An amazing completely sold out production, well done to all the cast and crew. New photos added.
"WOW! We have such incredibly talented students, and staff, amongst us! I am so impressed at the performances I was lucky enough to see last night! A standing ovation is an incredible testament to the professionalism and energy poured out onto the stage and behind the scenes. There was so much to admire about the way students from all years , (including primary), and staff had juggled incredibly demanding rehearsals and timeframes alongside their teaching and learning timetables!! We travelled home last night in the dark and the cold thoroughly warmed by how our community had come together and presented a production worthy of any professional stage !!" - Sarah Elliott
"I had the pleasure of seeing Annie this afternoon and just wanted to let you know that it is, of course, brilliant! Do get along to see it if you can - it's a wonderful production and we clearly have some very talented students and staff. We were singing the whole way home!"
- Louise Lang
"It was fantastic!! The singing, the dancing, the acting! But also, the brilliant team-work demonstrated by stage crew, sound team, set design and makeup. The band weren’t bad either! Thanks to Jenny, Mark and all the team." - Clare O'Rourke
"Amazing! If you can get a ticket, do. Amazing performances from students you’d expect and a few who might surprise you. I also think that the band takes it to a new level - Matt Casterton, Rodney Browne & Nick Gates are excellent. Jenny, Mark, Keltie, Emily - well done! Best wishes" - Austen Hindman
"On top of it being a fantastic show, Katie Lane, who has a lead role, was kind and encouraging to all the children performing. She still found time to praise and support everyone." - Victoria Hemsley
Review by Mr Hill
Never having left England as a child (aside from a daytrip to Dieppe on the Newhaven Ferry) it is improbable to claim that I was raised on the imagery and dramatis personae of 1930s America – and New York in particular. But any Brit of my vintage who liked watching films on tv back in the day had a diet heavily consisting of monochrome talking pictures, with Art Deco backdrops. After a brace of quintessentially English PCS shows – Peter Pan and A Christmas Carol – how marvellous it was to feel oneself transported to this alien yet strongly familiar landscape.
We began with an argument at the orphanage in the City. The bare bricks exposed on the walls – latterly highly sought markers of interior design – then denoted poverty and neglect. A large number of orphans were present, foremost amongst them the exuberant team of Sophia, Zulejka, Ruby, Amy, Florence and the inimitably energetic Tegan. Sensibly checking the squabbling to counsel peace is America’s favourite orphan, Annie. One of the group but set apart by gumption and optimism, Katie Lane emerged at once as a captivating lead.
Into this innocent assembly came the fully-fledged notes of Roxy’s outstanding Miss Hannigan. There before us was a performance so complete and convincing it may have stepped straight off the Silver Screen. Has Roxy been dutifully watching old Jean Harlow movies, and spicing up the characterization with a bit of Mae West? The idiom was executed to perfection; and a nod has to be given to Ms Romero’s Costume Department. This was a character James Cagney or Dick Powell could have run into!
As Jay-Z would later echo, it’s a hard knock life. But I rather preferred this arrangement under the guiding hand of Musical Director Mr Casterton and his crack squad of melodious ministers Mr Browne and Mr Gates. It can only be surmised that the exemplary choreography enjoyed by the audience owes a great deal to the skilled guidance of Ms Tomlinson. To see the graceful harmonization of so many really is to witness a quite profound expression of human potential.
Charlotte Wales commanded with authority the troupe of homeless and dispossessed seeking warmth around one of those impressive stage flames. Annie had escaped – in the laundry cart of subtly humorous Busta – to seek her parents. Those who have never been quite sure of the meaning of the word ironic may consider the fact that a number of my Year 9 class recently missed a ‘context’ lesson for our class novel in which Hoovervilles were considered: I had no idea they were off acting in one!
Canine potential was also realized. The old trooper Burt – by now surely Sir Burt – has become the Gielgud of PCS. His performances a little idiosyncratic and inspired, he never fails to deliver on the night. Callum held the bearing of a NYC cop, and Lucy deployed comic presence and timing to make this one of the more memorable scenes. Poor Annie was apprehended and returned to the orphanage.
Enter Lydia. Last year’s Ghost of Christmas Past – ethereal and knowing – brought a very different performance this year. A little bit of Katherine Hepburn? There was brisk efficiency, but there was that indefinable quality of wit. The American cinema of the 1930s was very different in fact to the British. Far ahead of us in its presentation of quite independently-minded and successful female characters, somehow Lydia inhabited this. Katie’s Annie was at her most charming listening to the requirements Lydia set out for an orphan. Katie has, or at least acted, the perfect combination of vulnerable innocence, and sass.
