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'Jemms knows just how to succeed in show business'- Hexham Courant 2013

Friday, 30th August 2013 - 07:37 pm      Author: Hannah Glossop

Jemms has always had a reputation for providing a fun learning environment and the fact that youngsters still flock to the drama group so many years after it was established says a lot for the values it instills. It is a pleasure to take the annual trip to see the shows and watch them tackle such brilliant musical theatre material, in a professional venue. This years production "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" was no exception.

The story unfolds around the young and ambitious J. Pierrepont Finch who wants to climb to the top in the business world and uses the book of the title to help him get there. Charlie Dancer proved himself more than capable of leading the show as Finch, and won the audience over with his cheeky yet charming interpretation of a man who will stop at nothing to get to where he wants to be. Dancer has an impressive command of the stage, a powerful singing voice, and was extremely likeable. A recipe for success as a leading man!

The boss Finch was trying to impress, J.B Biggley was executed brilliantly by Will Rees. A regular comic favourite Rees never fails to move the audience to tears through sheer hilarity and Biggley did not disappoint. Showing impressive nasal resonance, Rees created a character voice that could only be described as inspired- imagine Mr Bean and an army major- and somewhere in between you have Biggley. Another well observed character was Joseph Bell's Mr Bratt, a supervisor figure in the company. I felt Bell showed real subtlety in his character and as a result was very believable. His switches between voicing Bratt's truthful opinions and then dropping them instantly to agree with the boss were genuinely funny and he held stage presence throughout.

Ben Evans proved himself very versatile in his transitions between the narrative voice of the Book and also Mr Twimble- so much so that I noted both his performances but did not realise it was the same actor. His voicing of the book was well delivered with clarity- essential in order for the audience to follow the story, whilst his Mr Twimble showed great comic timing and energy. Max Greig was wonderful to watch, capturing the annoying essence of Bud Frump, the nephew of Biggley perfectly. His continued attempts to foil Finch were performed with flair, and Greig also showed himself to be a committed performer and strong singer. A fantastic combination.

Indeed one impressive feature of this show was the way in which young performers tackled the roles of older businessmen with ease. Thomas Hill was fantastically sleazy as Mr Gatch and gave us many laugh out loud moments. His physical interpretation and character laugh helped create a memorable role. Ben Nicholson highlighted brilliantly the power of stillness in those of higher status as Wally Womper- the head of the business corporation. A bellowing voice intimidated the office workers, and yet a friendlier approach to Finch revealed Womper's humble beginnings as a window washer, a great performance. Many of these actors played roles much older than their years- with gusto, and the cast had impressively accurate American accents.

Of course no show is complete without its leading ladies- even in the business world of the 60's. Staav Bremer was adorable as Rosemary Pilkington, the tenacious love interest of Finch. Bremer created an insistent and sensitive girl, that I'm sure many of the female audience could relate to. She confidently belted out numerous songs on her journey to capturing Finch's heart, and both Rosemary and the audience were rewarded at the end, when her romantic fairy tale came true. One stand out moment was when she sang beautifully about her "Paris Original" dress she had bought to wow Finch at a party. The whole audience felt the disappointment when of course numerous girls turned up wearing the same gown- every girls worst nightmare. Rachel Atkinson played the perfect best friend as Smitty guiding us through her friend’s romance through song, whilst Alice Hanley as Miss Krumholtz helped to really conjure up the office mentality. Both girls acted, sang and danced with a lovely spirited energy.

Providing Rosemary with an arch nemesis in the love stakes- was Hedy La-Rue, presented marvellously by Jennie Klotz, who found just the right balance between sweetness and sass. Her Marilyn Monroe-esque secretary was lovely to watch, the men wanted to date her and the girls (albeit secretly) wanted to be her. However she definitely proved herself to be more than a pretty face with a fabulous singing voice. In stark contrast to the sashaying siren, Siobhan Mcauly offered a wonderfully stern and domineering Miss Jones- secretary to Mr Biggley. Her strict approach in the office and drab character were brought to life when Mcauley showed us that even Miss Jones could not resist the charms of Finch. As well as giving some impressive high notes during songs she helped establish the office dynamic perfectly.

It has to be said the ensemble worked incredibly hard maintaining their individual characters throughout and really gave the audience some excellent details to pick out. Songs which showed how important coffee was in order to function, and also that a 'secretary was not a toy' were both very funny and brilliantly executed. The energy, enthusiasm and story-telling of the company must be commended. All in all it has to be said there were too many notable performances and moments to mention, and the company should be proud. The costumes were detailed and the live band made sure the show went with a bang! Artistic directors Stu Rutherford and Lucy Hudson (also choreographer), and musical director Justin Radford captured the era brilliantly and had audiences toe tapping out of the auditorium.

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