Tuesday, July 5

Curtain Up – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

Described on its promotional literature as “a celebratory evening of musical theatre”, Curtain Up at the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse certainly delivered this celebration in spades.

As somewhat of a musical theatre aficionado, I have attended lots of musical medleys in my time – concerts, jukebox musicals, shows, and even films that are an ode to the not-so-humble, completely camp and over-the-top art form that is musical theatre. Anything that promises showtunes and jazz hands, I’ll be there. As a result, in my time I’ve witnessed musical theatre homages that really have ranged from the good, the bad, and the ugly.  However, this one was definitely not the latter – Curtain Up felt like it had something special.

This show marks the first full-scale production in Altrincham Garrick’s exciting Autumn/Winter season – and what a fabulous way to kick things off. With director Joseph Meighan and Musical Director Neil G Bennett at the helm, this show really was a triumph of talent, a mastery of musicality, all brought together by a company of 19 supremely talented performers.

Photo: Martin Ogden

The set-list of this show was surprising in its volume and sometimes unexpected song choices. 33 songs were performed over the course of the show and – alongside some well-known, and well-loved numbers from Wicked, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera – came some unexpected performances from lesser-known productions like Sunday in the Park With George, Side Show and Little Women. That, for me, is a sure sign of a confident Musical Director, so sure is he of the talent of his cast that whatever they perform will keep the audience enthralled throughout. All too often, shows that present themselves as “an ode to musical theatre” are guilty of just reeling off the same classics time and again, so it was refreshing to see such a diverse array.

And, of course, Musical Director Neil Bennett was perfectly justified in his confidence in his cast – all 19 company members were allowed their moment in the spotlight, and all of them delivered. Standouts for me included dynamic duets from Gemma Sales and Hannah Davies (For Good from Wicked) and Steevie-Leigh Crossley and Tom Broughton (whose rapturous rendition of Suddenly Seymour was expertly delivered).

However, for me, by far and away the best song in the whole production was the company’s spine-tingling rendition of Bring Him Home, from Les Misérables.  I have heard this song performed many times as a solo – which in itself is beautiful in its simplicity – yet performed as a group piece with so many complicated but stunningly complementary harmonies really did take it to the next level. This polytonality was to be expected with a cast as talented as this one, but it was just one of the many ways this cast went above and beyond to deliver a show that kept the audience wanting more.

Curtain Up is on at the Altrincham Garrick Theatre from Monday 20th September – Saturday 25th September 2021. https://www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk/shows/curtain-up-musical/

Reviewer: Hannah Wilde

Reviewed: 20th September 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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