Rooster Hannigan is a bit of a wiseguy. Amoral, incorrigible, and looking for the main chance. Lydia’s nuanced disquiet as he brushed past her – ‘Sorry, blondie’ – was perfect. Bailey was the equal to sibling Roxy’s Miss Hannigan. Bailey has a rare charisma which combines quiet machismo with a totally open countenance. His American accent was pure Damon Runyon. Emily as Lily strutted in like Bette Davis, or Bonnie Parker; her performance burnt on the stage like magnesium.
Set change. And what a set. Mr Robertson and his team evoked a suite from a newly minted Empire State. Those stairs of Mr Bowden and Mr Edmunds! It is
frankly a lost aesthetic: the uncomplicated love and celebration of terrestrial progress. American Art Deco ended on what FDR called ‘a day that will
live in infamy’. But more of FDR later. This gaff belonged to the very rich Oliver Warbucks. This is where the story parts company with its English
analogue – Oliver Twist – and becomes much more modern. Warbucks is a billionaire; a man who recalls a time when ‘a hundred million dollars
was a lot of money’. He flies around the world; he has a hotline to the President, and he acknowledges a peer ‘may be a Democrat but he’s also a human
being’. If ‘America’ has a presiding icon, he is Oliver Warbucks.
James wore a dark suit and his hair was ever-so-slightly mussed. He had things on his mind. You believed he was thinking at a different level. Throughout
there was a tilt towards pre-occupation – a key note to strike in the catharsis of the drama is that of someone who knows more than everyone else:
as a parent may appear to a child. You don’t need this reviewer to tell you that James is a talented actor. But to deliver a performance of deliberate
Less restrained was the vocal: in NYC, beautifully alluded to by some clever stagecraft, James and Lydia and Katie walked abroad. As James demonstrated last year, when he chooses to sing he can leave an audience enraptured. Also in Manhattan appeared another singer. I can only write about the show I saw but Charlie Dey illuminated the PCS stage when she appeared. It is this reviewer’s regret not to have seen both leads in action.
The visual design of the play continued to impress. After the interval we were in Radio City: another somewhat forgotten art-form but huge in its day. Trio Elise, Georgia and Maisy brought glamour as the sophisticated siren Boylan sisters, Ryan brought some hellzapoppin’ madcappery with a ventriloquist’s dog, and Sam delighted the audience as the go-ahead sound man. James distinguished himself from present American leadership by his outrage: “I’ve never endorsed a product!”
Chez Warbucks was notable for its considerable staff in period-accurate attire; indisputably at the fore, Daniel gave another confident and engaging performance as a different sort of Chief of Staff. His ever-so-slightly superior butler oozed comic warmth.
There is a well-established tradition that when casting a character of great importance and power you need a major star. Ameleah Parker was an absolutely incredible FDR. What can she not do? Although her movements were restricted due to the historical fact of FDR’s polio, Ameleah could sing as powerfully and as affectingly as any of the cast. Her comic timing and delivery are flawless. In the show’s most high-concept and political scene– prefiguring Forrest Gump - Katie’s heart-lifting Annie inspires Roosevelt’s despairing cabinet with her message of a hopeful future – Tomorrow – and gives rise to the New Deal. Ciaran executed with aplomb that most difficult of an actor’s jobs – seeming to get better in front of the audience. Sam, Ryan, Christian, Nathan, Callum and a magnetic Shafi lent convincing support as harassed Democrats.
Where Oliver is finally adopted by Mr Brownlow, Annie is of course adopted by Daddy Warbucks. However, due to his limitless wealth he is able to provide for all the other orphans. He will provide them many undreamt of luxuries, including classrooms and teachers. Tegan’s look of horror brought the house down. Of course there were too many in the ensemble to mention, but a word must be found for the elegant dancers – Katie, Betsy, Vanessa, Caitlin, Emma, Lauren and Honey whose commitment to their art impressed the audience throughout. And scale was enhanced by the extraordinary talents of the Primary School children, martialled to perfection by the all too often unsung Ms Blake. Our incredibly hard-working PGCEs Ms Eleto and Ms O’Sullivan brought vigour and energy and a contemporary brio to the production.
At close, a dauntless Katie led the cast in a final rendition of Tomorrow, wearing a smile as big and wide as the continental US. The audience rose to their feet. Mrs Alborough and her team had done it again. The house in full standing ovation had been transported. Tomorrow may be ‘only a day away’ but PCS is producing top-class drama in the here and now.