For our first trip back to a local amateur dramatics production since 2020, we were invited along to watch this successful youth company – Youth Onstage and their performance of Kipps – The New Half A Sixpence Musical. Youth Onstage have had many past members now performing professionally both here in the UK and abroad, so we were looking forward to seeing what the current members had to offer with this production.
The company have been massively affected by COVID with closed rehearsals from March 2020, 6 weeks prior to the show. Since then they have worked together on Zoom and even performed a Zoom pantomime. They were back to rehearsals for Kipps in January 2021 using Zoom to learn the music.
The musical is based on the well-loved H.G.Wells novel KIPPS; The Story of a Simple Soul and the original musical by Beverley Cross and David Heneker. With a book by Julian Fellowes and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Kipps –The New Half A Sixpence Musical delivers the classic storyline but is refreshed for a contemporary audience.
The classic romantic story focuses on Arthur Kipps, an orphan, who works as a draper’s assistant at Shalford’s Bazaar, Folkestone, at the turn of the last century. Kipps, an ordinary charming man, dreams of a better life. When he unexpectedly inherits a fortune that turns him into a gentleman overnight, he needs to find out who he really is with the help of his friends and true love Ann.
This Youth Onstage production is directed by Deb Brook, with musical direction by Musical Director Andrew Johnson and choreography by Amy Evans.
Considering the impact that the pandemic had on the production and the rehearsals for this show, you would never know lockdowns and Zoom rehearsals even took place from the enthusiasm and professionalism of this young talented cast. I have seen this show a few times over the years, even performed in it myself when I was younger, but this was my favourite production of the show that I have seen for a long time. There was a real energy from the entire company as they were boundless on stage right from the start with Young Arthur, Conor Dodds and Young Ann, Caitlin Dodds opening the show with a welcoming charm. The choreography from the company numbers were delivered with vibrancy and smiles all around. Flash Bang Wallop! was a particular favourite with Pick Out a Simple Tune a close second. The Kipps Orchestra delivered the bouncy, happy score with passion and heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed the colourful, elegant and cheerful costumes in this production which made each character and member of the company stand out with individual personalities. Alongside the costumes the scenery was equally impressive for a local theatre production with many set-changes and detailed props galore. The company had put lots of effort into making this show memorable for the audience.
The lead of Arthur Kipps was played by charismatic Matty Brook who delivered a charming, loveable portrayal of the character which had the audience rooting for him throughout the show. He had great chemistry with his apprentices, Joe Burley, Lucy Forrester, Mark Cornaby and Erin Norman who all worked in sync with each other. His childhood sweetheart Ann Pornick, was played by Lauren Chapman who was exceptional in her first leading lady role. You would never think that this was the first leading lady role for Lauren who has a bewitching quality on stage and her rendition of Long Ago was beautiful. This production really shone a light on the huge female talent that is in this company which was refreshing to see. From the mesmerising dignified performance by Ellie Burley as Helen Walsingham to the witty classy performance of Esme Read as bossy Mrs Walsingham.
The zany character of Chitterlow was played with the right amount of eccentricity and strong vocals by Nico Eynon-Colon, whose quirky performance was a highlight of the show for us. I also enjoyed the confident larger than life performance of Dan McCloskey as the villainous thief James Walsingham.
This production was a fantastic return to our local amateur dramatics scene since being away for so long. The entire company put smiles on our faces and deserved the rapturous applause at the end of the night. It just goes to show that this company, despite the obstacles they have had to face, can achieve anything with the attitude and talent that we witnessed last night.
Youth Onstage’s next show in May 2022 is The Addams Family. Visit their website for further details.
REVIEW: Youth Onstage
KIPPS - The New Half A Sixpence Musical
Director: Deb Brook
Musical director: Andrew Johnson
Choreographer: Amy Evans
Flash bang wallop, what a production!
Following the challenging times we have all been through, for all of us who thrive on our theatre and have been almost totally deprived of our hobby, I was so very much looking forward to seeing the West Midlands premier of Kipps.
