Honk! - Review by Love Midlands Theatre, 18th March 2016

Honk! It's the definitive fairy-tale; an age old story about acceptance, friendship and love in spite of differences. So it's no coincidence that even 170 years after it was first penned by Hans Christian Andersen, almost everyone over the age of about five would know the story of The Ugly Duckling. In their colourful, fun-filled and energetic production of the musical adaptation of the story, Honk!, Tudor Musical Comedy Society do their damnedest to bring the heart-warming tale to life. Max Thompson-Brooks is suitably bashful as Ugly and plays the protagonist with a charming vulnerability with a nice stage presence. His performance is all the more impressive given he is just 15 years old. This was his first show with the society and on this evidence it will certainly not be his last.

As his parents Drake and Ida, Paul Lumsden and Paula O’Hare are the production’s shining lights. Lumsden plays Drake with a booming charm and humour and a strong vocal that was delightful from start to finish. His cameo as the cockney Bullfrog later in the show was equally enjoyable and funny. It’s Lumsden’s 20th year performing in the area and you can tell; he so very comfortable on stage – a pleasure to watch. O’Hare too was excellent. She has a beautifully effortless voice and really lights up the stage as Ugly's adoring mother. There's a lovely chemistry between her and Thompson-Brooks.

A slightly long first act comes to a colourful close before Sarah Clarke and Carly Hyland kick off the second act in style. The pair make an excellent twosome, Hyland as Lowbutt, the frightfully middle class hen, and Clarke as her equally snooty cat companion Queniee. Hyland in particular has a lovely poise and really brought out the comedy in her lines.

Elsewhere Alan Waldron is perfect as the sonorous and majorly Grey-lag and Mia Turley as his young sidekick Dot has a confidence beyond her years, while Nathan Rock is entertaining as the sly Cat who is always finding new ways to try and eat Ugly.

As the familiar tale unfolds, Ugly’s young siblings add colour and humour, while scene changes were for the most part very smoothly done with nice interludes; including some glow in the dark puppetry when Ugly takes a dive.

There's certainly no shortage of talent in the society but if there is one slight problem with the show it is the story. The Ugly Duckling is of course a children's fairy-tale but at the risk of stating the obvious, like the story, the musical is just a little juvenile and uneventful for adult audiences.

That's not the society's fault though. They've cast and delivered the production just about as well as it could be performed. In truth this is a show to take your kids to and enjoy through them more than it is a show for adults. But there's no harm at all in good family fun and director Faye O’Leary and her team have plenty to be proud of.

Jesus Christ Superstar - NODA REVIEW BY PAUL DOUGLASS, 24th March 2015

From the opening music to the closing chorus, this production had the audience on the edge of their seats for its sheer spectacle. This was Tudor's 54th year of presenting musical theatre and Faye O'Leary's production was full of life and enthusiasm.

Chris Ranger (Jesus) led this talented company and gave a powerful performance. I have known Chris for many years and he shone in this role. His commitment to the role is beyond reproach. Eoin Edwards played a very energetic Judas, running around the stage but still having the breath to give us some of Tim Rice’s and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s wonderful words and music. Charlotte Middleton played Mary. Her version of ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ left the audience with goosebumps. A wonderful voice.

This powerful and sobering show did have it’s lighter moments especially James Ross as King Herod singing his song. There are so many in this cast that I would like to mention but feel I cannot single them out. Everyone was superb and played their part.

The set looked stunning, dark and moody with scaffolding at the rear of the stage. The costumes suited the mood of the production.

The choreography by Paula Waldron was so precise. David Easto kept the orchestra together well and even though the music was powerful every word could be heard from the stage due to the wonderful sound quality.

Faye O’Leary has produced some marvellous shows in the past but this must be one of her best. TMCS, you should be proud.

Jesus Christ Superstar - REVIEW BY BFAME, 24th March 2015

We had the same successful team as last year for this production, director Faye O’Leary, musical director David Easto and choreography Paula Lumsden. The large thrust stage was used this time without tabs. The single set stage enabled the show to move smoothly from beginning to end. The cast, by clever use of twelve two-foot cubes, producing the various locations and settings with admirable dexterity. The decision to costume the production out of period with the exception of the Romans, made a change, however the programme notes stated that the time and place was “Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus” thus this decision seemed a little incongruous.

The intention was to tell ‘the greatest story ever told’ from Judas Iscariot’s point of view. Eoin Edwards' portrayal of Judas was indeed strong and personal, right through to his suicide by hanging. A great deal of the story and atmosphere was developed and maintained by the apostles, priests, guards, lepers and many other assorted mob members. The ‘chorus’ to give them a more encompassing title, provided a very believable and interactive insight as to how the support for Jesus first built, then started to turn against him finally destroying him; before they started to reflect on the role they had played, thus starting the process that eventually led to his worldwide fame.

Memorable moments from the massed ensemble have to be “The Temple” with the people of Jerusalem and the lepers; “Herod’s Song” with Herod (James Ross) and the dancers and “The Trial by Pilate/39 Lashes” with Pilate (Phil Bourn) and the company - the flogging of Jesus was a particularly well conceived scene where his physical suffering really began to be witnessed.

Caiaphas (Paul Lumsden) and Annas (Dan Anketell) as the chief priests provided characters that most of us would not wish to be holders of such office, whereas Simon (Robert Bateman) and Peter (Patrick Jervis) as the two principal apostles were far more likable. Even if in the end they did openly reject Jesus.

Jesus played by Chris Ranger gave a fine portrayal throughout, totally within the concept of this production, his involvement with all levels of the community was well handled and controlled and summed up in “Poor Jerusalem”. The “39 Lashes” has already been mentioned but we certainly started to feel the pain, and the final “Crucifixion” scene brought it all to a head.

Mary played by Charlotte Middleton was a tour-de-force within the great scheme of things. Her portrayal moved through all levels of emotion where she certainly became a catalyst. Her sincerity during “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” will be one of the major highlights of the show.

When considering this production overall, the company gave their all, the ensemble numbers were full of energy, the show flowed seamlessly from beginning to end, and that is not just in the hands of the cast but also the technical team who enabled us to see and hear what was going on at all times. The Audience, certainly on the night we were there agreed to the shows success.

Annie - BFAME Review by Jean Cunnington, 26th March 2014

This is a show that needs very little introduction, if you have not seen or heard about it there is little chance that my comments will help. Nevertheless this was a production which deserved the large audience that attended when we were there. It is set in 1933, against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Under the direction of Faye O’Leary, musical direction of David Easto and choreography of Paula Waldron the show moved smoothly from beginning to end.

The set comprising two large revolves and an inset revolve totally filled Sutton Town Hall stage; this gave all of the various locations required. It also enabled the changes to be carried out continuously throughout the production with no lack of pace or momentum. To enable this to happen, and give space to the very large cast taking part, a large apron area was required in front of the tab line. This did look overpowering as the audience came in but when the tabs opened the magic revealed itself and the show got off to a flying start.

If one wanted to be particularly picky then a black and white border collie called Sandy (Beanz) did not quite ring true, however his characterisation was brilliant!

Miss Hannigan (Paula Waldron) gave an interesting performance but particularly came into her own during the rendition of “Easy Street” with her brother Rooster(Patrick Jervis) and Lily St Regis (Charlotte Middleton), this number certainly lifted the show and introduced us to three very interesting and entertaining characters. Grace Farrell (Paula O’Hare) gave a very believable portrayal of the hard working secretary to the billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Paul Lumsden). This was a very good performance which worked well and was particularly poignant during “I Don’t Need Anything but You” with Annie and the company at the end. President Roosevelt (Alan Waldron) was an interesting character who was a good foil to Oliver. As a somewhat more comic interlude, the scene at the NBC Radio Station, with Bert Healy (Nathan Rock) and the Boylan Sisters was memorable but the antics of the Sound Effects Man (James Pugh) stole the scene. Then we come to Annie the star of the show, on the night we attended it was Lucy Foley, this was a believable, warm and most engaging performance, from a talented young actress.

This large company gave the ensemble numbers with gusto, some of the very noteworthy moments were probably “Tomorrow” and “Hooverville” in act one and, “A New Deal for Christmas” in act two.

This was a production with some thirty four named parts, a chorus of thirty and two sets of ten orphans which flowed almost seamlessly from beginning to end. Congratulations is given to the production team who brought the whole together in such a well-rounded way, the technical team who worked wonders getting the show to a position where all could be seen and heard as well as actually being on stage at the right time, and not least, the company who gave such a wonderful performance.

Whistle Down the Wind - NODA Review by Paul Douglass, 14th March 2013

Over the last few years, Tudor has been staging some first class shows and this one was no exception. The story tells the tale of ‘The Man’, an escaped convict who is found by a group of Children in a barn and they believe him to be Jesus Christ. The story tells us of his involvement with Swallow and the rest of the children and of the favour he asks of her. We also have the sub-plot of Candy, who cannot wait to leave the town with boyfriend Amos, but when Earl tells Candy about the meeting between Amos and Swallow, Candy tells everyone about the man in the barn. This was a production not to be missed. With minimum scenery Faye O’Leary used back projection to bring the production to life. All of the company worked well together and the society should be proud of this production. To mention separately all of the principals would be unfair as they all worked well but I must mention James Pugh as The Man and Chelsea Greathead as Swallow who were outstanding, as was Charlotte Gaunt as Candy. The chorus worked well as a team. I feel I must mention all of the children in the show, how they brought it to life. Their number ‘When Children Rule the World’ was just brilliant. I did feel sometimes that the orchestra was a little overbearing and the sound was a little distorted by that did not spoil the enjoyment of my evening. Costumes were good. The company danced well and that was all down to Paula Waldron. Tudor, you have another hit on your hands and I look forward to your future productions.

Return to the Forbidden Planet - NODA Review, 27th September 2012

A bold move for Tudor, but a very good one. Faye O'Leary's fast moving production had all the elements of a sure fire hit. A hopeless romantic (Cookie, the ships cook played by Dan Anketell). The love interest (Miranda, played by Charlotte Gaunt) and the mad scientist (Doctor Prospero, played by Paul Lumsden). Every time I see a Tudor production they get better and better. The set, though simple, was very effective. The costumes were very good, and I enjoyed being met at the door by the crew of the spaceship. The music was ideal. I just love 60's and 70's. Three members of the company stood out for me. Paula O'Hare as Gloria, fantastic performance. Richard Ham as Ariel, I don't know how he managed to stay upright on the skates all evening. And Charlotte Gaunt. I have seen this young lady progress through the ranks. What an outstanding voice and presence. A really entertaining evening. 

The King & I - NODA Review by Brian Hirst, September 2011

This was the society's 50th anniversary production & they decided to celebrate it with an experiment. This was the first time that an open stage production of a musical had been put on at the town hall and a resounding success it was. The orchestra were behind the performers and this ensured there was a good balance between their sympathetic playing and the singers. Rachel Clarke and Paul Lumsden were well cast as Anna and the King. They worked well together both in dialogue and song to produce a believable relationship. Eliza Harris impressed as Lady Thiang and her interpretation of Something Wonderful was indeed that. Charlotte Gaunt was delightful as Tuptim and she combined well with Nathan Rock (Lun Tha). Shivinder Ahluwalia-Timmins (The Prince) and Daniel Veal (Louis) both showed they have a bright future on the stage. All the other principals played their parts well and the children as always captured the hearts of the audience in The March of the Siamese Children. The story of The Small House of Uncle Thomas included some nice touches of staging and choreography. The different scenes were created using a variety of stage dressings and the stage crew should be commended for the manner in which these were placed and removed in front of the effective trellis work around the rear exit from the stage. Congratulations on your 50th birthday Tudor!