29 May 2021

Am Dram - A Musical Comedy Review

The lights are back on, the curtain is up, theatre's are alive again in Leicester and beyond. A joy to see my first musical since the re-opening and it being the joyous new British musical Am Dram. 

Am Dram: A Musical Comedy is written by duo Alex Parker and Katie Lamb and tells the story of the people of the Great Osterford North Amateur Dramatics Society or GONADS for short as they prepare for their next production, a staging of The Golden Empress - a musical about Catherine The Great. 

The company of Am Dram. Photo by Pamela Raith

It begins as the actors gather ahead of auditions for the productions, the regulars are there but with some new faces too including former professional actress Rose who upsets the apple cart by auditioning for the leading role much to the dismay of Diana who is the companies established leading lady. With Rose taking the part of Catherine and Diana the role of her mother there's a showdown of character as rehearsals begin. One day Rose receives a call from her old agent offering her a part in a regional tour, an offer she can't refuse. This leave the GONADS in a mess with a show to still stage.

The heart of this production is its outstanding cast all of whom have an important role to play. Each magnificently characterises their roles. Janie Dee is a top form as Diana, she slowly succumbs to realising how much the show needs Rose, especially once she's gone, even after her resentment at first. Laura Pitt-Pulford showcases magnificent vocals as well as more than a glint of star quality as Rose. Wendy Ferguson emotes Honoria with great skill, the maddening rage as she watches a terrible the dress rehearsal but also captures the underlying softness of the fear of losing all her cast to the Great Osterford South company. Jordan Lee Davies brings so much energy and joy to Ian, the companies musical director. Raj Ghatak is professional director Max that's brought in to helm the production is just about in control of the unravelling chaos. Sharan Phull marvellously pulls off playing numerous people all called Karen, she manages to establish each one and their own characteristics with ease.

The delightful Debbie Chazen is exceptional as Elaine. She's effortlessly hilarious as the sweet natured character who would do anything for anyone. There's a brilliant scene on Rose's birthday where mid rehearsal she brings in a Colin The Caterpillar cake. Debbie brings Elaine to life with such warmth and class that you wish could give her a big hug.

Debbie Chazen as Elaine. Photo by Pamela Raith

Musically the show is fabulous too, there's great numbers throughout. I particularly loved 'Out in the  Light' sung by Laura's character Rose as she returns to the stage after having children. The final two numbers as showtime approaches left me in a swell of emotion, I didn't know if I was going to burst out laughing or burst into tears. It gave me great happiness to hear a 8 piece live band too and what a fabulous sound they made, under the musical direction of show writer Alex Parker.

The show takes place in the round set up of Curve, with the revolving stage in the centre, this means a bare set bar for props and it works so well. It allows for the characters to shine in the spotlight, this is a show about the people not about extravagant sets. There's great lighting design from Jack Weir, using the lighting all around the space to wonderful effect. This bare staging also allows Joanna Goodwin's choreography to stand out and the cast move with ease around the space, making sure to play to all four sides.

The piece is a love letter to the amateur dramatic societies up and down the land as well as the PTA, book clubs, parish councils. It's a celebration of the characters and the the community of putting on a show. With only a short 4 performance run at Curve, I hope the show goes on to a future life like it deserves. A well written story with a well fleshed out band of characters and lovely musical numbers, a delight from start to finish.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ a dazzlingly joyous musical with an amazing cast.

Am Dram: A Musical Comedy ran at Curve between 27th and 29th May 2021. Visit Quick Fantastic's website to learn more about the show and the companies other shows.

The cast of Am Dram. Photo by Pamela Raith

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