Saturday, May 25

The First Chapter – The Wesley Centre, Maltby

Firstly, may I thank you for your invite to join you on this evening of; what can truly be called; an evening of celebration. Celebration of all things musical, celebration of diversity, celebration of community and celebration of the power of the Arts to entertain and enlighten.

Sherlock Productions was originally founded by the late Paddy Sherlock as Humdrum Amdram, but after his tragic passing the company was renamed Sherlock Productions in his honour. The now co-founders Shelley Edwards and Jade Wilkinson state ‘the company aims to be a safe space for all people, irrespective of their needs, abilities, age and gender.  The company has become a place for people who want to perform but for whatever reason don’t feel they fit in with other companies’.

The First Chapter was an excellent name for their showcase as well as exploring the world of book inspired musicals it was indeed the ‘first chapter’ of performance for many of the cast on stage. A lovely touch was the selection of donated book as you entered the theatre, and the audience were invited to take one away to read for free. As an advocator for the Arts myself, I was delighted to see the diverse community come together and develop tonight not only as performers but socially and collectively. The Arts are a vehicle for developing self-confidence and awareness and Sherlock Productions gave this cast a blinding head start on their journey.

With the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Rotherham showing their gratitude in attendance, it was also a delight to see well known members of the Rotherham theatre scene supporting the cast with Keith Ramskill as Musical Director and Steve Trotter and Frank Hoyland in the technical roles of Sound and Lighting. A special mention must go to Chantelle Edwards who stepped out of the technical role for this show and onto the stage, adding her voice and choreography to many of the numbers.

The creative choice of the literary theme covered a diverse selection of musicals and it was great to see the less well known numbers rubbing shoulders with the stalwart musical theatre favourites. After the opening by the Co-founders Shelley and Jade with Misunderstood Man from Heathcliffe based on Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, the cast swiftly moved onto the many Musical interpretations of The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum – including Wicked, The Wiz and The Wizard of Oz. The cast were exuberant and were obviously very proud of their performance – you could not fail to smile.

Others literary works covered where Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson and Scenes De La Vie De Boheme by Henri Murger.

Some of the numbers I particularly enjoyed included the unusual choice of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings section that had the audience clapping and the whole cast dancing a jig in the number The Cat and the Moon. T. S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats inspired the Musical Cats and Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat was a delightful whole cast number with exceptional vocals and diction from the show stealing Sam Bates, with the use of props to create the railway carriage. The Forbidden Planet Medley brought a great response from the audience and The Monster Mash was delivered with comedic gusto by Nyle Reilly. The Color Purple Reprise based on the book by Alice Walker of the same name was a beautiful choral number with lead vocals by Jade Wilkinson. This particularly special number had a real sense of collaboration, and the lyrics heightened the understanding of the ethos of this cast, it could almost become their anthem. 

The cast are at different stages of their performing skills development and all deserve a round of applause,  but I do need to say to Eleanor Hoyland who sang Pure Imagination for the novel by Roald Dahl amongst others … ‘Believe in yourself sweetheart, you have a beautiful voice that has a very special quality, it is strong and crystal clear, just try to relax into your song now and you will have a long career in theatre’. My laugh out loud moment has to go to the Joseph section which had a wonderful cameo as the Baker by Abbie Edwards, it could rival any Hovis advert for pure Yorkshireness – I loved it! Added into the mix were strong mature performances from Rachael Jackson, Becky Yelland, Martin Farthing, Adam Wigglesworth and Joanne Farthing.

How do I sum The Final Chapter up?  Uplifting? In awe? What I do know is that I left the theatre feeling very proud of these two co-founders who have created something so wonderfully caring and diverse and needed in our community – I don’t think they realise just how special tonight was. Their hard working and sleepless nights were life changing to the people on that stage and it is with respect I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. I feel privileged to have witnesses the evening and I know Paddy would be honoured to see what you have achieved in his name.   

If anyone would like to be part of this superb production team either on or off stage or know someone who would benefit from being part of it, please feel free to contact me and I will pass on your details to Sherlock Productions.

Reviewed: Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 13th April 2024

North West End UK Rating: They are all shining stars!!

Rating: 5 out of 5.