Review – Disney High School Musical, Northampton Musical Theatre Company Youth Society, Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton, 18th April 2019

High School MusicalThis was our first exposure to the NMTC Youth Society, and to the Cripps Theatre, and to Disney’s High School Musical – so we had a lot to take in at once! It’s a great show for young people to tackle, because it’s full of activity, comedy, enjoyable songs and great dancing; and it also teaches you a few of those life lessons that most of us don’t get to grips with until we’re far, far older!

Company 2In case you don’t know… Troy and Gabriella met over the summer holidays – and, surprise surprise, come September, they discover that she’s moved to be a student in the same school as he is! Troy loves his basketball, and Gabriella’s a bit of a brainbox; but they’re both also attracted to audition for the school musical. But Troy’s father is the basketball coach and he’s never going to allow his son to waste his time on stage; and anyway, Sharpay and Ryan always get the best roles in the school show, so there’s no point trying – is there? If only there were a way that Troy could both lead the basketball team and appear in the show with Gabriella…..

Troy Gabriella 1This is a very enjoyable show which appeals to young and old alike, not only because of its musical comedy nature, but also its great advice as to how to live your life. It gives you the confidence to be yourself; it shows that you can, for example, be interested and be good at both sport and the arts; it shows you how to deal with bullies; it reminds you that it’s impossible to please everyone, so, whilst not being spiteful about it, the best thing is to please yourself; and it shows you that when circumstances conspire against you, and you think there’s no way out of your problem – there’s always a way if you think hard enough about it. No wonder it’s so popular!

KelsiNMTC Youth Company’s production was a feast for the eyes and ears throughout. Excellent costumes, terrific choreography, a useful and attractive set, and a superb orchestration played by Rod Iliffe and his seven musicians. It had a truly professional feel throughout, and everyone gave a top-quality performance, with confidence and skill to the forefront. I was particularly impressed with how much commitment the young performers gave to their stage presence and to the dancing. The musical numbers filled the stage with excitement and life, and there was always something going on for the audience to enjoy.

Ms DarbusAlthough it’s a true ensemble performance, there were many individual performances to appreciate. Ben Mineards and Eleanor Whitestone-Paul made a strong couple as Troy and Gabriella; they sang with great character and beautiful harmonies, and when they went in for the big kiss, the whole audience ooohed with pleasure! Emily Moss and Henry Patterson were also excellent as the bossy, spoilt, shallow, show-offy Sharpay and her (sometimes) obedient, flamboyant sidekick twin Ryan, delighting in their “baddie” roles. Anya Neal and Matt Dixon were very convincing in the adult roles of Ms Darbus and Coach Bolton; Ms Neal revelling in the artistic nonsense that her character spouts, Mr Dixon very nicely portraying his character’s barely suppressed bullying tendencies – we all know a sports teacher like that!

Ryan Sharpay 1Abi Faulder was excellent in the difficult role of Jackie Scott, the radio announcer who acts as a running commentator throughout the show; and Kelsi Neilson was also very good as the down-to-earth composer Hatti, always with an eye out for the best interests of her creation and assertively refusing to allow it to be hijacked. I enjoyed Isabel Robinson’s supportive performance as Martha, and Joe Jeffery impressed with both his dancing and his aptitude for the stage comedy.

Chad JasonHowever, most impressive for me were Troy Anderson and Violet Clarke as Chad and Taylor; engaging, likeable, with superb stage presence, great singing voices and dancing ability. Young Mr Anderson seems to me to be born to entertain – a true song and dance man in the making. But everyone, from the smallest and youngest upwards, put on a terrific show and the audience absolutely loved it. Congratulations to all!

Company 1P. S. The NMTC Youth Company is made up of young people aged between 8 and 18 and they’re already preparing for next year’s show. Maybe you should take part?! Check here for updates!

Production photos by XPB Images Ltd.