FCT 45th Anniversary Gala

Apr 5 2024 | By More

★★★★★   Array of talent

Church Hill Theatre: Thurs 4 – Sat 6 Apr 2024
Review by Hugh Simpson

Forth Children’s Theatre’s 45th Anniversary Gala at the Church Hill is a fitting tribute to a mainstay of the Edinburgh stage, and as enjoyable a show as you could find anywhere.

The original publicity for the gala suggested it would feature ‘past, present and future’ FCT members; although there are certainly many distinguished alumni who might have taken part, the cast here (with some exceptions) is largely made up of those who are currently involved, or who have graced the stage in the very recent past.

Joseph Coane and others in Nicest Kids In Town. Pic Roisin Caulfield.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing in terms of producing a coherent whole. ‘Songs from the shows’ productions often come with their own problems – an excess of ‘eleven o’clock numbers’ or the dreaded ‘songs that go like this’, leading to climax after climax, an excess of volume and an audience that come out feeling somewhat battered and a little queasy.

This is definitely not what happens here. Co-directors and co-choreographers Taylor Doig and Jack Nixon have fashioned a running order that flows beautifully, helped by having two or three songs from each of twelve different musicals – some very familiar, others much less well known. Opening with Brand New You from 13 and closing with Brand New Day from The Wiz provides a pleasing symmetry, and demonstrates that this is the product of some thought. Due attention is paid to tempo and to light and shade, and the end result is very fine indeed.


Throughout, the choreography is absolutely first-rate, and makes use of the talents of the large cast. Angie Caulfield’s costumes are particularly noteworthy – as is the speed at which some of the costume changes are performed. This helps with a decidedly slick presentation, as do the sound and lighting (from Callum Farrell, Andy Johnston and Connor Dickson).

Ailsa MacLean with Evie Houldcroft, Emma Swain, Hariot Currie-Mullan and Jagoda Matecka in Blow, Gabriel, Blow. Pic: Roisin Caulfield.

But, of course, it is all about the performers, who are uniformly impressive. Many of the songs are set up to feature several in turn, and it would be impossible to namecheck everyone, but suffice it to say that there is not a weak link in sight, with number after number succeeding brilliantly.

Bobby Duncan has played lead roles in a couple of recent FCT productions, and here he lights up the stage whenever he appears, with his accomplished singing, acrobatic dancing and strong presence. Ailsa MacLean reprises her exceptionally impressive performance from Anything Goes, and also provides some excellent dancing.

convincingly dramatic

Strong dance performances also come from Eve Houldcroft, Emma Swain and others, including a joyous tap cameo from choreographer Doig.

Harry Aspinall and Lara Shanks are convincingly dramatic in numbers from Sweeney Todd and Corin Wake’s comic talents are well used in excerpts from School of Rock. Maia Baxter is a very fine Tracy from Hairspray on Good Morning Baltimore, while Joseph Coane leads a spirited Nicest Kids In Town from the same show.

The chorus from Mary Poppins. Pic: Roisin Caulfield.

Calum Caulfield and Nathan Fisher provide a satisfying comic duet on When I Get My Name In Lights from Boy From Oz; Orla Harrison makes light of the very difficult job of performing alone in front of the curtain in Jimmy from Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Charlotte Dickson’s rendition of Come To Your Senses from Tick Tick Boom is one of the undoubted highlights, being dramatically and emotionally rewarding; her subsequent duet with Duncan on Therapy is also extremely enjoyable.

Of the more mature performers, Lewis Baird has a couple of appearances, including as Hairspray’s Edna; Rachel Allison and Neil Somerville’s duet on Feed Me from Little Shop of Horrors is wonderfully judged and beautifully tuneful. Roisin Caulfield’s rendition of Home from The Wiz is heartfelt and backed by some expressive dancing (which included an object lesson in how to deal with a falling mic-pack so elegantly that virtually no-one was even aware of it).


Throughout, there is a pleasing knowledge by all concerned of teamwork, and how to make each other look (and sound) as good as possible. Similarly, there is an understanding of the songs’ meanings as well as the notes. There is an awareness of when to go full throttle, and when to be more restrained, that would be the envy of much more experienced performers.

chorus from There’s Something About Jamie. Pic: Roisin Caulfield.

There are a couple of possible quibbles. The odd moment of late mic-switching hampers the numbers with multiple soloists, and sometimes makes the lyrics difficult to make out. The band (co-musical directors Mark McLauchlin and Jack Gardner) are tuneful and well drilled, but do occasionally seem on the point of flagging in the second half.

Which is understandable, when there is a non-stop parade of musical delights such as this. It starts with a bang with the two chorus numbers from 13, and after every section it seems inevitable that the quality will drop. That it never does is testament to the performers, and to Doig and Nixon for fashioning a production that has far more internal logic than a lot of musicals.

Congratulations to FCT on 45 years (even though it might seem an unusual number to celebrate), and for producing a show that for entertainment and sheer musical quality would be very hard to beat.

Running time: Two hours (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 30 Morningside Rd, EH10 4DR
Thursday 4 – Saturday 6 April 2024
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and Details: Book here.

Website: www.forthchildrenstheatre.org
Facebook: @forthchildrenstheatre
X: @FCTCompany
Instagram: @forthchildrenstheatre

 Harry Aspinall and chorus from Ballad of Sweeney Todd. Pic: Roisin Caulfield.


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Comments (1)

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  1. Dorothy Bruce says:

    A fabulous show, featuring all the talents of the cast. Well deserving of the 5 star review… worthy of all the positive comments and standing ovation from the audience.
    There must be many very proud parents and grandparents out there. Well done and thank you everyone involved for a fantastic visit to musicals old and new.
    The cast throughout looked like they were really enjoying what they were doing showing supportive teamwork throughout. I am sure all these young people will move on with confidence to entertain us in many more musical productions. I look forward to this.