Review: Midlands Academy of Dance & Drama Gala Performance 2016. Nottingham Playhouse.

five star

With 101 Midlands Academy of Dance & Drama students taking part in this 2016 Gala production at Nottingham Playhouse (24th and 25th June) the heat is on this evening as the Gala Showcase is about to begin. Nottingham Playhouse is packed with their supporters; be they industry specialists on the look out for exceptional talent, family, friends or just audience members who know that with the very high standards that MADD demands of its students, the standard of presentation tonight will be through the roof. Here’s hoping!


The focus is of course on the graduating class (2016) third year students but, as always, the first and second year students get to show Nottingham and the wider world their impressive song and dance skills too.

The MADD creative team are Emma Clayton as Director and Choreographer, Mike Cotton (Musical Director), Russell Grubiak (Lighting Designer) Mark Hedges, Stewart Avon-Arnold, Kamilah Beckles, Stuart Hayes, David Burrows, Sue Sparham, Mark Webb, Ryan-Lee Seager and James Doubtfire (Choreographers). The sound designer for the Gala is Rob Ketteridge. All the team carry very impressive professional pedigrees in their artistic fields. The students couldn’t be in safer hands.

Under the musical direction of Mike Cotton’s band are Jack Reddick (Flute/Clarinet/Sax) Simon Crick (Trumpet/Flugelhorn) Simon Walker (Trombone) Tom Coppin (Acoustic/Electric Guitar) Mark Greaves (Bass Guitar) Jack Groom (Drums/Percussion). Arrangements and scoring are by Mike Cotton.

The audience is buzzing and the anticipation across the auditorium is electric. We open with the song Teacher’s Pet (School of Rock – musical) choreographed for MADD by Ryan- Lee Seager. Lead vocalist is second year student Zain Sutherland and the thunderous piece involves male and female students across the academic spectrum. Already the students are buzzing with enthusiasm, talent and a big dollop of pro slickness.

this moment new
This Moment: Big Smiles Photography by Karen Smallwood & Ali Gordon

Directed by Emma Clayton As Long As You’re Mine (Wicked) is superbly done by third year students Brogan Flanagan and Zosie Jenks. The mood hots up with All Shook Up choreographed by Mark Hedges and sung by Luke Haywood and Ashleigh Maycroft with vibrant dance support from the third and second year boys.

An upbeat jazzy mood introduces us to Swing Brother Swing/Sing, Sing, Sing/Don’t Mean A Thing featuring all the third years and a selection of seventeen of the second year girls. The consummate skills shown remind us of the importance of training in this genre as the world of their future musical theatre employment may often be in retro shows like Guys and Dolls etc.

devil you know
The Devil You Know: Big Smiles Photography by Karen Smallwood & Ali Gordon

Next up the first years get a good chance to shine in Freedom choreographed by Sue Sparham and shine they do. Here we see some very tight dance work and a high degree of focus and intent.

Choreographer Stuart Hayes pulls in the talents of the third years and second year Ben Edwards in a tingling version of This Moment and the Gala continues with The Devil You Know with all of the second years on stage in a lively cavalcade of costumed oddities. As this piece segues effortlessly in the next graduating vocalists Zosie Jenks and Alyesha Reid beautifully sing I Will Never Leave You from Bill Russell’s poignant musical Side Show. The excerpt is directed by Emma Clayton.

Ready To Play is choreographed by Kamilah Beckles and utilises a fourteen strong third year ensemble plus Hannah Hayes, Rachel Zobenica and Ashleigh Maycroft as third year vocalists with Elizabeth Bywater-Florence as second year vocalist.

stick it to the chap
Stick It To The Man: Big Smiles Photography by Karen Smallwood & Ali Gordon

In the sung number Days Of Plenty (Little Women- the musical) first year vocalist Ally Ambrose shows great promise and powerful musical theatre maturity. It will be amazing to see her improve even more as she continues her training at MADD. Days of Plenty is a hopeful and inspiring number and Ambrose delivers the musical drive in spades.

Choreographed by Ryan-Lee Seager Brother is a powerful and emotional dance work featuring all of the boys. This a work of great maturity, some bravery and great dance execution by the lads. Dream Girls is a third year piece directed by Emma Clayton and choreographed by Emmi-Lie Vanzwanenberg featuring the incredible talents of Zosie Jenks, Sine Jones and Freya Jones with backing vocals from Ayesha Reid, Jessica Knott-Packwood and Amanda Janney.

