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It left me whistling the haunting melodies all the way home but I didn't think it would turn out that way. A visit to Newcastle means an eighty miles round trip on the treacherous A1 and on that particular day there had been torrential rain resulting in flooding just about everywhere and then the mist and fog from the coast spread inland to the A1. My thoughtful daughter had decided to take me to see Whistle Down the Wind as a birthday treat and if only she hadn't spent so much on the tickets (£55), perhaps we could have just given it a miss but I'm so glad we didn't. We had superb seats right at the front. The pre-performance announcement asking for everyone's benefit, members of the audience who had sweets in noisy wrappers should take this opportunity to remove the wrappers now and that as the setting for the musical was 1950's and mobile phones were not invented then, that they should be switched off, was met with an agreeing laughter. The lights dimmed, music began, curtain rose. ~~~~~ THE STORY ~~~~~ Adapted from a novel by Mary Hayley Bell and a 1961 film produced by Richard Attenborough, the setting was transferred from Yorkshire to the American South. The show is an extraordinary tale about the transforming power of love, proving that goodness can be found in the strangest of places. It's Christmastime in Louisiana 1959 and Swallow, a 15 year old girl who has just lost her mother, discovers a man with bloody hands and feet 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, her sister, brother 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. Is he Jesus Christ, or is he the convicted murderer reportedly on the loose? This quest ion is the basis of Whistle Down the Wind. It contrasts the faith of the children against the caution and fear of adults. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Swallow dreams of the return of her mother and the emotional comfort and security she would bring. Candy has invented the myth for herself that paradise lies at the end of the freeway. Amos wants to escape the fate of his father working in the oil refinery. Boone dreams of a better life for his motherless kids. The desire for change is uppermost in all their minds yet all are 'stuck' by circumstance. The Man who appears out of nowhere in Swallow's barn and finally disappears as dramatically, becomes a powerful force for transformation in everyone around him. We witness Swallow's transformation from girl to woman when her innocent and blinding faith slowly gives way to a more adult kind of love based on knowledge and forgiveness. Just as the woman is awakened in Swallow, she in turn awakens the goodness within the convict. They have the power to save each other but her innocence and his guilt are too far removed to be resolved without pain. ~~~~~ THE CAST ~~~~~ THE MAN - TIM ROGERS SWALLOW - KATIE ROWLEY JONES BOONE - MARK INSCOE AMOS - SCOTT CRIPPS EDWARD - LARRINGTON WALKER EDWARD - REGINALD TSIBOE SHERIFF - AARON SHIRLEY CANDY - ADELAIDE THOMPSON SNAKE PREACHER - CHRIS HOLLAND PREACHER - MARTYN ANDREWS EARL - DOMINIC BREWER PREACHER - MARTYN ANDREWS DEPUTY - MARK GOLDTHORP ENSEMBLE - MARTIN NEELY ENSEMBLE - ZABRINA NORRY ENSEMBLE - CHRIS MIDDLEBROOK ENSEMBLE - GEORGIE FELLOWS ENSEMBLE - EMMA GANNON ENSEMBLE - JENNIFER JAMIESON ENSEMBLE - LAURA SHEPPARD BRAT - KIRSTIE KOBER POOR BABY - ASHLEY LLOYD ~~ ~~~ THE SONGS ~~~~~ ACT 1 The Vaults of Heaven*** - Minister, Baptist Congregation Overture - The Orchestra I Never Get What I Pray For - Swallow, Brat, Poor Baby Home By Now - Swallow, Brat, Poor Baby Whistle Down The Wind - Boone, Swallow The Vow - Swallow, Brat, Poor Baby Cold - Edward, Townspeople Unsettled Scores - The Man If Only - Swallow, The Man Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts*** - Amos, Candy Safe Haven - Townspeople Long Overdue For A Miracle - The Children When Children Rule the World*** - The Children Annie Christmas - The Man, The Children No Matter What - The Children, Townspeople ACT 2 Try Not to be Afraid*** - The Man, Swallow A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste - Amos, The Man, Swallow If Only (Reprise) - Swallow, Poor Baby Off Ramp Exit to Paradise - Candy Safe Haven (Reprise) - Townspeople Wrestle With The Devil - Preacher, Candy, Amos, Townspeople The Hunt - Sheriff, Townspeople, The Children The Nature of the Beast*** - The Man, Swallow Whistle Down The Wind*** - Boone, Swallow, Brat, Poor Baby *** My particular favourites. ~~~~~ CONCLUSION ~~~~~ I thoroughly enjoyed