Reviewed by Jayne Knight
Yesterday evening ‘A Night at the Musicals’ presented by Tilly Studios filled the stage with youngsters. A cast of 60+ children from around the North Derbyshire area commanded the auditorium with song and dance. With solo, ensemble or whole cast performances the audience were enthralled by the quantity and quality of talent in the High Peak.
Reading the programme was the first indication as to the level of talent about to burst on to the stage. The plethora of achievements in past productions, (Les Miserables, Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows) to name but three; venues (The Royal Albert Hall); gigs with Alfie Boe, Gary Barlow and Collabro, plus musical grades for singing and instruments are indicative of some seriously talented children.
The majority of the voices are members of Pitch Perfect, a choir seen by millions on BGT as semi-finalists in 2017. Founded by their Musical Director, Emma Hopkins, in 2015, they have gone on to the Barnardo Choir finals in 2016 & 2017, Children’s Choir of the Year finalists in 2016 & 2019 and BBC Songs of Praise Youth Choir of the year 2019, which will be screened on 19th May and 2nd June.
Opening with three songs from The Greatest Showman, the audience were immediately struck by the fact that there was no scenery, only a star cloth at the back of the stage and the cast dressed in an assortment of costumes. Closer observation showed Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and other mismatched characters, but, as the closing number of the set was revealed, ‘This is me’, the inspiration behind the costumes showed the seamless nature by which the transition from one musical to another would be made.
We journeyed through Wonderland, meeting Alice, the white rabbit, the Cheshire Cats and the caterpillar, to Egypt with Joseph, ending the first act with orphans Annie and Oliver. Having struggled to keep a tear from my eye as Eve Smith and Kitty Pearce both gave their portrayals of Annie I was completely undone by Jonty Williams, aged 7, standing alone on stage singing, ‘Where is Love?’ With the arrival of roguish Jack Dawkins and Nancy the stage was transformed into Fagin’s hideout.
Act two brought the Revolting Children from Matilda showing scant regard for their uniforms and showing their rebellious nature by throwing paper aircraft at the audience, only to be replaced with Alice Chetwood in the title role proclaiming her hopes and dreams for the future in, ‘When I grow up.’
As school ended, magical Glinda and Elphaba kept the audience spellbound with songs from Wicked. I was pleased to note that ‘Defying Gravity’ had been omitted in favour of songs that would also showcase the acting ability of the girls. As the backstory to the Wizard of Oz it is therefore unsurprising that the final set was from Dorothy, the tin man, the scarecrow and the cowardly lion and all that they encountered on their journey to Oz, as they travelled along the Yellow Brick Road.
As our musical journey came to an end, the whole cast were reassembled for the curtain call to a reprise of ‘Zip a Dee Doo Dah’. Appreciative applause and whoops of joy filled the Opera House, from friends and family, to those of us that where just out for a good night, as the curtain came down for the final time on a group of children with the musical world at their feet.
There were so many soloists that I could mention individually, but for me, it was the younger, less experienced members of the cast that made my night. There were, as to be expected with such a young cast, a couple of moments when nerves got the better of a soloist, but for the majority their enthusiasm was evident throughout. Even a malfunction of technology did not phase one youngster when her microphone failed – she carried on regardless, the audience so quiet as to allow that one voice to carry to the far reaches of the theatre.
Set in a Grade II listed building, designed by Frank Matcham, Buxton Opera House has a year-long round programme of entertainment; from dance, drama, comedy, films, music, musicals and opera there is something here that will suit most tastes.
An altogether 5* performance.
For other shows at the Buxton Opera House visit buxtonoperahouse.org.uk or call the box office on 01298 72190.
Buxton Opera House, Water Street, Buxton, Derbyshire, SK17 6XN | 01298 72190