Reviewed by Dave Smith
In The Christmas Variety Show, SALOS provided their receptive audience at the Tower Arts Centre with just what they wanted: a vocal concert of well-loved tunes, occasionally broken up with comic sketches and a recitation or two. The presentation showcased several of the company’s ‘many veteran performers’ as they are described in the programme notes, along with a few younger voices.
Under the direction of the experienced Pam Tucker, the cast brought a genial, pleasant and enthusiastic atmosphere to the stage. It felt to the audience as if we were visiting a welcoming village, in which we got to know the inhabitants more and more at the show progressed.
There were several highlights. Of the choral pieces, the Songs of the Sea bracket was the tightest, with its precise marching rhythms and choreography, while earlier the audience was given a nice teaser for SALOS’ next production with some songs from The Merry Widow.
Some solos and duets were very well handled. Dione Baker’s power and precision shone through in her solos, most notably in God’s Garden. Ralph Gourlay and Marion Manuel combined delightfully in their duets, especially in the folk music bracket. Their harmonies were secure and their tone was gentle and reflective. In other noteworthy moments, baritone Greg Mayman presented a poignant and sensitive rendition of Two Little Boys while Leanne Attard impressed with When a Child is Born.
Sue Penhale (piano), Robert Browne (flute) and Simon Spencer (percussion) kept the music moving well. On occasions the audience was invited to join the singing. That worked very well, as in Side by Side (David Roberts), and it was clear from the audience response that the invitation could have been made on more occasions.
In all The Christmas Variety Show was a warm, competent performance, generally well suited to the cast and warmly appreciated by their audience.