the show and only wished it could have lasted longer (approx.2hrs). Everything from stage management to the outstanding score was first class. I relished every minute of this brilliant musical. Every member of the cast gave a magnificent performance particularly Swallow - Katie Rowley Jones - she had the sweetest voice and the leading man - Tim Rogers - Australian, with an impressive biography and the rest of him was pretty impressive too. His pure macho magnetism held the female members of the audience in the palm of his hand. It was an uplifting performance and the haunting melodies will remain forever. If we could have gone to see it again we would have jumped at the chance unfortunately the show moved south the next day. REMAINING 2002 TOUR DATES 19th August - 31st August 2002 Cliffs Pavilion Station Rd Westcliff-On-Sea Essex SS0 7RA Box Office: 01702 351135 2nd Sept - 14th Sept 2002 The Marlowe Theatre The Friars Canterbury Kent CT1 2AS Box Office: 01227 787787 16th Sept - 28th Sept 2002 Milton Keynes Theatre Marlborough Gate Milton Keynes Buckinghamshire MK9 3NZ Box Office: 01908 606090 30th Sept - 12th Oct 2002 Theatre Royal (Brighton) Ltd New Rd Brighton East Sussex BN1 1 Box Office: 01273 328488 14th Oct - 26th Oct 2002 Opera House Blackpool Lancashire 28th Oct - 9th Nov 2002 TBC Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park Chichester West Sussex PO19 6AP Box Office: 01243 781312 11th Nov - 23rd Nov North Wales Theatre & Conference Centre The Promenade Llandudno Gwynedd LL30 1BB Box Office: 01492 879771 25th Nov - 7th Dec 2002 TBC Lyceum Theatre Sheffield 9th Dec - 14th Dec 2002 TBC 16th Dec 2002 - 4th Jan 2003 Cambridge Corn Exchange 3 Parson Court Wheeler St Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB2 3QE Box Office: 01223 457555 #####UPDATE##### Today I bought the original cast recording of Whistle down the Wind. It includes the whole script so whilst listening you can mentally relive the performance. I'm delighted to have found this (at a discounted price) however the orginal West End cast are nowhere near as good as the touring cast. From American accents to the quality of their singing voices, the cast I list above beats the original hands down.
I knew I was going to have a bad evening when my usually reliable car decided it didn’t want to start. After much debate with my Dad we decided it was the starter motor. Bugger – not an easy thing to fix at 5.45pm on Good Friday evening when you are due at the Manchester Opera House for 7.30pm for a show. Cue a frantic call to the Box Office for a ticket for Mum – who landed the plum job of taxi driver for the evening and also a much better seat than those of us who booked early – and a dash to Manchester for curtain-up on Whistle Down the Wind, visiting Manchester on its tour for a couple of days. The front of house announcer had clearly had his own share of troubles, washed down with a bottle of vodka, when he announced that to stop annoying other people during the show sweet wrappers should be rustled now – pregnant pause – and that seeing as the show is set in 1950 and the mobile phone had not been invented, please make sure they are all switched off. It drew a sympathetic round of applause though… ***THE STORY*** The Musical is based on ‘that’ film. You know the one. Oh you do. The one with the same name. The one with Hayley Mills and Alan Bates. Which in turn is based on the book of the same name by Mary Hayley Bell. Three Lancastrian children discover a stranger in their barn and make a simple mistake…or do they? The musical uproots the story from its original location to the Deep South Bible Belt of America in the 1950’s era of racial and indeed spiritual tension. The show begins with the funeral of the Mother of three children named Swallow, Brat and Poor Baby. It is up to the Father, Boone, to raise his children alone, struggling to make ends meet and ensure all have a memorable Christmas. The news on the radio breaks the story of an escaped murderer who is lurking around the area and the village is put on high alert. M eanwhile in their barn, the children discover a stranger hiding in the hay. When asked who he is he answers, “Jesus Christ.” The children after years of Sunday School teaching and with a childlike faith combined with the feeling that a miracle is long overdue take him at his word. He has wounds on his hands and feet – surely it must be Jesus come back again. The children, led by Swallow, make a pledge to look after him and protect him in secret and not to tell the adults what they are up to. But