St James Theatre, London
Book and Lyrics by Jake Brunger
Music and Lyrics by Pippa Cleary
A new musical commissioned by National Youth Music Theatre
CAST OF CHARACTERS
KATE, flute - Caroline Whittingham
LUKE, percussion - Harry Al-Adwani
RUPERT, trumpet - Jamie Dodd
CLAIRE, clarinet - Amelia Thompson
JESSIE, piano - Sephora Parish
EILEEN, Kate’s Mum - Emma Ernest
DAVE, Luke’s Dad - Tom Ramsay
GEORGE, Rupert’s Dad - Tom Rowland
SUSAN, Rupert’s Mum - Samantha Bingley
IAN, Claire’s Dad (Cornet) - Dominic Harbison
JENNIFER, Claire’s Mum (Cello) - Rachel Cawte
ANTHONY, Jessie’s Dad - Jack Reitman
SALLY, Jessie’s Mum (Violin) - Eloise Kenny Ryder
HARRY, Rupert’s Brother (Viola) - Luke Rozanski
CHLOE, Claire’s Sister (Violin) - Hannah Irvine
The TV Presenters:
DAN DAVIS - Callum Howells
JENNY JONES (Keyboard) - Francesca McKean
STEFAN SADOWSKI (Trumpet) - Tom Baarda
VERONICA VAN CAMP (Trumpet) - Amber Moore
STACEY - Ellie Sharpe
The Production Team:
MELISSA MARCONIi the TV Producer (Flute) - Laura Barnard
MARCUS, Melissa’s Assistant - Toby Spence-Jones
GEOFFREY MIDDLETON, The Conductor (Keyboard) - Ciaran Walshe
CAMERAMAN - Ross Clifton
MAKE-UP ARTIST (Clarinet) - Heather Conder
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT (Trombone/Euphonium) - Josef Doughty
WARDROBE ASSISTANT - Finley Guy
The Prodigy Band:
Percussion - Callum White
Bass - Sophie Walker
Keyboard - Martha Williams
Director - Kate Golledge
Musical Director - Candida Caldicot
Choreographer - Darragh O’Leary
Orchestrations - Candida Caldicot & Pippa Cleary
Designer - Diego Pitarch
Lighting Designer - James Whiteside
Sound Designer - Andy Graham
Assistant Musical Director - Charlie Ingles
Assistant Choreographer - Anna Britton
Lighting Programmer - Will Ferris
Production Electrician - Adam Squire
Sound Operators - Charlie Simpson, Ali Stringer
Lighting Operator - George Pearce
Production Manager - James Henshaw
Crew - KD Productions
Stage Manager - Danny Newton
Deputy Stage Manager - Benjamin Sheen
Assistant Stage Managers - Alexander Davison, Sofia Di Lorenzo, Izzy Myatt
Costume Supervisor - Claudia Vogt
Keyboard Programmer - Josh Sood
Graphic Design - Richard Blackburn
Photography - Matt Hargraves
Head Chaperone - Mirelle Ellington
Licensing Co-ordinator - Simon Woolley
Pastoral Team - Anna Britton, David Grant, Brian Murray, Rebecca Ridout, Benjamin Sheen
NYMT Administrator - Cicero Magalhães
Production Manager - James Henshaw
Producer - Jeremy Walker for NYMT
This production was supported by
THE EL BISHLAWI FAMILY
ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND
WHITE LIGHT LTD
STAGE SOUND SERVICES
"Music Theatre Review
Reviewer: Oliver Beatson
With the very physical motion of descent into the St James’ intimate and sheer curved arena, you may get the feeling you’re leaving your disbelief at sea level. The curved, violin-esque wooden set, with an inset piano and band at the rear, makes the notion of being on set at the show’s televised take on Young Musician of the Year a very credible one. The expectations are high for Prodigy, the first of the National Youth Music Theatre’s three-piece season: a piece of new writing from duo Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary (of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole fame, among a trove of collaborations). It delivers with a trill.
