THEATRE REVIEW: Tears, laughter and plenty of applause as Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society bring Fame The Musical to town
I see good theatre as escapism. For the audience and, perhaps, the cast too. A couple of hours where you take your focus away from the stress and mundanity of the outside world and concentrate on something altogether better.
But only quality theatre can take you there, mind. If you don't believe and can't invest emotionally on what's on the stage in front of you, the real world comes tumbling back into your head.
That quality I'm talking about was in abundance on Friday night as SADOS absolutely smashed Fame: The Musical.
The story follows a group of bright, multi-cultural students and their teachers at New York City's High School of Performing Arts.
We see relationships form, personal battles overcome and tragedy too among the group of actors, dancers and musicians, all interspersed with vibrant music.
Choosing a stand-out performance here is difficult when everyone was at the top of their game, but for me Dominique Spinks stood out as troubled Carmen Diaz. I've seen Dominique grow up on stage in Act II, St Nicolas Players and SADOS but this was the show where she really came of age.
Her acting was convincing - even while singing - her dancing, vocal delivery and stage presence superb. Her character is killed off through a drug overdose towards the end of the show but her triumphant return to belt out the title track with the rest of the cast at the finale was one of the evening's highlights.
Abbie Schweikhardt was on top form too as naive yet romantic Serena Katz, returning to the more innocent roles she portrayed so well in The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, after last year's ping-pong performing adult entertainment star in Priscilla Queen of the Desert!
Her singing range was top notch and her initially unrequited pursuit of Nick Piazza (played by Dawson Ashwood) entertaining to watch. Dawson dropped his Priscilla drag act to play a slightly bookish, asexual role before finally falling for Abbie's Serena. He has a very commanding stage presence and can hold a tune too
Samuel Michael John Collins was also a drag queen in Priscilla but here he was wannabe-stud Joe Vegas and he was absolutely hilarious, especially when performing the risque song 'Can't Keep It Down'. And his wonderful dance moves prove he practices what he preaches - he was the show's choreographer.
Louis Iddenden-Rhodes first caught my eye in Made In Dagenham two-and-a-half years ago. In Fame he channelled his inner Sean Penn as streetwise Tyrone Jackson, and revelled in his five minutes of fame as he dominated the stage in 'Tyrone's Rap'.
Molly Smith is new to the Spalding stage but was assured and confident as Iris Kelly,while Matilda Hoyles-Simpson gave us plenty of laughs as the always-hungry Mabel Washington.
Charlie Russell always looks comfortable on stage and gave a good performance as talented, privileged musician Schlomo Metzenbaum and he carried out such a cool piece of improvisation when an amp genuinely blew during an on-stage band practice with Grace Lamb (played by Erin Black) and Goody King (Billy Heron) that most of the audience, and certainly myself, thought it part of the script.
Erin was assured and funny in her first principal role and I would like to see more of Billy - his cameos during this show always brought a smile to the face.
Even the teachers were a vital cog in this wheel and Amber Sinclair (Miss Sherman), Lauren Bullock (Ms Bell), Jane Moss (Mrs Myers) and Paul Coleman (Mr Sheinkopf) all kept the high quality up, Lauren and Amber showing off great singing voices too.
Jonathan Tibbs always impresses me but his role today as part of the ensemble was a small one. The rest of the ensemble - Mel Brooks, Colleen Brennan, Teigan Coupland, Shannon Tennant and Calin Stoleru - all showed enough talent to suggest principal roles are their futures.
This was a first time as director for Jodie Schweikhardt and she was mentored by the experienced Paul Coleman, with producers Rachel Iddenden-Rhodes and Sarah Tresarden. And there was a wonderful band too, playing just out of sight of much of the audience but their sound was ever-present and faultless.