First of all, I would like to say massive well done to the production team who were able to put the company through their paces using zoom for many of the rehearsals before the cast were able to return to live rehearsals, from the welcome notes in the programme you proved you worked so well as a team through adversity and the whole company should be immensely proud of the end result.
This was a well-cast production with many playing numerous cameo roles. Matty Brook was extremely engaging and likeable as Arthur Kipps, the tone of his singing voice is superb as was his accent in the dialogue that overflowed with light and shade.
Young Arthur and Ann played by Conor Dodds and Caitlin Dodds, opened the show with confidence.
Nico Eynon-Colon played the eccentric Chitterlow, Nico ensured this was the larger-than-life character the role deserved.
The two loves in Kipps’ life were his childhood sweetheart Ann Pornick who was played with gumption by the feisty Lauren Chapman and as a total contrast to his hoity socialite fiancé Helen played by Ellie Burley. The different characters were well portrayed and both Lauren and Ellie’s musicality shone through.
Esme Read was suitably controlling as the status/money grabbing Mrs Walsingham and her conniving son James was played by Dan McCloskey.
Arthur’s work colleagues and friends at Shalford’s Bazaar were played by Joe Burley (Sid Pornick), Lucy Forrester(Miss Pierce), Mark Cornaby(Buggins) and Erin Norman (Flo Evans) respectively.
Other character roles were played by Phoebe Mason, James Berryman, Gracie Evendon, all of the above made for a strong ensemble including a few somewhat younger faces.
The production team had really used their imagination to give the production pace and a fresh modern edge. The cleverly designed set and slick scene changes ensured there were no unnecessary blackouts. The beautiful period costumes added the finishing touch.
Choreography throughout was complimentary to the mixed abilities on stage and added to the spectacle of the big chorus numbers.
Highlights for me: Half a Sixpence, Money to Burn, In the Middle There’s Me and Flash Bang Wallop.
But most of all for the audience it was fantastic to be back watching live theatre and witnessing every one of you putting on a thoroughly enjoyable, professional standard production from beginning to finale.
Thank you so much for inviting me, congratulations to everyone.
Joyce Eyre - NODA
When the first lockdown hit in March, Youth Onstage were only five weeks away from performing the West Midlands premiere of Kipps. Whilst this has now been postponed until next year, Director Deb Brook and her team remained productive and following a committee member coming up with the concept for a Zoom panto in August, Cinders & Ella was born and the hard work truly began.
There are many challenges that surround putting a show on via Zoom but Youth Onstage were clearly prepared for these obstacles and came up with a number of effective solutions such as pre-recording musical numbers due to the anticipated delay on a live. There are also a number of references to the modern technology during the show, to assist those audience members new to the platform in navigating the system and generally making a few witty comments about the medium, including only being seen from the waist up!
The company definitely made the best of an unprecedented situation and judging by the 70-odd households whom had tuned in last night and turned their videos on, they were certainly invested and enjoying themselves.
Paul Murphy's script includes references to the current climate and a handful of puns that would definitely appeal to a local West Midlands audience. Whilst 50 minutes (approximately) did feel an appropriate length for the piece, the script did feel rushed on occasion. The transitions from character to character could have been a little smoother, especially when moving from live content to screen sharing to play pre-recorded footage, but I applaud the commitment and determination of those involved for managing to remain creative and put this together.
The selection of musical numbers was influenced heavily by modern pop, appealing to a wider audience. The inclusion of 'The Perfect Year' from Sunset Boulevard, as the number performed by the Prince and Cinders at the ball, was also appreciated on a personal note. Musical Director Alice Brown had a difficult task teaching these numbers online so must be commended for this.
The 14-strong young cast did a great job under the circumstances and their enthusiasm could not be faulted. The characters were clearly defined and particular credit must be given to Phoebe Mason and Esme Read as the Good Fairy and Wicked Witch respectively, as their characterisation and delivery was really well executed. A special mention must also be given to those involved in the audience participation segment as this was always going to be the most unpredictable part of the show but the company moved it along at a good pace.
