Culture editor Olivia Boyce reviews the Guild Musical Theatre Group’s winter showcase, ‘Seasons of Love’
With the festive season comes a firm favourite staple of the student performance scene – the Guild Musical Theatre Showcase. This week sees ‘Seasons of Love’, a treat for audiences with songs from shows both old and new.
Taking place in the intimate space of the Guild of Students’ Dance studio, the showcase celebrates love in its many forms, with songs themed around romance, self-acceptance, community and much more. The title song ‘Seasons of Love’ is the opener, perhaps one of theatre’s best-known songs. Rent, the 1996 rock musical from which it is taken, is a ground-breaking show with community and the beauty of family and friendship, even in the face of heartbreak and loss, at its heart – it is a great choice of inspiration for the theme at the central focus of the showcase.
Audiences are treated to performances of a wide range of songs, from solos to large ensemble numbers, modern musical hits to iconic classics, and everything in between. Familiar tunes from blockbuster hits like Wicked, Mamma Mia and Legally Blonde are placed between the lesser known but equally impressive offerings from South Pacific, 13, and Once – it makes for a delightful mix.
From Anna Cole’s powerful rendition of ‘The Winner Takes It All’, to Charley Lampitt and Freya Carroll capturing the personalities of Wicked’s two famous witches in a performance of the catchy ‘What Is This Feeling?’, the showcase starts strongly, and keeps up the momentum all night. Later, Meg Russon sings ‘Pulled’, Wednesday Addams’ big number in The Addams Family, in a suitably comedic and kooky performance that delights the audience, and an emotional performance of ‘The Letter’ from Billy Elliot has some gorgeous harmonies, courtesy of Francesca Hayman, Helen Parsons and Alastair Winning. ‘Take Me or Leave Me’, sung by Olivia Ford and Meg Russon, and ‘What It Means to Be a Friend’, sung by Zoë Farrow, are contrasting early in the second act, but both are accomplished and impressive performances.
There are some hilarious moments as well as emotional ones. A performance of ‘I’m Sorry I Love You’ from Made in Dagenham is performed as a mix of sweetness and comedic glee by Thomas Kershaw- Green and Meg Bailey, while ‘Friendship’ from Cole Porter’s legendary classic Anything Goes has the audience in peals of laughter when performed by Helen Parsons and Alastair Winning. The hilariously risqué ‘Baptise Me’ from the notoriously tongue in cheek Book Of Mormon, performed by Daniel Gray and Phoebe Reynolds, is then followed by a breathtaking performance of ‘Bring Him Home’, Giulio Magliaio hitting soaring notes with a real tenderness. They are two songs I’d never have put one after the other, and yet here it works wonders, humour giving way to heartbreak.
Larger ensemble pieces are also wonderfully brought to life by the 18-strong cast. The empowering ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair’ from South Pacific is performed by Lucy Robinson, leading a larger group as they sing, tap and dance their way through brilliantly. The ‘Seventeen Reprise’ from Heathers, the closing number of the first half, is also well performed, as is the bonkers ‘Miracle’ from Matilda, the touching acoustic ballad ‘Gold’ from Once, and the upbeat ‘So Much Better’ from Legally Blonde. Each group number showcases breathtaking, sumptuous harmonies, and together the cast and band give performances rivalling professionally recorded versions of the songs.
There are songs from current hits too – ‘Journey to the Past’ from Anastasia, the musical based on the animated film of the same name, is performed wonderfully by Lizzy Ives, who steps into the character effortlessly, confidence and excitement building to an impressive final moment. Dharini Rajaramanan performs ‘She Used to Be Mine’, penned by Sara Bareilles and from Waitress, in a vocally impressive and moving rendition. The song is devastating within the show, and this carries over here, a hint of the sadness that drives the character achieved brilliantly even without knowing the background behind the lyrics.
‘You Will Be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen, winner of the Tony Award for Best New Musical at this year’s ceremony, is the closing performance. The show has won praise for its handling of challenging subject matter with compassion, and this comes through in a real tearjerker of a performance. The entire cast sing ‘Even when the dark comes crashing through, When you need a friend to carry you, When you’re broken on the ground – You will be found’, and it is a powerful message of friendship and support that rings true after a showcase that speaks to just those sentiments.
‘Seasons of Love’ was met with a well- deserved standing ovation and rapturous applause from the audience. Every performer, musician and member of the production team can be proud of what they achieved – it’s a beautiful, enjoyable, and heart-warming showcase.