WOW!'s most recent show High School Musical ran from 19-24 February 2024.

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NODA Review

This was my first visit to Witham and the public hall was a lovely, traditional venue with a
stage. Everyone I met, who was a member of WOW went out of their way to be friendly,
helpful and kind. From the Chair (Richard McNeill), Director (Rhianna Howard), to the Box
Office Manager and Front of House Team (Donna Goddard, Debbie Rolph, plus several
others). I honestly could not have asked for a friendlier welcome and your wonderful attitude,
kindness and generous hospitality really made my night – thank you.
As we were shown to our seats (lovely seats at the back of the hall on the tiered area for a
perfect view) there was a real buzz in the sold-out hall. This production ran for a week and
most of the performances were sold out, which was terrific to hear. The WOW youth group
featured a cast of over thirty talented young people who sang, danced and acted to a high
standard. The audience were very engaged and clearly loved the show and all scenes,
songs and dances were applauded and cheered very enthusiastically by the audience.
The stage was used very well, with characters entering via the wings or coming onto the
stage through the hall for more poignant moments of the production. The set was effective
and emphasised an American high school. The main set involved a purpose-built unit, which
revolved to show a seating area/grandstand on one side and a set of high school lockers on
the other. Scene changes took place fluently and seamlessly and the unit was moved into
place by the cast themselves in a very efficient manner. The sound effects and lighting were
good and worked well. The music was provided by a live band, and this really helped to give
this great show a sense of occasion. This show required the dialogue to be delivered at a
good pace and several actors had many lines to learn. Several of the cast had mastered an
authentic American accent and this added to the enjoyment of the performance. All
characters could be heard at the back of the hall and the microphones worked very well
indeed. The costumes and make up were particularly good and every actor looked their part.
The casting of all characters was good and clearly, most of the cast were enjoying their
parts. There was some exceptionally talented acting and reacting taking place and all actors
interacted well and used the stage to good effect. The timing and pace were highly effective,
as is needed in this fast-paced musical.
The cheerleaders were delightful, coming onto stage at various times, dancing,
cheerleading, and performing some terrific gymnastic moves – well done! The ensemble in
general took part with real enthusiasm. They added to the occasion of an American high
school and supported the main characters well. The main characters interacted well and
there was real talent evident throughout the show. Jack McConnell played the
narrator/announcer Jack Scott excellently; the audience loved his appearances, and he
clearly enjoyed the role. Hattie Phillips played Ms Darbus wonderfully and gave a strong
performance. Rhianna Gregory played Sharpay Evans with a terrific, sassy attitude and
totally made the part her own. She was ably assisted by her long suffering ‘brother,’ Ryan
Evans, played by Fionn Crickett. Kieran Wingrove played the lead role of Troy Bolton very
well indeed. He acted, reacted, sang and danced effortlessly and should be proud of himself.
Gabriella Montez was played superbly well by Poppy Taylor. She lit up the stage whenever
she appeared and again, her acting and dancing skills were wonderful. Her beautiful singing

voice really added to the entire show. While watching the show, the characters were
believable in their roles and huge credit needs to be given to the director for her wonderful
vision with the young people she directed.
This was a particularly good youth production, and everyone involved should feel
enormously proud of themselves. The lovely, well produced programme mentioned that
several past members of WOW had gone on to star in the West End or now had successful
careers in the entertainment business. There was definitely some terrific talent on show
tonight which suggests this tradition could well continue.
Once again, very well done to everyone concerned!

NETG Review


This is probably not the very best musical on the planet, but it scores by testing the talents and energy of a youthful company.

The roles are well defined and offer strong opportunities.

The music is mainly up-beat with the exception of the harmonious love duet.

Above all, the show gives food for thought about putting people into pigeonholes, as if drama and sport can never find common ground.
Director Rhianna Howard and her team had clearly put a considerable amount of effort and detail into the unfolding storyline and all the show’s component parts.


The large, glossy and clever programme (with make-believe teacher’s marks and comments!) was clear and informative, with interesting comments from the cast. Designed in the style of the school’s Yearbook, it was very well done.

Although the entrance foyer becomes a bit of a log jam, we were extricated, united with our tickets and led courteously to our favourite seats in Row O - raised seating with a really good view. The bar always looks so inviting, but I’m usually driving, and the zero percent beer was a welcome refresher for me…thank you.

