Review: Bakewell Youth Theatre’s 35th anniversary concert

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If proof was needed of the important role youth theatre groups play in shaping the stars of the future, a better example would have been hard to find than at a 35th anniversary concert in Bakewell.

Professional performers came from the West End and from theatrical organisations in Derbyshire, united by their gratitude, admiration and love for Bakewell Youth Theatre and its founder Sue Stones.

Tom Pearce, who has racked up musical credits nationally and internationally after cutting his teeth in the group, said: “I am so proud to be part of this ongoing, amazing thing that is Bakewell Youth Theatre.

“When I was in Bakewell Youth Theatre we pleaded with Sue to do Les Miserables but we couldn’t because the licence wasn’t available.....I had to go to London to do it!”

Tom got his wish when he staged a potted version of the world’s favourite musical at the Medway Centre last night (Friday, December 20). He gave a heart-rending performance of Bring Him Home in a first-class performance by youth theatre graduates including Mark Roberts who amused with his rendition of Master of the House and Ethan Hockley-Webster who gave an impressive rendition of Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.

The selection from Les Mis was the icing on a very large cake which past and present members of the youth theatre had put together in just two days, directed by Sue Stones with musical direction from Joe Griffiths and Matt Vale.

Owen Pullar dashed back to town for the first of two concerts after finishing his last performance of A Christmas Carol at St James Theatre in London’s West End on Friday. Master of ceremonies Tom Pearce quipped: “He still has fake snow in his hair!” Owen’s performance of Suddenly Seymour, in which he was accompanied by Alice Vale, was one of the highlights of the night, beautifully sung, tender and heart-warming.

Equally amtospheric was Louise Manifold’s rendition of Circle Of Life from The Lion King in which she was accompanied by backing singers who formed a semi-circle behind her. During the course of the song, the chorus encircled her like a lion would its prey.

Other high spots included Judd Hall and Emma Finney’s rendition of My Child from Blood Brothers, a show that they had performed in for the youth theatre in 1992; Andrea Turner and Phil Coggins’ duet of Sue Me from Guys and Dolls in which they had taken the leads in 1994 and excerpts from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat where the performers really played up the comedy angle.

Thirteen current members of the group brought youthful enthusiasm and energy to the concert in performances of Kids’ Game from Blood Brothers and Revolting Children from Matilda which showed their emerging talent. Both were brilliantly choreographed by youth theatre graduate Beth Carrie.

Youth theatre members may have come and gone, their hopes and dreams riding on the crest of a wave or dashed on the rocks, but their bond with Bakewell Youth Theatre will remain an unshakeable force in their lives.

* Another performance of the concert takes place at 4pm on Saturday, December 21, in the Medway Centre

GAY BOLTON