promises are easily broken and soon all the children in the village know and congregate in the barn for some unorthodox teaching from this strangers’ wisdom. Again the three children, plus the rest of the kids make a pledge to protect him, whilst the adults in the village plot to hunt out the killer on the run in their midst. Swallow, on the other hand, begins to fall in love with the man, and you know things are going to turn a little pear shaped soon. Sure enough, the cover is blown and events race at break neck speed towards the story’s conclusion. I’d hate to spoil it for you. Go and see it instead. ***THE SET*** I’d heard a lot about this show when it was in London. I’d heard about how the stage split in half during some of the songs and wondered how on earth this was going to be achieved on stage. Well, the set is adequate. Wobbly and a little Dr. Who like in places, but it sure is effective. Scenery comes down from the rafters and on from the sides to create a barn or a street scene or a pub. The lighting is also used to good effect, mist noticeably at the climax to Act One when The Man surrounded by kids in the barn are plunged into darkness and silhouetted against the adults lit up as they sing their part. One scene, however, did bring a snort of laughter from the audience. It involved a train, on a bridge, and was quite like someone riding a bicycle with a torch strapped to their head! Quite amusing. If it hadn’t been for the deafening sound effects it would really have been laughable! ***THE SONGS*** These were OK. Mum enjoyed them more. She said they were “from her era” – whichever decade that was! She said she was tapping her feet and bopping away. There was quite a mix of styles, from Rock and Roll, through Bluesey-Jazzey to the ballads we associate with Lord Lloyd-Webber. The only problem is that the second half repeats a lot of the tunes form the first – more so than in any other musical I’ve seen. Here is my pick of the tunes – Whistle Down The Wind: Always good to have a decent title song and it is. Reprised in a number of places throughout the score but haunting with its optimism against adversity. Tire Tracks: A rocky number sung by two of the teens wanting to get away from it all. Couldn’t hear much of the words as the music was so loud, but definitely had my foot tapping. No Matter What: The one made famous by Boyzone is actually pretty damn good when sung by the three lead children. Sung by the kids to pledge their support of The Man and by the adults, in counterpoint, to describe their hunt for the killer on the loose. Nature of the Beast: The man tells Swallow the truth but she does not want to hear it. Great song. ***THE CAST*** Tim Rogers (The Man): From Australia, great voice, good actor. The role he played though here consisted mostly of stropping round the stage. Mum appreciated his muscles though… Katie Rowley-Jones (Swallow): Making her professional stage debut and is simply excellent as the confused teenager fighting her feelings for this stranger. Excellent voice – wow! And that’s all for that bit! These were the best. ***THE CONCLUSION*** I enjoyed the show but feel somewhat let down by it and here’s why. Firstly, in transplanting the story to the Deep South of America in 1950 there’s got to be some degree of comment on the racial tensions of the time. It tries desperately to make this valuable comment, but only manages to tell the token black characters a) its either time you were off this street or b) there’s a bus out of town at 10.30 and you’d better be on it. It really clouds the plot of the story. And that is the key to what makes this musical so confusing. There are simply too many other stories going on. A random preacher turns up in town to stir up trouble and to sing a song. A black girl falls for a white boy and they agree to leave town, but he loves Swallow. He tells Swallow confuses her and confuses us, before the other girl goes ballistic at him proving that she has some decency over him. And as this is told in song and action , it is sometimes so hard to keep up with what is actually going on with all these various storylines that you forget the most important one. Namely – is this stranger in the barn actually Jesus Christ? Secondly, while there are talented people playing the roles of the three lead kids the rest of the children seem to mime very badly to a pre-recorded voice track. They get all the mouth shapes huge and expressive as stage trained kids do, but some of them miss their cue by half a beat. Thirdly, some of it seems so random. I guess this is linked in to point one, but I feel it needs to be made again. There is such a good central premise that gets overwhelmed by sub-plots that are really superfluous to the main plot. The subtlety of the comparison between childlike faith and adult cynicism is lost in a melee of other, all-be-it important, social comments and plot lines all vying for attention. That’s why I felt let down I think. It wanted to comment on too much when all it needed to do was to tell the story of a group of children who thought their prayers had been answered and a miracle had arrived. ***TOUR 2002 DETAILS*** 1st – 13th April: Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. 023 8071 1811. 19th April – 4th May: Hippodrome, Bristol. 0117 929 9444. 15th – 25th May: Theatre Royal, Nottingham. 0115 989 5555. 10th June – 22nd June: Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent. 01782 213 800. 24th June – 6th July: New Victoria Theatre, Woking. 01483 761 144. 16th – 28th September: Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes. 01908 606 090. Tickets range from £10.00 - £27.50. Check with theatre for prices. www.whatsonstage.com Thanks for reading, C. :¬.
The Story We begin in a church in a small Louisiana town just before Christmas 1959. A Baptist minister is delivering a sermon to the townsfolk about how Jesus will return and anyone who doesn't recognise him will burn in hell (The Vaults Of Heaven). As the sermon ends the people disperse (Overture). Swallow, Brat And Poor Baby are three children who start to discuss church and how they never get what they pray for (I Never Get What I Pray For). They start to play and on stage a platform rises turning into an elevated Highway. They are having so much fun they don't realise it's become dark and that their father will start to worry about them (Home By Now). The children return home to a meal cooked by their father. An announcement comes on the radio that a convict has escaped from prison. They start to talk about their mother who died and how much they miss her (Whistle Down The Wind). Swallow becomes upset and goes out into the barn. While in the barn she finds a man. "Who are you ?" she asks. The man is weak and all he says is "Jesus Christ". The man has blood on both his hands and round his head. Swallow goes and gets her brother and sister and they make a promise not to tell anyone (The Vow) We cut to a bar where the locals are getting rowdy (Cold) We learn about the racial tensions in the town. A black waitress and a black man are ordered from the bar. We go back to the barn where the man prays (Unsettled Scores) Swallow returns to see the man in the barn and promises to help the man, who she thinks is Jesus, if he will bring her mother back (If Only) Next we find the towns heart-throb and his black girlfriend dreaming about getting out of town and starting a new life in another place (Tyre Tracks And Broken Hearts) The townspeople are out hunting for the man and they wonder what has happened to their town (Safe Haven) The secret finally gets out of the bag as all the children find out about "jesus" (Long O verdue For A Miracle) The children vow to protect the man and sing about how the saviour has finally arrived (When Children Rule The World) The children go and visit the man and beg him to tell a parable to them. He starts to tell a story about an six foot eight woman (Annie Christmas) The children don't understand and want to know what the moral to the story is. The man gets angry. The children calm him down and promise to protect him. They start to give him presents (No Matter What) The first act ends with the stage split in two with the man and the children on the bottom while above them the sheriff and the townsfolk close in promising to get him. The second act opens with the man trying to comfort Swallow (Try Not To Be Afraid) The man says that if Swallow will go and get a package for him he will bring her mother back. Headlights appear and the man tells swallow to go with Amos. Amos the town heart throb goes to the barn and tries to get Swallow to kiss him. The man is in torment as he doesn’t want any harm to come to Swallow (A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste). Swallow goes with Amos to an Old Railway Tunnel. She gets the package. Amos tries to seduce Swallow but they are caught by the townsfolk before anything can happen. Swallow returns home to find her brothers kitten has died (If Only…reprise) Poor Baby wants an explanation as to why his kitten has died from jesus. All the man can say is that it's