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A Nice Dilemma

by on 24 March 2019

Just Your Cup of Tea?

A Nice Dilemma

Hounslow Light Opera Company, short tour until 23rd March

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Hounslow Light Opera’s spring musical revue took the form of a selection of show songs and medleys loosely brought together by a script in which an amateur operatic society tries to decide on which show to do next. A small group of actors played the part of the society’s committee members discussing past shows, possible shows and favourite shows. The rest of the company, on cue from these sections of conversation, performed a selection of songs from each show.

DilemmaPromo

HLOC adopted a similar approach with their 2017 show, Spring Song Singers, that revue being based on the idea of a choir that had to be coaxed into focus in order to rehearse their upcoming concert. This is a useful format for performing songs with a quirky bit of humour to stitch it all together, and it’s an alternative to just standing in lines with the music in front of you and a narrator providing background to the songs. The spring show is also an opportunity to bring to the front performers who do not necessarily get to perform leading, or more substantial, roles in the bigger autumn shows.

Saturday night therefore saw the company dressed in black and performing a range of show favourites including work by Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan and others. HLOC are at their strongest in their choral work and this was clear from their rendition of both Marc Shalman and Scott Wittman’s You Can’t Stop the Beat and a Rodgers & Hammerstein medley in the second act – they were evidently both comfortable and confident with the music and it made a significant difference to the level of performance. Pushing the company to the dizzy heights of a Stephen Sondheim Into the Woods medley might have been a push too far, but the assembled singers made a reasonable job of it though the nerves did produce a little hesitation; and hesitating with Sondheim’s music is unwise.

The musical accompaniment of Lee Dewsnap, HLOC’s Musical Director, who played keyboard with a genuine passion also raised the level and buoyed the company along. When amateur singers are comfortable the possibilities are probably not endless, but definitely greater than when they’re nervous. Credit must therefore be given to Chris Blackmore who maybe does not always perform solo but gave a very decent rendition of West Side Story’s Somewhere, again, despite nerves. There were other brave soloists not specifically named in the programme, a sweet (uncredited) voice sang the opening of The Sound of Music. It must be said, however, that it’s always good to err on the side of caution if singers are not yet musically ready for a lone performance. You’ll Never Walk Alone is no easy feat for a professional, never mind an amateur singer and Andrea Wilkins’ brave attempt at this musical icon was, if truth be told, not ready for a paying audience.

While singing, the company moved to choreography by Fay Ellingham which occasionally looked a little like a gentle aerobics class but suited the level of the performers, complemented the singing and allowed for singing without breathlessness.

The device of using an operatic society’s committee wondering which show to do next was what brought to mind HLOC’s 2017 show. Johanna Chambers’ direction of this part of the 2019 concert, however, was a little odd. Lucy Sim seemed to be delivering lines to an audience that was hard of hearing (in the cosy surroundings of St Mary’s Church Hall), and the other committee members were enunciating their lines in the rather extreme way in which children might after a teacher had tried to get them to vary their tone of voice for performance at assembly. Whilst there is little scope for characterisation beyond caricature in the tiny little scenes they performed in between the music, their interactions as characters seemed rather forced. The attention to small detail in the 2017 show’s characters on the other hand, had made a tiny but critical difference which produced more natural acting performances.

It’s always difficult for a society performing on a limited budget to cover all the bases, but the strip lighting in the church hall is no great creator of mood and perhaps paying a little attention to this – use floor lamps or standard lamps or similar – with a view to being able to turn off most of the strip lights would help to summon up a little atmosphere.

Recent Hounslow Light Opera shows have been strong, their autumn Ruddigore, a tribute to the late Peter King, was an entertaining and uplifting event. They are a society that works with the talent they have, and that in itself is to be admired. A Nice Dilemma, whilst not their most outstanding work, was still a pleasant evening’s choral entertainment and I look forward to their autumn show.

Eleanor Lewis
March 2019

Photography by St Erudite

From → Musicals, Reviews, Revue

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