Michael Murray Centre, Westminster School
18th January 2017
Reviewed by: Trish Francis
The success of this production starts long before these young people reach the stage. Pelican producers Jen Firth and Kylie Green have assembled an impressive and extensive group of talented Music Theatre experts to coach all participants in Music Theatre Camp, ensuring that the experience is valuable to everyone involved, juniors and seniors, however much prior experience they bring, whatever their talent and however big their part. It’s not cheap to take part, but for those who can afford it, the training is probably the best kids can get in Adelaide and it’s clear they have a whole lot of fun to boot.
On opening night, I saw the ‘Disney’ cast: there are four complete casts of around 50 young people – ‘Disney’, ‘Broadway’, ‘Hollywood’ and ‘West End’, each performing two shows over the four-day season. The format follows the previously successful jukebox style with songs from diverse stage and screen musicals. This year sees us take a journey through Newsies, hence the production title, Moana, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Polar Express, Hairspray, Sister Act and Anastasia; a wide selection of Musicals, ensuring there is something for everyone.
For the first time, Pelican have stepped away from their previous reliance on backing tracks and introduced a live band. This takes this year’s production to a different level, allowing greater flexibility in arrangements and a truer theatrical experience for the students and audience alike. Under the direction of Martin Cheney, the musicians do a fine job, never drowning out the young voices.
The team of five choreographers and dance coaches presented ambitious movement, perhaps a little too much so for some less experienced dancers, but nevertheless challenging, vigorous and entertaining. Voices vary in quality, as one would expect in this all-inclusive environment, but the team of six vocal coaches have carefully selected soloists and tutored them into delivering admirable performances. Though I appreciate the need to balance delivering a high-quality show with providing as many of the cast with solo opportunities as possible, the distribution of solos in such a large cast did feel a little unequal at times.
The set is simple, with quality projections and minimal props, leaving the focus on the artists, splendid in their colourful and effective costumes.
Such is the ensemble nature of the piece, and indeed the overall quality, that I am loath to single out individual performers for praise. However, there are some artists who you can’t help but recognise as being exceptional, even in an exceptional cast. Lachlan Williams demonstrated immense stage presence coupled with some of the finest vocals of the evening. Brooklyn Twelftree was impressive as Anastasia, delivering her solo with significant emotional investment in the character. Lluka Wadey gave a confident and energetic performance in the junior’s Hairspray set, with three substantial solos as Tracy Turnblad. Her spirited portrayal drew your attention even when the stage was full of her fellow performers. Scarlett Anthony shone on stage and delivered an outstanding rendition of Watch What Happens. Alicia Hammond gave a perfect vocal performance as Willy Wonka although I would have liked to see a little more robustness in her characterisation. Erin Sowerby packed a punch with the challenging vocals of Delores, in Sister Act.
A shout out must also go to the very young junior performer, who I am unable to identify, who during her first number had the microphone battery pack become untethered, yet went on to perform the whole piece, adjusting her choreography to accommodate holding the offending item or having it dangle alongside her. A true professional in the making!
Although the purpose of Music Theatre Camp is to educate emerging Music Theatre performers, this is nevertheless a show that stands up in its own right, providing quality family entertainment. All of these young people deserve credit for what they have achieved in a short period of time. Pelican Productions deserve credit for providing an all-inclusive environment for young people to gain performance skills, develop a work ethic, gain confidence, make lasting friendships and have fantastic summer holiday fun. Long may it continue.