St Joseph’s Players
Director: Doreen Johnson
Choreography: Callan Tennant & Jennel Unsworth
Richard Harris’s heart-warming comedy is set in the 1980s when women’s lives revolved around men. The local church hall amateur tap-dancing classes were an escape from their dull and dreary lives. Seven women and one man are given the opportunity to be themselves, with their two left feet turning into budding hoofers.
In the main the set of the church hall was believable. There were backcloths of a pantomime and a musical on the hall stage, with corresponding posters of the forthcoming production on the noticeboard which depicted seasons and the passage of time. The only niggling aspect all entrances were made from the stage; another entrance would have completed the dramatic picture. The simple set change for the two dance showcases worked well. There was an enjoyable cameo role created by Kitti Dixon, the showcase stage-manager. Lighting and sound were straight forward aiding the performers and they didn’t interfere with the drama. The costumes enhanceed the characters, with hair and make-up adding to the overall picture.
The choreography is a tricky one; there are endless dance sequences whilst the characters are learning their routine. This motley crew had to move to their own individual rhythmic sense and have to be seen developing their skill. As the inventive dance sets built up they extended the determination of the group. Everyone stayed in character resulting in a not-so-perfect (as it should be) finale. “The Turner Tappers” enthusiasm left the audience wanting to dance.
The work of the director was in evidence; the close teamwork by the performers enabled the script to be brought to life. Just at times a little space between the lines was needed to enable the comedy to come through. The characters humdrum lives and disappointments were clearly exposed and on view.
This production’s winning formula was its ensemble playing. There was Jenny Costello as eager- to-please student nurse, Lynne. Rose, who spends act one in a bad wig was created by Elaine Hardy. Then there was bubbly, gum-chewing, with ample curves, Sylvia, who is quite a rough diamond. Robyn Seddon, as big hearted Sylvia, captured the character’s sincerity. We were then introduce to Maxine, a girl who would sell her own grandmother if she could get a good price for her. Kay Unsworth displayed all the confidence of the business woman. Within all the humour there is Andy suffering from physical abuse from her husband, and is always covered up to hide her injures. Christy Coleman, as the bookish Andy, found the core of the character. Deborah Connolly was memorable, as Dorothy, the uncoordinated, anxious tapper who repeats the ends of other people’s sentences. The lone man is shy, limp widower, Geoffrey, played by Wayne Lythgoe, who brought pathos to the role with Geoffrey’s crush on Andy.
Newcomer, the insensitive, Vera, joins the class to find friendship but gets everybody’s back up. Vera has some of the best lines and the role needs an actress of experience to get the timing right. Donna Wood gave a well observed characterisation.
Music for the classes is supplied by Mrs Fraser who lets it be known she appreciates the music of Irvin Berlin. Katherine Roberts was every inch the grumpy pianist who thinks she is doing everyone a favour.
This eclectic group of would be tap dancers have to be brought together and turned into the show stopping Mavis Turner Tappers. Jennel Unsworth was the unflappable Mavis embodying the role. Jennel played the ex pro-dancer with style keeping Mavis positive despite her own life changes and shock news.
The company in this feel good production made sure laughter was on ‘tap’.