After last year’s successful foray into the classical canon of musical theatre with the production of Guys and Dolls, this year saw the college Performing Arts department exploring new ground with the choice of Elf the Musical. Based on the popular Christmas film starring Will Ferrell, the story of misplaced elf Buddy Hobbs and his adventures in New York, adapted by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan, and scored by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, first appeared on Broadway as recently as 2010.
The first hurdle that Director Pippa Beaumont had to overcome was how to select a cast of suitably small students to play the part of Santa’s elves, beavering away industrially in their workshop at the North Pole, when most of our students are too big to be elves. A solution was found at the neighbouring Rolls Crescent Primary School, where teachers Debbie Mitchell, Jeff Reynolds and Rebecca Frier worked with Pippa and cast members Sol Goulding and James Smart to rehearse a large group of appropriately sized elves! The children performed with admirable focus during the three night run, packed houses enjoying the story of the endearingly naïve Buddy Hobbs and his adventures in New York.
Pippa Beaumont, assisted by Danny Price and professional practitioner Kathy Brooke, who worked with the cast on certain scenes, had assembled an impressively diverse cast which worked with maximum energy to deliver the feel good factor inherent in the cheery storyline. James Smart was a perfect Buddy Hobbs, hilariously gauche and touchingly vulnerable; he made the most of the comedic possibilities of the role and also delivered his songs with great panache. Love interest Jovie, played by Ellie Harney, was believably cynical at first and then won over by Buddy’s charm; her vocal performance was striking in its clarity and presentation. Vally Casulli and Adam Ali Gseebat, as Emily and Michael Hobbs, maintained the high level of vocal performance, whilst Sol Goulding excelled in his dual role of Santa Claus and the curmudgeonly Walter Hobbs. Alanis De Mascia kept up a commendably authentic American accent, playing baddie Mr Greenway, and a large ensemble cast of assorted New Yorkers, in which Oceana Cage Nzene was prominent, sustained the energy levels required, making highly effective use of the stage space.
As ever with Loreto productions a stand out feature was the live musical input. A band of eight highly accomplished musicians, under the direction of Head of Music David Lloyd-Mostyn, assisted by student and pianist Alice Mummery, and featuring strings players Toni Bruce and Tia Chapman; Reece Conaghan and Ben Corbridge on brass, flautist Eloise Hatton, bassist Rachel Sweeney and percussionist Ian Jones, provided a wonderfully sympathetic accompaniment as the plot unfolded, coping magnificently with the changes of tempo and mood. Isobel Gamon and fellow dancers Afua Nuamah, Abby Garner, Emily Whitehurst and Aleksandra Aleksandrova shone in the dance related segments of the show, showing the value of the work they had put in with Pippa Beaumont and assistant choreographer Matthew Rawcliffe.
Special mention should be made of the excellent sound and lighting provided by sound technician David Pearson and set technicians Tony Fennell and Tom Leonard. Lead members of the cast were ‘miked’ in a highly effective but unobtrusive way and the overall sound quality was superb. The whole production was entirely free of technical hitches.
After a matinee performance for Rolls Crescent and a three night run in front of enthusiastic packed houses a delighted Pippa Beaumont commented:
“We are so proud of all the hard-work and dedication the cast has shown throughout. This show is exactly what the performing arts department is about, encouraging professionalism and commitment but above all joy in individuals coming together and celebrating their talents.”