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All Shook Up as presented by Queens Musical Theatre Society


7TH MARCH 2024 – 9TH MARCH 2024

Performance Adjudication 9th March.

I arrived in Belfast on the 9th of March at the Belvoir Studio Theatre, a building hidden away in the most gorgeous spot in Belfast. I was met at the door by Mr Charlie McCready, the Director, and Ms Amy Smith, the Musical Director. I was made to feel very welcome and an air of camaraderie and friendship was very evident all around me. I was already looking forward to the performance. There were bodies everywhere, milling around, ensuring everything was running smoothly. But to your credit, when you have a front of the house that consistently has smiles as big as yours, you can't help but feel like smiling, too. Smiles that lit up the theatre. Front of House. Bravo. It was joy all around that made your Front of House a success. It was indeed an honour to be welcomed so warmly.

The director of this show was Mr Charlie McCready. Mr McCready had lovely visuals throughout, and each cast member was developed beautifully, with individual personality traits being very well designed and performed. It was evident that a lot of individual work in rehearsal was done with each principal part. The energy throughout this show was fever pitch, vibrant, and energetic, and it was a visual treat from beginning to end. Mr. McCready consistently made excellent use of the space on the stage, never having any blank areas, yet there was a straightforward set. The way the set was used, which was very cleverly and effectively done, gave this lovely show the WOW factor – in its simplicity, cleverness, and excellent use of space and visuals.

The Choreographer was Ms Amy Smith. The assistant Choreographer was Ms. Zoe Mc Cartney. Ms. Smith is also QMTS President, Musical Director, AND Choreographer! My most notable observation was the routines and dance moves developed by Ms. Smith and Ms. McCartney, played very much to the strength of the cast, individually and as a group. “Jailhouse Rock” was a vision and a highlight. “Lovin' my Baby”! It was a hit! Choreography was a triumph, a beautiful vision, a significant achievement for Ms Smith & Ms McCartney, and an absolute delight to watch from the audience. Slick. Fast. Uniformly perfect, the Choreography was beautifully executed as a team with such lovely sync. Various different routines , repetition was rare and movement was so very well-rehearsed and the whole cast were in sync. “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and, of course, the excellent “All Shook Up” are just some of the numbers here I want to highlight when I speak of the above and your role and your talent, ladies.

This show utilized backing tracks as their accompaniment, which worked very well. Again, the Musical Director was Ms. Amy Smith. Synchronization with vocals and tracks was flawless. The backing tracks used here were high quality, enhancing the energy on stage, and the sound was excellent. It can be challenging for cast members to time their performances correctly with pre-recorded music. When executed correctly, as was the case here, it can be an enhancing experience for the audience and cast, particularly in a show such as this. Each song whether individual, group or ensemble were very assured of their tracks and timings were so well rehearsed and on cue.

The Stage Manager was Clara McDevitt. Having been backstage before the show commenced, I got to see the exact amount of organization required for this production with Ms. McDevitt as Stage Manager and team. Although sets were simple and changes were few, they were executed very well. The Set very simple. It was sturdy, beautifully lit, and multifunctional. A basic bridge like set that allowed movement from stage left to right on a higher level . This set was permanent and in order to play out different scenes a few additional props and tables chairs etc were brought on. I have seen this show many times and the variation in sets is incredible. This was one of the most simple , but , it worked . This set enabled the full Company to stand along the top and down the sides underneath (I loved the two chairs in the little cubby hole under the arch). It was versatile, practical, and beautifully lit in multiple colours throughout the show. What a beautiful atmosphere this simple set created worked very well for you.

Lighting. I do not see anyone accredited to Lighting for this performance, but I cannot write this adjudication without mentioning this area because it was gorgeous. Colourful and clever and in so many scenes uplifted the whole moment, and enhanced the show visually and atmospherically. I must mention The Star Cloth used . It was a vision. Gorgeous.

