RNCM Learning and Participation's Children's Opera Project is now in its ninth year, and provides a much needed and wonderful insight into the world of Music Theatre, enabling youngsters of Primary School age to collaborate in and perform their own devised new work.

There were this year four Primary Schools involved, and each had only three days of rehearsal. With the help of a few students from the RNCM itself and composer Kate Pearson, the story, characters, lyrics, music and even the choreography were devised together as a collaborative process. Something that rarely if ever happens within the profession, but a hugely exciting and rewarding experience when it does!

The Musical lasted just one hour and was performed through without interval, with three separate scenes. Three separate school groups performing the roles of the citizens of Chocoville in each scene, with a very clever and seamless switch over each time; whilst the forth school played the rats!

Considering both the rehearsal time and the ages of the principal performers, this was actually excellently realised and although the sound levels were poor, and the children needed mics for the dialogue, it was quite a delightful little story.

Basically, the people of Chocoville, so named for its famous chocolate and boasting the largest chocolate factory in the world, are a happy and chocolate-loving township. A family of refugees come by asking for shelter, and of course they are welcomed into the community and given some of the prize-winning chocolate to eat. Drum roll and LX change as the town square is plagued by the entrance of thousands of rats. the people scream and run away, whilst we learn that the rats actually like the humans and want to live in amongst them as friends. The humans on the other hand see them only as pests and loathsome and are a total blight to their town. Some time later a mysterious stranger enters the village, and clearly possess magical powers. The mayor agrees to pay him a large sum of money if he can rid the town of the rats. He does so, but then the mayor refuses to pay. The stranger takes his revenge by magicking the children of the town into a cave inside the mountain with no way of escaping. One young boy however gets left behind, but can still hear the children underground. The townsfolk vow to go after their children and not return to Chocoville until they have rescued them.

With school children from Ribble Drive Primary School, St. Kentigern's Primary School, Alma Park Primary School, and The Church Of England School Of The Resurrection, this story was really brought to life with some 130+ children giving their all to this endeavour. The music, by Kate Pearson, was catchy and melodic, and although obviously geared for the children, still had some quite difficult passages in it. I even found myself humming the finale melody on my way home on the bus! Surely that is the measure of great composing!   

A massive well done to all involved here. Thoroughly enjoyable, and so wonderful to see so many youngsters gaining so much from this. The future of Music Theatre is being kept alive through projects such as this, and long may they continue!

Reviewer: Mark Dee

Reviewed: 15th February 2017