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Imagine Theatre show delights audience with local talent

April 1st, 2011
[Review and photos by David Armstrong]

At base level there can be no argument that Imagine Theatre's Christchurch Earthquake Performance is value for money - after all, admission was just $5. But it was much more than that, offering both a lively, fun-filled variety concert and an insight into some of the emerging entertainment talent in our district.

Last night's opening show brought in a full house of nearly 75 people of all ages, and surely every one of them went home with a smile on their face. The show will run tonight (Friday) at 7.30 and tomorrow afternoon at 2pm. Imagine Theatre wants to put on such a variety show each year, and this first effort provides plenty of promise.

Performers were chosen by audition (plus a little cajoling in some cases), so the type of acts depended on who put themselves forward. Likewise the quality ranged from some excellent seasoned acts to some promising youngsters who are still learning the art of presentation.

This led to a rather imbalanced programme, with a large majority of singers and fewer other types of acts, and a clear bipolarity between teenaged and "older" performers. That said, all contributed to the effort and mostly with some measure of distinction.

Scene stealer was Murray Owen, who had the audience belly-laughing with his clever, funny songs (self-penned or adapted to local conditions) and musical skits for all three of his appearances. Those who know Murray as the quiet news gatherer for The Guardian will be amazed to see his alter ego at work, drawing in the audience with his command of accents, lively physical delivery, clear diction and wicked sense of humour. Young performers could do well to look to Murray's example.

Indeed, one suspects that the two young MCs Jimi Ward and Harry Townsend may have learned a few tricks from Murray as they introduced and linked items with unquenchable enthusiasm and delight. Jimi's ginormous beaming smile was a thing to look forward to after each item, and sometimes you had to wonder if he was in fact taking the mickey out of himself. Great job, lads!

Of the non-singing acts, of particular note was a flute duet by MHS exchange students Anna Reigler and Ines Kalscheuer, both talented players working together with confidence, bright and coloured delivery, and accuracy. Magician Craig Doty drew everyone in with his unspectacular but nevertheless convincing tricks and illusions which had everyone, young and old, wondering 'how did he do that?'

Co-MC Harry Townsend showed some nice touches with his own juggling act. As a young juggler he doesn't try anything too difficult yet, but the action is impressively smooth and the fruit juggling act, in which he took bites from the items on the fly, was very entertaining.

Youngsters Eva Nelson, Lily McClintock and Charlie Thain put together a delightfully choreographed short dance number in limited stage space, showing promise for bigger things over their next 10 years.

The other performances were all singers with either live guitar backing or prerecorded arrangements. On the whole, sound levels were very good so words and instrumentals were clear. Occasionally there were hiccups with cueing of backing tracks and the inevitable mike mix-up, but these were few and minor.

The singers provided a range of experience and 'degrees of difficulty', and as a general rule the less difficult the piece the better the result. While all showed promising vocal quality, some need further work on stage presentation which will come with maturity and further experience on stage.

The best such example was Holly Barnett who sang three modern popular numbers. She has an excellent voice and is not afraid to take on difficult pieces ('Hero' probably was just beyond the limit of her ability right now), but experience will teach her how to use the stage and her hands and body. The less complex 'The Greatest Love of All' was well suited to her voice and current development level, and she nailed it.

Ella May Doty lived up to her growing reputation as a confident and entertaining presenter of country/soul/blues songs, with great expression, sound guitar playing and clear notes. She also accompanied other artists during the evening, in particular a crisp rendition with Gwen Pegley.

The Behringer siblings, Izaac and Alana, each presented two of their songs and one together. They also are growing in confidence and stature. Izaac's rendition of 'Knocking on Heaven's Door' was assured and emotional, specially considering he'd been ill for the past week. Alana's breathy voice suited her choice of songs well, and although her guitar work was too quiet and nervous in her second song, the accuracy and feeling in her voice suggests a career in singing is not beyond her.

Hannah Dyson and Gwen Pegley (separately) also showed good singing voices and the beginnings of entertaining stage presentation which will surely grow with experience and further training. Heather Sinclair-Wentworth has a great voice for one so young and is unafraid to entertain. She will surely blossom as her presentation becomes more natural and she learns to smile and enjoy herself on stage.

Which brings us to the only adult singers - and as with Murray Owen's performances, they showed us that grown-ups can entertain by mixing musical ability with a willingness to act like kids. Dana Orrock-Binnington combined first with Ian Ramsden and then with his old band-mate Hamish for fun songs using his richly expressive voice. The first I had no idea what they were singing about as the words were lost but Dana's expression made it clear something surreal was going on. The second was a wonderful take on a poor Russian man condemned to eat borsch for the rest of his life, and got the audience joining in.

The concert ended as it started, only much funnier, with Murray Owen excelling himself and interacting directly with the audience, followed by the whole cast of 19 dancing on stage.

Cost of admission: $5. Value of entertainment: easily $20-ish. Seeing Murray in a new light: priceless.

If anyone wants a full-size original version of any of the photos below sent to them by email, please request by emailing the editor here, indicating which photo(s) you would like.

Tall and tiny: MCs Harry Townsend and Jimi Ward

Holly Barnett

Elly May Doty and Gwen Pegley

Izaak Behringer

Hannah Dyson

Eva Nelson, Lily McClintock and Charlie Thain

Ian Ramsden and Dana Orrock-Binnington

If the cap doesn't fit .... play on!

Harry Townsend part way through his fruit-eating juggle

Alana Behringer

Dana Orrock-Binnington with guitarist Hamish

Heather Sinclair-Wentworth

Murray Owen running scared

Flautists Anna Reigler and Ines Kalscheuer

Murray Owen bungles in the jungle

Alana Behringer and Elly May Doty

Magician Craig Doty and volunteer .... where did the salt go?

The whole cast celebrate the end of the show

Comment by Maureen Leuschke:
[Posted 1 April 2011]

I AGREE 100% with everything you say! It was a truly delightful evening, filled with warmth and laughter ~ medicine for the soul! "Thank you" to everyone concerned with making it happen.

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