By Molly Knox
“Off the Stage”- A Musical Theatre Showcase by Collingwood’s Woodplayers is a fun and diverse display of college theatrical talent ending this term on a high note. Packed full of musical theatre fan favourites as well as brilliant monologues and duologues to break it all up, this production has something for everyone.
Although this showcase, at points, feels to drag just that little bit, it’s the boost many of us feel we need after a long Epiphany term. From the energetic, childish punch of an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Revolting Children’ to start, to the electric, dark and hilarious extract from “Two”, this production takes the viewer in open arms and highlights and provokes an array of genres and emotions.
Bella Attenburrow and Alexander Bittar’s noteworthy performance of ‘First Date/ Last Night’ from Dogfight is delightful and full of chemistry. Both Bittar and Attenburrow build their harmonies beautifully and sweetly on top of swelling strings to provide a brilliant advert for this underrated musical. The only thing letting them down is the volume of the backing track which sometimes comes across too loudly over their suave and perceptive duet. Both these performers go on to shine throughout the entire production, Attenburrow in her subtle and angelic interpretation of ‘Out Here on My Own’ from “Fame”, and Bittar’s biting, droll voice and movement in the abovementioned “Two” alongside the terrifically visceral and sharp Maddie Clark.
The transitions and video editing in the production range from cheesy to stylish, sometimes building on great acting and musical skills, but unfortunately sometimes detracting from them. Mostly, the production value is surprisingly high given the remote filming and variety of audio and video quality between performers. The larger ensemble and group performances are shown clearly and fit the themes of the songs being performed- for example, the lovely “Dear Evan Hansen”-esque split blue screen during ‘You Will Be Found’.
Throughout the showcase there are numerous outstanding solo performances. Some stand out songs include Emily Bates’ strong and tear-jerking ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’, Katie Robbins’ breath-takingly melodious ‘I’m Still Hurting’ and Livia Avey’s powerful and rich ‘There are Worse Things I Could Do’. All three performing these gorgeous, challenging, and emotional show tunes with effortless vocal ability and doing them absolute justice. These fan favourite songs are performed with excellent technical vigour. Furthermore, Lillie Roger and Emily Bates’ rendition of ‘I still Believe’ from “Miss Saigon” feels incredibly dynamic and emotional. Both Roger and Bates command the virtual stage with musical and theatrical prowess and have gorgeously strong and warm voices. Their harmonies are goosebump worthy and their belting melts into a compelling combination of sadness and tenderness. Sadly, it would have been much preferred to have seen it in person and not have to make allowances for the constraints of lockdown theatre.
Furthermore, Tamsin Matthewman and Dylan Hicks’ performance of ‘All I’ve Ever Known’, despite some issues regarding diction and falsetto, is gentle and commendable for such a difficult song. Both their acting is thoughtful and endearing.
Although extracts from “Mean Girls” and “Lungs” at times feel slightly clunky and awkward, they are genuinely enjoyable and entertaining. The inclusion of extracts from plays feels welcome and fresh between a marathon of musical numbers, even for the biggest of musical theatre fans. Moreover, the illustrations and animations between, and at the start and end of pieces feel distinctive and are a lovely element to the show worth noting.
Overall, Collingwood Woodplayers’ “Off the Stage”- A Musical Theatre Showcase is a superb hour and a half brimming with talented and spirit. Not without its faults, it’s a wonderful and enjoyable array of emotion, music and passion for theatre.
Image Credit: Collingwood Woodplayers