Ushers: The Front of House Musical

Wed 3rd – Fri 19th August 2016

reviews

Laura Whetherly

at 09:29 on 16th Aug 2016

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We all know what happens onstage at the theatre, but what about if you shift the focus beyond the bright lights? 'Ushers: The Front of House Musical', performed by the Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG), answers this question – and has got to be one of the most professional, charming student productions at the Fringe this year.

'Ushers' follows the story of a group of front-of-house theatre staff over the course of one show. While the in-world audience are enjoying 'Oops, I Did It Again; the Britney Spears Musical', we catch a rare glimpse into the funny, romantic and genuinely touching stories taking place behind the scenes, helped along by an endlessly energetic cast.

DULOG’s cast of six are clearly all extremely talented vocalists, and gel together in a confident, cohesive ensemble. However, each cast member is also able to hold their own in the challenging solo numbers. Special mention should go to the beautifully-sung duet 'Loving You Is All I Know' performed by Alex Mackinder and Will Emery (as ushers Ben and Gary).

Although there are some serious moments scattered throughout the show, 'Ushers'' success particularly lies in its humour. The cast have got the comic timing down to a tee, and the burgeoning romance between Lucy (Millie Davies) and Stephen (Alex Bromwich) is marked by tongue-in-cheek pink lighting, eye-rolling by the other characters and uncontrollable audience giggles. Charlie Keable’s portrayal of Robin, the sleazy manager, is suitably toe-curling, enough to earn him a few pantomime-villain boos as well as cheers during the final bows. It’s rare to find a student comfortably able to perform a role written as significantly older, but Keable seemed to relish the part.

There are a few other careful touches which really brought up the production from good to brilliant. For instance, the set changes are covered by an amusing “instructional video” supposedly used to train future ushers, and there is an impressive tap-dancing finale. Director Nicola Orrell and Musical Director Becky Brookes have clearly put a lot of thought into the details, and it shows.

With such a small cast and a very simple set, this show could have felt rather pared down. However, the slick production and sheer talent of the cast prevents this from happening, resulting in a truly enjoyable performance. If you like musicals, go and see 'Ushers'. If you don’t, go anyway. This might be the show to change your mind.

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Serena Basra

at 10:05 on 16th Aug 2016

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The unsung heroes of the theatre have truly proved themselves worthy of the spotlight in this dazzling performance of 'Ushers: The Front of House Musical'. This production is confident, slick and a true testament to the best that Edinburgh Fringe has on offer.

From the moment you walk through the door, although you may not realise it, the production has begun. The actors welcome you with the cheerful and humorously strained panache of a stereotypical usher, and these tongue-in-cheek gags are littered throughout the immersive performance. The cast act as a true ensemble: they skilfully execute a number of theatrical in-jokes, which are sure to delight any keen theatre lover and provoke riotous laughter from the audience. However, Rosie (Sophie Allen) is perhaps the stand-out comic star of the piece, as her brazen acting style cements the playful relationship between actor and audience, and prevents those who are less well-versed in the language of theatre from feeling alienated.

Whilst the ending of the play may require a slight suspension of disbelief, the core narrative swaps between lighthearted humour and deep-rooted emotion with ease. The heightened romance between Lucy (Millie Davies) and Stephen (Alex Bromwich) is truly endearing. The moment the pair fall for each other is comically complemented by a garish pink light - a wonderful directorial decision. This relationship is excellently contrasted against that of Gary (Will Emery) and Ben (Alex Mackinder), whose tumultuous affair provides the show with an element of heartfelt pathos. It is well known in the world of theatre that every show needs a villain, and this role is filled exceptionally well by Robin Pocketts (Charlie Keable). His melodramatic delivery is both sinister and comical as he plays the role of failed Opera singer turned exploitative manager with glee and panache.

In terms of the overall performance it is worth noting that although the piece is well-choreographed, some actors are more skilled at certain types of dance than others. It is a credit to the actors that this hinders the performance very little, as their high level of enthusiasm allows small mistakes to be easily forgiven. This fervour is carried across to the cast’s singing, as the sheer strength of this across the board allows each cast member to shine.

Make sure to not anger any ushers by committing the cardinal sin of turning up late to this performance. But then again, why would you want to miss a moment? This show is an absolute knockout.

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