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Colin Smith Youth Theatre is back! – so good to see the 13-18 age group represented in Luton again, and with a definite feel good show.

What the production lacked in finesse, it made up for in enthusiasm, with some good first time talent on show.

There were a couple of technical blips – but for a first night I was impressed with what the cast offered the audience.  The story was a little tenuous, but it lent itself to some really good music, that I’m sure many of this age group would not have known, so a learning curve for them all, plus good choreography thrown in for good measure.

Stuart Farrar and Steve Reinsford wrote the words, and on the whole it was well-written, with some good humour, although I suspect the cast did not appreciate how funny the audience would find some comments, and did not allow for realisation and laughs to come in.  However that said, I think they were all savvy enough to take what they learnt on first night and translate it to their next performances!

The setting was quite basic, but the super lighting design from Matt Stevens enlivened the set and added atmosphere and I am sure helped give the performers a feeling of adventure.

Sound was a little suspect at times, but is just one of those things that don’t always gel at once, and will have been corrected by Duncan Askew for the final performances.

Charlotte Tabert led a very good-sounding four piece band, and as MD had obviously worked hard with the cast, and also got them singing some very creditable harmonies.

I liked Leanne Tully’s choreography – always within the capabilities of the cast, but imaginative, and using grouping as well as lines to add dimension, and also not having everyone doing the same thing all the time, I like the diverse approach  – very well done.

As is always the case there were certain people who stood out for me.  I always like Alice Hayden she has a very lively and open face, and her expression always reaches her eyes.  As the main character Katy, Alice had a lot to do, but pulled it off with aplomb, and certainly grows in performance terms with every production I see her in.

A new face to me was Carl Connelly as Glenn – I thought this young man showed very good timing, as he had a lot of asides and made the most of them.  His main solo number was full of meaning and expression, I hope we see more of this young man as he has the makings of a good performer.

Evie Wright as Debs and Nico Bamford as Daniel created a good partnership as Katy’s parents, and although Evie had the stronger voice, Daniel matched her in their duets.

For sheer feeling and putting a song over I loved both Allanah Rogers and Rachel Ridout.  They sang two completely diverse songs, but both gave their all.  Allanah put real meaning and emotion into her song, which made it a beautiful interlude and so different to the other music, whilst Rachel really let rip with a deep jazzy/bluesy feel to her number.  Very well done to you, both numbers really lifted the show.  I was impressed.

Daniel Pateman created the arrogant character of Jo Montana, so secure in his thought that he was top dog – whilst Janel Grant as his girlfriend Emily gave a shyness and devotion to the role, which contrasted well.

Freya Spratley sang her solo lines with verve and feeling – as did the other young ladies of the cast - well done to you all.

I liked the concept of Unami Tenga as Katy’s Conscience – completely diverse perception of this type of part, and one which he did well.

Errol Albert and Eileen Kirby as the adult teachers, lent a certain gravitas to the proceedings.

It was really good to see young people buying in to an era they probably knew nothing about prior to getting involved, It wasn’t as polished as the former Colin Smith productions, but hey, this is a totally new venture, with a lot of young people who haven’t performed as such before, and was a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  I am looking forward to seeing how CSYT progresses in its next show.

Let’s hope this is just the start, as Luton sorely needed something for this age group, and I hope this will be the vehicle that will do it for them.  The cast was certainly female-heavy – so all you young guys out there who have always wanted to get involved with theatre, here’s your chance, and I hope to see lots more of you 13-18 year olds involved in the next production.

Well done to everyone involved, and as always I am sure Stuart would like me to mention his friends and family who all chipped in to help to make this a good experience for all concerned, and for me a welcome return of a youth production – keep it up guys, and I look forward to your next show.

Colin Smith Youth Theatre

SUMMER OF ‘78” review date: 8th May 2014

Luton Library Theatre

Director: Stuart Farrar

Written by: Steve Reinsford & Stuart Farrar

MD: Charlotte Tabert  Choreographer: Leanne Tully


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