Review – West End to Broadway – Congress Theatre, Eastbourne

 

Over the last 30 years Eastbourne’s premier amateur theatre group, The Rattonians, have staged some very ambitious, and successful, productions and, for their 30th anniversary production, they have taken selections from a large number of those shows and put them together in one enormous musical spectacular.

Now, you may be thinking, “Not another songs-from-the-shows evening” and you would be absolutely correct, for this is not just a wander through the most predictable numbers from the usual crop of shows, this is a full blown, all singing-all dancing, parade of talent featuring shows like Copacabana, The Pajama Game, Sweet Charity and Oh, What a Lovely War!

The show opens with, possibly, its only predictable moment – but Wilkommen from Cabaret is really the perfect opening number – before leading into the first surprise of the evening, Cry of the Celts from Lord of the Dance. Featuring Emma Cronk’s superb Irish dancing choreography, this number gives more than 20 members of the cast an opportunity to show that they have, yet another, amazing talent.

As soon as the Irish dancers depart the army arrives to give us a medley of songs from Joan Littlewood’s satirical First World War musical, Oh, What a Lovely War! which is particularly poignant in this 100th anniversary year. There is a notable chorus from the audience joining in with It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Goodbye-ee.

A medley from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gives The Rattonians a chance to show off what they do best, with two huge dance numbers, Toot Sweets and Me Old Bamboo, featuring most of the cast and some incredibly complicated but superbly tight choreography.

After another very quick and slick scene change, Megan Clarke takes the spotlight to deliver Naughty from Tim Minchin’s hit show Matilda before the rest of the youth group join her to perform a full medley from the show.

The Shearer Sisters, Chloe and Sophie, follow on with their wonderful performance of I Know Him So Well from Chess before more huge dance numbers from Top Hat and Me and My Girl lead us to the dramatic first half finale from Les Miserables.

Act two packs in just as many surprises as act one starting with the opening numbers from The Rattonians 2002 and 2008 production, Copacabana, working through a medley from Annie, featuring all of the girls from the Youth Group together with Melanie Adams as the gin-soaked, Miss Agatha Hannigan, then straight into another massive dance number, We’re in the Money from 42nd Street, which features the amazing dancing talents of Zac Adlam, the eldest of the three Adlam brothers who star in this production.

A couple of lesser known numbers follow, All I Care About is Love from Chicago and This Joint is Jumpin from Ain’t Misbehavin’, and then the stage fills with nuns to give us a medley from Sister Act before another super quick scene change takes us to a tavern where Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast is having his, already huge, ego boosted.

The run up to the finale features some of The Rattonians first every productions with songs from The Pajama Game, West Side Story and Sweet Charity before carnival time arrives in the form of I Go To Rio from the 2003 Broadway musical The Boy from Oz.

It’s the “elder statesmen” from The Rattonians company who lead us into the finale with Bosom Buddies from Mame and Together from Gypsy before the entire cast take the stage for a wonderfully colourful and rousing version of There’s No Business Like Show Business from Annie Get Your Gun earning a standing ovation, leaving us all on a tremendous high, and providing us with superb memories of their 30 years on stage – and hoping for another 30 years more.

****                Four stars