Bad Girls the Musical  NODA Review

National Operatic & Dramatic Association London Region 
Society: Marlow Amateur Operatic Society 

Production: BAD GIRLS

Date: Wednesday 14th March 2012

Venue: Shelley Theatre, Court Garden, Marlow

Report by Gordon Bird, NODA Representative, Area 14 

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The musical is based on a TV series called Bad Girls – a programme that ran for 107 episodes on ITV1, winning a number of awards (including TV quick awards, National TV awards).  
The musical was developed by the programme creators, Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus, in collaboration with composer and lyricist Kath Gotts and after being premiered in Yorkshire, successfully transferred to the Garrick Theatre in London in September 2007. 
I never watched the TV series so do not have any preconceptions when watching the musical version. 
The offering by MAOS has some strong moments with some excellent singing and acting but would have been so much better with a more care on the balance of sound. Quite a few of the actors’ lines were lost with some of the songs disappointedly overpowered by the orchestra.  

NIKKI WADE (Heather Morgan) Heather performed an excellent interpretation of Nikki the main character. From her opening scene, her demeanour and posture set her character perfectly. Her singing was superb, particularly in the duet with HELEN, “EVERY NIGHT”, which was exceptional. The performance of the evening was the song “ONE MOMENT” in which Heather’s natural movement and excellent facial expressions were captivating. Very occasionally Heather spoke a little too quickly so be careful when delivery some of your lines. However, this was a first rate performance from a first rate performer.  

DENNY BLOOD (Lizzy Maillard)  A nice character part that we see change from being dominated by the character SHELL then shows her vulnerability with YVONNE. It was a shame that the sound was not balanced as I did not hear Lizzy at all during the song “GUARDIAN ANGEL”, but I did manage to hear you during “THE BADDEST AND THE BEST” and was impressed with your voice.  

SHELL DOCKLEY (Karen Hemingway) This is a lovely character to portray with some wonderful moments, like during the “First Lady” scene when Fenner is finally caught. Karen certainly presented the range this character required – bossing poor Denny and Rachel, and then being over-shadowed by Yvonne.  “GUARDIAN ANGEL” was very well sung, and of course, so was “FIRST LADY”!  The audience thoroughly enjoyed that scene! Well done on a great character performance. 

YVONNE ATKINS (Sue Roberts)  There was an excellent entrance for this character. I thought Sue produced a fine and believable characterisation of Yvonne, a gangster’s wife, throughout the show. “ALL BANGED UP” was well sung and performed with excellent comic moments. A lovely character, well done. 
NOREEN BIGGS (Debbie Palmer)  This is a small part but very well acted. Debbie kept her character throughout, which is sometimes difficult when you have a few lines to deliver. 
  
CRYSTAL GORDON (Lucy Newell)  The audience are treated to a lovely blues number at the beginning of Act 2 when Crystal sings “FREEDOM ROAD” with the backing from the chorus. Lucy sung this superbly! Hairs raising on the back of the neck time! The character was sustained throughout the show. Well done! 

RACHEL HICKS (SJ James)  A wonderful portrayal! As a character who gets killed off at the end of Act 1, SJ put a lot into her character. She acted the part throughout – even when the focus was not on her. Excellent performance. 

JULIE JOHNSTON (Rachel Dixon)  Rachel performed the part of the “other” Julie very well. There is lot of comedy to be had in these characters, especially in their duet “THE LIFE OF GRIM”, which was a good number, lots of good movement and characterisation, including a lift on the mops! Good character, well done! 

JULIE SAUNDERS (Samantha Dixon)  Although the two Julies appear in most scenes together, there are differences to the characters and Samantha ensured that we were treated to a good interpretation of Julie S, a mother who is imprisoned, we are led to believe, because of her chosen occupation. The song “SORRY” was very well delivered. It is a difficult number as she is the only one on stage and has restricted movement because the sung is a phone conversation. Samantha performed this very well indeed, revealing her “secret” convincingly.  

THE NUMBER ONE (Richard Deacon)  Richard certainly looked like the governor but it was a shame that I had great difficulty picking up the lines. It did not help that two scenes were blocked with Richard having his back to the audience (when using the urinals). It might have worked better if they were facing forward with the bottom parts being blocked by the urinals? 

HELEN STEWART (Nina Wilden)  The duet of “EVERY NIGHT” was superbly sung. Nina certainly has a confident singing voice that was used to good effect. I did feel that the love interest between HELEN and NIKKI needed to be shown more. Perhaps being awkward when first realising her feelings for NIKKI were growing? It felt that one moment she was interested in JUSTIN and the next she was kissing NIKKI. But Nina presented an excellent and confident characterisation and sang superbly. I was also impressed with the natural movement Nina has on stage. Well done. 

SYLVIA “BODYBAGS” HOLLAMBY (Liz Keens)  The part of Sylvia offers a lot of comic moments. Liz performed the amusing songs “JAILCRAFT “and the “THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT” with an element of assurance and there was excellent chemistry between her and Fenner. 

