|Date||14th March 2018|
|Society||Springers Amateur operatic & Dramatic Society|
|Venue||The Civic Theatre|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Director||Catherine Gregory and Mat Smith,|
|Musical Director||Ian Myers|
Author: Katherine Hempstead
Offspringers Youth Group
In a studio theatre after the buzz and excitement of the keen audience in the foyer and warm and friendly welcome, we were greeted by the familiar Disney Logo emblazoned against the back-drop projection screen, which would become our live-action visual aid, setting us in a pine wood and enhancing the action throughout the production. To either side of the stage was a smaller screen cleverly used to display mobile phone screens as the youngsters quickly gossiped via text. An all-American welcome opened the first act, with technology-savvy youngers in broad and convincing American accents staring and chattering on their phones as the stage was filled for the first big number ‘This is Our Song’. Costume was a simple camp t-shirt and custom trousers or skirt to personalise each named character.
A few very early nerves were quickly shaken off with a confident and likeable Mitchie, played by Lizzy Newsome, storming the first solo-turned-duet ‘This is Me’, joined in even harmony by Shane Gray, played by Aaron Bell. The pace of the action was set early on, as Caitlyn, Ella and Peggy (played by Sicily Riordan, Bernice Bushell and Charlotte Podd) welcomed sweet, endearing but easily impressionable Rosie (played by Abbie Gansbuehler), who was quickly whisked away by sassy, spoiled Tess Tyler, played with attitude by Tallulah Hemmings.
Tiegan Crisp gave an authoritative performance as Brown, the Camp Rock leader, and despite the mainly minimal age difference was clearly the adult on the stage. Jason Gray played by Max Eagle delighted us with great comic timing and appeared at ease in his character, as did Jude Riordan as Barron James and James Birchmore as Sander Loya, together with Devran Arslan as Andy Holson forming a nice trio supporting each other vocally. Isabelle Turner led the rival Camp Star as Brown’s nemesis Axel Turner, who set up her own group of talented youngsters, with an appropriate bad attitude and a chip on her shoulder with something to prove. Leading the rival band’s bolshie opening number was an energetic and natural performer Haydn Hemmings, who prowled the stage as wannabe rock star Luke Williams, and later together with Tallulah Hemmings and Isabelle Gooding literally did ‘Tear it Down’ in a fiery and well delivered number during the musical stand-off.
Ore Kane warmed up in the second half as Nate Gray, and together with Dana provided the side story of a Romeo and Juliet style of forbidden love from either camp. Their duet of ‘Introducing me’ was a real showcase of their talent and ability, with a top-class performance harmonising a quick paced song to Ore’s flawless guitar-playing. A real gem. The opening of the second half lost a little pace, with a few reassuring glances to each other when a couple of song lines were lost, but cues were quickly picked up again and the young performers found their rhythm once more to sing and dance us to the final show-down. Mitchie and Shane’s ‘Wouldn’t Change a Thing’ contained some great harmonies, and it was clear tension was running high as both camps sung their heart out to try to win votes in the final Jam. There was a smooth transition between the high of the final ‘What We Came Here For’ and the inclusive ‘This is Our Song’, which ultimately brought the groups together.
Scene change complication was reduced to a minimum, with the setting of the scenes reliant almost entirely on the projected backdrop, which at times was sometimes bleached out a little by the stage lights, but easily forgivable given any other option. A couple of changes were a little slow simply due to the number of performers leaving the stage at once, but once the stage was clear the activity in camp buzzed back into action. Direction led by Catherine Gregory and Mat Smith, assisted by Sharon Gardner was strong, and these youngsters had clearly been drilled to dictate well, with rarely any blocking issues, a good feat considering how many performers were on stage and singing with actions and organising themselves into group ensembles at once.
The stage was constantly active but not chaotic, with Brett Anthony providing the smooth choreography. Ian Myer’s musical direction had every singer confident in their own performance in the various numbers, and brought out the best in the ability of each young actor. The band was not visible on stage, which I always think is a shame as it seems to make the music more tangible, but there simply was not the room. Both musicians and singers were however completely in tune with each other. Singing talent was used to its full potential, and it was a real showcase of natural ability and flair in certain members, who I am sure will continue to flourish with the group and beyond. It maybe would have been nice to see the projected backdrop and lighting used even more to dramatize the big song numbers, but the sharp delivery more than made up for it. Using the centre aisle for some entrances made the audience inclusive of the action. It was also heartening to see siblings performing together, the older actors gently guiding some of the younger ones, and the atmosphere on-stage was infectious, with the audience participating in the final megamix. This was a great evening’s entertainment, which captured the essence and enthusiasm Disney strives to deliver.