By Issy Flower
Walking out of Tone Deaf Theatre Company’s annual Freshers’ Showcase was surreal. On one hand, we had just watched a brilliant clutch of new performers who, despite a few mismatched songs and limited rehearsal time, had delivered a barnstorming show demonstrating all of their formidable talents. On the other hand, that may have been the last time they will be able to perform live this year, if restrictions stay as they are. However, despite the melancholic touch, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and likeable show.
The showcase’s greatest strength, as expected, is in its performers: all four singers deliver touching moments and show off their impressive vocal dexterity, whilst Josh Tarrier keeps up lively and beautifully-phrased piano accompaniment that frequently draws the eye and is showcaseable in its own right.
All the troupe members have their own strengths: Vivienne Shaw has a brilliant range and some lovely pacing, especially in her delivery of ‘She Used to be Mine’ and demonstrates fantastic comedic timing in her duet with Florence Lunnon. Lunnon’s delivery of ‘As Long as He Needs Me’ shows beautiful emotion and tenderness, while again her comic skill is seen in her fantastic rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’.
The male troupe members, too, couple strong vocals with strong acting. Sam Jones has some of the best vocals of the night and manages to balance the humorous and emotional elements of ‘Michael in the Bathroom’ effortlessly. Archie Collins’ pieces are sung with charm and an enjoyable self-awareness, and his renditions of ‘Agony’ and ‘Bring Him Home’ in particular are enjoyed.
Co-directors Olivia Jones and Jennifer Leigh must also be congratulated for their placing of these pieces. Although the song choices tended largely towards the great ballads of American theatre, the way in which they are arranged ensure that all cast members had their role in the spotlight, and that no one piece treads on another’s toes. Similarly, giving both sets of cast members lightly comic duets allows for a breather from all the emotion and shows off their acting range, as did the simple but effective tech that highlights both performer and pianist perfectly.
However, occasionally some pieces do not seem to entirely fit their performer and highlight rather than help hide the limits of their range, which is a shame as other pieces fit their singer like a glove. Although I would have liked to have seen more variation in the pieces, some of which are achieving ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ levels of being done to death, and a few more duets to really showcase the lovely harmonies all could achieve, and did achieve fantastically in the ‘You Will be Found’ ending, overall the choice and placing of the songs is to be commended in their showcasing of the many talents of the troupe.
TDTC, their production team and performers are to be commended for the high levels of commitment, talent and polish shown in the showcase in light of the many restrictions on rehearsals and performances happening this term. The fact that they managed to pull off such a cheering, enjoyable, moving, funny and vocally superb evening is a masterpiece. It leaves me with a renewed love for musical theatre, five or so songs to add to my playlist, and a newfound hatred of Boris Johnson for making this the last bit of live theatre till January. What more could you want?
Image: Tone Deaf Theatre Company