The Maddermarket Theatre, former chapel and the spiritual home of am-dram in Norwich, is firing on all cylinders again after a tough couple of years because of you know what. The latest production to rock the stage was Disney’s The Little Mermaid courtesy of the Echo Youth Theatre. Despite the best of intentions, amateur gigs can sometimes sink without trace. A stiff gin has got us through many a stinker. Did The Little Mermaid flounder on the rocks?
Definitely not. The young cast put on a cracking show full of joy, energy and enthusiasm, and the clever use of Heelys – trainers with wheels which enabled the seafood to glide effortlessly across the stage – was inspired. Wardrobe and makeup merit a special mention. The fishy weaves were just fabulous.
There was some real talent and great vocals on that stage – not least from our very own rising starlet, Alice Peck, the daughter of our local tavern keeper. We loved her performance. Keep it up, Alice. You have a bright future treading the boards.
Since they switched the theatre lights back on, we’ve been playing catch-up with all the shows queuing up impatiently in the wings. Our latest gig was the UK tour of The Book of Mormon. Deliciously camp, rude, lewd and super crude, the song and dance show pulls no punches when ridiculing the fairy tales at the core of the Mormon credo – and by extension, organised religion in general. So there was a third biblical testament buried on a hillside in upstate New York? Who knew? Not the villagers in far-flung Uganda who had more pressing, real-world problems to deal with, like trigger-happy warlords, grinding poverty, AIDS and female genital mutilation. Ripe for conversion? The all-American dancing boys from Salt Lake City thought so. The desperate often are.
All’s well that ends well as the Bard once wrote and the show does have a happy ending because, in the end, we all need something to believe in, even if it’s just the power of the human spirit. By curtain call we were all on our feet. Yes, it’s that good.
As we left the theatre, we spotted a solitary Mormon elder politely handing out leaflets for the cause. Seems The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sees the show as an opportunity for a recruitment drive. Who said there’s no such thing as bad publicity?
I first watched The Sound of Music in the sixties at the tender age of seven. To see over the heads of the people in front of me, I sat on an upturned seat. Not that I saw that much anyway. I nodded off halfway through and didn’t wake up ‘til Dame Julie and co were heading for the hills.
Even though the film eventually became a Christmas staple on TV, I never actually sat through it. All I knew was that it was a tale of good versus evil with singalong tunes. And then the BBC exposed the truth about the von Trapps in a 2013 warts-and-all documentary. It turned out our heroes didn’t climb any mountain or ford any stream to escape the clutches of the nasty Nazis. No, they caught the 5.30 express to Italy. It was a bitter blow.
To restore my faith in the fairy tale, I jumped at the chance to see a new production at Norwich’s Theatre Royal by the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society. They’re amateur thesps but they always put on a good show.
As we necked our interval gins, I asked Liam,
So, when does the cute blond sing ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me?’
That’s from Cabaret.
Seems I was mixing up my Nazis.
Overall, the production was charming, with some really sweet moments. Nuns and Nazis, what’s not to like? For us, the stand-out performance was from Sara Cubitt as the Mother Abbess. ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is a tough song to sing, and we held our breath as she warbled towards that devilishly difficult final note. Did she hit it? Oh yes.
After a six-year hiatus, local comedy heroes The Nimmo Twins (Owen Evans and Karl Minns) were back treading the boards at the Norwich Playhouse for the second of their twenty-fifth-anniversary shows. Despite their glittering quarter-century career, to our shame, we’d never heard of them, but then a couple of fellow villagers put us firmly in the picture.
I’m glad they did. In skit and sketch, satire and song, characters old and new, the Twins put us straight about all things normal for Norfolk – the ups and mostly downs of Norwich City Football Club, local petty bureaucrats who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, geriatric TV presenters well past their sell-by, livestock-lovin’ farmhands with single-digit IQs and flash Londoners with their fancy cars and holiday homes, all delivered in the broadest of Naarfuk and with tongues firmly in cheek. It’s a total, affectionate piss-take and it’s hysterical.
Soppy, sentimental old fool that I am, I’m a sucker for a tear-jerker. I cried during the opening Circle of Life scene of the Lion King when I first saw it in the West End many moons ago. And I started to blub during the first few bars of Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace and carried on sobbing right through to the finale. Pass the Kleenex.
Last year Liam and I watched the film version of Everybody Talking About Jamie on Amazon Prime. There’s a scene midway through – a flashback to the dark days of the early nineties when the gossip on the street was of a ‘gay plague’ and gay men were dropping like flies to a hostile crowd.
A few brave folk fought back, and the rest, as they say…
“Even the Iron Lady couldn’t stop the show.”
It’s a time I remember well. Too well. Who could forget? Here’s the scene that had me bawling.
But then there are tears of joy too. We also saw Six, a musical about the wives of that old lecherous tyrant, Henry the Eighth. Despite their bleak destiny – divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – the show delivers an uplifting, defiant message. It’s a message that seems to have struck an inspirational chord with young ladies everywhere judging by the audience at Norwich’s Theatre Royal and the flash mob at the Tower of London, where two of Henry’s queens lost their heads. The young faces say it all. Right, ladies, it’s time for your crowning glory. You’ve earned it.