WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND
The Rose Theatre, Kingston
In association with the International Youth Arts Festival
Based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell
Adapted by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor
Music and lyrics by Richard Taylor
CATHY BOSTOCK - Jemimah Taylor
NAN BOSTOCK - Phoebe Roberts
CHARLIE BOSTOCK - Zak Baker
JACKIE GREENWOOD - Taran Jones
DAVID EDWARDS - Benjamin Clarke
ELIZABETH - Annabel Parsons
RAYMOND - Jake Abbott
Emily Hart, Emily Palin, Ellie Sharpe
Jason Battersby, Charlie Nicholson, Adrien Rolet
THE MAN - Jonathan Carlton
VICAR - Henry Roadnight
AUNTIE - Alice Schofield
DAD - James Stirling
POLICEMAN - Tom Ramsay
MISS LODGE - Emma Rowbotham
BECKY BANNERMAN - Rebecca Woolley
FARMHAND - Ollie Ward
Beckie Burtenshaw, Ciara Charteris, Helen Cunningham
Amy Hall, Hannah-Kate Kelly, Ella Thomas
David Ballinger, Joshua Birchall, Richard Davies
Dominic Groves, Huon Mackley, Andrew Nance, Toby Stevenson
Alana Grady - flute/alto flute
Freddie Miles - horn
Izzy Jones - violin
Nadine Assam - violin
Heather Boagey - viola
Ellie Fallon - cello
Tristan Butler - percussion
Tom Chester - piano
Director - Jeremy James Taylor, OBE
Musical Director - Benjamin Holder
Choreographer - Kay Shepherd
Designer - Jason Denvir
Lighting Designer - Richard House
Sound Designer - Charlie Simpson
Musical Supervisor - James Rose
Costume Supervisor - Anne-Marie Horton
Assistant Director - Robert Dalton
Assistant Designer - Leah Sams
Sound Operator - Alex Vilkaitis
Stage Manager - Tom Kitney
Deputy Stage Manager - Imogen Louise Firth
Assistant Stage Managers - Oliver Burton, Izzie Newbury,
George Pearce, Rishi Manuel
Simon Woolley (Head Chaperone)
Sara Edwards, Hilary Foster, Robert Dalton
Production Manager - Gary Beestone
Producer - Jeremy Walker for NYMT
Reviewer: David Lindsell
Prince Edward visits Kingston as curtain comes down on 2013 International Youth Arts Festival
Prince Edward chuckled away at this week's performance of Whistle Down the Wind marking the drawing to a close of the International Youth Arts Festival.
The royal and the rest of the audience were captivated by the musical tale of a convict mistaken by a group of northern 1950s children for the second coming of Christ.
There are still more IYAF shows to go over the weekend but the National Youth Music Theatre performance hit every note and joke. Top moments in the show included the puzzled children asking the stranger, who had a hint of the Cumberbatch about him but was starting to betray his un-Christ-like origins: "I didn't know you smoked" "Well....I didn't used to but I do sometimes."
Another moment juxtaposed bored parents watching their bored children in a boring nativity play as songs gave away their feelings.
The eighth in line to the throne, who is a patron of IYAF, took time to meet cast members afterwards on stage on Thursday.
Musical Theatre Review
Reviewer: Jeremy Chapman
If the 80-plus National Youth Music Theatre cast of Whistle Down the Wind felt added pressure from the presence of their president, the Earl of Wessex, in the packed Rose Theatre audience, you would never have guessed it. And there was a bit of showbiz royalty too – Tom Chambers, recent West End star of Top Hat and winner of Strictly Come Dancing, who is a patron of the NYMT and a one-time member, was there. He is just one successful artist to have started out with the company. Others include such luminaries as Jude Law, Sheridan Smith, Matt Lucas, Nigel Harman and Jessie J.
The Earl of Wessex, of course, has a musical theatre background. As a young man he used to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and helped with a number of their hit shows. How he must have enjoyed the terrific efforts of the current group, mostly teenagers, assembled from all over the UK.
Who knows, he and we may have seen future stars to match the achievements of past alumni of an organisation which for more than 35 years has enabled thousands of young actors and singers to develop their potential to a worldwide audience, their embryonic talents having taken them on some occasions to the West End and Broadway.
This was not the Whistle Down the Wind that Lloyd Webber wrote with American songwriter Jim Steinman which produced the famed title song as well as a No. 1 in 18 countries with ‘No Matter What’.
The NYMT version, faithfully adapted by Russell Labey with music and lyrics by Richard Taylor, from Mary Hayley Bell’s novel later made into a 1961 movie starring Mary’s daughter Hayley, was written in 1989 long before Lloyd Webber’s and while it may not have hit songs, it certainly has enough good ones for young voices to get their teeth into.
The two main parts of Cathy and Charlie Bostock unveiled some particularly noteworthy talent. Zak Baker, a diminutive 12-year-old from St Albans, oozed confidence, had the Lancashire accent off to a tee, and sang and acted as if born to it as the cheeky brother who, with his two sisters, stumble on a wounded convict in a barn and think they have met the son of God simply because he yells “Jesus Christ!” when disturbed.
It is a hard idea to swallow but Baker and Jemimah Taylor, a 17-year-old from Bradford with a soaringly memorable voice, who plays big sister Cathy and is charged with the bulk of the singing, make it work in a complex story directed with passion by the NYMT’s founder Jeremy James Taylor who has such a soft spot for Whistle that his lads and lasses have now done it five times since 1993.
It is a pity we did not hear more of 12-year-old Adrien Rolet, as there is nothing quite so pure in music as a perfectly-pitched boy soprano. When he kicks off the show with ‘Behold!’ and later in the ensemble piece ‘Hymn’, Rolet reveals an ethereal beauty of tone that stays in the mind.
Phoebe Roberts is good as younger sister Nan and there is also some strong playing from Henry Roadnight as the irritable Vicar who has no answers for the children’s probing questions about why God allows good things, like a kitten, to die young. Mention must be made too of 13-year-old Annabel Parsons, whose ‘Angels’ duet with the convict-who-might-be-Jesus, played by 18-year-old Jonathan Carlton with perhaps not enough menace, stood out in a well-drilled, word-perfect production which builds up to a dramatic climax as the massed forces of the law appear rushing from the back of the auditorium to deal with the fire and apprehend the convict. But when the smoke has cleared, no convict (or was it Jesus?) is to be seen or found. Musical supervisor James Rose and musical director Benjamin Holder get the last ounce out of the score and their eight gifted musicians while choreographer Kay Shepherd has done a massive job with a massive cast, never letting the pace flag.
The Public Reviews
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
One of the National Youth Music Theatre’s summer productions this year is Whistle Down the Wind based on the book by Mary Hayley Bell, mother of the 1961 film’s child star Hayley Mills. It was not until the early 1990s that it was first turned into a musical for children to perform. Its story line is so strong that it was no surprise that, when it was brought to his attention, the much glamourised Lloyd Webber version appeared a few years later.
Although the original was set in rural Sussex, the story is all the more powerful for being translocated to a remote Lancashire settlement in the 1950s. Jason Denvir has designed a set consisting of a dilapidated barn which can be turned inside out, a central Celtic cross which can be adapted into a pulpit, and a church door. A kitchen cabinet and a breakfast table suffice for the interior of the children’s house. The three main characters, the motherless Cathy, Nan and Charlie discover a runaway convict hiding in the barn and the rest of the play revolves around a case of serious misidentification. Jemimah Taylor who plays Cathy has a heavy responsibility which she carries well, being on stage almost throughout. She is ably supported by Phoebe Roberts as Nan and Zak Baker who plays Charlie. All are considerably older than the parts they play but are convincing as being about twelve, ten and eight. Richard Taylor’s music supports rather than drives the action, keeping it flowing smoothly along, sometimes with a single, quietly held note.
The cast of nearly eighty, of whom forty have identifiable parts, range in age from eleven to twenty one, although the vast majority are in their teens. The voices are strong and musical.
The National Youth Music Theatre, founded in 1976, in conjunction with the recently established charity, Creative Youth have done sterling work in enabling young, sometimes very young people, to experience theatre at a professional level.