S&H Musicals review

PIONEERS OF THE NEW MUSICAL Greenwich Theatre 15-26 May 2001 (PGW)

In association with The New Musical Alliance, the Cambridge Arts Theatre created a challenge throughout the East Anglian region, the like of which has never been seen in Great Britain before.

Schools, Colleges and Universities were asked to create a ten-minute musical, one aim of the project being ' - - to take contemporary music and turn it into a new generation of musicals - - to see that new music such as pop and rap is acceptable in new musicals, and that conventions can be broken to create original successful works'. It is intended that follow-up opportunities next year will be supported with "rules to use as tools and then be broken" (a thought to conjure with!) encouraging the participating students to push the boundaries of musicals further in their college environment.

The fruits of this important enterprise are being showcased at Greenwich Theatre through until 25 May, and if yesterday (16 May) is anything to go by, it is worth making the journey to Greenwich.

GCSE Expressive Arts students from Impington Village College, a comprehensive school on the edge of Cambridge, parodied the musical Fame and hammed it up with sure observation and impressive stage composure. From Cambridge University, a final year music student, Rebecca Applin, who hopes to write for the musical theatre, created and presented a piece about an Agony Aunt, and John Finnemore and Joseph Craig were the creators of a black alternative moral ending to The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

It was striking how working with the conventions of the musical had, as it were by stealth, instilled a sure sense of musical phrasing, which (with voice training too) would place those of the students who so wished well on the way to progress also to become well equipped concert singers. All three presentations (no scenery, just a piano) were extremely accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable in their own rights, but the implications will resonate for all who get to see some examples of this achievement and stepping stone to great things in the future.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Details of remaining performances from Heather Lilley 01223 578927 or Greenwich Theatre 020 8858 7755

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