This end of term heralded the start of a grand, theatrical summer production staged by the Prep Department at Thorpe House. Times’ journalist, Lisa Brinkworth attended the last night to review the show and interview the cast.
When Genie sprang from the back of the hall after 10,000 years of incarceration inside a lamp and bounded onto the Thorpe House stage, with a crick in his neck and comic timing that would have given the late Robin Williams a run for his Denari, we all knew we were in for a magical ride through Agrabah. As Toby Ayres’ show-stopping Genie punched out the memorable lines, ‘Rule one, I can’t kill anybody, Rule two, I can’t make anybody fall in love, Rule three, I can’t bring people back from the dead’, dazzling the audience with his theatrical vocal range and dizzying dramatics, it was evident too that Thorpe House School has a star in its Year 6.
Toby wasn’t the only one who enthralled, captivated and had us in stitches, particularly when he gave a flight safety demonstration before boarding Aladdin onto the magic carpet played enchantingly by William Elsworth. William later admitted that after initially feeling restricted inside his carpet he’d become very attached to it and was eager to get back inside.
Tom Line gave a stupendous performance as Aladdin, shining as brightly as the silken, gold head attire he donned as Prince Ali Ababwa. Hugo Simmons, who has a track record for easing effortlessly into character, played Princess Jasmine so convincingly that parents asked if ‘she’d been borrowed from St Mary’s’! (That is truly testament to great acting, Hugo, even if it will take 24 washes to remove your hair colour!) There were more show-stopping performances from Sammy Guha who raised plenty of laughs as Iago the parrot, the evil Jafar wickedly played by James Palin, and Freddie Terrell’s Chief of Guards, Razoul.
The baker, (Tristan Woolven), narrators, townspeople, princes and attendants all mesmerised with their acting skill and stage presence. The big cast surprise was Rocco, Year 6, playing the Sultan. By his own admission, Rocco has always shied away from the stage, preferring to take a back seat, but having demonstrated the authority and presence required for the Sultan he tells me that ‘Aladdin has changed all that!’ He has now joined a small band of Year 5 and 6 boys who after tonight have decided they want to make acting their career!
Fortuitously for them, drama teacher, Laura McKendrick, who pulled together this spectacular production worthy of the West End, has promised this will be the start of an annual summer show for the upper Juniors. The Seniors’ annual end of year production is already well- established. Her super-human achievement in pulling all this together in just a few weeks, was a feat to behold. She has created a drama element at Thorpe as a force to be reckoned with. Her tireless dedication to rehearsals, and her skills as director and choreographer, have raised Thorpe’s drama credentials to stratospheric heights.
At the end of thunderous applause, Miss Mc Kendrick told the audience, “ I have never done a production of this scale with this age group, ten and eleven year olds. They have delivered above and beyond all expectations.” There was praise too for the perfectly timed and skilled acting, dancing and singing that every single boy, whether in the cast or chorus executed with true professionalism. Music teacher, Kim Stallabrass had fine-tuned the boys’ singing voices, which were as clear and harmonious as a Middle Eastern choir. One Year 2 boy who attended both nights described the experience as ‘magical.’ ‘I really thought I was in Agrabah, not Thorpe House’ he gushed.
“It was tough at times,” said Freddie Terrell, ‘with all of us under pressure to learn our words and do our best, but it all came together on the night’. And so it did.
All Year 5 and 6 boys can be deservedly proud of their achievements. As Sammy Guha said, “It’s one thing clapping for other people but when people are clapping for you and really enjoying your performance, it’s such a great feeling.’ All the boys agreed that Aladdin has been not just a challenge that they all met admirably, but an unforgettable bonding experience. Tom Line said he’d wanted to put everything he had into the final show and go out with a bang. And so too have the Year 6 leavers who took part, gone out with a bang!
“I knew I always loved to sing but now I know that I want to act too”, Tom said. “My dream is to be on Broadway and tonight I came a step closer to my dream.’
Judging by his performance, Broadway is a lot closer than he thinks. It would also seem to beckon Toby Ayres, Hugo Simmons and James Palin. These boys seem destined for international stardom. Whatever avenue they choose to take, the dedication, talent and camaraderie we saw tonight will ensure they’ll make every success of their lives.
After an exhilarating few nights, boys, staff and parents are going to miss those enchanting Arabian nights at Thorpe House.