Whilst there are elements that could have been tighter, they managed very well in the confines of their virtual arena and entertained the audience for its duration.
For more information on the company, please click here.
Reviewed by: Jenny Ell, West End Best Friend
I Wanna Make Magic is a musical number from the opening moments of Fame and that is certainly what Youth Onstage made at their production this evening – a magical evening of entertainment! Expertly directed by Deb Brook; the young, talented cast gave it all they had to produce a slick, fast-paced performance – they certainly did her proud in her 30th year of directing youth theatre shows!
The well-drilled chorus opened the show with a rousing rendition of Hard Work and set the standard for the rest of the evening and ending with a wonderful performance of Bring on Tomorrow. Strong vocal harmonies and innovative, energetic choreography were the hallmark of the chorus work in this show. David Jones (Musical Director) and Amy Evans (Choreographer) had obviously worked extremely hard to guide these young performers through the challenges that a musical like Fame brings.
There is a wealth of talent within the members of Youth Onstage. Hannah Brook shone as Serena, with powerful vocals, excellent comic timing and a relaxed professional manner on stage. Her rendition of Let’s Play a Love Scene was a real highlight. She was well supported by Adam Brown (Nick) who had excellent characterisation. Matthew Brook gave a strong performance as Schlomo and his rich, mature vocals brought a tingle to the spine and a tear to the eye, particularly in his opening verse of Bring on Tomorrow! Ellie Burley was a perfect Carmen. Her performance was wonderful, showing an energy and passion in the big dance numbers and yet bringing the audience to tears in her rendition of In LA. I don’t think I have seen this number performed so well and with such emotion – a really memorable moment!
The high standard of dance within the production was highlighted by the performances of Gibsa Bah (Tyrone) and Lauren Chapman (Iris). Gibsa performed with energy, clarity and showed just the right amount of “attitude” – a natural dancer. Lauren was elegant and showed excellent poise and control in the many challenging lifts and routines. Excellent comedy was provided by Mark Cornaby (Joe) and Emily Jenkinson (Mabel). Mabel’s Prayer was a wonderful moment of humour and a strong vocal performance.
It was a lovely touch to utilise the musical talents of the young performers with Lottie Rix (Goody) performing on the trumpet as part of the show and Joe Burley (Lambchops) showing off his versatility on a variety of percussion, including an impressive drum solo.
Renee Squire (Miss Sherman) gave a heartfelt performance as the English teacher struggling to get her pupils through the academic requirements of the Fame High School and her performance of These Are My Children showed real emotion and an understanding of her character. She was well matched with Esme Read (Ms Bell) in their Teacher’s Argument. It is wonderful to see younger performers moving up through the ranks and becoming principals in their own right. They were well supported by Phoebe Mason (Ms Myers) and Bethany Leonard (Mrs Sheinkopf) as the other teaching staff at P.A.
If I were to have one piece of advice, it would be to ensure that some of the minor principals slow their dialogue down to ensure we can understand every word. That said, the characterisations of all the young performers were excellent.
With a wonderful set, professional-sounding band and colourful costumes, Youth Onstage have produced a real hit! Fame really is a show that the production team, committee, crew and talented cast should be extremely proud of!
Fame runs at The Old Rep, Birmingham until this evening, Saturday 4th May.
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
A show full of talent, fun, love and madness
This vibrant, Olivier Award-winning show was brought to the Old Rep stage this week by Youth Onstage. The story, written by Tim Firth, premiered in 2002, the musical being rooted in music by Madness, the ska revival band that, at its peak, successfully charted in the late 70s and early 80s.
Directed by Deb Brook, the story centres around Joe Casey (James Woodward) who makes a life-changing decision on his 16th birthday. Camden-born Casey, attempts to impress Sarah (Stacey Taras) by taking her to a building site that overlooks Casey Street, pointing out where his family live.... at no. 25. The police turn up and, in a split second, Joe has to decide whether to make a run for it or stay and face the music. Our House follows those two possible destinies and Joe has to live with the consequences of that fateful night. The story develops with a nice twist and all is watched over by Joe's late father who pulls the two scenarios together.
