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Review: Made In Dagenham - In Concert (London Palladium)

Review by Daz Gale

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

This year has seen an increase in the number of musical theatre concerts, with many of them taking place at the iconic London Palladium – it feels like I have spent more time there this year than anywhere else, and I’m not complaining! As I mentioned in my Side Show review earlier this month, these concerts are a great way to bring back shows that are loved or perhaps cult favourites that wouldn’t necessarily get an opportunity to play in a space like the Palladium, giving rise to what can be described as event theatre. The latest show to return in concert form is Made In Dagenham, returning to the West End to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Could it follow in the footsteps of the last glorious musical theatre concert here or would this one strike out?

 

Based on a true story that inspired the 2010 movie, the musical adaptation of Made in Dagenham opened in the West End in 2014, with this concert timed to celebrate 10 years of the musical. It tells the story of the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968, where Rita O’Grady led the charge for equal pay for women.



With a devoted following, Made In Dagenham features a witty and emotional book by Richard Bean, glorious music by David Arnold, and fantastic lyrics by Richard Thomas – three elements that come together to make a stunning show. Concert productions of musicals can be very mixed in their approach with some opting for more staging and others treating it more as a conventional concert – Made In Dagenham chooses the latter with minimal staging and a series of microphones adorning the front of the stage. This approach can sometimes lead to the book being minimised to let the songs shine through. While that wasn’t quite the case this time, there was the sense that some of the impact of the story may have been lost.

 

There are several producers responsible for the bulk of these one-off musical theatre concerts, but Made in Dagenham sees a new contender enter the field as Sisco Entertainment brings their love of theatre to an existing title in this format for the first time in an ambitious and admirable move. These one-off events often come with limitations such as a reduced rehearsal time, which felt like it was an issue here with several missed cues, prolonged pauses, and awkward moments – it feels slightly unfair to mention these as they come with the territory, but sadly it did reduce the power of several scenes.



Another regular problem at these one-off events is with the sound. Cues can often be missed with some lines not being projected to the audience. Unfortunately, Made In Dagenham experienced some shocking moments in this respect – far more so than any other concert I had been to, with a sound team that couldn’t keep up with the cast at all, leading to many a moment being missed. From my seat, I could still faintly hear some of the cast members when their microphones weren’t switched on but the Palladium is a huge beast of a venue and every audience member deserves to be able to hear every word of every song – something that was near on impossible in this production.

 

One element that lifted this concert was the phenomenal cast on hand to revisit this story. The God-tier dream cast is one of the things that makes one-night-only concerts so special as seeing that talent crammed together on one stage isn’t an everyday occurrence. Pixie Lott led the cast as Rita O’Grady – while she is not as well known for her theatre credits, she did a fine job in the role though felt like she hadn’t quite managed to tap into the character to its full potential, as might be expected with these one-off events, meaning some aspects of her dialogue felt rather wooden. She tackled the show’s biggest musical numbers with gusto, battling the increasingly distracting sound problems admirably, though this combination stopped them from reaching their full potential.



Killian Donnelly was as amazing as ever in his slightly underused role of Eddie O’Grady, bringing the house down with an emotional rendition of ‘The Letter’. Bonnie Langford was as scene-stealing as always in her role as Barbara Castle, camping it up in a way only she can and delighting the audience with her every appearance. Gerard Carey provided great comic relief as Harold Wilson, particularly as a chaotic double act with Bonnie, ensuring a laugh was never far away whenever he appeared. Though he was absent in the show’s first act, Trevor Dion Nicholas made up for that with his fiery opening to act two ‘This is America’ once again using these one-off concerts to demonstrate his ridiculous strengths and talents as an actor, as he did in Side Show and Bat Boy.

 

A huge ensemble cast left the stage bursting with talent, with too many impressive performances to mention. Jenna Boyd was an undoubted standout as the foul-mouthed Beryl with Katy Secombe giving a heart-wrenching performance as Connie Riley. Gerardine Sacdalan had a small but memorable turn as Sandra Beaumont, showcasing a voice that seemingly knows no limits while Zoe Rainey delighted as Lisa Hopkins. Oscar Conlon-Morrey always knows how to deliver a comic masterclass of a performance which he continued in his dual role of Cortina Man/Chubby Chuff with Kieran Brown also wowing in two roles of Ron Macer and Mr Buckton.



It is all about the music with these concert productions and what a selection of songs Made In Dagenham has going for it. ‘This Is What We Want’ and the titular ‘Made In Dagenham’ provided early highlights while ‘Everybody Out’ ensured a rousing close to the show’s first act. ‘Stand Up’ is a gorgeous song in its own right – a testament to that is how much it stood up to the sound problems which seemed to go into overdrive during that climactic number, while Bonnie Langford delivered a big standout in Barbara Castle’s big solo number ‘Ideal World’. With expert music direction from conductor Michael Bradley and realised with a sensational band on stage, these songs sounded gorgeous throughout.

 

It is no secret how much I love these one-off concerts and how I will defend their existence at every opportunity. Made In Dagenham had a lot going for it and was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. However, it was dogged with problems, mostly to do with technical issues and the sense of some areas being under-rehearsed – this was particularly noticeable in the show’s second act which lost its pacing and timing. That shouldn’t detract from the ambition and talent involved in putting on this production, but unfortunately, it does have to reflect in the star rating for a show and production that deserved one star higher. It’s a shame a concert like this does have to be one night only as I’m sure many of these issues would have been rectified for a second performance.

 

Made In Dagenham played at the London Palladium on Saturday 16th March. Follow https://x.com/siscoents to find out about their upcoming projects, including a series of concerts by Bradley Jaden.

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