REVIEWS

The Kentish Players have a reputation for producing high quality musical theatre. Last year saw the company produce two vibrant shows, both to critical acclaim and packed houses. A full NODA review for A Chorus Line can be read below – reviews of our other recent productions will be added to this page very soon.

LEGALLY BLONDE

Venue: Central Hall Theatre, Chatham
Director: Paul Ferguson
Musical Director: Siobhan Link
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Date: Friday, 1st July 2016

The plot of this modern musical, based on the 2001 film, sees blonde sorority queen Elle Woods dumped for not being serious enough, so she takes the opportunity to turn this around and heads of to Harvard to complete a law degree.

Watching this production takes your breath away, packed with action from the start. Terrific choreography by Rebecca Beaumont had flair and imagination. Great support from the Orchestra, led by MD Siobhan Link, whose tempo needed to be spot on to drive the show, which demands pace. You would marvel at the speed of the numerous costume changes, excellent by the way. My goodness how hard the company and backstage crew must have worked with moving the very large pieces of scenery performed efficiently and swiftly, all enhanced of course by a good lighting plot.

Caroline Ferguson as Elle is a seasoned performer and she absolutely nailed the role of a blonde with a big heart. She looked sensational and what a lovely smile! In contrast, Elle’s two love interests, Charlie Grant as Warner and Jordan Brown as Emmett are both on stage for the first time, they can certainly be proud of their performances.

Inspired casting and wonderful to watch was Estelle Burfoot-Reed as Paulette, Elle’s best friend, she had great sense of comic timing and sense of fun, especially the scenes with Kyle the UPS guy (Richard Burfoot-Reed) the ‘River Dance’ style number was a stand out performance.

All the other named supporting parts were very bright fun characters with belting voices. In Act 2 we see Claire Knapman as Brooke, the fitness instructor. Phew, I was definitely out of breath watching this clever slick routine, which involved skipping ropes. Smaller parts, too numerous to mention all added to the story line and well played.

I must not forget the smallest stars of the show, Bruiser (Gizmo) a Chihuahua, very laid back performer and Rufus (Zeus Burfoot-Reed) whose tail wagged all the time, especially when there was a treat or two in the offing.

This demanding musical is a credit to Director Paul Ferguson, which the audience absolutely loved. Well done K.Ps

Doreen Grierson. NODA representative. District 7

EVITA

Venue: Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Director: Keith Neville
Musical Director: Siobhan Link
Orchestral Conductor: Ian Perry
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Date: Thursday, 11th June 2015

Evita is a difficult and ambitious show for any amateur company but Kentish Players showed their skill and enormous talent with this production.

The minimal design of the set was well thought out with scaffolding giving a raised platform at the back of the stage, with a staircase either side. Lighting, therefore, was very important so well done to David Beaumont for his design. Why, oh why is there a need for so much ‘atmospheric smoke’?

For me, scenes can be spoilt when you hear the whooshing noise of the smoke machine, only to see the actors on stage disappear in the ensuing smoke screen! A minor point which really, did not unduly distract too much.

The show began with black and white news footage setting the scene of a country – 20th century Argentina – in mourning following the death of Evita, Eva Peron. Narration of the story throughout was masterfully achieved by William Moore as Che. He introduced us to the nightclub crooner Magaldi, super smoothly played by Ben Smyth and the young Eva Duarte who is set to go on and dictate the action and ultimately capture the hearts of those around her. Caroline Ferguson in the lead role doesn’t disappoint. She captured the role perfectly as the ambitious young women, who blackmails Magaldi into giving her a new life in Buenos Aires. Caroline’s terrific voice and stage presence was both powerful and tender when it needed to be – a thoroughly compelling performance.

The political scene in Argentina is becoming quite complicated as Che then introduces us to the politically ambitious Colonel Juan Peron (a strong performance by Colin Moss). Peron and Eva meet and they are mutually attracted. Peron becomes president and Eva enjoys the high life as his wife. The chorus numbers reflected the optimism of the people, together with energetic choreography, courtesy of Rebecca Beaumont. The myriad of chorus members who were officers, aristocrats, family or Argentine people were just as important as any of the principals, to give cohesion to this story. Credit must also go to Musical Director, Siobhan Link and Orchestral.

Conductor, Ian Perry for the excellent musical direction of the cast and orchestra. Costumes were also excellent. I felt for ‘Eva’ with all her quick changes!

