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Lucy Kate Newland takes her seat at South Mill Arts to review the Bishop's Stortford Academy of Performing Arts production of High School Musical




Lucy Kate Newland takes her seat at South Mill Arts to review the Bishop's Stortford Academy of Performing Arts production of High School Musical...

It is so hard to believe that the last time I was in the audience at a theatre was to see Our House in March 2020, the week before the world changed.

In a time when the future of theatre is so important, it was very poignant that the first full performance back at South Mill Arts starred children aged seven to 12 – the future of theatre.

The opening scene
The opening scene

What a privilege it was to be there. There was something quite emotional about being back in the audience and hearing comments like "this is just what the community needs" and "it has given families something to look forward to".

Before we talk about the talent of these youngsters, we need to firstly talk about the resilience, bravery and courage of everyone at the Bishop's Stortford Academy of Performing Arts. They had to rehearse in bubbles, in separate rehearsal rooms and within one-way systems. The staff had to work with ever-changing risk assessments and guidance, and the children had to cope with the changes in their home and school lives as well as rehearse for a musical.

I am not a mum so I asked some friends what it has been like to be a 'tweenager' during the pandemic. Anxiety has been a common thread as well as being nervous about meeting people once again and wondering whether it is safe.

Jamie Stevens (Ryan), Sophie Budd (Sharpay), Declan Jones (Troy Boulton) - Bop To The Top scene
Jamie Stevens (Ryan), Sophie Budd (Sharpay), Declan Jones (Troy Boulton) - Bop To The Top scene

Some of the children on the stage will have moved up from primary to secondary school without saying goodbye to their friends. Yet they stood up on stage and gave a wonderful performance with such confidence and cohesion that you would never know that some of them will have faced some of the hardest months in their little lives.

The choreography throughout the show was great and the youngsters obviously really enjoyed the dancing as they were smiling throughout. How brave the performers were to sing a solo in front of their peers!

The lad that played Troy, Declan Jones, had a beautiful tone and I look forward to watching him on stage again. Gabriella Montez was played by Lilly Sanford and her performance was so mature you wouldn't have known you were watching someone under 12.

Sophie Budd, who played the super sassy Sharpay, has an eye roll that a teenager would be proud of and Jamie Stevens was very funny as her brother Ryan.

Evelyn Vascan (Jackie), Sami McLeish (Scotti), Emily Edwards (Ms Darbus)
Evelyn Vascan (Jackie), Sami McLeish (Scotti), Emily Edwards (Ms Darbus)

However, there were two standout performances for me. The first was Emily Edwards who was the super-over-the-top drama teacher Ms Darbus. She was so funny and gave an assured and confident performance that was comical but also caring – a difficult balance to get.

The other person I want to mention is the littlest person on the stage, Iestyn Davidson, who danced with so much fun throughout. Whatever cares we may have had melted away because of the sheer glee at being on the stage. He was a true reminder that "we are all in this together". We have all been affected by everything the virus has brought to the country, but I hope that we can all take the positivity and passion of little Iestyn with us.

This was a lovely event that was so much more than kids on stage. It was the future of theatre!

Zoe Hill paying Martha
Zoe Hill paying Martha

BSA Performing Arts, based at South Mill Arts, offers the opportunity to take part in musical theatre.

Registration is now open to start with the company this September with two groups for youngsters aged 7-12 and 12-19.

The 7-12 group will be starting on their production of Matilda Junior, which will be staged at South Mill Arts in March.

Amber O'Leary, Maddie Patten, Evelyn Vascan, Zoe Hill & Sami McLeish (The Auditions Scene)
Amber O'Leary, Maddie Patten, Evelyn Vascan, Zoe Hill & Sami McLeish (The Auditions Scene)

And the older group will be rehearsing a well-known 1978 American musical romantic comedy based on the 1971 musical film of the same name.

See www.bsa-performingarts.co.uk for more information.

Darcy Patten (Cheerleader), Harry Budd (Zeke), Maddie Patten (Cheerleader), Declan Jones (Troy Boulton), Tobiaz D'Cruz (Coach Boulton) - Get Yer Head In The Game scene
Darcy Patten (Cheerleader), Harry Budd (Zeke), Maddie Patten (Cheerleader), Declan Jones (Troy Boulton), Tobiaz D'Cruz (Coach Boulton) - Get Yer Head In The Game scene

Sophie Budd (Sharpay) & Jamie Stevens (Ryan) in the audition scene
Sophie Budd (Sharpay) & Jamie Stevens (Ryan) in the audition scene

The plot thickens: Jamie Stevens as Ryan
The plot thickens: Jamie Stevens as Ryan

Sami McLeish & Evelyn Vascan playing Jackie & Scotti
Sami McLeish & Evelyn Vascan playing Jackie & Scotti

Creme brulee in the face: Harry Budd (Zeke) & Sophie Budd (Sharpay)
Creme brulee in the face: Harry Budd (Zeke) & Sophie Budd (Sharpay)

Cheerleaders Darcy Patten, Maddie Patten & Emily Abbotts
Cheerleaders Darcy Patten, Maddie Patten & Emily Abbotts

The closing scene of Bishop's Stortford Academy of Performing Arts' production of High School Musical at South Mill Arts
The closing scene of Bishop's Stortford Academy of Performing Arts' production of High School Musical at South Mill Arts



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