As is not unnatural for a show dealing with classical musicians (and pushy parents), there’s a lot of humour; and much of it is class-based, though mostly in careful taste – unless you’re from Made in Chelsea. Plenty of cultural references file obediently into one-liners which, thanks to Brunger’s knowing and measured wit, consistently hit the mark, making the script probably the strongest part of the evening. The parody (though more laid-bare, than caricature) of reality television – particularly the competitive and musical kinds – is unrelenting, sharp and well-deserved, with a frank look at modern television’s descent into little more than a visual tabloid. But there’s plenty of lighter jabs served at the popular classical music scene, which can itself be a trifle ridiculous in its coy pomposity.
Though you find it flowing through the script’s veins, the spirit of classical does little but run over the music’s skin, mostly in the form of orchestration and embellishment (though perhaps this is apropos for a musical specifically designed around the popularisation of classical music). Underneath, the piece is largely carried along by musical-theatre-cum-pop pieces – which nonetheless display some great work from the songwriting duo. Particular credit for this to Cleary who is billed as the show’s composer, as well as joint-lyricist with Brunger. Pace-wise I think the pair has done a great job in creating a layered piece that serves the story and the themes it awakens, with a lot of fun numbers breaking up the drama, as well as more integrated group segments carrying it along.
NYMT’s (by nature) youthful and enthusiastic cast brings the show to life. The five finalists in the show each performs their part with conviction and charm – particular praise for flautist Caroline Whittingham as Kate, and pianist Sephora Parish as Jessie, with brilliant playing but also wonderful voices.
Harry Al-Adwani as underdog love interest Luke and Jamie Dodd as antagonistic toff Rupert both give solid performances with particularly strong acting and musical skills on display, and Amelia Thompson as Claire delights with her frantic musical moments and endearing mix of panic and sunniness. Further comedic relief (alongside a little Machiavellian scheming) is brought by loveably trope-infested presenters (Callum Howells and Francesca McKean) and fame-hungry producer (Laura Barnard), as well as various family members; though they are just as able to inform the more poignant moments. The cast really is the cream of the nation’s young theatrical talent and the fact that they’re staging an actor-musician show is a greater achievement still.
The piece does a wonderful job evoking those memories and communicating those feelings, of the nerves, excitement and the pay-off of being a young person involved in a musical performance. Director Kate Golledge brings the complex plot together with finesse, and with choreographer Darragh O’Leary they utilise St James’ space; no mean feat with a 27-strong young cast with a decade’s spread of ages to command. The show really is a hearty, enjoyable affair for so many reasons.
Jonathan Baz Reviews
Reviewer: Jonathan Baz
The National Youth Music Theatre's production of Prodigy at London's St James Theatre offers much to celebrate in Britain's musical theatre talent, both in composition and performing. With lyrics, book and some gorgeous music all from the emerging wunderkinder that are Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, the show is themed around an X-Factor type reality TV show – themed around the search for a child prodigy musician.
The ensuing combination of pushy parents, gifted kids and the celebrity worship of TV has already proved fertile ground for musicals - there are hints of I Can't Sing!, Matilda and even an occasional whiff of Hairspray in the evening’s entertainment - but where NYMT continue to triumph is in assembling a troupe of talented young performers, all under 23, and then exposing them to the creative genius of acknowledged industry experts.
The satire kicks off mercilessly with Callum Howells’ and Francesca McKean's sizzling take on the superficial TV hosts that typically give these shows a pulse. Ridiculing (but not mimicking) the likes of ITV's Dermot O'Leary et al, these two gifted performers, under Kate Golledge's perceptive direction are spot on.
There are too many characters to name and credit in this review - all were excellent, but some are given moments of creative genius from Brunger and Cleary that linger on long after the youthful band's exit music, under the intuitive musical direction of Candida Caldicot, fades away.