time had come to die (Charlie Christmas) Amos' girlfriend has been waiting for him to come and pick her up (Off Ramp Exit To Paradise) Amos finds her with the townspeople (Safe Haven..reprise) and she finds out he has been messing round with Swallow. The townspeople come across a group of travelling people who are encouraging people to test their faith in Jesus by handling a snake (Wrestle With The Devil) The townspeople close in on the man (The Hunt) Swallow goes back to the barn. Sexual tension is in the air. The man has falle n for Swallow and Swallow is obviously in love with him. The man tells swallow she doesn't really know who he is or what he's done (The Nature Of The Beast). The barn is surrounded. The man throws Swallow out. He sets fire to the barn. No body is found in the debris. The show ends in the ruins of the barn with all the family together in each other's arms (Whistle Down The Wind..reprise) The Show I had mixed feelings about the show before I went to see it. I was of course aware that the show had failed in Washington DC. It also opened here to mixed reviews but I am someone who doesn't tend to pay too much attention to what critics say. I must admit I really loved the show. From the opening song "The Vaults Of Heaven" which sent a shiver down my spine due to the wonderful cast to the powerful climax when the man sets fire to the barn. Just before this is a song called "Nature Of The Beast" where the man tries to tell Swallow what a nasty piece of work he is while trying desperately not to be seduced by her and falling into the trap of kissing her. I defy you not to be moved by this scene. The show runs 1 hour 50 minutes and it passed very quickly. I never felt like the show got bogged down in any one place and generally the pace was very crisp. Out of the songs in the show I would have to say that these were my favourites: The Vaults Of Heaven, Whistle Down The Wind, When Children Rule The World, No Matter What, A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste and Nature Of The Beast. The music is a mix of "Meatloaf" rock songs, gospel and ALW's usual music style (listen out and you'll hear what sound like snatches of music from his other shows) The role of the man is played by Marcus Lovett. He has a superb and powerful voice and really makes you feel for him. I believe he first started the role when the show was in Washington DC. Lottie Mayor as Swallow was simp ly astounding. She has such a beautiful voice and her acting was very good. The rest of the cast were good as well. James Graeme as the father had a good voice. Dean Collinson and Veronica Heart sang their hearts out as the lovers desperate to get out of the town. So overall then, I thought this was brilliant. You always know when you are watching something brilliant and I felt it as I watched this. We'll have to wait and see how long this will run for. I hope it runs for quite a while as I'd like to go back and see it again. This is not a big, brash Starlight Express Or Phantom experience so please don't go expecting astounding special FX. Go in their with an open mind, relax and sit back and enjoy one of the best shows in london
*** Stop Press*** Whistle down the wind closes 6/1/01 Last chance to see an unmissable show, tickets Mon - Fri available at just £10 from www.lastminute.com no agency fees! On watching this show for the second time, I still think is is a brilliant show, the special effects are spectacular & the story very clear. I recently went to see this Andrew Lloyd Webber show at the Ayldwich Theatre. I bought the tickets via a special offer from lastminute.com, the seats cost £23.50 which was half price reduced from £37.00, the seats were in the stalls & the best seats in the house. I was familar with the story having watched the film version starring Hayley Mills, the songs were familar too as the title song was released by Boyzone. The show was absolutly brilliant there were no major stars in in but the acting/singing was superb. The stage had a roof that went up & down at times forming two different stages in use at the same time. At one point in the story a train came shooting across the stage seemingly about to run through the auditorium it made the whole audience gasp. there was also a fire, the special effects were fantastic. There are a large number of children appearing in the show aged from 8 upwards, they were extremely profesional, this show has something for everyone, men as well as women.This was one of the best shows I have seen & would have been worth paying full price for.