Amdrams Allsorts

Market Drayton Festival Centre,  14-16 June 2018

They called their summer show at the Festival Centre  ‘Amdrams Allsorts’. And with not a hint of liquorice our local amateur dramatic society gave us a great variety of entertainment that was both sweet and tasty.

In fact this was less of a mixed bag than three strands that demonstrated the range of performance skills and ambition in overlapping groups within the Amdrams. They complemented each other admirably.

Ringmaster Jess Day with the Roll-Up ensemble

First up came an all-singing, all-dancing review showcasing the work of the Amdrams’  Junior Theatre Workshop. Second, a one-act play by Allan Williams. And finally a set of music from the group’s community choir ‘Little Voices’.

The juniors launched their circus-themed review ‘Roll up! Roll up!’ with a dramatic entrance from the rear of the auditorium, advancing on the stage in a freeze-framed pincer movement to the music of ‘The Greatest Show’. Then Jess Day as confident ringmaster with a touch of Cabaret’s Sally Bowles introduced her troupe in a lively routine built around the song ‘We’ve Got Magic to Do’ from the musical ‘Pippin’. On came the prancing ponies, mime artists, hoola-hoopers and ribbon dancers, fire-eater and contortionist, strong men, acrobats, roller-skater and clowns.

Subsequent numbers gave each of the acts a chance to demonstrate their skills, which they did with all the colour and pizzazz of the circus. Archie Birch and Ethan Kelsall hammed it up admirably as the strong men. Honey Boughey led a spirited Can-Can. And Grace Murray, Leah Frost, and Grace Blurton in turn took the vocal lead on the strong finale ‘Brand New Day’ from ‘The Wiz’. But the stage was never more alive than when the whole cast was singing and moving together.

And like all the best reviews we had jokes, which the youngsters chose themselves. ‘Doctor, Doctor, I feel like a strawberry’….’I’ve got some cream for that.’ I’m happy to say the good-natured groans came from on stage as well as the audience.

Sharon Wright, who works regularly with the Junior Theatre Workshop members and directed their show said ‘‘We put this together in just seven two-hour sessions. It’s great to see how the older members support and encourage the younger with their singing and choreography, while the younger ones take such delight in and bring such a sparkle to what we do.’’

I love to see live theatre on stage at the Festival Centre but I did a double take when the curtain opened on the evening’s second section. A rack of theatre seats, gradually filling up with punters, faced us. This was the comic short play ‘Do You Mind?’, set in the stalls of a theatre.

Jon Edwards as Justin and the cast of Do You Mind? in the theatre stalls

The script hit all the easy targets – the boor who talks loudly on his phone and then forgets to turn it off, the lady who rustles her sweet wrappers like an instrument, and the bored one on the front row more interested in manicuring her nails. An adulterous couple (he leans into her, blocking the view of the man behind, which gives the play its title) are spotted by a neighbourhood gossip and an aggrieved employee, which creates the humorous plotline. Jon Edwards under a flamboyant hairpiece played Justin with camp flourish and earned plenty of laughs from his sexual innuendos and double entendre.

‘Little Voices, Big Noise’ rounded off the evening of allsorts with a string of popular songs that were themselves a mixed bag of styles and period. Under the direction of Matt Baker the sixteen-strong choir seemed as at home with the Beatles as Ed Sheeran and Emeli Sandé. They brought a good sense of fun to ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ and high emotion to ‘I dreamed a dream’, featuring Kathryn George and Cathy Baker. They did justice, too, to a number of show and movie tunes, ranging from La La Land’s ‘City of Stars’ to Whistle Down the Wind’s ‘No Matter what they Tell Us.’

Little Voices Community Choir

They never sounded better, in my opinion, than in the two songs they sang unaccompanied. In the words of their conductor, the choir’s two tenors became Freddie Mercury for Crazy Little Thing Called Love, while Richard Greenwood as the only bass bravely delivered the bass continuo. And again on an excellent arrangement of Abba’s ‘Super Trouper’ the unaccompanied choir gave us a sound that was high energy but beautifully clean.

All three parts of  ‘Amdrams Allsorts’ included contributions from people who have never performed before and the society is eager for anyone who would like to get involved to join them. That includes potential recruits to the ‘Tuesday night gang’ which works on costumes and sets. Contact details are on the MDAODS website and Facebook page.

The Amdrams’ next production is Bettine Manktelow’s ‘Curtain Up On Murder’, on the Festival Centre stage in mid October