I suppose that at any given moment, in any school or college in the country, you will find a young person who is going to be the next Gary Barlow, Katherine Jenkins, Fred Astaire, Dame Maggie Smith, or Simon Callow. Here in the North East we’ve turned out a number of famous names, but (arguably) the figure is probably roughly in line with the law of averages.
What is distinctly un-average then, is how so much undoubted talent materialised all at the same time and under just one roof last night at the Thorp Academy. Is it nature or nurture I wonder? Probably both, because whilst the raw talent is all there, unseen hard work goes into producing shows such as “Ticket to Broadway”, which was staged at the academy over two evenings this week. At the end of the performance Hannah Douglass eloquently acknowledged the efforts and long working hours of her tutors, Hannah Shaller, Sinead Nangle, Alexander Carr, and Andrew Middleton. Everyone is to be congratulated on producing a show that was exciting visually, as well as being Technicolor for the ears.
Having had a taste of Ticket to Broadway when I was allowed to sit in on a rehearsal last month, I was looking forward to yesterday evening immensely and I wasn’t disappointed. The show opened in style, with Just Arrived (Copacabana) followed by a rousing rendition of Come Follow the Band (Barnum) showing off splendidly energetic tap dancing routines. Reading through the programme, I’m not clear on the names of the two consummate young actresses who cleverly performed a dramatic scene from Blood Brothers, then later on they treated us to some great mime in a piece from Les Miserables.
Ticket to Broadway was put together in a way that enabled the young people to delight us with a multitude of different skills, and a staggering range of abilities. They made the dance routines of Consider Yourself (Oliver!) look effortless, showed off superb comic timing in Castle Assault (Spamalot) and mastered French accents, as well as Liverpudlian and cockney ones. The entire cast had fine singing voices. Chloe McBurney treated us to a performance of Mein Herr (Cabaret) which would have put Liza Minnelli out of a job, and also Maddy Clarke who sang The Wizard and I (Wicked). She did it beautifully, as did Jade Thomas with Tell Me It’s Not True (Blood Brothers). One (Chorus Line) was another chance for everyone to come together again on stage, to give us a big number, with marvellous choreography, and lighting effects every bit as artful as the Dodger.
For songs such as Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat (Guys & Dolls) it’s natural for your attention to be drawn to the leads, but looking at the remainder of the young people on stage, they were all very much in their characters and taking care over the details. It wasn’t just the dancing where choreography applied. The movement of the two male leads in a non-musical scene from Beauty and the Beast had been carefully perfected.
Everything was impressive, not just the performers, but the front of house staff too – a whole team pulling together. I enjoyed listening to the marvellous musicians, but I liked watching them as well. It’s particularly nice that in the male dominated field of drumming, the drummer here was a young lady.
Thorp Academy is not just for students, it’s at the heart of our community and the staff and students take their responsibilities seriously. Just being in the audience makes you feel part of something, and proud to be a Rytonian. Beyond a doubt, some of the students will go on to perform professionally, and nearly all of them will be back in twenty years time to see their own children perform. Sadly it won’t be on that stage, because the old hall is to be demolished later this year. I’m sorry to see it go, but it heralds the rise of a new and exciting chapter in the history of Thorp where I was once a pupil in the early seventies. To support them is a privilege.
Joshua Cockbain, Emily Mordue, Holly Palmer, Anna Teasdale, Niamh Henry, Kaitlyn Stewart, Gracie Thoburn, Sunny Howlader, Holly Hodgson, Robert Phillipson, Peter Elder, Thomas Shields, Ewan McEvilly, Harry Bleanch, Anna Heath, Chloe McBurney, Ellie Robson, Robyn Briggs, Shannon Wheatman, Laura Watts, Matthew Lawrence, Erin Kirby, Jessica Thomas, Ellie Korsan, Maddy Clarke, Hannah Douglass, Jessica Saunders, Harriet Bell, Lucie Turton, Niamh Euers, Natalie Bell, Emma Teasdale, Olivia Foley, Jade Thomas, Georgia Brooks, Aiden Atkinson, Kyle Tomlinson, Matthew George, Ryan Whitfield, Harrison Kane, Cameron Withycombe, Nathan Robson, Lauren Storey, Harry Jay, Joel Bell Wilding, Abbie Rutherford, Thom Potts, Imogen Moore.
Sinead Nangle, Andrew Middleton, Amber English, Eve Clarke, Lucy Wilkinson, Molly Wilkinson, Natalie Bell.