2010 – High Society

Why we need the Playhouse – Northumberland Gazette – March 2010.

Alnwick Stage Musical Society’s opening night performance of High Society came just days after the Gazette revealed that a threat to cut Alnwick Playhouse’s budget had been averted.

Even in the programme notes, society chairman Lynne Lambert focused on the funding issue, saying that financial cutbacks to the Playhouse would be ‘alarming’.

The Alnwick venue not only serves up a wealth of professional productions, but – perhaps more importantly – acts as a place where, as she puts it, ‘Children and adults from the district have the opportunity to develop their skills and find fellowship in working with others’. She’s quite right.

And the musical group’s latest production – High Society, directed by Penny Brown – is a reminder of that. It showed just why the Playhouse must be supported at every cost. Because this was people of the community performing for people of the community – and doing an excellent job at that.

And the person to force this message home was young actress Sophie Hammond (Dinah Lord), herself a product of the Playhouse’s very own youth theatre. The teenager excelled in High Society.

Starring in the champagne-fueled story of the upper class, she simply sparkled, with a confident performance that was a joy to watch. Meanwhile her sister Emily Hammond (Tracy Samantha Lord) was another stand-out performer. Perhaps the highlight of the show was when the pair were on stage together for the Act One set-piece I Love Paris – a humourous display which showed them at their best.

Alex Swailes also impressed as the eccentric Uncle Willie.

Cole Porter’s High Society tells the tale of the society wedding of the year against a backdrop of paparazzi press and glamourous farce, featuring a cocktail of well-loved songs, including Well Did You Ever, True Love and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

And here the cast – and musical director Peter Brown, along with the Sandy Bay Swing Band – also delivered. That’s an important issue too.

The Playhouse not only provides the opportunity for people to perform on stage at this great venue, allowing the likes of Sophie Hammond and other youngsters to thrive. But it also allows other members of the community to be involved in other ways, like performing musically and helping out backstage. That is why the Playhouse is so important to us.

And Alnwick Stage Musical Society’s performance could not have been a better reminder of this.

By James Willoughby

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