Just So was performed by London College of Music third-year students at Watermans Theatre, Brentford, London.
This early Stiles and Drewe musical, a contemporary take on Rudyard Kipling’s much-loved Just So stories, brought the best out of a particularly likeable bunch of students from the musical theatre arm of the University of West London, just as the same year’s Alfie the Musical, with an entirely different cast, did the previous week in Ealing.
First written in 1984 and much revised since, Just So has been a long-standing success on both sides of the pond for the team that has gone on to give us Betty Blue Eyes and Soho Cinders.
It follows the journey of the Elephant’s Child (Kevin Fagan, making the most of his best Act II solo ‘Does the Moment Ever Come?’) and his fear-of-flying companion, the Kolokolo Bird (the dainty Georgina Louise Jackson, with a deep, clear voice and terrific poise).
They are guided and watched over by the Eldest Magician (Mikey Wooster, confident from the outset), who acts as narrator. He takes them through many adventures with some weird and wonderful creatures, a quest that takes them to the banks of the great, grey-green Limpopo River and a dangerous encounter with Jack Furssedon-Coates as a greedy Crocodile.
Although intended for children, the humanism and moral reasoning of the yarns give them universal appeal in this charming, gently humorous piece directed with pace and style by Judith Paris.
She certainly got everything out of her cast in which, apart from those already mentioned, Justyn Huntley, as an extravagantly effeminate Leopard, and Naomi Ellen, bang on with the accent as the Parsee Cook, particularly impressed.
Nobody was less than good and some were very good indeed, as were the Alfie cast. There seems to be greater strength-in-depth among this year’s crop of students.
Benny Bright made a fair-dinkum Kangaroo, Callum Rhys Griffiths a very Welsh malfunctioning Cooking Stove, a sort of Aga Khan’t (sorry about that one), Zak Hamdia a forceful East End Rhino and bouncy Ceirios Ann Davies’ Zebra made a delightful double act with the taller Megan Yates’ Giraffe.
Costumes (Mike Leopold) and choreography (Marcia Carr) were top-notch and the band of three under MD Richard Link gave strong back-up in a show that had three or four spendid songs.
‘Does the Moment Ever Come?’ has already been praised; ‘The Parsee Cake Cake-Walk’ was a hoot and extremely well performed by the company; the witty and innuendo-laden ‘We Want to Take the Ladies Out’, from Jaguar and the Leopard, made stylish use of the stage; while the Kolokolo Bird’s ‘Wait a Bit’ got the full works from the delicious Miss Jackson. In a cast of 22 singing, dancing and acting their hearts out, it’s impossible to mention everyone, but if there is one particularly to watch out for, she would be my best tip for the top.
Readers may also be interested in:
Alfie the Musical – London College of Music – Review