Armada is a musical about war, love…and telepathy. This strange musical by Rob Winlow is set in the Elizabethan era, just as the Spanish Armada approach England. From the very beginning, the cast’s ensemble singing stands out as the saving grace of this performance. Their beautiful voices combine effortlessly creating a compelling and harmonious sound that is both powerful and engaging. They take us through the history of the Tudors, through the changing tides of religion and to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.
Rob Winlow immediately establishes himself as the strongest performer, playing Dr John Dee, a bogus magician and adviser to the queen. He is a convincing and forceful actor with a booming voice and expressive face. His protégé, Sarah, played by Victoria Hayles, is nowhere near the same caliber of performer. Her singing improved exponentially from her shaky start, but her acting was simply not convincing. Her attempts to communicate love and fear both resulted in a blank expression and utterly cold eyes that lacked expression.
The cheesy filmed scenes, projected in the background whenever the action moved to Spain or to terribly animated ship fighting scenes, were appallingly bad. The incompetently recorded sound was echoic and unprofessional and the idea simply did not work. The cheap-looking graphics were so cringe worthy it was embarrassing; physical theatre, good acting and some decent lighting and sound would have been far more effective.
This performance reeked of amdram melodrama, which wasn’t helped by the poor script. Questionable acting only increased this glaring problem, as the characters would pause… in… between… each… word... for painful emphasis. This was clearly a desperate attempt to inject drama into overly verbose and dull scenes that dragged on and on.
Jessa Liversidge (Queen Eliabeth I) and Russell Fallon (Francis Drake) stood out as strong performers with good voices and relatively decent acting, but even they could not save a performance where the main character was lacking so badly in any kind of authenticity. Jame Knight, who played Thomas, Sarah’s love interest, was far more convincing, but unfortunately his voice let him down. He was not able to keep up with Hayles’ quite beautiful tones and she was left behind by his far superior acting.
Overall, this production was a pretty painful. Most of the songs were repetitive and dull. Other than the brilliant ensemble moments, most of the performers lacked in either the voice or acting departments. Even when working together, there were moments of inconsistency between the performers, which simply looked unprofessional. The cheesy backing music and general lack of sincerity made this musical quite poor, with only a few strong moments to save it from completely going under.