Review by Lia Cocks
In today’s current climate, getting to see live theatre is an absolute treat, so when the opportunity to review Scotch College’s Stop the Presses! came along, I snapped up the chance!
I was completely bowled over by their production of Les Miserables in 2019, so I was excited to see what they present this time around.
I. Was. Not. Disappointed.
Stop the Presses! is essentially a showcase of songs from popular musicals over the years.
This gave the students, ranging from years 7 to 12, an opportunity to shine across multiple roles, with characters and stories.
At first glance, it looks like a random compilation of musicals, however delving deeper, each musical has a common theme of hope, resilience, strength and support.
Traits these kids had in spades!
The opening number, Welcome to the Rock from Come From Away was gritty and true, with fabulous accent work. Jim Martin lead the charges with his strong stage presence.
‘Stop the World’ was full of fervent intensity, especially from Adele Hubmayer and Jack Raft; exceptional young performers and singers. Hubmayer also displayed her powerful emotional connection to song in The Letter from Billy Elliot and Burn from Hamilton.
Our first introduction to Millie Brake is during Me and the Sky, as Beverley Bass. With her beautiful, sweet tones and heartfelt sentiment, she is a young lady with a bright future.
The younger students were able to be showcased wonderfully during the Matilda selections. Again, remarkable work by the revolting children ensemble, but outstanding efforts to both Georgia Polischko and Zara Windle who shared the role of Matilda with a fresh, innocent tonality.
Grace Johnston’s portrayal as Miss Honey during My House was calm, subdued and sincere.
While there was a little stumble in Revolting Children, the ensemble stepped up as a team to continue without another hitch.
Sister Act, one of my all time favourites, delivered the comic relief and soulful sounds with standout performances by Olivia Sutton, Sophie Fielder, Imogene Mons and Zandra Martin in the roles of Mary Patrick, Mary Lazarus, Mary Robert and Deloris respectively. I was tapping my toes and smiling the whole time!
The final showcased musical for Act 1 was Newsies, and I tell you, when this show comes to Australia, they have a ready made cast in these boys!
Harry McGinty was made for the role of Jack Kelly - in his vocals, dance prowess and leading man stage presence. One to watch out for!
Issie Mennillo as Catherine Plummer owned the stage like a professional twice her age.
Oliver Lawes and Harry Ince brought a lovely essence to the cast of the newsboys, with gorgeous harmonies in the reprise of Watch What Happens.
Seize the Day, rounding out the finale, was a perfect, rousing and uplifting conclusion to Act 1.
We come back to a sea of green; songs from Wicked.
Where Mille Brake returns with a sonorous, operatic sound as Glinda opposite the sensational Sophia Thompson as the belting green witch Elphaba.
Her delivery of Defying Gravity was totally electrifying and absolutely phenomenal.
Next to the stage was the cast of Billy Elliot; now, as this was the most recent professional musical I saw live, I was keen to see how this was interpreted.
Charlie Miller shone as Mrs Wilkinson - her nuances and accent on point.
Lucas Nunn was the innocent and understated Billy and his charming voice is one to cherish. Some additional light entertainment was provided by Flynn Doyle as Mr Braithwaite.
A totally entertaining number.
The segue to The Letter was smooth and seamless and yes, I cried.
The emotion remained during We Once Were Kings, where the ensemble joined in the solemn tone of the miners forced back to work. All had a character and they played their part.
An incredible use of soundscape and tomography to implore the feeling of the mining gates closing as the men return to their unchanged working conditions. Powerful final images coupled with super strong voices made this one of my favourite moments.
Lin Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary contemporary musical theatre piece, Hamilton was the final musical showcased and the casting was spot on.
Harry McGinty and Jack Raft were outstanding as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and the selected songs, My Shot, The Schuyler Sisters, Helpless and First Burn were performed to perfection.
Special mention to the five performers Millie Brake, Sophia Thompson, Grace Johnston, Adele Hubmayer and Charlie Miller who played the scorned Eliza with incredible vocals and ferocity.
Such a mature and verbose musical choice, and these students took it in their stride.
In the Battle of Yorktown, the combination of lighting, choreography and musical direction really personified this modern retelling of history.
The finale piece, You’ll Never Walk Alone, was a truly moving rendition and oozed the core and recurring theme of hope, inspiration and comfort. Their emotion was palpable and radiated through the fourth wall, smacking us all in the face and roused the entire audience on their feet with voracious applause and watery eyes.
Kudos to the wardrobe department in fulfilling the brief across so many musicals, with different genres and centuries, notable mention to Stage and Set designer Craig Williams for turning the back drop into a giant digital newspaper, complete with turning pages.
Absolute accolades to the superfluous production team of Director and Choreographer Nina Richards, Producer and Music Director Antony Hubmayer and Assistant Director and Assistant Music Mark Stefanoff; a prodigious team!
Scotch College, you’ve done it again. You’ve just secured a fan for life.