A show full of talent, fun, love and madness
This vibrant, Olivier Award-winning show was brought to the Old Rep stage this week by Youth Onstage. The story, written by Tim Firth, premiered in 2002, the musical being rooted in music by Madness, the ska revival band that, at its peak, successfully charted in the late 70s and early 80s.
Directed by Deb Brook, the story centres around Joe Casey (James Woodward) who makes a life-changing decision on his 16th birthday. Camden-born Casey, attempts to impress Sarah (Stacey Taras) by taking her to a building site that overlooks Casey Street, pointing out where his family live.... at no. 25. The police turn up and, in a split second, Joe has to decide whether to make a run for it or stay and face the music. Our House follows those two possible destinies and Joe has to live with the consequences of that fateful night. The story develops with a nice twist and all is watched over by Joe's late father who pulls the two scenarios together.
In the mammoth central role, James Woodward sang and danced up a storm by successfully portraying both of the Joe's with super-fast costume and persona changes that at first could make you think there were two actors in the role. Stacey Taras was fabulous as both versions of his girlfriend Sarah, with a pretty voice and determined yet sensitive disposition. Joe's dad was payed brilliantly by Alex Currie who pieced the story together with songs, asides and an awful lot of door changes. Gibsa Bah as Emmo and Matt Brook as Lewis played Joe's loyal mates with gusto, treating us to well-timed comedy and sensitive moments of true friendship. Kia Gates as Kath, Joe's mother, and Gareth Yates as the devious Reecey were both good and strong in their roles, Kia having a delightful singing voice and engaging stage presence. Sarah's catty friends Billie (Kitty Roberts) and Angie (Lauren Chapman) were most enjoyable to watch in their roles; funny, confident, both with excellent voices and strong dance ability. Adam Brown played Mr Pressman boldly and with just enough verve, and the super-confident support actors and ensemble completed the cast without a weak link in the chain, sometimes undertaking costume changes at high speed to ensure the scenes flowed seamlessly.
Musically directed by David Jones, the band's strong playing ability lead the show commendably. Choreographer, Amy Evans, designed the dance routines appropriately to the era, keeping the cast uplifted and oozing with energy and happiness - whether driving in cars, paddling boats, twirling umbrellas or dancing in the street.
Supported by a good lighting scheme and performed in a fun set consisting of brick walls and rotating doors, the show moved at a good pace without any hitches, excepting a technical issue with crackly radio mics and a signpost to HM Prison that clearly had a mind of its own although this unfortunate prop fall didn't appear to phase the actors present who continued regardless, demonstrating a high level of competency and professionalism.
In all, Youth Onstage made this a very easy show to enjoy. It was funny, lively, charismatic, moving at times and the cast certainly did justice to the music of Madness, with great renditions of Baggy Trousers, Driving In My Car, Tomorrow's Just Another Day, Wings Of A Dove and, of course, Our House. Ending in a standing ovation this young group should be very proud as it was most definitely a show full of talent, fun, love and madness.
Runs to 12th May
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