The benefits of theatrical participation for young people cannot seriously be doubted, with positives such as discipline, teamwork and boosted self-esteem well to the fore.
It’s become a bit of a hobby horse of mine, a subject that I see no harm in returning to from time to time. It’s not a secret that people learn more effectively when they’re fully engaged instead of, as is all too often the case, bored to tears. Well, there’s nothing boring about getting involved in a stage production, and that’s why it’s so good for youngsters.
So, it’s always a great pleasure to see one of our many respected local community theatre companies setting up a part of their operation aimed specifically at younger performers. One such organisation, Diva Productions, is rapidly making a name for itself as a theatrical powerhouse with its foundations rooted firmly in the high end, quality production section of local musical theatre endeavour. When Diva puts on its inaugural youth performance, you know it’ll be worth seeing.
And so it proved last week, with Diva Youth Productions’ offering of “Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat” making a big hit at the Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds. From curtain up to the spectacular finale, this was a show replete with talent, movement and entertainment, a gourmet feast fully appreciated by an enthralled audience. Some spectacular lighting and pyrotechnic effects enhanced the visual appeal of what was a stunning production, but of course it was the youthful enthusiasm, energy and sheer talent of the cast that sent the audience away buzzing. Every principal, every ensemble member, and each singer in the junior choir providing backing vocals contributed in full measure - the way some of the main characters harmonised while the chorus carried the melody was particularly impressive.
There were standout performances from Joseph Button (Joseph), Aimee Townend (Narrator), Harry Hughes (Pharaoh and Levi) and dancer Evie McDaid (a very vampy Mrs Potiphar), all of whom caught the eye even in such a very able cast. There was strength in depth too, always the sign of a top class production, as Brandon Lewis (Jacob) and Elliyah Dione (Judah) showed that the company has some fine talent at its disposal. The fact of the matter is that these young performers will get better yet in what is a very supportive environment under the guidance of co-producers Andy Fretwell and Andrew Ashley. These two founders of Diva have a string of smash hits behind them already, but they must be particularly proud of the spectacle their young cast provided to grace the Carriageworks stage, giving us a show that would do credit to many an adult company.
Andrew Ashley, as director, never missed a trick, with some deeply moving scenes interspersed with plenty of laughs. Another star of the show was the simple yet effective set with an appropriate pyramid feature, and twin staircases providing two well-used levels for the non-stop action. The musical accompaniment was provided by an unseen but highly effective band under the sure guidance of Musical Director Jonathan Wilby, and Kimberley Baker’s skilful choreography brought the very best out of some extremely talented dancers, with dance captain Laura Hancock providing onstage leadership.
This was the first of what should be many productions for the newly established Diva Youth section and, judging by its rapturous reception, audiences will be looking forward with great anticipation to a lot more of the same or similar in future shows.