Press Report


Tiverton Gazette


Tuesday July 24, 2007

Don't Call Us...We'll Call You
We'll Definitely Be Calling You!

   A Theatrical agent looking for the next big star was in the house for Willow Tree Theatre Company's latest production - but before anyone gets too carried away with dreams of the bright lights - her appearance was all part of the show.
   The Tiverton dance and performing arts school held its annual end of term showcase in the New Hall last week.
   The show Don't Call Us... We'll Call You takes it's title from a well-known phrase in the world of theatre.
   The show features a fictional theatrical agent who watches the various performances of the youngsters and offers appraisals to the audience.
   The premise allows every young member of the Willow Tree school to make a bid for the stars, and ballet, tap, contemporary and jazz dance all feature as do song routines plucked from the musicals.

   Principal Irene Holland said children of all ages from the very youngest ones took part in the show, ensuring some very spectacular numbers for the audience to enjoy.
   Seven students from the school successfully auditioned for the Northcott Theatre's production of Cinderella this December.  The successful students are: Megan and Yasmin Huish, Emily and Hannah Chilcott, Amy Wylie, Lucy Guy and Abi Hunter.
   Jasmin Homer will also be appearing in ITV's drama workshop production of A Christmas Carol in Bath in December.

By Richard Wevill


Tiverton Gazette


Tuesday July 24, 2007

Singing, dancing, poetry... and a call from Gordon

DON'T Call Us... We'll Call You... a familiar term and a great title for Tiverton Willow Tree Centre of Dance and Performing Arts' end of year show, which was based on the auditions held by "theatrical agent", Katy Baker.
   As Katy sat in her mezzanine office (to the right of the stage), nearly 250 young people "auditioned", showing just how well they can entertain.
   You can get a taste of the fantastic talents and professionalism of the cast on pages 20 and 21 and, I suspect, you will be amazed at the age range of the players, some of whom are very young indeed.
   I was lucky enough to be able to attend the show on the first night, but I had had a sneak preview at the dress rehearsal the evening before, when it became clear just how difficult it is to train and organise such a large cast.
   However, second time lucky and the final rehearsal began with the "theatrical agent" talking on the phone to Andrew Lloyd Webber about the new talent she had discovered to take the place of singer Connie, in the Sound of Music.
   The 'ahh' factor immediately came into play as Sammie Firbanks (playing the part of Maria) led a group of some of the smallest singers I have seen for a long time as they faultlessly sang a selection of songs from the well-known musical.
   The stage cleared, for two exciting demonstrations of street tap and jazz dancing - and then the phone in the agent's office rang again.
   The caller was one "Gordon Brown" looking for snazzy opening acts for the 2012 Olympics.
   The routines that followed were all with a sports theme, as were the two poems, about a sports sponge, (read by Megan) and a very unhappy goalpost, (by Lucy).  I was stunned to see some of the cast tap dancing to the theme songs of Grandstand and Match of the Day. Very effective!

   Scene four was a dance interpretation of a contemporary piece of music entitled Things to do in the Bath.  For me, this really had the "gosh" factor as the dancers, dressed in Victorian-style bathing dresses moved, at times almost aerobically, to the music.
   A fast and furious elementary jazz routine, this time with a definite "wow" factor, was the penultimate dance of the first half; and then the agent's phone rang again.
   "Sir Alan, you have misunderstood, we are doing a ballet, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, by Dukas, not a ballet based on your show the Apprentice, so please ask your lawyers to stop pestering mine!"
   Tiny mice, scary spiders, forest sprites, fireflies, bats, broomsticks and water, and finally, stars and planets, all danced their way through the story.  Mollie Shearman played the disobedient apprentice, while Keith Thomas graphically played the sorcerer.
   This was the point at which, on the night, there would be an interval.  Now, the whole cast was called back into the auditorium for a talk.
   "You all need more make-up.  Wear red lipstick or you look as if you have no lips.  Everybody must clean their shoes for tomorrow night.  No noise from backstage tomorrow: we could hear you this evening and you must try harder to keep quiet."  Finally, "Smile, smile, smile!"
   I can assure you that on the night, the whole cast of nearly 250 players took all the above to heart, and boy, did they smile.

Article by Penny Smale (Youth News)





Audience Reviews


Submitted by Amanda Knott


Wednesday July 18, 2007

WILLOW TREE Centre of Dance & Performing Arts

   Irene Holland and her creative teaching staff once again achieved a great night out in the New Hall - in itself an accolade - for it cannot be said that the New Hall is an atmospheric or practical theatre space.  Despite this, the Willow Tree performers managed to exude theatrical joy and boundless energy in their 2007 end of year showcase. Children from 4 years and upward, sang, danced and acted their blooming socks off  !  It opened with the very youngest singing a medley from The Sound Of Music led by 12 year old Sammie Firbanks whose singing talent will one day surely rival that of Connie Fisher - Andrew Lloyd Webber's TV Maria .. a fact that "Katy Baker, Theatrical Agent" also believes.   Now she was seated in her office on the balcony at the side of the stage and between numbers made telephone calls to very famous people (including Sir Andrew) alerting them to the talents she herself was witnessing on stage.  It was an excellent idea to link the numbers in this way - a brilliant plan as Katy Baker herself is a huge talent.  Her dialogue which captured the essence of "loveyness" was delivered with perfect comic timing.

In an evening of many delights, I will mention a few deserving names whose performances caught my eye, but this is not to say that there were not many more significant achievements.  Two young lads, Connor van Bussel and Luke Hayes-Middleton, were amazingly accomplished when they sang "anything you can do you I can do better" from Oklahoma.

In a sparkling medley from Oliver - which is to be the Willow Tree's Christmas show - there was a group of girls in red plaid frocks whose musical theatre talent was plain to see.  I just couldn't help watching them. They were Gemma Sharland, Lucy Flatters, Sarah Jepps and Mollie Shearman who also used her expressive face and mime skills as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in a ballet to the famous music.  Ella Brown danced a solo lyrical jazz number with style and I thoroughly enjoyed a tap number in which the girls wore flowing scarlet silky evening gowns reminiscent of Ginger Rogers. Also in scarlet - a basque and hot pants this time - jazz dancer Lauren Bridgeman's punchy delivery stood out.  Costumes, as usual in a Willow Tree show, were diverse and colourful.  The music was equally diverse, but sometimes too loud especially in tap numbers when the tapping itself got lost.  Steve Gage, Theresa Priscott and the stage management team who worked so hard, must also be applauded.

Irene and her teaching staff offer wonderful opportunities to young people in this area. The training they provide is a huge confidence booster and a great tool for life.  It is not just for those wishing to enter the performing arts professionally, but for anyone.  For 35 years, since its inception, I understand that Irene has had to struggle to afford and sustain suitable premises for her remarkable school.  She has never been daunted and for the sake of her pupils, currently 250, she has persevered and succeeded.  Irene needs especially to be applauded and thanked.