The sound was by Karl Smyth and Stephen Hyland. This is a small theatre with little natural acoustics and given this show and the energy required along with all the vocals, good sound is a must in any show, but most especially in a show like this. So much dance and movement and the sound here reverberated off the walls and into the Theatre Audience, enveloping us in a bubble of superb sound—well done, gentlemen.

Becky Chapman was responsible for the costumes. There was lovely attention to detail in many costumes, with compliments to the costumes for Natalie, the bridal dresses, the entire company, and their wardrobe. There were many costume changes in such a fast-moving show. The costumes were appropriate, effective, and functional, which is very important. There is a good costume team here and a lot of work and attention to detail.

Mark Comer played the part of Chad—Mr. Comer had a lovely charm about him in this role. I liked the mix Mr Comer brought to this character: a lovely roustabout, somewhat arrogant, yet confident. Mr Comer beautifully portrayed the freedom he possessed, but the town before his arrival was quite oppressed and against any fun and frivolity. Through his lovely lyrical singing, Mr Comer sent out a key message to this show: the power of music and love. Vocally very strong, especially in the numbers “Come on Everybody” was excellent. This was a superb number with Chad as the lead soloist, joined by the ensemble dancing, clapping, and moving with the lovely Choreography mentioned above. Sweet vocal, Mr. Comer is a solid lead here with lovely chemistry with the rest of the cast and the other characters, including Dennis, Sylvia, Jim, and Natalie (eventually!). Yet, there was a softness to his character and his vocals in “Love Me Tender” with Ms. Sandra, Natalie, and Dennis, and then into “Don’t Be Cruel” with Jim. Mr Comer was a lovely mover on stage and very relaxed in this role, and indeed, it did suit you down to the ground.

Jennifer Byrne played the part of Natalie. Natalie was very well cast in this role, and she and Chad looked very well together. From being Natalie to being the guise of Ed was no mean feat, yet you succeeded in doing this wonderfully well. You showed a wide range of emotions and a lovely vocal throughout. Your transformation into Ed was convincing and, at times, quite humorous, but Natalie endeared me to you overall. You acted this part well. I loved all your scenes, and you indeed had a beautiful relationship with your onstage Dad, Jim, a gorgeous friendship with your lovely pal Dennis, and just an all-around beautiful character in this role. “Follow That Dream” was a highlight for me. You have a beautiful voice; this is a gorgeous part. And you played it beautifully.

Hannah Greenway played Miss Sandra's part. Ms Greenway played this part by creating a sophisticated, intelligent lady who longs for a world bigger than her town and museum. A powerful vocal with a gorgeous tone to your voice, “One Night with You” was a song executed very well. This role is challenging, and you had a lovely, unique interpretation of your music with a passion and loneliness that was raw. Moving from aloofness and superiority to your lovely openness and connection, you flowingly moved from being an outsider in the community to being an integral part of it, and you portrayed this beautifully throughout and coming into your own in Act 2

Jac Morgan played the part of Dennis. Dennis. The lovely Dennis. What a beautiful role. In love with Natalie - unrequited, but you had a beautiful friendship, your awe for Chad, and your pride in becoming his sidekick. There is lovely humour in this part, Mr. Morgan. Your presence contributed hugely to the performances of “C’mon Everybody “and “That’s All Right.” However, it was “It Hurts Me” that you came into your own, and your audience fell in love with you. This song showed your gorgeous, warm heart, passion, and loneliness; the audience was behind you every second of every note. You were a fabulous Dennis Jac. Very strong.

Leesa Seffen played the part of Sylvia. What a powerful voice you have, Ms Seffen. I looked forward to you coming on stage each time with a lovely stage presence and a lovely, gentle way about you. But your vocal was superb. Gorgeous voice, a delightful costume, and a beautiful character. Your love from Jim Haller was stunning, and you looked great, danced so well, and your vocals were glorious. Beautiful part, Ms Seffen, and it was a treat each time you came on stage.

