Press Report


Tiverton Gazette


January 11th 2005


  It is often true that when the band of a musical so obviously enjoys playing, it is good music to listen to. Hot Mikado proved to be no exception. Not a great fan of Gilbert and Sullivan (although I appreciate how clever their works are), I went to this jazzy version of the original Mikado with great interest. Its 1940s gospel, blues and swing style is not an easy piece for the performers and would be challenging for anyone, but the Willow Tree Theatre Company pulled it off in great style.

The cast was an effective mixture of all ages - all of whom had a character and a reason for being on stage. At any time they were all genuinely a part of the action, even the by-standers. Moody men, the three maids with their powerful voices stood out - particularly good was "Swing a Merry Madrigal", led by Tom Watson and Hannah Reynolds and the three excellent singers of "Here's a Howdy Do". In the chorus, Sophie Sowden and Brendon Ayre were particularly strong.

The Willow Tree Theatre Company has always been known for producing all-rounders, who can not only dance and sing but act as well. Indeed, a significant number have gone on to become professional and others have even been seen on TV. However, occasionally someone stands out and for me this time it was Bryan Hallett, who played Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. "Tit-Willow" is a song that has been done so many times it must be almost impossible to inspire an audience with it. But that is exactly what Brian did - his sense of timing, his voice, his whole performance of this song was a masterpiece. He had the audience in the palm of his hand and we loved every bit of it. It was a real gem.

As always, the Company has more than its share of a genuinely professional level of talent. There were some very strong voices, including members of the chorus. But one of the disadvantages for this show was the need for a more sophisticated sound system. It is hard to sing syncopated jazz music reliably without monitors to hear the band, or sight of a conductor.

If any money were to go into the New Hall, then a better sound system would benefit all the different companies that perform there during the year. The band was sometimes loud in its enthusiasm - it would not have mattered if the voices had not sometimes disappeared in the process. When the orchestration was quiet, it was obvious that the singers were in fact very powerful, with some beautiful quality.

The professionalism of this Company is always obvious, whatever they do, and is testament to their training, their rehearsal and the professional people that they have the opportunity to work with (not least director Jon Sowden).

The setting was extremely effective, a classy looking black and chrome nightclub look. And I loved the men's costumes, in particular, baggy, gangsterish 'zoot suits' - just the slightest bit over the top!

The production looked polished and there were some really high moments. In what was a hard show to pull off, not once did the cast falter.

Reviewer - Catherine Devenish



Audience Reviews


Tiverton Gazette


November 29th 2005

Treat from Willow Tree company

    I was delighted to read Catherine Devenish's positive review of the latest production by Tiverton's award-winning Willow Tree Theatre Company (Leisure Gazette, January 11).
    I attended the final performance of The Hot Mikado before Christmas and was treated to a memorable feast of colour, humour, movement and song; exceptional entertainment from local talent.
    But how disappointing to see several empty seats in the auditorium!  If you are reading this and missed the show, you missed a genuinely great evening - make amends next December!
  • RM (Tiverton)

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