But one tradition that shouldn’t be overlooked is the annual BUSOM Christmas show, taking place in Escape, this year themed around the subject area of ‘Villains, Minions and Monsters’. So while other students may have been found in the Sports Bar or the terraces of Valley Parade to eventually toast a Bradford victory over the mighty Arsenal, many staff and students were instead by the bar preparing themselves for another 100 minutes of operetta and musical goodness.
With Escape set out in its regular fashion with the addition of an extra microphone for a soon to be revealed extra, it was on with the show, beginning with the odd-one-out piece of the night – for good reason – of ‘Be Our Guest’ from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Sung by Rachel Mitchell, one of the most reliable and bankable members of the group, was mostly strong on her singing aside from a few early nerves that put her out of sync with the piano. With the chorus coming in to add some more gusto to proceedings, this was a strong opening.
With the drama unfolding after the piece thanks to some 1930s melodrama delivered by musical director Stuart Sellens who, alongside the other MD Christine, bridged the gaps between pieces with a plot line of villains taking over the production. Sellens, always a delight to watch on stage, hammed it up, but this acting fitted in with the piece.
With the theme of the night established, Poppy Brooks delivered ‘Good and Evil’ from ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and though it has to be said that the chosen song wasn’t particularly exciting to hear and there were a few stumbles over some of the lyrics, Poppy’s voice was on top-form throughout the piece and carried it incredibly well, with dramatic elements peppering her performance and some tricky high notes hit perfectly, if sometimes the spoken-ending to the odd sentence felt lacking compared to when she went for the big notes in other parts.
Emelie Olilia and Naomi Fowler brought in the next number from ‘A Very Potter Musical’, tied together around the middle, voicing Professor Quirrell and Lord Voldermort respectively. The song itself was very funny lyrically and mostly tackled with gusto, both singers bringing the written words to life and sparking the audience into smiles.
The next song, taken from the satirical musical ‘Urinetown’, was ‘Don’t Be The Bunny’, delivered mostly by Dave Jennings, who was his usual powerfully-voiced self, making easy work of a surreal-ish song and bringing them to life. Anna Garlick, part of a perhaps underused three-part chorus, was initially the bunny and though had little to say embodied the character and proved herself again to be a nifty character actor even with nothing but a pair of bunny ears to go on. Ben Bell and James Wheeldon who supported her equally didn’t have much vocally to add in comparatively but adopted the bunny moniker with rigour.
From ‘Bugsy Malone’ ‘Bad Guys’ saw Dave Jennings joined on stage by Jon Carter and Joel Blakemore, always a double-act to look out for for some good laughs. The song, however, didn’t quite gel with the piano and the banjolele – the only time of the night it did to any major deteriment, but it was revealed at the end that Colin Fine stepped in with less than ten days notice on piano duty and did an incredible job anyway, never mind considering that element – but the three on stage made a great trio even if Jon and Joel’s double-act didn’t have the material to truly shine as they usually do. The banjolele playing was fun though and a neat addition to the piece.
‘Just Around The Corner’ from ‘The Addams Family’ was tackled by Lyndsey Niven and she helped bring the comedic lines to life alongside being very strongly sung. The small chorus added an extra element to the piece but could have survived without it.
‘Scrooge’ from the Muppets Christmas Carol added the first of two seasonal flavours to the production and, though the first couple of vocalists struggled to get their lines out, the song was to be one of the highlights of the evening event, with both the group working as a whole chorus but also most members getting at least one line, which really gelled well. Plus Joanne Brotherton made a good mouse, as did the few in the chorus that came back as them, and Anna Garlick’s narrative lines were expertly delivered. Again there were a few piano issues but nothing much to detract from a quality delivery.
From ‘Princess Ida’ ‘If You Give Me Your Attention’ followed with Carl Mitchell on vocal duties, and it was a strong solo and the most enjoyable piece so far with a great collaboration between him and the piano with a very neat choral ending.
The penultimate number of the first act was ‘Macavity’ from ‘Cats’, a personal favourite of mine both in poem and song form. Featuring a guest appearance from a stuffed cat with the longest tail ever, Emily Bennett and Helen Plant brought the song to life and created one of my favourite performances in the night even if the gaps in the piano score, as part of a song, seemed odd. A great story song though and rounded off by perhaps the shrillest scream I’ve ever heard, coming from Christine.
