at the Public Hall, Witham
Oh what fun they had – and we did too – at this bizarre blend of morality play and Madness tunes.
Chief strength of Amy Trigg's lively production is the imaginative and challenging choreography by Louise Lachance. The schoolroom Baggy Trousers, the exercise yard, even the characterful curtain calls are all brilliantly conceived and executed by an energetic company.
A clutch of hugely enjoyable performances by WOW regulars includes the surefire comedy duos of Emmo and Lewis, the “gormless prats” brilliantly done by Jack Martyn and Max Lenoir, and the shallow girls Billie and Angie, Alice Tunningley and Ashton Reed.
Ben Huish brings presence and pathos to the two Joes, black and white, wrong and right, and is vocally very assured. His girl, Sarah, is excellently sung by Rosie Goddard – duetting with Joe in It Must Be Love, and with his dead Dad in NW5.
Mark Ellis, haunting his son like Hamlet's father on the battlements, guides Joe, and us, through the dual development – Simple Equation, books balanced, justice seen to be done.
Strong support in smaller roles from, amongst many others, Amy Seymour as Joe's Irish Mum, Ed Tunningley as the evil Reecey, Chris Tierney as the fat cat property tycoon, and Bella Tull as Julie on Reception.
Wings of a Dove might usefully be more kitsch, but there are many superb stage pictures on the bold geometric set – notably the fatal birthday party with the cake and balloons and the crazy joy ride in Joe's 80 quid car.
Emma Firth's punchy band – with the crucial saxes to the fore – provides great backing for those iconic numbers, which, lest we forget, charted years before these young actors were born ...