By Abbie Vicki Maguire
“It seems silly really – me reviewing Back to the 80s, a decade in which I wasn’t even born. I looked at most of the cast and their fresh faces with eyes full of ambition told me most of them weren’t born in the 80s either. I thought to myself “how can they possibly do this?” However, in my experiences of reviewing, I’ve come to know that shows are full of surprises and Back to the 80s undeniably succeeded in that with flying psychedelic colours; Back to the 80s left me feeling as though I was at least minus six years old.
If you read my Bugsy Malone review earlier this year, you would have remembered my distinct amazement with the sheer class of the performance, so much so I forgot I was sitting in a school hall nestled in Stifford Clays. As I sat in the same hall seven months later, it reminded me of when I watched the Friends spin- off Joey – it was good, funny in places, but Friends was the sitcom icon of the 90s and well, funny everywhere. Friends had no flaws and was too hard to emulate. But standing on their equal podiums were both performances: enchanting, energised, flawless.
Introduced by a humorous voice over as the electric 80s, a vision of red and green erupted onto the stage, exploding into the lively hit Kids in America with mature, professional vocals only to be expected from a William Edwards performance. The dancers suffused the room with excitement as teary-eyed parents shone with pride, watching their children taking the stage by storm.
The audience were then privy to some first-class acting, expressed in accents that, if I attempted, raised eyebrows would surely follow. All spoke with excellent confidence and their ability to muster emotion and humour gave them perfect reason to. I’m not one to use the word envy much, but it was a sentiment that belonged to this performance.
The story, infused with beautiful and upbeat songs and technically flawless dance numbers, was brought to life by the singers, actors and dancers, motivated and inspired by Ms Davey, Ms Ponder, Ms Wasmley and Mr Kimmings. Clearly, the 80s was the decade to be in. In fact, at points it wasn’t like we were in a play, it was more like a documentary – real events being played out before us. The music was piercing but hit every note on the head and was more akin to JLS and Beyonce taking to a mirrored stage to reflect all of them and their brilliant dance moves accompanied by notes hit so high, those mirrors would undeniably smash. Abigail Rowland, one of the singing stars of the night, couldn’t have sung better. Her voice was so strong and powerful, I thought I would be shot to the back of the room. She will have no trouble making it outside her school hall alongside the flawless singer that is Nicola Brown. This young lady, along with her various singing partners, has a true talent and one I certainly hope will continue to be recognised. I would say the play’s star Matthew Whitta is a star in the making but I fear that would be an insult to him – Matt is a star already made and even now is ready to shine in the world of music.
When I attended here, the school was just named an Outstanding in Ofsted – the drama department could have single-handedly done that. Another brilliant performance to add to the William Edwards legacy. I’m sure all these young people will go on to be something truly successful and William Edwards – particularly the Drama Department – couldn’t have prepared them better.