Local company EMT have turned to the Songbook of the Disney Company for this year’s Fringe concert. However this is not what you would expect when someone says Disney: instead of taking their selection of songs from Disney movies, they are instead the songs used in the original stage productions of said movies. However the selected songs are occasionally only tenuously linked to Disney by a mere production credit. The general public doesn’t know these as Disney shows.
The opening of the show is rather clever as they reprise the closing number from last year’s ‘In Musical Company’ namely ‘Circles of Love’. From the very start we hear the beautiful four-part harmonies sung by the large ensemble as they make their entrances in a rainbow of coloured tops and jeans, making a nice change from evening gowns and suits.
The 50-minute show treats us to a very clever plot line with a selection of songs woven through. The plot is a basic one: we have two couples, one more mature than the other and it’s boy meets girl, boy loses girl and boy finds girl again. Although unoriginal, the storyline combined with the gentle Disney theme creates something special.
Performing the principal roles are Hazel Beattie and Andrew Todman as the mature couple and Colin Richardson and Rachel Flynn as their younger counterparts. With songs selected from The Lion King, Tarzan, Aida and Beauty and the Beast to name but a few, it’s a veritable cheese fest, but one that works. Particular highlights were a very moving performance of ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ from Tarzan given a soulful rendition by Beattie and an inspiring ‘The Endless Night’ from the Lion King sung by ensemble with solo by Richardson. Andrew Todman delivers a charming performance of ‘Santa Fe’ from the musical ‘Newsies’ which is sweeping Broadway - the company indeed keep the musical selection bang up to date.
What sets this production apart is the use of fully integrated signing; a performer who signs the lyrics in British Sign Language accompanies each singer. While you would think it could be distracting it actually works extremely well and often adds a real sense of emotion to the songs. It’s a brave risk to take and they pull it off well.
It states in the programme that it’s the final production for the current directing duo of Michael Richardson (Director) and Neil Metcalf (Musical Director). They can be assured they have left the company with a quality Fringe Concert on their hands and one which is a treat for the audience of any age!