Pros: Ticks all the required boxes for a good musical; light humour, subtle innuendo and a couple of West End worthy performances.
Cons: As you would expect for regional amateur theatre, there is a noticeable difference in acting ability across the large and very happy cast.
It’s a strange experience heading out of London rather than inwards for a night of theatre. It’s even stranger to be heading to a venue that has ample parking, but then again, it needs it – you aren’t getting here on the tube. Because this is Walton-On-Thames, just a stone’s throw from Hampton Court, a perfect setting for this charming musical.
The title says it all, Henry – A Tudor Musical. If, like me, you aren’t completely sure on your Tudors, that’s Henry VIII, the fat one with many wives. And if, again like me, that’s as far as your knowledge goes, then this is actually quite an education. Finally you’ll discover why he divorced, beheaded, lost at childbirth, divorced, beheaded and then was finally outlived by the last of the six. And whilst you’re getting your potted history lesson, thankfully you are also getting the absolute pleasure of an amateur theatre group giving it their all, something even hardened cynical old reviewers can’t fail to smile about.
If it were the West End, with its West End prices, you might question if you were getting your money’s worth, but here you should just accept that not every performer is going to be perfect. Some are here for the sheer joy of treading the boards and that joy is contagious. There may be moments you’re forced to seek out the right notes amongst the duds, but just seeing them performed with such pleasure allows you to forgive any faults.
In the marvellously spacious Cecil Hepworth Playhouse you can experience the real joy of regional theatre. The cast of over twenty sing, dance and act their way through it all with energy and delight as the wives come and go in their various ways. Each is given their own unique treatment; from the flirtation of Anne Boleyn, the sadness of Jane Seymour and, surely everyone’s highlight, the pure hilarity of Anne of Cleves with her questionable German accent and operatic singing. She really wouldn’t be out of place in ‘Allo ‘Allo!
And whilst it may be amateur in name, there is enough to elevate this above that title. The costumes are detailed, the staging and lighting are well designed, and there are enough actors who know what they are doing to help you overlook the others. David O’Roarty’s Henry is loud, bold, heartfelt and gracefully holds the layers of fat padding added after each wife. Anne of Boleyn and Cleves shine, and then there is Frankie Oldham, the Fool, nearly always present as he watches and narrates proceedings. Maybe one of the youngest present on stage but clearly one with an acting career ahead of him, an actor who deserves to be witnessed, cheered and encouraged.
Musically it’s just as glorious as the four piece band show their talents. Like the acting, the singing has its ups and downs but the ups far outweigh the downs. There are some very good singers, and then there are some who at least give it their very best and that is more than enough. Lyrically it mostly hits the right notes with its good humour, ‘Where’s Henry’ being a superb full cast outing. The duet between Henry and Anne of Cleves is as funny as anything you might see elsewhere; good enough to forgive rhyming bed with chess.
Henry – A Tudor Musical is not going to change the face of theatre, but it is a perfect example of why regional amateur theatre is alive and well and deserving of attention. This was quite simply an unexpected treat that should appeal to those seeking a night out with a guaranteed smile.
Written and Directed by: Carson, Townsend and Townsend
Producer: Molesey Musical Theatre
Booking Until: This show has now ended its current run.
Booking Link: http://www.moleseymusicaltheatre.com/