Alex Hall BBC Radio Tees
Durham Musical Theatre Company took on a challenge when they chose ‘A Tale of Two Cities - the Musical’ as their spring production. Dickens’ hugely complex story spans several decades in the two cities of London and Paris and the first act alone features over 30 songs.
The production last week at the Gala Theatre was the Northern première of Jill Santoriello’s epic musical which, inevitably, will be compared with Les Misérables. Certainly, the end of Act One with a rousing anthem, waving flags and long-haired waifs hoisted shoulder-high by revolutionaries, had all the excitement of the long- running Cameron Mackintosh hit.
It’s ironic, and sad too, that the standard of amateur musical theatre in the North East is higher than ever but getting ‘bums on seats’ is the ongoing challenge. So it’s a brave company that puts on an unknown show. Maybe it’s the Dickens story that attracted the full house last Saturday, more likely it’s the fine reputation of DMTC who consistently deliver stunning vocals combined with excellent production values.
Directed by Fred Wharton, a cast of around 80 members created vivid and distinct characters, essential when the action travelled to and fro across one channel and many years. A clever set shifted smoothly through scenes from a genteel drawing room to the looming guillotine in the Place de la Concorde.
The opening number from the fine voice of Anthony Smith as Dr Manette set the standard for the melodic songs to come. Graeme Walton as Sidney Carton, Katy Walton as Lucie and Steven Berry as Darnay delivered moving solos and duets. Shireen Hamlani as Madame Defarge was an unexpectedly swashbuckling tricoteuse. The ensemble choral work and orchestra under the baton of Steven Hood paid tribute to months of dedication. Jill Santoriello, who was hoping to attend must have been very happy, DMTC did her proud.
BBC Radio Tees - “Songs from the Shows”
It is no surprise that this story of love, death and mistaken identity in late 18th century France and England leads to comparisons with “Les Miserables”, but the book is very different. This was an epic production in every sense of the word with a running time of 3 hours, 28 named character roles and 34 musical numbers, and was the perfect showcase for this society’s large and talented cast.
The orchestra sounded perfectly balanced and the sound quality was superb, making it possible to hear every word of both songs and dialogue which made following the complex plot possible. The many scene changes were completed quickly and smoothly in full view of the audience by a large team who were in costume to make them less obtrusive to the plot.
The ensemble, as the French revolutionaries and English serving classes, provided both the comedy and integrity to the piece giving strong support to the production. They, together with the children in the cast, were polished and precise in their movement and their singing,
It is impossible for me to mention every named role, but there was not a weak link in any part of the casting. DMTC has some excellent performers and singers, and they were used to good effect. The main characters included Steve Norman, as “Jerry Cruncher”, who gave a strong, believable character portrayal, providing many of the laughs in the piece, and Paul Maddison made “Mr Jarvis Lorry” tangible and supportive. As the “Marquis St Evrémonde”, Clark Adamson successfully made his character despicable, and in complete contrast to the warm and endearing character portrayed by Nikki Hellmuth as “Miss Pross”. Anthony Smith, as “Dr Alexandre Manette”, as always gave an assured performance, as did Andy King, as “Ernest Defarge”, both singing well and acting with confidence. Shireen Hamlani, in her first role for DMTC, shone as “Madame Thérèse Defarge”, her vocals were strong, and the fight and determination of her character was superb. The three main characters, Steven Berry as “Charles Darnay”, Katy Walton as “Lucie Manette”, and Graeme Walton as Sydney Carton, were faultless in their performances with excellent vocals from all of them. Graeme in particular had a huge role to portray and many musical numbers to perform, which he sang beautifully.
Congratulations to all at DMTC for a superb production and for investing their time and talent into bringing a new piece of theatre to the North.
by Michelle Coulson
Home | Current Production