My Favorite Year

Wed 18th – Sat 21st February 2015

reviews

Simon Fearn

at 00:08 on 19th Feb 2015

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‘My Favourite Year’ must be one of the most criminally overlooked of musicals. It’s funny and heart-warming, with a large and colourful cast of ensemble characters. Trevelyan College Musical Society have managed to capture the vibrant, heart-on-sleeve, camp abandon that makes a great musical, and this performance was tremendously enjoyable.

The scene is New York, 1954- Benjy Stone (Nick Denton) has been given the seemingly impossible task of babysitting washed up movie star Alan Swann (Will Emery) to ensure he’s acceptably sober for his guest role in the King Kaiser Comedy Cavalcade. The play began with Denton perched on the front of the stage, conversationally recalling his favourite year. He proved instantly likeable, despite the fact that nobody laughed at his opening jokes. His performance was a definite success- he was consistently endearing in his relationship with his idol Swann and his schoolboy romance with K. C. Downing (Annie Davison). My only minor criticisms would be that he sometimes seemed a little awkward when on stage as an onlooker during other characters’ solos and the openings of his own songs occasionally seemed a little tentative, but he always quickly made up for this when he hit the big notes.

The true highlight of this play, however, was the quality of the supporting cast. Every minor character was utterly memorable and blossomed during their brief moments in the limelight. These little gems ranged from Joe Stanton as an overweight Mexican boxer with limited English to Adam Richardson as Benji’s domineering but incompetent boss. Some of the best scenes were the large ensemble numbers such as ‘Twenty Million People’, ‘Manhattan’, and ‘My Favourite Year’, where the stage was awash with period costumes and commendable dancing. Indeed, the costume department showed a penchant for unrestrained flamboyance- highlights being Benji’s mad aunt who seemed to show a Miss Havisham-esque penchant for habitually wearing a wedding dress and the singing coffee cups, which were never really explained.

My two favourite things about the show were undoubtedly Will Emery as rakish actor Alan Swann and Annie Davison as Benji’s gawky love interest: K. C. Downing. There was something irresistible about Emery’s smile, and his posture consistently conveyed a sense of foppish self-importance. His relationship with Benji was genuinely touching, and he was the master of understated emotion in his fabulous solo ‘If the World Were Like the Movies’. During his climatic confrontation with Benji in ‘When the Lights Come Up’, he cemented his role as a complex anti-hero. Meanwhile, Davison managed to play a very comic character without turning her into a stereotype, and along with Emery had one of the best voices of the cast. She could have the difficult audience in fits of giggles by the smallest expression- whether this be the utter menace she directs at Benji when he lays siege to her in the ladies’ toilets (if looks could kill, he would almost certainly have shuffled off this mortal coil) and her endearing satisfaction at having unwittingly told a joke.

The cast faced a few minor difficulties during their opening night. There was an issue with the microphones where the first lines of a song were often inaudible, the orchestra occasionally had a very minor slip-up, and the set seemed to have a penchant for self-destruction (a ‘window’ rather noisily fell off during Benji and K. C.’s love scene.) All these issues were easily overcome. The main problem was the lack of laughter from the audience, which was understandable on certain occasions as the odd joke fell flat. Sophie Kempner’s routine with JJ Bute as rival performers was not as funny as it should have been, and when Kempner broke the fourth wall to ask for more audience participation, there was a tangible air of awkwardness. This was, however, an uncharacteristic slip-up for Kempner, as her solo in the first Musketeer sketch was an early highlight.

Overall, however, this light hearted comedy was a resounding success. The singing was always of a high quality, there were some fabulous song and dance routines and the portrayal of the characters was mostly spot-on. Trevelyan should be proud to have pulled off such a large scale production, and the entirety of the thirty plus cast played a crucial role in delivering a truly satisfying end product.

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