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Central School of Speech and Drama MA Music Theatre Showcase 2012 review at Embassy London

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The Embassy Theatre at the Central School of Speech and Drama provides the perfect venue as graduating students give it their all in a showcase that features a mix of contemporary duologues and a broad range of musical theatre pieces.

Kate Adler sets a strident tone opposite David Albury’s Billy Liar in the opening duologue. Adler’s rendition of Get Out and Stay Out from 9 to 5 complements her work in the opening scene well and the recitative allows this accomplished performer to really work the narrative of the song. We do not see Albury again until later in the show but his I’ll Be Here from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party showcased a particularly strong tenor range, perfect for contemporary musical theatre.

Sondheim’s Being Alive has to be a standard for male tenors in auditions and student showcases. As a singer, Tom Sterling brings clarity to the song with his clear, soaring tenor lending great drama. As an actor, Sterling teams up with Rick Woska for another popular duologue for men, taken from RC Sheriff’s Journey’s End, affording both the opportunity to showcase a talent for interpreting subtext within this painfully emotive and traumatic scene. Woska’s musical number takes on a lighter tone with more than a hint of Elvis’ rock ‘n’ roll drawl, lending an urgency to Jason Robert Brown’s Moving Too Fast.

A second Sondheim number gives Katie Beudert the opportunity to shine as a comedy performer. On the Steps Of the Palace allows Beudert to demonstrate, as is vital to any musical theatre performer, the ability to negotiate a strong narrative drive through the medium of song. Beudert’s scene with Antonios Dimitrokalis from A View from the Bridge, too, proved an excellent contrasting choice infusing the scene with a very real sense of longing.

Dimitrokalis shows off his flair with a highly stylised rendition of Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ On the Ritz. With locution as sharp as his choreography, Dimitrokalis’ tongue seems firmly set in his cheek as he belts out this timeless and complex popular classic with elan.

In a showcase filled with interesting and unusual choices, Vassula Delli gives us the musical number Patterns from Maltby and Shire’s Baby. Not only does the song, with its broad emotional range, show Delli at her dramatic best, it also demonstrates an ability to make good choices and interesting decisions about her work. This is also true of her duologue with Luisa Lyons from Honour, a passionate piece of theatre showing Delli to be an authoritative and, indeed, seductive stage presence.

Dramatically Hyunjin Myung (MJ) plays to her strengths in a harsh, rather bleak episode from David Wiener’s Extraordinary Chambers. Coupled with Mark Zhuang’s broken prisoner, Myung shows a determined, ferocious edge and yet in delightful contrast, her I Have Dreamed from The King and I is delightfully old school. Myung has a soaring, soprano range and this lesser known classic from the Rogers and Hammerstein catalogue is the perfect vehicle for her voice. Zhuang counters the trauma of his dramatic scene with Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Choices are such an important part of a showcase, proving to casting directors and agents that you have a sound grasp not only of your capabilities but also of your unique casting potential. John Boylan is wise to choose the playful, plaintiff My Freeze Ray by Joss Whedon as it shows not only good comic timing aided by some snappy physical comedy, but also a broad emotional range.

Much the same is true for Jillie Mae Eddy. Gorgeous is a wonderful number to show off a performer’s comic talents as well as providing some fun vocal gymnastics for the singer. Eddy plays the humour for all it is worth to great success, although a choreographer might have used the stage to better effect. This said, Eddy holds her own too in the deliciously coarse Five Women Wearing the Same Dress opposite the equally talented Anna Kritikou. Kritikou’s choice of musical number is a bold move that pays off. Where Eddy needed movement in her number, Kritikou for the most part simply holds the centre stage and allows the song With Every Breath I Take from City of Angels, to do the work for her.

The distaff rendering of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple pops up far more frequently than the original and it is always a pleasure. Here, Ashley Dye and Ethel Yap appear to have great fun with the scene, finding a natural rhythm in the dialogue to make it appear spontaneous and funny. Dye’s choice of musical number, The Life I Never Led from Sister Act is perhaps a little introspective but the actor is well equipped to build the drama of the number to its conclusion. Yap’s Live Out Loud from A Little Princess is an exceptional showcase performance and arguably the best of the day, blending a fine, contemporary soprano voice with a commanding stage presence.

Emma Button and Bada Ruban have chosen the high drama of Dennis Kelly’s After the End, telling of a couple facing life in a nuclear fallout shelter for their dramatic piece. A little ill-fitting perhaps, it still showed a desire for the performers to stretch their range and cast themselves very much against type. Musically they are both on much safer ground with lighter themes and motives. Button’s kooky That’ll Show Him shows off her light, mezzo range that carries well and suits the characterisation. Ruban’s I’m Not That Smart might be less tuneful, but this young, ambitious performer milks the comic possibilities of the number for all they are worth.

Even Though is a particularly effective song for a showcase offering an interesting, deliberate build both within the narrative and musically. Tamar Broadbent, who has a commanding presence on stage, recognises these opportunities and uses them to her best advantage. In her duologue she is a little less secure. Although she acquits herself admirably there is little emotional attachment to Godber’s It Started With A Kiss.

Her partner for this scene, Kristian Cleworth, fares much better. His musical number showcases a wonderful natural vocal range from a rich, velvety tenor to a rock falsetto that should stand him in good stead for any number of modern musicals in the future.

Experts Choice:

Tony Phillips

David Padbury Associates

Chooses

Tom Sterling and Jillie Mae Eddy

Production Information

Embassy, London, February 15-16

Director
Paul Barker
Choreographer
Steve Elias
Cast
Kate Adler, David Albury, Katie Beudert, John Boylan, Tamar Broadbent, Emma Button, Kristian Cleworth, Vassula Delli, Antonios Dimitrokalis, Ashley Dye, Jillie Mae Eddy, Anna Kritikou, Luisa Lyons, Hyunjin Myung (MJ), Esther Radlay, Maria Robledo, Baba Ruban, Kimberley Shore, Tom Sterling, Rick Woska, Ethel Yap and Mark Zhuang
Running time
1hr 20 minutes

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