Reviews have never played a significant role in my show preferences. I take them with a pinch of salt and try to go in to any production with an open mind. So it is only fair I advise you all to do the same with mine. There is something enticing about accumulating bad publicity that I can’t help but want to confirm for myself. All it takes is a simple search via the popular twitter forum to see that a lot of this shows negativity surrounds Kenwright’s highly controversial casting decisions; in particular Sarah Harding as Molly.
When will producers stop using untrained celebrities to endorse their shows?
The biggest shame in this production lies in the poor lead casting decisions that has publicly overshadowed the much-needed appreciation for the ensemble. Harding was simply not trained for this role so should not have been cast in it. Neither her vocals nor acting skills prevailed. I am sympathetic to those who paid a lot of money for low performance standards; as I am sympathetic to her for being so clearly out of her depth. Weak acting choices were made, an inconsistent American accent saw her delving in and out of character; it was clear that her interpretation of the character was not developed. As an audience member I find it hard to connect with a character when I feel the actor’s lack of confidence seep through. Harding’s internal battles were seeping into Molly’s externals. She was nervous. It was awkward. I am content feeling awkward if I am aware it is a clear acting choice, but not because of a performers lack of self-confidence. But do I feel that this is something that can be worked on? Yes I do. In fact I am confident that with each show Harding will find herself settling into the acting side of the role and making more natural choices. At times she would look directly at Sam after he had died, as a result ruined the illusion of him being a ghost.
Her vocals were a big disappointment – as brutal as it is to say we simply can not make excuses for poor vocals in a professional production. Regular theatre goers develop higher standards and paying audience members expect these standards to be met. It is a tough and at times cruel reality but it is why so many aspiring performers train for years. This is why I pose this question for a third and final time: when will producers stop using untrained celebrities to endorse their shows? During the interval I found myself in the company of strangers whose opinions I sought – “It’s a shame really, she’s not a great singer and in this industry there are so many great singers. Maybe this was just a trial for her, a little bit of fun just to say ‘hey I did some musical theatre’. Out there, there are thousands of trained singers who would die for this role, who would do it for half the money and didn’t get the chance. I’m disappointed but some of the others are great” – Anonymous. Due to the negativity on social media, I anticipated poor vocals. This therefore played in my favour when my expectations of her being off-key were met. I expected bad and got bad – truthfully she did not ruin the show for me, as others have publicly proclaimed.
Andy Moss (playing Sam) appears to be getting the lighter end of the media negativity. His performance is standard. Moss ticks enough boxes to be the role, but lacks the experience to fulfil the role. Harding and Moss however do have some great moments. They share fantastic chemistry and in some of their intimate moments it is understood why they were paired together. There is definitely potential for Moss to grow into the character. As it stands some climatic moments were ruined with poor acting choices on his part, and it was unclear during some numbers whether he was going out of key intentionally or making spontaneous key changes to convey the emotion of his character.
Kenwright’s interpretation is extremely undeveloped, the set is lathered in budget cuts and the scenic transitions weren’t smooth . There was no fluidity between the scenes and the lack of flow and pace felt amateur. The staging was poor, which meant movers (lights) were often lighting areas in a focused spotlight where cast were not. This saw cast members visually searching for the spotlight and then walking to it – it is however early days and I would like to take this moment to note that I am certain that with time all cast members will have a better grasp of their physical journey on stage. One thing that didn’t sit right with me was the choices made surrounding the ‘bad guys’ Willie and Carl’s death. The red light was a cop-out choice. Red, I’d imagine was used to convey them going to hell. It felt amateur and rushed, almost as if they had run out of time and thought ‘okay when they die, we’ll surround them with a red light’. I would hope that as the show tours and progresses better choices will be made.
As previously mentioned the harsh comments emerging from social media are blind sighted several members of the cast who executed their roles well. JACQUI DUBOUS (Oda Mae) was a stand out for me. Her comical timing and animated movements were hilarious. She threw herself into the role and this was highly appreciated; confirmed by several loud cheers during curtain call. SAM FERRIDAY (Carl) also stood out. His vocals were flawless and his naturalistic interpretation of the role was executed perfectly. It is a shame that through all the social media outburst the ensemble hasn’t been recognised. All cast members who made up the ensemble should be proud of themselves for they stood out for the right reasons.
Do I think you should see this production?
Yes, just to form your own opinion. As it stands tickets are being sold for as cheap as £8 – a reasonable enough price for you to make up your own mind.
Do I think you will enjoy it?
Performance is subjective. Though most of the reviews have been negative, a few positive ones have shone through. Several reviews have stated Harding’s vocals are not up to scratch. Therefore if you decide to book tickets despite this – do not expect her to turn into Beyoncé over night. Enjoy the rest of the cast – some of them are awesome!
Did I enjoy it?
I admit I am guilty of going into this with low expectations like my fellow audience members. Due to the mounting negativity – quite frankly I expected worse. Harding fulfilled my low expectations and others raised them. I was left feeling content with my spontaneous decision to see it. Content, not over thrilled but certainly not distraught.
What do I rate it?
I rate this production: 2.5/5
It’s early days and I wish the production the best. Loads of changes have to be for it to have a chance of succeeding. If the producers do not take the publics feedback on board I strongly believe that the show will receive poor ticket sales. As I was asked to see by an MTAS member I can confirm that from what I could see the theatre was packed. Written by MTAS Admin: