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All Shook Up as presented by North East Musical & Dramatic Society

All Shook Up as presented by North East Musical & Dramatic Society

7th – 11th November 2023

Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 9th November 2023

The Iontas Theatre was lit up like a star when this magical, fun, energetic, visually amazing and magnificently lit show took to the stage on the night I attended. It was simply a performance of All Shook up that I will never forget for so many reasons, from this wonderful happy musical crew that is Northeast Musical and Dramatical Society. This was a truly spell binding performance of this fabulous musical inspired by the songs of Elvis Presley.

I was met at in the Foyer and immediately and minded so well by the lovely Sara Parge who is Secretary of the Society, dressed beautifully in full costume with her dress, underskirt netting ankle socks tights and white shoes all absolutely gleaming with the biggest smile and looked impeccable. A sign of what the evening was to behold I wondered…and it most definitely was. I specifically want to thank Sara for her kindness and her attention for the full evening before the show at the interval and indeed at the end of the show backstage and taking me to the exit to my car.

This Front of House team were very busy and meticulously worked to make sure every audience member was looked after. The Foyer was buzzing when I arrived. There was an atmosphere of excitement as if everyone there they hadn’t seen each other in a long time the noise levels!! It was electric. The Foyer was decorated, warm (most important as it was another dreadful evening weather wise outside) and every FOH team member – was smiling and laughing and just – happy! It was contagious. Congratulations to Ms Monica Marron, Front of House Manager, and Ms Detta Sheridan Front of House team.

I was shown to a marvellous seat, a perfect view and had a few minutes to check out the excellent programme, the attention to detail and all the information contained, had a quick glance at the vast amount of people involved in this production and awaited the opening number.

The curtains opened, the Orchestra started (beautifully) and boom! we were transported to another world with a vision that was presented to the audience for this opening number that was superb. Natalie played by Ciara O’Neill and Dennis played by Gavin Murphy, were a beautiful duo in this number. Lighting was super from the word go and the lovely singing of this Elvis anthem known by everyone in the audience. (who were singing immediately!) I just sat back relaxed with my notebook and pen and smiled. This was going to be a good show.

The Director was Gavin Quigley. This young man did a wonderful job on directing this show. Words like talented and inspiring and creative come to mind. Being not only Director but also was Stage Manager and a part of the Set Design and Costumes and Props. Mr Quigley had a huge task, and at the outset I have to say that he shone in all departments. The interactions between the cast, the acting, the special moments, the innovative technology and sets, I could go on and on . I was simply blown away. I have never seen a set design like it. It was simply incredible. With too many special moments to list in this section, so many of these are highlighted throughout my adjudication, as the brainchild and result of Mr Quigley’s talent.

Mr Quigley created along with his entire team a production that was fluid, energetic and a picture from start to finish. There was not a moment in this production or in his Direction I could criticise – honestly. Congratulations Mr Quigley.

This is a huge choreography show and for Choreographer Leah Meagher I have one word. Phenomenal. Every single step of each dance number and movement in this show was excellent and magnificently executed. You are one talented young lady and I have no doubt you spent hours and hours perfecting each one of these moves in each number. The choreography in this show was as near perfect as I can describe with so many numbers too many to mention, but I will particularly draw attention to the Finale of Act2. A spectacular vision in Choreography and one of the best I have ever seen on stage. Mesmerizing throughout. I applaud you.

Musical Director was Mr Shane McVicker. Mr McVicker and his Orchestra were superb. A beautiful tone and an energetic vibe emanated from this talented group. Mr McVicker also played piano in the Orchestra, along with the following: Darren Bell, Guitar, Neville Lloyd Bass, Ben Cooper Drums, Trumpet Mark Adams, Sax Aisling Reilly, and Trombone Karl Ronan. The work done alongside chorus mistress Tomasina McGinnity regarding the quality of the choral singing was simply magnificent but more on that later. All musical cues were spot on, the principal singing, choral, and orchestra were all conducted with sublime energy passion and talent.

