School’s back on Easy Street

sch88887  Newbold school performance of Annie  l to r Edward Jowel,Lucy Hooper
sch88887 Newbold school performance of Annie l to r Edward Jowel,Lucy Hooper

Spectators learn lessons while watching school shows: the importance of teamwork, the ability to hold your audience’s attention and be entertaining with it.

Newbold Community School’s production of the musical Annie gave a masterclass in all three.

The school turned back time in its 20th anniversary year by revisiting the first full-length musical which pupils performed two decades ago.

This time around the show may not have had the staging and scenery capabilities that the Pomegranate offered back then, but the production didn’t suffer.

Scenes were depicted by black and white images of New York City streets and buildings projected onto a screen behind the performers - with a colour slide cleverly mirroring the little orphan’s eventual happiness.

The absence of eye-detracting scenery allowed the audience to marvel at the talents of the 44-strong cast who gave a riveting display of singing, dancing and comedy, skilfully accompanied by an 11-strong orchestra under the baton of musical director Ian Batley.

Lucy Hooper sang her way into everyone’s hearts as abandoned Annie, the plucky kid who ran away from an orphanage and penetrated the steely reserve of a billionaire industrialist. A confident performance from a little star with a bright future.

This production had the aah factor in spades as noisy little girls scampered around the stage in their white smocks. Revelling in their roles of orphans were Megan Woods, Ruby Payne, Kira Barnett, Amy Norton, Paige Chadwick, Olivia Bedward, Kerry Anne Alcock, Ashlee Middleton and Charlotte Higgins.

Jess Widdowson brought the house down with her comical characterisation of the booze-soaked orphanage boss Miss Hannigan. She also contributed to a highlight of the show in a song and dance routine to Easy Street, aided and abetted by partners in time Ryan Mitchell (playing Rooster Hannigan) and Holly Conneely (Lily St Regis).

Edward Jowle gave a faultless performance as the orphan’s benefactor, Oliver Warbucks, with his talented singing showing a maturity far beyond his years. The same can be said for Laura Watkin, cast as the tycoon’s secretary Grace which she played with gentle demeanour and impeccable cut-glass English accent.

Of the minor characters, Paula Smith stole the show as the volatile White House aide Harriet Ickes - her withering looks over the top of her specs and uptight body language were hilarious.

This generation of talented students will undoubtedly be following a long line of former pupils who are carving out careers in the arts, running their own theatre companies, acting and teaching.

Since 1991, Newbold Community School has put on 50 theatre or dance shows in venues as large as the Pomegranate Theatre and as small as the Eyre Chapel.

Programme notes for last week’s show credited three people who have been involved in every one of those 50 productions - director Lesley Singleton, props constructor Bill Jukes and wardrobe mistress Pauline Barker.

GAY BOLTON