Talent show finalists Kate and Luke (Caroline Whittingham and Harry Al-Adwani) provide the unlikely love story of the plot, in a heart-warming tale that sees romance blossom from adversity. Much respect is earned by the bulk of the cast who at times take on some challenging actor-muso responsibilities, with one of the show's most remarkable melodies coming from Al-Adwani's solo on an all too rarely heard vibraphone, providing an almost ethereal treat. Rupert, the villainous contestant of the piece, is played by Jamie Dodd who turns in a very convincing cad.
Jake and Pippa’s collection of parents straddle Britain’s social strata and are cleverly fleshed out. Again, amongst excellence all round, it is Emma Ernest’s Eileen (Kate’s parent) that is gifted the juiciest of roles, the actress punching well above her 19 years in a monstrous take on motherhood that almost suggests a 21st century Momma Rose!
The plot brims with perceptive wit and in Laura Barnard’s alcoholic TV producer Melissa Marconi, another cracking stereotype of the glib media world is brilliantly nailed.
Credit to this show’s creatives – they’ve even managed to throw in a jazz hands showstopper too. Luke Rozanski and Hannah Irvine (14 and 12 respectively and both great violinists) bring the house down with their hilarious younger siblings’ plea, We’ve Got Talent Too. And a worthy mention for Prodigy’s other “Finalists” Amelia Thompson (clarinet) and Sephora Parish (piano), both of whom put in accomplished performances.
Diego Pitarch has designed an ingenious set that suggests a conservatoire, yet also offers an abstract flair that lends itself across the scenes. When it comes to the TV contest however, James Whiteside’s lighting design, all swooping spotlights across a smoky stage creates the location perfectly - with Darragh O'Leary's choreography remaining a delight throughout, particularly in the impressive ensemble numbers
Bravo to tireless producer Jeremy Walker, for it is largely down to his endeavours that NYMT continues to nurture talent across musical theatre, developing not just performers, but writers and creatives too. Prodigy only runs until tomorrow and if you can get your hands on a ticket you won’t be disappointed.
Reviewer: Oliver Dowdeswell
The story follows five young children as they are pitted against each other on live television to become Britain’s next promising classical musician. With whiffs of the X Factor, we’ve got sob stories and scandals galore – with Brunger’s dialogue peppered with some cracking one-liners. The biggest draw to the entire production is that 17 members of the 27-strong cast play an instrument during the show – and not just for a few seconds, but rather to provide a loud and proud full orchestration. It’s quite an impressive feat, and something that must have taken a whole heap of preparation to get spot on – but it’s worth it. Showing off the multitalented performers is exactly what NYMT are all about, and in Prodigy each one of them shines brightly, whether it be in their dancing, singing, trumpet-playing or characterisation.
Callum Howells and Francesca McKean make the most of their hilarious scenes as stereotypical TV presenters Dan Davis and Jenny Jones, providing some witty respite amongst the chaos, while Laura Barnard brings a wonderfully entertaining neurotic feel to her TV producer Melissa. All five of the young finalists shine, with Caroline Whittingham as the ‘favourite to beat’ Kate shining the brightest. Meanwhile Emma Ernest as Kate’s pushy mum Eileen gives a standout performance both vocally and physically that’s way beyond her 18 years.
It’s actually easy to forget that this is a young cast – so grown up, believable and intelligent are their performances that you’d think they’d been doing this professionally for years. It’s impossible to believe that it’s two solid weeks from day one of rehearsals to closing night – how a show this ambitious could be pulled off is astounding, and it’s a credit to director Kate Golledge, choreographer Darragh O’Leary and musical director Candida Caldicot.
Uniformly confident and clearly having an absolute blast, the cast of Prodigy prove themselves as the talent of the future – now if that’s not art imitating life then we don’t know what is. With some seriously catching tunes and a genuinely hilarious and heart-warming story, the real winner of this competition is NYMT, for having such a great production under its banner.