Musical Theatre AND a boat? Count Julia Jones in
Few things are better than show tunes. Breakfast at Tiffany’s “Moon River”? The Breakfast Club’s “Don’t You Forget About Me”? Rent’s “Take Me or Leave Me”? It just doesn’t get much better than songs that have appeared in classic films. Which is why I jumped at the chance to attend the UCLU Musical Theatre Society’s Saturday night show “Songs from the Silver Screen”, an event that promised a series of exciting covers of songs popularised by Hollywood movies.
The show featured 27 numbers spread across two acts, with songs taken from an excellent variety of films: everything from The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Moulin Rouge to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Ben Hiam emceed the event, and while I’m unconvinced that asking the audience to live tweet the show was entirely necessary, he did do a great job of introducing each piece and making the crowd laugh.
Of course, it would be remiss to only mention his compering talents. Hiam, along with cast mates Lizzie Jay, Beth Hinton-Lever, Whitney M. Nosakhare, April Stanhope, Charlie Smith, Will Hunkin, Tristan French, Heather Barnish and Vincenzo Monachello, gave a wildly entertaining rendition of “Summer Nights” from Grease (is there anyone that doesn’t like this song?) Jay’s Rizzo pout would have made Stockard Channing proud.
As great as “Summer Nights” was, it was during songs like this – where there were more than four people on stage at a time – that it seemed the performers could have benefitted from a bigger stage than the Battersea Barge offered. The ensemble looked cramped at times, especially during Anything Goes’ “Bon Voyage”, which featured the entire cast.
With that said, the Barge was a very cool and unconventional venue for “Silver Screen”. As someone who doesn’t spend much time down in SW8, I figured the event would be a good excuse to visit a different part of town, with the added bonus of getting to spend the evening on the water. The Barge turned out to be a cozy, dimly lit lounge and bar, one that just fit the fairly large audience and that provided the perfect, intimate atmosphere for live music.
Besides the venue, I very much enjoyed Monachello’s and Jay’s hilarious “Anything You Can Do” from Annie, Get Your Gun, along with Suriyah Rashid’s and Grace Roberts’ gripping duet “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story. Louise Farnall’s choreography for Singing in the Rain’s “Good Morning”, performed by herself, Monachello, and Charlie Smith, got the second part off on the right foot. Farnall’s stage presence and undying smile only enhanced the number. For the show’s penultimate song, Jay sang Whitney Houston’s “And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls. Hitting all the right notes, she did a tremendous job with a piece that could not have been easy to perform.
I would be very surprised if anyone left “Songs from the Silver Screen” not having liked what they heard. The songs were fun, catchy, and classic, and coupling them with the performers’ skills made for a truly great show. At the end of the night, Lizzie Jay, performer and president of the Musical Theatre Society, mentioned that “Silver Screen” was the first time the Society had put on a concert of this nature. For a first time, they couldn’t have done a better job!
All image credits: Eng O-charoenrat