"And now the stage is filled by A Girl Miss Red, an original musical, featuring children alongside adults. We’re getting a montage of setpiece songs and dances, all energising and impeccably choreographed. Lots to admire here."
Richard Stamp @FringeGuru
The Wee Review
Founder and past Chairman of Salisbury FestivalFounder and past Chair of Salisbury Arts CentrePast Board Director of Salisbury Playhouse
ALTHOUGH I have been associated with the Arts for 50 years, I had never been to the Edinburgh International Festival before, or its massive Fringe event. But in my twilight years I wanted to catch the atmosphere of the world’s biggest Arts Festival and particularly to see the opening performances of “A Girl MissRed”: a new musical, written and directed by Bath based Mel Lawman. So I made the long and rather tiring trip up to the Scottish capital from England’s south coast.
And boy: was I pleased that I made that effort! Despite being staged in a typically basic Fringe box space with a minimal set, this show is fantastic and certainly merits future performances by secondary schools, am-dram groups and even by regional professional theatres. If this should happen near you then grab the opportunity to see it for yourself.
“A Girl MissRed” featured seven adults and seven children. I am not going to pick out names of the grown-ups, because this would only be a disservice to those I have omitted. All the adults give top quality performances and it is difficult to believe that these are not professional actors.
But as if to prove the old theatrical cliché of never act with animals or children, it is to the children that one was inevitably drawn. And quite simply, these kids were terrific! Aged around 11 or 12, they had clearly not been plucked off the streets, but had been well trained in dance and theatre from an early age and it showed with their wonderfully slick routines. But it was their joie de vivre and sheer enthusiasm for what they were doing that really radiated throughout the show – and it was infectious.
The plot is set in the !930’s and centres around Fran, a young academically gifted girl who has grown up in the “care” system and whose boisterous personality and lively imagination has given her the reputation of being hard to handle: resulting in her being moved from home to home. Finding herself in a small Devon seaside school, she is treated with suspicion by her new schoolmates. But she is befriended by Arturo, a half-Italian boy who had been sent from Italy to stay with an English aunt, to escape from Mussolini’s fascist regime there. But Arturo is also picked on by others in the school, because he is “different” to them.
This growing rapport between two misfits provides the most touching elements of the story and both Sasha Jennings and Frederick Spedo Mirandola brought a pathos and empathy to their roles which was astonishing for actors of their young age. I thought that a little more could have been made of this chemistry, which is still so relevant today.
I confess that I was a little confused by the storyline at times, but heck, who cares? You do not go to a musical or opera for the storyline. You go to be entertained by great dancing and wonderfully catchy tunes and “A Girl MissRed” has those by the bucketful.
I am still visualising the tap dancing and humming those songs almost a week later and that is the mark of a truly successful show.
David Ian Neville
Director/Producer - Audio and Theatre
THE musical, A Girl MissRed, fizzes with bravado from the opening bar of the music to the final chord. Sasha Jennings plays Fran Ethel Red, a hard to place girl in care. Is Fran a troubled child or a troublesome child? Set in the 1930s, the musical explores Fran's dilemma as 'the adults' try and find the right school and home environment that will turn her into a well behaved child. Fran is exuberant and excited by the world around her, especially the sea, but lonely and in behavioural terms unpredictable. She doesn't fit in and she is often left out.
The ensemble cast of children and adults are terrific - strong performances all round. With beautiful songs and inventive choreography, there is never a dull moment.
In addition to professional productions, I can imagine this musical being used by schools, drama groups and colleges.
Review: A Girl MiSSRed at Greenide @ Infirmary St – Ed Fringe
what a lovely way to start my Edinburgh Fringe experience at Greenside’s very welcoming and inviting venue. The Forest Theatre at Greenside @ Infirmary Street is a “cute” space and quite packed on this sunny Saturday afternoon which is delightful to see! The addition of 1930’s footlights at the front of the stage clearly sets the scene and time period of A Girl MissRed – a new musical penned by Mel Lawman.
This show is packed with potential – the songs are reminiscent of tunes you would hear in classic Broadway shows and iconic Disney films – with very hummable tunes by Matt Finch. The costuming is awesome and totally relevant to each scene – what I loved was the attention to detail – the little accessories, hats, the shoes, stockings and jewellery that really helped the audience to believe they were transported in time, back to 1930’s England. And there are some seriously quick costume changes that are pulled off swiftly and effectively. The costumes are all designed to match and create an atmosphere with each scene, and this extra thought really goes a long way to making the production seem more professional.
The white room dividers that run across the back of the stage provide the perfect “Fringe” set, a blank canvas, to transport the audience to the different places the show visits along the way.
Grace Bendle as Martha Timms has a stunning voice – she certainly holds up the adult cast of this show vocally and her stage presence is perfectly suited to the role. She exudes “Miss Honey” charm and simplicity.
The ensemble of children are very strong and collectively they wow. Frederick Spedo Mirandolo is charming as Arturo and acts the role fabulously. The ensemble numbers are certainly the highlight in this show – as the cast blend well together and the music weaves beautifully. Cruel Ache is a standout number delivered beautifully by the cast and Friend Ship is so clever and delivered brilliantly.
I would love to see the show with a live band and a full orchestra so the music can be heard as it was intended and with Broadway flare. Numbers like Charisma are so fantastically 1930’s – with a full big band playing live – it would bring the house down.
The choreography by Lizzie Rose is stellar and a highlight of the show. It’s simple and effective choreography, which is my favourite type! The cast is clearly a talented bunch of triple threats who get to show off the full potential of their dancing in a rousing tap number towards the end of the show.
This new musical is packed with potential – with some further character development and fleshing out of the storyline – this show could easily have a second and grander life than one on a Fringe stage. Whilst some of the music cues and transitions between scene/song could be a bit more fluid, this is something that would be fixed with a live musical director/conductor or orchestra behind the cast. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at the theatre.