Scarborough-set musical love story is a triumph - see it at the Spa

Wow! Wow! Wow! How exciting to be one of the first people to see a home-grown musical – Hannah – the Soldier Diaries – premiere at the Scarborough Spa.
Zoe Wright plays Hannah in a new musical which had its premiere at Scarborough SpaZoe Wright plays Hannah in a new musical which had its premiere at Scarborough Spa
Zoe Wright plays Hannah in a new musical which had its premiere at Scarborough Spa

There is so much to be positive about the stage show written and produced by Steve Wallis, who moved to the town six years ago – based on his audiobook of the same name.

It contains 11 narrated chapters with each chapter being complimented by its own song.

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In a nutshell – when hairdresser Hannah meets Lance Corporal Jack Webb in the summer of 2012 she is smitten. They enjoy a whirlwind four-week affair before Jack has to return to the Army to fight in the Afghan War.

As she does for the audiobook, Zoe Wright plays Hannah, a 20-something Scarborough lass with a sunny disposition looking for Mr Right Now – and if he becomes a more permanent fixture in her life all well and good,

Zoe will be familiar to Scarborough audiences from the Tony Peers summer shows in recent years at the Spa.

She has a clear-as-a-bell voice suited perfectly to the 13 original songs with a pop beat by Nik Martin – Scarborough-based musical studio owner and writer of the catchy ‘big fish, little fish, cardboard box’ tune.

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Soldier Jack is played by Stephen Alexander, who co-starred with Zoe in Summer Show Encore at the Spa last year. He is from an Army family who live on the right side of the tracks in the capital of posh Yorkshire – Harrogate.

The clash of cultures and class is one of the underlying themes of the show.

Almost stealing the show is Scarborough-based and Spa audience favourite Linda Newport whose part as the merry widow Mrs M allows her to give full rein to her trademark nudge-nudge, wink-wink flirtatiousness. She is a joy to listen to and watch.

There is a cameo for the D-Day Darlings who looked stunning in Remembrance poppy-patterned dresses and sounded ‘fab-u-lous, darlings’ – as they sang a song reminiscent of World War Two’s Forces sweetheart Vera Lynn’s hits.

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The musical starts on a sombre and serious note – with a recorded foreward by Ross Kemp who, of course, made a documentary about soldiers in Afghanistan.

It reminded the audience of the legacy of that war, how many service personnel lost their lives, were injured, and who still are living with the consequences of conflict.

The introduction served to put Hannah and Jack’s love affair into context, the jeopardy Jack was in on his return to the frontline and the fragility that meant for their romance and relationship.

To detail too much of the plot would be to rob future audiences of the anticipation and tension of watching Hannah and Jack’s affair unravel – in more ways than one.

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Highlights, though, include the awkwardness of Hannah meeting the ‘in laws’, the poignancy of a railway station goodbye and the tension of the wait for news when Jack goes missing in action.

Other major roles are played by Karon Wallis as Jack’s mum, Darren Johnson as his dad and who also directs, and Flynn Denton as his brother Gary.

Cheila Robertson and Evie Blakey play Hannah’s hairdressing colleagues the gloriously dim and even dimmer Liv and Britt.

Of the songs the opening number Butterflies – about the first flurries of love – Mrs M’s two-fingered salute to life’s tribulations Funk IT – and I’m So Glad That I’m Me – Hannah’s shout out to her ex – are the best.

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Jack’s rap that undercuts some of the more schmalzy of the songs’ sentiments are a delight.

The quality of the production is superb, celebrating all that is best about Scarborough with three-dimensional backdrops of neon-lit South Bay, Luna Park and Peasholm – and its seaside character complete with donkeys and kiss-me-quick hats.

‘Brilliant’ and ‘I’ve had my hanky out already’ were two of the responses from the friends I saw the show with.

Hannah – the Soldier Diaries is a funny, moving, pop tune-filled, uplifting experience that is also a timely reminder of how fragile peace is and how what is happening miles away can be brought to our doorstep.

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When it is in the West End, we can say we saw it here first.

Hannah – the Soldier Diaries is on at Scarborough Spa on Friday April 12 at 7pm; Saturday April 13 and Sunday April 14 at 1.30pm and 7pm.

Tickets from the box office on 01723 376774 or online at: