A review of The Invitation Theatre Company and Full Tone Orchestra’s Queen show in the Corn Exchange, Devizes
‘It’ll be alright on the night’ is a phrase often said following a dress rehearsal of dubious quality. As I watched TITCO perform their Queen medley prior to their sell out show I wondered if this would prove true on this occasion. Seems like a big ask, I thought as I watched the cast fumbling through the numbers and trudging round the stage with what seemed to be very little direction or enthusiasm. It’s rock, I thought, for goodness sake give it some welly! ‘Another one bites the dust’ it said on the back of someone’s tee-shirt. Indeed. It was so bad that I didn’t feel I could review it, so I decided to go back on the first night to see if it was any better. TITCO have produced some great shows in the past few years, and the Full Tone Orchestra are a class act. Both have reputations to keep up and fans to please, and both take pride in their work. A fail at this stage would not be good for either. What if, heavens forbid, TITCO didn’t pull it off…?
From the moment I walked into the Ceres Hall on Friday it was abundantly clear that TITCO had been on the glitter, and that all would be well. Energy levels on the stage and in Antony Brown’s orchestra were through the roof, and the audience were buzzing with excitement.
The format of Chris Worthy and Jemma Brown’s production was simple. A programme of iconic songs alternated with less well known tunes and short audio clips of interviews with Queen members, the entire cast dressed in black Queen tee-shirts in front of a plain black backdrop, a thirty piece orchestra and four guitarists to do justice to the music, solos and duets from Sean Andrews, Will Sexton, Chris Worthy, Simon Hoy, Paul Morgan, Lottie Diddams, Jemma Brown, Naomi Ibbetson, Mari Webster and Lucy Burgess, rousing altogether-now ensemble numbers by the whole company, and more glow sticks than you could shake a glow stick at.
The usual suspects gave good song, as is to be expected given their wealth of experience, but Will Sexton’s Mercurial ‘I Want To Be Free’, Jemma Brown and Mari Webster’s mellow and melancholy ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’, and Chris Worthy’s delightfully raunchy interpretation of ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ were the performances that did it for me on this occasion. And everyone loves ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and ‘We Will Rock You’, and (it was acceptable in the 70s, really it was) ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’…
The show wasn’t perfect, but on the Friday night the cast brought just the right amount of attitude and anarchy to the show to make any little slips irrelevant and unnoticeable, and their obvious enjoyment in delivering the songs and interacting with the audience was infectious. The choreography was a bit dodgy, but there had been no opportunity to rehearse in the performance space prior to the dress rehearsal, so I might let them off that one. And anyway, nobody cared…
Because on the night the Full Tone Orchestra upped the pace and TITCO upped their game, and between them they totally smashed it.
I’ve not seen an audience react quite that strongly to a musical show. They sang, they waved their arms, they clapped their hands (‘Buddy you’re a boy, make a big noise’ etc), they stood up and whooped in appreciation. Maybe it was something in the beer. Maybe they were blinded by the glitter. Maybe the dream combination of TITCO, Queen, and the Full Tone Orchestra tipped them over the edge. I know that people love TITCO, but I didn’t realise anyone still loved Queen quite so much. Maybe there is a little bit of Freddie or a Killer Queen inside us all.
By the end of the show the entire audience was up on its feet, singing and swaying and waving their glow sticks wildly to ‘We Are The Champions’, and demanding an encore.
So what happened between the frankly dire dress rehearsal and the show, I wonder?
Someone really needs to check that glitter.
© Gail Foster 1st July 2018