BWW Reviews: CRUSH, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, September 8 2015
It's 1963 at Dame Dorothea Dosserdale School of Girls where Crush, the most recent brainchild of renowned writer Maureen Chadwick, is set. An exaggerated and very twee, stiff upper-lipped version of St Trinians, the students desperately want to save their school from the grasps of new Headmistress Miss Bleacher, who wants to change the ethos and curriculum. There are other story threads such as the relationship between two pupils, Susan and Camilla, which is addressed in a very 1960s fashion but their strength for what they believe in trounces all. Chadwick's style of writing is evocative of her previous TV works such as Waterloo Road, Bad Girls and Footballers Wives. She has teamed up with Kath Gotts again who has composed the music and lyrics for the show and whom she worked with a few years back on Bad Girls: The Musical.
David Farley's set concept is very interesting but is regrettably unsuccessful in reality. The flats are a series of monochrome line drawings and do not aid the performance in any way sadly. It is easy to relate to Farley's ideas; with Miss Bleacher sucking the life out of the school, the blandness makes sense on paper - however, this does not necessary translate to the stage in a powerful enough way. The opening of Act Two when they go to London is a breath of fresh air in comparison with its burst of colour. Johanna Town had a mountain to climb with the lighting design to try and compensate for the lack of colour in the set - she does this well however and there are some really beautiful images created such as during 'What Good Is Life' with Susan's character on the bridge.
Director Anna Linstrum has done a wonderful job in drawing out all of the finer details within Chadwick's script. The work completed with the cast on building up their characters is excellent and each one of the girls' personalities shines through. The stage space is used well and Richard Roe's choreography is absolutely superb. There is a lot of tap work throughout and the cast tackle it with ease and flair. The whole thing is very cute and Roe's understanding of the musical arrangements is apparent when watching the musical numbers. A particular favourite is the hockey number 'Navy Knicks' where Kirsty Malpass as Miss Givings excels.
The 12-strong cast all give an entirely committed performance with high energy levels throughout. Rosemary Ashe is a vocally stunning Miss Bleacher and 'The Future Mothers of the Future Sons of England' is a triumph. Even though she is the 'baddie' within the show, she is still likeable with her scheming and commitment to the cause. Sara Crowe is a very endearing Miss Austin and her comic timing is spot on. Unfortunately her vocals let her overall performance down but everyone roots for her during the story. Charlotte Miranda-Smith as Camilla and Stephanie Clift as Susan are remarkable and are the glue to the entire show in my opinion. 'Totally, Utterly, Truly' is a memorable highlight. Kudos must be given to all of the supporting cast but Emma Harrold in particular stood out and commanded the stage in every scene she was part of.
Crush runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry until Saturday 19th September before having short runs in Brighton and Richmond later in the year.