Great Performances and the Lack Thereof

 

In staging their First Annual Student Showcase, the students of the Holland College School of Performing Arts gave it their all, a performance that was much applauded by the full house present at The Guild the evening of the 21st.

To say the least, the title of the show was interesting, considering it’s not the easiest thing to title a musical revue, which was essentially what the show was all about. Certainly, there were snippets of scenes from plays as well as an original scene by a couple of the students. Transition poems and music were very cleverly used and kept up the pace so that there was not a single dull moment.

Before I launch into any comments on anything else, I must commend the band. They were just great! Plain and simple. I must mention that the first time I heard Max Keenlyside play was as an extra act after Canada in Love and his original ragtime compositions and improvisations on O, Canada were just fantastic! Playing with a band, he was no less adept at the keyboard. Amazing talent was revealed by Zack Squires, whose virtuoso at playing the guitar shows a great maturity as well as creativity. His solo Guitar Seduction used oriental techniques for playing stringed instruments, quite unlike what Westerners are used to, but exactly how oriental stringed instruments are played. Deana Joka was just cool, cool, cool on bass. I would love to have heard her doing a solo, as well.

I thought it was really good that the students put the whole show together by themselves. The pieces selected were just right and worked well all together. The only piece that didn’t really contribute much to the show was the Al Green song “Let’s Stay Together” performed by Sarah Macphee and Kyle Sherren. The piece just didn’t work out that well.

I found Lauren Thomson’s dance to ”Too Lost in You” a tad bit too short. She has great potential there, but needs to work on dancing from inside, but as far her acting is concerned, she was just perfect in the scene from Crimes of the Heart. Kayla Shaw, on the other hand, had all the feeling and tension in her dance “Apologize.” As for “Inka,” Samantha MacKay was completely captivating and charming. What a surprise that she could also be powerful and expressive as a singer in her “Stepsisters’ Lament” with Justeann Hansen.

Ryan Rioux’s voice has a beautiful, clear quality as well as great control. His renditions of “Being Alive” and “They Were You” reminded me why I love musical theatre…If only their mikes didn’t share feedback for that one ruinous moment. Sharisse Lebrun has a good soprano albeit a bit thin (her voice, that is) but with great potential. She certainly has the makings of a good actress as far as expression and expressiveness goes, but she needs to learn how to maintain body tension in all her movements and gestures. Clearly, Dan Byrne sings from his heart and his toes. He is worth watching out for, but he needs to learn to sing more to the audience when doing a band act, as opposed to singing for himself. It is, after all, a performance. He was great in “Another Day” but could have been better matched. Hailey LeClair does well when she’s belting out, but needs to work on her higher registers as well as on internalizing her characters more deeply. Jenna McDonald needs to be mentioned as well. From beginning to end, she was just full of life and character and I can just imagine her in big musical roles! She was her characters and projected that every single moment she was on stage.

As a company, the opening and the closing ensemble numbers (“All You Need is Love”) were well done, although someone entered too early in the closing a cappella. The opening number singing wasn’t bad either, but the blocking was terrible and the movements needed better coordination.

That said, this was a showcase of raw and budding talent and with perseverance and training, this company will certainly be going places.

-30-

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