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Newbury theatre revives Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s 1996 rock musical Whistle Down the Wind



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Whistle Down the Wind at The Watermill, Bagnor, until September 10. Review by ROBIN STRAPP

The Watermill’s fresh vibrant production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman’s 1996 rock musical Whistle Down the Wind is filled with energy and imaginative staging by director and choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves.

Set in Louisiana’s ‘Bible Belt’, religious fervour plays a strong part in the daily lives of the folk in this small community.

Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith

Simon Kenny’s impressive set with large wooden planks creates the church and doubles as the family’s barn. It is hauntingly lit by Andrew Exeter.

Lydia White sensitively plays the young teenager Swallow with a naïve innocence and strong Christian belief, mourning the loss of her mother. Her father Boone (Lloyd Gorman) is also trying to cope with his wife’s death.

In an inspired directorial decision, the mother (Stephanie Elstob) is the ever present ‘spirit’ on stage, guiding and controlling Swallow with some beautiful dance movements

Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith

Her two siblings Brat and Poor Baby, played on the press night by Isabelle Carroll and Huey Lockwood, are also grieving. All the children give a rousing performance of the anthem When Children Rule the World.

Elliot Mackenzie is the powerful preacher, as well as the musical director, and the actor/musicians (Charlotte Grayson, Jerome Lincoln and Alfie Richards) perform the evocative rock musical score by Stuart Morley with gusto.

Emma Jane Morton provides a whole woodwind section, including a soulful saxophone number.

Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith
Whistle Down the Wind, picture Pamela Raith

The Sheriff (Toby Webster) brings urgent news of an escaped murderer on the loose who takes refuge in the family’s barn.

When the children find him sleeping there, he wakes exclaiming “Jesus Christ” and the children believe that he is indeed Jesus and hope that he can bring their mother back to life.

Robert Tripolino gives an outstanding performance as the ‘Man’, manipulative, scheming and determined to continue the fantasy in order to survive.

Racism is always in the background and Candy (Chrissie Bhima) wants to escape town with her boyfriend Amos (Lewis Cornay).

The spectacular ending is filled with drama and with songs such as No Matter What, Nature of the Beast and Whistle Down the Wind, this is a production not to be missed.



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