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This haunting musical is based on the 1961 film of the same name made famous by Haley Mills and Alan Bates which was set in Lancashire. Reset in Louisiana by Lloyd Webber, the show revolves around the time and place where the word teenager was invented. Swallow, a 15 year-old-girl growing up in America’s Deep South in the fifties, discovers a mysterious man hiding out in a barn. When she asks who he is and the first words he utters are “Jesus Christ”, it’s as if all her prayers have been answered.
Swallow and the town’s other children vow to protect the stranger from the world that waits outside – the townspeople who are determined to catch a fugitive hiding it their midst. As fantasy and reality collide, Swallow is torn between the two and begins to discover who she is and where she is going.
Review by John Burland
I have seen four professional productions of Whistle Down The Wind over the last few years, but this amateur production by BrassNeck Theatre has got to rank up there amongst the best of them.
The Phantom of the Opera meets Meatloaf could well be an apt description of this brilliant musical. This is because the music and lyrics are by two of the most prolific writers of the modern era – Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman. The original story, written by Mary Haley Bell (wife of Sir John Mills) was made into a film in the 1960’s produced by Sir Richard Attenborough. The musical however, is set not in the Lancashire Moors, but in the deep south of the USA.
There are some outstanding performances in this production directed by Royston Bayfield. Teenager Rebecca Ferrin is outstanding as Swallow whilst Chris Slater is excellent as “The Man” who the children find in the barn and think is Jesus! Boone, the children’s father is superbly portrayed by Richard Lloyd who local theatregoers will remember from his fabulous performance as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof last November. The two younger children, Brat and Poor Baby are played by sister and brother Sophie and Jack Downham from Farsley and they too turn in excellent performances. I remember Sophie well from her superb performance as Annie in the musical of the same name in Leeds at Christmas 2011.
These main principals are well supported by fellow actors Ben Tomlinson as Amos, Emily Taylor as Candy, Winstan Robinson as Edward, Sam Chipman as Earl, Andrew Walton and Freddie Bolt as the Sheriff and his deputy and Simon Monte as the Minister.
The chorus work is outstanding under the direction of Tom Kyle the Musical Director and there is excellent choreography from Donna Woodman. But the highlight of this show has to be the Children’s Chorus who are fantastic in their numbers “When Children Rule the World” and the hit made famous by Boyzone “No Matter What”. I can safely say you will leave the theatre whistling these two numbers at the end of the night – just as I did!