In The Spotlight: WAWWA

First published in Theatre South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

I CAN think of few things more musically invigorating than seeing a group of young people giving their all in performing., whether it be playing in an orchestra, in a rock band, or as part of a group of singers.

This is clearly something that I have in common with Jay Coleman and Andre- Paul Spring, the co-directors and inspiration behind a very special group of young performers called WAWWA – The Musical Youth.

When I visited their weekly rehearsal at Llanyravon, Cwmbran, this week, I was struck by the enthusiasm, focus and sense of enjoyment of the forty or so singers, all aged between 12 and 24,and drawn from as far afield as Cardiff and Abertillery. As I arrived, there were several groups rehearsing simultaneously – a group of boys going through the choreography to one song, another group gathered around the piano being put through their paces in some complex harmonies in an all-female number. There was a perceptible buzz of excitement.

They are currently working towards a show at The Congress Theatre, Cwmbran, at the end of August. This is to be a revue and is a chance to showcase the whole cast as they run through a range of showtunes. This performance is to raise funds for one of their own – Samantha Jones.

Samantha has been accepted to the prestigious East 15 acting school in London and is the latest of a conveyor belt of youngsters from WAWWA to go on to make performing their focus. In many cases, this has continued on to the professional stage – at least 20 former members have gone on to become professional performers since the original company was formed in 1996.

One of their latest successes, Rhiannon Sarah Porter, paid a visit to this week’s rehearsal after returning from appearing as part of the cast of the national tour of Les Misérables, in which she appeared as Eponyne.

It is very clear, then, that much of the work of the company is geared towards providing a stepping stone to youngsters aspiring to perform at the highest level and that opportunities are provided to develop skills in the disciplines of singing, acting and dancing.

As soon as the full chorus bursts into a choreographed version of One Day More from ‘Les Misérables, with its ensemble of soloists followed by the powerful chorus, it is obvious that they mean business. The sound is resonant and full of confidence and there are clearly numerous soloists available in its ranks. Most striking of all is the sense of commitment that runs through the group. There is no need for a ranting conductor or director here. A few quiet words from Jay, a little cajoling from Andre plus some small corrections and pointers fromMD Vicky Bryant and choreographer Ben Hurley are all that is required. They listen and take it all on board.

Following the revue in August, the cast will be looking forward to performing of one of the great comic masterpieces of musical theatre, Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls, in the Autumn at the Dolman Theatre, Newport. Surely a show not to be missed.

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