Our House has a distinctive place in the musical theatre spectrum.
Not especially glitzy and certainly not sugary, it deals quite grittily with real life and social issues.
At the Devonshire Park Theatre, it proved the perfect vehicle for the young people of Hailsham Community College.
“Make good choices” – one of those parenting clichés which reluctant youngsters hear with a silent sigh.
But Our House confronts its hero Joe Casey with real, life-changing choices, and this talented, energetic cast tackled both the acting and the issues with relish.
The show is a sort of stage version of Sliding Doors, but here the doors do not so much slide as spin, and with unnerving speed.
It’s all rather black and white, but you just know that the modern morality play will finish up on the right side.
At first glance the set design is sparse and rather functional, but it adapts brilliantly to the unfolding story.
A gallery allows Joe’s parents, and others, to look on like guardian angels while the young man lurches alternately from triumph to crisis and back again.
Ollie Albertella carries the show as Joe, with strong acting and convincing body language.
Girlfriend Sarah (Chantelle Miles) interacts beautifully and has a strong clear singing voice – as do parents Daniel Adsett and Charlie Bentley-Astor, both assuredly playing “up” in age.
Too many other acting highlights to name, but a special mention for the hilarious bubbling “chavvy girlfriends” who all but steal the show.
One of the strengths of Our House, especially for schools or youth groups, is the huge number of cameo parts, and all are played with conviction by actors spanning the full school age range.
Great credit to directors Giselle and Mark Dabernig for drawing out so much acting talent: this show has no passengers.
The music, based largely on well-loved Madness hits, is quite simple and a bit repetitive.
Sondheim it isn’t – but it’s exactly right for the teen performers and their bold message.
Under MD Simon Dipple, both soloists and ensemble sing with a driven, tuneful energy that fills the theatre and thrills the audience.
And the dancing perfectly fits the bill, too.
Unfussy choreography by Zoe Pennington and Fiona Christie is delivered by a bouncy chorus that is visibly enjoying itself.
In fact, there couldn’t have been anyone – onstage, backstage or out front – who didn’t enjoy this happy production.
Well done, Hailsham Community College. Hailsham can be proud of you.
Review by Kevin Anderson.