Director Keith Neville can be proud of the way he presented this ambitious and sometimes difficult show, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Doreen Grierson NODA Rep. District 7

CENTENARY CELEBRATORY CONCERT (Kentish Players)

Venue: Central Theatre, Chatham
Director: David Jonathan
Musical Director: David Jonathan
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Date: Saturday 1st November 2014

(Joint review by Area Councillor Kay Rowan and regional representative Doreen Grierson)

Kentish Players embarked on their Centenary year determined to mark this milestone. Earlier in the year they started off with a party for past and present members. Their staged production in June was an excellent ‘All Shook Up’ and here we are with their Celebratory Concert at, arguably, their home – The Central Theatre, Chatham. They will end the year with a formal dinner and dance.

Celebrating 100 years of anything is a great achievement and the Kentish Players did so in style by showcasing their enthusiasm and commitment with past and present members in an evening which reflected upon many of the shows performed by the society, ranging from the very first ‘Gondoliers’ in 1914, through Ivor Novello shows and the very British ‘Merrie England’ and ‘Brigadoon’. The more modern British musicals such as ‘Oliver’ and ‘Half a Sixpence’ appeared alongside the American musicals such as ‘West Side Story’ and ‘All Shook Up’.

Every principal who stepped forward expressed the music and words with sincere emotion and accuracy. The ensemble, quite sensibly, presented the numbers simply and appropriately. Praise should definitely go to the musical director and producer David Jonathan, who brought his wealth of experience in the musical theatre to bear, not only in the choice and arrangement of numbers, but in their execution, very ably leading the trio of musicians. Rebecca Beaumont’s choreography was imaginative and enhanced the numbers in which it was used. Linking some of the shows was the projection of photos, posters and programmes from earlier shows. John Bird, the evening’s compere, interviewed  past and present members who gave insight into their time with the K.P’s. This all added to the atmosphere of the evening and was fully supported by a good lighting plot.

It was pleasing to see the ensemble made up of members, some of whom have retired from  performing on stage, as well as those in the present company, all giving a performance that previous generations would have appreciated and been proud of. This shows amateur theatre at its best, where nothing they like better is to perform and entertain others.

Role on the next 100 years K.P!

Doreen Grierson NODA Rep. District 7

ALL SHOOK UP

Venue: Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Director: Richard Burfoot-Reed
Musical Director: Paul Gostling
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Date: Thursday, 19th June 2014

Is there a trend going on here KP’s? Last year 70’s era with Disco Inferno and now this year, the Elvis era of the 50’s.

A thin plot but not without tangled stories of unrequited love, all stitched together with 25 Elvis tunes, some famous, others not so famous, turning this into a foot tapping, clap along, sing a long show. There was no scenery as such but cleverly positioned lights made the lighting design all important, thanks to David Beaumont. The use of ‘One Night With You’ with its lighting, for the ‘love at first sight’ moments, was inspired. I didn’t like it much though, when the revolving lights shone right into the audience’s eyes.

Costumes are all important when you have a specific recognisable era and I think you pretty much got it right, apart from the orange prison overalls which, as far as I know, weren’t introduced until about the 1970’s – colourful though! The large souvenir size programme was very well designed and produced. Could have put a paragraph about NODA inside though!

I was expecting loud music – and wasn’t disappointed, as I was seated only a couple of rows back from the band but as the cast had mics, they were heard with no problem. Audience further back probably had a better blend than I did. Having said that, the band were good, led by Paul Gostling.

Ben Smyth as Chad got the show off to a great start with the classic ’Jailhouse Rock’ and this continued with a great performance from him throughout (could have been the hip swivelling, I couldn’t possibly say!). I was very impressed with Caroline Ferguson (Natalie/Ed) who delivered a polished performance together with a great singing voice and sense of comic timing. Richard Howard won every ones heart as the lovesick Dennis trying, but failing to announce his love for Natalie who, in turn, had fallen for Chad. Her main rival for his affections is Astra Beadle so well cast as Miss Sandra, the smoldering  libarian-type museum curator. Natalie’s father Jim (Jimmy Weighell ) also falls for Miss Sandra and he tries to emulate Chad but in the end finds that Sylvia, (well played by Beth Harding) the Honky-Tonk owner is really his true love. The young lovers Lorraine (Rachel Gerring) and Dean Hyde (Matt Kneller) worked well together and overcame their parents wrath, especially his mother, the pseudo moralistic, Mayor Matilda Hyde (Estelle Burfoot-Reed) who kept up her sour face throughout. She got her come-uppance when Sherriff Earl (Gordon Harris – not usually a man of few words!) silenced her.

