bad girls

19 Feb

BAD GIRLS ****
by Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus
Music and LYrics byKath Gotts
Orchestrator Martin KOch
UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE

Do not expect this musical to be full of happiness and joy. Well it’s certainly there but not all the time. It is about the poor girls who have broken the law and found themselves banged up. As they sing ‘Banged up without a bang’
They are a rich mix, prostitutes, murderers, shoplifters, addicts.
All of them believe they are innocent and don’t think they belong in jail. ‘I shouldn’t be here ‘ and ‘Give me back my life’
At the top of the show, little Rachael is the new arrival, she is taking off her clothes to be examined by the warder Sylvia ‘Bodybag’, played without a vestige of sympathy by Carol Sharp. Rachael is the new girl, she is vulnerable , worried about the baby she has left behind, and badly treated by the top girl on the wing, Shell, wonderfully played throughout by Nicole Faraday along with her sidekick Denny (Jade Marvin.) They bully her unmercifully calling themselves her Guardian Angels.
It is a relief to her when she meets the Chief officer JIm Fenner, who tells her he will take care of her and make sure she will see her baby. She does not realise that he has all the girls under his control, even Shell, and can get what he likes out of them by his promises.
He is unlike Helen Stewart (Bella Bowen) who is the Prison Governor and she believes that prison is for rehabilitation – but the rest of the staff o seem to enjoy giving the girls a bad time. She has a special friend Niki – a lifer who has returned to the wing. She and Rebecca Eastham (who also directs) play their relationship with admirable restraint and dignity.
There are some terrific performances and great songs. Alex-May Roberts plays Crystal Gordon , an evangelist who sings gospel music like an angel. Her song ‘Freedom Road’ is for me the Highlight of the show.
The show is an offshoot of he TV series and one might find it a strange suject for a musical, but it works, even though there are so many vile people and horrible happenings. Nicole Faraday is quite extraordinary in that, despie her evil character, manages to retain our sympathy. Big busty and eminently likeable even when catering to the desires of Jim Fenner.
Alexander Fosteras the wicked Fenner has a very pleasant and well projected singing voice which makes him very believable to the poor sad Rachael.
Another of the stand out personalities with a big number (A- list) which she sings along with the other prisoners is Yvonne. She knows exactly how to cope with the siuation, being the wife of a famous gangster and has a lush outside life.
Andrew Eeter has produced ingenious prison bars that are able to move easily along with the characters. He also handles the lighting. The musical director is Ben David Papworth who has produced some good harmonies for the girls though occasionally I find the music a little loud drowning out some of the sense of the lyrics. The high sopranos have a worse time than the others.
A lot of successful hard work has been given to this musical. One can tell that the cast and creatives feel that this is a special show for them and they are having a ball, working on it. .
So despite the grim subject, it is a very entertaining evening.

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