"Strictly Musicals - Simply Stunning"
by Andy Bramfitt on 25/10/13

A credit to Darlington and the North East - 5 stars to everyone.

What promised to be an evening full of show tunes, great music and stunning choreography most certainly didn't disappoint. Strictly Musicals is a real mood lifter, guaranteed to banish any Autumn blues, make you forget about the weather and fill you up with a feel good factor which will last way past the final curtain. From the opening overture to the finale there isn't a moment to draw breath with hit following hit following hit.

Huge ensemble numbers like the Les Mis, Rogers & Hammerstein and Blood Brothers medleys are interspersed with intimate melodies from Mack & Mable, Phantom and Evita; new tunes from Matilda and Wicked balance perfectly with timeless classics from Chicago and Sunset Boulevard; and the dance numbers from Fosse and Dancin' are just mesmerising - in fact I think I spent the whole show in a state of goosepimples. Heart warming and heart breaking in equal measure, there's not a single number that fails to move you.

It is perhaps unfair to single out any specific performances when Strictly is such a collective production, but there were a few which do warrant a quick note; Hannah Mundy singing "Popular" from Wicked, Neil Harland explaining where the money went in "Rollin' In" from Evita, Glyn Bigham's title song from "Sunset Boulevard" , a beautiful "I could have danced all night" by Rebecca Feary, Samantha Morrison rivalling Julie Covington with "Don't Cry for me Argentina" and Julian Cound with "I Won't send Roses".

As for the best group number, the Cell Block Tango, from Chicago was stunningly choreographed and lit in such a deep vibrant red that it made you feel quite guilty just watching and a tad scared of the 6 murderesses while the Disney medley could have come straight from WDW itself.

Joanne Hand (Director and Choreographer) has brought together the very best that musical theatre has to offer, but rather than simply present a selection box of songs she has produced a show with an energy that flows throughout and a continuity which means it never feels disjointed - truly a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Special mention to Michael Trotter as the Musical Director who has assembled a wonderful orchestra, and to Gillian Shevels, the DOS chairman, for whom Strictly Musicals is a show to be very proud of.

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