Finally, congratulations to director Richard Burfoot-Reed for another good production, all the leads were excellent, the singing and the choreography by Rebecca Beaumont was brilliant. There was such enjoyment and energy from all the cast that it was bound to rub off on the audience, who showed their obvious appreciation at the end.

Doreen Grierson NODA Regional Rep. District 7

DISCO INFERNO

Venue: Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Director: Colin Moss
Musical Director: Paul Gostling
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Date: Thursday, 6th June 2013

The word ‘disco’, for me, conjures up images of loud music and flashing lights. There was all of that, but this all added to the vibrancy of the show. The story, set in the 1970s, is of bar tender Jack who has aspirations to become a pop star and to achieve his ambition he sells his soul to the devil’s assistant Lady Marmalade.

There was no scenery and all effects were achieved by David Beaumont’s excellent lighting design. The band, led by Paul Gostling, were placed at the back of the stage so the sound was not too overpowering for the audience, except when it drowned out some dialogue. The singers, however, were at full throttle, even with mics. Hope you’ve all still got voices left! The musical aspects of the show were performed with great style with all the familiar 70’s rock numbers, with the ever-popular ‘Village People’ medley making the audience join in with the arm movements. The costumes were, on the whole, acceptable for the 1970 era, although one or two of the costume choices seemed a little inappropriate for the cast member wearing it. Rebecca Beaumont’s choreography showed imagination and everybody without exception gave 100% in performing the dances.

The first half lacked a bit of pace due to the numerous blackouts to change the scene but this was due to the script rather than this production. It was better in the second half. All the principals gave strong performances. Ben Smyth (Jack) and Astra Beadle (Jane) worked well together. Ben Chapman (Tom) had good comic timing, which was consistent through the show. Excellent performances too, from Alice Kattner (Maggie); Beth Harding (Lady Marmalade); Anthony Patman (Heathcliffe); Anna Fisk (Kathy) and Richard Howard (Nick Diablo).

Director Colin Moss did an excellent job with a rather average script but there is no doubt that the company, with their energy and enthusiasm, clearly enjoyed performing this show and judging by the audience reactions, they enjoyed watching it.

Doreen Grierson NODA Rep. District 7

THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS

Venue: Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Type of Production: Musical
Producer/Director: Colin Moss
Musical Director: Sean Farrelly
Choreographer: Rebecca Beaumont

This show is based on the real-life story of the Chicken Ranch, a Texas brothel, that, although having existed for many years, is finally closed down following the obsessive crusading of a television broadcaster and political ambitions of the local politicians, some of them also the Ranch’s customers.

Miss Mona manages the ranch and was played with strength by Estelle Burfoot-Reed. She never broke her authoritarian character and had a strong singing voice. One of her employees, Jewel (Tina Perry) sings the difficult number ‘Twenty- Four Hours of Lovin’ with a voice to die for. The two outsiders Angel and Shy were both well cast and played with style and control by Renee Titmus and Rachel Gerring ( who at only 17 will be an asset to the company in the years to come). Richard Burfoot-Reed played the role of the Sheriff caught between his interest in keeping the whorehouse going and his duty to obey the order to close it down from the Governor. Richard looked good as the sheriff and played the part well. The part of his nemesis, investigative reporter Melvin P. Thorpe, was taken by Richard Howard. He played the part with energy and humour. Emma Pollett had the part of Doatsey Mae, the seemingly quiet innocent waitress at the local diner but she gave a very nice rendition of her song of missed opportunities. The Senator (Steve Jessup) and the Governor (Gordon Harris) both gave credible performances.

The girls of the Chicken Ranch played their individual roles well, each showing a character of their own. For many, much as the sight of the girls of the ranch was delightful so was the performance of the Aggies, a testosterone filled bunch of lads who filled the stage with their performance and had clearly worked hard with their routine even making a collapsing pyramid at the end.

With this type of production there must be a sensitivity and comedy to balance the language and sexual nature of the storyline. The team of Director Colin Moss, MD Sean Farrelly and Choreographer Rebecca Beaumont obviously worked tirelessly on this amazing production and the fruits of their labour clearly showed.

