Joe Casey - Sam Hussey
Sarah - Aimee Wright
Dad - Mark Barton-Leigh
Kath - AnnMarie Parsons
Angie Morton - Amy Leonard
Billie Morton - Emma Harris
Lewis - Dave Smith
Emmo - Stu Collins
Mr Pressman - Adrian Jones
Reecey - Paul Rogers
Callum - Dave Brown
Julie - Danielle Rousell
SOUTHAMPTON Musical Society is only a mere 12 years from celebrating its 100 year anniversary, which by anyone’s standards is an incredible achievement.
As a company, they have stood the test of time and year in and year out, they have provided shows of a very high calibre; this show is, once again, a triumph.
The Society continue to push themselves with producing new shows as well as the old favourites. In the last 3 years alone, they have performed The Wedding Singer, Copacabana, Jekyll & Hyde and The Producers. Any theatre fan will appreciate the diversity of these shows. The society’s current instalment is, ‘Our House’ performed at the lovely Berry Theatre.
‘Our House’ is a musical featuring the songs from the ska/pop band Madness and was named after one of their popular hit singles, "Our House". The show premiered at The Cambridge Theatre in 2002 and has since gone on to tour both nationally and internationally to great acclaim.
The show has some obvious influences including the musicals Blood Brothers, Rent and the romantic film comedy Sliding Doors where two alternate lives run parallel and the audience are treated to watching the lives of the characters unfold with dramatic effect.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so all I will say is that the story follows Camden lad Joe Casey. On the night of his 16th birthday, he makes a decision that will change his life. Joe’s life splits into two; the Good Joe who stays and gives himself up and Bad Joe who flees and leaves Sarah to run from the police.
From the opening curtain to the closing curtain the audience is treated to what I can only describe as a whirlwind of emotions, fast-paced dances and great characterisations.
I grew up listening to Madness and therefore I was excited to see how the songs could be grafted into the script by the writer, Tim Firth, and I wasn’t disappointed. They fitted excellently into the story and I almost forgot how many cracking songs Madness have written. And even if you’re not a Madness fan, the songs do not seem out of place at all in the story. The fact that I am still humming the songs while writing this review speaks for itself.
And whilst on the subject of the music, the 7-piece band under the musical direction of Will Pickering was excellent and they recreated the Madness sound brilliantly.
The excellent set, provided by Scenery Solutions consisted of a raised platform which accommodated a very useful storage space underneath and two large revolves which were operated swiftly and effectively by the stage crew and cast. I particularly liked the clever use of the black and white revolves to depict the two stories (black & white)…. Simple but very clever.
There was great use of the props too. Quick scene changes helped the show motor along. All I would say is……… make sure the newspapers are the right way up when reading them…. although it did make me chuckle.
Now I know it’s not easy to choreograph 30 cast members around a stage, but the two choreographers Sarah Turner and Stefanie Radley manage to pull it off superbly. The dance routines were dynamic and fast and the routines reflected the dances of the Madness era. My personal favourite songs were the highly energetic ‘Our House’, ‘Wings of a Dove’ and the moving ‘NW5’.
The lighting and sound were faultless, I heard every word the cast delivered and the band were not too loud or quiet. My only disappointment was not being able to see the band take their deserved bow at the end as they were under the stage.
With such a large cast it can be hard to both finance and source costumes of this era; however, Meryl Collins, Stu Collins and Anna Lorimer did a wonderful job and each cast member looked ‘right’ for their respective part.
Now onto the cast. Each and every cast member deserves credit for contributing to a fine show and I’m not exaggerating when I say that by the last note of the last song… each and every cast member was completely out of breath and this was clearly because they had literally given everything they had. This must be down to their commitment in their craft but also to excellent direction from Dawn Broomfield, who clearly worked hard to get every last ounce of energy from everyone.
I really want to highlight the brilliant way each cast member managed to flip between the two story lines and apply their characterisations to the story that they are in at the time.
Sam Hussey gave a great performance as Joe and goodness only knows how he managed so many quick costumes changes as he dipped from one life into another; Aimee Wright was a very believable Sarah with a wonderful voice, and stood out acting wise. The Dad, Mark Barton-Leigh, held the show together very well with his narration and AnnMarie Parsons was perfect as Kath.
Every musical has a comedy element and this show doesn’t fall short at all. Emma Harris as Bille Morton and Amy Leonard as Angie Morton provide the humour and were a breath of fresh air in each of their scenes. Equally, Dave Smith as Lewis and Stu Collins as Emmo were perfectly cast and provided great performances. Other super performances came from Adrian Jones as Mr Pressman, Paul Rogers as Reecey, Dave Brown as Callum and Danielle Rousell as Julie. The 18-strong chorus were also a credit to the company.
I would recommend this show to everyone so do pop along to the Berry Theatre in Hedge End…..The show runs until Saturday 4th April (including a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm).