Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Chelmsford County High School for Girls

A far cry from Agatha Harrigan's Orphanage to the County High School for Girls, but both are crammed with talented young ladies who are happy to burst into song and break into a dance.
This end-of-term entertainment, directed by James French, with choreography by Maria French, was a very impressive piece of musical theatre – especially successful when the stage, and the auditorium, was over-run by orphans, down-and-outs and Fifth Avenue flunkeys. Most memorably in the Without A Smile mass tap routine, evoking 42nd Street and Busby Berkeley.
Many praiseworthy performances from individuals – too many to mention – with Alex Buckley a confident and tuneful Annie, though perhaps a little too grown-up, a little too blonde. Her Warbucks – and the only man on stage – was Jamie Dent: happily the pair of them were also allowed a Fred and Ginger moment in Act Two. Nice character work from Lucy Adams as Rooster and Roisin McNamara as Lily, and a lovely operatic cameo from Raheel Tharmaraj in NYC. But if anyone was going to steal the show it was Stephanie Dagg as a raddled, rasping Hannigan, bottle in hand, oozing loathing and avarice from every pore.
MD Alex McGee got some great sounds from his singers and his band, woodwind and percussion particularly, and I liked the newspaper d├ęcor. But too much of the action was on the floor, and so obscured for most of the audience. Fortunately Sandy the Dog barked right on cue, otherwise I would have missed her altogether

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