Maple Giant Theatre has established a reputation for bringing high-quality productions of small scale gems to the audiences of Oxford. And this, their final offering, is worthy culmination of their project. Amy Cooke-Hodgson directs with an assured touch – bringing out humour and genuine emotion as demanded by the script. Stephen Wiggins, who produces as well as musically-directs, shows his love of this style of music with very polished performances from the singers and his small band of musicians.
The evening belongs firmly to Hansel Tan – playing the autobiographical role of Jon. He has a strong voice – easily able to cope with the huge range demanded by the score as well as the verbal dexterity required by some of the intricately written lyrics. His acting is equally accomplished. Without his warmth and personality, the evening would have been much weaker.
This is not to say that his colleagues – Edward Blagrove and Bonnie Hurst – are poor in comparison. That is far from the case. They both shine in their various supporting roles - having strong voices and completely control over their many, contrasting characters. Blagrove is particularly strong in his confrontation scene with Tan – there is a stillness to his playing of this scene that speaks volumes. Hurst brings the house down with her performance of “Come to your senses”.
If I have a quibble, it is a minor one, and that is that the evening could do with a little more pace. Just occasionally the transition from song back into dialogue causes things to sag just a little.
This is an entertaining and moving piece of music theatre and the production is a fitting way for Maple Giant to bow out from the theatrical life of Oxford. Catch it if you can.