In the mammoth central role, James Woodward sang and danced up a storm by successfully portraying both of the Joe's with super-fast costume and persona changes that at first could make you think there were two actors in the role. Stacey Taras was fabulous as both versions of his girlfriend Sarah, with a pretty voice and determined yet sensitive disposition. Joe's dad was payed brilliantly by Alex Currie who pieced the story together with songs, asides and an awful lot of door changes. Gibsa Bah as Emmo and Matt Brook as Lewis played Joe's loyal mates with gusto, treating us to well-timed comedy and sensitive moments of true friendship. Kia Gates as Kath, Joe's mother, and Gareth Yates as the devious Reecey were both good and strong in their roles, Kia having a delightful singing voice and engaging stage presence. Sarah's catty friends Billie (Kitty Roberts) and Angie (Lauren Chapman) were most enjoyable to watch in their roles; funny, confident, both with excellent voices and strong dance ability. Adam Brown played Mr Pressman boldly and with just enough verve, and the super-confident support actors and ensemble completed the cast without a weak link in the chain, sometimes undertaking costume changes at high speed to ensure the scenes flowed seamlessly.
Musically directed by David Jones, the band's strong playing ability lead the show commendably. Choreographer, Amy Evans, designed the dance routines appropriately to the era, keeping the cast uplifted and oozing with energy and happiness - whether driving in cars, paddling boats, twirling umbrellas or dancing in the street.
Supported by a good lighting scheme and performed in a fun set consisting of brick walls and rotating doors, the show moved at a good pace without any hitches, excepting a technical issue with crackly radio mics and a signpost to HM Prison that clearly had a mind of its own although this unfortunate prop fall didn't appear to phase the actors present who continued regardless, demonstrating a high level of competency and professionalism.
In all, Youth Onstage made this a very easy show to enjoy. It was funny, lively, charismatic, moving at times and the cast certainly did justice to the music of Madness, with great renditions of Baggy Trousers, Driving In My Car, Tomorrow's Just Another Day, Wings Of A Dove and, of course, Our House. Ending in a standing ovation this young group should be very proud as it was most definitely a show full of talent, fun, love and madness.
Runs to 12th May.
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
Legally Blonde is doing the amateur theatre circuit rounds at the moment, with many youth theatres tackling this feel-good show. The Old Rep this week plays host to local company Youth Onstage, who have gutsily taken on the challenge of this complex production.
The show wasn't without its glitches. There were some cues missed, projection issues, a disappearing dog and a premature caravan appearance. However, considering these challenges, the capable cast pulled through with professionalism, not letting these distractions detract from their individual performances.
Hannah Brook is, without doubt, the shining star of this show. She really is Elle Woods. Her voice is sublime throughout and vocally she is one of the best Elle's I have seen on the youth circuit. Coupled with an assured character performance, it was a treat to watch her. Matty Brook complemented well as Emmett and James Woodward made for a sleazy Warner.
Good support came from Charlotte Young as the hilariously quirky Paulette - she had a beautiful time to her voice. Alongside, assured performances from Tom Ashen as Kyle, Eboni Green in great voice as Vivienne and Renee Squire as Pilar. The Greek chorus harmonies were tight and the girls blended well together.
Sometimes the funniest moments can lie in the cameo appearances and this was true of the performance I saw last night. Kia Gates threw everything she could at the role of Enid and really played up the character. It's such a brilliant role and it was great to see it showcased in this performance. And the final cameos came from the utterly super Jay Alves and Jordan Matthews in Gay or European - as always this song is a personal highlight.
With direction and musical direction from Deb Brook and David Jones, there was a wonderful, supportive atmosphere in the theatre last night and audiences whooped and cheered throughout. The palpable camaraderie is a credit to Youth Onstage and they continue to work hard to deliver a good show.
