A cast of 170 children, an orchestra in excess of 40 players, plus perhaps a dozen adult performers, and 44 musical theatre numbers from 32 shows, all in one gala evening. Impressively, there were young performers who belted out loud enough to project to the rear of the highest tier in the Adelphi Theatre. The youngest performer being, apparently, 11 years old.
In the early years of NYMT, they seemed to enjoy putting on period pieces of theatre, at least judging by the works showcased in this gala. Almost everything was set in the 1800s, and almost always the youngsters would be playing the poor, the downtrodden, those on the lower rungs of society, fighting for survival. It came across to me as a metaphor for NYMT, a fledgling organisation trying to stay afloat, gradually becoming the flourishing powerhouse it now is. In more recent years, NYMT has diversified from the more traditional soaring melodies of musical theatre to incorporate, for example, the wordy but contemporary-styled 13, by the American composer Jason Robert Brown, and even rap, included in Dougal Irvine’s The Other School.
The number of people who owe, at least in part, their careers in the entertainment industry to shows they did with NYMT in their tender years caught me by surprise. Not even directly mentioned during the gala are the likes of Jim Sturgess, Matt Lucas, Jonny Lee Miller and Eddie Redmayne OBE, and theatrical stars Nigel Harman and Oliver Tompsett. Choreographers Drew McOnie (Jekyll and Hyde, In The Heights), Peter Darling (Matilda, Groundhog Day) and Andrew Wright (Singin’ In The Rain, Half A Sixpence) are also NYMT alumni.
The gala itself presented works wholly unfamiliar to those never before exposed to NYMT’s works, alongside mainstays in the musical theatre canon. Certain works are especially commissioned by NYMT, and hearing individual songs without knowing much, if anything, about these productions, meant the deeper significance of some of the lyrics was rather lost on me. Still, the performances continued to engage throughout, delivered with passion, verve and skill, despite a running time stretching beyond three hours.
What many people will have heard of are Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Whistle Down The Wind, and my personal favourite musical of all time, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story. Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods got a commanding performance from Gina Beck, while Gavin Spokes brought the house down, reprising his Nicely-Nicely Johnson from the Chichester transfer of Guys & Dolls in ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’. Also worthy of mention is Dom Tighe’s assured rendering of ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’, from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
The production values, all things considered, are extremely high. An NYMT show would, if they are anything like their 40th birthday gala, be of equivalent standard to a professional West End production. While it is generally easy to make allowances for the fact that these are young performers, it is not necessary to do so with NYMT, such is the level of talent on display. Included in this large gala performance cast are almost certainly some of the stars of the future. Long may the excellent work of NYMT continue.
Review by Chris Omaweng
ENCORE: 40 Years of the NYMT
Strand, London, WC2R 0NS
Sunday 30th October at 7.00pm