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Community of Hungerford Theatre Company - Flower Drum Song

15th to 18th February 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Welcome to Chinatown

Community of Hungerford Theatre Company: Flower Drum Song, from Wednesday, February 15 to Saturday, February 18

It is hard to understand why Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song is infrequently chosen by amateur societies.

Hungerford's production had vivid, colourful costumes, a chorus of lively children who silently waited for their entrances and clever manipulation in the first act which had a flower boat drifting in front of Chinese strolling figures.

Set in San Francisco the story is about the differences between old Chinese traditions and modern America, particularly with regard to marriage. Wang Ta falls in love with Linda Low, not realising she is a stripper; when this becomes apparent he realises that he actually prefers Mei Li, a traditional Chinese bride chosen for him by his father.

Three performers stood out by virtue of their excellent singing. Jack Dillon's (Wang Ta) rich melodic sound gave the title song depth and sincerity, whilst Natalie Hyde's (Mei Li) performance captured exactly the deference of a Chinese girl and her clear, accurate musical voice made every song a delight. Tim Clarke, as Sammy Fong who sells his marriage contract, was terrific with shades of Frank Sinatra, particularly apparent in his great treatment of Don't Marry Me.

Karen Ashby (Madame Liang), Paul Hyde (Wang Chi Yang) and Dave Whiddett (Dr Li) gave sound performances as the parents and the dialogue between the two fathers was crisply funny.

Hoffi Munt looked gorgeous as the feisty nightclub girl Linda Low, but her problems in finding the correct pitch were not helped by irregular miking (an annoyingly persistent problem during Thursday's performance) in the big number I Enjoy Being a Girl.

The dancers in glitzy gold costumes provided great atmosphere with their disciplined numbers and the chorus of kids had well-deserved applause for The Other Generation. That reminds me to mention young George Olney (Wang San) who has stage presence by the bucketload.

For the first time the excellent orchestra under musical director Joanna Popperwell were in 'pit' position, a great improvement which gave an added touch of professionalism to their sympathetic playing.

Many months of rehearsing with director David Clayton to bring Chinatown in San Francisco to Hungerford resulted in a lively, entertaining evening.