Bar Nights are where seasoned-veteran of the ADC and those looking to venture into the world of musical theatre meetElaina Ough with permission for Varsity

As I sat down to the conversational buzz and warm purple light of the ADC bar, I didn’t know what was in store for me. Much like many of the performers, this was my first experience of the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society (CUMTS) Bar Night. I had expected a polished evening of well-rehearsed performances, owing to the usual high standard of Cambridge theatre. This was true, in part. But the Bar Night was so much more; platforming performers with a wide range of experience and strengths, it provided a welcoming environment for people to try out the Cambridge musical theatre scene.

So alongside moments of gorgeous musical transcendence from those who were clearly trained, it was also a wild ride of missed words, lyrics written on hands, and comically-executed mutterings of “is that right?” to the pianist, Lily Blundell. It was this laid-back and friendly environment that turned out to be the light-hearted relief that would make the evening a highlight of my week. As the first singer began, the immediate explosion of noisy enthusiasm from the crowd set the tone for the next two hours of performances, promising a sense of community and support from musical theatre lovers, both old and new.

“It provided a welcoming environment for people to try out the Cambridge musical theatre scene”

Bar Night absolutely nailed its intentions of creating a thrilling yet comfortable atmosphere for its performers. Designed as a low-commitment, casual event for anyone who wants to get involved, the night showcased the impressive talent still hidden away from the regulars on the ADC mainstage. Bar Nights representative, Isaac Jackson, told me: “it’s the nicest way to dip your toes into the theatre world in Cambridge and see if it’s for you with no strings attached!” This certainly made it all the more enjoyable for audience members, who were repeatedly stunned by unfamiliar faces busting out some remarkable vocals.

A particular highlight was Daisy Dent, who sang “The Wizard and I” from Wicked. A quick CamDram search reveals that Daisy has not yet made a full-scale ADC debut, but their charming nature, with numerous glints of comedic personality and character, supported a vocally remarkable performance. As Daisy lovingly made this demanding musical number their own, I couldn’t help but find myself smiling. Rest assured, there are clearly still fresh faces brimming with pure talent out there in Cambridge.

Hugo Gregg belting out his incredible high notes made the room shake with applause!Elaina Ough with permission for varsity

Alongside new faces, there were some performers who were Bar Night regulars. Hugo Gregg had us gasping in awe, with an extraordinary rendition of “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar. He passionately captured all the tender emotion of the song, and even whipped out two killer high notes which were met with an eruption of enthusiastic cheers and shouts. April Perrot’s performance of “My House” from Matilda was equally as refined. Welcomed on by excited whispers from audience members who recognised the name, April demonstrated a mastery of voice control and a skilful perfection of character which left many speechless. Even newcomers, whose performances featured some expected stumbles and nerves, had the light-heartedness to sail past the confusion. As they were cheered on by a surprisingly energetic post-C-Sunday crowd, I found beauty in the endearing nature of mishaps. Many of these performers expressed pride for overcoming mistakes, in a light-hearted embrace of imperfection that I feel the average Cambridge student with their in-bred fear of failure could benefit from.

“The reputation that Cambridge Theatre has is that everything you do becomes a huge demand on your time. This is something we really try to combat”

CUMTS’ Bar Nights and Musicians representatives, Isaac and Lily, did an excellent job to create this refuge for imperfection and inexperience in the ADC bar. Isaac duly noted: “I think the reputation that Cambridge Theatre has is that everything you do becomes a huge demand on your time. This is something we really try to combat with Bar Nights — it’s all about getting to meet people in a friendly environment, and embrace performing with the kindest and most accommodating casts and audiences around!” Isaac and Lily deserve particular praise, as they regularly organise the whole affair in a tight four-day turnaround, holding informal auditions on a Thursday for a show the following Monday. Lily even learns an impressive twenty-odd piano parts to accompany the performers’ choice of song. Faced with this immense task, they both take it in their stride, reporting: “in the end, our mentality is that as long as our singers feel as comfortable and ready to perform as best as possible when they’re up on that stage, we’ve done our job.”


Mountain View

‘Spring Awakening’ asks: are our bodies truly the guilty ones?

As the night wrapped up, I caught myself in conversation with one of the first-time performers, Imogen Barnes. Imogen, still beaming with pride from her performance, told me how fun it was to have made the debut with her “comfort people”, co-performers and ADC regulars, Gina Stock and Jude Ashcroft. This little scene is testament to how wonderfully warm the Cambridge Theatre can be. Through Bar Nights, we see oldies guiding newbies into the scene, making friends and fostering a passion for musical theatre along the way. Truly a night for all, the CUMTS Bar Night is worth a shot, whether as a first-time performer with an itch for musical theatre, or as an audience member looking for some light-hearted entertainment to relieve exam-season stress.

CUMTS’ Bar Nights happen regularly every term. The next Bar Night is on the 15th of May at 8:00pm. Get your tickets here.