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|Follow the Star|
|Follow the Star
by Wally K Daly
Music by Jim Parker
ReviewThe two most enjoyable theatrical experiences I've had at Hampton Court Theatre in the last year have been their Christmas shows - Cinderella in December and Youth Action Theatre's Follow The Star last week.
Eric Yardley, who runs YAT,has an extraordinary knack of finding shows that are as challenging for the group as they are entertaining for the audience. Just because Follow the Star was fun and frivolous to a fault doesn't mean it was an easy show to stage. I'd imagine a lot of hard graft went into those five performances.
Presumably Wally K Daly (words) and Jim Parker (music) conceived the show for schools, though I can think of quite a few headteachers who might take a dim view of its irreverent slant on the Christmas story.
God is called Olly (Nigel Hadley) because of his owlish paternalism, the angel Gabriel (Annabel Giles) is a girl from oop North, with pigtails and a cheeky smile, and Mary (Emma Hitching) looks as if she's about to embark on a long journey down the King's Road.
None of the characters were any the worse for their modernity, though, and the angel Gaby can come and shine a light on me any day of the week.
Chris Walters, as Chicago, is a kind of transatlantic Buttons, rousing the chrildren present to a frenzy of indignation every time Stephen Bentley looms into view as the child-hating Herod. Mr Bentley, bearded and red-robed, is as impressive as ever, swooping down on the younger members of the audience like some horrible great bird of prey. What joy when the audience was armed with woolly calls to hurl at the predatory beast. Twenty years ago I should have left the theatre a gibbering wreck!
Stephen Bentley is a unique performer and should cherished (but not over-used) by Youth Action Theatre and Teddington Theatre Club.
Nigel Hadley's attractive set incorporated a four-piece band (including a drummer not unlike Animal in The Muppets) led by Peter Roberts, who did a good job with some rather uninspired numbers. Along with Sally Bottomley and Yvonne Rowe, Mr Roberts also worked out some nifty dance numbers, which further enlivened an already colourful evening.
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