Yo ho ho and three cheese, oops I mean cheers, for another mighty musical from this Croydon school. A bumper cast-filled a stage bigger than those of many West End theatres with this jolly tale loosely adapted by Phil Willmott from the classic tale of piracy by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Director Mr (Chris) Chambers told me he had a non-speaking role in the original production of this show and hence it holds a place in his heart. He has added some original songs to the piece, the absolute highlight being the inventive fantasy cheese medley led by Will Hardy's inspired Ben Gunn and incorporating such great (tweaked) numbers as The Beatles' All You Need is Love, Nessun Dorma, New York, New York and This Is Me (The Greatest Showman) - all celebrating his love of cheese.
Will is outstanding as batty Ben, dreaming of cheese and having a very funny and well-timed argument about it with himself. There are some enthusiastic and well-executed fight scenes and a few lovely voices among the cast, notably Safeera Ahmed's Meg Trueblood, Alex Persinaru as Lady Trelawney and Aidan Keogh, who also provide the interfering voice of the puppet parrot Captain Flint.
It's a big ask for a company this young to portray a band of swaggering, drunken scurvy knaves and sometimes ensemble numbers could have done with a bit more verve (though the finale was a good boisterous rendering) and cues were occasionally picked up too slowly. But this was the first night and I suspect nerves played their part.
Among the colourful characterisations are Francesco Bernardini's Blind Pugh, Xavier Lally's barking mad Black Dog, Elaine Jones's terrifying Cheng I Sao and Louis Labrosse's camp Nathaniel Crisp. Zachary Haynes manages his one-legged Long John Silver well and Matthew Westray is contrastingly gentlemanly as Captain Smollett. Dignified and true among all the buccaneering bravado is Jamie Kennedy's very likeable cabin boy Jim Hawkins.
Musical accompaniment is terrific, and praise also to the violinist, Ethan Thorne.