By Anna Kendall
Last night’s annual Miscast Showcase from Hild Bede Theatre was a glorious and campy celebration of some of Durham’s musical theatre finest. Set in the relaxed and intimate setting of The Vern, the showcase featured a wide variety of musical theatre numbers from powerful solos to wholesome group numbers, the premise being that the performers would sing roles that they would never traditionally be cast in. From a gender-swapped sass-filled ‘Candy Store’ from Heathers to a heartfelt rendition of Matilda’s ‘When I Grow Up’, the evening was filled with clever innovation and pure talent and brought the dynamism and variety which makes showcases so enjoyable.
The evening was accompanied by the delightful compèring of HBT’s co-Presidents and the directors of the showcase; Lauren Brewer and Anna Pycock. The two seemed effortlessly comfortable taking to the stage, providing a joyful additional narrative with well-timed jokes to ease the audience through the evening. The pair were careful to let the performances speak for themselves, commenting on each and every song with genuine bolstering support that gave the showcase a true familial feel.
The show began with a group rendition of the titular ‘Anything Goes’. Despite some forgotten lyrics, the communal feel was apparent from the get-go, and the cast seemed utterly comfortable and happy on stage. From here on, we were treated to a wide array of performances. Flo Lunnon and Cecily Morley brought dignified professionalism and polish to their rendition of Les Mis’ ‘The Confrontation’, with their powerful voices blending beautifully. Likewise, Ollie Spillane’s performance of ‘The Wall in My Head’ from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie was a true testimony to both her acting abilities and her impressive vocals. Such emotive performances were perfectly contrasted by moments of pure fun. A gender-swapped ‘Summer Nights’ fronted by Spillane and Will Drake perfectly celebrated the possibilities that a miscast showcase can offer, whilst Liv Jones and Melissa Redman’s duet of ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ from the Book of Mormon comically played the two singers off of each other. Jones must also be commended for her phenomenal solo of ‘Heaven on their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, in which her dextrous voice shone through.
Mention must go to the co-Musical Directors Will Drake and Hana Fuji Benet: the songs were perfectly chosen to suit each individual voice, and the harmonies in the group numbers were perfectly pitched with confidence. Brewer and Pycock must receive additional praise for their co-direction. Every performance flowed seamlessly into the next, maintaining variety without feeling disjointed at any point. They maximised the admittedly small-stage space with well-thought-out choreography and movement which allowed the performers to shine. They also dazzled with some clever rewrites: Francesca Horgan and Eloise Toone’s duet of ‘Nobodies in [Hild Bede]’ from Title of Show lamented the incoming loss of Hild Bede’s Caedmon Hall, whilst Legally Blonde’s ‘The Harvard Variations’ was reimagined as a trio of incoming Durham students, humorously playing on typical Durham stereotype.
Particular standouts from the cast include Jolie Rooks singing ‘Evermore’ from Beauty and the Beast, whose simply beautiful voice shone through as she powerfully conveyed the song’s emotions. My favourite had to be Rory Maguire’s rendition of ‘History of Wrong Guys’ from Kinky Boots. Maguire masterfully commanded the stage as he humorously lusted after fellow cast member Sam Jones, his commitment to the part never faltering as he delivered comical line after line.
Commendation must also go to seamless Technical direction from Oscar Scott, who ran a faultless show from the corner of the stage, aided by the stage management of Bea Bennet. Pycock deserves mention again alongside Harriet Brown as a producer for putting together what really was a smoothly-run and professional showcase. All in all, HBT’s Miscast was a wonderful evening celebrating the musical talents of Durham, showcasing them in a highly clever reimagining of many of our favourite musicals.
Image credit: HBT Company