JIM FENNER (Andy Deacon)  Andy has a lovely singing voice, shown to excellent effect during the song “THE KEY” but also during the amusing “THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT”. I felt at times that Andy looked uncomfortable and often had his hands in his pockets. This may be part of the characterisation but I felt it was overdone and looked awkward. Andy produced some lovely moments of the sleazy character and the audience appreciated it when Fenner has his comeuppance at the end.   

JUSTIN MATTISON (Jamie O’Brien)  Jamie performed an able performance and offered some very good moments. I liked the excellent comic timing of his line “you should really try and eat something”, it was delivered perfectly. There were some nice moments with HELEN too, when you were trying to win her heart. Well done. 

GUARDS (Diane Haylor, James Couper-Johnston & Michael Croxley)  I liked the idea of part of the chorus coming on in guard costumes. They even came on to help change the set, which again, worked very well indeed. 

KAT MARTIN (Shirley Jenkins-Pandya), SPIKE JONES (Kerry Clarke) & JESS WINTERS (Alys Mathers)  Additional vocal voices and dance routines were added by a small chorus of prisoners. I don’t know the TV series or characters so do not know if these were involved or invented, but I liked the idea that each chorus member had a name, and offered a different characterisation to their parts. 

DIRECTOR & CHOREOGRAPHY (Laurie Asher)  The show looked to me very well cast and the actors fulfilling their characters. I felt that there was a lot of un-necessary blocking on the night I watched. At one point an arm was raised blocking Rachel’s face when she was talking. Another was when Helen standing behind the guards when she was being introduced to Rachel and it would have been nice to see the facial expressions of these characters. The pace for a first night was good, helped with smooth scene changes. The dances were very well performed by the cast – I liked the “THE LIFE OF GRIM” choreography and also “THE A LIST”, with the ‘doubles’ on the floor with the use of legs! 

MUSICAL DIRECTOR (Peter Dodsworth)  All of the musical numbers were very well sung and it is clear that a lot of time and effort had been spent on the songs. My only criticism is the balance produced as many of the songs were overwhelmed by the orchestra, which was a huge shame. I also wonder about the location of the MD for shows. I was fortunate sitting on the left, but anyone sitting in the middle seats would have had a restricted view of the stage. It is always difficult when you have such a small area to work with but maybe this should be reviewed for the next show? 

ORCHESTRA (Peter Dodsworth, Claire Middleton, Neil Pennock, Phil Wayman, Claire Evans,Gareth Covey-Crump & Steve Fawbert)  The orchestra performed very well on the night I visited. The live sound was a pleasure and certainly enhanced the overall production. Although the orchestra was not loud, it was unbalanced with the singers, as mentioned elsewhere in this report. 

SET CONSTRUCTION (Simon Bird)  The set was very simple but exceptionally effective. The cyclorama had different lights shone onto it that enhanced the scenes. In front of the cyclorama was a line of metal bars, successfully giving the impression of a prison. Additional props, like a bed, or chairs, were added when needed. 

STAGE MANAGEMENT & CREW  The stage was very ably managed with smooth scene changes. A few of the scene changes were a little noisy but this did not distract from the overall production. I liked the idea of the guards changing the set – but was disappointed that on the evening I watched, not everyone was in costume and a couple of people helped move the set were in blacks. This seemed odd – I would have suggested either all in costume, or all in blacks, but not a mixture of both.    

 
Lighting Design (Stephan Medhurst)  The lighting was imaginatively but simply set. Most of the effects were the use of up lighting and over head lights onto the cyclorama. The subtle use of different colours throughout the production added interest.  

Lighting Operation (Bethany Medhurst and Thomas Sims)  The lighting was very well performed, with all the cues seemingly on cue. 

Sound Design (Raymond Medhurst)  The sound effects were all applied on cue. I was disappointed with the balance of the sound levels as most of the singers were overwhelmed by the orchestra. I notice that most of the principals had head microphones and maybe these were not working. It was a shame because there were quite a few comments from fellow audience members about this after the show. 

Sound Operation (Stephen Medhurst & Tom Warren)  The cues appeared on time and the sound effects level was fine. 

Costumes (Lucy Newell & Sue Roberts)  The costumes worked well for the characters. The prison wardens in uniforms and Helen suitably dressed in a grey business suit. The coat for ATKINS was excellent – hiding the contents of the drink until the cue. Costume for SHELL in “FIRST LADY” was just right too.  

Properties (Madeleine Blake)  Stage and personal properties seemed appropriate to the show. 

Programme A 24 page programme offered a lot of information about the cast, previous shows and rehearsal photos. The cast photos were kept in the theme of the show, showing each cast member with a sign with a prison number and the name of the character they were playing. 

Make-up  The make-up looked fine and well applied under the lights. 

Front of House  I was made to feel very welcome by an excellent front of house team. It was good to see that the FOH team were “in costume”, wearing badges with HMP Larkhall.    

I enjoyed my first production at MAOS in Marlow, sharing my experience with an appreciative first night audience and look forward to their next production, MAOS at the Movies, in September.    

Gordon Bird NODA Regional representative London Region, District 14

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