All Shook Up! – November 2016
Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre gave a professional performance with a humorous take on a Shakespearean classic…with a rock ‘n’roll twist.
All Shook Up is set in middle America in the 1950s and is a modern day telling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
The young cast, led by Richard Vickers, who played out-of-towner Chad and Rosie Pearce as female mechanic Natalie, took the Daneside Theatre crowd through a number of Elvis Presley’s most well known songs, kicking the evening off with Jailhouse Rock.
As well as a number of Elvis’s timeless classics, the story was filled with punchy one-liners and of course, a number of jokes related to those infamous blue suede shoes.
With vocals well beyond their years the Audience’s reception to the final night performance was phenomenal. They all took to their feel to jive to one final Elvis medley.
Both leading parts put in excellent performances, as did Ben Birkett, who played Natalie’s geeky and often overlooked best friend Dennis.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all if the principal cast found themselves treading the boards of the West End in years to come.
A number of powerful performances and a particularly poignant heartbreaker left some people in the audience holding back the tears.
All Shook Up was a fantastic performance and anyone who fancies a professional standard production in town should definitely check out Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre’s future shows.
Congleton Chronicle, 14th November 2016
For one week only at the Daneside Theatre…….Elvis Lives!!!
All Shook Up is a new musical comedy which steals a tiny bit of plot from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while featuring songs made famous by Elvis Presley. The action takes place in a 24 hour period during the summer of 1950, somewhere in middle America, where one girl’s dream and a surprise visit from a mysterious leather-jacketed, guitar-playing stranger help a small run-down town discover the magic of romance and the power of rock & roll.
Among the songs featured in the score are classics like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Jailhouse Rock” and of course the title tune.
Meanwhile, it certainly has some Shakespearean elements, with a girl disguised as a boy, forbidden love across the divide and everyone falling in love with the wrong person.
Rosie Pearce gives a convincing performance as Natalie, the tomboy hopelessly in love with bad boy Chad. Her secret longing for him is effectively communicated in her acting, movement, speech and singing. Another strong performance is that of Ben Birkett as geeky Dennis. He gives a great comedy performance, but is also capable of pathos and his singing is at times very moving.
Lizzie Lomas has a lovely singing voice of great purity and clarity and her duet with Marcus Wesley (“It’s Now or Never”) is one of the highlights, their voices blending beautifully. This point in the action also contains a most ingenious staging effect, as the cast create a bus before our eyes. Hannah Bleakley as Miss Sandra, the prim museum director, gives a game performance. Tottering elegantly on high heels, she isn’t afraid to extract all the humour out of her ever-so-slightly ridiculous character.
Richard Vickers gives a solid performance and looks great as the mysterious stranger Chad, but a bit more swagger and confidence would have added some welcome charisma to the character. There is excellent support from the rest of the company, who quickly change costume to play multiple parts: townsfolk by day and night, jailbirds, angels and devils. When everyone is singing the sound is truly impressive.
Another of the highlights is the first half finale, “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You”, sung beautifully by the six leads before being joined by the entire company: a moment to send shivers down the spine.
Louise Colohan directs the cast with flair, achieving an impressive level of pace and energy. Musical director Sarah Francis gets the best out of the company, and five talented musicians play live for the show.
Diana Lane, The Stoke Sentinel, 18th November 2016
Wanted! Robin Hood – May 2016
Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre provided something for everyone in Wanted! Robin Hood, a classic adventure tale with humour and a modern twist. It ran from Thursday to Saturday at the Daneside Theatre, Park Road, Congleton.
In this version of the story it was bookish yet feisty Marian, played by Lizzie Lomas, who seamlessly stood in for the role at the last minute, that saved the day and brought the body count up to respectable levels.
At the end the stage was littered with the carcasses of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men – all her handiwork. For fans of the traditional story there was also lots to cheer.
Walter Fitzwarren, the Sheriff played by James Gittins, was dastardly as ever. Guy of Gisbourne, played by Oliver Rhodes, was just as sinister and Friar Tuck, played by Joe Buxton, was as joyfully gluttonous as always.
Richard Vickers was well cast as Robin Hood, swashbuckling in the mold of the Kevin Costner and errol Flynn films but performed with a touch of playful mischief.
special mention should be given to Ben Birkett, who played the snooty yet conniving Sir Eustace, protege of Fitzwarren, brilliantly. He spent the evening elongating his vowels and turning his nose up at the rest of the cast.
He came “good” at the and – though not without braining Robin with a French baguette in in Scene 12 The Archery Contest first. Not sure, from the look on Robin’s face, it was part of the script. It certainly had the audience gasping. Ben played it for all it was worth. If unscripted it was well improvised and credit has to go to Robin who struggled on manfully albeit, no doubt, with minor concussion.
Hannah Bleackley had the audience in fits playing Much the miller’s son and Rosie Beaumont did a great job bringing the play alive as Acorn, one of the Merry men and a sort of silent narrator.
The whole cast provided a great night’s entertainment and was greatly aided by a fabulously designed set.
Hopefully many of them will be back for their next production All Shook Up.
Congleton Chronicle, 19th May 2016
The Little Mermaid – November 2015
The Little Mermaid is a stage musical based on the animated 1989 Disney film of the same name. Ariel is a rebellious young mermaid fascinated with life on land. On one of her visits to the surface, which are forbidden by her father, King Triton, she falls for a human Prince. Determined to be with her new love, Ariel makes a dangerous deal with the sea witch Ursula to become human for three days, however, plans go awry for the star-crossed lovers and the King must make the ultimate sacrifice for his daughter.
From the very opening of this musical it was great to see the work which had gone into the scenery. The boat carrying the sailor and Prince Eric was impressive and in the underwater scene became a wreck adorned with skeletons and the most creative of coral adornments which was visually stunning, even close up. Throughout there were excellent touches such as umbrella jelly fish, a mixture of projection and live action, heelies to give freedom of movement and fantastic costumes, all of which added to an undersea world which was truly believable. This combined with use of the whole theatre not just the stage and creative ideas such as having the Princesses on land as caricatures of the Disney Princesses show that Director Louise Colohan has a lot to offer, well done.
Prince Eric (James Gittins) looked the part and was ably supported by Grimsby (Joe Buxton) with the usual air of overstated importance the role calls for. King Triton (Marcus Wesley) acted well getting across both his frustration and caring for Ariel
Sebastian (Richard Vickers) brought some great humour to the show along with Chef Louis (Rosie Pearce) and both performed well. Hayley Holford looked small as Flounder in comparison to Sebastian and Ariel but this really worked and she was a joy to watch with great delivery of her lines.
Having to have six Mersisters can show weaknesses in depth of vocal quality for a society but this was not the case as they all had great voices, excellent harmony and slick heely work in their choreographed numbers. Alison Jones had obviously worked hard to deliver all the great dances. The music was of a very high standard with a live band keeping the songs moving, both Ian Pickford and his assistant Becky Morley should be congratulated.
Ursula’s (Ella Beaumont) villainous and powerful character came through well and her dress looked incredible adding to her character as the integral lights gave an eerie feeling as she emerged from her cave. Ariel (Lizzie Lomas) looked and moved like a Disney Princess, her emotions came through well and had a lovely uncertain air with all things human which made us all giggle. Both Ursula and Ariel had quality voices and their numbers ‘Poor unfortunate Souls’ and ‘Part of Your World’ were excellent moments in the show. Another stand out performance was that of Ben Birkett as Scuttle and although a small role his acting and singing combined with comedy timing really entertained the audience.
Along with the audience we all had an excellent afternoon, I was very impressed with the standard and professionalism of these young actors and singers and can’t wait for their next production.
NODA, 21st November 2015
When Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre staged Disney’s’ The Little Mermaid Jr at Daneside theatre last week, judging by the audience reaction, the musical was anything but shallow.
There were waves of laughter from the children who were obviously fans of the animated film they’ve no doubt watched on TV dozens of times.
Adapted from the 2008 Broadway Production, the show featured hit songs Part of your World, She’s in Love and the Oscar-winning Under the Sea.
