A magical musical tour – and the Muppets

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By Maureen Bishop

Music from The Muppets to one of the latest Broadway musicals, Hamilton, from the magical journey of Enchanted to the sombre story of murdering barber Sweeney Todd will be in the repertoire of 120 young people by the end of this week.

The students, aged from nine to 21, are attending the annual Mid Canterbury Summer Singing School, under musical director and producer Jo Castelow and choreographer and director Alice Sollis.

The public will have the chance to see the talented youngsters when they stage three concerts under the title Dreams, Despair and Delight, tomorrow, Friday at 7.30pm and on Saturday at 2pm and 7.30pm at the Ashburton Trust Event Centre.

Demand is high for places at the summer school and this year 63 juniors and 64 seniors are attending.

Auditions for sought-after solo roles were held last weekend and all students have had their words and music for some weeks, but the enthusiastic, energetic, slick moves which make the concerts great entertainment were added once the singers got on stage from Wednesday.

With just five days of rehearsals, the intensive musical theatre course works the students hard, but it must be enjoyable for some have been returning for eight years.

While many of the cast are Ashburton-based, others travel from Timaru and Christchurch to participate.

The school was first held in 2000. Since then hundreds of talented youngsters have attended.

This year, music for the seniors includes the new Broadway musical, Hamilton, the story of George Washington’s aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, the Little Shop of Horrors, Sweeney Todd, Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, and some arrangements from American acapella group, Pentatonix.

Juniors will travel the magical journey of Enchanted, Finding Neverland and original and modern versions of the Muppets.

Winners of two scholarships given by the school, will be announced on Saturday night.

Once the show is finished Jo Castelow will be turning her thoughts to her next challenge. Since 2011, she has worked as musical director for the Sunshine Coast Youth Theatre based in Noosa, Australia. This year they present Chicago in May and she will fly out to begin rehearsals there.