REVIEW: Bridgwater Carnival Concerts 2013!
1:20pm Wednesday 9th October 2013
TO borrow the immortal words of disco legends Shalamar, the opening show of Bridgwater’s 2013 Carnival Concerts was without doubt a night to remember.
The curtain-raiser to Bridgwater’s almighty Guy Fawkes Carnival was fast-paced, slick, glittering and bright.
Indeed, there were moments when your correspondent needed her shades.
Such was the sheer hard graft the carnival clubs had clearly put into their choreography, sets and costumes, their cart concepts could easily have stood alone as full-blown shows.
The dance troupes and front-of-curtain acts, meanwhile, were the essential cogs which kept the entertainment going like clockwork.
After standing to sing the National Anthem, a dream sequence from juvenile dance troupe the Sally Williams Dancers opened the night with their ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ routine.
Set in a child’s playroom, youngsters pulled out all the stops, their cast of characters including Transformers, and children dressed as crayons, buccaneers and a little Queen of Hearts.
Ambitious first front-of-curtain act Kylie Parsons took on Les Miserables’ I Dreamed A Dream and ‘On My Own’ with her clear and powerful voice.
Lime Kiln Carnival Club took spectators back to the Gold Rush, all gleamingly attired gold merchants, wagons and down-trodden labourers, panning in a flowing fabric river and singing rousing tales of Alabama.
Callum Hill, 13, stood before the rippling red velvet curtain to ‘do’ Elvis three times over on his cream Tanglewood guitar, earning himself his very own pair of blue suede shoes.
For their 45th anniversary, YMCA Carnival Club told an intergalactic tale of two tribes in an outer space war wearing Toyah Wilcox-style fashions.
In between, the three equally powerful vocalists of Belle Etoile revived 70s funk and disco in top-to-toe silver diva sequins.
Wills Carnival Club brought the first glamorous tableaux of the night, complete with drag queens, and a bus called Priscilla which needed a lick of paint and some TLC – special Mercury mention to the man dressed as a giant green-whipped cupcake with scallop-edged case and candle.
Nathan Ball, a semi-finalist in Yeovil’s Let Me Entertain You singing competition, revived sweet doo-wop nostalgia with his song selections.
They may have had only ten members, but it was a strong and spooky performance from Crusaders Carnival Club’s ‘One Wild Night’ dead-eyed Monster Mash-esque graveyard show with skulls, clouds of dry ice and a rock-vampire.
Elegant 16-year-old Georgina Handel wowed the audience, mastering both Italian and the top notes in her operatic ‘Time To Say Goodbye’.
A blaze of animal print, fluorescent paint and voodoo ceremony summed up Renegades Carnival Club’s entry, where the clever application of UV paint transformed their features into tribal masks.
Dance group Best Foot Forward made best use of the front-of-curtain stage strip, at one point packing 14 tap dancers with their monochrome umbrellas on to the stage for ‘Singing in the Rain’.
British Flag Carnival Club flew the audience to Japan for a carefully crafted kimono-wearing wedding ceremony, packed with flame-haired dragons and a giant fan backdrop.
Vocalist Harriet Brixey, 19, is travelling from Coleford, near Radstock, each night for the Carnival Concerts, and received a warm reception for her performance as Nancy from Oliver!
Ramblers Carnival Club’s performance was an impressive bug-infested scene with a cast starring Jiminy Cricket, a Bumblebee King, a marching Ant Army and a young ‘flea’ who stole the show.
The fresh faces of the Julia McDonald Dance Company drew a big cheer from the crowd after the interval for their storming Oliver! song medley, bringing the streets of Victorian London to Bridgwater.
Siren Imogen Pearce did great service to Dusty Springfield and Etta James in modest, captivating renditions of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ and ‘At Last’.
Anarchy down in the tube station at midnight was Marketeers Carnival Club’s concept, doing the ‘punk’d’ aesthetic to a ‘T’ with fluoro mohicans, Johnny Rotten impersonations, Union Jacks aplenty and a Sex Pistols-style soundtrack.
Funnyman Dave Darling, pantomime stalwart of 20 years’ standing, took to the stage to share his Bridgwater brand of comedy, drawing ‘ooos’ of controversy.
Mammoth books full of fairytales formed the backdrop of Cavaliers Carnival Club’s sequence as good and evil forces fought to end the reign of the evil queen.
Duo Andrew’s Half Sister were dubbed the ‘alternative’ act of the night with their injection of traditional folk.
Centurion Carnival Club served up an historical Henry VIII tableau, telling the story, in births, deaths and marriages, of the nation’s notorious king. Visually, it made for a convincing painting.
Fluttering their feathers, front-of-curtain pop act Viva La Diva socked it to the boys with their sequinned tribute to girl band Girls Aloud.
Dialling back to 1886, “don’t ask us why, that’s how we get our kicks”, ‘Steam Punk’ was Griffen Carnival Club’s chosen theme – backed by a stunning steam-powered set, an Industrial Revolution-style rap came as a pleasing surprise.
Quirkily dressed in her polka dot dress, a confident Rebecca Morris, 15, sang a Hairspray-style ‘Good Morning to Baltimore’ and ‘I Can Hear The Bells’.
Gremlins Carnival Club, last year's Carnival kings, were the ones to watch with 'Primitive'.
The model triceratops alone would have made impressive viewing, until an out-of-control mammoth burst onto the stage and a T-Rex teetered behind the bounding tribe.
Pop Idol contestant Liam Duggan brought the show back to Bridgwater with an effortless rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ – another Les Miserables hit making it on to the Carnival Concerts’ repertoire.
Last but by no means least, Vagabonds Carnival Club's cast of rebels delivered a Jack Black-style 'High School Rock' – a pure-fun teenage rampage right up to graduation.
The support crew kept the Concerts a tight ship throughout, fluidly managing stage, music, lighting, and high-quality sound.
Sparkling-suited, lit-up glove-wearing compere Paul Savage was to the Concerts what Terry Wogan was to Eurovision, expertly guiding the audience through each act with useful snippets of information.
My conclusion? The concerts could get even the grouchiest Grinch into Carnival mood!
The concert nights run until October 12 at Bridgwater Town Hall, with tickets costing £11 from the High Street Carnival Centre, or bridgwatercarnival.co.uk
Weekday performances start at 7pm and weekend performances at 6pm with all the funds raised going back in the pot for the future of Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival.