Whistle Down the Wind

Date 6th December 2012
Society Mossley Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue George Lawton Hall, Mossley
Type of Production Musical
Director Lee Brennan
Musical Director Paul Firth
Choreographer Jenny Savill

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Author: Sharon Drummond

This was the first time this newly released for amateur production has been performed in my patch on the North West and I cannot imagine anyone will see such a great interpretation of this show. I have seen it twice professionally and this show was far better than either of those productions for a number of reasons. Firstly the fold out set which transformed from town to the barn was so effective and made for no hold ups in scene changes whatsoever. The props were again fantastic and very little had to be brought onto the stage. The costumes added to the feel of small town America in the late 1950’s. I love the music of this show which for me is one of Lloyd Webbers best, written with lyrics by Jim Steinman giving it a rocky feel. Paul Firth did a fantastic job with both the band and the harmonies of the cast. The opening number “Vaults of Heaven “ was so powerful and with the solo by Martin Bradbury as the Minister it was clear this was going to be a cracking show. The lighting plot by Lee Brennan who also directed this show was amazing with the colours aiding the emotions of the scenes at the time. Every scene was lit to perfection allowing both subtle and then stronger mood changes to shine through. The projection of fire in the final scenes worked really well. Lee’s direction was inspired. From taking some risks in casting to implementation of how he wanted a scene to look and be played out must have given him so much pleasure to see it all come together so beautifully. They say never work with children or animals but this show was made all the stronger by live snakes on stage and faultless children who were choreographed really well by Jenny Savill and again directed by Lee. The snakes added to what was already a spectacle of a show. With beautiful singing voices from all cast members and clarity of diction in both dialogue and songs not one scene felt like it was filling time. The sound with so many of the cast including the children being miked up was fantastic. Harmonies in songs were enhanced by the professional sound system and operators who never missed a cue. The strength of most shows lie with its principal players and this one was no exception. The accents never faltered including the supporting principals played by Andrew Ryder, Brian Ganderton, Chesney Talbot and David Ennis playing Earl who also had a great singing voice. Ian Bennett played the Preacher and stepped in for one number in “Wrestle with the Devil” which visually and vocally was a real treat. Mary Platts was wonderful as the sassy Candy with a stunning vocal performance on “Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts” and Sam Maurice played a blinder as Amos both in acting ability and vocally. His singing on “Tire Tracks” and “A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste” added to the angst that his character portrayed. Steve Maxfield played Boone with a lovely quality of both compassion and fear of what is happening to his oldest daughter. Vocally “Whistle Down the Wind” sounded stunning and gave me my first tear of the evening. Brat and Poor Baby played respectively by Kira Richardson and Elena Burrows sounded fabulous vocally and never put a foot wrong throughout. These were beautiful performances from both of these young people. Every member of this cast did a magnificent job but the two leads were utterly brilliant in their performances. Katherine Farrow played her first lead role as Swallow and what a way to hit the scene with a maturity well beyond her years. She managed to possess a naivety and innocence which is so important for this role. Her singing voice was absolutely beautiful, hauntingly so on “A Kiss is a Terrible Thing” and “If Only”. Her scenes with both Amos and The Man were so believable that at points I forgot I was watching a show. Gary Jones McCaw as The Man was totally mesmerising. This was new territory for Gary as his acting and singing skills had to be the focus for this role. Boy did he dig deep! And boy was it worth it! This portrayal quite simply touched my soul and I was lost in the story every time Gary was on stage. His singing was beautiful especially in falsetto which left me crying as it was so touching. Every song was beautifully constructed and acted. The scenes with Katherine managed to portray an underlying sexual chemistry without ever feeling tacky or abusive. His wonderment and awe as all the children but especially Swallow loved and protected him was touching and beautifully played and directed. Every member of the cast, crew and production team should be congratulated for a wonderful piece of theatre. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see a show where everything comes together and it feels like worlds collide. This was one of those. Lee for the marvellous direction, Paul for the stunning music and an amazingly talented cast for acting and singing their socks off, this show was quite simply one I will never forget.