Review: TDTC Freshers’ Showcase

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If you had to think of a woman in a musical, who would spring to mind first? Would it be Eponine, with her show-stopping ballads of love? Or Maria, singing about how much she loves Tony?

Women fall in love. That’s what musicals are telling us, the time old rhetoric that the female character falls for her male lover, which would be all well and good were it not their only dimension. Tone Deaf Theatre Company (TDTC) decided to overhaul this tired concept to show that female characters can do other things than fall head over heels for the lead male.

Women fall in love. That’s what musicals are telling us

Featuring an all-female cast, of Megan Ratcliffe, Jasmine Teo, and Nina Hayward, illustrated some of theatre’s most powerful and inspirational female characters and their songs with undeniable conviction. From Kim in Miss Saigon (Giorgia Laird) to Katherine Plumber in Newsies (Megan Ratcliffe), we catch a glimpse of women in powerful roles showing maternal love, independence and a celebration of lesbian and bisexual love in theatre.

Performed in Bede Chapel, the space feels a large, grand one to fill but the four first-year performers command the room. Beginning with I Know It’s Today from Shrek the Musical, we are introduced to three out of the four cast members who perform with ease. A lack of costume doesn’t detract from the performances if anything it draws all the attention to the words and emotions conveyed by the singers.

The four first-year performers command the room

stuns with I’d give my life for you from Miss Saigon, taking Kim at her most fragile yet strongest and giving an entrancing performance that captures the audience and involves them in Kim’s life. In Everything I know from In the Heights, Jasmine Teo gives a delicate, emotional performance that manages to be both powerful and soft and tells of familial love and bravery. Singing The life I never had from Sister Act, Nina Hayward is animated and captivating, drawing the audience in. Megan Ratcliffe sings Watch what happens from Newsies with wonderful pace- it doesn’t sound like an easy song to sing- and portrays her character with charm.

Complementing the singers was the simple yet effective lighting and staging. With pews lining the sides of the room, cast members had space to develop their characters in the middle and whilst some were portrayed with more conviction than others, the lighting undoubtedly added to the striking stories of the women.

Some weaker performances were thrown into the mix and perhaps some of the transitions between songs could have been smoother, but this did not take away from the overall showcase. Unforeseen dropouts from the cast led members of the exec to step up to the plate and fill in where necessary and for only short rehearsal times they did a fantastic job throughout the songs to help complete the showcase.

Unforeseen dropouts from the cast led members of the exec to step up to the plate

The last number, Drive you outta your mind from Bare, was somewhat rusty, but this was in part due to the last minute cast rearrangements. Rising to the occasion the exec took to the stage for a full chorus and had there been longer to practice it would have stunned. The choreography felt slightly patchy, with some interesting concepts but not quite ending on the musical showstopper that might feel necessary in a showcase.

Olivia Jones, the Director, Musical Director and Choreographer wrote, “this showcase is not just a celebration of women in musical theatre but a call for even more female roles that don’t rely purely on the men in the show”. And that is exactly what Megan Ratcliffe, Jasmine Teo, and Nina Hayward delivered. It was an enjoyable evening of powerful singing and great performances throughout.

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