Starting with "The Circus", this Denver & Dorricott script perfectly suits the cast
of 40 little people aged from five to 12. It showcases both their budding acting
abilities and emerging singing talents. Against a colourful stage set, which complements
the circus theme complete with shimmering curtains and gold stars, Oliver Croker
as the Ring Master, masterfully manipulates the audience to keep all engrossed from
beginning to end.
A colourful and charismatic parade of performers from lions and doggies, to fleas
and clowns, proceeds into the circus ring, and each has a story to tell and a song
to sing. Very strong performances from Zach George, Ethan Davis, Max O'Brien and
Laura O'Keefe are to be found in their roles as Leo the Magnificent, Hercules the
Strongman, Professor Zigflea and Madame Simone. These kids may be small but their
voices are big!
When the story takes a bit of twist and turn to end up in the jungles of Africa,
we are taken on the journey by intrepid explorers Trish and Adam, played so convincingly
by Monique Naughton and Adam Kleinig. Ellis O'Brien as Onka the crocodile, belts
out the best solo of the show. No mike needed for this performer.
Back in the circus ring it's not long before Madame Fifi and Mimi the Cat - Abigail
Forkin and Felicity Naughton, have their act unexpectedly cut short; the Human Cannonball
- Bailey Anderson, proves that brains beat brawn; Max Fairbank's Knife Thrower loses
his concentration and aim; Jye Naughton's Mr Vertigo, the Tightrope Walker, gets
the point; and Georgie O'Brien as Rosie, the misunderstood flea, wins our sympathies.
All these headliners are strongly supported by Joshua Lowe, Charlie Croker, Isabelle
Mills and Olivia Croker as lions; Kaitlyn Rodger, Giselle Croker, Hannah Stephens
and Stephanie O'Brien as Oggie Doggies; Grace Smith, Annie Croker, Gemma O'Brien
and Alex Branson as personal assistants; and of course the two ushers Hugh Croker
and Olivia Medway who find themselves ushered out.
Assuming multiple roles of birds, clowns, monkeys and elephants are Katelyn Croke,
Rylee Croke, Amelia Croker, Libby Davis, Noah Davis, Regan Davis, Isabelle Medway,
Misha O'Brien, Imogen Roberts, Emily Secombe and Keira Warren. Watch their expressive
faces light up the stage!
Tight choreography, colourful costumes and excellent staging make "The Circus" a
standout show. As the young ones rip into the encore "Walking On Sunshine" and belt
out the line, "And don't it feel good?" you're left answering, "It sure does"!
Following on from "The Circus" is "Gunslinger For Hire" by local high school teacher
and playwright Peter Stephens. Peter has written this "unapologetically derivative"
parody of a Western specifically for the older high school aged members of KAOS.
It works extremely well with its subtle and not so subtle gags of wacky Wild, Wild
West humour with a liberal dose of modern day references interspersed through the
dialogue. The older kids get a good handle on the western Texan drawl and "yee-haas",
although at times some of the humour can be missed as the accent takes over!
As with the first offering, the set is both simple and effective and sets the mood
for the action, which follows. Good costuming makes it very easy to identify the
goodies from the baddies.
Right from when Jeb and Jeremiah, played with great panache by Sonia McDonald and
Jessica Grocott, make their grand entrance from the back of the hall, they have the
audience with them and are able to sustain that rapport to the end. Look out for
a little audience interaction mid-stream!
As is typical of the Western, we have plenty of baddies in the Struthers brothers
(Lizzie O'Brien, Kaitlyn Toll and Keely Huskinson) and their dad (Tim Chalker) leading
the charge. Offsetting the baddies are the heroes and they come in both sexes. Kathleen
Campbell as Catastrophe Jane makes quite an entrance and sustains her character throughout,
delivering a convincing rendition of "You can't get a man with a gun". Step aside,
Doris Day! It's also all the more reason why Mayor Drummond played by James Anderson
needs to take cover because a Catastrophe is heading his way!
Of course the male hero, easily recognisable by his all-white cowboy outfit and bearing
a vague resemblance to the Milky Bar Kid, is none other than Justin Morgan as Tex
Ranger. While he's no Lee Marvin in the singing department, he certainly has the
Brad Pitt looks! Also playing strongly on the side of the good are cowboys Elizabeth
O'Keefe, Katie Hunter and Amy Warren.
Adding vibrancy to the stage are the pretty saloon girls (Emily Campbell and Victoria
McGregor) and they certainly know how to warble a tune or two. Ably playing the family
in distress are the Widow Parker (Jessica Morgan, whose off stage scream has become
her trademark), her love-lorn daughter Rosie-May, sensitively portrayed by Caillin
Price-Jones and quick-thinking son John-Boy, played by Jack Hunt, who shows real
potential for character acting. Young Charlie Brennan also displays his acting versatility
by bursting onto the stage at various times as different characters. We first meet
him as Jasper, then an Indian brave and finally a cowboy that meets his maker.
True to the Western formula, we have our Indians, led by the Chief played so effectively
in a deliberately deadpan way by Jackson Thearle. Listen carefully to catch some
of his lines, as they are 'groaningly' amusing. He is well supported by his two Indian
squaws, Amy Warren and Marnie Davis.
Perhaps the strongest singing voice belongs to young Eliza Stephens who plays the
role of Little White Dove and convincingly "Stands By her Man" Running Bear, played
by Blake Swift who definitely looks the part.
Lots of boot-scooting boogying accompanying familiar country tunes such as 'Bad Moon
Rising", will have you toe-tapping along in what is a solid performance from these
While it may not have quite the energy and pizzazz of its junior counterpart, it
is nonetheless an entertaining show. These two productions should not be missed.
Be proud of our youth. They are serving us well. Oh, and see if you can pick those
two not so youthful actors - one in each production. Not sure how they managed to
meet the KAOS age criteria but am pretty sure they're just acting their age!