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
With pantomime season in full swing, Youth Onstage threw their contribution into the mix, with a sparky performance of Aladdin.
We are quickly introduced to our young hero, played by Tom Ashen. His unique, husky voice worked well and shone through when he sang in the ensemble numbers. He was paired well with Ellie Burley as a sweet, yet determined Princess Jasmine.
A young Empress, played by Esme Read, exuded confidence beyond her years and Lauren Chapman as Wishee was equally endearing in her role.
Strong performances also came from Jessie Miah as Spirit of the Ring and Matty Brook as Genie. Never Had A Friend Like Me closed the end of act one well and was packed with energy from the supporting cast.
A particular highlight of the show was On The Menu This Evening. Jacob Murphy and Harry Ashen were a delightful comic duo, and when combined with Lauren Chapman and Gibsa Bah, they delivered a hilarious performance.
Other commendable performances of the show came from Sinead Donnelly as Abanazar, Gibsa Bah as Widow Twankey and Lilly McIntyre as So Shy.
Youth Onstage continue to deliver enjoyable performances and this one was no different. With a packed out audience, congratulations to all involved.
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
Youth on Stage transported the audience to a A Night on Broadway at Dovehouse Theatre this weekend. Featuring numbers from some of the most acclaimed musicals, there were many standout performances from this talented group. One in particular, was a comical combination found in the relationship between Matty Brook and Hannah Brook during their rendition of Legally Blonde's Serious and Dan Peet’s stunning performance of Not My Father’s Son from Kinky Boots, captivated the audience - his emotionally powerful delivery was beautiful.
Further hilarity ensued as Kia Gates and James Woodward took to the stage for Baptize Me from The Book Of Mormon. This amusing take on an already ingenious musical was brilliant. Woodward’s comical characterisation shone as Elder Cunningham and he excelled in his rendition of Hard To Speak My Heart from Parade.
One particularly delightful moment, to break up the solo performances, was a tap routine to A Chorus Line, featuring Ellie Burley, who later showcased her impressive vocals with a song from The In-Between.
A live band and some additional set would have enhanced the show, but despite a few technical difficulties the cast held their songs well, with a show-stealing performance of Beggin from Jersey Boys. Complete with full dance routines and some super singing, it received a well-deserved rapturous applause at the end.
Congratulations to all for a lovely evening of entertainment: be sure to catch their pantomime later this year at the Dovehouse Theatre!
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
Splurge guns and pies at the ready. Forty years after Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone hit the big screen it remains a popular choice among youth groups everywhere.
Youth Onstage really bring out the show’s humour in a production at The Old Rep in Birmingham. The story is based on the mob rivalries of 1920s Prohibition America as Fat Sam and Dandy Dan go head to head for supremacy. Cue a gangland war, a love story and a lot of splurging.
Gibsa Bah shines as the protagonist Bugsy with natural stage presence, while Eboni Green has poise and a lovely voice as the sassy object of his affections Blousey. Thomas Ashen steals the show as Fat Sam with an accent which never once drops and strong characterisation. Needless to say it’s not easy for youngsters to look and act old, but Ashen gets the physicality of his character spot on.
He is well supported by Georgia Sheward as his moll Tallulah. An 11-year-old Jake Ashen impresses as Fat Sam’s rival Dandy Dan, alongside his wife Louella who is portrayed nicely by Phoebe Mason. Meanwhile Nicholas Eynon-Colon impresses as Fizzy, particularly in a delightful rendition of Tomorrow.
The action moves along at a good pace and there’s strong support from Esme Read and Bethany Leonard as Lt. O’Dreary and Captain Smolsky; the hapless police team trying to keep up with the ever-increasing number of splurge gun victims. And Gracie Evenden lights up the stage in There’s No Business Like Show Business as the showy, pompous performer Lena Morelli.
Well done to director Deb Brook and her team for creating this fun-filled version of a classic.