To Build A Home choreographed by Andrea Garcia and Sydney Irving is realised by first year dancers Andrea Garcia and Sydney Irving.

Coming close to the end of the first half we have some great work by third year dancers/singers George Metcalfe and Philip Anderson in Moses Supposes. The joint choreography is by James Doubtfire, George Metcalfe and Philip Anderson. It is good to see students choreographing their own work.

Of course the first half has to finish on a bang and the MADD Gala 2016 presents us with A Musical. The lead vocalists are vocally assured Luke Haywood and Brogan Flanagan with ensemble work from the second and third years. This is a delightfully funny end to the first half and the audience are grinning widely from the brilliant talents of the MADD students who all give 200% on stage and offer up truly polished and professional performances.

Before we leave for our interval drink and half time congrats on a great show so far East Midlands Theatre offer a big shout out for the fab costumes that really aid the overall professionalism of this MADD 2016 Gala presentation.

The second half begins with Welcome To The Renaissance directed and choreographed by Emma Clayton. It features all third years and second year boys plus Jordon Heeley and Lavinia Hedges. The musical theatre vein of humour continues and Brogan Flanagan brings his confident humour, clear talent and charm back in the shape of William Shakespeare.

will power
Will Power: Big Smiles Photography by Karen Smallwood & Ali Gordon

In this year of celebrating William Shakespeare and the 400th anniversary of his death we might expect something of the Bard Of Avon in this evening’s showcase and so far we are not disappointed. Charismatic Brogan Flanagan and the third year boys highly amusing presentation of Hard To Be A Bard is terrific.

From an evening so far of ensemble numbers it is our delightful pleasure to hear third year vocalist Zosie Jenks’s exquisite solo piece as the character Brandi Burkhardt singing Once More Can I See from Frank Wildhorn’s musical Wonderland.

Next up Stewart Arnold choreographs the vocally and visually haunting The Sound of Silence featuring a mixed sex cast of second and third years. As well as the top class dance work we have to say that the lighting states in this piece are incredible.

Just in case we feel the first years might be left in the dressing room they are now allowed to shine in Once Upon A Time directed by Steve Burrows and Steve Pritchett. All the first years are featured in this section including lead first year vocalists Mawgan Stott, Gwen Davidson and Amy Lightfoot.

Choreographed by Mark Webb, Gold Watch is presented by the second year students.

The delightful Someone To Watch Over Me directed by Emma Clayton and choreographed by Alex Fox is beautifully presented by third year Freya Brown with dancers Alexandra Fox and Joseph Cheetham. Pulling us sharply out of our blissful reverie is the pulsating I Got Rhythm sung by lead vocalist Natalia Astley and supported choreographically by a spot on syncopated  tap dancing dance troupe built from all three years.

The next two numbers are by two soloists. First year Rachel Head gives us a fine rendition of He’s No Good (directed once again by Emma Clayton) and third year Sine Jones (directed by Peter Addis) greatly amuses with the self deprecating song Nothing from A Chorus Line. Time now for a heart breaking duet What You Mean To Me from vocalists Ryan Olankunle and Ally Ambrose in a song from the deliciously moving musical Finding Neverland.

The amusing love song I Love The Way follows by second and third year vocalists Siobahn Murray and George Metcalfe.

You can never get enough Shakespeare and this evening of superb entertainment rounds itself up with the powerful Will Power – directed and choreographed by Emma Clayton – with the full company involved with Braidley Wilson as The Announcer and Brogan Flanagan as William Shakespeare.

We always expect a big finale with the MADD Gala and are not disappointed tonight as they pull out all the stops and more with Stick It To The Man (School of Rock) with lead vocalists Zain Sutherland and Siobahn Murray and the full company rocking it up in the aisles, on stage and anywhere there is a place to dance.

Highly recommended… get a ticket

Overall, this MADD Gala 2016 shows off amazing talents in all the three years. This is all achieved by their hard work and the dedication of the MADD staff plus Mike Cotton’s wonderful band and all the creatives that made this show the professional spectacle it is. There were many times in this evening’s entertainment when this reviewer wished he could see it all over again. For others reading this, we at East Midlands Theatre, highly recommend anyone who hasn’t a ticket to get a couple for tomorrow night and treat yourselves to enjoying the extra-ordinary talents of these young students. Please share this review and don’t forget to follow the show on Twitter at #CollegeOfRock

Nottingham Playhouse  24th and 25th June 2016

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

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