This production had dual casts. In the interests of fairness to all, TASA reviewed both casts. Alan Shepley reviewed the Turtle cast and Allison Thomas reviewed the Jellyfish cast.
The Turtle cast
I must congratulate the production team with first time directors, Director Harry Ince and Assistant Director Kiara Linke together with MD Oscar Bridges and Choreographer Mason Pugh. As a collective they achieve the well nigh impossible task of crafting a stage show that kept a young (and in many cases, very young) audience quietly attentive and amused for one whole hour. Brilliant! I am sure you will all learn much from this experience but, as it stands, it is one of which you can all be very proud.
Adelaide Youth Theatre’s “Finding Nemo Jr” is as refreshing as a jump off the Brighton Jetty. It is full of colour, it’s high on energy and it’s well disciplined in all movement on stage including judicious set changes. Stage Manager Ethan Joy coordinates a backstage team that ensures that the progress of the piece fits seamlessly within the musical template. The attention of the audience is kept up to the mark by a creative array of costuming (coordinated by Diane Kilpatrick) that fits so well within a number of routines along the way.
I saw the “Turtle” cast and was impressed by all the lead roles therein. In the opening scene Henry Tran as Clownfish patriarch Marlin establishes his character with clarity and purpose. His vocal qualities are good and strong and he uses the stage with ease. He is ably supported by Clownfish wife Coral (Keira Wubbolts) and the initial chorus number “A Big Blue World” sets the bar high for the rest of the show. Coral and all her eggs bar one go missing and consequently we are pleased to welcome survivor Nemo to the stage.
Milla Ilic is a bright, breezy and energetic Nemo with strident voice and the confidence to instantly capture our imagination. When the young Clownfish disappears into the deep blue his distraught father, Marlin, finds a trusted ally in Dory played by Lucy Stirling. Lucy sells her short term fishy memory to us very well indeed. She too has a voice true and clear with excellent diction, particularly in numbers like “Just Keep Swimming”. (I thought the cast as a whole articulated their delivery well throughout). Bruce the Shark (Asher Gordon) and his henchmen Anchor (Hamish Skene) and Chum (Sebastian Cox) are an instant hit with the young audience. Dressed in black as biker gang members they serve up a rollicking rendition of “Fish are Friends not Food” as Bruce tries desperately to maintain his new found vegetarianism. It is a highlight of the show and each of the Great White Trio shares acting honours in their cameo roles.
Many minor characters contribute to the excellent whole. I liked the moves of Peach the Starfish (Maisie Lewis), the pithy observations delivered by Nigel the Pelican (Edward McEwan) friend of the “tank gang”, and the clear well projected voice and vocals of Gill (Anika van der Walt).
As stated above well schooled movement is a highlight throughout and is superbly delivered by the ensemble. If I were to choose a favourite scene I might choose the effective jellyfish routine, closely followed by the netted fish being led to safety by our hero Nemo. There are many visual delights! “Finding Nemo” is a most worthy addition to AYT’s impressive portfolio.
The Jellyfish cast
We saw the Jellyfish cast with Nemanja Ilio as Nemo (even his name is similar!) who was very confident, had a good strong voice and great vocal ability. He was very talented so we are looking forward to seeing his successful future in theatre. Also enjoying this performance were four school groups, who were very lively before the start but quietened down when the action began.
Keira Wubbolts playfully characterised the forgetful, easily distracted and very blue Dory. She was so enchanting and so funny, very clever.
Marlin was emotionally well played by Noah Magourilos, who showed us that the love of a father and support of friends, can give courage when faced with danger and help overcome problems for a happy reunion.
One of the highlights that my co reviewer and I enjoyed was the stompy tap dance that the Sharks did. It was energetically combined with their song “fish are friends, not food”. Bruce the vegetarian shark was played by Ewan Pugh, and Aisha Skinner as Anchor and Elliott Purdie as Chum (also Sharks) performed well as a co-ordinated team.
We also loved Peach, the pink glittery starfish (Ophelia Farmer) and the other friendly characters in the Sydney Aquarium and later on there were a few more starfish which were very glittery and beautiful. I thought the jellyfish were fantastic too. Creatively they were umbrellas covered with shiny iridescent fabric and streamers hanging down and the way that they danced around were fabulous. Well done by 17 year old choreographer Mason Pugh.
When Marlin and Dory went into the Eastern Australian Current, the turtles were really fun. There were all good singers and dancers. Crush (Benji Marks) and little Squirt (Ayla Sharp) had some great lines. Comic relief was provided several times with the “Vacationer” (not credited in programme) who came in with his deck chair and a huge packet of yellow “noodle” chips and started eating them and then a pack of noisy Seagulls came and took it away! That was really funny.
The song “Go with the flow” by about 30 turtles swimming along in the current along with Marlin and Dory was well co-ordinated, and they all danced beautifully.
The only point for improvement would be that some of the singers’ voices were a bit soft so that some of the songs were difficult to hear, which I am sure will be improved by practice and experience.
Overall, it was a wonderful show, very much enjoyed by the whole audience. There was not a lot of clapping, but lots of happy shouts and screams and hoots when the action happened on the stage by the roughly 60 children, teens and youth of Adelaide Youth Theatre. Well done to everyone.