Doreen Grierson NODA Rep. District 7

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Director: Stephen Cresswell
Musical Director: Joanna Clements
Choreography: Rebecca Beaumont
Venue: Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone
Front of House: Having been given a programme, I was left to my own devices. Maybe this was because the programme sellers were also members of the cast and nobody else from the society was there to greet guests. Something I don’t altogether agree with, is seeing cast members front of house before the performance.
Programme: Very impressive programme. I particularly liked the way the synopsis had been cartoonized. Pity you couldn’t find room for a paragraph about NODA!
Set/Props: Changing from the interior of the shop to the exterior ( Skid Row) actually worked quite well without the use of curtains or moving scenery. This made the flow of the show go smoothly. Props were excellent from the ever growing Audrey11 to the increasing flower stock, the dentist chair and gas helmet.
Lighting/Sound: Because of the way the scenes changed, this needed a good lighting plot and this was achieved. Sound – A little over amplified – I’ll leave it at that!
Costumes: These all looked good and represented the era.
Musical Direction: The music was provided by a band under the direction of Joanna Clements. This type of music is always too loud for me but I suppose that was how it was supposed to be. Nevertheless they made a good sound. Good vocal direction.
The Production: This show must, and always will be dominated by the grand trio of Seymour, Audrey and Audrey11. Lee Batt was endearing as the sweet and bumbling Seymour while Estelle Burfoot-Read provided the warmth and heart of the show as Audrey. They were both naturals on stage and they put in charming performances. Of course, the true star of the show is Audrey11, the ever-growing alien plant brought to terrifying life by Natalie Kirk and Jon Cox who operated the giant plant. They did a sterling job of making it a real lurking menace. Audrey 11 was wickedly voiced by Andy Hollidge. Gordon Harris provided class support as the florist (type casting?) Mushnik – but where did that accent come from Gordon? Richard Howard provided real comic menace as Orin, the sadistic dentist. Crystal (Sue Hendry), Chiffon (Astra Beadle) and Ronnette (Phillipa Read) gave a good grounding to the action, they narrate sections of the story. Their harmonies blended well and they deserve to be proud of their contribution. The supporting cast of derelicts and sundry roles were played with dedication and commitment.

There are a lot of good musical numbers and while not the longest of shows, this was an enjoyable evening well received by the appreciative audience. Stehen Cresswell’s direction and Rebecca Beaumont’s choreography showed the true thoughtfulness that went into this production.

Doreen Grierson NODA Regional Rep District 7

WEDDING SINGER

From the very opening I was transported into 80’s with a simple but effective staging and some brilliantly authentic costuming. I especially liked each wedding having its own unique colour scheme. With the excellent band onstage throughout, this enabled the cast to capture the heart and atmosphere this musical requires. There were some sound issues on the night I attended but they certainly didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the show. Astra Beadle (Julia) vocally excelled herself and gave a sympathetic portrayal of her character while Paul Robinson (Robbie) gave an overall strong performance though pitching and diction were an issue at times.

All the supporting principle performers gave confident performances. Lee Batt (George) was subtly camp without overcooking it and Debbie Brennan (Rosie) gave a rip roaring performance for someone who is obviously younger than the years she was playing. I’d live with my gran if she was like her! The excellent ensemble worked with enthusiasm, energy and panache with some inventive choreography by Becky Beaumont in a limited space. It was obvious that everybody worked as a team and thoroughly enjoyed performing the show. Highlights included Debbie Brennan (Rosie) and Lee Batt (George) in Move that Thang and the wonderful interpretation of Single.

A well rounded and polished production. Hey i enjoyed it so much I want to join your society!

Cheryl Mumford NODA SE Rep

BOOGIE NIGHTS

Boogie Nights recalls those heady days of the 70’s but like most modern musicals it doesn’t have much of a plot. It is a story of troubled teenage relationships and their friends, making their way through adolescence and spending some of their time in the Boogie Nights Disco. The cast don hot pants, jumpsuits. Miniskirts, flares, afro wigs and platform shoes all beautiful authentic for the era and encourage the audience to clap and join in. Those of us who remember the 70’s, would recognise the disco hits of the time including YMCA (or as in the programme CMYA – deliberate I presume) which was a very ‘cheeky’ number! Unlike Mamma Mia the storyline isn’t contrived so that you can guess exactly which song is coming next.

