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Stage Door to Encore

I am happy to report that musical theatre is alive and well and its future is safe.

Shows like this don’t just happen. There is a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into them and the final result is dependent on huge energy being expended by the performers. These performers may only be youngsters but their sheer energy, enthusiasm and very obvious joy is uplifting and even inspiring in these days of uncertainty.

There must be a lot of very proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings roaming around Poole and surrounding environs this morning.

The programme doesn’t detail who is doing what and I don’t want to guess names so I can only give you impressions of performances without attribution. Suffice it to say, the level and quality of performance was outstanding.

The show opened with ‘Circle Of Life’ from The Lion King. I was immediately blown away by the costumes, the lighting and the singing, although sometimes with the backing tracks it’s hard to tell if it’s the cast providing the superb vocal harmonies of the track.

The company benefits from quite a large number of male performers which is unusual. So often with theatre schools we see lots of girls dressed as boys so it was great fun to see ‘The Trunchbull’ being performed by a male. And what a superb Trunchbull he made.

In fact, there was quite a lot of cross-dressing from male to female during the show.

Matilda’s ‘Quiet’ was beautifully played and sung by a young lady who wasn’t very old at all.

The cast performance of ‘Revolting Children’, which is an astonishingly difficult number to pull off, was out of this world. Honestly, we could have been on the West End.

The Kinky Boots section of the show was hilarious and a bit freaky. The cross-dressing boys made disturbingly good girls and they were such good dancers with all the movements and grace of ballerinas, I had to look twice to make sure they weren’t girls.

While I’m talking about the boys, there are a bunch, without exception, of very talented guys, great dancers and you can hear the singing voices developing. I’m guessing some of them are now in that awkward stage of breaking voices, and some need to practice supporting their voice with their diaphragm, which will help with everything, but credit where credit’s due. It looks like they’re going to develop into great all round performers. I’d be really happy to have them in my theatre group.

The first act ended with excerpts from The Lion King. If you’d paid to see this in a London theatre you would not have been disappointed. The staging, the costumes, the singing, the dancing. Wow!

I’ve mentioned the boys; my goodness, there are some awesome girls in this group. The vocals, the dancing, the shear exuberance. My favourite number last night had to be ‘Chow Down’ featuring the Hyenas. Their characterisation and costumes were brilliant and the vocals spot on, except for one person whose voice was exceptional.

I said ‘Chow Down’ was my favourite, but it could’ve been ‘Hakuna Matata’. Pumba and Timon were my favourites in the film and these two on stage were delightful. What am I talking about? I loved it all.

The second act opened with ‘The Greatest Show’ and if you thought the show couldn’t get any better it just did. It was sharp, vocals outstanding, a brilliant ensemble piece. There was even a girl on a high hoop doing circus tricks. Where do they get all this talent?

The Anastasia section had some beautiful vocal performances. I was just a bit annoyed by the American accents. I understand the film used Americans but I see no reason why we should ape that.

‘Newsies’ was an excellent ensemble piece. There were great harmonies, great dance numbers and a wonderful duet. Plus, being set in New York, a great opportunity to use American accents.

The show closed with a Greatest Showman section, which once again showcased the excellent ensemble work, tight dance moves and individual performances. Inevitably they put in the song ‘Never Enough’, which is a huge song by anyone’s standard, but the young lady who rose to this challenge soared with it.

Overall this was a great night out. The school really have nailed singing and dancing. When it came to some of the acting bits, I felt things were not so great. They seemed a bit forced, a bit flat, a bit like reciting lines. There was a tendency to gabble and diction was not as good as it could be (not helped by the sound production as below); a little bit of work here would go a long way.

My only annoyance was with sound. Sound production, as is so often the case with theatre school performances, was pretty dreadful. Many of the performers sounded like they were speaking (or singing) from a 1960s telephone box. The balance between backing and performers was quite terrible too. It wasn’t so bad during quiet sections when we could hear the performers (and after all they are what we want to hear), but as songs crescendoed we very often lost the vocals to the blasting backing.

That aside, if there are any tickets available go and see this show, whether or not you know anyone in it. It’ll be really worthwhile.