Railway Children – Press

Review: The Railway Children, The Musical, New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm

Friday 24th April 2009

YOU can wait ages for a train and then along come two at the same time.
Although not exactly synchronised, the New Earswick Musical Society’s production of E Nesbit’s evergreen saga does come hot on the tracks after York Theatre Royal’s soon-to-be-revived production at the National Railway Museum.

This musical adaptation by Julian Woolford and Richard John is a rosy, sepia period piece chronicling the adventures of Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter played by Emma Craggs, Gaby Richardson and William Hartley respectively, during their summer in Yorkshire in 1905.

Upon arrival, the youngsters soon befriend the amiable station master Perks, so warmly played by Stephen Tearle, and win over the entire village after diverting a rail catastrophe with the aid of torn-up red petticoats.

Of course, the Railway Children share the impact of a shameful secret.

It transpires that politicians in the halcyon days of Edwardian Britain also spread smear campaigns against each other. Hence both Bobbie and the children’s mother (Carol Richardson) face their anguish in secret.

Despite their worries, the family befriend a lonely Russian, tend to a wounded schoolboy and entirely enchant a well connected, benevolent old gentlemen.

The most enjoyable numbers are the boisterous ensemble pieces Christmas Is Here, All On Time and the perky A Once In A Lifetime Day, all of which feature some rather nifty tap dancing sequences from the ensemble, expertly directed and choreographed by Ann McCreadie. All aboard now!

By Ian Sime


Preview: New Earswick Musical Society presents The Railway Children, The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 21 to 25

Friday 17th April 2009

YORK Theatre Royal’s upcoming revival of The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum will not be the only stage adaptation of E Nesbit’s story in York this year.

New Earswick Musical Society will present The Railway Children, The Musical at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from Tuesday, under the direction of producer Ann McCreadie and musical director of Don Pears.

In a cast bursting with talented youngsters, the winner of last September’s Community Idol final, Emma Craggs, will play Roberta, the eldest of the railway children.

The Fulford School pupil, who sang Lulu’s Shout at the York talent contest, will be undertaking her second principal part for New Earswick, having performed the title role in Annie in November 2005 at the age of 11. She is, incidentally, the great niece of the society’s chairman, Mavis Massheder.

Roberta’s brother, Peter, will be played by ten-year-old William Hartley, no stranger to the stage himself after participating in New Earswick’s Oliver! as a member of Fagin’s gang and in The Wiz at the Grand Opera House.

William’s mother, Joanna, has played several roles for New Earswick, including Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly!, and will be in the chorus next week, while William’s sister, Beth, has been cast as Patch, one of the Perks children. Joanna’s husband, David, will swell the Hartley family ranks by playing the Engine Driver.

William’s fellow St Olave’s School pupil, Gaby Richardson, will star as Phyllis, the younger daughter. She first appeared with the society as a Munchkin and a little witch at the age of six in The Wizard of Oz and has since played Molly in Annie and Princess Ying Yaoulak in The King And I.

Gaby, 12, will be joined in next week’s cast by her mum, Carol, the society’s publicity officer. “Although I was fully intending to give this show a miss due to work commitments, when Gaby secured the part of Phyllis, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to audition for the Mother to play her on-stage mum,” says Carol.

The leading adult role of station master Albert Perks goes to Steve Tearle, whose New Earswick credits include Horace Vandergelder in Hello, Dolly! and Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, while Alan Rome will play the Old Gentleman.

Steve Padfield will be the Russian émigré, Szczepansky, accompanied in next week’s cast by his daughter Georgia in the role of Elsie, another of the Perks children.

“Our production is a truly family affair with generations of families either performing together or participating in some way towards the production of a great show,” says Carol. “It’s a warm, feel-good musical by Richard John and Julian Woodford that tells the classic story in a new dimension, using heartfelt ballads, stirring choral numbers and tuneful melodies.”

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