For many leaving their teens behind is an awkward period but there were no such growing pains for the Maltings Youth Theatre as they marked its 20th birthday.
They might not have the key to the door at 21 just yet but ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ was most certainly a coming of age performance.
Everything from the cast, to the costumes to the mightily impressive set was top drawer. Yes Maltings marvel Wendy Payn has waved her magic wand once again.
As female theatrical roles go, Christine Daae must be up there as one of the most difficult, on the basis of musical score alone.
But as she does with every role she is given, Katie Hindmarsh took on the challenge and emerged victorious. Granted, Katie is an exceptional singer- the way she dealt with the rollercoaster of octaves the show’s title track threw at her proved this- but the part required so much more than a good set of lungs.
Particularly impressive was Katie’s diction and the sensitive yet assured way she took command of the stage. Wendy has put Katie in the shoes of various leading ladies and her performance in ‘Phantom’ showed precisely why.
Katie was a star amongst a galaxy of fine performances. I thought Oliver Payn had peaked with his emotionally charged portrayal of Jesus in the Youth Theatre’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ last year and while his ‘Gethsemane’ certainly took some beating, for me his shining moment in ‘Phantom’, the spine tingling musical juggernaut ‘Music of the Night’, topped even that.
Berwick’s hardest working actor of 2013 has got to be Frazer Smiles. It seems like the Academy pupil has never been off the stage this year. But while it was his raw acting talent that shone through in the likes of ‘The Words in the Wires’ and 2012’s ‘Blood Brothers’. it was his singing that demanded attention in ‘Phantom’.
His duet of ‘All I Ask With You’, alongside Katie, gave audiences a glimpse of another side of Frazer’s theatrical talents and proved that he is most definitely an all rounder.
Like Katie and Oliver, the mature and controlled way he went about giving life to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score showed great respect for the piece but also a confidence in his own capabilities.
Another of the ‘Words in the Wires’, David Simpson put in his best performance to date as Andre, on half of a fabulously eccentric double act which also gave Jonathan Combe another chance to impress as Firmin.
And they weren’t the only ‘Phantom’ pairing to catch the eye. Crossing over the border to tread the boards with the Youth Theatre for the first time, Matthew Taylor made a fine first impression on Berwick audiences as Piangi while his partner in crime, Grace Whitcombe was a soprano supremo as Carlotta- hitting some stratospherically high notes.
The production saw a host of ‘ones to watch’ emerge from the wings. Diana Rowland displayed a maturity beyond year young years as Madame Giry while Evie Mortimer shone as her daughter Meg.
Paddy Flanigan, Rory Hamilton and Ewan Steady also stood out from the supporting cast who left their principal peers no room to be complacent.
The large ensemble dazzled throughout, with big chorus numbers like ‘Masquerade’ a joy for both the eyes and ears.
No doubt buoyed by a tweet their received from Lord Lloyd Webber himself just before curtain up, the Youth Theatre couldn’t have wished for a better opening night.
‘Phantom’ was a musical and technical tour de force that deserves all the buzz its generated. Here’s to another 20 years of brilliant theatre.
The Phantom - Oliver Payn
Christine - Katie Hindmarsh
Raoul - Frazer Smiles
Carlotta - Grace Whitcombe
Piangi - Matthew Taylor
Andre - David Simpson
Firmin - Jonathan Combe
Madame Giry - Diana Rowland
Meg Giry - Evie Mortimer
Buquet - Paddy Flannigan
Reyer - Rory Hamilton
Lefevre - Ewan Steady
Auctioneer - Max Manning
Chorus - Rachel Aitken, Yelita Ali, Esme Apted, Emma Bates, Rachel Cross, Mary Davenport, Kyla Dean, Katie Dyson, Sophie Easton, Danny Flannigan, Iona Frame, Isla Frame, Xenia Garden, Katherine Gray, Abigail Hood, Rachel
Johnston, Lucinda Lawrie, Chris Maud, Hannah McLean, Grace Morrison, Lewis Murray, Ross Slack, Holly Thomas, Anna Tucker, Sarah Wallace, Jodi Williamson
Director - Wendy Payn
Musical Director - Neil Metcalfe
Musicians - Emma lloyd, Frances Orde, Alison Coates, Nigel Chandler
Lighting & Sound - Steve Percy & Jimmy Manningham
Set - Jim Herbert, Chris Caput, Januario Espejo
Wardrobe Mistress - Karen Page