‘Recess! The Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 19, 2016

‘Recess! The Musical’ is based on Keith Jackson’s fun book, ‘Laffin’ School’. It was turned into a musical by composer, Gerald Castle and librettist, Michael Vigilant for their own company, Pioneer Drama Service.

This joint production between ‘S2S’ – Studio2Stage – and Phoenix Theatre Inc., can be seen in the Memorial Hall, 435 Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill twice nightly at 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm on Friday and Saturdays until 28th May. There is a 1.00 pm matinee on Saturdays, with 3.00 and 5.00 pm matinees on the Sunday.

‘S2S’ is a Medina acting school, teaching 13 to 17 year olds most of the skills required by the theatre, including acting, singing and dance.

This 55-minute show has NO interval. The one act performance is at the sensible price of $15 – for all ages.

The producers are pleased to donate the profits from the programmes and raffle to the worthy cause of Autism WA.

 

The scene is 1952, in Room 4 of the Little Red Schoolhouse. The set is of a well presented classroom, with all of the fittings (set and costume designer Jodi Innes). Charlotte Johnson’s lighting is bright and colourful, setting the mood for the lively and catchy, pre-recorded backing track that was supervised by the musical director, Krispin Maesalu. The sound was presented and operated on a digital desk, by Scott Anderson; the result was a clearer, crisper presentation than Phoenix’s normal, slightly unreliable, fader desk.

         When the teacher of Grade 4 has a nervous breakdown, poor young Miss Quackenbush (Emily Chivers – excellent) is asked by the weird Principal, Miss Crabapple (Lili Thoms – delightful) if she will take over. Miss Crabapple, who has a grating voice that sounds like a blend of Ethel Merman and Homer Simpson, also has the worst memory. The class are horrendous, and their chances of graduating to the next grade is nil.

      Miss Quackenbush decides to test the class’s knowledge with a series of questions covering most subjects, Dorothy (Annie Tapping) and Bonnie (Ebony Howard) are little brighter than most of the others, but still hopeless. Little Mary (Ella Griffiths), who looks a little ill, recites a poem; this encourages George (Charles Montgomery) to pipe up with a terrible piece of poetry. After every bad joke or poem, Skippy (Brooklyn Thomas) gives a quick blast on her trumpet.

      Just as Beatrice Quackenbush thinks that she is winning, Patsy (Laura Foster) starts licking a huge lollypop, causing aggravation to her friends Peggy (Kesha Girsang) and Lolly (Ruby Thoms). A small riot starts, and mystical Jack (Edan Frazer) topples off his chair. Silence falls as newcomer, Shirley (Rebecca Collin) arrives. In an attempt to befriend her, Fred (Elias Shoosmith) shows her what he has in his lunch box!

       Will any of these monstrous youngsters graduate into Grade 5?

Director, Jodie Innes and her Dance Academy trained daughter Mikaela, have given us a wonderfully bright and up lifting show. As the story behind this show demonstrates so well, this is the kind of success that you get with having loving caring teachers. These youngsters just glowed. They had wonderful stage presence, hitting their marks perfectly, and good synchronisation in the dancing. Their delivery of the corny, but funny, ‘Granddad jokes’ of the script had the audience laughing aloud.

Often with children in a production, there is inevitably one trying to be noticed, or hogging the limelight – here we had perfect harmony. The actors were aged between 13 and 17; some of them I recognised from previous ‘S2S’ productions, but many were first timers in a major production.

The singing was clear, perfectly in tune, delivered with enthusiasm and a broad smile. The choreography covered not only the dancing, but also the general movement about the stage. With more than a dozen youngsters, this could have been pandemonium, but here it was slick and quick. EVERY actor can be proud of their performance.

Thoroughly enjoyable, a great family show for ages 5 – 95.