Review by Love Midlands Theatre
Cinderella is a pantomime favourite and the festive season is now well and truly in full swing in Theatreland.
Youth Onstage have once again proved what a talented group they are, as bundles of energy and enthusiasm are thrown into this production. Beaming faces on a packed-out stage make the opening number, I Gotta Feeling, a delight.
Sometimes one of the most challenging jobs is the audience participation, but Matt Brook instantly drew us in as the adorable and endearing Buttons.
We are quickly introduced to the title character, Cinderella, who is played gracefully by Jessie Miah. With a beautiful voice to match, she delivers an accomplished performance. Excellently paired with Kia Gates as Prince Charming, their harmonies in Sam Smith's Stay With Meand Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud impressed.
It is ugly sisters, Grizelda and Gertrude, who predominantly provide the comic relief. Played scarily well by 15 year olds Tom Ashen and Gibsa Bah, they work brilliantly together, with confident ad libs and a hilarious rendition of Beyonce's Single Ladies. Their mother, Baroness Rubella, is played by Jay Alves - his first principal role. A daunting task, especially in heels. Though slightly nervy at the outset, his confidence grew through the show and his dancing and characterisation were mightily impressive.
Georgia Sheward provides an assured performance as the Prince's sidekick Dandini and there is a pun-tastic double act from Alicia Flint and Emma Collis. Plus support from Thomas Brandon as Cinderella's father, Baron Hardup.
Particular music highlights of the show included Colour My World and Uptown Funk. The entire group harmoniously sang through the songs, proving what a talented bunch of people they are.
Although running slightly long at just under 3 hours, it was clear that the whole audience enjoyed the show. With a fantastic creative team behind the scenes - including Director, Deb Brook and Musical Director, Andy Johnson - this really is a whole group achievement and well and truly sets the mood for the festive season. Congratulations Youth Onstage, you've done it again!
WITH Christmas fast approaching, what do children enjoy as much as attending a good old traditional pantomime?
Judging by this excellent production, the answer is performing in one, and the 30-strong cast simply burst with enthusiasm in the timeless story of a downtrodden young girl who marries a prince – with the help a fairy godmother, of course.
Director Deb Brook, a Tamworth-based teacher, has drilled the youngsters superbly, and some of her former pupils are now in the West End or abroad enjoying theatrical careers.
Most of the colourful costumes were made by parents, committee members and friends, and all the hard work is now reaping its reward, particularly in some of the dancing sequences choreographed by Suzy Bleasdale and Jess Walton.
Jessie Miah, a 16-year-old Birmingham musical theatre student, sparkles as Cinderella and enjoys some amusing exchanges with Matt Brook (Buttons) and the highly entertaining ugly sisters Grizelda and Gertrude (Tom Ashen and Gibsa Bah).
Impressive performances, too, from Kia Gates (Prince Charming), Georgina Sheward (Dandini) and Jay Alves (Baroness Rubella).
The masked ball and the hunting and haunting scenes were particularly good in a fine panto which, however, is perhaps about 20 minutes too long.
Andy Johnson is musical director of the show which runs to Saturday December 6, after which the company will begin hunting for new members, aged nine to 19, for their next production at the Old Rep, Birmingham – Bugsy Malone.
Formed in 2002, Youth Onstage have been entertaining audiences for over a decade with their annual pantomimes and musicals. Tonight's concert, Encore, is very special as it brings together both past and present performers who take the audience on a musical journey. Though most songs in the programme would be familiar to fans of musical theatre there are some fantastic contemporary numbers from less well known shows, such as The Unauthorised Biography of Samantha Brown and The Last 5 Years.
The young performers, from teenagers up to the age of 25, prove committed players. It is clear to see that a lot of time and energy has gone into this production and the end result is a polished product, each song flowing beautifully into the next.
Impressive costume design is first showcased inDecember '63, as 4 dashing young men take on The Four Seasons, in matching blue suit jackets with black lapels. It is during this number that Dominic Harris first wows the audience with his powerful yet silky voice, later going on to take lead in a showstopping rendition of Run and Tell That from Hairspray which sends the crowd wild! The energy in the room is electric.
