Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society

REVIEW: EASTERN DAILY PRESS MAY 29 2017

Made in Dagenham is a popular hit on Cromer Pier
 

Sexual discrimination and strikes in a car factory are unlikely ingredients for a jolly stage musical.
But the empowering story of the downtrodden women machinists on a Ford car seat production line in the 1960s is an uplifting tale that gets you in its clutches with a high octane mix of poignant, funny and rousing moments.
The annual spring musical by the Cromer and Sheringham Operatic and Dramatic Society, based on a true story, shows the feisty females discovering untapped strengths to fight their corner in a pay dispute that was a landmark victory for all women workers.
Ringleader Rita O'Grady, who is torn between family and fellow women workers, is played with soul and spirit and a sweet singing voice - by Annabelle Culley as she leads a nationwide strike.
Josh Hinds impresses as husband Eddie, a Ford production line worker who also finds himself affected as the ripples of the women's action spreads when a Trump-like oaf of an American boss shuts down the Dagenham line. Josh shows his vocal talents in an emotional song The Letter when the dispute divides the family.
The show is laced with Sixties style pop songs and dance, some powerful chorus harmonies and well-drilled choreography from Carol Beatty.
Andrew Payne pipes up with a brilliant comedy caricature of Prime Minister Harold Wilson which was one of the highlights, while Chrissie Robertson shows off her soaring voice as the formidable Employment Secretary Barbara Castle.
Special mention too for the minimal but clever sets, including a Cortina car - which changed 28 times during the fast-paced show slickly directed by Robin Taylor.
Yes there is a boot full of sixties clichés, un-PC jokes and sexism - but they are what the show is all about, highlighting a time looked back on with fondness and horror in equal measure.
Well done CSODS for steering away from the tried and tested classic musicals and staging a fresh modern show.
There were a couple of minor first night misfires, mainly technical, but some minor tweaks under the bonnet should provide a finely-tuned show running until June 3.
Richard Batson

Review from Sue Dupont NODA East Region 5 Rep

What a really good choice of show with all those excellent character cameos suitable for a group that specialises in plays and acting as well as pulling out all stops with the singing and dancing: truly a proper "company" show which is often not found in the new releases. And Robin Taylor, Mark Sharp and Carole Beatty capitalised on all that talent and enthusiasm and energy in the CSODS team.

The settings for so many scenes simplified but most effective with the sliding screens and brought on furniture, needed to be swift to keep the continuity and it worked.

What a power house from the whole company in those opening choruses of "Made in Dagenham", "This is What We Want", and the "Union Song",  plus later "Storm Clouds" and this impact of energy continued in all the other big numbers.

To the "family" and at the heart of it, Anabelle Culley as Rita O'Grady, and what a performance she put in, thoughtful, powerful, sympathetic, filled with love and ambition and a drive to make the world a better place to work in, acting perfect, working with all the other girls in struggles, and with the singing voice for those many numbers, who could fault this tour de force.    

Opposite her (and playing again the role after NYMT) Josh Hinds as Eddie had the moods and disbelief at his wife and yet the admiration, working with comrades and family in conflict, and the singing voice to excel in those numbers, and the feelings in "The Letter". Two lovely youngsters as the children, think it was Capri with other team Granada.

The Ford Seamstresses team were obviously mates, each had their own personality cameo role to exploit as well as teamwork: loud mouth Beryl from Carole Beatty, the "want to be air hostess", Cass from Selina White, the "want to be wed" Clare from Yvonne Kidd, and mates Tracey from Andrea Wilson and Sandra from Georgie Kemp: what a group of friends with strong vocals and slick dance movement, and (in acting skills) what support for Rita in her fight for rights.

The men did well in their varied roles whether part of the Ford factory line led by Sid (Neil Robertson) and mates to Eddie or in the management team, the civil servants, the USA team with Tooley (Graham Woodrow), and general chorus and dancers in Dagenham. 

The UK in charge, Richard Delahaye as Jeremy Hopkins worked hard to cope with situation, and his wife Lisa (Philippa Baillie) came over as sensible, torn in loyalties, and filled with sympathy and kindness to Rita.

And four special roles which could have been written for this casting, and how great to manage to prise them away from directing and backstage to have them all present to complement each other in this production:  as the girls union leader fighting for the re-grading with fire and reason, Amanda Howell as Connie gave a polished performance which brought out the fears and sorrow with her developing cancer, the impact on the campaign, and then death, very poignant and moving.  And as Monty, the union male supposedly in charge of the girls, the under-dog, repressive, and uncertain, torn in his loyalty to the male side of argument, but really on their side because of his feelings, and a part so unlike the aristocratic and suave parts normally played by him, Peter Howell showed acting skills that transformed him, and how moving the scene after the death of his desire, Connie.  

To the other duo that starred, and more on the comedy side, Andrew Payne looked so like Harold Wilson, it was uncanny, his moves and voice perfect, his timing in speeches and a strong song and dance an example to all, and the fun side brought laughter with his "silly walks".   The dominant role in the political scenes with the female interest and encouragement to the girls, Chrissie Robertson was Barbara Castle with personality and power and true rapport, her scene with Wilson excellent by both, but her number "Ideal World"  just brought down the house with the dynamism and powerful vocals, she has spent so long with direction and plays that we had forgotten this voice which was tremendous, the number stole the show.

Above all this was a company show which could demonstrate the talents of CSODS in all aspects of acting, singing and dancing, but especially in energy and teamwork and total enjoyment of theatre for all, Congratulations.