The annual summer workshop, including students from all the company’s Sussex academies, has reached its 13th year and appears to have gone from strength to strength.
Throughout the afternoon there was a multitude of opportunity for each of the young actors to showcase their skills in drama, dance and especially singing- the variety of musical theatre pieces allowed everyone to prove their versatility. The show was opened by the ensemble number ‘Welcome to the Rock’ from the critically acclaimed ‘Come from Away’, which had its West End debut earlier this year. As well as stand-out performances from several soloists, the group choreography and vocals were also seamless and gave the cast a definite professional appearance.
As well as acting as a single unit, there were also several songs where all the performers were able to immerse themselves fully in their own characters. This was shown especially in ‘It Must be Believed to be Seen’ from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, in which the golden ticket winners and their parents were constantly reacting to the events on stage, making them stand out despite the amazing solo performance at the forefront. The ‘Ascot Gavotte’ from ‘My Fair Lady’, well known for its comedic potential, was also a highlight of the show due to the hilarious facial expressions from the whole cast.
Alongside the many pieces featuring both younger and older students, there was no shortage of solos, duets and small groups where the audience were able to truly invest themselves in emotional and light-hearted songs alike. From powerful ballads like ‘Safer’ from ‘First Date’ or ‘All that Matters’ from ‘Finding Neverland’, to more amusing numbers like ‘Morning Person’ from ‘Shrek’ and Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’, both of which made those watching laugh out loud. ‘Ring of Keys’ from ‘Fun Home’, a musical based on the life of the writer and activist Alison Bechdel, creatively used three different soloists in the scene where the young Alison begins to feel secure after seeing a woman whose traits she aspires to have, giving subtly different perspectives and showing the song’s relatability to many people.
One of the most standout aspects of this year’s workshop was the array of different shows that were used. There were many well known productions such as ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, where the popular songs were combined with entertaining choreography and the use of props (in 9 to 5’s case the characterisation was kept up right into the interval!) On the other hand, a lot of shows that have only begun recently were also used. ‘And You Don’t Even Know it’ from ‘Everybody’s talking about Jamie’, a 2017 musical following a 16 year old boy who dreams of becoming a drag queen, was one of the most high energy numbers in the show, including a complex dance routine-very similar to that of the West End show- combined with the vocals. ‘The Cover is not the Book’ from the recently released ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ also contained an impressive amount of movement throughout, particularly in the difficult sped up verse originally sung by Lin Manuel-Miranda. Perhaps the newest stage musical to be featured was ‘Six’, starring the characters of Henry VIIIs wives, which only made its West End debut earlier in 2019. The group of girls performed the opening number ‘Ex-Wives’, in a way that many thought could rival the original cast. The younger students also held their own in several challenging pieces from often underrated shows, from a duo of songs from ‘13’ to ‘Why we like Spelling’ from ‘the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ – both of which thoroughly entertained the audience.
Overall, the 2019 Junior Musicality Show was a great experience. Everyone present was clearly immensely talented and had put a lot of work into the week’s rehearsals, shown by the quality of the performance put together in such a short amount of time. Well done everyone!