Stand out performers include Kia Gates, Hannah Brook, Carly Taylor, Dan Peet, James Hudson and Jay Alves. Choreography shines, particularly in big numbers where the entire company take to the stage, which are always the most challenging. It is apparent that the success of Youth Onstage is down to teamwork, and a shared love of performance. Faces beam from the large stage, full of enjoyment, and for the audience that spirit is infectious. People shout, cheer, and tap their feet in time with the music. It is incredible to witness the confidence and capabilities of so many young, multi-skilled performers.
Youth Onstage will return to the boards later this year with their annual panto at The Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull. Be sure to witness the talent of tomorrow.
For more information about Youth Onstage visit their website www.youthonstage.org.
Love Midland Theatre
Forget the X Factor and similar shows – Brum’s got real talent, and this show proves it, big time. The reaction of the first night audience, frequent bursts of applause, cheering and a standing ovation at the end, acknowledged the quality on stage.
In a super show which cost 15,000 pounds to stage, the 29-strong cast, aged between 9 and 19, revelled in the story of French peasant Jean Valjean’s quest for redemption after 19 years on a chain gang for stealing a loaf of bread.
Student Daniel Carpenter gives a powerful performance as Valjean who rises to become the wealthy Mayor of a town but is relentlessly pursued by the single-minded police inspector Javert, impressively played by Dylan Hartnell. Carpenter’s singing of Bring Him Home and Hartnell’s delivery of Javert’s suicide lyrics are memorable, while Matt Brook (Marius), Laura Nicholson (Fantine), Jessie Miah (Cosette), Sarah Fullwood (Eponine), Nicholas Eynon-Colon (Gavroche) and Tom Ashen (Enjolras) all make a huge impact.
Delightful comedy, too, from Sam Hughes and Jess Walton, the crooked inn keeper Thenardier and his wife.
Excellent chorus work, costumes and scenery add to a stunning show cleverly directed by Deborah Brook, with Suzy Bleasdale’s choreography and Andy Johnson’s musical direction.To Saturday night May 10.
As a taster for next May's production of the schools edition of Les Miserables at The Old Rep, this concert was a sure fire winner. A cast of 22 youngsters, drawn mainly from the Birmingham, Solihull and Tamworth areas, demonstrated that the West Midlands is bursting with teenage talent. Les Mis will be staged from May 7-10, and the company still need to recruit a few more actor-singers for the show. They must be between 9 and 19 years old and in full-time education.The concert, in Youth Onstage's 10th anniversary, was packed with more than 20 numbers from various musicals, closing with four sparkling solos featured in the May show - Castle on a Cloud (Bethan Handford), Empty Chairs and Empty Tables (Matt Brook), On My Own (Carly Taylor) and Bring Him Home (Dan Peet).
Earlier there were outstanding contributions from Samara Rawlins (One Night Only, from Dream Girls), Melissa Harper (Another Suitcase, Another Hall, from Evita), plus several excellent ensemble pieces. Former member Hannah Brook returned from University for a beautifully sung Somebody to Love (We Will Rock You), and the programme included amusing items too in a fine show directed by Deb Brook, with Suzy Bleasdale's choreography and Andy Johnson's musical direction. The second and final performance was on Saturday night.
VERDICT: * * * *PAUL MARSTON
Last December this talented company had to cancel their annual pantomime due to a shortage of members, some having moved on to universities and colleges. What a difference a few months make! New recruits came in and have done so well that they are now confidently taking part in this popular musical, a spin-off from the famous film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Making their debuts in the lead roles of Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko, Laura Nicholson and Kyle Passmore sparkle in key numbers like Summer Nights and You're the One that I Want, in both cases receiving strong support from the ensemble. Their love develops at Rydell High School in the 50s when Danny is leader of the leather-jacketed 'greasers' and Sandy has to overcome her image as a rather wholesome good girl with no bad habits.