It followed the famous Disney movie derived from the Hands Christian Andersen tale of the beautiful young mermaid Ariel who falls in love with the human Prince Eric.
The role of Ariel was taken by Lizzie Lomas who gave an outstanding performance equally matched by her on-stage rival and all-time wicked sea witch Ursula, played by Ella Beaumont.
The story begins when Ariel becomes fascinated with the human world and longs to live there but her farther Kin Triton is very angry when he hears she has been to the surface.
In desperation Ariel turns to the sea witch, who gives Ariel legs in exchange for her voice, promising she will remain human as long as the prince kisses her by sunset on the third day.
However, Ursula had treachery and deceit on her mind, which left some dangerous but comical adventures for Ariel and her friends, Flounder the fish, Sebastian the crab and Scuttle the seagull.
All the supporting sea creatures, both frolicsome and dastardly were on board, and with their impressive costumes and comical impersonations they left the audience wanting more.
Sebastian (Richard Vickers) and Scuttle (Ben Birkett) were hilarious, giving convincing performances as Ariel’s’ sidekicks.
Overall the play delivered on all of its promises. It was enchanting, funny and an utter joy for all Little Mermaid fans.
Congleton Chronicle, 27th November 2015
Asking an old cynic such as myself to review The Little Mermaid is a bit like inviting Mr Scrooge to Christmas dinner, or introducing your unmarried daughter to Bluebeard. As I was entirely unfamiliar with the show, I asked my colleague Cath about TLM and she treated me to a rendition of Under the Sea and offered me a small child to take with me. In the event I needn’t have worried, as a good time was had by all.
The story is loosely based on a Hans Christian Anderson story, and features the time-honoured themes of forbidden love across the divide and good versus evil, as handsome, adventurous prince with legs falls for feisty girl with fins; while a wicked witch does her dastardly best to put a spanner in the works.
Lizzie Lomas as Ariel excels, with beauty, character, stage presence and a singing voice of great purity and clarity. Other stand-out performances include Ella Beaumont, who plays wicked sea witch Ursula with more than a hint of Glenn Close at her nastiest. Her singing is fabulously evil. There is a confident performance by Richard Vickers as Sebastian the crab, and one of the highlights of the show is his leadership of the company in a rousing version of the Oscar-winning calypso number Under the Sea.
Hayley Holford as Flounder acts well and has a particularly clear speaking voice. Joe Pearce and Hannah Bleakley as Flotsam and Jetsam are suitably evil servants to Ursula. Their sinuous movements are very effective. There is excellent support from all the other leads and from the whole company, who quickly change costume to play multiple parts: merfolk, princesses, sea gulls, sailors and chefs.
As always in Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre, the youngsters get an amazing level of support from a huge number of people. Louise Colohan directs the cast with flair, achieving an impressive level of pace and energy. Musical director Ian Pickford gets the best out of the company, and three talented musicians play live for the show. The choreography (by Alison Jones) is varied and well executed. The costumes (made by a whole team of helpers) are stunning. The set and projection effects are imaginative and very effective, and the sound and lighting are just right and perfectly executed.
So don’t be a misery. Get out of your arm-chair, leave your fireside and the telly and get along to the Daneside Theatre for this excellent show.
Diana Lane, The Stoke Sentinel, 20th November 2015
Rats’ Tales – May 2015
A wonderful evening’s entertainment – Rats’ Tales, a series of seven plays wonderfully presented and thought provoking.
The cast in all seven plays gave good strong performances albeit that the content in some was a little difficult for them to understand, but their naivety helped to bring it across to the audience. The set was handmade and positioned exactly right, almost giving a 3D effect. It’s always encouraging to see so much enthusiasm in youth groups.
Outstanding performances were given by Pied Piper, Stranger, Horse, Father, (Marcus Wesley) and Woodcutter, Squire (Joe Pearce) both gave extremely good characterisations in their various roles and an individual very well done to you both.
The costumes especially the rats were well thought out and looked very good. Overall very well presented – a lot for the cast undertake but done extremely well.
