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Talented Ilkley Upstagers cast in superb show
2:30pm Friday 20th July 2012 in Leisure
King’s Hall, Ilkley
Sitting in the audience on the opening night of Ilkley Upstagers’ performance of Miss Saigon made me realise why this talented company were one of the first in the country to be given the opportunity to perform this show.
It is a massive undertaking, not only for the demanding leading roles, but also for the technical complexity it requires. Ilkley Upstagers produced a superb show worthy of any professional stage. Everything about it was spot on. The cast, orchestra, sound and set were all first rate.
This heart-wrenching story is centred on the Vietnam War, and is taken from the famous Madama Butterfly opera. Kim is a village girl, who works in a bar, and Chris is an American GI. They fall in love but are eventually separated by the ravages of war. The portrayal of Kim by Katie Pearson and Chris by Grant McIntyre was carried off with all the panache of seasoned professionals. Their solos and duets were beautifully sung, packed with raw emotion and totally believable.
The story is held together by the engineer, played by Luke Bayer, who is desperate to get a visa to the USA. He carried this part brilliantly, with just the right amount of humour and angst, and with acting skills way beyond his years. The supporting roles of Ellen by Sophie Green, John by Dalton Wood, Gigi by Chessie Fox and Thuy by Jack Hanson were all superbly acted, and the vocal talent of each and every one proved them worthy of their roles in the show.
The senior and junior ensembles added depth to the story, with great choreography and upbeat chorus pieces. The orchestra were truly brilliant, and the sound balance was near perfect. The technical problems associated with this show are enormous; however, they were overcome with some innovative use of lighting, sound and audio visual aids. There were more than a few tears shed during this opening night, which proves the quality of the performance.
The story is designed to take the audience on a journey of highs and lows, and it did not disappoint one bit. Gill Jackson certainly knows how to bring out the best in her young cast, and has excelled herself once again on a production that Cameron Mackintosh would be proud to put in any theatre. This is a rare opportunity for any non-professional company to perform this piece, and Upstagers certainly more than did it justice.