Outstanding performances, too, from Dom Harris (Kenickie) and Sarah Fullwood (Betty Rizzo), and one of the most impressive scenes features Matt Brook as Teen Angel, Philippa Coley (Frenchy) and the girls in Beauty School Dropout. Another star of the show is the flash American car built by members of the company and brilliantly transformed on stage for the big song, Greased Lightning.
Grease is directed by Deb Brook with Suzy Bleasdale's choreography and Andy Johnson's musical direction. To Saturday night (May 11).
VERDICT: * * *
Youth Onstage are an exceptional group that couldn’t fail to impress with this production. Their enthusiasm shone through, everyone looked as if they were enjoying every single minute.
Slick direction by Deb Brook and innovative choreography by Suzy Petty utilised the many talented youngsters, some of whom are moving on to university or drama and music training. I wish them good luck for the future.
There were many superb characterisations, Adam Brown (Troy) the school heartthrob was well matched with Hannah Brook (Gabriella). I loved “I cant take my eyes off you.“
Georgia Towler (Sharpay) reminded me very much of Elle from “Legally Blonde“. Special mention has to go to Alick Draper (Ryan) who was absolutely fabulous!
The Jocks, Thespians, Brainiacs, Students, Cheerleaders, Skater dudes and the adults were a strong support for the principals.
Super costumes, musical direction and scenery made for a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
Well done to everyone involved, I am very much looking forward to seeing your next production as you get better and better.
Joyce Eyre, NODA
Based on the film starring Cliff Richard, this lively musical about four mechanics kitting out a red London bus for a holiday abroad proved just the ticket for an impressive young cast. Aged between 10 and 18, they showed remarkable maturity in five appearances before the show arrived at the terminus on Saturday night.
Joshua Coley, who is off to stage school later this year, was outstanding as Don, leader of the team, revealing a fine voice in several of the big numbers such as “In the Country”, “Bachelor Boy” and, of course, “Summer Holiday”.
He had a splendid partner in 16-year-old Tamworth student Hannah Brook, playing Barbara, the famous singer found as a stowaway on the bus, disguising herself as a boy, in an effort to escape her domineering mother Stella (Gemma Hudson).
Outstanding performances, too, from James Hudson, Adam Brown and Duncan Burt as the other three mechanics Steve, Edwin and Cyril, with Georgia Towler, Kitty Campbell and Eleanor Snowdon, the trio of singers the busmen collected on the way to Athens.
Bright choreography by Suzy Petty helped keep the action moving briskly in a show well directed by Deb Brook, with Barry Smart's musical direction.
VERDICT: * * * *
Well someone must have been cracking a whip behind the audience, with so many amateur societies struggling with ticket sales; it’s reassuring to see very few empty seats at the Youth Onstage’s Production of ‘Calamity Jane’.
I entered the auditorium; with the gross misconception that ‘Calamity Jane’ would be just another humdrum amateur production, with all the fluffed lines and out of step dancers that usually grace the stage. I was wrong! Never have I seen a slicker, more professional piece of theatre.
The cast’s talents were made all the more extraordinary by virtue of their being so young. Hannah Brook (currently at Polesworth High School) gave a magnificent performance as the boisterous heroine; she captured the audience’s imagination and kept them in the palm of her hand throughout. Despite the entire cast being excellent, Matt Lambden as Francis Fryer jumped off the stage as an extremely convincing character actor.
Deb Brook, (Head Teacher at Galley Common School) the director must be congratulated, for such a disciplined performance from her cast, there was not a word or look out of place, and that trait continued throughout the imaginative choreography by Suzy Petty. The no-nonsense can-can in act one was stunning, no concessions for age, the splits were split and that was that.
There was not a single fault that I could find with this production, despite my valiant attempts to spot one. Visually it was astonishing, the stage was alive with the help of well-planned costumes and a set that would be the envy of many societies.
‘Calamity Jane’ was a triumph, and I truly cannot wait for ‘Cinderella’ in December.
By Jamie Pitts