The interval raffle, very brief in itself, was stretched out for an uncomfortable length of time. Fair enough to plug the next show, but this was rather extreme unless you’re in with the in-crowd.


Deceptively simple, making imaginative use of the bleacher-style steps.
The lockers, and Sharpay’s show-off wardrobe, looked very good and the cast could move them without too much effort. The basketball court really did seem to evolve from the lockers early on in the performance.
At the start of Act Two, pots of flowers now graced the steps for the rooftop scene. All-in-all, a flexible setting which coped with the 20 scenes.


The make-up was good and complemented the clothing. Sharpay’s model-girl looks were a perfect example - and her costume was suitably OTT.

All costumes were well selected and character-driven, from the sporty gear to the dramatic green, gold and purple of the drama teacher. We loved the eye-popping palette of bright sherbet colours used for tops and jackets. The gentler character of Gabrielle Montez was dressed slightly more “sweetly” to contrast with the more extrovert girls.


Spots were well used, including for picking out the school announcer, Jack Scott, in his studio booth. The lighting for the romantic rooftop duet was just right, as was the general lighting plot for everything from gym to rehearsal room to school theatre. The light really picked out the colours and fabrics of the costumes.
The sound could be a little bit distorted at times, which is not unusual with personal mics.


The living legend that is Phil Toms led an excellent band in the pit. Slightly louder than the singers at times but a brilliant part of the production.
The songs and routines were delivered with enthusiasm and empathy. Get Your Head In The Game is always a showstopper, even without the bouncing of actual basketballs, and the equally popular We’re All In This Together was powerfully performed, and encapsulated the spirit of the show.

The high spot for me is always the roof garden love duet, I Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, and we were certainly not disappointed. Kieran and Poppy handled the mood and the harmonies extremely well.


I’m including the acrobatic cheerleaders in this. They got the show off to a high-energy start that was jaw-dropping. Throughout the show, the choreography by Shelley Fenn and assistant Sophie Hill was full of energy and very well-drilled. Well done to them and to all the dancers/cheerleaders.

Sharpay and her brother Ryan’s featured dance (and its rehearsal) was very entertaining and well performed. Skilled, yet comical.


With such a big cast, it’s sadly not possible to mention all the performers by name, especially without a script to consult for accuracy, but everyone showed focus and enthusiasm for their role, large or modest. From cheerleaders to jocks, from skaters to supporting characters to Brainacs, it wouldn’t have been such an explosion of vitality without you.

TROY BOLTON: Kieran Wingrove played the athletic and skilful star of the school basketball team.
Under the thumb of his father/coach, Troy has a tough time, but softens when he falls for the art of singing and for newbie, Gabriella. Kieran reflected these moods, even though I didn’t totally believe there was chemistry in the romance. But he proved he could sing, which made him a doubly good fit for this leading role.
Get Your Head In The Game was confidentially sung and reprised, with Troy at the helm.

GABRIELLA MONTEZ: Poppy Taylor made the character of Brainiac Gabriella a clear contrast to many of the other girls - slightly shy and sweet-natured. Poppy’s lovely singing voice was a delight, and the duet with Kieran was, as mentioned, a high spot.

SHARPAY EVANS: Queen Bee and drama star of the school, Sharpay is a real show-off. Rhianna Gregory strutted her stuff with loads of confidence and all the right poses, smiles and pouts. Just occasionally we found her voice a bit shrill. Her practice dance and eventual performance with her brother was fantastic.

RYAN EVANS : Well done to Fionn Crickett for bringing the reluctant Ryan to life so realistically on stage. Fionn was always watchable and often funny - but still proved she could dance the routine with exhaustive flair.

CHAD DANFORTH: one of the “Jocks” and a good friend to Troy. James was a very supportive mate and created a likeable character.

TAYLOR McKESSIE: Madison Austin brought us a girl who was nice - but not boring. Taylor had become a good friend to Gabriella, and Madison fleshed this out into a pleasing personality. Good voice too.

ZEKE BAYLOR: Amusingly lovelorn when it came to the dazzling angel that is Sharpay Evans, poor Zeke built up to his big moment of presenting her with a cake. Lewis Andrews never overplayed his character’s setbacks, and by the time it came to the cake, his blundering was done so neatly, it could almost have been missed!

JACK SCOTT: The school’s announcer. Jack McConnell delivered all his observations very clearly and moved and and out of his spotlight with faultless speed. Rather cute in a nerdy way!

