Review by: Paul Towers, 23 August 2017
Billy The Kid by Ben Frost & Richard Hough
A National Youth Music Theatre production
Curve 23 – 26 August 2017
“funny, musical and energetic.”
It is often a calculated risk to produce a completely new musical. There are invariably problems with the story and/or the musical numbers.
I am delighted to say that Billy The Kid suffers from none of these problems. This is a fully formed original musical fit for any stage
The story of Billy The Kid was, apparently, a ‘fake news’ piece created by Pat Garrett, the man who shot him down, to bolster his fragile ego (now where have we heard that recently?). Frost & Hough resolved to put the record straight, well more or less. William Antrim, Billy The Kid, is an undersized cowboy in the wildest of 19th Century America’s Wild West. The story concerns his turning up, on the run, in a town called Lincoln ruled by the corrupt patrician Col J Murphy. At first he is seduced by the Colonel’s power and influence but soon sees beneath the benevolent veneer and the violent bully that he really is. And leads the movement to free the town from his iron grip.
An unbelievably talented cast is led by Ben Lewis (13 but looks about 10) as Billy, Josh Barnett (19) as the Colonel and Fraser Jacobs (14) as Sam Briscoe. Young Ben’s scene stealing starts from the moment he launches into his big number at the top of the show. Billy’s Song is an all out show stopper rammed full of comedy and pathos. Not only can Ben sing up a storm but he has fine comic timing and can dance with the best of them.
As is typical in National Youth Music shows there is plenty of room for dance numbers that highlight the talents of the ensemble. It being a cowboy show there is an abundance of hoe-downing in a sea of check shirts.
The start was a little confusing as it began in modern day America with a classroom of unruly kids sabotaging the swots’ attempts at education. But then it all became clear when it was revealed that the whole Billy The Kid adventure was just the dream of young Billy, the smallest kid in the class.
The scene changes are masterfully achieved with clever choreography and multiple props. The staging was incredibly inventive with even a mad stagecoach chase at one point
This is a funny, musical and energetic romp from start to finish.
Billy The Kid is on at Curve until Saturday 26th August
Tickets available at www.curveonline.co.uk
First published on Western Gazette