The act was rounded off with ‘Be Back Soon’ from ‘Oliver!’ which saw Joanne Brotherton finally given a substantial part in a song – as the Artful Dodger – and relishing it and the first time I’ve seen her given something meaty to work with, and she made a great job of it, and hopefully this will be the start of larger roles in the productions. James Wheeldon as the main singer was also a delight and the addition of choir took it up a notch.
As the audience now went to “purchase potions from the bar” as part of the interval, we got the regular draw – I won a copy of David Bowie’s ‘Labyrinth’ DVD so I can now, er, enjoy “the crotch”.
The show kicked back in with ‘evil act two’ and the ‘Cell Block Tango’ from ‘Chicago’, one of my favourite performances from the previous BUSOM scratch a few years ago and the tale of death and murder was just as enjoyable. All six of the cast members excelled in the dramatic reading of their individual tales but extra credit should go to Anna Garlick once more for her excellent character acting and to Poppy Brooks who did her bit entirely in French, overall creating the number that was the best of the show in my opinion.
From ‘Camelot’ ‘The Seven Deadly Virtues’ was a neat version of the song even if a few lines were missed. It wasn’t the most exciting of songs to hear but was short and sweet, refreshing after the length preceding number.
‘Stepsisters Lament’ from ‘Cinderella’ saw Helen Plant and Catrina Lodge make easy work of a catchy tune and from the cult classic ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’, ‘Over at Frankenstein Place’ saw Rachel Mitchell cement herself as a great singer, paired win Joel Blakemore who worked well with her on the chorus but didn’t quite fit the song. An enjoyable addition from Lyndsey Niven coming from the back of the audience benefitted the song and it continued the show along nicely.
‘Magic Dance’ from the previously mentioned ‘Labyrinth’ film followed with James Wheeldon being superb in the role, with the synth-setting on the keyboard adding an extra element to it.
‘Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies’ from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ saw Nick Smith don a top hat and becoming successfully creepy as the Child Catcher, continuing to cement himself as one of the strongest talents in the BUSOM line-up. With no care for health and safety (!!) sweets were flung out to the crowd – but sadly not hard enough to reach us in the back rows, sadly – and a fun number was sung.
Another highlight of the show was ‘Dentist’ from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with Zoe Howe excelling as the dentist of the title, perhaps the most menacing person I’ve ever seen with a white coat and an electric toothbrush. Complete with plenty of puns nicely inputted by the small chorus, it was a fun number with some good acting in it.
‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’ from the similarly titled animation was up next and was one of the best interpreted numbers of the night. Jon as storyteller balanced well against the sung lines and Emily’s singing fitted the song really well. Anna once more threw herself into her role – quite literally this time – right against the wall as a bar. Great song, well interpreted.
‘No Way Top Stop It’ from ‘The Sound of Music’ came up next with Zoe Howe and Nick Smith both very strong with an equally enjoyable to hear Christine, who was a little more restrained in this piece than her flamboyant between-song interludes. The track came to a head with a great ensemble piece.
Carl Mitchell was up next to tackle ‘Brand New Day’ from ‘Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog’, sporting a snazzy pair of goggles. It was a subdued version of the song but a fun listen.
The last advertised number, but the actual penultimate one, was ‘Everybody’s Got The Right’ from ‘Assassins’, a song I’m not that familiar with. It was a little low-key at the start but Emelie, Stuart and Christie, then the chorus, boosted the piece. With the chorus kicking in it was a well-orchestrated ending to the production with a strong, well-held final note.
Joel brought some good humour to the end of the piece as they talked about their next major production – Pride and Prejudice the Musical on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd March – before doing an encore of ‘We Could Be Everything We Wanted To Be’ from Bugsy Malone, with some great vocals from Joel, Jon and Dave who handled the tempo speeding up perfectly, as good redeemed itself and destroyed the villains, minions and monsters of the title.
Overall the latest BUSOM production was an enjoyable 100 minutes of music with lots of high points and it feels that the songs-from-the-shows set-up is where the group is at their strongest with the added acting elements in between. Always a good mix of songs from musicals and more pop-culture entries, it was another fun production from the student group and there are more stand-out performances each time, with everyone getting their chance to shine, but it’s members like Nick Smith, Anna Garlick, Danny Sweeney and Emily Bennett that stood out this time, but the rest all had their own moments to create a true ensemble piece.
BUSOM are next back in January with their 24-hour show. For more information visit www. http://www.busom.org/