Kamila Bell, Print Comment Editor reviews Spotlight’s ‘Shine like the Sun’.
If you haven’t heard about Exeter University’s show choir Spotlights, I need to urgently know what rock you’ve been living under, and politely inform you that you are well and truly missing out. Following their sell out shows back in November, Spotlights’ Shine Like the Sun was a highly anticipated performance.
Spotlights have been performing at the Exeter Phoenix on 24 and 25 February with Exeter University’s very own star-studded cast. The show hosted a range of expertly chosen numbers that were executed in such a way that the audience were drawn in deeper with every new song. Shine Like the Sun was vibrant and bold, a truly spectacular performance where every detail was clearly thought out and made a difference.
A personal favourite element of mine from the opening evening of Shine Like the Sun, was the range of solos that were mixed among the full cast ensembles throughout the night. Nick Ong’s prevailing solo captivated the audience, through his expertly animated delivery of ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ from the musical Catch Me If You Can, accompanied by Charlie Duncan and Kat Themans’ skillful choreography ultimately made this song a truly defining part of the show. Other notable solos included a returning favourite from We Will Rock You, beautifully performed by Poppy Hall. Poppy’s emotional delivery dragged our hearts along every up and down with her as she captivated the audience with her flawless delivery of ‘Somebody to Love’. Her performance was truly convincing and deserved no less than the eruption of cheering that followed it.
“Nick Ong’s prevailing solo captivated the audience… accompanied by Alice Donnelly’s skilful choreography ultimately made this song a truly defining part of the show.”
Wow, the second half. The level of brilliance in this show just kept climbing. Opening with an intense six-piece ensemble journey through Henry the Eighth’s love life with ‘Ex-Wives’. Louise, Aine, Bridie, Kelly, Elise and Kat through encapsulating the roles of Henry VIII wives, and alongside their perfectly executed harmonies made this performance conclusively powerful, this was truly the girl band I didn’t know I needed. The number’s intense lighting and expert choreography only made the performance even more distinct.
The penultimate full cast ensemble performance, holding the same name as the entire show ‘Shine Like the Sun’, was a true embodiment of the entire night into a show stopping feel good performance. The rich harmonies throughout this performance were skilfully delivered, with solos from Kat, Anna and Louise, ‘Shine Like the Sun’ was the perfect high-energy way to draw the evening to a close. It is undeniable the feel-good atmosphere Spotlights’ creates is infectious.
The choreography has clearly been stepped up by Alice for Spotlights Phoenix performance, and I take my hat off to the dance captains Charlie Duncan and Kat Themans for their hard work ensuring that the delivery of such difficult choreography was perfected. The main drawback that I found to come from these demanding new dance routines, however, was that vocal quality dropped to be overshadowed by the new choreography in certain aspects of the show.
“… through encapsulating the roles of Henry VIII wives, alongside their perfectly executed harmonies, made this performance conclusively powerful, this was truly the girl band I didn’t know I needed”
If I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a true grievance with Shine Like the Sun, it would be that I truly missed some of the amazing numbers that were in Spotlights earlier show Expressing Yourself. But in saying that, the new songs that have replaced the old certainly did not let the show down but have simply raised this show choir to an even higher level I was ignorant that it could ever achieve!
Shine Like the Sun made skilful use of an intimate stage design. The band was in clear view and truly felt like a defining part of the show. Whilst the Phoenix is a bigger venue than Spotlights’ previous show at the Lemon Grove, the meticulous stage design made Shine Like the Sun feel just as intimate, not one part went unseen by the audience.
The positive energy Spotlights show choir brings to every show is infectious, it is impossible to leave their events in a bad state of mind. I have to give a special mention to Gina Rees, Musical Director, and Alice Donnelly, Artistic director, for who’s hard work backstage in orchestrating this show evidently shone through during the entire night, making it one overflowing with excitement, energy and enchantment. Shine like the Sun was an evening that has never deserved a standing ovation more, it was definitively a five-star show.