LIKE many supporters of Arsenal Football Club, and their manager Arsene Wenger, I have been frustrated by their performances over the past few seasons where time after time inconsistency and individual errors have prevented them from attaining the heights their undoubted talents deserved.
The result was that after 21years in charge, during which he had been the most successful manager the club has ever had Wenger was replaced at the end of last season. Whilst I hope that the producers and backers of this show will not be seeking a similar fate for David De Silva who conceived and developed this stage version of the tremendously popular 1980 film and 1982/7 TV series, and director/choreographer Nick Winston there are a number of similarities in the way that this production and Arsenal in recent years failed to deliver all that they promised at the start of the show and Premier league season.
There is no doubting that both groups are brimming over with talent and, at their best, look world beaters. Morgan Large’s settings in front of 100 large portraits mimicking a double page of a collage year book, cleverly lit by Prema Mehta, providing an ideal backdrop for the show, set in the early 1980s to develop, and Steve Margoshes music fitted readily into that same period.
Too often however the arrangements for solo vocalists, particularly those for the ladies, left them with little option other than ‘belting out’ numbers high in the register at full volume. Taking the limited opportunities on offer to vary the tone Stephanie Rojas as the tragic Carmen, killed by drug addiction brought on by a burning ambition to have immediate success, proved that she could handle a far wider variation of vocals. It says a great deal for the quality of her acting and that of Simon Anthony, as the music student Schlomo who tries to save Carmen from herself, that the delicate love story between them survived despite Mr Anthony not fitting the description that he was one of a group of adolescents.
The same remarks apply to the hard-working Albey Brookes, with the result that his forever womanising Joe Vegas was a little too real at times to be “just for fun”, and there was simply not enough of the far-too-attractive Hayley Johnston to make her a fully convincing overweight overindulgent Mabel.
In contrast Molly McGuire as the shy would be actress Serena, and Keith Jack as the theatrically intense Nick fitted into their characters like the proverbial well worn glove.
The characters of Tyrone and Iris, played with lovely understanding by Jamal Crawford and Jorgie Porter, were less dominant in the dance routines than is often the case, leaving more room for the ensemble to show off their skill, which they did with tremendous vim and verve. Tyrone’s learning difficulties, caused by dyslexia, were fully explored, giving Mica Paris as English teacher Miss Sherman a chance to take centre stage dramatically and take that character right into the heart of her powerfully sung These are my My Children.
Add to this some excellent onstage instrumental playing from the trumpet-playing Alexander Zane’s Goody and Louisa Beadel’s Lambchops on drums and you can see that there was a great deal of talent on display, but, just as Arsenal couldn’t show their top form every week and finished outside the top four in the Premier league, so this company, despite providing some breathtaking moments, lacked the consistency to reach the heights the production was seeking and of which their talents were worthy.