By Christian Bland
Musicals are back, and back with a bang at Durham University. An inspired take on the recent international phenomenon, this version of All Together Now is an epic medley of classic stage songs, packed full of that distinctive feel-good factor we’ve been missing so much during the lockdown. Put simply, it was definitely an opening night to remember for the directorial team of Alexandra Hart and Emily Phillips, who have created a spectacle you absolutely do not want to miss.
As is the case with all Musicals, All Together Now was always going to live and die on the strength of the casts’ singing and dancing – and from the first raise of the curtain to the final number, both were right on point. Particularly powerful was Phoebe Morris’s unforgettably passionate performance of ‘Meadowlark’ – you could have heard a pin drop as she rendered the audience speechless with the operatic strength of her vocal. Equally memorable was Miriam Templeman’s spectacularly assured rendition of ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, displaying so much range in her voice, it felt like she was multi-rolling within the song.
Meanwhile the striking physicality of the dancing by Beth Bradbury and Stephen McLoughlin in the performance of ‘Dancing Queen’ provided a dose of intimate comedy that brought their production to life. On the flip side of the coin, the opening dance routine for ‘Be Our Guest’, led by Ben Osland and Jolie Rooks, was all about dazzling synchronicity and spectacle, which noticeably captured the audiences’ attention. That’s all still without mentioning the likes of Daisy Collins and Sebastian Berkeley who both shone in their pitch-perfect routines. Finally, the whole cast deserves immense credit for the quality of their back-up dancing throughout the production – it would be impossible to imagine that many of the numbers working without their expressive energy and individuality lighting up the stage.
Caedmon Hall was never exactly going to be the easiest venue to stage something as exuberant as a musical in, but the whole team did an absolutely wonderful job bringing a sense of Broadway to the venue. The costume choices were particularly imaginative – providing some highly theatrical designs inspired by the likes of ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ adding a real sense of style to the production. Meanwhile, the lighting choices infused the performances with real melodrama and mood, even if there was a tendency towards overexposure at times. A couple of early technical glitches and problems hearing the acts aside, the sound design absolutely captured the immediacy of the casts’ voices – which has to be one of the quintessential pleasures of being able to see a musical like this live.
All Together Now is the production I needed, that I had no idea I needed. The joy of seeing an old-fashioned musical pulled off with so much confidence and style is a credit to the talent of the cast and crew involved. Ultimately, this is a musical that knows exactly what it is and fully delivers on that promise. When the curtain falls to a magnificent rendition of ‘Seasons of Love’, you can be sure you’ll be left craving even more – which is perhaps the surest sign of a production’s success.
Image credit: DULOG Theatre Company