Musicals usually take several months to be rehearsed, produced, choreographed and put together, to get the quality required for the West End stage. They usually have months of workshops and countless runs. However the industry better watch out. It seems Showtime Challenge has managed this in 48 hours.
The show began with a bang. We were well taken care of by our hysterical host Warwick Davis (who was accompanied by Star Wars music on every entrance by the exceptional band, who continued to be exceptional throughout). It was nice to start off hearing exactly the rules of putting together this production as well as the charity it was raising money for as both aspects made the show all together more impressive and moving.
The opening ensemble number – the title song- “Thoroughly Modern Millie”- was expertly choreographed by Ashley Nottingham and executed by a truly wonderful ensemble. If I didn’t know better, I would be none the wiser that it hadn’t been rehearsed in the time a West End show usually takes.
Nothing could possibly have prepared us for the phenomenal rising star, Amy Perry (Millie Dillmount). Her exquisite talent was again, West End worthy and she exploded on stage capturing our hearts with her quirky and extremely likeable Millie, which is, at the shows very core, necessary to get us emotionally invested in the show. Even more impressively, she only graduated from drama school last year, but had the air and confidence of a seasoned professional, which I have no doubt she will very soon become. She shone mostly when in scenes with Anna-Jane Casey (Muzzy) and Will Kenning (who had incredible presence as Trevor Graydon) rather than her solo numbers; perhaps because of how impressive it was that she very much kept up with these actors who are actually seasoned pros. Also mention worthy were her numbers with the ensemble as one of my personal favourites alongside the opening was “Forget About The Boy”, which had extremley exciting and complex choreography, an excellent example of how impressive the ensemble was. It was nice to see the hilarious Joanna Reyes (Miss Peg Flannery) featured in this song, as although only briefly, she did a wonderful job of proving there truly are no small parts, if you throw yourself into a part as she did.
The leading comedic force was the hysterical Suanne Braun (Mrs Meers). Although the Chinese accent she used to hide the fact she was actually the wanted criminal and former actress Daisy Crumpler was sometimes difficult to understand, on the most part she held the audience in the palm of her hand. Her interpretation of “They Don’t Know”, actually had me liking her evil character, and this gave a real depth to the show. Her scene with Anna-Jane Casey had the audience in bits, and gave the part of the show (half way through Act Two) which I find is usually where a musical begins to drag a huge boost to carry the captivated audience safely to the finale.
We cannot forget the fantastic talent that is Anna-Jane Casey. Every time she was on stage she shone like the star she is, and ultimately gave the show the finishing touch that made it feel like a professional West End show. Yet, this isn’t surprising as she is a she is no stranger to playing a leading lady on the West End stage (Cats, Children of Eden and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to name a few). Honestly, I could not fault her performance, which isn’t as surprise in the slightest as having seen her in many other shows (Forbidden Broadway, The Comedy of Errors, Bells are Ringing) this seems to be a very consistent theme.
Finally I have to mention the phenomenal creative team and the people who run Showtime Challenge. To give 115 people (so many of which were making there West End debut) such an incredible opportunity to not only perform on such a prestigious stage, but work with such amazing professionals (creative team and cast), cannot be skimmed over. In a brief chat with one of the dance ensemble members making their West End debut, Aisling Turner, she exclaimed, “Having a chance to be a part of showtime challenge’s 48 hour Millie is something I will never forget and am deeply grateful for”, which seemed to be a theme among the young cast. On top of this, to be supporting such a worthy cause, Mind, who provide advice and support to empower people experiencing a mental health problem (something extremely relevant not just in society, but in the acting industry in particular), gave the evening a special sentimental touch.
With a lick of paint and an extra week or so of rehearsal, Showtime Challenge could have definitely passed as a polished West End show. Nonetheless in 48 hours on the whole it mostly did and I couldn’t have been more impressed if I tried. Unfortunately, the show was only on for one night (most likely to the relief of the cast who must have been absolutely exhausted after this 48 hour experience), yet after this shows roaring success I have no doubt we will be seeing more of Showtime Challenge very soon, and if we do, I can’t urge you enough to not miss it.
Reviewed by Kara Taylor Alberts (@karaalberts)
Photo: Darren Bell