Saturday, February 25, 2017


King Edward VI Grammar School

Expectations were high after last year's Les Mis. And this is a much more challenging piece: a less familiar sung-through score, and dark, adult themes.
But this outstanding production is every bit as impressive, musically and dramatically - James French the director, Tim Worrall the MD.
The orchestra, wrapped around by the action, produces a full, symphonic sound, the keyboards rightly taking second place to the real instruments. Good to see Declan Hickey's “solo saxophone” given some well-deserved limelight. And vocally the standard is stunningly high, both from the ensemble and the soloists.
Hiya Dhar makes a superb Kim. Her mature voice never falters, her numbers are emotionally charged but never overdone. She's well matched by Joseph Folley's compelling Engineer – a mesmeric presence, and perfectly delivered numbers. A creepy, slippery survivor, he gets what few laughs there are in this hard-hitting story. His American Dream will be hard to forget, I feel – a great production number choreographed by Gavin Wilkinson.
Strong contributions from many others, including Rafee Ahmed's commissar Thuy, Samuel Harper's GI Chris, and Olivia Moul as his wife Ellen.
The staging is simple, with many of the numbers presented on the walk-way surrounding the pit. The helicopter is sketched with sound and animation, the wire fences paint a stark image of despair.
The ensembles are tellingly used – the military, the dancers, the whores. And the junior chorus makes its mark, too, as urchins, refugees, mini-me Uncle Sams, and as the brilliant Bui-Doi choir, making a powerful opening to Act Two with Benjamin Kinder's strongly sung John.

This is musical theatre work of a very high standard, artistically and technically. A cliché, but no less true for that, to say that we forgot that we were in a school hall, and all these actors would be back in the classroom next week – Dreamland, Ho Chi Minh City and the rice fields no more than an imperishable memory.

production photos: Peter Langman Photography
To buy Peter Langman's rehearsal photos, try this direct link with the first password as Saigon1234, which then needs submitting again after you have put your e-mail address in...

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