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Ushers: The Front of House Musical ****
On Wednesday 12th March I was invited to attend the Press Evening of the Charing Cross Theatre Transfer of Ushers: The Front Of House Musical! I had heard about the musical and followed its success since the @WestEndProducer competition Search For A Twitter Composer.
As we entered the auditorium we were thrown into a world of surreality. What we would assume as a seemingly polite gesture of an usher helping us to our seat turned quickly into engagement with the cast as I realised that this usher was actually in character – a quirky and active introduction to this show. Watching the horrified faces of our fellow audience members, as the realisation dawned on them provided a few comical moments as we waited for the show to begin.
The show opened with the number Welcome! which set the cast in good stead for the show proving them to be very in sync with each other vocally and demonstrating their flawless ability to be aware of the space on the stage (and indeed the auditorium as they numerously popped into the audience for a sing every now and again!)
As the show began, it was quickly established that there were two particularly strong performers.
Ralph Bogard, as the sleazy success searcher, embodied the nature of the Manager of the theatre, Robin Pokitts, brilliantly and gave this character a strong persona as someone who was a delight to despise. His often appearances on Theatre Network TV had the audience in rapturous applause from the start, however, it did die down a little bit throughout – to no fault of Mr Bogard, however, but the idea was over egged a little.
Equally, Ceris Hine, as the hilarious Rosie, had the audience going from the off. Her obsessional lusting after London’s West End’s leading men, her dumb blonde moments, and her squeaky comical voicing were all acted out to perfection by Miss Hine. The energy that this woman has was sensational and she did an amazing job at sustaining such a presence throughout the entire show and keeping the integrity and truth in her character.
The show as a whole has a good storyline but is a little limited in what can happen with the nature of the show itself. The strength in this show is really in it’s performances and some of the content within the writing. Humorous jibes at the head of theatre land, Sir Andrew Lloyd Mackintosser, were only the beginning!
Ushers is definitely a show that has a comedy written to an acquired taste. Although some of the physical comedy is down to the acting choices and direction, the spoken word is very much aimed at theatre lovers everywhere.
A few jokes that gained an ‘Ooo edgy!’ mouth hiss such as digs at Jennifer Saunders, I Can’t Sing (…and rightly so!) and From Here To Eternity would have fallen a little lost on the average theatre spectator. But other’s such as #StageyNinja, the Theatre Network ‘Making Theatre Better’ videos, and the love struck moments shared between Stephen (Ross McNeil) and Lucy (Carly Thomas) had everyone giggling.
The storyline was a little weak when it fell to our second stage romance in the form of Gary, played by Daniel Buckley, and Ben, played by Liam Ross-Mills. Throughout the first act this relationship was oddly played, awkward to say the least, and not particularly written very well. However, in Act Two, there was a completely different dynamic. Their relationship was believable and the emotion was raw. Mr Ross-Mills’ stand out moment has to be during ‘It’s Time To Let Go’ when he really portrayed the broken-hearted emotion of a difficult stagey-life relationship and got his intentions across to the audience. If the commitment to character at this stage can be brought back into Act One, he would easily become another strong character.
Alongside him, Mr Buckley plays the determined boyfriend who has been given a chance in the performing arts world. In Act Two, this relationship was translated across to the audience in a much more naturalistic manner. In Act One it did almost seem uncomfortable for the two actors, which is a shame as both of them have incredible vocal talents and really displayed their ability in Act Two. Buckley did a great job of conveying the desperation to stay with someone whilst being committed to the toils of being an actor.
Although the relationship between Stephen and Lucy seemed somewhat pantomimey at times, both actors played to their natural comical timings and performances well. Mr McNeill had a brilliant opportunity during his song ‘The Parts I Could Play’ which he took with both hands and kept our theatre-going audience tickled.
Although I don’t feel that Ushers has a particularly strong foundation in terms of its story, the music, although kept to the bare minimum in terms of instruments, complimented the actors’ performances perfectly and the lyrics were very cleverly written. The set was simple and I do think that when this performance moves on, investing a little into the set would definitely be worthwhile though the cast and team did a great job with what they had!
If you’re around Charing Cross over the next six weeks, make sure you get down to see Ushers – it’s definitely worth a watch! And from it’s successes so far from The Hope Theatre to Charing Cross, I don’t think it will be ushering anywhere soon!