The excellent backing musicians ( although loud) were faultless. It would be difficult to single out any one of the cast because they were all excellent in their own characterisations and their singing. The ensemble singing, energetic and exuberant choreography was all, again, faultless. The whole cast looked as though they were enjoying themselves immensely, which encouraged the audience to feel a part of the whole show.Lighting was well thought out using ‘disco lights’ which did sometimes dazzle me. The programme was adequate but no mention of NODA!! The minimal inset scenery worked well. This talented company made this a fun evening and even those who were too young to remember the 70’s couldn’t help but join in with the enthusiasm from the cast. A truly memorable evening’s entertainment.

Doreen Grierson NODA Regional Rep (District 7)

A CHORUS LINE

“A Chorus Line – the usual musical it is not! Kentish Players, as always, came up with a cracker of a production, adding to their already long list of outstanding shows. I have nothing but praise for Claire Jennison’s choreography, beautifully devised and immaculately performed by her team of extremely high standard dancers – the girls were simply marvelous, but boys only slightly less so! Well done lads, it can’t have been easy keeping up with all those glamorous young ladies! It would be wrong to pick out individuals in this show; everyone is a star in his own right.

The whole show is made up of the most exciting dance routines, loud music and song, all under the guise of auditioning for a Broadway show. There are no breathing spaces in this show (no interval) and the quick change for the finale was something else! The cast, who danced their socks off, were not costumed until the finale when they all appeared in the most glittering of outfits. A glittering end to a sparkling show. Veronica Corry’s direction led the production smoothly to its sparkling finale, with the audience thoroughly enjoying this challenging and exhilarating performance.”

Director: Veronica Corry
Choreographer: Claire Jennison
Musical Director: Martyn Clements
Principle cast: Catherine Alder (Judy), Ann Boarer (Connie), Jo Clements (Bebe), Nikki Cordell (Diana), Rachael Cordell (Val), Tia Crayford (Cassie), Debbie Corry (Sheila), Claire Jennison (Kristine), Karina Malone (Maggie), Joleen Sture (Larry). Paul Atwell (Zac), Simon Barnard (Mike), Jimmy Burton (Paul), Trevor Cleaves (Mark), Scott Highway (Bobby), Mark Jennison (Don), Andy Kemp (Al), Chris Smith (Richie), Alex Sykes (Greg).
Dancers & Booth Singers: Claire Bramley-Harker, Clare Curtis, Maria Martin, Luke Stevenson, Katie Strevens

GODSPELL

In November, the company moved into the Brook Theatre with its new production of Godspell. With a cast of just ten, rehearsals for this production were intense and involved a very busy summer of singing tuition, improvisation sessions and demanding dance routines.

The cast were really put through their paces to deliver a very different sort of production for the KPs…and Godspell was received every night by wildly enthusiastic audiences. Godspell is based on the gospel according to St Matthew and was a success for the Kentish Players back in 1984. The 2000 production was brought bang-up-to-date by its production team who swapped the traditional flares and tinted glasses for combats and war paint.

Director: Rachael Cordell Choreographer: Claire Jennison Musical Director: Stephen P Brown
Cast: Simon Barnard (Judas), Emma Burford, Nikki Cordell, Jennifer Herron, Mark Jennison, Andy Kemp, Maria Martin, Guy Pascall (Jesus), Philippa Reed, Chris Smith

FAME

In June, more than 30 actors, dancers and musicians stormed their way through an exhilarating production of FAME. The first amateur showing of the hit musical took place at the Central Theatre, Chatham, and despite the sweltering weather and the final performance clashing with the England v Germany match of Euro 2000, the show was a huge success!

The production was directed by Veronica Corry, with choreography from Helen McNally and musical direction in the control of Martyn Clements. Based on the hit TV series of the 80’s, Fame the Musical follows the story of a group of talented young students at the New York High School of Performing Arts, on their journey from Freshman Year to Graduation. Songs from the show include Hard Work, Bring on Tomorrow, I Want to Make Magic, Think of Meryl Streep, and of course Fame. The show had a very successful run in the West End and completed a national tour before being released for amateur performance. It has since returned to the London stage.

Director: Veronica Corry Choreographer: Helen McNally Musical Director: Martyn Clements Dance Captain: Claire Jennison
Principle Cast: Catherine Alder (Iris), Simon Barnard (Joe Vegas), Lee Batt (Schlomo), Estelle Burfoot-Reed (Lambchops), Rachael Cordell (Serena), Itse Iyonmike (Tyrone), Heather Notley (Carmen), Guy Pascall (Nick)