Helena Fox

You can’t help but feel excited when the lights rise on the ADC stage and the 28-piece orchestra (hidden but perfectly audible throughout) strikes up. The Musical Theatre Society’s annual Gala Night, only billed for two late shows, promises ‘an evening of pure musical theatre decadence’ from some of the ADC’s starriest talent. The ensemble blazes onstage for a rousing, tightly-choreographed rendition of ‘Step in Time’, and from here on in the good feeling just builds.

"The quality of performance is consistently stunning, to the extent that it is difficult to pick highlights"

This invigorated atmosphere is carried by the energy and warmth with which the talented cast take on every number. Step in Time has a full programme of sixteen physically and vocally exigent songs: but you’d never know it from the performers’ electric delivery and easy, smiling grace; and when the finale rounds off to resounding applause, they still find the energy to bounce offstage; while the audience leave eager for more.

This disarming flair, which every performer demonstrates throughout, is particularly apparent when Eve French leads the all-singing, all-tap-dancing rendition of ‘Anything Goes’ with playful panache that belies its demanding vocals. Jasmine Coomber’s complex choreography also brings rousing rhythm and fills the stage while French belts. Ben Cisneros finesses all his solos with a similar ease: notably ‘Run Freedom Run’ from Urinetown, in which he is plucky and vocally accomplished. In a similar way, the full-ensemble Abba medley, headlined by Sophie Foote, Aisha Wheatley and Eve French, is especially fun because the whole cast seems to enjoy it so much. They bound down from the stage to fill the auditorium with dancing and tightly arranged harmonies.

Indeed, although Gala Night is cast from across the year groups, featuring CUMTS regulars alongside relative newcomers, everyone seems to relish being onstage together. And the quality of performance is consistently stunning, to the extent that it is difficult to pick highlights. However, a faultlessly slick ‘Cell Block Tango’ is delivered with deliciously ironic venom and received with whooping enthusiasm, while Oscar Kong’s Jamie, Conor Dumbrell’s photographer, and Robin Franklin’s Corny Collins are especially winning. In these numbers, it’s the performers’ character acting which shines. They completely engage with the characters whose lyrics they were performing: so that the individual number feels like a narrative in itself, and attention to details such as gesture, wavers in tone and facial expression draw the audience in as well.

It would be exciting to see even more focus on characterisation and narrative in every piece, to follow the possibility of a building or changing tone in the song, and highlight a character’s experience as they sing it. This would further engage the audience in the mood of the individual numbers, as well as the overall high-spirited mood of the night.

This said, the playbill demonstrates emotional diversity: ranging from Half a Sixpence’s delightfully twee ‘Flash Bang Wallop’ to the restrained and earnest ‘Purple Summer’ from Spring Awakening. The different tones are effectively interspersed; and the singers deliver a high-octane and cathartically expressive programme against the unadorned stage.


Mountain View

The Pillowman Review

The outstanding, feel-good success of Step in Time is testament to the talent, vision and impressive hard work of every member of its team. In particular, the cast must be lauded for their perfect mastery of varied and demanding choreography, and the orchestra for theirs of the soundtrack. It is hard to imagine a better night at the ADC, nor a higher standard of musical theatre for less than ten pounds.