Stage Manager and set design as mentioned was Mr Gavin Quigley, and was also part of the Costumes and Props team. This show moved flawlessly, and it was so slick. There were a huge number of set changes, from Jailhouse to Sylvias Bar, to the Bus Station (magnificent bus) to the funfair and many others. It was as if there was a team of 30 moving everything so smoothly. However, your stage crew and team were indeed just four others – Dessie McGarry, Niall McMahon, Cillian Cromwell and Darragh Keenan. Your job as a team meant that this production flowed beautifully and given the amount of work involved in your role it was done perfectly. Well done on this job (your one of many!) it was perfect.

Sylvias Bar was fabulous. Coupled with amazing lighting there was great attention to detail with the bottles on the shelves, the posters, the red brick wall effect, the little step in the centre creating depth and height, I could go on !

Original Set Design was as mentioned above the responsibility of Mr Quigley but also Mr Andrew Browne, who was also the gentleman behind the magnificent visions and colours. Excellent. The sets involved such technology. Panels permanently on stage which simply changed when needed to represent another scene, another location, another visual. It was superb and so hard to describe. Well Done!

Set Painting Team - Cecilia Richard, Alan Halpin, Conall McMahon, Eva McMahon, Calum Duffy, Shauna Fitzpatrick, Sarah Louise Hart, Sara Parge, (again!) Chantelle McCabe and Paige Kelly (again!) (Lorraine). Super. Well done everyone.

Set Construction was the responsibility of Damien Barry, Cian McKevitt, Gary Willmott, Andrew O’Rourke and Karl Parge. What an amazing job you did. I can still see that magnificent three-dimensional bus, the Funfair, and the Jailhouse and the attention to detail in each of these and the rest, but I will just highlight the above as I have never seen anything quite like the professionalism of these sets. Also, the panels used upstage which created pictures with lighting and the depth of the visuals with so many levels of the stage being used. Every one of these sets with NO exception were magnificent and magically a vision. I can still see them as I am writing. Well done to an exceptional team.

Mr Thomas Fitzgerald looked after Lighting. Where do I start. I have never ever experienced such a feast of vision and glory and pure brilliance in each moment of this show. It was truly beautiful. The subtle touches, the reds for Jailhouse Rock the lights all around the theatre surrounding the audience, the colours for the whole show but particularly for both Finales. Act 1 and Act 2. It was amazing and most definitely one of the continuous highlights of this show. You are an extremely talented young man, despite the small technical issue addressed further on where you and your team in fact, turned it around to your advantage, because you had courage to address the issue or lose the effects for the rest of the show which would have been wrong and heart-breaking for the cast and your brilliance continued through to the very end with your lighting at the helm.

One example to mention at the top of the show, I loved the blue lighting in the opening scene creating a lovely atmosphere with Natalie high up backstage centre with a lovely spotlight on her as she sang her opening number joined by Dennis. At the end of the number and very cleverly done underneath the set that Natalie was standing on, there was a gate and all of a sudden, the gate was opened and branched into smaller bars and gates and smoothly and very effectively we immediately were transferred to the Jailhouse for “Jailhouse Rock” the whole set turned fire red with one spotlight shining down on one person – “Chad”.

Simply Incredible.

Just moments before the end of the first half there was a slight technical hitch and a single gentleman dressed in black came on stage and announced very calmly that the show needed to be stopped for a moment as there was a small technical issue that had to be fixed. This was one brave young man and I applaud him as I did on the evening itself after the show backstage when I acknowledged what a difficult decision this was to make but also to announce. It was all sorted in a few minutes and the show continued. Was it necessary to do this you may ask? Absolutely. The shows visuals, sound, lighting, sets, set designs everything in this production was colossal, a mammoth task a visual miracle and a feast of colour to the eyes - a beautiful sight at every turn in every scene in every song, and hours and hours of work to bring this to the level of this show that was on stage that night. Nothing would have worked had the necessary flaw not been corrected. Bravo for doing what had to be done, even if it was only a few minutes.

