The Next Chapter – M.A.D.D – Nottingham Playhouse
Observing M.A.D.D Principle, Edward Nudd, as he presents the graduation honours to his class of 2023 just before the close of Act 1; his joy, pride and sense of achievement is palpable. And rightly so – this two-hour performance is rocketing by; a celebration of the next generation of theatrical gems, presented to us in a seamless collection of dance and musicality. The crowd (exploding with ecstatically happy family and friends of the cast) relishes every number. I’m no different. Because even if the odd performance doesn’t manage to float my little boat the way the others do, the graft and passion that every student displays is categorical.
Supported by their marvellous Year 1 and 2 peers, tonight is all about the 3rd year graduates, and I’m just as excited about watching the beginning of their own next chapters as they are embarking on them– their future literally blazing in the footsteps they’re putting down.
Tonight’s performance is a medley of musical numbers from various shows, directed by the insanely talented Mark Hedges (google him – the man is prolific and owns an exceptionally safe and valuable pair of hands)
The most wonderful aspect of a show like this, is how effective it is in allowing each member of the Year 3/ 2023 class their opportunity to take centre stage and let us have it. Not to mention a demonstration of how well they integrate with each other; their commitment to each song and dance proves how seriously they’re taking this show.
Its high energy from start to finish, and momentum never drops. Whether it’s a solo piece, or one that fills the stage with every student, there’s never a moment that leaves you indifferent or unappreciative of the work involved.
Right from the opening ‘Another Opening’ (from Kiss me, Kate) I immediately pick out Zimazile Nyathi from the chorus. ‘There’s something quite sublime about this one’ I thought. She stands out, even when stood in the middle or at the back. Slender and so beautiful, she’s got grace and power in her posture alone. She performs the lead in the beautifully choreographed ‘I’m Here’ (from the Color Purple) and renders us all spellbound, not least by stunning detail from choreographer, Stewart Avon Arnold. The cast doesn’t sing this one, they throw everything into an interpretive dance that has me inching that bit closer to the edge of my seat. Nyathi’s ability to communicate the intense pain and hope of her character signifies her natural strength as a performer. I’ll always be looking out for her name in future productions.
Another standout for me is ‘Money, Money, Money’ lead by Megan Jones (who I believe bears a striking resemblance to Florence Pugh – wonder if she gets that a lot?) Anyway, I feel I’m watching another pure natural; able to punch through a well-versed song from a musical that has been performed pretty much nonstop since 1999. However, Jones wields it wisely, injecting it with fresh appeal and dynamism. The song works for her, and she’s leading it to a delighted applause from the audience.
Emma Muirhead’s lead vocals on ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ are impressive, and I’m respecting the way they haven’t tried to emulate another Marilyn Monroe version. Muirhead’s long dark hair and spunky attitude adds an edgier quality, and the chorus looks like they’re fresh from the ‘Chicago’ stage and just cracked on with the show. I love this fusion by choreographer Kristian Cunningham; it’s simple, smart and witty – certainly a performance I’ll remember.
I feel this is where the cast excel; the more creative, imaginative numbers. It’s like they hit the turbo boost button and propel themselves just that much higher, emphasising their instinct and ambition. I’m noticing this especially with the more contemporary routines such as ‘Ironic’ and ‘Problem’/ ‘Feel My Face’ (fabulous musical arrangement by Kelvin Towse), but I suppose it’s more of a reflection of their youth and vigour? Perhaps more representative of who they are as performers? They seem to connect and convey more (rather than via your standard, traditional numbers from Chicago, Guys & Dolls, South Pacific etc) I get more of an impression of who they are, and what they love, which is quite infectious.
As I mentioned earlier, these two hours have flown by, and we dutifully shuffle ourselves home, a little disheartened by the fact MADD could have easily rounded the 32 numbers to an even 40, if only for good measure…. It can’t be that hard, right? I mean, they make it look so easy…
Bravo, all…and congratulations to all involved.