The term amateur dramatics used to have a rather negative connotation in the UK. ‘Am-drams’ were often poorly put together stage shows housing maniacal directors and ever-inflating egos of less-than-successful ‘actors.’ However an increase in the popularity of theatre has led to the rise of the more professional side of this most creative of endeavours.
It is estimated that British community theatres put on 30,000 shows a year and within this enormously popular sector of creative thinking there are some truly excellent performers and performances. With this in mind, I agreed to go along to see The Lyric Players, one of thousands of theatre performance groups in the UK to see their latest show, based on one of the most iconic films and musicals of all time, The Sound of Music.
Founded in 1922, The Lyric Players are based in South-West London rehearsing in Cheam and Wallington and perform two shows a year in the Charles Cryer Carshalton and, for this show, The Secombe Theatre in Sutton. Upon arrival for this final rehearsal I was met by their friendly publicity manager. I appreciate that all publicity managers should be friendly, but there is really a sense of warmth from Hannah, I hope to spark up a conversation about theatre, but she’s in a rush to get ready for the final rehearsal before the main run.
Luckily I’ve done my research and know who the main players are: There’s director Shaun Hughes, not the common stereotype, he is calm, confident and joins me in an audience of 4 people. The children who perform as the legendary von Trapp family are divided into two groups presumably to allow the most number of young people as possible to be part of the show and to gain necessary experience, which itself is a lovely idea. Meanwhile the roles of Maria Rainer and Georg von Trapp are played by Lyric Player regulars Lian Finne and Damien de Roche.
It’s a relaxing introduction and I’m immediately put at ease. These performers clearly know their stuff. I take my seat, the curtain draws and the show begins. The first thing to note is the production values. The sets and the costumes are supremely well crafted and immediately set the tone of professionalism that will become a hallmark of the performance. If I didn’t know where I was, I could easily have been convinced that this was a just off-West End show
The cast themselves are more than capable of maintaining the high standards set by the production, with the children all performing exceptionally. There is a tendency with children in theatre to have them over-act, but the whole von Trapp cast a superb and engaging and even though this is for all intents and purposes a practise, they barely miss a beat. The two leads are good too and Lian Finne has a raw element to her voice which is exciting and brings out the naivety of Maria beautifully, and hers became the most memorable performance for all the right reasons.
Rather than having taped music, there was a live band performing the classics from The Sound of Music, again it may not seem like much, but their ability to match the tempo set by the actors made for a thrilling, bombastic aural delight. While I’m drinking in the various aspects, director Hughes maintains a careful eye on proceedings only occasionally hopping on stage to move some people around and make sure that everything is perfect. But this is a rarity as the whole group of players know their parts and positioning almost to perfection.
I had an absolute blast watching what has to be one of the best amateur productions I’ve seen. Rather than family members drawn there through some sense of loyalty to the stars, this is the kind of show which will draw theatre fans who want to see a good production with some outstanding performances from rising talents. I’m not sure about the Hills, but The Lyric Players are certainly alive with the Sound of Music.
Tickets can be booked from 10am to 8pm Monday to Saturday at our Box Office on 07975 845 153 or The Secombe Theatre Box Office on 0208 770 6990. Tickets may also be ordered online at www.suttontheatres.co.uk where you can choose your own seats.
The Secombe Theatre is situated on Cheam Road, next to the Holiday Inn, Sutton.
Performances run Tuesday 23rd April to Saturday 27th April 2013, evenings at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm