A snippet from Joe Beighton’s witty opening speech as compère perhaps best describes the tone of the irreverent CUMTS Gala Night as he announced: “There are two straight men in the cast. I’ve slept with both of them.” The playful self-awareness of the night was what made the experience so enjoyable: the performers were never precious over their material, willing to satirise themselves and the songs they were singing (Toby Marlow’s witty, tongue-in-cheek delivery of “Could she get me a friend?” in ‘Summer Lovin’’ comes to mind), whilst still displaying an inspiring array of talent and performing to an incredibly high standard.
From the very first number, the high calibre of the performers and creatives behind the show was self-evident: the singing was excellent, the choreography was slick and the orchestrations displayed real talent. The vocals from Zak Ghazi-Torbati, Megan Gilbert and Holly Musgrave were especially stand-out, and the sharp choreography in both the electrifying rendition of Matilda’s ‘Revolting Children’ and the well-staged version of ‘Hello’ from The Book of Mormon particularly wowed.
Special mention must go to Lucy Dickson whose performance as Amy in Company’s ‘Not Getting Married Today’ was both technically accomplished and intensely amusing: Sondheim is always tough but this song really is a mouthful and Dickson carried it off excellently with very strong support from the ever-hilarious Robin Franklin as Paul. ‘Gotta Get a Gimmick’ from Gypsy was another high point of the night: Olivia Gaunt’s vocals were particularly impressive (as they were across the board, in fact) in this fun and brassy rendition of the burlesque classic.
The undeniable highlight, however, was Zak Ghazi-Torbati, Toby Marlow and Joe Beighton in an incomparable ‘miscast’ rendition of ‘One Night Only’ from Dream Girls: tackled, as everything was, with wit and humour, the number was captivating from beginning to end with its excellent vocal performances and strong choreography.
If I had one tiny criticism (and I should emphasise that this is really nitpicking) then it would be that perhaps a few more serious moments would have been a welcome addition to the evening — the numbers were largely comedic which kept the energy and pace high but a few more opportunities for the performance to display a different style of delivery would have been pleasing to see.
Overall, however, the talented performers and creatives wholly deserved the standing ovation they received at the end of the performance and I can only feel sorry for those who did not manage to see this raucous showcase of musical theatre talent!