By Adele Cooke
I should begin by stating I had very low expectations when I took my seat at the Assembly Rooms on Wednesday night. Sure, DULOG are a reputable Durham theatre group, who have produced I Love You Because, Seussical and Rent in the last year. Sure, the show has an experienced cast who are not new to the Durham theatre scene. Yet surely no one could rival Reese Witherspoon in the role of Elle Woods – could they? I was pleasantly surprised. The promise of “feel good, post exam fun” was extremely accurate. With few seats spare it seems I was not the only one looking for some light release after a stressful term.
The show erupted with energy. From the opening song to the closing number the cast sustained high levels of enthusiasm throughout. Their smiles were infectious, travelling across the Assembly Rooms and onto the faces of the beaming audience. Each musical number was met with an increasing amount of raucous applause. With a high level of synchronicity in group dance sequences it is clear the cast have poured hours into this performance. This was not in vain. I won’t lie and say every note or dance step was executed perfectly, but it was pretty close, and it’s this closeness to perfection that makes student theatre excel.
Notable mention must be made to Katie Sterland, whose wonderful performance as Elle Woods destroyed any doubt I had in seconds. Heed must also be paid to Kate Russell who gave an outstanding performance as Brooke Taylor Windham. Her ability to sing, dance and skip simultaneously is far beyond most performers, myself included. However, I felt more could have been made of chorus members such as Ella Weston, who played several roles, including the judge, Elle’s classmate and a shop assistant. Her voice was outstanding, but she was not given the opportunity to truly shine. Whether this is due to a lack of substantial solo songs or poor casting remains to be seen.
However, in a space as restricted as the Assembly Rooms I was suitably impressed by the staging of the production. This turf war was exacerbated further by the live band, who were forced to sit on stage as the Assembly Rooms does not have an orchestral pit. It seems the university’s planned million-pound renovation of the theatre can’t come soon enough. Yet somehow the cast managed to use all of the available space without creating a feeling of overcrowding. This was evident in group dance sequences, where somehow both cast and band managed to fit harmoniously onto the minute stage. I was amazed.
I left feeling suitably impressed. So did most of the audience, as they continued to discuss the show enthusiastically down the rest of the Bailey. This show is certainly something worth talking about.