Tuesday, 15 June 2021

“ALWAYS Look on the Bright Side of Life” is a pretty good maxim for anyone — and will certainly help you to enjoy this latest HAODS production at the Kenton Theatre.

Without doubt, HAODS has some outstanding talent. It would be invidious to mention any individuals in this production for it is a truly ensemble piece with every member of the cast pulling his or her weight.

That said, the musicians deserve a special mention for their sheer professionalism — they certainly know their stuff.

And what a delight to be able to see such accomplished live musicians on the stage, not hidden down in the pit. That arrangement certainly adds to the staging of Take Me To...

The show’s format presented HAODS with an interesting challenge. It is a medley, shall we say, of the big songs from the big shows.

A narrative line is suggested by interspersing songs with lines from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, tracing the seven ages of man — an interesting linking of the songs with stages of life.

But, even though the quotes are eloquently delivered by members of the cast, it’s the songs you will go for — and go you must.

The show’s director and choreographer Jennamarie Smith explained that it was fun to start a production from scratch — no script, no formula.

“The production changed as the rehearsals progressed,” she said. “Take Me To... gradually took shape and took on a life of its own. That was so exciting.”

This is by no means a “singalong” night out. The singing is, for the most part, far too good to be drowned out by an audience singing along — but I defy you not to hum quietly to some of your favourite numbers.

The cast really gets into its stride in act two when they sing with more verve and conviction and seem to be working together more as a company.

Maybe it’s the songs in act two — Be Our Guest, It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life — or maybe it’s just a fact of life?

Maybe we do all become more philosophical as the years go by and learn to make the most of the joys in life? HAODS certainly make the most of this opportunity to enjoy putting their all into some great songs.

If you feel at all down in the dumps, Take Me To... will blow away the gloom. If you’re full of sunshine, it will have you singing all the way home.

Take yourself along to Take Me To... and enjoy every song and every moment. It’s a rare treat to hear so many favourite songs from the big shows — Sweet Charity, My Fair Lady, Matilda, Phantom of the Opera and more — linked together in this unusual production.

Until Saturday.

Bridget Fraser

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