Spotlights’ latest all singing all dancing production was a knock-out at Exeter Phoenix this Monday and Tuesday. A talented bunch of musical lovers took to the stage to wow us with A Night at the Musicals. With hits from all decades, including classics from Les Miserables, to new fan-favourites Hamilton and Matilda, and some newer more quirky choices from Dear Evan Hansen. There was a song to suit everyone’s tastes, whether you’re a theatre buff or just partial to the occasional show-tune (I personally find myself somewhere comfortably in the middle). This was certainly reflected in the audience and their reactions: something to suit all ages and each song was met with raucous cheers and applause, with the night ending with the audience on their feet as the cast launched into their final rendition of ‘Footloose’.
Spotlights is the musical theatre show choir branch of Exeter University’s biggest musical theatre society, Footlights. Riding the wave of success of Footlights’ latest sell-out smash performances of Singin’ in the Rain, the level of talent and showmanship was easily maintained and directed with finesse under the guidance of Kathryn Pridgeon and Michael Hogg. With an ensemble cast from different years and with differing levels of experience, almost every cast member was given their time to shine (their time in the spotlight, if you will), whether a song of their own, or a solo in a group performance. The cohesive nature of the performance was admirable, with musical bangers such as ‘One Day More’ which brought act one to a triumphant close. The choir managed to capture the ensemble element of the song, assigning a handful of singers to harmonise for each part, but keeping the spirit of the show-choir (and ultimately the song itself) by bringing the whole cast together.
A stand out performance was the confident solo of ‘You’re Welcome’ from Disney blockbuster Moana. A newer, slightly unexpected song which was performed with flair by a talented cast member, and featured a well carried-off gender-flip. I had trepidations about whether the cast would pull off the song with the speed and knack it requires, but was highly impressed! Another memorable performance was the knock-out number from the Lion King; ‘He Lives In You’. Performed as an assured solo with the backing of the choir, this song embodied all the soul and sentiments of the original whilst the performer brought his own style to it. ‘You and Me (But Mostly Me)’ was another solo (or was it a duet?) that proved to be a crowd pleaser. A funny song that was carried off with skillful acting and killer vocals. A song that may have been difficult to pull off, but was performed with panache and ease. Another funny, well-acted performance came in the choir’s rendition of ‘A Musical’, a song I hadn’t heard before but was fully invested in thanks to the skill of the performers.
The show really shone when the whole cast came together to sing and dance in harmony. Performances like Book of Mormon’s ‘Hello’ and Sunshine on Leith’s ‘Over and Done With’ gave individual cast members their time to shine, but brought the whole company singing together. These songs also demonstrated the acting ability of the cast as they managed to embody the spirit of the original musicals in these numbers too. An element I wasn’t expecting from a show-choir performance was the really impressive dance routines that came with each song, tiring to watch as an audience member as the level of enthusiasm shown by the performers was astounding.
My only (and albeit tiny) reservation about the show was the lack of diversity in the case of singing songs so grounded in their diversity. This is not to discredit the talent of the performers, but in a few songs the dancing style paired with a disco-soulful track was somewhat jarring. Similarly, songs from Hamilton were confidently performed with talent, but the lack of diversity reflected in this cast’s rendition was notable. However, this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the evening and by the end I was on my feet ready to be blown away by the phenomenal closing song: ‘Footloose’. Not only was this a joyous end to the whole night, but the calibre of performance really reached its peak with an outstanding dance number.
Overall, this was an excellent way to spend an evening and I hope you were lucky enough to grab a ticket!
– Lowri Ellcock
Featured image courtesy of Spotlights.