KELSI NIELSON: The creative musician of her year, well played by Cleo Gunn, who was studious and likeable.

MS DARBUS: The OTT, impassioned and flamboyant drama teacher, encapsulated delightfully in Hattie Phillips’ performance.

COACH BOLTON: I know he was a bit of a bully towards Troy, but I did enjoy Jamie March’s straight-down-the line adult portrayal of the earnest and determined man behind the basketball team. It came over as a good character-study and I found him watchable.

Rhianna Howard’s long expertise in the Witham drama world showed clearly throughout and she had woven the component parts of acting, dancing and athleticism together skilfully with the other leading creators. The sheer energy and physical skills stood out for us. I found it a little difficult to differentiate between brainiacs and non-brainiacs most of the time.


The entire ensemble can feel proud, collectively, of the energy and enthusiasm of this production. The audience was equally enthusiastic, so well done.
Thanks for an exhaustingly entertaining evening.

Theatre Life Review

Coming to see and review shows for WOW is always a pleasure, as they never fail to deliver great shows for the local audience. High School Musical was no exception, being the right choice for half term. The auditorium was packed with excited young people and families enjoying a fun night out.

Right from the opening number ‘Wildcat Cheer’, the whole cast burst onto the stage with huge confidence and energy, in their brightly coloured costumes, the joy of being on stage after a long rehearsal period radiated from all their faces as they took us through the story.

So similar to the Musical Grease, we meet Troy the heartthrob team captain and brainy Gabriella who have met on holiday and end up at the same school and fall in love. These two characters were played by Kieran Wingrove, and Poppy Taylor. Both of these young performers were excellent in their characterisation and showed that they could perform with confidence. Poppy has a really beautiful voice and had a smile that lights up the stage every time she is on and Kieran’s singing whilst dancing and using a basketball, showed he was totally at ease on stage. I loved their duet ‘I can’t take my eyes off of you’

The other lead couple were Rhianna Gregory as Sharpay Evans and Fionn Crickett as her brother Ryan. Rhianna played the diva ‘it’ girl, with attitude, to perfection and boy can she sing and dance. With her brother in tow she will do anything to sabotage the romance between Troy and Gabriella but also to get the lead role as Juliet in the school play. Both commanded the stage and gave convincing performances. I loved their Salsa number “What I’ve been looking for”.

A standout performance by Hattie Phillips, as Ms Darbus, the drama teacher, with her acting skills and beautiful clear projection she embodied the role, clearly living and breathing her life in the theatre. She clashed frequently with Coach Bolton (Jamie Marsh), the driven basketball coach, who gave good support although sometimes losing his American accent.

There was great support by the other principals including Jack Scott (Jack McConnell) Zeke Baylor (Lewis Andrews), Chad Danforth (James Green) and Taylor McKessie (Madison Austin) although the dialogue was rushed in places and could have been slower and therefore clearer. Kelsi Nielsen – Cleo Gunn gave a good performance as a shy but talented pianist who really did look like she was playing the keyboard. There are too many people to mention everyone but all the other ensemble members whether basketball players or cheer leaders were totally engaged in their performances. Sometimes during songs there were a few off key moments but this did not detract from their belief in the characters.

The set was excellent using just stairs in the centre of the stage which when revolved became lockers and notice boards and then later a basketball court. Space was left for the large cast so no one seemed to be boxed in at any time. The background of a brick wall with red banners and a centre banner of a red wild cat added to it all.

Costumes were great and the final scene when they were all in red and white gave the show a wow factor. The Megamix at the end was super and got the audience clapping along. Certainly the cast were really having a great time and demonstrated huge enthusiasm, belief and talent.

Lighting was fine although sometimes I noticed one or two in the dark and the music from Musical Director Phil Toms and his orchestra was as usual, excellent, never drowning out the young performers.

Choreography by Shelley Fenn was good and she had obviously worked hard to achieve the standards we saw on stage. Director Rhianna Howard was proud of her cast and you could see just how much work had been achieved with these very youthful performers.

This was a fun night out and a treat for half term. I do hope all the young performers go from strength to strength and we see them again in the next show. Congratulations to all.

This was a fun night out and a treat for half term. I do hope all the young performers go from strength to strength and we see them again in the next show. Congratulations to all.


High School Musical Programme Download below.


High School Musical Gallery

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