Review: The Freshers’ Showcase

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TDTC’s Freshers’ Showcase is a much-anticipated annual staple which – as the title suggests – aims to highlight the fresh intake of musical theatre talent to the Durham Student Theatre scene. I went in with high expectations and I am pleased to say these were more than met by the cast of budding freshers performing to an almost-sold-out Assembly Rooms Theatre.

The evening kicked off with the Mean Girls classic ‘Meet the Plastics’, a strong opening number which formed part of a wide-ranging and hugely enjoyable set list. Featuring songs from Broadway classics like Les Miserables and A Chorus Line, and also modern favourites like Dear Evan Hansen and Bonnie and Clyde, director and musical director curated an expertly-chosen selection of songs which manages to highlight every cast members’ individual strengths as performers.

The decision by TDTC to increase the cast size in comparison to previous years is a great decision; it was clear that every single performer more than deserved their place in the cast. As an ensemble, the eight performers’ voices blend beautifully, which was particularly apparent in numbers such as ‘Good for You’ and ‘One Day More’. Despite some occasional (and completely understandable!) moments of nerves, vocals were incredibly strong across the board. Moments of particularly impressive vocal technique included some gorgeous vibrato from in ‘All I Ask of You’, and some impressively sustained upper-range notes by in ‘At The Ballet’. 

Director and musical director curated an expertly-chosen selection of songs which manages to highlight every cast members’ individual strengths as performers

Similarly impressive was the acting through song, exhibited across the numbers throughout the evening. Elysia Sanders’ performance of ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ conveyed beautiful storytelling, with clear attention to vulnerable yet powerful characterisation. Furthermore, was particularly impressive, her subtle but powerful facial expressions created a convincing depth of characterisation across her numbers. Another clear standout acting-wise, was Jo Price. The chemistry he created with whomever he shared the stage, combined with lethal comedic timing, meant every number he performed in – across which he showed massive versatility as a performer — was a real joy to watch. and are also to be commended on their impressive vocal performances. Their acting through song could have been further developed, such as in ‘This World Will Remember Us’ and ‘This is the Moment’, however this is something that will easily come with further work – these two will clearly be very strong performers who already possess brilliant voices. 

There were several very clear standout numbers. Hannah James’ rendition of ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ showed brilliant comedic timing, leaving the audience in stitches as she very convincingly brought the story of a goofy, naive girl falling for a barista to life. Furthermore, ‘All I ask of You’, performed by and created some beautiful moments of vulnerability between the two performers which are really enjoyable. However, perhaps my favourite number – and a clear audience favourite, given the applause it received — was ‘Flight’. Sanders and Sheppard were a beautiful blend of two very strong voices, who both performed with gorgeous chemistry throughout the number. Which left the audience emotional by the performance they gave together. 

It was clear that every single performer more than deserved their place in the cast

Visually, most aspects of staging were kept fairly minimalistic, which worked to the showcase’s advantage. Oscar Scott’s lighting effectively utilised broad washes of colour, which worked well in numbers such as ‘Meet the Plastics’ and ‘This World Will Remember Us’ in subtly highlighting characters while not drawing focus away from the performers themselves. ’s choreography was also kept fairly minimalistic on the whole, bar the hilarious use of goofy choreography in ‘Sincerely Me’ which enhanced an already impressive vocal performance from the three boys. Some solo numbers might have benefited from more utilisation of the space the stage offered, and some choreography, such as in ‘This World Will Remember Us’, felt slightly awkward. It must be emphasised, however, that these were tiny elements of a fantastic evening that was thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable!

Overall, I advise everyone to keep a close eye on this cohort’s future theatrical endeavours. The talent amongst the budding freshers is more than evident, and both cast and crew should be incredibly proud in their curation of an evening that showcased some really phenomenal musical theatre that was genuinely a joy to watch. 

Image: Tone Deaf Theatre Company

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