Neve Wilkinson played the part of Lorraine. Lorraine is a lovely part. It can be one of the most vital roles on stage if done correctly. Again, you looked so beautiful in this part and showed charming sincerity from the get-go. Such a lovely “love” developed between yourself and Dean, and your love for each other shone on stage. You were so sweet in this role and so very convincing. You also had lovely choreography, slick, professional movement, and stage presence. Again, beautiful costumes.

Adam English played the part of Jim. What a gorgeous character you were. From the moment you walked on stage, you felt at ease about your movements, acting, and vocals, which was worthy of mention. I loved everything about what you did in this role. You were indeed very suited to it, had an adorable connection with the cast, and were at ease at this stage. Beautiful part and a wonderful performance.

Callum Tickner played the part of Dean Hyde. Military school son of Mayor Matilda Lovely stage presence and super vocal again. You and Lorraine looked and worked so well together throughout, with lovely stage chemistry. A natural in this role, you had a shyness about you that I liked, and your love for Lorraine blossomed wonderfully in front of our eyes. There was a softness and sincerity in your voice that was both lyrical and empathizing, and I liked you in this role, Mr Hyde. Very well done. I hope to see you again on stage in the future.

Amber Monahan played the part of Mayor Matilda Hyde. Ms Monahan played this part as the comedic villain of the story. The one who was no fun and lived by rules and stringent morals. This part was very well acted. I did feel, however, that some of Ms Monahan’s higher register notes were lost or could not be heard in the song “Devil in Disguise in places; however, this was still a lovely number sung by you, and the ensemble singing with you. Your role with Dean was well played, and you had excellent parental chemistry. I felt that you could have silenced poor Earl more sternly to enhance the contrast between your exasperation with him and your connection with your son, Dean. You looked the part and moved around the stage gracefully and with ease.

Russell Unsworth played the role of Sherriff Earl, a small but important role I did find it a little hard to hear his lines over the backing tracks in the scene where he asks Mayor Matilda to marry him, and I felt that this sound may have caused a little bit of a stumble in the vocals at the beginning of the first one or two lines, but the rest worked and sounded good. It's a great costume, also. Lovely part. Ms Matilda Hyde and yourself were like chalk and cheese, and it really worked so very well.

Shannon Bradley played the part of Henrietta. This character plays a small but essential role in the story. You shone like a beacon of hope in this show. You significantly impacted the story's overall success, encouraging change and acting as a suitable catalyst. This role in itself shows the importance of every single role in any Society and the importance of each of those roles. Gorgeous cameo. Bravo.

This is a small company. With a big sound! The chorus numbers were superb. The quality of the singing was excellent. The volume and sound were astounding, given that you used backing tracks, which sometimes cannot be easy. It worked well, with great precision and excellent timekeeping with backing tracks. The songs such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” the Finale of Act 1, “Can't Help Falling in Love,” and “Fools Fall in Love,” I could go on. This is a vast chorus show; you were note and pitch-perfect throughout. Again, you were so happy and had so many smiles. Gorgeous sound. I loved this chorus. Bravo.

Upon finishing, I wish to mention one thing I feel should be in my adjudication. Upon my arrival, I met the cast before the show as I had another show to attend that evening, so I met with the cast beforehand. You are such a lovely bunch. Here, I met Zoe McCartney, who was mentioned above as Assistant Choreographer. Excellent as a breeze and calm, she explained to me that a cast member was unwell that afternoon, and she was taking her place on stage. Just like that! Not a bother of her as she stood chatting to me. Now that’s impressive. That’s teamwork, a society that looks after each other and a society that, with this air of support for one another, is a winning characteristic in your future. And I saw you on stage, Ms McCartney, and you were a natural. This is what good societies are made of. Being there for one another through thick and thin and standing as one—a team.

I loved your love of life and music; it was enjoyable. You are a fabulous crew. You have great talent. It was an honour to welcome you to your first AIMS as your Adjudicator, and I wish you all well. Thank you again so much for your profound and warmest welcome. Simply beautiful. A Great team. A pleasure.

Caroline Daly Jones

Sullivan Adjudicator 2023 / 2024

Photos by Catherine Comer Photography


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