BEING THE sister of a dancer, I am no stranger to stage shows.
I usually know what to expect and settle into my seat for a night of entertainment, coming away with a renewed appreciation of the talents showcased.
But as the lights dimmed and the music burst through the audience in the Stratford Playhouse, I knew this show would be different.
This musical showcase, Musicals ROCK X, is an annual event that gives students from Stratford College’s performing, production arts and music department the chance to showcase their skills and talent before taking steps out into the world as professional performers.
The show includes songs from six musicals – The Lion King, Chess, Made in Dagenham, Footloose, Les Miserable and Mamma Mia – but adds a rock twist to these classic songs.
The actress who opens the show, Mia Popsys, enters as Rafiki from The Lion King, belting out the starting call to the Circle of Life. Her range of vocals set the bar for the rest of the show – and boy, did she set it high.
Not only did the performers showcase their vocal ability but also amazing performance skills.
Joseph Harrison, Alfie Blackwell and Jack Dickson were hilarious in their version of Hakuna Matata and any time these actors were on the stage your eye was drawn to their energy and dedication.
Gabriel Sorrel and Vienna Thompson also lit up the stage with their swagger in the Master of the House in Les Miserables.
Special mention should be given to Jack Cooper and Charlie Singleton who provided incredible multiple guitar solos alongside wind instrumentalists Thomas Allen and David Ward.
In Made in Dagenham’s song The Letter, Jack Dickson’s performance was breathtaking as he poured his heart out, matching excellent vocals to an honest and nuanced performance.
Boo McCoy and Phoebe Shepherd performed a stunning duet of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, with Phoebe’s part being sung entirely in Ukrainian.
It gave the song new depth and a contemporary understanding.
And during One Day More from the same musical, it was not the French flag we saw being flown from, but the Ukrainian one.
The final musical was Mamma Mia which included several of Abba’s biggest hits, getting the audience dancing and singing along with the cast.
The choreography for Gimme Gimme Gimme was created by Madie Osborne, who drew on her street dance background to give the performance a modern twist – but also kept within the 70’s theme.
The end of the show saw a tribute to both the musical theatre legend Stephen Sondheim and performer Meatloaf.
The songs sang in tribute were performed sensationally by music student Caitlyn Murray and also special guest alumnus Freddie King.
Freddie is currently performing in the West End in Heather’s The Musical – and was a living embodiment of where these students could be ending up.
From amazing music to stunning dancing; from powerful performances to creative and expertly delivered lighting, sound and production elements – this show was truly spectacular.