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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Newbury YoungStars - Smike

25th to 27th July 2002.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Sure fire winner for young stars

NEWBURY YOUNGSTARS: 'SMIKE', at New Greenham Arts, from Thursday, July 25 to Saturday, July 27

It is more than 27 years since Roger Holman and Simon May wrote their pop musical based on Charles Dickens' 'Nicholas Nickleby' and it has been a firm favourite with schools and youth groups ever since. It is a sure fired winner and Newbury YoungStars under the assured direction of Jeanette Maskell produced a veritable hit!

The story starts in a comprehensive school run by a strict headmaster where the daily test is the order of the day. A new young English teacher, with a fresh approach to the teaching of literature, arrives and so the idea of making the book into a musical is suggested embracing all the problems of bullying and teenage angst.

We are soon transformed back in rime to Dotheboys Hall as the enthusiastic and well-drilled cast introduce us to Dickens' characters. Shaun Blake was the cruel tyrant Mr Squeers, always trying to save money as he ruled the boys through beatings, ably supported by his long-suffering wife Victoria Nunn and his spoilt son Wackford (Samuel Trumper).

I must admit it took me a little time to adjust to the authenticity of having girls playing themselves in a boys' school. However, this excellent ensemble acted with confidence that belied their years; the whole company is aged 8 to 16.

They were beautifully costumed and the choreography was both inventive and effective. It is difficult to single out individual members of this strong chorus but Clair Butler just acted her heart out and I would not be surprised to seeing her in a starring role at some time.

Darren Blake playing Nickleby had captured the spirit of his character and the love duet between Fanny, Meryl Day, (a lovely voice) was sung with sincerity. Johnathan Trincas had all the audience clapping along with him as he sang an upbeat version of 'Dotheboys Rock'. P. J. Devaney played the oppressed, bullied Smike with aplomb and had a sweet, angelic voice that brought both a tear and a cheer from the audience.

Musical direction was in the very capable hands of Michael Evans.

The rousing ovation proved that this was an evening enjoyed by all the audience and was well deserved.