Peter Johnson, NODA, 16th May 2015
Alice – November 2014
I was really pleased to be invited to Congleton Youth Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland as I have never seen this version before and it proved to be a really enjoyable afternoon of entertainment . On the whole the show follows the traditional story, it has a lovely musical score and has a wide variety of character roles for the performers to really enjoy. Ella Beaumont was an excellent Alice , a very confident actress with a beautiful singing voice and she related so well to all the other characters – a super performance. Rosie and Joe Pearce made a very lively and entertaining Tweedledum and Tweedledee, with Lauren Frost as a enigmatic Cheshire Cat with a fabulous smile and James Gittins as the energetic, but always late White Rabbit.
Louise Condliffe and Tommy Chatten were a suitably regal , but totally mad Queen and King of Hearts, Daisy Mitchell and Amy Fitzgerald were entertaining as the Duchess and the Cook creating mayhem in the kitchen scene. Richard Vickers (Mad Hatter ), Lizzie Lomas (March Hare ) and Mason Bell (Dormouse) opened act 2 with an enjoyable “Time for tea”, followed by the Queen’s croquet game where I really liked the “human” croquet balls – a very clever idea.
Xander Jacques as the Caterpillar, and Marcus Wesley as the Mock Turtle performed their musical numbers well, Kate Holland working well as the Griffin. There were also a wide range of other roles in this production including playing cards, computers, footmen, butterflies, birds and other creatures, all of which were played with enthusiasm by the young performers.
The set and props were kept simple but effective with a good use of projections and complementary lighting, the costumes were imaginative and colourful and the musical numbers were led by an excellent orchestra with choreography that was suitable for the performers. This production was well directed by Laura Beech the performers were confident and enthusiastic, and along with an appreciative audience I really enjoyed the show – thank you for inviting me.
NODA, 28th November 2014
Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre presented an entertaining production of this school version of Alice, which combines Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass last week. The musical starts with Alice sleeping by the willows before the White Rabbit appears. She follows him and meets The Computers, who decide whether people are rejects or not. She follows the rabbit who has left his gloves behind, and eventually meets the Red Queen.
On the way she runs through scenes from Wonderland (pool of tears, the caterpillar, Cheshire cat, the duchess, the pig and the pepper, the tea party and croquet) as well as meeting Tweedledum and Tweedledee from Looking Glass. The story is portrayed in word and song.
Of particular note was the performance of Ella Beaumont as Alice, as she was on stage for the whole play and performed confidently throughout; she’s well known for her good singing voice, which shone on more than one occasion. Of the other characters, Rosie Pearce (Tweedledum, her real-life brother Joe being her twin on stage) stood out as having a real stage presence. The role was created to have some physicality, with the daft twins introducing slapstick to the musical, but she could shine in a more adult role, with her confident body language and charisma. Similarly good was Louise Condliffe (the Red Queen) whose appeal on stage was aided by her towering wig.
Ella aside, two other singers impressed, Marcus Wesley as the Mock Turtle, who should (if he doesn’t already) look at folk-singing, as his voice would suit that genre, and Daisy Mitchell as the Duchess, who had a powerful, soulful singing voice. She was clearly reining in what is probably a powerful sound.
But it was as much an ensemble piece as one for individual performances, and the cast as a whole worked together well to make this an enjoyable performance, right down to the dormouse (Mason Bell) head-butting the table to comic effect.
The set builders also deserve praise. The set was cleanly designed and simple but worked effectively to convey the bizarre scenarios in which Alice finds herself. An enjoyable production; the three-year-old we took enjoyed it, too, so much that he wants to go to Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre’s next production.
Congleton Chronicle, 27th November 2014
Grimm Tales – May 2014
Successfully blending the dark, the funny and the colourful, Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre’s Grimm Tales provided an unmissable voyage into the world of fairy tales.
The group’s performance of Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of the Brothers’ Grimm was billed as an atmospheric take on five classic tales, combining movement, mime and the spoken word, and it successfully delivered a treat for onlookers young and old as the cast explored the darkest depths of childhood fears.
The tone was set right from the start as the lights went out, with solitary music box notes creating an immediate aura of uneasiness, which rippled through the audience as an ancient door creaked open.
