Press Report


Tiverton Gazette


December 15th 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Christmas show proves a big hit

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
Tiverton's New Hall
Amanda Knott

   Christmas came to Tiverton's New Hall last week with the Willow Tree Theatre Company's production of It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, a family musical based on the film  Miracle on 34th Street.
   The story surrounds the assertion made by Kris Kringle, a genial old fellow, that he is Santa Claus.  His claim finds its way to America's high court where his lawyer, the show's young hero, wins his case against all the odds. Generosity of spirit and a big dollop of love play their part in his achievement.  The Christmas message is loud and clear.
   Performing with their usual commitment and high energy, the Willow Tree cast gave it their colourful all. Treading the boards, after an 8 year absence, Victoria Baldwin took the role of Doris Walker, mother of Susan and chief executive of Macy's, a large American department store. She sang and danced with the virtuosity of a true professional and wore a stunning array of outfits. She looked the part to her sophisticated finger tips.
   Susan, played by Emily Searle, is another star.  She is 10 and performed with extraordinary flare and confidence particularly for one so young.  She is surely a talent to watch.
   The young lawyer was played by Leon Searle whose warm presence and fine voice charmed us in the audience as he did Doris with whom he falls in love.



   Santa Claus sported a fine set of white whiskers, as indeed he should, out of which emerged a charmingly mellow singing voice.
   The set was designed and cleverly made by Steve Gage and Theresa Priscott. It was an ambitious revolve placed centre stage which rotated to show us Santa's grotto and then seamlessly round to show us Doris and Susan's apartment - just 2 of many ingeniously designed scenes.  It struck me that the slope of the stage must have made it very complicated to construct,  all the more credit to them.  As ever, the backstage crew worked extremely efficiently and the 8 piece band played with vigour...there was much drumming... and with sensitivity.
   The costumes were created by Denise James whose colourful stamp was in evidence.
   Jon Sowden directed with flare while Willow Tree's Artistic Director Irene Holland, on sparkling form, was Assistant to Everybody. They all did a grand job.




Audience Reviews


Tiverton Gazette


December 22nd 2009

Show lifts Christmas spirits at New Hall

Review of the week
'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas', New Hall.

    Christmas came to Tiverton's New Hall thanks to the Willow Tree's 2009 production 'It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas' which got us all in the festive mood.
   The story tells of how Kris Kringle (Adrian Garland) lands a plum job at top New York department store Macy's - and quickly spreads the message of loving one another at Christmas.
   The problem is Kris Kringle is convinced he is the real Father Christmas - which only lands him in trouble with the authorities.
   And it is only with the support of Macy's colleagues and friendly attorney Fred Gaily (Leon Searle) that he is finally allowed to continue spreading his goodwill among cynical New Yorkers.
   Leon portrayed his character with, ahem, plenty of conviction and his love interest with Macy's event director Doris Walker (Victoria Baldwin) was the heartbeat of the entire production.
   But it was Victoria's performance that really stole the show. Even though the storyline focussed on the trials and tribulations of Father Christmas, her consummate acting, singing, and dancing was a delight. The daughter of Doris, Susan Walker, was played by 10-year-old Emily Searle. While real life dad Leon hardly let the side down in his role, he was comprehensively upstaged by a talented daughter whose voice and command of dialogue marks her out as a star of the future.

  Back in Macy's Malcolm Yeates' role of Marvin Shellhammer, a junior executive of the store, brought another dollop of fun - and a catchy jingle about a plastic alligator made me want to go out and buy one. Malcolm's performances continue to impress on stage as he has done in the past with other local theatre groups.
   The alligator jingle catches on when store owner R H Macy (Rick Barfoot) uses it in defence of Kris Kringle in the courtroom. Rick shows Macy as a man in charge, but his character subtly changes throughout the show as he slowly discovers some Christmas compassion.
   The cast of young and old worked well on stage, and gave a performance to be proud of. The chorus worked well together, making it feel Christmassy, from the Thanksgiving parade to the final curtain.
   There was always something to catch your eye on stage, from attractive glamour girls to the playful children's toys that brought the stage to life.
   Willow Tree have done more than most to bring Christmas to Tiverton - and we should all raise a glass to that.

Lewis Clarke

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