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Let's Hear It For The Ensemble and Swings

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This week I went to see the International Tour of the hit show Mamma Mia! The one thing that has always impressed me about this show is the choreography by Anthony Van Laast, as well as of course - the inventive use of Abba songs and Catherine Johnson's very amusing and knowingly corny book.

But whilst I was stood up applauding the cast during their first curtain call, something else impressed me about this show and I then recalled many others with this impressive ingredient that many of us take for granted - the swings and the ensembles who work their butts off - often at the back of the stage. We have all seen dire shows where these guys and gals act and dance like their lives depend on - regardless of how bad the material is.

When I reviewed Mamma Mia! this week in Manchester - I could not take my eyes off Kelly Ewins as she danced with such passion and feeling that you felt her every move. She never seemed to falter once, like the rest of the ensemble and swings in the show - she gave the show its energy, complimenting the epic quality of the Super Swedes - Abba's music.

These unsung heroes and heroines are often delivering high kicks and sashays whilst the audience wait to applaud the big names. I recall Amanda Minihan fondly in The Producers for stealing the show and Graham Martin who is currently touring in Blood Brothers plays a multitude of roles and switches from character to character with real ease and again, commitment. Former S Club Junior Aaron Renfree kicked ass in both Flashdance and WWRY and is a choreographer also.

We all love to see big name stars on stage - I recently loved Keira Knightley's performance in The Children's Hour and was very impressed with Richard Grieve in the current cast of Priscilla - Queen of the Desert. But, it's amazing the amount of talent you can see hovering at the back of stage, moving props and pushing revolves one minute and then dancing like Tony Manero at a wedding the next. Also, many of them are understudies and swings might need to be prepared to play up to six parts in the case sickness of other cast members.

When you next see a big musical, look out for these talented folk and applaud them as much as the names on the marquees, as the faces behind these ensemble and swings need celebrating as they are the backbone of musical theatre.


Mamma Mia!
is at Manchester's Palace Theatre, where it plays until 18 June.


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