Sound was by One Louder Sound. And Sound Operator Cian Murphy. This was a massive part of this production. Many personal mikes were used – neither too loud nor too soft, it was consistently beautifully balanced throughout this show. On this note also I must mention Mic Dressing was the responsibility of Ms Elizabeth Finegan. Not an error or a blip in sound throughout and I would also like to add the mics were subtly hidden on each actor. A perfect job. Well done. Going back to Mr Murphy, the sound throughout was balanced, and filled the theatre so much that at many times during this production I felt that from my seat the singers were beside me! Brilliant. I hope to see your work again soon. Well done Mr Murphy and indeed Ms Finegan on a great job magnificently done.

Costumes and Props were all looked after by Mandy Cumiskey, Gavin Quigley, Petrina Murray, Sara Parge, Detta Sheridan and Betty Brennan. Superb. A magnificent vision of colour and flair. What stood out for me was the very subtle touch of Blue Suede Shoes – everyone had them including myself! Hairstyles, which I also must mention particularly Sylvias and Ms Sandra’s and Lorraine’s, but really for everyone were so in keeping with the Rock and Roll era of Elvis. The attention to props in this show is commendable I am a fan of attention to detail, and you had it in bucketloads. Well done and a super job again – impeccable and every single costume and prop in their perfection enhanced the show greatly. Fantastic work.

Chad played by Chris Bass arrives singing Roustabout as a solo. This gentleman had an excellent presence and look on stage befitting of a Chad and I liked this character immediately. Roustabout was a great number sung with passion and emotion and a bit of fun and we are immediately drawn to this likeable character. “Lovin My Baby” with the Company was a brilliant number I loved the height with some of the Company up high backstage, company down stage and Chad in centre stage. Again, perfect Choreography, great lighting and fabulous set and singing. A very commendable performance throughout in this challenging huge part. Well done Mr Bass.

Natalie played by Ciara O’Neill was a role played perfectly by Ms O’Neill. A true Tomboy but with the voice as sweet as sugar, great stage presence and vocally very strong. “One Night with You” and particularly “Follow that Dream” was vocally a hit. Natalie shone in this number. This duo looked well together. So beautifully sung with gusto and emotion. Lovely vocals here by Chad and Natalie. There are many times in this show that I did not want the numbers to finish such were the infectious smiles and energy, and Ms O’Neill brought that energy to her performance which I so enjoyed. Great work.

Dennis was played by Gavin Murphy. Where do I start? Dennis – I adored his character. I loved every single line- spoken, sung, choreographed and acted. His facial expressions, the way he pushed his glasses continuously up his nose, his reactions – brilliant, as well as costuming, but mostly – mostly his empathy and great love for your lovely friend Natalie endeared me to Mr Murphy’s character from the word go. Full of many things including love, music and friendship, I truly enjoyed each time Dennis, that lovely guy that Mr Murphy portrayed arrived on stage. Oh, and did I mention that I laughed until my sides hurt. BRAVO!

Ms Sandra was played by Louise Steele. What a strong character, with great stage presence, and good comedic timing – when she discovers that Ed – her Ed- is indeed Natalie the reaction was priceless. Again, lovely costumes and marvellous hair so befitting of the era and singing in “Teddy Bear / Hound Dog” with Natalie, Chad, and Dennis was superb. However, it was in the number “Let Yourself Go” that Ms Steele came into her own with her movement, facial expression and singing. Her acting impressively showed a very passionate young lady, a character she made her own. Super.

The part of Sylvia was played by Carol McCourt. A lovely actress with a beautiful soft lyrical voice, which we were introduced to in the “Heartbreak Hotel “number, for me you really shone in your beautiful solo in the Act 2 “There’s always me”. A lovely number emphasising your love for Jim Haller. Ms McCourt also looked great, beautiful costumes and lovely hairstyle. You moved and danced so elegantly, and you looked both gracious and graceful in every scene. Congratulations.

