Our House – 15 May 2019, Sheffield City Hall

***** What a better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Madness than being in the audience for the opening night of the musical based on their iconic hits.

With music and lyrics by Madness and written playwright Tim Firth, the musical follows Joe Casey who, on the night of his 16th birthday, makes a decision that will change his life. Trying to impress Sarah, the girl of his dreams, Joe breaks into a building development overlooking his home on Casey Street. But things take a turn for the worse as the police turn up. Joe’s life splits into two; the Good Joe who stays and gives himself up and Bad Joe who flees and leaves Sarah to run from the police.

Manor Operatic Society’s production of Our House is a true lesson in how to do a West End quality musical in Sheffield with outstanding performances, music, choreography, props, sets and the must and swiftest costume changes I have seen on stage. Everyone involved should be truly proud of this show, which thoroughly deserves to sell out every night and should not be missed not only by fans of musicals and the music of Madness, but those of British comedy and the film Sliding Doors. According to the programme, Madness front man Suggs is not a fan of musicals but if anyone can convert him then Manor Operatic Society and this production can.

In a cast full of professional quality performances, the phenomenal performance of the night for me came from Simon Hance as Joe’s Dad, whose incredible stage presence meant you could not take your eyes off him whenever he was on stage and who possessed beautifully operatic yet rat pack tones with just a hint of Suggs himself and whose acting could easily match that of any top British actor on stage.

Other outstanding performances came from James Smith as Joe Casey who not only pulled off the costume changes (white for good and black for bad) as he moved seamlessly from good to bad but the personality and attitude changes too and had great on screen romantic, relative and friendship chemistry with his co-stars, especially his love interest Sarah performed by Emily Mae Hoyland, who shared his leading stage star quality. I must also mention Sinead Summerhill as Joe’s mum Kath Casey, who based on this performance and her Irish operatic tones deserves the lead role in “Blood Brothers” more than any Nolan sister ever has.

Other cast members who deserve a mention include Kirsty Taylor and Emma Flanagan as Sarah’s “OMG” best friends Billie and Angie, the Camden equivalent of Elle’s best friends in the Legally Blonde musical and Jack Skelton and Digory Holmes as Joe’s cousins Emmo and Lewis, and not just for their impressive back flips, who between the four of them added much of the comedy, fun and friendship to the production; and Chris Hanlon as Reecey and Jonny White as Mr Pressman whose performances were up there with any Eastenders hard men.

Accompanied by an eight piece band, that Madness themselves would be proud to have play alongside them on their next tour (and who all fetchingly sported fezs for the opening of the second act), and performed my some of the most natural yet finest singing voices you’ll find on a South Yorkshire stage, the musical numbers ranged from the mass feel-good opening number “Our House”, including some brave on stage skipping, and “Baggy Trousers, featuring some equally brave back flips; to the moving, powerful and emotionally packed “Simple Equations” and “One Better Day” and many of the cleverly re-arranged reprises of songs performed earlier in the show.

Three musical numbers I must specifically highlight were Emily’s purely stunning and beautiful vocals on “NW5” that could act as her audition piece for any professional musical role she deserves; the genuine, heartfelt, chemistry packed and cleverly arranged due of the night “It Must Be Love” between James and Emily; and one of the most energetic and upbeat encore’s I have seen on stage “One Step Beyond”, which guaranteed to leave audience members with massive grins on their faces, the desire to get up and dance and a new ear worm.

My favourite scenes of the night featured a bright pink mini, projection screen and even light sabers, accompanied by “Driving in My Car”, captured the fun and true friendship between James, Emily, Kirsty, Emma, Jack and Digory; and a calypso packed “Wings of a Dove” opening to act two that may be the other thing ever to almost convince me to get married in the Caribbean.

Our House will on at Sheffield City Hall at 7.15pm until Saturday 18 May with an additional 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday. Ticket prices range from £10 to £22. For information on how to book visit www.manoroperatic.com.

Manor Operatic Society, based in Sheffield and formed in the 1960s on the city’s Manor estate, is one of the largest amateur theatre companies in the UK. For further information visit www.manoroperatic.com.

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