The eerie music continued to echo around Daneside Theatre as two children explored the beautifully-designed set, where they discovered a dusty book of fairy tales and embarked on a journey of their imagination through the tales of Hansel and Gretel, The Golden Goose, Ashputtel, Iron Hans and The Lady and the Lion.
The scene would prove to be an effective transition between each of the five stories, with the two children remaining at the corner of the stage turning the pages as the rest of the cast acted out a physical manifestation of what they were imagining.
The five tales showcased a skilfully interwoven mix of darkness, pitch black and slap stick comedy, and the expected happy endings.
Highlights included a downright hilarious scene in The Golden Goose where seven unsuspecting people became mysteriously stuck to Dummling’s Goose and stumbled into, over and under each other as they were pulled around the stage, much to the audience’s amusement.
Hansel and Gretel proved to be the darkest of the lot as a family was torn apart by desperate hunger and the children were left abandoned in a forbidding forest, skilfully created by the chorus.
The performance was rounded off by The Lady and the Lion, which saw a princess finally reunited with her love after seven years of searching – a fitting finale.
Under the direction of Jennifer Matthews and Dee Melia, the enthusiastic and talented youngsters all acted out their parts with gustoa and the excellent sound and lighting continued to provide a magical atmosphere throughout, delivering a true fairytale experience for the audience.
Congleton Chronicle, 29th May 2014
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, November 2013
In the lead role, young Jack Posnett as Jospeh acted and sang his way into the heart of the character with a fine portrayal. He kept the show together with lots of energy and enthusiasm bringing all the necessary skills to the stage and displaying an obvious love for performing.
The Narrator, Helena Lomas, told the story with composure and a great singing voice and lovey diction and intonation.
The Brothers all stepped up to the mark with heaps of energy executing the musical numbers well and with plenty of confidence. I especially liked Joe Buxton’s portrayal of Potiphar, whom the audience clearly loved and also that of the Pharaoh played by Adam Davies.
The cameo roles were all well cast with some obvious talent shining through and it was encouraging to see a few new faces amongst the cast who show promise to be CAYT stars of the future.
The basic set worked well and was mixed with a fab lighting plot which created an effect which really enhanced the production. The costumes all worked well and had “feel good” running right through the production. I especially loved the Technicolor Coat, which is a dream for any leading man to wear!
The production team should be congratulated for pulling together a lovely production and giving everyone a chance to really shine at a sell out production. Something that is seldom seen these days. I really enjoyed the ‘ Megamix’ which was probably as long as the production itself however gave everyone the opportunity to sing aloud and join in the infectious fun that everyone was having. Congratulations Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre and thanks for letting me experience some of your wonderful productions over the last few years. I wish you all the best for the future.
Michael Jones-McCaw, NODA
Treasure Island, May 2013
Congleton (Award Winning) Youth Theatre hopped aboard and set sail for yet another jaw dropping production, which was attacked with enthusiasm and a professional polish that was way beyond their years. It’s hard to believe that such young performers can tackle such a wordy production with wonderful diction, projection and a clear understanding of delivery.
The production, expertly directed by Dee Melia and Jennifer Matthews was full of energy throughout and with lovely colourful and authentic costumes and props, it made for quite a spectacle, not forgetting the parrot puppet which almost stole the show!
The whole cast tackled the script and injected their own characters and traits which developed and contrasted nicely as the show went on. It was lovely to see such young performers taking on smaller cameo roles and must be congratulated for their confidence and I look forward to seeing how much they’ve come on next year.
Performances of note came from Matthew Gittings as the betrayed Jim Hawkins and the infamous Long John Silver was played by Richard Vickers. Both characters gave outstanding performances are were such wonderful role models for the rest of the cast and the young members of the audience. Rosie Pearce as Meg Trueblood portrayed a strong and confident presence and Lauren Frost as Lady Trelawney was also amongst the bright lights.
The set was really fantastic and complemented even further by a great lighting plot and projections.
It was clear that this project was the result of many months of happy hard work – congratulations to all involved.