Jim Haller was played by James Brennan. A quiet sad gentleman and Natalie’s Dad. A lovely part and you did it so well. There was a silent lonely sadness that emanated from you emphasising the loss of your beloved wife – Natalie’s Mam when you spoke and sang. Your connection with Sylvia which initially was just a friendship blossomed into something more and this was wonderfully portrayed as your story unfolded throughout the show. You looked great spoke clearly and beautifully and had a marvellous singing voice mentioning specifically your duet with Chad “Don’t Be Cruel”.

Lorraine was played by Paige Kelly. Again, such a lovely mover, actress and singer. There was a lovely connection between Ms Paige and Dean played by Adam Lynagh and very good onstage chemistry between this duo.

Ms Kelly’s costumes again were beautiful and your singing – particularly “That’s All Right” and “It’s Now or Never” with Dean and the full company was a showstopper. You were beautifully cast; a great personality and bubbly enthusiasm and I really enjoyed your performance. Well done!

Dean Hyde played by Adam Lynagh was a well portrayed character, breaking free from the shackles of his strict mother and finding love with Lorraine. A lovely singing voice which shone in the duets. They were a lovely couple on stage, they both looked great, and voices blended beautifully lovely scenes and lovely singing consistently between these two and I looked forward to you both coming on stage each time. “That’s alright” and “It’s now or never” sung with the Company were lovely scenes, great rapport and a lovely duo singing perfectly together as mentioned above and perfect costumes and hairstyles. Well Done, Mr Hyde.

Mayor Matilda played by Lorraine Cotter was a tour de force from the moment she arrived on stage. Personally, I wouldn’t like to offend her in anyway – so I won’t! What a lovely role and a fabulous contrast to your partner in crime - pardon the pun – Sheriff Earl. Chalk and cheese and it worked wonderfully. Great costume, and lovely acting. I really liked these two characters together.

Sheriff Earl was played by Peter Phillips. Not much of a script to learn (!) however silence has a loud voice and throughout the show by Mayor Matilda’s side he subtly and quietly followed her around like a lapdog. Great direction here and a what a lovely Sherriff he was. What worked for you Mr Phillips is your huge contrasting character between Sheriff Earl– the silent quiet one and Mayor Matilda – the not so silent and quiet one!! A lovely part played perfectly.

Heartbreak Hotel” opens with the sassy and lovely voice of Henrietta played by Danielle Casey. What a powerhouse of a voice Ms Casey. So strong and a great introduction to this number. You have a lovely quality and tone and I wanted to hear more! Well done.

Chorus Mistress was Tomasina McGinnity. Hours and hours of rehearsals must have gone into the Chorus work for this show. The Chorus were magnificent – and could act and dance superbly. This is a big chorus show. There were 38 people in the Chorus of this show along with 3 Pit Singers, and although I am tempted to name you all individually, I do not have the room! One word. Brilliant. Every single Chorus number and there were many, was glorious.

To name but a few – “C’mon Everybody”, “It’s Now or Never”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, “A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action”, and the oh so beautiful “Fools Fall in Love” along with your 8-minute Finale “Fools Fall in Love”, “Burning Love”, and Encore number “C’mon Everybody”. However, from the opening of the show to the very last note, you enjoyed, danced, sang your hearts out and most importantly seemed to be having an absolute ball doing so!

You are a wonderful Society. Full of fun, energy, talent, smiles and are a great team. I adored your performance and what you did to create this picture perfect “All Shook Up” with all its lovely music, dance, and acting. Thank you for transporting me to a different land – the land of Elvis and his music the land of Sylvias Bar, the land of funfairs and love, of song and lessons to be learned. A land where….

“If I can dream of a better land,

Where all my brothers walk hand in hand

Tell me why, oh why, cant my dream come true…..

There must be peace and understanding sometime,

Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear,

If I can dream of a warmer sun,

Where hope keeps shining on everyone …

While I can think, while I can talk, While I can stand, while I can walk, while I can dream please let my dream come true…..

You did that tonight. Every single of you……Bravo.

Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator 2023/24

Some photos kindly provided by the society.

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