The foyer was awash with littlies in favourite tutus of all shapes and sizes. Some earnestly practiced on the barre and mirrors thoughtfully provided by the presenters. Others, including quite a few boys sans tutu, happily posed for photographs by doting grandmas and fathers in front of a cut-out on which a couple of tutus had been pinned.
Many clutched copies of the little book by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley which inspired this production. All could hardly contain their excitement at the prospect of seeing their favourite Kangaroo brought to life on stage.
This rather magical little production, produced by Monkey Baa Theatre, is aimed at children aged 4 – 9. Those children turned up in their hundreds. None were disappointed, for as the lights went down audible gasps of excitement could be heard around the auditorium as, one by one, four large grey kangaroos took the stage, preened themselves, and the story of how one of them, Josephine, saved the ballet company with her remarkable ability to dance en pointe.
The production is beautifully mounted with a charming story-book setting designed by James Browne. Elements of the set were manipulated by the cast to represent indoor and outdoor scenes. Rebecca Hetherington was a sprightly Josephine, who really could dance although no-one believed that she could.
All the other characters were charmingly interpreted by Chloe Dallimore, Amanda Laing and Hayden Rogers, all of whom changed costumes and characters so quickly and expertly that it really felt like the cast was very much larger.
Jonathan Biggins directed with his customary attention to detail and style. Phillip Scott created an enchanting score which included cute songs with simple, concise lyrics to illuminate the story. Scott interwove his dance music with references of famous ballet music to match the authenticity of Tim Harbour’s affectionate choreography for the dance scenes.
You could hear a pin drop in the large auditorium as the audience became caught up in the story, told in simple, but not simplistic, language and scrupulously avoiding any hint of talking down to the young audience or the time-wasting audience participation that blemishes so much theatre in this genre.
Josephine Wants To Dance with its excellent production values and quality performers adds further gloss to Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s already stellar reputation for producing and touring quality children’s theatre.
Josephine Wants To Dance
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Saturday 29 September 2018
Josephine Wants To Dance will be presented at the Cootamundra Arts & Cultural Centre (3 October); Jetty Memorial Theatre (6 October); and Riverside Theatres, Parramatta (11 & 12 October). For more information, visit: www.monkeybaa.com.au for details.
Image: Hayden Rodgers and Rebecca Hetherington in Josephine Wants to Dance (supplied)
Review: Bill Stephens OAM