Michael Jones-McCaw, NODA
It was an energetic and lively night for the Daneside sea dogs when Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre showcased the classic Treasure Island on Thursday.
The Daneside Theatre let the young actors and actresses hop aboard to give Congletonians a night to remember with sword fights, drunken renditions fo the well-known pirate song Drunk Sailor and stunning costumes.
The use of language was spectacular for such a young cast with excellent, believable pirate accents.
Directed by Jennifer Matthews and Dee Melia, the first scene set the tone and told the story preparing the audience for the second part, which was full of excitement and action.
Young Jim Hawkins, played by Matthew Gittins, sets his signs on the high seas looking for buried treasure with what he thinks is a hard working and loyal crew, only to find out he was sailing with a bunch of scallywag pirates out to kill him and the captain to take the treasure for themselves.
Tricked by Long John Silver, played by Richard Vickers, Jim must find a way to outwit the scoundrel. The opportunity came about when the pirates got up to their usual tricks of enjoying a bottle of rum. After a close battle of the swords the good guys won the day and took home the gold, ending Treasure Island on a jolly note.
Congleton Chronicle, 23rd May 2013
Strange Ways, November 2012
Strange Ways; a brand new musical with a wonderfully imaginative concept by Simon Matthews and Andrew Jones. CAYT were always the first and best choice for this production which was packed with humour, energy, tons of twists and turns along with a catchy soundtrack which was completely original by Richard Tadman and David Frances. Both the script and the music and lyrics were expertly put together to create something quite unique and indeed special – something I am sure the production team and the company are very proud of. And rightly so.
Leading man Keiron Ansell as Norman Strange literally threw himself into the soul of his character portraying his upside down world perfectly. This must have been a complex character to grasp, especially for someone so young, but Keiron did a sterling job.
Chelsea Oliver as Sarah was quite delightful, she embraced her character well giving a confident portrayal with lovely vocals.
Andrew Cruze narrated us through the story with tongue in cheek delivery which had me chuckling away. Whilst Jack Posnett had me ‘belly laughing’ with his portrayal of King Arthur. “Any other Way” was a real show-stealer. Fantastic job Jack!
The supporting cast and company all did an amazing job and all contributed to making the show move at a good pace with impressively slick, choreographed movement and scene changes which all added to a very smooth run.
Every musical number was executed with explosions of energy where each member would sing their hearts out.
Strange Ways is a brilliantly witty and clever script which I would encourage any youth or adult group to get hold of to perform.
Michael Jones McCaw, NODA
The Tempest, May 2012
If someone ever said to me that a cast of youth performers, some as young as 11, could pull off a decent performance of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, I’d have thought it to be a very ambitious and brave move for all concerned. This production highlighted the sheer determination and indeed talent CAYT has to offer as well as putting me and my sceptical thoughts well and truly into place.
Strange Ways 2010
NORMAN Strange leads a pretty dull life. He can’t pluck up the courage to tell Sarah he loves her – but one day he runs into the road to pick up her dropped purse – and the end of his life is the start of the story. Norman is on trial – should he go to heaven or to hell? The sins of his ancestors hold the answer.Simon Matthews and Andrew Jones wrote (and directed) Strange Ways especially for Congleton Amateur Youth Theatre.
Its music ranges from The Carpenters to Queen, from David Bowie to Abba. It bubbles with humour and dreadful puns, and is enhanced by Simon’s skilful use of graphics and projection. There were some nice touches in the direction too – I enjoyed the human furniture, and the non-existent lift was most convincing.There are some excellent voices; Jemma Grayburn, as Lucy Fur, belted out her numbers with gusto, while narrator Robert Lightfoot coped admirably with difficult Bowie songs. Norman, played by Kieran Wesley, and Sarah, Sasha Pattison, delighted the audience with their romantic Carpenters duet.It’s a pity some of the radio mics kept cutting out, and the voices were sometimes not loud enough, but the theatre was pleasingly full, and the audience was ready to enjoy the music, clapping along happily. It’s a show for CAYT to be proud of.
Anne Duffell, The Sentinel