realised individuals, with consistent characters – but not so overpowering as to draw focus away from the main characters. Later, a big sequence from Flashdance allows for some real storytelling from dancers and singers alike.

It is all compered with great joviality by Ray Quinn, star of big West End stage and small screen, who provides a suitably mature version of Mr Bojangles. Although he suffers as much as anyone from the lack of live music and a backing track that could easily be a notch or two quieter.

The star of the whole night, however, is first year Musical Theatre performer, Caitlin Tipping. She delivers the Off With Their Heads number from MGA’s Once Upon a Fairytale show with real understanding of the timbre of her own voice and an ability to control it for the benefit of the storytelling of the song.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Thursday 23 – Saturday 25 June 2016.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.

Tickets and details: www.edtheatres.com/mgaacademyten

ENDS

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  1. John Sharp says:

    Looking forward to this show tonight !!

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