Monday, February 9, 2009

Around the World in 3½ Hours

I'll never forget the days I was at Sixth Form. There was always this rivalry between SAC, DLS and JC (which, naturally, still exists today) over their Soiree's, and the quality of show that they produce. Naturally, each school hypes up its own performance, billing it as the best around - undoubtedly, in a biased fashion. On the other hand, I'll also always regret taking part in Soiree, so this is the reason why I'm writing this blog - as an (independent) observer of the things that happened at the SAC Soiree this year.

You could be forgiven, at first glance, for thinking that the Soiree's main theme was a feeble attempt at providing an outreach to foreigners hailing from all corners of the world. Indeed, it would have been apt to encompass the entire Soiree in the title Around the World in 3½ Hours - such was the nature of the comperes this year, starting from Malta but depicted travelling across the world while presenting the various acts in the show. I have to admit that for a Soiree that has come under plenty of criticism in the past for being too formal in its presentation, this was a welcome change to the audience. The comperes were lively, cracking jokes all the time, and it was obvious that that recited was only lightly scripted, leaving the four presenters to present the show according to the way how they felt they should present it. While it's obvious that there is still room for improvement in this department, it was definitely a major plus over previous Soiree editions.

The opening was also nothing short of magnificent, incredibly original and totally unexpected. Composed by Y4J's very own Peter Naudi, the tribal music performed was not only superb but was also a joy to behold. So too did the dancing (when it eventually started) blend in perfectly with the entire act, but gave it a new dimension altogether. In the various Soirees that I have gone to watch, this has undoubtedly been the most impressive opening that I have ever witnessed. It left not only myself but many other people (probably with the exception of the La Sallians) gasping in awe and also believing that this was a sign of things to come.

However, it must be said that every show has its highs and lows, and the lows promptly followed this incredible high with what were probably the two weakest acts on the night. The Maltese play was humorous many a time but one really could only appreciate it if he/she were a fluent, native Maltese speaker and/or had an ear for political jokes, which were quite abundant throughout the course of the play. The 'narrator' also didn't seem to really fit into the story and the entire sketch ended on a bland, confusing note. This was a tremendous let down from the opening and if the writer had made the sketch a bit more accessible to all age groups, it might have been better. Following that came what was - no offence meant to Tara over here - the worst dance of the night. I'm no dance critic in the least, because I for one can't even dance for a start, but I do realise that, while appreciating the difficulty in it all, a dance isn't up to standard when its dancers are not synchronised for most of the dance. The other dances, Disturbia and El Fuego Bailante, were better performed and delivered. Perhaps slightly disappointing as well was the band, Ink. The instrumentals were very good throughout, admittedly so, but I believe that they needed a more powerful singer to compliment the songs they interpreted.

Sandwiched between the three dances were two sketches of the highest quality; something that, in my opinion, really gave the Soiree bonus points this year. The Maniscalco cousins' sketch It-Televixin was nothing short of a class act, often leaving the crowd in fits with the humorous goings on while watching television. What was best about this was the simplicity of it all - the majority of the sketch took place behind a sheet which, with the lights set appropriately, allowed the characters' shadows to be produced on this sheet. Hence, it was easy for the actors 'behind the scenes' to perform that seen on various programmes ranging on various channels - from horse racing on TVM, to Looney Tunes on Cartoon Network, to a fully fledged operation on the Discovery Channel.

Martina Farrugia's English play Disney's Got Problems was also brilliant, to say the least. This sketch depicted various characters from famous Disney films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Aladdin, all appearing on the popular Maury show to relate their problems - and hopefully find some form of solution - to Maury Povich, the presenter. Such Amercian shows are typically filled with trash, to the extent that they're often labelled as 'Trash TV', and the writer ensured that this point was fully reproduced when writing the script. The infamous 'running off the stage in shame', chav mentality, notion of 'I'm 1000% sure that you're my baby daddy!' and 'You are NOT the father' - among others - were all present throughout and well incorporated into the scheme of things. It was a well executed piece to say the least, and something that the crowd fully appreciated and enjoyed as deemed by their reaction after the sketch had concluded.

And this finally brings me to the focal point of the entire show - the musical, Mamma Mia. Directed by the aforementioned Martina Farrugia, along with Lisa Zammit Endrich, Tara Giacchino, Daniel Warrington and Julian Caruana, the 45 minute condensed version of the 2008 hit was probably one of the best performed SAC Soiree musicals in recent times. Perhaps surprisingly, none of the directors really played a major role throughout the course of the musical, contrary to previous years, leaving other talents to shine on stage. Particularly impressive were Christabelle, who is already well known on the local scene - perhaps not surprisingly - and the girl who played the part of Sophie. Also, a big congratulations goes out to Paul Gatt - who played the part of Harry in a manner that had the crowd laughing hard most of the time due to his immense mannerisms. They actually resembled him acting like Mr. Bean at particular points in time!

All in all, I believe that despite the obvious flaws, which will continue to emerge from year to year, this was one of the best Soirees that SAC have managed to produce in recent history. The show was well prepared and the hours of practice that went into everything before being shown as the final product on stage really told. It was obvious that every single person who was out there gave his or her 120% when performing, which, at the end of the day, led to a quite outstanding show overall. Bring on Soiree 2010!

God Bless You All!