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Newbury YoungStars - The Vackees

22nd to 24th July 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Harmony brings house down

Newbury YoungStars: The Vackees, at New Greenham Arts, from Thursday, July 22 to Saturday, July 24

It is amazing what can be achieved with an empty stage, very few props and a wonderfully talented cast of young people.

New Greenham Arts Centre became Ealing Broadway/Dorchett last week when Newbury YoungStars performed The Vackees, a musical play based on the book and lyrics of Hiawyn Owens and music by Carl Davies.

To say they performed is an understatement. It was not only the costumes and the makeup, but their interpretation of the characters and the situations they were in - this talented group absorbed their roles so completely.

The story is based around Kip and his group of London friends who are evacuated to Dorchett to lodge in the homes of Buzz and his gang. Both sides are resentful and unwilling to get on. The story unfolds with Kip saying farewell to his mother - brilliantly played by Melissa Collins - and boarding the train to an unknown destination. He and the rest of the gang are boisterous but apprehensive, and they sing Moving On, depicting the train journey that will lead them to Dorchett. I loved the close harmony confident voices and superb interpretation.

Credit must go to Jeanette Maskell, who produced and choreographed the show. She has a wealth of experience and her attention to detail, thorough rehearsal, and casting, paid off for this difficult subject. This was not a chocolate-box musical but a mix of humour, pathos and love. Not easy for young people with little life experience to perform.

On arrival at Dorchett the London gang meet up with their rivals and Kit (superbly played by Tim Craig) is given the opportunity to show the talent he has when he sang When this war is over - simply stunning.

The music that Carl Davies has written is complex, often discordant but the group took it on with ease. The most memorable example of their musical skills was Morning Prayers - a multipart harmony by Ellen (Clare Butler; Grace (Lucy Jollife) Aunt Luce (Lucy Smallridge) Kip and Mrs Crabtree (Hannah Cook). No wonder it brought the house down.

Many of the cast played a number of parts and they were faultless in the transformation. Harley Ilott as Jack the recluse was brilliant and I thought he was not able to sing until he became the German officer - shot down in the surrounding hills. He proved me wrong.

Ellie Bradshaw played schoolgirl Alice and then, in the blink of an eye, vamped Ginger Rogers in Pictures/Glamour.

I would love to have the space to mention all of the cast by name because they were all equally brilliant. Karen Poulson was the only cast member who did not perform and that is because she was the prompt and was never needed.