A Christmas Wish 2014

December 14, 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Tinsel and tonsils

Usher Hall: Sat 13 Dec

Aren’t stage school kids supposed to be annoying? Not the students of Edinburgh’s MGA Academy of Performing Arts, who decked the Usher Hall with A Christmas Wish, raising spirits as they raised funds for Barnardo’s Scotland.

From the wee juniors of Stage Academies to the strapping full-timers of the third year, there wasn’t a mini-prima donna to be seen – just talented students, singing and dancing their hearts out in an infectious ode to Christmas joy. With more than two dozen numbers, all superbly staged by director Murray Grant and team, this was one packed selection box.

The MGA dancers. Photo: Richard Findlay

The MGA dancers. Photo: Richard Findlay

With toys from Frozen being the most in-demand items for children this festive season, it was no surprise to see a couple of songs from the Disney hit. Do You Want to Build a Snowman made for a sweet, sincere opening, while Let it Go, reworked as a duet for Rachel White and Danielle Jones with accompaniment from MGA’s dancers, worked surprisingly well.

A couple of numbers from Elf the Musical had me wishing for a full-scale MGA production – Nobody Cares About Santa was performed with gusto by the Full Time Boys, while Laurie Coburn’s Never Fall in Love With an Elf made for sophisticated silliness, complete with super-cute mini-man.

The MGA Singers dazzled with their witty 12 Days of Christmas mash-up, a masterclass in tone and precision, while Natasha Barrie’s clear-as-a-bell Do You Hear What I Hear closed the first act with seasonal aplomb.

the right side of saccharine

A couple of songs offered different takes on the show’s title: sharp delivery ensured Nadia Kramer’s My Grown-Up Christmas List stayed just the right side of saccharine, while the cynical fun of My Simple Christmas Wish was a fine showcase for Amy Johnston’s way with a tune and a gag.

The break allowed a chance to reflect on the talent and hard work of the music and staging team – Marcella Macdonald, Gerard Bentall, Neil Metcalfe, Simon Hanson, Senay Taormina and Andrew Gowland. I’ve no idea how long it takes to select the songs, prime the performers, arrange the accompaniment, decide the dancing and sort the staging, but whatever it takes, it’s worth it.

The masssed MGA Santas. Photo: Richard Findlay

The massed MGA Santas. Photo: Richard Findlay

Opening the second act, Christmas in New York was nicely sung, but just a little too cheesy and geographically irrelevant for me. More successful global name checking came with Be a Santa, from the marvellously obscure musical Subways Are For Sleeping, which saw Father Christmas anointing elves as substitute Santas. This motivated amusing snippets from the likes of Phantom of the Opera, Avenue Q and Hairspray which emphasised once more what a sharp group of performers MGA is producing.

You could hear a pine cone drop during the beautiful O Holy Night; Carol of the Bells raised the spirits while tingling the spine; song and dance pop ditty All I Want For Christmas was tinsel-tactic on both fronts; while party favourites Step Into Christmas and Merry Christmas Everyone sounded as good as ever.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing had my companion teary-eyed for all the right reasons, and a mix of When You Wish Upon a Star and White Christmas – cue amusingly globby wet ‘snow’ falling on the packed house – made for the perfect close as the entire cast of hundreds swamped the stage.

If they weren’t feeling festive beforehand, be assured, A Christmas Wish sent its audience out into the streets with a jolly song in their hearts. What more could you wish for?

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Usher Hall, Lothian Road, EH1 2EA
Saturday 13 December only
MGA Acadamy website: www.themgaacademy.com

The full cast. Photo: Richard Findlay

The full cast. Photo: Richard Findlay

ENDS

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