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Covidella (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Covidella and the Masked Ball

Society: The MTA (student productions)

Venue: Online – The MTA, Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Town Hall Approach Road, Tottenham Green, London

Credits: Book by Howard Samuels. Music & lyrics by Annemarie Lewis Thomas

Type: Sardines

Author: Susan Elkin

Perfomence Date: 18/12/2020

5 stars

Every time I see TheMTA, a musical theatre college founded by Annemarie Lewis Thomas in 2009, in action I’m struck first by the talent of the students and second by the quality of the training they’re getting – even under the constraints of this difficult year.

Susan Elkin | 18 Dec 2020 22:46pm

So how do you mount a panto in a pandemic? You base it round the virus itself and you do it online so there’s no chance of being cancelled at the last minute: a decision which has allowed tens of thousands of schoolchildren to see this show – and I bet they had a ball in every sense.

Howard Samuels’ witty book gives us five fairies from different pantomime stories (one in drag) lamenting, in verse, the 2020 situation and the lack of panto. Then they think of a way of doing it and we launch into a coronavirus version of Cinderella. Buttons becomes Bubble, the stepmother is Countess Corona and it’s her mask she loses at the ball so they use track and trace to find her. It’s good, topical fun with lots of quips about rule changing, distancing, rule of six and all the rest of it.

CherAnn Thorkilsen sings with innocent clarity as Covidella and I loved her glitzy 21st Century ball dress. Alex Matthews has oodles of stage presence as Bubble (who has a bit of a thing with Dandelion, the Prince’s sister who isn’t Dandini). Antoine Paulin is deliciously, absurdly sexy with his hip grinding, winking at the audience and attractive tenor voice, spiced with a smidgin of French accent. And Stamatis Seraphim is terrific as Countess Corona striding about pouting, bullying and being theatrically outrageous.

Thomas’s songs and lyrics are catchy and funny and you can hear every pithy word – all the music is original. There’s no reliance on cliché ABBA songs or this year’s hits in this show. Choreography by Helen Siveter is neat and nicely executed.

I have, in general this year, avoided recorded or live shows as a substitute for real theatre but I’m glad I made an exception for this one because it does the student cast proud. Filmed by View 35 it really does showcase every single student with skilful use of close-ups so that we really see and hear what each of them can do – and they can do a great deal so I hope agents are paying attention. The sound quality is uneven in places but that did not detract from my enjoyment.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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