The Little Theatre in Leicester is but five minutes walk into the city from the Leicester railway station. On the rail journey from Nottingham to Leicester I try to recall my own childhood railway journeys to holiday destinations and sometimes a horse racetrack. My Dad did rather like a bet or five on the dead cert Gee Gees. He wasn’t quite so fond of the long-haired Bee Gees though. I digress.
I am of an age where the iron majesty of hissing – huffing and puffing steam trains was my childhood reality and the 1970 film, The Railway Children became a fond cinematic treasure of my youth. I still well up like a big softy when Bobbie (the impossibly beautiful Jenny Agutter – once admired – never ever forgotten) sees a male figure approaching through the thick residual cloud of smoke and steam lingering mysteriously in the air from a just-departed train on Oakwood Station and, on recognising who it is, poignantly calls out “Daddy! Oh My Daddy!” That’s it. I’ve gone! Where are the tissues?
The Railway Children is a super childhood adventure story and still much-loved by modern day parents and children alike. It is little surprise that The Little Theatre should be attracted to such a theatrical property especially when it has the added charms of music and songs to give Edith Nesbit’s 1905 tale an even bigger stage appeal. Judging from the packed audience for the first matinee of Julian Woolford and Richard John’s stage musical adaptation, The Railway Children – A Musical, it is proving to be a gentle yet palpable hit for the whole family. As it runs at The Little Theatre until 15th April I envisage that Leicester’s amateur musicals history will be very proud of this one. It doesn’t put a foot wrong and stays on the right side of the track for a stage musical.
Like many a show featuring young children and teenagers the main kids’ roles are shared with two teams throughout the run. Today’s terrific team B features Scarlett Hubbard (Roberta), Harvey Griffiths (Peter), Holly Langley Wilford (Phyllis), and the Perks children are played by Harvey Clarridge (Colin), Ciara Daisley (Elsie), Elodie Dakin (Ginger) and Elika Clarke (Patch). Mr Perks the Stationmaster and show’s spoken and sung narrator is charmingly rendered by a strong-voiced Tom Young.
The Railway Children‘s mother is played to motherly perfection by Amanda Sadler and David Lovell makes a wonderfully lovable and kind Old Gentleman. Michael Holland triples up as Father, Ensemble and most impressively the Russian emigree and author Mr Szczepansky. Like all of the underplayed acting in this production Holland really convinces in this role. The overall naturalistic approach is one of the show’s key strengths. Director/Musical Director Leigh White gives the this musical production great heart and never does it feel or look like a ‘rent a crowd’ show. The scenic design by Gem Greaves is full of imaginative invention and the costumes are spot-on Edwardian style.
Take yourselves or even better, take your extended family and all their relatives and friends to see this high-quality gem of a show and you won’t be disappointed.